When the moment comes, and you face an opponent, things get real simple. You do what you need to do. That is something all fighters know.
But what you bring to bear on that moment is not so simple – things change suddenly and dramatically. All your experience, your training, the sharpness of your skill and perception – everything you have done in the dojo and outside over the years will be there, in action.
Leading a class with ten or twenty people is not simple. Supervising a few dozen people on a shift or in your office can be complex. Running a company with a hundred or a thousand people is more than anyone can do alone.
It’s hard to imagine what it would take to lead an army with millions of warriors ready for battle. But if you could, you would keep it simple.
The Persian army was the largest and most powerful force in the ancient world. Millions of men. Conquering continents. Dominating the world for centuries.
Training in three simple rules.
Herodotus, a Greek intelligence analyst, historian and soldier whose country faced the Persians in mortal struggle, wrote this:
The sons of the Persians are carefully instructed, from the age of 5 to the age of 20 in only three things: To ride well, shoot straight, and speak the truth.
Ride well, shoot straight, and speak the truth.
In the contemporary language of battle we call that maneuver, firepower, and information.
In the karate dojo we study and practice these every time we train.
When we practice footwork, shifting, stepping and turning, we are learning maneuver.
The Persians applied this principle on horseback. We do it on foot.
When we punch, strike, kick, block, lock, or throw we are projecting power where we want it to go, with perfect timing.
The Persians shot arrows. We throw the weapons of our body.
In confrontation we need accurate information in a continually updated stream. We need to interpret it accurately and without delay. We learn to read an opponent’s strengths, weaknesses and intentions in the heat of the moment. To do it successfully we need to be unfiltered and honest. We tell the truth.
It is easy to overlook our own shortcomings and rely on our strengths. It is easy to focus on an opponent’s weaknesses and minimize their advantages. That is dangerous.
Sun Tzu, in The Art of War says:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
He is speaking to the need for honest assessment.
It is not simply a matter of intel collection in the battlespace or acute perception of an opponent in the heat of the contact. It is a habit cultivated over long years of training to make honest assessment of your own skills and the abilities of the people you may encounter. Self deception is easy.
Knowing the enemy and knowing yourself are sometimes taken as secret, esoteric insights, seeing into the heart and soul of the enemy. It need not be so complicated. It might mean his technique is predictable and stoppable – or that he has more speed or more power that you want to deal with directly. Knowing yourself and your enemy is not a guarantee of victory, according to Sun Tzu. It does make for the best possible engagement.
As a teacher you want to make your students happy. But your job is to make them strong. It will take courage and honesty – from the teacher and the student – to do both.
Our culture is riddled with deception. Public figures twist words. Representation is taken for the real thing. Ads trick us. People mistrust one another. It cannot surprise us when so many of today’s sons and daughters – ages 5 to 20 and beyond – think they have to lie to succeed. They do not.
In the dojo honesty, agility and accurate force projection are how we win. Reliable people are confident and strong.
Move well. Fight hard. Speak the truth.
Post by Jeff Brooks
Copyright © 2018 Jeffrey M. Brooks and Mountain Karate LLC
Photo by HungaryFirst