The ability to transition quickly and efficiently is an essential martial art skill. Those with superior transition skills enjoy a significant tactical advantage by virtue of being in an ideal position from which to act. Moreover, by moving efficiently, martial artists are able to mask their actions and thereby add to their advantage. How then do we apply and benefit from this principle in our daily lives?
In karate, an often used transitional stance is the slip step, which refers to a method of movement through which a practitioner shortens or lengthens the distance between themselves and their opponent. The mechanics enable a practitioner to minimize the time during which they are vulnerable, while maximizing their options through the use of proper body mechanics and distance control. Proper movement helps martial artists avoid being caught in transition.
Like martial artists, we should strive to avoid being caught in transition and ensure that we maintain optionality. Preparation is the key. While each situation is unique, the overriding principle is universal. Those seeking to master the principle should prepare for each event, meeting and encounter as if preparing for battle. In combat, warriors try to anticipate and preempt their opponent’s actions. They seek to control the encounter and achieve a tactical advantage by gaining the “high ground”. By preparing for the each encounter in this way i.e. by knowing your opponent, by being familiar with or ideally selecting the time and place of the meeting, and by anticipating likely actions and responses, you will be hard to knock off balance and therefore less likely to be caught in transition.
Ironically, many of us currently utilize this principle. The issue is that we do not use it frequently nor do we apply a structured approach to the process. We need look no further that the common parent-child or husband-wife “negotiation” to see that knowing our “opponent”, selecting the time and place of the encounter, and preparing for the likely questions and responses, can provide an appreciable benefit. Unfortunately, we engage in the practice of preparation almost randomly. To transition effectively requires forethought and discipline.
Conisder the following office-related and fairly obvious examples of the principle:
• Attending meetings with a sufficiently large notepad (not 1 sheet of scratch paper) and extra writing instruments so that not only will you be prepared, but you will have the opportunity to assist others if needed. At the very least you will appear prepared, diligent and thoughtful, and you could potentially gain the goodwill of a colleague or superior who was less prepared.
Perception is reality. Be prepared and avoid being caught in transition.
• Always arrive early to get the “lay of the land” and find the best vantage point in the room. Try for the seat facing the door and with a view of the entire room. Why have someone walk up behind you unnoticed and potentially fluster you?
Giving yourself the time and vantage point to properly react is critical. Acquire the high ground and avoid being caught in transition.
• Always consider the extremes. One senior executive told me that he goes to meeting preparing to hear “you’re fired, or “we are promoting you and doubling your salary”. The reason given was that he never wanted to be caught by surprise.
Anticipate the likely and unlikely to avoid being caught in transition.
In summary, don’t let yourself be caught out of position. Do not be late, unprepared or ignorant to things that you should know. Anticipate both expected and unlikely scenarios. Transition effectively to maintain optionality. Be prepared. Slip step.