This thesis examines the classical oriental strategies of war written by the great masters and strategists of ancient times.
They include: the better known The Art of War, The Book of Five Rings, as well as The Three Kingdoms and Thirty-six Stratagems.
Parallels will also be drawn from the works of General Choi Hong Hi (the Founder of Taekwon-Do) and Morihei Uyeshiba (the Founder of Aikido). For the purposes of this thesis some of these theories will be discussed in depth, others will be mentioned briefly and will require further research (in the hope that interested readers of this thesis will be spurred on to continue the study).
Current use of these strategies in business transactions of modern conglomerates will be discussed, to illustrate how lessons learnt from these oriental martial strategies (as well as ordinary Taekwon-Do sparring) maybe used by the serious Taekwon-Do student to further themselves, not only in the practice of Taekwon-Do within the walls of the Do-Jang, but also in the physical, mental and spiritual application of the teachings of Taekwon-Do in their everyday lives.
The thesis is presented in the following way:
Firstly, the need and importance for a serious Taekwon-Do student to continually research and study strategies of warfare will be briefly discussed.
Next, the four classics mentioned above will be examined and discussed with reference to their practical applications and their significance to the students' practice of Taekwon-Do inside and outside the Do-Jang.
Lastly, summaries and conclusions will be listed.
Not only has it been mentioned in numerous articles, but over the years Master instructors have instructed students to practice Taekwon-Do as a way of life; that the lessons learnt from Taekwon-Do should carry on into a students' everyday life to enrich life experiences, and in turn improving their quality of life.
A lot of information is given on moral culture and philosophy to aid in the development of the person. Much time is dedicated in the physical practice employing the hands and the feet. These physical exercises serves to develop the martial artist's physique and technical knowledge of the attack and defence tools, as well as building up fitness and strength. The tempering process is done through sparring, dallyon (conditioning equipment), contests and power tests.
Is it not strange then, how not much is mentioned or taught on the topic of strategy or the actual bringing together of all these knowledge, to be used in actual situations faced by the student?
At the present time, the knowledge of attack and defence of a student of ITF Taekwon-Do are either gained from their own personal experiences, from other people's experiences (for example the culmination of years of experience from a master instructor), or from General Choi's encyclopedia ( the section on basic hints on free sparring which gives 11 points to consider).
It has to be mentioned at this stage, that considering Taekwon-Do encompasses self defence and martial aspects as well as the philosophical aspects, the encyclopedia gives a wealth of information on the performance of the techniques and philosophical aspects, while only a few pages are dedicated to the strategies of attack and defence. One would have thought that more information would be required by the student on the topic of strategy.
I am sure most instructors have had the occasional student ask them: " Sir, have you ever had to use Taekwon-Do?".
What is meant is usually whether the person has been involved in actual combat, and has had to use certain techniques gained from the practice of Taekwon-Do to destroy any aggressors who dared to cross paths with that particular instructor.
It is quite sad that the student missed the whole point of the reason for practicing Taekwon-Do, where they only limit themselves to the use of knowledge gained from Taekwon-Do in situations of physical confrontation, where the use of hands and feet are employed. If this is so then the student need to only be content with learning physical foot and hand techniques, implying that the fighting aspects are the most important, and that Taekwon-Do may only be used once or twice in somebody's lifetime.
This seems to be a terrible waste of time for those people who practice for 20-30 years to perfect a skill which will only ever be used a small number of times!
The student missed the point that the mental conditioning achieved from the practice of Taekwon-Do such as self confidence, physical fitness, courtesies could have been used to prevent them from getting into these ego driven situations, and therefore avoid the necessity where physical violence and the application of physical techniques needed to be employed.
The truth is, the knowledge of Taekwon-Do is not only limited to contests of strength, speed, and bravery, where victory over the opponent being the desired end result.
The knowledge of Taekwon-Do (physical actions, philosophy/ moral culture, health) is to be used in all aspects of life.
