How to use martial arts in a real fight

Martial arts are not automatically effective

In a self-defense situation, in order to express the full potential of a martial art (traditional or modern), it is important to understand that we need:

  • Daily training – Our body must be trained with daily perseverance (after 3 days of inactivity the decline begins, we start to lose what we have gained, read Tips on how to stretch our training times)
  • Rational training – Our workout must be reasoned and focused, nothing should be left to chance; we have to understand and rework every experience and knowledge learned; we need to balance the effort and the development of each body element (read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///) in terms of conditioning (read Physical conditioning: how it works)
  • Incremental training – During each practice session, we must try to express something like the 150% of what we will need in a real battle (in terms of endurance, speed, technical precision, etc.); when we are training, we must do the opposite of what we would do in a real combat, we must search for fatigue, controlled pain (etc., read Intensity of training: depends on what?)
  • To create a set of working techniques – We need to make a personal selection of techniques, grouping the ones we choose as the favorites, in term of effectiveness; once we have completely understood them (read The best way to study technique: 10 tips) they have to be tested in different situations and especially with not collaborative partners (read How to do sparring)
  • Mental preparation – We have not only to train our body but also and especially our mind to withstand the stress of a real clash (read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///), to plan our safety (read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///), to use negotiation (read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///)
  • A wide range preparation to the fight – We must thoroughly learn how to manage all aspects of the fight (fight on the ground, joint levers, proper / improper weapons, opponent’s study, etc.)
  • To work on realistic contexts – We must test our capabilities in as much as possible real situations (with proper precautions and limitations but not in a preordained way); limiting oneself to theory is useless, human beings become good at doing what they do (if we do not fight, we can not become good at fighting, if we do not negotiate, we can not become good at negotiating, etc.)

A note by Master Kongling – Although it may seem obvious, the last point must be particularly emphasized; if we want to learn to play Tennis we must play Tennis matches, if we want to learn to cook we have to cook, if we really want to learn how to fight, it is inevitable: we must fight; otherwise we risk to be beaten even by a not trained person (read Why martial arts do not work: 5 reasons).

The theory is not the practice

We will never learn to fight if we never get into a fight.

The study of combat theory helps to gain solid martial roots to work on but it does not substitute the work itself (experience, errors, conditioning, testing, etc.):

  • No one can learn to cook by remembering hundreds of recipes (or becoming extremely fast in mixing the sauce)
  • Can a doctor say to be a doctor after spending a lifetime avoiding to cure people? He can not.
  • Can a person, who perfectly knows the theory behind the driving, be able to drive a car without ever having entered in one of them? Probably not. Can he/she compete with expert pilots? Surely not.

A note by Master Kongling – Let’s be clear, not wanting to fight can be a personal choice, respectable and acceptable (and this is the first thing that I ask to any new student of mine); a lot of martial arts have many facets beyond the struggle surface (personal growth, meditation, wellness, physical fitness, artistic expression, etc.), the key thing is (let’s repeat it): to do not pretend to know how to fight without having ever fought.

The problem is in the practitioner and not in the martial art

Any martial art if studied in a superficial way, without preparing the body, without adapting the mind, without immersing it in concrete situations (etc.) will be hopelessly ineffective even in the presence of a mid-low level adversary.

Many times we hear about:

  • Ineffective martial arts
  • Outdated styles
  • Combat systems not good for sport competitions
  • Combat systems not good for certain types of confrontations
  • Combat systems not good for self-defense
  • Too delicate / violent techniques

These are puerile and sterile considerations: if a practitioner truly knows what he/she is doing, whatever style of combat he is using can be effective (read Martial art and self-defense: what are the differences?).

It is not the fighting style that works or not but who studies it and then how he/she applies it (in a more or less coherent manner in relation to the situation).

It does not exist a perfect martial art:

  • There are always different approaches, limitations (etc.) but it is up to us to fill voids and distances
  • A good student / practitioner should never be completely passive in his martial growth
  • The key point is that we need to adopt a constructive mindset (even at the start of our path)

A note by Master Kongling – We must learn to take the best from each lesson, style, combat system (etc.). Choosing to refuse to learn from the others out of pure pride or parochialism is pure idiocy.

In-depth articles


Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Have you ever had a martial arts teacher who recognizes only his own style as effective / universal?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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