Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You fight as you train. And what's with the tap?

In my last post on the dangers of point sparring,  I referenced the fact that we will fight how we train.  I’ve said this before in previous posts, but it bears repeating.

The discussion I had in the comments section inspired this post. 

First, why do we tap?

Tapping out is fairly common in the martial arts, but what are the reasons we use it?

There are two main reasons that we use the tap.

  1. It’s universal.  No language barrier exists.  Train anywhere in the world in most arts, and the tap is understood.  It’s also audible and tactile (I recommend tapping your opponent whenever possible, just in case they don't hear you tapping madly on your own body).
  2. We fight as we train. 
When you train long enough, you get certain moves or techniques burned into your head.  In fact, this is one of the purposes of continued repetitive training movements.  It’s so they become ingrained in your body and mind.  This is usually a good thing.

Since we fight as we train, we tap instead of saying Stop! or Ouch!, or yelling out.  If we trained using the word stop whenever a technique was applied, we would be subconsciously teaching ourselves to let go when someone said stop or yelled out.  In a real fight where you are forced to defend yourself, this is the last thing you’d want to do.  

This brings me to another important point.

When your opponent taps, never just let go.  It is extremely important to only ease up on whatever technique you are applying.  You need to keep the technique on.  In a real violent encounter, you need to stay in control.  If you practice by letting go when someone taps, you are conditioning yourself to do so whenever you hear or feel a tap.

You never know, someone on the street might tap in a real situation.  I might, only because I am so conditioned to tap when a technique is about to injure me. 

In the discussion over my last post, I told the story of a police officer who practiced a specific gun disarming technique repeatedly.  After each successful disarm, he handed the gun back to his training partner and repeated the drill.

This officer later had an encounter on the road where a suspect pointed a gun at him.  The officer, from his extensive practice, was successful in using the gun disarming technique that he had drilled over and over.  The only problem was that he started to hand the gun back to the bad guy. 

He caught himself in time, but it was a valuable lesson.  He fought as he had trained. 

As a result, the training program was re-vamped.  This disarming technique remained but officers were trained to take control of the person after they had disarmed them or to create time and distance or obtain cover etc.  It never ended with handing the weapon back.

We will fight as we train, so we need to think about how we are training.  The tap, while a great tool, does not mean let go, it just means ease off but stay in control.  Your mind under stress we revert to your training.

Training can, and should, be an enjoyable experience.  While practicing, however, you need to keep a serious mindset and understand what bad habits you may be burning into your psyche.

Train well. 

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