Playing & ‘Teaching’ the Fight Game For ‘Real’

It will come as no surprise to those who follow my work that I am an advocate that those who teach, should also be able to perform what they teach for ‘real’. I have never been convinced by the argument that someone can be a good coach in the fight game, but yet, never fights himself. Ill concede, that for some coaches, especially those who are older, and or suffer from debilitating injuries, that they may no longer be able to play the game so to speak. But in those instances, the measure of their success defaults to their students. In that sense, if their students are able to perform for ‘real’ what has been taught to them, then clearly the coaches methodology is sound.

Second to this, there is an assumption that when I say that a person, especially those who teach, should be able to demonstrate that which they teach for real, that this means they have to be competing. While competition is one way of course, I also think it is a very limited understanding of being real in the fight game. Most people who compete are lucky if they fight a handful of times in their lives. To base someones ‘fight game’ then solely on those few handful of times, and their ability to perform for real, isn’t entirely accurate. For example, maybe you were lucky and simply faced crap opponents, leading to victory. The truth is, while someone may compete a few times, and others not, when it comes to playing the game so to speak, that happens everyday on the mat.

‘Martial Method Acting’

Often when I take issue with non-performance, I am generally speaking about the people who hangout in the world of Reality Based Self-Defence (RBSD). There is a tendency in these ‘combatives’ circles to confuse demonstration for performance. Showing what you would do against a partner feeding you either an attack you knew was coming, and or, out of a drill you learned off by heart like a Parrot, isn’t performance, it’s performing. It’s method acting for martial arts. Method acting is a range of training and rehearsal techniques that seek to encourage sincere and emotionally expressive performances in ‘acting’ a part — and while that might be a convincing act — it’s still acting. I think this is a crucial, but necessary distinction when one talks about playing the fight game for real.

The truth is, you don’t need to be going 100% full out all of the time to be considered playing the game. Playing the game can happen at 20% of one’s full out performance fight game, as long as, that which is being performed against has some key, crucial ingredients. In other words the person you are working against, needs to resist (i.e., fight back) preferably without you knowing what is coming next. If you need to know the initial attack for training purposes, what follows after that, should be unknown. In this sense, the opponent you are dealing with, must not only be uncooperative, but unpredictable, while resisting your ‘fight’ aims (i.e., techniques, strategy and tactics you trying to apply), and the opponent must continue to resist, even when you attempt to apply countermeasures against that resistance.

This is the thing no one gets. Pretty much most of what is taught under the rubric of ‘Reality Based’ self defence isn’t reality, it’s ‘martial method acting’. All anyone would need to do is suggest to the expert demonstrating that the other person being demonstrated on, does exactly what was outlined earlier, fight back. Even at 20% of speed, power, strength, etc, most of what is taught in Reality Based methods will falter once prediction is replaced with chaos. If you can’t pull off what you say will work in a life and death situation when someone is only coming back at you with 20% resistance, unpredictability, and fighting back — how is that going to work out for you at 100%?


Playing The Fight Game

So coming back to my initial point. Playing the Fight Game, doesn’t mean going all out 100% all of the time. It doesn’t mean that you have to compete. What it does mean is that if you are an instructor or student, that beyond the teaching of technique and drills, everything else must be pressure tested. Doing it at 20% (if both participants are on the same page) can be ‘almost’ as hard as a 100% full out. Sure it will lack some of the emotional and psychological stressors, but it is also an ‘intelligent’ way to train for ‘real’ every single day. It is also a fantastic way to get someone into the reality of fight training progressively.

I am in my 40’s and after decades of all out training, while affording me great game, has taken its toll on my physical health (I have written too about longevity in this game). So when I say play the game for real, especially when teaching it — to be clear, I am not saying that you need to get on the mat everyday and go ‘Balls to the Wall’. But, you still need to be playing the fight game, against resisting, uncooperative, unpredictable opponents. It can happen at 20% no problem. The thing you need to ask (and occasionally test) is will what I am doing now still play out when it gets ramped up? (i.e., 40, 60,100%).


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