Tag Archives: grappling

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 2 • Yin ☯ Yang of Speed vs. Timing

In combat sports, it is often stated:

“Timing beats Speed”

In combat training, good technique is often confused with speed. To understand good fighting technique it’s important to divide speed into three parts:

1. Reaction time (how fast the body reacts to an attack)

2. The execution (or the time a technique begins till it ends), and

3. The pure speed that a fighter’s muscles and physique possess to execute an attack.

All students begin by learning how to minimize their reaction time to attacking and defending, by not wasting movements. Learning good techniques addresses 1. and 2. above and can take a dedicated fighter years to master. Advanced stages of fighting techniques entail “timing”:

  • Learn to read your opponent: Their movements, the techniques they use, the style they use. Do they telegraph their movements? Meaning, a little foot shuffle before kicking? Do they twitch before punching? Do they hold their breath before exerting energy? Do they load up on their punching, otherwise known as “cocking the gun”?Telegraphing can take on many forms – listening to the opponent’s breathing, watching them tense their muscles, observing needless movement before executing a strike. All of these signals giveaway an attack. Keep a poker face, and don’t give away your next move. The ability of a fighter to “explode” into an attack with minimal movement, no telegraphing, makes them faster.
  • Learn to anticipate the movements of your opponent: Which movements or attacks do they consistently repeat? How can you exploit those repetitive movements? Repetition is good in training, but not good in sparring. In fighting, repetition leads to well-versed opponents using an opponent’s repetition to their disadvantage.

Does good technique make a fighter faster? To a certain extent – Yes. But speed is about reaction time and getting a fist or foot from their home position (in guard position), to the attack position (fully extended and connecting with the target). This is the third aspect mentioned above, and age, talent and athleticism play key roles.

I teach students to attack with explosiveness and surprise, as if they are catching a fly. Catching flies requires relaxing, exhaling, and then reacting without thinking. The fastest fighters learn to move without thinking because they have practiced the move thousands of times. When a fighter needs to think of their next move, their reaction time for their brain to tell their fist or foot to move will take time – especially in front of an experienced fighter who has the experience and muscle memory to execute the same move.

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, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.


Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 1 • Yin ☯ Yang of Technique vs. Power

In combat sports, it is often stated:

“9 times out of 10, Technique beats Power”

This statement is poignant from a few perspectives. First of all, the conspicuous avoidance of a perfect score. Any good fighter can be knocked out by an average fighter. We’re not perfect beings. Through life, we may strive for perfection, but we also need to be practical.

That leaves us with 90% of the time when technique wins.  That there are few caveats to mention. For instance, a powerful opponent may know a few good techniques. This needs to be a consideration in an altercation. They may not have fighting experience, but we can’t underestimate any opponent and assume they have “no” experience. Misunderestimating an opponent is one of the top reasons why fights are lost. Another aspect that mitigates this statement is when the size of an opponent overshadows in weight and muscle. A 150kg Goliath has a sizeable advantage over a 70kg David, and a winning strategy of the smaller opponent will require a balance of several factors: strengths & weaknesses, speed, vs. agility, and confidence vs. psychology. We will explore these factors and many others, throughout this “Fighting Science” series.

One practicality is that most humans have the same head size and weight.  Most human heads weight around 4.5kg regardless of how heavy they are. Why is this important?  Mainly because knockouts in combat are typically from punching laterally to the chin of the opponent. An accurate hook to the chin can bring down most fighters, regardless of their stature. Through nearly 20 years of watching UFC fights, I would estimate that 80% of all head knockouts are from a hook to the chin. I was unable to find exact statistics online, but if anyone has these details, please leave a comment below.

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, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • Fighter’s Curve

Graphic - Martial Arts, Fighting Science (smaller)• In this Martial Arts • Fighting Science paper we will discuss the psychology and physiology of fighters in combat. This first article investigates the changes in entropy when two opponents fight. Entropy is the measure of “order” in a particular system. In the context of fighting, low entropy means a high level of control. High entropy means low control or high disorder. The exchange between two fighters can be a series of punches, kicks, elbows, knee strikes or even grappling on the ground.

Portfolio - Fighting Science, Fighter's Curve_i. Figher's Curve• During a fight the level of entropy increases. In an exchange each opponent has their own “fighter’s curve”. We can visualize this curve in a graph where the y-axis represents entropy, and on the x-axis is time. The longer it takes for an exchange to take place between two opponents the higher the entropy. In other words, both fighters lose some level of control in an exchange. But the rate at which the fighter loses control depends on their experience, technique, “heart”, strength and conditioning.

