"Attack, attack, attack!"

There's a Frank Zappa song called "Attack, attack, attack" that came to mind as I started writing this article. I suppose most kids today would probably be more inclined to think of the song by Ejectorseat, but that's a different story. Regardless of which song you prefer, it seems to me to sum up the tactics or mindset adopted in many martial systems. And I think it is something worthy of closer examination.

Somewhat synchronously, I have had a couple of different conversations over the last week or 2, all on the same theme. In particular, a blogger who goes by the nom de plume of Ymar Sakar averted my attention to a martial system called TFT (Target Focused Training). Then my esteemed colleague Victor Smith referred to this quote from “Motobu Choki – Karate My Art” translated by Patrick and Yuriko McCarthy at page 31:
    “The blocking hand must be able to become the attacking hand in an instant. Blocking with one hand and then countering with the other hand is not true bujutsu. True bujutsu presses forward and blocks and counters in the same motion.”
As my good friend Zach points out, this reflects a particular "attacking" or "aggressive" mindset:
    "The way I interpret the statement is that Motobu felt this idea of "defensive", or block + counter Karate is undesirable enough that you might as well just not do it at all... it is more important to have a strong core philosophy and strategy than it is to cover every little possibility in training... I believe the gist of the statement is, mindset is an important thing, and he is saying that you might as well simply not train with a defensive mindset, rather than saying "well...maybe sometimes"."
I had a good look around the TFT website and I find that, like krav maga and various other reality based systems, the philosophy is quite similar to that of Choki Motobu.

And, in broad terms, I find nothing to disagree with about that philosophy.

A krav maga practitioner friend once said to me: “Learning to fight is 90% learning to be aggressive.” I think he was right. So to the extent that systems such as those of Motobu, krav maga, TFT and others have aggressive, disabling attack as their mainstay, I can see why: it gives you a more immediately practical set of skills.

In fact, in any kind of conflict or competition, disabling aggression is going to be your first, most useful, weapon. Consider for a moment a genteel game like chess. You might think that aggression has no role to play in it, but you'd be wrong. And I'm not talking here just about the new sport of "chess boxing" - I'm talking the usual, sit down and think variety, where the only strikes comprise your hand hitting a clock, and your only grapples comprise taking pieces. How can aggression help chess? I'll digress to tell you a little story:

As a child I was very lacking in any competitive spirit. I had no interest in sport, academia, the arts - anything. I'm sure my parents and teachers despaired more than a little. Then, at the age of 10 or so, my family took in boarder named Charlie. Charlie was a knockabout 20-something year old who had grown up on the streets. He was lean, muscled like whipcord, explosive in his movements and intense, almost manic, in his manner. He certainly knew his way around real fights and we spent many an afternoon where he smacked me about until my nose was bloody (something my father tolerated for whatever reason - perhaps because he felt it would "toughen me up a bit", which I have to say it did).

Many of Charlie's lessons of combat remain with me still ("If you're going to kick someone, make sure you snap it back faster than you kick out otherwise they'll grab your leg and then you're stuffed!" and "Jab twice with your left and follow with a right cross - works like a charm!" - which, as I found, it did).

But Charlie also played a mean game of chess. And it was he who taught me that, as in hand to hand combat, attack is the most important factor in that game. "Attack, attack, attack!" he would say (and I'm pretty sure he was a Frank Zappa fan).

The concept was quite revolutionary for a disinterested, non-competitive kid like me. But I gave it a go. Before long I realised that while most kids (or even adults) I played vacillated on complex strategy, I headed straight for the jugular. Practically overnight I went from not playing chess at all, to becoming the school champion. Many of my early victories were based on the most innane chess maneuver of them all - fool's mate. But as time wore on (and the tactic stopped working) I had to become more sophisticated. Nonetheless, I was, from the very outset, formulating a victory plan. I was playing to win, not to "set up" or "dominate portions of the board". I was going for the jugular. Before I knew it, I was playing in, and winning, inter-school competitions. Then inter-provincial competitions (well, one anyway).

