Destabilization explained

There are a few ways to understand what a destabilizing move is, but essentially you are leading the attacker to a point of imbalance. Picture if you will, what this would be like in a physical attack – the attacker may throw a punch, and the martial aikido practitioner rotates in a way that:

  • avoids receiving the punch,
  • positions himself to face in the same direction as the attacker,
  • allows the force of the attack to continue until the attacker loses balance.

In essence, the technique is the same with Verbal Aikido. Very often, simply receiving the attack and allowing the attack to continue in a controlled fashion, without counter-attacking, is enough to allow an attacker to ‘lose balance’.

From another point of view, if someone is making an expressive or passionate verbal attack, they are more likely to be using an emotional part of their brain (a.k.a. ‘right brain’) rather than the analytical or logical part (a.k.a. ‘left brain’). If you can cause your attacker to switch from a right-brain stream of thought to a left-brain stream, you may visibly notice a destabilization in the attacker. It usually comes in the form of verbal hesitation and/or facial expression and gestures changing significantly.

On the other hand, if the attacker seems to be unnervingly logical or cold in their attack, causing them to momentarily access their right brain by asking them how they feel about the whole thing may well bring about a similar destabilization. In martial aikido, all the techniques can be defined in terms of yin and yang. It is the interplay of these that is used to create the destabilization; when the opponent attacks with yang, the Aikidoist uses yin to be successful, and inversely so. O-Sensei wrote:

When your opponent

Shows yang in his

Right hand

Guide him with

The yin of your left hand

Simply put, if you can make your attacker stop to change their mode of judgment, even if it is momentarily, then you have at the very least slowed their attack by destabilizing them. This is not to say that the attack will not continue, but you may have gained some essential time to enable you to structure your third step – i.e. giving them an opportunity to save face.

Attacker:If you were looking, you might have seen it!

Aikidoist:[…] It seems that you were looking, right?”

Attacker: “Yes!”

Aikidoist: “I was feeling in fact. What are you feeling right now?”

Attacker:[***] (destabilized) What?”

Aikidoist: “Maybe we’re both feeling a little confused now, huh?”

During Verbal Aikido workshops, a student will occasionally forget the non-competitive philosophy of the art, and ask: “If we have destabilized the attacker, surely we can just leave them destabilized”, or “If they started the attack, don’t they really deserve to get hurt?” However the Aikidoist must strive to give the attacker several opportunities to save face for the following reasons:

  • If the attacker is ‘let fall’ or left in a destabilized position, this often generates within the attacker a desire for reprisal or to ‘settle the scores’ at a later date.
  • If you find yourself in a similar situation wherein the person you are exchanging with feels attacked and they move to destabilize you, would you not like to be given an opportunity to save face?
  • One of the positive side-effects of demonstrating a gracious verbal maneuver without the intention of shaming, humiliating, or degrading the attacker, is that this gracious attitude may ‘rub off’ on the attacker.

Destabilizing can be seen as a sliding point going in the opposite direction to that of an anger escalation – you know, that point in an exchange where you lose your calm and join in the conflict game. By choosing to destabilize, you are in fact sliding into a neutral state, instead of adding to the potential negative emotional result of the exchange, so that you can follow up with the Ai-ki ‘masterstroke’. Of course sometimes a simple Irimi isn’t enough to cause a destabilization, so more powerful means may need to be used. (taken from Verbal Aikido – Green Belt)

Recommended articles :

Discover one way to destabilize an attack with a meaning prod

Physical and verbal attacks: recognizing the form they take enables greater mastery.

Managing conflict with The Three Steps

Can we protect ourselves through/with/thanks to empathy ?


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