Is there a connection between Freestyle training (fight training) and actually learning self-defense?
Without a doubt, many feel that the two forms of training are completely separate in practice. I believe there is an overlapping continuum of self-defense, fighting, and combat and this is how I view them:
Self-Defense– “Stop Them”- In self-defense you have a primary objective-To not be harmed! Whether that is physically, emotional, mentally or spiritually. Your goal is to stop someone from harming you. Because of the different aspects of these areas the tactics used complete the full gambit of running away, to body language, to striking your opponent. I often describe to students that there are 2 actions in self-defense- Your action and their stopping or more accepted; “You hitting him, him hitting the ground!” The key thing to note is that every choice you make in the concept of self-defense is to “Stop Them” from harming you. There is rarely the intent to harm them however, the action chosen could in fact, hurt them. Again, that was never the attempt. If I throw a ball for you to catch and you miss it, it strikes you in the face. The result is a potentially broken nose but that was never the intent. It was merely the result of the action.
Fight- “Win Them”- In Fight there is a consented exchange. It is also governed by a set of “rules.” Those rules may be literal as in a competitive event or societal/cultural as in “gentleman’s rule” and eventually legal where assault/battery offenses may be the end result. The primary phrase that establishes the term “fight” again is some level of mutual consent. Also, there is a recognizable end point; both parties agree to end, a timeframe or another aspect of the event has ended thus stopping the fight, one individual is incapable of continuing, it is ended by outside authorities, etc. The key is there is a there is some sort of recognized stop and each participant is recognized for their level of participation. The actual winner may sometimes be subjective to interpretation but usually, a winner is recognized. Even if it is each participant’s group of friends patting them on the back telling them they outdid the other.
Combat- “End Them” In Combat there is one objective end this NOW and ensure your survival regardless of theirs. The situation may have started at Self-Defense then evolved to a Fight. However, it has now morphed to a scenario in which just stopping them is not enough as they won’t stop. Additionally, there is no consent to exchange, no sense of rules, no regard for cultural or legal consequences. Combat could take as little as seconds or long as several minutes or more. You have the heightened awareness that survival is inevitable and that it is up to you to survive. The intent of every choice, every action is to end the confrontation even if it requires “ending” your opponent(s) in whatever method required.
There are other aspects of each level that are recognized and considered but for this article, I hope you can appreciate the significant difference of each. So back to our original question: Is there a connection between Freestyle training (fight training) and learning self-defense?
With Self-Defense in its basic form again, the opponent does something that you need to nullify. Ideally, there is no exchange after that first encounter. Say they grab, push, punch at you, etc. In your response let’s say you nullify the attack by disabling the opponent. There is no need to continue as you prevented harm to yourself or someone else.
In Freestyle (Fight Training) at its most basic aspect, there is a recognition for each landed attack to a specific target. The level of recognition is set by the rules of the training partners and/or intent of the competition. You could while training, stop each time a significant strike landed on a specific target and score it. Much the way traditional competitive tournaments are established. Another process is to continue with the exchanges for a specific time only stopping when the time frame ends or in the event that one of the participants is unable to legitimately continue to defend himself/herself. The win is that one person can’t continue or one has been recognized during the match as having more control and performed more scoring actions. Much like boxing matches and MMA competitions
Regardless of the rules Freestyle training method conditions the participants to understand the timing of actions, to perceive set ups, to develop physical and mental speed, to enhance strategies and ultimately prepare the body for the physical demands of self-defense.
Self-defense could be considered a “picture” or a specific moment, compared to Fighting as more like a movie. (Modify the intent of either and you could elevate the event more to the Combat aspect.) So during Freestyle Training the analyzation of the methods and strategies during a specific moment are the qualities that one would access for a Self-Defense situation. Freestyle training gives you several opportunities to apply your actions in a non-reactionary setting. During freestyle, you learn to relax the analytical aspect of thinking and use more of a conceptual process. Flowing with the event and solving at the moment. It the use of training film, coaching and collaborating with training partners that teach you to recognize opportunities. Then during a Self-Defense situation, you merely draw from those Freestyle Training moments to resolve the current issue.
One important consideration that should be observed- Freestyle Training may limit the weapons, targets, and methods that might be extremely effective in a Self-Defense situation. These limitations can be reduced with the understanding that Freestyle training is just that, TRAINING. Events during the training can be isolated and then used as an example to study Self-Defense situations and then attacking more vulnerable targets (such as the eyes, throat, groin, etc.) can be explored along with the methods and weapons that are normally not allowed in Freestyle for safety reasons.
If you are looking to improve your Self-Defense skills adding an hour each week of Freestyle (Fight Training) to your schedule will vastly improve your overall development. On top of that, it’s an exciting way to improve your overall Fitness levels.