Strategies of Ancient China #5

Strategy 5

Loot a Burning House

When a country is beset by internal conflicts, when disease and famine ravage the population, when corruption and crime are rampant, then it will be unable to deal with an outside threat. This is the time to attack.

Warring States Era China

Qi and Han were allies when Chang Yi attacked Han with the combined forces of Qin and Wei. Han asked Qi for assistance. The king of Qi said:” Han is our ally and since Qin has attacked her we must go to her rescue.” But his minister Tian-chen Su disagreed saying: “Your majesty’s planning is faulty. You should merely agree to assist Han but take no action there. However, in the kingdom of Yan, their king has recently resigned the throne to his despised prime minister. This has enraged both the noble houses and the common people causing turmoil at court. Now if Qin attacks Han, Chu and Chao will surely come to her aid and this will be as good as heaven bestowing Yan upon us.”

The king approved and promised the Han envoy assistance before sending him back to Han believing he had Qi’s backing. When Qin attacked Han, Chu and Chao intervened as expected. While all the major kingdoms were thus engaged in the battle for Han, Qi quickly and quietly attacked Yan. Within thirty days Yan was captured.

Sifu Example:

Quickest and easiest way to attack and win is to do so while they are already under attack; whether this is from another person or while they are sick and injured, it is advantageous to attack while they are preoccupied and/or weak. Security and police personnel always strive to use a partner to contain a troublemaker from opposing directions. Someone who has their hands full with an opponent can be more easily taken care of before they are realised.

In a competitive environment, it is often very useful to keep the pressure on from the instant you notice your competitor on the back foot whether it is from a strike they’ve received, one of theirs that has missed, a timing misjudgement or a balance/footwork mishap. It may be that they find themselves suddenly out of bounds or up against the ropes.

Many of our martial techniques work best if initiated with a “softening” technique, anything that stuns or distracts the opponent and therefore increases the likelihood of our “main” technique working. In class, I often explain to students that you cannot afford to dwell on a received strike or takedown as the following movements may be what finish you off in the real world. 

So if I stun a training partner rather than easing off, I will tend to maintain the pressure and ‘force’ them to confront a continuing assault.  On the other hand, when I am stunned or taken down, I immediately try to focus on what else is coming and what I can deliver myself to stop the onslaught. You must always remain alert!

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