A request from Pedro Riego. Embu Aikido VS Keiko Aikido


Some time ago I received a request from Pedro Riego to talk a little more about Keiko Aikido vs Embu Aikido.

I was actually quite surprised that I have not written a post about this already. I am sure that I have at least touched upon it in some other posts. But I have not yet written a post specifically about it. So here it is.

One night we were having a party and Sensei was talking about O’sensei. He mentioned to us that there was three kinds of  Aikido. Kieko Aikido 稽古合気道, Embu Aikido 見せる合気道 and Aikido that never loses 負けない合気道.

The first, “Keiko Aikido” is what we do when we are in the dojo. It encompasses the techniques we practice and also includes the way in which we practice i.e katai keiko, building a strong base by training in a strong and focused manner. Focusing on the correct use of hanmi, hitomi and kenkagoshi, as well as skillfully using awase to break your partners balance. Keiko Aikido is incredibly deep and has a lot of detail that must be studied carefully. You cannot cut corners when doing Keiko Aikido. If you do the technique will not work. Keiko Aikido is a form of Misogi (cleansing) that seeks to remove imperfections from your spirit.

The second type is Embu Aikido. This is the style of Aikido you use when you are demonstrating Aikido to the public. It is softer and more dance like. The Uke is also part of the demonstration making the attacks appear strong while also taking big clean breakfalls to make the techniques appear exciting and graceful.

The main difference between the two is the substance. Embu Aikido is a show. Shite and Uke work in collaboration to create something that is aesthetically pleasing and interesting to watch. In many cases, techniques are modified to allow Uke to take big graceful breakfalls. And attacks while they may look strong, have little real substance behind them. Embu Aikido papers over small mistakes and imperfections in the pursuit of a form that is pleasing to the eye.

Keiko Aikido is the complete opposite. While Embu Aikido looks to conceal mistakes. Keiko Aikido looks to find problems and expose them. In keiko we collaborate to a point. I.e.  we don’t go out of our way to spoil the technique. But beyond that the responsibility is on Shite to take  Uke’s balance and throw him. Keiko Aikido is also a secret and should not be indiscriminately shown in public.

That is not to say that Embu Aikido is completely useless. In fact sensei has often said that you should train diligently when you are preparing for a Embu as this will help to raise the level of your in general Aikido. I remember him once comparing training for a demonstration to training for a test.

Becuase Iwama Aikido focuses on the strong Katai keiko style of training, the more flowing, gracful side is often neglected. By taking the opportunity to train dilligently for Embus we can study a kind of movement that we usually dont have a chance to practice during kieko. Thereby making our Aikido more rounded and polished.

As long as our demonstrations dont turn into circus acts, (e.g using kiai to knock people over or performing Ikkyo with one finger) Embu Aikido does have a positive benefit on our training.

I hope this was interesting.