What happens when a martial artists gets into a real self-defense situation? What determines whether the martial artist will win or lose? Of course, there are many variables. How skillful is the opponent? How big is he? How strong? Does he have a weapon? If you look at all of these factors you can see that they have one thing in common: they are all out of the control of the person being attacked. You, as a martial artist, can control one thing: your preparation. One of my favorite quotes goes like this: “Everyone wants to win, but few people are willing to do the preparation it takes to win.” Preparation is the key. How well you train, how well you plan your training, and how hard you work are all up to you. These are the aspects that you have control over. You prepare well so that you can apply your training in the fight. After the fight, adjustments can be made to your preparation so that you can perform even better. Now if you train only for self-defense, you may never have a fight in your whole life. This is why combat sports competitions are so valuable to our training methods.The great thing about competitions is that we get lots of feedback about our training and preparation. If you choose to compete, your performance in the fight will tell you how well you prepared. You can then adjust your training to better prepare for the next bout. Without this kind of feedback people can train for years and years in methods that don’t work well against a strong, aggressive opponent. You may be saying, “I don’t want to compete.” That is fine, as you can learn from people competing in extreme martial arts events. You can take the lessons from these events and apply them to your own training. If you know what a successful fighter did to prepare for a bout, you can follow the same procedure and produce similar results.
If your main goal is street self-defense, you can do what we do at JKD Unlimited. Our training methods are very similar to those of No Holds Barred fighters, but we keep street aspects in the training. We safely use the groin strikes, eye gouges, and throat attacks in sparring. We work with multiple opponents and weaponry also, but the way we practice looks very much like the competition training. We just follow different rules. We know that since we are training for the street environment, our preparation must be for the street environment. There is that word again: preparation.
Being effective is not by chance, but by design. It is easy to watch a great fighter and just see incredible athleticism or talent. While it is true that many of the very best were blessed with talent, it is their training that put them at the top. A fighter will invest hundreds of hours of preparation for a ten-minute fight. Why? Because talent alone is not enough. I had a friend in high school who was an incredibly talented athlete. He never practiced, but was one of the best baseball players in the league. He went straight from high school into professional baseball at the 1A level. This is three levels away from being in the Major Leagues where the top professionals play. It wasn’t long before he was moved up to the 2A level. His talent had taken him very far, very quickly. But as great as he was, he never got beyond the 2A level. Why? Because he never applied himself in practice. He relied solely on his talent. Once he got to 2A he was surpassed by other athletes who had similar talents, but who also practiced diligently. While you have no control over how much talent you have, you do get to determine how well and how often you practice. This is why almost anyone can become an effective martial artist. You just have to put in the time practicing effectively.
Dan Inosanto tells a story about Bruce Lee. I think we can all agree that Lee was gifted with incredible speed and athleticism, along with a brilliant mind. After a training session in Los Angeles’ Chinatown , Inosanto and some of the other students were going to a restaurant for lunch. Lee was on the wooden dummy practicing a simple block, grab, and hit technique. He had been doing the same move over and over again for over five minutes. Inosanto asked his instructor if he was going to go to lunch. Without stopping his practice, Lee said, “No, you go ahead”. The group went off to lunch. An hour and a half later the group returned to the school. Guess what they found. Bruce Lee was still repeating the same move over and over again with speed, power, and precision. It wasn’t luck that made Bruce Lee so great. It was his dedication to preparation.
Whatever your goal in martial arts or life, find someone else who has succeeded with the same goal. Find out what they did to prepare themselves for success and do the same. If you follow a similar path, you will arrive at a similar destination.
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