On the Street
Martial arts training can sometimes get trapped in an inward frame of reference – what we do, how we do it, what my teacher says to do to get the next rank, and so on. It is possible for martial arts to drift away from practical demands, and a genuine self-defense frame of reference.
That is a not always bad.
It is possible for people to enjoy sport martial arts or inner martial arts or health martial arts. Those are good things to do.
There is a problem when people with little or no experience in combatives outside the dojo refer to “a street fight,” “a real situation,” or some technique that would or would not “work on the street.” They may not know, but just have heard or just figured. That is not reliable. More importantly, it conveys the idea that there is such a thing as a generic street fight or real situation.
Threats and violent interactions are endless in variety, unpredictable, and occur on a scale of intensity, quality and duration which depend on many factors, many of which are not replicated in the dojo. By preparing properly we can make ourselves more alert, more responsive and more effective across the full spectrum of possibilities.
In my article The Point of Contact I pointed out a critical self-defense issue which is missing in martial arts training: tactical decision-making.
Tactical decision-making refers to deciding when and how to react to an imminent threat. Do we wait to see what they do? Do we wait till they throw a punch or try to grab us? Do we ignore them as long as we can? Do we use words? Do we evade? Do we challenge them? Confront them? Do we attack first? Where is the line we will not permit them to cross? How far do we go, how much force do we use, to make sure we are out of danger?
This is best considered before the moment of crisis. In the heat of the moment it may be too late to formulate a plan, to prepare, or to choose the best course of action. As I mentioned in my article Assault, there are many ways to respond, and a broad spectrum of appropriate responses, depending on the threat level we are facing.
That is why we train to have a calm, clear mind, even under fast-changing, high pressure, unpredictable conditions. That frame of mind is more natural when your body is strong, agile and trained. It is also more accessible when you are in the right.