People who believe in themselves can accomplish almost anything… all begins with attitude.Georges St-Pierre
If it is your desire to learn how to fight then stay focused and it will happen. Everything starts in the mind; immersing yourself deeply pursuing your desire until you have reached your goal. Learning how to fight or learning a particular martial art is quite an ambitious task to undertake in today’s age. Whether you are just picking up a few self defense techniques or interested in a more long term goal of training. You will have to keep your thoughts in check. As inflating one’s ego and swirling off into one’s own fantasies is all too easy and enticing to do; going through some mental checks to keep yourself balanced will save you from some hard lessons learned.
Being humble and keeping your training to yourself is usually an ace in your sleeve during an unexpected confrontation.
There are many routes you can take to learn how to fight. If it is your will to step out of your front door and go out looking for a street brawl, while that may be a stepping stone to improvement, it is highly unsuggested as it carries a lot of unnecessary risks, especially for long term training goals. You never know whose buddies are watching and who has what in their pockets when getting into random fights. Usually followed by the legal battle even if you are kicking ass and doing well it should be avoided as those consequences can get high and severe fast.
Best practice is usually found within long term goals served in a training hall of your choosing. Having an experienced instructors guide you through what is the very sloppy chaotic mess that is a real fight. Each class you attend will give you another little piece of the puzzle to unlocking the movement and mental outlooks to achieve a higher potential of being. In some martial arts it feels as if you are being stripped away all of your habits that you formed over the years, and rebuilt with more natural postures and movements. So picking the right art for yourself, going to several dojos and checking out the styles and instructors to find one that you believe will mold you into who you will to become.
The value of learning from someone with experience will guide you through learning the proper fundamentals and gradually learn the stress of combat you may face. As sparring and pushing yourself against an opponent is key to testing out and refining what you believe you know about your self defense techniques that you have had practiced. It’s a lot like being in a lab testing out which movements and combinations you find success with.
These next four stages I will summarize what I believe will help you become competent when learning how to fight.
Stage 1- Find a Strong Learning Resource
The first stage is finding your style, mentor, and a training location (it can be anywhere like your basement, backyard, local park or a rented out facility). You should consider your goals, are you looking for a more martial arts training experience? Fighting in the ring? Or more along the lines of learning a no bs self defense. Having an instructor to guide you along the way of these lessons will help you to avoid common mistakes and will speed up the process of your learning drastically. So the first step if you want to learn how to fight, is to go out and find yourself a mentor that you respect and whom shows sufficient skills. Independent training usually tends to end up goofy looking and not as effective, especially against someone who is trained in a dojo.
When you have found a training method of your choosing; you will then begin the introduction phase of the art, where you will start observing the self defense techniques, foundations, stances, tactics, and start learning the fighting characteristics of your newly chosen style to see where it excels in (speed, timing, and power). There is no need to rush ahead as these beginning stages are vital to your quality of training that can be built upon what is learned in this time, as you will be starting to build on your foundation that rest of your practice will be standing on.
Stage 2- Training Foundation
In the second stage you will learn martial arts techniques and the cement those movements in, you will need to build these movements to prepare you for the real fight . You will start practicing and etching in the muscle memory so you can react with a skilled composure. Doing so in more isolated settings will allow you to tinker and focus on areas you feel you need improvement in your form.
- Whether it’s by learning your technical forms with a partner and then also while your alone, exploring the forms and finding all the parasites within your movements, to slowly carve your technique into something strong.
- It can also be by working on your hard strikes against a heavy bag or a padded opponent. This will help you keep a good sense of your own power and what you’re capable of doing without wounding your training partner. Some areas of your functional training you may find you have to hold back your hits for your partner’s sake but still get the point across and your technique accomplished, the pads can help you add in those strong strikes into your practice.
This is where you will be learning the meat and potatoes of building yourself with these fighting endeavors of yours.
The amount of hard you work you put in and the quality of instruction will depend on your results. If you put a good consistent effort in and keep showing up to class, you will notice the positive changes and newly developed strengths in how you handle and hold yourself in your everyday interactions and life.
