"Fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” — Bruce Lee
In 1996, my first jiujitsu teacher, Ralph Gracie, said this once to my class in Mountain View, California.
I didn’t get it.
I was a white belt, just trying to survive by any means during “rolling”, or 100% strength live sparring. The seemingly endless permutations of submission grappling attacks bombarded and drowned me, repeatedly and painfully. Whenever I tried to deploy the few moves that I could vaguely remember (while suffocating from fear and panic), my opponent always seemed to have a counter move that I had never seen before.
My conclusion was that I needed to learn more moves—which is true when you know zero moves—but instead of focusing on one attack sequence, or one defense sequence, I just tried learning as many moves as I could. The answer, I thought, was to simply have mental access to a larger database of moves from which I could select at any given moment. Whoever "had" more moves would win.
As I continued with jiujitsu, I spent an unusually long time stuck at blue belt—the second of five belt ranks in jiujitsu.
I simply could not apply all these moves successfully in live fight scenarios because I hadn’t mastered any of them. I was exactly like the man who tries to practice 10,000 different kicks; although I had “learned” hundreds of different jiujitsu moves, I wasn’t a master of any of them. In fact, I wasn’t even applying them correctly in the first place. I was ineffective against my live sparring partners, and my teachers quietly did not promote me, year after year.
I gave up on jiujitsu many, many times. I would quit for a few months, sometimes even a year or two. I’d become frustrated staying stuck at blue belt, watching all my peers, new peers, and new-new-new peers all surpass me. I eventually lost the hope that I would improve. I started treating jiujitsu class simply as an occasional variation to my workout routine, rather than as the dedicated martial artist that I had hoped myself to be.
Interestingly, by giving up the search for more and more moves, I naturally began to forget the excess. Every time I went to jiujitsu, I became less and less cluttered in my mind. I was forced to try only one or two moves at a time, because that’s all I remembered! I began to dispassionately try those few moves over and over. I slowly became better and better at these limited options until I realized I was actually decent at them. From there, I began to hold my own with my peers.
One day, I shockingly defeated a young, athletic, and professional black belt with one of these specific moves, which absolutely shocked me (and him!).
How could I possibly have tapped out this beast of a man as a piddly blue belt? This was the same man who previously toyed, smashed, and turned me into a human pretzel at will without breaking a sweat. How was it feasible that this man who had mastered multiple facets of grappling could be submitted by an opponent who really only knew one move?
I came to realize that if I continued to hyper-focus on this one specific move, practicing it 10,000 times, I could take it to levels of detail that 99% of people cannot begin to know or understand—or even care about—giving me still greater advantage.
It took me fifteen long years to realize what my first jiujitsu teacher had tried to teach me about the value of perfecting my “one kick”.
To be able to develop an unstoppable move is like creating a secret nuclear weapon. No matter how much faster, stronger, or smarter my opponent is at all other facets of the game, so long as he slips into the right conditions, I can detonate this weapon of mass destruction to decisively end the match. By unwittingly entering into this specific space—my space—I can leverage my hyper-specialization in an instant of opportunity. I just need to wait patiently and set the conditions to put my best foot forward (pun).
Twenty-four years later and counting, I’m still perfecting my one kick on the jiujitsu mats (kimura) experimenting with different positions, angles, and counters. I am fascinated by the tiniest details and variations of style, finding great joy when I fail and learn something new and unexpected, even after so many years and iterations. I watch any new or varied instructional content I can find, discuss theories, and contemplate all the obscure minutiae of this single move. It is the signature dish of my jiujitsu kitchen.
Humbly, I have come to realize what it means to truly master something over a lifetime of reflection and introspection – to be compulsively obsessed with it.
Blackpanda's One Kick
As with many elements of jiujitsu, I often try to take lessons that I can apply to other aspects of my life. This concept of having “one kick” certainly applies to businesses, and I hope that those who work with Blackpanda notice this theme in our own business strategy.
At Blackpanda, we focus solely on cyber security incident response and digital forensics in Asia-Pacific. This is our not-so-secret nuclear weapon. We take a vice-like grip with a laser focus on iterating in this specific niche of cyber security post-breach response.
We do not dabble in penetration testing. We do not do virtual CISO work on the side. We do one thing, we excel at it, and we do it in Asia.
We speak the local languages and know how Asian businesses work. We understand how government and financial regulations impact legal and public relation considerations as well as how these considerations differ from US and European markets.
Rather than compete with all the other cyber security consulting companies at 10,000 different kicks, we are honing our “one kick” every day to a finely edged blade, like a samurai’s katana. We want to be that perfectly balanced weapon, designed for the master stroke that no opponent can stop once we start.
"Our focus is an inch wide and ten miles deep"
We are fanatical with being the best assassins in one skillset. We invest not only in the uniquely-qualified specialists for this arena of cyber security but also in the advanced forensics tooling and continuous SANS training for each of our responders.
We have built our own technology to enhance our ability to conduct incident response, with our Pandarecon endpoint agent allowing us to be more efficient and operate remotely—mapping out the “blueprint of the house” for our cyber firefighters to move decisively and without hesitation.
We are obsessed with constantly analyzing, improving, and executing more effectively with each successive case. We seek out opportunities for specialization in our field (ransomware negotiations, marine shipping vessels, ICS, ATMs) beyond what is typical and to the point where we want to be: atypical.
Our focus is an inch wide and ten miles deep.
This singular dedication to craft is exactly why insurance companies, law firms, telcos, IT service providers, and even other cyber security consulting companies choose to white-label or partner with Blackpanda in this specific cyber space in Asia. When companies call us, they know they are not receiving penetration testers who moonlight in incident response, or a former CISO who only knows how to install Carbon Black; they are getting professional, full-time cyber incident responders and forensics specialists dedicated to honing their art and craft every single day.
We know our “one kick”, practicing it 10,000 times and more to be the very best cyber firefighters in Asia—nothing else, and nothing less.