View Full Version : Help the neophytes..what mistakes?

July 5, 2002, 08:02 PM
We all make mistakes when we went out to learn self-defense (armed or unarmed)....what were some of the early mistakes that you made when you first started your search?

Please tell of things that you would avoid doing if you had to do it over again so that everyone can learn...not only the neophytes.

When I first started, I would always be in the first line. After running into some sadistic sensei's (teachers) who loved whipping around new students to prove how tough they were, I learned to stand anonymously in the middle of the crowd until I found out who really was teaching and who was just whipping you for their own gratification.

Funny thing, I have this little stubborn streak in me, I'd volunteer in basic and later when I had to take P.O.S.T. arrest and unarmed defense techniques, I 'd volunteer first so that I could see how the "experts" applied their techniques....also to see if I could counter their attacks.

July 7, 2002, 02:01 PM
"That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

IOW, what mistakes?

Everybody learns differently. I learn by doing, and best by a briefing before doing. Still alive....:D

July 7, 2002, 02:37 PM
Some of the common errors I see.....

Expecting too much too soon:

Self-defense is not something you drink from a bottle. It is something that in order to be significant takes commitment and time.

Not taking what you are doing seriously enough:

Once again, this comes down to making a commitment. Any martial art you practice should not be a part-time approach. Many students may train hard while in class, but then forget all about their art when not at the training hall. A good instructor should try his best to peak a student's interest but by and large any student must push from within. (some have a hard time with this)

Changing schools frequently.

Many times a student will become bored as they go through the repetiveness of training in a particular art. When this happens they may lose interest, and go to other styles or even other schools that seem more attractive.
It helps to shop around before you begin training if you have any concerns about whichever school you may have visited. If you feel you are in a good school and see (no, not overnight) improvement in your abilities and your quality of life then it is important to train seriously and regularly. The more you put into anything the more you will get out of it.

My biggest mistake...........Blindly following a grandmaster who no longer stuck to the tenets of our art. I made the mistake of supporting my grandmaster over the tenets.........No one should ever do that......If your instructor (or master) ever blatantly disregards the tenets (especially when it involves you directly) then you must bring it to his attention (I did) and if you cannot work out the problems (I couldn't) you find a new direction.

July 8, 2002, 07:09 PM
Sticking with a style or a teacher that you don't feel comfortable with.

Some people just don't fit a certain style, due to physical or personality types. For me, it's aikido. I've tried it, and tried it, and tried it again, and it just doesn't 'click' with me the way that kickboxing and arnis do.

Going into the style thinking that it will turn you into an Invincible War God.

Faking it. By God, if you're going to train, train. Fiddle-futzing around wastes your teachers time, and it wastes your time. A couple of months ago, we were doing pad drills with the baton and my partner was throwing really sloppy strikes, no power-no form, and she wasn't even watching the target on a lot of her strikes. When asked, her response was that she, "Wasn't, like, going to actually have to hit someone with a stick outside the school."

*AAARRGGHH!* Why did she even bother?!

Train like you're in a fight, 'cause you're gonna fight like you trained.
More sweat in training, less blood in fighting.


July 9, 2002, 01:16 AM
Know what your goal is. Do you want to learn a traditional art? Are you looking for self defense skills? Are you looking for a contact sport? Fitness?

My primary interest is self defense applications.

If your looking for self defense then you want simple, easy to use techniques that will do some good against larger, stronger opponents (and tactics that will work against mutiple opponents). I have attended "self defense" seminars that were supposed to be targeted for women. I could only make about 1/2 the techniques work against unresisting male opponents that were larger than me. And I was a heck of a lot stronger and bigger than the women in the class. And I lifted wts and had been in MA for 4+ years at the time.

If you want to actually learn weapon retention skills & disarms [mainly handgun, knife, & stick/asp] you need to know what your looking for. Kali/arnis/Escrima probably best bet for stick & knife. Ayoob or Lindall for weapon retention IMHO.