Stage 3- Integration of Functional Training
After you have put in enough time polishing your technical movements and strategies, it’s time for some light sparring or drills that create similar environments. You should start by sparring cooperatively but in a free form way with multiple partners one-on-one for now. The tempo will rise with excitement as its only normal, just be aware and try to bring it back down to more controlled speed where you are able to integrate your techniques with a resisting opponent; who is also trying to pull off their own techniques on you. You should have a good give and take kind of flow with your partner. Look for someone around your level or better. Assist each other to learn by little challenges offered to each other during the lighter sparring session.
Stage 4- Sparring with a Faster Tempo
Depending on your chosen style some instructors will lead you to this pace of practice in the late stages of your training. While other styles you may be allowed to spar just a few months in into your training. Every style and every person has there differences, having a sensei to guide you and tailor this for you is very important. This is where you may or may not add some protective gear (unless you have access to a bullet man outfit) and really start pushing up the tempo of the training session and start going at it with your trusted sparring partner.
To get to this stage may take you awhile and that’s okay, you will get here when you are ready but no need to rush it if you have the time. Keep in mind you don’t necessary want to beat the snot out of your friend but you want to be able to pull off your techniques and practice in a realistic way.
Some instructors will guide you through sparring sessions where you are required to move smoothly at a slower pace but at full powered. As you progress the tempo of speed you are working with will increase. The reasoning I hear for training in this way is to ensure that you will not instinctively hold your punches back as you would in training in simulated situations. No matter which process you are using, be diligent and test the mile stones you reach with either friend or someone outside of your dojo to be sure you are learning skills that sufficiently protect yourself outside of the herd mentality.
The real fight is fast, a lot like a car collision. This fast chaotic type of feeling is the environment you want to emulate in your training. Five seconds feels like a long time when you have someone bent on destroying you throwing his assault towards you. You will need to be able to pull off your martial arts techniques at this speed.
Only with proper practice for sparring/randori can you achieve succeeding at this speed. Afterwards analyzing it to learn from your inefficiencies you can grow from where you were once weak. The more humbling the experiences, the more you will learn as those are usually the lessons you will get the most from.
Dojo Red Flags
As there are so many schools to join, there are just as many tricksters out there trying to sell quantity instead of quality. Here is a list to go over to help protect you from the dangers ego and capitalism can have on your personal safety. Now while you may have a few of these following red flags in your dojo doesn’t necessarily mean its a bad location to train, rather consider the following to make sure you are getting the quality you seek and not getting swooned by herd mentality.
- High claims their program is so ‘intense’ that they can guarantee you a black belt in a very short amount of time.
- The Instructor claims to be a Grand Master or a 9th-10th or further degree Dan Black Belt and is under the age of 40.
- Having to call the teacher Sensei for a non-Japanese martial art. This shows a total disregard for the most basic of fundamentals.
- An over emphases on breaking wooden boards. It may look cool but may not be as hard as led on to believe.
- Frequent and excessive promotions, like a new belt with a bill attached every month.
- Teacher refuses to demonstrate there abilities due to claims of being “Too Dangerous”.
- Any mention of a “Touch of Death” or knocking your opponent down with No Touch Energy Attacks.
- Workshops that promote the ideal that women” will not be attacked after taking this program”. Anyone can be assaulted, despite their training and experience.
- If your dojo has several teenagers or adolescents with black belts. Although there are genuinely amazing young martial artist out there, the presence of several of them with their black belts without a drivers license warrants skepticism.
- Overly expensive monthly fees or having students sign long-term contracts to train
- Claims to have a former special forces personnel on staff. Yes some special force veterans do teach martial arts, Although the more boisterous the claims usually the less likely they are to be true. Those who have actually killed in secret military missions commonly don’t brag about it.
- Instructor has invented his own style. Most styles out there have been proven and made on the battlefields then tweeked over time. If this guy is reinventing the wheel in a time of peace, its probably a Mc Dojo.
How To Avoid
Best way to avoid falling into the trap of poor instruction in exchange for your money can be done simply by just shopping around for an appropriate school. Majority of good schools will offer a free observation class. As dojo’s come in all shapes and sizes it may not be uncommon to have a few red flags, the owness is on you to have your bullshit meter on and to find a school that best suits your interests and abilities. So ask all the questions you can if you find something out of place and is strange. Make a good decision on who you decides to train you as your life will depend on it.
