Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 22 • Yin ☯ Yang of Strategy vs. Tactics

One aspect of fighting is knowing your opponent’s weaknesses. But those weaknesses are not always apparent. Formulating a winning strategy before a match is an effective approach to understanding an opponent, but that convenience is not always available. In a surprise circumstance, assessing a situation in real-time may be required.

One approach is to judge an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses on appearance alone. Although “judging a book by it’s cover” is not always wise, it may be the only recourse.  For instance, assessing a muscular opponent may assume good grappling skills – Avoiding a ground conflict may be paramount. A tall fighter will likely have a “reach advantage”, meaning that the length of their limbs are longer than yours. This means they can hit you, even if you can’t hit them – In this case, combinations and movement will be required to duck under the opponent’s punches for a counter-attack. A smaller fighter, on the other hand, will typically have shorter limbs and will want to get “inside” to connect their strikes or grab for a take-down. Formulating strategy is fundamental to combat sports. We cover this topic in more detail here: Martial Arts • Fighting Science • Fighting Zones

Compared to strategy, tactics are more immediate and specific. These focus on mitigating an opponent’s granular reactions and exploiting their technical weaknesses. For example, a fighter may drop their hands when they kick – This can be exploited with a well-timed strike to the head when they attack with a kick. The opponent may have a tendency to lean back when facing a jab – Rushing them will put them off balance. The fighter may hold their breath when they are attacked. This physical reaction is often caused by fear or inexperience. Moreover, holding breath results in getting tired much faster.  With this opponent, surviving an initial onslaught and waiting for the opponent to be exhausted may be an effective tactic.

A fighter may hide their weaknesses by pouncing early,
not giving the opponent a chance of introspection.

Professional fighters often have the luxury of formulating strategy and tactics before a competition, because they can review an opponent’s previous fights and analyze their strengths and weaknesses if footage exists. In the absence of such content, a strategy may need to be formulated in real-time, in the first seconds or minutes of a fight. Once an opponent has been engaged, their capabilities are clearer.

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.

Martial Arts • Fighting Science Series

If you would like to read more articles in this “Yin Yang of Fighting Science” series, check out these posts:

• 1 • Yin Yang of Technique vs. Power
• 2 • Yin Yang of Speed vs. Timing
• 3 • Yin Yang of Fighting Styles
• 4 • Yin Yang of Technique vs. Instinct
• 5 • Yin Yang of Empty vs. Full Cups
• 6 • Yin Yang of Slow vs. Fast
• 7 • Yin Yang of Perception vs. Reality
• 8 • Yin Yang of Fear vs. Confidence
• 9 • Yin Yang of Threes
• 10 • Yin Yang of Burden vs. Privilege
• 11 • Yin Yang of Anticipation vs. Surprise
• 12 • Yin Yang of Compliance vs. Resistance
• 13 • Yin Yang of Attacking vs. Defending
• 14 • Yin Yang of Fighting 360°
• 15 • Yin Yang of Teachers vs. Students
• 16 • Yin Yang of Physics vs. Physiology
• 17 • Yin Yang of Vulnerability vs. Opportunity
• 18 • Yin Yang of Martial Arts vs. Combat
• 19 • Yin Yang of Sport vs. Violence
• 20 • Yin Yang of Rhythm vs. Random
• 21 • Yin Yang of Stability
• 22 • Yin Yang of Strategy vs. Tactics
• 23 • Yin Yang of Instinct vs. Reason
• 24 • Yin Yang of Unstoppable vs. Immovable

• Fighting Science • Fighter’s Curve
• Fighting Science • Fighting Zones

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