The application of force in the samurai martial arts can be divided into two methodologies: hard and soft (in Japanese, Goho and Juho.)
Hard styles are widely comprised of meeting force with force. In effect, this could be moving directly towards the opponent, and fully striking. Defensively, standing one's ground in an attempt to directly parry or block an attack would be an example of a hard martial art.
As the name implies though soft methods don't use aggressive techniques, but rather focus on averting incoming attacks or avoiding them. In practice, dodging and attack and finding a way to disrupt the balance of the enemy would be an example of a soft martial art.
However, many find it difficult to separate the two methodologies as both are generally used in most martial arts.