Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Simply Irresistible - More on Martial Arts

A) If God is omnipotent, can He make a rock so heavy that He can't lift it?

B) What happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object?

Answers: A) No. B) Nothing.

If something is all-powerful, then the query is meaningless. Therefore God cannot be all-powerful, since both states cannot exist at once. God can be the most-powerful being of all, but that's not the same. He can make a rock Superman can't lift, which is not a small deal.

Ditto the force versus the object. If one exists, then by definition, the other cannot. So there's never going to be a meeting of the twain. The qualifiers have to come out. "Almost," "nearly," "pretty close ..."

In chess, I was taught to play as if my opponent would never make a mistake, to shoot for the perfect game; however, if you have two players of equal skill and neither makes a mistake, white always wins. White moves first, and if he never missteps, black is always one move behind.

Playing as if the opponent won't screw up means that you play your game and don't depend on him to give it to you.

In football (American style) both the defensive lineman and offensive lineman covering the same position cannot do their job on a given play; somebody has to get beaten for the game to proceed. They can trade back and forth, play by play, but they can't both prevail at the same time. Somebody has to fail for any game to go forward.

In our art, we are taught certain principles and how to do certain moves. If I am doing that, accomplishing what I set out to accomplish, then it doesn't matter what you are doing. I will be covering my lines, engaging my targets, using my tools, and unless your goal is to get flattened, you won't be getting what you want.

Not to say that I can pull this off every time. There's the theory versus the practice. But that, like playing the chess guy who isn't going to make a mistake, is the goal. This is why we say that the three most important things in a fight are the same as the most important things in a small business:

Location, location, and location. If I have a place to stand, my lever handy, you will get moved.


ush said...

"if you have two players of equal skill and neither makes a mistake, white always wins. White moves first, and if he never missteps, black is always one move behind."

This post stopped me dead in my tracks. A few years back one of my teachers' teachers posed a similar question to a group of us. One of the replies that he received nearly started a duel which would have left someone dead.

I've given a good deal of thought to the original question since then but i'd never looked at it from this angle.

Steve Perry said...

Simple stuff, really. If two people decide to race and they are both equally speedy, the race is always a tie. If one is allowed to start two seconds early, he will always win by two seconds.

Unless something happens to eat up the advantage. If the second guy can distract the first somehow and get ahead, then he wins.

All things are seldom equal, of course, and at a given moment, there are a lot of other factors that come into play as to who can manage what.

In a fight, the first to move is the first to risk making an error. For years, I believed this gave the advantage to a counter-puncher.

Thing is, the first to move, if he doesn't make an error forces the defender to react to him, and that is an advantage, if he knows how to use it.

Master Plan said...

Hmm, can't you both knock each other out at the same time? No so with knives I'd think, or guns.
Then you can both succeed and both fail at the same time?

I suppose that might be a tie, but then that means black and white are both losing and winning.

If any move creates openings, any weakness is a strength and strength a weakness, then, isn't any first move, for the case of "if he doesn't make an error", depend on the opponent?

Back to the post previous to this one, if you perform a perfect whatever, jab, sweep, stab, and I perform a perfect counter in response then....who wins?

Or, put another way, what is the utility of this statement?

If what I do works then the other guy loses, but if what I do doesn't work then I lose.

Yes....but...what does that mean?

Seems like a tautology.

Master Plan said...

Er.."More so with...", that should read.

Steve Perry said...

I was using chess as the example, and while there are a lot of drawn games, the perfect-players scenario white wins every time.

For a game to end any other way, somebody has to make a mistake.

Mutual slaying is always possible, but this is the defense versus offense argument.

And the perfect this or that are contradictions. If I offer a perfect attack, you can't defend against it, that's what "perfect" means in this context.

In a match with experts, it's most likely that the first one to make a serious mistake will lose.

I punch. You block. One ... two. But if I am up to speed, and we are equally fast I'll get another shot off before you can counter -- the momentum is on my side, and the count is: Me, one. You, two, and me three -- you have to throw a block *and* a counter in the same amount of time to take the offensive, so you are behind a beat. Because I'm throwing my second shot and not waiting for you to block, then counter, you have to block, then block again.

If your block is also a counter -- a cut-the-line punch, that can make up the difference, and I now have to block or evade or get hit before I fire again.

Another way to do that is to do half-beats, or triplets, wherein you break the "one" count into two or three parts. That puts you ahead.

We also have a version of the straight blast, wherein the back up hand follows the attacking hand, to clear the expected block. Old stuff long before Bruce Lee played with it.

I do a straight right at your nose. You do some kind of upward block or a cut-the-line punch; my back up hand loops in, clears your punch or block, and I fire another punch. Same line, same tool. If I do it right, you don't have anything there to stop it because I'm ahead on time.

Won't always work, of course, but against somebody coming in who doesn't back off after the first sortie, it can be quite a surprise.

Steve Perry said...

A bit more on the mistake thing:

It's our goal to force the opposition to make a mistake.

We'll leave an opening you could drive a train through because if you take that shot, we have something in mind.

We have attacks sambuts. Simple things, usually in sets of three. They are all attacks and not fakes, in the sense that if you stand there and do nothing, any of them will tag you. But we expect that one or two of them will be blocked, and because of where they are thrown and what you have to do if all you do is stand still and block, you hands will out of position when the third one comes in. It's bait-and-switch.

