The Way and the Power
The Way and the Power is a compendium of tactics used by the swordsmen-strategists of the Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū. Written by Fredrick J. Lovrett in 1987, The Way and the Power organizes and discusses these strategies in plain language, with direct examples from both swordfighting and debating. Sadly, this book is out-of-print due to the 2018 closure of its infamous publisher, Paladin Press. While used copies are still easily available, this will not always be true. This is why we've presented a summary of this book's core ideas for your personal use.
Familiarize yourself with each of these strategies, to be able to discern when they are being used again you. Life is too short to master all of these strategies, so focus on mastering your personal favorites.
Stretching. Force the enemy to stretch and/or overextend themselves past their center so they off-balance themselves. Armies should be allowed to advance beyond the reach of their supply lines, so that they spread themselves out to thin (like in the board game "Risk").
Sudden, Large Steps. Use one, giant leap to immediately close the distance between you and the enemy. This fosters a negative, defensive spirit in the enemy, and it will throw off their sense of distancing.
Standing a Little Closer than Normal. Keep your hands close to your chest to conceal the length of your reach. This gives the enemy an incorrect sense of distancing.
Standing Close. Stick to your enemy like a coat of paint; this denies them space to maneuver.
Sticking. Clash, press your weapon against the enemy's weapon, and refuse to disengage. The enemy cannot assume an attack position without dropping their guard to disengage, creating a moment of vulnerability.
Expanding. Pretend that the enemy creates as vacuum which sucks your technique towards them whenever they inhale or lighten up their attacks. Soldiers take cover under heavy fire, but they will reveal themselves under light fire while they seek better cover.
Half-beat. Establish a rhythm, then strike in-between beats (like grace notes or drum fills) to disrupt the enemy's sense of timing.
The Method of Winning. Never fight at the enemy’s pace; either speed up or slow down to force the enemy into a fighting pace they are uncomfortable with.
Wedge Technique. A totally-committed, perfectly-timed attack cannot be stopped. This holds true even when you are being attacked; your technique will act as a wedge which automatically deflects the enemy's attack aside.
Baiting. Present an obvious, seemingly-unguarded target to provoke enemy attacks. Over-focusing on offense causes the enemy to neglect defense, which sets themselves up for your surprise counterattack.
Positioning. Don’t run from danger, move towards advantageous places. Pass the enemy and wind up behind them, where they can’t get you. (This is the Top Gun maneuver.)
Joining Centers. Weld yourself to the opponent, and imagine you are one piece. By moving yourself, you will move them.
Dropping Your Guard. Completely drop your guard, so that you can be attacked from any direction. The enemy will momentarily hesitate once they realize you are awaiting an attack, since you must be incredibly insane and/or badass to try this strategy.
Over-preparation. Exhaustive preparation and drills will allow you to attack at any moment, from any position. If you can never be caught off-guard, then you can always seize the initiative.
Drawing Lines. When there are no boundaries, establish some, and then control them. Invade the enemy’s personal space and control their centerline.
Parrying. When your centerline is threatened, quickly sweep the enemy’s attacks aside and create openings for counterattacks.
Springing Away. Counter the enemy's strength with equal strength, then suddenly let off. This off-balances the enemy with their own continued momentum.
Subtlety. Give your enemies nothing to resist, and they cannot resist you. Manipulation must be always subtle; this prevents your enemies from realizing that they're being manipulated.
Countering Leverage. The enemy is strongest near their absolute center. Pushing or extending them away from their center weakens everything they do.
Intimidating Appearance. Carry yourself as though you cannot be attacked or defeated, and the enemy will think it's true.
- This is countered by studying what the enemy can do, rather than concerning yourself with what they can seem to do.
Professional Appearance. You can weaken an enemy's spirit by simply maintaining good posture and a neat personal appearance. These will make you seem like a trained professional, even if you’re really not.
Threatening. Making threats momentarily pauses the enemy's mind while it transitions from peace to war, and planning ways to counter your threat extends this delay.
- Please note that this only works against untrained opponents, and when the situation has clearly-defined goals.
Transferring Emotion. Foster mutual feelings between you and the enemy, and then quickly change your demeanor. (This is the Evil Dead maneuver; lightening up lulls tense enemies into feeling safe, which sets up surprise attacks.)
Hard and Soft Become equally skilled with hard and soft approaches; starting with one and finishing with the other. This off-balances the enemy, who much constantly switch their strategy and fighting style to deal with two opponents contained within one person.
Letting Go. If your current strategy isn't working, then it must be completely, entirely abandoned and replaced with a different strategy.
The Mountain and the Sea. If the enemy strongly resists, then abandon the current strategy and immediately adopt a new approach, which is as vastly different and unrelated as the mountains are from the sea. The enemy will be unprepared for this change, and will hesitate while adapting to it.
Flow / Bounce. You can boost your attacking power by using the previous attack's momentum to setup your next attack.
Stirring Up. Frequently making small, random changes to your strategy makes you appear illogical, which keeps your confused enemy from discerning -- or countering -- your true strategy.
