Does training and sparring semi contact teach bad habits for self defence?

GU55

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Hi, so Id like to discuss a topic which has already been covered countless times in arguments all over the internet. I would like to avoid this descending into yet another and instead discuss it with fellow sensible adults, so with that in mind let me start by saying I do not wish to offend anyone with my views, I will put across the reasons behind my arguments and that I have respect for anyone who studies any martial arts style.I also apologise for the length of this post.
So Id like to talk about the effectiveness of martial arts in real life self defence situations, and especially martial arts who spar semi contact as to those fighting styles where full contact is practised.
I am a former ITF tae Kwon Do Black Belt who 2 years ago switched to training and fighting in Muay Thai. I have also had a little experience in boxing and kick boxing. The ITF Tae Kwon Do I did was semi contact, all others full contact. Whilst I studied TKD I always thought I could defend myself pretty well in a real fight, trusting that my skills would be enough to overcome an attacker unless they were much bigger or simply a better fighter than me, but the past 2 years of full contact Muay Thai has made me reconsider, and here is why.

  1. When you train and spar semi contact it becomes second nature to do so, and although you tell yourself that if ever you had to you could perform the moves and strikes full contact against a would be attacker, it is much easier said than done. When I first started Muay Thai and started sparring the guys there, although I was getting hit harder than I ever had in TKD it took me a good few months before I started hitting back properly. Although I knew I was allowed to spar and hit harder, years of semi contact sparring left me simply flicking my kicks and pulling my punches as it was second nature. Simply, my point is that in order to be able to throw an effective punch, kick, knee etc that will truly stop your opponent/would be attacker in their tracks or put them down, one has to train and spar this way. When you spar semi contact you are training yourself not to do this. Whereas in styles where fighting is done full contact such as boxing, muay thai, MMA etc, you do. At the gym in training obviously it is not full on, but as you are training for a full contact bout, it is still much more intense and as much like a real fight as it is possible to get somewhat safely.
  2. I cant really comment on other semi contact styles, but in TKD when it came to defense it was more a case of dodging than blocking most strikes. We were trained to keep a guard up of sorts, but nothing like the tight upper body and head guard one MUST keep up in a full contact bout to avoid getting KOd. The simple reason is that obviously if you are not getting hit hard the need for a good tight defensive guard is not as important or necessary. Training and fighting full contact teaches you that a good guard is vital in a fight, and it also teaches you how to take a hit if a strike does get through, which they inevitably will. If you have never fought full contact before, let me tell you its a real wake up call the first time you do. When someone starts throwing shots a you with the intention of knocking you out instead of simply scoring a point its a real shock to the system and you need to know how to deal with it. The only way to do that is to train in a similar fashion. The self defence moves we learnt in TKD where you would grab someones arm or try and lock them up I now realise are a complete waste of time, youd have better luck waving a fly swatter at a would be attacker.
  3. The general training and conditioning when one trains to fight full contact as appose to practicing a semi contact martial art is totally different. You train almost like a pro athlete even at low level fights, so your fitness and endurance, and also your mental strength puts you in a much better position if ever faced to defending yourself in a real situation.

Now I am by no means saying that to train in a semi contact style is useless, far from it. Any training in any form of martial art or fighting style will put you in a much better position than having no such training at all. But I do think there are a lot of people out there who train in these styles that have far too much faith and belief in their abilities when training in such a way. I know I did, and it was not until the guys at the muay thai gym walked right through my flicky TKD kicks and planted me right in the face several hundred times that I started to re-consider. In order to be able to fight and be effective in a real self defence situation, you need to be able to throw full contact techniques. You need to know what it feels like to get hit full contact and how to deal with it when faced with a situation where getting hit could very easily leave you unconscious. Thats the point Im trying to make I guess. Students of these semi contact styles are taught that these techniques and styles will be effective if ever they are required to put them to use with real force to stop an opponent, but from my first hand experience I can say they really arent. I believe you fight how you train, and so to learn how to truly stop an opponent or a would be attacker, one has to train in a similar fashion, full contact, with force and power behind your strikes and techniques. If anyone feels differently or has trained in both semi and full contact styles then please let me know.
 

