Let’s start with something you (hopefully) already know. Combat sports and self-defence are not the same thing.
If you think they are, then I recommend you read this. If you still don’t believe me, then you should probably stop reading here.
At the same time, there is so much that self-defence practitioners can learn from combat sports! You can read more about this here. Again, if you still don’t believe me then you should probably stop reading here.
So, if you are still reading then hopefully, we are on the same page. So, let’s talk about some of the training methods that are useful for both, how they cross over, and at a great structure and toolkit for your training.
Ready? Read on!
In the first three parts of this series, we looked at some interesting characters you might train with (here are parts one, two and three). In part four (read it here), we looked at some fo the interesting teachers you might come across when training in the martial arts.
Let’s look at a few more grandiose grandmasters, tapped teachers and lunatic leaders in the martial arts!
My usual disclaimer: This is not directed at you. Yeah, you. This is stuff that I’ve seen and experienced and, at times, have also been. Enjoy!
There has been a lot of discussion recently on the effectiveness of and need for situational awareness. I believe that simply put, environmental and situational awareness are probably the most effective tools that we, as individuals, have for predicting violent attacks and keeping ourselves safe.
Yet this is not always a popular view. Here is an interesting article on this topic.
In this piece we’ll explore some of the common mistakes people make with regards to situational awareness, as well as why they make them. Before I go on, I’d like to ask you sit down and take 10 minutes and read this all the way through. If nothing else, there’s a cool story at the end.
Fighters and martial artists always talk about ‘heart’, or warrior spirit.
It is an unquantifiable quality. Natural for some people, and not natural for others.
It is the ability to keep fighting - to even fight more fiercely - even though you know the battle may have been lost. The ability to stare pain, or defeat, or fear right in the eye – which really means staring into the proverbial mirror – and say, sometimes quietly and sometimes in a loud voice, that you will not stop fighting.
Simply put, it is the strength of character to not give up even though you may want to.
This is a short, true story about heart. I hope it brings you some hope.
So I’m watching Bloodsport 4 the other day (don’t judge me) and a fantastic quote pops up. The prison warden is organising underground fights. To the death, of course, or what would be the point. Right before each fight starts he proclaims:
“We have only one rule… there are no rules!”
The crowd goes bonkers, and a barrage of flying kicks that would never work on anything other than a pad commences. Ironically, there are very strict rules in those fight scenes.
My unfortunate taste in movies aside, it got me thinking (well, and this blog here too).
This is a line I’ve heard in every single self-defence and Krav Maga seminar I’ve ever attended – and rightly so.
Just thinking about it the cheesiness of it makes me want to put my aviators and ninja headband on, rip the sleeves off my gi and start playing 80s synth rock while hitting the air with hilarious facial expressions.
But what does it actually mean? Why is it so popular?
Belt tests and gradings are a source of much fear and anxiety, as they are for anticipation, excitement and joy.
Having to perform in front of a panel of experts can be daunting. Having people watch you and scrutinise your performance is intimidating and can be frustrating, as is not getting the results you want.
At the same time, passing a grading successfully is an incredibly rewarding and empowering experience. Personally, my black belt grading in Krav Maga is by far the most powerful, positive, empowering and memorable experience in my life so far.
Gradings also build a strong team bond. Having to go through something tough (and a grading should be tough!) together with others builds a strong and lasting connection, and memories that will be shared for a lifetime.
If you are anything like me, then chances are you stress over these for months, and I wouldn't stretch to say 'year's in my case, in advance. So how do you prepare for a grading? What do you need to work on? What should you remember while you are doing the grading?
You are at home, asleep. Your partner is sleeping next to you, and your child is sleeping in the next room.
You wake up to the sound of breaking glass, and as you step out of your room to inspect, you see a knife-wielding assailant about to enter your child's room.
What do you do? If you had to fight, could you?
I recall the following experience from the time I was studying music at university;
I was experimenting, before class, with a particular effects pedal for my guitar that I absolutely loved. The lecturer walked in 5 minutes late, while I was still playing around. He didn’t say ‘hi’ or ‘good morning’. What he did say was “yeah, cause that’s the sound we all want… turn that shit off and let’s do something useful. Start with this tune – 1, 2, 3, 4…”
In one short sentence, he managed to embarrass me in front of the class, mock my creativity and hurt my confidence. He moved on to the tune instantaneously and thereby eliminated any chance I had to reply or comment.
The rest of that rehearsal was torture. This was over ten years ago, and it still stings when I think about it! So why bring it up now?
Martial arts are a form of self-expression, so let's compare them to the one tool for self expression that we all share as human beings - speech.
We don't all speak the same, and every language sounds differently. When we speak a sentence, we put emphasis on particular words. We may speak slowly or quickly, and change our rhythm and pace. We use pauses to give meaning to certain words, and to allow the listener to process what we are saying. We change our pitch, tone and inflection to convey feeling and meaning. Where we stand (close, far, in front, on an angle, etc.) and how we use particular body language has a massive impact on the message we send when we communicate.
To me, sparring is the physical manifestation of the same principles. It is when we stop practising putting words together, and actually converse freely. It's when we improvise. So how do you learn to make great speeches when sparring?
Yiddish is a fantastically wise and funny language. It has the accumulated wisdom of about a 1,000 years’ worth of Jewish grandmothers’ wisdom, expressed in sharp, funny, cheeky and witty proverbs. One such saying is:
‘Di oigen zollen nit zen, volten di hent nit genumen’ - ‘If the eyes didn’t see, the hands wouldn’t take’.
Jewish grandmothers obviously know a lot about self protection… How so, you ask?