What are the biggest problems with learning set moves to set attacks in a martial arts syllabus?
The two that immediately spring to mind are that…
- You are not going to get attacked with set attacks in the street.
- Performing set moves requires you committing them to memory in sequence.
The problem with this latter point is that if your response to an attack requires you to think about an attack and then to think about which response you are going to apply, there will be a delay, or a moment’s hesitation before the move is executed.
Clearly, such a delay could be fatal if there are subsequent, or frequent attacks and you become too confused to do anything effective in your defence. Countless times I have observed students pause in gradings after an attack trying to remember a defence, or in a random attack competition. How then can we train in a way that genuinely improves our self-defence skills?
Having a syllabus is important as it allows us to fill our armoury with defences and counters to multiple attacks. How we practise it is equally important. If you always practise the moves in a set order or sequence then the minute your instructor requests a deviation from that order there is going to be a significant pause or hesitation while you think about what you need to do. Having a sequence is how we learn information, so how can we apply certain information rapidly when required out of sequence, when even a split second’s hesitation will be costly?
The answer, I think, is to break the sequences. Practice moves from the syllabus randomly, or in reverse and develop conditioned responses, or learned reactions and reflexes. This way, depending upon the amount of the syllabus you have learned, you will be able to respond to a particular attack with a number of possible reactions.
These reactions can be developed further by a couple of other subtle adjustments to training. Two methods I use are applying the defence after a flurry, or a combination of attacks, which requires you reacting to attacks and adjusting accordingly. It is also possible to broaden the scope of the reaction further. When practising for random attacks competition I conditioned my responses to attacks from different areas. For example, in practising for any attack from the right I would always come inside (to my right) as it opened up the attacker to more of my arsenal for which I was ideally placed to execute rapidly. Other clubs and instructors may have different advice and methods, but these are methods that I’ve tried and am continuing to develop.
Whatever your training methods are, if you find yourself hesitating before executing a defence in a grading or competition then it is time to consider how you can shake up your training routines to give yourself an arsenal of reliably effective self-defence moves.