Avoiding ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’

One of the most common pitfalls for fighters seeking to advance their skills into the higher ranks is nicknamed “Rock, Paper, Scissors”.

rpsSimilar to the child’s game, where you choose rock, paper, or scissors at the same time as the other player(s) hoping to win the round, many fighters enter combat range and fight in a similar manner.

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.


On Fighting Style

I am often asked what style is best to fight with. The answer is easy, but very few truly understand it.

Just as with any other sport or martial art, as we are learning we see particular ways others use to get the job done. Many people adopt a particular style of movement, walk, motions and favorite strikes and special maneuvers.

Part of the problem arises when people pre-program themselves with patterns and particular ways of doing things, so much so that they become predictable and fail to adapt when needed.
Fighting is a living breathing thing, it grows and changes constantly. There is no one “right” way to fight but there can be many “wrong” ways. Any style which claims to be all encompassing will have flaws.

There are many, many ways of throwing shots, moving and fighting. To limit yourself to a “style” of fighting effectively imprisons you withing a particular mindset and way of thinking. You will see combat and your options only within a narrower scope and it will eventually lead to defeat, often leaving you confused as to why.

So my answer, which is similar to the thoughts of Musashi and Bruce Lee, is to have NO STYLE. Learn all ways, all styles you can. Incorporate these things into you fighting abilities. Choose what works for you but remember all.

Try to avoid setting yourself up in a predictable “style” by always throwing the same shots, blocking the same way or moving in a certain fashion. Most fighters are predictable, following particular patterns almost always. If you observe them long enough, you can figure out how to one shot or two shot most fighters. This is not to say that you shouldn’t have favorite ways of doing things, just that you should flow with the fight, let it develop and be able to adapt to whatever happens.