11 Key Differences Between Training and the Real Thing

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I'm sure most (if not all), readers of Low Tech Combat train with a view to being able to apply what they practise in training, in real life. That is the ultimate goal. We train using only the most effective systems and strategies we know of so that if one day we get into a physical encounter and cannot avoid or evade it, we can use these skills under stress to stop the threat.

We all know that the training environment is quite different to the environment we will likely find ourselves in if we ever have to use these skills for real. Our busy lifestyle these days often means that only little thought is given to these differences. We know we must take responsibility to protect ourselves so we go to work, go to the gym, dojo or dojang or whatever to train, go home, sleep and repeat.

What I wanted to do is put together a list of the 11 Key Differences Between Training and the Real Thing. These highlight some of the differences we often have very little time to consider. It is these differences that may contribute to surprise (which is bad), and a below normal level of performance in the heat of the moment.

11 Key Differences Between Training and the Real Thing

  1. Consequences. In the gym training, no matter how hard we think we are going, in the back of our minds we know that we are training with another person who is there to learn. They are not going to stomp our heads or launch a full power soccer kick at our faces. There is also an instructor who controls the action and is there to step in immediately if ever things get out of hand.

    On the street however, tapping out won't mean the attack will stop. There is no referee to save you and grant the attacker a TKO victory. Falling to the ground won't mean the fight is over. There are very serious consequences in the Real Thing.
  2. Space. Often, Low Tech Combat on the street is at very close range where each combatant has a hold of the other with at least one hand. There is no space to manoeuvre and get into your comfortable distance.

    If your preferred range is long range where you like to pick apart your opponent from a distance, this is likely to cause you some serious issues. In the Real Thing, space is quite often a luxury that is rarely granted.
  3. Time. In training, many people enjoy sparring and wrestling (myself included), but one aspect that is quite different in the Real Thing is that there will be little or no time to 'feel out' your opponent. There is no time for warming up first. There is no time for getting mentally prepared prior to the encounter. Attacks can flair up very quickly, often at times when you do not want them to. Real Low Tech Combat is fast.
  4. Jabs. Many people habitually use jabs when training. Jabs can be a great tool for assessing range, feeling out your opponent, setting up other more powerful attacks or even attempting to knock your opponent out in the Combat Sports. In the Real Thing, numerous other factors such as Space and Time will not allow for jabs to be used. The Real Thing is very different to many training sessions. Using your Jab as a basis for other tools is not going to work.
  5. Preparedness. When you go to your class for training, you know what you are in for. You expect all that comes with training. You are mentally prepared. You likely go over moves and ideas in your head on the way to class. In the Real Thing we don't have that luxury. Things often escalate quickly and at times when you least expect them. Even if you had good awareness and detected the situation early on as it developed, there is still a very compressed period of time, little of which can be used getting prepared.

    Preparedness is a sliding scale where the better your awareness and the least your are caught by surprise, the more prepared you can be. However it is still nothing like the levels of preparedness achieved when knowingly driving to class in the evening for a training session.
  6. Protective Gear. During hard sparring and wrestling sessions it is common to wear a mouth guard and maybe a cup and some gloves or more, depending on the specifics of each session. That is simply the nature of training in a combat based activity.

    In the Real Thing, these items will not be available. At the time, this may or may not mentally affect you. However, it is important to consider this difference when training. Protective gear can promote some unrealistic training habits. Head gear can often promote wearing a hit on the way in for the kill without seriously considering if that tactic would be successful without the protective equipment.

    The use of gloves can promote instinctively punching in the Real Thing which has the risk of causing serious injury to the hand. I have previously written about punching on the street or not.
  7. The Ground. The surface you train on is likely to be very different to the surface you will be on in the Real Thing. It will likely be concrete, tarmac, tiles or some other hard unforgiving surface.

    On top of this there is likely going to be angles such as gutters and steps. It may also be uneven and have numerous trip hazards. These differences are an important consideration to take into account of when you look at how your training and the techniques you use can be hindered or even become dangerous to you in the Real Thing.
  8. Kicks Above The Thigh. There are numerous factors that make it impractical to kick anywhere above the thigh. Many people are unable or uncomfortable to kick above thigh height without first warming up and stretching. Adrenalin may or may not assist in this matter.

    On top of that, you may find yourself in shoes that don't grip very well. The surface may be very slippery under foot. Sure it might be ok to walk on but to pivot on and land a kick above thigh height it may readily slide out from under you. To kick above thigh height you will need to be in pants that have the appropriate flex or cut to enable the leg to go through the kicking range of movement. When other previously mentioned factors are considered such as Space, Preparedness and Time, it may be difficult to do any kick at all.
  9. Unknown Persons. This one is pretty obvious. You never know who is around or what their motivations are. If you get into a scrap with one person, he may have friends nearby who will happily join in at any time. We have seen previously that you are more likely to face three or more attackers than just two attackers.

    At class, even if you train for multiple attackers, you know who everyone is and what their likely behaviour will be. This also ties in with Consequences as mentioned earlier. Training in multiple attackers in class has nowhere near the consequences of facing multiple attackers in the Real Thing.
  10. The Environment. Training at class is a very learning oriented environment, or it should be... It will also be safe from hazards such as sharp edges and will have a smooth surface. Everyone is there to learn. Everyone knows each other.

    The environment where the Real Thing may occur is very different. For one, it will likely be outside. It could be on the street and/or in front of a crowd of thousands. If someone is uncomfortable doing some nice and safe public speaking, that is also likely to affect them if they are forced to defend themselves in front of a crowd. Everyone will be looking at them.

    There will likely be numerous objects lying around which could be picked up and used as a weapon by either side or all. This will change everything. The point is, the training environment is very different than the the environment where the Real Thing takes place.
  11. Tunnel Vision. The are many effects on the body caused by the stress of combat. Tunnel Vision is arguably the most limiting. It generally happens in conjunction with slow motion time. Tunnel Vision only happens under immense stress. Many people have experienced it to some degree at some stage in their lives. It is there to benefit us and help us focus only on the threat we face and cut out all irrelevant information at that time of danger.

    The problem lies when we face more than just one threat. When experiencing Tunnel Vision, naturally we lock onto the threat. We do not look away at all. We are focused 100% on the threat we are facing. The problem with this survival mechanism is apparent when we throw in a second, third or fourth attacker into the equation. It is very easy for them to come at us from the side or rear as we will not detect it as we are 100% focusing on the one threat to our front. Rarely will training get us to experience tunnel vision and the problems this can cause.

    Briefly, the best way to break this tunnel vision is through training. Every time you face an attacker in scenarios or multiple attacker training, ALWAYS continue to look left, right and behind you at all times. Maintain 360 degree awareness. In this way, hopefully when you experience tunnel vision when facing a threat, it will be a habit to look around and behind you for others.

So there we have it. 11 Key Differences Between Training and the Real Thing. Hopefully this post has provided some food for thought in this matter and will make you in some way, better prepared for the Real Thing.

This list is not exhaustive. There are many other factors that are quite different between our training and the Real Thing. Any suggestions?