Is Self Defense Training Valid?

In the end, nothing fully simulates a fight. Real combat involves the intent to harm another human being and as such, it almost always ends with serious injuries and/or death for one or both combatants. The vast majority of people in the USA do not study self-defense of any discipline, many of those feel it is not useful. They cite the reality I mentioned above, that nothing simulates a fight, except an actual fight.

Many proponents of self-defense training often compulsively argue that their training is “hard core” and “raw”, etc and that when they train, they train for real fighting. Yet, when they are done with a training session, when was the last time that they had a compound fracture to a joint or had their eye gouged or had done that to the opponent they practiced with? The answer to that question is hopefully never. Getting severely hurt and/or unnecessarily harming others while trying to learn self-defense should seem to all readers as counterproductive. If nothing can simulate combat then what is self-defense training valid?

While I am aware of having a conflict of interest due to the many years I have invested in combat martial arts training, my ultimate answer to whether self-defense training is valid is a resounding yes. Self-defense training absolutely can be valid, but it really does depend upon the precision with which training is conducted.

Self-Defense training methods generally involve what I label in the 5XMM system as the 5 vehicles of training methods. Each vehicle simulates an aspect of combat, which cumulatively gives our sub-conscious mind the equivalent of combat experience when executed properly. The 5 vehicles are as follows:

1: Dry Fire Training-this means shadow boxing, or practicing movements and patterns in the air.

2: Live Fire Training-This means setting up striking pads, kicking shields, etc which allow you to safely attack a target with full power and intent.

3: Slow Simulation Training- this means working with a partner attacking you at slow speeds to simulate a combative exchange. It involves “push pressing” the targets on your partner. It is essentially the same as a fight except at about ¼ speed and ¼ tension. It lacks the speed element and time gap closure of real fighting which is its disadvantage that is supplemented by fast simulation training.

4: Fast Simulation Training – Often called sparring, and often involving the wearing of protective gear. This means using restraint on attack follow through and using safe substitute targeting in order to be able to have a partner attack you at high speeds and for you to perform your movements at high speeds. Its advantage is the speed but its disadvantage is the lack of follow through on targets and the habit of pulling punches that it creates.

5: Combat Meditation- This means vivid scenario visualization in order to train the psychological aspect of fighting. It can be practiced independently as a meditation and is often practiced in conjunction with the other 4 vehicles by visualizing the actual combative intent you would use while you go through training drills.


One caveat that I would mention though is that combat training which tries to get their practitioners to have a sense of total certainty and confidence where they feel that they have nothing to worry about in a real fight are questionable. Ultimately anyone can beat anyone any day. The value of all training is that when a fight happens it all occurs too fast to think and so whatever your automatic instinctive habits are is all you have to go off.

Effective training upgrades your instincts and gives you habits which give you an advantage during a fight. It can increase your state of advantage and thus the chances of survival during a combative exchange. If the training method you work in promotes a state of “super confidence” where you feel you are invulnerable or unbeatable, then it is likely either underestimating the severity of combat, overestimating the advantage created through training or both. Often my teacher has said that preparation and calm are far more important than confidence. This summarizes our thesis on valid self-defense training. It prepares you by upgrading your instincts and improving your combative reflexive habits while at the same time training a state of calm composure which can maintain focus during the chaos of the combative environment.


Characteristics of the Combat Environment

In working to define the combat environment I have heard many abstract descriptions, I have thought under several of those abstract paradigms as well. As my time studying the combative arts has gone on I have gravitated to a much more concise and concrete definition which I will define at the end of this post. Before I do, I want to share a little bit of perspective background information.

In the legendary swordsman Musashi’s writings, one can draw a conclusion that to him a great swordsman is much like a master carpenter, except he goes to work on cutting down an animated opponent rather than working upon building a house. The ultimate frame of mind then becomes what he calls the “normal” frame of mind in Thomas Cleary’s translation of Musashi’s Book of 5 Rings.

Combat in all its forms can be viewed abstractly as a form of chaotic aggression, unchecked primal rage and several other wordy abstractions. In truth though, as familiarity with it increases it is simply another form of work. It is a form of work with specific characteristics that make it challenging and with specific skills that when developed help you to excel as you deal with it. Combat is ultimately the task of bringing down another hostile human being/group of human beings who are actively trying to attack and harm you. It is a task you are either good at or not.

The great challenge in training is that nothing fully simulates combat. It is a unique human experience that in general is avoided as much as possible due to the difficulty it presents in its inherent characteristics. There are three external characteristics and internal characteristics which can be used to encompass and classify other characteristics of the combat environment. Those are as follows:

External Characteristics:

1-Fast Paced/Full Bore: combat involves the full measure of the combatants’ strength and speed outputs, and attacks can go to highly sensitive vulnerable areas of the body.

2-Unscripted: anyone can do whatever they can do whenever they can do it, the only limits are the limits you bring with you due to your own gaps in awareness and coordination limitations.

3-Unrelenting: the exchange does not have to stop for any reason, if you gain an advantage, it is yours until you lose it and if the enemy does, then they can press it until you stop them.

Internal Characteristics (Psychological Effects):

1-Violence: The projection that comes from having real violent intent directed at an adversary is a unique force of its own that can have paralyzing effects.

