A few weeks ago our dojo had the good fortune to reconnect with a talented Aikidoka from Australia. He had visited us about four years prior, and was back in the States for, of all things, his honeymoon. Putting aside any other plans for the evening, our friend attended Sensei’s class, and later taught a very interesting class himself.
That evening, as we caught up at the local watering hole, our conversation turned to (of course!) Aikido. I had mentioned that Google had some interesting statistics regarding Aikido as a search query. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this topic deserved its own post.
Google As Gatekeeper
As you probably know, Google is the dominant search engine on the web. What you may not know is that Google is also an amazing aggregator of information. Search terms, or in Google parlance “keywords”, are an important way we signal interest online. If we want to find, say, Thai food in Jacksonville, we search the keywords “Thai food” and “Jacksonville.” Similarly, if we want to learn about Aikido, we search “Aikido”. It’s helpful in this context to think of keywords as an electronic vote.
But Google does much more than just match content providers with users. It also stores this information, in a way that is, at least partially, accessible to us. The front end for this trove of data is called Google Trends. Go ahead, try it out. I’ll wait.
For our purposes, the significance of Google Trends is this: Over time, the popularity of a search query, such as “Aikido”, can be a useful barometer of public interest in that subject, or at least that portion of the public with the resources to search the web.
Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, and MMA
So, how does Aikido stack up? Let’s take a look. Although the view we have is fairly limited, the chart does show trends, and in our case, the trend is not pretty. But is this unique to Aikido? What about other martial arts, say Tae Kwon Do, or MMA?
First Tae Kwon Do. Perhaps not surprisingly, Tae Kwon Do, as a traditional martial art, is faring little better than Aikido. (Although its inclusion in the Olympics have resulted in some temporary, albeit impressive, spikes.)
MMA, or mixed martial arts, is a different story altogether. I can’t help but feel a twinge of envy as I look at that rising curve. Whether MMA remains popular, of course, is an open question.
Lastly, out of curiosity, I searched “Steven Seagal”. By my reading, it doesn’t appear that the decline in popularity of “Aikido” as a search query has any real correlation to the popularity of our favorite Aikidoka / actor / musician.
Now the disclaimer: I have no formal training in statistics and lack the background to perform any real analysis of these trends, (even assuming Google made available more granular data.)
Having said that, I do find that these trends back up my own anectodal experience. Your thoughts?