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emergency, emotion, gunnies, real world, technique, training

Most Martial Arts training, armed or unarmed, has one failing…

uspsaThey don’t practice outside the box.

I wrote earlier this month regarding my two years of formal training in martial arts.  Not much, I know.  About 15 years later, I actively shot in I.P.S.C. – style competition for about a year.  There is a similarity in these disciplines.

Most martial arts training (I’m speaking of Asian-based) begins with a set position.  A formal stance from which one begins – either ‘sparring’ (usually play-acting as through striking one’s opponent), or kata (aka forms), going-through-the-motions as if encountering an opponent.  Shadow boxing.  Responding to an imaginary adversary.

And I.P.S.C. (and it’s later permutations) of active ‘combat’ shooting competition usual does the same thing.  One starts in a particular place, with particular equipment, in a particular position.  Then the whistle blows. (At least U.S.P.S.A. and I.D.P.A. have done some evolution!)

The problem in both these situations is muscle memory.  We revert to that which we were trained to do.  One responds to a fist to the face by an outward-extended block, trapping the arm and stepping in with a counter strike.  One sees one’s adversary present a pistol in one’s direction, and the response is immediate – Grip, Clear, Click, Smack, Sight – or some variant, as one moves into Isosceles or Weaver – feet into the ‘correct’ position to respond.

WRONG.  At least wrong in the real world.

Training is good.  Dry practice, repetitive presentations, trigger control, sight alignment, the compressed-surprise break.  Even practiced stances and grips.  All good.  Competition is good, especially active competition as opposed to just punching holes in paper, dueling-style.  But, those are not enough, and can set in some dangerous muscle-memory habits!

Remember they used to say in malfunction clearance drills Tap, Rack, Bang?  They changed it to Tap, Rack, Assess, because some folks had malfs, cleared their firearm and came out shooting.  Reflexively.

The same thing applies in our training.  If we train to respond with B follows A – bad things are happening, we must attain our proper stance and grip, and use both hands, and have our feet correct – we won’t have the time to find cover and respond appropriately.  We will be dead.

The venerable Bruce Lee called kata vertical death – because it set a pattern of muscle memory and took unneeded time.  Don’t just practice B follows A – try presenting and shooting weak handed, from prone and supine, and in a chair; and holding a heavy sack in your strong hand.  If someone send a fist to your face, don’t automatically do a ‘standard’ response.  Dodge the fist simultaneously doing a stop kick.

Think outside the box!  Armed or unarmed.

On the street, no one will announce, “Shooter ready?!”


About guffaw1952

I'm a child of the 50's. libertarian, now medically-retired. I've been a certified firearms trainer, a private investigator, and worked for a major credit card company for almost 22 years. I am a proud NRA Life Member. I am a limited-government, free-market capitalist, who believes in the U.S. Constitution and the Rule of Law.


9 thoughts on “Most Martial Arts training, armed or unarmed, has one failing…

  1. AMEN!! I consistently counsel students against over training and seriously question the wisdom of spending months and years at the range simply expending ammunition at stationary targets. Oh, it’s a lot of fun sometimes, but it does not equal real preparation for a potentially lethal encounter.

    The only time I had to shoot a man to save my life, I had exactly ZERO training in self defense. I had used the old shotgun on the farm, but I had no practice in anything else. And, since I wrote that, a lot has changed… but the basic motivation is the same.

    What I did have was the will to live, and the determination to use the tool I had to get that job done. To me, that seems the most important part. After that, whatever one does to prepare needs to bolster that attitude first, and then lend itself into adapting to any possible situation. If we become too hidebound in our reactions, we can lose that adaptability and, quite possibly, our lives.

    I use a lot of mental imagine in my “dry fire” time. I imagine various possible situations, possible actions by an aggressor, and possible solutions to the problems that might be encountered. Then I play out some of the more likely scenes.

    The gun or other weapon makes up only about 10% of the tools necessary for self defense. The blob of yuk between our ears is the other 90%.

    Posted by MamaLiberty | February 25, 2013, 8:51 am
  2. Excellent point, and all those reps WILL promote muscle memory to the fore in a true emergency, which may NOT be the actual response one wants…

    Posted by Old NFO | February 25, 2013, 9:39 am
  3. What they said. Practice all the time, too, and not just at the range. Mental preparation in every scenario is key. The Marines are onto something when they teach, “Be courteous and professional, and have a plan to kill everyone you meet.” Well, you know what I mean.

    Posted by Rev. Paul | February 25, 2013, 10:25 am
  4. Thanks to all for their input and kind remarks. Keep it up! gfa

    Posted by guffaw1952 | February 25, 2013, 11:24 am
    • Agreed – set responses may not be warranted given the totality of the situation (think the flap over the ‘no hesitation targets’) – and in reality one should be constantly reassessing the situation – think the OODA loop.

      Posted by GomeznSA | February 25, 2013, 11:41 am
  5. I took enough martial art training to realize that I need to carry a firearm.

    Posted by brigid | February 25, 2013, 2:50 pm
  6. Just your basic dirty white boy. When it is time, hit first, and don’t stop until they are down. Stomp an ankle, kick a knee, gouge an eye, whatever. In the Army, got into it with a self proclaimed “Junior California Karate Champion”. As he assumed his “pose”, I tossed a foot locker at him. Fight lasted less than a minute. Worse consequence, for me, was rearranging the contents of the footlocker.

    Posted by WellSeasonedFool | February 25, 2013, 7:25 pm

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