Saturday, 20 April 2013

Where is the Aiki in Dentokan Aiki-Jujutsu?

Much is made of “ki” and Aiki in Aikido. Aikido is the way of Aiki. As I continue to explore and develop Aiki as a martial artist, I want to know where these principles can be seen in Aiki-Jujutsu, Aikido’s sister art if you will. Here are a couple of examples of where I believe the principles of Aiki can be demonstrably seen in the Dentokan Aiki-Jujutsu waza:

1.    Gyaku Kote Gaeshi & Tachi Gyaku Kote Gaeshi Shodan Gi

In the suware waza version of the technique, uke grabs both wrists and applies pressure. Tori responds by pushing down on their own knees with their fingers, and raising their wrists applies a slight amount of forward pressure using their own body weight. In this first part of the movement we find two very important principles – kuzushi and ma’ai. The forward pressure is to take uke’s balance (Kuzushi) and to create a gap (ma’ai) between uke’s hand and tori’s wrist. Here ma’ai and kuzushi work together, If too much forward momentum is applied, uke will be pushed backwards and release their grip in order to balance themselves thus breaking contact and losing the optimum ma’ai. The gap created by raising your wrists is essential in order to take the grip to apply the wrist lock. 

The wrist lock involves turning your hand 180 degrees so that your palm is facing you, then using your last three fingers you grip deep into the palm of uke’s hand. Once You have taken hold of the grip you extend your arm driving uke’s arm into their centre and rest their hand on your knee. Then taking the hand uke is holding, cut across uke’s knuckles and push their hand using the hand you gripped with, in order to make them roll out of the wrist lock. In this part of the movement the principle of marui (Ju) is applied. The turning of your own hand so that your palm is facing you is circular; the extension of your arm and cutting of uke’s knuckles in order to affect the wrist lock and roll uke is also circular. 

In the tachi waza version, uke grabs both wrists again but also draws their leg back to kick. As uke’s leg begins to swing, tori swings both hands out in order to break uke’s balance and steps back with the opposite leg. Uke is forced to stumble forward and is unable to execute the kick. Tori then applies the exact same movement as the suware waza version, bring their hands up so that their palms are facing them and taking the grip deep into uke’s own palm. Tori then slides the foot parallel to uke’s kicking leg about 45 degrees and simultaneously extends their arm into uke’s centre breaking their posture. Tori then cuts the knuckles as before, forcing uke to roll or flip out of the wrist lock. 

Here the same principles of ma’ai, kuzushi and marui are seen only in different ways. This time rather than kuzushi being taken by pushing, it is taken by pulling. If tori steps back too far, there will be too great a distance between them and uke and thus tori will not be on posture to affect the wrist lock properly as uke’s full body weight will be clinging onto them. By swinging the hands out uke’s balance is broken, negating their strength. Marui is applied in the same way, through the wrist lock. Ma’ai is also evident in where uke lands. If Tori is off balance during the technique or lets go of uke’s hand, uke could land too far in order to execute atemi at the end of the technique. Therefore the optimal ma’ai is for uke to fall next to tori in striking distance.

2.    Ude Osae Dori (suware & tachi waza) Shodan Gi

In the suware waza version, uke grabs tori’s arm by the sleeve of the gi near the bicep. With the free hand uke goes to throw a punch. Tori counter strikes using a metsubushi (a strike designed as a distraction usually aimed at the eyes) and then places their hand over uke’s grip in order to prevent them from removing their grip. As tori counter strikes with the metsubushi, they simultaneously apply forward pressure, gently locking up uke’s shoulder with the other arm. Once uke’s grip has been secured, tori then twists from the waist, thus applying the wrist lock and points in the direction they want uke to go, forcing uke to collapse and put their hand out to brace themselves. Once uke’s balance has been taken, tori takes their free hand and using the edge of their hand between their thumb and index finger push against uke’s tricep just above the elbow; while at the same time rolling their own shoulder in order to turn uke over onto their stomach. Maintaining the wrist lock tori knee walks to stretch uke’s arm out away from their body. Tori places one knee in uke’s ribs in order to prevent them from rolling out and applies the wrist lock.

