Rules of Engagement
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Despite his advanced age,
Lee Pung's legendary prowess (editorís
note: Lee Pung is a fictional amalgam,
incorporating several accounts of masters as related by
my own teachers)
remained with him till the end. His teachings survived,
rippling through the many philosophies fostering the
fighting styles of the Asian Dragon's head (we know it
as the Chinese/Korean Peninsula).
The principles were predicated on
simplicity itself. This of course made them near
impossible for most students to grasp.
In demonstrating his skills, Lee would send attackers
helplessly rebounding through space. The old man's
feigned senility added to the illusion. He played the
fool as opponents dropped to the ground.
Certainly, Lee Pung was no magician. His mind, spirit
and body simply soared unfettered. He moved so
competently that time itself seemed to make way for the
ebb and flow of his technique.
Generations of masters
have come and gone since this legendary figure. The
principles underlying his movement remain as firm
footings for all modern styles originating on the
distancing from an assailant means
keeping him from where he can
initiate the first strike.
Protect your self defense
zone. Don't fall for the
Threshold of Confrontation
Even before the
first lesson, Lee Pung made certain the
initiate could sense an attack about to occur.
The beginner meditated for months on the
dynamics of confrontation. Soon, he recognized
each encounter as marked by discernible signs
of aggression. These signs or shadows often
foretold eventsw to follow. With clear mind,
and proper perspective, the student could see
with clarity and respond with confidence.
The thread of
impartial reality forever unites aggression to
self defense. Occurrence of the former (Yang/aggression)
usually exists in close association with
occurrence of the latter (Yin). Ancient
masters meditated at length on the code of
aggression. Unlocking its secrets, they
learned within every act of aggression was the
seed of its undoing. Students after Lee Pung
were taught the aggressor is always at a
strategic disadvantage. Nature made it so,
certain as the cycle of day and night.
Students in the internal arts learn that as an
attack unfolds, multitudes of opportunities
for counter appear. The response to an attack
is never another attack, but rather,
application of force through an opening. To
reinforce this understanding, masters of old
frequently took students to village matches
where opponents competed for prizes of gold or
recognition. There they observed, "The false
objective clouds their true spirit. They enter
the combat ring intending to humiliate their
opponent. Their tools, limited to strength,
speed and disciplined attack produce a hollow
reward at best. The game exists to inflict
damage in pursuit of victory. As the match
runs, each reflects the exceptional skills of
his counterpart, as they try to knock each
other's heads off."
The traditions of Tai
Chi, Hap Ki Do, and the several internal arts argue this
as contrary to the fundamental reality of self defense.
So much so that a student already in harmony was in
jeopardy to even watch. This clashing bull approach to
fighting did not qualify as a martial art by their
reckoning. The masters of antiquity all understood
methods existed to ensure ability to maneuver safely in
a confrontation, while maximizing the ability to
counter. There is a Buddhist saying that no matter how
thick the forest or massive the trees, the stream flows
unimpeded. If you are executing a fight of aggression,
the very act of closing on your opponent relinquishes
all available natural defenses.
This brings us to look
at the second aspect of conflict, self defense(Yin).
The underlying premise of the self defense transaction
is that there is no first move (except under rare
preemptive circumstances). The internal arts teach that
true self defense, professing no artificial end, and
free from having to issue the first attack, is
strategically superior. Lee Pung would have qualified
that comment, adding it was only strategically superior
for the person who knew.
Newspapers are replete
with stories of robberies at automated bank tellers, bus
stops, or even traffic signals. Never assume the
attacker is completely without advantage. At the least,
he knows there is going to be an attack, while you do
not. Furthermore, most attackers have "been there
before." More than likely, you are not their first
victim. Their history may include five, ten or even more
successful attack encounters. The average mark is
usually selected because he or she appears vulnerable to
the assailant. The attacker's experienced eye will
recognize your naivetť or lack of familiarity with
The "man in
your face" can attack at any time. If
reason fails to back him off, you should be
prepared to move him back. Note how
the defender backs the aggressor off, using
either of two hand techniques, while
protecting vital targets.
So, even though Lee Pung
taught defending has inherent advantages, these are
offset by knowledge and experience which the average
assailant has, that you do not.
