by Richard Mann

Damn them! Damn them all! Never ever trust the eyes. They will lie to you every time. Misdirection is a mistress that will lose you the initiative if you let it and cost you the fight.

When you look at an opponent, tori, uke, whomever it might be, one should take in the whole, without preconception or concern for the possibilities. Intent can be an impossibly difficult thing to read from a person, but during my training, I have met people that will take advantage of your attempt to preconceive their intent and lead you down a path that they lay traps within.

This can take the form of your opponent's gaze darting over your shoulder, dropping a sword to one side or the other, a faint, or just an expression of concern during a crucial moment. Think of it, in its most obvious form, as someone shouting "what's that" and pointing over your shoulder before sucker-punching you. This very obvious manifestation is just the bluntest of applications, but with careful training, even the slightest of twitches or hand gestures can be made to create an opening.

The entire thing centres on establishing a connection with your opponent. Creating and then so taking advantage of a connection with uke that allows you to affect them before you even touch them. Glancing over their shoulder the moment before you attack, or leaning left slightly before throwing uke to the right. The response can be entirely involuntary as you prepare to receive a technique that was never going to come.

One individual I knew would take great pleasure in teasing me by standing in front of me, almost nose to nose, before making me topple over without even touching me. All along, he would be moving ever so slightly away from me, so very slightly it was almost unperceivable. During this, I had been leaning in to keep the mai the same without even realising I was doing it... until I found myself losing my balance.

Of course, this was just a demonstration of a principle, but in there was a technique so subtle I doubt I'll ever understand it... Even so, I never look my opponent in the eyes.

See don't look

"Don’t look at him, or your spirit will be distracted."