Once more kuzushi, ma’ai and marui are at the heart of this technique. The metsubushi strike combined with the forward pressure driven through tori’s arm and up into uke’s shoulder and the turning at the waist, are examples of taking kuzushi. The turning over of uke’s wrist and arm after turning from the waist is an example of marui. In this incidence the marui is small not large. By keeping the circular movement small uke has less chance of regaining posture. If the circular movement is too big and tori takes uke’s arm over their head, then balance could be restored. Finally by placing uke face down onto the mat and maintaining one knee in their ribs this creates the optimal ma’ai as if tori is too far away from uke, uke could potentially roll out of the wrist lock when it is applied - good ma’ai needs to be maintained in order for the wrist lock to be applied successfully. 

In the tachi waza version the same principles and movement are applied again. The movements are almost identical while standing until the end of the technique. Uke grabs and strikes as in suware waza, and tori counter strikes with the metsubushi and takes kuzushi as before too. Once tori has taken uke’s arm and turned it over so that uke is bent over facing the floor, tori uses their own hip as an obstruction, knocking uke onto the ground while stepping out to stretch their arm away from the body. After stretching uke out, tori tenkans and then turning uke’s wrist, stands on it while straightening up poised to strike if necessary. Just as in the suware waza the marui movement here is small. If the movement is too large as tori takes uke’s arm over, uke could resist and regain posture. Here ma’ai is incredibly important; if tori steps out too far and tenkans too widely then their own balance is affected and control is lost over the technique.

When these Aiki principles are used together and correctly the technique will be applied successfully and full control over uke will be maintained throughout each movement. Aiki is paramount to the martial effectiveness of all Aiki-Jujutsu and Aikido techniques.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

What is Aiki? Part II

I wrote a blog last year about what aiki was from my understanding of the concept at that time. In hindsight I am embarrassed by this blog and my own ignorance and have considered deleting it; however, I've decided to leave it on my blog page as evidence of my ongoing study and understanding of aiki. I now approach the subject with far more humility.

For fear of appearing foolish yet again I am merely going to limit this blog to identifying the fundamental principles that from my study of Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu and Aikido are central to the application and nature of aiki. These are:

1. Ma'ai - the appropriate distance between you and your opponent to create the maximal effect of the technique.
2. Metsuke - the discernment of your opponent's actions and movements through the focus/fixation of your eyes.
3. Kuzushi - the breaking of your opponent's balance and posture
4. Kokyuho - the practise of breathing and the timing of your breathing while executing the techniques to create the maximal effect. 
5. Marui (Ju) - the circle. The geometric shape of the circle is of intrinsic importance to both Jujutsu and Aikido on a technical and philosophical level. I have read that it comes from the Japanese word "Ju" meaning gentleness or softness. It is a principle I have spoken of before when I have explained my interpretation of "Ju" as being "to yield".
6. Irimi - the point of entering into your opponent's attack. Irimi is - as far as I currently understand it - the combination of principles 1-5: it requires a good judgement of ma'ai, which is adjusted appropriately through metsuke, and the exercise of correct kokyu to effect kuzushi so that your opponent cannot finish their attack resulting in blending with that energy in order to create Ju. 

I am sure there are many more principles to the successful application and understanding of aiki that I am not currently aware of, so my list is not exhaustive. These 6 principles are what I am currently trying to learn and apply adeptly. What I am learning and growing to appreciate all the time is the very martial nature of aiki. As Katsuyuki Kondo, doshu of Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu explains without learning how to apply aiki, just learning the Jujutsu techniques will be for nothing.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

"Discover Who You Are"

Roy Dean, Jujutsu specialist and expert has spoken of the meaning of his famous phrase "Discover Who You Are", (which can be read here). In his article Roy touches upon a very important truth that resonates with me very powerfully. In his article Roy says:

"Allow the discipline (BJJ) to transform you.  A lot of people end up serving the discipline; they get injured, they give up their wife, they give up their job to chase the discipline.  The discipline should enhance your life, you should never serve the discipline." (emphasis mine).

