Fighting in the Boy's Room -- Avoiding the Opponent's Strength
Mar 26, 2019
Charley was a jerk. I hate to be judgmental, but he was a jerk. And one day, during my senior year of high school, he started hitting me on the back of the head in our history class.
I was sitting in front of him, and he kept smacking me on the back of the head.
Usually, I would welcome ANYTHING that distracted me from history class, but this was irritating.
I told him to cut it out, but he kept smacking me. Finally, in anger and frustration I said, "Let's go down the hall to the restroom."
We went down the hall and into the boy's restroom. Nobody was there, but one of Charley's friends came with us.
Charley and I squared off. He got into a boxer's stance.
Before I knew what was happening, he punched me right in the jaw. An explosion of pain tore through my head.
Holy cow! I thought my jaw had been dislocated.
I had never been beaten up before, but it was instantly clear that he had boxing skills. This was in 1971, more than two years before I enrolled in martial arts classes, and the only thing I knew about fighting was that I was always trying to avoid it, but when bullies picked on me and a fight started, I sort of enjoyed it. But other than being a tough skinny kid, I was not very skilled.
Clearly, Charley was skilled.
So I ducked, covered up and somehow grabbed Charley in a desperate hug.
I slammed him against a stall and then threw him to the ground.
Charley tried to get up, but I grabbed him and slammed him down again. He had no leverage.
For the next few minutes, every time he tried to stand up, I would grab him and slam him into the stall and then to the ground.
Finally, he gave up. The fight was over, and he never bothered me in class again.
I could hardly chew for a few days as my jaw healed, but I did NOT say anything to my parents about it. Are you kidding? :)
Avoid Strength and Attack Weakness
When I was in high school, I had not read "The Art of War."
In it, Sun Tzu advises you to avoid the enemy's strength and attack his weakness.
That is exactly what I did in the restroom battle.
Charley was an excellent puncher. I used leverage and attacked him by not letting him get up to punch me again.
I found his weakness but managed to avoid his strength. This principle is at the heart of "internal" self-defense.
It might not be as much the case with Xingyi, which drives through an opponent, but in Taiji and Bagua, the entire philosophy of self-defense is based on avoiding strength-on-strength.
This is what push hands prepares you to do. As you work with a partner, you are becoming sensitive -- not only to when his force is coming at you, but you are also working to feel when his force is over-extended, or if he has lost his peng jin, or if you have connected with his center.
If his force is coming toward you, avoid it by neutralizing it, spiraling it away. If his punch is at your chest or stomach you "pocket" it and roll around it, avoiding his strength and putting yourself in a position of strength. This is also true in Bagua, where spiraling is an essential part of movement.
Roll around his defenses like water, seeking to find your way around obstacles. Spiral his force away, using hooking techniques, cutting techniques, angles and evasion. Greeting hardness with softness, but not "weak" softness -- strategic softness that hides internal strength.
THAT is the purpose of working slowly with a partner and gradually increasing your speed, and as you continue to practice, you move and take steps and work to incorporate sweeps and takedowns, using your skills to uproot, unbalance and control the opponent's center.
One of my favorite things about a real fight like the one with Charley, or a tournament point-sparring match, was the challenge of sizing up my opponent's weaknesses very quickly and taking advantage of them.
As it turns out, that's exactly what Sun Tzu had in mind.
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