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.


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