I went to a knife on knife seminar in New Jersey this past weekend. It was hard training. We used metal training knives and we were expected to execute certain strikes not just simulate them. As I write this article, I am sore but I am more ready to defend myself in a real situation.
Martial arts practitioners are typically disciplined and respectful. With this discipline and respect we sometimes go too far in trying to protect our partners from injury. In doing so, we introduce two flaws that can impede the practitioner from defending themselves in the street:
- By executing the move too gently, they don’t practice the move in a way that is effective on the street.
- By not properly striking their opponent, they are not giving their opponent the opportunity to practice defense against a realistic strike.
The drills from the seminar pointed out things I need to work on in my traditional lower impact training. There are two examples that stick out prominently in my mind:
- Striking a joint versus a push (simulated strike). One of the moves we needed to execute at the seminar was a strike to the elbow to ease bending the arm into a lock. The teacher wanted us to execute the strike, not simulate it with a push. By doing so, it uncovered flaws in my technique that I did not realize I had. If I tried to execute the move in a real situation, there was a risk it would not have given me the results I expected. I am better prepared now.
- Executing a break-fall. It is one thing to fall on your own and break-fall versus being thrown and having to break-fall to keep your head from bouncing off the floor. The throws executed in this class were forceful. The teacher wanted full execution of the technique. Even though we landed on mats, the throws were hard and the landings pointed out some weaknesses in my break-fall technique, which I corrected as the seminar progressed.
Training hard is an important part of preparing for defending yourself. Being hit or falling hard can be shocking. If you have not experienced it prior to an altercation, the shock can cause you to hesitate which opens you to further attack. It is important to practice defense in a more realistic manner, not just practicing simulations.
If you are a novice, stick with the simulations until you understand them. If you try to execute a forced break-fall before you know how to do a practice break-fall you will get hurt. Once you gain some experience, introduce some hard training. Under the proper supervision of an instructor with an experienced and willing partner, work on your defense moves with enough force to understand the move but short of hurting your partner. Only you and your partner can determine how hard you want to go.
It can be uncomfortable to act out defense situations. That is part of the training. Getting hit teaches you to move or block. Hitting hard uncovers flaws in your technique that can’t be uncovered by just going through the motions. Training hard is not for everyone. You end up with bruises and there is always a chance for accidental injury. That is why it is important to only train hard with an experienced teacher and willing partners.
If you are an experienced martial artist, consider adding hard training to your training routine. The lessons and desensitization to distress are very valuable in preparing yourself for defense situations. Just remember that not all techniques are appropriate for hard training. For example, you cannot execute a real elbow break without breaking an elbow.
Also, hard training will give you a sense for real defense but it is still a simulation, just a more realistic simulation. There is a teacher and an opponent that does not want to hurt you. On the street there is no referee and your opponent does want to hurt you.