You must not think of harming your opponent, you must not think of winning:
“The last to act overcomes others”
When being attacked, if you reveal your “ki energy” your opponent will sense it and you will have already lost. To strike after you have attained mental victory within the action is possibly the highest level of martial arts. To secure a victory without even physically touching your opponent means that you have successfully disturbed his ki.
I say possibly the highest level because to go even higher the martial artist would win by means of non confrontation. He would use his consciousness to overcome an adversary! He can only achieve this if he has trained his body and mind in harmony and balance. At this level you cannot achieve harmony with an aggressor if your body and mind are not one.
“What is the meaning of the last to act overcomes others?”
The principle of “the last to act overcomes others” places emphasis on an opponent making the first move. Here are three, theories to help you try and better understand the reasons for letting somebody attack first.
One, is the idea that “the last to act” means letting opponents throw the first blow, countering only after an opponent has thrown several punches, The idea here is to see who can tip the balance of equilibrium, who ever moves first gives away their intentions, after which you see the gap, and seize victory.
Another is the idea that this is the moral thing to do, letting an opponent throw the first blows to show that you have no aggressive intention of your own.
The third is that your ego and belief leads you to think that you already have the ability and skill to attain victory, since only someone who is in harmony of mind and body can allow others to lash out!
These are three views which can be left to individual interpretation, they could be perceived to be imperfect and dilute the original meaning of “the last to act overcomes others”.
The idea of first waiting for an opponent to launch several punches is unreasonable. Self preservation, avoiding injury and overcoming adversaries are the foundation of martial arts. Even if you allow them to move first so that you can attain and find out their strengths and thus break up their attack. You must be aware of complacency!
When it comes to “the last to act overcomes others” in it’s original meaning, the strategy of allowing an opponent to make the first move is technically and theoretically the idea and principle of non aggression. The most essential part of martial arts training is in the human character. This is fundamentally in the finest tradition of advanced martial arts!
You could as an analogy, use the idea that you are an Iceberg, hide your true power, like the Iceberg, you only see what is above water, the majority is below the water, that is how you should try to be perceived by people, you should not seek praise, or a pat on the back every time your Sensei walks by, this is immaterial, concentrating and focusing on the training is all the reward you should ever need. It is only possible to get the highest levels if you can have no ego and your mind and body are in total harmony.
“The last to act overcomes others”
When you are totally focused you can use your consciousness to detect and identify an opponent. You will become conscious of your opponent’s presence. You will be conscious that his intention is to harm you!
Depending on your opponent’s abilities he might be conscious that you are conscious of his intention to harm you and thus it begins. Which one of you can disturb the other’s “ki energy?” And tip the balance of equilibrium; the more skilled the practitioner in mind and body will attain victory, unlike the practitioner who is only skilled in physical applications.
He will be less focused than he who is in harmony with mind and body, he will undoubtedly make rash and uncalculated movements giving away his intentions, allowing the non aggressive practitioner to act last and overcome!
You must not forget the importance of how powerful the trained mind is. You cannot rely on your physical strength alone or you will be overcome by someone less powerful than yourself, but who has an advantage of using his body and mind to consciously read your intentions and perhaps react with his senses tenths of a second quicker than you. That is all the advantage he needs!
“Mind over matter”
A large percentage of modern day martial artists rely solely on the physical aspect of training. This dilutes the true potential of the martial arts. A lot of time is spent training the body and the mind is often overlooked. Just because you have physically learned a technique this does not constitute that you have mastered it! This is where the mind comes into the process more predominately.
When the mind senses danger you react instinctively, your consciousness triggers a response in the opponent and can disturb his “ki”. If you rely on just physical movement the opponent will often overcome you because you have signalled your intention.
With a strong mind you will not be subconsciously beaten by your opponent before you have even moved. For example, how many times has a teacher or a higher level student triggered a response from you as he has grabbed you and you find you cannot move? He has obtained victory because he has disturbed your “ki”, because he has put doubt in your mind that you have any chance of doing the technique technically correct without relying on physical strength alone. Everybody, from beginners to teachers, has at some stage lost focus in front of a more skilled practitioner, this is natural. You can only learn from this!
Even the most disciplined student will lose focus. Here is a short story of four monks who did exactly this, it has a funny side to it and yet it gives a strong message that immaterial things sometimes distract us from what is really the purpose of our goal!
“The Four Monks”
Four monks were sitting, meditating around an oil lamp; they had all vowed to be silent and focused. The oil lamp started to flicker; the first monk said “someone should fill that lamp to stop the flickering”. The second monk said, “you are not supposed to speak”, the third monk said, “now you have both spoken”, the fourth monk said, “now you have all spoken I am the only one who has not!”
“The moral of the story”
Even the most disciplined student loses focus, the oil lamp was of no importance, yet all four monks let themselves be distracted by the lamp and the comments made by each other. Be in harmony with your surroundings, sense things but let this sensing come into your mind, and out, like the waves on a beach. Do not fight the waves but blend with them. Use these words wisely and inspiration will follow.