I just finished watching the fight between Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg. Without going into a lengthy breath about how great it is that these women have broken new ground for female MMA or how wonderful it is that women can headline fighting events, I’d like to take a moment to recognize those facts. Outside of that – just the fight itself – it was brutal and exciting, breath-thieving and completely nerve-wracking. I don’t think I blinked or drew breath at all.
Both women are generally aggressive, which made the pace of the fight incredibly fast. I was shocked by Cyborg’s endless combinations and stoked on Carano’s ability to receive flurries without shuttering. The whole fight was so fast that I can’t consider either woman’s strategy in the true sense of the word, but Cyborg seemed more the director.
In the moments after watching this bout, I was grooving on the excitement for fight and energy, my heart and mind palpitating to the same chaotic rhythm, and I began imagining myself as a quasi-amalgam of these women, working through the motions of a fight. I pictured as my opponant a girl I have sparred and realistically might fight. I took into my mind her patterns and reactions, and grafted onto myself the calm and courage of a fighter who can charge in and finish a fight with speed and power. In my mind I push-kicked my opponant back against the ropes and then followed with a combination of five punches, finishing with a head-kick. A knockout, no doubt. I even pictured the reaction of the crowd, shocked and confused, excited and ravenous. I dreamed up the rabble of the audience, commenting what an incredible fighter I must be, and I shook my head (my dreaming head), knowing that, even in the fantasy, what occured was luck. What then, I had to consider, is the trouble with luck?
I answered myself thus: there are three stages of the fighter. The greatest fighters advance through all three, although many good fighters may arrest their development in the second tier. Beginning fighters are in stage one:
1. Luck – this is a fighter for whom skill intercepts opportunity and, through control of no more than one’s self, devestating blows may land. (This is the fighter in my current head-space.)
2. Opportunist – this fighter has developed enough confidence, perspicacity and skill to take advantage of opportunities when they are presented. Counter punches are likely a trait in this fighter.
3. Director – this is a fighter who has advanced to a degree that opportunities need not arise out of chance, but rather the fighter herself can make opportunities for herself. She not only notices when hands are dropped, she causes it and then punishes for it. She not only counters a punch, she invites it in order to land her own attack.
These are not pure forms. Any fighter, no matter how skilled or experienced, is not immune to luck. Nor is luck a pestilence. Rather, these three stages are phases in the development of a muscle. Luck is unflexed, the Opportunist is flexed, and the Director is the wide spectrum of movement and flexibility in between. Such is required for the dance.