Yes, but is it PRACTICAL?

It seems like just about every issue we look at in aikido, judo or jodo ultimately gets measured by many of the budoka I know against the ruler of "practicality."

Of course, the word "practical" can really mean a lot of things. But for the most part, they seem to be thinking about what is commonly referred to "the street." Essentially, everyone wants to know how the things, or a specific thing, will help them "on the street," meaning in a physical confrontation with another human being bent on doing us bodily harm. Occasionally, that definition is expanded to include non-physical confrontations (such as a pushy, argumentative or angry person).

The art that seems hardest for many students (typically the younger ones, kyu ranks to early dan grades) is definitely jodo. And I've heard a number of explanations over the years about the various subtle, amorphous ways it can be "practical," even though we don't walk around with 4 foot sticks and rare is the occasion when someone attacks us with a Japanese katana.

They will also think "practical" in terms of convenience, especially when thinking of things like reishiki or wearing hakama, for example. Don't want to wear hakama because it's hot or uncomfortable? Okay, then be comfortable. Why bother with any of the outfit, for that matter; just show up in sweats and a t-shirt.

But for me, there is so much more to budo that is practical, just not in regard to confrontations with thugs or bullies. When it comes right down to it, if you asked most of the students in my dojo, at least, they would tell you they just don't get into fights. Maybe verbal conflicts, but rarely is a punch ever thrown (I've known many police officers and prison guards who would stand as a notable exception to that rule, of course, but they are the minority).

All I ask of any student (and of myself) is to spend time thinking outside the rather limited paradigm of "self-defense."

The issue is not, "Is it practical?" but rather, "In how many ways can it be practical in my life?" We just might be surprised. And we may stop asking such silly questions!


  1. Great post. The word practical is something that unfortunatly hinders a lot of martial artists progress. Rather than thinking weather it can be used on the stretts, as you say, people should think, weather they can make it practical for them.


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