Also you need to practice at least some in street clothes and street conditions. I still haven't found any really useful unarmed techniques to use here in MN when everyone is dressed for a real cold snap (-20 F or colder). Best technique for those days IMHO is a pocket gun in LARGE external pocket that you can shoot thru pocket. Or ASP carried in external pocket.

I have stopped counting the numer of black belts that think they are well equipped for self defense but have never even done kata in street clothes. They often don't know anything about situational awareness. Or about tactics except how it applies to sparring.

Also BIG problem with unarmed or armed is when "practicing" a defense against something outside your style, knife vs gun or empty hands or whatever, the aggresser never uses good techniques or tactics.

Example, what about someone attacking you that combines pepperspray with a knife? Or just a knife but they actually know how to use it?

July 11, 2002, 08:06 PM
OK, this is really long. I apologize in advance.

1) AVOID CONTRACTS. IMHO the places that make you sign contracts are going to screw you over and get their money whether you like it or not. If you decide this isn’t the
thing for you, they will say: “Too bad, so sad. Pay up.”

2) Avoid fad martial arts. Do some research. Find something that’s actually useful and realistic. Humans have been beating the snot out of each other for thousands of years, so there’s no “totally new, radical, extreme, unstoppable system” out there.

3) Find the right style for you: Many people who are seriously into MAs have tried more than one. This ties into 1 and 2 above. Lots of people beat their chests and proudly proclaim with religious fervor: “My MA is better than your MA”. Well, maybe for them, it is the best thing they’re seen, and more power to them. This is like the 9mm vs .45 debate. You can argue the various merits of one system over another forever, and probably both sides will have valid points. People do MAs for different reasons. I’m guessing that if you are reading this, you are into it for practical, real world application as opposed to competition, health or spiritual reasons. All of those are valid reasons (they need not be
mutually exclusive), but what is YOUR primary reason? The problem is that a lot of what is taught out there is more geared towards the latter three and not the first one. Plus, there
are a lot of “instructors” who just want your money.

3a) About women: I agree with Glamdring. If you are female, finding the right style is especially important, because while men often have enough strength to “power through” and use raw physical strength to make up for sloppy technique, women usually do not. This means that technique is much more important for women than it is for men. This also applies to small men. If you are female, don’t go to “women’s only classes”. Although it
might be intimidating, spar with men, because the odds are pretty good that if you ever have to do this for real, it will be against a man, not another woman.

4) Burnout. It’s great to be enthusiastic, but too much, too fast leads to injury and disinterest. Steady progress can be achieved but comes over time. This leads me to...

5) Have realistic expectations and the proper mindset: It can often be frustrating when you don’t feel like you are progressing fast enough, and you can also fall into the trap of feeling like you are invincible after a few lessons too. If you’re doing this for self defense, understand that nothing is ever 100% effective against 100% of your opponents 100% of the time. In this regard, I think that MA competitions are a good thing. They allow you to test (to a certain degree) a subset of your skills against an unfamiliar and uncooperative opponent. Just like IDPA shooters test their skills at a match, martial artists can test and improve themselves as well. Some people will disagree and say that competitions are
unrealistic and breed bad habits, but I would counter by saying that it is the only realistic alternative. Who is getting better training: someone who only practices their super lethal
kata in front of a mirror, or someone who actually goes toe to toe with another opponent? To use the IDPA analogy: the participants are not getting any return fire, etc, so it’s not
exactly totally realistic, but there aren’t many alternatives unless you want to get really serious and use Simunitions. This leads me to my next suggestion...

