Hard and soft (martial arts)
In martial arts, the terms hard and soft technique denote how forcefully a defender martial artist counters the force of an attack in armed and unarmed combat. In the East Asian martial arts, the corresponding hard technique and soft technique terms are 硬 (pinyin yìng, Japanese gō) and 柔 (pinyin róu, Japanese jū), hence Jujutsu (“art of softness”, “way of yielding”) and Judo (“gentle way”).
In European martial arts the same scale applies, especially in the German style of grappling and swordplay dating from the 14th century (e.g., the German school of fencing); the use of the terms hard and soft are otherwise translated as "strong" and "weak." In later European martial arts the scale becomes less of a philosophic concept and more of a scientific approach to where two swords connect upon one another and the options applicable to each in the circumstance.
Regardless of origins and styles "hard and soft" can be seen as simply "opposing or yielding"; each has its application and must be used in its own way, and each makes use of specific principles of timing and biomechanics.
Hard technique 
A hard technique meets force with force; either with a head-on-force blocking technique, or by diagonally cutting the strike with (one's) force. It is an example of the defender using the attacker's force and momentum against him or her. Although hard techniques require greater strength for successful execution, it is the mechanics of the technique that accomplish the defense. Examples are:
- A kickboxing low kick aimed to break the attacker's leg.
- A Karate block aimed to break or halt the attacker's arm.
Hard techniques can be used in offense, defense and counter offence, they are effected by foot work and skeletal alignment, for the most part hard techniques are direct, this in defense they look at interrupting the flow of attack, in counter offense they look at breaking the attack and in offense they are direct and committed blows or throws.
Soft technique 
The goal of the soft technique is turning the attacker’s force to his or her disadvantage, with the defender exerting minimal force. With a soft technique, the defender uses the attacker's force and momentum against him or her, by leading the attack(er) in a direction to where the defender will be advantageously positioned (tai sabaki) and the attacker off balance; a seamless movement then effects the appropriate soft technique. In some styles of martial art like Wing Chun, a series of progressively difficult, two-student training drills, such as pushing hands or sticky hands, teach the exercise the soft-technique(s); hence:
(1) The defender leads the attack by redirecting the attacker's forces against him or her, or away from the defender — instead of meeting the attack with a block. The mechanics of soft technique defenses usually are circular: Yielding is meeting the force with no resistance, like a projectile glancing off a surface without damaging it. Another example could be: an Aikido check/block to an attacker's arm, which re-directs the incoming energy of the blow.
(2) The soft technique usually is applied when the attacker is off-balance, thus the defender achieves the "maximum efficiency" ideal posited by Kano Jigoro (1860–1938), the founder of judo. The Taijiquan (T'ai chi ch'uan) histories report "a force of four taels being able to move a thousand catties", referring to the principle of Taiji — a moving mass can seem weightless. Soft techniques — throws, armlocks, etc. — might resemble hard martial art techniques, yet are distinct because their application requires minimal force. (see kuzushi)
- In Fencing, with a parry, the defender guides or checks the attacker's sword away from himself, rather than endure the force of a direct block; it likely is followed by riposte and counter-riposte.
- In Classical Fencing, other techniques appear in all forms of sword play which fall into the soft category, the most obvious being the disengage where the fencer or swordsman uses the pressure of his opponent to disengage and change lines on his opponent giving him an advantage in the bind.
- In Bare-Knuckle Boxing or Pugilism, with a parry, the defender guides or checks the attacker’s blow away from himself, attempting to cause the attacker to over commit to his blow and allow an easy riposte and counter-riposte.
- In Judo when the attacker (Tori) pushes towards the defender (Uke), the tori drops under the uke, whilst lifting the uke over himself, effecting the Tomoe Nage throw with one of his legs. The technique is categorized as a "front sacrifice technique" in judo and jujutsu styles. The push from the uke can be direct, or it can be a response to a push from the tori.