RTKDCMB

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Although I knew I was allowed to spar and hit harder, years of semi contact sparring left me simply flicking my kicks and pulling my punches as it was second nature. Simply, my point is that in order to be able to throw an effective punch, kick, knee etc that will truly stop your opponent/would be attacker in their tracks or put them down, one has to train and spar this way. When you spar semi contact you are training yourself not to do this.

You can train to strike effectively using semi-contact or non-contact sparring without flicking your kicks out and pulling your punches if you learn the appropriate amount of control and distancing. If you are training for sport you can still score points with a flicking kick or pulled punch and that can carry over to full contact sparring if that is what you are used to.

I cant really comment on other semi contact styles, but in TKD when it came to defense it was more a case of dodging than blocking most strikes. We were trained to keep a guard up of sorts, but nothing like the tight upper body and head guard one MUST keep up in a full contact bout to avoid getting KO’d. The simple reason is that obviously if you are not getting hit hard the need for a good tight defensive guard is not as important or necessary. Training and fighting full contact teaches you that a good guard is vital in a fight, and it also teaches you how to take a hit if a strike does get through, which they inevitably will. If you have never fought full contact before, let me tell you it’s a real wake up call the first time you do. When someone starts throwing shots a you with the intention of knocking you out instead of simply scoring a point it’s a real shock to the system and you need to know how to deal with it. The only way to do that is to train in a similar fashion. The self defence moves we learnt in TKD where you would grab someone’s arm or try and lock them up I now realise are a complete waste of time, you’d have better luck waving a fly swatter at a would be attacker.

I can't speak to the sport aspect, but for self defence having a good guard is VITAL no matter if you spar with contact or not. If you don't have a good guard during sparring then how do you expect to have one in a real self defence situation. If you are training semi-contact or non-contact if you drop your guard you can still get hit (something I was reminded of during my brown belt grading 24 years ago). The self defence moves you learnt during you TKD training are not a waste of time, you just have practice them diligently and keep in mind the context to determine when each one is appropriate for a given situation.


But I do think there are a lot of people out there who train in these styles that have far too much faith and belief in their abilities when training in such a way.
That's not just the domain of semi-contact martial artists.

In order to be able to fight and be effective in a real self defence situation, you need to be able to throw full contact techniques.
No doubt but pad work can go along way to that end.

You need to know what it feels like to get hit full contact and how to deal with it when faced with a situation where getting hit could very easily leave you unconscious.
Not necessarily but you do have to keep that in mind every time a strike is thrown.

That’s the point I’m trying to make I guess. Students of these semi contact styles are taught that these techniques and styles will be effective if ever they are required to put them to use with real force to stop an opponent, but from my first hand experience I can say they really aren’t. I believe you fight how you train, and so to learn how to truly stop an opponent or a would be attacker, one has to train in a similar fashion, full contact, with force and power behind your strikes and techniques. If anyone feels differently or has trained in both semi and full contact styles then please let me know.
Full contact sparring also introduces its fair share of bad habits such as stopping when there is an illegal target hit (accidental groin strike, eye poke, headbutt, cut etc), some Muay Thai fighters will only condition one leg, some martial artists will overbalance and just about fall over when they miss the target, intentionally taking hits to get one in and only conditioning certain areas and neglecting others (the back for example because it is not a scoring area) and there are some areas you can't condition. Some full contact martial artists believe that just because they can take a hit from a glove wearing body armor that they can flesh on flesh in a real situation and that's not always the case.

You make some good points but whatever contact level you train you have to be aware of it's limitations and try to overcome them as best as you can, there is no way to completely simulate real violence in training (there is really no such thing as full contact training) because whatever method you use will always have some element missing.
 

