Old Sun Tzu knew a thing or two about strategy. His “The Art of War” is one of the oldest texts on combat strategy and like Musashi’s famous “Book of Five Rings” has been widely used for many applications, from one-on-one combat, to corporate sales strategy.
This particular saying, "Sheng Tung, Chi Hsi", popped up while I was reading the late Che Guevarra’s manual on Guerilla warfare. Now Che’ is quite popular with today’s youth, many of whom have no real idea who he was. He does make for great T-shirt graphics. But I come not to praise Che’, but to bury him. Well not exactly that either.
Che’ (and Sun Tzu) recognized the value of deception, the art of the feint, and that is what I really want to talk about. When you are outgunned, literally or figuratively, you may find a little deception extremely valuable. A small sleight of hand can gain you vital time or distance. Misdirection and distraction are also tools of the professional fighter. When you are practicing a kata or you are doing some sparring see how you can take advantage of these tools. Where are the logical points that you can break the pattern or disrupt the form or flow to create an opening for your true attack? Mao Tse Tung in his manifesto on Guerilla war said that the three ingredients to successfully fighting an asymmetrical war were: time, space, and will. All of these men knew the art of fighting “small” wars required the creative use of deception to gain time or space.
For a more concrete example in knife work, thrust right then cut left. Begin an assault with a large movement and stop. Just stop! Then continue onward in the same direction or a different direction at a different speed. Change your timing and break the rhythm. Cut high then drop to a low squat and thrust. Attack straight in and rotate around your opponent’s block. There are hundreds of ways to employ deception and you should explore as many as possible. Look one way cut another. The only restriction is they must work at least ONCE. They may not work a second time because your opponent/training partner will be ready for them. Abide by Musashi’s sage advice and never try the same technique three times. When finished our new book, “When Two Tigers Fight,” will talk in depth about the art of deception and sleight of hand. In the mean time get creative but do not make a game of it. Keep an eye to the reality of mortal combat. Take a bit of advice and be wary of the opponent who is not moved by your initial feints, he may be more skilled than you have reckoned.