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.

12 thoughts on “A Combatives Fallacy”

  1. I know the book you’re talking about, and I agree with what you’re saying.
    However, I feel like you’re doing a disservice to someone who is legitimately experienced.
    Having trained with this individual, what I take from that statement is a mindset shift. In sport, you’re constantly conditioned to take a punch, because you’re matched somewhat evenly with you opponent based on experience.
    Most people who take self defense courses (and let’s face it, that book is designed for beginners) are not conditioned in such a way.
    That is a problem, but it’s a problem that will never go away.
    The instructor in question also teaches boxing and Muay Thai and obviously doesn’t teach people to stand there and take punishment until it’s their turn.
    But for many (Anderson Silva comes to mind as an easy example), the sport mentality is to bait an opponent into an attack so they can counter, and that mentality is dangerous in the street.
    Anyway, as much respect as I have for the instructor you’re talking about I don’t believe in golden calves. It’s good to point out fallacies, and I would suggest you contact him.
    I think he’d be interested in your opinion.

    1. Actually, you are thinking of another instructor. The person in question here absolutely DOES NOT teach boxing and MT.

      Secondly, it is irrelevant who the book is aimed at. I quoted the author exactly. And it is a wrong point. Period. It is very clear not only from his quote, but also from the context in the book where he puts the quote that he is stating just what he is stating, that combat sports are inferior to combatives because of this supposed “reciprocal” nature. You cannot build a strong house when the foundation is built on total nonsense. And it does not matter if some fighters play a counter game. Absolutely none of them are taught that in the beginning of their training. That is a personal outgrowth down the line. No beginner in any combat sport is taught from the start to fight that way. So even id we can assume the author was referring to this (which he certainly was not), it still does not matter because the only people who would fight that way are the ones who have developed that ability over the years and could pull it off even in “the street”.

      Also, I disagree with your idea that you learn to take a punch because you are evenly matched in a sport. As I stated in the post, the reason they learn to take a punch and learn to fight through and never assume that a single move (no matter how cool lookign the move is) will put someone down, is because they know even people with little skill can keep fighting and even untrained fores rarely go down to a flurry. They assume the fight will go on and train accordingly. Even top level fighters who think they are superior would not slack on their training, just in case.

      And that is exactly what is wrong with the author’s quote. There is even a specific part of the book where he talks about the exact situation where the other guy does not go down when you land your attack. The author’s solution? throw more flurries! No mention at all of protecting yourself, or changing up what is already a failed attack. No, he thinks doubling down on the failure is a good choice. A combat sport athlete wold not be that stupid, and that is something that even the Self-defense noob should understand.

      1. You make good points, and I don’t disagree.
        However, I read that exact quote in a book by Kelly McCann but in his book he does talk about what to do if your technique fails.
        He calls it “branching” and stresses the importance of not continuing to try a failed technique.

        My point is that you made some pretty disparaging remarks about a very experienced instructor (if it is KM you’re referring to. If not, my apologies).
        I also regularly disagree with anyone who says sport fighters don’t know how to fight in the street etc. The old “groin kick” argument.

        Thanks for your reply.

    1. I don’t think so. I have no interest in trolling or getting into pointless wars or personal attacks. I am only interested in truth in combat. Anything else is a waste of time and takes us away form actually doing the work.

      1. I said that like a joke, totally agree with you ! 🙂 even if I think that it can changed the view of many people !
        In self defense there is so many bullshit that this kind of article is an eye opener !

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