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    Throwing is only a fraction of aikido.  Like any art there is much variation between styles and individual schools.  How much have you looked into your area?  I’d start with a short list of options in your area and go observe a class, talk to the instructor, see which one feels best for you.  You might find yourself surprised at the results. :-) 

    And that’s a really good question. I’ve always studied Japanese arts so didn’t think about similar arts with different cultural sources. 


    One thing I’d like to say about weapons arts and their application to the street. I practice Kendo, and while I will admit it is not as directly useful as, say, kung fu (which I have also practiced) there are aspects to the art that do apply. The principal one is the ability to anticipate. We train in kendo to observe and feel our opponents ki, and use this to anticipate what sort of attack is coming, and also to bait an opponent into a desired attack. I have not had to to use this in a street situation, but the enhanced ability to ‘read’ other people has been very helpful in other situations and I think it would be useful in order to either dodge or deflect an attack or, preferably, get the hell out of a situation if one can see it is deteriorating.

    Kendo also helps one to develop a strong presence, which may deter some from attacking. And again, while it may be a weapon art I think that many of the principles would be able to be adapted in an emergency. So don’t sell the weapon arts short!

    I enjoyed tai chi and tai chi sword as well, but particularly enjoy kendo for being able to put the principles into action in way that one cannot do in properly in some other arts. For example, in kung fu we would have to spar sometimes 2 onto 1 for a couple of minutes, which to me was an annoyingly artificial situation. In reality, if I was put upon by two men I would be doing my utmost to disable them and get away as quickly as possible, but of course one cannot do that in sparring. The armour used in kendo enables us to push ourselves more than some of the other disciplines I’ve tried.


    I would completely agree with you, Inari.  I had been writing the above with the rank beginner in mind – someone who may be skeptical about the subtler and more ‘mystical’ aspects as they’ve not experienced them.

    Warning: The below may seem like a bunch of ‘hand wavery’ as Kol would put it.

    Once a person has practiced… a LOT … in any of the martial arts, internal, external, weapons, empty hand etc. they develop the ability to ‘read’ their opponent as Inari pointed out.  It is, in essence, a Force skill – you learn to read their energy(Ki) and intention and as she suggested can also misdirect them using your own energy.  As a beginner, you start with just being able to block as you see and react to the attack.  This does not work very well if your opponent is faster than you are, though.  In time, though, after much experience with a less than optimal approach, you begin to react as they begin to execute the attack…as soon as they twitch any muscle to begin it, in essence. After even more time (a good bit in my experience), you begin to react to their intention to act before they move a muscle.  To an onlooker, it would seem that you attacked first, but actually, in reading their intent to attack, you were simply defending yourself.

    The other thing that can be learned in time is not to betray your intent at all.  To be wholly in each moment so that they have nothing to latch onto to give them an idea of what you are going to do.  This state of mushin no shin (mind of no mind) is what we all strive for in the arts.  It is why we practice things over and over and over again.  Here is a great little article on it:


    The other thing that any martial art will train is situational awareness.  You will be far more ‘attuned’ to the energies and intentions of the people around you and will get intuitive ‘red flags’ about certain places, people etc. and will simply avoid them. 

    Oh and Inari, I know what you mean about the unrealistic aspect of the sparring in martial arts.  If I were attacked on the streets, I would not stand there and slug it out. I’m not a very large person and no matter how fast or well executed my technique, someone larger and stronger will cause me damage if they actually connect.  Not to mention that they might be packing a knife or might have friends around the corner or whatever.

    When I studied Seido karate, the sparring was full contact.  I was getting pummeled regularly because the rules in place to keep us from hurting one another took away the ‘real’ strategies that I would use under such circumstances. In a life or death situation, if I were to use karate instead of Aikido, I would be targeting the vital points – groin, eyes, etc. – and then as soon as the person was down I would run.  Yes, 26 years of martial arts and I would choose flight over fight as soon as I could.  To me, the best outcome is not a single blow being exchanged under such circumstances.

    There is no way in a class situation to emulate a real attack…not without people getting seriously injured.  As such, the practice is meant to get your muscles hard-wired to perform certain actions and reactions and, after patience and much diligent practice, to be able to read and manipulate energy. Read the article on the link if you haven’t yet…it explains some of this ‘hand wavery’!

    Let me ask a noobie question: I loved Tai Chi and I would love to get back into that. But is there an equivalent from the Japanese culture?

    Tai Chi is almost as popular in Japan as it is in the US.  As far as I know Japan doesn’t have a native art that is taught like Tai Chi is in the US.  I think there are a few modern Japanese arts that are specifically designed to imitate Tai Chi, but I don’t know much about them.  It seems there are a couple of places that teach Tai Chi in the Bloomington area.

