The Tao Pivot

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  The Tao Pivot is, IMO, an extremely effective negotiation tool. It is essentially the way the Tai Chi fighter fights, which I will describe in one of my examples. Paraphrasing  Chuang Tzu( author of the Butterfly Dream):


The monkey warden enters and announces there will be 3 nuts in the morning and 2 in the evening, and all the monkeys protest and start making a whole lot of racket. So he says, ok, instead there will be 2 in the morning and  3 in the evening. The monkeys appear satisfied and accept.


This is version 0 but it captures the essence. As I understand it and practice it, if you are in a negotation with an individual and what you are after is a fair deal, you have a real advantage with the pivot.   But notice the qualifier “you are after a fair deal”. If you are after the best deal it does not work, or at least not as well.


Let me give some examples of applications:


1) Some years back i discovered fly fishing and had just bought my first modern car -before that it was early 60s chevys or 78-79 subaru 4wd station wagons that I would fix up and maintain myself. I purchased a 2000 Toyota 4 runner  with 20K miles and was going take my first vacation in 10 years. I read books and laid plans for a month long  fishing and camping vacation with Mrs Kemal in Wyoming and Montana.  One night I started to tell her about my discoveries, the rivers, the 10 species of 

Cutthroat Trout  and the famous places that were on my list and now I was having to prune it down -this was not going to be a hurried vacation. While I was speaking I could see some unhappiness in her face so I stopped. Whats up? Are you not happy with our plans?  She responded “Arent we going to be able to do anything that I want to do?”

My gut reaction was a sort of rebellion like WTF, my first vacation, my first fishing vacation….blah blah blah, I think you all know the inner dialogue when feeling under appreciated. But the pivot kicked in and I immediately responded “Honey, I assure you, we are going to be able to do everything that you want to do”  These are just plans that we can use as we wish, you and I.

She immedialy grew calm and was satisfied.  To make a very long and wonderful vacation very short, we both got to do whatever we wanted.



2)   I friend of mine told me she was getting a divorce. It was clear that she was very unhappy with both the marriage and the proceedings.  The only important detail here is she is a professional scientist of high grade with a husband of equal stature, with no kids. They had been married since 18 years old and she wanted to move on. The split should be relatively simple 50-50 easy peasy, but she said his lawyer was getting real aggressive and she didnt know what to do about it -it was turning into a brawl with inlaws getting involved for their pound of flesh. I asked her if she knew about the pivot, she said no and for me to tell her about it. She then said, what kind of pivot do you see here for me?  I responded that i really dont think I know enough, but I can give you something to think about. Why dont you call him up and ask him “are you trying hurt me?” Anyway, she did something like that and immediately the clash of lawyers stopped and they settled amicably.



3) As a Tai Chi fighter you train to not get emotional, and you train to not try to hurt or beat your opponent in a sense that most people think of. As someone who has no aggressive impulses, you keep your center and when an attack comes, the very nature of it being an attack means  that the attacker is off balance, sometimes alot. The Tai Chi fighter, keeping the center, will simply let that off balance energy pass by the center, the closer the better, apply a pivot directing that energy to disadvantage of the attacker.   I do  not mean to imply that we will not apply blows that will do damage, but instead mean that these blow flow naturally from the aggressive act. The more aggressive the attack the more the attacker suffers, if this is well executed.  This is the main idea. As they say, easier said than done. But with years of practice some peope get extremely good. There are three main trainings one must develop

1) to develop the kung fu body, 2) to be free from emotion, include a desire to hurt the opponent , 3) to train your neuromuscular system to not fend off, but instead recieve the attack.

When Cheng Man Ching was asked what is different about the  Tai Chi fighter, he say Liu, the receptive. This is also why it is good therapy for males, in that they generally are less receptive and more aggressive in hostile situations.  In our practice Liu is one of the four primary Jings (energies) , the others being Pung, Ji and An. Anyway, after many years of training you learn to manifest these energies appropriately  and strongly and the art is to keep your abilities together during the heat of the interaction. As they say, easier said than done.


