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Purpose, Fear and Mindset (Part 2)


Black Belt Plus

A proper combat mindset is about the “will to win,” or perhaps more aptly, the “will to destroy.” It’s the core essential attribute that empowers your self-defense response in a dangerous situation. Now, this nutshell definition may suffice for those who intrinsically have it in their nature already. However, for those who haven’t fully tapped their potential, it’s not enough. For these people, if the goal is to truly develop and optimize self-defense ability, having an indomitable will to win is a must; without it, skill development is nearly useless. In this article we asses purpose, fear and mindset.

Like with fear, a combat mindset has various elements to address before coalescing into an entity that will empower your physical skills. The first element is the mental component. This relates to what motivates you to fight with all your heart and soul. It’s about cognitively having maximum violent intent and a full, uninhibited commitment to destroying your adversary.

What can empower you to exert this violence of action?

It goes back to purpose. Using myself as an example, I’ve decided that I will fight to the death because of my love for my wife and children. I want to grow old and enjoy my time with them. I won’t allow anyone to criminally take this away from me. Clearly, this is a powerful motivation. That’s why I recommend that all martial artists define their purpose now and let it serve as motivation and inspiration to fight with a will to win that’s  second to none.

The next element of combat mindset is the emotional component. It expresses the mental component through the feelings you engender in yourself for combat. It’s the demeanor you project while executing your physical skills. It’s what fuels your intent and commitment. That said, there’s no one best feeling to adopt. The one you should use depends on your personality and behavioral traits.

Generally speaking, there are two types of demeanor that can work: a controlled/ channeled aggressive state of being or a calm, detached, machine-like state of being. Maybe you already know what works best for you. If not, it can be sussed out through the physical component.

The final element of combat mindset is the physical component. It synergistically merges all three parts into one. With the first two components, it’s about intellectually defining and understanding the basis of what constitutes a combat mindset. With the third, it’s about actualizing all that in a physical manner. There must be physical effort put forth in an adversarial setting such as what you encounter in the combat sports or, more direly, in real-life self-defense situations for you to need a will to win. Just having a cognitive understanding is insufficient. True combat mindset can be felt, tested and improved only by immersing yourself in physical experiences involving an adversary.

So how should you physically express your will-to-destroy feeling in personal combat? And how do you train to develop a higher level of this attribute if you need to improve it? The answer to the first question depends on your demeanor, your state of being when you fight. If you’re of the controlled/channeled- aggression ilk, the will-to-destroy and will-to-win feeling is one of fierce determination to destroy your adversary as you unleash an uninhibited, all-out attack. You’re in a focused, striving, empowered, attack-mode zone.

Imagine barraging an assailant who just attacked your spouse or child. Visualize and then feel that channeled rage as you unleash a full-on, two-hand, rapid-fire barrage attack (a la Vitor Belfort vs. Wanderlei Silva) to and mentally through your adversary’s head. Or envision yourself as Dan Henderson when he executed that vicious leaping punch to the head of an already supine and unconscious Michael Bisping. Watch a video of that bout, and you’ll see Henderson oozing will-to-destroy venom. Two other fighters who exemplify this are Mike Tyson and Nigel Benn.

On the other hand, if your state of being in combat is one of calm detachment, the will to destroy feeling is perhaps best expressed in a coldblooded, machine-like manner in which you dispatch your adversary like an assassin. It’s akin to having a business-as-usual approach. A person who tends to fight like this has a natural predisposition that’s often coupled with experience. Two people who exemplify this are James Toney and George Foreman.

To be continued….

To order Lito Angeles’ best-selling book Fight Night! The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Mixed Martial Arts, visit

This article originally appeared in a 2021 edition of Black Belt Magazine.

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