Unless you are the Flash, you can't stand there and bat punches all day without chancing a miss, so pure defense in this case gets you hit; because even if you *know exactly* what I am going to do, unless you short-stop it with an attack or move of your own, one of the three is getting through. You are behind the power curve and eventually -- and it usually only takes three attacks -- one gets past.

It's pretty amazing when your teacher says, I'm going to punch high, low, and then elbow, shows it to you in slo-mo, and you realize that just blocking you can't stop all three first time he moves at speed.

We believe for every attack there is a counter, but we don't want our opponents to do it so we A) try distractions. B) We cheat. Try to make them think we are farther away than we are, that we are coming faster or slower than we are. It is less about fakes and feints than it is playing on an opponent's senses and using natural expectation to confuse him.

Steve Perry said...

One more after-thought:

The hand is not quicker than the eye, but the eye is easily fooled. Ever watch a good close-up magician? He'll do a coin trick, you know where the coin has to be, but it's not there -- and you were looking right at him when it vanished. Misdirection.

Optical illusions abound -- a lot of them just simple context things. This line longer or this one? One looks obviously so, but they are both the same. See the spinning dancer silhouette -- which way is she turning? Clockwise? Counterclockwise? Can you reverse her by concentrating?

The human eye, like a lot of predator and prey animals, is hardwired to pick up motion. Something standing still across the field can't eat you; something coming at you in a hurry might, and your brain knows it, so motion takes precedence. Tigers versus trees.

If you are watching we waggle my left hand, that might buy me just enough time to step within my weapon range. I

If I fire a punch at your face, you'll see it and react, and if what I want you to do is duck so I can tag you with my other hand or knee or foot, or block so I have a different opening, then it's to my advantage. As long as you are reacting how I want you to react to me, I control the fight.

A major league baseball pitcher has more than one option. Fastballs, breaking balls, change-ups. If you are expecting a fastball from the speed of the pitcher's delivery and he throws a palmball, you are geared to swing before the ball arrives, because it is coming slower than you thought. You have only a split-second to decide and if you choose wrong, you strike and miss. The game favors the pitcher. Pitchers are better than batters -- if you hit more than one of three at-bats? You are considered a good hitter. Nobody bats a thousand. In the majors, nobody bats five hundred. Lot more strike outs than not.

If you think I'm coming in fast and I'm not, you might block too soon, or, conversely, too late.

Most martial arts realize that misdirection is part of the game, and tell you not to watch a fighter's hands or eyes, but his torso or his feet; to soft-focus and catch movement, not to get trapped looking at things that aren't dangerous. If you are ten feet away, I don't care how you wave your hands, they aren't going to do anything to me unless you are Reed Richards or Plastic Man. To get to me, you have to move your feet. When those start moving, then I need to know ...

Master Plan said...

Yes, I don't disagree with any of that, it just seems, as I said, like a tautology, and thus I'm unsure of the utility value.

Everything works until it doesn't.

Great so...?

Given two players of equal skill in any art, don't you kinda have to make them make a mistake. Fake 'em out, pattern 'em, something, to get the advantage?

I guess I'm not seeing how this would be any different than any other martial art. Can't I too play range games by retreating or vastly changing my angle in response to a sambut? Same as I could do against a boxing combo or series of judo feints and throws?

Again, I think all of what you are saying is true, and valuable to some extent perhaps to realize, but....isn't it all a bit obvious and circular?

If I'm better than you I beat you, unless you are better than me, or if we are the same then somebody has to fuck up. Right. Yes. And?

Steve Perry said...

All I am offering is, this is what silat players in our branch do, as I understand it, and our reasons wny.

I hear you saying, Yeah, yeah, but how can I use that?:

You can't, really. Be like me asking a gymnast how he does that double-back dismount. It won't help me do it ...

If by tautological you mean that I'm trying to show slightly different maps so as to make it easier to see and more accessible, then, yeah, I am. A is not non-A, and however you paint the image, that's what it'll come back to in the end.

As for the utility of it? I'm not handing out commandments graven in stone, merely offering my thoughts as they pop to the surface about the subjects at hand.

My truths. You have to find your own.

How is any martial art different than any other? Our principles are going to sound a lot like somebody else's, just by the nature of what tools we all biologically have. And yet if you see silat and compare it to kung fu or TKD, or western boxing, you'll see visible differences in the patterns and levels and techniques.

It is what it is ...

some guy said...

Testing, testing... (Sometimes in the past I've tried to comment but it hasn't appeared. Before I write anything lengthy I want to see if it'll show up.)

Some guy said...

Okay, it seems to work... I'm writing a late comment as usual, but I can't resist a chess topic. I know it's just an analogy but I wanted to mention that the conclusion of a chess game with perfect play on both sides has never been proven one way or the other. Supposedly most grandmasters think it would be a draw. Intuitively it's really hard for me to believe that it could be anything but a draw. It's just that there are SO many variations of games in which white ends up with an advantage, but not a big enough advantage to win. So for white to have a theoretical win, for every game variation out there for white's perfect play he would have to end up with a winning advantage. All black has to do is find just one variation against white's perfect play in which black ends up with a disadvantage, but not a forced loss, to have a theoretical draw. (So as long as black can escape into some line where he has something like a lone king against white's king and two knights, he draws.)

(Game theory can demonstrate that the result would be a theoretical win, loss, or draw for white, but can't determine which one.)

Bombastically yours,
Some guy

Master Plan said...

Some Guy: How come you gotta jack with a perfectly good metaphor like that? ;-)