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Nature of an Attack

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #5 (August 1974)

The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of Brian Workman of the USA.

A matter of fundamental importance to every student of Aikido is the following question: “What is the nature of an attack?” It is the recognition of an attack which initiates the decision to use Aikido techniques to restore peace to a hostile situation.

Once an individual has acquired a basic repertoire of Aikido techniques and is consequently free of excessive concern for the mechanics of movement, he may then begin to cultivate an awareness of these early signs which signal a forthcoming attack. For example. These may be subtle body language clues such as a weight shift or tension in the body which reveal the would-be attacker’s intent.

Having calmly and correctly anticipated the aggressive action, the Aikidoist may take steps to limit the options available to the attacker in any number of ways: by setting his body into motion; by assuming a different stance vis-à-vis the opponent; by actively projecting an image of poised strength, etc. By proceeding in this fashion, the skillful defender injects new information which may serve to disturb the aggressor and effectively neutralize his attack. When one views movies of O-Sensei, it often appears that his attackers are not making any great effort to get to him. What cannot be fully appreciated is the impact of the subtle activity transpiring milliseconds before physical contact takes place.

The sensitivity and ability to recognize hostility gained through the study of Aikido can be extended beyond the mat to include areas of verbal/social activity. Non-physical forms of attack can likewise be detected at early stages and thus dealt with more successfully. There are indeed many cues conveyed through verbal behavior and body language to alert the sensitive participant in social interaction so that he may adopt an appropriate course to reduce group tension and conflict.