Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Those words of wisdom come from former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, and while he in later life may have encountered some struggles, he is 100% correct about that. To circle back to last week’s post on Krav Maga, many people questioned why hold up contact sports like BJJ, american Boxing, or modern MMA as the best options for self defense training. The answer is the same reason I encourage anyone who’s serious about their self-defense to shoot competitions. Competition shooting is the only venue where you can test the entire range of your gun handling skills under the stress of a timer, audience, and scoring. It is not a real gunfight, but it is as close as you can probably get short of joining the military.


Similarly, while contact fighting in boxing/mma and grappling in BJJ aren’t “real” fights, what you get when you strap on the gloves is an opponent who is fully committed to opposing your will with violence of their own. Yes, there are rules – but anyone who has stood in the ring and taken a punch has a much more intimate understanding of violence than someone who has only ever had an instructor teach them walk-through techniques. “Here’s how you defend against a reverse bear hug” with a compliant and willing partner, that sort of thing.

That’s important. I honestly believe that if you’re really serious about unarmed self-defense, you should take classes that involve full-contact sparring (or grappling for BJJ). There is a tremendous amount of personal value in knowing how your body reacts when you take a punch, and knowing how hard you can deliver a punch right back. I’m not saying you should try and win the Golden Gloves, just like I don’t think you need to be a USPSA Grandmaster to successful defend yourself. But the value available in inducing stress into your training is huge. If you’re not shooting at least 1 or 2 matches, you’re cheating your development as a shooter. Similarly, if your unarmed training doesn’t involve someone who is genuinely trying to hit you, you’re cheating your growth as well. There is some value to be had in working through techniques with a compliant partner – that’s how we learn stuff. But if you can’t test that stuff out against someone who wants to oppose your will? It’s just fancy wrist-lock kata.


  1. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”
    Funny. After not hearing that phrase for years, I’ve heard at least three separate people quote it to me in the last week.

    Then, without warning,…(you guessed it) they punched me right in the mouth.

  2. I took krav maga for about 6 months. A few of the guys in the class started meeting up at the gym to go full contact because they wouldn’t let us do that in the class for some reason. We basically were boxing each other because no one wants to show up to work at their office job with a broken leg from a kick or a black eye or whatever; we just wanted to see how all of this stuff worked when we weren’t hitting pads.

    I’m 5’6 and build like Gimili and I was fighting dudes that were closer to 6′ versions of Bruce Lee. It took about 15 seconds before I was punched in the nose. Every single thing I ever learned went out the window the second I got punched in the nose that first time. I figure most of it would go but I had some hope that I would retain at least a little of it but nope all gone. I learned three things that day 1) I don’t want to get into a fight. I should avoid hand to hand at all costs. 2) If I’m going to learn anything I need to go full contact. 3) This is why guns are good. It takes a lot less time to become competent with a gun than with fists.

  3. Although I agree that training that never results in getting punched is a bad thing, it’s also important to note that routinely getting hit in the head can be very damaging.

    Also, one-on-one, symmetric sparring is not the only alternative to “wrist-lock kata”. It’s not hard to set up asymmetric situations where one of the participants is at a disadvantage. (E.g., his back is against a wall, or the other has a training knife.) The important thing is that the attacker in this situation takes it seriously.

  4. >> Competition shooting is the only venue where you can test the entire range of your gun handling skills under the stress of a timer, audience, and scoring.

    It is also one of the very few environments where participants actually TRAIN, that is, have a measured means of determining skill and purposely drive skill up based on that measurement. Most people that bother with “training” receive someone’s, or some organization’s, idea of instruction and stop there. “Seasoned” veteran trainers have attended multiple instruction courses that never demand skill increases. It’s like a person that attends a barbell certification course annually that never touches a barbell between courses. Even after twenty years he won’t be any stronger for it.

    I challenge you to find an open enrollment tactical class where paying students are FAILED. They don’t receive any acknowledgement of attending unless they hit some minimum, pre-determined skill performance requirement. Most give everyone a certificate of attendance, provided your credit card clears and you don’t hurt anyone.

    See if you can find an open enrollment tactical class beyond intro/basic that enforces a required skill progression. One that sends students home the morning of day one, possibly without refund, if they fail to meet tested minimums.

    Tactical Timmy takes instruction, but he rarely trains.

    >> [Competition] is as close as you can probably get short of joining the military.

    You give military-trained shooters way too much credit. The level of instruction and tested skill requirements there are rarely higher than found in open enrollment civilian classes.

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