Here is a quick recap of what the ‘Dojo Syndrome’ is:
The 'Dojo Syndrome' is what happens when our training partners make our training unrealistic for the sake of making techniques work; now, before I get into why this is a bad habit, give some examples and offer some ways to get around it, I want to emphasise that developing technique is obviously an important part of martial arts training. In fact, many people consider it the most important thing. But while technique is always important, we must remember that it must be practiced in 3 levels of resistance - no resistance, some resistance and full resistance. Failure to do so will inevitably result in the technique failing you when you need it against an opponent who has no respect for your technique, such as a street attacker.
Here are a few more tips to help you improve your training:
1. ‘Forward fighting’ – Attacks in the context of self defence are likely to happen from the sides and back, not just from the front. It is therefore important to practice your techniques from different entry angles. You should be able to strike, move, throw, lock, etc., in every direction. Yet, many people train for the front on attack only. Change your angles. Make your attacker walk around you in a circle, without moving, and attack with any attack at any point in the circle. You will improve your peripheral vision and learn to work off the angle that is given to you.
2. ‘The advertised knife’ – often, defences against weapons are practiced with your assailant shaped up in front of you with the weapon already in their hand. This is similar to ‘the shaped fighter’ discussed in the previous article. If someone walked up to you in the street with a knife clearly visible in his or her hand and you not only stayed there, but also waited for the attack and then attempted a technique you would be a fool – quite probably a badly hurt one. Much like in ‘the shaped fighter’ we need to practice this from a position of concealment just as much as an advertised weapon. Do some sparring when one of the partners takes out a knife all of a sudden and attacks the other; practice multiple attacker scenarios where the knife comes out at an unexpected point, etc.
3. ‘The tea break’ – When dealing with multiple attackers, you don’t have the time to take more than a few seconds per attacker. Remember, when training for self-defence you should be training for a blitz, not a lengthy campaign. The whole thing will be over in a couple of seconds, one way or the other. Yet often, training partners spend too long dealing with one attacker, leaving the other attackers (assuming there is more than one) to do as they will. Train with a time limit, when the next attacker engages within anywhere from 3-5 seconds after the initial attacker has commenced his attack, regardless of whether the defender has dealt with them or not.
4. ‘Returning to the crime scene’ – This, personally, is one of my pet hates and I see it happen all the time. Together with the ideas of ‘forward fighting’ and ‘the shaped fighter’, I often see people train to dodge an attack, counter, etc., and finish the technique only to come back to stand exactly where they started which, 9 times out of 10, will be directly in front of the attacker. This not only ignores the realities of multiple attackers, grappling, etc., but also limits your field of vision and locks you into a tunnel vision headspace where you focus solely on what’s in front of you. You have to keep moving! I usually allocate one or two students (including myself) to walk around and tag people on the back of the head lightly when they see someone do this. Often, I won’t tell the rest of the class who those two people are either…
5. ‘Sequenced multiplicity’ – We know that real attacks often happen when one is outnumbered, and many schools train for multiple attacker scenarios, which is great. However often, multiple attacker scenarios turn quickly into ‘sequenced attacks’ scenarios where the attackers attack one after the other in a line, or wait (remember the tea break?) until the defender has finished the technique before attacking. This is not always a bad thing, especially when students do not have much experience, but should be interspersed with multiple attackers at the same time, whether in sparring on in self-defence drills. This forces you to move and deal with attacks quickly and effectively. Techniques such as going to ground and grappling for submission go out the window at this point, and you must focus on footwork, striking, blitz attacks and coming to terms with the reality that when you are attacked by more than one person simultaneously, you are more than likely going to get hit!
I hope this helps you on your journey.
Stay tuned, stay safe!