Interpersonal relationships, self esteem, family building business skills, strategies, health, social skills are but a few aspects where Taekwon-Do teachings may be applied (self defence being only one small aspect). These situations happen every minute of everyday of the students life.
It can therefore be concluded that the total result of the lessons of Taekwon-Do is what should be strived for, equal importance should be given to all aspects.
It is with this idea in mind that this thesis is conducted.
One of the most famous oriental strategists was Sun Tzu. He was a brilliant Chinese military strategist who lived about 2,500 years ago. His work 'The Art of War' or 'Bingfa', has been adopted and adapted by most oriental nations like China, Japan and Korea, and his words are echoed by numerous famous personages and martial artists through the ages.
In Chinese, the word military strategy consists of two parts: Bing (soldier) and Fa ("doctrine"), which together can be translated to mean "The Art of War".
It was reported that Napoleon used the principles to conquer Europe, and that his violation of some of them, such as inattention to temporal conditions, led to his defeat in Russia. Admiral Togo of Japan, who defeated the Russians during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904, was a fervent student of Bingfa (Tung, 1994).
While Sun Tzu originally wrote 'The Art of War' for a military audience, his work is considered a 'bible' for business people, politicians, as well as martial artists in East Asia.
The Chinese expression: "Shang Chang Ru Zhan Chang" is translated into English as " The marketplace is a battlefield".
This can be further extended to encompass the point that interrelationships involving two factions of thought, where one seeks to influence the other can also be seen from this perspective, whether it is a battle of skill or willpower between two or more individuals, or a battle of two thoughts within one individual.
With respect to the Taekwon-Do student, the strategies of The Art of War is applicable in situations of actual self defence, sparring, competitions, home situations and business/work situations.
In the book, Sun Tzu identified six major components to success in military warfare:
1. Moral cause: the leader must present the morality or righteousness of going to battle. Otherwise the troops will not be motivated to perform their best. If a general treats his soldiers as his own beloved sons, they will stand by him until death.
This is echoed in General Choi's teachings, especially in the tenets and oath of Taekwon-Do.
To influence others to one's way of thinking, is to firstly believe and have conviction in one's own beliefs and actions.
To have confidence/belief in one's self, perseverance and indomitable spirit, one must have integrity and believe unconditionally that one is in the right and stands in the light of truth/morality/justice.
The next stage is to fight for this truth, either by convincing and influencing others to believe in one's way. This type of thinking is also reflected by numerous western "self improvement" gurus, such as Dale Carnegie's book: 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'.
To defeat a larger aggressor the Taekwon-Do student must have courage, strength of resolve and determination. This can be gained by knowing that they are 'in the right'.
In a competitive business world, managers must formulate a common corporate goal to be shared by all the employees. They will more likely identify with these goals as their own and will then be prepared to make personal sacrifices when needed.
"He whose ranks are united in purpose will win" Sun Tzu.
2. Leadership/Ability of Generals: A good general should possess five important qualities: wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness.
Wisdom means the ability to observe, discern and judge changing circumstances and act accordingly.
Sincerity is the ability to win complete trust of subordinates.
Benevolence implies deep love for ones soldiers, ability to sympathise with their problems, and feel true concern for their wellbeing.
Courage means to be brave, decisive, and able to gain victory by taking advantage of opportunities without hesitation.
Strictness is the ability to implement discipline and mete out punishment so troops do not dare to violate commands or rules.
Sun Tzu also gave five negative qualities that should be discarded to avoid disaster:
"If reckless, he can be killed; if cowardly, he can be captured; if quick tempered, he can easily be provoked; if sensitive to honour, he can easily be insulted; if overly compassionate to the people, he can be easily harassed" (Chen, 1994).
In individual/personal situations 'the commander' is the Taekwon-Do exponent who must overcome their own self, in the way of temptations and mental/spiritual weakness. This is the courage, discipline and fortitude spoken of by General Choi.
This is also applicable for Taekwon-Do instructors in keeping a 'tight ship' (so to speak) within their own club, or in other leadership positions in the outside world.
