Reality is Reality




Podcast Neuro Combatives “Reality of Violence”

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Reality is Reality Article
try to take reality as it is without projecting too much back story onto it.


Our brains, with all their various software faults and cognitive biases will try and distort reality to fit an unconscious agenda that conforms with our most deeply held beliefs about the world. Be wary of that tendency.
It’s a daily self discipline to not fall prey to this too much. Reality isnt what you want it to to be or what you project onto it.

To quote Sensei Zara Phythian “Reality is reality”.

I saw this conversation play out in an online coversation between her and a frustrated sounding student. He asked: but will sportive kickboxing style drills help if you get into a fight “in reality”?

This is a common, and rather odd, misconception: that combat sports will be TOTALLY inapplicable in “a street fight” or “in reality” and therefore studying them is “useless”.


It’s amusing to think of all the hyperbolic discourse that comes from the “self defence” /”combatives” niche about how “in the street there are no rules, no referees and no time limits” and its all “anything goes”, “survival of the most aggressive” and you have to “fight dirty” with apparently no caution regarding restraint and YET at the same time there is a rigid dogma that follows these “no rules street assaults”  that is just jam packed with rules!

lie example 1:  dont punch in the street, punching ALWAYS breaks your hands (but your palms are magic and will not break – same part of the anatomy, slightly different shape, totally different ability to withstand damage?)

lie example 2: any kind of combat sport training is worthless for the street

lie example 3: no kicking, if you kick “in reality” you will fall down and die of plague.

lie example 4: no “complex” moves, “in reality” you will go into a primitive animalistic state and all the hours of training hardwiring your body to move a certain way will fly out the window and you will be reduced to beating your opponent over the head like an ape. With hammer fists.  Which are ok because they have “combatives not boxing flavouring”. And which wont break your hands.
But remember …punches will break your hands.

Confused yet?

I could go on. The field is packed with this kind of dogma.



Be careful of these two words “ALWAYS” and “NEVER”

Anyone who is “telling you the way it is” with absolutely rigid certainty when talking about street violence is to be regarded with a degree of suspicion in my opinion.


Two things might be happening:
1. they have deluded themselves into thinking they have solved the problem of real world violence and reduced it down to a simple bottled physics formula that if you follow you will ALWAYS be safe

2. they are deliberately decieving their students into thinking the situation is simpler than it is, knowing that selling a simple solution is a lot easier than selling a complicated one

Thinking street violence is always going to play out a certain way is magical thinking.
Thinking you know what that way is, is frankly, dangerous self deception.

We would all feel more calm, less anxious, more warm and fuzzy inside if we knew for definite that we had “the solution”, the cure, that panacea for every scenario.


But we don’t, nobody does.

As regards sportive combat training like kickboxing or muay thai: does anyone truly beleieve that practising something that gives you faster reflexes, more fitness, more hand to eye coordination, greater proprioception, balance, fluidity of movement and the ability to hit pads and people makes you LESS capable in a brawl?


One of the pitfalls of combatives/selfprotection/rbsd is it is so reductionist and so dismissive of training practises that the deeper you go into it the narrower it gets.

Like that corridor gene wilder walks down in the willy wonka film.

It gets steadily more and more restrictive then just becomes a DEAD END.

The doctrine and dogma gets more rigid the deeper you go:

“you cant use that technique, it wouldnt work against a 17 stone, steroid abusing blacksmith high on peruvian flake going at you hell for leather”

“you cant use THAT training drill, its great for the ring but it wont work against 6 japanese shoot fighters smashed on jagerbombs trying to fold you into a pretzel”

“bro, that technique you just did? it will get you KILLED… if you are facing a chainsaw weilding communist insomniac in a phone box”

“Im NEVER going to study that!  it takes too long to learn, if I cant learn it in 3 hours or less its not gross motor movement and therefore worthless.”

Or the instructors equivalent persective:

“Im not teaching those techniques, they cant be picked up and used by 80 year old women with osteoporosis and bad hips so therefore they are bunkum”

Where do we draw the limits? What are we going to end up training?

Well, what do many self defence schools teach?

Sadly the answer to that question is all too frequently :not much.

 Often they are so scared of commiting  to any progressive training objectives because by committing to one you are “neglecting” all the other potential threats, effectively rendering “commitment” a sin, that they dont every commit to anything.


And more importantly what attributes and skillsets do the students actually walk away with?

Whether you are an instructor or a student, keep this question in mind:


By training this way over time: what am I actually getting good at right now?


Sadly the answer for many well intentioned schools and practitioners out there, the answer is: ” precisely nothing at all”.

By neurotically flip flopping between training styles/dogmas/techniques/ paradigms and threats the students never progress and end up with a surface level ability in a lot of different areas, very few observable attributes and LOW CONFIDENCE.

Often I think they would have been better off investing that time in an old school strength training programme and some muay thai – at least they would after 6 months or a year made some verifiable progress and be able to do something.

But will that stuff work in reality?

Well “reality is reality”.

So the answer is “yes”, “no”, “maybe” and “it depends”.

Get good at something. It might not fulfill the neurotic, twitchy “jason bourne” fantasy but it will make you more confident.

Commit to a course of action and see it through to the end. With the best will in the world you are always going to struggle to tackle an armed gang attack: you have two arms, two legs and one head. I’m not saying you shouldnt spend “some time” considering how to deal with it. But bear in mind the “opportunity cost”. By agonising over a diverse range of threats what are you NOT doing that you could be?

Wouldn’t some time spent doing “boring” and “non exotic” but simple core drills like learning how to punch straight, learning how to move, learning how to work your stance be of some benefit too? The bricks and mortar foundational stuff?

I’ve seen the looks on peoples faces when I try and get them to train this stuff. It might be what they need but because they dont recognise that need it is not what they “want”.

They want new, exciting techniques (“quick kills” as I heard someone refer to them recently, oh the lol) and drills to “add to their collection”.

Street fights arent won by hobbyist collectors, thats the truth. They arent won by the most technicall proficient either. There is a paradigm shift we must accept here. Its hard to hear it but its the reality of the situation. Click here for more details

And remember, in reality, most problems are usually solved by “specialists”.

Dont get frustrated with your instructors, we didnt make reality so complex.

You could get angry with reality I suppose but I think thats probably a fairly functional definition of a crazy person.

Train hard, train intelligently, stay safe.


Sensei Zara Pythian

Sensei Zara Pythian

Sensei Zara Pythian teaches out of the Personal Best Academy in Mansfield

About The Author

richie grannon

Richard Grannon is a martial arts instructor and psychology coach.

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