The Texas Conflict Coach interview on Verbal Aikido

Luke Archer gets a radio interview about Verbal Aikido this Tuesday August 23rd 🙂

You can listen live to The Texas Conflict Coach radio program hosted by Pattie Porter, and Steven Kotev, who will be interviewing Luke, as part of their Back-to-School intiatives. Just as the name suggests, it’s an American station, so if you’re thimg-thingat side of the globe, or a bit of a late-bird, it’s at 7:00 pm CST (midnight GMT).

You can also catch the podcast from tomorrow evening onwards from the official program page. Just click on ‘Listen to’, and leave any comments you have too!
Enjoy 😉


What’s in a belt?

It’s pretty much a given that for certain among you, the concept of a Green Belt was something new. And if it did seem strange in some way, you won’t be surprised to know that I have received many ‘questions’ about this notion of belts in relation to aikido. Here would be a typical exchange:

“Green belt in aikido? Nonsense – we don’t use colored belts in aikido!”
[…] I’ve also heard that – it’s an interesting concept.”
“It’s true!”
“[…] I can see that you believe it.”
[***] Well why on earth do you talk about a green belt then?”
“[…] Would you really like to know?”
“[***] Go on then…”
“[…] “Well, among other things, it gives me many opportunities to understand people’s varying points of view about the concept of belts… Why don’t you tell me more about what your belt means for you?”
[- – -] “Hmm, let me think…”

You may well be smiling if you recognize this technique as the Meaning Prod, but truly this question – “What does your belt mean for you?” – is an extremely beneficial starting point when discussing any such abstract or symbolic concept as belts, degrees, titles, and so on. When you listen to how each individual expresses the meaning they put behind these ideas, you’ll find such a wide variety of answers that may make you wonder if they’re even talking about the same things at all!

You might even go so far as to start seeing the merits of doing away with the use of belts entirely.  One could even ask: why differentiate between green and orange, or even white and black? No matter what your answer to this question is, it’s rooted (deeply or not) in your belief system. However common or rare you think your answer is, it’s just the tip of the iceberg in understanding what your belt actually means to you.

If you currently have a belt in any discipline, take a second to ask yourself if:

  • it implies that you’re better or worse than someone who has a different color belt than you,
  • it means you’ve got the same capacities as someone with the same color belt,
  • it gives you a sense of pride, doubt, or is linked to your self-esteem in any way.

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of the above statements, then I’m delighted to share with you the contrasting philosophy behind the concept of belts in Verbal Aikido. You may already know that the non-competitive philosophy of aikido greatly emphasizes self-victory rather than comparison with external references. Consequently, the significance of the belts can only concern the path that each individual has chosen to take. In the approach envisaged in Verbal it is seen as follows:

  • The path towards Green Belt: the intention to discover and use effectively the basic steps in the art.
  • The path towards Blue Belt:  the intention to include emotional recognition in the practice of the basic steps.
  • The path towards Orange Belt: the intention to develop and deepen an understanding of the dynamics in verbal conflict and reconciliation, both internal and external, and to appropriate the art (i.e. make it one’s own).
  • The path towards Blue Belt: the intention to overcome one’s “dragon” and deepen one’s practice in situations with strong sentimental attachment.
  • The path towards White Belt: the intention to increase facilitation, guidance and accompaniment skills, by transmitting to and learning from learners.

Even though most learners prefer an external validation at some stage (i.e. a more experienced person who can corroborate their capacities), one can indeed be a self-proclaimed green, blue, orange, red or white belt if it seems appropriate! Why not? After all, your belt has the significance that you give to it, and your understanding of each aspect will be evolving constantly throughout the learning experiences that your life presents to you.

That said, in order to facilitate the path of those learners who see the benefit in external validation, the following conditions have been outlined relative to the attainment of these belts:

Verbal Aikido Levels & Belts 2016

I remember being told that as soon as you’ve had one class of aikido, you should start to teach someone else what you’ve learned. Indeed this is also true of Verbal Aikido, and the very act of sharing any newly acquired knowledge has the benefit of reinforcing your own understanding of what you have learned, or at the very least, helping you see what is missing from your understanding. The specificity of following a path to White Belt is that there is a clear intention to accompany an individual, or group of individuals long-term to their goals.