Self Defense Training
There is a difference between a fighter and a martial artist. A fighter is training for a purpose: He has a fight. I’m a martial artist. I don’t train for a fight. I train for myself. I’m training all the time. My goal is perfection. But I will never reach perfection.
Learning martial arts and learning self defense are two very different things; if you know both will have much better odds than majority. True self defense is not all about beating the snot out of somebody; rather it’s about getting you and your loved ones home alive and safe. Remember that the violent people you may encounter usually have less to lose than you do. Winning a fight against them can potentially land your ass in prison for accidental killing them. It is possible they may hit their head on a bar table when they went down or other circumstances just because you wish to save face. Now you will get to be practicing your self defense techniques in prison.
Three Rules of Self Defense
Here is a summary from one of Sam Harris’s essay, he laid it out very nicely and is definitely worth a read, you can find the link below.
- Avoiding hazardous people and keep them distant while staying away from dangerous places is as efficient as you can get with self defense training. Your best line of defense is to avoid where the violence is most likely to occur. A lot can be avoided by not staying out late and closing the bar. I always found drama always happened after 3am.
- Do not value your possessions over your life. Any offer to a violent confrontation should be viewed as an opportunity that you or a loved one may be killed in the exchange. No matter what training you have received, if a knife is at your throat, just give him your wallet. It’s not worth the risk, even if you disarm him and use his knife against him this will still follow you longer and cost you more defending yourself before the jury than just replacing your wallet. Avoidance of violence is the best method.
- When there is no chance of avoidance, explosively attack for the purpose of creating an escape route. You need to get away with damaging your aggressor in a means necessary to ensure your escape all while receiving minimum trauma to yourself.
Violence should always be your last resort, your first and primary weapon will be your brain and your mouth.
Ego and Self Defense
The law states that fighting is pretty much your last resort and to do what somebody with a reasonable mind would do, and run. Running from a fight and not saving face can be incredibly hard on your mind as you continuously go over the incident, thinking it afterwards wondering about all the “what ifs”.
You are not just fighting one opponent. You are fighting the
It is all be terribly hard, especially if you want to save face, but it’s just not worth it. Learning proper self defense is more about awareness, avoidance, and using a tempered ego backed by confidence. The word ego will be used in the context of your self-image and feelings of importance. The ego is a part of the unconscious mind that interacts with your inner thoughts and beliefs and the external world and experiences.
Having the confidence to remain calm during such an event will allow you more clarity to assess the situation and your proficiencies in the heat of the moment. It will give you more options to avoid the fight rather than going through it. The confidence developed from the dojo serves you well with hooligans, as those looking for potential victims will pick up on the cues that you are not someone to be messed with. Something people will just sense if you are consistently training. Your composure will not be giving off a victim vibe, if you are confident in yourself and have tested ability to be able to pull off your techniques.
Being able to be calm and collected when things are stressed and harsh is an invaluable tool for having the clarity and options or your techniques at your disposal. This will give you the best chance to escape and find a safe solution to get you and your loved ones out; thugs observing that you are not being intimidated by their advances, may make them look for other weaker prey.
Sometimes, you don’t have to win, you cannot win. but that has nothing to do with losing.
Many of us have been there, beating ourselves up for it, about it – avoiding a fight when you’ve spent so much time honing your skills, though it is usually the best decision to avoid it. As no matter how skilled or proficient you are, even the best get surprised with a surprise hit or stabbing. Avoiding the chances of being in such a situation is the best choice. It is much more efficient learning how to talk your way out of a knife fight than how to handle yourself within a knife fight. This is where self defense training with a group is an invaluable asset and makes a big difference in helping pick yourself up when they remind you that you did do the right thing.
Support you receive from the dojo when your ego takes these hits will help you keep training for another day. It takes a very restrained and trained ego to keep you and your loved ones safe while you are being called out. Having succeeded in getting out of that situation in most efficient way possible, all alive and well, is true self defense.
