Cross-Training For Aikido Pt 1: An Uncommon Approach

The goal of cross-training in grappling and/or striking for the dedicated aikido practitioner should not necessarily be to add grappling and/or striking to one’s aikido. That’s a fine goal in and of itself, if one truly feels that what aikido lacks is grappling and/or striking. If one truly loves aikido as aikido, however, and sees it as an end in itself, the goal of cross-training in grappling and/or striking should always be a means by which one is figuring out, through experimentation, how to get back to aikido within different martial contexts.

If one of the foundational-principle goals of aikido practice is the transcendence of violence, the only real way to achieve that goal is to face violence in its different forms. Violence simply does not happen in the way that it is practiced in most aikido dojos, with a lot more chaos, surprise, and struggle occurring in a truly violent encounter than is seen in aiki-waza or even aiki-randori. The aim of cross-training should not be to make aikido more violent per se, but to make aikido more effective at facing and neutralizing violence in a decidedly aikido-like way.

So the question is: Can we invite violence, in its different forms, into our practice(s) with the goal of embracing it, adapting to it, and transcending it? If this is desirable, it requires open-mindedness in a way that is not commonly found in either aikido or in the grappling and/or striking community and, because of this, it most likely will not happen on a large scale or all at once. What is required for this to take place is for a few like-minded individuals with different martial backgrounds to get together and to agree that ego, lineage, and rank have no place in experimentation or evolution.

Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as a founding member of the Severna Park and Baltimore Holistic Chamber of Commerce.

Wabi-sabi street art photo by Robert Van Valkenburgh (artist unknown)

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