3. Temporal Conditions (Climate): When laying out plans for battle and attack strategies, the commander must be fully aware of such conditions as the seasons, weather, wind, and tide. Unexpected weather changes can thwart even the best conceived plans.
A good general would choose the right time to fight and turn bad weather or terrain to the disadvantage of his enemy.
A Taekwon-Do student should be made aware that if they are involved in a self defence situation to be aware of the surrounding, for example : in dusty areas be careful not to stand against the wind or they may get dust in their eyes, instead make sure the opponent faces the wind so that the Taekwon-Doin may use the dust to their own advantage. The same applies to the principle to always have the sun behind you, to ensure that the opponent will be disadvantaged by the glare of the sun.
In business, the manager need to be aware of the 'political' as well as the 'economic climate', and formulate the strategies accordingly.
4. Terrain: The commander must be completely familiar with the battle site terrain and its surrounding areas, otherwise, his troops could fall prey to surprise attacks.
At the same time they should try to hide their own real surroundings so the enemy do not know the real situation.
These two principles (4 & 5) could be applied when entering tournaments, the athlete need to know the weather/climate, altitude of the place of competition, the rules, the other teams' strengths and weaknesses.
In actual sparring it is therefore prudent to not launch into an attack straight away, time should be spent to gauge the opponent's fighting style, techniques, physical fitness, physchological states. This is a reason why a defensive style is recommended by a number of master instructors instead of the predominantly offensive style where a person is only concerned with attacking and not taking time out to ensure that the attack is conducted in the most efficient manner possible.
In a work/business situation a manager must find out all the facts before taking action which may later be regretted.
In a family situation, to ensure harmony many family councillors recommend the importance of listening to the partners and encourage dialogue. Many times we hear stories of how partnerships break up and the reason is lack of communication/listening and finding out all the facts.
5. Organisation and discipline: to gain the upper hand in a military confrontation and prevent chaos, troops must be extremely organised and disciplined. A good general must know how and when to mete out rewards or punishment. Soldiers must be treated with humanity but kept under control by iron discipline.
"If troops are punished before they have grown loyal, they will be disobedient. If not obedient, it is difficult to employ them. But if troops have become loyal, and discipline is not enforced, the general cant employ them either." (Chen, 1994).
"Too frequent rewards indicate the running out of ideas; too frequent punishment indicate dire stress." Sun Tzu
6. Espionage: Sun Tzu discussed at length the types of spies that exist (native, inside, expendable, and surviving spies, plus double agents), as well as the circumstances under which they should be used. Without spies, it is impossible to obtain adequate information and insight about an adversary.
"Know yourself, know your opponent; one hundred battles, one hundred victories".
"Know the weather and know the terrain, and our victory is complete". Sun Tzu
This strategy is illustrated by the Silicon Valley experience, many Asian firms have become competitive in a very short time by benefiting from technological developments from all available channels.
Students of Taekwon-Do should be encouraged to travel to other clubs, train and practice with them, attend outside seminars and tournaments to ensure that they will understand the lessons of Taekwon-Do better, improve their skills, as well as see what potential opponents are all about.
All of the six points must be present together to ensure victory, they are interrelated. One is not effective without the support of the others. In Taekwon-Do, a true student will not succeed if they are only interested in one aspect (for example: the fighting aspects only). They will not reap the full benefits of Taekwon-Do without practicing all the aspects of Taekwon-Do.
The tenets are intended to be practiced together not individually. Each oath holds equal importance.
Sun Tzu's strategies are influenced by Taoist thought which emphasises the interrelatedness and relativity of things. All things originate from the same source. All things are different but also interrelated, changing constantly according to the laws of nature. Contrasting motivating factors influencing human behaviour such as love and hate arise from the same source, like two sides of the same coin, they are not essentially different it just depends on the circumstance.
"For the world is not atoms or molecules or radioactivity or other forces, the diamond is not carbon and light, is not vibrations of ether. You can never come to the reality of creation by contemplating it from the point of view of destruction", (Rabindranath Tagore). There is no absolute good or bad thing in the world. However one should always use one's strong points in competing against weak points in others.
