The Martial strategy of Sun Tzu…Waging War Part II….

The Martial strategy of Sun Tzu…Waging War Part II….

Go on Youtube and watch any MMA or Boxing matchWatch the fighter’s closely, they will stand in some sort of fighting stance at a distance and one will throw a punch or two and then step back into their fighting stance.  Then the other one throws a punch or a kick or maybe even tries to shoot on the other guy but then they go back to their fighting stance and wait for their next opportunity.  They are effectively taking turns and in a fairly orderly fashion. Now do a search on some real street fights.   What do you notice that is different.  Most of the time there is no squaring off like the MMA fighters did and very quickly someone attacks mercilessly and keeps attacking until the other one is on the ground and in a bad way.  There isn’t any beautiful technique or skillful combinations it is just pure adrenaline filled chaos!


I am not knocking MMA or boxing at all, they are sports and that is what you are essentially supposed to do or at least that is what is expected.  Here in lies the problem.  Remember when I said that the old saying is “You will fight the way you train”?  Well that is exactly why the skills you learn do not really cross over from sport to self-defense.  You are training for a completely different situation.   The same goes for some traditional Martial arts schools that do not train in a realistic way.  Yes a punch is a punch but if you’re whole training philosophy does not prepare you for real life situations you may never get to throw that punch.  If your training is sport oriented and there are many rules for what you can or cannot do it does not prepare you at all for the chaotic fighter who does not abide by any rules.  If you train in traditional Martial arts and it consists of one, two, and three step sparing where the attacker punches and then holds their arm out while you do your three counter attacks you will not be prepared for a fighter that does not attack in a set way.  What do you do when you get attacked on the street and you go to throw that high kick to his head, as you have practiced in sparing a hundred times, and the attacker punches you straight in your exposed groin? You didn’t expect that did you?  Funny that doesn’t happen to Van Damme! The idea is that you develop habits based on the type of training you do.  If you spar in Sport Karate tournaments and they are not allowed to punch in the face you will stop worrying about protecting your face.  That will have obvious consequences when you face off with someone that had never followed any rules.

What is even worse is that often Sport, or the traditional type of martial arts I have mentioned, may give you an exaggerated view of the skills and abilities you have.  A kind of invincible feeling.  You may see someone, in a bar for example, that is threatening looking and then you feel you want to channel your Jean-Claude Van Damme!  Next thing you know he is on top of you bouncing your head off the concrete.  Even though you know how to punch, kick, and maybe even wrestle your training did not prepare you for the chaotic attack of your opponent.  Now you have paid the price.

This is why Sun Tzu says that you cannot afford a protracted battle.  Real fights are chaotic and are usually over very quickly.  There is also much more adrenalin and you will tire much more quickly than when you spar in a friendly controlled environment.


“Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

There is no instance of a country having benefitted from prolonged warfare.”

Sun Tzu


In self-defense situations you must try to end the conflict as soon as possible.  This means that there is no taking turns like when you are sparing for sport.  When you give your attacker his turn he may end the fight. Another problem of sparing with a lot of padding on is people start to do what in Kali is called trading.  It is when someone takes a hit to give a hit.  Since you have all the padding on you can take a significant strike without much effect. So as you go in it is ok to be hit as long as you can hit them in the process. Kali teaches us to never do that.  Since Kali is a knife based martial art if you take a hit to give one and the opponents strike is with a knife you may find yourself dead before you get your turn!  The other thing that sparing generally never prepares you for is multiple attackers.  This is the “chieftains” that Sun Tzu mentions in the quote above.  If you let the fight go on to long and are exhausted how will you handle it if another attacker joins in.  When you attack it must be a rapid succession of techniques aimed at stopping the opponent quickly.


If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him.

Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.”

