Aikido in MMA: Is Aikido Effective In The UFC?

The early days of MMA delivered a collision of fighting styles, where bouts rarely lasted more than three minutes.

But the sport has evolved, and now mixed martial arts is composed of multiple fighting styles. The combination of the best aspects of wrestling, Judo, Sambo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Kickboxing, Boxing, and Muay Thai makes it one of the most popular sports in the world.

The traditional martial art of Aikido is pretty efficient in disabling street bullies and cocky attackers, but can you score a win inside the octagon using Aikido?

This article will explore the effectiveness of Aikido in MMA.

What Is Aikido?

Aikido is a traditional martial art created by Morihei Ueshiba in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It is derived from the ancient martial art of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu thanks to its creator, who was involved in the Ōmoto-kyō religion. Ueshiba developed a fighting style, primarily for self-defense purposes.

The traditional martial art of Aikido is mostly based around defensive throws and joint locks. Its ultimate goal is to disable the attacker and force him to forfeit his attacks. A true master of Aikido is “trying to overcome oneself instead of cultivating aggressiveness and violence”, according to its creator Ueshiba.

The experts of this martial art rarely attack and would rather wait for their foes to make the first move (the key point of Aikido in MMA).

Nowadays, this martial art is split into many different fighting styles – Iwama Shin-Shin Aiki Shuren-Kai, Yoshinkan, Iwama Ryu, Shodokan Aikido, Aikikai, and Ki Aikido.

Techniques Used In Aikido

Techniques can vary due to different styles of Aikido.

In general, they are divided into throws, wrist and elbow techniques, floating techniques, parries, striking, choking and defensive maneuvers.

Below we’ll focus on understanding the basic moves.

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Basic Aikido Techniques

Ikkyo, or “first teaching”, is an elbow control technique. It is believed to be “the most basic technique, suitable against any attack”, and an entrance move for more complicated maneuvers.

Nikkyo, or “second teaching”, is the basic defensive wrist control that disables even the toughest of opponents and leads to an enormous amount of pain.

Sankyo, or “third teaching”, is a harder wrist control that can be used in many defensive situations. It is also brutal for your opponent thanks to a wrist twist. 

Yonkyo, or “fourth teaching”, refers to wrist control plus pressure point. You’ll need some time to master it.

Gokyo or “fifth teaching” is one of the best ways to remove a knife or other sharp weapon from the attacker’s hand.

Rokkyo or “sixth teaching” is an arms control position. When you master all six, you’ve learned “the basics”.

Wristlocks are legal in mixed martial arts, but unfortunately, small joint manipulation is strictly prohibited. So the ability to use Aikido in MMA is limited. Fighters are sweaty and they don’t wear GI’s, which is another big challenge.  

Benefits Of Training Aikido

aikido in mma

Being a member of the Aikido gym has numerous benefits. Below are the most important benefits of the traditional Japanese martial art:

  • It boosts your self-esteem – if you have ever been bullied, learning Aikido will skyrocket your self-confidence for sure.
  • You will meet new friends.
  • It turns you into a calm person due to mental relaxation – an untrained individual will panic under pressure, but an Aikido master knows his skill set and he’s aware of his possibilities. Your mind becomes stronger, there’s less stress.  
  • The ancient Japanese martial art teaches you to live proactively and to stay away from conflicts – you can use it, but only for self-defense, you mustn’t be aggressive.
  • Aikido leads to better joint flexibility and explosive power
  •  It improves your aerobic fitness – running is boring because you do the same movement pattern over and over, but you must move and defend in Aikido class, which means vigorous activity and a fun way to work on your cardio.

Famous Aikido Fighters

Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal is the most famous master of the traditional martial art of Aikido in the world of movies. Seagal is a defensive-minded fighter who uses his opponent’s strength against him. He’s known for high-level anti-weapon techniques.

Seagal’s is also known for the “Steven Seagal” kick (a version of the front kick). MMA fighter Lyoto Machida credited him for perfecting this technique, which turned the lights out of the former UFC champion Randy Couture at UFC 129.

Other celebrities that trained Aikido are Karl Geis, Patricia Hendricks, Terry Dobson, Frank Doran, Jon Takagi, Alan Ruddock and Harvey Konigsberg.

Video Games

If you’re into the world of martial arts video games, then you’ve probably played Tekken. Nina and Anna Williams are sisters, and rivals. But take a look at their defensive skills. These are good examples of Aikido in MMA or a street fights.

Asuka Kazama is another famous Aikido fictional character, but her fighting style is a combination of several martial arts.

Aikido In The UFC?

Aikido has been criticized on many occasions for being too soft and not being pressure tested against resisting opponents. Some masters tried to salvage their favorite martial arts by fighting in tournaments.

But unfortunately, Aikido in MMA was mostly unsuccessful, even in minor MMA promotions. Aikido fighters were getting into trouble when a wrestler gets them in the clinch or when an elite-level striker starts throwing bombs.

A handful of experts did find success in using some aspects of Aikido in MMA competitions.

Pancrase fighter Jason DeLucia appeared at UFC 1 and scored the first-ever rear-naked choke over Trent Jenkins. But he was also trained in kung fu, Taekwondo, and BJJ. But Jason created his own fighting style – combat Aikido, which combines Judo throws, BJJ techniques, and strikes. His UFC record is 2-1.

Aikido In MMA – Other Famous Names

Dan “The Wolfman” Theodore combined Aikido with various aspects of BJJ, Sambo and Wrestling to create a unique grappling style. He scored 2 wins and 3 losses. Dan also did an Aikido wrist-roll in a professional catch wrestling competition.

Jay “Prodigy” Dods is a former Bellator fighter known for the “Tae Sabaki” technique in the MMA.

Kathy Long is another famous name, a master of several martial arts – Aikido, Kung Fu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and Taekwondo. We’ve seen Aikido moves in two of her MMA bouts.

Is Aikido An Effective Combat Martial Art?

aikido in mma

Well, it’s hard to say, as the answer is both yes and no. Aikido offers a lot of advantages but its effectiveness depends on your opponent’s level of training.

It is effective against an untrained, slow fighter whose attacks can be seen miles away. Especially when you have a GI or you are wearing a jacket/long sleeves. Dealing with an average grappler shouldn’t be too hard.

Aikido can also be effective when one attacker pulls out a weapon. It’s good against multiple attackers when they have no martial arts experience.

But it gets rocky when you deal with trained fighters. Aikido is pretty much helpless against a level-changing specialist or a great ground and pound fighter.

If Aikido fighters keep the fight on their feet, they would have the chance. But if they end up on their backs, their chances of winning will be reduced significantly. So Aikido in MMA mostly won’t work.

Unfortunately, Aikido doesn’t have the greatest reputation in the world of martial arts.

Is Aikido Effective in MMA?

Aikido is a great choice for a person who wants to learn to defend themselves from bullies. There are many physical, psychological, and mental benefits of Aikido but it is definitively not the most effective combat sport in the world.

Aikido fighters get in trouble against top-notch strikers or elite-level grapplers.

And what about Aikido in MMA? Well, you rarely see it. You can apply some techniques, but sweaty opponents without a GI are a nightmare. Even black belts wouldn’t have many chances to win the bout.

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Gareth Davies

I'm a martial arts competitor and enthusiast. Over the last 15 years, I have trained and competed in several martial arts. I live in Manchester U.K working as a strength & conditioning coach when I'm not travelling and exploring martial arts around the world.
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