Friday, July 24, 2009

Aiki for indirect violence

Photo courtesy of Amanky
A few days ago I posted an article about how to use aikido to diffuse veiled attacks in everyday life. Today I wanted to write about another sort of violence that you see not only often, but increasingly often - the rant.
Whereas the veiled attacks I mentioned before are sort of like someone shaking your hand and threatening you with a penknife in the other hand, the rant is more like someone poisoning a water supply, not caring who they injure. Someone who is into a full-blown rant is venting energy in every direction, making people around them hesitant to engage for fear of focussing the energy onto themselves. Well, there is an aikido principle that applies here too...
If you don't want a response from them, don't give them a stimulus - synchronize with them but don't amplify them
This idea can be seen in both physical and psychological realms. For instance,
  • In a physical conflict, if you reduce the relative speed between attacker and defender, then you reduce the attacker's potential to injure the defender. It is similar to driving down the interstate. Every time you pass a car or one passes you, there is potential for an accident to occur. But if you drive the same speed as everyone else, nobody ever passes anybody and you're safer. Additionally, if you are pushing and pulling on the attacker, they can feel you and know what you are doing. You are stimulating them to respond to you, but if you are synchronized with them there is no stimulus, so the likelihood of a response is much reduced. So, in a physical conflict, synchronize to reduce potential and avoid amplifying potential.
  • The same idea applies in everyday life in more of a psychological (or potentially-physical) realm. If someone is ranting then you can synchronize with them to reduce their potential as they run out of energy. Synchronizing also allows you to guide their rant here and there so that it does not become a full-blown attack before it runs down.
  • Some therapists call this 'predicate matching for rapport' but that is just fancy talk for 'talk like they talk so they identify with you.' A.K.A. get in synch with them. I remember a case study in a textbook where a therapist had a patient who was ranting and the situation was escalating toward abusiveness. Nobody around knew what to do. Suddenly the therapist shouted right in the man's face, "HEY!" (matching his tone) "Damn that would make me mad too!" (matching his emotion and his words) "I see why you were mad." Did you catch that? She put that in past-tense, automatically placing the patient's rant in the indeterminate past. The patient, realizing he had been mad but had now vented, calmed down and became reasonable with the therapist, who obviously shared his emotion and tone. That was predicate matching for rapport. That was synching to minimize potential. That was aikido!
Don't think that this recipe is a magic bullet for diffusing a rant. You might just escalate them by shouting in their face, but consider how you can use synchronization to reduce potential energy around you.
Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: or phone 601.248.7282
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