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Aiki-Jujutsu and Police Tactics:
An Interview With Miguel Ibarra, Shihan

In the world of martial arts, Miguel Ibarra's name stands out as a leader and teacher of Aiki-JuJutsu.  He has achieved the status of Shihan, Hanshi, and Kaiden as a result of over 40 years of study with masters Anthony Pereira, Katsumi Yonezawa, R. Kobayashi, T. Kawabe, and Hirashi Nakamura.  Blending MiYama ryu JuJutsu with Daitoryu Aiki-JuJutsu, Ibarra Sensei formed his own style, a realistic street oriented self-defense system taught out of his Daitoryu Aiki-JuJutsu Yamabushi Kai in The Bronx, NY.  Ibarra Sensei is a Certified PPCT Defensive Tactics Instructor, as well as a Certified Firearms Instructor.  He conducts training seminars worldwide.  We are truly appreciative of Ibarra Sensei's time in sitting and sharing his expertise for this interview.

KAPLAN – There have been many definitions of Aiki-JuJutsu.  How do you define it?

IBARRA – I believe Aiki-JuJutsu is a combination of Sokaku Takeda’s definition [Aiki is the art of defeating your enemy with a single glance] and Tokimune Takeda’s definition [To use one’s own energy in the most effective way without weapons; using mind and body.]

That is, we combine the techniques of JuJutsu with the principles of AIKI, which is blending and timing against mechanically and physically weak areas of the opponent’s body. Let’s remember that Daito Ryu being a self defense art has as its main purpose to beat one’s opponent.

I do not subscribe to any of the esoteric, quasi religious spiritual definitions of Aiki [JuJutsu]. Daito Ryu was called Daito Ryu Jujutsu in 1898 and it wasn’t until 1923 that the aiki was added and it then became known as Daito Ryu Aiki-JuJutsu.

KAPLAN – My observation over the years is that there are two very general categories of Aiki-JuJutsu curriculum.  The first is an all-encompassing system, as in Daitoryu, the second is a more limited curriculum, not including many striking techniques and weapons taught.  Would you agree with this?

IBARRA – Yes, I would agree with you. You see, when Sokaku Takeda was spreading Aiki-JuJutsu, there was no specific curriculum for any of the levels. At that time Licenses were still being awarded rather than Dan ranks on the basis of contributions, loyalty to the ryu and seniority, not necessarily for technical proficiency.

In the early days the instructor taught based on several factors: what he felt like teaching on a particular day; the student’s physical and mental make-up and the student’s socio-economic-political status as it related to the furtherance of the ryu.

This being the case, many Daito Ryu groups taught in the same manner, that is, no set curriculum but rather basic techniques and applications encompassing the whole system. This being the case some groups emphasized the more “aiki,” esoteric, magic techniques and others emphasized the “JuJutsu” based techniques.

In 1954 Tikimune Takeda inherited the Daito Ryu and set about popularizing it. Towards this end he organized and codified the techniques into the Ikkajo, Nikkajo, Sankajo, Yonkajo, Gokajo levels representing the Hiden Mokuroku [118 techniques]. He then assigned a Dan rank for each level from Shodan to Godan. In addition he kept the so called “advanced” scrolls for the higher titles and ranks. Other Daito Ryu groups then picked up on this and began to change, for now they had a curriculum they could use and teach in an orderly fashion.

I use the Jujutsu curriculum up to Okuri Black Belt and teach the old way for the higher ranks.

KAPLAN – Do you teach Aiki-JuJutsu techniques as they would apply to police tactics? Can you elaborate on the differences between techniques of the dojo and techniques designed for the officer to use on the street?

IBARRA – Most techniques taught in my system are applicable to police tactics. We must remember that what determines whether a technique can/should/will be used in police tactics is not its effectiveness but rather its ability to be defended in a court of law during a law suit. Now, although most of the techniques are applicable, I do not recommend it unless the officer is a martial artist. Also just because a technique is effective it may not be advisable for police use, i.e. throws, chokes, ground work.

To me dojo techniques are those we practice in order to learn concepts/movements and responses but are no where near being practical for police or anyone else [many of the formal kata techniques, single hand defenses, fancy knife defenses are in this category].

Techniques for law enforcement should fit certain criteria like:

  • Legally defensible
  • Depend on large motor skills
  • Simple execution [not complicated combinations requiring small motor skills]
  • Appealing to the Law Enforce Administrators and the general public

KAPLAN – Certainly there are restraints and controlling techniques in Aiki-JuJutsu.  Does Aiki-JuJutsu also have come-along techniques on the lines of the old Judo Renkoho no kata?

IBARRA – Yes.  Daito Ryu Aiki-JuJutsu emphasizes joint locks, pins and controlling techniques. As such they are very suitable for law enforcement.

KAPLAN – Some Aiki-JuJutsu styles I've witnessed have a very limited number of striking techniques.  Do you teach law-enforcement a wide variety of strikes?

IBARRA – Daito Ryu uses: shuto, seiken, ipponken, tataken, nukite, tetsui, uraken, empi uchi, koko, shotei, mae geri, yoko geri, ushiro geri against various targets on the opponents body. The use of atemi is geared towards: avoiding the opponent’s energy and debilitate his spirit, unbalance the opponent physically and to inhibit the opponent’s offensive strength and resistance.

Do I teach all of these to law enforcement? No. Only a handful fit the law enforcement criteria and/or policies of the departments. Although if your life is on the line all bets are off, for most law enforcement scenarios, the striking has to be kept to a minimum due to legal ramifications. Unfortunately, legal ramifications are uppermost on the minds of administrators who usually do not even have line officer experience.

