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Pressure Testing or Pressure Based Training?

Training at speed using gloves during IZVOR training.


In the world of Self Defense Training the phrase ‘Pressure Testing’ has become fashionable and has recently popped up a number of times in discussions on our Facebook group so I thought it was time to write a quick post about the topic based on what I am currently doing with my own studies.


The basic concepts of pressure testing are that Martial Arts Techniques need to work in as near to real self defense scenarios and if it does not work it has little value to the student. Now there are a number of problems with this premise.  


The main one is that there is no way of replicating the real world of self defense.  If you go full speed and force there needs to be control measures to prevent injury and this in turn effects the reality of the situation. Introduce gloves and the strikes will have less effect on your attacker.  A foam bat is lighter than a real one and will not need as much commitment out of the attacker to weald it.  This can make it more difficult to take the attackers balance or easier for them to change the trajectory of the attack.


At Combat Lab we realize that we cannot make things real, but acknowledge that we can make use of pressure as a method of training instead of one of eliminating ideas that do not work for us.  My idea has been for some time that instead of testing and discarding we try to build up the pressure we experience in training progressively.  This way we do not ditch our Russian Martial Arts at the first sign of speed or resistance in favor of poor quality MMA.  


Even the Russian Martial Art IZVOR, which is known for full speed application of Systema, they build things up slowly and do not go full speed straight away.  Yet they do build things up and use a variety of methods and training equipment that gives students a chance to acclimatize to fighting. To me that is the key to effective martial arts training, we are trying to acclimatize to a variety of stimuli.


By using gloves and foam covered weapons we can become used to speed.  Using real weapons at a slower speed or even at full speed if we know what attack is coming can be a great way of getting used to the feel and sight of a real weapon.  However using real weapons in a pressure test makes no sense because the attacker will always hold back unless they are a homicidal maniac.


So instead of testing your material there is more to be gained from introducing pressure as a training method right from the start in your Systema training.  Build things up and get beyond slow training from the very first lesson.  You will be surprised to find how quickly speed and other forms of pressure become normal if you train that way and then you do not need to test sometime down the road.  


If however you do what I did, which was for far to long to only train the way I had been shown in Systema classes taught by most of the main instructors from the Ryabko and Systema Vasiliev Schools until I decided to test what I could get to work sometime down the line.  You are likely to find that your slow training like mine does not stand up to the test.  So start to pick up the speed and make a little pressure part of every Systema lesson.  I have been doing this with my students for a while now and have students with as little a six months training working effectively at full speed because it has become normal to them.




For more information on studying the Science of Russian Martial Arts and learn how to train it for self defence check out our other Systema blog articles and the educational material in our Combat Lab Shop.  Our educational material is unique in the English language.