But my "chess phase" didn't last long. Why? The more experienced I became, the better the quality of my opponents became. While I was beating the local kids and even Charlie, aggression was most of what I needed. But then I started encountering kids who had read up on the greatest chess games of all time - who understood the nuances of the opening, a middle game and an endgame, who knew the Sicilian Defence, the Lasker-Bauer combination etc.

In short, they were adept at the science and art of thwarting my attacks, and how to (simultaneously) set up their own attacks. Unfortunately I was disinterested in studying the famous chess-plays and so I started to flounder. In a game of this complexity there really is only so far one can go as a "gifted amateur". You can only rely on quick thinking and cunning for so long. After a while you need knowledge; knowledge I really didn't care about acquiring. I have probably played chess only once or twice since those days.

Of course, in physical confrontations aggression plays a much, much bigger role. I simply include this anecdote to illustrate how it can affect even non-physical pursuits. In fighting, aggression really is almost everything - at least the 90% to which my krav maga friend referred.

But, after 30 years of training, I am increasingly interested in that last 10%. To me, that is what is most interesting. It is there that I think you find the true science and art of fighting. To be successful against most opponents, all you need is a small set of well-honed, disabling responses - and aggression. But to truly master the art or science of fighting, you need to understand the complex skill of the "set up" - where you thwart your attacker and understand how to turn the tables when you are being thwarted.

As I discuss in my articles titled "Boards don't hit back" Parts 1 and 2, the biggest problem with aggressive plays is that they assume your opponent is a dummy who will stand there inertly allowing you to attack. He or she won't. Instead, as you launch your attack you will find the "dummy" actively resisting you. Your punch will be evaded or blocked and you will be facing a counter. Indeed, as Choki Motobu suggested, you might find the counter emerging more or less simultaneously with the defence.

At this point it is important to note that I take aggression to be a “given” necessity – hence I have no disagreement with Motobu's quote or the methodology employed by krav maga, TFT etc. which, manifestly, works. For me it’s a question of: “Where to from there?” It really is no different in this respect to what I faced as a young chess player; I'd reached the end of where simple aggression and quick thinking could take me. I needed more - knowledge in the form of an art or science.

Clearly, if you haven’t got to this point in your martial arts study in the first place, learning more complex sets of skills is not inherently practical.

On the other hand, most folks I know in the martial arts don’t do it for practicality anyway. We can get carried away imputing our own reasons for training onto others. Periodically I find myself remembering that x or y does it purely for “gong fu” – to achieve a skill through hard work. So I try to avoid disparaging wushu or any other “artistic” form of martial art (unless it is manifestly silly, like some of the Xtreme martial arts which employ impressive gymnastics but add an unfortunate, cheesy parody of traditional martial arts postures/mannerisms). Increasingly my own reasons for training are straying further and further from "fighting" and "practicality". Today I mostly train because of "gong fu".

If, on the other hand, someone wants quick practicality, I can think of no better system than TFT or krav maga, systema and similar "reality-based" schools.

Consider the TFT approach, by way of example: it is very sound and effective. It is, under my definition, a system leaning heavily towards military or law enforcement model, rather than a civilian defence model. I say this because TFT is “target focused” by its very name/definition. While agreeing with everything I heard the founder Tim Larkin say in the TFT videos, the philosophy seems to be centered on attacking (albeit counterattacking) your target. It does not focus its primary attention on teaching you how to thwart an attack initiated by your "target" (except by the obvious tactic of disabling the attacker before this becomes an issue).

While disabling an opponent is clearly highly desirable from a civilian defence perspective (he/she can’t attack you any longer) this raises the question: If you can’t hit him first, how do you avoid being hit by an attack that is heading your way? You deflect/evade, of course. But how do you do this? It is easy to say “just deflect and/or evade” – in my experience it is another to do so.

