The Identity of the Opponent

There is a thin line between perception and reality, which only through experience brings us closer to the truth. Our participation in Martial Arts is a representation of this theory.

Once we think we have it all figured out, we are often hit with a surprising revelation that further fuels our curiosity or enlighten us on a subject, we previously did not understand.

Competing in combat sports events has its share of many twist and turns, as contestants are faced with numerous obstacles that challenges them physically and mentally.

Competition has always focused on one’s self interest. Nevertheless, there has always been a subject matter that has gone untouched.

This area brings life to an individual’s story as it we see play out during the contest. There has been nothing more captivating than solving the identity of the notorious figure known as the “Opponent”.

There are many layers to look into to uncover this opponent’s identity. First we must look at the origin.

Origin of the Opponent

Sometimes an alter-ego is needed when going into a particular situation to get the best results. The birth of one becoming an opponent is caused by an athlete’s purpose of simply wanting to compete.

By definition, an opponent is a person who is on the opposite side in a game, contest, or controversy.

Every time an athlete steps on the combat floor, there is a high chance that they will find another competitor standing across from them. This has been going on since the dawn of combat sports competition dating back to 648 B.C.

One thing most martial artist competitors are known for is their constant interest in looking for ways to get better, as they are passionate about their craft. Competition gives athletes a platform to showcase their abilities. This has opened a gateway of opportunities, inspiring them to keep perfecting their skills and capture other rewards such as fame, fortune, a championship title, or other prestigious prize.

Yet, unlike the pastimes sports of baseball, gymnastics, or chess games, there is a high risk of dangers for competitors competing against each other in a combat sports contest. This unfortunately is where the mystery of the opponent has gotten lost, as his presence takes on a questionable and menacing demeanor that can be quite threatening when we face them in a match.

martial arts

Enemy Perception

In the real world, no man would ever allow another individual to cause them any type of harm. If put in that scenario our security instincts will kick in, as we are prepared to defend ourselves at all cost. This mentality is employed by many martial artists, when taking on the role as a competitor.

Depending on the rule set, utilizing their arsenal of fighting skills consisting of striking, grappling holds, or joint locks the art of combat sports is an unforgiving practice where one must eliminate the competition to emerge victorious. The object of every contest is intended to reveal which fighter’s talents are the best.

In a match it is “Opponent A” vs. “Opponent B”. Just by each competitor stepping on the mat, it creates a sense of urgency, defensiveness, and readiness, because there are various dangers one must contend with going into the match. As in the real world, any type of threat whether it is someone stopping us from reaching our goals or causing us physical harm, it’s taken very personally. These signs create the perception that our opponent is our Enemy.

The “Enemy Perception” has a lot of evidence in possibly unmasking our Opponent’s Identity. Documented in various combat sports confrontations in Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and Mixed Martial Arts fighters are known to discuss their plans for coming out victorious in their upcoming match.

In addition, athletes will even go as far as to verbally attack their opponent in an attempt to throw them off their focus. These verbal attacks can create tensions amongst the athletes which sets the tone for intense confrontation.

However, our perception of a situation is merely what we assume in that moment, as we must wait until the full story plays out to get a better understanding of the situation. At the conclusion of many combat sports battles the relationship of the combatants take an interesting twist and this is where the opponent’s true identity is revealed.

 Ally Unmasked

The dynamics in a combat sports competition does have heated moments amongst both competitors. The perception from a viewer standpoint assumes that both individuals hate each other, because of the nature of their physical engagement fighting for their own self-interest. This however is not the case after the match is over.


No one chooses to be a participant in any combat sports, especially Martial Arts, with the intention of hurting someone.  Same thing can be said with competing, because it all centers on testing one’s skills, learning about themselves, and chase their goals.

Strangely enough, your opponent has the same purpose, just so happens you are both doing this in a competition setting. After the match both opponents express a different attitude. The respectful gesture of shaking hands, a hug, and even a possible friendship this couldn’t have been the individual you hated a minute ago. It is in that moment where everything starts to make sense and the opponent’s identity is fully revealed as our Ally.

An assistant who pushed us to discover things we didn’t know about ourselves, a supporter that sacrificially gives us  the platform to showcase our skills and chase our goals, and most importantly, a friend that we share a common bond with in a field we are both passionate about.

Reality of the Situation

A resistance that gives another man strength, one man’s will that gives another courage; our opponent plays an important role in our lives as Martial Art competitors. For anyone that values competition, one should always aim to achieve the best result possible, by going into every match with the intention of defeating their opponent.

Yet, an understanding must always be kept in mind that it is just competition and nothing shouldn’t be taken personally.  Both individuals want something, and are using each other’s expertise to get it.

It is this reason why we must always respect our opponent, because without them there is simply no evolution.