By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved
I went through several titles for this article before I settled on this one. My original title was “How To Manipulate The Way The Eyes Detect Movement And The Way The Brain Processes That Movement So You Can Appear Incredibly Fast And Take People By Surprise”, but that title, while perfectly descriptive of this article, was too long.
What I’m going to cover in this article is four ways that you can use the body’s processes against it so you can strike or grab someone before they can react or counter you. If you plan on sucker punching someone in the near future, or don’t want to get sucker punched, than this article is right up your alley.
Method Number One: Attack at an upward 45 degree angle. The field of vision your eyes have is actually limited by your cheek bones and nose. If you’re standing next to someone with your hands by your side than all you have to do is bring your strike upwards at a 45 degree angle to the groin, torso, or head and you will actually come up under their field of vision and they will not be able to see your strike.
Granted you could give your strike away by telegraphing it with a sudden change in your glare, facial expression, drop of your chin, or sudden movement of your shoulders.
Method Number Two: Don’t break your silhouette. The main way that your eye detects movement is by picking up a change in the amount of light or the shape of the light surrounding an object. For example, if your arm is hanging by your side and held a little ways from your body than I will be able to see light all the way around your arm. If you move your arm my eyes will immediately detect the change in the amount of light surrounding your arm or the shape of the light surrounding your arm. The more distance between your arm and your body the more light there is between them and the bigger signal I get when either of them move.
However, if you bring your arms into your body where your arms are entirely within the silhouette of your body there is no big backlight around the arm to give away the movement. If you put an arm entirely within the silhouette of your body and then strike straight in so that at no time does the arm come outside of the silhouette it will be extremely hard for my eyes to detect it and relay the message quick enough for me to do anything about. This is also great for disarming guns.
Another reason why this works so well is that it has you striking straight in and not moving your arm in a circular movement towards the target. To be extremely simplistic, the eyes have two main mechanisms: the “Peripheral Vision Mechanism” (PVM) and the “Focus Vision Mechanism” (FVM). The PVM (peripheral vision) is used to detect movement and judge speed while the FVM (where you’re focusing your vision) is used solely to identify objects. The FVM is not meant to detect movement or judge the speed at which an object is traveling and when it is used for this function it results in rapid tiring of the eyes, such as being hypnotized by a person having you follow a swinging watch.
When you throw that punch straight in the person is going to be using the FVM and they will have a hard time detecting the movement and then judging the speed at which your fist is traveling. This is the same reason people get hit by trains. Trains are large and compact (they basically move within their own silhouette) and they move straight towards you so your FVM thinks they are moving far slower than they are.
Method Number Three: Moving in unbroken rhythm. This is one of Bruce Lee’s favorite ways to get over on people. The way it works is that if you are still than any movement you make appears dramatic by the eye and is immediately pick up. However, if you are moving than your current movement can conceal the movement of your attack.
Hear is how it works: pick your target and how you are going to hit it and then innocently move that limb back and forth in a gesturing manner between your body and the target. Do this a few times so that the person gets used to this gesture and sees it as harmless, then when your limb hits the portion of the gesture where it moves towards the target go in and strike with that limb.
For example, let’s say someone is trying to intimidate me and get in my face. I put my hands up with my palms out in a submissive manner and try to calm them down. If I feel that I need to physically defend myself, and the target I choose is the throat, than I can, in a very relaxed and non threatening manner, bring both my hands in towards my body than back towards him in a non-threatening and submissive manner. This should not look like robotic pumping, rather move each hand in a small circle towards them and then towards me as I talk; it is important that this come across as an innocent hand gesture that fits in naturally during the conversation. Finally, when my hands finish their normal gesture towards me and go back towards them I continue the gesture forwards and turn it into a strike that they never saw coming.
Method Number Four: Move in a natural and relaxed manner. You PVM is designed to detect all movement but it is designed to give movements made in a fast jerky manner its attention first. For example, if you’re a hunter and you’re walking through the woods looking for dinner you’re going to see a lot of movement; you’ll see thousands of leaves blowing in the wind in all types of patterns and you’ll see trees moving back and forth in the wind. There will be movement all around you but the movement is all slow, relaxed, and natural. Suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you see a deer dart out from behind a tree and start running. Amongst all that movement your eyes gave its full attention to the fast jerky movement because it wasn’t natural.
The same is true in a violent situation. If you move in a fast jerky manner your attacker will pick it up right away and act on it. However, if you move in a slow, relaxed, and unexcited manner as if your movement didn’t matter than he’ll have a very hard time acting on that movement.
The late David Carradine was a master of this. Watch anything he did martial arts wise later on in his career. I especially liked both “Kung Fu Killer” and “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues”. The latter was very hokey and often hard to watch but his movement during fight scenes was masterful. When he threw a punch or kick his entire body was relaxed and the movement seemed effortless.
While shooting a fight scene for “Kill Bill”, Michael Jai White commented that fighting with David Carradine was strange because it seemed that he moved so slow but he was always right there with him and sometimes on top of him. It wasn’t that he was slow, rather it was that because he moved in such a relaxed manner than Michael’s eyes saw his movement but didn’t always pick it up as offensive so they paid little attention to it. In a violent situation if you move in a relaxed manner towards your attacker they will often see it but classify it as non-offensive and pay little attention to it.
To get this type of movement down you need to pay attention to the feel. Right now, without any thought…scratch your nose. Now, scratch you head. Now, look at your watch. Pay attention to how these movements felt. They were relaxed, effortless, and perfectly natural. Identity how these simple, often unconscious, movements feel and try to make all your movements feel like them. With much practice people will think that you’re fast as hell, but it won’t necessarily be because you’re faster, it will be because you’re smarter.
Note: to see the fight scene from “Kill Bill” which, after getting a lot of coverage in martial arts magazines, was cut from the movie go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw6vWnW0i5o.