Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 7 • Yin ☯ Yang of Perception vs. Reality

Fighting is a balance of reality versus perception. A fighter’s reality evolves around their skills, experience, and mental strength – often called a fighter’s “heart”. Where does perception play a role?

It’s often said that “fights are lost before they begin”. This is because the fighter’s perception of the opponent overshadows the reality of their fighting abilities. For example, a fighter may have a muscular frame but may have never fought in their life. If a fighter is intimidated by such an opponent they won’t perform at their full potential.

Students typically misinterpret the “size” of an attack as being much larger than its reality. For example, they try to avoid a fist by slipping or ducking, with a movement that far exceeds the dimensions of the attack. For example, they treat a 10cm fist as 50cm so their countermeasure wastes a lot of energy to avoid a perceived 50cm attack.

Why is this happening? This extravagant countermeasure comes down to fear. The student is fearful of the attack, thus takes unnecessary measures to avoid it. The focus in class is to teach students to first be aware of their own fear, and then to suppress it. If they are successful then their technique is reduced to the most basic movements.

Minimizing movement is part of a fighter’s portfolio.
The efficient output of energy results in faster countermeasures.

Fighting is about confidence.  An inexperienced fighter may be manipulated by their opponent into believing they are weaker or less skilled. Confidence brings out the best in the fighter’s skills. In contrast, insecurity suppresses a fighter’s skill. An opponent may use psychological tactics by trying to inflate their opponent’s fear, to win a fight, even before it begins.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Sometimes an unassuming opponent is an experienced fighter.

A similar dynamic of perception and reality plays out in training. Students sparring with their trainer will initially be intimidated by their instructor. But sometimes the reverse happens, where the trainer may take it easy on the student. Suddenly the student feels the two are more closely matched. The reality is that the trainer may be fighting at 20% their potential but the student is fighting at 80%. I call this scenario “a false sense of dominance” when a teacher spars with teaching in mind, but the student is fighting to win.

Trainers should never view their students as opponents.
Students should never view their trainers as rivals.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

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