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This tip deals more with the psychological aspect of fighting:
You must establish superiority between you and your opponent.
Before I begin let me qualify this. When I speak of fighting, I am not talking about any specific type of fighting. While it is possible to specialize in one type of fighting–streetfighting, full contact, point, self defense, etc.–when it comes to ability, either you can fight or you cannot. Martial artists enjoy saying, “well, I don’t do well in competition because I train strictly for the street.” By now, you should know my opinion of this: you don’t do well in competition because there is a flaw in your fighting ability… stop using excuses! The attributes of fighting can be applied to all types of fighting, some emphasized more than others, and developing them enables you to fight in more than just one arena. What I am teaching in this series is the universal principles of fighting. Catch me one day at my school, and I will prove to you these principles work. I am not an arguer.
Going into most fights, one person will be the aggressor and the other the victim. Sometimes, depending on what type of person you are, both parties will be the aggressor because the fight itself is mutual. Either way, one person is always the one who initiates the fight, but this person does not always end up the superior opponent. Your goal going into a fight (or self-defense situation, if you insist) is to establish yourself as the superior fighter in this altercation. If you can master this very complex skill, you will give yourself the upper hand in many confrontations–whether they are actual fights, in business, in competition of all types (including competition for a woman’s affection, promotions on the job, popularity in school, it is a universal principle), whatever. This is not to say that you will actually BE superior–that is what training is for. You just need to establish in y0ur opponent’s mind that you are the superior fighter, which weakens your opponent’s confidence and will to fight while bulking yours up.
We seek to establish superiority in several areas:
Speed in fighting is not as important as timing. However, most fighters cannot distinguish one from the other. The ability to land without being stopped depends more on timing and reflex, than it does speed, but having superior timing and reflex leads to the perception that you are faster than your opponent. One of the skills that will assist in improving your timing is by using counter hits instead of blocking. Blocking relies on speed and timing, but slows the defend/counter process and is easy for the attacker to follow. Striking your opponent when he attempts to strikes you cuts the time in half, and is much more difficult to follow, because most likely the opponent does not see your counter hit. When he gets hit everytime he attacks you, he will come away with the impression that you are faster than he is because he never sees your attack.
Why is this? Because on the attack, opponents tend to be focused only on landing his shot. He is not using his periferal vision, or at least is not focused on it. When you angle away from your opponent’s attack to strike him, even if you are a fraction slower, he misses and you land. This is a devastating thing to happen, and when it occurs repeatedly, it leads to a feeling of helplessness because no matter how much faster he attacks, he still gets hit.
Most fighters do not train at 100% power all the time. Therefore, they do not fight with 100% power all the time. In fact, most teachers will discourage their fighters from using 100% power all the time because it causes one to tire quickly, and results in slower movement and slow thinking. I agree. However, imagine if you fought an opponent who hits with 100% power every time he lands, and appears to never tire? What would that do to your strategy?
Mike Tyson is known for his power, and appears to use full power for everything he does. In the first two years of his career, he had won almost all of his fights by knockout–26 out of 28–and 16 of those in the first round. But he did not use power all the time. What’s interesting to note is that Tyson came out with full power for the first round always, and if he did not finish the opponent then, he jabbed, poked and prodded until he saw an opening. Only then did he attack full power again, and it was always devastating. But the psychological effect on his opponents was more devastating! Because of how he began the first round, his opponents feared him, and treated every attack as if it were poisonous. This allowed Tyson to pick and choose when to use power, which helped him conserve energy, while the opponent wasted energy in fear.
For the street, you would begin the altercation full blast, and then ease back once the opponent came to expect full power blows everytime you flinch. This not only establishes that you hit hard, but also leads to the impression that you are the more powerful opponent.
This is one of the more difficult ways to establish superiority. You must be a good actor by not reacting emotionally to any of your opponent’s successes. When he hits you, you must ignore the shot. You must not rub the area that hurts, nor should you spend extra time protecting it when he attempts to hit you again. Never attempt to stop the fight once you’ve been hit with a good shot. All of these things indicate that you have been hurt, and fuels your opponent’s thirst for more blood.
