Realistic Martial Arts Training Tips:




Why do you train in martial arts?  Some people start training to get in better shape, meet new friends, become more flexible, or a combination of these reasons.  All are great reasons, and martial arts training should accomplish those goals.  However, the best reason to dedicate your valuable time and money to learning the martial arts is self-defense.

If you are only interested in getting in better shape, you could jog, swim, bike, or join a gym.  If you are solely interested in finding new friends, you should take advantage of a less structured environment, allowing you to meet more people in a more social setting.  If you only wanted to become more flexible, you could take yoga.  You study the martial arts to learn the art of combat, and all the other benefits of martial arts are just extra benefits.  I say “benefits” because getting in better shape and meeting new friends is a positive experience in addition to learning self-defense.

Since learning self-defense is the primary goal of studying the martial arts, I want to concentrate this article on making self-defense training more realistic.  Real attacks are dynamic and dangerous, so your training must be realistic.  Years ago when I trained for my pilot’s license, my instructor said, “You must train for emergencies until they cease to be emergencies.”  Through this article, I can help you incorporate more realistic training in your training regiment.  Therefore, you will be better prepared to deal with a real street attack.

As a beginner student, you should first learn self-defense techniques slowly for optimal retention.  This is referred to as “static training.”  The more you understand why you are doing a specific technique, the more confident you will be in deciding which situation to use that technique as opposed to another one.  As you continue to improve with the execution of the technique, the dojo attacker should continue to increase his speed, power, and resistance.  This is referred to as “dynamic training.”  This will lead to more realistic training, as well as you developing more confidence in executing the technique.  I call this learning process the “crawl, walk, run” method.

The crawl method entails learning what the technique is and why you use it.  It is taught and practiced slowly.  The technique is performed from 1% speed and power up to approximately 25% (percentages are given here solely to help a person visualize speed and power and how they relate to the learning process).  The reason for this is because in the crawl method, the focus is on proper body mechanics and on proper execution of the technique.  Techniques are normally done with commentary from an instructor or advanced student.  Once you are comfortable with performing the technique correctly, then you progress to the walk method.

The walk method ranges in speed and power from approximately 25% to 75%.  The walk method encompasses the greatest range of training speed and power.  The reason for this is because you are still perfecting technique, as well as building skill.  Just as in the color belt system of the martial arts, you are only a white belt (crawl method) for a short time, then spend most of your time (walk method) training toward the black belt (which is obviously at the run method for all previously taught techniques).  Once you know the technique’s mechanics (to include common mistakes) and applications, you may progress to the run method.

The run method ranges in speed and power from approximately 75%-100%, while still keeping safety in mind.  If you become injured, this will only take you away from further training.  The run method is my favorite because it most closely mimics realistic street fighting.  The run method is a great confidence builder in the application of skills, as well as the integrity of your martial art's style.  One last benefit, as the attacker, it allows you to practice strikes at great speed and power.

One of my favorite techniques to observe is the defense against the neck choke.  I see too many students just going through the motion of the technique.  The attacker places hands on the defender’s neck while the defender completes the technique.  When I participate, I grab the advanced student’s neck with both power and aggression.  Sometimes the student reacts in shock and disbelief.

Why does the student react like this?  Am I doing something wrong?  If I did not engage in realistic training, I would be failing the student.  He is paying money and dedicating time to learn effective self-defense.  An aggressor on the street is not going to rest his hands gently upon your throat.  He is going to grab you and squeeze while being very aggressive physically and verbally.

In addition to increasing speed, power, and aggression, trying other tactics will add realism to training.  For example, try certain techniques with a blind fold.  In the beginning stage of blindfold training, students are afraid and less stable.  This is an excellent training technique because it increases balance and confidence.  The safest blindfold techniques are the ones where your attacker grabs you in holds, as opposed strikes.

You must also train and prepare yourself for a variety of potential fighting environments.  As a patrol officer, I found myself in altercations with suspects on grass, concrete, loose gravel, slippery tile, and even a bed.  These altercations took place from early morning to the pitch black of night.  Since a great deal of attacks occur while out and about in town, it is important for you to occasionally train in clothing you normally wear.  When was the last time you tried a high kicks in a pair of blue jeans, or tried to pivot while wearing rubber-soled tennis shoes?  When was the last time you trained in low-light conditions?

If you make a mistake while performing a technique, finish it to the best of your ability.  Unfortunately, too many students stop during the technique when they realized they made a mistake, in order to re-do it from the beginning.  This is a horrible habit to develop.  The whole purpose of practicing self-defense techniques is to teach how to defend against an immediate attack.  If you realize you made a mistake, finish the technique the best you can.  Once you have finished the technique, then you can re-do it from the beginning to improve any technical mistakes.

Let us also briefly discuss knife disarming training.  I have seen students practicing it without a training knife—simply empty handed while the defender must visualize the knife.  I’ve observed students using a rubber training knife, and I’ve seen other students using the wooden tanto that is commonplace in aikido.  First, it is important to have an object that looks like a knife.  This serves the important purpose of helping you realize the added danger of the situation, as well as learning to control the fear that will probably arise from a knife-wielding attacker.  I personally like the tanto because you can feel it hit when you fail to perform a well-executed knife-disarming technique.  Pain is a useful tool for behavioral modification.  The plain wooden tanto does a disservice to realistic knife training though, since there are no solid brown-colored knives.  For my training tanto, I painted several inches on bottom black to represent a rubber grip, and the tip silver to represent the blade.  This simple procedure aids in developing more realistic knife defense training.

These aforementioned tips will improve your ability to defend against a street attack.  Just as you want to be experienced using a multitude of techniques, you should also want realistic training to prepare you to fight in a variety of environments and situations.  Good luck in your training.

Written by Tucker Axum III