Luke Archer on using Verbal Aikido to deal elegantly with a verbal attacker


Do you ever find yourself lost for words? Or outmanoeuvred by a verbal attacker? Perhaps someone gets the better of you and you’re not even sure how they did it.

You need the marvellous Luke Archer on your side.

I first met Luke on an actual Aikido mat, where he first told me about the “Verbal” Aikido he was developing.

Since then he has run numerous very popular workshops for children and adults, and written two books (which I reviewed on this blog).

An Irishman living and working in France, he has helped many people of all kinds protect themselves skilfully from verbal attack, so I’m delighted to host an interview with him today.

Who are you and how did you start doing Verbal Aikido?

I’m Luke Archer, a communication specialist, aikido practitioner and writer that has been discovering and developing the art for 10 years. It began when a client asked me to develop a trainer-training course to help teachers manage classroom conflicts.

What is Verbal Aikido exactly?

It’s a simple and fun way to manage conflicts and negativity that preserves all involved.

Aikido is a martial art. I’ve looked up “martial” in the dictionary and it says “warlike” and “aggressive”? Are you teaching people to be warlike and aggressive when verbally attacked?

I can see why you might think that. Indeed, the martial aspect we include in the training pertains rather to the discipline involved in developing posture and movement. Etymologically it might be better to call the art “Venusian” … as the founder of aikido expresses eloquently:

“It is a way to lead all human beings to live in harmony with each other as though everyone were one family.”

So how does it work?

Verbal Aikido works by fostering a focus on intention. You learn to move between three positions.

  1. A centred posture (aligning with me)
  2. An accompanying posture (understanding you)
  3. An “Ai-ki” – energy balancing – posture (exploring us).

In the centred posture, the intention is to connect with self, observe, feel, accept. In the second posture, the intention is to receive the other with sincerity, curiosity, neutrality. In the Ai-ki the intention is to connect and/or develop the relationship.

As with any martial art, we train regularly to increase flow and reduce effort, through constantly evolving exercises.

Dealing with a verbal attacker

Couldn’t all that harmony and centredness sound a bit namby-pamby and right-on? If someone makes a verbal attack on you, insults or criticises you in some way, shouldn’t you simply defend yourself wholeheartedly? Tell them what to do with their opinions, be honest about how you feel, rather than bottling it all up and pretending to be calm and nice about it all?

I’ll try to answer each of those questions. 1. Yes it might sound that way. It’s really only after experiencing the art and its effect, that you understand how much it’s about assertiveness and self-leadership. 2. I agree with wholeheartedness. We learn to be constructively wholehearted rather than destructively so. 3. I agree with being honest and accepting what we feel rather than resisting it. Often it’s simply a question of the best timing to enable one’s communication to be better received. It requires skill to determine appropriate timing in an exchange, though the skill is quite easily acquired.

OK, so what if you got criticised or insulted by a friend or work colleague, what would you do?

If it made me feel uncomfortable, as soon as I noticed I had lost my centre I would return to movement between the three steps. Making it a priority to get centred.

Whatever the exchange, the outcome is better for all if at least one person gets centred. Insults are actually surprisingly easy to manage, once you take just a little distance.

Can you give me an example?

Sure. Let’s say for example you said that Verbal Aikido sounds like a load of new-age codswallop! I might reply “What do you prefer?” That verbal movement may or may not make you hesitate. Either way, the further I explore your position with sincerity (“Tell me more…” etc.) the more openings are created.

It’s not about convincing anyone of anything. If you bring up something that I can connect with, that is where we may reach Ai-ki – energy balance. This simply enables the exchange to go from a potential conflict or unpleasant discussion to a place where conversation and open exchange of ideas are possible… and lighthearted humour too.

What have you got out of it yourself?

At first, the techniques helped me step back from difficult verbal exchanges and explore the different directions that you can go in a relationship.

Nowadays, it’s a means of sustainably developing all my relationships, especially the one with myself.

Do we have to put on a karate or judo kit and do this on a mat somewhere?

Heheh, only if you want to. In reality, we can practice anytime, anywhere. Nowadays there are regular workshops and classes, both online and in our verbal dojos. Anyone can pitch up and try a session, the dress code is comfortable.

Thank you, Luke. How can we find out more?

Go to for online and regular classes. for free resources and literature.

Read more

Can you defend yourself from verbal attack? Book review: Verbal Aikido Green & Orange Belt by Luke A Archer