Three Aikido principles for business (and life)

I’ve just spent a week at our national Aikido summer school. A week of intense training (in the middle of Australia’s biggest heat wave on record, with temperatures threatening 40 degrees, and no air con I might add).

I was reflecting on the training, and I want to share three principles that I often use off the mat.

  1. Get off the line. Typically in life when we feel attacked, we will either submit, or fight back. Fight or flight. In a martial sense that means either pitting our strength against our attackers, or retreating. In Aikido, we look for a third way. We always seek to get off the line of the attack, let the attack go past without fighting against it or submitting to it. (Then, if necessary, we use the energy of the attack to throw our opponent). Next time you feel attacked and are about to either submit or fight back, try and find a third way. Ask yourself what would stepping off the line of the attack look like.
  2. Correct distance. There is a correct distance to allow an opponent to come to, before a response is required. If an opponent steps within that distance, we need to either step back to establish the distance again, or step in and deal with the opponent. The distance is different depending on the size and reach of the opponent, and what weapon they have (the distance is obviously larger if they have a sword than a knife, or are bare-handed). I think in life there is a different distance for different people, and we need to choose what is the correct distance for everyone we deal with – how close are we going to let them get before we do something.
  3. An honest attack. Over a decade ago in my fourth or fifth Aikido class ever, I was training with Rosco, a fourth-dan black belt who was visiting Melbourne from Queensland. We were practicing evading a sword strike. So I would aim a sword strike at his head with a wooden sword, and he would move to one side or the other at the last moment. And he was good … he left it until the last possible moment. And it scared me, I thought I was going to hit him. So unconsciously I started swerving so that I’d miss him if he didn’t move. Problem was I swerved the same way he moved … luckily he got his hand up to block the attack, so I didn’t knock him out, but I just about broke his hand. My attack wasn’t honest. It wasn’t true. And because of that, it was more dangerous. When we train, we don’t strike to miss someone because we don’t want to hurt them. If I’m training with a beginner, I’ll slow a strike down, but the aim will still be true. And in life, when you’re confronting someone, make sure it’s clean, and that attack is honest and true, and can be dealt with.

Love to hear your thoughts – how could you apply these principles? You can leave them below.