Yin and yang fighting

Yin and yang fighting

Calm Prevails Over Fury

In making a Judo throw in contest, the Narrow school used to give this advice:

Have only one idea—to cast yourself completely into the throw. Have no doubts about whether it will succeed or not. Simply give a loud shout and throw your whole body into it. If you allow yourself to have even the smallest doubt about the throw, or even a thought about anything else, your movement will become hesitant. You have to be one-pointed, completely one-pointed. The throw must be the whole world, and you feel you are throwing the whole world’.

I saw this demonstrated by Judo men of 4th and 5th dan, and I practised with some of them. The first months of this sort of practice at the Kodokan and other dojo training halls in 1939 gave me experience of how effective the Narrow Budo can be. I mentally associate it with the picture of a scowling samurai giving a loud yell as he rushes forward. I saw it—and still see it today—in innumerable chambara (sword fight) films and strip cartoons.

The same sort of thing appeared in fields outside Budo. I saw and heard orators who just shouted the same thing again and again with total conviction. It was something which they believed with their whole heart. They would not permit any analysis or discussion of it. In an argument, they repeated their point of view with increasing noise each time. Their attitude would become threatening and could often overcome opposition by shouting.

But I was interested in the comment in the Budo texts about the yang fighter: ‘his heart is agitated and he is weak’. At first, this seemed untrue. So often the furious fighter does overawe the opponent and wins. But I noticed cases where the opponent is not overawed by the ferocious expression and furious attack of a yang fighter. In those cases, the calm man could often win decisively.

I learnt from my elder brother that there is something like this in boxing, though of course they do not have words like yin and yang. He was an expert amateur boxer. He was so good when he was young that he even had an offer from a boxing promoter, who promised him a good career in boxing. In fact, he became a successful aircraft engineer. In his youth the job took him to some rough areas of London, and occasionally he got into fights.  A few times, he told me, it had been quite dangerous; a local bully did not like the young chap from London. Once my brother did get quite badly injured. He remarked to me that a boxer does not have much real advantage outside the ring, among tables and chairs, without boxing gloves.

He said:  Your Judo would be much better, I suppose. In a real fight, I can’t do much if he manages to get into a clinch. I have to knock the spirit out of him with one punch at the very beginning. But if I hit him on the jaw, that may damage my hand too. And it’s not easy to knock him out with a solar plexus punch, unless he’s got his hands up. An experienced fighter does not come forward with hands high. And perhaps he recognizes a boxer; something about my stance probably. So he does not try to hit at all; he tries to get close and smother my arms by holding. That’s his strategy.  But I’ve got my own strategy, which always works. As he comes forward cautiously, I spit in his face. Then he goes mad and runs at me with his fists up to smash my face—it’s a basic instinct. And he runs right on to my fist’.

When I heard this, I thought of the yin and yang. My brother’s method—not very refined, I admit—turned a cool calculating opponent into a furious demon. The opponent’s surface yin was turned into yang, with a disastrous result for him.  

British people have our yang fighters—the football hooligans, for instance—but in general it is the yin fighter who is admired.

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