I have written quit a bit about defense on this blog. I still feel however that it requires further attention. It is clear to me when coaching around the world, and working with students from different systems, that the focus is on offense, with little or not attention to defense. In this sense, I get the impression that defense is often seen as someone losing a fight, rather than winning one.
There’s several reasons I believe that there is a lack of attention to defense. So much of the defensive aspects of many martial art systems lean towards prediction. There’s seemingly a block for every possible strike. As we all know who have sparred against an uncooperative, unpredictable opponent, for the most part you don’t know what strike it is, until its right in your face. Where this isn’t the case, as in boxing, the focus leans towards evasiveness, pats and covers, but there is also an equal measure of an unconscious acknowledgement of being hit, almost as many times as one is able to defend. On the street, especially on those YouTube street fighting videos, the consensus is really, get in first, and do the damage, if not, try and stay out of range, but mostly, lets see how many punches you can take before you drop.
I am constantly educating my students (and trainers) that defense in my opinion should never be an after thought, but rather a priority. In fact, I would go as far to suggest, that an effective non-attrition self protection system, can only be built off a defensive paradigm. This is really the reality as I see it – we mistake toughness in the martial world for skill. We think, someone who goes to war, not only shows heart, but skillfulness. I see it the other way around, it’s simply stupid and unskillful. Another topic I have harped on about to death too, you keep taking those punches to your skull, and we will see if you can string a sentence together at 50?
Done properly, defense not only keeps you in the fight, but becomes weaponized. As obvious as this may sound, but if you give me your best shots, and you are unable to shut me down, not only does my confidence sore, your confidence drops, but now with my almost 100% fuel charge remaining, I can retaliate with maximum power. I can also ride your attacking storm, fire back strategically, ride more of your attacking storm, and fire back strategically, until, I have chopped you down, stroke by stroke like a tree.
More importantly effective defense, allows me to place myself where ever I like. I can hang out, move in, or stay close. At each phases in this fight, because I am able to defend the incoming strikes, I can see openings, and time shots, that have a very real potential to end the fight. I have said this before, but I will say it again, it’s the shots you take that will end the fight quicker, than the shots you are able to land. All the fire power in the world is useless, if you are an open target.
The best analogy I can use, is that for the most part, I see most people training like wold war II tanks. They have some armor, but each time they want to engage a target, they have to stop, locate it, and turn the turret in the direction of the target, then fire (and in doing so get taken out from the side where they weak). That target, may or may no longer be there, but sitting still like that, hoping to line everything up just right, makes you an open target too. I want my students to be like the Abrahm’s tank, heavily armored, maneuverable, with drive and fire capability. Defensive for me is not a static state, but an active, organically molding response to the incoming attacks, that then places me in the perfect spot to end the fight.
In the end, my motto is pretty simple,
We need to fight smarter, not harder!