The Fog of Peace

Modern commanders can map and model a vast battlespace and watch it change in real time. They can locate fighters and civilians. Guns and armor, aircraft and satellites. Threats and targets, and the changes of posture and subtle movements that signal a new phase is about to begin. They can act on that intelligence to their advantage. Theoretically.

There is always uncertainty. Von Clausewitz was concerned with “friction”. Inconsistencies in planning and execution, errors in communication, judgement, intelligence, breakdown in command, supply and on-the-ground capability. The enemy’s deception, unknown strengths and vulnerabilities, plans, alliances and resources. This uncertainty is the “fog of war.” It is relevant to every fighter.

In a crisis we feel threatened. Maybe we spot opportunities. Either way we feel compelled to act. The situation is abnormal. It feels about to shift. We have not seen something just like this before. Maybe a great transformation is underway. What do we do? Our information is imperfect. Successful commanders and fighters do not overcome this fog. They do not magically see through it. They act within it based on what they know, intuit and want. 

In the heat of confrontation or competition martial artists are trained to act with incomplete information. It is not that the shadows disappear. They just don’t matter. Our training and experience kick in. 

Our current world situation does not appear to be what we trained for. For a moment at least, we are operating in the fog of peace.

After decades of daily classes, dojos are closed. We are training remotely or in pairs.

There is a lot of new silence. Roads were busy. Now a passing delivery truck or police cruiser gets a look. We’re in the flight path of the airport. Planes were overhead all the time. No more.

We hear the birds. But we don’t hear the sounds of co-workers, classrooms, meetings, sports, friends out for the evening. We don’t hear the familiar dojo sounds of counting, kata, commands and kiai.

It’s silent. But even now, it is easy to get confused by all the noise. The signals are confusing.

Crossing paths with strangers at the post office or the store a month ago was anonymous. Then for a week or two strangers connected with shared excitement. Now it’s changed again, to kind of furtive, a kind of a dread of everyone and everything. As if eye contact could spread cooties. As if haste could keep the covids from your throat.

I spent years as a detective. I investigated robberies, assaults, rapes, murders and fraud. I spoke to lots of witnesses, victims, and suspects. Some people lied to me. Some told the truth. Some tried a clever combination of the two.

There are things that liars do that give them away. They can’t help doing it. It’s no secret. 

A sign that someone may be lying is that instead of informing you they try to persuade you. They insist, they emote, they repeat, they plead, they change details in the middle of the story for effect, they embellish, they swear to God. It’s not definitive. But it’s a clue. You need look closer. 

We try to rely on the media for information, to orient and to decide what to do. We need to look closer. We have a hunch the fog of peace is unlikely to lift right away. We will have to investigate deeply enough to act, but not so much that we allow our opportunity to act slip by. 

We are practitioners. Our field of action is training, persistently and sincerely. If we are displaced by circumstances we adapt and overcome. We may not have complete knowledge of the space we are in or the way events will unfold. We may not have an optimal path. But we can act. We can train. We can connect with one another. 

A production company called the Ninja Turtles had their studios next to our dojo when we first opened long ago.  They were very serious and funny people. Amidst all their creative sparks I thought there was at least one unrecognized good idea. Practitioners really are like turtles in a way. Turtles have a place to stay wherever they go. When they get tired, they pull in their legs and go to sleep. Then they wake up, stick their legs back out, and get on with it. No problem. Practitioners carry a dojo with them wherever they go. We wake up and get on with it.  No problem. 

We may not be able to see through the fog our world is in right now. We may not be able to get reliable intelligence that will allow us to map our battlespace, or life space, or anticipate every emerging threat or opportunity. We can persist in training with energy and sincerity. No need to let the fog obscure our purpose or plan of action. We continue to strengthen our mind and body, refine our lives, and do what we can for the people around us. 

This fog is not an obstacle. Our way ahead is clear. 


Post Copyright © 2020 by Jeffrey M. Brooks, author of The Good Fight – The Virtues and Value of the Martial Arts. Jeff Brooks is a 40-year practitioner of karate; for 20 years he was a writer for high profile public figures in business, government, media and the arts; after that he turned to crime, working as a police detective, federal investigator, and law enforcement instructor in multiple disciplines. He is the author of several books and hundreds of published articles on martial arts. 

1 Comment

  1. Daniel Beck says:

    Thank you for the post, the practice every morning makes each day. My friend Norb was a detective with NYPD so i’m hearing lot’s of fascinating stories. Stay safe. danny


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