In Aikido, we practice our techniques against every imaginable grab possible. To someone watching Aikido, but unfamiliar with our training methods, some of these practices seem very silly or impractical. I would like to discuss some of what is going on with Aikido practice with grabs.

First of all, let’s look at the purpose of the grab. At a basic level, a grab is performed from a static position. Uke freely allowed to grab nage with full power in order to restrain his movement. This means that nage must learn to use the principles of Aikido to learn how to move freely against such an attack. Nage has to learn the difference from moving freely against various holds, as they all have a particular nuance that makes the attack most effective. So at this stage, the grab is not a technique, but a training tool that fosters strong, correct movement.

The part where the grab is trained as a technique to be defended against has several considerations. First, that you may be grabbed by a Judo, Jujutsu, or similar exponent. The threat of defeat when grabbed by an expert of such arts is very real. Also, since it is generally easier to strike at a person than to hold them and restrain them, the reason why they are grabbing you adds a different dimension to the attack. For example, imagine that you are a law enforcement officer or a soldier, and you have a gun pointed at someone who then grabs your arms or hands to control you and your weapon. Surely, you had best know how to not only defend against the hold, but do so in a way that allows you to retain and use your weapon. Having your weapon taken from you by an enemy surely means that it will be used against you. Also, a person may grab you so that others may more easily converge on you. So you must also be able to release yourself from holds in a way that allow you to overcome multiple attackers.

Next, we consider grabs combined with strikes. It is a very natural and obvious consideration that if a person grabs with one hand, they will hit you with the other hand. If they grab you with both hands, they may kick, knee, or headbutt you. If you are grabbed from behind you may be put in a choke. So you must train so that your release from the hold doesn’t allow for a second or third attack or technique being used against you.

Tactically, that you are grabbed in the first place is bad. If a person can grab you first, then they can just as well strike you first. So in addition to all of the above, you must learn to practice your techniques so that you cannot be struck at all. This is difficult to explain in words. Nishio Sensei makes a clear and remarkable demonstration of this in his video presentations of techniques against holds. By treating the hold as if it is a strike, you prevent further attack from uke and begin to control the encounter from the moment of contact.

I hope this clears up some confusion about holds for people that do not practice Aikido, and gives some ideas on how to improve your practice for those of you that do.



My work on the illustrated manual has been slow for several reasons. First is the opening of my school which has been as time consuming as one can imagine. The schedule of the school has made it difficult to coordinate with photographers and training partners to pose for the book. However all is not lost. I’m offering a text only PDF version of the manual for 15 USD. This is a modest fee considering the time that I have put into it and the detail and organization of the material. All monies received will directly support my school and production of the illustrated version. To the literally hundreds of people across the world that downloaded earlier drafts for free, I hope you’ll show your support for the final draft copy. Please email me for ordering information.


Hitohiro Sensei book

I can’t wait.


Opening a dojo tomorrow. Starting 2010 off in style, doing what I love. I’ll keep you posted.

DNBK Kigami Biraki

Perry Lambert Sensei, great friend, senior Aikidoka, and brother to me, invited me to a special training session this morning. The group was extremely friendly as always. Perry was his usual warm and congenial self. I brought my good friend Joseph Turner with me. We got introduced to everyone, and I met, for the first time, Luis Santos Sensei. It was a rather cold morning, so everyone did their best to warm up before the class started. We bowed in, and Lambert Sensei led us through a good warm up and some ukemi.

Santos Sensei—He started off the first technique with men tsuki kokyunage. He used a nagashi technique to deal with the punch. From the same attack, he showed a different nagashi entry that finished with a variation of iriminage.

Autrelle—Yes, a most unexpected surprise. I was asked to go next! I kept in tune with the nagashi theme versus a punch, and then demonstrated a yonkyo variation and the counter for it.

Lambert Sensei—He kept the party going as I expected he would, with sharp and scary waza! He showed an awesome entry against a person attacking with two roundhouse punches, finishing with ikkyo/ude osae. Then he showed a kubiwaza counter to a straight punch. Everything was going great so far!!!

After the break, the rotation started again.

Santos Sensei—Iriminage against a fast jab cross combo, kotegaeshi against the same combo, and kotegaeshi in response to a ko-yokomen followed by a punch to the stomach. Very nice stuff.

Autrelle—I showed two basic jo dori techniques along with the counters for them.

Lambert Sensei—Time was running out so he could only show one more technique, but it’s on of his best: kosadori iriminage. He cracked my back when he threw me! It felt great!

