The art of war is an ancient manuscript for warfare strategies, it includes many tactics that have influenced global leaders, commanders, business executive and athletes. One of the key concepts of the art of war is the ability to defeat your enemies without actually going to battle. This strategy allows an army to conserve valuable resources and leave your enemies resources intact. Many of the art of war philosophies is applied in the ring and even more, applied in the business world. Here are 3 great combat philosophies that can be applied in the business world.
1 - “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
In combat sports, the strongest fighter does not always win. Even if you take a ferocious champion like Mike Tyson and you break down his knockouts, you will see that they are carefully crafted techniques that expose chinks in his opponents defence. In fighting, if you are able to understand your own strengths and how your opponent moves, reactions or even predict how they will attack, you can quickly select your appropriate weapon to counter his move. Fighting in the ring is the ultimate chess game, every weapon that a fighter throws has weapons that it can trump but also has weapons that can trump it. If a fighter understands their opponent (This can happen by studying videos, but more importantly, in the fight itself) and begin to anticipate (Patterns), or at the highest level force his opponent to do a specific move ( by using a trap, or a fake) which exposes a weakness, then the attacking fighter can counter with his strength. This, is what it means to know yourself, and know your enemy.
This tactic is very effective in business as when one corporation knows where its strength lies, and understand the needs or the weaknesses of another company. The one corporation may expose where the weakness of the other company so that it aligns with the strength of the company. For example, if a company has certain high margin products that every distributor wants because their clients demand it that company can use this to force that distributor to carry other lower margin products, or even remove some of my competitors for my other brands.
2 - “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
In combat sports you will often hear fighters say that the "fight" is the easiest part of the overall fighting experience. Depending on a fighters skill level and type of match they may compete for 3 - 5 rounds (Kick Boxing/MMA), or up to 12 rounds (Professional Boxing). However, the weeks, months, even years of training that goes into a fight is the most difficult part.
“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” - Muhammad Ali
“You can map out a fight plan or a life plan, but when the action starts, it may not go the way you planned, and you're down to your reflexes - that means your preparation. That's where your roadwork shows. If you cheated on that in the dark of the morning, well, you're going to get found out now, under the bright lights.” - Joe Frazier
When I won my TBA-SA North American amateur tournament championship belt I ran 3 km fast as I could at noon when it was the hottest time of the day in between my class followed by the normal 2.5 hour training at night (Including another 5 km pre-warm up run). I always ran the fastest at my gym, I would never let anyone beat me especially at the very end. Whenever anyone tried to race me, I would rather die than lose. This was my mindset, in order to win first I needed to know that during my training I pushed my self 110%, that every time I was training I put myself into the deep end of the pool. This way, when I fight where inevitably my cardio will be tested, my technique will need to be strong and on point, my body will simply react as I had trained it. I always sparred harder, longer duration, and often with guys 30 lbs heavier than me going 100%. I applied this mentality into my business endeavours, my school as well as my work.
For school, I would study the past years of exams, just to make sure I walked into the exam a winner. When I was in my graduate program I needed an A for a scholarship. Therefore, I studied 10 years of past exams, multiple times. I studied so hard, that when I wrote the exam I actually didn’t even need to read the whole question, because I already memorized every possible question there was. I wrote that 3 hour exam in 15 minutes, and scored the highest score in the entire class and got an A.
When I managed my own specification program for ITW (A fortune 200 Diversified Manufacturer), I presented in front of over 1000 architects and engineers. To make sure I walked in a winner, I would write down every possible question that someone could ask, and pre-answered it in my presentation. Therefore, one time when I presented at a top prestige firm in Toronto, every question that I was asked, I was about to answer in the next few slides. After, the specification manager came up to me and said that it was one of the best presentation she has ever seen and more importantly awarded us a huge contract that led to a growth of over 100% of sales.
3- "Generally in war, the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this. For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” Sun Tzu
Frequently, a fighter can win without even fighting. At the very highest level of competition, the physical condition of athletes may be very similar. The biggest difference is their mindset and their mental strength. Floyd Mayweather hired Marcos Maidana's older strength and conditioning coach and posted frequently all over social media. Arnold Schwarzenegger explained how when he was having breakfast with Lou Ferrigno before Mr.Olympia, he was so confident that he was going to win, even Lou and his Parents agreed! From my personal experience, my biggest victory was when I fought in New York and won by head kick knock-out. Right before the fight, I shook my opponents hand in a very friendly manner, talked to him as if he were a friend. I casually dropped that I had recently won a National Title. Instantly, when I told him that, I saw into his eyes uncertainty and at that instant I knew I won. Less than 1:30 into the first round, I knocked him out with a head kick.
In business, mind games can change how people behave. It can simply be how much someone likes you, or how someone perceives you to be. If a certain company establishes a strong presence in an industry, its reputation by itself my deter competitors from even entering the marketplace.
Michael Zhang is a key contributor at Driven Fighters. He is passionate about the fighters mentality and motivating other people. He has associated walking into the boxing gym as the day his life changed. His story shows that with hard work anything is possible. Having taken himself from being labeled by his high school teachers as a failure and almost dropping out to opening numerous businesses and graduating with his Master Degree in Engineering (University of Toronto). At just 18 years old, he was featured on CH News, and awarded the Young Entrepreneur Award. His passion and desire to help others made him a perfect example of what a driven fighter is. He has 20+ fights including a national amateur tournament belt.