The Principles of Victory
These lessons are being written with the intention of providing the reader with an overview of some of the key principles of winning in battle. There are, of course, many more lessons than those touched on in this article – but this should suffice as a glimpse into the warrior’s mind-set, and the principles of victory.
Lesson 1 – Think and Win
In combat, it is not always the biggest and strongest fighter that claims victory. You must think your way to victory. Out-think your opponents. Successful fighting requires strategy, and sound strategy requires thought. The ultimate weapon of any true warrior is the mind.
This is the trained warrior’s edge over most people. Most people simply brawl, or react with a set of preconditioned responses. Many lack the ability to adapt or innovate. This is mainly due to the fact that they’ve only been trained in pre-programmed fashion. They have never actually been taught how to think strategically or independently.
The trick, of course, is to be able to think clearly and creatively while under the intense stress of combat. This can be a difficult task. Not only will you be working at full-burn physically, but you will also be in emotional turmoil. Feelings of anger, fear, pain, regret, and overall stress will be pushed to redline, and it can be extremely difficult for anyone to think clearly under those circumstances. That is why a fighter who has been trained to think and fight effectively under real-world conditions will win against an opponent, or opponents, regardless of their size, strength, and so-forth.
There is a quote by Paul Fix that says, “The only reason some people become lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory.” Don’t let this happen to you. You must be familiar with this territory. You must study and practice strategic and creative combative thought until you are intimate with these concepts. They must be second nature to you! Make no mistake, using your mind as a weapon – and understanding the principles of psychological warfare – will make the difference between victory and defeat, or between life and death. Now I really want you to understand this next sentence: How you train will affect how you think. I cannot stress this point enough! How you train and practice will directly affect how you think and act in combat. There is no room for discussion on this point, it’s a simple fact. If you train for real combat, under real-world conditions, then your chances of survival and victory are several times higher than a sport fighter’s – and they’re off the chart when compared to the average person – no matter how “tough” they might be.
In a world of would-be tough guys, brawlers, and posers – it will always come down to this: Trained vs. Untrained. Trained will win every time, if they’ve been trained correctly. If it comes down to Trained vs. Trained, then how you’ve been trained will make all the difference. I don’t care if one of the combatants is an umpteenth degree whatever, and the other guy is only a beginner – if the beginner has been trained for the real deal, and “Mr. High-Rank” hasn’t – then the one trained for real-world combat will be the last one standing. You must train for success in real combat, it doesn’t matter what rank you are. That’s ridiculous! Nobody cares what rank you might be when you’re fighting for survival. To seize victory you must relinquish any thought you might have regarding life and death. Rely on your true warrior training, think and adapt to the present situation, take humanity out of the equation, and then take your opponent apart!
Your analytical mind, when uncluttered and relaxed, is a very powerful force. However, to keep it uncluttered and relaxed, you must keep control of your emotions – which can be very difficult under extreme stress. This is why realistic training is of such importance! Remember that no matter how advanced you might get, real combat always comes down to the basics. Think, think, and think again of strengths and weaknesses – both yours and your opponents. Think, analyze, be creative, and don’t anticipate. This lesson can’t be learned or emphasized enough times!
Lesson 2 – Proper Attitude for Combat
Another huge factor in winning and surviving is your attitude, or having the proper mind-set. There is most definitely a proper attitude for combat. I have been asked, countless times since I began teaching, what is the secret to winning a fight? My answer has always been the same, although it’s not what people usually expect to hear. There is no great secret. Attitude can make all the difference between who wins and who loses, or who lives and who dies.
The attitude that I’m talking about has been known and practiced for thousands of years, it’s nothing new. The samurai of Feudal Japan certainly understood it, as have many other warriors, and warrior cultures, through time. To enter into battle and win, you must relinquish the concepts of victory and defeat, of living and dying. These thoughts must cease to be of any importance to you! If you start thinking and worrying about losing and dying, then you probably will. When I fought, I would enter into a fight already accepting the fact that I could die. All I wanted to do was to give back more punishment than what I took. And if my opponent wanted to kill me, then I was going to take him with me!