2-Uncertainty: In almost all of our life, there are presumed certainties that hold in a civilized social context. Those certainties don’t exist in a combative exchange and you experience a feeling of total uncertainty, where no external guarantees exist and the only certainty is that which you can provide yourself. There are no guarantees, only possibilities and probabilities.

3-High Pressure: Being aware of violent negative possible consequences if you adapt poorly to an unrelenting, unscripted fast paced attack, this creates a level of pressure that is absolutely different than any normal life situation. The pressure either makes you or breaks you depending upon how you relate to it.

There are many martial arts and self-defense systems out there. For those that claim to have self-defense value or combat applicability, then everything that is taught must at some point either directly or indirectly contribute to creating habits that allow practitioners to excel in the combat environment with defined characteristics similar to those listed above.

Why Train in the Tang Wei Fighting Method?

1 – TWFM Is a Comprehensive System  

Tang Wei is comprised of the best of 20+ primary systems having already undergone decades of living refinement under the current team of instructors as well as hundreds of years of historical refinement from past generations.  Normally to acquire what is combined in this system a practitioner would have to travel extensively in the hopes of finding qualified teachers and hope to learn it then integrate it on their own.  Here you are able to reap the fruits of such efforts made over decades.  We have sought to provide a true one-stop shop for those wanting to learn combat martial arts.  Striking, kicking, grappling, ground fighting, weapon usage and defense, firearm training, internal energy, combat mindset, eastern philosophy, eastern arts of meditation, healing, health, fitness and longevity are all brought together under one umbrella.

2 – Resource Rich Instruction

Official Tang Wei instruction is administered through the Tang Wei Martial Arts Association (TWMAA) which is an association of instructors who bring over 100 years of cumulative relevant experience both instructing in the martial arts and operating in fields incorporating the use of martial skills.  The team approach allows practitioners to get a diversity of explanations and perspectives so they can learn as quickly as possible.  The association approach is also used to maintain quality of instruction on every topic covered.


3 – Fast Paced, Advanced Instruction

Having as much to share in the system as we do, we really don’t teach “beginner”/”stepping stone” material.  Instruction from Day One is detailed while being fast and focused.  Material is relevant from the start.  Everything is done to ensure that a student’s effort, time and money yields maximum results with minimal wasted time.  In short, it is our focus to make you good, fast.

4 – We Train Rather than Teach

We train the material dynamically in class; we don’t send you home with required homework necessary to progress.  These are not classes where you come one time and it is only beneficial the first time you learn it.  Students are training for proficiency rather than mere knowledge, so repeated, yet layered and expanded exposure to material is built into the training to promote integration of skills.


5 – Non-Traditional Martial Arts Environment

Class environment is non-traditional, with no “sensei”-student dynamic, no gi’s, etc.  Instructors lead a class through training, demonstrating and explaining but then often participating and actively coaching students.   The class environment is one governed by mutual respect all across the board.  The classroom environment is one that fosters mutual growth and camaraderie.

6 – Array of Track-able Paths to Progression

Both traditional weekly class formats and intensive periodic training formats are offered.  Each course is broken down into sub-blocks of instruction which can be covered as each students lifestyle allows so progression paths can accommodate modern lifestyles.  This also allows a student to be able to track and plan their own progress.  Students can go on a traditional path seeking rank promotion by covering each sub course inside a program or often if they have a specific interest they can take courses in that line of progress.  (Refer to paths to progress page)

7 – “Warriorship” System of Personal Development

Tang Wei is a dual-sided system and includes a system of personal development which can be focused upon jointly or independently for those interested. Many of the attributes of warriors particularly in terms of awareness, self-control, health, fitness and longevity have long been admired and sought by people from all walks of life. These attributes are developed deliberately through systemic training and study commonly referred to as self-development or in other circles could be translated as “warriorship”.  The Tang Wei warrior methods of exercise and meditation enhance physical, mental and spiritual development.  Study and practice of warrior philosophy and mindsets have direct application to enhance a person’s business and personal life.

Tang Wei Fighting Method Influential Systems

Tang Wei Fighting Method is an intentional distillation of the best martial principles that we have had the privilege of gaining access to.  There are a few systems that have contributed a lot, and many that have contributed sufficient that they all bear mentioning.

TWFM Primary Influential Systems

  1. Ge Jian Pai
  2. Trul Kor (Tibetan Ghost System)
  3. Tai Ji Quan
  4. Tui Na Qin Na
  5. Bagua Zhang
  6. Zi Ran Men
  7. Xin Yi Liu He Ba Fa Quan
  8. Pankration
  9. Shao lin
  10. Vajra/Verrani
  11. Shimabaru Ninjitsu
  12. Shui Pai Gong Fu
  13. Splashing Hand
  14. Kong Que Men
  15. Wing Chun Gong Fu (AKA Yong Chun Gong Fu in Mandarin)
  16. Tao Ai (Dao Li in Mandarin)
  17. Dim Mak (Dian Mai in Mandarin)
  18. Lin Gui

Supplemental Influential Systems:
(Acquired from TWMAA living members study prior to and supplemental to TWFM):

Kenpo Karate
Shotokan Karate
Bareknuckle Boxing
POST Defensive Tactics
CACC Wrestling
Jeet Kun Do/Jie Quan Dao
Tae Kwon Do
Wado Ryu Karate
Hung Gar Gung Fu