Prof. Phillip M. Skornia

Aikijujitsu 101

Aikijujitsu 101

A Sneak Preview Into One of the World's Most Effective Fighting Loren Frank

    This magazine article is reprinted by permission of author, Loren Franck.  Loren Franck has written hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles on the martial arts for a quarter of a century.  This article was written in 2005 for a major Black Belt martial arts magazine publication.

    As you leave a market, a wild-eyed man runs past you, nearly knocking you down.  And because he just robbed the store, two employees are chasing him.  A fight ensures, and the robber gains the upper hand, punching one of the workers senseless.  The other employee?  Fear stops him in his tracks.  
You're close enough to intervene.  But should you?  Join the fray and you might fall victim to the assailant's fists and feet.  If you wait for the police, the robber will probably flee.  Do nothing and your conscience could haunt you forever.  However, if trained in aikijujitsu, one of the world's most versatile martial arts, you could subdue the robber and protect everyone involved.  
That's what Phillip Skornia did recently.  Shortly after leaving a drugstore in Redondo Beach, California, he heroically restrained a combative robber until law enforcement arrived.  The confrontation startled Skornia, a Zen priest well into his sixties, but he handled the situation perfectly.  His secret?  The all-but-forgotten combat art of aikijujitsu.  A 55-year martial arts pioneer, Skornia employed textbook skill while demonstrating Shorinji Aikijujitsu's effectiveness.  
On the surface, aikijujitsu combines the renowned fighting systems of aikido and jujitsu.  More accurately, though, aikijujitsu is the prototype of each art's current version.  "Aiki  refers to the flowing circular motions in aikijujitus's throws, takedowns and holds," explains Skornia, who holds advanced black belts in aikido, judo, jujitsu, karate and taekwondo.
"Jujitsu involves using your arms, legs and torso to leverage and  throw opponents," he continues.  "After your adversary is on the ground, you apply arm bars, arm locks, chokes and submission holds.  In short, aikijujitsu combines aiki and the initial throwing arts that became known as jujitsu.  
Rooted in China and Japan, Shorinji Aikijujitsu is a distinct combat system, not an ancillary fighting style.  And though pinpointing its origin is tricky, the art's principles were no doubt spawned at the legendary Shaolin Monastery (Shorinji in Japanese), which is universally hailed as the birthplace of martial arts.  
"No one knows how far back aikijujitsu dates,"  says Richard Lake, who teaches the art to a growing number of Los Angeles-area students.  "But it most likely originated in the ancient Shaolin Temple. Aikijujitsu also has extensive Japanese roots,"  adds Lake, a dedicated martial arts historian.  For example, the Japanese style of Daito-ryu is one of the word's most venerable fighting systems.  
Skornia, an accomplished martial arts scholar in his own right, also traces the art to the original Shaolin monastery.  Specifically, he links aikijujitsu to the Chinese combat system of chin-na.  "It's the closest we can come to identifying aikijujitsu's origin,"  Skornia argues,  "We'll probably never know for sure."  
Aikijujitsu is also related to the ancient fighting art of Shaolin kempo, which includes dozens of punches and kicks plus scores of come-alongs, joint holds, takedowns and  throws.  This multifaceted fighting art is sometimes called jujitsu,aikido or by its early Japanese name, which is aikijujitsu.  But however you you label this fascinating system, it has an intriguing history.

People study martial arts for various reasons.  Some students crave athletic competition, so they excel in taekwondo, mixed martial arts and other facets of sport fighting.  Other devotees are lured by the history and formality of ancient combat systems, so they gravitate toward traditional martial arts.  But a third group seeks a highly practical and effective way to save lives in the street, and for them, aikijujitsu is perfect.
"Scooter" Rayburn, first-degree karate black belt and a certified Thaibo Power Kick-Boxing instructor, has studied aikijujitsu for six years.  To round out his martial arts training, and especially to enhance his self-defense skills, he integrates the art into his punches and kicks.  Predicatably, he lauds aikijujitsu's limitless self-defense applications.  He has also trained in traditional aikido under Thai Lau in Redondo Beach, and his master Haruo Matsuoka, 5th dan Black Belt.
Scooter defended himself late at night at a bar where he works against a couple of out-of-control customers.  He didn't want to injure them but had to take them down in order to restore calm.  
Occasionally, the scenario is more serious.  Rod Hefington once used the art to stop a rapist.  But when the aikijujitsu instructor began to help the victim, the rabid assailant attacked him, too.  "She bolted from her car, screaming for help," recalls Hefington, a 6th degree Black Belt in karate and taekwondo, with national championsiips under his belt.  "I didn't want to get too rough with the rapist, but he wouldn't cooperate, so I used aikijujitsu to stop him.  I needed to incapacitate him quickly, breaking his nose and one of his arms in a joint hold.  It was the best way to stop him."

Unlike some fighting systems, aikijujitsu doesn't detract from other martial arts.  It augments them.  Some styles, such as hapkido, freely incorporate aikijujitsu techniques.  And Monty Hendrix, a 20-year hapkido practitioner and 6th-degree Black Belt, prefers it that way.  He says hapkido is the Korean variation of aikijujitsu, and that it adds kicks and hand strikes to the ancient Japanese art.
But whether assimilated into hapkido or practiced separately, aikijujitsu provides countless self-defense options, claims Hendrix, founder of the nascent freestyle fighting system known as Modern American Sogo-Budo.  "Aikijujitsu enables you to adjust the force needed in every situation," he explains.   "You can restrain or incapacitate.  The choice is yours."
"All aikijujitsu techniques must be performed respectfully, controlled and according to established safety standards," Skornia cautions.    "I could demonstrate a gentle choke that causes pain.  You wouldn't be able to speak, so you'd have to tap.  A moderately hard choke would injure your throat so severely that you wouldn't be able to talk for three days.  And an exceptionally hard choke would fatally crush your larynx."
As with other martial arts, safety is crucial in aikijujitsu.  "Its techniques can definitely be dangerous," admits Skornia, who is sometimes a bit "harsh" when demonstrating the art.  "When applying aikijujitsu in real life, we can throw you into the air, drop you on your head, apply a joint hold and break your elbows and wrists.  We can collapse your trachea or crush your groin.  So aikijujitsu can be extremely dangerous."  
For decades, Skornia has taught Shorinji Aikijujitsu seminars to karate and taekwondo schools throughout the world.  And because their students routinely emphasize punches, kicks and other strikes, aikijujitsu is a stimulating addition to their training.  Note it took Prof. Skornia fifty-five years of hard training under many well-known Japanese and Okinawan grandmasters to earn his present 9th dan Black Belt rank. "It's the ultimate adaptable martial art," maintains Skornia.  "Its techniques are ideal, whether situations are minor or extreme.  If someone grabs you or holds you down, aikijujitsu offers a wonderful array of chokes, joint breaks, pressure points and releases.  It equips you with joint holds, locks, takedowns and throws.  Aikijujitsu enables you to punch, kick and strike, So for all practical purposes, its options are endless." 

Note:  To contact any of the instructors named in this article, you may go to or e-mail Prof. Skornia at


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