Suppose you knew that you were going to die. Would you just lie down and let it happen, or would you fight back with all your heart and soul? Decide that right now! If I knew ahead of time that I was going to die in battle, then I guarantee you that I would not go down easily. That’s a promise I made to myself years ago, and that’s the attitude necessary for victory in combat. And make no mistake, that attitude translates directly into your body language, your gaze, your game face, into every fiber of your being. Your opponent will certainly sense it, and if he is not willing to make that same level of commitment – then he has already lost.
Most fighters today have not even considered this. To the vast majority, they view fighting as a game, or just a sport. News Flash: These are not real warriors. They might be defined as fighters due to their occupation, but the term “fighter” is not synonymous with “warrior”. I don’t care how talented they might be, if they can’t make that contest a matter of life and death in their own minds, then they would ultimately lose is real combat.
Consider an attack dog. When that highly-trained animal perceives a threat and decides to fight, his attitude is one of complete single-mindedness. He is totally and completely focused on the defense against that threat, and/or the destruction of that threat – no matter what the cost. Complete single-mindedness of purpose. “Superior mental attitude, superior state of mind.”
Now if you’ve been in real combat, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But if you haven’t, don’t worry. That’s why you have an imagination. Make it real in your own mind. Visualize it, and then make it happen. This attitude can be learned, and it must be learned, if you are to survive. Like all forms of strategy, this attitude can be applied to other areas of your life as well. Apply this type of determination to the task at hand and see what happens. As with all things; move, think, and function with purpose. Those who understand this, and make it a part of their lives, will go far with whatever they pursue – whether it be against an opponent in combat, or the achievement of a goal. Treat the pursuit of excellence in all that you do like it’s a matter of life and death. You’d be surprised at what you can accomplish, how hard you can push yourself, and how intensely you can apply yourself, when your life is on the line – even if it’s only in your mind!
Lesson 3 – K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
Many people are familiar with the acronym of KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid! Basically this means that plans and strategies should be kept as simple as possible. Keeping things simple greatly increases their chances of success. This KISS principle has been applied to many areas and procedures over the years, from business practices to educational methods, but it has its roots in military strategy. In combat, the more complex you try to make something, the more likely it is to fail – horribly. The best plans are simple plans. In no area does this hold truer than in one-on-one combat! An accomplished fighter with years of training can really do some amazing physical feats. Things like acrobatic techniques, incredibly complex weapons routines, breaking stacks of boards and bricks that are ridiculously thick, and so-on, will never be used in a real fight, ever!
I’m not saying that learning all those things is meaningless, far from it. The more advanced someone gets in their training, and the easier they can perform some of those amazing feats, then the easier it will be to perform the basics when push comes to shove. That’s why learning, and keeping up with the basics is so vitally important. That’s what you will use when real combat ensues. Real fighting is not like a Hollywood movie, or even like an advanced martial arts demonstration. In real life nobody jumps up in the air and spins around while kicking multiple attackers and knocking them down. In combat, your stress level can be pushed to its maximum. Psychologically and physiologically speaking, you will simply be unable to form complex thoughts, much less carry them out. Likewise, your coordination and fine motor skills don’t function like they do when you’re at ease. You will experience shortness of breath, tunnel vision, fear, anxiety, anger, high blood pressure, and a host of other physical and mental conditions which only allow for the most basic and simple thoughts and actions to be carried out. That’s the truth, the bottom line, end of story!
