top of page
  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

If Dis, Den Dat, or DAT!

One topic I used to explore often with my teacher is the idea of thinking several moves ahead.

To be able to see the opportunities in front of us, and to lead our opponent to react the way we want them to react is the holy grail of our training, if you will.  To my mind, it's what a "black belt" really is - somebody who can do that much of the time.

Of course, fights are not scripted, and you can't accurately predict what is going to happen all the time. You can't actually plan out move by move what will happen in a violent situation. Actual people in real life are far too unpredictable.

But, with enough training, repetition, and experience, though, you can figure out a way to get your opponent to make a move that you want them to make (versus just reacting to whatever comes your way) based on the odds of likelihood of various responses.

Like this, but with bruises.

Think of this like a simple logical "If, Then, Else" statement.

Let's take a scenario from Arnis. Picture two people, a stick in their right hands, facing each other, ready to fight.  I am "driving", that is, I'm the attacker.

IF: I throw a high backhand strike with my right hand to the opponent's right side and he blocks it. Now he gets to counter-attack.

THEN: The easiest and fastest counter attack with his weapon will be a forehand to my left side, most likely high.  Next is an overhand strike to my head, or if he's feeling crafty, a low poke to the belly.  It is much harder for the opponent to return a strike on the right side of my body (which for him would probably be a backhand strike).  It's possible, but it's slow.  So I should expect a forehand strike on my right side, off of which I can do a trap, a disarm, what have you... let's say for this scenario I plan to do a snaking disarm with my empty left hand, so I better be ready to pull that off fast.

ELSE: If the opponent does NOT respond with a forehand, this is my backup. It could be to react to that overhand strike or the belly poke, but also if for some reason he decides to loop around his head and deliver a high backhand to my right side.  In any case, my original plan to disarm his returning forehand strike is now disrupted and I have to do something else.

Of course, this is HIGHLY simplified, but you get the jist.  If I do (x), he will probably do (y), if not, then (z).

While I used the chess image above as a metaphor, I think the more accurate representation of what we're trying to do is the V.A.T.S. system from the "Fallout" video games.  For those of you who don't know, V.A.T.S. is a system wherein the midst of combat you can "freeze" everything and are allowed to choose a target on your opponent.

The likelihood of my getting that forehand after I strike with a backhand are high, while other strikes I mentioned are lower probability, and a low forehand possibly the least likely strike I'm going to get. 

We won't even consider the possibility of counter attack or counters on that THEN portion of the scenario I sketched out above...

It doesn't mean that the "unlikely" stuff doesn't happen - that's why you have an "ELSE" statement above in our logical scenario.  It does, it can, and it will.  Over time, you get better and better at dealing with those less likely reactions.

And that's why you study and train the rest of your life, because you'll never know it all.  The possibilities are endless as to what that "ELSE" reaction might be. This is why you keep on practicing, exploring those less likely reactions, because... well, not everybody takes the easiest shot when they probably should.  Not everyone's mind works the same way.  Not everyone reacts in ways that are predictable (especially untrained people).

As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of Professor Remy Presas' videos, and how he'd act to get a reaction, and from that reaction he'd say that we could "do DIS or DIS or DIS" - different ways to cope with the same basic reaction.  If the uke he was playing with did not react as he intended, he'd say "That's ok, I can do DAT!", seamlessly and without hesitation.

If. Then. Else.

Professor's voice in my head: If Dis, den Dat.  Or DAT!

Take this video, where Professor is showing the basics of tapi-tapi.  Pay special attention to when Professor talks about counters. 

To paraphrase what Professor is saying here... if I do this, he can do that, but then I can do that - counter to the counter to the counter.

If. Then. Else.

A calculation you are making with every part of the exchange - the possibilities, options, and odds of success are reset by every response, every beat in the encounter.

Chess with bruises - if DIS, den DAT, or DAT!  Ad infinitum.

So tell me - does your art have this sort of thinking? I'd love to hear about it!

76 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page