Real World Assault ...
How well do our classes prepare students for ‘real world’ assault?
Well, as far as physical assault is concerned, the big ‘overhand’ right is far and away the most common punch thrown at the very outset of a fight; so it sure makes sense to train students to deal with that scenario. Leg-checks and counters to triangle chokes are certainly important aspects of the well-rounded kickboxer or MMA fighters training but they have little to do with how the average person is physically assaulted on the street; so how do we prioritize what we offer to students who are coming in asking for self defence training?
In my school, new students must undergo an introductory course that lasts for three months before they move up into the more specialised intermediate and advanced classes. In this intro class they are exposed to a variety of training methodologies including – pre-fight scenario training, structure-based defence strategies for dealing with a flailing head-hunter, ground and pound defence techniques, worst-case-ground scenario training as well as basic strikes, kicks, elbows and knees. My focus is to give them what they asked for; in the shortest time possible, I try to arm them with some skills that will greatly increase their chances of survival in the world outside the school doors. So my short-term approach is a fairly wholistic one - but what about my long-term goals?
As someone who has sampled life in it’s many aspects, in a dozen different countries over the course of five decades I feel confident that I have a fairly balanced view of how the world works. Although I have had my share of street tussles outside of the dojo, I have also come to realize that the ways in which we are assaulted are many, varied and quite often subtle; and they are rarely ‘physical’.
For instance, almost every day, we can find ourselves assaulted on emotional and financial fronts; but does our martial arts training provide us with the skills necessary to deal with these ‘less than obvious’ forms of assault? It is my view that the martial arts are a metaphor for ‘life’; and by life, I mean the ‘struggle of life’. In undertaking martial arts training, people prepare and strengthen themselves in ways that at first, may not seem obvious. Through martial arts training people learn to stand up to adversity, to be more confident, to develop a mindset that will allow them to push through situations that would previously have brought them to their knees.
However, it is also my belief that the kinds of martial arts training that ‘tests’ us every time we step onto the mat, or into the ring, builds ‘real’ confidence and ‘real’ strength of will; the brand of confidence and strength of will that will not buckle under the ‘real’ pressure of life. The only thing worse than no confidence is false confidence.
I lament at the rise of ‘pat on the back’, ego-building, new-age martial arts practices that ultimately fail to deliver on almost every front. These are those schools that promote one thing but deliver another; they promise martial arts training that will deliver self-defence skills but their training is outdates and totally unrelated to real fighting. Okay, so we give them a break and concede that they provide an environment where people can practice safe martial arts while building confidence, self-esteem and the like – but upon what skills is this so-called confidence and self-esteem based. My contention is that it may just be a house of cards ready to tumble at the slightest touch.
Martial arts for me is about preparing people to prevail; to prevail in all areas of life; physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially. I want my students to have the skills to milk life for al it has to offer; to have the courage to ‘go for it’ to try new things, to fail, know that it’s alright, and try again. Martial arts training is about fortifying our resources and improving our odds for survival. Martial arts training is about building within ourselves a ‘mindset of excellence’. Martial arts training is about struggle and growth, about problem solving, about winning and losing battles. This all sounds like ‘life’ to me.