Rickson Gracie on the left, Morihei Ueshiba on the right

Read Part 1 of “10 Universal Truths of the Martial Arts” here.

Read Part 2 of “10 Universal Truths of the Martial Arts” here.

Read Part 3 of "10 Universal Truths of the Martial Arts" here.

Read Part 4 of "10 Universal Truths of the Martial Arts" here.

Universal Truth of the Martial Arts No. 5

The ability of an occasional outstanding martial artist does not prove the superiority of a martial art.

Looking at the myth-filled history of the martial arts, it seems doubtful that there ever was a style that did not have at least one exponent who became famous for his exploits as a fighter.

There are, however, a few things one should remember. There have always been people who, because of their physical attributes, mental attitude or both, would have been superb fighters even if their training had been in classical dance.

Furthermore, we will never know how valid such legends really are.

How would the ancient Shaolin monks have fared against modern muay Thai practitioners? We will never know, but we do know that often in modern times, muay Thai fighters have beaten teams of kung fu fighters.

How would aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba have fared against Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Rickson Gracie? A silly and unanswerable question perhaps, but the point remains that a style, represented by one man in challenge matches long ago in a possibly limited environment, may be fairly useless on today’s mean streets.

Aside from this, it is doubtful the average aikido instructor of today trains like Ueshiba did — in terms of technique and intensity.

To be continued.

About the author: Erik Petermann teaches martial arts in Cape Town, South Africa.

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aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba throws a man in a demo

Morihei Ueshiba

Consider the following: “None of Morihei Ueshiba’s students has reached his level in aikido, and none is likely to.”

“Since the fighters of the Gracie family at times seem virtually unbeatable, their art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu is also unbeatable.”

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A recently released study by Aikido Journal shows interest in the Japanese martial art to be in severe decline. Based on a survey of aikido practitioners done in 2019, as well as data from Google Trends, the study seems to indicate interest in aikido has declined 93% since 2004. These numbers may be in even steeper decline now, after the 2020 pandemic has curtailed the practice of all martial arts around the world.

Additionally, the aikido community seems to be "aging out" within the United States where only 2% of practitioners are under the age of 24 and only 4.8% under the age of 30. The study did show that around 16% of aikido practitioners in the U.S. are female, probably higher than in most other martial arts. But it also indicated a problem in attracting minority students to the art in America with only 3% of practitioners identifying as black while only 7.2% identified as being of Latin American origin.

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Ellis Amdur has a lot to say about the martial arts. The author of numerous internet essays, books, novels and even a dozen psychology manuals on how to deal with violence, he isn't shy about sharing his opinions, either. But unlike the majority of people who pontificate on martial arts, Amdur is someone you should definitely listen to.

A mental-health professional specializing in crisis intervention and a consultant for law-enforcement agencies, Amdur is one of the few Westerners who hold certificates of full mastery from two Japanese koryu systems. He's also one of the most iconoclastic martial artists you'll find, as comfortable banging away in a boxing gym as he is practicing traditional sword forms in a classical dojo or working on Chinese internal-strength exercises.

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