1. Create Distance; at an angle – when you are paired off, you bow to the instructor and then your partner. As soon as that is done, most people get on guard. Get on guard – and then take another huge step back to either 7 or 5 o clock. You do this so there is a massive distance between you and your partner, in case he has a speed advantage or likes to launch blitzing, surprising attacks. The angle sets it up so that your opponent has to rethink his or her “straight on” strategy and give you the time advantage.
2. You control the fight – Many people are good at certain techniques or ranges. Shorter fighters like to get inside and bang on you, then exit out the side. Taller fighters like to keep you at long range. Wrestlers and grapplers want to close the gap, grab you and get you on your back. Quickly determine what it is they want to do – and don’t let them do it. If they want to kick you, get too close to kick. If they are punchers, tie them up and clinch them or keep them out on the end of your kicking range. By keeping him from his strengths – and catering to yours – you gain the advantage.
3. Always leave something behind – My teachers always said that whenever you move away from your opponent, “Always leave something behind”. When you do this, it forces him to think about defending that attack, instead of attacking you as you break contact. A good example is this: many martial artists initiate an attack, score or clash with their opponent, and then simply back straight up on the same angle they attacked, without doing a thing to keep their opponent from chasing them. A better technique is to exit towards the side, throwing a defensive kick or backfist as you leave. This covers your exit and keeps your opponent reacting to you.
4. Never come in straight – Look to take an angle when attacking, even if it is only an inch or so off to the left or right. Even a slight angle change can alter the power, speed and perception of your attack and the reaction of your opponent.
5. Strike first, Strike fast, Strike repeatedly – Once you have set your distance and angle, don’t hesitate – just go. Have a strategy; come in fast, come in at an angle, setup your primary attack with a distraction, execute your primary attack or adjust another distraction to make sure you can get your primary attack off, then execute on your exit attack, and move out to the side.
6. Don’t be a One Trick Pony – When you move in, even with the best setup in the world, and get that first point on your attacker – it is tempting to want to execute the same attack, after all – it worked, right? You may be able to pull it off a second time, but never a third. Remember that you have two hands, two feet and a ton of combinations that can be created with them. You won’t develop any skills unless you try new things to see how they work.
7. Follow them to the ground – Unless you hear “Stop!” or “Break!”, when your opponent falls, slips, or crashes to the ground, hop in there and give them a rapid 3-strike combo to a scoring zone while kiaiaing! This may cinch that point you need to win.
8. Don’t stop! – As simple as this sounds, unless you hear the judge tell you to stop, you keep going. Just because you know you scored, does not mean the judge knows. So many fighters lose a round due to thinking they got that point and then waiting for the judges call. Remember: “He who hesitates, meditates; in a horizontal position” (Quote by SGM Ed Parker)
9. Loud sounds win a fight – when you are going in for that scoring shot; make it known. Get that kiai out loud and proud. If you call attention to the shot, the judge is more likely to see it.
10. Take the path of least resistance – “Be like water” (Bruce Lee said that) ; Water flows where there is no obstruction, it moves around its obstacles. When you see an opening – or if if know an opening is coming: TAKE IT. Move right in and take the shot.
11. Timing. Timing. Timing. – You create the rhythm; you make you opponent move at the cadence you want them to move at, you control the setups, you control the entire fight. Feign, Setup, Attack, and Roll Out. Make a dance out of it, you want the opponent to move at your command, you want them to follow you so that you can tell them where to go and how to get there so that you can score your points on your time. Bounce, step, fake, make it fun for them to get beat.
12. Have Fun! – If you aren’t having a great time bouncing around, using your combos, and playing in the ring – you are doing it wrong. The more fun you have doing a thing, the better you get at it. Stay positive – even if you aren’t winning – do your best, and have fun.