Your Training Partner is Not Your Pretend Enemy

Recently, Jeramy Hale Sensei was teaching at the dojo. He brought up a point which I thought was so important that I decided to make a video about it. Jeramy Sensei was making the point that your aikido training partner is not your pretend enemy.

Here’s the video. I hope you enjoy. I look forward to seeing your comments.




Here’s the transcript to the video:

Hi, everyone. My name is Frank Bloksberg. I am Chief Instructor of Aikido’Ka, an aikido dojo in Grass Valley, California. My good friend Jeramy Hale taught at the dojo on a recent Friday evening, and said something so important and profound that I feel compelled to discuss it with you. Jeramy was talking about the relationship between the people training. Jeramy explained that even though your partner is playing the role of an attacker, that person is not your pretend enemy. Let me say this again because it’s so incredibly important. Even though your training partner is playing the role of attacker, that person is not your pretend enemy. I’ll explain why Jeramy’s point is so important.

Here’s a quote from an article about the self-defense value of a particular form of karate. “When we train, we’re as serious as we would be during a life-and-death struggle. Our mindset throughout each session is that we’re really defending ourselves. We’re conditioning our minds to see our attackers and to fight them with every move we make.” In other words, see the people you’re training with as your enemy and treat them that way. After years of this type of practice, how do you think you’ll respond to any type of a threat, whether physical or emotional?

Well, here’s what the article says about that:

“When students practice, we try to develop reaction. Ideally, when you’re attacked, you’ll react automatically. The further you go in your training, the more your techniques will become reactions. They’ll become second nature to you.”

I agree that it’s absolutely true that training should create fast, precise movement. If you have to think about how to respond to a physical attack, then chances are your response will be too late. But if year after year you practice a violent response to attacks, then that’s how you’ll respond to any perceived attack – without any thought and lightning quick. Indeed, that’s the point.

The self-defense aspects of Aikido are about resolving disputes, even potentially violent disputes, with no one getting hurt. With Aikido, we look to blend with our attacker. We use evasive movements to unravel the attack and place the attacker in an untenable position. We practice these movements until we can precisely perform them without thought and lightning quick. So if you do perceive an attack, you will not automatically respond with violence. And that’s the point.

Here’s another important point:

Aikido, as with every other real, modern martial art is not a combat system. Aikido is primarily about self-improvement and relationship building. While Aikido practice can build incredibly effective self-defense skills, it’s primarily an art. Practicing Aikido can make you a much happier, healthier member of an incredibly fun community. Practicing a true combat system will make you a better fighter and get you beat up a lot, likely nothing more. You get to choose which one of these you want from your life. You know which one I choose.

Here’s how I describe the roles that attacker and defender have in Aikido practice:

You bring the attack in such a way so that your training partner can do his or her technique perfectly. Likewise, you perform your defensive techniques so that the attacker can receive the technique perfectly. We’re people, so we don’t do anything perfectly. Nonetheless, that’s the goal. We practice to support each other’s improvement. We’re not pretending to be enemies. We’re partners in our practice, and working together for mutual self-improvement and to learn whatever the thing is that we’re working on.

Whenever human beings understand something, we automatically believe it. You don’t have a choice. The belief happens automatically. Once you understand something, you may be able to override the belief. But many beliefs continue even after the belief has been thoroughly debunked. The scientific literature is filled with studies about this. If we pretend to be each other’s enemies, then we actually are enemies at least for some time. We then have to somehow override that belief.

Consider for a moment what pretending to be enemies can bring up in your mind. Bringing an attack as an enemy involves trying to hurt your enemy. It brings up the desire to defeat, even humiliate one’s enemy. We destroy trust and community by doing so. In no way is this appropriate for Aikido practice.

Aikido exists to improve our lives and our relationships. Not surprisingly then, creating enemies has absolutely no place in the dojo – not even pretending and not even for a short time.

Now don’t get the wrong idea. Aikido is martially effective. Depending on your practice, it can be extremely effective. You can train as vigorously and powerfully as you want. You will get there with respect and by building trust with your training partners.

