Pacific International Taekwondo Brisbane

Start your Martial Arts Journey with



CLICK HERE to read how to prepare for classes

How military strategies are used in martial arts

Black Belts

Almost every martial art strategy is derived directly or indirectly from the military. In martial arts, especially in one-to-one combat, these strategies are generally practiced in sparring and employed in competition fights. Let us begin with a brief overview of sparring or competition fights, strategy, famous military strategists, and then dive in how military strategies are used in martial arts.

What is sparring?

Sparring or a competition fight is not a real fight, rather it is a simulation of a real fight. In a real fight, the objective is to defeat the opponent by causing the maximum damage to the opponent. For example, in the military, the only objective is to kill the opponent. But in sparring or competition fights, the objective is not to kill, rather it is to defeat the opponent by causing the least amount of damage as far as possible. The level of damage varies in full-contact, semi-contact and no-contact sparring. Full-contact sparring is as close as it gets to a real fight. All these three types of sparring may be with or without weapons, as well as with or without protective gear.

Sparring, although a simulation, yet it is a type of combat, and combat can be best learned from the war experiences of warriors. These real war experiences of warriors are codified in tuls, patterns, katas, and other sequences found in martial arts. Their decoding via bunkai, splitting, transposing, slowing, speeding, and by other ways, reveals the original real movements by which the warriors attained victory. Herein lies the importance of practicing the sequences of patterns, tuls, and katas. Any martial artist desiring to improve his or her sparring skills, should perfect these sequences along with a full and clear understanding of how they are coded and decoded.

The sequences consist of several different parts, wherein each part is a unique movement that obtained real victory for a real warrior in a real war. Therefore, logically it follows that if one gains a high level of mastery in these sequences, then one becomes an expert in warfare. However, this is only partially true. Because a war is always unpredictable, and victory is always uncertain. Moreover, the opponent may also be an expert martial artist, who has also perfected all the sequences. Therefore, both have an equal advantage over each other. In such a situation, one needs a plan to gain victory. This plan paints a picture of some certainty of victory on the canvas of war, which by its very nature is uncertain. This planning for certainty in an uncertain environment might be loosely termed as a strategy.

What is strategy?

Strategy is a general plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty. Usually, strategy consists of an overall strategy with sub-strategies. For example, the overall strategy is to win, while the sub-strategies may be to evade the opponent’s punch by moving the leg sideways and capturing the blind side, grabbing and pulling the opponent’s punching arm to utilize the opponent’s momentum, and striking the index finger second knuckle on the side of the opponent’s head at the temple while the opponent is falling forward. These sub-strategies may be termed as smaller goals that lead to the larger strategy or the larger goal of winning. The sub-strategies may also be called as tactics, while the overall goal is known as a strategy.

Thus, strategy usually involves:
—setting of goals/ targets/ priorities
—determining the actions needed to achieve those goals
—mobilizing/ obtaining/ cultivating the resources (men, material, money, tactics, techniques) needed to execute those actions
—executing, directly or indirectly, those actions

It is to be remembered that the environment is always uncertain since it is always changing. Hence, for the strategy to work, the strategy must successfully adapt to the changing environment. Adapting is done by evaluating the result of a prior strategy and based on the result, new goals are set. With new goals, a new strategy is formulated and the whole cycle repeats, in an unending loop, until victory is attained.

Phases of a Strategy

With the ultimate aim of gaining victory, usually a strategy involves:

Phase 1

—setting of goals
—determining the actions needed to achieve those goals
—getting the resources needed to execute those actions
—executing those actions

Phase 2

—evaluating the results of the earlier phase
—setting of new goals
—determining the new actions needed to achieve the new goals
—getting new resources to execute the new actions
—executing the new actions

***Phase 2 goes on repeating itself in an unending loop until victory is gained.
***Due to this looping, the uncertainty is handled, and some certainty slowly emerges.
***The looping also makes the strategy remain in context.

