Why You Want To Embrace Failure in Self-Defence

by | Mar 30, 2023

embrace failure

Why You Want to Embrace Failure Over Performance in Self-Defence Training

Learning self-defence has endless benefits, but there are some risks when you tie your “performance” in training drills to your confidence or self-esteem. You certainly want to increase your confidence and self-esteem, but there are a few things to be aware of.

How can that be, you ask? “If I do well in the training drills, I can only boost my confidence, can’t I?”

Here are some of the risks I see. (All of this depends on where a person is in their training journey. Some may only spend a few hours learning, while others may spend years.)

False Confidence – Training at many self-defence clubs often involves repetitive practice of a particular defence against an attack. For example, if your partner attacks with a choke, you would practice the defence until your defence looks good, feels good, and you have confidence you can now defend against a front choke.

CAUTION – Of course, practice is good, but you will learn much more from your training “failures.” Do not practice in a way that involves just the execution of memorized techniques that cause you to become mindless and just a performance.

Your teacher must introduce constantly changing variables exposing you to central or micro-challenges within a drill that might affect your reaction.

Most successful people in any endeavour will tell you they learned much more from their failures than successes. And in the world of violence prevention and self-defence, the difference between success and failure can have life-saving implications.

This is why I encourage people to enter training with curiosity and fascination for learning. Make the training mistakes the most critical and exciting aspect, not the “performance.”

The instructors and training partners are critical in this regard. Let me give you an example.

If I am training and my partner, let’s call him Richard Dimitri (I just came up with that name off the top of my head) is working with me, and we are doing a defence against a haymaker. The instructor tells us to practice the defence we were taught 100x till we get it. So, Richard throws the punch repeatedly, and I defend it successfully each time and with each rep, I look better and better, with perfect technique, well executed, etc.

Then a couple of days later, I find myself heading home late one night from work. A guy confronts me and even has the cockiness to tell me he will take his right hand and smash it into my face. Great, while I am still nervous, I have practiced this repeatedly so I can handle it. But he walked toward me much more aggressively than my partner ever did, and because it was Winter, I did not see a patch of ice as I walked backwards. I slip as he throws his left arm, not the right hand I was used to seeing in my training.

Need I say more? These are just a few of countless variables that could come into play. This is why I encourage training to be creative, not from the sense of being unrealistic, but from the perspective of the realities one might face.

And if I have good training partners, like Richard, if he manages to strike me in training, I am not upset. Instead, I will ask him what he saw in my body language and reactions to him that allowed him to strike me. As a good training partner, he can tell me things like, “Chris, you dropped your hands as I got closer. You were looking over at someone else in the club because you got distracted for a second, etc.”

My closing sentiment is not to enter training expecting perfection that builds a false sense of confidence. And if you are “succeeding” most of the time in your training, question what you are learning. Do not tie in your confidence solely from looking and feeling good in drills, but look at the whole process as a never-ending journey of learning from your mistakes.

This is where cautious confidence is gained.


#selfdefense #training #violenceprevention #failureispartofsuccess