    What is it that you liked so much about Tai Chi?  Kyudo is Japanese archery and is very internally focused with slow careful movements and a focus on correct form and technique, rather than aggressive power or speed.  I used to practice with the Kyudo group in Lizton (on I74 about 20 miles west of Indianapolis).



    Kyudo is an excellent suggestion!  I have been watching my area carefully in hopes that a group gets going here (Western New York) so that I can give it a try.

    Also, Iaido, Japanese swordsmanship, is an excellent choice if you want something culturally Japanese and are fascinated by careful and precise movements and internal focus.


    One option that’s fairly common around the country are Shambhala centers.  They occasionally offer Kyudo and other meditative arts classes.  It’s not something people would think to look up, but that might be an option for you. 


    First of all I’d like to say thanks to Tercenya for the good posting!

    Then I would like to add my two cent to the topic as far as I’m able to do so.
    I do have a background in martial arts for now about 20 years.
    I started with Shotokan Karate Do, but in my Dojo unfortunately there wasn’t much about the Do.
    Then I studied Aikido in parallel and later just this art.
    Again later I did Shaolin Kung-Fu for a while.
    In parallel to that all I learned a Tai Chi Chuan style and to that I will add later.
    Finally, as I was missing something on all this arts, I ended up with Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu/Ninjutsu which is a Japanese art or better said a merging of six Samurai Ryu-ha and three Ninja Ryu-ha.

    So, that said and in a way it was already pointed out by Tercenya, sorry if I got You wrong on that, everybody who is interested in martial arts should first answer for him the question if he is interested in selfdefense or mentally development!?
    If You are more interested in the selfdefense aspect and you are young, go out and find yourself a class which theaches that. Here it doesn’t matter if it is Krav Maga, western boxing, wrestling, Wing Chung or what ever. As long as it fits your needs and your are happy with the training and the quality in the class it will be fine for you. But keep in mind, that in most of those classes you wouldn’t see any “old” people and this is for a reason as you have to have the ability to adapt the art to your body when you getting older and most of those styles don’t have this. But building up the ability to defend yourself is easier/quicker than in a traditional style. So, you can start with one of those kinds and later, when you have the feeling of changing, do so.

    The path of the martial arts is a path as the path of the Jedi Realist is one and this is a life long journey and not meant to be “mastered” in a couple of years.

    This brings me to the second group, the traditional styles. Most of them have the focus on mental development and here you may differe between martial arts and martial sports. Where martial sports are for me all styles or classes which have a focus on tournaments and ranks etc. and so may lack on mental development and martial arts which focus more on their roots and traditions. In all this styles it might take longer to become able to defend yourself but on the other hand you have the ability to adapt the style/system to your body everytime and in a way so can change it to your ability/capabilities.

    In the end it doesn’t matter with what you start as long as you do have a good feeling when you went to your classes. So visit different Dojo in your area and choose the one where your gut feeling say “yes”. This is already the first “test” in becoming an martial artist as martial arts training is also a training on develop and trusting your other senses and feelings.

    The only warning I would like to give is, don’t enter a selfdefense course which last just for a couple of weeks or month and think then that you are able of doing anything! Becoming able to defend yourself will only come from repetition and this you will only get in a regular training.

    About Tai Chi (Chuan) and the ability to use it as a self defens art. If you are interested in learning Tai Chi for self defens reasons watchout that they call it Chuan as this is, as fare as I know it, the expression for  “fighting art”. If they call it just Tai Chi you might end up by practicing only form and no Push-hand exercises.


    Thanks for the extra info. I used to be in the situation of having very few options. Now I have many and sorting through the list to choose which to check out is no easy task.  This is all useful information and will help me know what questions to ask as well.  Thanks everyone!


    This thread has been useful to me because I am also trying to find a suitable martial art for the area I just moved into. I have about two years of experience in a relatively small version of Gung Fu called Won Hop Loong Chuan:


    I love this art (not that I have much to compare it to), but I am afraid it is so unique that I’ll never find anything quite like it. I searched for a Kung Fu discipline in my local area and came up with this:


    Somehow this seems like exactly what Tercenya warned against. I would like to stick with a Chinese art. Should I be looking for something other than Kung Fu?

    I’ll add that we did Tai Chi Chuan about once a week at Won Hop Loong Chuan.


    I would say that just because a school offers other things that are more for fitness than the art doesn’t mean they are bad.  It’s good business actually when you think about it.  Hard core martial arts is rarely a business that pays the bills, but fitness classes can be.  So you balance the traditional stuff with the fitness and you have a more sustained business that suits two completely different types of people.  Personally I’d go check out regular kung fu class and see.  It doesn’t hurt to find out (assuming you have the time and money for classes)

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