Hitoashi Yokete – avoiding a strike

As I’m preparing for my Aikido Kyu-2 exam, I have some thoughts on some of the terminologies we use.

Hitoashi Yokete – literally, ‘take a step aside to avoid’ an attack. The terminologies on avoiding an attack have a lot of hidden meaning. Some say the basic human / animal instincts in case of conflict are Fight or Flight. Fight, in terms of ma-ai (range) in my opinion is ‘hold your ground’. Do not avoid the strike – block it, reject it, fight it – the defender’s Ki is projected towards the strongest point of the attack. Flight, on the other hand, means extending the space between you and the attacker as much as possible – with the Ki or intention focused away from the attacker. In both cases, we lose the possibility to have proper Ai – connection with the attacker.

In Aikido the options of flight and flight are not the preferred option. If we wish to have Ai with the attacker, we must meet him (not flight), but not to meet him at his strongest point (fight). We may want to meet him before the strike reached its full force, as in Irimi – as O Sensie once wrote, ‘do not try to avoid a strike when it comes – disarm it right at the source!’. Or, we might want to meet him just after the strike reached its full potential – with a Tai Sabaki. In either case, these strategies could be thought of as examples of Hitoashi Yokete – we strive to make a single step – a single movement, the purpose of which is to avoid the strike, but not to ‘lose’ it – to be in range to use the strike, merge with the strike, but not to be in its way.

Thus Hitoashi Yokete holds the meaning of all of Aikido – do not run from a strike, do not resist a strike. Find a way to avoid the strike, keep your Ki  – intention and options – close to the opponent, and stay in range to blend with what comes.

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