It may even be helpful to consider that if you intend to:

  • use the basic steps effectively,
  • deepen your internal and external understanding of the dynamics,
  • continue to share, accompany and learn through the people you have the privilege of encountering in your life,

… you might just be on all five paths simultaneously, or a motorway, if you prefer. So whatever your path, however wide or winding it may be, it’s now time to tighten that knot and get practicing!

Peace out


Boost your days…

Hey how are you doing ? No really, how are you feeling today ?!

Now, thanks to our all new web app “The Intention Generator (beta)” you can explore your emotions just a little further and boost your day with a choice of intentions specially selected for you!

Boost your lifeA big thank you to Nicolas from ngweb who made it all possible. It’s still in beta testing so your comments and feedback are more than welcome 🙂 Enjoy!


It’s the intention that counts, and it starts with just one word.

So what was your intention today? What do you mean you didn’t even think of it!?!? OK well I guess it’s fine for now, but by the end of this article you’ll have every reason to sense to the power of your intention, and feel it every single day!in-my-hands-1561426-640x480

As mentioned in a previous post about daily intention exercises (Davies), working on your deliberate intention is a key factor in your success with Verbal Aikido. Being able to implement and hold your intention faced with an attack not ony puts you a step ahead of your partner, but gives a higher level of mastery in the overall exchange.

INtentionI would even go so far as to say that the more you work on your own intentions, the more other people’s intentions (or lack thereof) become clearer too. Just call it a bonus effect!

“Yeah but, how can I really work on my intentions?” – It’s easy enough, just choose a constructive direction you’d like to develop with your actions throughout your day.

“Yeah but, what if I fail?” – Fail what? The beauty of this exercise is that all you need to do is to feel, find, recognize, understand and/or develop your intention as much as you can. There is no failure, no success… unless of course you give yourself a personal goal

VA calen preview“Yeah but what if don’t have any ideas for a daily intention?” – Ahhh, well now you’ve presented me with an opportunity to give you a present!

Click here to download your brand new 2016 Intentions Calendar, suggesting a word a day. That’s 366 ideas to enhance your daily actions and develop your power of deliberate intention. What are you waiting for!

Intention Mug preview ENI must admit, personally I do like to have a morning reminder to help me as I’m sipping on my coffee. If you too would like to have one of these helpful mugs, and set yourself on the right tracks first thing in the morning… just let me know!

Peace out



Step out of the win/lose dilemma

There’s more than one reason you won’t find Aikido at the Olympic Games, but essentially an activity that produces no winner is an unlikely choice if you’re expecting an exciting climax. It’s quite easy to understand why most people believe that having a winner inevitably implies the existence of a loser, after all, it’s what we see all around us; in sports, politics, talent shows, lotteries… the list is endless.

“There is no place in the Art of Peace for pettiness and selfish thoughts. Rather than being captivated by the notion of ‘winning or losing’, seek the true nature of things.” (Morihei Ueshiba)

But what if there were other ways to perceive these processes? What if seeing things as “right or wrong”, “win or lose” was just a first step in our understanding? To prepare your movement away from this dualistic view, I encourage you strongly to explore your own beliefs on these notions and, if you can find a willing partner, stretch these words (right, wrong, success, failure, etc.) to develop a greater understanding both of yourself and the limiting subjectivity that surrounds them. choice-abstract-4-1237643-640x480

Secondly, start (and keep) asking “What else is there?” This question, given any dualistic perspective, contributes greatly to your open-attitude kamae. Remember that if someone gives you two options (e.g. either continue reading this post or walk away) you always have more options that are available. There is a difference between a choice and a dilemma; in a dilemma there are two alternatives, but true choice starts with three. For example, if you felt that the only two possibilities you had at this moment in time were to either continue reading or walking away, it would be a useful exploration of alternatives to consider that you could also:

  • Copy or take a snapshot of a part of it that you liked,
  • Meditate for a moment on a quote or idea that touched you,
  • Make a comment at the bottom of the page,
  • Send a link to a friend and talk about it,
  • Write a few notes on a piece of paper and make an airplane with the page…

The next time you’re somewhere and you wonder “should I stay or should I go”, take a moment to explore other alternatives that may be available… I guarantee you’ll find at least one more, and that in considering these other options, making your choice will seem more evident and often considerably easier.

