'Karate Essence' A Personal Perspective of Sen in Action
A Personal Perspective of Sen in Action
Rather than completely missing this month’s Blog, I am posting a short anecdote, a memoir from my time as a ‘close personal protection operative’ (Bodyguard).
If at any point you face off and agree to fight someone, whether you call it sport or not, that is not self-defence; that is fighting. When you ‘fight’ someone you have entered into a tacit agreement and there is no assault.
When I was a boy and a young man, growing up in the coalmining communities of Scotland and England, fighting was pretty much a given way to settle differences. However it began, you usually knew the form it would take and that would generally be a clean fight: ‘fisticuffs’ or ‘a square go’, with ‘Marquis of Queensberry’ type rules; or ‘a dirty fight’, where almost anything goes.
Defending yourself against an attacker is not fighting. If someone attacks you when you have not agreed to fight, and you defend yourself that is not a fight; that is self-defence. In a self-defence situation there are no rules; you do whatever it takes to come out of the confrontation as quickly, and with as little damage to yourself, as possible.
In a self-defence situation, behaving according to proper etiquette, you have:
1. Given the adversary no reason to attack you.
2. Attempted to resolve the impending confrontation by all means possible.
3. Attempted to remove yourself from the location. Unless of course you are defending someone, either because you are employed to do so or you have chosen to do so for some other, altruistic reason.
Whilst working in high risk security, physically and philosophically leading the life of a Budōka, and cleaving to the principles of Sen in combat, usually delivered me relatively whole on the other side of many adverse situations. The following is a short example of a fairly typical anecdote from that period.
Sen and the Bully
“Wait!... Can’t we talk about this?” I said, stepping between the assailant and my client. His immediate response was to throw a right hook. Executing a left age-uke – while using tai-sabaki to close distance and slip inside his hook – intercepting the punch and, continuing the momentum, snaking around his neck, I locked-on a headlock. Sen no sen: taking the initiative, intercepting an attack while simultaneously counter attacking.
Struggling briefly, he attempted to grab my privates; I was wearing a groin guard. I inserted my right thumb into his eye socket and he began to scream. Go no sen: block/evade and counterattack.
After soliciting an apology and a promise to behave civilly, I released him. However, as he became aware of the growing crowd of observers, he transformed… from terrified, to embarrassed, and finally he was almost snarling with indignant anger.
Plainly… he was about to attack. Pre-empting his obvious next move… ‘Smack!!!’ I whipped out an uraken (back-fist) that split his mouth and snapped his head back. He never even saw it coming. Sen sen no sen: pre-empting and taking the initiative before the attack is launched.
Putting his hand to his mouth and looking at the blood, he said, “What was that for?!”
“You know very well…” I said simply.
Even angrier now, he was clearly formulating another attack plan… I hit him again, harder this time, targeting his ear, and he staggered, knees wobbling…
“Stop hitting me!” he cried, frustrated and embarrassed.
“Give it up and go home then!”
Suddenly, breaking away, he ran to his vehicle… returning a moment later brandishing a large pair of shearing scissors.
Earlier, my client had said, “He is a big guy, has obviously done some boxing and is a southpaw; and I wouldn’t put it past him to be carrying a knife or something.”
“Thanks for the heads up; forewarned is forearmed…” I replied, “Most people are inclined, initially, to show the weapon off for effect. If he does that, I’ll take it from him and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine!”
I was calm, relaxed in my Zanshin, trusting that my Fudoshin would produce the appropriate Sen response… when my client spoke up from behind me. “Take them off him, Thomas, and stick them where the sun doesn’t shine!”
Suddenly unsure, my adversary looked me in the eye… and I smiled. He ran to his car and drove quickly away.
To understand the Principles of Sen that best suit you, you must first understand your own nature. However, lest you become predictable in combat, you should train in all aspects of Sen; your Fudoshin will thank you by reacting appropriately.