Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mind the Gap - Part III - Learn to Attack

Most martial arts schools focus more on the what to do when you are attacked, not how to attack.  This makes sense on many levels.  After all, it's self defense, not attacking 101.

Not spending enough time on learning how to attack properly can be a big mistake.  Properly is a poor choice of words, learning how to attack realistically is what's important.

I've touched upon this on a couple occasions, and discussed the importance of being a good uke, but I haven't really explored the gap in attacking.

I posed the question in my knife survival series (yes, I'll be posting again on it soon).  I asked readers to imagine a scenario where you were forced to attack or 'take somebody out'.  You had no knowledge of their skills or abilities and you had no choice.  Would you face off, using measured practiced attacks to beat them, or would you take one big swing in hopes that it was all that was needed?  Most people would go for the big single attack.  There are very few people so confident in their abilities that they would not be concerned about the unknown factor of who the other person is or what they know.

And most people that are going to attack you, to rob you, or try to boost themselves up in a drunk or drug induced state, will opt for the big committed attack.

If we accept this to be true, then we need to learn how to attack like this.  I've stated on several occasions that you should spend the majority of your time training to deal with the most likely form of attack, and the most likely form of attacker.  To do anything else is to do yourself a disservice.  

The attacks we defend from in martial arts study are often unrealistic.  It's understandable really.  The act of attacking is so foreign to many practitioners, teachers and students alike, that I can't really blame them.

Most martial artists don't practice unprovoked attacks.  That's because most martial artists, TMA, RBS or MMA, aren't the sort of folks that want to harm, rob or hurt innocent people.  

The problem, then, is that we don't practice in a way that mimics the adrenaline fuelled encounters that we are most likely to face in the real world.

When the attacks aren’t realistic, the defences aren’t either.  Take the straight punch – How much time have you spent learning how to defend against it?  Or the reverse punch.  Or any attack from a deep stance etc.  It doesn't really matter which style you study, I'm sure you can identify any number or unrealistic attacks you spend time on defending.  That, combined with getting into the trap of only learning defenses to techniques in your own style.  I recently posted on how many styles are great at defending against themselves.  They stay in their own framework, playing within their own set of 'rules', if you will.  And rules tend to water down the effectiveness of any martial art system. 

It's important to research realistic attacks.  The internet can be a good source of information, just try to make sure that what you research is from a reputable source.  Read the news.  Consider seeking out people who are exposed to real violence, most likely through profession, who offer seminars or courses on personal protection.  Basically, find out what you actually might face, and practice responding, or defending, from that.


  1. You made a great point at the end - something I have thought about often. Learning to defend against your own art can be helpful, but really arer we learning to defend against the most common acts of violence?

  2. It's pretty easy to fall into the trap of closing your mind off to things outside your style. Thanks.

  3. Journeyman,

    Congratulations on a very well informed and interesting blog. It caught the attention of our school members in our Japanese Jujutsu class in the Dominican Republic and we are now following your thoughts on the arts.

    Take a look at samples of our practice sessions at and let us know your thoughts. It will be most welcome.



  4. Noelito,

    Thank you for the compliment. I'm happy that you are finding value in my material. I look forward to watching your samples.

  5. Great advice!

    "Learning to attack" will definitely be a topic in an upcoming class in our dojo. Thanks for the suggestion! :)

  6. Great post! what in your opinion (or experience) are the most common forms of attack? Is it different for women? I often get the feeling that I'm being trained to defend myself like a man being attacked by another man rather than a woman being attacked by a man - does that make sense?

  7. Michele,

    Thanks and that's great to hear. I'd be curious to see how the material is received by your students. I hope it goes well.


    After thinking about your question, I think I'll post about it as a topic. There are some fairly significant differences in the forms of attack that a woman and a man are most likely to face. The reasons are mainly found in the desired outcome of the assailant. Thanks for planting the seed...