Aikido, Through The Eyes Of Google

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?

7 thoughts on “Aikido, Through The Eyes Of Google

  1. The UFC has exploded like crazy in the last few years I’ve noticed. Especially since I’ve moved to the south I’ve met like a million rednecks who claim they prize fight. lol here is a certain level of “meat-head” mentality that goes along with it I think. However, BJJ is a very solid modern art with some real history etc. UFC/MMA really utilizes BJJ, but it’s not pure in that setting.

    I think MMA is appealing to some people guys because of the competitive nature. All the UFC wanna be guys I’ve met are real meat heads that were always trying to out-man each other and impose their pseudo chest beating on every other man.
    However, I’ve met established MMA guys who do MMA because they purely love MMA and it isn’t about proving anything to anyone for them.
    But for young angry men MMA seems to be an outlet for a competitive nature. They wanna feel cool, and maybe they would be googling Aikido if Seagal was still cool. lol

    Then again I’ve looked up a few Aikido schools online and have found some very offensive ego- masculine statements.

    Edited by Jerry (MM, I’d rather we not discuss particular schools here. Thanks.)

  2. The google site doesn’t qualify the graph with numbers. You can’t be sure if they are talking about a rise of one person, 100, 1000 or 1000000. It shows a trend, but it doesn’t give a way to classify it because it doesn’t say it it is a significant drop or not. In statistics, any change below the standard deviation is not a significant fluctuation. Is there some way to get a graph with numbers on that site?

  3. I would be interested to see how the different martial arts stacked up to each other in terms of search popularity. I don’t think Aikido is a household name like karate or mixed martial arts, unfortunately.

  4. I’m and Aikido instructor and a Web 2.0 consultant so have a fair bit to do with Google… without baseline numbers it’s very hard to get more than an overall impression of trends, however I can tell you from memory that the TKD search numbers are about 10 times that of Aikido, and MMA is about 1000 more. Martial arts is a “niche” activity, and Aikido is a niche martial art, so we are still very much a specialist search term LOL. A tip for any of you with club websites – make sure you include the town and surrounding towns in both your body text and keywords, as invariably people search for not just “Aikido” but “Aikido Boston mass” etc when looking for a club to join.

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