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Below the Event Horizon

By Victor Smith

One of the most powerful tools of Karate is its ability to strike below the “event horizon” of an opponent’s awareness. The flip side of this is to develop our own skills of awareness (zanshin) to the extent that you are not caught off guard by a surprise attack.

A very sad example of getting below the event horizon was the ease with which the 9/11 hijackers worked their way beneath the event horizon of the security forces in place. If there is any positive value to be gained from such horrific examples, it is that we do need to consider such tactics as part of our training programs.

Striking below an opponent’s event horizon is a sound tactical strategy, and a concept that underlies all of our training. But I suspect far too often our training focuses instead on developing the tools, not the optimal strategy for using them. This is hardly surprising, because without the development of correct technique, knowing how to use the technique is of little help.

Below the horizon tactical skills might include:

1 - Not giving an opponent signals to which he might respond. This might include learning how appear docile and/or unthreatening, unsure of yourself, or afraid so not to trigger an opponent’s awareness or preparedness to respond.

2 – Creating a distraction that causes an opponent to momentarily lose or change focus, thereby creating a momentary opening. Included is using a loud shout (kiai) to create a startle reflex in your opponent, getting the opponent to talk thereby occupying his or her mind, distracting the opponent’s attention by a hand or other movements, or using a glance to the opponent’s rear or side to draw his attention in that direction.

3 - Learning the best zones of counter-attack -- the study of angles of insertion (attack) to confuse the opponent and his or her awareness. Examples might include: using an unseen uppercut hidden behind a hook punch; or using a low hook-punch angled from the side to an opponent’s ribs (under his arms) that is first set up by a frontal assault.

4 - Understanding your targeting options. This includes the optimum choice of targets for your punches or kicks, strike points that will produce the optimum response. This requires a 360 degree awareness of targets of opportunity based on your location and the choice of responses.

5 - Being able to move and position yourself so your opponent momentarily loses track of you perceptually and/or is unable to hit you with his or her weapons. This might include angling, turning or shifting your position so you are to the opponent’s side or back or placed at a distance which is to your advantage.

6 – Being aware of, and adjusting to, the range, location and movement of the other opponents who are involved in the “situation,” or who might get involved. This means learning how to move and place yourself in an optimal protective location vis-à-vis others in a multiple person situation.

This study becomes a never-ending challenge to your abilities, mental and physical, as you change, adapt and develop.

In addition to training passed on to you from your instructors, another source of information may be found in classical martial literature: The Okinawan “Bubishi”, “The Book Of Five Rings”, and “The Art Of War” can readily be adapted for lesson study. Other more esoteric texts can also be considered; “The Tao Te Ching” and the” I Ching” are examples. Many modern works also exist which suggest tactics of personal combat that can be explored.

Finding a way to use the different tools of our craft is a necessary part of our training which should not be neglected. This includes using the concept of keeping below an opponent’s event horizon.

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About the Author:

Victor Smith is a respected teacher of Isshinryu karate (6th degree black belt) and tai chi chuan with over 26 years of training in Japanese, Korean and Chinese martial arts. His training also includes aikido, kobudo, tae kwon do, tang so do moo duk kwan, goju ryu, uechi ryu, sutrisno shotokan, tjimande, goshin jutsu, shorin ryu honda katsu, sil lum (northern Shaolin), tai tong long (northern mantis), pai lum (white dragon), and ying jow pai (eagle claw). Over the last few years he has begun writing on, researching and documenting his studies and experiences. He is the founder of the martial arts website and is Associate Editor of Professionally he is a business analyst, but also enjoys writing ficton for the Destroyer Universe.

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

Karate, awareness, strategy, karate skills, training

Read more articles by Victor Smith

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