As a Christian I believe all forms of idolatry are wrong, and the martial arts can become as much of an idol as anything else, spiritual or material in our lives. What Roy is expounding here conveys this very same principle. Jujutsu should not become an idol in peoples' lives. If it does then it cannot enhance only enslave. Idols are misplaced forms of worship and service. They are substitutes for the only true, living God. When we are living for our idol then our lives are out of balance, our priorities are misplaced and our relationships suffer. Only God can bring our lives into balance, the 10 Commandments are a fantastic example of this - serve the Lord God first then your relationships with your parents, spouse and community will fall into place. 

As Dean says the martial arts should enhance our lives but they are not to be served. Later this year I will emigrate to Japan to marry my Japanese fiancee. I do not want to lose the skills and experience I have gained through my training in Aiki-Jujutsu; I do not want to lose the passion I have for Jujutsu. But I am not moving to Japan primarily to practice the martial arts. I am not going there to slavishly serve or indulge my own passion for Jujutsu. Jujutsu has a place in my life and yes my life has been enhanced by it - but it is not the most important thing in my life. I am encouraged by Dean's article, a man who has dedicated so much of his life to the mastery of Jujutsu in all its forms and expressions and yet has retained his perspective and priorities on life. There is much wisdom in what Dean says about the meaning of "Discover Who You Are". My fiancee and faith mean more to me than Jujutsu.

Dean opens his article by claiming:

"Jiu-jitsu is one of those rare life disciplines that can be interesting for decades… and it can stay with you in different periods of your life."

My life this year is moving from one state into another - from singleness to married life; from my home country of England to Japan and all of the cultural changes that that will bring. My training in Jujutsu will have to adapt or be put on hold to work around my other priorities. Jujutsu will always have a place in my life but that is not on a shrine where I bow before it and sacrifice everything else for it.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

A Christian Perspective on Budo II

In my original blog entitled 'A Christian Perspective on Budo' I explored the idea that the martial arts and Christianity are not mutually exclusive or morally incompatible. I covered the concepts of spiritual warfare, self defence, pacifism and Jesus' teaching on "living by the sword and dying by the sword". 

In this blog I intend to examine the nature and meaning of mercy and the power of God and how they relate to Budo.

The Power of Mercy:

Mercy, a word that connotes weakness in some and a concept that others recoil from out of pride. Compassion, kindness and forgiveness are all aspects of mercy that some find incompatible with the real world. Mercy is often used as a synonym for pacifism. But there is another aspect of mercy that is often overlooked: the power of mercy.

Rather than mercy being for the weak, antithetically mercy is for the strong. Only the powerful can be truly merciful, for no-one in a position of power requires mercy. Only the strong can bestow mercy upon the weak, who are in their power.That is the true nature of mercy. Is the pacifist able to be merciful at the hand of an attacker? When a person attacks with the intention of causing harm or even death, can a dogmatic pacifism that is lead by a misguided understanding of "turn the other cheek" really be able to administer mercy? Was the expression and teaching of Jesus "turn the other cheek" a lesson in mercy at all? Many Christians have interpreted it as such. However, many of Jesus' more difficult teachings can be better understood when they are put into their historical context. In the First Century, a Roman officer would strike a servant using the back of their hand as a sign of superiority over them. By teaching "turn the other cheek" Jesus was actually empowering His followers not to allow others to treat them as inferior, for turning the cheek would force someone to hit them with the palm of their hand, an act only conducted amongst equals. 

Mercy is an intrinsic part of God's nature. Yet, God is the antithesis of weakness for God created the universe "ex nihilo" (out of nothing). Consider the Big Bang - the force of which was so immense that it formed gravity, solar systems, galaxies and created all the atoms known in the periodic table. Quantum Physics has discovered yet more the incredible power of God now that we have knowledge of the unverse at a sub-atomical level. The expansion of the universe is evidence of the Big Bang. The Big Bang then is testimony to the awesome power of God, who is known in philosophy and Natural Theology as the First Cause of the universe. 

