HOW TO FIGHT FOR YOUR GOALS: Social Combat Theory – Self Defense for Your Professional and Personal Life


Courtesy of

What I’m about to say will come as no major shock to you – but humor me non the less, I think you’ll enjoy:

As a 20+ year practitioner and instructor in the martial arts, I have come to notice a quality in the serious martial artist that informs their success in relationships, far from the hard realities of the mat.

You knew that right? I told you, no major revelation.

And now the big but:

BUT as I matured as a martial artist I began to feel that the qualities that martial arts afford us martial artists need not remain our exclusive gift.  Traditionally we’ve been very protective and cliquey about our skills, and considering most of us can kill people with our bare hands rather easily, I guess there was good reason for it.

However, I don’t think the non combative benefits of martial arts, the social and emotional ones, are inextricably intertwined with physical combat. And if not, perhaps it is our right, maybe even our duty as warrior citizens of this complex social/digital world we now live in, to spread the wealth of non-combative benefits of martial arts to non-martial artists.  To help them in any way we can and to whatever degree we can through the unique medium of martial arts. Will they ever get it on the level of a practicing martial artist? Probably not, but there is still plenty of benefit to be gained on whatever level they can reach.

And then there’s the benefit to us, the martial artists of the world. We may have an abstract sense of our instinctive ability to apply our martial training toward other facets of our life, but to truly excel at it we must pull these abilities out of the ethereal and give them structure, form and technique – the same as we do with all our training, and only then will true mastery of the Social Martial Arts be within our grasp – literally – well…literally within a figurative sense.

And so I set about writing the book “HOW TO FIGHT FOR YOUR GOALS: Social Combat Theory”

new cover 2

(You can get the hard copy here.)

…the following of which is a summary of its principles. I hope you enjoy and share in the privilege of spreading the teachings of Social Combat:

For a thousand years, the best kept secret of the martial arts has been the ability to prevail in Social as well as physical conflict.

This means that a martial artist cannot only pound you into the pavement in the street, but he can also pound you into your cubical or the conference table at the office… only in a more figurative sense.

Martial Arts is the study of conflict.  All conflict.  It is only the training medium that is physical.  The result of such study is the unfair advantage afforded to its students, not only on the physical battlegrounds, but also in the social realms of communication skills, leadership ability and conflict management.

I intend to change that unfair advantage and even the playing field a bit.  Social Combat Theory (or S.C.O.T), is a cutting edge training system that uses martial arts technique to teach people how to overcome obstacles and achieve their LIFE goals, at home or in the office, affording even those with little to no martial arts background the ability to become a SOCIAL combat artist.

How Does It Work?

The underlying principles of conflict are universal, be they physical, social or even emotional in nature.

When we are faced with stressful circumstances our body releases certain catecholmines known commonly as adrenaline. This generally produces a series of physiological chain reactions designed to gear the body up for fighting or fleeing. What’s interesting is that the same chemicals released by the body when attacked on the street, are those same chemicals released when attacked by your boss or when on the verge of closing a major deal. Consequently, the way the untrained fighter reacts when confronted by a physical threat, will be similar to the way he will react from a social one. The rule of thumb being, when things get crazy, you always go back to your instincts. An aggressive person will barrel in recklessly and the passive person with not engage when needed. The solution then being; So train your instincts. The trained fighter will have the flexibility of style to adapt his strategy to efficiently and effectively address whatever threat (or opportunity) be at hand.

Physical conflict, being conflicts most rudimentary form, makes it the optimal medium for which to master conflict’s universal principles on two counts.

1)      Physical conflict is lucidly clear. What techniques work and why, are easily seen and explained. The same cannot be said for social prowess, like what makes one a great salesmen.

2)      Knowledge learned physically (Somatic muscle memory), is stored at a far more elementary level of the brain than factual knowledge (Semantic memory), making its retention and recall function at the instinctive level. This is crucial if you wish to be able to apply your knowledge under real life stressors.

