Perceptual-cognitive expertise in combat sports: a narrative review and a model of perception-action. [Habilidades perceptivo-cognitivas en deportes de combate: una revisión narrativa y un modelo de percepción-acción].

Óscar Martínez de Quel, Simon J. Bennett



Despite the many studies on physical and physiological features of combat sport athletes, there has been considerably less consideration of psychological factors. Here, we present a narrative review of literature related to perceptual-cognitive skill in combat sports that require the athlete to score points by hitting or touching the opponent’s body with the hands, feet or weapon: boxing, French boxing, fencing, kung fu (wushu), karate, taekwondo and other martial arts. Based on a thorough search of literature, we synthesised findings from empirical studies on Reaction Time, Anticipation, Visual Search and Information Pick-up. Contrary to the belief of coaches, there was no clear consensus regarding Reaction Time being a good predictor of success in combat sports. However, consistent with findings from other sports, expert combat sport athletes better anticipate the opponent’s actions based on information perceived before and during the attack. This is likely facilitated by experts using a gaze fixation strategy (i.e., visual pivot) that facilitates information pick-up. In the final section, we present a model that describes how the evolving perception-action relationship between the attacking athlete and opponent depends on distance, attack progression and opponent reaction. Suggestions are provided for training and for future research in combat sports.


Las investigaciones sobre las características físicas y fisiológicas de los atletas en deportes de combate son abundantes. Sin embargo, los factores psicológicos han recibido menos atención. En este artículo presentamos una revisión narrativa que aglutina los principales estudios sobre habilidades perceptivo-cognitivas en aquellos deportes de combate en los cuales se puntúa golpeando o tocando el cuerpo del adversario con las manos, los pies o el arma: boxeo, boxeo francés, esgrima, kung fu (wushu), karate, taekwondo y otras artes marciales. Tras una exhaustiva búsqueda bibliográfica, sintetizamos los principales hallazgos de estudios empíricos sobre tiempos de reacción, anticipación, búsqueda visual y captura de la información. En contra de las creencias de los entrenadores, no hay un consenso claro respecto a que el tiempo de reacción sirva para predecir el rendimiento en los deportes de combate. Sin embargo, en línea con lo investigado en otros deportes, los expertos en deportes de combate anticipan mejor las acciones del oponente, usando la información percibida antes y durante el ataque. Esta capacidad está posiblemente beneficiada por la estrategia de búsqueda visual de los expertos (por ejemplo, los pivotes visuales) que optimiza la captura de la información clave. En la sección final, presentamos un modelo que describe cómo evoluciona la relación percepción-acción entre el atacante y su adversario en función de la distancia, la progresión del ataque y la reacción del oponente. También se aportan sugerencias para el entrenamiento y para futuras investigaciones en los deportes de combate.


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Palabras clave/key words

reaction time; anticipation; visual behaviour; decision making; martial arts; tiempo de reacción; anticipación; búsqueda visual; toma de decisiones; artes marciales.

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