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Dealing With The Variables of Combat

When it comes to any combative situation, there are numerous variables that one does not get to dictate. These variables include such things as:

  • The physical structure of the opponent (size, weight, and body-type) -- tall and long-limbed, short and stocky, heavy, skinny, etc.

  • The opponent’s mental or emotional state -- cool and calm, angry, nervous and agitated, etc.

  • The relative speed, strength, power and agility of the opponent.

  • What lead (if any) the opponent chooses to fight from -- right lead, left lead.

  • What type of on-guard position or fighting stance the opponent is in -- open, closed, tight and compact, crouching, etc.

  • What method or style of fighting the opponent will use -- martial arts, boxing, grappling, street-fighting, etc.

  • The type(s) of attacks the opponent may try to use -- punching, kicking, elbows/knees, throwing, grappling, locking, etc.

  • The type of fighter the opponent is -- runner, blocker, counter-fighter, crasher, etc.

  • Whether the opponent is unarmed or has a weapon (stick, knife, blade, etc.)

  • What the opponent’s ultimate intention or objective is (to intimidate, hurt, kill, etc.)


  • How much pain or punishment the opponent is willing to accept or absorb to achieve their objective.


  • The number of opponents you must face -- one, several, etc.

  • The environment the situation takes place in -- city street, beach, woods, bathroom, etc.


While you might be able to influence one or more of the above variables, you don’t get to dictate any of them. Adaptability then, is the key. Bruce Lee once told Ted Wong, one of his private students and closest friends, that adaptability is the greatest quality that a fighter can possess.


Possessing the ability to adapt and fit in with any type of opponent requires a great deal of body awareness and self-awareness. You need to know what you can do; not what technique you can use if an opponent does this or that, but what your body is capable of doing, physically and mentally. In order to achieve this, you need to:

  • Possess the proper tools and performance skills

  • Possess the proper mental attitude

  • Maintain fluidity of thought and action

  • Maintain direct and clear perception to see clearly what is truly happening and relate effectively

  • Cultivate the ability to ‘flow’


By developing your ability to adapt and fit in with any type of opponent and cultivating your ability to express yourself to the highest degree at any given moment and in any given position, you will be in a much better position to deal effectively with any of the above-listed variables of combat.


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