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Every student should leave a martial arts class more proficient then when they went in. For me, proficiency means that they are better able to handle themselves during a violent confrontation, both in the ring or on the street.
Training should be realistic and energetic.
Each technique should have a purpose, be easy to implement in real circumstances, as well as hold up to pressure testing (increasingly hard sparring). What is taught in class should be based on real situations (taken from CCTV footage, victim accounts and interviews with fighters), statistically based (training to counter the most common situations) and most importantly:
Techniques should be based on how a human body reacts under pressure.
Whilst flashy and technical techniques look impressive and require a level of mastery to perform, they are not practical. Unless it can be performed under the duress of a real conflict, with adrenaline pumping, in an unfamiliar environment with their life on the line, it is of little use.
I don't believe in flashy moves or wishful thinking.
I believe in what I can test and what I can teach others to perform under pressure. Situations that require self-defence are not the time to be unsure of yourself or your teachings.
It is with that mindset that I approach my own training. All techniques should be pressure tested against increasingly resistant opponents as well as usable whilst sparring. Regardless of the style trained, contact sparring should be a constant thing. Every night at the end of my Muay Thai and BJJ classes we would spar, sometimes it would be light and technical, other times it would be a war. It was from these sessions that I soon learnt which techniques (for me at least) were legit. If it worked for me or against me, I gave it further consideration.
I consider cross training and competing a must. It is very easy for martial artists to live in the ivory tower of 'my style/instructor/gym' is the best, with no evidence other then the fact that it is what they do. If it works, it works, the only way to be truly sure is to test it - widely and continuously.
Finally, all self defence instructors should spend some time covering prevention, deescalation and post conflict survival, or at least direct their students to an expert in those areas.
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Zachary Phillips is an Australian born writer, podcaster, vlogger, school teacher, mental health advocate, motivational speaker and martial artist. He uses these platforms to promote mental health awareness, personal development and self-discovery.Coming from a troubled past, he began writing as a form of therapy. After finding that sharing his story helped others to move on and heal, he decided to release his first book 'Under The Influence - Reclaiming My Childhood' to the public.It provides a personal and brutally honest account of the destructive dynamic that a drug affected and mentally ill father can have on his child.Zachary gives us a sacred peek into his once shattered mind, teaching us that, even against all the odds, a broken mind can not only be healed, but can go on to flourish, inspiring others along the way. - About Under The Influence
"I hope that my work will help to reduce the stigma around mental illness and provide some guidance to those facing similar circumstances."
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