Brain vs. Brawn — Savvy vs. Swagger
Saturday night, 26 August 2017, witnessed the most hyped fighting event since The Rumble in the Jungle between boxing’s then Heavyweight Champion George Foreman and former Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali on 30 October 1974. Ali won that contest, regaining his World Heavyweight Championship title.
Mayweather vs. McGregor was different, sort of. Floyd Mayweather, 49 and O in his stellar boxing career, was being challenged by the bad boy champion of the mixed martial arts world, Conor McGregor. It was a pugilistic clash between seasoned championship boxing savvy and MMA swagger. Boxing experience won . . . by a knockout.
So where does Sun Tzu come in? Everywhere. Unfortunately, the brevity of this article does not permit an elaboration on the teachings of Sun Tzu from his iconic classic book The Art of War, but, undoubtedly, a book could easily be written. The clash between Mayweather and McGregor was a stark manifestation of the principles of war espoused by Sun Tzu, or not, at least in McGregor’s case.
As all Karate Institute of America martial artists know, the first line of The Art of War—the very first line, depending on the translated version—is, War is a grave concern of the state. It must be thoroughly studied. Note the phrase “thoroughly studied” with emphasis on “studied.”
In the post fight interviews after his 10th Round TKO (technical knockout), McGregor said he was a student of all marital arts. Yet, over and over again, he stated that when Mayweather advanced at him in a covered block position (crouched, arms blocking head posture) with Mayweather’s head in his chest (McGregor’s) he had no answer as to how to counter such a tactic. Really? An attacking cover block tactic is as common to boxing as syrup is to pancakes. If McGregor was as keen a student of fighting as he claims, how could he have missed such a basic pugilistic assault? Answer, and this is critical, Sun Tzu’s opening line—the thesis statement of his entire vaunted, classic work—places the emphasis on thoroughly studying war, not just studying war. Obviously, McGregor missed the word “thoroughly.” After all, this was the most globally hyped, advertised, promoted fight of this young century, touted in some circles as the MMA vs. Boxing disciplines.
Well, it was a boxing match; not a mixed martial arts contest. Boxing is its own discipline. It contains features, tactics and strategies all its own. Mayweather was a decades old, seasoned, experienced, savvy, wise, educated Boxing World Champion with a stellar record of 49 and O! Undefeated! And McGregor thought he was going to knock Mayweather out in the first couple rounds leading with his bad boy attitude and circus-hype bravado? Really?
The Karate Institute of America fighting strategy begins with thoroughly understanding Sun Tzu’s primal premise of war: War is a grave concern of the state. It must be thoroughly studied. Not just studied, but “thoroughly” studied. Not “may be” but “must be.” Great fighters are great thinkers. Brain trumps brawn. Savvy trumps swagger. Floyd Mayweather proved Sun Tzu’s most fundamental principle and defeated Conor McGregor, not with brawn, but brain . . . and savvy experience.