Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE
|Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 9:30 am Post subject: The Four Governors
|I have previously spoken of the Four Grounds of English swordsmanship as described by George Silver in his book Brief Instructions upon my Paradoxes of Defence. In that discussion, I spoke of relating the Four Grounds that Silver spoke of for swordsmanship to weaponless combat. In this article, I will expound on another facet of Silver’s weapon system, the Four Governors and how they relate to weaponless combat. These are underlying principles of the Four Grounds that were discussed previously.
The Four Governors that Silver describes are Judgment, Measure, Press In and Fly Out. At first glance, one will notice that there appears to be some overlap between the Four Grounds discussed previously and the Four Governors being presented here. In actuality, you will not have the presence of the Governors without the Grounds, and vise versa. However, differences are inherent, as will be explained.
Once again, I will be citing the Stephen Hand book, English Swordsmanship and the Paul Wagner book, Master of Defense, both of which discuss the works of Silver.
This is where obvious similarities between the Grounds and the Governors lie. However, this dual representation denotes how important Silver felt judgment was in actual combat. Not only is judgment listed in both the Grounds and the Governors, it also holds the honor of being listed first in both categories. Judgment, quite simply stated, means that one “should always place yourself such that you can both Judge and react to your opponent’s actions.” (Wagner, pg. 117). For reasons obvious in both weapons combat and unarmed combat, the value of good judgment cannot be overstated.
In our unarmed combat scenario, not only is it important to judge the opponent’s physical state, but also his or her mental state. Physically, one should monitor things such as the opponent’s reach (with both arms and legs), height, weight and even how the opponent carries himself. One could also attempt to determine the opponent’s mental state. Is he angry? Is he calm? Does he wish to injure or kill? Good use of judgment will help a fighter throughout combat.
At first glance, measure may appear to be the equivalent of the second Ground, distance. However, measure actually goes deeper, using distance as a platform to expand on. Simply stated, the fighter uses distance to control the space between himself and his opponent in an attempt to initiate an attack or to defend against one. Measure is the concept of placing the weapons (i.e. hands, feet) such that the fighter can use them to defend from the various lines of attack, yet still exploit an opening or weakness that the opponent offers (Wagner, pg. 117).
Measure, in essence, is the bridge between the Grounds of distance and time. Measure is the usage of both to place the weapons of the combatant in a position to strike, defend and counter. It is also important that these actions take place in the time available to the combatant; i.e., after an attack commences and before it lands or after an attack is finished and before the opponent recovers. If the proper measure is made, the fighter’s movements will be quick and efficient. This is much akin to Bruce Lee’s concept of the Economy of Movement.
Press In and Fly Out
The final two of the Four Governors are presented together for a good reason. To best represent this principle, I quote Stephen Hand: “The third and fourth Governors, the twofold mind, encompasses the ability to consider all offensive and defensive possibilities and move accordingly.” (Hand, pg. 10). Silver referred to them as a “twofold mind” because as one is planning an offensive, he must at the same time be prepared to go on the defensive.
The concept of Press In and Fly Out is quite simply one of flexibility. When considering weapons combat, it is easier to see the design of the concept; be ready not only to move in and attack with your weapon, but also to back out quickly in case things change in order to reposition oneself. However, we can relate to an even deeper meaning of the concept when considering unarmed combat. Many fighters use drilling to exercise various offensive and defensive techniques and strategies. Therefore, it would be safe to assume that most fighters have a certain set of techniques and strategies that they would be most comfortable in using. They are a group of movements and strategies that have been “internalized,” if you will. Most fighters will also be ready to deal with the inevitable oddities and uncertainties that present themselves in combat. Here is where the essence of the twofold mind is revealed.
The combatant will Press In when attacking or even counter-attacking, if the actions of the combat fit with the strategy that the fighter is using. However, the fighter must be ready to abandon the plan of attack, or Fly Out of the plan, if something goes awry. This does not necessarily refer to physically moving forward and falling back, as it could be viewed in weapons combat. This is not the only way that it is viewed, though.
I’ll use an analogy from a grappling standpoint (please bear with my limited knowledge). A grappler will have a strategy in mind, with ideas to submit an opponent. The grappler will go through a series of moves, most likely his favorite moves, trying to set up the submission. All of a sudden, the opponent does something unexpected, disrupting the other grappler’s strategy. Our grappler was Pressing In. Now, he must abandon his current strategy, or Fly Out, and make adjustments. Once the reassessment takes place, the fighter can Press In once again. This analogy can be readily applied to any other fighting style as well.
George Silver’s writings provide an outstanding framework from which a fighter can approach a combat situation, whether armed or unarmed. The Four Governors discussed in this article, when properly studied and executed, can be beneficial to any fighter, regardless of the style the combatant studies. The Four Governors, combined with the Four Grounds, provide a very logical and practical approach to combat.