Soft techniques can be used in offense but are more likely to appear in defense and counter offense. Much like hard techniques they are effected by foot work and skeletal alignment. Where a hard technique in defense often aims to interrupt the flow of attack a soft technique aims to misdirect it, move round it or draw it into over commitment, in counter offense a soft technique may appear as a slip or a vault or simply using the momentum of a technique against the user. Soft techniques in offense would usually only include feints and pulling motions but the definition and categorization may change from one art form to another.
Principle of Jū 
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The principle of Ju (柔 Jū, Yawara ) underlies all classical Bujutsu methods and was adopted by the developers of the Budō disciplines. Acting according to the principle of Jū, the classical warrior could intercept and momentarily control his enemy's blade when attacked, then, in a flash, could counter-attack with a force powerful enough to cleave armor and kill the foe. The same principle of Jū permitted an unarmed exponent to unbalance and hurl his foe to the ground. Terms like "Jūjutsu" and "Yawara" made the principle of Jū the all-pervading one in methods cataloged under these terms. That principle was rooted in the concept of pliancy or flexibility, as understood in both a mental and a physical context. To apply the principle of Jū, the exponent had to be both mentally and physically capable of adapting himself to whatever situation his adversary might impose on him.
There are two aspects of the principle of Jū that are in constant operation, both interchangeable and inseparable. One aspect is that of "yielding", and is manifest in the exponent's actions that accept the enemy's force of attack, rather than oppose him by meeting his force directly with an equal or greater force, when it is advantageous to do so. It is economical in terms of energy to accept the foe's force by intercepting and warding it off without directly opposing it; but the tactic by which the force of the foe is dissipated may be as forcefully made as was the foe's original action.
The principle of Jū is incomplete at this point because yielding is essentially only a neutralization of the enemy's force. While giving way to the enemy's force of attack there must instantly be applied an action that takes advantage of the enemy, now occupied with his attack, in the form of a counterattack. This second aspect of the principle of Jū makes allowance for situations in which yielding is impossible because it would lead to disaster. In such cases "resistance" is justified. But such opposition to the enemy's actions is only momentary and is quickly followed by an action based on the first aspect of Jū, that of yielding.
Distinction from "external and internal" 
- "Here he names the five words; Before [Vor], After [Nach], Weak [Weich], Strong [Hart], in that instant/just as [Indes]. On these words hinge the whole art of Liechtenauer, and they are the foundation and cornerstone of all fencing on foot or on horseback, in armor [Harnusche] or without [Blos]." gloss on Johannes Liechtenauer, recorded 1389. Strong and Weak are often interchangeable with Hard and Soft in both Kampf-Ringen and the German School of Fencing otherwise known as the Liechtenauer tradition
- "As a martial art, Taijiquan is externally a soft exercise, but internally hard, even as it seeks softness. If we are externally soft, after a long time we will naturally develop internal hardness. It’s not that we consciously cultivate hardness, for in reality our mind is on softness. What is difficult is to remain internally reserved, to possess hardness without expressing it, always externally meeting the opponent with softness. Meeting hardness with softness causes the opponent’s hardness to be transformed and disappear into nothingness..." From chapter twenty of the "Forty Chapters" preserved by Taijiquan's Yang family.