WingChunIan

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Having made a similar journey from TKD to MT and then on to Wing Chun I would agree with the original poster. Too many people who train in arts where there is only semi to light contact have way too much faith in what they can do. Generating power against kick shields, pads and breaking boards and bricks is not the same as having to generate the same amount of power against a moving target that is also trying to hit back. As for the defence side, much of what is taught in martial arts schools re grabbing punches out of the air or blocking and countering falls apart when someone throws full power combinations at you rather than the nice single punch that is so often trained. The only way to know if your guard \ defence is any good is to have someone genuinely trying to hit you with multiple shots. My Wing Chun training incorporates more full contact work than many because of lessons learned during those early years following the transition from TKD to MT.
 

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Hi, so I’d like to discuss a topic which has already been covered countless times in arguments all over the internet. I would like to avoid this descending into yet another and instead discuss it with fellow sensible adults, so with that in mind let me start by saying I do not wish to offend anyone with my views, I will put across the reasons behind my arguments and that I have respect for anyone who studies any martial arts style…….I also apologise for the length of this post.
So I’d like to talk about the effectiveness of martial arts in real life self defence situations, and especially martial arts who spar semi contact as to those fighting styles where full contact is practised.
I am a former ITF tae Kwon Do Black Belt who 2 years ago switched to training and fighting in Muay Thai. I have also had a little experience in boxing and kick boxing. The ITF Tae Kwon Do I did was semi contact, all others full contact. Whilst I studied TKD I always thought I could defend myself pretty well in a real fight, trusting that my skills would be enough to overcome an attacker unless they were much bigger or simply a better fighter than me, but the past 2 years of full contact Muay Thai has made me reconsider, and here is why.

  1. When you train and spar semi contact it becomes second nature to do so, and although you tell yourself that if ever you had to you could perform the moves and strikes full contact against a would be attacker, it is much easier said than done. When I first started Muay Thai and started sparring the guys there, although I was getting hit harder than I ever had in TKD it took me a good few months before I started hitting back properly. Although I knew I was allowed to spar and hit harder, years of semi contact sparring left me simply flicking my kicks and pulling my punches as it was second nature. Simply, my point is that in order to be able to throw an effective punch, kick, knee etc that will truly stop your opponent/would be attacker in their tracks or put them down, one has to train and spar this way. When you spar semi contact you are training yourself not to do this. Whereas in styles where fighting is done full contact such as boxing, muay thai, MMA etc, you do. At the gym in training obviously it is not full on, but as you are training for a full contact bout, it is still much more intense and as much like a real fight as it is possible to get somewhat safely.
  2. I cant really comment on other semi contact styles, but in TKD when it came to defense it was more a case of dodging than blocking most strikes. We were trained to keep a guard up of sorts, but nothing like the tight upper body and head guard one MUST keep up in a full contact bout to avoid getting KO’d. The simple reason is that obviously if you are not getting hit hard the need for a good tight defensive guard is not as important or necessary. Training and fighting full contact teaches you that a good guard is vital in a fight, and it also teaches you how to take a hit if a strike does get through, which they inevitably will. If you have never fought full contact before, let me tell you it’s a real wake up call the first time you do. When someone starts throwing shots a you with the intention of knocking you out instead of simply scoring a point it’s a real shock to the system and you need to know how to deal with it. The only way to do that is to train in a similar fashion. The self defence moves we learnt in TKD where you would grab someone’s arm or try and lock them up I now realise are a complete waste of time, you’d have better luck waving a fly swatter at a would be attacker.
  3. The general training and conditioning when one trains to fight full contact as appose to practicing a semi contact martial art is totally different. You train almost like a pro athlete even at low level fights, so your fitness and endurance, and also your mental strength puts you in a much better position if ever faced to defending yourself in a real situation.

