The 3 Most Common Causes for Defeat

Yesterday (or actually this day, since it was night) I was watching the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) on TV. You know, the tournament where big bad MMA-fighters from all over the world fight for glory.

A fight was about to begin, and the announcer called in the fighters.

The first one looked really focused. He was strong, quite athletic, and focused. A perfect combination. He even had a nice sunburn (even the commentator said he looked good)!

His opponent on the other hand… ten centimeters shorter, pale skin, had a small beer belly, and looked quite tired. And the audience booing when he entered the octagon probably didn’t make him happier… (he was from out of town).

So, judging from this information, who would you bet your money on?

The athletic, fit, strong fighter with a sunburn?

Or the short, tired, pale, beer belly fighter?

Save your money, because I’ll tell you who won. The first guy did. The other guy had already lost before the fight even began. At least that’s what I think.

This can be explained. According to ancient samurai wisdom, there are three common causes for defeat. In this case, I think all three were in play. Let’s see what the samurai thought:

1. Kikioji

Kikioji literally means “to hear and tremble”. In other words, being afraid of your opponents reputation. If people tell you how good your opponent is, you read about him, you see him on TV, and the audience screams his name, then you can be sure it will affect you. You are already fearing him and being defeated, based on his reputation.

2. Mikuzure

Mikuzure literally means “to see and crumble”. In other words, being afraid of how the opponent looks. Maybe this is the reason to why many fighters have scary tattoos, mean haircuts, and look angry all the time. They want to intimidate their opponent. They want to “psych out” their opponent. But being afraid of your opponents appearance is irrational, because often skill and looks are two different things. But your mind often can’t make that distinction.

For example, fighting a black belt can be ten times harder than fighting a blue belt, just because of the belt color! Your mind is fixed upon the belt color, building fear. The truth is, the blue belt can be ten times better than the black belt! A belt is actually not a good way of measuring skill (more of that some other time).

3. Futanren

Tanren means exercise. Futanren means lack of excercise, or simply insufficient training. If you haven’t trained enough, you will surely be defeated. Even if your opponents reputation doesn’t bother you (kikioji), or his big cannons, sorry I mean biceps, doesn’t affect you (mikuzure), you will still lose if you haven’t trained enough.

These three factors decide the outcome 9 times out of 10. And that was the case in the fight I saw on TV yesterday (which made me write this post). The winner had a big reputation, that the loser surely had noticed. Kikioji, check! The winner looked waaay better, which the loser had noticed, too. Mikuzure, check! And lastly the winner had trained better, which was obvious from the fight (the loser practically gave up after getting his ribs smashed by a dozen knees, on the ground). Futanren, check! The winner had all three factors on his side! An easy win.

So to win, we should avoid getting affected by these things. But what if we flip the coin? Let’s turn it around! Just for fun, let’s see how can we use these three factors against our opponent? We already know we should avoid them, but how can we turn them on the opponent instead? That would surely maximize our potential to win. Well, it’s not that hard:

1. Use Kikioji

Get a reputation. A good reputation. Make people talk about you. And make sure that your opponent hears it.

2. Use Mikuzure

Look good. Get a scary haircut. Get a sunburn. Whiten your teeth. Get big muscles. Look focused. Practise your “evil face” in front of the mirror. Have the best and most expensive gear. And make sure the opponent sees it.

3. Use Futanren

Train more, and better, than your opponent. If this fails, at least make sure your opponent can’t train… (evil thoughts allowed).


And that’s about it. Be sure to master these three points, using them on yourself and on your opponent, and victory is yours. It doesn’t get easier.

However, fail to do so, and you will most likely be defeated.

Just ask Kublai Khan (famous mongolian warlord) who twice attempted to invade Japan, and failed miserably both times.

Samurai wisdom never gets dusty!


  • Interesting, but simply not true when using MMA as an example. Watch any fight with Fedor Emilianenko. Beer belly, relaxed, empty stare. Then BAM. Pwnage. Look at Chuck Liddell's fights. Pale white guy with beer belly. etc.. Look at Wanderlei Silva's fights - very focused, aggressive, excellent shape. Won a lot. There is simply no generalisation to be made when it comes to good fighters, except that they typically are in good shape. Like your write-ups though, interesting reading.
    • Dudeman
      You're not taking the Kikioji associated with Fedor into consideration
  • Igor
    Its true about the look and practicing it... It would be interesting if you (in karate wisdom that outgrows my own) could write about it. All I know is that most of the people try to look as dangerous as possible, making you tremble before them. But in the Life Giving Sword book by Yagyu Munenori ( I think its from that one), its written about the absorbing look, mild face expression, and eyes that suck the energy from the person you fight against...
  • j.h.g
    greetings sensei Jesse, very good article. please also accept a small supplement my personal tactic-if someone cares!- is to have a low profile not to look great or like a super warrior( while having of course the right skills). thank you j.h.g.

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