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On the television show The Walking Dead, a character named Morgan has become something of a "ninja" in the words of the fans. He uses a staff as his weapon, and espouses a philosophy that all life is precious, and it is never acceptable to kill anyone for any reason.

In the most recent episode, season 6, episode 4, "Here's Not Here", his martial art style was identified as Aikido, which I just learned is devoted to the twin objectives of self defense and the prevention of injury to one's opponents.

I'm curious as to whether the style he is shown to use is actually identifiably Aikido. The following videos are the best evidence I can provide at present.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXPtuJDTDwI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31hxKV4RUZE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MQrTgF5BdM

Is this actually representative of Aikido?

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No.

He is not using aiki-jo - at least as I understand it. I've studied aiki-jo for several years, and I've done my best to learn what I can of related jo arts (SMRJ) I'm not going to claim that I'm an expert, or even that I'm competent, but what he is doing does not resemble what I do, the books, tapes or teachers I've studied.

  • His wrist position is wrong. He is gripping the jo with his hand, whereas we grip with the knuckle. Aiki-jo should "wring" the staff at the time of the strike, which is simply not possible with that grip. My historian girlfriend says we hold the staff like "a pinata smasher".

  • His stance is wrong. He is standing with his weight in the middle of his feet - like a horse stance. aiki-jo uses a longer front stance with the balance very forward.

  • He is gripping the jo at the 1/3 and 2/3 position; that happens in aiki-jo, but rarely, and generally isn't used for parrying. Aiki-jo usually grips at the base and a 1/3 position.

  • His blows occur in a fairly narrow ring, constrained by his grip. Aiki-jo uses the length of the jo more flexibly to reach out.

  • There were no thrusting motions, even when they would have been logical - the engagement range is wrong.

  • In the first video he overbalances to reach a target that is outsize the zone of attack. (about the 13s mark) - aiki-jo would avoid the overbalance by gripping at the base and either thrusting (probably) or a longer strike.

  • Also in the first video, the second strike (about 4s) is almost right - low blow to what I believe is the opponent's knee or thigh. But the grip is wrong and although there is some hip torsion, the blow is delivered with the shoulders.

  • (Most important, and most telling) All of the blows I saw were delivered with arm strength, not hip strength. Much of our practice is to learn how to use the strength of hips and legs. update the third video "Morgan gets his staff" is very clear - watch his hips as he is studying on the beach. The hips don't move; all the power comes from the arms.

Like I said, I'm just a student, and there is much I don't know. Japanese martial arts aren't static and it is possible that he is studying from another school that I don't know, but it simply doesn't look similar to what I do.

I have never studied bo staff, but his techniques do look like the people I've seen doing bo staff work. (The grip looks like a bo grip - I believe you have to hold the bo in the center because it is longer - twice as long IIRC. Holding the bo in the center would result in a very slow strike. But I can't claim competence).

Update I realized that the above was telling, not showing - compare the stance and hand position to this video of Saito Sensei or this video of Nishio Sensei, who is well known for his fluidity, or Stenudd sensei, whose technique is rather different than I study, but we admire his power and precision. @Sardathrion provided this video of the shodokan 21 jo kata, which I include for ease of reference. I think if you watch these, you'll agree that it looks different from Morgan's technique.

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  • I know that ninjas have nothing to do with Aikido, it's just what the fans have been saying. I posted another victim of his fighting techniques. I also upvoted your answer. Much appreciated. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Nov 3 '15 at 2:37
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In the videos you provided, it seems that his staff, standing up, is about shoulder height. In Japanese and Okinawan arts, that would make it more of a Jo staff than a Bo staff, which is usually a few inches taller than the wielder. While I am not well versed in Aikido, I am somewhat familiar with the Jo from years of karate and Okinawan kobudo training, and I suspect that, while the katas may differ between these styles, the basic techniques should be somewhat similar.

From my experience, a lot of Jo techniques are very similar to sword techniques, using the weapon's length to it's maximum potential. In these techniques, both hands are held near one end of the weapon, and definitely not around the middle like Morgan is often seen doing in the examples you provided. Some techniques do require to have a hand closer to the middle of the Jo, but these are either stabbing techniques or slashes that still use as much of the weapon's length as possible, sliding the hands across the weapon while striking to maximize reach and/or angular momentum. Once again, this is, at least in my opinion, very different from what Morgan is doing, as his grip on his Jo staff seems to be very rigid. Instead of sliding his hands along the staff to maximize reach, he seems to favor a "Darth Maul" type of stance, keeping both hands near the center of the weapon.

After some searching on Youtube, I have found a video showing aikido practitioners using techniques similar to what I have described. While these are only a small sample, you should still be able to notice many differences in the stances used, as well as the types of strikes that these martial artists perform with the weapon.

Sample Aikido Jo techniques

So while Morgan might be using actual aikido techniques, they are definitely not similar to the Jo techniques I am accustomed to. I seem to recall there being a few aikido practitioners among the regulars here, so maybe one of them could provide more answers or help me refine mine...

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