Added with permission from Kim Taylor Nanadan (CKF) Iaido, Rokudan (CKF) Jodo and Niten Ichi Ryu Shidoin, January 2023
Becoming your opponent
You should look inside your opponent and feel the weaknesses of his spirit.
He can retreat inside a house, fight against a large number of opponents, or confront an expert of the martial arts. As long as you do not see through the weaknesses, you may often confuse his weaknesses with strengths. You may see an opponent who is inexperienced in the martial arts as an expert, an insignificant opponent as a dangerous enemy and attribute your opponent with non-existent strengths.
You should thoroughly study your opponent from inside.
Any instructions on dueling or other martial arts will tell you that a beginner is one of the most dangerous foes you can face. They are unpredictable because they don’t know what they’re going to do. When you face them you may see that unpredictability as strength, not as weakness.
A beginner may just be stupid enough to not understand just how much trouble he is in, and so he can fool the opponent. The same can be said of situations outside of the fight. If a new person comes into a job and simply starts taking charg, making decisions or changing the way things are done, the people around that person may assume they know what they are talking about and let them. This can be very costly if they are not found to be inexperienced or incompetent in time.
Do not assume your opponent is strong, if he is in a house, don’t assume he is in a fortified position, if there are many opponents, don’t assume they are strong simply on their numbers, and if you are facing a lone opponent don’t assume that opponent is an expert. Look at the situation from the other point of view, the man in the house is trapped, with no place to go. The mob may have no idea how to fight as a unit and may simply trip over themselves, and any single opponent you face will soon reveal their true skills if you will just put yourself in their place and understand why they are jumping about randomly.
Empathy does not automatically make us friendly, it can make us understand just how vulnerable our opponent is, so that we become strong once more and can defeat them. This is not something that we think much about these days, we assume that empathy makes us love each other but this is not always the case. To understand ourselves does not mean that we will love and accept ourselves, why would understanding someone else make us love them? Empathy allows us to put ourselves in someone else’s place, to feel what they are feeling, know what they know. In a fight this is an important tool.
Next time you are around people see if you can put yourself in their place. Understand the woman who is running the red light while putting on her makeup. She is late for work again, she resents the traffic and the lights which always seem to be against her, that is why she passed you in the oncoming lane to try and make the intersection. Can you feel her anxiety, can you feel how rushed she is? Do you understand why she almost caused an accident that only the attention of those around her prevented?
Do you like that woman now that you have empathized with her?
Feb 12, 2015