VAP Tour 2014

I’m delighted to present the upcoming dates of the VAP Tour 2014 :

  • Cambridge 04 July
  • The Hague 19 September
  • Brussels 21 September
  • Paris 23 September
  • Lyon 28 September

You can find all the information you need about these workshops on the official website. In these workshops, you’ll explore your capacity to channel verbal attacks, reinforce your Inner Smile and resolve conflilctual situations! Would you like to host the VAP Tour with your organisation? Fill in the venue inscription here.

VAP Tour 2014 Seminars & Workshops

Verbal Aikido for Peace – a global event!

Big news everybody – the innovative off-the-mat conflict transformation approach could well be coming to a city near you this summer! Yep, we’re hitting the road for almost 3 months on July 3rd and are already expected in the UK, Ireland, the US, Peru, Australia, India, South Africa and many European countries… We’re considering venue proposal applications for another eight weeks (until April 27th), so let us know now if you’d like to participate in an interactive seminar or workshop near you.

We are working with schools, non-profit peacebuilding organizations and dojos to share Verbal Aikido with as many men, women and children as possible. You can find all you need to know about this humanitarian trip on the official VAP Tour website, and you can check out the sponsorship rewards you’ll get for supporting this cause here.

Verbal Aikido for Peace World TourDiscover the Verbal Aikido for Peace Tour 2014

This obviously means that there will be no summer training in Lyon this year, but the spring classes start in two weeks (March 14th) so come along if you want to find out what all the buzz is about!

Blog you soon, peace out!

Language: Constant evolution, constant redefinition…

Everything is soooooo subjective. Well, every word anyway… We are in exponential times and the evolution in language is no exception. Confucius once explained this evolution in language when he asked us to take our definition of a king, and compare it to what a king signified 500 hundred years beforehand. Buddha is also quoted as saying “The only thing constant is change” and when we look, we can see these changes everywhere.

It may seem like a ‘no-brainer’, but what is a file? Do you think that what it means for you today has the same connotations as “a file” 40 year ago? What about a network 20 years ago? A social network 10 years ago?change

I know what you’re thinking: this is starting to look like a fashion article – but fashion seems to be the one of the rare things we freely accept as being in constant evolution, constant redefinition… In reality, you can observe, and embrace, the fashionable aspect of language too. If you have kids, the chances are you’ll also have heard the evolution of what ‘cool’ really means!

Grammar too, blending with some academic belief systems, is also evolving and can therefore only claim to be “descriptive*” rather than “prescriptive**”. Seeing grammar as having fluidity along with its ‘medicinal facet’ indeed facilitates such other artistic endeavours as song-writing, litititerature, poetry and the like. If William Shakespeare, James Joyce and Eminem had just one thing in common, it would certainly be the elasticity in their ‘Use of English’.

Other academic traditions propose that the grammar we use today is the framework that needs to be maintained ‘as is‘ for coherent communication. Indeed, there is a tendency to see divergences from the recorded ‘structural rules’, as being grammatically incorrect. The tendency concerning vocabulary seems selective, but is also, in retrospect, always playing catch-up with the spoken reality of language.

One thing that can be said is that new words are arriving into our daily vocabulary at an astonishing rate. How? It’s easy: just invent a new service, product or concept. Hoover and Kleenex quickly became household names, Xerox got it in the offices, but how many Twitteresque names can you count in your vocabulary nowadays? If we can remove our conservatory judgment of something not (yet) being in ‘the dictionary’, surely we can embrace the evolution in language more easily and encourage an artistic opening in language learning and development. The question that ensues concerns the directions that languages are taking… something you’ll discover in verbal stretching exercises in Verbal Aikido. The Spring training starts in the first week in March – enroll or ask for more info here.

*descriptive = describing what exists
**prescriptive = giving directions or rules to adhere to.