But let him hit you with his best, and have no effect on you, and he will worry that he cannot hurt you. This is the message you must send: that YOU CANNOT BE HURT BY THIS OPPONENT. It is a mental ploy, but if you can master it, you actually take away the opponent’s confidence in himself and willingness to try to finish you. A master of this is boxer Ricardo Mayorga, who invited opponents to hit him in the face, and then shook it off and retaliated. There was a time, it seemed that no one wanted to fight “the craziest man in boxing”. The truth of his skill is actually not a skill at all. Actually, most people could take the punches Mayorga takes. He was just willing to take the punches and most fighters are not; this gives him an aura of indestructibility. Any fighter, if he saw the punch coming and could brace himself for it, could withstand a punch to the face… we do it all the time. What Mayorga has done was identify an area most people are weak in–willingness to accept punishment–and taught himself to take it.
This is the hard part. Learning to take your opponent’s abuse. Doing so will make you feel like you cannot be hurt, and your opponent will feel the same way. When you are the one who is indestructible, you become the unbeatable opponent.
Everyone learns this on the first day, but very few actually excel at it. Take a stable of highly skilled fighters, and I guarantee half of them have poor footwork.
But how can they be skilled opponents, yet have poor footwork? Most fighters have other strengths that compensate for this weakness. Look at your own training. Do you train punches and kicks in place? Ever? If you answered “yes”, “sometimes”, whatever, then I would bet the bank that you have underdeveloped footwork. The reason I say this is that fighters training for superior footwork never train standing in one place. Ever. If you are guilty of doing this even once in a while, you are not placing enough emphasis on footwork. And footwork is an aspect of a fighter’s arsenal that will make or break him. It can never be weak, and must always be used. Imagine a big strong fighter like Kimbo Slice, fighting while on roller skates and his feet tied together. Do you think you would have a good chance to beat him? Of course! His power means nothing if he cannot get to you, and his defense means nothing if he cannot get away from you. If punching and kicking is the Mustang GT in a race, footwork are the tires. I might even say, footwork is the fuel. Your skill is meaningless if you do not have a method to catch a moving opponent, nor the ability to get away from him when he attacks. You work harder when you have poor footwork because the bulk of the pressure is put on your strikes and blocks when you are not mobile.
This is the problem I have with stylize footwork like the cha-cha people do when they practice sinawali, and the Triangle footwork when people want to make their art seem more “Filipino”. They are thinking too deep in terms of concept and principle and not making practicality and effectiveness the purpose of choosing footwork strategy. There are three ways to establish superiority in footwork, and these three ways will guarantee you success in a fight, if you can master them:
Make sure that everytime you launch an attack after an opponent, you end up close enough to land. Should you fail because he blocked, no problem. But make sure you never end an attack because the opponent got away. Your priority, then, should be to catch your opponent everytime you go searching for him.
Make sure that everytime he attacks you, he misses. Regardless of whether he misses by an inch or by a foot, he must fail every time he lunges. The better you evade him, the less your blocking and defense must work. We want him to believe that he can’t catch you. Just make sure that when he misses, you are still close enough to make him pay. It’s pointless to evade an opponent so far that you can’t reach him when you are ready to strike back.
Make sure that every attack is delivered by a Porsche Turbo. When your footwork is that quick, your hands and feet can afford to move with less speed and power because everything you do will be twice as fast. Too often, fighters’ footwork is lackadaisical and lazy. This causes them to rely too much on things like handspeed and complicated combinations.
So, these are the ways to establish that you are the superior fighter. When you have mastered this skill alone, you have gained a psychological advantage that will allow to even defeat better trained opponents, bigger, stronger, or more experienced opponents. Many fighters do not understand the dynamics of psychological warfare, and fall prey to more crafty fighters. Some of the masters of this art are Bernard Hopkins, “Lights Out” James Toney, and Muhammad Ali; they have all beaten younger, more physically skilled fighters by convincing their opponents by convincing them that they are actually inferior.
This is one of the secrets of the masters, and I am sure you will not find such a strategy in any book, video, or class. This is not knowledge that is passed down from teacher to student, but most often from experience and trial and error.