Be a Hunter

Be a Hunter

As you enter into physical conflict, initially you are either the hunter or the hunted.  The hunter has only one goal in mind, to make the kill.  This creates confusion for the hunted.  The hunted may have many qualities that help them live a good life, humility, mercy, forgiveness, but these qualities make no difference to the hunter, and at that moment they are of no use to the hunted either. Believing they are useful or worse, projecting those feeling onto the hunter is of no value whatsoever, in fact they are enormously detrimental.

Therefore, there is only one option open to the hunted and that is to switch to becoming an equal predator and adopt the hunter mentality.  This is not an easy switch for the person who sees the best in others, believes in the merciful nature of man or ignores the sign of imminent danger, but it is the only true option.  Believing that, as the hunted, the hunter will let you off the hook, is mindless optimism at best.

If you decide to train in the martial arts, you are training in the arts of the hunter, but that is not enough.  It is the mental attitude that separates the warrior hunter from the rest.  Physically knowing the moves does not make you the hunter.

You can, however, start to bridge that gap in training.  Practicing the switch from 'monk' to warrior remains a symbolic gesture in most dojo's, but that symbolism is rarely understood and even less, practiced.  It starts with the initial meditation.  The Dojo is a place of great peace and great violence and the opening meditation is your initial time to practice leaving your day-to-day life behind and switching into hunter warrior mode.  You need to start practicing this immediately, meditation is the head space and time to switch, in time this switch time will need to be in milliseconds, but for the time being at the beginning of class you are given the luxury of taking your time - don't waste it.

My Master, Sifu James Keating refers to this as 'Raising the Shen' it's not the full explanation of course but it's a start.  Sifu Keating call on that hunter warrior switch like he calls on a big, snarling dog to stand by his side, to be deployed or dismissed at his leisure, I like that analogy.  It strikes fear into your opponent's heart, that is the goal.

If you have switched into warrior mode in the dojo, you are in an environment that does not present a clear and present danger to you, mostly you're surrounded by friends, so the full effect is not there, but that should not stop you from developing and switching from monk to warrior.  The dojo is there to provide you the opportunity to practice another key attribute of the hunter, controlled aggression. Every time you engage in your kumite, or 3 step sparring, or any other aspect of your training, that is the time to practice moving to hunter mode and practicing controlled aggression. This is a mind set of total dominance and faith in yourselves to make the kill.

The story goes that the Samurai will give up his life readily, I do not interpret it that way.  The Samurai does not want to give up his life easily, the warrior/hunter samurai adopts a mindset where his self-belief and confidence does not waver, and with that full commitment he enters the battle.  His death, if it happens, comes as a complete surprise, not a thought he had considered even for a second at anytime before, therefore it has no relevance.  If he dies, then he will never know, therefore it is not relevant.  This attitude is frightening, total confidence, and a sense of total dominance is obvious in the warrior, someone who does not fear death is an opponent who will be hard to stop.

Training is training, and it is training for the mind and the body.  Many schools focus on the physical, and talk about the mental, but think that gap will organically close by itself. That is rarely the case.  Training for the mind to develop that hunter mentally needs to be part of the school, otherwise your martial arts training remains a hobby, a sport or an activity, and if that's what you're looking for then that's fine, but don't call yourself a warrior. Therefore, when we are training let your ego get the better of you is not helpful, you only learn when things go wrong, getting things right actually hinders your growth because it robs you of experience and options.  Training is the best scenario to develop options, attitudes and techniques, these need to be honed so they are available to you when you don't have time to think, are in a hostile environment and in imminent physical danger.

Practice the hunter mentality every chance you get in the dojo, 'fake it until you make it'.  The strategies you employ then become options and choices to achieve your hunter goals.  When a mongoose and a cobra fight, both are deadly, but neither takes a passive position, their strategies are different, the cobra waits patiently to strike while the mongoose move quickly and with purpose, but they are both hunters - warriors for their own survival.  When you think this way, you start to understand why the Chinese style mimic the animals, snake, tiger etc., the Japanese talk about the elements, air, water and so on. They are mimicking the strategies and warriors of the world we live in.

If you find yourself the hunted and you can switch to an equivalent hunter/predator mentality, then something shifts in the exchange very quickly.  All predators know that suffering an injury in the wild is a slow death sentence, which they will try to avoid at all costs.  When two tigers fight, both have huge potential to be hurt, so the chances it will end quickly with a 'tactical withdrawal' is very high.  Predators do not want to risk injury to themselves.  Humans have the same mentality, why do you think young hooligans pick on old people?  Why is it that studies show that the only thing a hardened criminals fears to personal injury?  If you adopt a hunter mentality and demonstrate your ability to inflict as much damage as your opponent, then chances are a 'tactical withdrawal' will result.  If you maintain your hunted mentality, then prepare for your hunter to go for the kill.

The sword of no sword is the warrior who projects such a presence of total dominance that the opponent is too frightened to make a move so they do nothing or withdraw.  My favourite line from the movie "The Usual Suspects' when Kevin Spacey's character was asked why he didn't shoot Keyser Soze when he had him in his sights, his response was "but what if I missed'" and this is the perfect example of the sword of no sword.

In summary, start to practice developing and engaging a hunter warrior mentality throughout your training and especially in your sparring.  Your presence and desire to dominate, what the Japanese call Seme, is an essential part of training.  If you put yourself in situations of physical conflict, learn to be the hunter and learn to turn it on: controlled and fast.