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Last Updated: 4th July 2005

Learning a Martial Art vs.

Learning How to Fight

 

There is a distinction that needs to be recognised between learning a martial art and learning how to fight. These two activities are not the same.

In a martial art you learn the techniques peculiar to the art and strive to perfect these techniques. As your ability develops, you may begin to spar with a partner to improve your reaction times. But sparring is not fighting. Granted, it is closer to fighting than just practising form after form for years, and provides real feedback on the effectiveness of your techniques, but it still usually happens within the context of 'your system's rules'.

If your martial arts practice allows you to compete against an active resistance, you'll have an opportunity to explore these principles further. If you study a system that doesn't offer this approach, you'll never know if your techniques really work on anything other than a compliant partner. To get real benefit from training, there must be a process of Subtraction and Distillation, not of Addition and Accumulation of techniques. You can learn a lot by knowing what doesn't work! For example, Judo & Boxing, although both sports, are formidable fighting arts since their practitioners do actually compete and get the feedback required to develop the skill necessary to defeat another person.


Could any of Muhammed Ali's opponents ever have said with certainty how he would move after a jab ? I don't think so. He was supremely cunning and unpredictable. Great fighters don't predict. They train themselves to react to the ebb and flow of combat without attempting to execute complex, predetermined responses.
They know that 50% of the fight is out of their control and that if they try to guess what will happen, the odds are they'll be wrong half the time!


So, the next time you find yourself learning that new 10-step counter to a backfist, perhaps you should think twice before including it in your self-defence repertoire. Your time would be better spent doing simple reaction based drills or free sparring with an opponent.
MENTAL VS. PHYSICAL You've heard it said that 90% of a fight is mental and 10% is physical. I agree. It's comparable to driving a car : the physical movements of steering, braking and accelerating are easy to learn. The hard part is constantly scanning for danger, obeying traffic rules and reacting to changing road conditions. Plus, it's one thing to drive on a quiet country road with little to no traffic, but using the same skills in the bustling traffic of a major city can be daunting. Once you've learnt the fundamentals, it's important to get off the country road and test your skills in the fast lane. You must train for situations that require "Compressed Decision Time". The aim is to produce shorter reaction times, instinctive effective techniques and a reduced shock effect when confronted with the unexpected.

 

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