It is sad that it is not always taught though, as many martial arts clubs are not true self defense. Even MMA being so popular these days isn’t always true self defense as majority of these mixed traditional martial artists haven’t had any training about the law and what to do against weapons or how to diffuse such situations. Why? Because when you are within a ring the legal side and self defense side doesn’t require being addressed as you are training for inside the ring, not outside of it. Another area to watch and to keep your ego in check is regarding multiple opponents. You may feel invincible in the ring one-on-one, but outside the ring with multiple opponents and with potential weapons the difficulty and skill set required increases.
Always assume that your opponent is going to be bigger, stronger and faster than you; so that you learn to rely on technique, timing and leverage rather than brute strength
Risks and Why it is Best to Find a Self Defense or Martial Arts Instructor
You are valuable; you are your most cherished asset, we cannot get another one of you. Finding a quality source of information for self-preservation is in your best interest, whether it’s a little bit of self defense training or a more long term martial arts training. You want to learn from the best in your area or whatever is within your means. This is not where you want to skimp out on your own personal safety and ability to protect others.
There are a lot of risks with some salesmen out there to avoid. Those who are putting profit before teaching you any real eligible talents as there should be a responsibility when offering self defense but many do not take that seriously. A lot of what to watch out for can be found in online black-belt courses that claim to take you through all the ranks without ever having any stress testing any of your newly forged skill set or training with a partner. A lot of time it is an art they made up that hasn’t gone through the test of time.
Which can potentially be dangerous as you may be practicing flawed martial art techniques while doing so alone which can allow the ego to inflate from your practiced experience but it will not be combat tested – a heart breaking fact when you work so hard. Ego plus lack of experience is a dangerous combination for keeping yourself safe when you need to use the tools you learn when you are required to survive.
To be effective you must be able to perform your new techniques or skill sets under pressure.
Whether it is sparring or a real fight, your most effective techniques will suffer and probably fail due to not having learned the stress and the speed of an incoming opponent that wants to hurt you. If practicing in front of a screen all these tactics and combinations then your only real stress of violence is YouTube or a movie. You will inevitably lock up and panic when a surprise full speed attack comes your way.
Keep in mind that several levels of stress are needed to progress. You wouldn’t learn how to start driving a car going around the neighborhood at 100km/hr. Adding too much stress at the start will actually hinder you from progress made by being in a panic state. In a panic state your brain will freeze making the absorption of new muscle memory difficult as you are unable to pull out martial art techniques on a whim. A teacher can lead you through the appropriate way to progress into sparring. By starting at a mid-paced speed you will be able to apply what you learn without locking up; gradually working your way up to higher speeds of sparring.
Having a teacher to learn from is an invaluable asset as they can show you the movements and when they see you are ready to move forwards. They push you and put you in a rougher environment to test your physical and mental capabilities.
Qualities of a Good Martial Arts Instructor
- Finding an instructor that has authority through proficiency, not status. You want a mentor who is humble and focuses on proficient mastery over his art rather than mastery over his students. Training under someone who is determined to stay the best will rarely allow his students to surpass him, stunting your growth in exchange of his over grown ego. Your instructor should still consider themselves a student.
- They emit good values and not just technical knowledge. The stories heard from a good instructor have sometimes been the most inspiring lessons I have learned. Those stories have kept me moving forwards offering different outlooks and perspectives on my training strategies and technique. Hearing that it’s probably in your best interest to run if you encounter someone with a knife instead of trying a technique you just practiced disarming the foe. The potential of what you can learn from these individuals could be what you need to save your life.
- They allow themselves to be wrong, so they can grow. When the mentor starts to teach, his methods of training someone else will change over time. He wouldn’t be doing all the same things he did in his first year of teaching that is now being done in his fifth. He has to be adaptable and learn from his own challenges instead of remaining stagnant.
It’s not always easy finding a suitable mentor but when it comes to how you will be developing yourself in the years to come or thinking about your personal safety, you need to make sure you find someone that can pass on quality to you. This is not something to half ass or you could be living with regret trying to unlearn the methods that don’t serve you well, and can potentially get you killed years down the road.
Much like if you were a new blade being forged for the battlefield. You will want an experienced skilled craftsman to lead the process in molding you into something functional and practical. It is required that you as a blade to do some cutting and endure the brutalities of combat to make sure you will not shatter in the heat of battle due to improper tempering and quenching. Sure you can dress up the ego of the blade all you want with all the ornaments you like. If it shatters upon impact though what good are you?
