Simon, wonderful post! Its also great to know that Niels Bohr did something I can actually pretend to understand.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">This is interesting. Brings to mind "If my opponent does not move, I do not move; if my opponent moves, I move first" -- the typical translation. I prefer the translation that goes -- "if my opponent moves, I arrive first" -- and it fits what you are talking about here.</font>
I too prefer to work with second phrase, rather than the second; however, I do not think that this is a translation issue. I think both phrases are used in the classics and writings of the early masters. By the way, does anyone know offhand which formulation is older or where each comes from?
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The bit about the decision to shoot versus the reflex of responding is the key. The attacker uses the intellectual center to decide to attack and to initiate the process. When you are in a state of neutral awarenesss and an attack is perceived the instinctive and moving centers respond. These centers move at orders of magnitude faster than the thinking center. </font>
I agree with this, but also think there is additional factor. If you are using traditional Taijiquan to respond, you have already made two critical decisions before the opponent has a chance to decide on an attack. You have made the "decision" to use "sticking" as a strategy. As your tactic, you have already "decided" to stick to wherever the opponent's intention and power manifest. The rest is detail left for instinct and training. You do not have to worry about choosing a speed or a target, or even a level of power. You don't have to worry about over-committing or about whether an opportunity will present itself for a counterattack. This is inherent in your strategy and tactics.
Put another way, I think you move or arrive first, because you are already doing something before the opponent even begins. Since this thing is inherently tied to the movement and intention of the opponent, she cannot get out ahead of you. To do so, she would have to get out ahead of herself. At least in theory.
For me, this is an idea that I was trying to get at in an exchange a couple of years ago about keeping in the opponent's mental shadow. You arrive first because you are always standing in a place that the opponent cannot get at without changing first. If your level of listening and understanding are sufficient, you can always anticipate this change and prepare a counter. That is, of course, a very big "if."