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How to develop an effective mindset for self defense

How do we give students the skills necessary to actually be able to handle themselves in a defense based crisis and how do we teach the mindset?

In real world defense situations you must have a little meanness in you to be effective. I am not promoting that we be mean people and I do not promote going around trying to be combative or a tough guy. What I am referring to is the ability to let your inner child or beast take over “slightly” and allow you to react in a more primal way. (Stop thinking and just do)

This is can be difficult to accomplish on a personal level and near impossible to teach a student. The concept of the martial arts as harmony can be a misnomer. Harmony in the arts is not to be always peaceful but to be in tune with the actions and reactions of the situation. The student needs to be in harmony with their actions but how do you get them to change their definition of harmony from one of thinking it means to be peaceful to one of action and reaction? I tend to approach the concept that harmony can represent the evolving flow of your inner emotional state.

In looking back at the inner child/beast proposal we all have it, some just have it closer to the surface of their daily lives.

So, how to get them to be in touch with this different concept of harmony? Drill, Sweat, Forms, Sparring? Maybe, maybe not…

I will throw out the concept of confidence. We as teachers and students try way too hard to impart too much learning in terms of multiple skills and counters. I have always thought that most of what you encounter in a combative situation should be handled with the absolute minimum number of tools and actions as possible. If the tool box is too big, very rarely do you have the skill to use all the tools.

I am not promoting teaching fewer skills.  Just a consideration of what 3 or 5 things should be considered the handful of “go-to-fight” tools. While all the other skills and learning add to the foundation and education of the student; what would you teach a new student if you only had 30 days before you died and you knew they had to walk out on the street and take care of themselves?

It is this handful of skills that build the foundation for confidence in your skills and hence allow you to not think about your actions and hence tap into your inner child/beast.

This poses the question; can we allow the inner child/beast to surface in the controlled environment of the studio? Yes and no. Many styles promote themselves as a no sparring style because it is too dangerous. I don’t agree, if the students do not get to bounce off each other they never learn how to think creatively. This creative and reactionary thought process is very important to building the confidence necessary to utilize the 3-5 tools that should be in the go-to-fight tool box. Having someone actually strike you teaches you to be hit, and until you have been hit it is all just thought. Once contact has been made to your body it is no longer thought it is real and this changes how your mind works.

So how do you train to allow this child/beast to come out? You must press the students comfort level of engagement. This requires creative sparring (not all your tools just the ones necessary to train your base skills) and against multiple attackers with different agendas. Yes your style may not be the best one to spar with due to potential damage but you must find a way to allow the students to bump heads in a creative manner.

As the student spends more time in their studies; their confidence with more tools gets bigger and their go-to-fight skill selection increases.

Think of yourself absolutely exhausted and having to be in a combative situation. What would you use now as opposed to being fresh and rested?