How to study an opponent

Understanding who we are facing

In street situations, people (and a lot of instructors) often tend to prefer to do not reflect and to attack in the most rapid and aggressive possible way. In the most of cases, this could be a winning strategy but, in a lot of other cases, it can signify to be immediately knocked down (or worse).

The problem is that we do not know who is in front of us, the only thing we know is that: if he has accepted the risk of attacking (and he is not in an altered state) it’s because he is quite sure of prevailing (or worse he is armed).

In a self-defense scenario, before fighting (directly and intensely) an opponent that we don’t know it is important to quickly try to understand his skill level:

  • What is its combat system (traditional, modern, etc.)?
  • What is his personality (aggressive, defensive, etc.)?
  • What is his physical state (muscle mass, speed, etc.)?
  • What is his mental state (calm, angry, etc.)?

A few premises:

  • The physical confrontation is always and in any case to be avoided (read Personal defense: the S.A.F.E. method and The 6DKF’s diagram about the use of violence)
  • As we said not always we have the time to do the right assessments but sometimes it is possible to study the opponent even during a started struggle (expert level)
  • In situations of danger, in any case, we always have very little time to make our evaluations (and act accordingly)
  • Any kind of valuation based on a person that we do not know is always inaccurate, made in a stress situation it is even less
  • This article is born to help us to quickly think about what to look at (obviously we do not have to check each time everything)
  • The information provided can also be useful to study an adversary to prepare a sportive fight

What to look studying an opponent

We start analyzing the foundations of the opponent’s study, let’s see what is useful to understand:

  • Rhythm / timing – Is it constant? Slow? Fast? Variable? Does it connect to ours?
  • Speed / agility – Does he moves more or less quickly / easily compared to us? Does he stand still?
  • Space management – Does he occupy our spaces dominating the fighting scenario or he is subdued by us?
  • Reactivity – Are his reflexes poor? Are they good? Are they combat-calibrated correctly?
  • Power – What is the relationship between his muscle mass and ours? Is his mass balanced with his agility?
  • Breathing – Does he is economizing energies? Is he tired even to move? In what psychophysical state is he (heavy breathing or by the nose and controlled)?
  • Blows – How high / long can he arrive? Does he try to use punches, kicks, constraints, weapons?
  • Fighting style – which guard he keep? Which martial art which seems to use or think to use?
  • Fighting stance – Is his stance correct? Wrong? Personal? None? Hidden? Is his guard low or high? Are his elbows narrow or wide?
  • Dominant part – Is him left-handed? Right-handed? Ambidextrous? What directions / limbs he prefer?
  • Tension – What “vibrate”? What does he want to use (feet, head, arms, etc.)?
  • Gaze direction – Where he looks? Toward targets? Toward our attacking tools? In a vacuum?
  • Attitude – Is he afraid? Angry? Relaxed? Sure of himself? Shiny?
  • Character – Is he ready to attack / fight / defend? Is he studying us? Is he preparing tricks / tactics?
  • Body conformation – Which differences in height, weight, proportions has over us?
  • Targets – Where can we get him? Weaknesses? Discovered points? Unexpected access points?
  • Habits – What does he repeat in term of techniques, movements and directions?
  • How to deal with… – What he will probably use against us (weight, physical strength, agility, specific techniques, etc.)? How can we react?

Excluding the aggressions that are instantaneous, multiple (read How to fight with more than one opponent at the same time) or without space-time to reflect, for a good practitioner: gathering the right information can make the difference between life and death.

Final considerations

For consistency, it should be noted that:

  • Rarely (if ever) we may be able to steal all of this information together before we get into the real fight, let’s just pick what we can to give us a track and / or an idea of how to act
  • It is not always possible and / or convenient to study our opponents, sometimes we have strong advantages to exploit (eg. a perfect surprise effect) or strong disadvantages to manage (eg. we are immediately victims of a strangulation)
  • This type of study should be done in an instinctive and immediate way (it must not distract us), only practice, profound detachment (read Become the absolute zero) and experience can give us this high-level skill
  • We never have to use our “active reason” to analyze with a precise and sequential method a similar amount of data (this would be a sure and immediate defeat)

In future articles, we will deepen the introduced topic connecting “what we need to understand” to “what is good / bad for us”  to “what we can use in our favor”.

Special thanks

Master Kongling wants to thank Daniel (from Reddit) for his contribution to this article.

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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