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Performance vs. Application

First, I am not a professional. I am not currently teaching self-defense on the floor, so to speak. I don’t have credentials that many look for or need to validate what I am writing. My experiences are limited but I am knowledgable.

Second, performance is about performing kata and various drills that are “pre-formatted” with specific actions and reactions. 

Third, application means to apply it in a real life self-defense situation, the fight, violence and the predator attack, etc. 

Performing kata and drills are not enough. The are formatted, change seldom and provide a very basic teaching to convey things like fundamental principles of martial arts let alone what is needed in the self-defense world. Kata and drills don’t teach you about the before, during and after of self-defense, fighting or combatives. They just don’t do that and yet many allude that kata and drills teach self-defense, fighting and combatives. They just don’t, there is too much missing from that model. 

I might suggest that kata and drills, etc., are excellent fundamental or basic teaching tools. I also would suggest that they are also a product of the introduction and teaching of martial arts in the educational system, circa 1904 era, to develop health, fitness and a martial spirit of the youth in Asia. It is a part of the changes that make them more palatable to the younger folks at that time along with appeasement of the officials who decided that the true martial art needed change for younger audiences. After all, karate and other martial arts were practiced more by young adults and full adults rather than the younger generation. Not to say that younger persons didn’t practice martial arts before the intro to the educational systems but mostly it was the older generations. 

As an introduction and training tool to teach fundamental principles of martial systems these kata and drills cannot be beat. Where they begin to miss the mark is when they are thought to be the final and end all of martial training and practice. It was not intended that this model be the complete system and I believe wholeheartedly that once the educational system trained the younger generation in both martial basics and martial spirit they would then take that training beyond mere kata and drills, etc. This sounds a lot like what Tatsuo-san stated about his teachings of the military in the fifties and sixties. He provided the gokui, etc., with a statement that was hoped would lead many of the military karate-ka to go beyond these fundamentals. 

Applying what you learn, i.e., the fundamental principles of martial systems plus what can be derived from kata and drill training and practice is a different matter entirely. It is about knowledge, understanding and physiokinetic/technique application of a system that matter. It is about experiencing what it takes to avoid, deescalate and then apply the physical if necessary. It is about learning what leads up to violence. It is about what it takes to handle the chemical experience that violence and the stress of life and death stresses imposes on the human mind and body at the moment it occurs. It is about knowing, understanding and applying actions that will consider all the resulting after shocks of violence, i.e., the medical, the moral and the legal. 

If you leave your training and practice to the performance of kata and drills and you don’t consider, train and practice for the entire spectrum of defense, etc., then “IF” you encounter conflict you will find that your lizard will take over and use what ever actions or inactions that nature provides to survive and often times that is just not enough. 

Keep in mind that performance on the dojo floor is not application of self-defense, fighting or combatives. There is much more involved than just being able to perform things in a pattern that is predetermined. Conflict is just different and thinking you can handle it with this type of limited training and practice is just not good. 


Performance vs. Application is something to think about in your practice, training and teaching. It is something that needs consideration if you are thinking about self-defense, fighting or combatives. 

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