When most people think of “martial arts training”, they envision rows of students dressed in white karate uniforms, yelling, punching and kicking into the air in front of a mirror.
Pacing between them is their “sensei” or teacher, stopping periodically in front of a student to turn their outstretched hand a millimeter or two in a different direction to make sure their form is absolutely perfect.
In fact, “form” is stressed so much in traditional martial arts training that I’ve been told by some of my instructors in the past that the goal was to practice a single move 1,000 times in order to perfect it!
It’s this “quantity vs. quality” approach that’s one of the key differences that make up the thin line between “martial arts” and “self defense”.
If you’re going for your black belt, you’re going to have to learn a gazillion different punches, kicks, blocks, counters…step-by-step.
Indeed, in the end, you’ll have amassed a giant toolbox of “moves” you can pull from in order to pass your training tests and yes…even draw from if you’re confronted by an attacker.
And that can be a problem!
The reality is that not many people have the time to invest in their training to the point that they can practice ALL of the techniques that are taught within a fighting system to stay proficient…unless you’re the teacher and practically live at the dojo or school.
Even at your peak of training, where your form is “perfect”, applying it to a street scenario wipes away most of your “form” benefit because your strikes were perfected in a relaxed environment where “losing” just meant a couple of sparring points.
On the street, there are no “points” to lose…just your life!
So if you were confronted by a larger, stronger attacker armed with a knife in a parking lot, would you rather have in your mind a gazillion different “options” for how to defend yourself? (“If he stabs overhand, I can step back – block up – counter with my right hand – follow through with punch #2 – flip him over my shoulder and then…etc”)
Would you rather pull out a .357 Magnum and put one bullet dead center?
Now this ISN’T an advertisement for the superiority of guns as a self defense tool (I can hear you NRA guys hooting and hollering from within my office), but the point is that when it comes to having a self-protection plan of action, you’re much better off having just a FEW very powerful strikes that you’ve perfected than to put together a vast arsenal of moves that you’re “somewhat proficient” in.
To really shut down an attacker, your form doesn’t have to be “pretty” and your fist being a millimeter or two off in one direction or the other isn’t going to matter.
Remember, you don’t WANT to have to pull out 5–30 different techniques in a real street fight! 2–3 “moves” are all it should take if you’re doing it right!
Through your training, discover what moves you find easiest and most powerful to deliver and train with THESE, in as realistic environment as possible, until you have 1–3 devastating moves you know you can launch without even thinking about them.
This will be different for each person. You may find that a palm-heel to the face works best for you while someone else, perhaps a shorter person, may see a low-line attack to the feet or groin is more practical. Whatever it is, practice just these first few moves you see yourself using and once mastered, only THEN is it time to move on to other supporting techniques.