View Full Version : The Game of Go & The Martial Arts - Part IV

23rd September 2000, 03:43

"Beyond being merely a game, to enthusiasts Go can take on other meanings: of a nature analogous with life, an intense meditation, a mirror of one's personality, an exercise in abstract reasoning, or, when played well, a beautiful art in which Black and White dance across the board in delicate balance". -- Anonymous Go player

The Game of Go & The Martial Arts by Fred D. Baldwin, Ph.D. published in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts.

On Go strategy:

"As in war, sharp distinctions between Go tactics and Go strategy quickly blurs. But where strategy is concerned, Go concepts are more than metaphors. They can be considered as 'models' in the sense that 'model' is used by a physicist or economist. That is, even though it incorporates only a tiny fraction of the infinite variety of the real world, Go provides a model for thinking about the idea of strategy itself.

"One problem with martial sounding words like 'cuts' and 'blocks' is that they direct attention to the visible moves, not to their purposes. Watching a computer replay of a game actually distracts attention from a kind of pattern recognition that may be unique to Go. Books on psychology often contain diagrams that illustrate how visual perceptions can differ, not just for two individuals but for the same individual at different instants in time. For example, a frequent reprinted textbook diagram shows something that looks, in one visual focus, like a narrow, intricately curved white vase, or perhaps a candlestick, set against a dark background. From another focus, the same picture seems to show two people almost kissing, and the 'candlestick' seen an instant earlier now appears as the empty white space between their faces. In the language of graphic arts, one's perception of 'figure' (the image seen as primary) and 'ground' (background) has reversed.

"Go is like that. It may be that world class Go players are those who are able to shift very rapidly between their perceptions of figure and ground on the board and use that ability to place stones in such a way as to surround 'nothing' most effectively. This is the visual analog of the 'emptying of the mind' that is central to Zen and often invoked in martial arts classics.

"Sun Zi ... put it like this in The Art of War: 'By perceiving possibilities and then conducting battles, there is victory'.

"... one's view of the strategic picture requires visualizing open spaces yet unformed, whose ultimate outlines the stones played in the local fight may or may not actually touch. A similar observation is a commonplace in martial arts literature: 'The idea of attacking and defending are *two* until the peak is reached ... [Mastery at swordsmanship has be attained] when from that which has no form these manifestations of form appear in their perfection'.

"This kind of mental flexibility can be developed only through discipline and practice, and it involves far more than memorizing patterns of play."

More later ... .