Variations. Changing the ending of a standard technique counters the standard defenses against that technique.
Mirroring. If you don’t know what to do, then copy the enemy’s strategy. This is not a solution, but it can delay the enemy’s plans long enough for you to develop and implement a better strategy.
Stomping on a Sword. Attack as the enemy tries to set up their attacks. By countering attempts to attack rather than actual attacks, the enemy will be constantly imbalanced.
Moving a Shadow. When the enemy’s intentions are unknown, throw a feint to force them to act. The enemy will then reveal their plan, and execute it before they are ready.
Pressing a Shadow. When you have discovered the enemy’s intentions, make the necessary changes which will force the enemy to abandon that strategy, and frame them into adopting a strategy which they aren't as skilled with. *Be mindful that these changes do not have to be large or elaborate.
Flanking / Pincer Maneuvers. Attack to distract the enemy from noticing another attack, from a different direction.
- Unlike a feint, both of these attacks must be legitimate threats.
Focal point. Don't look directly at your enemy, look behind them, as thought you were gazing at a faraway mountain. This improves your reaction time, by forcing you to rely on your peripheral vision, which is more motion-sensitive than foveal vision. Additionally, de-focusing the eyes de-focuses the mind, which allows you to easily flow from one task to another.
Rhythm of One. Drill constantly, so that you can react to anything without any delay or wasted motion. Then the enemy cannot act, since they'll immediately be countered.
Free of All Thoughts and Plans. Train to the point where you can automatically react in the best possible way.
- This is not running on "autopilot." There is a stage of skill-development beyond "autopilot" where you will be able to reflexively generate new, unique solutions as situations emerge.
Heading Off. Perceive the enemy’s attack, plan, or train of thought, and calculate the shortest possible path to counter it.
Sacrifice. You must accept the fact that you will receive minor injuries whenever you try to inflict a major injury to your enemies.
Accept Death. Accepting your own mortality renders the enemy unable to frighten or intimidate you. By being willing to get hurt in order to hurt -- to be killed in order to kill -- overwhelms enemies with < 100% commitment, forcing them to flee (and likely, to die trying). Thus, preparing for this worst-case scenario renders you completely unstoppable.
Broken Rhythm. Constantly vary the speed, intensity, and duration of your attacks. When the enemy cannot discern a pattern, they cannot develop a counter-strategy.
Leading the Target. Strike where the enemy will be; not where they are (i.e., rather than launching multiple attacks against a mobile enemy, launch your initial attack along the enemy’s projected path).
Big Picture. Treat the enemy as one large unit, rather than as a complex multi-component being.
Feinting. If you can't make a decisive attack, make the enemy flinch. Then, attack in the brief moment when they're stunned.
- Note that this strategy does not work against highly-skilled opponents.
Picking Away. If you cannot immediately destroy your enemy, attack targets of opportunity.
Striking the Heart. Fixating on defeating the enemy grants you the inner strength which needed to recover from failures. Any enemy whose heart still beats is a potential danger -- because they will eventually win.
Decapitation. Controlling a person's head completely restrict their mobility. Likewise, organizations can be completely impeded by attacking or controlling their officers or leaders.
Balance-Breaking. Any person can be severely weakened by breaking their balance (usually, this is done by pushing or pulling on their shoulders. An organization's balance can be overthrown by overly-focusing on a single branch or division.
Officers and Men. Pretend that your enemies are your subordinates, not your opponents. By exploiting conditioned responses to authority figures, you can stun most people by giving simple commands, like “Stop!”
- Do not make threats, since the enemy won't comply.
Crushing. Be mindful of the ultimate goal of conflict -- reducing your enemies into mentally and spiritually crushed piles of shattered bones and torn flesh. Any and all other strategies and techniques are just a means to this larger end.
Large and Small. Large problems should not be treated like small problems. Small problems should not be treated like large problems.
Strategies for Dealing with Multiple Enemies. Organized enemy groups should be reduced to disorganized mobs through the following best practices:
- Brutally incapacitate the most powerful enemy first. The resulting chilling effect will break the group's spirit. More importantly, you will have to fight the toughest enemy eventually, so you should do this before the other enemies tire you out.
- Incapacitate the group's officers or leaders to destroy unit cohesion and disrupt communication. This distracts the entire group, since they must come up with a new plan, without knowing who is in charge now.
- Push your enemies into the paths of your other enemies. At worst, they must waste their energy maneuvering around themselves. At best, they become human shields.
- Position yourself to never be between your enemies. By keeping them all to one side, you eliminate their numerical advantage, as the fight is effectively reduced to single combat with a large, amorphous enemy.
Circumstances. Do not fight on the enemy’s terms; only fight at times and places which stifle the enemy. Study the enemy prior to the engagement to find their exploitable personal weaknesses and/or character flaws.
Trojan Horse. Rather than wasting energy tearing down an elaborate defense, coax an overly-defensive enemy into dropping their guard.