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Disarming Your Opponent in a Competition

by Ron Kurtus (updated 28 May 2023)

Disarming your opponent means to take the weapons away from him, to remove his offensive capability, to make him less hostile or to win him over. This holds for an individual, team or organization.

The method used depends on the type of competition in which you are engaged. Disarming may be done physically or psychologically.

In a performance competition, you may try to remove the person's tools or affect his performance in some way. In a head-to-head competition, you typically attack his offensive capabilities. In a predatory competition, you can remove his weapon or his will to resist.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Disarming in a performance competition

A performance competition is where the performance of the contestants is the criteria for winning or losing. Each is trying to do his or her best, thus there is no offensive or defensive actions involved. However, information about the opponents can create a psychological effect on you or the other people.

To physically disarm is underhanded

You can physically disarm your competition by doing something that would affect his or her performance. Often this is done with underhanded methods, especially since this is not a head-to-head competition.

One example is in golf:

Harvey would often do things to distract Fred while he was trying to concentrate on hitting his golf ball. Harvey also was known to kick Fred's ball into the rough, when Fred didn't see it.

These were underhanded ways for Harvey to disarm Fred's performance and ability to win their golf competition.

Psychologically disarm

Sometimes the opponent can simply see your performance and get discouraged enough not to do well himself.

Janet was applying for a modeling job at Macy's. While waiting for the interview, she met Angie, who bragged about her modeling experience and how she had the "look" that they wanted.

This discouraged Janet so much that she simply left before being interviewed. She was psychologically disarmed by Angie.

It is also possible to let the other person get overconfident, so that he or she does not try as hard.

Disarming in a head-to-head competition

In head-to-head competitions, you not only want to perform well, but you also try to prevent your opponent from performing or scoring points. Both offense and defense are used in this type of competition.

You can physically disarm your opponent by negating or neutralizing his offensive capabilities or psychologically disarm him by reducing his will to win.

Physically disarm

By reducing your opponent's ability to attack, you can physically disarm him.

In American college football, UCLA's coach knew that rival USC depended on their star running back to lead their offense. Thus, in an effort to disarm USC's attack, the coach had his players focus on the running back and put pressure on him in every play, in order to negate his threat.

Psychologically disarm

You can also disarm the opponent through psychological methods.

During the 1980 presidential campaign Ronald Reagan was running against then President Jimmy Carter, who had been aggressive in criticizing Reagan. When Carter was introduced before their first televised debate, he had an angry look on his face—as if he was looking for a fight.

However, when Reagan was introduced, he had a friendly look on his face. He walked over to Carter's podium and reached to shake the President's hand. Carter looked shocked and surprised at this gesture.

He never gained his composure, and Reagan not only won the debate hands-down, but he also won the election.

Disarming in a predatory competition

In a predatory competition, one person, group or country attacks another or tries to get what belongs to the other. Often, in this type of competition, the predator attacks an unsuspecting or unprepared opponent.

Physically disarm

A predator can use a weapon or show of force to discourage resistance from his opponent.

A scruffy-looking character walked into the convenience store and looked around. When he felt there was no one else in the store, he pulled out a pistol and demanded money from the clerk.

The clerk was denied the ability to resist, due to the threat of the pistol.

However, it is sometime possible to surprise the attacker and disarm him:

Charley was in another aisle in the convenience store and saw what was happening. He rushed behind the robber, knocked the gun from his hand and threw him to the ground.

The robber was disarmed and helpless as Charley and the clerk held him until the police arrived.

Either the victim or the attacked can be disarmed, depending on the circumstances.

Psychologically disarm

In attacking an opponent, you can use such force as to cause the enemy to give up or go into disarray. You are psychologically disarming the enemy.

In the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq, the American military used what they called "shock and awe" to completely discourage the Iraq army and their will to fight back.


You can disarm your opponent by taking away his weapons away or offensive capability, as well as to make him less hostile. In a performance competition, you can affect his performance in some ways. In a head-to-head competition, you can attack his offensive capabilities. In a predatory competition, you can remove his weapon or his will to resist.

Consider various ways to gain the upper hand

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