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The Fundamentals Of Self-Defence Skills Development

“Advanced Techniques Are The Basics Mastered” ~ unknown

This post is about learning self-defence and combative skills faster, better, retaining them longer and continuously improving them.

Fundamentals first! The development of your combative skills should be based on a solid foundation of “fundamentals.”

Fundamentals are defined as “central or primary rules or principles on which something is based.” In the case of self-defence, fundamentals are the basic principles of combative movement.

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.” ~ Jim Rohn

As a professional trainer, I focus on three niches:

1. Health & Performance – people who want to improve their health and athleticism by incorporating combat-related exercise into their lifestyle. Hitting a heavy bag, focus pads, etc. is an excellent form of functional conditioning.

2. Self-defence – people who want to be able to protect themselves and their loved ones from violence.

3. High Risk Professionals – people who encounter resistive or violent situations on the job. (police, military, corrections, security etc.)

When designing a training solution for all of these groups, I start with fundamentals.

At first blush, fundamentals look like a “crash course” in boxing or kickboxing. In a few hours, students learn a variety of pugilistic techniques and movement patterns… How to stand, how to move, and how to hit with efficiency and power.

It’s not that I think that “boxing-style” tactics are your BEST solution to real-world self-defence or defensive tactics. Quite often they aren’t. The use of the clenched fist, for example, creates the risk of injury to your hands if you crack some misfit in the teeth or on the top of the head.

In a professional setting, I doubt your employer (or your lawyer) would be very impressed if your “go-to-response” to a volatile situation was to K.O. a belligerent or uncooperative subject with a solid hook to the jaw.

So why am I so convinced that the shortest path to legitimate progress is to start with combative fundamentals?

In an effort to answer that question… let me tell you what fundamentals are and are not.

Fundamentals ARE NOT…

  • They are NOT intended to teach you how to “fight,” although they are an essential starting point to the development of effective combative skills.
  • They are NOT a martial art, although they are the foundation of ALL strike-based martial arts. Principles don’t change, only the way you apply them does. A practitioner from “any” martial art can benefit from investing time to learn the fundamentals.

Fundamentals ARE…

  • They ARE the mechanics of combative movement, stripped down to their essential elements. They are the basics of how to position yourself, move with balance and fluidity and how to hit with power, efficiency and resilience.

Bruce Lee wrote:

“Its not the daily increase but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessentials.”

In my opinion, fundamentals ARE the essentials. They are “square one,” of any strike-based martial art or self-defence system.

When training is based around the mastery of fundamentals, you can expect the following benefits:

Learn Faster – many people come to self-defence or defensive tactics training without having ever been in a fight or even thrown a punch. A focus on fundamentals first shortens the learning curve when transitioning to more specialized fighting or control tactics.

Learn Better – fundamentals reinforce effective combative habits. Maintaining a stable, balanced, yet mobile position, generating power with your entire body, protecting your head at all times become habitual after time is spent on the basics.

Retain It Longer – If you memorize or mimic something, you’ll forget it. If you understand something, it’s yours forever. Fundamentals help people “get it” quickly when trying to understand the basis for combative movement and methods.

Taking a self-defence seminar or a martial arts class is a starting point, not an end in itself. “The Erosion Effect,” stipulates that if you don’t use it you’ll lose it.

Unless you incorporate regular practice and review what you were taught, you’re “as good as you’re gonna get,” at the end of a formal learning session. Fundamentals are “practicable,” and should be incorporated into ongoing training.

Continuous Improvement – Your goal after learning something important should be to apply it to your life from that point forward and to get better and better at it. The fundamentals are the skills you can continue to practice and improve on for a lifetime.

So exactly what does fundamental training look like? As I mentioned earlier, the basics of combative fundamentals can be taught in a few hours which includes:

  • Stance and positioning – adopting a balanced, stable and mobile position that affords optimal performance and protection.
  • Movement and shifting – the ability to control range, avoid attacks, acquire optimal angles and move powerfully.
  • Hitting – essential striking and kicking patterns with an emphasis on generating power and transferring it into a target without injuring yourself in the process.
  • Scrambling – Scrambling is a “handful” of basic movement principles to stay up, get up, fall safely or fight from the ground.

I will get into the specifics in future posts, but the point I’m trying to make is that, regardless of your training goals, start with the fundamentals.

I am developing content to “flesh out” the entire Toughen Up program in the form of blog posts and training guides. I am in the process of revising and expanding my current guides and will be releasing a Toughen Up 2.o version in the future.

If you want to grab the current guides for a substantial discount, (and secure future benefits as a registered customer) you can find out more at this link.

In the meantime, please feel free to comment below and let me know what you think on the subject of this post.

About Randy LaHaie

I’m the founder of “Protective Strategies,” a training and consulting company providing self-defense and combative fitness solutions to law enforcement, high-risk professionals and private citizens since 1994. I am a retired police officer, court-declared expert in use-of-force and critical incident performance, and a life-long student of self-defense and combative fitness. “My Thing” is to help people incorporate functional and minimalist workout strategies to improve their health, fitness and personal safety.

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