Chen (1994) gave a story of "Top Horse, Middle Horse, and Weak Horse" to illustrate this concept:
Sun Bin was a master strategist who served General Tian of the Qi Kingdom (during the Warring States Period, 476-221 BC).
General Tian raced horses with the Qi princes as a hobby, often wagering large sums of money. The contest consisted of three races, the usual practice was to race one's best, middle and worst horse against the similar horses of his rival.
Sun Bin advised the General to race his worst horse against his rival's best horse, to pit his best horse against his rival's middle horse, and finally use the middle horse to compete against the rival's worst horse. The result was one loss, and two wins, General Tian won the contest.
As a strategist Sun Bin saw the larger picture and understood that the goal was to win the contest, not each race.
Sun Tzu's strategies stresses the importance of the need for good planning. Before a decision to wage war is made, one must engage in detailed planning. The same is true for business competition, as well as things as simple as going for grading where the Taekwon-Do student must train diligently to improve their own standard.
Sun Tzu emphasised first and foremost the importance of avoiding bloody conflict as much as possible. The highest form of victory is to conquer by strategy. To win a battle by fighting is not the best strategy; to conquer the enemy without having to resort to war is the highest, most admirable form of generalship.
The next best is to conquer the enemy with alliance- by borrowing strength from one's allies. This is followed by the strategy of conquering the enemy by fighting on open ground, where one can easily attack and withdraw. The worst form is to conquer the enemy by besieging walled cities, the most costly endeavour.
To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence (Chen, 1994).
3.2 The Book of Five Rings:
Miyamoto Mushashi was Japanese a samurai and swordmaster in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. During his life as a 'ronin' (a samurai without a master) travelled the length of Japan and abroad to China where he matured his swordmanship. He was famous by his ability of wielding two swords at the same time, and later by his feats of using only a bokutou (wooden practice sword) to defeat his enemies who wielded metal swords.
A lot of his philosophy written down in The Book of Five Rings (not surprisingly because of his travels to China) echoes Sun Tzu's principles.
In his later life, Musashi devotedly studied Zen philosophy (a Japanese version of Buddhism) which made his philosophies uniquely Japanese, and shows the contrasts between his work and Sun Tzu's works.
Where Sun Tzu approached strategy from a military point of view involving the masses, Musashi approached strategy from an individual, martial artist's point of view.
True to the fundamental Buddhist teaching of following the 'middle-path', Mushashi sought his path to enlightenment through the dedicated practice of his 'trade'. He seeked to unravel the connection between Zen and swordsmanship.
Zen is not a religion in the Judeo-Christian tradition, which is the western concept of religion, but rather it is a way of life "a philosophy of willpower-one forges an iron will and an indomitable spirit" (Tung, 1994). This path led him to the discovery that success requires the following:
1. Grasping relationships and multiple perspectives: Zen believes that the senses cannot grasp reality from one viewpoint. To gain knowledge or find innovative solutions, the student must avoid the limitations of a one track mind/unilateral thinking.
2. Seeking knowledge and information: victory is achieved when "the rhythm of the opponent is known". This echoes Sun Tzu's famous maxim of : "Know yourself, know your opponent; one hundred battles, one hundred victories."
3. Being patient: It best to wait for the opponent to make the first move.
4. Training and disciplining oneself. One must maintain constant practice to excel, and must have great self control and perseverance. Success is guaranteed when one is physically and psychologically superior.
5. Disguising emotions and intentions: "alway be the same way in any situation, and keep your mind in the middle way attitude" wrote Musashi. People should never reveal their real intentions and always "act in such a way as to not reveal the depth of your spirit". This parallels Sun Tzu's advice :"keep plans as dark and impenetrable as the night".
General Choi recommended the practice of breath control, to disguise fatigued breathing which may otherwise signal to the opponent to press their attack.
6. Possessing flexibility: Mushashi emphasised physical, psychological, and emotional flexibility during a confrontation.
