The cheetah and the gazelle have something in common.
To survive, they each must run faster than the nearest gazelle.
The cheetah is the fastest land animal, and since it is a cat, it is carnivorous and must hunt and kill to survive. In the area of the world where the cheetah lives, there are many gazelles, so gazelles are a common prey of cheetahs. Even though gazelles are also very fast runners, they are not as fast as cheetahs, especially in a straight line, and yet, many times, they easily escape the cheetahs.
Gazelles escape by avoiding the cheetah. Cheetahs know they can run faster than any other animal, so that is all they do. They have not learned to anticipate the movements of their prey; they just charge after it at full speed, expecting to catch it. On the other hand, gazelles have learned that the cheetah’s primarily hunting asset is its speed, so they have learned to avoid the cheetah’s speed by making sharp, abrupt turns. The cheetah is very fast—for a short distance—then it tires very quickly. To avoid death by a cheetah, all a gazelle must do is avoid capture for a few tens of yards until the cheetah is exhausted. It is entirely possible for a gazelle to keep avoiding a cheetah until the cheetah is so exhausted that it is helpless; then the gazelle could attack and kill the cheetah.
Since the cheetah is most dangerous when running in a straight line, the gazelle quickly zigs and zags, and then suddenly makes a sharp turn away from the line of attack. Since the cheetah is moving so fast, it must slow before it can make the turn, which means it must continue in a straight line for a few yards before it may turn. This takes time, so the gazelle adds more distance between itself and the cheetah. Now the cheetah must again build up speed and try to catch up to the gazelle. It only takes a couple of these avoidance maneuvers before the cheetah will tire and must stop and rest, which allows the gazelle to safely escape. If the gazelle is caught by the cheetah, it has very little defensive capabilities, so it is quickly killed and eaten.
To capture the gazelle, the cheetah must catch it before it can make its sharp turn. Since the cheetah is has not learned to anticipate the gazelle’s turns, many gazelles escape. Usually only the very young, very old, or infirm gazelles are caught.
Most martial arts styles are similar to either the cheetah or the gazelle; they either concentrate on the attack or on the escape. Some styles concentrate on the power and speed needed to overcome an opponent, such as Taekwondo does, while other styles concentrate on cunning and agility to avoid an opponent, such as Aikido does. Similar to the cheetah and the gazelle, both of these methods, power or avoidance, have their shortcomings. If the power stylist cannot overcome an avoidance opponent quickly, he or she becomes frustrated and tired and not only cannot defeat the opponent, he or she may then become the prey. If the avoidance stylist cannot avoid the power opponent, he or she has little ability to resist the power of the attack and is quickly defeated.
Which style, power or avoidance, is best suited for a person to adopt and study depends upon several factors, body type and personality being major factors. A stocky, powerful boisterous person is not suited for graceful avoidance movements, and a thin, relatively weak quiet person is not suited for forceful, powerful movements.
These shortcomings may be overcome or neutralized by each style, power or avoidance, by adopting some of the characteristics of the other, such as:
- Avoidance stylists should practice using powerful attacks.
- Power stylists should practice anticipating the movements of avoidance opponents so they may lead them and strike where the opponents will be, not where they are.
- Just as with the cheetah and the gazelle, each type of martial art, power or avoidance, has its good points that allow it to be victorious at times. However, to be consistently victorious, a fighting style must adopt some of the characteristics of the competition. This does not mean the cheetah must change its spots or the gazelle must lose its horns, it just means each should adopt some of the tactics of the other.