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.
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 FunkyDragon.com/bushi and is Associate Editor of
FightingArts.com. Professionally he is a business analyst, but also enjoys
writing ficton for the Destroyer Universe.