Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Emerson Combatives: The Importance Of Dominance

Ernest Emerson Contributor
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When I talk about the warrior mindset, you’ll hear me reference the concept of ferocious resolve and all of the other attributes that you need to have in order to survive and prevail in a life or death struggle. But in addition to those things, in order to dominate the opponent on the field of battle, we need to define what it means and how that attribute is of value in a hand-to-hand combat encounter.

Dominance can be broken down into 4 distinct and different yet equally important categories. They are:

  1. Positional Dominance
  2. Situational Dominance
  3. Strategic Dominance
  4. Psychological Dominance

Positional Dominance

In any confrontation or potentially confrontational situation, you should always be conscious of seeking or moving to gain advantage of positional dominance to relation to the opponent.

Positional dominance is defined as being in a superior or dominant position where you are in the most advantageous position to attack the opponent while keeping him in the least advantageous position to defend or mount an effective counter-attack. At the same time, you are also trying to use that position to place yourself in the position that makes it most difficult for the opponent to easily strike or harm you.

The easiest way to gain this dominance and to satisfy the factors that I have just described is by the use of angles. As I mentioned in another article on angling, it is your first and primarily important choice to move and to “get off the X,” in other words, out of the line of fire. The proper use of footwork and the relationship of distance and timing all contribute to both the ability to execute and the effectiveness of positional dominance.

Situational Dominance

When possible, you always want to be aware of and seeking situational dominance over the opponent. Some of this may be by using your “situational awareness” and “gut feel,” as mentioned elsewhere in this book. If no escape is possible, both of these allow you to situate yourself in a position of dominance. For example, by detecting an action before it happens, you can move to increase your situational dominance and perhaps take yourself out of the attacker’s range of effectiveness. Or you could pre-empt the attack by initiating the attack yourself first, executing the pre-emptive strike that is so effective in any fight or combat.

Once the fight has begun, after the initial contact by either side, you must overwhelm the opponent with an onslaught and never-ending series of punches and strikes or kicks. Never allow him to compose himself and “return fire” by keeping him at a completely reactive state where all he can do is respond or react to your attack and not counter-attack. Speaking of counter-attacking, what is the U.S. Marine Corps standard operating procedure or response to an ambush or a surprise attack? The answer is to immediately return or counter-attack with overwhelming firepower and force of violence to stop the enemy from being able to continue his attack. The principle here is the same, and it works. If it’s good enough for the U.S. Marines, it’s good enough for me and you.

Strategic Dominance

Strategic dominance is simply put, having a better plan than your opponent. I know, I know. The old saying is that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy,” or as Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody’s got a plan till the first guy gets hit in the teeth.” Well, there is truth in that statement, but it is not always true.

If you look at your plan or strategy as your overall preparation for combat, then, of course, it all starts with preparation. All of your training, physical fitness, fighting skills, and education are integral parts of your preparation, and that preparation is part of your overall strategic plan.

In order to establish a position of strategic dominance, you need to equip yourself with better skills, better tactics, better fitness, and better preparation than your opponent so that all of your strategies are better than your opponent’s. Von Clausewitz said, “Superior strategies make up for inferior tactics,” and, in following the same principle, I will say, “Superior tactics make up for inferior skills.” Knowing that you have done everything you could in preparing for combat gives you a confidence, a confidence that you need to prevail against another who is attempting to do you great harm. The man who is better prepared is better armed. The old adage, “You don’t want to bring a knife to a gun fight,” never rings so true.

Psychological Dominance

Psychological dominance is the outward projection of confidence, a confidence that shouts to the opponent, “You can’t beat me. I will not lose. I will prevail.” Now, we are all familiar with the stare down in the center of the ring between two fighters who attempt to intimidate each other by staring or scowling at each other right before the fight starts. This is a small window into an attempt to establish psychological dominance by one individual over another, but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

A very close friend of mine, who was one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, told me that he could tell which fighters are going to win by looking at the pre-fight physical cards, specifically looking at their heart rates prior to the fight. “Ernest,” he said, “if their heart rate is 160 to maybe even 180 beats per minute before the fight, then how do you think they’re going to do when the fight actually starts? The confident ones, the ones who are going to win, are the ones with the lower heart rates. It shows the confidence they have, and their readiness for the fight. That fighter is the one that will probably win.” My friend is right most of the time in picking that fighter.

As an expert witness for the Los Angeles District Attorney, I have been called to testify on a number of cases. Every one of them has involved a life sentence or death penalty as the possible outcome. What I’m saying is that in these cases, the stakes could not be higher, and they involve dozens of witnesses and high-powered defense attorneys. I know. I’ve been grilled by some of the best. What I’ve seen and what I’ve learned over time is how easy it is to spot a liar. It’s too bad that everyone doesn’t have that skill.

Part of being able to tell who’s telling the truth is being able to read their confidence level under pressure. Believe me, a good attorney can put a lot of pressure on you. If someone is telling the truth, there is an air of confidence that comes through outside of the spoken word, no matter how rattled the person who is speaking becomes as a result of an attorney’s badgering.

The liars on the other hand, are full of tells, both physically, verbally, and psychologically. The only ones that are hard to read are the sociopaths and the pathological liars. Although they still have giveaways, they’re just harder to spot. On the stand, they are usually tripped up by inaccuracies in their “story.”

Where am I going with all of this? The point is that all of these witnesses have sworn an oath to tell the truth – the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They all want the judge and jury to believe or accept that they are telling the truth, but some are and some are not. The ones who are not are just pretending to tell the truth. They are “acting” like they are honest.

It’s the same principle that’s applied to psychological dominance. Like telling the truth, you’ve either got it or you don’t. There is no in-between, because if your opponent senses it, you will not be able to attain psychological dominance, but your opponent surely will. In order for you to do so, your will must be forged of iron, and the confidence you have in your abilities must be unshakable. Again, this dominance owes a large part of its effectiveness to your prior preparation. And then when you add in your will to win, your ferocious resolve  that is coupled with the attitude that you will never quit and never, ever give up, well, this is when you establish psychological dominance over the opponent. And that is when you can see and feel his resolve start to break down and wither away.

Ernest Emerson is the owner of Emerson Knives, Inc. He is a tier one Combatives instructor, Master at Arms, noted author and lecturer, Black Belt Hall of Fame member and a connoisseur of fine whiskey.

Click here to visit Mr. Emerson offers a 10% discount on his knives to Daily Caller readers. Use the discount code – tdc (all lower case). Click here to visit the Emerson Training Center.