Martial Arts Online
It is difficult to know yourself if you do not know others. To all Ways there are side-tracks. If you study a Way daily, and your spirit diverges, you may think you are obeying a good way, but objectively it is not the true Way. If you are following the true Way and diverge a little, this will later become a large divergence. You must realise this.
Yes online instruction can be beneficial, with that said; homework is the key to becoming better. It’s just best used as supplementation to your current training. Unless you are learning a program that is fairly crude, much like what you can encounter while in the military. Some forms of combat are not meant to be very subtle and can be effective, as you can mimic the movements with much better ease and success; anything more subtle will be lacking compared to physical observation. Some things are invisible, they can only be felt.
There are just some things that you must be present for in a training hall to experience; observing it on the computer screen simply cannot express all the finer details. Feeling someone who uses a skillful technique against you will teach you what no amount of reading and listening can; only through close observations can you learn how to duplicate the skill.
Having that background knowledge built up from a proper instruction is what allows you to tie everything together and implement these new tools you learn online or in books.
Books and online training can be great for learning the names of the kata and techniques. They can act as refreshers for the memory and to inspire thought, give you things to try and what to experiment with, and to see if you can make it work with others. Books have been used also to aid a sort of quality control for an organization; a way to make sure everyone is on the same page.
An effective way to expand on what you learn is to test them out in your training hall. It is best to first test before implementing techniques in a live stress situation. Learning the new methods to expand upon the already known foundations can be very beneficial and mind opening.
There is a lot of information out there for Online Martial Art or Self Defenses Classes. Do not believe that you can learn a whole traditional system from just a screen and online courses. As that is a lot like learning how to do brain surgery from YouTube.
Learning from wherever you can, whether it’s from online training or cross training in another art, has its benefits as the human body can only bend and move in so many ways. By learning the different variations to perform the same technique on the arm; for example the Kimora, if you learn how to do the technique from above the arm and below, knowing multiple variations will open up many opportunities for you to strike when opportunity rises. After a while the option opens up on just learning how the body moves and reacts. So in a way you can develop a non-style and just react.
A solid foundation from a teacher is essential to build upon, in order for these techniques from an online or book learning source to be deciphered. Trying to train yourself without having any experience is just like the blind leading the blind.
Robert Heinlein wrote, “Man is not a rational animal, but a rationalizing one.” So if we really want something we will create excuses to overcome the logic within it. We will naturally try to take the easy route and this effects everyone.
When learning a new kata or form from online, not knowing how a kata or combination feels when it is coming at you leaves you vulnerable to the openings you may not be practicing. This is a very important point of view while learning Martial Arts; by having an experienced teacher showing you the technique in person, they can then guide you and rest of the room correcting your errors and flaws.
Having the availability of multiple training partners is a huge valuable resource as everybody will move differently and training with just one person will only teach you that one person’s specific body characteristics. If you are learning online and got someone to train with you, really you are just teaching yourself how to beat up just one guy; everybody’s body responds differently to the technique so keep this in mind. Keep in mind training with someone is a huge advantage over training alone, much like a race car driver practicing the corners without other cars.
It comes down to what is available to you. Although if you have local dojo’s that you have not checked out yet, and you’re thinking of choosing online courses due to comfort, just remember the hardest choices usually produce the most yield.
Further Reading and References
- Learning Self Defense Through Solo Training
- The Importance of no Style
- Rational Wiki on Mc Dojo
- How can I learn Martial Arts by myself
- Can you learn martial arts on your own?
- How can I learn martial arts through video?
- You cant learn real Bujinkan from Home Study Courses
- Is your training realistic?
- The Four Pillars of Combative Conditioning
- The Fear of Freezing in a Self Defense Encounter
- Five rules for being a great Martial Arts Instructor
- Functional Training
- How To Street Fight
- The Holy Grail of Self Defense Training
- Learn to Fight so you wont have to
- Self Defense Explained
- The Seven Components of Self Defense
- Fight or No?
- How To Defend Yourself in an Attack
- Martial Arts is not Self Defense
- The Truth about Violence