How many times have you heard Joe Rogan or practically any other MMA announcer call fighting a “game of human chess”? It’s true, of course: many athletes sharpen their thinking by playing the classic strategy game. What better example of a martial artist whose chess playing has influenced his practice than Searching for Bobby Fisher‘s Josh Waitzkin?
Here are a few videos to show you what I mean.
Josh Waitzkin and Tai Chi
Josh Waitzkin and BJJ
A tai chi world champion and jiu-jitsu black belt under Marcelo Garcia, Waitzkin describes his transformation from chess phenom to martial artist in his excellent book, The Art of Learning. Much of his thinking about martial arts in terms of combining techniques, beginning and end games, and the mental state of “flow”, all stem from chess.
After reading this book, I even decided to try to add chess to my mental training regimen. There was a slight problem, however. Unlike Waitzkin, I spent my childhood playing video games, not chess. Without the years of practice, I found myself losing time and time again to online and live opponents–even young kids.
So what’s a former couch potato to do? Play more video games!
Now I’m not advocating for anyone to give up time on the mats or in the dojo in favor of binge sessions of Super Mario. However, many of the strategies learned from chess can be found in other games. If you chose a simple game that doesn’t consume much time, all the better.
I started with Civilizations Revolution for iOS. It’s a neat game, but it crashed all the time–especially when I was about to embarrass ALar by crushing his puny armies! That got pretty frustrating, needless to say, although my not-so-worthy opponent never complained.
I went searching for another game that could compliment my physical training in the martial arts, trying to find something easy to pick up but deep enough to get me thinking through moves and counter moves.
That’s when I noticed, after confiscating about twenty iPhones a day from the boys in my sophomore classes, that Clash of Clans would be an excellent game to try.
Indeed, Clash of Clans is a perfect mix of arcade action and careful strategy. In a nutshell, you set up a base to defend, and you build armies to raid other players’ bases. Think old school, original Warcraft, but with better game mechanics and a better multiplayer option.
In Clash, there are no rules on how your units attack like in chess, but they are programmed for certain behaviors. Balancing your armies carefully will help you siege successfully. On defense, you set up walls and turrets to protect the stored resources you need to level up. Every battle hinges on how well you deploy your troops and how well you anticipate your opponent’s behavior. Rogan’s right. It’s a lot like fighting.
The folks from SuperCell developed an addictive formula that pretty much guarantees you’ll actually use your brain while having fun. If you want to try out the game, it’s free to play, although you can speed up the learning curve with in-app purchases. Best of all, friends can form clans to support each other with troops and advice.
Want to play? Join clan MoaiMartialArts! ALar and I hope to see you on the battlefield soon. Our clan is only open to you, our loyal readers, so e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to join!
Bonus: Here’s a trailer that aired during the Super Bowl. It doesn’t represent the game play very well, but it’s fun and might get you interested. Check it out!