6) Be diverse: MAs are great, and shooting is great, but being proficient in both is best. I firmly believe that knowing the strengths and limitations of both is important and while
this might seem like an obvious point, it’s often overlooked by many martial artists who view the two as incompatible. Even if you are not a shooter, don’t own and/or don’t want to own a gun, have a proficient combat shooting instructor take you to the range a few times and demystify guns for you. Who knows, you may end up enjoying it. There are many martial artists out there who have absolutely no familiarity with firearms and that
ignorance combined with an overly inflated opinion of their own capabilities is a potentially lethal combination. The reverse is also true of shooters with no MA experience. Understanding empty hand techniques, OC, blunt weapons, edged weapons and firearms is important if you are truly serious about self defense. Some MA enthusiasts look down on firearms training, which they view as “cowardly”, just as many firearms enthusiasts laugh
at martial artists and say “Hell, I’d just shoot the bastard, like in the movie Indiana Jones”. I think both points of view are misguided. Also along the same lines, be open to ideas
from other MA styles.

7) Regarding street clothes and techniques: I am a big Judo/Jujutsu fan. Clothes, especially winter clothes, are GREAT for Judo techniques. I have had critics say stuff like: “Nobody wears big stupid white gis on the street... blah blah”, and they promptly shut up when I choke them out with their jacket. I have found that this works really well with denim jackets. Wearing any kind of coat or jacket makes many throwing techniques possible,
which is what Judo is most famous for. Of course, when standing on an icy sidewalk pretty much any sudden movement is going to be bad for either party, good thing Judo incorporates ground fighting (always has, even before it became the latest fad). Wearing gloves and mittens does create problems with getting a good grip. The gun in the pocket technique is a valid one (I like hammerless J frames for that reason), but what to do when lethal force is not an option? There are many variables and possible
scenarios, but the bottom line is that I have not found street clothes to be a significant impediment to executing techniques, from either the bad guys perspective or mine. As long as your clothes are comfortable and loose fitting you shouldn’t have too much trouble executing most MA techniques, with the possible exception of high flying kicks of the TKD flavor. I have heard of guys tearing their suit jackets executing Judo style takedowns, but with a little tailoring that could be fixed. Also, in my experience, when it’s -20 outside, the scumbags tend to stay indoors. YMMV.

What about summer attire when the BG is wearing a tshirt or no shirt at all? Unfortunately, I can’t just say “no shirt, no shoes, no service”. Of course, there are plenty of alternatives and it requires a change in tactics. The thing I like about Judo is that it
really is well thought out once you really study it in depth. There are techniques involving the gi and there are ones that require no gi at all. There are Judo kata that were originally designed to be performed in armor, which is really interesting and useful for those of us that utilize modern body armor. The self defense kata in Judo have been criticized as being overly simplistic, but that is what I really like about them. They are deceptively simple, but
effective when you understand them. I like the KISS principle. Lots of people fall for the flashy stuff, but we all know the simpler it is the better you will be able to perform it under stress.

Contrary to popular belief, Judo does incorporate striking techniques, however, many dojos completely ignore that part of the syllabus because they are overly preoccupied with
competition, where striking is forbidden (along with a couple of particularly dangerous throws/takedowns). That is unfortunate, because when it is practiced in totality, it really is a complete martial art, as opposed to a martial sport. What is ironic is that in most of the striking arts, throws, footsweeps and strangling techniques are normally forbidden in tournaments, while in Judo it is the opposite. In contrast to striking arts, Judo competitors
do not wear any protective equipment in competition, not even groin protection (ouch). It can be a little rough, it is an art that definitely does not appeal to the Tai Bo crowd.

This is not to say that there is nothing else to be learned. One of the more interesting things I learned from a mixed martial arts/BJJ guy while trading ground grappling ideas is how to do choking techniques with a tshirt. I suppose those guys know a thing or two after all (even if their takedowns are weak... heh heh... just kidding, you BJJ people... calm down... take deep breaths...in through the nose, out through the mouth...).

Take care.

Semper Fidelis,

July 12, 2002, 09:49 AM

Excellent post! Thanks and welome to TFL! :)


July 12, 2002, 02:22 PM

You're welcome and thank you.