When I was studying Aikido, the wristlocks my practice partners applied seldom hurt. I don’t know if the techniques failed because my peers were careful not to hurt me, or because they didn’t know how to apply the techniques correctly. I tend to think the latter, because a joint lock is seldom dangerous when taken to the point of pain. Many of these joint lock techniques must be very precise in order to be effective. You won’t know if you have reached precision with the technique unless you take it to the point of pain.

In a real-life scenario that is taken to physical contact, it is unlikely that you will escape uninjured. You must therefore address the issue of contact. Many arts employ only light contact, while others teach full contact. But even in full contact arts, the practitioners normally wear some sort of protection in the form of gloves or body gear. My opinion is that if you are learning 52 Blocks for self-defense, your instructor must take you to the point of pain, show you how precise a technique must be in order to be effective, and how easily it can fail. Light contact, or just tapping the target, is not going to cut it. I am a proponent of wearing safety gear, but not to overdo it. 52 Blocks should, in my opinion, be felt. The difficulty is in knowing how to practice contact safely in class. Obviously, you don’t want to injure your practice partner. When kicking to the knee, for example, ideally you should drive the kick all the way through the target—hard. But you must do so on a bag or other dead target and not on a live partner. Accuracy is still best practiced on a live partner. But contact to sensitive targets, such as the joints and throat, must be kept to a minimum. Much of self-defense also relies on your ability to maintain your cool when under pressure. Even if you are wearing safety gear and are not getting hurt, the stress you experience may prevent you from responding to the attack appropriately.

When attending the self-defense seminar, consider these issues:

1. If you already have a martial arts background, you may still feel as though you don’t know how to defend yourself in a real encounter. Part of the problem may be because your prior martial art training has not included a great deal of realistic contact training.

2. When you step into the training hall, you may already have your mind geared toward sparring, grappling, or some sort of contact training. But a real encounter is likely to be unexpected. As a result, you will be more successful in the training hall than on the street.

3. If you are completely new to the martial arts, you must be careful not to attain a false sense of confidence. For example, it is unlikely that you will be able to defend yourself successfully after a one-day seminar.

4. Your 52 Blocks instructor must address real issues and teach techniques that are not too complex or require the use of too many fine motor skills 4/11. SCENARIO 50

You regularly defeat everybody in karate tournaments, but you still got beat up in a bar brawl last weekend. What course of action should you take?

1. Hit a little harder next time.

2. Realize that you are not as good as you thought you were.

3. Tell others that your fighting spirit is great; you just had a bad day.

4. Maintain a positive attitude and say that only the person who thinks he is beaten is.

Training for competition does not guarantee proficiency in self-defense. If you end up in a self-defense situation and try to use your competition skills, chances are you will not fare very well. What happens on the street is chaotic. If you have a long martial arts background, you will likely be more successful than your neighbor who has not trained at all, and you will likely be in better physical shape than the average person. But don’t count on walking away unscathed.


A loss on the street can strip a student of her faith in the art she has spent a lifetime to perfect. Throughout a student’s career, continually stress that no technique is foolproof.


You see an advertisement that reads, Learn to attack, maim, and kill your opponent. What signal does it send you regarding the class? Don’t become complacent. When you understand the reality of fighting, you can focus on learning and achieving what can be achieved rather than on some abstract and distant wish dream.

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