Now I am by no means saying that to train in a semi contact style is useless, far from it. Any training in any form of martial art or fighting style will put you in a much better position than having no such training at all. But I do think there are a lot of people out there who train in these styles that have far too much faith and belief in their abilities when training in such a way. I know I did, and it was not until the guys at the muay thai gym walked right through my flicky TKD kicks and planted me right in the face several hundred times that I started to re-consider. In order to be able to fight and be effective in a real self defence situation, you need to be able to throw full contact techniques. You need to know what it feels like to get hit full contact and how to deal with it when faced with a situation where getting hit could very easily leave you unconscious. That’s the point I’m trying to make I guess. Students of these semi contact styles are taught that these techniques and styles will be effective if ever they are required to put them to use with real force to stop an opponent, but from my first hand experience I can say they really aren’t. I believe you fight how you train, and so to learn how to truly stop an opponent or a would be attacker, one has to train in a similar fashion, full contact, with force and power behind your strikes and techniques. If anyone feels differently or has trained in both semi and full contact styles then please let me know.

IMHO, the martial arts are about contact. Sadly, in todays world, there're people who want to train, but are too afraid of contact. Its my opinion that those folks should look for something else to do, because they probably won't be happy. I know of many schools in which the teacher has said that the training is hard and not for everyone.

As for your questions on contact. I feel that there always has to be contact. Sorry, but when you're not making ANY contact, you'll never know whether or not what you just did, will actually work. How can you, when you're not hitting? Now, the levels of contact can and IMO should be changed up, depending on what the focus is. For example: During sparring, if you're working on a specific drill or technique, nothing says that you have to pound away, but instead, slow the pace down, have lighter contact, etc. Of course, you're going to have to put some pressure on yourself to see if what you did slow, can actually be done fast, so yeah, then the pace and contact will have to be picked up.

For the past 2 yrs, after leaving the Kenpo that I've done for over 20, I've been training Kyokushin. That was a huge difference from the sparring that I was so used to. The contact was much harder, and the target areas, ie: getting used to kicking the legs, getting hit in the legs, and learning how to properly block those leg kicks. The majority of our sparring sessions are very hard contact. Recently, and I wasn't there for this particular class, but the entire class paired up with someone, and did a lighter contact round, only lasting about a minute, before rotating to a new partner. IMO, this is good, and I wish I was there, because by doing that, it takes less of a toll on the body, but also allows the people to work on specific things.

The same can apply to your empty hand self defense as well. Start off slow, make sure you're targeting the correct areas, etc, and then pick up the pace. How can someone possibly know if they can actually deliver a hard shot or take one for that matter, if they never experience it?
 

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Having made a similar journey from TKD to MT and then on to Wing Chun I would agree with the original poster. Too many people who train in arts where there is only semi to light contact have way too much faith in what they can do. Generating power against kick shields, pads and breaking boards and bricks is not the same as having to generate the same amount of power against a moving target that is also trying to hit back. As for the defence side, much of what is taught in martial arts schools re grabbing punches out of the air or blocking and countering falls apart when someone throws full power combinations at you rather than the nice single punch that is so often trained. The only way to know if your guard \ defence is any good is to have someone genuinely trying to hit you with multiple shots. My Wing Chun training incorporates more full contact work than many because of lessons learned during those early years following the transition from TKD to MT.
Couldn't agree more with this! It's amazing how I'd have students tell me that they got the technique down and are ready for more. Yet somehow, that technique they knew so well, seems to fall apart rapidly, when I'd really try to hit them. :)
 

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Learning to miss and learning to tap people is okay if its used as a side dish to more useful training.

Just my opinion.
 

