Dancing the Wu Shin
Learn how to develop Zen's 'No-Mind'
The Three Types of Destructive Energy used in Martial Arts
The Hidden Meanings Behind The Flash
The King, the Fool, and the Fox Reading and controlling non-verbal communication in the sparring ring
Do you know what you're really learning?
Balance and the Martial Arts
Learn the deadly combination of strategy and attitude
Strategy for the Streets What would Sun Tzu do in a Street fight?
Two Man Staff Drills from China
Spinning Staff Techniques
How to Do a Pole Vaulting Side Kick
Stefan Traces The Origins of Kung Fu to Thailand's Mountain Tribes
No nonsense advice on what works in real life.
A Case Study of Sensory Enhancement for the Blind and Vision Impaired
The following ten strategies can be universally applied and are especially applicable to hand to hand combat. These cover the full range of possible actions to take when there is no more time for planning or preparing; this is when you are standing on the killing ground.
Time and PlaceThe first strategy to employ in combat is to, when possible, choose the time and place of the combat. It is best to fight in surroundings you are familiar with and the opponent is not. When possible, try to maneuver the opponent into a situation that puts him at a disadvantage; fight with the sun at your back, fight with open spaces behind you while maneuvering your opponent into cramped or narrow spaces that restrict his ability to move, take advantage of elevation forcing the opponent to have to fight uphill or up the stairs. When possible try to choose when a confrontation occurs. If the enemy is ready and willing to fight, then this is not the best time to fight. Everyone's emotional mood fluctuates, there are times when the enemy will be eager to do battle and other times when the enemy wants to rest and eat. It is those times, when the enemy would rather do something else, that you should choose to do combat.
The First Attack
To attack first, before the opponent has readied himself for battle, have several advantages. First, it puts the opponent on the defensive; he must react to your attacks and the slight delay in reaction works against him. Second, is the element of surprise; it is estimated that surprise in warfare improves the odds by a factor of four; one man could defeat four; ten defeat forty and so on. Third, the first attack is almost always successful in drawing `first blood'; connecting with a solid technique, to stun and disorient the opponent setting him up for finishing techniques. This is in keeping with the adage that the best defense is a good offense.
On the streets this is known as the `Sucker Punch' and is one of the most often used tactics in bar room and street fights. The sucker punch is any technique thrown without warning. During an argument one side may first turn away as if to leave and then turn back quickly and punch while the other's guard is down. Or an attacker may simply come out of nowhere, walk up to his target, and strike without warning. To guard against the first attack; beware of the distance between you and a potential antagonist. If he slowly moves into your critical range suspect a first attack. Also beware of anyone walking towards you in a direct line.
To destroy is a relentless forward assault using multiple techniques in rapid succession. This tactic is meant to literally overwhelm the enemy who is presented with too many areas to defend and no time to contemplate a counter attack. Where the motivation for attack is anger and hatred, fighters often attack each other in a blind rage using a flurry of wildly swinging punches and kicks. As sloppy and unskilled as this may be, it is nevertheless difficult to avoid or defend against. If both fighters use this method then victory will be the result of size, strength, and dumb luck.
To acclimatize oneself against the flurry, have opponents attack you using multiple techniques in fast succession. Practice evading back in a circular pattern, or sweep down and under. Modern martial arts competition rules require that the fight stop the instant a single technique is scored. This causes a serious defect. Students who have had no experience defending against the flurry will almost always panic when confronted with such a fierce attack. (See: Spirit of Battle, Tiger)
Intercepting is an attack launched at the moment the opponent begins his attack. This is an advanced tactic that requires the ability to anticipate the opponent's move, and then close in with your own before he can react. This is to take advantage of the opponent's `Suki', a gap in concentration. Moments before an attack is launched, the mind is frozen for an instant as it plans and readies itself for the attack. Counter-striking at that moment causes a delay in reaction time as the opponent's nervous system shifts from attack mode to defense mode. This time delay may only be a fraction of a second, but is long enough to allow a quick attack to penetrate the opponent's defense. (See Telegraphing)
An attack, launched at the same time as the opponent's, is known as Jamming. This technique also requires a good sense of timing though it is not as difficult to use as intercepting. In this case the ideal technique would block the opponent's incoming attack while simultaneously counter-striking. This again takes advantage of a break in the opponent's awareness, which is focused on his own attack and is unable to react quickly enough to block the counter. Also, as the opponent moves in, he is calculating his speed and distance in order to best execute his attack; by moving in you throw his timing and distancing off and he will be too slow and too close to use his intended technique.
