I’m certainly no expert at fighting. I did a couple years of martial arts as a preteen and hated every minute of it. I’ve spent much of the past year learning about contemporary martial arts and fight sports, and the last few months doing some very basic, beginner classes.
Through the studying I’ve been doing, though, I’ve developed some thoughts about learning to fight. Maybe I’ll change those opinions with time and experience, but so far here’s my thinking.
I suspect the two most important parts of learning quickly and well (and enjoyably) are to practice “live,” and to practice safely. They are two sides of the same thing.
I hate hitting pads. I don’t care for running through combinations in the air or drilling moves against a compliant partner. Probably there’s a place for those things, but that’s not where the most and the best learning happens.
Instead, what’s most fun and most instructive is to attempt things against someone who is resisting, fighting back. Then it becomes clear what is important and what is ineffective.
But in order to do this, it is important to find ways to make the live practice safe. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the safer that practice can be, the better it will be for learning. John Danaher says somewhere that the history of Judo in the nineteenth century shows that the martial art that’s “too deadly to be used in practice” will always lose to the martial art that can be safely practiced with a resisting partner.
After studying and reflecting for innumerable hours over the past year, I’ve come up with ideas for a couple “games” that I think would be exceptionally good for developing the skills needed for unarmed fighting. One of the games is more striking focused, and one is more grappling focused, though both of them incorporate both striking and grappling.
Would my ideas work? I don’t know. If I had training partners who lived nearby and were interested to give it a try, and a place to practice (preferably a big room with mats, but even a deserted soccer field in the summer could do the trick), I would be glad to find out. For now I don’t have those things, so I will try to learn as well as I can with the opportunities that are available.