Don’t Fight Angry

For my readers who follow mixed martial arts (MMA), there was a fight recently for the interim UFC welterweight title between Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit which caused quite a controversy. The fight went a full five rounds and the decision was unanimous for Carlos Condit. The reason for the controversy is that Condit would not deviate from his strategy of fighting Diaz, no matter how many times Diaz called him out or attempted to bully him.

For die-hard Diaz fans, Carlos Condit did not appear to engage in the fight, was often times back pedaling and only threw sparodic counter punches and kicks. Diaz was clearly the aggressor, showed ring control and forced the action throughout.
For Condit fans, they watched their fighter effectively stay on a game plan that did not allow him to be backed into a corner or get into a slugfest with a powerful and accurate striker. He focused his attacks on the legs and never let Diaz derail his plan with verbal challenges and humiliation tactics. His precision striking and effective movement allowed him to strike Diaz repeatedly while staying just outside Diaz’ range.
As the fight continued, Diaz taunted Condit’s bravery, skills and manhood. Diaz lowered his own hands in an attempt to show Condit that he could not hit him if he tried…anything to get Condit angry enough to come off his game plan and engage in a more direct exchange of blows. Diaz was just trying to get in Condit’s head, but was never successful. That is exactly why Condit won. This is exactly the area I want to discuss in today’s blog…

So how does this battle translate into a self-defense blog? None of us are scheduled to fight in the ring/octagon any time soon, right?

The lesson to be learned is that once you have determined that there is an attacker in front of you and you have no alternatives but to actually engage in a physical battle, you must focus your energy, mind and game plan on the quickest and most effective means of winning the fight. The way to do that is to keep your focus on your attacker, not yourself. By that, I mean do not allow yourself to become distracted with fear or anger. If your mind starts to drift towards how angry you are that this jerk has forced this situation, or if you start to fear how large this attacker is and become focused on how much power he might have, you are effectively in your own head and not in the fight . The only way to keep yourself in the fight, is to be focused on your targets, your attacker’s movements and your own defenses. Replaying the incident that got you to this moment or reflecting on how ominous your attacker looks is only going to distract you and make you slower to respond at key moments in the fight.

Consider the following fact of how being in your head slows down something you can normally do fairly easily:

As you drive your car to a destination that is very familiar to you (home/work/RR station, etc), you have to react to traffic around you. As other cars make turns, slow down, merge, etc., you have to adjust your speed and car’s position on the road. As you get to controlled intersections, you have to stop or slow down accordingly. It is safe to say, therefore, that the way you need to focus on an attacker’s offense and defense and adjust your body’s orientation in a battle, is very similar to your focus on traffic patterns and street signs while driving. Now consider what happens when you’ve just had an upsetting conversation/situation play out before/while you are driving. Your mind starts replaying the unpleasantness and your focus is anywhere but on the traffic. Suddenly you miss your turns, run a stop sign or worse, get into a fender bender. Why? You were driving on autopilot and let your mind wander onto the anger or upset of the prior situation. Imagine what happens to you in a fight, where your attacker is actively attempting to hurt you, if you let your mind go off track and your focus is on your anger or fear (e.g., yourself)…you will miss openings to strike and leave yourself exposed to attack.

Said another way, your goal in a fight is to hit your attacker often while receiving as little punishment as possible. The best way to achieve this is to have all your energies and focus on the actual battle at hand…the mind should flow from seeing an opening to throwing a combative to hit that opening, from seeing an inbound strike to blocking that strike with the most available limb. If your mind is anywhere else but in the fight, then you will miss these small windows in time and therefore fail to strike or, conversely, get hit. The Japanese term for mindless thought, where all your energies and tactics flow is called “mushin”. It is the goal of all self defense students to practice their defenses and attacks enough that upon confrontation by an attacker, and with proper focus on the situation, you will flow and finish the engagement with mindless and almost effortless reaction.

It is my opinion that this is precisely how Carlos Condit won the fight. No amount of insults, bullying or humiliation tactics from Nick Diaz was going to take his focus off his plan. He launched countermeasures brilliantly and beat Diaz to the punch 8 out of 10 times. At the end of the fight Nick Diaz’ face was pretty beat up, while Carlos Condit’s was practically untouched. Diaz’ fans can call Condit whatever they want, but at the end of the day, the only recognized winner was the guy who stayed on plan and wouldn’t get rattled.