Context of a Strategy

A strategy is meaningful only if it is in relation to the environment in which it is applied. The environment is also known as the context. Stripped off of its context, a strategy loses its meaning. For example, if a martial artist wants to improve his punches, then he may formulate a strategy of punching the air for a thousand times a day. This may benefit in improving his endurance skills but it fails or marginally improves his punching prowess, because there is no context to the strategy. The context can be speed, power, accuracy, conditioning, or all together. If the context is speed, then the martial artist may practice punching with resistance bands, or other speed training drills. If the context is power, then the martial artist may practice punching by holding weights or other power training methods. If the context is accuracy, then the punches may be directed to focus pads or other accuracy training equipment. If the context is conditioning, then the punches may be executed by repeatedly hitting some hard surface like a rock, a tree, or a makiwara. Thus, the context provides the strategy with its meaning. In war/ competition fights/ sparring, the environment or the context changes continuously; therefore, evaluation and re-evaluation of the strategy in a constant loop needs to be done, so that it remains in context and hence, remains meaningful.

Military Strategists

Strategies of war are created by warriors at war. They are also known as martial strategists or military strategists. Since early times, military strategists have put forth different strategies because they faced different circumstances in different wars. All those strategies are effective, because they have been used by real warriors in real wars and due to those strategies, they have gained victory. But since a strategy is always with respect to its context, hence knowing the context as well as a brief biography of the military strategists is required to fully understand their strategies.

Some of the famous military strategists, in no particular order, are Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Saladin, Alexander the Great, Kauṭilya (book: Arthaśāstram), Sun Tzu (book: Art of War), Niccolò Machiavelli (book: The Prince), Carl von Clausewitz (book: On War), Miyamoto Musashi (book: The Book of Five Rings), Hannibal Barca, Napoleon Bonaparte, Antoine-Henri Jomini, General Erwin Rommel, General George S. Patton, and many more.

Few videos that show such great strategists and their strategies are presented below. By seeing the videos, besides being entertained by its cinematic storytelling, one can also understand the strategies that they employed, along with the contexts that forced them to employ those strategies.

Film&Clips video “Julius Caesar | Epic Action Movie | Full Movie (Multi Subs)”:


Lotus Compilations video “Genghis Khan (1965) 720p BluRay FULL MOVIE”:

TRT Documentary video “Salahuddin Ayyubi | Legends of War”:

n99 video “Miyamoto Musashi (AKA The Swordsman AKA 宮本武蔵) (1944) (English Subtitles)”:

Eudaimonia video “The Art of War: Every Episode”:

MOVIEHOLIC video “ALEXANDER THE GREAT | William Shatner | Adam West | Full Length Adventure Movie | English | HD”:

Eudaimonia video “The Prince | Machiavelli (All Parts)”:

Deep Quotes video “Powerful Carl von Clausewitz Quotes That Will Teach You How to Fight and Make You a Strategist.”:

Military Strategies used in Martial Arts

Sparring or a competition fight in martial arts is usually done with a single partner featuring a one-to-one combat. However, in military, thousands of troops are involved and thus, it is generally opined that military strategies do not work in one-to-one combat. Nonetheless, with few exceptions, almost all strategies of military warfare can be applied in one-to-one combat, and the difference is merely a difference of scale. There are dozens of military strategies; however, some strategies that are most often used are presented below.

1. Center penetration

Here, a gap, usually the weakest spot, in the enemy line is exploited to thrust directly to the centerline of the enemy. Once at the centre, the enemy line is disrupted and dislocated from the rear. The remaining enemy forces are then finished by the troops attacking from the flanks. For example, this strategy was used in the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC) by Alexander, and in World War I. It was also used in World War II by the German Blitzkrieg armored tanks combined with air support.

Imperial War Museums video “Blitzkrieg tactics explained | How Hitler invaded France WW2”:

In one-to-one combat, this strategy is translated as defending or attacking the centerline. The attacker tries to find a weak spot in the opponent and then attacks that weak spot, with the aim of moving in from that weak spot and finally attacking the centerline.

Sifu Todd Shawn Tei video “Wing Chun Centerline Theory”:

2. Attacking from a defensive position

Here, a strong defensive position is established and from that position, attacks are performed. This was seen in the Battle of Alesia (52 BCE). Nonetheless, if the defensive position turns passive, then ultimately it may lead to defeat. Therefore, attacks or planning the attacks while defending must be active and not passive.

