Principles vs Techniques

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I grew up watching kung fu movies.  Often times, the success of the protagonist depended on him or her mastering a particular technique or having more techniques than the antagonist.  While this does provide a simple and concrete sense of character growth through a movie, it doesn’t really work that way in a fight.

In fact, most street fights and competitions are won with very simple techniques that were just applied in a superior way (better timing, better distance, etc.).  In competitions like the UFC, you very rarely see an “exotic” technique that leads to a win, but for the most part they use the same small set of techniques because they tend to work.  In a fight, attributes like speed, power, distance, timing, and perception have more to do with winning than the actual techniques used.

There are a number of factors that go into this, not least of which is the speed of decision making.  As Hick’s Law states, the more options you have, the longer it takes to make a decision.  In a fight, decision making time is scarce.  So deciding which of your 101 techniques best fits the situation is not realistically applicable.

Rather than picking from many techniques, good fighters will apply knowledge of a small number of principles and then “flow” with the situation as it unfolds.  In sparring, virtually every time I do something “impressive”, it’s a technique that I had never practiced before and hadn’t planned.  In fact, the technique I finished the encounter with is usually not the technique that I started with.

There are basic laws of physics that always apply and a handful of guiding principles that will get you through just about any scenario.  Learn those and your decisions will happen faster because you have fewer options.  When you decide faster, you can move faster.  The faster you move, the less likely you are to get hit.  I don’t know about you, but not getting hit is really high on my list of priorities.  In fact, when you fight this way, you’re not the one choosing which technique you should use…your opponent is choosing for you.

So learn the basic principles and mechanics of fighting and stop worrying so much about learning new techniques.  The techniques you use in a fight aren’t likely to look exactly like the ones you practice anyway.

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