Are You Learning To Fight… Or To Dance?

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Secrets For Staying Alive When ‘Rules’ Don’t Apply

“Are You Learning To Fight… Or To Dance?”


“In our peacetime tactical training we should use difficult, highly imaginative situations and require clear, concise and simple orders. The more difficult the situation the more simple the order must be. Above all *** Let us Kill everything stereotyped; otherwise it will kill us ***”

– Adolf von Schell, Battle Leadership, 1933


I saw a commercial for one of those dance instruction programs that guarantees you’d be able to dance as well as any member of the most popular boy-bands.

The program showed a group of students following the instructor step-by-step to learn some pretty complex moves, choreographed to perfection. The result was that by memorizing the steps and combining the moves you could mimic the formerly difficult routine.

It reminded me of watching a Wushu team practice their show. For those of you that aren’t familiar, Wushu is a Chinese martial art that is delivered via a stage performance. The fights are very elaborate and it takes a great deal of practice to put on a convincing show.

As I watched the team practice it was interesting to note that whenever someone wanted to screw around all they had to do was execute a move different from the routine. Literally you would be watching a fight scene you’d swear was pitting two highly trained fighters in mortal combat when all of a sudden one of the guys would move differently… maybe slap the other guy in the face like the Three Stooges used to do.

Everyone would laugh, then take a break.

But that slap also woke me up out of the dream state I was in as I watched the performance.

I realized that this was exactly the method in which most martial arts or combat sports are instructed.

Especially when they train “self defense”.

Basically there are set patterns you memorize in response to various staged attacks. Memorize those responses and you can look pretty impressive.

But what happens if you vary the attack?

Most students freeze.



Nope, they basically were taught to ‘dance’ and as long as everything went according to the ‘routine’ you could do okay. But we all know things never go exactly as planned.

Fighting is no different — whether you are on the mat at your training center or on the street locked in mortal combat with the other guy(s). The only variation is that when you fight with your training partner you don’t actually maim, cripple or kill. You still target and simulate those exact strikes, just at a pace your partner can handle.

If, however, you’re operating in a ‘training’ mode where you are memorizing a ‘set’ response to an attack, you are learning nothing but a ‘dance’ move.

In TFT such training is viewed as “coordination training” not fighting.

If you don’t know the difference, you can easily fall victim to the “now it’s for real syndrome”. That’s where you face an imminent attack yet hesitate… as your brain tries to accept the fact that “this is for real”.

Contrast this to the well-trained fighter who simply sees all this as merely fighting and proceeds to: 1) find his targets and 2) strike. The only difference to the fighter is the fact he can now strike with full power.

That’s because the well-trained fighter never sees himself as ‘training’ — he’s always fighting.

Understand this concept and you’ll always be prepared… no matter what the situation.

Until next time,

Tim Larkin


Tim Larkin

Self-Protection Expert & Founder of Target Focus Training
Author of When Violence Is The Answer

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