Mirror your attacker

strategies of jiu jitsu for everyday life and leisure

How do we apply martial arts in our everyday lives, particularly if we've never taken a martial arts class?

Strategy - accepting the attacker’s advantage

The attack is coming. It could be a co-worker, a customer, a partner, a patient, someone in line at the cash register, or even a family member. Sometimes it catches us by surprise, other times we can see it coming.

How do we deal with both the expected and the surprise attacks?

It is fundamental to our success to learn strategy. And fundamental to being adept at strategy is accepting, right up front, that the attacker is forearmed. They know what they are doing.

An Essential Point of Self Defense

Jiu Jitsu has what’s known as The Essential Points of Self Defense. One of the points is to realize:

The attacker has three advantages: they know when, where and how they will attack.

Make no mistake. They know what they are doing. Pretending like they don’t know what they are doing is like pretending they aren't attacking you. If we relate this to a physical attack, it becomes clear. If someone takes a physical swing at you, they know what they are doing. They might try to deny it, but the evidence — the attack — speaks for itself.

There is no need to confront a physical attacker with the truth: they know what they are doing. It’s obvious that they do. But what about non-physical attacks?

Someone who is attacking us on an emotional, mental or spiritual level may deny the attack. In fact, it’s pretty likely they'll deny it, dismiss it or try to blow it off. But don't let them off the hook: they are aware — on some level or another — of what they are doing.

Just as in a physical attack, the emotional, mental or spiritual attacker also knows when, where and how. They know.

Attributes of the attacker

  1. They are forearmed, and they pick their moment.
  2. An attacker picks on someone they perceive as weaker. It is a hallmark of a bully. Bullies often bully because they get off on it. It’s a sadistic form of enjoyment and power — and always at someone else’s expense. We need to accept this. If we fight this, struggle with the ‘wrongness’ of this kind of behavior, then we are struggling within our self. We are struggling with the truth. This is not good strategy. Struggling with the truth puts us at an even greater disadvantage.
  3. Pain and suffering: this is an important point. Attackers like to benefit from the pain, suffering, embarrassment, humiliation and loss of others. No benefit, no fun. No benefit, why attack? Attackers understand pain and suffering, so there are times when we need to introduce pain to them to lead them to a better, more balanced state of being.
  4. Attackers are on the offense. We are on the defense. This is why we consider their behavior so offensive.
  5. Defensiveness does not mean submissiveness. It simply means we are not out to be offensive — unless there is a defensive reason to do so. Jiu Jitsu is the most comprehensive of all defensive martial arts. But it has a full arsenal of weapons. Being someone who is focused on self defense does not mean we are handicapped.
  6. The attacker has developed habits. People who physically attack others on the street do so because they have gained confidence through repetition, or because they are desperate. It is no different in non-physical confrontations. In everyday self defense applications, we study flow including the flow of habits. We learn to redirect energy, while maintaining good flow.
  7. The attacker seeks a position of strength. This includes the element of surprise or the use of overwhelming force.
  8. Attackers often employ weapons. This can be accomplished by gaining some kind of strategic high ground. Strategic high ground can include things like humiliation and embarrassment. There are many similar tools or weapons in the arsenal of an attacker.

Responses to attacks

A. Meeting force with force. This tends to escalate things.

If your dog is barking at someone walking down the street, and you yell at your dog to stop, the dog thinks you’re joining in and gleefully barks even more. Similarly, if someone is yelling at you, and you yell back.

With the barking in mind, one key to meeting force with force is to keep things equal. If force is called for, meet Attack Level 3 with Defense Level 3. Don't escalate unless absolutely necessary.

Meeting force with equality is a form of mirroring the attack, giving them exactly what they are giving you. No more, no less. It’s the idea of giving someone a taste of their own medicine, an equal dose of pain and suffering. They often get a very surprised look on their face.

If someone throws a verbal punch, throw a verbal punch back of equal impact.

“You’re late for the meeting!” exclaims the verbal puncher, making sure everyone hears it.

“Not as late as you were for the last one,” you say with a friendly smile.

