Monday, July 21, 2008

Two Steps Back, better than One Step Forward

There is an old saying:
"It is better to become the passive
in order to see what will happen.
It is better to retreat a foot
than to advance only an inch."

This is called
being flexible while advancing,
pushing back without using force,
and destroying the enemy without engaging him.

There is no greater disaster
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means loosing your greatest assets.
When equal forces meet in battle,
victory will go to the one
that enters with the greatest sorrow.

- Tao Te Ching Chapter 69

At the end of Tukong Moosul today Master Ali said that the school used to recite a saying at the end of every class.

"It is better to take two steps back than one forward".

He said that the obvious intention of this was if someone wanted a fight it is better to step back, rather than rush in.

Martial Application

Other classes have emphasized how to keep your guard up, while appearing passive. It is very funny to see my fellow Tukong students in some of these postures as they talk to each other. I was in a coffee shop talking to one of the black belts and he dropped into one of these stances. I adopted the same posture and we had a little private laugh. To the outside observer it looked like we were just standing there yacking.

These postures are good for "two steps back". I had a friend who worked in psychotic wards and he learned how to stand in a calm posture that would allow him to talk to psychotic patients; it was the same thing, the posture allowed him to block and avoid a number of attacks without seeming confrontational.

My Experience

So far I have never had to use my Martial Arts to hurt someone. It is an opportunity I hope I never have; but prepare for every day.

However, I have had a number of people confront me in threatening ways. I have found that my attitude and demeaner often defuse a situation. I simply look the person directly in the eyes, without tensing the muscles, calmly, and without fear. Very few hotheads will go off on you if you adopt this demeaner.

It is not easy to take two steps back. Once an angry guy cussed me out in Best Buy for no reason other than I was standing in the aisle looking at something. "Get your ass out of the way!" he shouted.

I turned and looked at him.

"You better get your ass out of the WAY!"

I stared at him.

"y' you shouldn't stand there"

and he walked off.

Part of me was afraid; he was a big guy
another part enraged; I could have hurt him

But mostly I was proud to have stood up to his threats, making violence uneccesary. If I had backed down I would have felt weak, defeated, and probably would allow myself to be bullied in other less threatening situations. Further, the thug would have been more likely to threaten others and may have wound up doing something stupid. But if I had fought him, what would I have gained?

In the words of General Tzu

" Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your
troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless
the position is critical."

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