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.