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Congruent Training



One reason I value the Combat Lab Facebook group is that some of the contributions of other members really get me thinking.  In his latest blog article on congruency, my friend and student of Aleksander Kostic, Dragan Milojevic wrote an interesting piece where he asked is the way we are training congruent with the event we are training for.


He looked at how sports coaches try to make the training environment as near to the competitive experience and looked at how reality based training should consider clothing, environment and the weapons we learnt to train with.


I would like to suggest one other level of congruence be considered….  ‘Is the way we train congruent with the reasons for us training in the first place?’


There are a number of very different reasons for studying martial arts.  For some their interests are in learning to defend themselves if they were ever unlucky enough to be put to the test.’  This is training for a hypothetical event that for most will never come, but is usually the original reason for starting training and somewhere in the background of every martial artists mind when it comes for a reason to keep training. 


Next there are those looking for some sort of social connection and even escapism through the immersion in another culture. The bonds they build with other people and the importance on the diversity of the things they learn can hold great importance. I have known these people in other martial arts to take great interest in cataloging the history, techniques and culture that surrounds schools, but be less interested in developing some reliable skills that would survive a modern encounter.


When in previous martial arts I knew people who could recount ancient history about the are we were studying and could recite the techniques that formed specific katas, but when push came to shove had poor fitness and there techniques were sloppy because of it. They had an illusion of combat based on their interpretation of historical techniques designed for fighting in armour, which is very different to being punched on on a Friday night by some drunken fools trying to prove a point.


The point I am trying to make is that we need to identify what sort of martial artist we are trying to be and then to train accordingly.  In the RMA community there are those that take great delight in learning intricate movements with sabres, defending themselves from attacks with assault rifles, fighting with military shovels and even fighting in water.  There is nothing wrong with any of that so long as it congruent with why we train and what we want to get out of training.


There is nothing wrong with having several different goals from training.  As many of you know I have studied BJJ for a number of years at a very sports related club.  Though I went there to gain some knowledge about how grapplers work on the ground I have ended up staying there for a number of reasons other than how it teaches me to defend myself.  BJJ has become a place to explore movement and problem solving, to hang out with some really cool people and not really a place to worry about if I would use what I learn on the street. 


My RMA training is different I want it to be where I learn to deal with the realities of fighting on the street.  I therefore have to train accordingly and proportion my training time accordingly.  What is the likelihood of being attacked neck deep in a lake?  Am I going to need to roll over a table with a rifle in my real life and what is the reality of getting into a knife on knife fight if I do not carry a knife that can be drawn in a fight? 


I am not saying we should not look at things outside of obvious street self defence  material, but if it is to be congruent with the self defence goal it needs to somehow be part of a structured method that brings something more than simply being able to fight underwater armed wearing speedos whilst armed with a cossack sabre.


Exercises such as low acrobatics holding rifles have little practical application for most of my students, but we use it as a way of building complexity into our rolling so that the rifle becomes a problem to solve and nothing more than that. 


Sabre and stick swinging is not anything to do with fighting for us and instead is a practice we can use in solo training to develop coordination of the left and right side of our bodies whilst simultaneously developing movement patterns commonly seen within the Russian Style.


As for water training it is a great way to cool off on a sunny day, but for us it can be used to develop power in our strikes and kicks instead of the usual explanations of it working with fears that get banded around commonly within the Systema community.  


As for shovel or whip work… They play a really small part of what we do.  This is because we are unlikely to face an attacker when we have such an implement to hand and as Dragan rightly pointed out even a baseball bat operates in a very different manner to a normal stick.  Therefore we are better off learning to work with what is likely to be available instead of weapons of a martial artists fantasy.




To learn more about that and the science our approach is built on please check out our other articles and educational material in the Combat Lab Shop.