Chris Parker

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Hi, so I’d like to discuss a topic which has already been covered countless times in arguments all over the internet. I would like to avoid this descending into yet another and instead discuss it with fellow sensible adults, so with that in mind let me start by saying I do not wish to offend anyone with my views, I will put across the reasons behind my arguments and that I have respect for anyone who studies any martial arts style…….I also apologise for the length of this post.
So I’d like to talk about the effectiveness of martial arts in real life self defence situations, and especially martial arts who spar semi contact as to those fighting styles where full contact is practised.
I am a former ITF tae Kwon Do Black Belt who 2 years ago switched to training and fighting in Muay Thai. I have also had a little experience in boxing and kick boxing. The ITF Tae Kwon Do I did was semi contact, all others full contact. Whilst I studied TKD I always thought I could defend myself pretty well in a real fight, trusting that my skills would be enough to overcome an attacker unless they were much bigger or simply a better fighter than me, but the past 2 years of full contact Muay Thai has made me reconsider, and here is why.

  1. When you train and spar semi contact it becomes second nature to do so, and although you tell yourself that if ever you had to you could perform the moves and strikes full contact against a would be attacker, it is much easier said than done. When I first started Muay Thai and started sparring the guys there, although I was getting hit harder than I ever had in TKD it took me a good few months before I started hitting back properly. Although I knew I was allowed to spar and hit harder, years of semi contact sparring left me simply flicking my kicks and pulling my punches as it was second nature. Simply, my point is that in order to be able to throw an effective punch, kick, knee etc that will truly stop your opponent/would be attacker in their tracks or put them down, one has to train and spar this way. When you spar semi contact you are training yourself not to do this. Whereas in styles where fighting is done full contact such as boxing, muay thai, MMA etc, you do. At the gym in training obviously it is not full on, but as you are training for a full contact bout, it is still much more intense and as much like a real fight as it is possible to get somewhat safely.
  2. I cant really comment on other semi contact styles, but in TKD when it came to defense it was more a case of dodging than blocking most strikes. We were trained to keep a guard up of sorts, but nothing like the tight upper body and head guard one MUST keep up in a full contact bout to avoid getting KO’d. The simple reason is that obviously if you are not getting hit hard the need for a good tight defensive guard is not as important or necessary. Training and fighting full contact teaches you that a good guard is vital in a fight, and it also teaches you how to take a hit if a strike does get through, which they inevitably will. If you have never fought full contact before, let me tell you it’s a real wake up call the first time you do. When someone starts throwing shots a you with the intention of knocking you out instead of simply scoring a point it’s a real shock to the system and you need to know how to deal with it. The only way to do that is to train in a similar fashion. The self defence moves we learnt in TKD where you would grab someone’s arm or try and lock them up I now realise are a complete waste of time, you’d have better luck waving a fly swatter at a would be attacker.
  3. The general training and conditioning when one trains to fight full contact as appose to practicing a semi contact martial art is totally different. You train almost like a pro athlete even at low level fights, so your fitness and endurance, and also your mental strength puts you in a much better position if ever faced to defending yourself in a real situation.

Now I am by no means saying that to train in a semi contact style is useless, far from it. Any training in any form of martial art or fighting style will put you in a much better position than having no such training at all. But I do think there are a lot of people out there who train in these styles that have far too much faith and belief in their abilities when training in such a way. I know I did, and it was not until the guys at the muay thai gym walked right through my flicky TKD kicks and planted me right in the face several hundred times that I started to re-consider. In order to be able to fight and be effective in a real self defence situation, you need to be able to throw full contact techniques. You need to know what it feels like to get hit full contact and how to deal with it when faced with a situation where getting hit could very easily leave you unconscious. That’s the point I’m trying to make I guess. Students of these semi contact styles are taught that these techniques and styles will be effective if ever they are required to put them to use with real force to stop an opponent, but from my first hand experience I can say they really aren’t. I believe you fight how you train, and so to learn how to truly stop an opponent or a would be attacker, one has to train in a similar fashion, full contact, with force and power behind your strikes and techniques. If anyone feels differently or has trained in both semi and full contact styles then please let me know.

As you've put this in the Self Defence forum, I thought I'd answer in that vein... everything you're talking about is sports based. All sparring teaches bad habits for self defence. Can the skills transfer? Absolutely. But the reality is that sports training is great for sports applications, and self defence training is better for self defence... and confusing the two leads to many false assumptions and bad habits, regardless of the level of contact.