The masters fully
understood the impact of this dynamic. They taught once
the attacker initiates confrontation, we are "within his
dream." He has already selected the stage, dialogue,
storyline and perhaps even the ending. The Lee Pung
solution and the secret underlying his immensely
successful career as a martial artist was to always
operate within the script of his choosing. When the
attack unfolded, he superimposed his own intent over the
attacker's "dream script", in essence taking control.
the assailant has been kept
outside the self defense
zone. The hand attack can be
responded to with speed and
Underlying this strategy was
an innate understanding of proper self defense distance.
This means you position yourself relative to the attacker
so an attack cannot be launched before you have
opportunity to avoid, block or neutralize. Definitions
abound as to what constitutes proper self defense
distance. Most masters agree it approximates the distance
between two men, standing face to face with arms extended
and fingertips touching.
Street attacks start with a
series of distractions. The aggressor employs these
devices as he broaches the self defense perimeter without
triggering your reaction. Ted Bundy wore a foot cast,
asking a young co-ed for assistance in loading his van.
The co-ed, seeing him struggling, volunteered to assist,
never realizing Bundy had set a trap. Defenses
disintegrated before the intended target realized an
attack was underway.
attacker throws a surprise kick. The
attack is easily avoided. Note how
defender can either avoid the kick, or
deflect it to set up an effective counter.
It is to avoid such
catastrophes, that master instructors established the
following rules of engagement:
1.) Create conditions
which tell you when the attack has begun;
2.) Once these
conditions are established, maintain them in effect at
all times. There are no exceptions;
3.) Signal to the
potential assailant that once these markers are
crossed, you will interpret his actions to be a life
threatening attack; and
4.) If the conditions
are broached, you will react as though a life
threatening attack has occurred.
knife attack loses its effect from a
distance. Here the defender avoids the
thrust, then escapes.
You are waiting at the
bus stop after finishing classes one winter evening.
Sitting in the waiting shelter, you see a figure step
forward from the shadows. You register a 30-ish male
figure closing quickly toward you. Recalling the rules
for engagement, you immediately call out, "Stop -- What
do you want?" Your voice is louder than normal,
intentionally so, hoping to draw the attention of other
passers-by to the situation. The stranger sheepishly
slows his forward movement, smiles, then apologizes,
saying, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you ..."
Your past training makes you see he is continuing to
close the gap. He chatters casually to distract your
attention from that fact. You exclaim, "Stay where you
are, damn it! You're threatening me, I won't tell you a
You have drawn the line.
Only a committed attacker would cross at this point.
Whether he is a committed attacker or simply reckless,
your only option if he continues forward is to act as
though an attack is in progress.
He responds, "Look, I
didn't mean to upset you. I lost my wallet, and I need
bus money. If you can help me out, I'd appreciate it."
The request for
assistance may be reasonable, but on today's ravaged
streets, you're taking a chance if you simply assume it
is. If, for reasons of your own, you chose to give him
the money, hold it out or set it down, then step away
without letting him close distance on you. If
youíre unable to help, the preferred response would be,
"I'm sorry, Iím unable to help." If he comes close, you
might add, " I have no further words for you, except if
you come any closer, I will consider it a threat on my
person, and act accordingly."
like the staff are designed to
bridge self defense
distance. Failure to adjust
for this will result in certain
injury. Note how defender
has adjusted his distancing
allowing for simple but effective
response to the incoming attack.
Keep in mind the attacker
is working his line, and look at what has already taken
place. Most predators are working within a two minute
script. They know all the answers for approximately two
minutes. In this instance, you have removed the attacker
from his habitual script, and the transaction is
becoming too complex for him to continue. Most likely,
he will disengage, preferring to select a more pliable
target. If he elects to continue, he will have forfeited
his main advantage, surprise. You have set your line in
the sand, and as his attack crosses over, you are free
to do whatever you chose to reasonably protect
yourself. Always bear in mind, that a jury,
detached from the actual situation, might have a
differing opinion in the aftermath.
It is here that the
theory of proper distancing yields its promised
dividend. Protecting your distance ensures you
consciously prevent the attacker from entering your
vulnerable defense zone without first drawing your firm
warning. If he attacks, you act. No hesitation, no self
doubts. Having forced the attacker to launch from the
extended position, your entire focus will be on
impacting effectively to the available target areas with
strikes that will do nothing less than save your life