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Dealing With Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Violence

The purpose and methodology preserved in our To-Shin Do kata were not created to address mutually consented fighting, where we agree to fight another martial artist until one of us quits. Our practice methods address handling non-consensual violence. That means self-protection, or stoping harm when attacked with criminal violence.

The purpose determines the strategies used to achieve the goal. The strategies dictate the tactics. The tactics determine the choice of techniques. “Winning a fight I agreed to take part in” is not the same as “eliminating harm from invasive criminal violence”. You can’t take the strategies, tactics, and techniques used to achieve one goal and put them into action to achieve a different goal.

This is not a value judgement of one over the other. It is instead a decision as to what is appropriate and relevant for a specific objective. Change the goal, and your ways of reaching that goal have to change too.

In our To-Shin Do training, we have to recognize why our kata is not appropriate for consensual fighting. It is designed for non-consensual violence. Our techniques were developed by intelligence gatherers who hoped to never have their cover blown, requiring them to fight another in a prolonged battle. If an enemy did discover that they were there on nefarious purposes and attempted to restrain them, they needed methods to counter the enemy’s technique quickly and make an effective escape.

We must understand the huge differences between consensual fighting and non-consensual violence. Consensual fighting is usually face-to-face, with the goal of overcoming another who, like us, is probably going to use in-and-out attack-and-withdraw techniques. For consensual fighting, there is no need to study attacks from the rear, grab immobilization manhandling, chokes, eye and throat attacks, and limb damaging responses. These are all methods inappropriate for a symmetrical match where there are two trying to singularly emerge victorious. In a surprise assault, however, asymmetrical attacks from unsuspected angles, surprise initiation, rough manhandling, more than one assailant, and a continuous barrage of strikes and immobilizations require a different form of response from the victim. There is clearly an attacker and a defender.

This is a vital difference we need to grasp if we are to understand the methods handed down through traditional kata in To-Shin Do training. Our goal is to use our training to develop specialized skills of evading and then entering our strikes and takedowns where the attacker is momentarily off-center and out of balance. In that way, we use timing, leverage, and simplicity in place of the conventional fighter’s speed, strength, and complexity.

One Response to Dealing With Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Violence

  1. Ron August 6, 2023 at 10:09 pm #

    Excellent article. Purpose dictates approach.

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