The difference between sport and self defence

So after years of sport sparring most people develop a style that will at least keep them on the mat , some of these skills are of course transferable but what about mindset? over the years both in myself and in other i have seen quite a few issues arise from too much sport sparring i think some of these are true even for full contact competitors. These would be things like:

Playing by rules

OK kind of an obvious one but anyway, after some time in a certain sport you get use to the restrictions, no hitting to the back, no punching to the face etc. Whereas some people might think that when the rules are relaxed it becomes easier because you can go hell for leather anywhere on your opponents body. If you don’t have that experience however, it might not even occur to a person a strike some open target areas and a person may not be able to hit them correctly


In sport we are constantly told to keep our anger in check, this was a big one for me when I was involved in sport, as I had a habit of getting angry at people, it is bred out of some fighters as it can be seen as poor form or unsporting. I think that ‘losing it” to a degree can be really helpful in self-protection if you have spent enough time working on that edge

Fair play

ok maybe not for everyone, we have all met the person who is likely to kick you in the face while you are bowing but for a lot of people we teach them a code of conduct, which in itself isn’t a bad thing, but it is a code of conduct for a very special specialized situation, which is very different from the code of conduct for someone who has the impression you have just spilled their pint, in other words, sometimes sucker punches are OK

Giving in to fear

This is a kind of odd one, maybe because one way that martial arts sell themselves is to develop courage, and certainly in some ways they do, it takes courage to even get on the mat. After that, however, people can tend to ‘measure’ their opponents and spar them accordingly. if they are able to beat or match them then all is good, but a lot of the time I see people sparring with someone who is deemed to be better, maybe with a title or a higher grade, and taking it easy, not hitting them hard so that their opponent doesn’t get angry and wipe the floor with them. This is very dangerous to carry over in to the real world

Winning and losing

A lot of the time we aim to win sport fights, fight to some sort of an end. In real life situations this is a very dangerous idea, of course we must have the ability to fight, but running away should always also be an option. Sometimes we get too fixed on being the ‘winner’ by using some sort of made up criteria. Also winning and losing is a ‘double edge sword’ if you win a lot or even some of the time it builds confidence, if you are on a losing streak you can lose all confidence in your ability.

Marathon vs. Sprint

3, 2 minute rounds, is a very long time to fight, even the most conditioned people would find it hard to go full out for that length of time, so we pace ourselves. if you get too used to pacing yourself you lose the ability to go all out, or at least you definition of going all out becomes diluted, your ‘all out’ is someone else’s 80%.

Clean techniques

in sport to please the crowd and referees and just to feel good we love to deliver very clean, clear techniques and my goodness to feel the slap of a good round house going into your opponent’s head feels good, and then he backs up and tries to do the same. We need to largely forget that and in some ways not even try for it in self-protection, prepare to be messy


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s