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Connecting with Your Opponent - Philosophy and Self-Defense In Action

One of the most important concepts in the internal arts is "connecting."

From a philosophical perspective, you should be connected to everything in the Universe. Since you are part of the same energy that created everything, you are connected to it all. Seeing yourself as separate is the first step toward being out of harmony.

From a self-defense perspective, you should connect with your opponent. If someone attacks you, he has stepped out of harmony with the Universe. He will either hurt or kill you, or he will be put back into harmony with nature, which can happen if you are skilled at self-defense.

There is an old saying in Tai Chi -- "My opponent moves and I move faster."

This requires you to connect with your opponent and know his intent almost as fast as he does. To illustrate, I've pulled out a couple of photos taken around 2006.

Ken-Gullette-Speed-Drill-1-webOne of the drills we use is fun and effective. In the top photo, I stand with my palms together and hands extended. My partner stands with his hands at his sides. He is not allowed to "fake" me out. His goal is to slap my hands as quickly as possible with one hand or another -- or both if he's really good.

I must connect and get into a relaxed state of readiness. Too tense, and I will not be able to move fast enough. I detach my mind and become my opponent.

Ken-Gullette-Speed-Drill-2-webWhen I read the intent to slap, or see the slightest movement (bottom photo) I respond by moving my hands out of the way. Let your partner try several times, then switch positions.

It's a good drill that pays off in many ways down the road, in push hands, in grappling, and in "mainstream" martial arts sparring. It also pays off as you learn not to telegraph your movements (if you are the person doing the slapping). This is best done by relaxing and not making any movement before your hand tries to slap your partner's hands. Beginners will often pull back slightly before slapping, or they will move their shoulder. The more experienced you are, the less telegraphing you will do.

Connecting with an opponent and reading his energy and intent is a crucial skill. Connecting with the world around you is a skill with benefits far beyond martial arts.

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