Injuring the Corners
This strategy is best used when fighting a larger or more powerful opponent, Musashi describes this strategy as `When you cannot risk coming in close to your opponent because of his strength or reach, then attack what is within your reach’. The idea is to injure the attacker's hand, arm, or leg and wear the opponent down through multiple injuries. For example, if the opponent kicks, use your foot to jam down on the knee or shins of the incoming leg, if the opponent punches; use a forearm block with the intention of not just blocking, but also injuring the arm or elbow, if he reaches out to grab you; grab his fingers and break them. This strategy is also recommended when faced against an attacker armed with knife. Since it is too dangerous to come in close against a knife, the only available targets are the arm holding the knife and the leading leg. If these are injured then your chances of victory improve.
Evade and Counter
To wait until after the opponent has exhausted his attack is known as Evade & Counter. This is the classic guerilla strategy used when faced with a stronger enemy. When you are being attacked the enemy's greatest force is aimed directly at you. Standing your ground and attempting to block would pit you against your opponent’s best techniques and allow him to use the advantage of size and strength. This situation can be avoided through evasion and retreat. The first reaction to an attack is to retreat. The Taoist principle of water is to avoid what is hard and attack what is soft. Since most attackers will execute only a minimum number of attacks, retreating allows time to exhaust those attacks. Once the attack has exhausted itself there will appear a gap in the opponent’s strength and awareness, when he reconsolidates his energy to launch the next attack. This is his weakest moment; this is the time to counter attack fast, hard, and persistent. This strategy can be seen in bullfighting. The Matador does not attempt to stop or kill the bull but continues to evade until the bull is exhausted and near collapse, only then does the matador approach to apply the coup de grace.
The key to applying this strategy effectively is again dependent on timing. One cannot retreat or evade too quickly nor too far or the opponent will anticipate your movements. You must always appear within easy reach and evade the attack, as it is launched, not before. In this way the attacker will continue to expend energy believing his next technique will finish you.
Distraction can by applied in different ways to upset the opponent's concentration. At a basic level this can be done by throwing objects at the attacker, kicking sand or dirt into his face, spitting, knocking over garbage cans or furniture, or a sudden and powerful yell. More subtle distractions are similar to those used by slight-of-hand magicians, where one guides the onlooker's attention away from the action through the use of false `Tells'. Magicians attract attention to one hand by a suspicious movement while the other hand works the trick. In fighting one attracts the opponent's attention by some suspicious movement away from where the true attack will come from. Almost anything out of the ordinary will act as distraction; the key is in being strange, different, unexpected, out of place.
Feint and Strike
The feint is also a form of distraction whereby the opponent is fooled into believing you are attacking in a certain manner and when he reacts, you change your attack to strike somewhere unexpected. For example if you move towards your opponent with your hand raised overhead as though wielding a club the defender will automatically raise his arm to block the anticipated attack, at that moment attack low with a front snap kick to the solar plexus or groin. With his hands overhead he will be unable to defend in time against the low attack. The permutations are endless but follow a simple principle, if you wish to attack high, first feign low, if you wish to hit the left, first feint to the right.
Attacking The Interval
There is one other aspect of timing that functions on the psychological level and is known as Attacking The Interval. Gichen Funakoshi in his autobiography tells the story of a match he witnessed as a young man on Okinawa between two renowned masters of karate. After years of school rivalry, the two Sensei agreed to a match to determine who was best. They both assumed a ready posture and stood facing each other just outside of range. After ten minutes of motionless contemplation the referee called the match a tie. Curious as to what he had witnessed Gichen questioned his teacher and was given the following explanation. The match was called a tie because neither man had dropped or wavered in his attention. Had one of them dropped his awareness for even a moment the other would have finished him instantly. To maintain that degree of intense concentration for ten minutes was evidence enough of both master's skill. Miyamoto Musashi in his Book of Five Rings mentions the same strategy known as The Timing of an Instant. He describes a Suki as an interval, literally a space between two objects or two events in time, where something can enter.
Few people are able to use this method since it requires that you are able to focus your attention and hold it without wavering. (To maintain such self-control in the face of imminent combat is a near impossibility.) One must then wait until the opponent's attention fluctuates, and then have the skill and speed to attack at that instance. As applied to self-defense situations attacking the interval is waiting until the opportune moment to attack and escape.
. To allow a safety margin, Special Forces teams count the surprise factor as three, one man can take out three with the element of surprise, but trying to take out four would be too dangerous. This is a good rule to apply to any group dynamic.