Home Science Education How to Feint: Deception vs. Distraction

How to Feint: Deception vs. Distraction


Feinting is more about deception than distraction.  Two famous quotes from Sun Tzu capture the essence of this perspective.

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Indeed the act of feinting is to wage a psychological battle on your opponent.  It is literally throwing a punch or a kick or even an elbow without actually throwing it.  In principle this sounds easy to do, yet in practice it is a much more challenging technique to master.

First let’s review some basics about striking.  Remember that a strike (whether a kick, punch or elbow) receives it’s power from the entire torso’s movement, (starting from the hips and radiating up or down depending on the type of strike).  An experienced fighter will know this and will be looking for context clues, scanning your every movement to prepare themselves for a defense, counter or simply an opening to strike.

Aggressive Attack

More cerebral fighters will want you to make the first move where as more emotional fighters will be unpredictable and likely try to land the first blow.  Please keep in mind these are guidelines and not absolute rules when it comes to categorizing a fighter.

Feinting often involves you mimicking all the body mechanics of a strike without actually throwing it (meaning keep your gloves up, feet down and ready to block, cap or perry).  When doing this it is important you don’t over exaggerate the motion and keep the movement to a minimal amount to deceive your opponent.  Using a feint to fool someone can create an opening for a counter to their response (whether it’s a block, adjustment in their guard or an attempt at striking you). If they do strike, use this opportunity to learn as much as you can about your opponent.

Movement in a fight may appear complex, but even the best fighters use small patterns of movement that they put together into long chains (which we know as combinations).  Observing these small patterns using feints will teach you a great deal about your opponent’s responses to your strikes.  Once you have identified a pattern begin to use the feint to create an opening where you want to strike.

The number of feints one can use are virtually limitless so we can’t list them all.  We will instead cover one scenario as an example.

MMA Boxing

You are in a boxing match (both standing orthodox) and you and your opponent are standing opposite each other, guard up.  You feint by moving your left hip, left leg and left shoulder in such a way as if you were to throw a jab, but instead of throwing the jab you keep your arm pulled back and hand ready to block, cap or perry a strike from your opponent.  Your opponent decides to respond to your jab with a jab of their own.  You slip the punch and reply with a right body or head hook.   Since your opponent has extended his arm to jab you, his head and body are unprotected on his left side, thus a right hand counter is perfect for this setup.  You could also try with a cross by slipping over his arm as he extends connecting at the jaw or you could uppercut by going under his arm as you slip.  Both of these last two responses are slightly more difficult to pull off than the hook but with practice all of them should become second nature.

In mixed martial arts the act of feinting, or deception, can be used with any possible attack or even a defense.  The general idea is to lead your opponent where ever you want them to go to make it easier for you to attack when you want to.  The result being as much a battle of the mind as it is a battle of the body.  Which leads us to two more very relevant quotes from Sun Tzu.

“All warfare is based on deception.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Hendricks Victory Over Condit

“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

Finally, it is most important to remember that your face, the sounds you make, the breaths you take all can be used to interpret your movements by your opponent.  You must be aware of all of this and in control of all of this to ensure you can feint effectively.  The more comfortable you are managing these elements in a fight, the more effective you will be at feinting and your objectives will be significantly easier to achieve.

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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".