To me, the primary focus of civilian defence-oriented traditional arts is always on how to deflect/evade/thwart that first (or second, third etc.) attack – be it by preemptive strike (which is rarely available when you’re surprised), by deflection, evasion or (more commonly) deflection with evasion.

Traditional fighting arts thus put a lot of emphasis on the art of deflection and evasion (or deflection with evasion). It is “target focused” more in terms of dealing with the attacks – not with viewing your attacker as a “target” for your counters.

This is true even of Motobu's karate: while he might well be seen as an early pioneer of "reality-based self defence" (I encourage you to read Graham Noble's article "Choki Motobu... A Real Fighter"), his fighting method retained the science and art of deflection. It's just that he applied it with a pragmatic "attack focused" emphasis or mindset.

So karate kata begin with a defensive move – as do most Chinese martial arts (including the internal arts). In this regard I invite you to read my various articles on “blocking”, evasion and evasion with “blocking” and on using and adapting the flinch reflex.

Then there is the specific traditional martial art focus of counterstriking after you’ve deflected/evaded etc. Learning how to strike disabling targets is necessary in training and forms a big part of the traditional fighting arts. But civilian defence arts go further: as I’ve said, they teach you how to avoid being hit by your target. And how to strike a target that won’t let you strike it.

Assume you’re down on one knee after being blindsided (as Tim Larkin shows in one of his videos). You see his groin and you hit it. So far so good: to this point the TFT and traditional martial arts approaches are identical. However what happens when you go to strike his groin but he blocks/deflects/evades your counterstrike? To me, that is the most interesting part – how to “turn the tables” and establish control. That is what the traditional martial arts spend a lot of time answering.

And remember that in my view the primary focus of the traditional fighting arts (as civilian defence systems) is not to hit a target – but to not get hit (ie. to avoid being a “target” yourself). This difference is subtle, but significant. The civilian defence focus is not suitable for military or law enforcement purposes where your goal is to effect a particular result to your target. But it is eminently suitable for civilian defence where you succeed so long as you remain unaffected by the threat posed. If you run away from a civilian defence encounter, you’ve “won”. If you run away from military or law enforcement encounter, you are remiss in your duties.

Because neutralising a threat through counterattack is a big part of civilian defence systems, there is a huge overlap with TFT’s approach. What TFT teaches seems very effective in civilian defence encounters. But there is a difference in emphasis and that difference plays out on the fringes. That difference is bigger than just the differences in our laws about self-defence in Australia vs. those in America. Wherever you are, running away, if it is feasible, remains an appropriate option in civilian defence. By contrast it is generally inappropriate in military and law enforcement situations. This philosophical difference filters down into technical differences and emphases in training.

Accordingly, "attack, attack attack!" is a necessary starting point for any person studying the martial arts for reasons of practicality. But where to from there? That's what I am eager to learn more about - not just for practical reasons, but because I enjoy the art and science for its own sake.

After all, most of what you are ever likely to need in defence will probably come down to your simplest technical skills - applied with a whole lot of aggression. If my reasons for training were confined to practical self-defence, I doubt I would have started studying traditional martial arts in the first place.

Copyright © 2011 Dejan Djurdjevic


  1. The attack emphasis is still preceded by a defence in styles like TFT, etc. If not, the reality is that you would face the brunt of the law as the aggressor... unless you can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the attacker was really about to attack you.

    Hit them first and hit them hard is a very effective strategy, but its just not practical for law abiding citizens.

  2. Well Ruan, that is certainly what should be the case. I speak as a lawyer and former prosecutor.

    Systems like TFT, krav maga etc start with the premise that you are being attacked, so there is no issue of pre-emption in the purest sense.

    However, do such styles focus sufficiently on "pure defence" in the sense of a block/evasion without an offensive move built-in? Not in my opinion - certainly not to the extent that traditional civilian defence arts do so.

