After last night’s practice, I drove home thinking about how we respond to aggression in aikido. If, for example, somebody pushes you, you can push back. This is very typical in our society. It works fine if you are bigger or more aggressive than the other person. Doesn’t work well if you are smaller, and is not very aiki (though there is timing there also, which can be aiki).
A little more subtle, you can deflect the push. This can work if they are just pushing with their arms. But if they are charging forwards, they will run right over you if you are smaller.
You can just go with the push. Much more aiki. If they knock you down, you do ukemi, and roll back to your feet. If you blend really well, you can use their power to move you well back out of harms way by the time you are back on your feet. You can even add a bit of an angle so that even if they are charging, you are off their line of advance.
You can go with the push and turn. This can get you off their line of advance, and if you stay connected you have the start of a technique like kote gaeshi or irimi nage. You can turn either to their front or rear.
You can also slip off to the side and enter, perhaps either striking them or throwing them back the way they came. You can do this even if you are smaller, because you are not stopping their center, but rather are doing what Musashi called “attacking the corners”. Most people have a flinch reflex that takes them away from a strike to the head, so this results in a very nice technique if you time it right. Too fast a strike, and you will hit them. Too slow, and they can move their head to the side to avoid it (which can lead to another technique, such as kaiten nage).
These same methods work for strikes as well as pushes, but can be a bit harder to learn, as everything happens more quickly. However, once you learn them the techniques can work even better, for the same reason.
They can also work for non physical aggression. If somebody is being verbally pushy, pushing back merely raises the levels of aggression and rarely changes the other person’s mind. “Yes but…” tends to work better than “No, you are totally wrong…”