Verbal accompaniment with the principles of aikido – “Irimi”

“The power to question is the basis of all human progress” ~ Indira Gandhi

The second step in Verbal Aikido can be said to consist of two parts, but performing the first part effectively (accompanying an attack) can often leave the second part (destabilizing the attacker) unnecessary. For example, if someone is attacking you and is expecting either a typical counterattack or a back-down reaction, then a response that  accompanies them in their attack instead of ‘fight or flight’, can quickly destabilize them.

Attacker: “You managers are all the same; you’re only interested in what’s on your own agenda!”

Aikidoist: “[…] I think I understand what you’re trying to say. […] Go on.”

(the “[…]” annotation in exchanges signifies the use of step 1 – the Inner Smile)

With just a little practice, we learn quickly to both let an attacker’s energy flow without being harmed and to detect a destabilization. Once detected it is essential at this point to insert the intention of harmony (propose Aiki) rather than to continue to push for imbalance. You can review the basic steps in Verbal Aikido here, (covered fully in the book) or look at how to use empathy to protect yourself. This essential skill aimed at in step 2 is strongly linked to the physical Aikido movement: ‘Irimi’.

Irimi (or ‘entering’) deals with head-on attacks by moving slightly to the side, entering into a zone or position where the blow is avoided.  It brings the central zone of the Aikidoist into close proximity with that of the attacker. One of the results of this move is that it forces the attacker to change direction if he intends to continue the attack. Physically speaking, it is notably more difficult to attack someone who is standing by your side or behind you, and facing in the same direction as you, than it is to attack someone who is directly opposite you. This is also true when dealing with a verbal attack; if you remain in a face-to-face opposing position to your attacker, it is considerably easier for them to continue their attack than if you position yourself non-opposingly.

Morihei Ueshiba explains in his poem:

As soon as

The enemy before me

Attacks with a sword,

I am already

Standing behind him.

Remember that with Irimi, we are neither attacking nor accepting the attack. One of the great mistakes made in verbal exchanges is the sterile pursuit of trying to convince an attacker of your point of view. By neither counter-attacking with your opinions, nor submitting to those of the attacker, you may destabilize your attacker sooner than you think! In order to reach a point of ‘controlled’ destabilization, the Aikidoist needs to voluntarily accompany the attacker, and allow the force of the attack itself to create the imbalance.

See also:

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

What if you could manage conflict in just three steps ?

50 ways to dodge a verbal bullet

Discover your strengths and weaknesses in a verbal attack with our Verbal Immunity Check-up

Verbal stretching – Is everybody a selfish hypocrytical manipulator?


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