    Is this necessarily a bad thing? Not if you can deal with the attack using "simultaneous initiative" - ie. strike them before their strike hits you (beat them to the punch) or block/evade and counter simultaneously. Many (if not most) attacks are really quite inexpert and are telegraphed and relatively slow. Untrained people tend to attack with predictable methods, such as a massive right cross. That's my experience anyway. So if you train to deal "simultaneously" with such attacks (called "habitual acts of physical violence by Pat McCarthy) then you're getting closer.

    Would I put my eggs in that basket? Personally, no. I believe most attacks are inflicted with some element of surprise, so I have trained to deal with what some call "late initiative" scenarios (where you can't "beat him to the punch" or "block/evade and counter simultaneously"). In my experience late initiative is all that's left in at least 70-80% of unprovoked attacks.

    That said, late initiative strategies take a long time to develop into reliable methods. Deflection and evasion are not easy to master. And learning to "set up" counters is even harder. It requires some fairly advanced timing. In the end, you are better off in the short term simply learning an "attack-centered" system - otherwise you risk (a) failing to defend yourself and (b) having no appropriate disabling counter-striking ability.

    But then again, I'm not in marital arts for the "short term"; ie. it is not my goal to develop martial skill for a confrontation tomorrow. Rather, I prefer an art and science that allows me to continue to expand and develop, even as I get older.

    This is, in a nutshell, a distinction between the "soft" arts and the "hard" arts. I'm a "soft arts" fan - even my karate is "soft"; I don't favor "hard" blocks, I believe strongly in using subtle skills and deft timing, requiring less physical strength. Do these take longer to develop? Yes. Am I happy with this given my own goals (and at my stage of training after more than 30 years in various systems, hard and soft)? Yes.

    Thanks for reading and your comment!

  3. I always enjoy reading your posts, but must say that I especially enjoyed this one purely for the way it was written. I don't know if it was the anecdotes of Charlie and your chess playing days or something else, but it was just fun to read.

    On a side note, I find myself oscillating between martial arts for practical self-defence reasons and martial arts for the "art" (gong-fu) sake of it. Given the material we are working with, I guess such an oscillation is inevitable.

  4. Extremely well put, as always =D

    This reminds me of an old fight between Mirko Filipovic and Wanderlei Silva. Silva is super aggressive, but still gets knocked out very quickly, because Filipovic has expert timing and great precision with his striking.

  5. Thanks guys!

    I enjoyed writing the anecdote about Charlie. I often think about him and the legacy he left both me and my brother. He is one of the many interesting characters that shaped our lives.

    And you're right about the Mirko Filipovic and Wanderlei Silva fight Elias.

  6. Humans act exactly like boards do, in terms of physics, when injured.

    Thus if it is possible to calculate and predict the force required to break a board, by placing it on a flat surface rather than letting a water body human hold it, then it is also possible to calculate and predict the forces required to break the human body when the human body is no longer capable of resistance.

    So long as damage on a human body is part of the "mysteries", it cannot be accounted for or planned for with preparation in mind. The Eastern origins of H2H had to rely on experiential knowledge. The West has found something better: anatomical study.

  7. I disagree Ymar. Human bodies have very different properties to boards. They are not stiff and inert, for one thing.

    But leaving that aside, if you are in a position where you can "predict the forces required to break the human body when the human body is no longer capable of resistance" why it would be necessary to "break" that body further?

    When your opponent is in this state, I describe him as being "on the ropes" (borrowing from boxing terminology). The law frowns on civilians beating a man who is already "on the ropes".

    But lastly, and most importantly, this all begs the question: how do you get to the situation where your opponent is "on the ropes" - and not you? By attacking him? Hmm. He's trying the same tactic. One of you will prevail. Which one? If you're both equally able to land blows, this will ultimately be determined by one thing, and one thing alone: skill in defence. Not attack.

  8. I do not mean to say that their reactions are the same, only that physically they are the same. Both can be rendered immobile for a strike and both will receive the force and react to it, until the material's resistance is broken. A board uses the properties of wood while humans use the properties of cells. There is nothing that makes wood or cells immune to physics, however.

