The other night my aikido partner kept repeatedly banging his head against the wall until I finally said, “Hey, stop banging your head against the wall!”. Although you might think that one would instinctively know not to do this sort of thing, it isn’t always so. And oddly enough, this is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp in the study of aikido. However, it is one of the first steps in realizing what aikido is and how a lot of it works. Of course, I’m not really talking about head-butting walls. I’m referring to learning how to work with one’s partner’s/attacker’s incoming force.
In many fighting arts, when pushed or hit, fighters push or hit back. And if more force is used, fighters, in turn, use more force. What is inherently different in most aikido techniques is the very clever idea of running away. Now I’m not talking about the simple idea of running away, not that avoiding fights is a bad thing. After all, I’m talking about martial arts here. No, I’m simply talking about not standing still and getting hit. I’m speaking of the meeting of one’s partner’s/attacker’s force/energy with one’s own and the merging of the two.
If you don’t know, aikido – 合気道 – means the way of meeting ki or energy. 合 ai-meet or merge, 気 ki-energy, 道 dou-way or path. That’s fine and dandy and sounds real nice and peaceful-like, but what does that mean when it comes to defending oneself against an attack?
Typically, aikido attacks involve the grabbing of wrists or clothing, but can include open hand strikes, punching and kicking. But if we simplify these into forces that move toward you or forces that pull you, it is quite easy to understand. If the force comes at you, you move at the same speed in the opposite direction. And if you are pulled, then you move at the same speed toward the pull. There are other things that come into play, but essentially, that’s it.
Imagine a revolving door and one person is walking in as another person is walking out. If only one person pushes the door, as long as the other person moves at the same speed in the same direction the door is spinning, then there is no problem. But if the person not pushing the door walks too slowly, they’ll get hit by the door. And if they go too fast, they’ll start to push the weight of the other guy and both these options are inefficient ways to use the door. Martially speaking, if one moves with an attack, then theoretically one will come to no harm. It is the same if someone pulls the door, but pulling a revolving door is just a silly thing to do.
Now stretch your minds a little and imagine that you are inside a 360 degree revolving door. Yes, this door is in space and can be pushed from any direction. And when pushed you must move in the same direction, around your own center, the single hinge on which your unique door revolves. In this way, theoretically, you can non-confrontationally respond to an attack coming at you from any direction, and neither you nor your partner comes to harm. Many things can happen from here, of course, but at least you’ll have stopped banging your head against that wall!