Peace out


KISS and make up for Valentine’s Day

Did you see our last post on how to KISS with Verbal Aikido? Well in it, you may have also come across the first in a series of comic strips demonstrating a Verbal Aikido approach to verbal attacks. Thank you all for your encouraging comments and, I’m glad to say, not only is there an all new strip for you below, but you can also make your own!

Continued at the end of this post...
Can you imagine what happens next? (below)

A trainee commented last week that using Verbal Aikido meant never having to apologize. You may detect a hint of VA in my response: “I can see why you’d say that, but have you ever wondered why people apologize?” Needless to say, a brief destabilization ensued before a discussion did!

So in summary, here are a few concepts that may be interesting to ponder upon before your next apologetic dilemma:

  • Many believe that apologizing is a sign of weakness or submission. Psychologist Aaron Lazare suggests that “In fact, the apology is a show of strength. It is an act of honesty because we admit we did wrong; an act of generosity, because it restores the self-concept of those we offended. It offers hope for a renewed relationship and, who knows, possibly even a strengthened one.” But indeed prioritizing the ego over the relationship can often get in the way!
  • Choose your moment to apologize – a calm and sincere apology generally has more impact than one ‘extracted’ in a heated exchange.
  • If you feel you’re being blamed for something, an Irimi approach, something like “Would you like me to apologize?”, can often open the space for an effective Ai-ki.
  • If done correctly, an apology can generate forgiveness and even heal humiliation. Might this be your intention when you apologize? Could it also be the intention of the one blaming you?
  • Humans are the only species that seems to ‘pay’ more than once for their mistakes – reminders of past acts can be like pain re-inflicted. If you’ve apologized sincerely three times for something, you can rest assured that you have underlined your intention. Be careful and aware that repeated blame after three apologies may be an attempt to hold a dominating position over you!

Personally I’ve always loved the Spanish way to apologize: “Lo siento”, literally meaning “I feel it”. It has a much stronger empathic sense than ‘sorry’ etc., almost as if you’re trying to get into what the other is feeling.

So here it is, as promised the second Verbal Aikido comic strip… a special relationshipy one for the week that’s in it!

Verbal Aikido CS002 EN

Finally here’s a taster of the blog posts you can look forward to in the coming months:

  • Intro to 3D thoughts – how to navigate (and create) in a verbal matrix
  • Daily Verbal Aikido Intention Exercises (“Davies“)
  • InPOD 2.0
  • Verbal Aikido for Peace (VAP) World Tour 2014!
  • Jedi Mind Tricks and other interview techniques

In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
Peace out!

Verbal Aikido – Let’s KISS (Keep It Super Simple)!

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a UN Peacekeeping training officer who talked to me about the importance of having a checklist, especially when dealing with the military! We discussed the idea of a Dos and Don’ts list for Verbal Aikido, and I revelled at the thought (and the challenge!) of compressing the approach into a few essential concepts.

Let’s cut to the chase… here’s what I came up with:

  1. DON’T worry if you find yourself getting caught up in a heated exchange. DO take the necessary time to ‘recenter’ when you realize you’re not calm!
  2. DON’T try to dominate a situation or ‘win’ an exchange. DO insert the intention of harmony (at the very least inner) before you continue.
  3. DON’T take anything anyone says personally… ever. DO consider that whatever is being said could be a reflection, a transfer or a projection of the speaker himself.
  4. DON’T forget to be sincere when you’re trying to understand the other’s position (Irimi). DO avoid a sterile exchange by proposing an Ai-ki as soon as you detect a destabilization.
  5. DON’T let the exchange continue further if you have proposed three consecutive Ai-kis and you still feel attacked. DO use all the exchanges you encounter as opportunities to practice and develop the art.

For example… L'Aïkido Verbal en français
Verbal Aikido CS001 EN

I hope these guidelines work for you – don’t hesitate to share below, and do check out the rest of our site for more activities, anecdotes and articles!

Within and without – peace it all out!


