My thoughts about fighting, winning and losing

winningFighting sports offer a broad range of opportunities for competitive people that are interested in measuring their skills and performance against others.  Martial arts were invented to improve fighting skills, initially for warriors and soldiers then for ordinary people to help them defending themselves.  Best way of testing one’s skill was to challenge somebody else and see who the winner was.  Obviously when weapons are involved the result could be lethal for one of the fighters but, the evolution of unarmed combat has developed many different fighting styles that, fast forwarded into the 20th and now 21st century, originated nearly as many sports regulations.  Unless you are practicing a very specific and traditional martial art like Aikido or Wing Chun you will have the opportunity of testing your skills against another fighter in a properly organised tournament.

I have always embraced martial arts practice in a very holistic way trying to develop all aspects of self development and skill improvement they can offer; that means that for me sparring and fighting was never the only or the most predominant activity in my training.  However there is no doubt that fighting itself is the ultimate test that measures how realistic you training is and how applicable the techniques you have been practicing are.  I could probably describe my whole thoughts on the topic as: you must fight and being good at it but when training for it sparring is not the only part you should concentrate on.

If you are taking part in a marathon you know that there will tens of thousand participant and one winner; there a very high probability it won’t be you.  So entering a marathon is the kind of thing many people do for the sake of actually doing it with very little ambitions of actually winning one.  When fighting a martial arts bout you know it will be just you and another individual; by the end of the fight one of you will be the winner and the other… the looser; there is no problem about that but many people take the whole thing way too serious.

Winning is good, it makes you feel good and gives you amazing personal rewards.  Losing is not so good but, particularly at the beginning, you need to take into account that losing is part of life and it’s not the end of it.  Personally I don’t like losing and therefore, when I was competing, I would not enter a tournament unless I knew I worked very hard and felt ready for it I knew I had a fair chance of winning and most times I did win.  Now that I am coaching athletes I consider their victory or defeat as much as if I were fighting myself.  For that reason I work very closely with them and make sure I push their skills and preparation beyond their normal comfort zone so that they can have their fair chance of winning.

The actual physical martial aspect of fighting need to be blended with the psychological aspect of how one’s mind will accept and process very fast thoughts before and during the fight as well strong feeling associated to the irrational act of entering a ring or a cage and trying to beat somebody else up, even if by obeying to some rules. Many people including myself consider normal what and how they do things and some times unusual or odd other people’s approach when different.  So in my opinion everybody should apply the simple rule of entering competition just when well prepared and with a fair chance of winning. I felt very uncomfortable a few weeks ago while watching the Cambridge University Tao Kwon Do club losing very badly in a Varsity fight against Oxford University.  I was stunned by how poorly prepared most of the Cambridge boys and girls were and how they have been pushed into a fight without their fair chance of winning, surely due to little or no sparring practice during their training.

Losing in a martial arts bout can hurt your body and head, on top of your ego and soul; you must train hard until you have done everything that was possible to prepare your self and being ready, so to have your fair chance for a victory.

Three key strategies for winning a kickboxing fight

Light Contact KickboxingA kickboxing bout can be regulated by different rules and levels of contact; what seems to be growing fast and well applying to amateur athletes is the so called Light Contact or Light Continuous. In my experience the term light probably had a different meaning when this style was first defined 20 years or so ago. Light contact was originally created as a softer version of a continuous full contact bout but, in 2013, light contact kickboxing is not as light as its name suggests.

To the contrary to what inexperienced people might assume winning a light contact fight is not about knocking somebody down but applying a strategy that aims at scoring more points than your opponent. In fact a KO victory is just possible by accident and anybody trying to finish a fight early by KO, as it could be applied when fighting in other styles, will be subject to disciplinary actions.

In light contact the winning strategy is about keeping a nice level of pressure with attacks that actually score and a guard/defence that avoids much scoring from your opponent. Judges will score all attacks landing in scoring areas but also take into account who is actually attacking most and who is dominating the fight. It is always preferable for you to set the pace and the style of the bout you are fighting but, if your opponent starts very aggressively since the beginning and tries to impose his/her strategy, you might need to quickly control his/her enthusiasm.

As we are talking about kickboxing fight we should remember that a good looking fight should have attacks that combine and alternate both punches and kicks.

Here a few strategies that could help you winning:

Machine gun attack

If you have lots of stamina you could simply keep attacking and putting positive pressure on the opponent; if you are facing a less fit opponent he/she will soon close into a defensive guard and you’ll have an easy victory. If your opponent is as fit as you or more you might need to adapt your strategy to one of the next ones.

Blitzing

It a simple strategy based on keeping the distance and launching attacks based on combinations of kicks and punches; you blitz into reaching distance, hit a few times possibly scoring once or twice and get back out of range. If you manage to impose your own attacks and force the opponent to accept your strategy you will look as the dominating fighter in the ring and, as long as you land a few scores per round while keeping a decent guard, you will win. This second strategy works well if your fitness is good but not enough to implement and maintain the machine gun attack

Wait and counter

This strategy requires excellent timing skills so that you can intercept or anticipate your opponent’s attacks and score while he/she is attacking you. You should have enough speed to catch them unprepared and enough power to disrupt their strategy when they are trying to implement a machine gun or blitzing attack. This strategy could be the one requiring the least amount of stamina but you should never underestimate how fit and powerful your opponent might be and where he/she will be pushing the fight.

I cannot think of a fight where just one of this strategies could be applied on its own; also you can make all plans of this world but if they do not fit with your opponent you must be prepared to have a plan B.