Combat Sport Psychologist Dr. Randy Borum Discusses Anticipation in Combat Sports

Some of you may remember that one of my earlier interviews was with Combat Sport Psychologist Dr. Randy Borum. Dr. Borum has his own website, Combat Sport Psychology, and each month he posts a column that he writes for Black Belt Magazine.

Check after the jump for an excerpt from Dr. Borum's latest column, "Anticipating Your Opponent's Action"

Anticipation is like prediction. It relies on your ability [to] determine what is about to happen. It is also a sport-specific perceptual skill. In combat sports, your defensive expertise depends on how well you anticipate what your opponent is going to do; how wisely you choose the best response; and how well – and how quickly - you execute the action.


What seems to matter most in sport-related perceptual expertise is not good eyesight or necessarily what they see, but how the person uses the information they perceive. In martial arts an opponent’s postural cues provide some of the best information about his intention. But learning which postural cues are going to signal which attacks mostly occurs through sport-specific experience. Sometimes this learning is acquired by understanding the biomechanics of the general technique, but sometimes it comes by discerning patterns within a specific opponent.

What tends to distinguish experts in the perceptual warfare of martial arts is the ability to anticipate how an opponent’s cues relate to his intentions. In the terminology of sport psychology, they have superior anticipatory skills. More experienced practitioners tend to be able to identify an opponent’s attack and defense patterns much more quickly, easily, and accurately than their beginner counterparts. They have learned from experience which actions are most likely to follow which cues. They also adapt that knowledge to what they observe in their present opponent. In the language of the sport scientist, they have superior response selection performance, which makes for better tactical decision making.


Be sure to take a look at the full article; it's definitely a good read for anyone who trains, but it's also informative for those who don't. Take a closer look at the next few MMA matches you watch, especially the ones that go the distance. Watch how a fighter may keep throwing leg kick after leg kick after they back up from a combination. Then when they throw that combination and step back and throw a head kick instead of a leg kick, you'll know how they were able to make that work.

I think that many people already understand the general principal of how that works, but Dr. Borum provides some great psychological insight.


(For all the details, head over to Combat Sport Psychology.)

No comments: