Big Ed’s a “Yondan Aikido”?

OK, I don’t know who Ed is. “A yondan Aikido” is a weird way to say that, too. Apparently, he’s some guy on 90 Day Fiancé? A TV show, I guess. (People still watch those?)

What is a “Yondan Aikido”?

Aikido is definitely not about threatening to “take you down.” Sheesh… I hope an actual yondan — a 4th-degree black belt — didn’t say that. Usually we’d say “a yondan in Aikido.” Anyway…

Since you’re here, welcome! If you’re interested in learning about Aikido you’re in the right place. I’ve been sharing Aikido and my experiences on the mat since I started training in 2009. I’m a sandan now — a 3rd-degree black belt. And I don’t go around trying to intimidate people.

An instructor demonstrating a technique with a senior student at a seminar

So, what is Aikido?

Aikido is sometimes referred to as “the martial art of harmony,” or “the art of peace.” It’s a Japanese martial art practiced by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. In Aikido we work with the energy our attacker gives us, to stay safe, stop the attack, and ideally to keep our attacker safe, too.

Wait, what? Protect the attacker?

Imagine your neighbor’s teenage kid in some kind of emotional crisis. You’ve known them since they were little. A decent kid having a very bad day. They come across the lawn shouting and swinging at you. Would you want to damage them? Break their elbow? Gouge their eyes out. No. No you wouldn’t.

In the philosophy of Aikido, anyone attacking you is someone who’s lost control. We train to only use the level of force necessary to end the encounter. That might be devastating force, if that’s what’s required, but it’s not our goal to beat the snot out of anyone, to “get the better of them,” or to “win.” Certainly not to “take them down” in some petty verbal battle of machismo or ego.

Is a “yondan Aikido” dangerous?

As we advance in our training we should become more skilled in keeping our center (not losing our… uh… temper), more skilled in applying only the appropriate amount of force, more skilled in not injuring people, and importantly more skilled in de-escalating conflict.

White belts can be the most dangerous students on the mat. They try earnestly to do a technique, sometimes trying to compensate for lack of skill by using muscle or speed. They can be sloppy (hey, they’re just learning!) and aggressive. A “yondan Aikido” should show finesse and restraint, should be able to handle conflict quietly, and should be able apply techniques in training without injuring their partner.

Students training at Aikido of San Diego

Start exploring about Aikido

There’s a lot here about Aikido. You’ll see it’s a graceful art – mostly throwing people into rolls or falls, or bringing them down to the mat in a pin. Training is a blast! It’s physically challenging — a great workout, building core strength, mobility, balance, and endurance. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, like what stops you, how to stand firm on your boundaries. All good stuff for everyday life. Aikido dojos are positive, inclusive, supportive communities, where everyone helps everyone learn, develop, and progress.

Here’s a great place to start: Aikido to Zanshin – 26 Essays on the Martial Art of Peace. This is a series of non-technical articles I wrote about some aspects of Aikido. It’s intended as an introduction, not instruction.

Turn off the TV and come play!

Even better, find an Aikido dojo (school) near you, and go see for yourself! Most Aikido dojos welcome observers, and many have a “try a class” opportunity. It’s a good idea to call first.

If you’re in the San Diego area come train with us at Aikido of San Diego. There are a lot of excellent dojos here! You can find most of them at Aikido Dojos in San Diego County. If you’re not local, check out the Dojo Search page on AikiWeb.

p.s. Oh, good heavens…

If you want to see how not to handle a sword, check out Big Ed’s video.

Follow-up: Edward Allen Brown, Big Ed, is an actor. This is an act.

If you search for posts about Big Ed you’ll find a lot of controversy. Half the people want him off the show already because he’s uncouth and tiresome, and the other half are enraged that “haters” are being so “mean” to him. “He can’t help it… Stop bullying…” Waah, waah, waah. It’s all manufactured drama.

“Reality TV” is not real.

Folks… I know this may come as a shock to some, but “reality” shows aren’t “real.” He’s a professional. It’s his job. It’s a persona. His act is to be gross and pathetic. He’s the multi-car pile-up you can’t stop watching. He’s Rodney Dangerfield: “I don’t get no respect!”

He’s a troll, a clown. (Not a casual insult – that’s the role he plays, professionally. Trolling. Clowning.)

And part of that act is to then rise above it all, to not let the “hate” get to him. How inspiring. [yawn…] The controversy he creates keeps eyes on the show, and on the related social media properties, and more important, on the ads.

Check out his Instagram account. He works out. He seems to have a nice house. He cleans up OK. The sad loser he plays is a character he invented.

Is Big Ed even a martial artist?

I hope not. If he were, he would show respect for the art, not throw Aikido under the bus for the sake of selling airtime to eyeballs. If you dig a little into his “martial arts” content you’ll find nothing but horsepucky.

Just watch his “Kyoto Sword Training” video, above. It’s a compilation of rotting, sulfurous Easter eggs for martial artists to discover. No, you don’t come up to one knee in order to step on your attacker’s pants, so you can hold them in place while cutting off their head. What? Just… No… There are at least three wrong things just in that one sentence.

He made that up to piss off martial artists. Every motion, every fumble, dropping the katana on the floor, every wrong way of doing each step, each movement. It’s got to be intentional. Nobody can be that inept by accident. He’s even trying to put the katana and saya on upside down (and incorrectly). Same with the bokken in the image below.

It has to be intentional, like a clown taking a dramatic stumble-and-fall on stage. Might he actually know what he’s doing, just like a clown might be an amazing athlete and gymnast? Maybe. But if he does, shame on him for disgracing an actual art. Make up a fake one and have all the fun you want.

By the way, he was wearing a brown belt (usually 2nd or 1st kyu – the ranks before shodan, or 1st-degree black belt) in the video below, in 2020. A reasonable time to reach the rank of yondan, if he were training diligently, might be about 10 additional years, or 2030. More horsepucky.

The bottom line:

You can see a snippet of the show that started all this in a video from @ThisIsBigEd on Instagram. His twisted depiction of Aikido triggered tens of thousands of people worldwide to search for “yondan aikido,” hitting this site and others, no doubt looking to see what kind of ridiculous art produces a bumbling blowhard like Ed as a high-level practitioner. If that’s how you arrived here, I hope you will explore further. Please understand that Big Ed does not accurately represent any aspect of Aikido.

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