Back To Basics – Toby Cowern

I’ve been travelling a lot over this summer, and it has provided many chances to catch up with old friends, many who I have not seen for the best part of a decade!

During conversations, a similar point kept getting raised no matter where I was. A lot of my circle are ‘old school’ in their training methods and mantras both in Martial and Survival aspects. The point recurring was the continuing retraction of ‘harder’ training. While this was discussed across a broad spectrum I’ll keep my focus here on self-defense and martial training.

To put it simply, we are now seeing such an exclusive focus not only on teaching/learning of technique, but, even more so, complicated and difficult techniques to the detriment of core basics.

I’ll put it more bluntly. If you are not allowing your students to explore levels of pain thresholds, and teaching them to push through pain barriers in training you’re doing a HUGE dis-service.

This isn’t just a case of ‘not sparring hard’, it’s having such levels of safety control that there is no pain experienced in classes at all. It’s all well arguing (or excusing with) it’s about ‘student retention and satisfaction’, the simple fact is, it the teachers job to articulate why this facet of training is necessary.

I’m not saying Instructors need to unleash on students and beat them (that just makes you a massive asshole) but having students that have never undergone discomfort or a level of physical coercion in training is presenting them with a false reality of what a physical altercation will be like.

Times this thought by a hundred if you are doing any training at the lethal force end of the spectrum. While I will give way, to a point, that verbal caveats are used when training sessions are short and introductory, if you are spending any amount of quality time with students the introduction of pain awareness and management must start to be covered physically.

I’ve witnessed on a number of different occasions now, students be exposed to a very minor degree of discomfort, unexpectedly, and their reactions have ranged from a ‘freeze’, to, on at least three separate occasions, instantly bursting into tears… While these reactions are perfectly natural they must be conditioned against and worked through in order to give the students any chance of coping with a real situation.

While it is a physical and emotional uncomfortable part of training it still is essential to cover.

I desperately do not want this article too come over as a rant, but as I look around I feel exceptionally strongly a heavy contingent of the market place need to get back to basics and allow an element of their class time to be given over to realistic hitting and getting hit…

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