March 30, 2020, Israel
I was reviewing a kick boxing technique, the back spinning kick, and I was reminded of an epiphany I had years ago. This is perhaps one of the most challenging kicks in our curriculum; you need to spin around, i.e. turn your back to your opponent and kick. Most students will lose their balance and likely fall flat on their faces. It is such a difficult kick that most will be too afraid to try it, and once they experience the initial humiliation of falling flat on their faces, they will be very reluctant to try it again. We all go through this and know the feeling. The only exceptions, perhaps, are the super gifted athletes who are few and far between, and even those I have seen fall down on their faces. The difference is they have the confidence to get up and do it again.
While watching a video of myself teaching this on our IKI Israeli Kickboxing DVD, I remembered that the key to success with this technique is actually quite simple, but not so easy: to keep your balance you must keep your eye on your opponent. If you turn away from your opponent as you do your spin, when you "return" you will be utterly confused and totally off balance. However, if you turn your head first and focus on retaining eye contact with your opponent, it will be much easier to retain your balance. In other words if your head leads the way, rather than your body, and your first order of business is to regain direct eye contact with your opponents' face, you will have much better balance and a much better kick, and be able to kick him much better.
And this got me thinking. Like Mr. Miyagi said this lesson of Balance is not just for martial arts, it is for life itself.
Let us think together. When you lose sight of your opponent you will fail to understand him and you will lose your balance and fall flat on your face. You will be embarrassed and might not want to try this again. You need, as Karate master Gichin Funakoshi always said, to always imagine your opponent in front of you. I would say imagine him not only physically but enter his mind, understand him.
Now I am not going to go on a hippie point of view here that we must understand the criminal and thus accept and justify his behavior. I am not going down the path of don't put the criminal in jail, instead blame society for not understanding him, and give the criminal some tax payer money. That is not my perspective. Not at all.
What I am saying is that in order to deal with, for better or for worse, your opponent, your adversary, your competition, you need to focus on them and understand them. We cannot only focus on ourselves.
Let's look at a few examples.
You are preparing for a fight, you are getting into the best shape of your life, you are working on your kicks, punches, takedowns, you are totally focused, on yourself. But you have not taken the time to sit down and watch videos of your opponent. That would be like Joe Louis vs Max Schmeling in their first fight on June 19, 1936. Louis, the Brown Bomber, was the more gifted fighter but he did not focus on his opponent, he did not study his moves. He paid the price for this in the fight. Schmeling focused on Joe Louis, studied him carefully and before the fight announced that he had found the key to victory.
We cannot focus only on ourselves, we must study the competition. This is not out of a desire to "understand him", but to be able to deal with him correctly.
It is the same in business, you are using the yellow pages but your competition is using modern social media and you are wondering why you are losing customers. You must understand what the others are doing. You must stay focused on your opponent, not only on yourself.
In life there is also the aspect of truly understanding where the other guy is coming from. You can walk into an argument with a well prepared case, but it might fall on deaf ears, it might be totally inappropriate for the intended audience, you need to listen before you speak. Comedy comes to mind, I recall a night club act, the comedian prepared for the wrong audience, no one understood or appreciated his jokes. Finally at one point he said, I did not realize this was a Jewish crowd, I had prepared Catholic school jokes...and he changed his routine. Now he was listening to the audience correctly. The point is if we don't want to fall flat on our face we need to see our opponent and understand him. Sometimes the fight might not be necessary after all, sometimes we may discover that our strategy is simply way off.
World War Two, Stalin, Hitler, Churchill, Chamberlain, Roosevelt, they did not understand each other. Hitler did not understand Britain, he believed they would never go to war, Stalin did not understand Churchill and believed that Germany and Britain would eventually align against him (which they did, later on). Roosevelt understood no one. Chamberlain understood nothing and became the laughing stock of the world for generations to come. Hitler did not understand Roosevelt or the Americans, he believed they would not continue without Roosevelt once he died of natural causes.
We look back and scratch our heads and wonder why all the misunderstandings. It is truly difficult to "see" your opponent. At other times we look back and wonder why someone was so slow to react ,thus allowing tragedy to unfold. At other times we look back and wonder, why did they have such a knee jerk response, which in hindsight proved incorrect? Couldn't they have taken more time and reached a better conclusion.
Balance, seeing your opponent clearly, in fighting, in self defense, and in life.
Today we are facing several enemies; the Chinese Virus which honestly no one seems to fully understand, the Panic of the general population, and the unknown economic future. We look back at the Black Death, the plagues of the past, and we are astonished how no one understood what was going on, but the truth is we still don't really understand those plagues. We still do not know how they began, how they spread, and how they eventually ended. We are still studying the evidence. Today too, we have experts with vastly different perspectives and the average person has no real way of knowing what is true and what is hype. We need to go back to the simple lesson; Balance. As Mr. Miyagi said to Daniel San:
Daniel San: How do you know when to fight, and when not to?
Miyagi Sensei: When have full respect for self and full respect for other, than answer come.
IKI offers Krav Maga certification and Israeli Kick boxing certification.