As to the question of light/semi-contact versus "full" contact (whatever that is in the context... I was teaching knife defence tonight, with quite a fair bit of pressure testing, but to do that with "full contact", especially with knives, would be a bit, well, unrealistic and foolhardy, to say the least...), honestly, I don't think that's the major defining factor. I'd say that what's more important is that skills are tested (under pressure) in the right context... that can get very serious even before we get to high levels of contact.
 

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One of the biggest dangers of sparring with regards to self defense, in my opinion, is that it teaches you a very bad habit of re-engaging. In a self defense situation, you want to deal with the attack, and then deter further attack while you get away to safety. For those like cops, who have a duty to arrest, it's modified to control the subject, and I'm not addressing legal issues of appropriate force with this -- just the general concept of self defense. In sparring, especially light to medium contact -- you do the opposite. You move in, score, move out, then repeat. I'm not going to try to dig it up, but there's a YouTube video of a security guard fighting someone. The guard looks great; good stance, nice movement, good kicks & strikes, etc., and the fight goes on for a couple of minutes. Except he was in a real situation, not a sparring match. He failed to effectively move in and control the subject because he was "fighting."
 

oftheherd1

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You can train to strike effectively using semi-contact or non-contact sparring without flicking your kicks out and pulling your punches if you learn the appropriate amount of control and distancing. If you are training for sport you can still score points with a flicking kick or pulled punch and that can carry over to full contact sparring if that is what you are used to.

...

You make some good points but whatever contact level you train you have to be aware of it's limitations and try to overcome them as best as you can, there is no way to completely simulate real violence in training (there is really no such thing as full contact training) because whatever method you use will always have some element missing.

1st bolded comment: I think that is what is missing from the answers here: Control. That implies distance as well. As I was taught TKD, the reason for control was that if you were good enough to stop a full force move a fraction of an inch from a person, you could stop a couple of inches inside the person if you wished. We were also taught to know what type of fight we were in.

2nd bolded comment: I think that goes back to the type of training and control.

As you've put this in the Self Defence forum, I thought I'd answer in that vein... everything you're talking about is sports based. All sparring teaches bad habits for self defence. Can the skills transfer? Absolutely. But the reality is that sports training is great for sports applications, and self defence training is better for self defence... and confusing the two leads to many false assumptions and bad habits, regardless of the level of contact.

As to the question of light/semi-contact versus "full" contact (whatever that is in the context... I was teaching knife defence tonight, with quite a fair bit of pressure testing, but to do that with "full contact", especially with knives, would be a bit, well, unrealistic and foolhardy, to say the least...), honestly, I don't think that's the major defining factor. I'd say that what's more important is that skills are tested (under pressure) in the right context... that can get very serious even before we get to high levels of contact.

Your point of context of a fight/contest is well taken by me. One needs to know what type of fight they are in and respond to that type of fight. You have to prepare yourself mentally for the differences and apply different responses.

Some use rubber knives. The point is to avoid contact with the 'edged weapon,' not whether it is real or not.

One of the biggest dangers of sparring with regards to self defense, in my opinion, is that it teaches you a very bad habit of re-engaging. In a self defense situation, you want to deal with the attack, and then deter further attack while you get away to safety. For those like cops, who have a duty to arrest, it's modified to control the subject, and I'm not addressing legal issues of appropriate force with this -- just the general concept of self defense. In sparring, especially light to medium contact -- you do the opposite. You move in, score, move out, then repeat. I'm not going to try to dig it up, but there's a YouTube video of a security guard fighting someone. The guard looks great; good stance, nice movement, good kicks & strikes, etc., and the fight goes on for a couple of minutes. Except he was in a real situation, not a sparring match. He failed to effectively move in and control the subject because he was "fighting."

