For centuries, the seemingly superhuman reflexes of the martial arts masters and martial sports champions have been legendary. Their opponent moves, and the master has countered before the attack is even finished.
Is the secret to their superiority “training”? Yes, as always.
A lot of the time, however, this has probably nothing to do with quick reflexes.
In the interview below, Brian Yamazaki talks a bit about a very important part of self-defense: using your own natural instincts to defend yourself.
As with all things, however, there are more sides to it, and in this article we’re going to talk a bit about how how to use your opponent’s natural instincts, in order to beat him, a tactic here called “The Portia-tactic”, the name derived from the spiders of that family. Click here for an explanation to why.
Heads up, there will be some AB, or abbrevation-dropping in this article.
PDR, PWR, OEI, MCE, PRT… what?
The main elements of this concept are PDR, or pre-determined responses, of which there are several sub-categories, the perhaps three most important of which are:
The PWR, or pain-withdrawal reflex.
The OEI, or opportunity-exploitation instinct.
The MCE, or mechanical cause and effect.
In addition, this article will mention another important element in predicting one’s opponent, namely the PRT, orpattern-repetition tendency.
The pain-withdrawal reflex can be direct or indirect. A direct PWR is caused by actual physical stimuli. In simple terms: I grab your crotch – you bend over. A direct PWR can be used as simply as that, to create a response, and to use it. To grab someone in the groin and to meet their bowing head with an elbow, to bite someone in the side and use their flinch to get your head out of a headlock (for more on tactical biting, check out this video), or to choke someone ineffectively but painfully, wait until the person’s hands grasp at yours to relieve the pain, only to trap the hands and apply a less painful, but much more effective choke, from which the person will now not escape.
It can however also be used in other ways. Say for example that I am trying to apply the first technique in this video, here performed by Nishio Shoji:
In the event things go less smoothly than in this demonstration, or in case you enter it in a less dynamic way, odds are you are going to end up pushing at your opponent’s arm, trying to force him down. There are several ways to enhance this technique, applying levers, displacing the opponent’s balance, causing him to fall into the technique, and so on, but one way of enhancing it is by causing a direct PWR, for example by attacking the nerves behind the elbow, making the opponent shy away from the pain, the only way he can: by lowering his shoulder, thus straightening the arm and making it much easier for you to get him the rest of the way.
An indirect PWR on the other hand is what Brian Yamazaki was talking about in the interview found at the top of this article: Flinching. An instinctive response caused by the threat of pain. This is of course first and foremost the foundation upon which all feints are based.
Worth noting in the context of control is also that the threat of pain is likely to cause subjugation, whereas actual pain more often leads to desperation, something you do not wish your opponent to be powered by.
The opportunity-exploitation instinct is in simple terms the impulse to attack where there is an opening. It can be used in as simple a manner as lifting your guard to open up your ribs, only to counter your opponent’s body-shot with a strike to the head, or as subtly as slightly extending an arm during a ground-struggle, baiting your opponent to reach for it, extending it further as he reaches, causing him to over-reach, and then taking his back.
The mechanical cause and effect is perhaps at the same time the most underestimated and the most overestimated principle in all of the martial arts world.
Some of the more stylistic forms of Aikido and Ju jutsu make the MCE their entire curriculum, trusting that with training, leverage, angles, momentum and so on will be enough to subdue any opponent.
Other schools formally renounce the entire field of grappling, meaning that things like leverage and optimal angles are a myth, trusting only the old “force = mass x velocity” to get the job done right.
The MCE includes such concepts as hyper-extending a joint to increase you own flexibility, decrease your opponent’s strength or to cause damage directly, depending on what your goal is, but in the context of the portia-tactic, the MCE has to do mainly with balance.
Example: If you try to push me backwards, and I move my back foot 45 degrees backwards, my stability will increase greatly, and chances are you will have to stop for a second to gather more power, after which you, to increase the weight you put behind your hands, will lean forward about 45 degrees, at which point I have become a point of stability for you, since you’re leaning into me. If I then move sideways as you begin to push, that extra stability is lost, and you will fall forward. Before you know it, I’m behind you.
The last thing this article will say a word or two about is the pattern-repetition tendency, which in simple terms means that what an opponent does, he will most likely do again.
If my opponent hits me with three consecutive right hooks, it’s not unreasonable to assume that a forth is on its way, and if my opponent drops his hands every time he takes a hit to the body, chances are he will keep doing that, and with that in mind, creating openings and countering becomes a lot easier.