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SimonSutherland's picture
Principles of Combat - Examples & Explaining

Our group is back to reviewing the principles of combat behind the Heian series of kata. In addition, I wanted to be able to explain better, to people who don't understand kata yet, what its all about.

Being a concept, you can't go out and buy a « Principle », you have to understand them through examples.

I really liked the example given recently for the principle of « lines of attack / angles » : two people pointing their fingers (guns) at each other to simply show the effect of changing positions.

Since then my memory has been jerked back to films I had seen in my youth, specifically « The Battle of Britain » and, after further research ...

In 1916, Oswald Boelcke, a German pilot of the First World War, wrote the « Dicta Boelcke » (Boelcke 1916) about aerial combat. His 5th dictum

In any form of attack it is essential to assail your enemy from behind.

was later presented as :

Always try to secure an advantageous position before attacking. Climb before and during the approach in order to surprise the enemy from above, and dive on him swiftly from the rear when the moment to attack is at hand.

Another dictum was :

Try to secure advantages before attacking. If possible, keep the sun behind you.

later presented as :

Try to place yourself between the sun and the enemy. This puts the glare of the sun in the enemy's eyes and makes it difficult to see you and impossible for him to shoot with any accuracy.

The first version presents the basic principle and the second gives « how-to » and explanations to back up the principle.

My understanding is that a given kata provides a « how-to » and then Iain's method, step 3, suggests exploring other variations to learn about these principles.

Both of these are further examples of the principle of « lines of attack / angles ». But there are earlier examples.

In Sun Tzu's « The Art of War ». (Tzu 5th century BC), in the section on «Terrain » :

Ground which can be freely traversed by both sides is called accessible.

With regard to ground of this nature, be before the enemy in occupying the raised and sunny spots, and carefully guard your line of supplies. Then you will be able to fight with advantage.

This has obviously been transformed over the years into « take the high ground ». But again, it gives an example of positionning yourself with regard to your enemy.

Has anyone got any other examples - from outside of karate - of the principles that we apply, please ?

Thanks and regards,



Boelcke, Oswald (1916) Dicta Boelcke in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oswald_Boelcke (Accessed: 29/11/2019)

Tzu, Sun (5th century BC) in James Clavell (ed.) The Art of War 1981 Hodder & Stoughton, London