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Updated: May 15, 2022

This series of articles is excerpted from my upcoming book: How to Win with the Inner Game in Karate Knockdown. Coming soon!

This is the first in a series of articles that I have called in the past, the seven "secrets" of the warrior. And which I have renamed the seven secrets (criteria) of Knockdown champions. These are criteria that were elicited from 3 great Knockdown Karate champions during a project for my Master Practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming title in 1996.

Karate Knockdown fights are some of the most exciting and challenging fights in the martial arts world. Fighters must have a clear mindset when facing their opponents, as the success of these fights often depends on their ability to read their opponent and anticipate their next move. In this series of articles, I will discuss seven key elements that are necessary for a fighter to excel in karate knockdown sparring, and how you can model each of them in your own training.

CAUTION! Before I continue with this series of articles, I would like to offer a word of caution. There are many more criteria than the seven I describe. I had to synthesize and exclude some phenomena that were present in some models and not in others. Also these criteria are exclusively present "during" the fight. Other criteria and values must be part of these champions "before" the championships and "after" the championships to ensure that they become and remain champions. The various types of training, nutrition, emotional mastery, mental preparation (motivation, concentration and focus, visualization, mindfulness exercises, three mind centering, etc.), pre- and post-analysis of fights and opponents, feedback, strategies and tactics, coaching, etc. All of these are not included in what happens during the competitive fight. These are all different models that will be further detailed in my book. This is what I call the models of the warrior model (or Karate Knockdown fighter) on my site I am talking about these different Models and the six domains of the warrior (Knockdown fighter).

WARNING! Another point I want to make is that the three models I interviewed for this modelling project were not aware of these criteria. For these were unconscious in them. Some of these criteria may have been naturally present in them and others were developed through thousands and thousands of hours of training and participation in tournaments. They consciously discovered them through my interview and my modelling analysis grid. The advantage of modelling is that when these criteria are revealed, it is possible to create models afterwards and to transfer them to subjects who wish to apply them in their lives. This is one of the objectives of my book.

My 1996 modelling project on what happens during a Karate Knockdown championship among champions

In 1990, I followed several NLP trainings. From 1994 to 1997, I followed a rigorous three-year training in neuro-linguistic programming, hypnotherapy and coaching at the Centre Québécois de PNL. For my NLP Master Practitioner training. I had a modeling project to do to get my certification. We had to create a model on a particular subject and make sure that we could then transfer this model to a subject who would want to replicate it in his life.

What is modeling?

Modelling is a way of copying what someone else does successfully. It can be used to learn new skills or to improve the ones you already have.

Modellers carefully observe people and try to understand what they do that makes them successful. They then use this information to create a model for how they themselves can learn that skill.

Modelling is also a way of learning to do something by watching someone else do it. It's a bit like learning to ride a bike by watching someone else do it. You can see how they do it and then try to do it yourself. This is also what all karatekas do by watching their instructors (role models) and replicating the same movements. All karatekas, even if they are not aware of it, learn martial arts through the principle of somatic (physical) modelling.

My modelling project

I decided to model what happens during a Karate Knockdown fight. The criteria that must be present in the mindset of the fighter who excels in combat. So I chose three great champions who had won over fifteen knockdown competitions each. And through the grey analysis of David Gordon's method (The Array method), as well as my own experience in Karate Knockdown, I discovered at least 7 criteria present in each of these champions.

I also describe other phenomena that I had not discovered during this modelling that took place in 1996.

My three models

My three role models were Shihan David Pickthall (current President of IFK Kyokushin), Sensei Gerry Marketos and Senpai Jean-Baptiste Belanger.

Here are the 7 criteria I discovered about these three role models. In this series of articles, I will dedicate an article to each of these criteria.


1. Use peripheral vision.

2. Stop the internal dialogue.

3. Filter out external noise (concentration). Achieved by the "auditory and visual tunnel".

4. Being in external awareness (which focuses your attention on the other person and prevents any sensation of pain on yourself, useful in full contact combat, as our attention is "dissociated" from ourselves).

5. Recognise your opponent's anomalies and weak points. In a non-conscious way.

6. Distort time to see the other in slow motion and increase speed.

7. Being physically relaxed, but alert (zanshin) and with the mind focused on the opponent, but without attachment (mushin). This way the movements are more explosive and the timing impeccable.

The VK mode

I also discovered another very important characteristic of the champions that is not explicitly described, but is part of all these criteria. Each of these champions during combat is in a Visual-Kinesthetic synesthetic mode, which I call the VK mode. He sees (V) and acts (K) simultaneously. Synesthesia is a phenomenon where stimulation of one sensory pathway results in an automatic, involuntary experience in another sensory pathway. For example, when some people hear the sound of a bell, they may automatically see a colour or feel hunger (visceral kinaesthesia).

In the fighter, VK synaesthesia is a condition in which one type of stimulus such as seeing (V) an anomaly in the opponent simultaneously triggers another response, a movement such as a kick (K). A person with synaesthesia may see a specific colour or even a sound when they perceive a fault in their opponent. This is interpreted by what I call our relational mind (see the three minds) which is connected to the unconscious. These phenomena do not pass through the conscious cognitive mind (our internal dialogue).

Training methods to integrate the VK mode are also offered in the book, the online training and the seminar. I will explain the VK mode in more detail in another article in this series on the seven "secrets". Because the VK mode is the most important element in creating a top fighter in any combat sport and explains why some fighters are more privileged than others.

Optimal performance versus poor performance

The interesting thing about this was that I also had to find out what happened when these champions had a bad match or lost a fight (even if they won it because of the refereeing). In each case, most or all of these elements were not present when they lost.

These 7 elements are also found in other areas than full contact fighting, I am convinced. Notice that what I discovered in this modelling about what happens during the two minutes of a knockdown fight also describes some phenomena related to what athletes call "the zone" or the flow theory.

Once you have integrated these criteria, you can transfer them to all other sports and areas of your life (the arts, your career, etc.). It is not for nothing that the Samurai Miyamoto Mushashi, who wrote the book on military strategy: the book of the five rings (Go Rin no Sho), states that when you master the art of war you can more easily and quickly master another art if you focus your mind on it.

When these various elements are mastered, they allow us to act strategically and achieve a high level of adaptability in the field.

How to K.O the chaos of battle with strategy

Since on the competitive front every situation is chaotic, unique and changes from moment to moment, one must be able to execute the right decisions quickly. Sun Tzu said this.

Look at how these seven criteria meet Sun Tzu's 3 fundamental points in the art of war which says that to act decisively and strategically, it is imperative to master these 3 fundamental points:

  1. Having a good understanding of one's position (in relation to the other).

  2. The ability to "see" opportunities.

  3. Knowing instantly how to respond to situations.

In future articles, I will go into more detail on each of the seven criteria I have outlined in my modelling project.

Gaëtan Sauvé

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