A Combatives Fallacy

Currently, I am reading a book about modern Combatives written by a fairly well known instructor. There are some good ideas and some solid information contained in it, but I have a hard time endorsing the book because there is an underlying concept that the author espouses that is fantastically wrong. Since he uses this wrong concept as one of the bedrocks of his method, and he brings it up numerous times, it is difficult to overlook.

Now before I get in depth about this, let me address a point that I know some people are already thinking. I am not attacking the majority of instructors who teach “combatives”. If you notice, the title of my company has that term in it. No, what I am attacking is an instance of intellectual laziness that started off of someone’s complete misunderstanding of something. And rather than someone standing up and saying “That does not seem right”, too many people joined in and repeated this idea without the slightest bit of critical thinking. So before someone gets huffy, understand the point, and engage me on the substance of my critique.

The supposition he makes that is so egregious is the following:
“The idea is not a reciprocal type exchange, like in a Thai Boxing bout. You know where he has his turn and you have your turn. In the worst case scenario…..it’s going to be me, me, me and more of me finished. It’s a one sided directed event and that begins and ends in your head.”


I cannot believe any knowledgeable person would ever try to pass that off. No one with any brain capacity could think this, but apparently, some do. Let’s talk the truth.

There is not one single combat sports athlete on the planet that “lets” his opponent do anything! There is no accepted reciprocal back and forth attacking in any combat sport ever. I can only surmise that the first person to pass off this idea got his entire understanding of boxing type sports from watching Rocky. Or perhaps, at the very least, he thinks that is all his audience knows, so he feels he can say it with impunity.

Just think logically about this for a moment. Is there any other sport on the planet where this is the case? Take a basketball game as an example. After your team has scored, do you let the other team walk up the court and take their shot? Or, instead, does the defending team try to snatch the ball away as soon as possible? And do they press hard to keep the second team from passing or dribbling the ball up the court? And does the first team do everything in their power to block any shots? OF COURSE! Anything else would be so ludicrous. Why would anyone believe that combat sports are any different?
Do you honestly believe then that a Muay Thai practitioner goes into a match, throws a strike or a combination and then waits patiently while the opponent returns fire? No, what he does is try to hit as hard and as fast and as often as possible, and continues to move in a way to make it as difficult as possible for the opponent to hit him back. If possible, he would prefer the fight to be over within seconds. Do these “Combative Instructors” truly believe that a combat athlete goes into a fight willing to take trauma because “it is the other guys turn”? Not……a……..freaking………chance. Only someone who only looks at it from outside and does not bother to understand or experience it firsthand, or someone who has an agenda could ever suggest something so silly.

The fact is that every single combat sport athlete, from the boxer to the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu competitor, would love for it to be a one sided affair that they can finish quickly. Every single one would love to go home as early as possible and walk away with as little physical damage as they can manage. Let me assure you, as someone who boxed under the tutelage of Paavo Ketonenn at Top Level Gym in Phoenix where pros such as Cassius Clay Horne trained, as someone who has been doing doing Muay Thai under top coaches since 1985, as someone who has been awarded the highest technical rank in Savate (silver glove), as someone who has been doing BJJ for over 22 years, there is not one decent practitioner of any of those arts who will get into a reciprocal fight willingly.

Do you know why though that the one-sided fight in a combat sports match rarely happens? Because they are fighting another living, breathing, thinking opponent! One who does not collapse to the ground after being hit with a hammerfist. Nor is that opponent going to stand there at let you do all your cool guy moves without doing something to stop you, and inflict his own damage at that. That is why combat sports look the way they do. They are based on real resisting pressure from an opponent who has freedom of action.
When you actually fight in those conditions, you have to develop things like defense because few people will crumble at the slightest bit of pressure. Instead, they fight as hard as possible. And a system that never trains for that possibility, nor trains its practitioners to be prepared if the cool moves fail, is the exact opposite of a functional system, period.

There is a reason that all Tier 1 military’s base their training on the idea that the opponent(s) can and will fight back to the maximum of their capabilities. It is the entire genesis of programs like the US Navy’s Top Gun. Any military training or operations plan is based on the idea that the enemy will do something back, and that the good guy forces have to be ready to adjust to that. Not one successful military unit will make the assumptions about their opponents that the above mentioned Combatives instructor makes. They know people would die if they did. Just as making that kind of assumption for personal self-defense could very lead to death or injury for the good guy.

Good, thoughtful, and prepared combatives instructors like Mick Coup, Paul Sharp, Chris Fry, or Craig Douglas (Southnarc) also base their coursework around this basic concept. They don’t need to pretend that combat sports are something different, but rather see them as a methodology that can help their own work, rather than as some kind of competition to what they do.
In short, it is a waste of time to try to dismiss combat sport training as something it is not, and rather focus on what you can take from there to make you safer.