You Can’t Beat Everybody: Knowing Your Limitations

self defense know limitations 4cyniqalOne of the major emphasises in self defence training is the great value placed on developing a “combative mindset”, or a mindset that will allow you to take immediate action in any kind of physical confrontation. This conditioned mindset pretty much underpins all else and without that in place, self defence training can be a bit pointless, as there is no point in having a loaded gun if you are not prepared to use it, or if you’re not capable of using it under extreme pressure.

In a physical sense this attitude or mindset is backed up with large amounts of aggression and lots of forward pressure, where one moves into their attacker, towards them instead of away from them.

In training this means driving forward with strikes against the pads or charging forward into a padded assailant. It is thought that this type of training, the bolstering of self-belief and the tapping of aggression, coupled with physical forward movement, will cultivate the required combative mindset and thus the ability to overcome any opponent, no matter how big or strong.

Do this kind of training for long enough and with enough encouragement from instructors and eventually you will begin to feel that you could take on anyone, and that you could prevail against even the toughest of attackers.

In one sense, this kind of attitude is pretty essential if you are going to build up enough confidence so that you will be able to use your skills against a real attacker. If you don’t believe you will prevail against an attacker then it is unlikely that you will, because I can guarantee that your attacker believes that they will prevail against you, and they most likely will.

Guys who fight a lot not only have experience on their side, they also have the self-belief that they can actually fight, and they have the attitude to back it up, which gives them a big head start on anyone who has never been in a fight before or only has limited experience.

So this is why it is essential that the whole combative mindset thing be properly cultivated through good training practices. Students must be allowed to develop good technique that is then tested under pressure of some sort. This goes a long way towards building confidence in a student and allowing them to believe that they could really do it for real if they had to.


Managing Expectations

All that is well and good, but it is equally important that you know where to draw the line with this stuff. It’s a bit like positive thinking. It’s impossible to think positively all the time and it is wrong of people to make others believe that it is possible to think positively all the time.

In the same way, just believing that you can prevail against anyone is not enough to enable you to do so and it is wrong of any instructor who tries to convince students that they will win all the time, or that there techniques will work every time.

It’s okay building up a student’s confidence, but as an instructor you must be very careful not to induce a false sense of security in people. Students must not only know the limitations of the game they are playing (self defence in general) but also their own limitations when it comes to self defence.

Self defence training of itself is not full proof and neither should it be put across as such to naive students. I’m always pointing out the limitations of training to those I teach. It’s my job as their instructor to reign them in when they start to get too flushed with success or when they become over confident.

It must always be emphasised to students that there are no guarantees when it comes to defending against violence. No defence or method of attack is full proof. What self defence training is all about is giving people a greater chance of prevailing in a physical altercation, not making them believe they are bullet proof, so to speak.

Trainees must know that they can and probably will get hit, that they will likely suffer some kind of damage to themselves and that there is a fair likelihood they will loose, especially if they are up against multiple attackers or facing someone who has a weapon.

In fact, this indoctrination of false confidence is at its height when people are training weapon defences. I see many people who train knife defences and disarm techniques and I know by looking at them that they really believe they will be able to pull of these moves for real if they had too.

Everything seems easy and possible in practice, but practice and the real thing are totally different animals, especially when weapons are involved.

It’s a bit like a magician who practices magic tricks at home. The magician may get really good at the tricks they practice, but ask the same magician to do those tricks in the same flawless manner in front of a crowd of thousands of people or on TV with millions watching and they might struggle to even keep their hands steady enough, never mind pull of the trick in the same flawless way they did at home all those times.

So you see what I’m saying here? Self defence training obviously does work, but there are many more variables to consider that will greatly affect the outcome of any given situation and this must be impressed upon people if they are to have realistic expectations of themselves and their responses in a given situation. Expectations must be managed, in other wards.


Knowing Your Limitations

To have realistic expectations you must also have a good understanding of what your limitations are, and what the limitations of your training are. You must make an honest assessment of yourself, which means knowing what you are capable of and what you are not capable of. I may be able to handle myself fairly well for instance, but I certainly don’t think I can deftly handle whoever comes along. That would just be folly on my part, not to mention dangerous.