Inner attacks

OK, I know this is more ‘orange-belt’ stuff than ‘green-belt’ but our inner voice is something that we can work on from even an early age. Take for example those times when you can’t find your keys, etc. How does your inner voice speak to you on these occasions? Do you sometimes hear a criticizing, blaming or accusing tone?

Well, in orange belt training (book out soonish) we also work on ‘orienting’ that voice. You may wonder where your inner voice originated, but that is something for a whole nother exercise 😉 The deshi in Verbal Aikido works on intercepting the flow of any inner attacks and administering effectively the three steps.

Again, the key element in the practice is the focus on ‘deliberate intention’, so the intention in this exercise is to develop an inner voice that speaks to you as would a friend (reaction ‘X’). We can start by asking ourselves: “How would a true friend speak to us if we couldn’t find our keys?” (or any other action or non-action that our inner voice presently attacks us about).

Here’s how the whole exercise goes:

FYI, this can also be done ‘post-attack’ for reference. This approach corresponds somewhat to the martial aikido movement of Irimi Nage (na-gai) wherein the aikidoka blends into the space of the attacker (uke), then orients and projects him towards a gravity-bound direction. In Verbal Aikido, this entering projection is not bound by gravity and the most advantageous direction to project is often higher (i.e. positive) rather than lower.

See more blog posts or activities here, or check out this great howcast to see Irimi Nage in action:

irimi nage
Gracious thanks to The New York Aikikai

Within and without
Peace it out

Whatever about the attacks, how do you deal with a compliment???

Particularly inspired with the work that I do currently, I recalled one of my own inspirations – Don Miguel Ruiz – whom I paraphrase thus: “Don’t take insults personally, but don’t take compliments personally either.” Indeed this invites the questions “What should one take personally?” or “How should one take things?”, but I digress…

More to the point, praise or kind words can also destabilize, don’t you find? Here’s a fun exercise: take the last compliment you remember somebody giving you…

That’s it, that’s the exercise. Fun, huh? If you’d like to go further, feel free to… well, to feel. I mean say if the compliment was “you’re the best”, or “you’re really amazing” or “I love it when you’re here!” – well, did you actually take the compliment and feel ‘the best’ or ‘really amazing’ or that touching connection? And do you remember how you replied?

Sure, a lot of people say ‘Thank you’ and some even venture a charmingly confident “I know!”, but how did we actually feel when we got that last admiring comment? The thing is, even if our answer is ‘really amazing’, it would seem that we are taking the compliment personally!

Writer James Faraway tells us of an uncle who reveals “Sometimes we see ourselves in the world, and sometimes we see the world in ourselves”. Well this idea is pretty helpful when receiving (and taking and reorienting) a compliment, and may indeed help in not taking it personally… Try this out if you like, next time you receive a compliment: perceive how much of what the complimenter is recognizing “in you” is actually part of themselves.

This can also be seen as true for receiving verbal attacks. But, say we take Verbal Aikido out of the picture for a minute – because, not only does perceiving compliments with this filter help us to avoid feeling destabilized, but you can also see how it encourages many to be generous with compliments to others!

Accept a compliment

But positive energy bubbles aside, one of the most fitly inviting responses I witnessed was a deshi who, in a professional context recently, replied to a compliment with “Thank you, would you like my card?” – needless to say, an ideal networking opportunity!

If you’re a green or an orange belt or just want to check it all out, and you’re around for the next workshop, you can prepare for the verbal stretching with both ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’.

Peace out!


Use “meta-communication” to interrupt and defuse a verbal attack

You don’t need to be a communication specialist to use meta-communication, in fact, you probably do it all the time without even noticing! Meta-communication, to put it simply, is communicating about the communication. For example, if I say “I’m trying to explain to you what this is…”, I describe the intention of my communication – and if I elongate the word “trying” with inflection, a meta-communicative interpretation could be that I am expressing exasperation, etc. Can you see how the communication itself is the subject being communicated about?

