A while ago I discussed the ‘Dojo Syndrome’.
I had received some very positive feedback about the first two articles (you can read them here and here), with many instructors saying ‘this is exactly what happens!’ and had a few requests to post some more tips. I hope this helps you with your training!
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 common things to pay attention to in order to make your training more productive:
1. ‘Too Much Respect’– People who are likely to attack you will have no respect for you, your technique, your rank, your training or your system. They will not cooperate or react in the ‘right way’ when you do a technique, will not give you the range and time to execute your technique perfectly and do not care about whether the punch or takedown is ‘pretty’. They are looking to take care of business. Make sure that you train for unpredictable responses at various levels of resistance.
2. ‘The Dress Rehearsal’ – Following on from the first point, is the concept that people will not necessarily attack using techniques or angles that you have trained for. If you only defend against a hook punch when it’s travelling on the same angle and distance every time, you will struggle to deal with it coming from a different range or angle. Make sure that you throw some unpredictable strikes and weird angles when you train, and see how your techniques allow you to handle the unpredictability!
3. 'The Magic Touch’ - It is a common theme in martial arts training for people to look at those with higher rank or more experience with a certain amount of awe. I have often seen beginners pretend to throw an attack at a higher-ranking student, and fold to the floor as soon as the student or teacher begins to execute the technique, way before they’ve actually put any pressure, or in some cases even made contact. Training without or with low resistance is a good way of developing technique, but do not convince yourself to drop at lightest touch, as no one else will out there.
4. ‘The Tap’ – We all train to release on tap. Why? Because that’s the rules!
I have seen security guards - guys who are trained martial artists - get knocked out after getting someone in a restraint and then let go when the person taps, thinking they have 'won', only for the person to turn around and crack them with haymaker.
It is important to train in a way that does not hurt our partners, so obviously we need to release when we train. Try using a code word which people need to say in order to release rather than on tap.
5. ‘Commitment Issues’ – People who are looking to end the fight quickly throw their attacks with commitment., rather than just ‘stick and move’ or ‘feel it out’ until they are comfortable throwing a committed strike. Make sure that you train for strikes that are heavy, hard and committed. Again, this does not mean you have to try and knock each other out in every training session, but it should definitely be on the agenda as you progress through your training.
6. The ‘One at a Time’ – Many self-defence drills are based one what is almost a ‘one step sparring’ approach, where the attacker throws a single attack with no follow-ups. While untrained attackers are unlikely to throw textbook combinations, they are certain to swing more than once and throw more than one strike at a time.
Once you are comfortable with the technique against a single attack, ask your training partners to start throwing follow up strikes and see if you can deal with it!
I hope this helps you improve your training.
Stay safe, stay tuned.
Latest from Ron Amram
- The Many Faces of the Dojo, Pt. 4 (or 'The Coach Conundrum')
- Situational Awareness Games: Tips and Tricks to Improve your Personal Safety
- The Situational Awareness Trap: Do You Know What to Look For?
- Under Pressure: Thoughts on Resistance, Contact and Pressure Testing
- The Difference Between Life and Death: 2 Stories of Situational Awareness