When training, you cannot judge an individual based on the skills he has been taught nor can you judge a system by one student. Students can learn additional systems to add to their arsenal, but few who train are learning to fight, most train for self-defense only.
When I attend martial arts or boxing matches, I like to see a participant making continual use of angles and advancing just as would be done in a ‘real fight.’ Moving forward is important. It shows a posture that is more than total defense. You cannot win a fight defensively.
Now wait… I am defending myself. That is pretty simple, right? Maybe.
A fight by my definition is a combat between two individuals intent on achieving a goal. This goal is to prevail and survive on one side. The opposition’s goal (in our context here) is to defeat, rob, rape or even kill. This is the assumption we usually make although there are many nuances to a fight.
Unlike military action, the combatants have no idea of the capability of the other individual. One may be a martial artist; the other may have impressive street credentials. One may have limiting physical factors, the other may be in his prime—the usual case is a mix of every type of physique.
It is difficult to train for a fight with a sparring partner. Having trained in the same system you each move in a similar fashion and the action is somewhat set, whether you realize it or not. That is good for a match, but not so good against a strong arm robber.
In most fights, unless the adversary is known to you, neither his capability or true motives are obvious. It may be robbery and he may run at the first blow. He may be a psychopath intent on causing suffering and pain and will not stop until the breath is gone from his body.
The level of commitment in a fight differs, and the decent individuals among us, put defenders at a disadvantage mentally. The adversary has made the commitment to assault you. He is taking a chance at being jailed. He may have been jailed before. He may have been shot, stabbed, or beat down before. He doesn’t want to go to jail, but some do not care.
Giving the system a few months of your life is par for the course. The criminal justice system is, for the most part, made up of attorneys building up favors with the other and he understands that. Some fear of punishment may cause him to stop short of murder, but if that is his only or most likely avenue of escape he will take it.
As for the defender in the back of their mind they consider consequence. Have I provoked this? Do I have a part in this battle? Is this mutual combat or a true defensive situation? Will I face civil or legal penalties? I found this true in over 20 years of police work.
There are problems with action and inaction alike. This mindset results in hesitation when you must defend yourself. Those who have made critical mistakes, acted from fear or some other misguided emotion, make it hard on those who study these matters and must make the right decision in a split second. We fear being perceived as wrong, and we fear consequences even for a correct action.
Fights are like car wrecks. They happen, and they are over quickly. The fights in the movies that last several minutes are like choreographed ring matches. Sometimes the stuntman gets hurt. A roundhouse kick to the face isn’t something you get up from; you may be going to the hospital for surgery.
Even the trained student’s endurance will be sapped in a few minutes of all out fighting. The person who relies upon skills they cannot demonstrate is delusional. The person who has trained hard in force-on-force training will be prepared for a fight. The individual with experience will be better prepared. You have to train hard and this means stress and pain. Hitting the bag is a start, but it is only an exercise—not a drill. You have to get into a fight for a real drill.
As for the goal, that is simple. Stop the assault. Stop the assault and do it within the law. The courts have held that a slight blow doesn’t equal a beat down. You must understand the continuum of force and respect it. It is easier to go to the top tier—lethal force—if the assailant is attacking with a knife or gun. The other levels require more thought.
You do not fire at an assailant that verbally threatens you or throws a drink at you. Likewise, you do you stab someone for pushing you unless you wish to spend a few years at the crossed bar motel with a roommate named Studs McDick.
The ‘I was in fear for my life’ defense is pretty feeble if the adversary wasn’t using deadly force. There are many defensive moves that must be learned, and well thought out to be effective. However, in the end, if the attacker isn’t dealt effective punishment, you cannot stop the attack. This is called the finisher.
The defensive blows are used to parry his attack. After all, you are the defender. In a fistfight, you will be struck. In a knife fight, you will be cut. In a gunfight, there is a high probability you will be shot. Your mindset must be such that you do not stay in the defensive mindset but continue to strike back at the person of unknown motive that is attacking you.
Do you train for self-defense or a fight for your life? Is there a difference? Share your answers or training plans in the comment section.
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