The Digging Deeper Series: Musings of a humble old yellow belt. PART 4 – Sports Fighting vs. Self-Defence Audio by Jonathan Fader

Greetings fellow kravists, martial arts, and old people with young minds! 

Welcome back to the Digging Deeper Series as we take a look at Part IV: Sport fighting vs. Self-Defence.  This post will not be an exploration of the titular topic per se, that has been covered rather well already (including some interesting albeit older posts). Instead, I want to discuss the training concepts that apply to both activities, in order to drill down to a few salient concepts as I simply get to the point: I’m not a sports fighter!  Sport fighting, while impressive in terms of athleticism and combative skill, creates a whole litany of speculative injuries in my head.  I’m certainly taking the selfish perspective on this one, because every time someone says to me “did you see the jumping/spinning/flying (insert appendage here) done by so and so” I automatically think, “whoa, that would mean an injury preventing me from kitesurfing for a year.” As a late bloomer in the martial arts world, it’s not the injury I fear the most, but the impact of setbacks with having to deal with the injury recovery.  I have to keep in mind, however, similar to the point made in the recent UTKM series “Self-Defence vs. Fighting”, that while self-defence is separate from sport fighting, fighting is not separate from self-defence.  So that means I have to train in the thing I fear the most in order to have the skills I need in the area most valuable to me. Oh man, more burpee and eye closed defence drills are coming my way!

So let’s do a quick re-cap on what a self-defence scenario may entail, so that we are working together from the same conceptual framework.  As highlighted in the previous Self-Defence vs. Fighting series, “self-defence” includes:

  1. Dealing with unwanted violence
  2. Exposed to overwhelming stimulus
  3. Short, explosive, 10-15 second engagement

Basically, your participation in a self-defence situation will be unwanted, overwhelming, and ultra-fast paced.  Additionally, I would like to highlight that you don’t get a chance to warm up, put on your reading glasses, or ask for a minute of delay because your kids are fighting in the backseat again.  So, even though I’m not a sports fighter, I have to put training elements in place to accommodate an aging muscular framework while still building the necessary self-defence skills.  Over time we lose our ability to simply engage in explosive movements without a gradual warm up. A forceful movement will include a load (force) and a time period in which that load is executed. If you have not exercised a particular movement in a long period of time, you risk some serious muscle and tendon injuries. Think about it for a second, when was the last time you tried to sprint off the starting blocks without training??? Please don’t try it unless you want to tear both your Achilles tendons and learn to flop on the ground like a stringless marionette.

My previous posts have continuously repeated that as a novice kravist, my greatest technique is avoidance; to simply not be in the self-defence scenario in the first place.  I know it may not prove to be exciting content in terms of blog posts, but at UTKM we really do have a deep appreciation of the basics.  We simply try not to get in that scenario, avoid, de-escalate and then if necessary, fight with everything before defending with everything.  In terms of training, whether it is for competition or self-defence, there are some new guiding principles that I must keep in mind:

  1. Become hyper-focused
  2. Train consistently at a gradual volume of hours
  3. Keep it as real as possible, as your muscle tendons don’t like change
  4. Cross-train in other disciplines, but keep it low and slow
  5. Schedule in some breaks (you need them)

As a dad, film worker, and mild adventurer I don’t have a lot of spare time, so I need to arrange a dedicated session in the week to train and acquire the skills I seek gradually. Routine is needed to help build in those neural pathways and muscle memory.  Realism helps the ligaments stay strong, as you are continuously exposing them to increased load.  Cross-training is key, because as adults we learn within the mechanisms of constructivism; our adult brains scaffold off the structures and patterns of previous learning situations.  Motor learning will add more details to a movement if you continuously change the context of that movement. Repetition is important as it will make your movements smoother, but changing it up adds clarity to what you did.  

One last thing for the old folk who love to learn: You can’t just dive in, as you will drastically increase your risk of getting hurt.   My journey has included a broken hand, a hyperextended knee, two bruised ribs, and a mild concussion, but that is not because of the curriculum and simply more because I am re-learning how to learn.  I assumed that my previous athleticism would get me through the process when really my body is telling me that I have to adjust to new concepts and switch to a more reasonable mindset. Life is overwhelming, so take the long view, keep your focus, get some rest, and, most importantly, be consistent.  If I have to react quickly with a body that does not want to, then I have to once again use the multitude of awareness building skills of “not being there” while being diligent, consistent, and open minded to my training. How very Krav-like!

Come train, face a little humiliation, and laugh with us.


Written by: Ted E. – UTKM Yellow Belt

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