Most people spend their life trying to avoid pain, by nature we are comfort seekers, like all creatures. An animal will always look for the most comfortable place to lie down; a dog will always choose a grassy spot over a stony or sandy spot. We are no different.
When I trained in Ninjitsu with Frank Dux we had 'trauma training' where we willingly accepted some pain in order to become conditioned to it. Otherwise if we actually got hit in a fight, and were unfamiliar with pain, we might lose our bearings. Being able to handle pain is an important part of conditioning for any fighter, martial artist or law enforcement personal. It is also crucial we understand the role of pain in self defense.
Professor Arthur Cohen inflicts some training pain on Moshe
Some styles teach without any real contact. Punches are pulled and kicks only lightly graze the opponent. This does not educate us about pain. Not knowing how we or others react to pain will seriously harm our reality training.
Many non-contact or light contact martial arts assume that as soon as you hit a person and 'score' a point, it will all be over. He will buckle over in pain and that is it. Reality teaches us otherwise.
My friend Louie B. a decorated NYPD officer and retired detective will tell you about pain. In the line of duty he learned that you cannot assume a person will give up, ever, until you control him. He once hit a drug dealer so hard he was bleeding from the head. He hit him with his police issued flashlight so many times the flash light broke over the guys' thick skull, and yet the man did not give up.
Some assailants are high on drugs or alcohol and feel less pain. Again, make no assumptions about pain compliance.
From another angle, some people train as if pain does not exist. I have seen training drills and kata's where a series of strikes does not take bodily reactions into account. For example, three punch drill, (sanbon tsuki) where a student will hit the face, stomach, and chest in successive strikes, all this without moving or readjusting his body position. i.e. it is as if the punches have no effect on the body being struck. If the punch to the stomach was a good punch there should be some change in the assailant's body position, bending over for example. That change in body position should be reflected in the following strikes of the fighter. In other words, adjust your position to accommodate where your opponent is now positioned. If your punches had any effect at all, he should be in a different position, if they had no effect whatsoever, why continue punching.
If you successful hit him in the face, he should be reeling backwards somewhat, thus you need to adjust your own body position. If you struck him in the head and he is still standing there like a stature, why bother with another useless punch?
We have to know how others react to pain and how we react; we need to have a backup plan.
Krav Maga expert Itay Gil teaches that you can never assume pain will end an encounter. Blocking a strike and hurting the assailant may not stop him; you will have to grab his arm and lock it, or pound the guy until he can no longer function, or break something. Never assume that a well place blow is all you need. The traditionalists speak of "one punch one kill" but no one I know will rely on that. It might happen sometimes, but then again, it might not.
If you train without contact you will never know how much pain you can tolerate or what you will do if you feel pain. Can you still fight after being hit? Can you still fight after being kicked in the leg or punched in the stomach? Better find out before a real life encounter, that is why we have the martial arts gym.
In Krav Maga training in the Israeli army, little emphasis is put on technique but great emphasis is put on pain; inflicting it and absorbing it. We don't want our soldiers to go into shock the first time they get hit, we don't want them to experience 'strange pain'. We want them to adjust to the pain.
Pain is a part of life, we can learn to use it to our favor, or it can work against us, but we can not ignore it. That is the purpose of pain, to wake us up and tell us to notice something. Wake up and be prepared.
Comments and Addtitions by Louie Balestrieri
Your article on pain makes great sense and I am in agreement with it 100%. I believe as martial students, we must begin to make contact with each other at approximately the rank of green belt. We must condition our bodies to the point of absorbing some of the pain and still be able to continue. This should be done in a very controlled atmosphere in that if we injure each other we will not have anyone to train with.
I do not believe in the old style of training where we punched makiwara boards till our knuckles were bloody, swollen and prevented us from make a fist the next day or gripping a weapon. I also don't believe in kicking our shins against trees wrapped with rope etc. Eventually this will become detrimental to our bodies and arthritis and other joint problems will cripple us forever. I do believe we should train our core to that our bodies can absorb the shock of a kick or punch. I always trained my neck to be very strong to prevent the effects of a whiplash from a blow or assist us in the prevention of being choked out.
One of the concepts I was taught and I share was given to me by Benny The Jet Urquidez while I was at a weekend seminar at his school, The Jet Center, way back in 1991. What Mr. Urquidez told me was "the best pain to give someone is the strange pain." I had no idea what he was taking about and I guess he realized this by the look on my face. He asked me to get in a sparring type stance and then he kicked me hard into my right inner thigh with a low round kick. Immediately feeling the pain I backed up. He said "you see, you have been hit on other parts of your body and are used to being hit that way. When I hit you in the inner thigh, you weren't used to it and backed quickly away." Thus, I had my first experience with strange pain.
STRANGE PAIN is a pain the body does not recognize and is not used to feeling. Since the brain does not recognize the feeling, it tells the body to retreat. This is an awesome concept. Another example is the carpenter who bangs nails all day is constantly hitting his fingers with his hammer. He is so used to doing it he can put a mere band aid on his wound and continue to work. If you or I hit our fingers with a hammer, we wouldn't work for two weeks. The carpenter has become desensitized to the pain of hitting his hand with a hammer. To us, it is a strange pain and prevents us from continuing.
We must take this concept and use it in our self defense techniques. In the early days of the UFC, the Gracie Brothers relied on this concept of strange pain. They knew that most Karate practitioners were tough and used to being pounded in the legs, head and body and could still continue to fight. What they did was utilize Strange Pain. The waited for the opportunity to close the gap on their opponents, take them to the ground and apply a strange pain to make their opponent submit. The strange pain to the Karate practioner was the armbar, leg and ankle locks and the choke. Today with everyone cross training the concept of strange pain in the octagon has everyone used to each others pain, so not it doesn't work as well in the ring.
On the street I use the concept of Strange Pain in a bit different fashion. You just don't know what kind of drugs a person may be intoxicated with and pain compliance does not always work. If I am attacked, I try to block the attack. The next step is to shock, stun or misdirect my opponent in an effort to run away. The shocking and stunning can be my methods of strange pain. I like to attack my opponent's eyes, throat, take his base (kuzushi) or destroy the mechanics of his body. If I can attack the eyes my opponent is not used to being poked in the eye he wont be able to see me. If he can't see me, he can't hurt me. If I can strike the throat or apply a good choke, my opponent will not be able to breath and he can't hurt me. If I can smash a knee, my opponent will not be able to stand and fall thus he unable to hurt me.
When I attack, I attack in multiples of three techniques or more as fast as I can. The Rule of Threes allows my opponent to NOT be able to defend against 3 or more techniques. Never rely on one technique to do the job.
As a Police Officer, I have encountered persons that were very high on PCP, crack, and alcohol or just purely deranged. My goal against any perpetrator that was a fighter was to take this person to the ground and put them on their stomach as quickly as I could. Being on their stomach limits what they can do with their arms and legs and prevents punches and kicks from being thrown.
A good strong knee into the thigh can take the opponent off balance and can cause great pain when he takes a step. Another great technique I used was to roll my nightstick or flashlight against opponents Achilles tendon when they were on the ground and on their stomach. It causes great pain and prevents kicking and attempting to run.
My other favorite technique was to use fingers. I can control an opponents arm by grabbing his fingers and bending them. If he wishes not to comply, I will snap them like carrots and now he can't make a fist without severe pain. Thus, I have destroyed the mechanics of his body part limiting his chances to hurt me. The bottom line to me is when pain on one part of the body isn't working, take the opponent to the ground.