The 10 most common combat mistakes

When the fight is real, everything changes

Important: in this article, we directly talk about the last step of the S.A.F.E. method for self-defense, the “engage” phase (read Personal defense: the S.A.F.E. method).

In the street (read Why martial arts do not work: 5 reasons), the difference between a good fighter and a novice, dies in the ability to control things like:

  • Panic
  • Adrenaline
  • Instinct

While the beginner remains prey of the natural human reactions (read Self-defense and mental preparation: what they do not tell you), the experienced practitioner should be able to exploit their flow (through his preparation, concentration and discipline, read How to use emotions in workout and combat).

To learn how to manage a real combat scenario is not simply at all but the first step is certainly to discover what are our limits and find a remedy to them (read Measure ourselves with errors):  in this regard, we want to analyze a list of some of the most common mistakes to correct.

The most common errors during a fight

Let’s start from some of the most trivial errors:

  • Have a too low / open guard – To keep a poor quality guard, allows our opponents to easily reach the most vulnerable areas of the human body (first and foremost, head, genitals and hips, the casual aggressor normally focus on them)
  • Underestimate the opponents – Assume without a particular reason that the opponents we are facing are inferior (eg. because we did martial arts, because they are thin, etc.)
  • Lose the control in the fight-or-flight moment – Such as when we get hit hard (humiliated, etc.), adrenaline and instinct can give us that “special” energy which urges us to ignore our defense to attack to the bitter end (in a violent but extremely predictable way); if on one side, this could work with common people, it does mean a certain defeat against a slightly more skilled opponent
  • To act “blindly” (irrationally) – Improperly using (in defense / attack) things like strength, grabbings, too wide / predictable movements (etc., maybe with no guard, no overall view, no strategy, no thinking about what might happen next, etc.)
  • Use our forces as they would be infinite – Paying no attention to energy preservation and recovery during the struggle is totally wrong; especially if we do not train on a daily base, as soon as we can imagine, we will find ourselves defenseless
  • Go for contacts that inevitably leads to ground fighting – Letting the opponents bring us (or directly go) to the ground; in most cases, the novices are passive victims of the flow of the struggle and do not try to avoid the ground nor try to stand up (as they would be able to fight everywhere and in every condition)
  • Insist on the same target / technique – Focusing on a single goal, target or (even worse) on a single technique that we want to apply at all costs; this makes us exponentially uneffective and predictable
  • Experiment new techniques (or try to reproduce the ones of the opponents) – During a real fight, nothing is more wrong than testing something that we are not certain that our body has understood (physically and mentally, read A scheme to quickly learn any kind of technique); for an expert, in a situation of real danger and intense stress, the probability of correctly execute something new is lower than the 10% (for a novice is lower than 1%)
  • Limit or extend too much our arsenal – Ignore the use of the limbs that we can handle (eg. using only the right arm) or think that we can use limbs that we have not adequately trained (technically and physically, eg. the legs)
  • Let pain (or the complexity of the scenario) to convert in irrational fear – Giving in to scare and despair before the exhaustion and then commit serious errors such as freezing, collapsing, close our eyes, let our guard down, crouch down on the ground (etc.)

A note by Master kongling – It is useless to say that this list is only (in a non-exhaustive way) a selection of some of the most typical novice’s mistakes (not contextual to specific scenarios). Take it as a starting point.

Final notes

A few conclusive considerations and tips to individuate our mistakes:

  • If we do not have an expert who can professionally criticize the way we fight (consistently and honestly), what we can do is to film ourselves with a camera during our sparring sessions (read The meaning of sparring fighting in martial arts) and then comment with our training partners our strengths and weaknesses (with reciprocal respect and humility, read 5 effective ways to find a training partner)
  • The individual training cannot compensate the absence of an instructor but with shadow boxing, we can discover the difference between what we think we are doing and what we are truly doing; using the mirror we can have an, albeit minimal, idea of the quality we are expressing

In the next article (read 10 most common errors in combat: solutions), we will see a few solutions to the listed deficiencies (this way we have the time to think about them, one by one, personally).

The idea behind this series is to describe the gravest and basic errors to gradually arrive at those that, even the experts, have difficulty correcting.

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Have you ever faced one or more of these problems?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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