When training for sparring, most students strive to be the strongest and fastest fighter around. However, this level is difficult to maintain at all times, and there is always someone who is stronger and faster, so this strategy is not very effective. Military history shows that battles are often won, not by the biggest or fastest army, but by the commander who has the best strategy. The best strategy is to have multiple strategies to deal with different circumstances. This is what Sun Tzu meant when he wrote "Through the combination of direct and indirect attacks countless strategies are conceived."
The following strategies are part of The Thirty-Six Strategies. These ancient strategies, first published in the Ming dynasty, have long been a part of China's common folklore and are studied by both the military and the political elite.
Use the same feint twice. Having reacted to the first and often the second as well, the enemy will be hesitant to react to a third feint. Therefore, the third feint is the actual attack catching your enemy with his guard down.
Do the unexpected. As the 16th century Japanese sword master Musashi once wrote, "If the enemy expects fire, give him rain." Most combinations attack high-low-high-low or vice versa. Opponents tend to expect this rhythm. Take advantage of this expectation and change the rhythm.
Never directly attack a well entrenched opponent. Instead lure him away from his stronghold and separate him from his source of strength.
When an counter attacker stays well guarded and waits for your attack, you are foolish to attack directly. An opponent always exposes a target when attacking and an observant counter fighter can hit that target before the attacker is within position to do damage. This defensive strategy is difficult to penetrate, so one must entice the opponent into action by showing a obvious weakness in your false attack. Then, when you launch your true attack, you know where the counter attacker is going to strike.
Encourage your enemy to expend his energy in futile quests while you conserve your strength. When he is exhausted and confused, you attack with energy and purpose.
When facing an opponent who is confident and aggressive and who also has lots of energy, the best method is to allow him to exhaust his or her energy, while you conserve your own. Once the opponent has exhausted his or her strength, you may move in quickly for the finish.
When you cannot detect the opponent's plans, you launch a direct, but brief, attack and observe your opponent's reaction. His behavior will reveal his strategy. A seasoned warrior knows this strategy well and will not reveal his true intentions. But the inexperienced, nervous of making a mistake, will over-react to feints and will thus reveal their intentions.
This strategy uses a feint to test the opponent's defenses. Quickly close the distance as though attacking, and then stop just out of range, and watch opponent's reaction. There are only three defensive strategies from which to choose: intercept, jam and block, or evade and counter. The intercept method is favored by the tall fighter with a long reach who may strike before the attacker is close enough to hit the fighter. The jam and block method is favored by the stocky, strong fighter who may stop all incoming attacks. The evade and counter is favored by the fragile, but agile, fighter who jumps away from an attack and then jumps back in to score. Each method has its strengths and its weaknesses. Once you know which strategy your opponent favors, you simply employ its counter.
For the intercept fighter, take away the reach advantage.
When faced with an enemy too powerful to engage directly you must first weaken him by undermining his foundation and attacking his source of power.
Japan's famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi calls this strategy "injuring the corners," and advises that "When you cannot risk coming in close to your opponent because of his strength or reach, then attack what is within your reach." The idea is to attack the attacker's hands, arms, or legs and wear the opponent down through multiple injuries. Use hard blocks that cause enough pain to cause your opponent to reconsider attacks.
For the jam and block fighter, use feints. While blocking feints, he will be left open to attack.
Create an expectation in the enemy's mind through the use of a feint. If you plan to attack on the right flank, maneuver your left. Where the enemy expects you to attack he will reinforce. When he does so half his army or more is thus neutralized defending nothing. Then with your full strength you attack his remaining forces.
Your first move, the feint, is not intended to score. Opening moves are usually easily detected and thus have little chance of scoring. While opponent is reacting to the first attack, the second attack may score.
For the evade and counter fighter, use confusion to slow his reaction.
Before engaging your enemy's forces you create confusion to weaken his perception and judgment. Do something unusual, strange, and unexpected, this will arouse the enemy's suspicion and disrupt his thinking. A distracted enemy is thus more vulnerable.
Use distraction to upset opponent's concentration. Use eye feint or misdirection to draw opponents attention and then attack.