*The opinions and techniques discussed in this article are in no way meant to substitute for actual instruction.
Every year thousands of people sign up for martial arts classes and self-defense seminars. They have the expectation of becoming the next Bruce Lee or at least being able to hold their own, only to have their hopes dashed by reality later. First, lets take a look at the difference between learning a martial art and learning self-defense. Learning an actual art takes years of training and practice. In a time not so long ago, the martial arts were oftentimes the only means one had of defending him/herself. Proper training in an art then and now should follow the formula of basic philosophy, conditioning/techniques, forms and applications. Next comes intermediate concepts, conditioning/techniques, forms and applications. Finally advanced concepts, conditioning/techniques, forms and applications. The way this training was done in ancient times and often times still is in the homeland of the given art, would be considered abuse by modern Western standards. Many training centers here in the West are regulated "black belt" mills and geared toward sport, this leads to many of the most brutal and effective parts of the arts being left out.
Self-defense techniques for the most part are simply the applications of the foundation art or arts taught separately. This is intended now as it was in the past, to give one a "fighting chance" faster. Unfortunately, once again many of the most effective and brutal parts are left out and brutal is what you need to survive. This is not to say that someone cannot learn to defend themselves effectively in a short period of time. But we must first look at what is necessary to accomplish this.
10 Reasons why your martial arts/self defense training will fail you on the street.
1) Lack of basic physical fitness- In an actual physical altercation against someone with every intention of doing you harm, you will expend a lot of energy fast, trust me here. You may be able to knock out everyone you meet until you meet that one individual that makes you go the distance. Train for endurance, the longer you can move and generate power the better your chances. I understand that fitness is subjective and not everyone can attain the fitness level of a top athlete. You should however try to be as fit as "YOU" can be. It takes a certain level of fitness to run away, if you have the chance. It is also important to choose an art befitting your body type and fitness limitations.
2) Improper physical conditioning- This is another main ingredient often missing in most people's training. There is undeniably a difference between a punch from a well conditioned fist and one that is not. If your fists cannot at the very least handle push-ups on concrete, they will not serve you well for effective punching. Also, if you've never been hit for real it could shut you down instantly.
3) Improper mental conditioning or mindset- An imbalance of confidence will not serve you well. Over confidence or lack of confidence can get you hurt or worse. If you must commit yourself, do so fully and without hesitation. Often times, people are taught to do just enough to get away. Courses designed for women are notorious for this mentality. What happens if that is not a option? Learn to fight to the finish if you have to.
4) Improper spiritual conditioning- All arts have a spiritual element or philosophy. Exercise and balance your "chi" regularly through meditation. Always, remain a student no matter what color belt or sash you wear. Be willing to learn from every experience you have. See life and the Universe as one big school.
5) Lack of training on "real life" surfaces- If you've only trained on the level floors and mats of your dojo, dojang or kwoon, you will be in for a surprise. Do some training outside on some not so forgiving surfaces while wearing your street clothes and shoes . You will quickly find out what does and does not work on uneven ground, wet leaves, loose gravel, wet grass or wet pavement.
6) Too much time spent on flashy, unrealistic techniques- I know a low kick to the shin or ankle joint isn't anything special, but it will work much better on the surfaces mentioned above. Lower kicks are faster, harder to stop and allow for better balance and faster follow up. Also, Whenever possible train with others from systems different from your own. Put some real pressure on eachother. Brush up on your anatomy.
7) Lack of ground fighting skills- Unless you practice a style like MMA or Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, you will probably find yourself lacking in this area. As the old saying goes "In a real fight expect to go to the ground".
8) Lack of grappling skills- Again, unless you practice a style like MMA or Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, you will probably find yourself lacking in this area. Often times skills like joint locks, pressure points and throws and taught as after thoughts and not in depth enough.
9) Not working out or practicing on your own time- Life is hectic and our days are often full. Make time for mini workouts whenever possible. When other animals awake from sleeping, they do a full body stretch to prepare them for the day. Not a bad idea. When you go for a walk in a traffic free area with a curb, walk along the curb and see how long you can stay on it. Come up with your own "micro workouts", get creative.
10) Lack of training in the weapons of the times- In ancient times soldiers, warrior monks and everyday citizens were skilled in the weapons and implements of the day. In our modern times these include firearms, knives and just about anything else you can get your hands on. As a martial artist anything you pick up is an extension of you and is therefore a martial arts weapon. For example, short staff techniques are easily adapted to a broomstick or cane. Shooting when practiced for defense or combat is a martial art.
Hopefully, no matter what style or system you practice currently or are considering this has given you a few points to ponder. Take time to evaluate your fitness level, your techniques and your mindset. With a little effort you will easily see where the beautiful brutality was left out of your art.
Founder of Dragon Shadow Training Group. Berkley R. Bruce, is a NRA Certified Firearms and Personal Protection Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, State Of Nevada Concealed Carry Instructor, USA Carry Registered Instructor and Martial Artist based in Las Vegas, NV. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org