February 5, 2015

The "Golden Rule of Combat"

I can't remember the first time I saw this, perhaps as a lad thumbing through George Kirby's volumes on "Jujitsu," but I didn't think much of it at the time. I came across it again recently, only this time it was called the "golden rule of combat" and was supposedly from an old book by Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo.
The Golden Rule of Combat
Your most powerful weapon, applied to your opponent's greatest weakness, at his time of maximum vulnerability.
Of combat!!
The helpful paraphrase of it, "Our best shot at his weakest point when he's least ready." 

I tell ya, it all sounds great. Most powerful weapon, weakness, maximum vulnerability - all the right and good and right stuff. But I'm gonna disagree with it. Not because I think it's wrong, or even because I don't think it's right enough - surely there are folks who will testify to its truth. 

I don't care for it because it perceives things exactly backwards, like looking into a mirror looking at the world - we experience it as an image of reality instead of reality itself. If we aren't clear about what is actual, then we can't be clear about how to deal with it. That's when goals in training get misguided because what we value most ought not be most valued. We wind up with a defensive strategy that doesn't hold up under stress. If we're placing technique at the top of our list, whether that's memorization or most powerful weapon we'll wind up confused. Like a pyramid on its head, it's not that we can't find the balance, it's that it's too easy to tip over.

First off, I'm not certain what my "most powerful weapon" is - first guess, morning breath. If I think tactically, it's my ability to create opportunities I can take advantage of. That may very well involve a right cross or front kick, but I'll only know that at the time of use due to the conditions I'm under. What's clearly more valuable than a personal WMD is creating a moment, any moment, I can exploit to destroy an opponent's ability to position and gain leverage upon me, whether that involves weapons or no, not merely waiting for the chance to throw my "hammer."    
I also don't know what my opponent's greatest vulnerability is. Under the spontaneous conditions of conflict, I don't know if they have weak shoulders, bad knees, or a heart condition. An opportunistic vulnerability is just that - opportune. And let's be honest, using my "most powerful weapon" against a "greatest vulnerability" may not actually do a goddamn thing since "most powerful" is a relative term and may not actually be powerful at all. 

But here's the most telling part: at his time of maximum imbalance. His time? Sounds like I'm to wait for his imbalance. By the time we recognize imbalance, it's already too late - they'll correct before we ever get a chance to exploit it. So why isn't this notion on "my time" instead of "his time?" Let's not understate clarity: this notion ought to be in reference to me since I'm the one to dictate it to the opponent - that's the only way it's big enough to see and long enough to actually take advantage of. 

Writing my own "golden rule," I'd start and end with "time" as in "timing" as in the "interval." The interval is the discontinuity between what the opponent has actually done, their action, and what they want to do, their intention and the requisite tactical maneuvers we take in that space. Remember, fights don't start with a first strike, fights start from the position to strike first. So if we're using an OODA loop to map this out, the interval would be between "act" (the last part) and "observe" (the first part) - conflict does not consist of just one OODA loop, but a cascading series of them.  

At the very least, let's flip it: 
When he's least ready, (strike) his weakest point, with your best shot. 
Already sounds better to me - cleaner because it follows how we actually need to operate and clearer simply because we oriented first for time, the moment of action. The interval needs to be first, since in reality it always comes first - "timing is everything" because time is the space for action to occur. 

Let's refine:
When he's made least ready, target any weak point, with capable technique. 
Now we're active instead of passive, making him less ready instead of waiting for him to be such. We make less ready by our maneuvering in the interval.  

When he is made to move against an a opportunity we have created, exploit a weakness in his position, with techniques that cannot be countered or stopped.
Okay, now we're in deep, making him least ready by giving him a golden opportunity he simply can't pass up and targeting the weaknesses inherent in his actions in moving against us. If we take advantage of a weak point and ride it, whatever technical means we are using become increasingly difficult to counter or stop provided we know how to apply them that way.  

Better still: 
Lead the opponent by his motives to take advantage of a created vulnerability, shape his resulting action in the interval between what he wanted and what he has instead been made to do, and take advantage of his ensuing action with proportional techniques that cannot be denied their use.
Expose his motives by your vulnerability - an opportunity for us, since now we can be sure of what he will do - and take advantage of the physical contradiction formed - what he wanted is not now what he has been made to do because we're still maneuvering and he's following us. The context of our conditions is key as it dictates response and continued maneuvering gives us advantage providing we have the training to shape the moment to that end. Our technique is then simply a matter of judging the degree of necessary proportionality under said conditions to achieve the outcome we need and/or want.  

Initiate his motives by self-risking, create a physical contradiction between what he thought and what actually is by re-positioning, and when he attempts recovery, exploit that weakness with just enough leverage to undo his original motive completely and achieve our contextual outcome.
By initiating our ethic, the timing of our motivating values - maybe we just want to escape this person or protect another - we also initiate the opponent's action by their motive. In short, we lead by giving others the example we want them to be led by. Conflict resolution is a matter of displaying leadership under stress, whether that's with your team at work or stacked odds in a violent street encounter. Creating opportunities that opponents can be lured by is the surest means to defeat them - humans have only been doing this in hunting and fighting since the dawn of time. Trapping someone inside the midst of their own mistake often forces them to extricate themselves from that mistake first before returning to the fight with us - a costly move. For that action alone is enough to cause an opening to appear so they can be undone and we can achieve our desired outcome by context, whether that's escaping, interceding on another's behalf, or subduing for control or arrest. 
Initiate, (re)position, leverage, apportion.
Contextual ethics - the initiative of our motivating values, like self-and-others protection. 
Acuity of tactical opportunities - positioning in the space. 
Leveraging the interval - contradiction is the shield for shaping viability of action.
Apportionality of technique to achieve our ethic - escape, resist, extract, intercede, confront, subdue.

Ethic. Acuity. Viability. Apportion. In cascading series.

Or, if I want to be clever:  

Shin. Gi. Tai. Ichi. 

Whew ...

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