David and Goliath illustrates the classic martial arts encounter: size and strength vs. technique and strategy. In the valley of Elah, David, the young shepherd boy confronts Goliath, the feared giant Philistine warrior. David uses his sling shot to kill his towering foe. Through strategy, the small and smart can defeat the big and strong.
Strategy: Water Overcoming Stone
Like this biblical tale, the romanticized ideal of the old master, young fighter or female warrior overcoming the larger, stronger and more powerful opponent is the traditional appeal of kung fu and martial arts. Classical Shaolin and Daoist martial arts, taiji and bagua, use Lao Tzu and Sun Tzu’s strategic idea of water overcoming stone as a martial art analogy for the weak defeating the strong.
When kung fu and karate were secret, superior strategy, the over all plan of engagement, could provide a smaller martial artist with a hidden advantage against a larger, stronger opponent unaware of higher martial knowledge. Although Goliath clad in armor, brandishing sword, spear and shield would vanquish any warrior face to face, David simply did not engage in his enemy’s favored fighting range. The wily youth attacked from afar with a projectile weapon. Perfect kung fu strategy.
For self defense, devoid of rules, the key to overcoming size and strength is to be smart and strategic. It goes without saying that technical skills and physical fitness are prerequisites. Without the warrior’s physical foundation, the scholar’s mental strategy is useless.
The source of all strategy is deception. Southern shaolin systems, for example, employ quick unexpected low kicks to the shins and knees to harass while using lightning hand strikes to the head and torso. Conventional fighters trained for defense against high kicks are often confused by this strategy. A grappler or wrestler can nullify powerful kick boxers by pretending to high punch then suddenly drop down to tackle the kick boxer to the ground. Conversely, a stand up fighter will deliberately lure a grappler to initiate a take down and suddenly intercept with close range forearm chops to the grappler’s vulnerable neck.
Let’s face it: the skilled bigger fighter will always have the edge over the skilled smaller fighter –- that is reality. But as David’s triumph shows, while there are limits to physical skills, there are no limits to the mind. Learn strategy!
Evolving Martial Artists think outside the box – there are no rules to combat. We recommend reading Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings and Carl von Clausewitz’s On War –- classics on strategy.
Keep practicing and exploring,
“Be formless, shapeless, like water,” said Bruce Lee, echoing the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu.
Written over two thousand years ago, Sun Tzu’s classic treatise Art of War uses water as a metaphor for strategies in managing conflict.
We are facing growing issues surrounding water, conflict and survival. March 22 is World Water Day, and the start of World Water Week. The focus is to promote peace in transboundary water management through cooperation, not conflict. International waters are key natural resources ensuring our global future. Where they touch on more than one country, or are intercepted by a nation upstream, they are also a source of tension.
Conflicts arise among leaders, as these transboundary issues are deeply rooted in emotions –- water is necessary for survival. And it defines a culture’s opportunity for advancement. The challenge is not only to provide a sustainable clean water system, it is also learning to manage and share resources in an equitable way. Understanding historical water disputes and related treaties provide signposts for conflict resolution and aides in developing strategies for the future. Focusing on cooperation and joint action is essential to vital transboundary waters.
The resolution process requires a tremendous effort, great skill, programs and money. It also calls for awareness. Here’s how you can get involved
Lao Tze said, “The highest good is like water. Water nourishes the ten thousand things.”
Both water and cooperation are precious. Water is life. Communication is the path. No fighting.
With the pop mainstream taste for action movie violence, MMA and practical street defense, the “kick ass” view of martial arts prevails. Sadly, the rich historical, philosophical and cultural dimensions of the martial arts is under appreciated or simply neglected.
At TanDao, along with the open palm knockout and dragon choke out, the strategic, tactical and bio-mechanical principles underlying the physical art are vital for appreciating the depth and sophistication of martial arts beyond self defense.
At the same time, we caution against over intellectualizing theories and principles not matched by technical skill and training. Here is a relevant tale:
One day a famed scholar took a small boat to cross a river. Sitting at the bow he became immersed in thought as he gazed at the mountains bathed in mist. He looked up and asked an old boatman at the rudder, “do you know philosophy?”
“No sir, I don’t,” replied the boatman.
“Ah, what a shame, the scholar said, “you’ve wasted half your life.” In middle of the river a turbulent storm broke out threatening to capsize the boat.
The boatman asked, “Sir, can you swim?”
“Uh, no I can’t,” was the worried reply.
“Ah, what a shame,” the boatman replied, “then you’ve lost your whole life.”
Evolving Martial Artists – warrior/scholar/monk – seeking wholeness, strive to balance the warrior training with the scholar’s study of the philosophical meaning behind the physical movements and the monk’s mindful meditation.
In our recent TanDao Videos, we are introducing strategic fighting principles that will enhance your martial arts. Check them out.
How do we write a single post that both celebrates St. Patrick’s Day and combines TanDao fight science? Hmmm? Toni came up with a great idea that bridges that old east/west dichotomy: kung fu fighting to an Irish tune, Rocky Road To Dublin. And to add to that, her solution was to use one of the most creative fight scenes in recent film history (tip of the hat to Celtic warriors). It is a Hollywood updating of Hong Kong chop socky fights with The Dubliners singing the in the background.
This gritty encounter from Sherlock Holmes is one of our favorites, because it employs our TanDao Fight Lab format of showing a fight sequence twice: one, to see the movements and second, to analyze hidden tactics and strategies. In this underground fight club, the cerebral detective employs baritsu (a term used by for Japanese combat). But, Evolving Martial Artists will recognize the rapid fire punches and techniques of JKD and Wing Chun (Robert Downey Jr., playing Holmes, is a practitioner.)
Holme’s fight is, more importantly, an execution of TanDao’s Triad Principle, Destructive Speed Strike. TanDao strategy is based on relentless multiple strikes designed to Surprise, Stun and Subdue. These three components are part of a single motion. Holmes initiates his final encounter by throwing the handkerchief (surprise), followed by a flurry of strikes (stun) and finishes off his opponent with a front kick (subdue).
It’s a great fight. It perfectly demonstrates but one of TanDao Triad Principles. How can we take this further? It is still not the zenith of TanDao fighting. Watch again. Think about it.
Tags: baritsu, dubliners, eileen otoole, fight scene, JKD, kung fu, lawrence tan, master lawrence tan, robert downey jr, rocky road to dublin, self defense, sherlock holmes, st patricks day, tandao, tandao fight lab, tandao kung fu, wing chun
In our latest TanDao Fight Lab, Leopard Kung Fu, we demonstrate that behind a stylized leopard form is a practical method to beat the opponent to the punch.
Instead of using two beats in a defense (block then punch) against your opponent’s attack, the leopard form teaches us to block and hit at the same time. One beat. The principle of simultaneous offense/defense encoded in the free flow leopard form and application is an example of Economy of Motion, the elimination of wasted movement.
Of course, this is an ideal. In some situations we simply have to get the hell away. However, we should instill a “defend aggressively” mindset by training ourselves to instinctively punch or strike, while blocking or parrying at the same time. Use two man drills to experiment utilizing simultaneous block and punch against front, side and round kicks as well as different punches and joint locks. This is instilled after experimentation and the “100 hours training” required for proficiency.
Understand the principle of simultaneous offense/defense, apply it to your training and you will definitely improve your punching and striking efficiency.
Keep practicing and exploring,
Check out our Tiger Combat ebook