Don’t Let Your Opponent Think

In your prior belt this concept was discussed very briefly, but it is now time to expound upon it a bit more. It can be addressed from many different perspectives and is a bit more far-reaching than you may have initially considered.

If you look at any two martial arts concepts you will find they are related in some way. Good balance is related to power and to strength. Power and strength represent one part of Fire. Water quenches Fire and represents softness and gentleness. Everything is related in some way. And so it is with the concepts of preventing thought by your opponent and aggressive defense.

One of the reasons that you want to become practiced at aggressive defense is it robs the opponent of any time to think of a viable secondary movement. Here is a scenario that explains why this is essential in fairly rudimentary terms.

  1. An opponent throws a right hand strike toward your face.
  2. You step back slightly and block the incoming punch with a Migi Chudan Uke.
  3. The Migi Chudan Uke forces the opponent’s right arm to move in a slight circular manner toward their right side.
  4. The opponent almost involuntarily thinks, “Hey, if I continue this circular momentum I can strike to the face with my left hand.”
  5. You notice the movement of the left hand out of the corner of your eye.
  6. It is too late.

Now clearly there are things you can do to avoid or prevent the second attack. But the point is that even while you were busy blocking one strike, another one was in the process of being delivered. Your movement induced the second strike. Your opponent spent mere fractions of a second to come up with the idea. You gave him or her far too much time.

When using an aggressive defense you want your initial defensive contact to place your opponent in jeopardy so that a) they are not in a position to initiate another strike, b) they are immediately forced into a defensive posture, and c) they must now spend time to think about how to defend against you. You do not want to give them time to do this either. So, your initial defense is in reality the first stage in an onslaught of controlling behaviors and patterns of movement.

Each of these movements has multiple purposes. The first is to ensure the opponent is in an increasingly more precarious position. The second is to make sure the opponent is never again in a posture from which they can strike. And finally, the third is to ensure that anything the opponent does think they can do is immediately eradicated by your next movement. In effect you are forcing them to think of a solution to the prior position they were in, not their current position or pending future position.

To explain this further, if you have forced your opponent to lean directly backward they will naturally think of a way to twist their body in order to right their torso. But as soon as you push their body backward you rotate their body in another direction. As they try to right themselves from their backward orientation you have already moved them somewhere else. So when they try to twist to right themselves from a backward lean, they are moving to solve the wrong (prior) problem. Their movements coupled with your movement will place them in an even more difficult posture.

Now if you were to pause at any time during your movements then the opponent will correctly determine how they must move in order to escape their current predicament. This is primarily what we are talking about when we say you should not give an opponent time to think. But we do want our opponent to think, because it aids us tremendously. But we want them to always think of ways to solve the wrong problem. We want them to always think of ways to solve the previous positional problem, not their next one. Every time the opponent solves the wrong problem it helps us gain better control of them.

This quickly causes a sense of confusion. Once confusion sets in the opponent will find it difficult to think clearly. In fact, they may cease to think at all because thinking has proven to be ineffective.

Robbing a person of one or more of their senses also helps somewhat in this regard. If they cannot see their surroundings then an opponent cannot properly determine their orientation with respect to their surroundings. This makes it much more difficult for them to contemplate an effective escape strategy, especially if they are undergoing continually disruptive movements at the same time. In an indirect manner this impairs their ability to think accurately.

Even before a conflict takes place making it difficult for the opponent to think can be very advantageous. Getting other people involved, initiating distracting noises or circumstances, offering confusing information to the potential attacker, making it look like you have friends nearby, posturing yourself to inaccurately suggest your likely movements, or suggesting you have a weapon (although this one can backfire on you) can all help confuse and cause hesitation on the part of the other person. The more confusing you can make it for them, the better. Such confusion makes it difficult for them to think clearly. This may afford you the opportunity to escape.

There is another way to think about this topic. That other method involves timing. This is related to what we have already discussed, but it is somewhat different. Once you begin a physical interaction with another person you will want to ensure there is never a period in which that person has time to collect his or her thoughts. That would provide them with an opportunity to think. A thinking opponent is bad.

One way to avoid this situation is to ensure you are constantly affecting the opponent’s body in some way. This might be via manipulations, as previously discussed, or via a continual flurry of strikes, blocks, parries, rooting actions, and center rotations. The goal is to ensure the opponent is in continual reactionary mode and never has an opportunity to think further ahead. If the person cannot plan he or she is unlikely to win.

As you will discover in future belts this strategy often involves a combination of strikes, manipulations, rooting actions, and nearly every other conceptual skill you will develop to always keep the opponent mentally off balance. There is never a moment when something is not going on. You never provide a time when the opponent can see a path forward. This is all a matter of timing. Things come at the opponent in a never ending sequence of disruptions. One disruption is seldom completed before the next has begun.

Whether we are talking about the initial, primary, or final stages of a conflict it is beneficial to ensure the opponent cannot think. Add continual confusion and disruption to the conflict so the opponent is in a perpetual state of mental and physical disorientation. Once the confusion begins it will not end unless you provide a brief period of calm.

As my students will attest I often cite the phrase, “Never let your opponent think.” Keep this phrase in mind.

See Also

Aggressive Defense
Robbing Senses

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