The interactions of martial artists with opponents or training partners serve as extensions of their interactions with nature and the environment. This kind of similar interaction model provides useful comparisons. For example, both types of interaction require continual adaptation or learning based on the unique context of evolving engagement models.
Humans are an inseparable part of the earth’s ever evolving ecosystems. Unlike other animals, humans are capable of large-scale, intellectually-based, drastic changes to the ecosystem. Other animals make their homes and evolve in the context of earth’s more slowly adapting ecosystem. These kinds of changes appear to occur at a rate that permits a gradual rebalancing of ecosystem components. This is not to say a beaver does not modify the ecosystem when it creates a home; rather, this kind of change occurs on a smaller scale, permitting gradual and subtle adaptations of the broader ecosystem. By contrast, in a comparatively brief time frame, humans have the ability to alter or pave over vast portions of the natural landscape for road networks. They dam rivers and construct large cities eliminating ecosystems once native to the region. These actions are performed on a time scale that appears comparatively unprecedented.
The same kind of rapid, disruptive changes can be observed during Martial Arts engagements. A superior participant asserts quickly evolving controls over an opponent to significantly change how the opponent can operate or function. These controls are most aptly applied through knowledge gained from the kind of training and experience that itself comes from continual adaptation. Sun Tzu from the Art of War said, “If you know the enemy and yourself you need not fear the result of one hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy for every victory you will suffer a defeat. If you know neither you nor the enemy you will succumb to defeat in every battle (Sun Tzu).”
Parallels of human interactions with a broader ecosystem may be drawn from this quote. When humans better understand the nature of the techniques or science leveraged to alter an ecosystem and the ecosystem’s processes, the interactions between applied scientific techniques and the broader ecosystem are more likely to be successful (or perhaps at least predictable). If humans only know the techniques or science being applied to the ecosystem, but don’t understand the ecosystem itself (or worse, inaccurately comprehend the potential impact) the results are more likely to produce a negative, less well understood, impact. If neither the techniques nor ecosystem are well understood, negative impacts (or potential ecosystem disaster) become the most likely result.
Model comparisons to both human interactions with ecosystems or engagements between martial artists can be drawn. There are many ways a martial artist can change or assert control over an opponent to influence how the opponent will operate or function. The most obvious techniques damage the opponent’s body. For example, a dislocated arm will no longer function as it previously could, and therefore, the interaction model is rapidly changed. Ecological examples abound. For example, the responses of a balanced ecosystem consisting of trees, small shrubs, and organisms living in related plants will be dramatically altered if a logging company invasively removes all of the trees leaving only the shrubs and organisms. The trees will no longer exist to help balance ecosystem responses to sudden change. Since the ecosystem originated with trees as a component part of the balance, the resulting adaptation may be pronounced.
In addition to this invasive type of influence, more subtle, pattern-based mechanisms for influencing interaction models are also possible. For example, if two opponents are sparring and the first attacker initiates a low leg kick that his opponent has not previously encountered, he is typically caught off guard and cannot respond in time to avoid impact. As this technique is repeated, it will typically be met with less success as the opponent develops an effective response. The opponent’s adaptation, however, is often attended by a myopic focus on the newly encountered technique. Correspondingly, an attacker that initiates a new technique for the third or fourth time can expect his opponent to have developed a successful but predictable blocking mechanism. The adaptation by the attacker’s opponent eventually becomes an impediment to the opponent’s success. The attacker subsequently takes advantage of the opponent’s predictive adaptation and fakes a low leg check. The opponent instinctively counters a technique that was not actually applied and becomes vulnerable to an unanticipated round kick to the head.
These kinds of stimulus-response patterns can also play a key role in ecosystem maintenance and adaptation. For example, if an ecosystem forest fire commonly occurs every 20 years, and the cycle is in the 19th year, a controlling organization could exercise any number of options to help manage the impact of a pending fire. Known endangered species that would be eliminated could be temporarily relocated. Or, the likelihood of a fire could be reduced through the elimination of accumulated flammable material. Ecosystems can be modified or adapted to change through the introduction of patterns and cycles not native to the ecosystems they are influencing.
Martial artists can also alter the interaction model with opponents through changes in certain pathways that make others preferable. Every attack that is successfully blocked opens paths for new counters that can be successful offensive techniques. Advanced, well-matched martial artists well understand this balance and, as sparring matches proceed, attacks, responses and counter-responses (personal ecosystems) assume lives of their own. They transcend rational participation in the sparring experience in favor of a kind of muscle memory not all that dissimilar to the ongoing cause-effect rebalancing efforts of broader ecosystems. Man-made impacts to natural pathways are frequent byproducts of modern urbanization. For example, plants will be less inclined (or able) to grow up under the pavement or through small pavement openings. The general trend for plant life will avoid a paved area and grow through normal soil. In this example the pavement works as the blocking hand to deter the attacker from striking a certain way. For ecosystems this means forcing organisms into new regions. Clearly, these kinds of stimulus-response patterns and related participant adaptation are readily observable in both human interactions with ecosystems and Martial Arts engagements with opponents.