“Aikido Street tactics,” by Charles Warren


“If somebody grabs or attempts to grab you, they are giving
you a gift of one of their limbs and kinetic energy.”

One of the advantages of horse stance is to make irimi difficult. Unfortunately it is also a static posture. The macro image is a castle or fortification, difficult to attack but easy to avoid. In a multiple person situation the smart attackers put their “castle” in position to block escape or maybe to stop advance. That works best, obviously, if the flanks are protected by natural features, walls in the classic “dark alley”. More usually one of the “walls” is a street, possibly lined with parked cars.

A street is worth some detailed consideration. If you step into the street you are obviously at risk of being hit by a passing car. But that’s just a risk and it’s mitigated by the fact that the driver of the car, unless he or she is a complicit assassin, doesn’t actually want to hit or hurt you. The sidewalk is presumably full of attackers who do. The other thing is that entering the street is a risk for the attackers, if they choose to follow, as much as it is to you. Is it worth it to them?

There are two interesting tactics for streets. One is to use the gap between two parked cars as a defensible space. Occupying that you become the castle. Anybody trying to flank by vaulting over the hood or trunk of one of the cars is playing into our game. They’re giving us unbalanced motion and kinetic energy. They may not fall for a kokyu throw, but they probably will be projected out into traffic. Flanker attacks from further down the line of parked cars can be met by the second tactic, a retreat toward the center of the street. Attackers have to consider your moat, the traffic, in forming their advance. The normal prudent thing in a situation like this is to leave, but consider the possibility that your attackers may intend to herd you into a less defensible situation. And, of course, the last thing street attackers expect is a counter attack against the odds. We do that all the time. Do I have to remind anybody of the advantage of taking and using weapons?

Now, back to your horse stance “castle” as part of the attack. You are unlikely to find that in a dojo freestyle, but a typical dojo multiple person technique is to throw attackers at each other. Again, in a real situation, don’t expect falls, but unbalanced stumbles will serve. Throwing others at the “castle” has a few advantages. First and most obvious, it will sooner or later put all or most of the attackers in one direction from you. They probably won’t, but may hurt each other in the process. They will then get in each others’ way. They will have to regroup. And, of course, none of this is part of their “plan” or “script”. How committed to this are they? At what point will they opt to try for easier pickings?

This is not to say that a horse stance is invulnerable. Neither is a castle. Working at the extreme range of the attacker’s strikes it may be easy enough to unbalance him, move him or get him moving. The analogy for moving him is military mining. The earliest record of that I can think of was Joshua at Jericho. When the walls came tumbling down, the battle ceased to be one of infantry attacking fortifications. The image of motivating him to move is as inviting a sortie from the castle. Defenders may sortie, rush out of the castle, to attack a perceived vulnerability. In the dark alley, what if you turned over some trash at the side of the alley to bypass the guy who is supposed to block your escape? If he locks up again, after failing to catch you, it will probably not be in as good a position and he might even be between you and his pals. By the bye, I hope all of you readers are working on being hard to catch. Remember, if somebody grabs or attempts to grab you, they are giving you a gift of one of their limbs and kinetic energy. May The Force, gravity, always be with you!

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