“An attack must be executed with quickness,
not speed. Attack with power, not strength. There
is a great difference between speed and quickness,
power and strength. Think this through carefully.
It is the essence of strategy”
Semantics are important – speed vs quickness. Power vs strength. What was Musashi driving at? Power doesn’t necessarily rely on strength but rather an understanding of the physiological weaknesses of the human body. Strength is the inherent (or achieved) physicality of the body. If you rely only on speed and strength then you must always be the stronger and faster to prevail.
But by focusing on power (target identification and acquisition) and quickness (timing) you can prevail against stronger and faster threats.
The truth is that physical skill is an important component in Aikido – we train to develop those skills, to improve our conditioning, coordination, strength and speed. The martial arts tend to more finely granulate the attributes of ‘strength’ (internal vs external power) and ‘speed.’ I borrow these classifications from Bruce Lee:
PHYSICAL SPEED: Performance speed, quickness in a chosen motion (jab, thrust, kick, parry)
INITIATION SPEED: Economical Starting to a stimulus / Response Time
PERCEPTUAL SPEED: Visual speed to incoming attacks and openings.
MENTAL SPEED: Quickness of mind / Selection of targets, openings and moves rapidly
ALTERATION SPEED: The Ability to change direction quickly / many factors (balance, surface)
COMBINATION SPEED: Ability to deliver series of motions in combinations related to target.
SENSITIVITY SPEED: Contact Reflex / To change rapidly when touch contact occurs
FOOTWORK SPEED: Smooth, sure control of angles, placement and distance via footwork
HAND TRAPPING SPEED: Ability to immobilize limbs rapidly and in combination
One the hardest areas to train is perceptual speed – but I pass on these ‘tricks’ to developing perceptual speed I learned from James Keating. Frontal vision, the “normal” habit of “looking” at the action to try to see it is a slow means of capturing information. It is great for details and accuracy – the squinted concentration of the finite problem in front of you – but it tends to ‘lock’ your focus and that can be disastrous. Focus solely on the knife and you cannot see the limb that manipulates it. Instead, use your peripheral vision – turn your head slightly sideways to the action to find that you can “see” quick motion more easily. This concept ties back to the No-Mind ideal – zanshin – taking in everything so as to respond to anything. Take lessons from the natural world – peripheral vision is what a lot of animals do naturally to survive.
Tricks to help augment your peripheral vision. Tilt your head away from the action. Move your point of focus (1,000 yard stare) far past your opponent’s head. Focus on the space around your opponent. There are other tricks to explore. And once you learn to use your peripheral vision effectively, then experiment with the ‘capturing of spirit’ – fix your opponent’s gaze to force their focus on you. If you can increase your perceptual speed, the tactic of trying to limit your opponent’s is a logical converse.