“I am constantly losing my balance. My skill lies in my ability to regain it.” (Morihei Ueshiba)

Finally, you may be already familiar with O-Sensei’s teaching “Masakatsu Agatsu” – True victory is victory over oneself – but did you know he is reputed never to have lost an argument? Indeed this doesn’t mean that he ever won one either! But rest assured, there are many ways you can win on a personal level without producing a loss. The most fundamental of these is to remain centered when faced with adversity. But don’t get discouraged, because the experienced practitioners also lose their center regularly, get destabilized and even fall. So another form of self-victory might then be your capacity to return to center as quickly as possible… How many other types of self-victory can you find before the end of the day?

“To win 100 victories in 100 battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill.” (Sun-Tzu)

If ideas are not yet coming to you by the shipload, this may set you off in a helpful direction: there is a Chinese proverb that says “If I have one object and you have one object, and now we exchange objects, we both still have one object. But if I have one idea and you have one idea and now we exchange ideas, we both have two ideas.” So, if your objective in an exchange is to discover something rather than to convince or show what you know, then you will walk away from any interaction richer than before.  There’ll be no ‘loser’ in sight, yet… you’ll ‘win’.

(extract from Verbal Aikido Orange beltAlternatives to dualistic perspectives)

Peace out


Verbal Aikido and Nonviolent Communication…

I often get asked “What’s the difference between NVC and Verbal Aikido?” Well the short answer is that it’s like the difference between a hammer and a screw-driver: they’re both tools that do similar things but in different ways.

From my own experience with both of these communication tools, there have been times where I’ve recognized it was more appropriate to use one or the other. Essentially I’ve found that NVC works best when dealing with one’s own imbalance or unpleasant feelings, i.e. when I felt that there was some aggressiveness or discomfort within me. Verbal Aikido, on the other hand, is much more efficient in dealing with the aggressiveness or discomfort coming from someone else.

To give you a practical example, NVC would work well if you feel upset because someone is trying to manipulate you… You might say “Hey, when I feel manipulated I get frustrated and I need to feel that I have a choice and that my choice will be respected.” The objective here is to decrease the likelihood of others hearing blame or criticism in the words you use with them, thus avoiding a conflictual situation or escalation.

Verbal Aikido works well when managing someone who might accuse you of manipulation:
“You’re just a manipulator!”
“What makes you say that?”
“You’re trying to get your own way!”
“And what do you believe my intentions to be?”

The objective here is, of course, to avoid a conflictual situation or escalation too, but it is done by focusing externally rather than internally. Indeed there is much in common between Verbal Aikido and Nonviolent communication, because both focus on understanding the source of discomfort, both use empathy to connect with the other and both aim at creating peaceful exchanges and reinforcing relationships. If you’re still wondering which is better, can you really put a hammer and a screwdriver in competition?

hammer screwdriverPersonally I find both tools complementary, one more proficient in dealing with what I want to express, and the other in dealing with what someone else is expressing. However for Verbal Aikido to be truly effective it isn’t necessary for both people to be receptive and practice it, whereas I’ve found that NVC is really most effective when both are trained and open to using it. It really is best to have both tools in your toolbox; you never know which will be most appropriate to hang up your picture!

Nonviolent communication  Verbal Aikido

Uses empathy and sincerity



Develops self-mastery



Creates peaceful environments Kliponious-green-tick Kliponious-green-tick
Helps me express my negativity Kliponious-green-tick
Helps manage my inner-criticism Kliponious-green-tick Kliponious-green-tick
Starts by reflecting on one’s own feelings Kliponious-green-tick
Starts by reflecting on other’s feelings Kliponious-green-tick
Main focus on one’s own expression Kliponious-green-tick
Main focus on active listening Kliponious-green-tick
Equally efficient in unilateral use Kliponious-green-tick
Rapidly manages verbal attacks Kliponious-green-tick
Develops compassion and understanding Kliponious-green-tick Kliponious-green-tick

Peace out


Verbal Aikido – Orange Belt has arrived!

