One of the most common pitfalls for fighters seeking to advance their skills into the higher ranks is nicknamed “Rock, Paper, Scissors”.
The “knee jerk” reaction of many fighters is to throw a blow immediately upon entering combat range. Often this blow is thrown at the same time as the opponent, with little or no actual awareness of what the opponent is actually doing. This is playing Rock/Paper/Scissors. When you do this you are leaving yourself open somewhere, hoping to land a shot on an opponent and hoping that they don’t hit your open spot.
This is usually what happens when a much more experienced opponent loses to a novice. Almost always it’s because he was throwing at the same time as the novice and simply chose wrong. Now the “better” fighter usually wins, however, fighting in such a manner opens up a window of chance for an opponent to “get lucky”.
Fighters who engage like this often suffer from a greater level of inconsistency in their tournament performance as well as having a lot more “double kill” fights.
One of my goals in fighting is to eliminate as much random chance as possible. This means controlling yourself, your opponent and the fight. You are hardly in control of the fight if you simply come in and start flopping shots around and your opponent does the same. You should be leading your opponent, controlling the fight and striking when it is safe to do so.
The first thing to do is to eliminate the knee jerk reaction to throw a shot every time you enter range. If you follow through with a lot of the defensive drills outlined previously you should be able to build your confidence in your defense enough to not get hit while in range. Always throwing first can be a sign of over confidence or habit, but most often it is a sign of a lack of confidence that you can defend and control the fight. Control your anxiety, calm down and let the fight happen.
Now that you are in control of yourself, you have the presence of mind to use your range, shield, sword and dodging to protect yourself. Your opponent, when he commits to a shot, can only use his shield and dodging to defend with as his sword is committed and he is closing range or is locked into a particular range for the shot.
When your opponent has only half of his defensive options left he is at his most vulnerable. When committed to a shot a fighter is always open somewhere. By controlling yourself and defending, you will be able to watch your opponent, his shot selection, movements and pick up on exactly where and when he becomes open in a fight.
Strike at the openings, with purpose, when you know that your opponent cannot strike you. This means that the ideal time to strike an opponent is when they open themselves up but are unable to hit you because you are prepared to cut off all of their available angles of attack. It could mean throwing a shot at their opening just after they have committed a shot to an area that you have covered. It could also mean throwing before they throw, at a perceived opening on them, but keeping yourself positioned bodily and primed with the shield to intercept any counter.
You will find that most fighters cannot resist the urge to throw a shot, hence opening themselves up in some way. The true learning will be to follow this and discover when to attack the openings on an opponent and when not to.
Playing Rock, Paper, Scissors is following your preconceived plan of action with no regard for what your opponent is doing.
Avoid this by always reading and reacting to your opponent. Avoid random combos, nervous flurries. It’s okay to be the aggressive, just make sure that every move is intentional and calculated. Always be aware of what your opponent is doing and be ready to cut off his angles of attack.
It will take time, and plenty of hits to get this down, but in the long run you become a much more aware, precise and efficient fighter.