When talking about martial arts, most people don’t think about which of them is the least violent. What matters, on the contrary, is the violence, the acrobatic movements, and vicious fights. That is where the money is made and the crowds are gathered. However, not everyone is into violent martial arts like Muay Thai or Lethwei. Many people would like to train a style that is less focused on a violent answer, and more on the least brutal way to neutralize an opponent. There happens to be one just like that, and in this article, we will examine it. So, what is the least violent martial art?
The least violent martial art is Aikido. Its central principle is to avoid confrontation and to guide an opponent into submission or loss with the absolute minimum force applied.
However, this does have its drawbacks. Aikido is a great martial art to learn, but is it really useful in self-defense? How can an activity which is inherently violent, be done well through a system which is inherently non-violent? These are all questions we will answer in today’s text, so read on if you are interested!
Why is Aikido Non-Violent?
Most martial arts are violent, and that is a clear fact. A large majority of them were founded for one purpose: as a way for people to fight. Some of these were more self-defense-based, some of them were just straight-up created for fighting competitions, but regardless, none of them had any philosophy of non-violence. And that is when Aikido came into the picture.
Aikido is a Japanese martial art, founded by Morihei Ueshiba (who is also called the “Osensei”, which means Great Teacher) around 1920-1930. The basis of his Aikido was Daito-Ryu Aikijutsu, a couple of other lesser-known martial arts, Ueshiba’s philosophy, and his religion. Basically, he wanted to create a martial art that has non-violence at its core, which doesn’t meet force with force, but rather diverts it away from oneself with the least destruction necessary.
Martial arts have a general attitude of violence towards physical confrontations, and we see that as natural. Every attack is blocked (aka stopped in its path forcefully), and then a powerful one is delivered. It is like striking metal with metal. However, Morihei Ueshiba had a totally different way of looking at fighting and violence, and his art is one that avoids violence as much as possible.
An Ikkyo will hurt, yes. But it hurts so long as you resist. The point of Aikido is to guide the opponent into submission, using pain as the steering wheel. When an opponent attacks, the Aikidoka will respond by redirecting the momentum and force of the opponent in some direction, destabilizing them, submitting them, or straight up throwing them on the floor. The mechanic by which this works is based on the human tendency to avoid pain. If the opponent resists, pain is applied or distance is held between them and the Aikidoka, all until the attacker gives up or submits.
What are the drawbacks of Aikido?
Even though this does sound very good, and it also is very good in some situations, the non-violent nature of Aikido is what makes it also one of the least effective martial arts to train. In this section of today’s article, I will go into why one of the greatest virtues of Aikido is also one of its biggest mistakes.
In my personal experience of training Aikido for 2 and a half years, I have had a few points of concern about the art. One of the main problems I have found is that most techniques a) start out with a willingly compliant opponent and b) are done for wrist-grabs. Out of the first 80 techniques learned, there are about 5 which do not start with the opponent grabbing your wrist.
The problem with this is that it is unrealistic. Nobody will ever grab your wrist, and if they do, it will be in a wrestling environment, where you might not be able to use your Aikido techniques that well. This is what makes Aikido ineffective, regardless of some of its other great aspects.
However, I do not mean to say that you shouldn’t train in Aikido if you like it. Just know that if you want to be somewhat self-defense savvy, it will take like a decade of Aikido practice to get you there, whereas, with artforms like boxing or Judo, you can become relatively confident in a span of a couple of months.
Aikido can teach you a lot of positive and useful things, though. These are skills like falling in all directions and angles, being aware of your surroundings, and also developing a better feel for your opponent’s balance and energy flow. These are all great, however, they will never be enough on their own for self-defense purposes, and they will never protect you or your loved ones.
What are the alternatives to Aikido?
If you don’t like Aikido, but you are still looking for a non-violent martial art to train, you should check out Tai Chi or possibly Judo. Although if you are looking for non-violence, Aikido is probably your best bet, we will discuss why these two are close too.
Tai Chi is Chinese martial art, usually described as an internal martial art. It has much more to do with learning how to control the body and the mind, and not with fighting per se. Even though this is the case, sparring is non-existent and practitioners don’t look too much different from Yoga students, this martial art can also be deadly, if learned for a long enough time, just like Aikido.
Judo is the next best thing which is also famous and easy to find. Tai Chi is a rare find, and Aikido might not be your cup of tea. Still, if you are looking for a martial art that isn’t too violent, Judo is something you should check out. It doesn’t have strikes at all, except feints sometimes. Judo is a grappling-based martial art, in which you can basically decide how violent you want to be. You can place your opponent in a light, controlled lock until police or help arrives, or you can also decide to slam them on the ground, potentially breaking their spine. It is up to you. And, it is also easier to learn effectively and also more effective than the previous two, so it is worth checking out.