Stop it at the “At” of Attack


Timing is everything

In The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, timing, as a theme, pops up over and over.

For the uninitiated, The Book of Five Rings is a short book on the art of “strategy” or sword fighting. I think the lessons inside apply to far more than just life and death battles. It is an excellent treatise on conflict.

For example, in discussing the art of parrying someone’s attack, a great warrior defends after the offensive launched. 

This strategy is counter-intuitive. We like to “prepare” for an attack to rally a defense.  Defending before it’s necessary gives the attacker insight. You’ve given the enemy an opportunity to maneuver.

This idea doesn’t mean “wait to defend” until the last-minute. Waiting too long to rally a defense gives the attacker strength to throw you off-balance.

The best defense comes at the moment right when the attacker decides and commits, and before he gathers strength. He becomes vulnerable because he is locked into his decision, and cannot change. His decisiveness is a weakness, not a strength.

He summarizes this beautifully by saying wait for the “At” of attack.

This tactic is invaluable when on the other side of the desk in front of a boss or a competitor or negotiating. Learning when to jump in and do “conversation judo” (letting the others momentum strengthen you) gives you the ability to create leverage when there wasn’t any.

This method is powerful in any conflict.

The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi is a short read, and each word is impactful.  This book is useful for anyone who finds themselves dealing with pressure and confrontation.