top of page
  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

The Underdog Mindset

When I'm training, and when I'm teaching, I've settled upon a mantra I use a lot.

"Bigger, stronger, smarter, faster."

What I mean by that, is that in training and in any conflict, I assume that my opponent is bigger, stronger, smarter and faster than me.

That is, I am the underdog in every conflict that will ever happen to me.

I teach this mentality to my students, too. All of them have advantages in a fight that I don't have. I don't want them to count on those things always being the case, because the day will come where someone else has that advantage over them.

So let's break it down. What does each bit of that mantra mean?


I assume that conflicts will always involve a person who is taller than me, has a better reach than I have, has to do less footwork to get to an advantageous position because their legs are longer than mine, and outweighs me.

I will always be the guy in the blue gi.

Being who I am, I'm probably always right on everything except maybe the weight thing. I'M WORKING ON IT, SHEESH.

Let's throw in the limitations of age and old injuries...

It means I can never, ever count on a physical advantage.


I always assume that the bad guy I'm fighting is way, way stronger than me. I'm a middle-aged out of shape office-worker woman with bum knees, hips, and shoulders.

Yeah, in a straight-out, strength-to-strength physical contest, I'm doomed.

I can't count on having superior strength or overpowering an opponent. I have to let technique work for me as best I can, and I can never, ever depend on one shot taking the bad guy out.


My opponent is better trained than I am, literally smarter than me in every way, with way more practical experience, and can out-think me in any conflict.

A corollary of this is the assumption that the opponent has the will and the temperament to hurt or kill me.

Thus, my opponent can make me react in a way he wants, and has an answer for whatever I do in return.

I have to train hard, train often, and try to take advantage of any gaps I can find, fast, to survive.


Because of all the things that my opponent has in their favor I've already listed, they don't have to think hard to hurt me. There will be little to no hesitation when they decide to do something and they are fit enough to make it happen super-quickly.

I must train in a way that I can recognize what they're doing so I have trained a reaction I can use without hesitation or doubt, so I can meet speed with speed as best I can (with the understanding I'll probably be too slow so I better be prepared to keep going, countering their counter as best as I can).

Keeping the Underdog Mindset, in my opinion, is my best path to being able to survive in a serious conflict should someone initiate violence against me.

Since I know I start at a serious disadvantage, I'm motivated to keep working and to keep learning, and to do my best not to be caught out or surprised because I assumed I'm better in any way than anybody else.

I want my students to have the same mindset, even if they don't have the disadvantages I do. Someone out there WILL be bigger, stronger, smarter, or faster than they are, and I don't want them to be caught by surprise.

I want them to have that Underdog Mindset, too.

Do you ever consider yourself as good or better than the person you're training to fight, or are you always the underdog like me? What did I miss about the Underdog Mindset? Let us know in the comments!

80 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page