    In terms of the ambush criteria, that would be training for the worst case scenario. It's something derived from regular military training where the idea is to train for the worst case scenario so that the mind can more easily deal with the lesser cases.

    As for why prediction is not enough, prediction is just prediction. A person can setup a mighty attack and use it as demonstration or just stop before the follow through and say "see, that would have made it through and if it had been, your defenses would have been rendered to zero and your future ability to defend yourself rendered impossible". But that's just a warning, it's not actually creating the reality. Without the reality being made real, a person can always find a way out of it. There will always be opportunities for the defender to "think up something new" like guerilla warfare, and apply it to the stronger force, if you give the defender "time" to do so. By destroying the ability of the defender to think, move, and act, you have destroyed their ability to use time. That creates something real in this perception, that cannot be negated by words or possibilities. It locks out possibilities.

    Now if you change the context and make it sport or bar room brawling, instead of lethal life and death incidents like genocide or some of the more brutal categories of crimes (like BTK serial killers or necrophiliac cannibals), then there's plenty of time given for both attacker and defender to come up with a trick or counter-measure. As you go more and more away from certain death and survival scenarios, the more opportunities are given for blocks, deflections, and working at range.

    That's because as you have noticed, deflections at range require timing and perception. If your fists are far away from the other person's arms, the reaction time is too long. TFT advocates the optimal range of half a foot (that's about half the forearm distance of an average height man) because it allows attacks to be launched that do not give the defender time to perceive, react, and conduct a counter-measure. It's too close. It takes time for the brain to process stimuli, on a reactive level, and then order the nerves and the nerves must then wait for the muscles to get their thing moving. An attack launched from literally point blank range will be at the target when the brain "recognizes it" as a threat.

    Most of the inherent problems with point blank attacks is 1. ineffective attacks and 2. lack of power and targeting in striking. It takes a lot of intent for someone to close the distance or a lot of confidence. That's not normally what humans deal with in anti-social or social confrontations. And for asocial situations, humans mostly figured out that it was better to run from predators. And for human predators, it was better to go raiding or use weapons. It's only been recently that we have had to deal with asocial predators, that we couldn't make war on (vigilante justice) and must wait and react to an attack. When an animal ambushes a human and the human realizes that running was 30 seconds too late, the human must fight. There have been stories of Wild West frontiersmen beating bears or mountain cougars bare handed or using only knives. Crazy, but it works depending on tools and luck.

    Fighting from a tactical and strategic disadvantage is thus the worst case scenario. And that's the one being trained for under TFT's training methodology.

  9. "The law frowns on civilians beating a man who is already "on the ropes"."

    It comes down to reasonable force. A single blow that incapacitates and another blow that kills, can be justified if there is a weapon or multiple man threat scenario. Fear of eminent death is an obvious reason to use for conducting a killing blow on an incapacitated person. (Witnesses require greater justification/evidence) A crippling injury from 12 consecutive kicks to the head, usually is considered by normal people to be unreasonable. And people do 12 kicks or hits, because they aren't confident one will do, so they can't control their little adrenaline tick when they have intent to hurt someone.

    "Which one? If you're both equally able to land blows"

    An effective/successful attack requires 3 things. Penetration, rotation, and injury. Two people that have used two attacks, yet none get an injury on anyone, has conducted 2 ineffective attacks. Defenses that use deflection & rotation separate out that component (rotate) on its own. An attack, as I described in my reply at my blog, considers maximum defense along with maximum offense.

    Consider the normal ambush scenario of a hammer and anvil. Two guys wait for you to go by them, while they mind their own business. They then track you from behind while their anvil up front starts interacting with you or closing in. When most people realize something is wrong, the pincer attack is already in range and happening. Thus a proper attack is to injure the person closest in range, and then rotate around them (while attacking) to interpose the injured person's body against his fellows. This is an example of defense simultaneous with attack, because an effective attack is its own ultimate defense.

  10. The word "attack" only means "an attempt". It does not guarantee a hit or a result. Thus why I use the term effective attacks or successful attacks.

