This post originally appeared on my AikiWeb blog…
I think maybe aikido is better known outside Japan than inside. I know this sounds strange, but every time I mention aikido to someone in Kyoto, they say, “ahhhh, aikido!” and then take a karate-like posture with their upper body and make a punch or chop, and utter what sounds like a bad imitation of Bruce Lee.
This is literally how it goes every time: “ahhhh, aikido!” etc, etc. I have had this interaction 10-15 times now in Kyoto. At first, I tried to correct people and explain what aikido is. Then I started saying “sort of.” Now I just nod and say, “yes.” Once I tried “like judo, but a little different…” but that just got a quizzical look.
It’s possible that punching and saying “yaw, yaw, yaw” is a Japanese way of expressing universal martial arts recognition. Like I say, “I am in Kyoto to study kenjutsu” and they say “ahhhh, kenjutsu!” punch, punch “yaw, yaw”. But I doubt it.
I think it is more likely that most Japanese, for whatever reason, have no idea that aikido exists. Odd given that everyone knows what martial arts are from studying kendo or judo in primary school.