Attacks can come in many different forms, and from many different directions. Moreover, an attack must necessarily carry with it a quantity of energy, and this force will be characterized by any of a number of classifiable qualities.
The following is a brief compendium of the variety of attack characteristics, each designated by a descriptive title. After the explanatory paragraph, suggestions on appropriate aiki response strategies are given.
A freight train is coming straight toward you. It has a lot of inertia, and carries a lot of energy. If you're on the track in front of it, you're a target. This is the kind of thing you might expect from a drunk in a bar who decides to suddenly vent all of their anger at you.
Resolution: Get off the track and let it go by. You may decide to reroute the tracks or jump on board to direct the train, but the first priority is to get out of the way. Trying to stop it or reason with it will just get you run over.
Similar to the Ballistic attack, only this one is intelligent. Usually its trajectory carries less energy, but this means less inertia so it can turn and follow you wherever you move. And it typically carries an explosive warhead. Here we are talking about a mugger or rapist. Or in daily life, this could be an adversarial coworker who is plainly out to destroy you.
Resolution: Running and trying to dodge endlessly only drains your energy and plays into the heat seeker's strength. Stand still and calm (stay cool) and let it come to you. Step aside at the last instant and redirect the energy away from yourself or other innocents. Find a way to route the energy into the ground (any larger system that can fade the heat).
While smiling to your face, the subversive will stab you in the back. This usually entails a circular direction attack. Any time you feel off balance around someone, but you don't know why, there's a good chance you are involved with a subversive.
Resolution: Know yourself. Make sure you aren.t just being paranoid or insecure. Make sure criticisms directed or implied your way aren.t justified. Then try to expose the true nature of the attack so that it can be dealt with more openly. Example: "Marge, that's quite an outfit. I bet you saved a lot of money when you bought that... "You recognize the veiled insult and force Marge to be more honest or to back off: "I'm not sure what you're saying, Marge. Do you really like my outfit or are you just calling me cheap?"
Although there is very little energy in the attacks, they are very annoying and distracting nonetheless. In combat, the assailant is delivering a series of feints and jabs. In daily life, these are all the petty concerns that cumulatively can sap your strength.
Resolution: Realize the actual threat is minor. Don't spend more energy on something than it's worth. Swat them where you can but keep your mind focused on more serious concerns.
Anything that spends its energy to limit your freedom is an anchor. In combat, you are being restrained by an aggressor. An overly possessive parent or lover is a more mundane example.
Resolution: Keep your mind free. Struggling against the anchor weakens you and strengthens the anchor's hold. Relax and wait for an opening, realizing that you are taking the energy that it requires to maintain its hold.
Here, you get sucker-punched for no good reason. You innocently complement someone and they explode in your face.
Resolution: Learn to tread lightly, but still with confidence. Balance proper distance with intimacy, using the distance for safety (of both parties), and using intimacy for better knowing and understanding. Never get too close to someone without really understanding the area of involvement.
They lock onto you and won't let go. Unlike the anchor, they don't care about limiting your freedom as long as they can hold on and suck you 'till you're dry. They'll keep you on phone for hours, they'll take all your time, drain your resources, and then imply that however much you do isn't enough.
Resolution: Be generous but know your limits. It isn't their fault they keep taking if you keep giving. But if they take beyond your willingness (and ability) to give, treat them as you would a real leech: make a clean and careful cut with a razor blade. If it's large enough, then it's no longer a leech, it's a vampire. Time to sharpen that wooden stake.
Now, these are only some of the most basic forms that attack energy can assume. We can expect to encounter other forms, but they will probably be combinations of the above categories. For example, Ballistic + Mosquito = The Boxer; Mosquito + Anchor = The Wrestler. A Heat Seeker + Mine Field = Someone I Really Don't Want to Meet! It's useful to play with combinations of two and three basic attributes to see how they might add up, and then identify people or situations in our lives that fit the description. We also need to realize that attacks come in the form of people, situations, and our own emotions and desires. Attacks are rarely evil. They seem that way because of their potential for harm. Learning to deal with attacks as simple forces of nature allows us to maintain balance and respond in a rational manner.
In aikido, it is a foregone conclusion that we seek to avoid escalating the conflict, and hopefully the justification for that is self-evident. Where we add our own energy into the situation, it is usually to redirect it or transform it. One of nice things about energy, as opposed to matter, is that it is easily transmutable. Aikido strategy is optimized for handling attacks by transmuting them into more manageable form.
For example, if you are attacked by a mugger who is alternating Mosquito and Heat Seeker attack styles, you will have a problem if you stand there and spar with them. You are playing the game that they expect, and you are definitely escalating the conflict. By keeping ma-ai (proper distance), they will have to choose between letting you go or turning their attack ballistic. Once ballistic, you may then respond with any of the standard aiki-waza. I've seen too many aikido students get frustrated when they try to execute a kokyunage in a sparring type of encounter. They need to learn the patience and the skills necessary to draw their opponent into giving a more committed attack that is suitable for standard aiki defenses.
We are all very vulnerable beings. By understanding ourselves and the nature of things that can harm us, we may begin to develop the ability to recognize adverse situations that have been made familiar through training and discipline. Hopefully we can then create a set of tools which are simple yet effective in transforming our world into one which is increasingly less hostile toward us. This means we must first have a willingness to let go of our own hostilities and accept the changes to our own nature that are necessary for genuine living.