As I teach, I try to ensure that I pass along the benefits for each style, and the ways that they lack. Just as with the stances themselves, there are pros and cons to each position one can find oneself in. I am continuing to break down my analysis of stances by aggression, stability, defensiveness, and evasiveness. It is necessary to drive the whole foot into the ground for stability, just as it is necessary to raise one’s weight onto the balls of one’s feet to keep evasive. This means that while longbow and horse stance have great stability it requires more effort to evade a blow, just as a cat stance has the inverse cost benefit balance.
I have recently learned the phrase “principle based learner.” I find that it applies to me. I occasionally tune out all the steps of a recipe or chess sequence, but I can remember to put the dry ingredients together and the concept of forking an enemy and having multiple lines of attack. In the same way I enjoy breaking down the principles of fighting to guide my students toward a discovery of their own way, supported by our training. I find that some of these phrases are different between myself and a fellow instructor, but the concepts remain the same. A great example of this is a base of support and back-up mass or a marriage of gravity.
These concepts can be used to encourage students to put their weight behind a downward strike. One “marries” one’s body with gravity with a downward elbow or a hammer fist, thereby putting one’s back-up mass behind the strike and making it more powerful. This also sinks into a strong base of support, as you use your legs with your elbow to add power via mass. Other principles beyond others mentioned so far that I teach include anchor, smother, structure, hook, post, rotation, angle of incidence, target, flow, and lever. These principles lead to a greater understanding of how to use one’s body to properly submit with a knee bar or arm bar, or how to put the proper power into a strike while keeping the structure of a guard.
In the same way one must teach basic principles of how to examine conflict. I find it is a greater hallmark of the discipline of a martial artist to respond with the exact amount of pressure necessary to overcome an obstacle, as opposed to overwhelming and breaking your nephew at a family event because play time got a little rough. This can be broken down a few ways. Some that I use include those developed by Sgt Rory Miller in his book Meditations of Violence. They include Terrain, Relationship, Intent, Opportunity, Movement.
Terrain is about the environment one finds oneself in. In a public place, the opponent may be less likely to engage in lethal force. However, the monkey dance of ego plays a substantially larger role in the intent behind the act. The terrain also can dictate what sort of movement will work. In a narrow alleyway there is a limit to what sort of techniques may be effective. If you are aware of them, that provides you with an opportunity to get distance and time before engaging in conflict. Often, an assailant is more interested in a surprise attack, which means building your awareness is an important part of training. Obviously, your relationship with the person changes what can be done. In war with enemy combatants, you can use different techniques than you can against a spouse.