There are two times when you fire a technique at an opponent: when the technique is an attack by you and when the technique is a counterattack in response to an attack by the opponent.
In an attack, you fire at will; you are acting, not reacting. You are the attacker, you are making the first strike. You wait for either an opening to occur that allows you to fire at a target, or you create an opening that allows you to fire at a target.
Wait for an opening
If you wait for a perfect opportunity to fire, chances are it may not come. You should constantly try to control the fight by controlling distance, tempo, direction, speed, etc. Do not be afraid to fire and not receive a score, because, if you do not fire, you certainly will not receive a score.
Create an opening
Control the fight so your opponent is following you. Then guide the opponent into position for your attack.
For example, get your opponent to follow you in a circular motion by moving toward their blind side and then back to the open side. Most defensive fighters will try to follow you. Then take them around to the blind side 90 degrees or better and switch back to the open side while you switch your feet to change the lead. Without warning or even dropping your eyes, fire your lead foot into the mid-section. If you switched quick enough and fired your kick without hesitation, you should catch the opponent trying to catch up to your change in direction.
Most people tend to lead with their upper body on a directional change instead of leading with their feet. They turn their shoulder and, for a split second, they give you an unusually large target in the mid-section because their hips are still facing towards the blind side.
The renowned Danish physicist and Nobel laureate, Niels Bohr, was obsessed with western films and questioned why the cowboy who drew the gun first always lost. His question inspired recent research from the University of Birmingham, where researchers tested for speed differences between self-initiated actions and reactions to those actions by timing the button pushes of subjects.
The results show that reacting to an action produced 10 percent quicker reaction times than the times produced by the subject that initiated the action. In other words, a fighter may counterattack an attack by an opponent quicker than the opponent may complete the initial attack.
However, the reaction may result in greater error than the initial action. In other words, the counterattack may miss its intended target. This is not to say that the counterattack will miss the opponent entirely; it may miss the intended target but still hit another area that will score or do damage.
The authors suggest that different neural pathways may govern these two types of movement, and that the reactive pathway is a bit quicker than the active pathway.
Always fire when being fired upon
- If you block, your counterattack must be immediate. If you hesitate for even a fraction of a second, it will probably fail. If you must block, try not to think about the block; instead, think about the opening that it will create.
- Create an opening by firing at multiple targets (high, middle, and low), and then increasing the power to the target(s) that that is/are most exposed.
- Usually you will catch your opponent trying to block, thus creating an opening.
Watch the eyes
When an opponent is ready to attack, the eyes will open wider and the pupils will dilate. This is illustrated in the move Tombstone. In the final showdown between Johnny Ringo and Doc Holiday, the camera closes in for close-ups of the gunfighter's faces. Just as Ringo decides to draw, his eyes open wide, which Holiday sees and it allows him to draw a split second faster than Ringo so he is able to kill Ringo.
In a counterattack, there are three times available for you to fire a technique. You may fire: before, during, or after your opponent fires.
- Before. As your opponent mentally and physically prepares to attack, you preemptively fire your technique
- During. As your opponent fires at you, you simultaneously fire at the opponent. This may be a mutual slaying (aiuchi), a situation in which you both score. In this case, you try to use body position to minimize the effectiveness of the opponent’s strike while maximizing the effectiveness your strike. You may be able to maneuver so that the opponent’s strike misses you completely.
- After. As your opponent fires at you, you evade, deflect, or intercept the technique, and then fire a counterattack.
- Evade. As the attack comes in, you move to avoid the attack while staying in range for a counterattack.
- Deflect. As the attack comes in, you parry or deflect it away from you and counterattack.
- Intercept. As the attack comes in, you block or jam it and counterattack.