The questions that remain: What are these universal elements of conflict, and how do we ingrain them within ourselves? In this article we will mainly focus on the first part, that being the theory behind SCOT, and only briefly depict the training methodologies in the technique sequences, as these areas are beyond our purview here. For more on the ‘how’ a copy of How To Fight For Your Goals awaits you at the other end of the links above.

Conflicts Universal Principles and Social Combat Theory

One of the biggest mistakes martial artists make is that they practice certain combinations or one-steps countless times, and never practice for specific opponents.  It’s always assumed that “if the punch comes in like this, then I will counter with that…and all’s well that ends well.” Then we try the same technique in sparring and it never works out. It has gotten to the point where one-steps and sparring are not expected to resemble each other. Ask any professional fighter though, and he will tell you the key to strategy is to develop a game-plan for your specific opponent. And boy do these guys study their opponents.  They wake up to pictures of them on their mirror. I know, I saw it in Rocky.

Rocky drago pic

Courtesy of Junta Juleil’s Culture Shock Blog

Most of us though, don’t have the luxury to stalk our opponents enough to get restraining orders. Good thing the average untrained fighter is usually not that complex.  SCOT has developed a spectrum where you can quickly size up your opponent and develop an effective strategy to achieve your goals, all within real time.

Social Combat Theory Overview

A comprehensive depiction of Social Combat Theory goes well beyond the scope of this article, but I do hope to give you a taste of the theory and its inner workings, and to open your eyes to the power of martial arts on the social battlefield.

It is difficult to definitively fit yourself into one specific category of personality type given the subjective nature of reality. If I generally view myself to be aggressive, that image will only hold up until I run into this guy:


Courtesy of

making me feel like a trained puppy in comparison. The converse holds true if I were to think I was a passive type and found myself vying for a parking spot with Mahatma Gandhi. Who do you think would win that one? So, when sizing up an opponent you have to put them on your own spectrum. You are always the base point.  Always zero. Everyone else are the crazy nuts who are more extreme then you are in either direction.

The categories we use as a measure of fighting style are passive and aggressive. Each one of us has our own spectrum with passive opponents falling out on one side and aggressive opponents on the other. SCOT has identified three archetype opponents one might come to face on their spectrums:

1)      The Bluffer (Passive – left of spectrum)

2)      The Brawler      (Aggressive – right of spectrum)

3)      The Boxer    (Adaptive – middle)

We will briefly touch upon each of these opponents:

The Passive Bluffer:

What defines one as passive in social combat terms is their lack of commitment. Like a fighter who never truly commits his punches, The Bluffer’s fighting strategy is one of harassment. Bluffers do not really have much behind their attacks. The effectiveness of their style lies in keeping you from achieving your goals by constant distractions and small scale attacks. Basically, their annoying. The danger lies in us underestimating The Bluffer, thinking that these small-scale attacks do not warrant a serious response. This allows their attacks to accumulate over time where the overall damage can add up to something significant. In short, The Bluffer looks to wear us down. In a social setting, this is the guy who won’t return your calls or the semantic and arbitrary details that get in the way of completing a big project.

The Solution:

First off, don’t tare your hair out in frustration. Attack hard and fast at random targets.  Call, send emails, and bang on doors until you corner a decision maker and demand the answer you need. Tackle small problems at random and mercilessly. The thing about the passive fighter is that they lack the commitment to conduct a toe-to-toe battle. Such a direct approach will force The Bluffer to capitulate or choose to fight with a more committed style, effectively rendering them no longer passive. Either way The Bluffer is defeated.

The Aggressive Brawler:

The Brawler is the polar opposite of The Bluffer. Where The Bluffer has a low commitment level, The Brawler can be described as being obsessed. The Brawler is a tunnel-versioned juggernaut who does not care what they destroy in their single-minded charge toward their goal. I.e. their a brawler. This one doesn’t mind getting hit. On the contrary, they love it.

The Solution:

The good thing about fighting a charging bull is that they’re pretty predictable, often sloppy, and their all-out style causes them to gas quickly.  This makes it easier on you to avoid head-on collisions while wearing down your opponent with a softer, Chi-Sao like style. Nothing like a smooth matador to get a bull fuming, and as The Brawler gets angrier and more tiered, mistakes will start to abound.