Historia Civilis video “The Battle of Alesia (52 B.C.E.)”:

In one-to-one combat, this strategy is translated as defending while creating an attacking position. It is frequently utilized by boxers defending from jabs and hooks, while creating an attacking punching combination. It is also used in grappling and in other martial arts by persons defending from an opponent’s mounted position.

Fight SCIENCE video “3 THINGS You MUST DO to DEFEND GROUND & POUND Attacks in Street Fights”:

3. Envelopment

Here, the objective is to attack the flank, create a gap, move in the gap, attack the rear, capture the rear, and then attack from the rear to the front. Unlike a head-on frontal attack, the flanks are attacked to penetrate the enemy line and capture the rear. Envelopment can be single or double. In single envelopment, only one flank is attacked, while in double envelopment, both flanks are attacked simultaneously. Single envelopment was used in the Battle of Rocroi.

Gargatul0th video “Alatriste: Battle of Rocroi”:

The double envelopment, also known as the pincer movement, is seen in numerous battles, for example, in the Battle of Cannae, and the Battle of Walaja. In World War II, the Germans used it in the Battle of France and in Operation Barbarossa.

Eastory video “World War Two animated: Western Front 1940”:

In one-to-one combat, this strategy of single envelopment is translated as attacking the flanks, which is usually the ribs, and quickly moving to the rear to attack. From the rear, the attack is generally a choke, or a knife-hand strike to the back of the neck, or a hammer-fist strike to the skull.

UFC video “Standing Rear Naked Choke Finishes in UFC History”:

A double envelopment in one-to-one combat, is usually seen in techniques utilizing both the hands to attack simultaneously. For example, hitting the ears of the opponent with both palms simultaneously, quickly moving to the rear and hitting the jugular veins in both sides of the opponent’s neck with both knife-hands simultaneously. It is also seen in pressure point fighting where from the rear, two pressure points are struck simultaneously to paralyze the opponent’s arms, legs, or the entire body.

4. Oblique or angled attack

Here, one’s own flanks are defended by attacking the enemy from an angle, or obliquely in a slanted fashion. This was seen in the Battle of Leuthen.

TheArtofBattle video “Battle of Leuthen, 1757”:

In one-to-one combat, this is translated as attacking or defending from an angle, while protecting one’s own flanks or centerline, and simultaneously attacking the opponent’s flanks or centerline. Angles of attack and defense are usually created by effective footwork.

Nathan Carlen video “Triangular Footwork”:

5. Feigned retreat

Here, a frontal attack is made and then the troops retreat quickly. As the troops retreat, the enemy pursues. The retreating troops lead the enemy at such a place, where a reserve troop is waiting to ambush the pursuing enemy.  The waiting reserve troops then ambush and kill the enemy troops. This strategy of a feigned retreat was used in the Battle of Hastings and the Battle of Maling.

BazBattles video “The Battle of Hastings 1066 AD”:

This strategy was also extensively used by Genghis Khan, where his cavalry or his horseback archers attacked the enemy and then suddenly retreated with the enemy hot on their heels and pursuing only to be ambushed and killed.

Epic Battles video “Mongolian Nomad Strategy of War – Genghis Khan vs Jamukha”:

In one-to-one combat, this strategy is translated as attacking and then quickly retreating, so as to entice the opponent to follow. When the opponent follows, one suddenly stops retreating, catches the enemy off-guard, and starts attacking with full force. This is usually very effective when sparring with someone taller than oneself.

Coach Pepper MMA video “The Feint Retreat: Tactics for Short Kings in MMA and combat sports”:

6. Indirect approach

Here, the enemy is partially engaged directly and is fully engaged in an indirect way. The enemy is engaged directly with few troops, while the majority of the troops advance from a hidden area, and indirectly attack the enemy flank or the rear. This strategy was used in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Fred SpotNPS video “Chancellorsville Battle Map Program”:

In one-to-one combat, this strategy is translated as using a lesser force directly that the opponent can see, while using a major force indirectly that the opponent cannot see. It is widely seen in boxing as numerous punching combinations. For example, a famous combination is to engage directly with a left jab, a right hook, and a left body punch, while indirectly engaging with a right upper cut that finishes the fight.

thatRound video “Mike Tyson’s Greatest punch Combination”:

7. Surprise and shock

Here, a surprise attack is undertaken to shock the enemy. The surprise is created because the attack is unexpected, and the shock is created by the force of the attack.

