Just like a college football player needs to adjust to the speed of the NFL after he turns pro, it is my belief that a martial artist needs to adjust to the speed of a real-life situation, outside of the training facility. The reality of the situation is this; humans, unlike animals, do not have the instinct to fight. It is not encoded in our DNA, which is part of the reason that people get so anxious/nervous/excited when they actually witness, or are unfortunately part of, an altercation. It has been a routinely tough task for martial arts instructors to mimic a real-life situation without one, or many, of their practitioners being hurt in the process. Here are a few key points that you want to touch on when broaching this subject with your students.
1.) Make sure your students understand that fighting, because it is not instinctive to humans, should be a last resort. Your students should already know that starting fights, in most situations, is not acceptable, and that it deviates from the meaning of self-defense. There is a saying that one should:
A.) Talk your way out of a fight
B.) Walk your way out of a fight
C.) Run your way out of a fight
D.) If all else fails, fight.
Contrary to popular belief, martial arts is, by nature, a relatively passive activity, as demonstrated by the four points above. The bottom line is this, all fights start out of fear. By taking martial arts, you effectively remove the fear factor, making a martial artist actually less likely to fight.
2.) Realize that a real-life altercation will likely never begin with the two parties going back into a fighting stance and duking it out from there. A real-life altercation usually begins with shove on the shoulder, or worse, possibly a cheap shot from the opponent. This is where the concept of speed comes in. Teach the students to be alert at all times if they think that they should soon enter into an altercation. Adrenaline will help the students do this, and keep them focused throughout the fight. If the student gets thrown to the ground or knocked down, teach them how to fall without injury, and spring back up immediately. If you want to practice this with the students, I'd suggest investing in body armor to protect the students. To reinforce the need for speed after being knocked over, your students might benefit from playing a game and timing them based upon how quickly they can react to certain situations.
3.) As mentioned above, the last option to a martial artist is to engage in combat. The martial artist should use all means necessary to him or her to avoid confrontation. With that said, you as a martial arts instructor should teach your students that, if you are going to fight, then you must fight to win. Furthermore, you should fight to win as quickly as possible. This is where all those hours practicing basics with tight fists and good snap come into play. To finish an opponent off in five strikes or less takes absolute precision in basics practice. This will help the practitioner when they are looking to end a fight as quickly as possible. A quick punch to the stomach or jaw, when executed with perfect technique, should render an opponent unwilling to continue the fight, thus giving the practitioner time to get away.