March 18, 2024

A Thinking Man’s Game…Not Guesswork

There’s an old Chinese proverb that says something like, “guessing is free…guessing wrong can be very expensive.”  At least I think it’s an old Chinese proverb.  I’m getting old and can’t remember where I picked things up sometimes.  Nevertheless, the point is valid.  Especially in fighting.  The stakes are rather high, after all, and being wrong could very easily lead to being KO’d and/or beaten to death.  And that’s a bad thing.  A very bad thing.  Like being forced to drive in Atlanta.  Or going to New Jersey.  Or being a Cowboys fan.  Or taking my mother-in-law shopping.  Yeah, that bad.  

Seriously, though, combat is a careful business.  

It was Bruce Lee who said that there’s really no such thing in Jeet Kune Do as a direct attack.  All actions, in order to minimize the risk of getting nailed with a counter, should be preceded by some form of preparation/feint or should be a counterattack.  In other words, don’t guess wrong.  

Lee wrote in the Tao of Jeet Kune Do that drawing is closely allied to feinting.  To be sure, it’s probably one of the least understood aspects of JKD and a subject that’s rarely broached in classes and seminars.  Instructors give it short thrift…treating it like a crazy uncle at the family barbecue.  But far from being an embarrassing aspect of the system that we wish would just go away, drawing is an essential tactic that the smart fighter seeks to master.  To an uneducated spectator, the successful draw will often look merely as a counterattack.  In point of fact, the best stop-hits and counters were first a draw.  

The confusion exists because of the nearly straw-man caricature of drawing.  Yes, a draw is the deliberate invitation for the enemy to attack a target that appears undefended.  But this doesn’t – repeat does not – mean that we stick our chin out and drop our hands.  A draw is a calculated piece of fistic precision designed to exploit the enemy’s tendencies.  A draw is rarely so obvious as dropping one’s hands or something like that.  

A better example of a real-world draw would be stepping just inside the fighting-measure and using one’s leading hand to jam the enemy’s forward hand.  This not only takes away one primary line of attack, but it strategically invites the enemy to fire a rear hand blow that can be readily countered…perhaps with a stinging jab from the already advanced hand.  

Lee said, “drawing uses the method of strategy and the method of crowding or forcing.  Being able to advance while apparently open to attack, but ready to counter if successful, is a phase of fighting that few ever develop.”  The use of draws in such form is critical if one is faced with a reach deficit.  Think of Julio Cesar Chavez stepping in the pocket back in his heyday.  He’d often crowd his opponent, inviting an exchange to which he would expertly counter.  The JKD and Wing Chun fighter, not limited by boxing’s rules, should make ready use of this tactic.  It’s the thinking man’s ability to bridge the gap and create angles through which they can deploy a variety of tactics such as holding and hitting (trapping).  

A draw doesn’t always have to result in a strike being thrown, by the way.  A good example (again used by a shorter fighter versus a taller foe) is to burst forward in a crouch.  This often causes the enemy to lower his guard, even if ever so slightly.  At that point the JKD fighter can surge upward with a heavy straight lead punch or even an overhand.  Tactics like this are virtually limitless and should be studied and practiced until they can be executed with precision, speed, and fluidity.  

Too much time is spent developing technique but not enough on the tactics to deploy them.  By that we mean: without running into the enemy’s counter.  The question that should greatly concern us is: how do I control the enemy?  Studying and practicing the art of the draw gets us out of our own heads; it protects us from being kings of the classroom yet clowns on the street.  

The idea at work is to “guess carefully.”  We want to study the enemy and his potential.  The master fighter is able to manipulate his foe through smart tactics so that his/her technique is applied with minimum risk and maximum reward.  

Think of marketing/advertising for a second.  Most ads we see rarely (if ever) discuss the quality of the actual product.  Instead, ads commonly use emotion, especially humor and sex.  If you know your audience is a bunch of dudes, sex is a powerful tool…a draw.  If your audience is men and women, humor works better.  (I doubt my wife will want to buy a new refrigerator just because Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was hawking it…just saying.)

A good martial artist should see combat like this.  Study the enemy.  For self-defense we assume that he’s going to be highly aggressive.  A passive violent assault is sort of a contradiction in terms, right?  That being the case, we should plan to use that against him. A steady diet of counterattacks and draws should be headed his way so as to both exploit his aggression (overcommitment) and minimize our risk of running into a shot.  

Sun Tzu, a fella who knew something about warfare, and was seriously underpaid on his masterpiece, The Art of War, once said, “know your enemy and know yourself and you’ll win every battle.”  Indeed.  What does your enemy want?  What is his primary goal and plan?  How is he likely to engage?  What are his primary tools and attributes?  

And lest we think all this talk about feints and draws are the mere stuff of sporting combat and not self-defense, let’s face the fact that predators almost always use this process themselves.  They seek the most opportune time to strike – often ambush style, having “drawn” their prey into a momentarily weak position.  

This is a very broad subject and worthy of extensive consideration, so we’ll leave you with this:

Attitude determines awareness.  

Awareness determines position.  

Position determines technique.  

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