I recall a case, not so long ago, where a prospective client was not so happy with my price. Without ever having met this client in person, or even over the phone yet, the client sent me a highly aggressive email demanding I ease my registration policies and act more on good faith. Such an unwarranted affront was rather offensive given that the guy never met me and had no reason to choose a hostile approach. However, instead of countering in kind (which may have been morally justified and emotionally satisfying, but ultimately costly as I would lose a potential client), I started my emailed response as follows: “Dear Disgruntled man (not real name), I appreciate your honesty but there is no need for such an aggressive tone.” Negotiation from that point onward was in my favor as any major resistance on his part would just confirm him to be the out of line, unreasonable stereotype I labeled him in my intro. In martial arts speak, I threw him off his attack.

The Adaptive Boxer:

The Boxer is the mirror image of you. In combat they are cold and calculating, driven by goals and using emotions as fuel, nothing more. The Boxer can temporarily assume the qualities of The Bluffer or The Brawler depending on the needs of the moment. Unlike the other fighters though, they never stray too far to the extreme and thereby avoid the inherent weaknesses of their adoptive styles. The Boxer is the most cunning of opponents and requires the most sophisticated strategies to defeat. These are the kinds of battles serious martial artists relish the most.

The Solution:

Beat them at their own game. The battle with The Boxer is a chess match and the more you can see the whole picture, the more of an advantage you will have. Battles with the other opponents are linear and straightforward. It would be foolish to deviate from the simple solution. The Boxer though requires a 360º view of the situation to craft a trap fit for a fox.

Interviewers love to ask questions where there are no right answers and then watch their subjects squirm in their seats (sick people). One of their favorite sadistic questions I have been subject to on multiple occasions is, “What would you say is your weakest quality?” There is no right answer. If you say you have no weaknesses your lying and if you tell the truth you can’t avoid looking bad. One great solution is honesty with a twist. Show how your handicap makes you ideal for the position. For example, if I lacked experience in the given field I would answer honestly. But then I would follow up with how that makes me hungrier, more enthusiastic, and more easily prone to assimilate the latest techniques and methods of the company than someone already set in their ways. I would also be cheaper and willing to work my way up the ladder then a more experienced candidate. Any weakness can seam like your greatest asset if you know how to manipulate an opponent’s attack. Social Combat Theory does not look for the right answer but rather the right strategy.


It has long been the bane of training courses and systems, in the fields of communication skills, leadership and conflict management, to turn theoretical principles into a working knowledge for students. Non-martial artists find it difficult to bridge martial theory with actual technique, and long-term martial artists do it so naturally they have difficulty explaining just how they do it.

Social Combat Theory is the first training system to ever truly break the barrier between theory and “real-life” practical implementation of martial arts technique toward the social battlefield. If you make yourself aware of these principles and refine the Social Combat Artist within you, you will have quite the unfair advantage over your colleagues both professionally and personally.

Hey, sometimes life just isn’t fair.

For more on the How To Fight For series and Social Combat Theory, follow me on Facebook @

and Twitter @HowToFightFor

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4 Responses to HOW TO FIGHT FOR YOUR GOALS: Social Combat Theory – Self Defense for Your Professional and Personal Life

  1. CSPS Online says:

    A very interesting concept! I’ve never heard it expressed quite this way before. Thanks for the read! I enjoyed that.

  2. Régine Mynsberghe says:

    Thanks for your theory. Will read it more carefully but at first sight, I must say that I find it easier to apply on the mat than in real life, mostly because many people are just pretending and hiding things. One of the vertues of aikido is honour and fairness, which is no often the case in business…

    • Well put, and it certainly is easier to apply these principles on the mat, and that’s why physical combat is such a great base for learning Social combat. But ultimately, aikido is not only preparing you to fight on the mat, and only against other aikido stylists, correct? It’s preparing you to fight with honor in any environment and against any foe, even on the street against those without honor. Social combat is another natural extension of what aikido has trained and prepared you for. Thanks for the comment!

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