Being asked to teach someone else’s students, especially amongst such high ranking instructors, was truly a first for me. It was an experience that I do not take for granted. More than that, it was an honor and a privilege. It was refreshing to see Aikidoka from different backgrounds come together and share as they did today. Truly, it was “No Drama Aikido.” More than that, it was really a great demonstration of the meaning of Aikido as “The way of harmony.” This will most sure have a lasting effect on my approach to working with others as I continue on my on path of self-cultivation.


I’m currently working on a final text draft, which I expect to have finished by end of the year. I am happy to say that I have a satisfactory account of the Aiki Jo system that will be available to all next year.


I was recently asked a few questions regarding my thoughts and beliefs on Aikido. The result of which was that I felt the need to write out, at length, a personal account of what has been going on in my head this entire time. By that I mean, how I even got into Martial Arts, and what has been on my mind when I’m training, and when I’m not training. I want to share with you Part Four of my Introspection. Please read at your own discretion. These are my own highly personal thoughts, and I have no intention of defending them to anyone. Discussion on my thoughts, all day long.

Part Four: Maybe I’m not good enough for Aikido.

I have met some very convincing Aikidoka. By that I mean I found something so remarkable about them, that I wanted to somehow emulate that quality in myself. At such times, I feel like a wannabe. I have to look at other people doing things that I wish I was doing, and I have to look from the outside in. It’s entirely awkward, because I have so much, if not too much regard for my own autonomy. That’s a statement I make against the higher powers that be. I’m so sick of the fact that for some reason, a person that has “only done Martial Arts for 20 years” has little if nothing to say in matters, since the 50, 60, and 70 year olds have laid down the law. At times I find it dehumanizing. I have to withdraw my concern for anything that they do, and work on my own shit. Yet, I still have so much respect for the fact that they are there, authentically as such. I don’t envy them, and I would not trade places with them, I just find that the power and respect differential in the culture of Martial Arts hierarchy to be disturbing at times. Still, I think about Ueshiba, and what he must have went through in his life to provide what has been almost the singular activity in my life that I love completely. Aikido has hard standards that I find unbearable at times. Whether it’s just learning and training the waza, the techniques, or the reading, the studying, the protocol, the culture…all of it, at times, drives me insane. I refer to this as being in the state of having a “fried brain.” My little brain can’t take it at times. So many times, I have thrown my black belt, hakama, weapons, gi, what have you, under the bed, in a closet somewhere, and just left it alone. At least I would try to. It calls to me. It says, “Autrelle. Autrelle. Au-trelllllllle…hey. Psst. Psssssst. Pssssssst. PSSSSSSSSSSST!!!! Remember us, your gear? Come on, come over here, you little guy, you. There you go, pick up the Jo first. Oh yes, YESSSSSS. Remember that feeling? Now the Bokken. Oh yeah. Remember how you used to take us to the parks in the early mornings by the river? You would swing us around, and thrust, and yell in such a fantastic manner with each stroke! Just take us out for some air. No one has to know. It will be our secret. You don’t even have to wear the gi, today. Just take us out for some air…”

I swear to you, this really happens. My fucking weapons talk to me. So I give in, I oblige them. Just for that day. And the next. Then, dammit, a month has gone by, and over lunch, my weapons and I will be having a conversation:

Jo: Hey Autrelle, you know what we haven’t done in a looooong time?

Me: Don’t start…

Bokken: Oh! Jo, I was just going to say that…

Me: Both of you fucking knock it off, I’m not in the mood.

Jo: But Autrelllllllllllle!!!! Come on!!!! It’s so much fun!

Bokken: You know you want to. You KNOW you want to.

Me:: Fuck both of you. You both make me fucking sick, and I should turn you each into firewood.


Jo: He joking, Bokken. He loves us. He’s just pissed because we’re reminding that he’s not doing what he really loves, and this is his way of lashing out. It’s not about us. Don’t be so sensitive.

Bokken: Well, what do you think? We could go see Dee and the guys there, go old school? Maybe Leo in Orange Park, catch up on, you know, the federation you’re a part of. Oh! Or James! He always sends you messages and invites to train. And we all know how badly you want to train with Perry…

Me: Seriously, fucking quit it. Just knock it off.

Jo: (Stares at me) You’re being a bitch right now.

Bokken: (Winks at me, bats lashes, pouts) Please Autrelle, please??? Just take some ukemi. You love that the most, you know that.

Me: (Sulking) Fine. If it will make you two happy, fine. Fine.

At this point, the weapons exchange a knowing glance at each other. They know that they have me. It’s sad really. I feel at times that I can barely live up the the ideas of inanimate pieces of wood. My Aiki-Psychosis has given them a voice that berates me for not training when I try to back off of it for a bit. They provide encouragement and support for what I want to do, even when I don’t feel like doing it, or I feel like no one cares at all. It’s wonderful. At times, it’s all I need.