7. Using diversion: "once you have distracted your opponent, gain the advantage by following with your attack". It is important to chase the opponent so as not to loose the momentum gained by the opponent's retreat, otherwise they will recover.
Sun Tzu gave a similar advise: " move like a thunderbolt when the time is right, act swiftly and decisively".
Many times it is seen, a Taekwon-Do student only applies single techniques in free sparring, instead of working on a repertoire of a combination of techniques or strategies (to lure the opponents' guard down), to press forward their attack when the opponent is caught unbalanced.
8. Divide and conquer: push in and strike strongly without allowing any time to lapse when you have seen the opponent's ranks in disarray.
9. Assess the terrain. This is similar to Sun Tzu's statement.
Again the importance of taking time to assess the opponent is stressed, such as when in free sparring.
3.3 The Three Kingdoms:
This popular Chinese classic was written by the 14th century novelist Lo Kuan-chung. The book has 120 chapters is a semi fictional account of the struggle for control of China after the Han dynasty collapsed on 220 AD.
The novel details the intrigues, strategies, ploys, and alliances of the three kingdom's leaders, and of their advisers. It includes an analysis of the human nature, the good, the bad and the ugly.
It also emphasises that kinship is important for guiding action.
Because of the length of the chapters it is not practical to detail them in this thesis, however the summary part of the thesis will draw on various sections of the novel.
3.4 The Thirty Six Stratagems
The thirty-six stratagems is based on the principles in the I-Ching (The Book of Changes) and on the military strategies presented in twenty-four volumes of Chinese history and literary classics, including the Three Kingdoms (Tung, 1994).
Each stratagem is represented by three or four kanji characters, has widespread applicability and nonmilitary settings, including business and interpersonal relationships.
Each stratagem can be used separately, or with several others to create an infinite array of stratagems. While all parties may know each of the thirty six stratagems, the winner is the one who blends and mixes them into the most creative and effective strategy.
Again for the purposes of the thesis it is not feasible to outline all of the stratagems and their possible combinations. However one example is illustrated in the English translation by Gao Yuan (1991) Lure the Tiger Out of The Mountains.
This title is actually one of the stratagems, and tells that when fighting a tiger, it is foolish to fight it in the natural haunts of the animal (mountains and wilderness). It is better to entice the tiger into the unfamiliar, such as an interstate highway, where the tiger will be completely lost (Tung, 1994).
Other 'interesting' stratagems:
And surprisingly enough the very last of the stratagems, also considered the most important:
The Chinese believe that under extreme conditions it is better to escape rather than face death. Escape leaves them a chance to regain their strength and position. The idea is to win the war, not necessarily the battle.
3.5 The Aikido theory of Defence
Aikido is considered the 'gentleman's martial art' and was founded by Master Morihei Uyeshiba in Japan, which combines practical self defence movements taken form sword and spear fighting, jujutsu, aikijutsu and other ancient, more esoteric martial arts.
The word Aikido means: "method or way (do) for the Coordination of Harmony (ai) of Mental Energy or Spirit (ki)" (Westbrook & Ratti, 1990).
In Aikido, the process of defence consist of three stages: perception, evaluation-decision, and reaction. The effectiveness of any defensive strategy will depend largely upon the time lapse between the first inkling that an attack maybe imminent, and your defensive reaction. The aim for practice is to train the body in the three stages mentioned above to become almost simultaneous.
In the first stage of perception, on the obvious level one may see someone preparing to attack, on the subliminal/sensorial level one may 'sense' something without being conscious of seeing or hearing anything menacing, but at the same time sense or know that something is wrong.
In the second stage of evaluation-decision, the various element of and attack are analysed: the amount of its dynamic momentum, the speed, the direction and a decision is made concerning the most appropriate technique to apply.
The third and final stage is that of reaction. The decision 'comes to life' via the motion/action of a specific aikido technique of neutralisation.
As noted above the three stages are so closely related that they will appear as one, this again echoes Sun Tzu's stratagem.