The real danger here is escalation. That’s why in Jiu Jitsu we prefer not to meet force with force. Because what that can often mean is that we are responding in the attacker’s area of strength. Or, as Sun Tzu says in the Art of War, “If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.”

Don’t meet your opponent’s force head-on; attempt to use his momentum to your advantage. - an Essential Point of Self Defense

The verbal or emotional puncher is in familiar territory, so chances are good he/she is better at punching than you are. That’s another reason why meeting force with force isn't always a smart strategy.

Never fight an opponent on his terms. Use whatever techniques are necessary to suppress your opponent. - an Essential Point of Self Defense

B. Stepping into the attack. Interrupting the flow.

When faced with overwhelming force, Jiu Jitsu teaches us that we can step into the attack.

Stepping into the attack may seem to make little sense. Stepping into the attack seems unnatural until we look at some examples. Then it makes sense. For example, prizefighters will sometime step into and clinch their opponent. Ever notice how the power of the attack is often neutralized by that simple action? The referee then comes in and breaks the fighters apart, so they can fight again.

“You’re late for the meeting!” exclaims the verbal puncher, making sure everyone hears it.

“Sorry, man. I stopped and got everyone coffee,” you say, sitting the coffee down on the conference room table. A clinch. Locking up the attacker.

C. Getting off the line attack. Shifting the direction or momentum.

Attacks are usually one directional. They come straight at you. It may come from behind, the side or the front — but in any case, it’s typically coming more or less straight at you.

The bullfighter never meets the bull head-on. As the bull charges — from whatever direction — the matador gracefully moves slightly off the line of attack. He does this by creating angles, relative to the line of attack. The bull never connects.

In football, the running back always rolls with the tackles, dropping a shoulder, rotating the hips — effectively blunting the power of a hard hit and slam. Moments later, he is getting off the ground like nothing happened. He was taken down, but he didn't get hurt. Again, he has created angles relative to the line of attack.

“You’re late for the meeting!” exclaims the verbal puncher, making sure everyone hears it.

“You know, I was thinking about you last night, and I just might have figured out an easier way to get past this problem we’ve been having,” you say, ‘rolling your shoulder’ and deflecting the attack.

D. The Basic Concept. Minimizing casualties.

This notion of deflecting or redirecting the energy of the attack is summarized by one of Jiu Jitsu’s basic concepts:

No Challenge, No Resistance, No Injury

The concept’s premise is that if we don't challenge and we don't create resistance, there will be no injury.

When we challenge an attacker, they will either step up their attack, or become more resistant to our efforts. Therefore, the more heated the confrontation becomes, or the more resistive either the attacker or defender becomes, the greater the likelihood of injury.

So why amp up the argument? Why challenge the emotional assault with more of the same? Why resist mental gamesmanship? Why put out all that effort?

Control your mind and body when dealing out punishment to any opponent. Subdue; don’t maim or torture unnecessarily. - an Essential Point of Self Defense

Mirroring the Attack

When I first heard the term ‘mirror the attacker’ I figured it must be literal. If I was attacked with a right roundhouse strike, I would counter with a right roundhouse strike. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize this was not the intention.

Mirroring the attack means countering with a similar energy, reflecting back to the attacker what they are dishing out - either physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually… or some combination.

Many years ago, when I was learning how to be a better salesman, I came across a book “Getting to the Yes”. Its basic premise was to find something, anything, that you and the customer could be in agreement with. That was getting to the yes. And then build from there, build on the basis of a positive relationship. Other sales guides called this ‘pacing’, or the art of being in harmony with the customer, on pace with them, much like a companion horse does when it is calmly walking next to a nervous thoroughbred racehorse.

So, mirroring our attacker is all about creating positive relationships, even in the midst of adversity and negativity. It’s all about ‘pacing’ or matching the force of the attack, turning the relationship in a positive direction.

Are you out to be more effective in confrontations? Then study. But more importantly, constantly practice in your daily life. The more you practice and apply your understanding, the sooner you begin to realize the time-proven effectiveness that these ancient Jiu Jitsu concepts are centered upon.