    Simply attacking is not the point in tactics or strategy. Getting results is.

    Defense is easier than attacking. That's due to a couple of obvious reasons (not least of which is military in nature). Defense requires less resources and logistics. Defense requires a little less planning because there's a lot of time to plan and react. Attacking requires longer ranged thinking in terms of resources, logistics, and manpower. It's too late to remember that one forgot the salt and the food 10 miles into enemy territory. Just too late.

    If a defender forgets his salt and food, he can just spend some minutes going to the store room. Cause it is right there. In battle neither side has the luxury of time, but that's only in battle.

    Because attacking is riskier, incompetent attacks do more damage than incompetent defenses. So long as the damage isn't critical, a defender can always rally for another defense. An attacker cannot switch immediately to defense once his attack fails, however. There's a time gap required for the brain and body to switch modes.

  11. Clarification: Because attacking is riskier, incompetent attacks do more damage than incompetent defenses.

    What I mean is that attacking puts the attacker in a dangerous situation should his attack fail. So the attacker is worried about 2 things. Failing in the attack and not having what it takes to do another attack.

    The defender worries about receiving the attack and coming up with a secondary defense line if the first falls.

    The reason why attack is favored over defense in terms of achieving victory is that the attacker only needs to breach all the defenses. A defender has to prevent the breaches from happening. So long as the defender is in defense mode, he cannot win. It's not a matter of resources but just a simple truism. Defense cannot win the game. Eventually the defenders must go attack and do damage to the enemy if they want the enemy to leave. A defense strategy thus buys time, while an offense strategy is designed to destroy the opponent's time resource.

    An attacker is only one step away from victory, whereas the defender is two steps away from victory. The attacker only has to breach all defenses. The defender has to protect everything, and then counter-attack successfully. The defender then must achieve two completely different modes of operation: successfully defending and successfully attacking. The difficulty is more than one order of magnitude larger.

    So yes, attacking is dangerous. But the attacker only puts himself in danger once. The defender is always in danger, and then must place himself again in danger to attack and win.

  12. who coined the phrase 'reality based system'. That seems like a BS loaded work. Used for marketing. "we are a reality based system, meaning...you are not based in reality." No sir, not buying it.

    I think for a beginner the attack paradigm is good to gain some proficiency. All the highest aikido, judo and jujitsu people I work with emphasize transcending the desire to win and surfing the energy your aggressor gives you. Mind you it is a more difficult, but ultimately more efficient way to train.

    The reality of the softer strategy is it puts my butt on the floor a few hundred times a week. Gravity is the first reality I have to deal with.

  13. Gravity is another thing people don't use with H2H attacks. They mostly use it for applications of rotation or deflection or force absorption/redirection.

    Attacks that contain penetration, rotation, and injury are very different from attacks that do not contain all 3, thus it will often look like defenses using rotation are superior in nature due to simply applying a principle (rotation) concept.

    The general martial arts world have mostly focused their energies and conceptualizations on applying basic principles through advanced applications which require high thresholds of fine motor/muscle skill sets. This has had the effect of increasing training times without necessarily increasing the speed of understanding applications, principles, or concepts. Aikido simply separates out the principle of rotation, otherwise used in striking, and applies it to a strike on a joint, what is known as joint manipulation. Because that set of applications and body movements are complicated and mired in layers of traditional hidden meanings, it becomes very hard to see the underlying principle: rotation. They abstract the movement so that it no longer looks like a strike. In practice, it looks like somebody is being thrown about by slight force. That is an attack. It's not a defensive move by itself. It's just a very advanced application that assumes a complicated set of variables. A set of movements designed to support an end-chain attack, is an attack. I wouldn't consider it a defense except in isolation. When looked at in terms of real correct timing, the defensive move was designed solely to support the counter-attack, thus the attack is the primary purpose rather than the secondary action one does after the fact.

