Slow Down to Move Faster, pt III (Know When to Hold Em)

I wrote an article a year ago entitled “Slow Down to Move Faster”. This is the third in a series on this subject. In order to understand the point of this third installment, I would like you to read the first, then the second article, located here.

When fighting a wise opponent, he is trying to figure out several things. If you are a wise fighter, you also need to gauge and identify them first. Here is a short list:

  • if your opponent is faster than you are
  • if your opponent is stronger than you are
  • what his favorite techniques are
  • what his best weapons are
  • what are his weaknesses
  • whether or not he is more confident than you, and if it is possible to break that confidence, and finally:
  • gauge the timing of his techniques

All are somewhat difficult to figure out if you are not an experienced fighter.

Note: My definition of “experienced” fighter is one who has faced many opponents from different styles, sizes, skill levels and strengths…

The last item, however, is the most difficult to read. The reason I say this is that an opponent may be slow in his footwork or fighting stance, but quick to attack. He may have slow hands and fast feet (or vice versa). There are many variations to an opponent’s speed and one cannot arbitrarily lump a fighter “fast/slow” categories. You must be observant and quick to take note–and then quick to take action. This is the reason why fighters with just one way to fight are at a great disadvantage in combat, as there is a weakness to every strategy. A fighter, then, must have several methods available to him with equal effectiveness. When it comes to timing, you must know when an opponent’s attack will reach you and be able to adjust your counters to beat it. This is far more than simply beating a man to the punch.

Allow me to elaborate.

In attempting to counter an attack, you must choose the right counter to strike at the right time. This is not easy. Everyone has a “stone-paper-scissors” set of counters for possible attacks. In theory, almost everything works. In practice, almost everything works. But in execution, most strategies do not work the way they do in practice; and if you have not investigated and modified how you practice nothing will work. Even the valid techniques will fail if they are executed too soon (by moving too fast) or too late (by moving too slow), or reach in too far (by improperly gauging distance) or not far enough. The opponent may not have covered enough ground–expecting you to stand still, but you moved–or he may enter your range much closer than you expected because you moved towards him when he thought you would retreat. So, we are looking at a front leg side kick counter against an opponent who is attempting to hit you with a reverse punch versus a skip side kick counter when he has launched the same attack from a further distance (or he moved slow enough). You must choose smart and use what he has done earlier in the fight to make your choice.

So, let me get right to the point, and then maybe I can explain it in greater detail later:

  1. you do not always have to move at top speed. many of the fastest fighters will slow down when engaging an opponent to get the opponent to expose himself and make a mistake. when the mistake is made or the opening is created, he has the speed to capitalize on the gap and strike before the opponent can retract or respond.
  2. you should vary the levels of speed you use so that the opponent cannot gauge your timing. inexperience fighters move at the same rate of speed the entire fight and can be timed right away. stupid fighters move at top speed, all the time. the disadvantage of moving at your fastest speed all the time is that you can be timed immediately, your speed will gradually decrease–and quickly–and you will tire yourself out.
  3. one of the reasons to slow your rate is for you to be able to adjust your power quicker. when you are rushed in your movement, it will be difficult for you to regain balance and establish a good position to load up on power. moving slow will allow you to both decide when to load up as well as have the ability to use power while moving.
  4. if your opponent has not adjusted his speed to yours, by moving slower while changing position frequently, you can better gain a superior position and catch the opponent when he is not ready.

So, just like the Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler”… a fighter must know when to reserve his power and speed, and when to let his “hair down” and let loose.

Thanks for visiting my blog. And if you liked this article, you’re sure to love my upcoming books:  FMA Philosophy and Teaching Philosophy! Look for them in January 2011!

And for those who appreciate an oldie but goodie, enjoy! (who would have known that the great Kenny Rogers understood Eskrima fighting??)

Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

2 thoughts on “Slow Down to Move Faster, pt III (Know When to Hold Em)”

  1. I’ve noticed good fighters also let the other waste their energy on blows. I am AMAZED how often people even up to 2nd dan level throw techniques to the wind. I never spar with my glasses, and prefer to fight with that. when I sink back the focus it allows me to track movement as opposed to actual vision. I’m near sighted, but legally blind even then, so this makes it much easier than people would think to follow movements. So I can’t tell you if they have freckles… or even where their hair and head begins… but I CAN tell you exactly where their hands and feet, on multiple people, are.

    Bruce Lee said it best, “when still, outward things will disclose themselves.’

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