The Three Craziest People I Met in Aikido Class

Martial arts is one of those rare arenas where people show their true personality, without disguise or pretense. Unfortunately, some of these people are real nut jobs!

Here are three short stories of artifice and cowardice, taken from my experience in the gentle art of Aikido.


Two words: sharpened toenails.

That’s right, this character filed each of his toenails into a sharp point. Since nobody walks around barefoot in public, only at home and in the dojo, these weapons were clearly intended for either his family or his fellow students.

I did not practice with him.


I was paired up with this European gentleman who thought himself my senior. I can’t remember his name, so let’s just call him Chuck.

A little background info for those without experience in Japanese martial arts: in the worst dojos, the success or failure of a technique is determined not by skill, but by seniority. When a kohai (junior student) attempts to neutralize a sempai or sensei, they are expected to fail, thereby showing respect for the social hierarchy.

We were not attending a bad dojo; on the contrary, it was probably the best Aikido school in town. But Chuck had acquired some bad habits elsewhere, and wasn’t quite ready to abandon them.

Kaiten Nage
Kaiten Nage

The mat was crowded that evening, and we were only two or three feet from a wall. Chuck and I were practicing throwing techniques. When it was Chuck’s turn to play uke (attacker), I entered and took his balance.

Maybe Chuck found some aspect of my performance unsatisfactory, or maybe he just wanted to put me in my place. (The contemptuous look on his face suggested the latter.) Either way, he disregarded his own vulnerability, and lifted up his leg as if to kick me in the stomach.

The situation was ridiculous. In his unbalanced position, Chuck could barely stand on both legs. And he wanted to pick one up and kick me with it? I didn’t back away to avoid his foot, since it had no power behind it.

I don’t know if the chief instructor noticed the slight smile crossing my face. But she rushed over, stopped us, and reprimanded Chuck. I didn’t toss him headfirst into the wall.


A few years back, I attended an Aikido seminar featuring a 7th dan expert from Japan. Although I didn’t know most of the other attendees, I wasn’t worried about bad behavior. Aikido folks are generally benevolent and well-intentioned.

A few minutes before the seminar, I went off to the corner to do my standard set of warm-up exercises. While other people were doing static floor stretches, I practiced some Fu style swimming dragon movements. One of the senior students saw my exercises, and decided he had to teach me a lesson.

After the seminar started, we were paired up to practice shiho nage. He requested that we practice slowly and carefully, since he was “recovering from brain surgery”. I agreed, and when I applied the technique, I let him fall at his own speed.

Shiho Nage
Shiho Nage
Illustration by O. Ratti

Then, it was my turn to play uke. I attacked slowly, and he responded in turn, until the last moment. He then applied the shiho nage so viciously that, had my ukemi been anything less than perfect, I would have left the seminar early to go the hospital.

Luckily, my flip was flawless. I stood up and looked at him, uninjured but disturbed by such treachery. “Nice fall,” he sneered.


Now it’s your turn. What neurotic, psychotic or bizarre individuals have you met during your training? Tell your story, but please don’t identify anyone by name; I don’t need any legal hassles.


  1. I was trying out a new teacher a few months back and the teacher paired me off with a karate sensei who was visiting from Hong Kong. This guy new I had experience in xingyi and bagua, but I guess he thought himself my natural superior because of his belt. He didn’t think too much of CMA so I couldn’t figure out why he with this teacher studying long fist and xingyi anyway. But I digress.

    We were paired up for throwing practice and bagua shuai jiao skills really paid off. I entered smoothly and immediately threw him nice and soft. He seemed really offended and tried to muscle the throw when it was his turn. But muscling PREVENTED him from doing the technique! In fact, he couldn’t even lift me! I tried in vain to to push myself over his body to help him with the throw but he hadn’t even really taken my balance so I couldn’t throw myself.

    He gave up and seemed really pissed. Since it was my turn again, he said he was going to make it as difficult as possible for me to throw him. And he did. When I entered, he wrestled me as hard as he could to prevent me from getting the technique. I got tired of this and kaoed him with my shoulder into the wall. The teacher saw this and came over and told us to take a break.

    What arrogance.

  2. What that aikidoka tried to do to you (3rd incident) was TREACHEROUS! It matches some of my own experiences with aikidokas… it’s funny that aikido seemingly pacifistic, “morally minded” people who take offense so easily. Go figure!

  3. Treacherous and diabolical! Gives new meaning to “I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.”

  4. Diggin’ the thread:) I get a lil sad when I see/hear about people like this.

  5. I went into this aikido dojo and started doing my thing with the brown and blacks. Next time I come to class, no one talks to me. Rumor gets back to me that I’m too aggressive so no one likes me.

    Multiply that by five and you have my aikido experience after leaving my first apparently too-tough-for-aikido aikido school.

    It’s a good art. Too bad it seem that every aikido school is made up of the biggest drama queens on the planet.

  6. Couple years ago I was at a big MA tournament in Texas. One of our newer students invited a casual acquaintance to carpool with him; unfortunately he didn’t know the acquaintance was bugnuts crazy.

    This fruitcake was in his 50’s and claimed to have 30+ years of Aikido experience. He was dirty and disheveled and more than a little wild-eyed. He got to the tournament and registered for the fights on Sunday, then spent all day Friday picking fights with the other competitors/exhibitors, in name of “demonstrating” or “sharing techniques.” I personally saw the guy flip a 15-year-old kid to the ground and put a knee on his neck–they were clear across the lobby and I could see the kid’s face turning red, although the teen was being manly about it and pretending it was all very educational. I was halfway across the floor, intending to offer the old goat a kick in the slats (despite the fact that the dude was 100 lbs. heavier than me–I have a little-mean-dog fighting spirit), when the boy’s sensei noticed what was going on and broke it up.

