At the end of of one of our self defense classes this past week a student asked me a question, and its not the question itself that initiated this post but the type of question it is. The end of this particular session has the student back up against a wall, forehead to forehead with another student armed with a soft training knife. At the go signal the armed student is trying to stick them over and over while the focus of this exercise is trying to stop getting stabbed to death, control the limbs, and get away or gain control of their attacker using the techniques we are practicing.
Its hard training. They have been drilling for an hour. They are tired, sweaty, and this is a competitive exercise with other students watching. They are under pressure and start out at an extreme deficit.
The question was along the lines of “Why am I losing so much?”. I understand in these moments why there is so much bullshit self defense out there, why folks walk into places in droves to hit pads and feel like an animal with an instructor telling them how effective they will be in that real fight they hope they never get into. People crave that. Its an honest want, the want to feel secure, to feel like your getting better, to be winning. And it burns me those that take that and sell them falsehoods to cover over their insecurities.
The answer. The real answer. The straight truth is that the other guy was better than you, and he starts with an advantage. There is no secret, no magic talisman, no foolproof technique you can learn in an hour to escape unscathed from a guy that’s bigger and stronger than you with a knife in his hand and your back to a wall. I could in those moments give an eloquently delivered rationalization for the failure, I could sell some doodad or show some secret move. Or, better yet, I could give all the exact same instruction and remove the competitive element, the live training, and simply reassure them how badass they are or would be if they ever had to use it.
Part of the lesson here, maybe even the most important part, is that the student comes to understand through experience just how dangerous this is. That perhaps avoidance and deescalation should be paramount, and that especially with weapons in play even the bigger, stronger, better fighter can lose or get seriously injured in the process.
Reality is messy, its chaotic, its violent, sudden, and comes bearing down on you with malicious intent. This is where we need to perform. This is the world we need to learn to thrive in. Gassed out and overwhelmed. No quit, no time outs, no reprieve or air unless we take it, until we win our right to breathe and move.
The only way to get there is through hard work over time. Its not an hour, not a day, not a weekend seminar. Its practice, reps, and rounds with others on the same path. It takes sweat, it takes patience, persistence, bruised flesh and battered egos, and most of all it takes time.
No, there aint no easy way.