The dojo is a safe place for everyone who trains here. If you and I are training together, you have to feel safe. If you don’t feel safe, then I have work to do to get you there, and being your enemy sure isn’t going to accomplish that.

So thank you, Jeramy. If Aikido training sounds good to you, then please check us out at, and thank you so very much for your time.

Start your 30 days free aikido training by filling out the form below. I look forward to training with you!

Choose Your Own Adventure Seminar

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-graphic3Focused Practice on What’s Important to You

With Senseis Michael Friedl, Frank Bloksberg, Mark Zwagerman

 We’ll be working on what you want to study, addressing your personal aikido challenges. We will be training, not talking!

When you sign up online, just tell us what you want to work on. We’ll take questions at the seminar, too.

What We’ll Be Working on During This Seminar . . .

You’ll be working on whatever you want. Come to the seminar with your most pressing aikido questions and challenges and we’ll do our best to help you through them. Or, train on the techniques you enjoy the most. Or just show up and see what happens.

We will all meet with the same goal: Helping each other succeed in our training, enjoy our practice and build friendships. After the seminar, you should be a long way to overcoming your aikido challenges, — or, at least, understanding how to ultimately answer your questions and overcome those challenges. And, you will have had a great time.

The Choose Your Own Adventure Seminar is an experiment. We’ve never held a seminar like this before. Here’s the plan right now (if it doesn’t work, we’ll change it): Before the seminar, we will collect everyone’s questions so that we have an idea of what people want to work on. If there’s a particular theme to the questions, then we’ll address that theme at the beginning of the seminar.

As nage, you will work on the techniques and/or principles you want to work on. As uke, you will do your best for your partner’s technique/principle study. Michael, Frank and Mark Senseis will work with you to answer your questions. Keeping an open mind and giving your best training effort will lead to everyone having a terrific time and learning a lot.

For more information and to register for the Choose Your Own Adventure Seminar, click here!



Aiki Summer Retreat — Photo of All Instructors

At Aiki Summer Retreat, we had a fair number of instructors. Each day, we had our featured instructors, Senseis Michael Friedl, Kimberly Richardson, Danielle Smith and Craig Fife. We also had instructors for our 7 – 8 am classes — Senseis Forrest Kan, Johnny Newsome, Chuck Hauk, Calvin Koshiyama, and Darrel Berlie. These senior instructors taught and mentored along with Frank Bloksberg (me), Michele Simone, Mark Zwagerman, Erik Haag, Jeramy Hale, Molly Molly Sacco Hale, Sara G Snell, and Mark Kruger.

What a blast!



Please Join Us for Our Holiday Seminar and Testing

Holiday Seminar
Saturday, December 14, 2013


Please join us for our Holiday Seminar on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at Aikido’Ka.

We’ll have a blast training and then having kyu demonstrations. Here’s the schedule:

10:00 Asia Currie
10:45 Mark Zwagerman
11:30 Frank Bloksberg
12:15 Lunch
1:30 Asia Currie
2:00 Mark Zwagerman
2:30 Frank Bloksberg
3:00 Kyu Demonstrations

After the demonstrations are completed, we’ll have a potluck/get together.

So . . . train, laugh, smile, practice, visit, laugh, train, sweat, smile, demonstrate, eat, drink, watch demonstrations, and generally just have a good time with friends.

Mark Zwagerman joined Aikido’Ka this summer, when he moved to Grass Valley from Santa Cruz. Mark was awarded his sandan (third degree black belt) by Linda Holiday Sensei. Linda Holiday Sensei is Chief Instructor of Aikido of Santa Cruz. Mark is a remarkable aikidoist with exceptional ukemi skills. (He’s also a great guy!) In his classes, Mark will teach how to dramatically improve your understanding of ukemi. We are absolutely thrilled that Mark has joined Aikido’Ka and is teaching during our Holiday Seminar.

We really look forwarding to seeing you.

The picture of Mark Zwagerman is taken by Beau Sanders. The photo is used with Beau’s permission.