This is a fine line, and it could be dangerous if misapplied: many things, on a certain level, are the same. I talk and write incessantly that Martial Arts is not fighting, is not self-defense. That pitched combat is different than a raid and ambushing is different than surviving an ambush. They are different on levels that run so deep that training for one, thinking in the way that is appropriate for one can get you killed in some of the others.
Yet they are all the same.
Threats aren't like normal people- because something worked on you or your partner in the comfort of a clean dojo does not mean that it will work on an enreaged 300-pound biker or a PCP freak.
Yet people are people. Even more, people are animals and the same techniques and awareness that will allow you to manage a pack of dogs will help immeasurably in controlling a jail.
All different and yet all the same.
There is a logic to skilled sparring. I know what you want, how you need to win and within a few seconds I will have a general idea of how you plan to win. Within a few more seconds I will know what you are afraid of, what you think of me and how easily you shift from one strategy to another.
This is basic, and every good martial artist does it within his or her own specialty. For a good fighter, it is very much about understanding the opponenet: what he wants, what his abilities are, what he won't do...
Yet you can take a good fighter out of his regular fighting environment, give him a problem, and all of these skills go out the window. It becomes about me. Why is he doing this to me? Why does he hate me? Me... If I do or say X, what will he think of me.
It's still the same thing. This problem: Who is he? What does he want? What is he willing to do to get it? What will he avoid? You are human enough to make some very good guesses. Only then, just like in sparring- where am I in relation to this, where do I need to be? What do I do and how will he react to that? How do I want him to react? Most important, possibly, in any conflict is the simple question: "What is my goal here?"
These things are very universal (also universal is the rule that if the plan isn't working, change plans quickly).
When you look for the universals, there are skills and insights and strategies that transfer.
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