Why don't we use pain compliance in our Aikido?
by Heather Gawlick
I've seen so many times on the Internet and heard so many people in person argue that you can defeat any opponent using pain compliance. They say if it isn't working, you just need to hurt the other person more. Then it will work.
Pain compliance uses the philosophy of performing joint locks or other holds using so much force and pressure the other person is physically hurt. The assumption is because of pain, uke will stop attacking, take a fall, or otherwise do what you want in order to get you to stop injuring them.
I see so many problems with this philosophy. Where do I begin?
First off, no one can invoke pain in every other person out there every time. Sure, a skilled practitioner can hit hard and fast enough to inflict pain on a large number of people. But, relying on pain over off-balance seems foolish to me. I've met plenty of Judoka whose wrists are like tree trunks. There's no way to reliably create torque in such a fashion as to cause them pain. If you did, many of these same fellows would laugh at your gaping jaw as they tossed you over their shoulder because they simply don't care if they are injured. There are also those who are so incredibly flexible pain isn't inflicted until the joint is close to breaking. (Just ask my student we nicknamed "Bendy Guy.") Pain is not a reliable weapon or method of control.
Secondly, while some people are very skilled at hurting others in this fashion, I just don't understand why you would want to do this repeatedly in class to someone you claim is your friend. At the very least, you are causing repetitive stress injuries in your partners and classmates. All it takes is one careless or over-zealous mistake to permanently hurt someone. Why would you do that to a friend? Conversely, what kind of a friend treats you like this class after class? It goes against everything budo and comradery stand for. Aikido is famous for being an art of compassion, so why taint it with injuring one another? Ueshiba is quoted as saying, "To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace." This should remain our goal.
Lastly, it seems to me those who discuss this tactic are so focused on inflicting pain, they've missed sight of the bigger picture and the real power of Aikido. True Aikido moves start with taking the opponent's balance. If you don't have the balance, there is no reason for uke to do anything except continue to attack you. If you have the balance, they become putty in your hands and you have complete control over their whole body - not just one joint or limb. It's much more powerful to throw the complete person to the earth than to simply break a joint. Watch a few videos of Karl Geis and you'll see what I mean. The whole philosophy of pain compliance seems very shortsighted.
So, please be kind to each other. Throw the pain compliance out the window. It's unnecessary. Throw your whole partner instead. It's so much more fun to watch them launch across the room whilst neither partner feels a thing. At the end of the class, no one is hurt physically or emotionally. Aikido should be about skills and fun - not bullying.
Heather and Roy Gawlick love Aikido and have a passion for sharing it with others. They hope you'll catch the Aikido bug, too!
Shinju Dojo Aikido Martial Arts School in Longview / Kelso, Washington