Personally, I have fought in more than 100 professional fights, with no pads and no rules. That does not include any fights as an amateur, or any other engagements outside the cage or ring – whether it be self-defense situations, military conflict, or other hazards. In other words, I have the direct experience to back up what I’m saying – and I’m trying to get that message across to you. You have to know the basics to the point where they come effortlessly, without having to think about them. Actual combat happens at a frightening pace! Decisions have to be made, and lives can be lost, in fractions of a second! You don’t have time to ponder the problem; you simply react with your training. You must train to react correctly when it’s all on the line. The basics must be mastered to the point where they are instinctual responses. That kind of expertise only comes with time and dedication to the dream! A great quote that drives this point home goes like this, “There is no greatness where there is not simplicity.” – Author Unknown.
The more advanced you become, the more complex maneuvers and techniques you will learn. That is good, and it should be that way. Learning those more complex techniques will allow you to master your own body and mind in ways like nothing else ever will. However, never deviate from the basics. Always keep those skills sharp. And remember, if the time ever comes when you should have to throw down and enter into real combat – KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid!
Lesson 4 – The Best Defense
Contrary to popular belief, blocking is not the number one priority in having a good defense. Although it is extremely important to know how to block properly, movement and evasive skills take the number one priority slot in having a truly excellent defense.
Sun Tzu said it best in his book, “The Art of War”, written centuries ago: “To always have a perfect defense, don’t get hit.” While this advice may seem comically simple, it is also absolutely true.
You must move, evade, and avoid. If someone throws a strike or kick at you, get out of the way – if possible. To just stand there and absorb the punishing impact of the attack, even if your block is successful, is not the smartest thing to do. Here are a few excellent reasons why movement and evasion are more important than the block itself:
Fatigue – It takes twice as much energy to swing and miss, than to swing and hit. In other words, this will tire your opponent out faster. The more fatigued your opponent is, the easier it will be to defeat him.
Frustration – Not only will avoiding the strike tire your opponent out faster, it will also frustrate him. Frustration leads to anger, which makes for bad decision making. The frustrated man fights himself. His attacks become careless and predictable, making him easier to defeat.
Balance – If someone swings and misses, they will naturally follow through with their technique due to the momentum of the strike or kick itself. By moving out of the way, your opponent swings through and becomes unbalanced. Any person who loses their balance is momentarily weak. They can easily be taken down or thrown, and in their effort to regain their balance they are wide open to various counter-attacks – not to mention that their concentration is now focused on the act of regaining their balance, and not on you.
Accuracy – It’s harder to hit a moving target than a stationary one. Like the aforementioned reasons, this is just common sense. This idea of slipping and counter-attack is hardly a new one. Boxers do it all the time. Yet time and time again I see fighters who will stand still and execute a static block in an effort to stop their opponents.
The block itself should be thought of as secondary. The block should serve to further redirect your opponent’s momentum, and to further destroy his balance. A static block should only be thrown if you are unable to move or get out of the way, or if you mean to jam your opponent’s attack – and of course it should be simultaneously coupled with, or immediately be followed by, a hard counter-strike to get yourself out of that situation. Also, how you move – and where you move to, should be covered in detail by a qualified instructor. Simply jumping out of the way isn’t the answer either. Your movement should position yourself for an immediate and devastating counter-attack that will finish the fight as quickly as possible.
These are just a few basic lessons in strategic thinking that apply to the Principles of Victory. As I stated at the beginning of this article, they are by no means the only strategies available. The purpose of this article was to get the readers into warrior mind-set mode, so that thinking in these terms becomes a habit. Any student of good martial training will consistently evolve by moving, thinking, and perceiving differently than before. It is a profound, yet subtle transformation that naturally occurs over time. This is how it should be. Ideally we will never stop learning, growing, and becoming more than we once were.
Dr. Charlie Ward
NOTE: Dr. Charlie Ward was the first person to nominate me for the martial arts hall of fame. He died a couple of months before I was inducted. He was in the process of writing an article to be included in one of my books, but never finished it. His mother told me that he died writing the article. He was working on it on the couch, set his laptop down to take a nap, and never woke up. He was my true friend and a true warrior. This is the only published article I have of his and I re-publish it on occasion to honor him. Here’s to you my friend! Bohdi Sanders