Angular Attack Theory: An Aikido Perspective by Todd Jones


“Physical altercation, controlled or uncontrolled, is a form of communication that reveals much about an individual’s psychological makeup.”

Angular attack theory is a conceptual framework that is taught in many martial traditions in one form or another. A fundamental comprehension of attack theory is essential to successfully effectuating defensive strategy and tactics. Ignorance of the construction, tactics, and strategy of attacking guarantees defeat. That said it is a difficult task to convey these concepts in writing, but here goes….

This treatise provides a glimpse into our approach to its study but is by no means a comprehensive treatment of the topic. Angular attack theory serves as a bridge to understanding and communicating strategic and tactical concepts in various martial traditions. An understanding of angular attack theory will help to ensure that applied aikido techniques possess martial integrity and are truly effective.

Before we delve into the intricacies and details of angular attack theory, it is imperative that certain contextual and definitional issues be addressed first: please bear with…

Perception colors perspective. Perspective affects philosophy. What a person believes is a function of their intelligence, experience, education, and circumstance. Disagreement is usually a matter of insufficient commonality. When one or more parties to a disagreement are sufficiently lacking in experience (i.e. maturity and/or patience), we frequently observe physical altercations.

Physical altercation, controlled or uncontrolled, is nonetheless a form of communication that reveals much about an individual’s psychological makeup. As such, karate kumite, aikido randori, and kendo or judo shiai, represent nothing more than physical “conversations.” If you watch closely, regardless of the art being practiced, you will learn much about any participant’s personal style of, or approach to conflict resolution. This ability to observe a personal style of interaction is not limited to activities in the dojo; the way a person walks, the way a person holds posture, the way they speak, are all telltale signs to be observed and chronicled.

In modern budo, we train for many reasons, but all martial arts eventually require some degree of physical interaction. Whether you train for self-defense, general health and conditioning, sportive competition, artistic pursuit, or some combination of the aforementioned; intimate contact with another human will become necessary at some point. And despite that every human body is essentially constrained to a limited set of biomechanical capabilities and therefore limitations; depending on your chosen martial path that contact will be more or less damaging to your body. Every endeavor has a learning curve and every person learns at a slightly different pace. So, no two experiences are, or can ever be the same. Therefore, how we come together is the essential distillate on many different levels.

Human beings are competitive by nature. And although “winning and losing” is a topic worthy of an article, or book, of its own, it is not the central theme of this article. From a competitive perspective, winning or losing is merely the outcome of a game. From the standpoint of discussing self-defense, it is a matter of life or death. Individuals practicing an artistic pursuit may not even recognize the concept as having any validity whatsoever. Perspective can dictate philosophy. Part of learning to be successful and happy in life is learning to understand the perspectives, and agendas, of others whom we encounter and have to deal with. Knowing where they are coming from and what they really want are critical to finding commonality and seeking agreement… ending conflict. Aikido.

The cornerstones of physical interactive success are skill, conditioning, and experience. All things being equal, a shortcoming in any of these three categories virtually insures defeat. A budoka with superior skill, who is in top shape, and is experienced at physical interaction, should never fail. A budoka with superior skill, who is in top shape but lacking interactive experience may fail, but may get lucky if the conversation drags out long enough. Likewise, a budoka with superior skill and experience, who is not in top shape, will prevail over another who is in top shape but lacking in experience. Thus explains the old adage, “youth and exuberance are no match for age and experience!” Of course, even a skilled budoka who is out of shape and lacking interactive experience is doomed to fail.

Before this discussion can go much further it is imperative that certain concepts and terms are clearly understood. Most disagreements stem from misunderstandings…

The Line is simply understood as a ray extending through each partner’s center, regardless of where they move. Angular attack theory advocates that although the shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, it is not necessarily the path of least grief.

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