Good comment. I think you really bring out the point that one needs to know the kind of fight/contest one is in, and how to react to that type of fight/contest. Training, sparing, self defense, subduing enough to effect an arrest, all are different and require different responses. One needs to train oneself what is appropriate for each different one. I would also say that imo, re-engaging is the forte of sports MA and dojang sparing. SD usually teaches to end things as quickly as possible. That might be totally incapacitating a person, or inflicting pain or injury that allows the victim to run safely away.

As you said, you have to modify that in your job.
 

lklawson

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IMHO, the martial arts are about contact.
Doesn't that kinda depend upon what your goals in training are? Are you saying that a person who is old and frail or disabled in some way can't "do real martial arts" because they can't take a hit?

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

lklawson

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One of the biggest dangers of sparring with regards to self defense, in my opinion, is that it teaches you a very bad habit of re-engaging. In a self defense situation, you want to deal with the attack, and then deter further attack while you get away to safety.
What if you're interested in Self Offense instead of Self Defense? You wouldn't be as interested in negating the attack and then disengaging with that strategy.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

jks9199

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What if you're interested in Self Offense instead of Self Defense? You wouldn't be as interested in negating the attack and then disengaging with that strategy.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk

Different question, different situation. Let's assume we're talking pre-emptive use of force. Your goal there is still, in response to a perceived threat, to do sufficient damage to deter an attack, and enable you to escape safely. If you're a cop or other person with similar duty to act, the difference is still that you want to do enough to control the person, and no more.

And if you're just looking to go kick some ***... Well, that's a whole different kettle of fish!
 

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I'm not going to try to dig it up, but there's a YouTube video of a security guard fighting someone. The guard looks great; good stance, nice movement, good kicks & strikes, etc., and the fight goes on for a couple of minutes. Except he was in a real situation, not a sparring match. He failed to effectively move in and control the subject because he was "fighting."

I saw that video and I agree with you, the guard's 'fighting' was not very efficient.
 

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A lot of the orig author's post and responding comments are about the ability to actually take a hit and dish out a full contact, effective hit. I have to agree that being experienced in full contact does better prepare you for a "real" fight or on the street physical confrontation and that a lot of sport/point fighters or MAs that do not pressure test their style (I would be inclined to say this applies to many, many clubs) are living in a dream. But this is only half (or less) the equation of good SD skills and what SD is really about. When I have trained on SD aspects, and not just tournament fighting to rules of that MA/sport, this has ranged from situational awareness, avoidance, de-escalation, physical action and beyond any actual physical action taken. The "fight" is only a small part of many SD situations and (while you better get it right if this happens) this is actually the part you want to avoid the most.

In a full on fight I would agree that a full contact fighter is going to generally be in a better position to acquit themselves and hopefully end things quicker. Unfortunately many of the full contact skills or "mind sets" can get you in trouble. Too much eagerness to engage without scoping the situation or surroundings or the weapons which may be on hand or in the possession of your assailent just for one. There have been very unfortunate occurrences in the recent past where very highly ranked/able full contact sport fighters have met with untimely death or injury due to actually engaging in what was a life and death situation (and not realising it) where a lesser fighter but more "SD aware" practitioner would have not engaged or descalated/avoided.

My TKD and judo training never touched on SD or "real world". Interestingly, in the two years I took WC, the club I was at never really touched on SD either - much to my surprise. I have also trained at muay thai clubs and SD is non-existent. It was only when I started goju ryu where the training curriculum included SD and weapons defence. Also one of the sensei was a LEO and worked extensively in the court cells and we had a high level jujitsu practitioner who had a company that taught SD and trained security guards etc and these guys were genuinely interested in "on the street" skills. I am so glad I got to know these guys and had my eyes opened.
 
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MJS

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Doesn't that kinda depend upon what your goals in training are? Are you saying that a person who is old and frail or disabled in some way can't "do real martial arts" because they can't take a hit?

