Atemi – A strike to body, in Aikido and Traditional Jujutsu is followed by a throw or pinning technique.


In Aikido Atemi is commonly used to distract or unbalance as a precursor to technique. A strike generally to the head, sometimes to the chest is used accompanied by a movement of entering to the side, possibly while turning. The atemi should change the positioning of uke. It is a means to an end. In this way it differs from Karate where students learn to perform the ‘perfect’ strike.

There is another form of Atemi which is a lot less obvious to an on-looker or beginner. The Atemi is not shown but it is there. For example, Ikkyo Ura { am armbar technique involving stepping behind}.  In Ikkyo Ura {Ai Hamni Katatedori}, You use at least 2 Atemi. The first to the face but with the grab of uke this is not a full Atemi but necessary all the same. The second at uke’s side is to the side of the head. But the elbow is in the way, this Atemi facilitates the taking of the arm. The forward pressure continues till uke is on the ground. Either of these Atemi make contact with the head, but this is why it is effective. There is a lot of this kind of Atemi in Aikido. The founder of Aikido is often quoted as saying ‘ Atemi is 90% of Aikido’ or 70% sometimes. This needs to be taken in context of the different kinds of Atemi.

Whatever the amount, it is important. So why do many not bother with it. I think this has a lot to do with instructors obsessing with non-violence and wanting a specific image for themselves. This is nonsense in my opinion. It is something to hide behind and feel good about yourself. Safe in the illusion that you could defend yourself without doing any harm.

I understand that Aikido has with it a philosophy of non-violence and I think that’s great but again it needs to do taken into context. A aspect of Aikido is to take violence and turn it around, it is not brutality.  However a smack to the face of an attacker isn’t violent as I see it. As the saying goes ‘Everyone can do with a good kick on the arse now and then’.

Non-Violence is an Aim, a spiritual concept, something to strive for, doing less harm. But hiding behind ideas is pointless at best.

Image“My technique is 70 percent atemi (striking) and 30 percent nage (throwing).” Ueshiba Sensei

For more on this subject please see this excellent article by Stanley Pranin of Aikido Journal


Filed under Aikido, Budo Concepts

3 responses to “Atemi

  1. I agree. Atemi has been under-emphasized in many Aikido dojos that there are actually beginners nowadays who don’t even know these strikes are available in Aikido. The concept of atemi is actually in line with the concept of nonviolence, but more on this later. Warm regards Joseph 🙂

  2. The late great William Smith of the UK Aikikai might say of Atemi: “If you move, it doesn’t hurt”. And since Aikido is nothing if not motivated movement then I think that this is a very nice way of talking about it.

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