Crucibles in Survival Practice: Part III – A Better Dojo

johnaheatherlySurvival, Survival Skills

Much like the previous article, Part II: The Three Day Ruck Rule, this third installment discusses an interesting mind/body phenomenon that is fundamental for survival. Like many training outcomes, this observable fact is often discovered during a training Crucible, or self-test (see Crucibles in Survival Practice: Part I – Man in the Creek!).

A Better Dojo

My interest in self-defense had led me to a karate studio, one that utilized “point karate” as its main sparring exercise. Truthfully, much of the training was effective though I came to believe that point sparring lacked realism. Additionally, it did not take long for me to discover that I was horribly inept. (I am sure that I would still be pathetic at point sparring to this very day!)

After several weeks I formed the perception that my peers were all excelling while my skill-set had not improved at all. Disappointment turned to frustration and eventually became a high-degree of tension that all but ruined my efforts. After all, only a relaxed warrior is a truly effective warrior.

Several months of agony slowly passed; I wanted to quit but was intrigued when the Chief Instructor announced we would be “building a new exercise.” For several days we constructed improvised walls to sub-divide the training area. Our dojo was to become a rehearsal arena for various street-fight scenarios. What a fabulous idea!

The training area gained incredible new elements of realism. One “room” was an alley, complete with garbage cans, litter, and sticks. Another was a bar; yet another was a parking lot. Trainees were meant to proceed through the gauntlet and defend themselves against unknown assailants using any means available.

I recall being nervous as I ventured into the “alley”; when the mugger appeared (in realistic mugger attire!), I instinctively grabbed a garbage can lid and bashed him. Seconds later I finished the fight with a long stick found in that same garbage can. The feeling of accomplishment was exhilarating! The other training scenarios were equally effective and exciting (though I did fail to see an assailant’s hidden accomplice in the parking lot who eventually shot me in the back – lesson learned.)

In this case, the differences between point-sparring and scenario-sparring were numerous and vast. For me, the most noteworthy distinction was the transformation of my mentality during the scenario-based exercise. Rather than being tense and slow, the realistic scenario helped me to relax and simply act. The change in mindset became a change in my physical expression and performance.

The story above emphasizes a basic point in this series of articles: realistic, scenario-based training uncovers latent abilities and produces more capable trainees. For those like me, a realistic scenario can teach the difference between tension/failure and relaxation/success.

When considering survival training, relax and keep it real!