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  • Writer's pictureDavid Redding


When I was a soldier, I was taught the Army hand-to-hand combat system. It is brutally simple, direct, and effective, but heavily reliant upon power and aggression. Although it provides some advantage in leverage and surprise, it does not do much to overcome the natural advantages of the bigger stronger man because it is a straight-line system—the degree of effect is directly related to the amount of force applied.

My interest in the Army system led me to something more complicated—Tae Kwon Doe—a Korean martial art that is considered a “hard form” in that the kicks, punches and blocks travel in a direct and powerful line. To meet an attack in Tae Kwon Doe, you slide aggressively toward your opponent and meet his blow with (ideally) your more powerful block. Having momentarily stopped his attack, you use the brief ensuing pause to launch an attack of your own. Like the Army system, I found Tae Kwon Doe to be based upon direct straight-line contact—the effect was in direct correlation to the force applied.

After I left the Army and went to law school, I found myself wandering into a Hapkido dojo. Unlike Tae Kwon Doe, Hapkido is a “soft form” in that the intent is not to meet force with overwhelming force but to redirect an aggressor's power into leveraged tactical advantage.

Where Tae Kwon Doe would have you stop a punch with a powerful striking block, Hapkido teaches you to employ just enough force to deflect it from its target (e.g., your face) and carry its momentum to a point where your aggressor is off balance and vulnerable. In Hapkido, size and strength are far less important than speed and footwork.

Hapkido is also unique in its geometry of movement. Where the Army system and Tae Kwon Doe are both based on straight lines, Hapkido moves primarily in circles. Once deflected from your nose, your aggressor's blow is redirected into a tight arc that causes his fist to accelerate. My Hapkido instructor taught me that all things (including clenched fists) move faster as they travel in a circle. The bigger the circle, the faster they travel.

Because the deflected and accelerating fist is attached to a body that is glued to the ground by gravity, there is a point on the Hapkido speed-arc where the owner of the redirected fist is faced with a painful choice. He can either have his wrist broken (because it cannot go any farther along the arc) or he can let his fist keep going and have his body follow it. The body being self-protective, his natural choice is to choose the latter and lo, the man becomes a projectile flying along a bigger arc than his fist was traveling. Because bigger circles result in more speed, his body will travel through the air more quickly than his wrist was moving.

Since men tend to become far less aggressive after a ten-foot flight onto their back, Hapkido is a very effective self-defense system. It creates leverage because it is not one’s own force that propels an aggressor through the air, but rather his momentum redirected into a tiny circle that creates a big circle. The amount of force required to create that little circle is fractional when compared with the effect upon his body when he eventually hits the ground. Unlike the Army system or Tae Kwon Doe where effect is in direct correlation to force applied, Hapkido is a force multiplier—a little bit of concentrated effort on the small arc ends with tremendous impact through the big arc.

Because Hapkido is a force multiplier, a smaller man can overcome the natural advantages of a larger man if he focuses his energy skillfully on redirecting momentum into the tiny circle. The same can be said of Influence, which is the ignition of a palpable desire for voluntary movement in another man.

Through Influence a man moves not because you made him move, but because you led him to want to move. It is the opposite of Mandamus, which is involuntary movement generated through compulsive force. Where a Zebra Jockey employs Influence to lead a man to move toward what the man Could Be, a Controller relies upon Mandamus to satisfy his desire to herd humanity into what the Controller deems Should Be.

In a sense, the Controller is like a practitioner of Tae Kwon Doe, employing overwhelming force to obtain his desired effect. As a father, he will use force to compel his family to obey his rules. As a boss, he will use force to compel his employees into achieving his workplace goals. As a government official, he will use force to compel the citizenry to comply with his policy objectives.

Because he is restricted to his own vision of what Should Be in every aspect of his life, the Controller will always try to direct the actions of others through straight line force rather than employ Influence to persuade them to move voluntarily toward what they Could Be. When he fails (as Mandamus inevitably does), he will not question the validity of his vision or the efficacy of his methods but will rather presume that he just lacked sufficient Control to determine events—and seek more more power—only to fail again. This pattern will repeat itself in his life unless he is persuaded by a Zebra Jockey to move toward the Adaptability end of the Chaos continuum and give Influence a chance.

Like the tiny circles of Hapkido, Influence requires skill and highly focused energy to initiate movement. The Zebra Jockey does not employ the institutional power of family, workplace, or government to force people to obey him. Instead, he urges them into a tiny arc of momentum that results in effects far greater than any force that he applies because a single man Influenced to move toward what he Could Be will inevitably seek to Influence other men to move as well—who will in turn do likewise. In that way, what starts as a singular Adaptation to Chaos can result in a mass movement that goes far beyond the Zebra Jockey’s original vision. Influence is a potent force multiplier.

But it requires faith to believe that Influencing only a few can result in the movement of many. Even the disciples, who walked with Jesus for three years, were not sure it could be done. Which is why He taught them that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.[1] Ultimately, they must have believed Him because the momentum of that small circle of men grew into a movement that changed the world.

As powerful as Influence is, it is faith that is the ultimate force multiplier.


[1] Matthew 17:19-20



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