"Improve Your Win/Loss Ratio
By Using This One Simple Strategy
- As Taught ByThe World's Foremost Tactical Coach"
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From: Jason Stanley, 3rd Dan Shitoryu
Some time back I had the good fortune to train under
Sensei Antonio Oliva. Sensei Oliva is regarded by many as the
world's foremost tactical coach. Apart from being a national and
European champion, he was responsible for taking the Spanish team to
world level as the Spanish national coach.
He founded the Scientific Martial
Arts Research Center in Spain and has produced world champions in
over a dozen countries. If you ever want to learn about the dynamics
of fighting from one of the world's best competitors and
international coaches, attend a course with Sensei Oliva.
The topic of this article
discusses one simple concept that I learned from Sensei Oliva. It is
a single concept of fighting dynamics that, will take your fighting
ability to new levels when implemented.
Before I met Sensei Oliva, I had
learned the basics of what I'm about to describe. I had been
consciously practicing what he was about to explain to me. However,
once I fully understood and actively thought about
this concept while I fought, it helped me think tactically while
fighting. It changed my thought process of being "reactive" to my
opponent to becoming "proactive" as I anticipated my opponent's next
There is a huge difference in being reactive and being
proactive! Although it may only be a split second in the
execution of your technique, it could be the difference
between being hit and staying safe, or scoring and not
The tactic I am referring to is
using a circular defense when faced with a straight line attack.
What does this mean?
A straight line attack means
exactly that - you attack in a straight line directly at your
opponent. This does not limit you to only straight techniques such
as mae ken zuki, gyaku zuki or mae geri. It can also include
circular techniques in your straight line attack such as mawashi
geri and haito uchi (ridge hand). Whatever the technique, your
attack from point A to point B takes the shortest path possible: a
Now consider the options you have
when defending a straight line attack. There are several you can
use. The three basic defenses are as follows, all of which have
- Block and counter
- Anticipate / forestall / pick off
- Circular defense
This article focuses on the last point, circular
In the above diagram you'll notice the addition of
point C which is the position the defender usually moves to when
using a straight line defense/evasion. This evasion is commonly used
and is a natural movement. It is easy for a defender to move
backwards as far away from the attacker as possible. While this
might work at times, it often has several disadvantages.
- It is predictable, therefore your opponent
can capitalize on it.
- You can get yourself into an awkward position
where your feet become close together and your arms cover your
head as you shy away from the attack. This is a perfect
opportunity for your opponent to take your legs with a double
- You can lose your stance and ability to
counter their attack.
- Moving backwards and punching will/should not
score you a point under W.K.F. rules, as it is considered
ineffective because your weight is not behind your technique.
- Eventually your opponent will overpower you
with a barrage of techniques if you simply move backwards
without offering any counter in return
Consider a circular defense instead. The diagram
below explains how this works.
This is often called "breaking the line" (of
attack). You will notice that the new Point D will provide you with
some great opportunities that are absent at Point C. For starters,
it is much faster to move (push) sideways than to step backwards,
therefore your chances of evading the attack are much greater.
You can always out maneuver a straight line attack with a
The defender who reaches Point D instead of Point
C has some opportunities that Point C people do not. For example, if
you move to Point D you will...
- be within scoring range, instead of out of
- retain your guard, allowing you to throw a
counter technique immediately
- have the element of surprise as your opponent
usually expects you to retreat backwards
- if you move to their blind side (outside
line) your opponent will have to punch across themselves or
reposition at least 45 degrees to hit you. This all takes time
and gives you an opportunity to counter their attack. It also
makes it very difficult for your opponent to score on you.
Now that the benefits of a circular defense are
apparent, below are the "how to" steps to get to Point D.
At the first sign of your opponent attacking, you
must move to the outside line. Do this by turning your front foot so
your toes are pointing in the OPPOSITE direction to which you want
to move. As you do this, slide your back foot across to accommodate
the change in direction of your stance. Now push backwards by
lifting your BACK leg and pushing/driving with your front leg in a
backward motion at the angle as shown below.
This is just one example of a circular defense -
breaking the line of attack. Once I started to think tactically
while I fought, instead of
reacting to my opponent's straight line attack with a circular
defense, I started moving as I anticipated the attack. This
was a huge step in making this technique effective.
By anticipating your opponent's attack and using a circular
defense, you will be in position, ready to score before they
complete their technique. Reacting to your opponent's attack
gives your opponent an opportunity to score on you.
The above example is just one method of a circular
defense that you can use against a straight line attack. The other
strategies are outside the scope of this article, but also use
circular defense as the foundation of their success.
This might all sound fairly
simple, but remember that over 80% of people practicing karate feel
as though they do not know what to do when sparring. If you can
incorporate this simple, yet very effective strategy into your
sparring, you will find that you will out-position your opponent
often, and as a result win more fights. I just wish I knew how to
apply this strategy when I began competition fighting all those