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk

This implies that the arts should be molded to what the student wants. Stories that I've read and heard from people, I get the impression that the training was nothing like it is today, which in many cases, is watered down. As for the goals...well, sure, some people use the arts for other things, ie: to meet new people, make friends, weight loss, etc. IMO, those are side benefits. I dont use the MAs to lose weight, I use a gym. Sure, weight loss is a side benefit, but thats not my goal.

As for the other...did old, frail people train years ago? I dont know, however, if they train today, perhaps they should look for something that suits them best. I mean, would you expect the MMA gym, Kyokushin dojo, to modify their training for 1 person? This is why things needed to change, because some schools are more concerned with the $$, rather than quality. Can't have too much contact because little Joey might get hurt.
 

MJS

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As you've put this in the Self Defence forum, I thought I'd answer in that vein... everything you're talking about is sports based. All sparring teaches bad habits for self defence. Can the skills transfer? Absolutely. But the reality is that sports training is great for sports applications, and self defence training is better for self defence... and confusing the two leads to many false assumptions and bad habits, regardless of the level of contact.

As to the question of light/semi-contact versus "full" contact (whatever that is in the context... I was teaching knife defence tonight, with quite a fair bit of pressure testing, but to do that with "full contact", especially with knives, would be a bit, well, unrealistic and foolhardy, to say the least...), honestly, I don't think that's the major defining factor. I'd say that what's more important is that skills are tested (under pressure) in the right context... that can get very serious even before we get to high levels of contact.

One thing that I'd do with my SD techs is have the attacker do more than 1 thing, and resist a bit. IE: A preset tech against a rt. hand lapel grab. While the defender is defending, the attacker does something to offset the defense, ie: grab with his other hand, punch, etc. This can, unless its watched carefully, can turn into somewhat of a sparring match.

IMO though, while I do see your point, as we've had these discussions before, I feel that the sparring offers some things that just working techs, doesn't, some of those things being stamina and the ability to take a shot as well as give one, with movement.
 

Aiki Lee

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To train self-defense you need your partners to simulate real attacking energy and not try to box you or spar with you. That’s a competitive mentality. In self-defense it is different and you have someone attacking someone else the whole time until it is over.
When the attack stops the self-defense stops, if you keep going you get into mutual fighting territory which I would still say sparring is not the best option for. Sparring in all its forms is about proving you are better. Combat is about seriously damaging or capturing somebody, and self-defense is about escape.
Personally, I think the best tool for training self-defense realistically is to emotionally charge your training.In a real confrontation there are going to be a lot of feelings of anxiety,anger, fear, indignation, the list goes on. Practicing in those states of mind will be beneficial when you enter them for real if such a thing ever happens to you.
 

Cyriacus

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For me sparring is about learning and practicing attack and defence physically and mentally.

So when you spar with one another, you gang up on one person and beat his or her head against the floor?
 

Tony Dismukes

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Light-contact sparring is a valid training tool, but it works a lot better when the participants have experience sparring/fighting full-contact. When I do light-contact sparring with training partners who are used to hard-contact sparring, they understand how to keep the distancing and the body mechanics realistic. When I do light-contact sparring with training partners who aren't used to hard contact, they have a tendency to play "tag" from out of range with unrealistic/ineffective strikes.

Light contact sparring is useful because you can only do so many rounds of hard-contact sparring in a week before your body starts to break down. Adding light-contact sparring allows you to spend extra time developing your reflexes and timing without tearing your body down. However, that only works if you understand realistic distance and body mechanics.

As others have noted, sparring in general is not an accurate simulation of most self-defense situations. Sparring can be (if you do it right) a pretty good simulation of a certain type of fighting - a one on one "duel" or "challenge match." That is very different from most self-defense situations where the goals and skills of the different participants are asymmetric. Still, a foundation in hard-contact sparring can build attributes and skills which are very useful in a self-defense situation. The trick is to not bring over certain aspects of the sparring tactical mindset to a self-defense situation where they may be counterproductive.
 

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