Fight Formula

Every real fight is unpredictable on some level, but these factors prove generally true

By H.K. Slade   |   Mar 21, 2018

Size + Speed + Strength + Endurance x Skill x Heart= Fighting Ability

What wins a fight? There’s no way to know for sure, but there are factors that can point towards success. When tied together, these factors create a formula to help officers figure out when and where to spend their time preparing for a fight.

Fight Factors

Size: Size matters. I love martial arts and remember fondly as a kid believing that my karate would enable me to overcome older and bigger kids. But there’s a reason all competitive martial arts have weight classes. Just the mass of a larger person makes them harder to move, harder to hurt, and more damaging with their attacks.

Speed: Speed kills. You can’t hurt what you can’t hit. All else being equal, the faster fighter will win.

Strength: Speed and size are important, but they are largely determined by genetics. The first factor in the formula we can truly take ownership of is strength. With very few exceptions, we can all get stronger. Stronger makes our attacks do more damage. Stronger make our submissions more effective. Stronger makes it easier to escape grabs and hold downs. Stronger is better.

How to develop: Lift the weight, iron or body. Eat right.

Endurance: Endurance lets us stay in the fight longer. It lets us survive damage. It lets oxygenated blood get to the brain so we can make better decisions. A fighter with superior endurance stays dangerous longer.

How to develop: Traditional cardio for sure, but also wrestling and boxing and basketball and anything where you have to exert different levels of effort depending on what your opponent is doing. The endurance that cops need comes from going to zero to 60 mph, then back down again, then going all the way to 100 mph based on a suspect’s actions.

Skill: Skill is the first multiplier in the formula, because it has a greater effect on fighting ability than just physical attributes. Still, if the elements of size, speed, strength, and endurance aren’t in place, this important attribute is only multiplying zero. Skill comes from knowledge as well as experience, from formal training as well as years learning what works and what doesn’t on the street.

As individual cops, we will continue to get older while the suspects we face stay the same age. I will never be as strong as I could have been at 21, or as fast. That’s how aging works. But we can be smarter. We can know more. People talk about “old man strength,” like we get stronger with age, but what’s really happening when you fight someone with old man strength is that the old man knows when to exert energy and when to relax, as well as what angles give him the most leverage and you the least. His strength doesn’t come from muscles, it comes from skill.

How to develop: Learn. That sounds simple, but too many good officers invest massive amounts of time improving their physique and zero amount of time improving their knowledge base. It’s my personal belief that this is because we all like to do the things we’re already good at and hate the inevitable feeling of incompetence that comes with learning something unfamiliar. It takes a brave man or woman who is the alpha of their pack to go out there and try something they know they are going to fail at the first couple times. But that’s how learning works. Ultimately, it’s what makes us harder to kill.

Heart: Heart is the greatest multiplier of all. Heart is what keeps a warrior in a fight after his or her body has failed. It allows us to push through pain and discomfort, even through injury. It keeps us fighting even when the brain says the fight is most likely lost. Heart is part belief in one’s self, but also part belief in one’s cause. Heart doesn’t arise in the moment: It’s something that comes from prior mental preparation, experience, and established values.

How to develop: Figure out right now, sitting where you are, why you fight. It could be your family, your community, your country, or even yourself. It can be as simple as going home at the end of your shift. Put that image in place right now so your mind knows where to focus when there’s pain and discomfort. Then go out and challenge yourself so do something slightly beyond your physical ability. When your size and your strength fail, when your skill and endurance come up short, then find your will to win and use it to accomplish your goal. This can’t be an everyday activity (it will eventually destroy the body), but it shouldn’t be something that happens so rarely you can’t remember the last time you did it. Build your heart just as you do your biceps.


The best course of training for overcoming a suspect’s assault involves developing all factors in the equation to the exclusion of none. That means not just hitting the weights or not only putting in range time. No single activity will guarantee your success in a fight. However, by examining the elements that contribute to a person’s ability to succeed in a violent encounter, officers can develop their abilities evenly and truly prepare to win on the job.