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Seagal's On Screen Aikido Part 1

Segal's On Screen AikidoIn my article ATTACK IS NOT THE WAY which you may have read in the April/May 1994 issue of Blitz I write:
Do not be confused by Hollywood's Steven Seagal; action movies should not be taken seriously. None of the characters Seagal plays could possibly be an Aikido warrior. even though they do apply some Aikido techniques. This is because Aikido is a philosophy, a culture and techniques: without all three being in place there is no Aikido. The philosophy and the culture are not apparent in any of Seagal's movies. We "researched" four of his films and found a total of forty minutes of 'fighting" of which approximately three-and-a-half minutes were Aikido technique''. I then promised readers that I would cover Seagal's three-and-a-half minutes of Aikido in some detail in coming issues of Blitz; well here in Part 1 are some of Seagal's favourite Aikido techniques and others will follow in coming issues.
Field SenseiHis most favoured technique is one he has applied over and over in all of his movies, a Kokyu Nage (breath throw) which can be used to defend high strikes with or without weapons in the attacker's hand. It is also effective defence against wrist, elbow and shoulder grabs. This technique is intended to be used when the attacker charges you. You need to assume when following thc photo, sequence - by the way the squares on the mat are 1M x 1M - that the attacker has just charged in to the point where if you do not move he will impact your neck. This application relies on synchronizing your movement with that of your attacker. connecting with him in such a way that you can use his momentum to help propel him down in an arc. This technique and its close variations are perhaps the most popular in Aikido against committed multiple attackers. They are powerful only when the defender is well grounded in the practice of the basic Aikido principles of Tai Sabaki (manouevring), Kokyu (breath extension) and Ikkyo (hip stability in motion).


Yokomen Uchi Kokyu Nage 1

Yokomen Uchi Kokyu Nage 2

Yokomen Uchi Kokyu Nage 3

Yokomen Uchi Kokyu Nage 4

Yokomen Uchi Kokyu Nage 5

In ABOVE THE LAW, MARKED FOR DEATH and UNDER SEIGE Seagal uses Kote Gaeshi (wrist twist) in various attacks. In the second picture sequence I demonstrate it in an attempted chest grab. Seagal uses it to take a pistol. To disarm a machette and on another occassion to release a knife. All traditional Aikido teachers teach this technique, most allow their students to use it as a knife disarming technique at gradings. However I warn my students not to use this version of Kote Gaeshi in a real live knife attack because it is weak if the attacker has a fast return on his thrust and your hand or wrist will certainly be cut. I learnt a Kote Gaeshi version some years ago from Inoue Sensei head of Hontai Yoshin Ryu Jujitsu which does not have this problem; I teach it for 'fool proof' Kote Gaeshi knife disarming. However the traditional way which most Aikidoists and Steven Seagal use is effective when you can get a clean grip on the attacker's wrist.


Kote Gaeshi Muna Dori 1

Kote Gaeshi Muna Dori 2

Kote Gaeshi Muna Dori 3

Kote Gaeshi Muna Dori 4

Steven Segal - Kote Gaeshi Muna Dori


Steven Seagal uses variations of Sankyo (the third technique) in ABOVE THE LAW and UNDER SEIGE. Inconveniently for us we are not shown the attack or how he manouvered to get the Sankyo grip. However there are many attacks that an Aikido defender can channel into Sankyo and then finish with either a throw or a pin. In the movies, throws are more spectacular and Steven Seagal does not miss the opportunity. I have reservations about the power of the throw as it is not possible to keep the wrist and elbow of the attacker under sufficient stress (see pic 4) to ensure an easy throw. Another problem is that your side is exposed to a possible strike (4). though this can be fixed by making Atemi (a strike) with your right arm when you turn from position 2 into 3. These problems aside, it is a pretty application and an interesting variation of Sankyo Ura Waza. In the nitty-gritty of hand-to-hand battle I would personally forget this throw and concentrate on the wrist-elbow manipulation (1) which is, when mastered, both powerful and easily controllable. When there is only a single attacker it is better to pin than to throw for once a pin is applied the encounter is over. If you throw, the attacker might get back up and continue to fight.
In my opinion Seagal's use of Yokomen Uchi Kokyu Nage is good and the correct choice for the situations his characters get into. But the version of Kote Gaeshi that he prefers in a knife attack is fraught with danger: I have not found anyone who can take my wrist when I have a fast return on my stabbing motion, and I doubt whether Steven Seagal could either. His Sankyo to Kokyu Nage throw looks great on the big screen but the throw is not convincing in the Dojo.


Sankyo to Kokyu Nage 1

Sankyo to Kokyu Nage 2

Sankyo to Kokyu Nage 3

Sankyo to Kokyu Nage 4

Sankyo to Kokyu Nage 5

Sankyo to Kokyu Nage 6