The same God who created the universe ex nihilo and who established the mathematical Laws of Physics is also the God who immaculately impregnated the virgin Mary and became incarnate in the person of Jesus. Jesus the Son demonstrated all the attributes of His Heavenly Father. Jesus was never weak - the same Jesus that taught "those who live by the sword, die by the sword" was the same Jesus who supernaturally calmed the storm, walked on water, healed the sick and lame and raised Lazarus from the grave. Jesus had power over nature and death. Let us look more specifically at an event recorded in the Gospel of Mark, the deliverance of the demon passed man oppressed by a Legion of demons.

"For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name? “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area." Mark 5:8-10 (bold mine)

A Legion in the Roman army could be any number between 3000-6000. In this encounter between Jesus and a demon possessed man Jesus demonstrated He had total authority over the demonic spirits of the spiritual realm. These demons, possibly by susceptability or sheer force of numbers had oppressed their host victim so that the man harmed himself and dwelt in the local graveyard, a place of ritual impurity in ancient Israel making him an outcast, cut off from Jewish society. Yet despite their intimidating numbers they literally begged Jesus for mercy. How could Jesus command such authority over and strike such fear into such a great number of demons without the power of God?

Let us look at a second example, this time a moral rather than supernatural example of Jesus' power: the story of the adulteress brought before Jesus for stoning.

"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:3-11 (bold mine)

Here we see that Jesus is the only person with the moral authority sanctioned in the Law of Moses to stone this woman to death. Jesus would have been completely justified in executing this woman for committing adultery. But Jesus refrained because Jesus understood that His act of mercy would produce new moral and spiritual life in that woman and the death of her old sinful one as He commanded her to "leave your life of sin". Mercy is the act of giving life. 

The Synergy between the Martial Arts and Christianity:

An expression of this kind of mercy demonstrated by Jesus and found in the nature of God can be seen in the way of the Japanese Sword. The katana is actually the sharp, killing edge of the blade. The blade of the Samurai sword is single edged, one side is sharp the other blunt. The tip of the katana was the sharpest point and this determined the nature and style of Samurai armed combat. The katana was not a stabbing weapon, it was a cutting weapon using a slicing motion. This style of combat led to defensive sword deflections using the blunt edge of the blade known as ukenagashi in Kendo and Aikido. 

The blunt edge of the sword is known as the kisana, translated as the "mercy edge". Thus the Samurai sword is both a weapon to take life and to give it (katana/kisana). This duality is at the very heart of Budo and Christianity. God is both Holy and Just, the Judge of sin and the executor of divine judgement upon evil, as well as merciful forgiving everyone who repents of their sin and believes in the name of Jesus for their salvation. This duality is known in Christianity as propitiation.

"and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Romans 3:24-26

Jesus took humanity's punishment for our sin upon Himself on the cross as He suffered God's divine judgement. Through this act of crucifixion and sacrifice Jesus also made it possible for God to forgive us our sin and show mercy upon the repentant. God is merciful precisely because we cannot earn our salvation and eternal life. Eternal life is a gift of God, an act of His righteous mercy at our humility and repentance. 

It is a principle of both Budo and Christianity that you cannot give life without first learning how to take it. Jesus chose to give life to the adulteress even though He could have legally and morally justifiably taken it. In the same way through the practise of martial arts you learn how to show mercy when confronted with violence. This is known legally as "reasonable force". Under the Law citizens are legally and morally allowed to use an escalating scale of force to defend themselves based upon the level of violence they are confronted with. This ability to judge situations and the discernment necessary to understand the consequences and implications of your actions is best learnt through the martial arts. Only when one knows the effect of a technique can one gain the self-control not to use it. Thus self-defence becomes like the act of using the kisana edge of the sword - merciful rather than lethal. You are able to protect yourself and ultimately your enemy by restraining yourself from using a technique that could cause permanent injury or even death.  

To be able to overcome violence physically in self-defence and refrain from lethally injuring your enemy is true mercy. This philosophy is at the very heart of Aikido - the way of love and harmony. As the goal of all Christians is to become more like God in nature and character, the martial arts can become a useful vehicle through which to cultivate a deeper and more profound understanding of mercy.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Steven Seagal Aikido Master

One of the things that inspires me the most about Steven Seagal was his dedication as a younger man to mastering Aikido. In this interview with The Voice Seagal explains his martial arts journey that led him to embracing Aikido and moving to Japan. As a young man in Japan Seagal trained rigorously and explored all facets of Aikido, including the mystical teachings of the Omoto-kyo religion. 

