Effective Combatives: 3 “Must Have” Ingredients For Proficient Fighters

Welcome to the Effective Combatives Blog Series

[I started writing this combatives series for novice through intermediate skilled folks out there that want to simplify and move forward in their hand to hand fighting training.  There are so many conflicting opinions and ego based conversations on the internet that it’s really easy to miss how simple hand to hand fighting really is, regardless of your chosen style.

So what can you expect to learn?  If you don’t already, expect to understand combatives from a simple top down approach.  This will help make a clear road map for what one needs to do to become an effective self-defense fighter.   After all, the only test that matters is the real life situation where you’ve exhausted all reasonable exits and have to defend yourself or others.

If an individual can cut through all the snake-oil salesmen out there and understands the big picture self-defense fighting over learning an art just “because that martial art is the best art out there”, their training will be more efficient, they’ll accomplish more and hopefully they’ll be a more skilled individual. That’s what we’re here to do – CRUSH myths and confusion as it relates to combatives /martial arts.  Whether you’re a soccer mom, concerned dad, or MMA title fighter, the concepts of effective combatives are all the same.  How far you want to take your skill set is up to you and your needs.  Feel free to comment or share, just keep it constructive.]


3 “Must Have” Ingredients For Proficient Fighters

There is probably not many men alive that don’t want to be capable of dealing out an effective “whooping” of a bad guy with his bare hands should it ever become necessary.  Of course this is of little surprise as God designed men to be warriors.  That yearning to be the effective warrior who protects and provides for their family is part of our core.  If you’re a man reading this and feel that yearning, then great!  It be natural, so embrace it.

(That doesn’t mean that women don’t feel that push to protect, nor should they ignore it because they were born females.  I’ve met a lot of women who feel a very strong desire to protect their family and then they get out and train, which is awesome.  Go with it!)

Regardless of your gender, whether you feel a deep desire to be a warrior or merely are just recently cognizant of your duty to protect your loved ones:  Warriors who are capable of using effective violence against a threat are not born, they are educated and trained.

Myths “What it takes to be an unstoppable fighter . . . ”:

I’ve heard so many “keys” or “secrets” over the years for what it really takes to be an effective dealer of street based self-defense.  I just had to share a few:

  • Lots of people incorrectly think you just have to get really pissed and pretty much go berserk in a fight. I’m sure going “berserk” works on some threats; however the term shouldn’t be confused with highly focused high intensity violence.  Very different concepts.


  • Another myth is that you can be totally out of shape as long as you practice your punches and kicks 10,000 times; you’ll whoop bad guys left and right. Not true.  You will stroke out in a short period of time.  The only hope is that the conflict is well over by that time.  The dojo is different than multiple threats in a high intensity street confrontation.  Don’t let yourself get fat.


  • My favorite myth is that one martial art or combatives program is above all other styles. This is complete and utter bullshit.  Wing-chun is useful.  BJJ is useful.  TKD is useful.  Western Boxing is useful.  They all offer a perspective on fighting and protecting.  Some styles or types of combatives excel more than others in their respective lane.  Dan Inosanto said the following:

“Overcoming Style

A man doesn’t excel because of his style. It’s only when a man can go outside the bounds set by his system that he excels. If a martial artist can practice a style without being bound and limited to his particular school, then and only then can he be liberated to fit in with any type of opponent. A great majority of instructors, however, blind their practitioners and brainwash them into believing only their school of training is best.  —Dan Inosanto, 1972”

So what is it?  What’s necessary to be an effective self-defense fighter?  It’s not just the style.  It’s not just the amount of practice.  It’s not some secret of secrets hidden to us knuckle draggers.  So what is it?  What makes it possible for a smaller, less imposing person capable of neutralizing a bigger, stronger threat?

Informed people know that whether you’re a soccer mom, middle-school nerd, middle aged father or a 23 year old prize winning MMA fighter, there are 3 ingredients that all of these people must have in order to beat a formidable threat:  Appropriate Combatives Techniques, Good Fighting Attributes and Superior Mental & Physical Conditioning.  Let’s explore these concepts further . . .


Balanced Skill-Sets:

It does little good to be a champion boxer if you’re taken down by a criminal that used to spend hours a day ground fighting before his first lock up.  This is why I’ve said for a long time, most arts have their time and place.  Heck, you don’t even have to be an expert on the street, but you do have to know the basics pretty well.  Being trained to fight on your feet, in the clinch, on your back and with a weapon makes it so that you can pull the “appropriate tool” out of the tool box when you need it.  Good self-defense fighters have a balanced set of skills.

