Intro: Yin Yang Blades
Among the martial arts of ancient China, Taoist and Buddhist arts are known for their deeply rooted traditions. The philosophy of each are fundamentally different, as well as their combat approach and physical expressions. To explain this difference to newcomers, we often say that fighting a practitioner of Buddhist martial arts feels like striking a brick wall, while fighting a practitioner of Taoist martial arts feels like fighting an empty jacket.
Yin Yang Blades follows the Taoist martial arts approach, using speed and deceptive angles to attain higher efficiency rather than using superior force and power to overwhelm the opponent. Yin Yang Blades follows the philosophy that:
• If your opponent is occupied with your right then you don’t need a strong left.
• If your opponent is rendered indecisive then you don’t need to be fast.
• If your opponent doesn’t know where you are then you don’t need to cover great distances.
• If your opponent cannot predict your rhythm then you can strike any time.
Ultimately, the Yin Yang Blades practitioner understands this saying:
“Who is the fastest person in a fight?”
“The person who can see the future, of course.”
“But no one can see the future.”
“Then it is the person who can manufacture the future.”
Hence, the practitioner of Yin Yang Blades seeks to free himself of ritual and formality, so he can focus on timing and broken timing; distance and false distance; anticipation and deceit. The speed of each move can vary, or not vary. The distance covered by each step can be constant, or constantly changing. The practitioner must be free to bend and adjust his expression of the system and avoid falling into the habits of predetermined sequences and unwavering traditions.
Thus, the moves in this book are not named. Names are often there to contain references and associations, invoking visuals to help a beginner learn the technique. But names also limit the user to only those associations. For our purposes, each move will only be identified by a number.
Also, lineage and tradition will not be mentioned in this book. Lineage pays homage to ancestry, but when you embark on understanding a new system, the system becomes yours. It will be fine-tuned to your habits, your comfort zones, and your form of expression. Training in exactly the same way as the teachers before you would mean that you will only become as good as your teacher. By becoming free of tradition and lineage, you are also free to take this art to new terrains.
Over the past generation or two, especially in the West, martial arts have been promoted for all the right reasons – speed, agility, strength, confidence, health, self-defense, and purpose. Young people flocked to train in various martial arts systems to learn respect and tradition, sportsmanship and grit, and to make themselves better people. Yet, every serious practitioner is aware of the original intent behind the martial art they trained in.
Yin Yang Blades is no different. Let’s not sugarcoat a two-handed knife system: It was created to inflict serious injury against an opponent, and it was designed to kill the enemy in as little time as possible. But the health and confidence benefits that came with training in this system is a nice side effect. In less civilized times where calling the police was not an option, stabbing the enemy quickly and efficiently was the best course of action. Therefore, it is important to recognize that this knife system was meant for use against a human adversary, and that real effectiveness in the system can only be obtained when you understand what result was intended by each technique.
In modern times, sword users do not go around cutting people on the street. We study sword systems for the pure love of the art. When we level a sword in front of us, we never once consider actually running someone through the throat with it, but we do train to stab at throat level, because that is fundamental to the art. Yin Yang Blades is trained in a similar fashion. Most of the techniques target the neck and throat areas, not because we ever intend to cut anyone’s throat, but because this is how we train to understand the art. We can become great knife users without ever harboring malicious intent. We can remain kind and gentle people while also being trained in an effective knife system.
Martial Arts Fundamentals
This book is about a very specific knife system not frequently seen in the West. Yet, whether your weapon of choice is a sword, a spear, a pair of nunchaku, or plain empty hands; or whether your discipline is a striking, grappling, or submission-based system, the fundamentals of martial arts apply. There are basic concepts valid for all martial arts and not specific to Yin Yang Blades that help practitioners find more meaning in each combat experience. It’s important for newcomers to understand that every time you face an opponent, you are facing a human being with emotional weaknesses and strengths, flaws, habits, and fears. You cannot fight every opponent the same way. That is a mistake many young students make.
The first point to remember is that your opponent is afraid of the unknown. Everyone is. Knowing how to make use of this fear is critical to your success as a martial artist. If your opponent knows your habits and can predict exactly what you will do next, he will never be afraid, and you will have a hard time enticing him to make mistakes. What you plan to do and what you are able to do must always remain unknown.
The second point is that those who are calm and logical can plan their moves, while those who are emotional and flustered can only react. While a person can plan many moves ahead, a person can only react to one move at a time. Therefore it is important for yourself to remain calm, but more importantly to prevent the opponent from being calm. Taunt him, aggravate him, confuse him, but never let him stop to think.
When confronting a calm opponent, pester him to give him no rest, whether using endless verbal nonsense or relentless hit-and-run strikes, always keep him occupied so he is forced to react to you. The verbal attacks have to be loud and nonstop to generate adequate confusion.
When confronting a defensive opponent, work to inflict doubt in his own defense. A defensive opponent is skilled in protecting himself and well positioned to block, parry, or evade attacks from any angle. Strike at him with the same move multiple times consecutively. This will help him develop a habit in his defense. Feign the same move again the next time but attack elsewhere.
When confronting an arrogant opponent, plan your trap, then pretend to be weak and timid to entice him into the trap. When an arrogant person attacks, he normally believes he can overpower you. Slowly back away in fear, then attack when he commits his weight.
When confronting an angry opponent, use arrogance to irritate, belittle, and humiliate him so he can react with his emotions, which leads him to immediately commit his weight. An angry opponent exerts himself right from the beginning, and if you consistently evade him it will not be long before he becomes tired and depleted.
When confronting a physically strong opponent, use multiple small attacks and aim to achieve multiple small victories. Entice him to exert his strength in order to run out his stamina, meanwhile attacking his wrists and hands, repeatedly striking the same spot on any one of his limbs until you have disabled that limb before moving on to the next one.
When confronting a highly skilled opponent, focus on beating his mind first. Confuse his distance measurement by alternating between attacking his outstretched limbs and closing in to attack his face and neck. Confuse his inner rhythm by alternating between long movements and short, rapid ones. When you are close enough to injure his wrist, pretend you are too far from his body to attack. When sure of your attack, appear to retreat. You need patience and you need to remain very unpredictable against an opponent of greater skill.
When confronting a patient opponent, you need to feign a false weakness ahead of time and allow him to become comfortable in the thought that he knows your weakness. Patient opponents only commit when they feel that they are certain of victory. Establish this false weakness from the beginning – it could be something as simple as always attacking from the right. Be predictable until he believes it, then suddenly do the unpredictable.
When confronting a timid opponent, do not waste time. Allow him to find his courage and confidence. Intimidate and overpower him quickly to break his fighting spirit. Do not turn this into a long, drawn-out battle.
These are some of the basic principles that almost all martial artists learn before they are ready for combat. In later pages, these ideas will be explained in the context of Yin Yang Blades.