What You Resist May Save You
Our To-Shin Do martial art was developed from the original combat methods of the Togakure ninja of Japan. One of our hallmarks is an educational process that incorporates an understanding of psycho-emotional influences described by a series of five element-nicknamed patterns.
The water element describes a tendency to put distance between self and others in order to gain more clarity and understanding of what is going on. We could call it going within in order to better understand the situation without. In its lowest most degenerated form, the water element shows up in a personality as a tendency to push away others and regard them with a sense of hostility. In its highest form, the water element influence is a tendency towards scientific knowing, subjective knowledge of truth that rises from the depth of the heart.
As a way of dealing with conflict, the water element shows up as reliance on tactical positioning to render useless the power of others. With skillful movement into unexpected angles, water strategy leaves an aggressor in a position where his strengths are pointless and he is wide open to counterattack. The water element fighter is known as a tactical fighter, a scientific combatant.
Nonetheless, every now and then, I’ll find a tough male student who resists the water element aspect of our martial arts training. The usual explanation goes something like, “I’m just not a guy who backs off when someone gets in my face. If someone comes at me, I charge in and take him out. I never back down.”
The water element strategy is not backing down. The water element is tactically placing yourself where you can with utmost efficiency and effect stop an aggressor’s advance. As true as that is though, a tough “always charge the hill” sort of guy can still out of habit dismiss as a retreat or a hesitation any tactic that is not a fire blast forward. He has trained himself to take pride in seeing himself as tough and ready, and he just will not let himself angle out instead of charging in.
For years I have searched for the right wording to allow the tough guy to see taijutsu water tactical angling as one more tool of the successful combatant. In the world of sport or tavern fighting, “never back up” has become his proud credo, his badge of self recognized courage. Yes, but that is a consensual fight with one other person. What about the world of war, unexpected assault, or the overwhelming confusion of a gang attack?
“How about this,” I now offer. “You’re on a surfboard in the ocean and the largest shark imaginable cruises toward you. Do you want to charge those gaping jaws full of razor teeth, or do you want to slip the attack and stab in from the side where you can batter the gills with your board and fists and fingers? Are you ‘backing down’ or are you using tactical movement to better win with less wear and tear?”
I’m going to try that explanation next time. You can be tough and determined, and be smart at the same time. Maybe that view will help one more person give up resisting a very valid aspect of fully empowered human capacity.