How do you make sure you’re balanced?  You keep an open mind.  It’s safe to say, if you have a good set of armed combatives skills, mixed with boxing, clinch work and ground fighting, you’ll be pretty balanced.  (Make sure the program that teaches all of these skill sets in one is upfront and honest as to where they pull their skill sets.  For instance, when I teach ground defense, I’m not shy about stating that it comes right out of BJJ.  Same thing with the clinch, what I teach is based out of Greco-Roman wrestling.  It’s the same thing with the Muay Thai aspect of my program.  I’m always concerned with instructors that try and conceal where they learn a technique or pull it from.)


Fighting Attribues:

Being balanced in fighting skill sets won’t save your life alone.  You have to be good at what you do.  Enter in fighting attributes.  What are fighting attributes?  These are things like Awareness, Speed, Movement, Footwork, Timing, Command of Range, Cover, Follow Through, Combinations, etc.  Regardless of your style, fighting attributes help you use employ a punch at the right time, with the right speed, using the right footwork, in the correct range.  When you train over and over and over again, fighting attributes are the subconscious aspects of fighting that you’re trying to build, so that in the middle of an adrenaline charged situation you execute your combination of techniques with appropriate precision, violence of action and timing.

How do you develop good fighting attributes?  You train in a good program with well-developed drills that force you to work out the fighting attribute “muscles” in the most realistic and efficient way possible.  It’s easier said than done.  A good instructor will give you a balance of technique development drills and drills that cause you to perform under realistic pressure.  Technique development and performing under a stress are two things that have to be appropriately worked.  Some instructors know this, some do not.


Mental & Physical Conditioning:

And finally, even if you are a well-balanced practitioner, have good fighting attributes, but lack the mental and physical conditioning for an altercation, you will lose, every time.  You don’t have to be a powerhouse weight lifter, but you do have to be strong.  Look at Bruce Lee’s physique.  I already stated it, but you shouldn’t count on failing to stay strong by doing some pushups several times a week and putting down a bad guy that tries to hurt you.

The same thing applies to one’s willingness to deal out moral and lawful violence in self-defense.  There are plenty folks I’m sure in a kick-boxing class that don’t have the mental conditioning to exact violence in self-defense.  There are probably even more that do not have the will to survive.  Willingness to use violence and a survival mentality has to be cultivated by instructors that know what they’re doing.

How do you develop good Physical Conditioning?  Commit to improving your stamina, agility and strength.  It doesn’t have to be a crazy workout schedule, but commit to improving and set aside time every week to work all three aspects of good physical conditioing.  We have an effective and doable physical condition program in our membership area if you’re interested.

How do you develop good Mental Conditioning?   You’ll learn best from folks that have “been there and done that” in real life.  I suggest doing a couple things.  The first is to find a US military veteran that was in a combat-arms unit and who is willing to talk to you about “combat mentality”.  Explain why you want to know what you’re asking.  Buy them a beer or three and ask them to explain what it means to have a combat mentality.  Take copious notes.  Thank them profusely.  Then find another combat veteran and do the same thing.   Once you’ve done that, you can find a combatives or martial arts instructor that gives you a similar understanding of what it means have a combat mentality when you interview them, (prior to joining their school).  Mental conditioning for fighting is just as important as fighting attributes and fighting attributes to the family protector.


Wrapping it Up . . . 

So there you have it.  Every successful self-defense fighter has a balanced skill set, developed fighting attributes and conditioning of the mind and body.  Without any one of those ingredients and individual is at a great disadvantage when facing off against a threat.

In the coming posts I’m going to discuss the key aspects of fighting attributes, and then we’ll continue on from there.  Again, this series isn’t designed to tell you about the one and only true fighting style.  Becoming a proficient protector is about finding good instruction, subordination to learning and dedication to practice.

There are more efficient ways to tackle the fighting arts, and we aim to facilitate that here.  Otherwise, thanks for stopping by.  If you found what you’ve read to be interesting, please consider subscribing to our blog feed for the latest posts.

(If you’re having trouble finding a combatives or martial arts program that fits you, you might consider joining our Standard or Elite membership when it launches.  The combatives program focuses on teaching a balanced set of fighting techniques and performance focused drills that you can train with your partners at home until you can get into a gym with a live instructor. We understand effective combatives concepts to our very core and specialize in helping individuals go from little or no fighting skills to becoming effective, efficient family protectors.)

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