Seagal had a deep conviction that Aikido needed to work not just in the dojo but also on the street, something that explains how he was able to successfully cross over from the world of Aikido to Hollywood action movie star. Seagal's Aikido in the words of his own students was "severe", his black belt gradings legendarily brutal. While not all Aikidoka will approve of Seagal's contribution through film to the art, his career and example as an Aikido instructor (being known as Take Sensei) is one of the biggest influences in my desire to one day make the transition to Aikido. I love Seagal's description in the interview of the "soft...sublime... and the wrathful" aspects of Aikido. He has shown me that Aikido is able to be a powerful form of self-defence. What Seagal has demonstrated throughout his career (as can be seen be seen in the documentary The Path Beyond Thought) is that "soft" needn't mean weak or ineffective. Aikido as budo is a dynamic martial art.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


25 months after beginning my Jujutsu journey and I have reached yet another milestone. Yesterday I passed my Nikyu (2nd brown) grading. Within the ranking system of Dentokan Aiki-Jujutsu, there are three levels of brown belt before Shodan (black belt). For my Nikyu grading I actually put in some extra hours of practice outside of my two clubs. My uke and I hired a small hall ourselves at the weekends for the two weeks prior to the grading to practice our knife-defence techniques. It was time well spent. Reflecting on the grading experience itself, I felt in control of my emotions and tried to remain as calm and clear minded as possible between techniques. I felt our timing was good and we went at a reasonably controlled pace. In times gone by I had been worried about feeling conscious of others watching me, but I believe I am beginning to develop a level of mushin - focussing purely on my uke and the attack coming into me. The grading actually went very quickly to me as I concentrated on my uke, my posture, my atemis and my breathing.

Having studied Aiki-Jujutsu for just over two years now my perception of the art and my progress has changed several times. I now have a desire to perfect the kata, which is to my mind the essence of the art and epitomises the aesthetic nature of the art. The importance of internalizing the kata has begun to unfold as I progress as a senior kyu grade. There is a lot of satisfaction in exploring the 'street' application of the waza within the variations, testing the techniques in various contexts and situations you may find yourself outside the dojo. The knife-defence section of the curriculum adds a totally new dynamic to the training and to developing maai (martial distance) so important to the successful execution of waza. I am starting to learn the subtleties and implicit principles within both the kata and waza of maai and mushin, two important elements of the martial arts.

There will be many more nuances to discover, you never stop learning and there is always room for improvement. Every lesson brings great reward and each grading passed brings rich fulfilment that I am continuing to make progress. 2013 is going to be a big year for my Jujutsu journey as I approach ever nearer my dan grade.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

A Christian perspective on Budo

“Why did Ueshiba state that his Budo of Aiki, whilst not a religion, can lead religion to completion? Was it arrogant or simply pointing to a vital universal principle that enables the addressing of violence by converting it into harmony instead of contending?”

Do the martial arts have any place within modern Christianity?

“The addressing of violence by converting it into harmony” that is the way Aikido perceives its self and that is its purpose. Aikido, a Japanese martial art, influenced and moulded by Shinto pantheism, which seeks a peaceful resolution to violence through the blending of energy. Feudal Japan and Europe saw no dichotomy between faith and warrior-hood. Chivalry, a long forgotten and often neglected notion, was an expression of Christian ethics within the context of war. The ceremony of dubbing a knight was full of Christian ritualism. The ceremony was preceded by a Night Vigil; the squire would ceremonially bath as a symbol of purification for his service as a knight. He would then dress in a white vesture to symbolise purity. A sword and a shield were placed on the altar in the chapel, where the squire would pray silently for 10 hours. During the ceremony itself the squire swore an oath of Knighthood that included observing fasts and hearing Mass every day. The Knights duty was to defend the Church, his Lord and his country. Known as Budo (way of war) this concept also existed in Japan. However, unlike in Japan, where the way of the warrior retained its connection with faith and spirituality and still thrives today; Europe and the West severed its connection between the way of the warrior and the way of the Cross.

