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The Psychology Of Combat & Competition


Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” is without question one of my favorite sources for inspiration and knowledge when it comes to competitive strategy.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The quote above alludes to the fact that many battles are waged in the mind before they ever are expressed physically.

A common misperception about those who engage in combat sports is that they must be charged with anger and rage to gain the will to defeat their opponent.  In fact this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Most professional combat athletes view their opponents as a puzzle to be solved or rather the entire match as a chess game with human pieces.  There is a bit of depersonalization and a sense of survivalism that encompasses true strategy.  The dispassionate approach to strategy and tactics in combat sports provides a significant advantage.  It provides one with control over the situation, and the ability to command presence in the ring, while it also allows one to be aware of the risks to themselves and how they can best approach a situation to ensure they do not lose the match.

Amateurs will be emotionally charged, somewhat erratic and often unpredictable due to the passion behind their approach.  However, a skilled fighter will be able to see beyond the rage and just view the opponent for what they are;  A series of moving parts, a human puzzle waiting to be solved.

This is where you also begin to cover concepts such as timing.  In order to be successful at landing a strike at the right moment, you must be able to gauge an opponents patterns and be ready to strike when the timing is right.  This requires patience and a calm mind.  Something that clearly cannot be accomplished by someone who is emotionally charged and erratic.

Skill, technique, speed, power… all of these are important.  Though, none are as important as the ability to calmly judge when to execute a move against your opponent.  Even with less strength than your opponent, or other physical limitations, finding the opening and striking decisively without passion will provide you a greater chance at success than anything else.

Ultimately this all requires training.  Training to desensitize one’s self from the situation and also to become more agile in gauging your opponents rhythm, timing and patterns.

Thus this brings us back to the beginning.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

To paraphrase, battles are often fought and won in the mind before they ever actually take place.  So next time you spar or engage with an opponent, calm your mind, relax, focus on the essentials for victory and take all the passion out of your fight.  You will find your success rate improves dramatically!

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Luca Rajabi
Luca has been passionate about martial arts and eastern philosophies since childhood. As an athlete, inventor and entrepreneur Luca founded SciFighting on the principal lessons learned from his life experience "fighting" to preserve his health and fitness. Although born with inherently poor and inconsistent health he pushed forward to learn as much as he could about the sciences of technology, medicine and mental health. Years of study, working with physicians and combined analysis finally began to bare fruit by his early twenties. Starting with Fencing, cross training and body building then moving to Boxing, Western Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiujitsu, Eskrima and an eclectic assortment of self defense techniques. Luca's core philosophy is that to win a battle every fighter must balance their mental and physical health. Luca has said that "With well developed technique, conditioning and mental focus a sound strategy will most often win over brute strength alone." It is in this spirit that he passionately advocates for the "Science of Fighting".