Aikido in The Walking Dead
Aikido Among the Zombies in Episode 4, Season 6, of the TV-series
Aikido is prominent in the season 6 episode 4 of The Walking Dead, which was released on November 1st, 2015. The same day I had a significant increase of visitors to this aikido website, but it took me a while to figure out why.
Here's Not HereThe title of the Walking Dead episode is Here's Not Here, which certainly has a the ring of a Zen koan to it. The more accurate Zen saying would be something like There's Only Here, since Zen is very much about living in the moment - but close enough. As a koan, the thought provoking riddles used in Zen teaching, it definitely qualifies.
In the episode, Morgan, who is one of the lead characters of the TV-series, reluctantly befriends the loner Eastman, who practices aikido both physcially and as a pacifist principle for how to live. Eastman takes on Morgan as kind of an aikido disciple.
As for the aikido action, there are just a few glimpses of it. Evidently, the actors did not practice very much before the filming, but the general idea of aikido comes across, although in a rudimentary way. At least, Eastman uses taisabaki, the evasive step fundamental in all aikido.
Except for the gentle bows they start and finish with. That's a nice budo ingredient to keep.
On the other hand, when dealing with zombies it might be better to do it with a stick instead of one's bare hands. Even that is gross. As the saying goes: "I would not touch it with a ten foot pole".
Bo Not JoOf course, the jo is far from ten feet, but a mere 4.2 feet (1.27 meters), with small variations. One of the longest of the Japanese weapons is the naginata, which can be twice the size of the jo, i.e. eight feet. That comes close to the saying about the pole. I believe that in history, there have been naginata both reaching and exceeding the length of that pole. But the naginata is also equipped with a steel blade at the top of it.
That goes for yari, the spear, as well. Some are no more than three feet, but the very longest ones reach as much as 20 feet (thanks to Altan Shuki Uludag for reminding me in a Facebook comment below).
Somewhere between the lengths of the above mentioned poles is the bo, the older big brother of the jo. Normally, the bo is six feet, but there are those up to nine. The latter would be very difficult to handle swiftly.
The jo was invented by the samurai Gonnosuke in the 17th century. He used a bo when he met Miyamoto Musashi, the most famous of all samurais, in a practice duel. Musashi won easily. Then Gonnosuke got the idea of shortening his bo to a length compromising between reach and speed. That was the jo. In their next duel, Gonnosuke did not lose. If he won is a matter of opinion. Musashi had it that they were even.
The jo is actually still in use with the Japanese police.
In other words, the staff movements in The Walking Dead are quite authentic, but for bo instead of jo. I haven't followed the TV series, but I bet that other scenes with Morgan swinging his staff will confirm that they show karatedo bo style techniques. And as far as I understand, they do so quite authentically.
Spoiler AlertWhat irritates me the most with the aikido bits in this episode of The Walking Dead is how Eastman fatally fumbles at a moment of crisis, where he takes the trouble to push his friend away instead of simply striking that zombie.
November 3, 2015
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I'm a Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist, an historian of ideas and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.