Even if you haven’t read Volume 1 (Green Belt), the latest Verbal Aikido handbook is specifically designed so you can jump right in, and explore this practical and peaceful approach to dealing with:

  • Front Cover framed - small Orange beltpeople who always want to be ‘right’,
  • passive aggressive behaviour,
  • persistent attackers,
  • your own ‘inner’ attacks,
  • multiple attackers,
  • energy vampires,
  • verbal humiliation…


Richard Small sensei, 4th dan aikidoka comments:

How would it feel if, in the middle of chaos and conflict, you could at will find inner peace? It is yours for the finding. With open heart and mind please read this book; indeed it is far more than a book, it is a light shining brightly upon the path ahead and guiding your own learning to a better, happier place.

If you’re not yet able to get delivered by Amazon (US, UK, France), just contact us and we’ll make sure a copy gets to you safely. The Kindle version is also available  in print replica format for all Kindle fire tablets and reading apps – just type ‘Verbal Aikido Orange’ into your Amazon search.

Looking forward to hearing your own views soon!

Verbal Aikido @ Schools

In September 2014 we were asked to come to the Paul Portier High School in the Champagne region to teach Verbal Aikido to the students and teachers.
It was the beginning of Verbal Aikido @ Schools Project…

If you would like your school or organization to benefit from Verbal Aikido training, please contact us.

If you’d like to Discover More first… that’s fine too!

Pour découvrir en version française, cliquez ici.

Creating personal victories

A few years ago I got a boardgame for my son. The game involves moving your counter around a board in search of the objects depicted on the cards dealt to you. But when it came to explaining the rules to my son and a friend of his, I decided to make up some house rules of my own. In fact, I did this because I knew my son’s friend often got very upset, declaring “it’s not fair” any time we played something and things didn’t go his way. So, all the time pretending to be reading from the official text, I explained that we weren’t allowed to proclaim that something wasn’t fair. It was in the rules after all!

As they seemed to gladly go along with that one, I added another. You could, of course, win by being the first to get through all your cards, but you could also win by making up a great story using all the items on your cards, which inevitably produced quite a few draws!

imagesSurprisingly enough, even though they both copped on a few years later that I had been “creative”, we continued to play by the house rules. No-one ever complained during the games and the stories got better and better.

The truth is, no matter what rules you perceive around you, you always have the choice to make up your own rules and play by them. In fact, there’s most likely some area that you’re doing it already. Whether it’s finding a parking space close to your destination, identifying a song sooner than anyone else, having the most fashionable outfit, drinking the most beers at a party, cleaning something a certain way or whatever else; there’s something that you do that you consider to be a ‘personal win’, and you feel good when you do it.

True victory
“Masakatsu Agatsu” Morihei Ueshiba

For some, well for quite a few people in fact, proving someone wrong is one of these personal victories. You will recognize these people and, as O-Sensei says “Be grateful even for hardship, setbacks and bad people. Dealing with such obstacles is an essential part of training in the Art of Peace”. So in relation to these occurrences, and on your path to self-mastery, the sort of self-victories that you can grant yourself (especially when you know a difficulty is coming) could be something on the lines of the following:

  • Come back to a centered place in less than 10 minutes after getting upset.
  • Come back to a centered place in less than 30 seconds after getting upset.
  • Keep your voice at an acceptable volume level
  • Remind yourself of your intentions three times
  • Suspend your point of view for one minute and actively listen
  • Discover something you didn’t know about the other
  • Discover something you didn’t know about the yourself
  • Make the other smile
  • Reach an Ai-ki
  • Maintain enough Inner Smile to not need anything else

So why not make self-victory something tangible and create your very own Aikidolympics today? Add your own challenges; compete in your own personal biathlon, pentathlon or decathlon; award yourself bronze, silver and gold for succeeding in whichever ‘events’ you choose!  Let’s finish with some words from O-Sensei to keep us on track…

Set in motion
The power of the universe
By wielding Aiki:
Create a beautiful world
And foster peacefulness.

If you’re not right… are you wrong? (Open attitude)

I was chatting with a colleague recently who was telling me about his wife who “loves to be right”. I remember wondering “Well, who loves to be wrong?” Indeed everybody needs to feel right about certain things in order to construct a life with any degree of stability, but in instances of conflict transformation, holding on to what we feel to be the only truth has an annoying way of making matters escalate.