    Apparently there were several similar incidents on Friday. On Saturday morning, Old Crazy Guy picked on a Hong Kong native half his age, who reportedly put him on the floor with a single kick. Wish I had seen that one.

    Old Crazy Guy promptly went to the registration table and withdrew his entry in the san sou fights. Hong Kong guy went on to win not only first place in the fights, but Grand Champion at Tai chi form. Plus he was my new hero.

  7. I had the opportunity to visit an aikido dojo and learn from the sensei what a martial artist should not be or do. This guy has control and anger management issues and uses the dojo to display his anger on his students. I left this place and I want to tell you that your first self defense technique should be to listen to your instincts or gut feelings and avoid dangerous situations. Another good advice I want to share with you is the one I got from another martial artist I met later which could be useful for you too: ” A good martial artist should not go looking for fights or even take a small challenge or insult as an excuse to fight. He only fights as a last option, that is when he is physically attacked.” Good luck!!!!!

  8. I studied jujutsu in Indonesia, we had our own type of jujutsu, officially its kyushin ryu, but its more like Judo + karate mixed together, not bad. the masters are commonly a police senior officer, or an army officer. since in my country jujutsu was applied for the armed forces. the test was harsh. for blue , and brown belt the test last for 48 hours nonstop from saturday afternoon until sunday noon, nonstop. my sensei was not associated to the army, but he learnt from them. once i saw a sensei came to my friend when were at the test, forming a line (the test was held outdoor, and involve 10 black belt or more as examiners). the black belted-guy asked my friend nicely, who apparently has an injury on his feet. and my friend complained that his feet hurts cause he flipped over on a cornblock and bleed. The black belted guy then step on my friends foot and ask him if it still hurts, my friend didnt answer, the black belted guy then told my friend to make no more complaint.

    you cant imagine how glad i am to pass that night and go home after the test ended.

  9. I am leaving my name out as I am just back into martial arts practice and I have made a new fresh start at really amazing school and prefer to keep it that way. Please understand.

    Nevertheless, it’s been almost 23 years of practice for me, on and off. I have seen most of the crazy staff that went on since early 90s till now, and not only in the States. You name it, chances are, I went through it. The most crazy story? I think I got one for you.

    At one unnamed martial arts school, a so-called friend of mine started taking aggression on her classmates. One by one, they started refusing to work with her in all classes, even in stretching ones. I found myself being paired up with her more and more frequently. Meaning, I am no fortune cookie, I don’t break easily, I worked with everyone, there wasn’t a single partner I walked away from till that point. And lo and behold, this is all I did- work with her in every single class, at every turn! I was living walking punching bag. So I spoke with a head instructor and asked him to put a stop to ridiculous behavior. And here I quote: “Who else will I put to work with her?” I stayed for a while longer and one day, just finished an easy enough for me class, packed my bag and only came back to drop off my uniforms with school’s logo as donation a month later. Then 7 years later I run into my current teacher. He changed my mind and I stayed with him.

  10. At my Taekwondo school, we all rotate with each other to spar. One of the guys was the toenails guy. Whenever I was with him, I pretended his foot was a knife and tried to just run in and keep him at punching distance.

  11. Hi! I went back to practice after 2 years of “active resting”. Iriminage being my favorite move, I practiced it with a sandan with good results, being congratulated by him after the practice (he thought I was a total beginner). A blue-belt was near me when I was paired with a real-beginner. We tried Irimi again and I explained the newbye how to enter. The blue-belt told me not to explain but to show. And he remarked: but let the sensei show it.

    I agreeded. We keept on practicing and this guy was kinda stalking me to check what I did and “correct” me. After we finished, we sat down for a unformal chat. The blue-belt approached me and repeated me exactly what he said before. I asked him: -you miss your girlfriend and are trying to pick me up or what?

    All his mates in the round laughed and the blue-belt shut up. Seems like he was that kinda nuts bolter on every newbye that appeared in the dojo.

  12. I have found in Aikido that many people come to it more interested in O’ Sensei’s odd spiritual and religious beliefs than actually learning a martial art. Also many are under the impression that the power of Ki is some sort of magic power that they can learn that will enable the to do magical things. I met a guy that was hanging out in the dojo thinking about joining and had been teaching himself Aikido out of a paper back book written by someone from the Ki society. He was all wound up about the power of Ki and was sure he was going to use it to levitate himself.

  13. I find the toenails guy and the shihonage guys really disappointing. I teach aikido and I always make a point of asking people to keep fingers and toenails short. The teacher should really be aware of basic safety requirements – its a legal requirement in some places.

    The shihonage student sounds like he or she has not understood aikido pratice. Aikido practice is not competitive – it’s about mastering technique with a certain amount of cooperation from your partner.

    Your partner should not just fall in the floor at the slightest touch but then neither should they stubbornly refuse to let you practice your technique. This is important for beginners. If everyone resisted Nikkyo as much as possible the beginners would never be able to learn.
    Imagine a white belt trying to apply nikkyo to a 3rd Dan. The Dan grade is going to be too co-ordinated and relaxed for the Nikkyo technique to work well. In this case I would ask the Dan grade to “allow” the white belt to apply the technique – as the lower grade improves the Dan grade can “allow” less until the technique gets perfected.

    Practice like this makes people think that aikido is “fake” but it’s not. It’s just that it’s misunderstood.

    The techniques still work. I have used them against uncooperative opponents. I did try to avoid fighting but I couldn’t. Aikido works in taking balance and in redirecting the attackers energy – this is what worked for me. It worked because I had practiced with good partners – not ones with sharp toes or killer shihonage!

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