Christians still speak metaphorically of the ‘Christian soldier’, the ‘prayer warrior’ and of the Biblical analogy of the ‘Sword of the Spirit’. ‘Spiritual warfare’ has replaced actual warfare and while pacifism is regarded as one of the highest virtues amongst many Christians; Christians are nevertheless paradoxically encouraged to “fight the good fight” of faith. Modern Christianity has severed the mind-body connection so prevalent in Eastern martial arts but that also once was a fundamental part of the Judeo-Christian worldview.

Does Christianity need to readdress the balance?

Where did this dichotomy between mind and body come from? Does authentic Christianity really create such a dichotomy? Ancient Judaism held to a wholistic view of Man, rather than the dualism that most Christians practice today. The Shema, the central Prayer of Judaism, taken from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 states that the Lord God is one (whole, complete, perfect, lacking nothing and without deficiency). Man is to love the Lord with all our heart and soul and might (v5).  This trichotomy does not refer to three separate areas of the human being, but rather encompasses all that Man is. In other words Man is to love God with everything in His being. Our emotional centre is found in the heart (and occasionally in the abdomen) and our intellectual and rational centre is found in the mind (brain); each element of the soul is interconnected with and inseparable from the body. Instinct, love, wisdom and reason are all psychosomatic. When we are nervous or stressed (emotional states of being) it often has adverse effects on us physically, such as stomach cramps, vomiting and other bodily ailments. After exercise our brain releases endorphins that help us to de-stress and relax creating a sense of happiness (again an emotional state). Man is whole: body, soul, mind and heart.

The continuity between the ancient Jewish worldview and that of the early Church of the First Century can be seen in Jesus’ positive affirmation of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 as being the “greatest” of commandments (Matthew 22:36-38). The Church Jesus established through his twelve disciples believed and taught in resurrection not soul-body dualism such as found in classical Greek philosophy or Gnosticism. Christians must be wary when interpreting the Apostle Paul’s texts on ‘the flesh’, which refer to the carnal appetites of our bodies, warped by sin and not the inherent sinfulness or evil or the body. God created the material universe perfect before it was marred by Original Sin. Those that have studied Church history, know of the heresy of Marcionism, which believed the God of Judaism and the God of Christianity were two separate and distinct deities; the former being evil and thus by virtue of its source the entire created order and the latter being holy and good, bringing salvation and grace for the spirit and soul. Christianity must not succumb to a Marcion worldview, influenced by dualist notions of the dichotomy between body and soul and the inherent evil in the material world.

Is eschewing violence enough?

Is it really enough for Christianity to eschew violence? Campaigning to stop violence and appealing to reason and morality may reach the majority of society, who abhor violence in their own right; but for the lovers of violence - the hateful, the extremists, those intoxicated on drugs or alcohol and thereby without their full rational faculties, the message will fall on deaf ears and darkened hearts. Sin and the Devil mean that violence can never be totally eradicated from the earth. Yes occasionally God allows Christians to suffer in order for them to draw closer to God and experience even more intimacy with Him; but God’s Kingdom is to extend peace and justice, love and healing to the world. The Church is more than just a platform for gifted speakers to give eloquent sermons; it is the vehicle by which God builds His Kingdom. Jesus said his disciples were to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), two catalytic properties. Christianity should be pro-active not reactive. Another example of this comes from Jesus’ parable of the Sheep and the Goats:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:31-40)

Christianity is experiential as much as it is spiritual and moral. Our faith and morality should drive us to make positive changes in this world and to put into practice the principles of the Kingdom of God. Faith in action has always been at the very heart of God’s desire for His people (Deuteronomy 5:33, Joshua 22:5, 1 Samuel 15:22, James 1:26-27). Let us take the parable of the Good Samaritan:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him. Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:30-37)

Jesus often spoke in parables to the people as was the rabbinical custom of his day. The purpose of the parable was to teach the expert in the law the true spirit of the command to love thy neighbour. The command to love thy neighbour was much broader than the strict Pharisaical interpretation applied to it in Jesus’ day. Neighbour, in this context meant not just fellow Jew but foreigner also, even extending as far as to your enemies as Samaritans were enemies of Jews. Such was Jesus’ high view of morality and the Torah.

