One of the things that is often overlooked by people practicing self defense arts is the importance of mental conditioning. People can spend hours hitting pads or releasing from chokes etc only to find that these much needed skills abandon them when they need them the most. The reason that these techniques can fail is not in the techniques themselves nor is it in a practitioners physical ability, but rather due to the fact that the practitioner very likely hasn’t spent enough time conditioning his mind as much as his body.
Maybe this is due to the number of ways that Martial arts have been changed to martial activities. In sporting martial arts it is seen as bad form to be over aggressive and in cardio kick boxing there is just no need to put yourself in the same mind set as in self-defense training. However for self-defense we need to condition the mind as much as the body in order to be effective.
Aggression is something that makes a lot of people feel very uncomfortable. In this day and age of civilised society being aggressive is often frowned upon and we are taught largely to be polite and gentle with each other. This is all very well until you come across someone who is not going to be polite and gentle with you. Again these kinds of aggressive people often make others around them uneasy and our usual reaction is to ignore them or just give in and let them rant. In fact people often use this very reaction to get their way in social settings. In unsocial or self-defense settings letting someone have their way through aggression or intimidation could very possibly the worst thing you could do.
So we have to prepare ourselves to be aggressive but also to deal with aggression towards us. This process starts in the pad work drills and it starts with the practitioners themselves. Each time you are doing a drill you should feel yourself getting focused aggression on to the pads, your aim should not be to pace yourself for a number of rounds but to deliver maximum damage with each strike for as long as it takes there is no real room for pacing yourself. We are looking to simulate the hard attacking needed to survive a confrontation, but also internally looking for the mind to be focused and push through even when are bodies are under stress and telling us to stop
During training techniques you should also bring that level of intensity to your practice. If you approach your partner with the mind set of ‘he is a friend of mine, he won’t really hurt me’ then the training will have a very different feel, one of dancing with a partner rather than training with them. If you put yourself in mind of a real attack that you have to get out of even if the actually attack doesn’t change you have started to train a real self defense art. Through this aggression and determination will naturally start coming out.
As mentioned before this can feel quite strange to a student but it is a necessary first step to making your self-defense workable. After working on aggression internally we can start bringing it out. Verbalising aggression and posturing to our partner helps out both parties. The aggressor gets used to being aggressive (which sometimes is a good self-defense technique in itself) and the defender gets used to having someone being aggressive towards them. As with most things this takes practice to do well and in the beginning you’ll often find yourself saying silly things or laughing in the middle of the training. This is natural and your way of telling your partner that you are not really angry at them, in our civilized social world you are reminding your partner that you are playing a role. In time and with practice however these practices can become an invaluable part of a person’s training.
Once you have learnt to be aggressive you then need to learn controlled aggression but that is a topic for a whole other article.
As with everything in training, getting your mind set in to the right place takes time. Through drills and partner work students are given the situations but it is up to each individual student to work out how to get themselves in to the right frame of mind. Once you do then you will see a change in your training and the way that you approach your training