I had a recent conversation about some of the things done during martial training both with and without weapons over the last 40 years. The list is pretty long, especially when it comes to my open hand training. The comment / question was asked, “was that particularly smart”. The answer of course was “not really”. But, that is not always the point.

Just because you do something many consider  “not particularly smart” does not mean it isn’t useful, or instructive, or even purposeful. Risk taking for the sake of learning is an age old concept (especially in marital pursuits). It’s fading from existence in this politically correct, litigious, safety conscious, risk averse world comprised of snowflakes in need of “safe spaces”. Risk aversion to the point of complete safety is just as detrimental as risk taking without purpose or practice. I see it all the time in martial arts training. It becomes so “safe” it negates the entire reason for training in the first place .   With  “martial arts” schools that refuse to fight at all its often aerobics in a gi, usually a brightly colored one.

Just in case anyone has forgotten, defending yourself or others in the real world is not safe. In fact, its dangerous as hell, you may get injured or even die.  It’s a really good ideal to learn that “before” you either need or decide to do so, presumably why you train in a “martial art” to begin with.   Its also why you see people intervene “expecting” a safe outcome only to get beat to a pulp or shot. Surprise, real life is not like it is on television or your favorite video game.  Its entirely possible, even likely the person you are fighting spent more time training to fight then playing video games.

Fighting is painful, and pain is instructive

Maybe the best example in Karate is the need for  a virtual Red Man suit for kumite.   For  a few thousand years kumite practiced in traditional schools was relatively safe without pillows attached to your hands and forearms, shins and ankles, and everything else.   Why, because you knew it was risky and trained to avert the risk.  It was not a contest, it was fighting, and you knew that up front.   It might hurt, and minor injury was part of the equation, its why you trained. The best means of averting risk is to be trained, and train, and train, and train some more. You were expected to exhibit control before you were allowed to fight.  The basic idea being the more control you had  in the dojo the more capable you would be in a fight. Rather than protect against the unskilled, you were required to become skilled.  The better you were the harder you fought.  Will it involve pain,  sure, but getting hit is part of fighting, a big part in fact.  Getting hit teaches you its to be avoided and endured when unavoidable.   It’s why you see “trained fighters” get their clock cleaned in a real fight, or officers coddled in “combatives”  training stunned into inaction the first time they get hit.  The last place you want to “learn” what its like to get hit is in a fight.  As martial training has become less martial and more training, primarily for trophy’s and medals it does little to prepare students for a fight,

Another good example is Tameshigiri, typically seen as board breaking.  Mostly its about toughening your hands, feet, and the rest of you to deliver and take impact. Breaking stuff is mostly show, builds confidence and points out flaws in your technique (painfully), but its the training to perform that is critical.  Admittedly much of what I practiced years ago was not particularly smart.  Hard to call breaking river rocks in half, or bricks, or ball bats particularly smart.  Luckily you can accomplish the same thing with bags and other means without destroying yourself. On the other hand I never felt the need for most impact tools as an officer since most of what they accomplished could be done with my extremities, something always there and generally faster and more effective.   Nor was getting hit particular bothersome, the advantage of prior experience in a “safer” environment.

Firearms training is much the same, some of what you do in preparation for a gunfight hurts, or should.  Force on force training being the most critical.   Getting “shot” by a simulations weapon should hurt, thats the idea.  Should you risk injury, not really, you need to protect your face, eyes, etc.  Gloves are critical, you can even avoid open skin.  But dressing up like a storm trooper making it impossible to experience any pain is counterproductive.  You must know when you get hit, otherwise its just play. It turns it into a live action video game or paintball,  not training for a fight. Nor should you be going “one on one” with zero protection and your shirt off, yep had to do that at a class.  Not particularly smart, nor necessary as you can accomplish the same thing without the welts. There is a compromise between risk aversion and stupidity for effect, good teachers know the difference.

Its Risk Aversion, not Prevention

When it comes to training for a fight whether armed or not its about risk aversion not elimination.  You cannot eliminate risk and provide any level of real world preparation.  Does that mean you need to engage in some of the stupidity seen on social media, of course not, but nor does it mean you make it so safe it’s no longer practical preparation.  In both endeavors there are two aspects of training, skillset and application.  Practicing the skillset is possible in all kinds of situations, most pretty safe, some completely.    Competition is a great example whether its with your hands, a shinai, or firearm.  Practicing  skill sets during training or competition is incredibly valuable, but if the intent is to use that skill in a fight you need to train in its application.  For open handed or hand held weapon skill sets that means some sort of fighting, not dancing, scoring, or playing, but fighting.   Learning what to do in a gunfight, where rounds are going both ways requires  force on force.  Both can result in injury, pain should be expected and your focus is on learning from your mistakes and improving.  Lessons learned that save your life are best learned in a practical training environment that averts as much risk as possible.  There are tons of sayings that express this.  Its “better to sweat in practice than bleed in battle”. Blood “lost in training is saved in a fight”.  Better to “lose and learn in training, then learn and die in a fight”.  It goes on and on, but the basic principal is the same. Martial training for the real world requires risk, pain, and even an occasional bruise or bloody nose.  Its not easy, but some times the easy way out is nothing more than preparation for  the quickest trip to the hospital or morgue.  Its your choice, you should “choose wisely”!