There is a wonderful post on Signal vs. Noise by Jason Fried about playing like you practice. It talks about taking practice and training seriously, because what you do in practice will be what you do in real life. Here’s a snippet from the article about a self-defense class Fried went to, where they were practicing gun techniques:
The instructor repeatedly said, “When your turn is over, do not hand the gun to your partner. Instead, they’ll turn their back, and you’ll just drop it on the ground so they can pick it up and start the exercise over.”
That sounded weird. You’re right next to the person, why would you drop the gun so they had to pick it up?
Without having to ask why, the instructor explained himself: “If you practice handing the gun over to your partner now, you might end up handing the gun over to an actual assailant later. Don’t laugh, I’ve seen it happen.”
This reminds me of a similar story our instructor had about a man he met in Cebu. The man was attacked by a mugger at knifepoint; because of his martial arts background, he was able to successfully bring down the mugger and armbar him. But there was a problem — the mugger (no doubt a UFC fan) was a quick thinker, and tapped out. Out of instinct from all his training, the man actually released him! For his mistake, he ended up getting stabbed; thankfully, he was lucky enough to survive and tell the tale.
It sounds funny, but who’s to say we wouldn’t do the same? No matter how much we’ve trained in the gym, in a stressful situation, our mind goes blank. All we can rely on is our muscle memory. If the muscle memory is wrong, then we’re screwed.
I’ve been training krav maga for 10 months now, and I still have a lot of bad habits that I haven’t gotten rid of. The biggest bad habit (don’t laugh) is that I don’t actually kick my partner’s groin. Even if I do the proper kicking form, my foot ends up stopping an inch shy of the target. It is a bad habit my partner and I both share (it’s probably more awkward for him, considering I’ve got lady parts!). The only time we’ve been able to consistently kick the habit (pun intended) is during our Practitioner Level 1 exam last November. The high level of stress and adrenalin we went through actually enabled us to kick each other full contact, with 100% rate of success
The longer you train in krav maga, the more habits you get. And not all of them are bad. You can see the difference in people who’ve trained for a long time — they’re always guarding their chin, scanning the room after a technique, and punching and kicking in good form. They don’t even think about it anymore; that’s just what their bodies do. In a stressful situation, I can probably still fight. But of all the bad habits to acquire, missing the groin is the worst one — if I’m faced with a real attacker, now’s not the time to be shy!
Fried’s article has reminded me to get my shit together and get rid of the bad habits NOW. Our Practitioner Level 2 exam is coming up in less than a month, and I need to really train correctly and give it my all. It’s not just for the exam, too; if for any reason I need to defend myself, I will fight how I train. So starting tonight, I will kick groins for real. Hey, partner, bring your groin guard, okay?