“Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
– Sun Tzu
Or it this fighting about writing? Wait, no.
I’m mostly planning to talk about one-on-one, hand-to-hand fighting. Why? Because I just got back from the ABQ where I watched a good friend of mine dominate his first pro-mma fight, so guess what’s on my mind? Yeah. The same thing as usual. The other reason I want to talk about such nigh-palendromic, highly-hyphenated combat is because it’s the kind I like to do. Yeah, get over it. I like to hit people in the face—it’s not my fault if they cry. They need to toughen up and quit blocking with the face.
Don’t be afraid, that was my ring-attitude speaking. I invited her for this post. She is kind of, uh, how do I put this? Cool? Confident? Aloof? Unapologetic and supremely confident? A scary mofo? A mean b***h? Opinions vary—as intended. She is a character created to win a little thing I’m calling the attitude game. She is as much a part of getting ready to fight as stretching my legs. She is the persona designed to illicit fan-fiction…?
Let me tell you about her. She tries to scare her opponents before the fight even starts. She might be seen bouncing a little on her toes, rolling and stretching her neck (always intimidating), throwing a few nasty punches at the air, or if a friend is there, loudly reminiscing (and strategically emphasizing to perhaps convey an exaggerated tale) about all those times she beat her opponents to a pulp. She means to be intimidating. She will smile at you while she sticks her foot in your face. Hit her, she hits back harder. She is all business, all about the fight. She will enjoy making you cry and bleed and lose, but she’s not so bad… As soon as the fight is over, even if she loses, she’ll hug her opponent and grin and mean it. She has no ill will towards her opponents, she’d root for them if she was not the one to beat, and back behind the ring, she’ll spend a few minutes giving the best advice she can to her opponent. She will tell them how she won, give them advice on how to fix it next time, and wish she had more time to explain, but she has to get ready for the next fight.
That’s her. Once a tournament starts, she’s there, ready to play.
That’s leads me to my first point about fighting. One of the main components is attitude. Attitude, Conflict, and Feeling are the true heart of a fight. (and we’ll get to them all in time.)
Attitude is first because it comes into play before the fight even starts. It is a battle of it’s own, a preliminary to the face-pounding, and very important. It is also difficult to portay in certain mediums, because unless you are part of a big, televised, mildly scripted tv fight, the battle of attitude is almost invisible. They can be true or a lie, but unless they already know the truth of each other, it matters little the authenticity of the attitude. All that matters is perception in the pre-fight attitude game.
There are a few primary attitude archetypes.
Cocky / Annoying – There are those who will taunt and verbally harass their opponent, but they are not the ones to worry about, only the most timid will fall before the attitude of cockiness—or what I like to call, annoying. Though it can on occasion be triumphant, the cocky, annoying tactic is likely to backfire. Those who do not react with fear, are likely to react with a desire to prove the cockiness wrong. Most with this attitude are deluded or scared and I’d say it leans towards the former. Nonetheless, there are always a few, far between, who just like to be annoying, but can back it up.
Confident / Intimidating – This is ranges from the silent to the strategically intimidating. But it is not as in your face like the previously mentioned attitude. This is where I like to be. This is also the hardest to judge. Without making people mad, the confident attitude makes opponents wonder. Is she really that good? She seems very calm… The confident fighter is much like an effective writing technique. She does not tell, she implies, she alludes, merely influences the opinions that form. Her opponents are given enough room to create their own narrative. Over time, the narrative is cumulative and can become very powerful if handled correctly.
Timid / Plain / Sneaky – This is usually just what it appears, a fighter who is not confident, not cocky, and not even trying to pretend. This fighter has probably already lost. They can’t compete in the pre-game, why would they be up for the fight? It is possible, however, that this is simply a ruse, a disguise. The fighter may gain the advantage of surprise. Or the fighter may simply wish to abstain from the attitude game. Or they are so freaking awesome that they plain don’t care. They are rare, but beware the fighter who does not feel the need to vie for an advantage by playing the attitude game before a fight. (But it is a weakness. To give up any chance at advantage, not matter how small, is unwise.)
The Cocky presents a yes or no question. Is he as good as he says/thinks?
The Confident is the question. Who is she? And tries to present clues that lead towards her desired answer: She must be good.
The Plain does not want any questions. The fighter is not to be noticed or considered a threat.
The Plain is a low-risk strategy. The fighter risks nothing in the attitude game, and can only win if all the other players lose.
The Confident is a long play, but if played right, it can lead to the creation of myth and legend.
The Cocky is too direct, it does not grow and accumulate as a legend because it constantly begs to be challenged, to be disproved.
There are many common subtypes that exist within these generalities. Styles vary, emphasis varies, skill varies, and even the fighters sometimes change for one reason or another. But I think this give a good picture of the attitude game.
Next time: Writing About Fighting II: The Fight Itself