Tactics vs. Techniques in Martial Arts

Tactics vs. Techniques in Martial Arts

Have you ever watched Mixed Martial Arts and were amazed at the number of moves the fighters had up their sleeves? Or would the ways in which they would utilize their different sets of combinations just make you scratch your head in bewilderment? 

You are definitely not alone. These fighters have clearly been practicing for years and are confident with their skills. More importantly, though, is their use of technique and strategy; or in this case, tactics. Technique and tactics are referred to in the first and second questions, respectively. 

This article is a reflection on an article we encountered recently, aptly titled It ain’t what you do it’s the way you do it. And while whistlekick remains respective of all forms, techniques and disciplines in Martial Arts, we can all learn from this reading and obtain relevant principles, such as the three that we highlighted in this next section.

Don't Be a Master of None

Sometimes, in your passion to learn the Martial Arts, you might find yourself wanting to be a jack-of-all-trades. While this is definitely not a bad thing, learning too many techniques might even be more counterproductive than mastering at least one first. 

Think of it this way: the more disciplines you learn, the less time and effort you can devote to practicing and mastering a single one, the less good you become at any of those. Additionally, you can face a lot of confusion with all these techniques in your head. Conversely, you can start with mastery of a single discipline, and then expand your knowledge to others later on. 

The immortal Bruce Lee paints a clearer picture with this quote clearly highlighting quality over quantity: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” 

Application Over Acquisition 

Another component when studying Martial Arts is the use of strategies and tactics. Both terms are closely related and are equally important inside the ring. The fundamental difference of these concepts being that a strategy is a broader concept employing the need for planning long-term in order to achieve a larger goal whereas a tactic is a way or method which is used to achieve a smaller, strategic goal. In Martial Arts, tactics are how you use all the techniques you have learned in order to achieve your bigger, strategic goal, which usually is to win the match. It is also important to keep in mind that the tactics you use should be aligned with your strategy. 

Oftentimes though, more emphasis is placed on the acquisition of new skills rather than developing certain tactics utilizing fewer but more well-mastered techniques.  Have you ever been in a situation wherein you just had too many options to pick from but could only choose one? Chances are, you would wish you had fewer choices but an easier time with decision-making. 

Imagine yourself – having an abundance of moves to pick from, but don’t know the best scenario in which to apply those moves – going up against someone who has a smaller bag of tricks but knows exactly when to use them. How confident would you feel in facing this master especially in the late game, when you’re both already exhausted? Yeah, I thought so.

Technique Without Tactic Isn't Useful

Take a nail and a hammer for instance. A nail’s primary purpose is to attach something to something else, say, two pieces of wood. A hammer, on the other hand, drives the nail into the wood so that the two pieces can be fixed together successfully. Moreover, you can use the hammer in different ways – heavily, lightly, in varying angles, and you can even take out a misplaced nail. Furthermore, a hammer can also be used with a variety of nails but without the hammer, a nail is useless.

What am I saying? The nail here is our technique, and the hammer, our tactic. In a Taekwondo match for example, our current strategy is to get in a head shot with a roundhouse kick (technique). You can use other techniques to get yourself in position to fire that powerful roundhouse. You may probably use a quick 45-degee kick to lure your opponent and throw him off guard, followed by another quick 45-degree kick or a punch. You may throw in other tactics such as sidesteps, feints, dips, or backslides to confuse him even more. Finally, when you see an opening, you can now go for that roundhouse. 

It would also help to keep in mind that fighting (in the ring or otherwise) is very dynamic and strategies and tactics continually change throughout the course of the match. Recognition of this would be very beneficial in ensuring your survivability during the encounter. 


While tactics and techniques are in no way a bad thing, finding the right balance between the acquisition and application of those techniques can, in most cases, be the single greatest determining factor for success. 

In a society where information has never been so easily shared, you might feel the urge to learn everything there is to know. Though this is admirable, keep in mind that mastering a few while knowing a few more can push you further and have more impact in your quest to be a great martial artist. Keep mastering!

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