If we were to apply the principle of this parable to self-defence, what would the Good Samaritan have done had he come across the man sooner, while he was being mugged? Would he have ignored the men and carried on walking, passively condoning this act of violence and theft? Would he have turned around and walked back the way he came in fear of the muggers? Or would he have selflessly intervened in order to defend and protect this innocent man? Of course this is complete conjecture, because Jesus chose to emphasize the compassion and mercy of the Samaritan in the parable; but from what we know of the character of the Samaritan from the parable, and the principle of the parable Jesus was trying to convey, I believe the Samaritan would have come to the man’s defence. Christians have a duty to protect the poor and the vulnerable of society. We are commanded to love our neighbour selflessly. I believe that in principle this could also include self-defence.

Is Budo incompatible with Christianity?

Come; let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.(Isaiah 2:3-4 emphasis added)

The prophet Isaiah envisions a future where there will be an end of war. Rather than people forging weapons to kill one another, they develop tools for farming - a direct contrast between destruction and creation. Weapons kill life, agricultural tools are used to create and sustain life. This is God’s intention for humanity – that we should live in peace and harmony with one another as God as our Lord and Judge. The parallels here between Scripture and founder Morihei Ueshiba’s vision for Aikido are striking. Etymologically the two kanji characters for ‘bu’ mean “to stop” and “spear”. Thus budo can be interpreted as “the way to stop the spear”. So Ueshiba’s beliefs as to the true nature of budo are not just based on his spiritual beliefs but on a deep understanding of the nature of ancient warfare. So the true nature of budo is indeed close to the heart of God.

The martial arts are not just about learning how to fight or defend; they are about learning when to give life and demonstrate compassion. The goal of the martial artist is never to have to use their art at all but rather to cultivate the self in order to overcome aggression and to create peace wherever possible. The techniques developed are to be used responsibly for the self-protection of the person, when absolutely necessary; not to be abused with malevolent intentions. Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) When one is weak or vulnerable you cannot be a peacemaker, you do not have the ability, the means or the authority with which to maintain peace. You become a victim for the violent, wicked people with predatory mind-sets. To be a peacemaker is not synonymous with being pacifistic, it is being in a position to be able to make peace, reconciling differences, de-escalating hostility and where necessary being powerful enough not to be overcome by violence. Violence always seeks to take by force.
Let us look at one more objection to Christianity and the martial arts, Jesus teaching on living and dying by the sword:

And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:51-54)

A few observations are necessary to understand this passage. Firstly, the disciple (identified in other Gospels as Peter) drew his own sword. If Jesus was so against weapons, why would he permit and tolerate one of his own disciples to carry one with him? Secondly, Jesus then appeals to his relationship to God whereby he could command twelve legions of angels to come to his defence if it was God’s will. Jesus’ teaching about perishing by the sword must be put into the context of Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus says ‘how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled’? Jesus’ priority, Jesus’ mission was to die for the sins of the world. Many Jews in Israel at this time were eagerly expecting a warrior-king who would emancipate them, by force, from the occupation of the Roman Empire. The Jewish people wanted sovereignty and independence from foreign, idolatrous oppressors. 

However, Jesus’ earthly ministry was much larger in scope and purpose then Israel’s independence. Jesus had not come as a warrior-king, but as a humble teacher and saviour. Jesus had wrestled with God in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest, praying “not my will but yours by done”. Jesus knew God’s will was for him to give his life. Jesus’ admonishment of Peter was because Peter did not yet understand Jesus’ mission or his divine purpose. Jesus was no insurrectionist.  Jesus knew that all who took political power by force would inevitably be toppled by force themselves. If violence is a way of life then that way of life will eventually consume and destroy the person. Jesus was not prohibiting lawful self-defence using reasonable force. Eventually the Roman Empire would be converted to Christianity under Emperor Constantine, proof that Jesus’ teaching was correct. Violence is no way to gain power.