- "Those who practice Shaolinquan leap about with strength and force; people not proficient at this kind of training soon lose their breath and are exhausted. Taijiquan is unlike this. Strive for quiescence of body, mind and intention. ...The greatest taboo when practicing Taijiquan is to use force. If one can make the entire body loose and open, and be absorbed in the circulation of blood and qi, then after a while one's practice will naturally develop inner jing. This inner energy is extremely soft, so when encountering an opponent one doesn't need to resist at all. The ability to extend and contract in order to follow the opponent's energy is referred to as elastic power within softness. Taijiquan theory states: "From the greatest softness comes the greatest hardness." This is what is meant by softness." Wu Jianquan in his essay Features of Taijiquan
- "In Randori we teach the pupil to act on the fundamental principles of Judo, no matter how physically inferior his opponent may seem to him, and even if by sheer strength he can easily overcome him; because if he acts contrary to principle his opponent will never be convinced of defeat, no matter what brute strength he may have used." Kano Jigoro
- "I may venture to say, loosely, that in Judo there is a sort of counter for every twist, wrench, pull, push or bend. Only the Judo expert does not oppose such movements at all. No, he yields to them. But he does much more than yield to them. He aids them with a wicked sleight that causes the assailant to put out his own shoulder, to fracture his own arm, or in a desperate case, even to break his own neck or back." Lafcadio Hearn
- "True spirit of Judo is nothing but the gentle and diligent free spirit. Judo rests on flexible action of mind and body. The word flexible however never means weakness but something more like adaptability and openmindedness. Gentleness always overcomes strength." Kyuzo Mifune
- "Do not think of attack and defense as two separate things. An attack will be a defense, and a defense must be an attack." Kazuzo Kudo
- "Another tenet of randori is to apply just the right amount of force--never too much, never too little." Kano Jigoro
- "The true capoeirista does not let himself be grasped… He ducks… he dodges… he flees… he escapes… Because When free… the capoeirista leaps, descends, retreats in aú… When held, he is immobile… vulnerable… defenseless… Free, the capoeirista leaps… descends and crawls… escapes in aú… Imprisoned, immobile, seized, he can be stabbed… Strangled… kicked… stoned… shot… raped… violated… In summary FOOLISH IS HE WHO LETS HIMSELF BE GRABBED… AND… EVEN MORE FOOLISH IS HE WHO GRABS!" Mestre Bimba
- "Weak against strong, hard against soft and vice versa . Because when it is strong against strong, the stronger one will always win." Doebringer explaining application of Hard against soft and vice versa according to the teachings of Master Liechtenauer
- "While wrestling with a weaker opponent, one should act "before". ... Against a stronger opponent act "after"." Ott Jud's Kampf-Ringen, Strong and Weak are often interchangeable with Hard and Soft in both Kampf-Ringen and the German School of Fencing otherwise known as the Liechtenauer tradition.
See also 
- List of martial arts
- Aiki (martial arts principle)
- Wing chun
- T'ai chi ch'uan
- Fu, Zhongwen (1996, 2006). Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan. Louis Swaine. Berkeley, California: Blue Snake Books. ISBN 1-58394-152-5 (trade paper).
- c.f. The martial arts FAQ, built up over years of discussion on rec.martial.arts. In part one, there is an entry for hard vs soft and internal vs external.
- Lindholm, David (2005). "Cod.HS.3227a or Hanko Döbringer fechtbuch from 1389" (pdf). www.thearma.org. p. 16. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
- Wu, Kung-tsao (1980, 2006). Wu Family T'ai Chi Ch'uan (吳家太極拳). Chien-ch’uan T’ai-chi Ch’uan Association. ISBN 0-9780499-0-X.
- Wile, Douglas (1995). Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty (Chinese Philosophy and Culture). State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-2654-8.
- Woolidge, Doug (June 1997). T’AI CHI The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch’uan Vol. 21 No. 3. Wayfarer Publications. ISSN 0730-1049.
- Ohlenkamp, Neil (June 15, 2006). "Words of Wisdom on Learning Judo". www.judoinfo.com. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
- Ohlenkamp, Neil (May 29, 2007). "More Words of Judo Wisdom". www.judoinfo.com. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
- "Grappling in capoeira". capoeira-connection.com. 26 October 2011. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
- Lindholm, David (2005). "Cod.HS.3227a or Hanko Döbringer fechtbuch from 1389" (pdf). www.thearma.org. p. 21. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
- Tyra, Sylwester (2004). "Master Ott’s Wrestling". www.thearma.org. English translation by Bart Walczak. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
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