Self-Perfection vs Self-Preservation

self perfection vs preservation

We’re going to start changing gears a bit and get out of the head and more into some self-defense training.  Before I start posting too many articles on the subject of self-defense we need to differentiate between two styles of drills performed in martial arts; self-perfection and self-preservation.


Essentially, self-perfection drills build up the individual’s attributes.  These drills might help build strength, speed, coordination, flexibility, and reaction speed, but are not readily applicable for self-defense situations.  Kicking a stationary target is not the same as kicking an aggressive opponent who wants to kill you.  Plain and simple.

If self-perfection drills can’t be effectively used in a self-defense situation, why do we train them?

Like stated previously, it is so we can work on building our attributes, but also so we can actually LEARN to correctly execute the techniques outside the chaos and pressure of a self-defense situation.  Just like a child crawls before they can walk, a martial artist must actually get a grasp on the techniques and why/how to use them before you can start throwing curve balls at them.


Ah, this is where the drills and training comes together and is now tested for its effectiveness.  Self-preservation drills focus more on imitating real life situations.  It might not necessarily be a full-fledged simulated encounter against a crazed lunatic, but we start introducing levels of resistance to test the student’s techniques in a less than optimal situation.  This can range from creating a moving target that the student must anticipate, fighting back during partner drills, or sparring sessions.

When I say “fighting back during partner drills” I simply mean not letting the student get away with sloppy techniques.  This is most easily illustrated in martial arts that utilize joint locks.  Oftentimes we see a sloppy joint lock and the partner just sits there and says “good good!” when it really isn’t.

Another example for fighting back is when a student has a drill down and you can begin to start throwing curve balls.  Throw a kick to the legs during a hand drill.  Try to lock them up.  Mess with their heads.  Occasionally scream at them in the middle of a drill.  Anything to catch them off guard.

To help illustrate a natural progression of self-perfection to self-preservation, let’s look at an example:

self progressionThis is a VERY basic example with near infinite variations:

  • Are you doing single techniques or combinations on the stationary target?
  • Is your partner quickly shooting the target out and pulling it back in to test your reaction speeds?
  • Is your partner actually moving around the floor with the target forcing you to gauge your distance?
  • Are you doing light sparring with multiple opponents?
  • Do you or your opponent(s) have weapons?

The number of variations to the above example is limited only to your imagination.

So make it hard.

Make it realistic.

Make is realistically hard.

Make it UN-realistically hard!

Give your opponents multiple advantages over you to where you have no chance of winning.

What will that teach you?

It will teach you to tap into that primal animal inside all of us that fights with unimaginable ferocity when backed into a corner.

It will overload you physically, mentally, and emotionally so you can begin learning how to handle the chaos of a real fight for your life.

It will put your training to the test and show you what doesn’t work.

upcoming posts

Some of our upcoming posts on self-defense are meant to serve as supplements to your existing training and to provide concepts and ideas.  I am, by no means, providing a complete system.

I don’t want to see keyboard warriors spouting negative crap all over the posts.  If you disagree with anything I post, bring it up, be respectful, and offer an alternative you feel would work better.

What works for one person might not work for another.

Take what works for you and discard what doesn’t.

Related Content/Links

Know Your Zones


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