Fighting exists in extremes, and the advantage will be with the enantiodromeic fighter


Enantiodromia is a term referring to the conversion of one extreme into the other. In this eskirmological case, it refers to the ability to utilise one extreme against the other. In other words, it is the ability to give way to force, drive against weakness, to strike against wrestlers and to wrestle against strikers.


Constancy refers to the fact that if we consider all things to be composed of extremes (based upon a relative “Mean”) then constancy is the name for both extremes within the same scale. Equivalence refers to an interchange of extremes, where in one change there will be an equal and opposite change into the other. In other words, if our hypothetical scale is composed of 1 – 100, then for every ten we take on one side, we take ten from the other side. So any perspective will be a ratio between the highest and lowest extremes.


The 14th century German eskirmologist named Johannes Lichtnawer was perhaps one of the first to identify the use of both strategies as part of the same concept.  The words “Before, after, weakness, strength” aptly demonstrate both sides of the polarity in fighting. He dictates that one should use weakness to overcome, or superior strength to dominate. He continues:


“Weak against strong, hard against soft and vice versa. Because when it is strength against strength, so the stronger is always successful. That is why Lichtnawer’s fighting is a true and scientific art that the weaker wins more easily by use of his art and skill than the stronger with its strength as it is with other [martial] arts.”


In Wing Chun, the principle of “If we meet superior force, give way”, is one of the fundamental concepts of the artform. This system dictates that strength should be utilised, but when opposed to greater strength, one should yield. This is seen in Lichtnawer’s precept of “Strike, and hard too; Rush (Prevent), Meet (Adhere), or Yield (Give way). In the Bubishi, Goju-ryu’s bible of unarmed combat, it records a similar truth;


“Understanding the physical and metaphysical precepts of hard & soft (gangrou in Mandarin, goju in Japanese) one must learn that it is the even balance between the two that enables one to overcome the greatest adversary of all; oneself. Hardness represents both the material force of the human body and one’s fierceness. Softness represents the gentleness of one’s character and the resiliency to yield in the face of adversity….” (McCarthy, 1995, 64)


“One must counter force with pliability, and vice versa….Be pliable when met by force…but use force to overcome the opposite.” (ibid, 161)


This “rule of polarity” as it is known in the Bubishi appears everywhere. It is no surprise therefore that this ingenious concept is also seen in the intelligent battlefield tactics of Schwendt (1550), when he stated that “Knowledge and experience have always shown us that the stronger, more cunning individual is far superior to the weaker and more honest. This is why good sense and nature teaches us to give way slightly to those more powerful, which is something we may also witness in dumb animals…therefore it is wiser in such situations to give way a little, rather than stubbornly resist and meet certain ruin”.

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