One of the current topics of controversy in the martial art community is whether a Combat Sport, like MMA, Thai Boxing, or BJJ, is better at preparing someone for self -protection than what is now commonly referred to as Reality Based Martial Art.
The proponents of the sport side will denounce the lack of true, resisting opponents in reality training, meaning that the aliveness and unpredictability of sparring or free fighting is best.
The Reality-Based community will respond with an argument stating that sparring or free fighting does not allow the practice of all responses necessary for self-protection because of safety rules or gloves and that some tactics are too dangerous to practice at full force in free training.
Other arguments abound and are too numerous to list them all but suffice to say they each attempt to claim superiority over the other in their respective camps.
The truth is more subtle than a version of us versus them. In fact each camp has much to learn from the other.
The principle which we use in the Functional Edge System and the Mixed Martial Edge to unlock all the benefits that Combat Sport and Self -Protection can share is Asymmetry.
Asymmetry is the quality of disproportion. In warfare it is used to reflect when the two sides of the engagement are not equal in size or tactics.
Now let’s see how we can use asymmetry while training in Self Protection while adding some Combat Sports principles and enhancing our training in the process.
One of the biggest issues when training self –protection tactics is that, as a safety measure, many systems introduce preset attacks and even sequence of techniques. Although this is intended to protect the participants there is a possibility of creating a false sense of security where the expectation is to receive “Attack X” and the engagement lasts “X Amount” of seconds and so on. The engagements are kept brief to more closely replicate the duration of real assaults.
But what if we are attacked and the predator displays some tenacity of his own and the engagement continues beyond those initial few seconds? What then? Have we not failed to prepare our trainees if we don’t have them experience extended engagements?
By using Asymmetry we can, after the trainees have the fundamentals down, allow our role players to improvise the method and duration of attacks. That is, as long as they are displaying the correct predatory behavior for the scenario, they can continue to attack for longer periods of time.
The Asymmetry of the Predator Role Players is the key. Their tactics and goals must be clearly defined and completely different from those of the trainee. There are places that our body/mind system goes to when an engagement goes for more than a minute. Now imagine a three or five minute round of someone trying to abduct you or of two thugs attacking you.
It is important to note here that, in the Functional Edge System, only trainees that have experienced Short Engagement Training and can successfully cycle through all the Engagement Attitudes can participate in Extended Engagement Training.
So by ensuring there is Asymmetry we can add a fully resistive, live opponent for extended periods just like in Combat Sport.
In the Combat Sport side the main problem is the LACK of Asymmetry.
In sparring, whether boxing, kickboxing, wrestling or submission grappling both combatants have the same goals. Sparring is Symmetrical.
There are benefits to this training as it develops some toughness and skill but it can also develop some bad habits, especially in the field of MMA.
If every time we train our boxing we spar against someone who is boxing us, we miss a very big strategic lesson. Better to train and modify our boxing to nullify a wrestler’s shooting or clinch skills.
If every time we work the clinch we try to fight for an under-hook we develop a habit that says, when someone clinches you MUST fight for under-hooks. This may be playing right into our opponent’s strength.
In the Mixed Martial Edge the focus is always Asymmetrical. Our Stand -Up Striking is used to either set up or defend the clinch and takedowns. The Clinch is used to nullify striking, set up our striking or prevent a ground battle. The Ground game uses the same principle to thwart a submission game through scrambling and Ground and Pound and vice versa.
In training all the drills have a built in Asymmetry Factor that allows for a simultaneous development of Tactics and Strategy.
The old adage says “practice makes perfect”. In truth practice makes HABIT. Habits are behavior patterns developed by frequent repetition.
If, in Self-Protection training, we develop a behavior pattern that limits the length or modality of an engagement, we may end up with false expectations that may affect our performance and our chances of survival.
In Combat Sport training, if we always spar symmetrically, we may develop a habit that may have us fighting in our opponent’s strongest area.
Practice makes habit, plain and simple. Habits are not good or bad on their own. They are only bad when they show up at the wrong time. It is up to us what habits we choose to develop.