Have you ever seen one of those incredible demonstrations of martial arts power? One where a tiny Asian master will show seemingly superhuman strength by standing immovable as half a dozen men try to push him? Or have you ever heard about the little old sensei who could defeat an opponent half his age while barely lifting a finger? Assuming that, unlike Luke Skywalker, such martial artists have not actually tapped into the force and don't possess superhuman powers, then something else is obviously going on here. But what?
In the martial arts, we voluntarily subject ourselves to conflict in a training environment so we can transcend conflict in the real world. After all, we wouldn't knowingly train in a style that makes us weaker or worsens our position. The irony of all this is that we don't want to fight our opponent. We prefer to work with what an opponent gives us to turn the tide in our favor, to resolve the situation effectively and efficiently.The Japanese have a word for this: sabaki. It means to work with energy efficiently. When we train with the sabaki mindset, we receive our opponent's attack, almost as a gift. Doing so requires less physical effort and frees up our mental operating system so it can determine the most efficient solution to the conflict.In this essay, I will present a brief history of sabaki, as well as break down the sabaki method using Miyamoto Musashi's five elements