February 19, 2018, Atlanta airport, USA
I will begin by saying that indeed there are many benefits to sports martial arts training. But there are also drawbacks, which can be very dangerous and harmful to your self defense training.
The Benefits and Dangers really depend upon your goals.
Increase of self confidence - For an individual who needs to improve his self confidence sports martial arts can be very beneficial. Just entering the dojo, signing up for classes and stepping on the mat is a huge step and very empowering. Facing an opponent, win or lose, will increase confidence: You have faced your fears and overcome them. You walked out of the ring alive. You faced your fears and nothing tragic happened. The experience will make you stronger.
The physical fitness, the camaraderie of training, all this will boost one's self confidence.
The Training - The training itself will teach one many important skills which are useful and relevant to self defense training; how to kick and punch and wrestle. All the elements of self defense are there.
But there are also dangers if your goal is true self defense.
Techniques - While there are many basic and fundamental techniques which will be learned there will also be many complex techniques that are nearly impossible to implement in a real self defense situation. Given the pressure of a real life encounter these techniques will cause brain freeze and slow you down. You will not have the peace of mind to implement them. The stress factor will block your ability to handle the situation the way you did in training or in competition. Your techniques will work against you rather than for you.
The mind works differently under pressure and our training must take this into account. Training for a tournament and training for the street involve very different brain functions.
Strategy - In a competition, as stressful as it may be, the trained athlete has time to think. He has studied his opponent, and he his studying him now and watching his moments and techniques. He is playing with him and trying to set up a good attack, or trap. It is a game of strategy and finesse. None of this holds true in a real life situation.
In this competition mode the player is thinking and planning: What if the guy blocks my punch, I will follow with this or that evasive movement, I will counter his counter attack.
This mode of thinking actually corrupts the individual's ability to correctly prepare for and deal with a real situation. This "What if" type thinking is not applicable to a real situation where your life is on the line. Your mind and body function totally differently. Your sports training will prevent you from responding correctly.
This way of thinking also corrupts your training: it becomes a game of cat and mouse game, attack and counter attack. You are not preparing for reality. You are training your mind to freeze in a real life situation.
Time Frame - Your time frame in a sports martial arts competition is totally different than a real situation. You are taking your time, pacing yourself, looking for openings. This is totally contrary to a real life situation where every extra second is threat threatening. Your sports training is preparing you for failure in a real life encounter.
Conclusion - The sports athlete is preparing for the wrong event, if self defense is his goal. It is like training for the 100 yard dash when in fact you will be participating in a marathon. The training is not bad, but it is not suited for your event. The thinking, training, strategy of sports martial arts does not prepare your mind an body for the violence of this world.
The Solution - The solution is if you do train in sports martial arts to take only the good from it. Take the kicks and punches, the grappling skills but do not become so immersed in it that you begin to think like a competitive athlete. Do not fall into the "winning - losing" mindset. Do not become the athlete.
Sports fighting has its benefits but it will not prepare you to fight for your life.
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