Carl von Clausewitz was a Prussian general and military theorist, who’s book On War has become a seminal work in military strategy. In the following article I share some personal reflections how his work has influenced my understanding of sparring.
“But everything takes a different shape when we pass from abstractions to reality. In the former, everything must be subject to optimism, and we must imagine the one side as well as the other striving after perfection and even attaining it. Will this ever take place in reality?” ― Carl von Clausewitz, On War: All Volumes
Okay, I am a little bit of a geek (at times). I am a sucker for sci-fi movies like Star Wars. When you look deeper at some of the characters in the movie series, no one offers more ‘life’ lessons than Yoda, a wise old sage, part warrior, part scholar. I have used the ‘Sayings of Yoda’ to great success, especially explaining the ‘mental game’ to my kids, but I have equally used them to teach the ‘inner game’ of sparring to my students. As I often suggest to them, “If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are … a different game you should play” and often this means check what’s happening on the inside.
Outside of being a noted swordsman, what always intrigued me about Miyamoto Musashi, was his understanding and use of the mental game. He had an uncanny way of recognising his opponents mental weaknesses and using it against them. I have had a lot of success applying Musashi’s strategies to sparring. In many instances, I was already doing them, but to see that they were already tried and tested by someone like Musashi — is a testament to the perennial nature of the strategy of battle (be that in a ring, or on a battlefield). While at times he talks about, what on the face of it seems simply about ‘physical’ strategy — all physical strategy has an effect on the mental state of an opponent. In other words, mind and body are inextricably linked, disturb one, and you disturb the other.
The qualities of your movement are a manifestation of how your thinking mind expresses itself through your body at that moment. Your body moves as your thinking mind moves.