“Instructors, if you aren’t putting everything you teach under stress and exhaustion you are teaching self defense techniques, not self defense. There is a big difference.” M. Slane

Some self defense training is better than others but ALL training has flaws. The flaws are built in on purpose. Think about it, we are training to beat people down. How often do we actually do this in training? Never. We can’t actually do this in class, we would have no students. It is truly like teaching people to swim but never getting in a pool.

Now I am not advocating hurting each other in training. We must have built in flaws, but we must recognize that they are flaws. The person attacking you in the gym is a partner who is there for your mutual benefit. They want you to be able to go to work tomorrow, want you to train with them next week, care about you and look out for you. This is not the same person that will be attacking you on the street. The exact opposite of that person will be the one attacking you. When we accidently do make contact with our partner in the gym what is it that we usually do? We stop and apologize. This isn’t the reaction we should be ingraining!

We train too often with pre conceived notions of what will work and what will happen in a fight. We get used to throwing three knees, dumping our partner to the ground and then starting the next rep. How do we know that those knees would have been devastating in a fight? He may well get up and come at us harder. In the real world people take pool cues to the head, stabs to the heart, multiple gun shots to the chest, etc. and keep coming. In training I’ve even heard students bawl out their partners with things like “I kicked you in the balls, you would have went down and been done”. This may be a true statement but I’m not willing to bet my life on it.

In the gym we purposely pull our punches and kicks to not make contact. Again, what kind of training is that when the goal is to kick and punch people? If we pull our combatives 1,000 times in training under stress we will probably do exactly what we practiced. I knew a young man who practiced our headlock defense in class always smacking his partner’s inner thigh instead of his groin. His partner appreciated it but he once had someone put him in a headlock on the street who was trying to hurt him and he did the defense…smacking the attacker on the inner thigh. What we do in training is going to be what comes out of us under stress.

We fight in a gym that we keep open. padded and uncluttered for safety. When you’re jumped the surfaces will be hard and there will be obstacles everywhere. The cop who is the USKMA’s co-lead instructor, Brannon Hicks, swears he’s gonna bring coffee tables and shrubs into his gym. He says every time he is in a fight one of those two things are in the way! The difference between a hazard and a gift is who sees it first. We need to train to see that curb or corner of the bar and use it…our gyms don’t have these things!

We are told that we are training for life and death situations, forgetting about the in betweens. It could be life, it could be death, it could also be a colostomy bag, a wheelchair for life, blinded, brain damaged, etc., etc. We train with what Hollywood thinks is fighting in mind way too often! If we think about these other likely endings of a self defense scenario maybe we wouldn’t be so macho, maybe we’d spend more time talking about how to avoid violence in the first place.

How do we mitigate the flaws in our training? The old adage “you fight like you train” is a lie unless (as SGT Rory Miller says in his books) you trained blind, deaf, stupid and clumsy. There is no great way to prepare for the chemical dump, emotions, freeze, etc. that a real world violent attack will create. We run drills to exhaust people and put them under some stress in our Krav classes but the student knows that they are in a class, they aren’t really going to get hurt, they know what attack is coming, etc. We cannot completely train for what is coming…that’s just the way it is. Here are some things we do in our Krav classes to keep our training flaws at a minimum;

-Hit things hard…all the time! In our classes we spend the majority of our training time hitting focus mitts, kick shields, heavy bags, padded up people, etc. I have one rule in class when it’s time to work combatives and that is once you have the technique down (and this is very soon after being introduced to it) you must always hit your hardest. If you are working punches, knees, kicks, etc. in my class I expect full out, knock someone the #$%^ out power. If you are pulling combatives and always going half power during training why would you expect to do it differently under stress?

-Forget techniques. I don’t have time in a real world violent attack to remember techniques. If I have a philosophy and a “flinch reaction” to go forward with rage, go hard and swing for the fences I will be much better off than working any technique. As Rory Miller says “100 counters to 100 attacks work for fighting, not for ambush…and it takes years to get good for that fighting. Techniques aren’t important, what’s important is training reflex.” My awesome techniques do me know good if I haven’t practiced for real world violence. I will freeze and take too much damage before any of those techniques come out of me.

-Train how you want to perform. Techniques will degrade under stress big time. If I am anal in training about keeping my chin down and head covered it will kinda come out of me under stress…if I was sloppy in training it won’t come out at all under stress. Similarly, I don’t warm up with shadow boxing, I warm up with shadow fighting. I am not teaching boxing. In boxing we throw a few combinations and then back out, circle, look for openings, etc. I do not want to do this in a violent attack as his buddy is coming to hit me from behind as I do all that dancing. I want to go forward throwing ten or twenty combatives and then get out of there. Which part of my training am I going to remember when under a real attack…the self defense or the dancing? I don’t want to take the chance that I’ll remember training that wasn’t self defense so I avoid it!

-Exhaustion drills. These are the most important thing we do in our classes for self defense. Whatever we learned that day is going to be put under stress and exhaustion. If what you are using for self defense hasn’t been put under stress and exhaustion how do you know it will work for real world violence? I can guarantee you that if you are fighting for your life there will be plenty of both stress and exhaustion. Think about how you are training, be honest about the flaws and BE SAFE!


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