I remember turning around, only to hear my coach shouting ferociously at me: “Sean, where the hell is your preparation?”
The year was 2010, and there I was at my very first fencing competition — fighting for my life.
Not only did I not understand what I was doing, I did not even understand what my coach was shouting at me.
“Look, Sean. Your opponent is doing a much better job at preparation than you. You need to move more!” my coach bellowed.
Still overwhelmed with nervousness, adrenaline and confusion, I only heard the words “move more“.
Being young and gifted with seemingly boundless stamina, I believe I doubled or even tripled my rate of movement and somehow, someway, I won the bout.
I thought I had won because I had “moved more” according to my coach’s instruction, but it was only a few years later did I realize that the keyword that I missed completely was: Preparation.
It was only after I had graduated from University, a few years later, did I realize what preparation truly meant.
Actually, I did notice other fencers using that word all the time but I always overlooked it.
In fact, I think I underestimated it.
Initially, I thought preparation was just a simple and small advancing step that fencers made before conducting their actual attack.
How wrong was I!
It took me years of wins, losses and accumulated experience to realize that practically EVERYTHING about the Interaction rests upon how well we execute our Preparation.
Just like in badminton, amateurs are always eager to go for that big smash, but professionals know that as powerful as smashes are, they are not the Difference Makers.
Because at the professional level, everybody can go for that big smash, and everybody can defend against the big smash. In other words, both professionals will cancel each other’s smashes out in the long run.
They know that the Difference lies in “who makes the error first“, which is why the SET UP at the net (typically a tumbler or a tight spinning net shot) is always the real killer, not the eventual big smash.
That is merely the last nail in the coffin.
How can we relate this to martial arts?
Well, everybody knows how to inject speed and power on to a given technique. It could be a hay-maker, a jab to the eyes or a kick to the groin.
However, the hardware does not justify the method.
It is really irresponsible to teach or say “in a self-defense situation, just jab the eyes or kick the groin!”
Easier said than done.
Timing, accuracy, technical structure and experience all play a role in scoring hits effectively.
When all else are evenly matched between two exponents, the difference lies in who executes the better set up — better preparation!
As Jeet Kune Do practitioners, we want to integrate Optimal Preparation into our stance, movement, footwork and set-up. All the work that goes into fighting, even before the fighting begins!
What exactly is preparation?
For the Jeet Kune Do man,
Preparation is any movement that renews one’s cycle of readiness ahead of his opponent and therefore begin his strike at an optimally strategic position.
This is no guarantee that the hit will land, but it does optimize our chances of doing so.
The science of JKD is all about optimizing our chances, through the laws of Physics.
Preparation is not a passive process.
There are several variations:
Preparation with Threat
How do we go on the offensive and trigger a reaction from the opponent — and successfully intercept that reaction?
With this method, the higher the degree of our “threat”, the more invested our opponent’s reaction will be.
And the more committed our opponent is, the bigger his void will be.
Preparation “without Threat”
This is more of a stealth-based approach where we don’t really want the opponent to see us coming.
Here, we hide or steal steps.
What does the opponent not see? What does the opponent not know? What does the opponent not realize?
We want to be sharp at picking up such things and punish the opponent for his lack of awareness in time to come.
Preparation by Drawing
This is more of a counter-attack approach where we bait the opponent to do certain things and ambush them where they do not expect.
Typically, we want to tempt the opponent with realistic openings or mistakes on our part.
The instant they fall into our trap, we go for the kill!
Attack on Preparation
To attack the opponent as he is doing his preparation, thinking that he can get away with it.
This is best done when the opponent has sloppy footwork, follows up with your movement without really thinking, or simply makes a careless mistake.
We will land our strike even before he can land his preparation step.
There are many subtle variables that goes into gaming our opponent with our preparation, and we are not even talking about the actual strike yet!
Consider the following “unseen” elements that are really hard to detect, but tend to be deceived by:
- Attacking with broken rhythm
- Attacking by tricking the opponent through an unexpected change in direction
- Attacking by tricking the opponent through an unexpected change in tempo
- Hiding our steps
- Using stillness to our advantage
Attack the Future; not predict it!
Ultimately, we are not doing preparation in order to do preparation. We are doing this to set up and go for the attack (or counter attack).
Notice that I did not say defend, because the JKD Man never loses the Initiative.
Even when we “move back”, we are still “on the attack” and never reactive.
We cannot predict the future — nobody can — but we can, however, create advantageous scenarios for ourselves.
Isn’t that what we want?
If we do not expect our opponent to give that to us easily, all the more we must have the proactive mindset of “setting them up” for Interception.
Until next time,