KAPLAN – In a correspondence I had with a well-known Aikido sensei, he stated that a technique is a technique is a technique, meaning that while a wrist twist is a wrist twist, it takes on a different usage when used by police, despite claims of the wrist twist becoming "superior" when used by law-enforcement.  Do you agree with this?

IBARRA – I agree with the Aikido sensei. Martial arts techniques stop being martial arts techniques as soon as they are used by an officer. They somehow become tactics techniques. Remember the PR-24? Oh, it’s not based on the Tonfa. It was an independent invention through divine intervention. Yeah sure.


IBARRA – I agree with the Aikido sensei. Martial arts techniques stop being martial arts techniques as soon as they are used by an officer. They somehow become tactics techniques. Remember the PR-24? Oh, it’s not based on the Tonfa. It was an independent invention through divine intervention. Yeah sure.

Take martial arts and teach it with BDUs or combat fatigues and they suddenly become police tactics/secret military arts. The field is full of DVDs and new foreign systems which are touted to be better than martial arts.

KAPLAN – You studied and trained with a number of well-known sensei in Aiki-JuJutsu.  Did any of them have a particular emphasis on police techniques?

IBARRA – The only one of my instructors who emphasized police tactics was Shihan Pereira through his Mi Yama Ryu Police Tactics JuJutsu Division. He taught them the same techniques as the rest of us but rougher. The only additional thing he taught them was the Keibo [Tokyo Riot Police baton]. You might recognize it today as another American invention called the ASP Expandable Baton. Pereira used to order these from Japan and register their number in the dojo; he would then teach baton techniques to the police officers and to black belts. He even had an introductory manual.

Daito Ryu instructors do not emphasize anything special for police since the whole system highlights locks, pins and controls. Perhaps hojojutsu [the art of tying] may be taught sometimes, but not generally.

KAPLAN – As a former police officer, did you have occasion to use your Aiki-JuJutsu skills on the job often?

IBARRA – I was never a Police Officer. I was a New York City Probation Officer assigned to the special operations division. As such I was in the Warrant Squad for over 20 years. I was a Probation officer, Supervisor, Chief and then Assistant Commissioner in charge of all Special Operations. I was tasked with developing and implementing the department’s Gang Suppression Unit, Sexual Offender Monitoring Unit and the Intelligence Unit. This being the case I worked closely with the New York City Police Department and received all of my police training through the NYPD including my certification as a Firearms Instructor. I retired after 25 years of law enforcement on the streets of New York.

As a result of my extensive warrant work I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to use many of my techniques throughout the years. This provided me the opportunity to finish out my career without any injuries to myself or my team members, no excessive use of force complaints and not one of my prisoners was ever injured in the arrest process and NO law suits.

KAPLAN – Do you teach the use of any batons in your Aiki-JuJutsu style, and if so, which ones?

IBARRA – I teach Tanjo techniques at my dojo. Having been certified by ASP, Monadnock and PPCT, I teach the expandable baton techniques for law enforcement. However, I do not emphasize any weapons in my system. (The Tanjo is taught for self-defense, not as the formal art of Tanjo-Jutsu.)

KAPLAN – Are you familiar with the Taiho-Jutsu principles which were originally taught as part of the S.A.C. program (i.e., techniques must be easily learned easily retained with minimal practice, afford both officer and assailant a high degree of safety, and applicable regardless of assailant's size or strength, on sand or ice, fully clothed or naked), and still being taught today by the U.S.T.J.F.?

IBARRA – I concur with your Taiho-Jutsu courses guiding principles; they are similar to my own.

KAPLAN – In watching some of the "reality" police shows (e.g., COPS), I see the most horrendous methods of control techniques attempted by officers, and wonder how more of them don't get beaten up.  What are your feelings on this?

IBARRA – Shows like COPS let us see how much more training our officers need. Officers need ongoing training to be able to keep the skills sharp. But as long as departments put $ before training we will continue to see abuses, officers hurt unnecessarily and poor tactics on the street that may lead to deaths both of officers and perps.

KAPLAN – The latest martial arts rage is MMA.  I've read where this is the most dangerous unarmed threat an officer faces today.  Does Aiki-JuJutsu have techniques which are not meant to compete with, but rather, to control a situation where an assailant may attempt to use these methods?

IBARRA – True MMA is a combination of Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Unfortunately it has devolved to "Get the guy on the ground and ground and pound him to submission or unconsciousness". JuJutsu/Aiki-JuJutsu is a grappling art therefore if you have trained in Ne-Waza and you supplement with weight bearing exercises there is no additional danger in facing an MMA type of opponent.

MMA attacks on the street are similar to the old fashion football tackle and beat'em up format. The trick is not to stay on the ground, by practicing to get up ASAP, not to stay on the ground on cement, with your duty rig on. We train in Ne Waza with the intent of getting up ASAP.

KAPLAN –Do you see a place for Aiki-JuJutsu in military combative measures as opposed to police tactics?  Can you elaborate in either case?

IBARRA – Of course Aiki-JuJutsu has a place in military combatives more so than police tactics when it comes to philosophy. Although we emphasize osae waza the goal is to beat up the opponent and to finish him off for good. This philosophy is more in keeping with the military than police work.

We teach it to civilians and we practice it safely but as traditionalists we must teach the original philosophy while also being cognizant of the legal issues involved in self defense.

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