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Martial Mania

Five On One

By George Donahue

What can you do when your attacker, who is larger and stronger than you, already has some measure of control over you? It’s of no use to try to match his force with your own, as you just don’t have enough to go one on one. Well, you could go five on one. This may sound simplistic or stupid, but often it’s the only way to escape your predicament.

Long ago the Greeks learned that they could defeat or hold off enemies with much larger armies, or navies, if, instead of trying to match their enemies’ battle formations line for line, they concentrated their forces on just one or a few vulnerable points in the enemy line. Thus the flying wedge formation that enabled the puny Greek confederation to repel the mighty army of the Persian empire. On land, the Spartans led the forces of the other Greek city-states in stymieing the Persian army. At sea, the Athenian navy concentrated its attacks on vulnerable spots in the Persian fleet, enticing and herding the fleet into narrow straits where they couldn’t maneuver well. Their greater numbers were neutralized and they were destroyed as a fighting force by the Greeks, with their smaller ships and abler commanders.

In personal combat, it’s a great advantage, when you’re outgunned, to follow the same strategy. If your more powerful attacker seizes your wrist with one hand and puts you in a neck lock with the other, your impulse is to fight at all points. You struggle to free your neck at the same time you struggle to free your wrist and you struggle to get your body away. You are already in your attacker’s control and you don’t have the power or leverage to free yourself. You’re trying to match your attacker line for line and you’re grossly overmatched. You lose, maybe fatally.

Since you don’t want to lose, especially fatally, you have to learn how to react more logically. That is where the five-on-one rule comes in. You have to quickly decide where you can use your strength optimally and where you can afford to let your attacker keep in control for a while. Let’s say in this case that your attacker’s hold on your neck isn’t going to choke you out for a while. Therefore, you can afford to disregard it and concentrate on the wrist. You still have a free hand to work with, but your hand is much smaller than your attacker’s hand; you can’t match strength in hand-to-hand combat. So, you do something better. You concentrate your forces. You use your hand, with its five fingers, to fight just one of your attacker’s fingers. Maybe not even a whole finger but a small part of a finger: one joint or one muscle or one nerve. To the power of your hand, you add what you can by focusing your body weight on your hand, too. Gravity is your friend, not yet another force to struggle against.

Now all the power you can muster is applied to just one small part of your attacker, one vulnerable point in his battle line. You strike with all the explosive speed you can manage, snapping your target and then twisting it away from your wrist. If the counter is quick and thorough, your attacker will have to let go before you damage him more. You, however, don’t have to let go. As soon as your attacker increases his distance from you, to try to free his finger, you have gained extra leverage. Now you snap his finger off and run—or grab another finger. If you need to, you can break them one by one.

Copyright © 2008 George Donahue & All rights reserved.

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About The Author:

George Donahue has been on the board of since its inception. He is a freelance writer and editor, providing literary and consulting services to writers, literary agents, and publishers, as well to advertising agencies. He has worked in publishing for more than three decades, beginning as a journal and legal editor. Among his positions have been editorial stints at Random House; Tuttle Publishing, where he was the executive editor, martial arts editor, and Asian Studies editor; and Lyons Press, where he was the senior acquisitions editor and where he established a martial arts publishing program. He is a 6th dan student of karate and kobujutsu—as well as Yamane Ryu Bojutsu—of Shinzato Katsuhiko in Okinawa Karatedo Shorin Ryu Kishaba Juku. He was also a student of Kishaba Chokei and Nakamura Seigi until their deaths. He teaches Kishaba Juku in New York and Connecticut, as well as traveling to provide seminars and special training in karate, weapons, and self-defense. His early training was in judo and jujutsu, primarily with Ando Shunnosuke in Tokyo. He also studied kyujutsu (archery), sojutsu (spear), and kenjutsu (swordsmanship) in Japan as a youth. Following his move to the US, he continued to practice judo and jujutsu, as well as marksmanship with bow and gun, and began the study of Matsubayashi Ryu karate in his late teens. Subsequently, he has studied aikido and taiji and cross trained in ying jow pai kung fu.

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