His question had to do with an idea from Hatsumi Sensei. The idea is that you should become zero. Don't be a target. Erase yourself. That way anyone who seeks to do harm will not find a target to land their ill intent.
His question of me, was how to do this? And he meant in a practical way. Because he had sharks circling in his life. Ready to bloody the water at any moment. My answer to him came from my own experiences.
I said one way to not be a target was to not be there when something bad happens. This is a deep idea. The strategies to achieve it include not hanging around a troubled area or with troubled people. If you spend your time with people who are in conflict or who seek conflict, you will most likely join them.
If you spend your time in a location where bad things happen, then your odds of being a target increase.
If, circumstances require you to be with troubled people or in troubled areas, first ask why exactly are you required to be there? Because often you are not. Often it is a block in your own perceptions that prevents you seeing alternatives.
Then if you see no alternative, seek to disappear as a target. One way to achieve this is through simple friendliness or giving. A smile can be very disarming.
For example, one night I found myself walking my normal route through a very large and empty parking lot. I had made made this same walk for two years with no problems. Suddenly maybe 20 meters from my path I heard a yell,
"Yo! Where are you going?"
I turned and saw a guy sitting on the hood of his car. I kept walking.
"Hey! I'm talking to you!"
I looked again. The guy slid off the hood. Another guy got out of the car and started my direction. The driver started the car.
I made an instant decision. I turned toward them without breaking my quick stride. I walked directly up to the speaker. Both of them looked ready to jump me but they hesitated. I extended my hand with a smile.
"Hello, my name is Michael."
Confusion. This wasn't part of their plan. He shook my hand.
"How you doin'?"
"I'm good. Just got off work. What are you guys up to?"
"Cool. Well I gotta run. See you later."
And I turned away, walking with my purposeful pace. When I got some distance away, I glanced back. They seemed confused, but weren't following.
Had I ignored them initially, they were certainly coming after me. And I wasn't going to outrun them. If I had responded by puffing up, I would have had at least 3 opponents who were possibly armed. When I went to meet them, they were very edgy. I looked all three in the eye and they were quite prepared to jump me. I think my actions were confusing and disarming.
Context also plays a role. You can be around the most crime ridden area and there are still ice cream trucks and children playing. Old people walking down the block. They are (relatively) safe because they are part of the fabric of the neighborhood. Mesh with that fabric and you will be (relatively) safe.
If you find yourself in actual combat then I will leave you with this idea from Hatsumi Sensei:
"Give the opponent the feeling to cut, draw him in. And then your movement will disappear. You have to disappear from your opponent's perception. This is not something that can be taught. You have to find it for yourself."Maybe this is the Maai of Zero.