Going back to the forward pressure mentality. How this is trained most often, is that students are taught to press forward as they attack, overwhelming their “attacker” with a barrage of strikes and constant forward pressure. In training this usually means doing so on a fairly compliant partner, pulling your strikes as they helpfully cover up and allow you to force them back. The next level up from this is doing the same thing but to a padded assailant, which allows for a bit more contact in your strikes.

Both training methods have merit in that they do teach the things we are talking about here, the forward pressure mentality etc. but these training methods also have their limitations and it is vital that these are recognised and acknowledged.

As Mick Coup pointed out recently on the Facebook page, it’s okay doing all that in the gym, but when you have to try and do it against someone the size of Brock Lesner or some other man mountain (like Mick himself lol), do you think your tactics would still work then? Maybe, maybe not. The odds in this case would be fairly stacked against you. No amount of believing you can do it will make a difference, especially if that same man mountain can also fight.

And that doesn’t just apply to big guys, that also applies to guys who can really fight. Would your forward pressure mentality easily overwhelm someone who has fought in the cage many times? Or a boxer with a couple of hundred fights under their belt? Probably not!

And if you are now still refusing to believe that you are not invincible, or if you are wondering what the hell the point of training is if you can’t beat everybody, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself because this is the real world we are all living in folks, not some Jason Bourne movie. People get the shit beat out of them all the time, even people who can fight.


Find Out What Your Limitations Are

In order to really be aware of your limitations, you must first find out what they are. You can do this in training fairly easy.

One quick way to test your limitations is to spar someone who is more skilled than you are or who is much bigger and stronger than you are. This can be a very humbling experience, believe me. At the very least it will underline the fact that there are people out there who are better than you and who can easily beat you, even if under a particular rule set, as it sparring or grappling.

Another good way to test your limits is through pressure testing. There are a number of different ways you can do this. You can try to defend against multiple attackers all coming at you at once for instance. Or you can fight one attacker after another, pushing yourself past the point of exhaustion so you can barely fight back anymore. Or you can try to defend against an attacker or attackers who have knifes and who are really trying to kill you. This is another humbling experience.

I’m sure you can think of plenty of ways to find out your limitations. The point here is that you should try to be as honest as possible with yourself and make  an objective and fair appraisal of your abilities.

At least if you know what your weaknesses are you can work on them. If you know what is realistically possible in a given situation you will at least not be going in blind or over confident, and thus you will be less likely to be surprised by anything, even if things don’t go your way (which they often don’t!).


Proceed With Caution

So you are not doing yourself any favours by thinking you can take on anybody and win, or that your self defence training is full proof.

I take nothing for granted in this game, and neither should you. Manage your expectations carefully and know the limitations of your training, and of yourself.

Always proceed with caution because you never know what lies ahead.


11 Responses to “You Can’t Beat Everybody: Knowing Your Limitations”

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  1. Tell that to David.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You dont learn from the things you can already do but from the things you cant .

  3. Anonymous says:

    Your mind set should be one that is always ready to deal with the challenge you least expect rather than the one you do . The challenge will not wait in a fraction of a second life moves on or doesnt as the case may be …

  4. Anonymous says:

    The only way you ever get to find out whats possible is by taking on the impossible …

  5. Anonymous says:

    Playing it safe is for wusses …

  6. Anonymous says:

    The guys i always had a problem with were those who for various reasons didnt know their limitations as opposed to those that did …

  7. Anonymous says:

    Self doubt is the biggest limiter of all …

  8. Anonymous says:

    I always thought self protection was more about the aquiring of those mental faculties and physical abilities that will enable you to prevent the other guy who ever it might be from beating you rather than being able to beat anybody on the block …

  9. Larry Peterson says:

    Once again,Neal has taken a difficult subject and shown his expertise in dealing with such matters. The beginner always equates his new knowledge with the ability of being able to do the same things as Superman. Get into the ring with a Sumo Wrestler, and see if your confidence hold up. Or spar with Mike Tyson for just 10 minutes-but be sure that you have insurance. While the forward push will serve you well, there comes a moment it time when you have to realize that you can’t beat everybody. Certain Martial Arts will disagree-saying that if you just press a certain point, your opponent will fall asleep-of course this is nonsense and it is here where reality sets in, and Self Defense makes more sense. Magic points don’t exist-tougher opponents do-and Neal deals with reality. Believe me, pay attention to Neal-he wont let you down-I promise you.

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