Pardon my very rudimentary stick-man illustration, it serves to prove a very subtle point. The principle of ‘Zero’ stance.
Aikido stance, as I’ve understood it since I first practising it, is not the most comfortable stance, there are many other more dynamic stances out there that one can learn and use.
The stance is also one that is very greatly misunderstood and least looked into by practitioners. The stance is neutral.
Before we get into that, there is this story I learned from my friend Steve. He knew of a guy who was an exponent in Tae Kwon Do(TKD), this TKD guy got into a heat quarrel another man (who have no idea the other guy is TKD trained) and it came to a point where things are going to get physical. the man stood up and escalated the argument significantly, challenging the TKD guy to a fight. The TKD guy got up and went into a TKD stance. The man looked for a moment, said: “Seow (crazy) ah!” and took flight. Fight averted.
Case in point, a stance, well practiced and executed, can deter aggression, or encourage it. The argument is that “its the singer, not the song.” Sure, it is the practitioner’s intent that delivers the stance. Here’s my argument, try to sing “Yesterday” by the Beatles; arguably one of the saddest songs on the market, in the most upbeat manner and you’ll get what I mean. It is not designed t be sung in any other way than sad, melancholy.
Similarly, a stance delivers a message. Aikido stance delivers a message. From my observation, how the message is delivered, depends on the yaw. This is very experiential, and very fundamental, beginners has to get this right, lock in the right, physical experience and then the full potential of Aikido experience can be better harnessed. Get it wrong and you’ll keep wondering why your technique is not effective, or why your Uke seems to be either too fast or too slow.
Here is where my stick-men comes in to help. The Stick-man to the left; let’s call him Stick-man 1 (+1), the middle guy, Stick-man 2 (0), and the right one, Stick-man 3 (-1).
Some techniques in Aikido requires you to hyper-extend your uke, sending the energy outwards (+1). If your stance is ‘-1’, you need to travel from ‘-1’ to ‘0’ to ‘+1’. Some techniques are ‘negative'(-1), where you need to draw your Uke’s energy inwards and if your default is set at ‘+1’, you need to start, from ‘+1’ to ‘0’ to ‘-1’. Having the wrong settings as default is like having an incorrectly zeroed rifle, you’ll always be either short where your rounds hit in front of the target, or long, where your bullets whizzed harmlessly over your intended target. You aimed right, but you are not hitting right.
For Aikido, or any other marital arts, the consequences are more acute. as we do not carry a rifle and shoot everyday in our lives. but if we are constantly setting our stance, mental and physical at ‘+1’, we will always be stepping over some people, taking advantage of people, always looking for ‘first mover advantage’ often at the expense of other people, people always finds us too unreasonably fast to catch up, we get frustrated by ‘slow’ people. Well, if you are constantly set to ‘-1’, you’re likely to be a bit of a laggard, even if you are one of the clever ones, you’ll subjugate yourself, by choice; and let yourself be a tool, to be used at your disadvantage, you might be a td slow for your friends, and you frustrates people by making them wait for you.
Stick-man 2 held a ‘Zero Stance’. The chap is neither aggressive, leaning forward nor passive, letting things happen then take reactive action.
It means that Stick-man 2 can take positive actions, and at the same time choose to hang loose and let things happen. There is a choice, because the stance is neutral, your energy is potential, not expended. There is a real sense of ‘extension’ not extended, neither retracted. There is a choice of fast and slow. Fast for fast, and slow for slow.
Think long and hard, why Aikido stance is designed in such a manner. It is non-aggressive, it does not offer a challenge. If it does, chances are, it might deter some from challenging you, some might not. Lean too much back ‘-1’ and people will think that you are in ‘flight’ mode, the stance is weak, as if you are leaning away from the fight. It might actually invite one. Keep it ‘0’, and keep your opponent guessing, you might hit, you might not. There is not hint of action from your part, nor a hint of an opening.
So set it right, so that your technique can truly draw power from the right source, move quickly, and avoid being too slow. One caveat though, this stance is highly elusive and like Aikido, when you think you have actually figured it out, that is where you realized that you hadn’t.