Sun Tzu


I am of very average height and do not look like a Bruce Lee type at all.  If you are like this it may work out to be an asset.  I do not look threatening in the least.  So since the attacker knows nothing about me or of my skill he may get over confident and sloppy.  This is my opportunity and may turn out to be a big surprise for him. So if you begin to feel threatened don’t jump straight into your favorite fighting stance and give away the fact that you may actually know how to fight.  Put your hands out in front of you with your palms facing the attacker in an nonthreatening way.  You can quickly respond to the attack from this position without giving any of your ability away.  Surprise can work against an over confident attack as much as it can against you if you are not expecting the attack.  If you surprise him with a well-coordinated series of attacks you may totally surprise and overwhelm him.  Once started do not let up until he is not a threat anymore, give him no rest.


“If his forces are united separate them.

Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

These military devices must not be divulged beforehand.”

Sun Tzu


If you sense that your attacker has some fighting skill you must use feints and combinations to surprise and overwhelm him.  When he is overwhelmed his forces are separated.  By using combinations and feints you fool your opponent and appear to be attacking one place when you actually intend to attack somewhere else.  The combinations must include a variety of different attacks at different levels (High, mid, low) and angles.


“If he is secure on all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.

Sun Tzu


In self-defense situations you must have your ego in check and put your Van Damme in your back pocket!  You have to know your real abilities and what you are capable of.  If you know that you are outnumbered or outmatched you should look for a way out.  If you know that you have little chance of defeating the attacker and you have time to decided what to do don’t fight if you can avoid it.  Most importantly is awareness.  Do not put yourself in a place or situation where you may be threatened in the first place.


“Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger, that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.

Captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept.”



This brings up two very important and almost opposite points.  Every state and country has very different self-defense laws.  You need to do some research and find out what the laws are in your area are.  In some places you do not need much of a reason to use lethal force other than you feel your life is threatened.  In other places the attacker can have a gun pointed at your head and the crazy courts idea is that you still shouldn’t use lethal force because he hasn’t pulled the trigger yet!!  This may be a bit of an exaggeration but not by much.  The point here is that you need to understand the laws of the land or you may find that the attacker gets off scott free and you end up in jail!  The other side of this is a totally different thought process.  It is a very odd thing on the surface of it but often when people are attacked they cannot retaliate effectively because they have a sub-conscious sympathy for the attacker.  This can cause you to freeze at a critical moment which can cost you your life.  Again the more realistic your training is the more likely you will be able to respond effectively.  In the first line of SunTzu’s statement you have to be roused to anger in a sense so that you can do what you need to do without hesitation and overcome any sympathy you may have for your attacker.  Remember you probably do not know his intent. Your reward may be your life.  In the second line he makes another valid point.  I think that it is a very good idea that your response to the attack is only taken as far as it needs to be to stop the attacker.  In other words you have to judge as hard as it may be the level of threat and respond accordingly.  In most courts if they feel that you used unnecessary force you may find yourself in trouble.

6 thoughts on “The Martial strategy of Sun Tzu…Waging War Part II….

    1. Thanks! So many people take up Martial Arts as a means of self-defense but then practice in a way that is not effective to defend themselves. The problem is they usually do not realize this until they have to use what they have learned.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed. I recommend Sgt. Rory Millers Meditations on Violence. His book opened up a whole new perspective on martial arts and their effectiveness against ardent criminals. Violence is tricky. It is difficult to develop a good training regiment to address it. But one certain benefit to any one caught up in a violent situation is goid physical fitness. Beyond that, all becomes vague guesswork.


      2. I think it is difficult for most to be the good, peaceful and caring people they like to be and then at the same time be able to release the violence that may be needed in a self-defense situation. Thanks for the book tip!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes. One must come to terms with those values that conflict with necessity. Sometimes violence is warranted (to save a child from a killer for example). I am of the opinion that our animal instincts can serve a higher nature if we learn to balance the mind with the body. I am by no means expert at this, but am sure the idea is more than a theoretical notion. I enjoy Buddhism very much (Vajrayana primarily due to its relation with ninjutsu) and thank you for your posts on that subject as well. Take care.


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