    The application of a principle does not need to be that complicated. A simpler application of the same principle used in aikido, would both allow faster training as well as better results. Much of the base of techniques hoarded and guarded through the past in TMA and CMA were designed and researched with a specific goal in mind. It's not a good idea to take an advanced application and believe it will apply to every scenario, simply because an advanced application uses a simple and true principle that applies everywhere. Knowledge has also been lost on what exactly certain techniques were supposed to be for, thus it becomes an archeological dig every time a hidden application is discovered.

    In situations and problems where the solution is not to inflict a lethal strike upon everyone other than yourself, there are different applications and tools to use. Japan has had centuries of historical time to adapt more lethal martial arts into more socially accepted forms after the Meiji Restoration. Their popular culture understands very well the difference between traditional training designed to get rid of problems by killing humans and more modern training designed to safeguard important facets of life and economic prosperity.

    In some fashions, the Western concept of H2H fighting was true, but it was also a myth. The idea of lethal weapons being one's hands was close, but not quite true. After the West realized that Martial Art lethality was more a myth than a reality, they lost that mysticism. If they had applied Western scientific concepts to H2H TMA training, they would have gotten a different result.

  14. Reality based schools is a much debased advertisement line, like ATT, American Tae Kwon Do.

    As time goes on, the originators of any system fades and is replaced by the new generation and the new generation may not have all the skills they were supposed to inherit. Asian culture has a strict traditional hierarchy to pass such things down to inheritors, but the West is much more fragmented and diverse in this field. Some pass their knowledge on... others do not.

    Well, not even the Asian system is well maintained in the modern era. Families have lost much of their direct lineage applications or knowledge. The West adopted mass training methods given the ability of firearms to be used by anyone, weak or strong. What few families passed things along, were no longer as well respected as in the day of sword and fist alone (muscle powered Greek triremeres). That kind of decay will eventually apply to all of the current Asian lineages as well.

    What's interesting are practitioners that choose to resurrect the tradition in Traditional Martial Arts. It's a small group, but I've conversed with such individuals on the internet.

  15. Ymar, you'll note that in my article I say that attack is a "given necessity".

    However the same is true of defence. All the best attack plans in the universe don't help you when you're lying flat on your back, the world spinning around you.

    "Attack as defence" is a great strategy - but it does not work when you are facing a stronger, faster opponent who has the same objective. Nor does it work when you are surprised.

    In either case, you're left with "late initiative" more often than not - ie. you can't strike him preemptively or simultaneously. Then you need defensive skills - in particular evasion and deflection. If you don't have these skills, then all the attack ability in the world won't help you.

    Yes, attack is necessary (mostly - as I point out below). But so is defence. They are yin and yang.

    For that matter, in my life I've faced attacks by troubled teenagers. I've deflected the blows and restrained the teenager - gently - until the teenager burst into tears. If I had "attacked" or "countered" with a blow, I'd have (a) a sobbing teenager; and (b) a middle-aged man facing the courts. So there are times when you need purely defensive skills (albeit that those times are rare).

    Other times? We rely on both defence and attack.

    And every martial artist knows attack. This is nothing new. Even aikidoka use counters in the form of throws and locks.

    Yes, you can refine attacks and make them more disabling - and this is quite the trend now (kyusho, dim mak and now TFT's "disabling" strikes). Everyone is into attack. Few are bothering to learn the other half of the equation.

  16. Put another way, all your comments about improving attack - using gravity etc. - are fine.

    However you also need to worry about "not getting hit". You can't put all your faith in "hitting him first".

  17. Thank you Sensei Strange - I agree with your sentiments entirely.

  18. =="Attack as defence" is a great strategy - but it does not work when you are facing a stronger, faster opponent who has the same objective.==

    In military tactics and strategy, the stronger and more dangerous an opponent is, the more important it becomes to conduct an effective attack against that opponent. If the enemy already has an advantage, taking a defensive posture will slowly allow that advantage to become insurmountable.

    Because if the opponent is stronger and faster, he may also be better in skill. And trying to use skill defenses against that, is taking a gamble. The more certain defense is to render his ability to attack interrupted or stopped at its source.

