Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Move less.
If I had one piece of advice for the physical aspects of self-defense, it would be two words.  Move less.

Fighting is like marble sculpture.  It isn't like painting or architecture.  It is like sculpture.  Because moving well has nothing to do with adding things.  It is all about cutting things out.  You make a sculpture out of a slab of marble by taking out all the rock that isn't the form.  Sculpture is removal.

So is the art of good movement.  Absolute efficiency is not having a millimeter of unnecessary motion.  You don't defend if the strike is going to miss by a fraction of an inch.  Your own strikes do not go through any unnecessary distance.  Avoid decelerating to zero except with linear impact.

In sparring, there is a lot you can do with extraneous motion.  You can fake, disguise your telegraphs, change your rhythm.  But when you need to take someone out, for that matter, when you need to do anything quick, no extra motion.

And that's not how we teach it, usually.  The good martial artist can do more stuff than the beginner.  He can do the flashy moves.  The TV martial artists-- Bruce Lee hitting bad guys who just stand there in rapid fire strikes, clearly five times as fast as the bad guys can move.  Congratulations.  Those are the skills you need to beat someone 1/5th your speed-- and, in case you missed it, if you have superspeed you don't need any skill.  The best martial artists move more than the beginners.

And one of the side effects-- if the stakes go up, it becomes even more critical to move less.  A knife coming at your belly has no margin of error.  Bad things require maximum efficiency, not more cool moves.

The best fighters move less.  The best fighter, the best athlete in any speed game, moves less than the second best.  Not more.


zzrzinn said...

Great Post.It's interesting because while I agree, I think that 90% of the martial arts world (even those who sometimes think they aren't) actually believe the opposite. From crazy flurries of 20 punches, to large, lunge-y angles, it seems like the vast majority of people have confused aesthetics with effectiveness.

Neil Bednar said...

"Slow is smooth and smooth is fast" is one of my favorite sayings.

Flinthart said...

Fits neatly with what I've seen from every very old, very serious martial artist I've ever met. It's sobering, watching a man of seventy make a monkey out of a black belt a third of his age. And if you find yourself sobered, then it's good to watch carefully: which is where I noticed that the old bastards mostly just seemed to stand still.

BTW: I'd love to disagree more, and provoke discussion... but frankly, Rory, you have a way of catching and illuminating ideas that I've half-considered in a way that makes me understand them much more effectively. It's hard to disagree.

I'll keep trying.

Rory said...

Flinthart-- If you want to disagree we can always talk politics over a beer.

nry said...

Which is why I like Koryu...none of this airy fairy stuff, short, fast and usually very very sweet!

Nick said...

Just wondering Rory, does this still apply in a multi man situation? We're trying to get the balance between minimal steps/sufficient evasion. Right now we're circling back to fixed step as a training method, like fighting in a phone box. When we have the feel for that, we'll introduce a single step for doing the job of evasion/applying force.

Wayne said...

"Do nothing which is of no use."

Good post Rory.

Garry said...

Hello Rory, I agree more the older I get and the harder I train, when you are burning in the muscles and breathing is hard then you HAVE to go for simple AND move less because there is less move left in you. The hard part is doing this when fresh to the fight.

wim said...

Theres' a line in one of the tai chi classics that goes along the lines of:
"Do not pursue what is far by forsaking what is near.
Though it's primarily a warning on picking the right techniques/tactics/strategy, I always interpreted it as a warning to avoid superfluous movememnt. The trick is of course knowing what exactly is excess and what is essential. :-)

Rory said...

Thanks, guys.
Nick- It's even more important to be efficient when the stakes go up. If four guys go to hit you and you bob, pass trap and strike on one of them, you'll get hit by three of them, maybe three times each before you can complete that move. But a drop step to the gap with an arm wedge takes the same time as just the bob, evades all four strikes and may get you out of the circle. One motion in the right direction for the right goal will usually trump five motions with a fuzzy goal and in the almost right direction.

Garry- It's hard when you're fresh because we like fighting. We want to feel the fun. When the stakes go up or the ability goes down or time compresses, we know what works.

Wim- That saying also works for me on a lot of emotional things. It reminds me to appreciate what I have before I start yearning for more.

Josh Kruschke said...


"A slight angle change and you get two solid effects with a single motion.  (My goal is four with each motion).  As opposed to four motions to get one effect with no finish." – Rory

This is the flipside to this post I think.

Don't do anything you don't absolutly needed to, and when you do, do something get the best bang for your buck.

Fair interpertation?


Josh Kruschke said...

Minimal Effort for Maximum Effect.


Now I'm just playing with mnemonics.