January 2012

Street-fighting Versus Martial Arts

Street-fighting self defense for the serious martial artist.A comment often made, usually by those who do not train and fancy themselves as a bit of a fighter and able to handle themselves and usually made in a situation where egos are rampant and the need for macho knowledge is required, is that of the street-fighter versus martial artist argument.
This argument is based on stereo-typical versions of each of the proponents and so I’ll discuss this opinion from that perspective.
However, as a trained martial artist I can attest that many of us are not foreign to the street fighting scenario.

When contemplating this comment, it occurred to me that where some of the problem with this statement lies, is that people get the idea of a street fighter possessing some techniques that will defeat a trained martial artist.
I would suggest, from my observations, and experience, that it is not about the techniques, but rather about the tactics used and the conditions that the proponents are familiar with. The so-called street fighter relying on either the surprise attack, the “king hit” or a blitzing, frenzied attack that is intent on overwhelming the opponent.
Neither of these tactics separate the street fighter into any technical distinction, as far as fighting techniques go, as these are tactics that are readily adopted by a trained martial artist if he so wishes.

A major part of the problem appears to occur in how each of these types of fighters enters the potential fight, in respect of their attitude.
An experienced street fighter enters the impending battle with a clear intent to “take out” or “deal to the opponent”. He is fully committed to the end goal and will do what it takes to fulfill that end.
In addition, they are often thugs who are not newcomers to the prospect of incarceration and have little concern about facing an assault charge.
The psychological aspect of the game is well under control and this is a dominating factor in any endeavor. In addition he usually has a few techniques and tactics, he has used in past fights, that he is well practiced in and knows how to set up and use to best effect.

These techniques are no different to the martial artist’s techniques and may in fact be not as efficient, but they get the job done. The way that he sets up or applies the techniques will usually take advantage of the element of surprise or completely overwhelm the opponent who is not fully committed psychologically to the fight.
He is well versed in the importance of keeping and then quickly closing the distance between himself and the opponent. There is no trained ability to defend any attack from his opponent it is almost entirely about offense.

The stereo-typical martial artist, on the other hand, often fails to have this commitment to take the opponent out. They more often than not have a high moral regard for their fellow human beings and seldom go looking for trouble.
Often trained in defense and without real practical tactics to deal with the sudden onslaught they are caught of guard and can be quickly overwhelmed.
Most are used to sparring with an opponent who uses techniques and tactics that are the same or similar to what he uses. They respect each others techniques and fight by an agreed set of rules. There is no attempt at sneak attacks and there is always the knowledge that if the one or the other is overwhelmed then the dominant opponent will back off to allow his training opponent time to recover.

All of these conditions are not present in the street fight. This not only plays a major factor in the physical aspects of the game, but once the engagement is under way will have a dramatic effect on the trained martial artist who is caught in completely unfamiliar territory.
This will, at least momentarily, create a state of confusion and make him/her vulnerable to attack.

It is therefore important that if a martial artist wants to prepare himself/herself for dealing with a street-fighter then they need to develop a street-fight state of mind, that he/she can readily access when the situation calls for it, or else try to completely avoid potential street-fights.

For those martial artists who have never been exposed to the reality of a street-fight environment but wish to prepare themselves for the possibility, I suggest they spend some time in places where they can experience exposure to the street-fight environment. At first just observing at a distance and then increasing the degree of interaction, and thus risk of becoming actively engaged in a street-fight, so that they can become more aware of what the situation feels like and the way in which a typical street-fight unfolds.

This can then be used as the basis for developing a state of mind that can be anchored using visualization and the cognitive behavioral techniques of NLP/Neurosemantics and integrated into their training regimes. Note I am not promoting the idea of going out and getting into street-fights, but rather exposing themselves to what it is like so that they know what happens.

"By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail."
Benjamin Fanklin

The “I know” mind-set as a stumbling block to learning

One of the student mind-sets that I encounter from time to time as a teacher of martial arts is the “I know” attitude to what is being presented (i.e. continually looking at something and assuming that they already know everything there is to know about it.). More often than not the student does not know the details of what is being taught and is merely expressing an egotistical attitude so that he/she will appear superior in other students’ minds.

This attitude and mindset can be very inhibiting on the student’s progress and also the development of the entire group, because it tends to create thoughts in the other students minds that interfere with their learning.

Each student will learn the particular techniques, of a discipline, at their own pace which is to a large degree dependent on their commitment to learning and their understanding of the basic principles.

This latter factor, and the ability to learn the intricacies of the particular techniques, is also very dependent on the students willingness to learn the details that are essential for the efficient performance of the maneuver, that you are endeavoring to impart to them.

Those students that come with the “I know” attitude will often struggle to pick up the finer points, because their receptivity, and thus concentration on the details, is lacking.

This mind-set is in great danger of manifesting itself into an attitude that, as the skill difficulty increases, they still know it all and they miss the points that are required to give true mastery of the complexity. And while this may have little effect in the competitions or challenges they face early on in their learning. As they encounter higher level competition, and greater challenges, their technical ability will be challenged.

Students being coached in Thai Boxing

In addition, if their goal is merely to excel in the competition aspect of a particular pursuit (I refer directly to the martial arts scene in particular, although this can also apply in other pursuits) then the attributes of strength, speed, fitness and having the time devoid of many other responsibilities, will give them a good degree of success without a high level of technical ability.

However, martial arts can provide so much more than the competitive challenge with subsequent “victory rush”.

Statistics on the reasons that people practice martial arts indicate that only about 5 % of practitioners learn martial arts for competition. The majority are learning as a way to develop confidence, get fit and as a means of self protection.

In addition, for those of us who find that we enjoy martial arts, it provides an element to our lives that contributes a great deal mentally, physically and spiritually to whatever age we wish to take it. It is when we continue our training and pursuit of the higher values that Martial Arts offers, that we find the pursuit of higher technical ability of great value.

I would encourage you as a student to always keep your mind open and receptive to learning. This will greatly enhance your learning and enjoyment of the particular pursuit that you are engaged in.

It is the details that will increase your chances of success in anything that you practice. And it is the details that will help you on your way to mastery and give you the life enhancing benefits that will allow you to continue training and really enjoy life into your later years.

“To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.” Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881)