Portfolio - Fighting Science, Fighter's Curve_ii. Experienced vs. Novice Fighter• Novice fighters are very uncomfortable at high entropy. Martial artists that focus on self-defense also have little tolerance for high entropy. In self defense disciplines, the defender wants to block and strike the attacker. Once that has occurred then they anticipate the end of the fight. Their entropy curve is sharp because a long exchange of strikes is not desirable. Kickboxers or boxers, on the other hand, have a shallow fighter’s curve. They are comfortable with a flurry of combinations, and will even stay in striking range for long periods of time while simultaneously blocking, moving, and counter-striking.

Portfolio - Fighting Science, Fighter's Curve_ii. Chaos Zone• The problem escalates when a fighter’s curve passes a threshold where they no longer know what’s going on. This is called the “chaos threshold.” High entropy can eventually lead to chaos – especially for inexperienced fighters. In this zone a fighter has lost complete control and tries to survive mainly through instinctive reactions. Once the fighter passes the “chaos threshold” they enter the “chaos zone“. In the chaos zone the fighter is most susceptible to a knockout or sever injury because they’re no longer completely aware of their surroundings. Fear easily takes over in this zone, resulting in the fighter closing their eyes and cover their face. In the chaos zone technique, timing, and power are significantly compromised. With the onset of panic the fighter may “turtle” (enter a fetal position).

• Fear also causes a fighter to hold their breath – either when being attacked, and even when attacking. This accelerates exhaustion because the lungs and muscles are deprived of oxygen during the exact moment when needed the most. I often tell students that if they hold their breath during a fight they will succumb to exhaustion four times faster than if they breathed during each exchange. The physiological reaction of holding your breath results in a sharper fighter’s curve and a quick entry into the chaos zone. When the muscles are starved of oxygen then exhaustion is accelerated and the body becomes paralyzed to attempt any counter attack.

• Experienced fighters learn to keep their eyes open even in the most fierce circumstances. Eyes need to stay open during an attack because the fighter has the best chance of survival if they see all strikes coming. Many knockouts occur because the opponent didn’t see the attack. If their eyes are open, then the body instinctively prepares for impact. Learning to keep your eyes open while being attacked help to create a shallow fighter’s curve.

Portfolio - Fighting Science, Fighter's Curve_iv. Fight Progression• A fight is typically a cyclical series of exchanges: movement, exchange, separate, movement, exchange, separate, and repeat. These exchanges may be on the feet. Or on the ground where attacks involve breaking a limb or cutting off oxygen or blood to the brain. Once this happens then the opponent goes “to sleep” (Fight-speak meaning that the brain is deprived of oxygen resulting in the fighter going unconscious). A fight could very well finish on the first exchange.

• At the beginning of a match the fighter’s curve is zero. Throughout a fight the entropy level will never completely return to the same point as the beginning of a fight. This is due to the increased heart rate and less oxygen supplied to muscles as a fight progresses. Exhaustion also leads to a decrease in reaction time to an attack, as well as when attacking. Fear and panic also can contribute to preventing a return to low entropy. Strength, conditioning, technique, experience, and the fighter’s “heart” all help the fighter’s quick recovery to low entropy. Two fighters with equal talent and experience will be differentiated by “heart”. The fighter that has a higher determination to win will have the a psychological advantage.

Portfolio - Fighting Science, Fighter's Curve_v. Fighting Advantage• Furthermore, a fighter that keeps their cool in an exchange can capitalize on an opponent that has lost their senses (because they have transitioned into the chaos zone), and has begun to panic. Once an opponent enters their chaos zone, then they are the most vulnerable, and a quick finish could be imminent.

Portfolio - Fighting Science, Fighter's Curve_vi. Recovery Advantage• Recovery from high entropy (or from the chaos zone), is for the exchange to finish so that the fighter can regroup and collect their senses. This returns the fighter’s curve to near their starting point and more importantly takes the fighter out of the chaos zone. The trick is to have a fighter’s curve that is gradual on the exchange and then sharp on the recovery. If the fighter feels comfortable during an exchange then they will remain technical in their offense and defense while simultaneously keeping their composure. Recovery from high entropy is quicker if the fighter is conditioned. If the fighter is not in shape then recovery to a lower controlled state is much slower as the heart rate struggles to return to normal and oxygen is replenished in the muscles. There is an added benefit for experienced fighters: Quick recovery to low entropy is more efficient since there is a much smaller recovery delta, when compared to an inexperienced fighter.

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About the Author

Home - Signature, Gabriel Dusil ('12, shadow, teal)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 the expertise of Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom. More recently he has focused on circuit training, conditioning, Brazilian jiu jitsu and kickboxing. Gabriel teaches both children and adults at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz.