The Different Aspects of Martial Arts Practice

Let us take a brief look at the different aspects of martial arts training as I understand them.  Remember I am just as limited by my perspective as anyone else. So even though I attempt to be as objective and scientific as possible about this article, I may be missing something. I am always open to constructive comments and suggestions from reasonable individuals.

I divided it into four categories.  You will find that pretty much every martial arts approach is completely lopsided according to the preferences of the style, schools, pedagogy and teachers.  

First lets define these concepts and explain them a little. 


  • Knowledge or prediction of an impending conflict or situation is required.  

  • Mental evaluation of a situation:

    • The opponent, strengths & weaknesses

    • Your strengths & weakness

    • Tools at your disposal

    • Your environment/context

  • Putting yourself into the best position possible for success according to the above

STRATEGY is simply planning and analysis and has to do with training the conscious mind

Lets think of STRATEGY as everything that happens BEFORE the conflict begins.  In the context of football the team decides a play before lining up to hike the ball.  They take the above list into consideration and then hike the ball.  Strategy is now over. 

In context of a fight, STRATEGY is everything that takes place before the fighters make physical contact.  If there is a brief break in the fight they may back up and re-strategize. Once the conflict begins we move to TACTICS. 

TACTICS is any mode or procedure for gaining advantage or success (Maneuvers)

  • Requires no predetermined knowledge of a impending situation 

  • Implementing the tools intended for use by the strategy

  • Adjusting in the moment when the strategy no longer applies

  • Adjusting oneself to the best position possible to utilize available tools according to a rapidly changing environment.

TACTICS have to do with sensitivity and responsiveness to the situation in the moment when there is no time to think, only act.   This has mostly to do with training the nervous system and unconscious mind when there is no time to think or analyze. 

For example, the football team enacts the play by hiking the ball and passing it to a receiver.  The receiver catches the ball and now needs to adapt to the other team trying to tackle him, so he may fake them out, or juke or look for a teammate to block for him.  Or maybe the ball is intercepted, now both teams have to respond in the moment to this sudden change of circumstances in the moment.  This is TACTICS. 

In a fight, adjusting to taking a strike, slipping a strike, repositioning yourself or getting knocked down and using that move yourself into position to utilize your tools is all tactics.  In combat, tactics are everything that happens after the first gun shot, strike or knife makes contact, or you get knocked on the floor.  Say you are attacked, you fall to the ground, grab a trash can and put it between you and the attacker to give you a moment to get up.  This would be an example of TACTICS.


  • Specific patterns that are used according to the proper stimulus or situation with a specific result in mind. 

TECHNIQUES are procedures or methods so as to effect a desired result. They are motor control patterns and are associated with the motor cortex.

In football, techniques are throwing, catching, tackling, and all those patterns that are drilled endlessly. Same in martial arts- striking, kicking, sweeps, joint locks, use of weapons, disarming etc. 

PRINCIPLES are truths about our reality:

  • Physics

  • Biology

  • Psychology

  • Physiology

  • Philosophy

PRINCIPLES are how the body and mind works, and how they relate to the activity we are involved in.  Paying attention to the principles of martial arts is the difference between a healthy practice and one that injures. 

Stay Tuned for Part II:  Study of these Elements in Modern Martial Arts. 

Pasquale Antonio