Friday, February 21, 2014

Succeeding by Assessing Through An Assortment of Strategic Factors (The Example is from the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" Movie) Part 1

“These are the ways that successful strategists are victorious. They cannot be spoken or transmitted in advance. ... Before the confrontation, they resolve in their conference room that they will be victorious, have determined that the majority of factors are in their favor. Before the confrontation they resolve in their conference room that they will not be victorious, have determined a few factors are in their favor.

If those who find that the majority of factors favor them, will be victorious while those who have found few factors favor them will be defeated, what about someone who finds no factors in their favor?

When observing from this viewpoint, victory and defeat will be apparent.”

- Art of War 1 (Paraphrased from the Sawyer's translation)

The first chapter in Sawyer's translation of the Art of War, aptly titled “Initial Estimations,” which outlines five critical factors for assessment, initiated the thrust to undertake warfare on a calculated basis so closely associated with traditional Chinese military science. (The Art of War actually contains some forty or so paired criteria for evaluation purposes.)

Following is a general listing of strategic factors for this "specific" field tactical situation:
  • The Configuration of the Terrain: The specific qualities of a terrain that could affect the remaining five strategic factors;
  • Generalship (or Leadership)- Possessing the qualities to see the configuration of Big Tangible Picture while maintaining one's principles before capitalizing the opportunities and having the attentiveness to adjust and persist;
  • Tactical Experience- Mastering a diversity of practical tactics that efficiently utilize the resources and the technology and having the comprehension that connects their approach, the executable of the means and the modes that support the means; 
  • Resources- Possessing the access to quality resources;  
  • Technology- Possessing the technology that offers a tactical equilibrium advantage; and   
  • Strategy- Understanding the specifics of the current goal, the approach, the contingency plans, and the tactical options while having a direction once a tactical scenario is over.
The above video displayed two female fighters who are in positioned in a confrontation situation. Fighter A is dressed in white and Fighter B is dressed in beige.   (It is from Ang Lee's 2001's martial art fantasy movie "Crouching Tiger. Hidden Dragon.")

Profile of Fighter A
  • Specializing the application of a double-edged bladed implement (jian).
  • Possessing less tactical experience in properly utilizing the double edged sword 
  • Possessing minimum emotional control
  • Possessing a lighter double-edged sword that is ultra sharp (superior technology)
Profile of Fighter B
  • Possessing an abundance of tactical experience and a wide array of combat tactics  while utilizing an assortment of average weaponry (quality technology). 
  • Possessing strong emotional control
  • Preferring the sabre (dao).  
  • in this video, Fighter B had the advantage to the various specific weapons that were positioned in the room.
In some situations, the choice of weapon represents the mindset of the implementer. The tactical approach of Fighter A is based on cut-parrying movements while Fighter B favored to chop and slice.

While watching the video, you see a sequence of six different rounds of quick clashes.
  • the straight sword vs. the single saber (During this round, the single sabre is separated into a pair of double sabers)
  • the straight sword vs. the spear
  • the straight sword vs. a pair of hooked swords
  • the straight sword vs. the monk spade
  • the straight sword vs. the Gan (an unsharpen metal club-like sword)
  • the straight sword vs. an two handed long straight sword
The Battle
For the first three rounds, Fighter A with average skill, possessed the "ultra sharp" implement (superior technology), that destroyed all three weapons of her opponent. Fighter B had the advantage in tactical experience, but used the wrong tactical approach of hacking and trapping against the sharper sword. 

Fighter B did not have the physical foundation to use the Monk Spade in the fourth round.

While being slowly worn down by Fighter B with a "Gan" (club-like sword)Fighter A was able to cut through it.

In the last round, Fighter B finally secured the advantageous gain by combining her usage of a long two-handled sword, the vantage of "spatial distance" and the "swing, slide and tap/slice" trap tactic to secure the advantageous gain of shortening the distance and pinning the endpoint of the broken blade to the throat of Fighter A.

Assessing the Process of The Battle
Regarding to the above movie clip, certain factors were balanced out.  The battle was about Fighter A who had basic tactical experience and better technology (double edge sword) vs. Fighter B who possessed a high level of experience and a wide array of average technology . 

The fighter with the superior technology would prevail by following the two strategic steps:
  • Surprising the opponent with the new advantage; and 
  • Pursuing and pressing the opponent relentlessly before any strategic recovery occurs.
The person with the wider tactical experience become victorious by following the three pointers:
  • Influencing the opponent to play defense;
  • Refraining from clashing with the opponent's superior technology with a confrontational movement; and 
  • Employing unorthodox tactics (with better maneuvers) to bait the opponent's to mis-utilize their advantage (which could open up their guard).
The "first move advantage" approach and continuous attacking were the keys to prevailing in this distinct situation of uneven advantage.

Comments From The Compass Desk
In a moderately predictable confrontational situation, most field competitors have minimal strategic skills and the time to study their opponent. They ignored the strategic side of the match and utilized their base instinct to persist and survive. ... 

Also, most people do not have the time or the methodical perspective to assess a borrowed instrument and proceed with their basic instinct, their experience with that category of instrument, and presumed that they will prevail before the weapon falters. Sometimes,they get lucky in encountering an unskilled opposition.

Against a stronger opposition who is proficient in misleading the sensorial perception of their counterpart, the result outcome could be quite negative. 

Those who are competing in an intensive competition, should remember the following quote from Questions and Replies between T'ang T'ai-tsung and Li Wei-kung.

"According to Fan Li's book, 'If you're last use yin tactics, if you're first then use yang tactics. When you have exhausted the enemy's yang tactics. When you have exhausted the enemy's tactics. When you have exhausted the enemy measures, then expand your yin to the full and seize them.' This then is the subtle mysteriousness of yin and yang according to the strategists."

This principle has great depth behind its context. One should contemplate quietly and deeply when implementing their daily practice. 

Hint: Save your time.  The answer is not in your copy of the Art of War or the 36 Stratagems  manual.  This type of experience occurs from many years of intense but unique martial arts practice sessions.

Side Notes
Click here for a post on how to assess the quality of a sword. 

We might post a specific example on how the mentioned six strategic factors played a role in how the outcome of Three Kingdom's Red Cliff event was affected. You could read a portion of it by reading Dr. Sawyer's biography of Zhuge Liang.

If one is interested in learn more about the world of martial arts, please visit Cook Ding's Kitchen.  It is a great place for newbies like us to visit and learn.

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