1M DREAMS video “Pearl Harbour – Surprise Attack”:

In one-to-one combat, this strategy is translated as making an unexpected move to surprise and shock the opponent. In sparring, it often means performing such an attacking move that the opponent does not expect and is therefore, taken by surprise, while the force of the attack shocks the opponent. A surprise attack with sufficient force can also result in a knockout.

kuro-obi world video “The Body disappears, the Kick appears! 【TAIDO】”:

8. Exhaustion

Here, the opponent is exhausted with minor skirmishes and thereafter, at an appropriate time an all-out attack is done. The objective is to deplete the resources of the enemy while preserving one’s own resources.

lin.quotes video “Means to store up energy and strength,and to attack exhausted enemy who have come long way to invade”:

In one-to-one combat, this strategy is translated as not attacking while successfully evading the opponent’s attacks. This helps to preserve one’s own energy, while the opponent’s energy is worn out.

DAZN Boxing video “Canelo’s Head Movement Is Out Of This World 🤯”:

9. Deception

Here, the enemy is made to believe something exists, while in reality it does not exist. It also means to make the enemy believe that something does not exist, while in reality it does exist. Deception is highly recommended by Sun Tzu and other military strategists.

Unknown5 video “5 Greatest Examples Of Military Deception In History”:

In one-to-one combat, this strategy is translated as the execution of feints or fakes, which, in some form or the other, are widely used in all martial arts of the world.

The Modern Martial Artist video “The Least Known Feint Explained – Boxing, MMA, Muay Thai & Kickboxing Breakdown”:

10. Shoot-and-scoot

Here, the enemy is fired from some location and then one quickly moves away from that location from where the shots were fired, so as to avoid any counter gunfire from the enemy. The objective is not to stay at any one place but to constantly keep on moving, while firing at the enemy. Since there is constant motion, the enemy cannot know where to fire back.

NATO video “Shoot and scoot training with the Dutch🇳🇱 and Lithuanian🇱🇹 artillery”:

In one-to-one combat, this strategy is translated as hitting while moving constantly. Perhaps the best example of this strategy would be Mohammad Ali’s “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” technique.

ElTerribleProduction video “Muhammad Ali In His Prime | Float Like A Butterfly Sting Like A Bee | HIGHLIGHTS Tribute Full HD”:

Few other strategies

It is beyond the scope of this article to cover all the strategies; however, few other notable strategies are given in the following videos.

illacertus video “The 33 Strategies of War (Animated)”:

Statue of Wisdom video “The Book of Five Rings – A Simplified Guide”:


In the following video of the legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, notice the utmost necessity of changing the strategy and keeping it relevant to its changing contexts, which plays a very large part in Bruce Lee surviving the fight.

SIDJKD video “Bruce Lee VS Chuck Norris”:

Victory is always uncertain because the circumstances are uncertain. One way of ensuring certainty in an uncertain environment, is to employ a strategy and then go on changing and adapting it as per the changing circumstances and contexts.


Need high-quality martial arts gear at reasonable prices?

Pacific Sports (a subsidiary of Pacific International Taekwondo) offers a range of high-quality, functional and affordable Taekwondo, Karate, Jiu Jitsu uniforms, as well as Martial Art and Kickboxing equipment, Kick Boxing Shorts, MMA Rash Guards, MMA Gloves, TKD paddles, Shin Guards, Kick Shield, Instep Pad Guards, Focus Pads, Focus Mitts, TKD shoes and Gel Hand Wraps.

Avail the benefits of discounts, free shipping and clearance sales.

Pacific Sports Logo


+61 415383635


4wks Taekwondo Classes $49

Call (07) 3889 9551 or enter your details below...
Call Now ButtonCall Now