The basic strategy in Verbal Aikido, called ‘reaching Ai-ki’ (or balancing the energy of an exchange) is centered on a simple three-step approach:
1. Receiving the attack with an Inner Smile,
2. Accompanying the attack to a point of destabilization,
3. Rebalancing the attack so the attacker may save face.
Everyone already has strengths and weaknesses in each of these steps, but to accomplish Ai-ki correctly, the Verbal Aikidoist must follow successively and successfully each of the three. After only a few attempts at practicing the techniques, you will have a greater understanding of which step or steps you need to work on most, and which you can continue to nurture or develop positively.
Step 1: Receiving an attack with an Inner Smile
In Verbal Aikido the Inner Smile concerns a type of self-knowledge and confidence that enables us to avoid entering into a conflict when someone is consciously or subconsciously attempting to enjoin us in one. It is by far the most important of the steps, but also the most difficult to maintain. However, if mastered correctly, it can eliminate the need for the other two steps entirely.
The Inner Smile is covered in more detail at different stages in the book, but to get you started, here are the basic points you need to know:
– It can be seen, at this stage, as the sliding point or space between stimulus and response, where we can choose how to react to an attack.
– We can often perceive this space retrospectively, thinking “I could/should have said/done x”.
– Focusing on reaching the Inner Smile brings us inevitably closer to it.
– An Inner Smile is often accentuated by a brief silence.
– It’s generally counter-productive to let it develop into an ‘outer smile’, as it can easily be misconstrued as mockery or a counter-attack.
– Developing this skill is, among other things, an open-ended learning path about one’s self.
– In written form it is transcribed as “[…]”.
What color eyes do you have? I think I can safely assume that they’re not orange. But let’s imagine someone comes at you aggressively, criticizing your hideous orange eyes.
Attacker: “Oh dear Lord, what is up with your orange eyes? They are just the most horrible things I’ve ever seen! You freak! Would you not think of getting lenses or something so you don’t look so revolting?”
As perplexed as you may be by this attack, it’s highly unlikely that you would either get offended, think to counter-attack or even believe that the ‘attacker’ has a valid reason to be aggressive or judgmental. This sort of position in regard to an attack starts to illustrate the sort of ‘untouchable confidence’ that we may feel with the Inner Smile.