Because of the very basis of Aikido of maintaining harmony with the 'universal' the practitioners do not seek to destroy the opponents as is usually the western concept of victory, but rather the practitioners seek to 'neutralise' the opponent, in doing so maintaining that 'universal harmony'.
"Only through the neutralisation of an aggressive action, rather than the aggressor himself, can harmony of existence be restored and improved upon through that reconciliation which is impossible if one or the other of the individuals involved is seriously injured or actually destroyed" (Westbrook & Ratti, 1990). Power is considered generic. As such it can be used for 'good' or 'evil'. In combat the mind must control the process of defence from the moment an aggression is perceived to the moment when a reaction occurs, while channelling a particular type of totally coordinated energy in the appropriate direction.
Four basic principles of aikido defence emerges:
The student of Aikido is taught principles of centralisation, through the centering process (the hara). By doing this, one establishes one's being as the centre of a place at any point within the universe. This centre is then extended out to any aggressor, who is now no longer the centre of action, effectively preventing the defender to be drawn into the opponent's strength, and inturn taking control of the situation.
The opponent is then drawn into the sphericity or 'vortex' of the defender's power who is then able to lead/direct/channel the opponents aggression, ultimately neutralising the aggressive action.
This principle can be applied in Taekwon-Do sparring where a student should draw the opponent into their controlled space, instead of being tempted to continually chase the opponent, attacking wildly.
In everyday living this principle teaches the student not to be drawn into argument of others. The student must maintain their own principles and not be distracted by outside influences.
All these principles holds a close resemblance of previously mentioned strategies such as: Sun Tzus 'terrain/climate principle', and 'Lure the Tiger out of the mountain'.
While most of the strategies mentioned previously have similar ideas, they are individually unique because of the different situations they were applied in and the circumstances involving the authors. However, it is possible for us to draw twelve important themes or principles:
It is prudent now to make mention that a lot of these stratagem appears to be full of deception to the point of them being immoral; because of the Judeo-Christian influence a westerner could not be blamed to have this point of view. The East Asians, who have no indigenous religion akin to Judaism and Christianity, consider deception a neutral term- it is amoral and acceptable if it results in a greater good. The 'greater good' embraces the wellbeing of the nation/state, the clan, extended family, the nuclear family, corporation, and the self. The order of importance varying among the East Asian countries. (Tung, 1994). This view has its own lessons for the Taekwon-Do student; it teaches to look beyond ones own cultural standards. What is moral to one, maybe immoral to others. One must avoid using ones own mind-set when trying to predict how members of another culture will act, and when assessing the morality of such actions.
The Yin/Yang principle of Taoism, teaches that while all matters have contradictions and opposites, at the same time they are unified.
"There is one universal principle, and the one becomes many". Lao Tzu
Under this principle, each stratagem can be reversed, depending on conditions. An adversary's strengths can be transformed into weakness, while ones own weaknesses can be transformed into strengths. Gathering information also means spreading erroneous information to contaminate and frustrate the opponent's strategy.
"Let the enemy's own spy sow discord in the enemy camp".
Weak does not mean bad or negativity, and strength does not mean positive/good. An example is given, consider the difference between an oak tree and a blade of grass. The tree is strong and mighty, no one can trample it like they can trample the grass.
But when the storm blows, the tree may collapse under the force, while the grass yields to the gusts and stands firm.
This is another reason for why the act of giving bribes is considered immoral in the west, but acceptable in the eastern countries. This echoes Musashi's middle of the road approach, and the lessons from the thirty six stratagems : "Trade a brick for a piece jade". It involves baiting the opponent with a small gain, to get an even bigger prize.
The eastern concept of flexibility may also differ to the western concept of perseverance/integrity/indomitable spirit.
According to Sun Tzu:
"Know when to fight and when not to fight. The laws of military operations are like water. Consequently, just as water ceaselessly changes its flow, there are no constant methods of directing military operations. the one who is able to alter and revise his tactics and strategy according to the enemy's situation will be considered as divine as a god…" (Sun Tzu).
"Attack when near, befriend when distant"
(the Thirty-six Stratagems).