Finally, I hope you can see one common element among my three examples. That is the desire to get a fair deal.  As I said, if you seek a fair deal, you are in a powerful position.




Pardero Added Jul 13, 2018 - 12:46am
Mustafa Kemal,
This is fascinating stuff. Your desciption was easy for me to follow. Some day, I would love to get some martial arts instruction. Not because I want to be a badass, but because of the mental aspect you described.
Stone-Eater Added Jul 13, 2018 - 11:17am
Good one Mustafa !
opher goodwin Added Jul 13, 2018 - 2:30pm
Mustafa - I learnt Tai Chi for a year. I was beginning to get the hang of it too even though I am a crap mover. It is an incredible stylised fighting skill that is a profound meditation. How to use an opponent's impetus to your advantage while retaining your centre. Great stuff. I like your examples.
Katharine Otto Added Jul 13, 2018 - 4:34pm
A fair deal is the ideal, and remaining centered is key to knowing what's fair.  An aggressive attacker, presumably, doesn't care for fairness, but for advantage.  
I didn't understand the monkey story.  How many monkeys were there?
James Travil Added Jul 13, 2018 - 6:18pm
Very fascinating article Mustafa. This must be where they got the ideas for the Jedi Way of the Star Wars universe, since the exact same methods are used. Staying belanced. being unemotional and especially shunning negative emotions such as anger. And of course redirecting the aggression of the attacker back upon them. Fascinating indeed! 
Mustafa Kemal Added Jul 13, 2018 - 8:27pm
All,  Thanks for reading.
You know those fantastical kung fu movies where they fly and do outrageous things. What nonpractioners dont understand is that these images come from our practice. You actually experience such feelings of infinite strength and ability  as you use your (Jedi) mind, after LOTS of practice, to effect a sort of supernatural ability. This is why these communities are so devoted -they get hooked on the   ...... chi and jing. When my father came back from Vietnam he told me about the 1 inch punch, not exactly the five fingered death punch, but it is where the notion comes from.  Later I learned that it is indeed real, and indeed no joke. 
Then, what typically happens is when you get into something serious you forget your training -happens to the best. 
Moreover, these communities generally also have a sense of humour and sometimes will watch satire of our world  Kung Pao
But it is a reality, a reality that many spend a lifetime developing. Practicing 2 hours a day  is not a motivational problem for  most of us, it is rejuvinating.
Pardero, one of real advantages of such practice is you need no special gear, no yoga mat, no gym. You can do it in a motel room in Topeka,  in your campsite in the mountains, in snow, or in a park in 
eastern Turkey near the Iran border.   I practiced every day while I was there, wherever I was -the first thing I did when I got into a new town was find a place I could work out.  
Katharine, there are many monkeys; each will get 5 nuts per day. I may have messed up the presentation. Anyway the point is even though the monkey warden didnt really give them any more nuts, he gave in to them and changed what they  were getting so, they felt they got something for their complainings.
Pardero Added Jul 13, 2018 - 8:32pm
Katharine Otto,
I am guessig that the number of monkeys is immaterial. 
The monkeys were dissatisfied, but accepted an equal amount, distributed differently. The monkeys got a choice, and were satisfied with the choice they made.
Pardero Added Jul 13, 2018 - 8:46pm
Mustafa, JT, et al,
I am off to remote Utah.
I will help you battle extremists and comment-deleting evil war-mongers, when I am able.
Mustafa Kemal Added Jul 13, 2018 - 11:08pm
Be Well
James Travil Added Jul 14, 2018 - 12:22am
Talk to you soon Pardero. Be safe. 
Tubularsock Added Jul 17, 2018 - 7:33pm
A “fair deal” is the key as you have shown.
Tubularsock loved your explanation and examples.
Here is to you, Tubularsock has been clapping with one hand the entire time while reading your work ....... can you hear it?