    There's also the issue of luck. As more and more time goes on, the more chance that somebody's strength and speed will get lucky and land a critical hit, thus disabling one's defenses as well as one's attacking ability.

    Like David and Goliath, trying to match strength and speed against someone larger, more powerful, and more versed in the arts of war/fighting, is a losing proposition. It helps if you can defend against the attacks of a Goliath. But that just eats up time which will then be required for David to actually find a way to defeat Goliath. It's a two step process, at minimum, when by shifting philosophical priorities one can obtain a step one process that does the same or better, at half the time required.

    A person committed to attack and has prepared for this contingency by launching an ambush or using numbers/weapons, will not give his target time to come up with any sufficient defenses. Many are too incompetent for their attacks to be worried about, and thus a defense can easily knock it off stride. But defense is not about "probably", but about making things certain. And a defender cannot be certain his defenses will work unless the opponent has suffered damage.

  19. If I can sum up your comment Ymar it would be this:

    “Doing one move is better than 2 moves”

    Pardon me for saying this, but this is trite. It isn’t news to me, nor most of the martial artists with whom I train and associate. It is common sense. I would never voluntarily do a 2 step where one is possible. I wouldn’t bother blocking if someone grabbed me and raised his fist - I’d just punch him! I’ve never advocated differently. I am surprised you feel the need to inform me of it.

    On the other hand, the mistake you make is in assuming that a “one step” defence + counter is somehow always possible. Sometimes it isn’t. In fact, when you are surprised, or you are facing a bigger, stronger, faster opponent, it frequently isn’t!

    I have covered the issue of “simultaneous initiative” too, too many times to recap it here. All I’m going to say is that if you’re reacting to a surprise punch when it is already half-way to your face, you might have the time to move the 20 cm or so required to intercept and deflect his attacking limb (particularly if you evade simultaneously). However in those circumstances you very often will not have time to hit him “simultaneously”. In other words, you won’t have time to move half a meter or more to hit your attacker’s head/body in circumstances where you can only just intercept his attacking limb - and when your flinch reflex (and your best chance of avoiding injury) leads to move even further away from the attacker. [Don't come back with "but your best chance is always to move forward" - sometimes it just isn't.)

    It comes down to simple physics: if you can only just move 20 cm in a particular (short) timeframe, what makes you think you can move twice or 3 times that distance in the same timeframe? And what makes you think your “attacking skills” will avoid you ever being in this position? Have a mate throw a punch at you when you don’t expect it and see what happens.

    Whether you like their tactics or not, boxers demonstrate “late initiative” in every single bout (ie. they duck, bob, weave etc.). They don’t do so because they are inept fighters; quite on the contrary. They certainly aren't full of "theory". I respect their fighting ability greatly.

    The relative unavoidability of “late initiative is also consistent with my 30 years of (often hard knocks) experience.

    "Late initiative" is reality - cf. some grand (or alternately, trite) theory about “disabling attacks being vastly superior to defensive tactics”. Yes, attack is always better than defence. But that’s like saying a car is faster than a bicycle. What if you only have a bicycle?

    I know you have some thoughts about the boxer example I gave (for the fact that “late initiative” is a reality). It is all very well to criticize the boxer’s tactics or say what he could or should have done and how lucky he was. All I can say is that you or I would be very happy to have come off as well as he did in the circumstances. When you can show me a video of someone who, in similar circumstances, did a far better job using TFT-type methods, I might have more time for your argument in this regard.

    So, as Benny the Jet Urquidez says: “Show me”. Not some glamorous TFT marketing video, but a real-life video.

    Alternatively, show me by filming yourself demonstrating angles and distances and arguing your point from a pure physics perspective.

    I try to do both in my articles.

    And whatever you do, don’t just do another video where the attacker just stands there like a dummy while you hit his vital areas. Show me how you deal with someone who won’t let you land blows - or someone who is actively using TFT strategies against you.

    Show me.


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