Kung Fu Competition Training vs. Self-defense Training
It is important to understand that you don’t have to compete in order to learn self-defense. The origin of our system, shaolin, was never meant for competition. It was designed to create good health, focus of mind and body, and of course learning to defend oneself.
Sometimes what you might think looks barbaric in the fighting ring, is actually civilized when compared to advance self-defense training. Ring fighting contains only a portion of true Kung Fu/ martial arts.
Let us start by saying, there is only one true competitor in your life and that is the person looking back at you in the mirror. We will explain in point-form the main differences of self-defense and competition training.
So let’s address each one for now - competition versus self-defense.
1. Limited space, this is also often the case in self-defense as a matter of fact, much less space is usually available compared to the ring. So close-quarters fighting techniques is an absolute must. Sometimes there is much more space than you would ever find in a ring. Remember that the only thing that matters in self-defense is self-preservation, you must do whatever it takes, including running away. There’s no rules, no competition, no crowd to impress, just defending yourself! True self-defense has a foundation in both common sense and ethics. Before you ever lift your hand to hurt another human being, it must be warranted.
2. A referee is there to ensure that no competitor gets out of hand, gets severely injured or killed. He is the calming agent between the two fighters, reminding them at all times to follow the rules.
In self –defense, of course, there is no such person mediating anything or protecting you from what your assailant is going to do to you, it is just you and your attacker. There is only one outcome and it must be that you survive. You aren’t a winner or victor but rather the survivor for life not glory.
3. Rules. There are all kinds of rules in competition, and you can thank civilized man for that. Just remember there’s no rules in self-defense, except maybe the law and that’s only after the fact, unless you’re very lucky. In Roman times, the spectators were the true barbarians and they promoted the violence. Unfortunately, you still see some of that today, not just in martial arts but in many sports, more blood, more cheering, lots of big mouths calling out for more violence… it’s easy when it’s not their own blood.
4. Prearranged time in competition, this allows many variables to be somewhat predictable within reason, good fighters know this and plan a couple surprises for their opponents. Self-defense situations always have an element of surprise which causes confusion, fear, hesitation, and sometimes locking of the body (also known as freezing). Which is natural but nonetheless can be very irritating and restricting. Examples of this are, you can be carrying your groceries to your car, riding on the bus, sitting at a donut shop, or any number of tasks we do every day when an attacker comes at you. One of the best ways to avoid these predicaments is to remain aware of your surroundings at all times which allows you more options than just self-defense. This could include calling 9-1-1, avoiding the potential danger by exiting, or finding another way around it. Good teaching promotes the understanding of self-defense is far more than just hand to hand combat.
5. Know your opponent. For competition there are many ways to study the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent. For example, watching recordings of past fights, physically seeing their fights, watching old interviews, and yet there are still many other ways. In self-defense, obviously, there are no such observations possible. There is little to no idea of your attacker’s skill or intentions, other than obvious postures. How do you compensate for this? There are numerous ways, but no matter which you choose, you are forced to react (after exhausting all non-violent measures). You have to use any techniques that will work and must exert 100% effort until the threat is gone. When the attacker has forced you to the point of no return... fight for your life!
6. Rounds. There are 2-3 minute rounds with rest in-between. In Self-defense there is no rest, as I mentioned before no referee, no choice, and no rules.
Most self-defense if properly taught will only last a couple of seconds, maximum a minute, any self-defense that lasts longer is considered a very long time. The energy used during that minute is equivalent to over half an hour of an intense work out, depending on the intensity used. As well, you are dealing with other energy draining problems such as nervous tension, possible lock up, anxiety, maybe fear (which is totally okay). Remember hurting others is not normal or natural, even in our own self-defense. Like we said before you must defend yourself!
7. You get time to prepare for the fight, sometimes months. Pre-fight warm up in competition is also possible. As a matter of fact, it is absolutely necessary in order to prevent injury and have better reflexes and movement. Self-defense must include cold response training methods. This can be very difficult to do because the lack of a warmup that may cause injuries to occur. We don’t do it all the time, but often enough to make it work. However, our students always step into the martial arts hall with a certain state of readiness. Because of this our main teaching methods always include situational awareness training, which is an important tool for self-preservation. Obviously you can’t know when a self-defense situation will occur so there is no chance for a warm up. The main tools of mental preparation for this case are conscious and subconscious recall.
8. In competition there are two people who want to fight, both want to win but only one will. Both are already warmed up, they have been training for months and have done their homework beforehand. In Self-defense there is at least one aggressor and one defender who does not want to be in the situation at all. An attacker usually makes the first move and has the element of surprise. If you have no inclination of the attack and get surprised, being aware of your surroundings beforehand and having proper training can put the advantage back in your corner.
9. No exit strategy. In the ring, no one wants out. However in self-defense there are many exit strategies. A good martial arts teacher will show you the way to leave a situation or at least come up with a non-violent solution. Peace should always be the top priority.
10. Your trainer is right there with you in the corner of the ring. This is an amazing advantage. If you could have your teacher right there telling you what to do when you get attacked it would seem 10x easier. Unfortunately there is no chance of this ever happening. The best you can hope for is that you listened so carefully to your teacher that the master’s words flow to you like water; as if they were right there with you, telling you what to do, while you’re getting attacked. Otherwise (and for the most part this is always true), you’re on your own and every move is your call. Whether it’s the right or wrong move it’s totally up to you.
Training for competition is good for health and self-defense, but you DO NOT NEED to compete in order to learn excellent self-defense, because there is only one true competitor in your life, and that’s the person looking back at you in the mirror.