This week’s blog concerns how you can defuse attacks by a) recognizing the type of attack and b) formulating your observation in a non-aggressive Irimi. There are, of course, many other ways meta-communication (or ‘meta-com’) can be used in handling verbal attacks which are covered in Volume 2 of the Verbal Aikido book series, due out this year!

In the meantime, here are some examples of the meta-communication that you may have used in the past:Image1

“It’s not what you said, it’s the way you said it!”
“I’m only joking.”
“What are you insinuating?”
“Stop making fun of me!”
“You don’t look like you’re listening to me!”

The meta-com we use in Verbal Aikido, however, has the intention of accompanying your attacker to the point of destabilization, enabling you to set up an Ai-ki move to rebalance. One way to develop this quickly is to be aware of the different sorts of verbal attacks that exist and then ‘call’ the specific attack as it manifests. These examples may make it clearer:

1. B: “I know it was you who took my sandwich!”
A: “I think I understand your accusation.”

2. B: “You stupid idiot!”
A: “So we’re going in the direction of insults?”

For any newcomers to Verbal Aikido, please note that this (Irimi) move is step two in the Aikidoist’s response – you may want to check out the Inner Smile or the Three Steps to get an overview of how to manage a verbal attack fully. In any case, you may observe above that the Aikidoist:

  • Does not take the attack personally,
  • Proposes a non-accusatory meta-com interpretation,
  • Enables a momentary destabilization by not responding with justification or counter-attack (see How we respond to verbal attacks)

Of course, this move may not stop the attack, but with a follow-up such as “[…] Should we continue this together?” you will see the majority of your attackers back down, or reduce their level of aggressiveness at the very least.

Always remember the ultra-important role that your intonation, inflexion and body language have in your communication and in the success of your exchanges, these are also part of meta-com! Your challenge this week: interpret (not necessarily out loud!) someone’s metacommunication three times successively in an exchange – on your marks… 😉 L

Oh no, it’s Christmas… Help!

Are you one of the many that see Christmas as being more about family obligations than anything else? Do you just know you’re going to have to “be nice” and put on your best forced grin? Sure, nobody wants to disappoint, but all this obligatory presence can generate a great deal of stress and discomfort… Maybe you’ve imagined flying up a chimney to escape those unpleasant questions or comments… jumping on the nearest low-flying reindeer?

Well, we can all be subject to a verbal tyrant. It might be a relative, even your own brother or sister, and sometimes it seems mothers-in-law are naturally given this dominating role! But whatever the source, we need to find a way to protect ourselves, because Christmas is never a good time to be in conflict. Is there ever a good time!?

What strategies can you put in place to protect yourself, which minimize the risk of conflict?

B: “So … still no job (or girlfriend, etc.)!”

A: “ […] It depends on your definition of a job/girlfriend …” (also see our article ’50 ways to dodge a verbal bullet’)

Indeed, instead of letting yourself be lead into an imposed frame of exchange, how about inviting the ‘provoker’ to explore the (constantly evolving) definition of their words – thus, creating your own frame.

In practice, we often start off the Verbal Aikido workshops with “verbal stretching”, using these guidelines:

This stretching exercise can last from 5 to 15 minutes, and it is a practice that can be done as a daily or regular exercise that enables us to:

So your mission, over this festive holiday period, could be to word-stretch when you feel attacked. You may even get so good at it that in 2014 you get to hear youself saying “Can’t wait for Christmas!”

Verbal Aikido at TEDx La Rochelle 2013

Hello bloggers,

First of all, thank you for your patience in waiting for this blog. I’m delighted to be able to post the TEDx talk on Verbal Aikido from October in La Rochelle. I have been assured that the English version is coming soon, so here’s the talk in French – I look forward to all your comments!

The complete TEDx La Rochelle playlist

Another blog coming soon with anecdotes and activities – stay tuned 😉

Peace out