If you stand in opposition or in resistance to another person’s point of view, the chances of reaching any sort of efficient outcome (balanced or not) are of course greatly compromised. Compare how long, on average, a boxing combat takes to the time an exchange in aikido takes; compare how much effort is used and how much pain is endured on both sides… Now ask yourself: do you stick to your guns and fight your corner when someone’s point of view differs from yours? Well rest assured, there is something quite simple that will help take you out of that verbal boxing match and into an exchange that greatly reduces your effort, pain and even just the time you put into it!

In fact, your initial stance plays a greater role than you can imagine, both physically and verbally. In aikido, the physical stance or kamae, enables you to receive and blend with your attacker. There are different kamae; kneeling, standing, left-oriented, right-oriented, etc., but whatever your stance, it is key that you find a centred and balanced position that gives you enough flexibility to let the energy flow (ki-no nagare) and manage whatever comes at you.

In Verbal Aikido, we call this kamae ‘open attitude’. Indeed even in physical aikido, our kamae pertains to much more than just how one’s body is positioned; it concerns an overall comportment too. open attitudeWhen dealing with verbal conflict, you have an edge over any attacker when you begin from this open-attitude stance, being able to let go, if only momentarily, of what you believe to be right or wrong, and to replace it with a humble and sincere curiosity to discover more, about yourself or someone else. Indeed, a certain naïve openness is required to learn anything, for the simple reason that cynicism puts up barriers that prevent us from accepting any new information.

A couple of years ago I was walking to the mall with my son and to my surprise I realized that he hadn’t told me the truth about something. It was rather insignificant but my parenting role still seemed to dictate that I warn him of the consequences of lying, so I briefly rehashed a version of the ‘Peter & the wolf’ story. Now my son Seán, who was 11 at the time, had already become quite experienced at using Irimi

“Ok but what is lying?” he asked with a little smile budding on the corners of his lips. I decided to entertain the question and see where it would go.
“Well, it’s when you decide to mislead someone or to not tell the truth.”
“What is the truth?”
[***] Good question young padawan. Well, if you know in your heart that you’re not trying to mislead someone, then you’re on the right track!”
“Yeah, but how do I know something is really true?”
“An absolute truth?”

For the next 15 minutes I challenged Seán to find something that was always true. In every case I found an exception. When he said “That’s easy: 1 + 1 = 2”, I replied “Well, in maths that’s true… but what about if you put one male and one female together for long enough, your 1 + 1 could become 3… or more!” When he put forward that “Everyone closes their eyes when they sleep”, I asked “What about the guy who lost his eyelids when his face was burnt?” Now this did get frustrating, and sometimes a little gory, but the point was not to prove him wrong, just to explore the limits of what we believe to be ‘universally true’. Finally his frustration got the better of him and he blurted out “OK so you tell me, what’s true then?” I smiled as I replied “For me, the only real truth is how we feel in a given moment, and right now, I love you – that’s an absolute truth. Your truth is how you feel, and no-one can take that away from you” [- – -]. His wide grin told me that we had found the Ai-ki in that discussion.

As it happened, a short while later, we were watching a science documentary which explained that, right now, the most advanced and widely-accepted theory in astrophysics concerning the content of the universe is that over two thirds of it is made up of ‘dark energy’, more than a quarter consists of ‘dark matter’ (the ‘dark’ here meaning simply that it remains ‘unseen’ by our senses), and what’s left – about 5% – is what we can actually perceive. “Wow,” he whispered to me, “we really know nothing!”

Well, at least we know that we know nothing! So with our greatest scientists’ humble estimation that we can only fathom one twentieth of what we think exists – how can we believe that any theory or belief can give us the full picture? Indeed our understanding and knowledge will never be complete, all we can hope to do is continue to enjoy discovering new ideas, techniques and points of view… which is exactly the sort of opportunity that can arise when someone’s preconceived ideas about what is right, wrong, true or false are challenged – and when we meet it with that open-attitude kamae!

In the end, it can help and even accelerate our learning potential to see things without having an attribute of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, or at least to suspend this sort of judgment momentarily. Rather, there is only ‘our evolving reality’, and the only absolute truth is how we feel at a given point in time. Indeed, on the enriching quest to understand another person’s truth you may even catch a glimpse of your own!

Check out how to use this open attitude on the ‘virtual mat’ with Verbal Stretching

Discover our free resources and activities.

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