As part of my test to 5th degree black belt in early 2016, I was required to write a thesis on some aspect of taekwondo.

In my standard application of the philosophy, “Excessiveness is excellent,” I wrote two theses…

This is the more universal of the two, applicable to not only taekwondo tournaments, but any martial arts tournament or other multi-event competition where an all-around award is given.

So, without further ado, here are my thoughts and mathematical proofs on how to improve the scoring theory for the award commonly known as “Grand Champion.”


If you’d like to use this methodology, here are some documents that you are welcome to use:





If you have ideas or recommendations for improvement, please share your comments. I love to discuss this sort of stuff!

Where was I? Oh, yeah, I was training. Been doing too much of that lately. Gonna be doing a lot more over the next couple of months. (and I am no longer the alternate for 4th Dan patterns, so add another layer to the training cake.)

But I’m at work and apparently they frown on flying kettle bells in the tutoring center… Alliteration is a different matter entirely.

Lucky for someone, I’ve decided to write about fighting rather than the alternative.

Here we go.

The Fight Itself

There is nothing quite like a fight. Not even another one. Because no two fights are ever the same. Each is a war unto itself; a timeless battle that takes forever, but is always over too soon.

When you are writing about a fight, there are two very different perspectives that you might take. To put it simply, there is inside the fight and outside the fight; the observer’s perspective and the fighter’s perspective.

Let’s start with the easy one. *heh*

The external perspective on a fight is description; the fighter(s) did this, then that happened, and eventually it appears to be over, one way or another. It varies, depending on the personality of the character POV that is observing.

The question of course, is how do we figure this out for a character so that is helps us write about the fight from his/her specific perspective?

Let me give you my answer, then I’ll show you how to get there.

Know the character’s focus.

We’re talking about observation and description here, frequently the most boring kind of writing. All showing, no telling, right?

Eh, hopefully not so much.

Here’s my process: Ask the character questions. Use those answers to color the description with focus and voice.

Questions like:

How does the character react to the fight? To the fact that it is happening? To the fact that it is close? Or distant?


How does the character react to the fighter(s)? Fear? Envy? Disdain? Respect?


The answers can tell you a lot about the character and consequently, give you a great opportunity to convey some of that character to your reader in a subtle, enjoyable fashion.

Let’s invent a basic description and then color it in for various characters.

Basic Description Example:

The two men squared off to fight. The blue fighter attacked with a kick to the gut followed by a punch to his opponent’s head. But before the punch could land, the red fighter stepped to the side and landed a pair of his own punches. Then he kicked the blue fighter once and then retreated.

Okay, that’s boring. That’s the point. It’s just the bare, observed facts. It’s also out of context and therefore stakeless. With nothing important riding on the outcome, it is emotionally hollow as well. So, can we make this short, boring exchange between two anonymous fighters more interesting? I’m gonna go with yes.

There are an infinite number of types of characters that might observe this fight. Let’s pick a few and see what we can do with them.

How about another fighter; someone who knows something about what is going on, but without any investment to speak of.

The two men squared off to fight. The blue fighter immediately went on the offensive, landing a side-kick to the solar-plexus before shooting a short jab intended for his opponent’s jaw. Red is quick, he dodged to the side and left Blue wide open for a counter. One punch low, one punch high, and then a kick out.

That was what I call announcer mode. The observer knew something about what he was seeing, but didn’t care very much, he was just there to relay the facts, albeit with a more trained focus. I gave him three focuses that any fighter ought to have.

Number one was specific targeting. This is a big difference, in my experience, between trained/experienced fighters and not.

Number two was a how he used strategic jargon to describe each fighter’s actions like “offense” and “counter.” He also used more specific language to describe the techniques used. and last but not least, he showed a comfort with the subject as he shortened and summarized automatically, even to the detriment of the less informed.

Number three was specific technique references. He didn’t use all generic terms like ‘kick’ and ‘punch.’

Now, let’s try on a little bit more of an insider.

The two fighters squared off. Blue went straight in with a side-kick that shoulda knocked out some air, or even some ribs. Red didn’t let it slow him down. He sidestepped that jab and opened Blue up good. High, low, and out.

This observer is mentally in that fight. He’s not seeing the through the eyes of a spectator, he’s seeing it through the eyes of a fighter. Right off, he calls them for what he sees and expects. Unlike the others so far, he doesn’t even mention the fight itself. It’s a given. That’s what fighters do, but it’s not the point. And that’s what he thinks of them as, “fighters,” not competitors, not opponents, just “fighters.” What does that say about our observer?

This observer is really focused on one thing, immediate consequence. He’s not looking for points, or pretty techniques, he’s making and then evaluating predictions. It’s not about the kick, it’s about how much it probably hurts, then its about how the Red fighter isn’t phased by the blow. Describing the counter setup, is when we see our observer in the shoes of a fighter for sure. He’s seeing the openings, the possible targets, not the specific techniques Red decided to use. (Not that doesn’t know the specifics, it’s just not his highest priority. How the move works rather than what the move is called.)

This type of observer, this fighter, could easily drop some judgements in as well. He might mention what he would have done instead of what happens, or even think of it before it happens. If he’s watching the fight long enough, and he’s an experienced strategist, he could start making predictions about a fighter’s moves, and when he starts getting them right, adding plans to counter the predictable moves, and after that, after he has a plan to deal with a move he thinks he’ll be able to see coming, he might even come up with a plan to force such a move. Three moves ahead.

Depending on how experienced, and how, shall we say, good, your fighter-observer is, you can change how correct such observations are. A good fighter with lots of experience might make a surprisingly accurate and thorough strategic analysis of the fight. A less effective or less experienced observer might make both good and bad predictions, and not go quite as deep.

If there is any one way to clearly differentiate level of experience, I would say it is in the depth and ease of such strategic thought.

I’m going to leave it at that for today, but consider other viewpoints for an observer. What about a complete stranger to fighting. How’s his or her pain tolerance. Maybe he or she empathizes and focuses on the perceived pain, or the possible damage. Does (he) have a personal interest for some reason in one of the fighters? Maybe (his) empathy is one-sided, maybe (he) even feels good about the other side getting hit/hurt.

We could keep going and going and going. The possibilities are rather large, but the idea is simple. Figure out what you want to say about the character observing the fight, and then pick one or two focuses that somehow illustrate those chosen facets of a character.

(And we will discuss the inside-the-fight perspective…eventually!)

Next time: Writing About Fighting III: One Ring Strategy To Rule Them All




“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.

So onward!

Next time: Writing About Fighting II: The Fight Itself