I’ve always said on this blog that there are no guarantees when it comes to self defence, but that isn’t strictly true. One thing is guaranteed in self defence, and it’s this:
You will almost always fail in some way.
This can’t really be helped. Due to the often highly chaotic and unpredictable nature of violent altercations, it is very easy for things to go wrong– and they almost always do.
In his Meditations On Violence book, Rory Miller often recounts his past run-ins with physical violence as being almost balletic in the way they panned out for him. In almost every encounter mentioned in the book, Miller’s performance was apparently flawless, to the point where, in one encounter, he took a guy down while holding a cup of coffee, and never spilt a drop. Neat.
However, things don’t usually pan out that way in real life. Miller’s recounted experiences go against every other recounted experience of violence I’ve ever heard. His apparent grace under pressure is hard to fathom when measured against the experience of everyone else in the world.
No one, no matter how experienced, consistently performs like the Jason Bourne-type operators seen in Hollywood movies. If ever there is a time when fuck-ups cannot just happen, but are almost guaranteed to happen, it’s when you are in a fight.
Obviously, the more experienced you are in fighting– the more fights you’ve had– the less chance you have of fucking up, but that doesn’t mean external factors can’t fuck things up for you.
There are so many variables to consider that you couldn’t possibly hope to plan for, or control them all.
Shit is going to happen, that much is certain. It’s how you deal with it that counts however.
So how do you deal with fucking up in a fight?
The answer is simple enough: The same way you deal with the fight in general– you train.
If you know that errors can occur and unexpected things can happen, then it makes sense to plan for these, by introducing errors and unexpected variables into your training also.
You train to fail, in otherwards. But more importantly, you also train to recover from said failure and get back on course.
Doing rep after perfect rep under ideal conditions all of the time is not training for reality. Of course any self respecting practitioner will try to achieve perfection of technique, but equally, any self respecting practitioner will also train for times when that technique will fail them, not necessarily because they did the technique wrong (although that can definitely happen), but because an attacker has made it difficult to do it properly, or because some other variable has come into play which thwarts a person’s efforts at defending themselves– like another attacker, or something on the floor that disrupts their balance.
I don’t think I’ve ever been in a fight were something hasn’t happened to make things difficult for me. More than once I’ve paid the price for my mistakes or my failure at the time to deal with the unexpected.
You learn from your mistakes however, and one of the ways you learn is to plan a bit better for when things do go wrong.
So how do you do this?
Disrupted Striking Training
One way is to do some disrupted striking practice. The way to do this is to have the partner holding the pads to suddenly move backwards or forwards as you throw your strike, to simulate a miss or an obstruction of some kind (which happens more often than people realise). Either way, you will fail to execute the strike properly. The important thing here is not that you fail, but that you immediately recover from the fail and launch into another strike, which will of course be on target this time.
Another way to do this is to have the partner holding the pad wear a boxing glove on the other hand. As you go to strike, the pad holder will punch you in the face, as if your attacker was quicker of the mark. Again, you will recover as quickly as possible and execute another on-target strike.
The pad holder should make things unpredictable in these drills by varying the timing of the fails, which will make things more realistic.
Other ways to include errors are: having another person suddenly slam into you as you go to strike (as will often happen, especially in crowded places like nightclubs); have someone throw something at you (again, can happen); or even simulate slipping and falling as you move to strike (which can obviously happen). Your imagination is the limit here.
You don’t have to practice failure all the time. You certainly don’t want to condition it. Just introduce it occasionally, practice recovering from it, enough to keep you on your toes.
Wrestling With An Attacker
Recovering from failure is about having the ability to flow from one thing to the next. Another good way to practice this is by simulating a real fight. You’ll need protective equipment if you are going to include striking. If you don’t have the equipment then you just practice grappling, which is often how fights end up anyway if you fail to put the other guy down with strikes. Really go for it with this and do so with plenty of aggressive intent. To make things more interesting, you can introduce the same type of variables as the ones in the disrupted striking drills. This kind of drill is excellent for teaching you to flow and how to recover from mistakes made.
Plan For Failure
Errors in performance are a fact. We all make them, even more so in high pressure, unpredictable situations like violent altercations.
Plan for them. Train for them. Learn how to recover from them. At least that way, when you make a mistake for real, even though you will still be surprised by it and it may still throw you, at least you will have a better chance of recovering from it and carrying on.