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Watch any martial arts / self defence demonstrations and you often see the same thing. A stands ready for B, who launches their attack, to which A responds with a crisp technique.
If the aim is to highlight a particular technique or method we can, perhaps, excuse this. However we have to be careful that this way of operating does not become an ingrained habit. Why? Because it means we always end up waiting for the opponent's attack.
In a demo, we can get away with this. In some cases the attacker is told how and where to attack. They may position themselves just out of actual range, or pull the strike wide or high. Once they have thrown the first attack, they freeze in place and wait for the counter to be applied.
Of course, none of this applies in real life. Which is why it pays to train in awareness, positioning and timing. The best defence is to see something developing five minutes before it happens and not be there at all. Failing that, or in professional circumstances, if we fear imminent attack we are within our legal rights to be pre-emptive. In other words, if you can justify fearing for your personal safety, you can take appropriate, pre-emptive action.
If we are not able to do that, then we should be reacting as soon as we see the attacker’s intent and/or movement. Most people give obvious tells to an attack, particularly in an emotional situation. These are what we should react to, not the actual punch once it is a foot from us. In this way we can cut into the OODA Loop, we can work directly against the attacker's tension in order to chop their movement short, we can position ourselves in the best possible place to evade, escape, take down, hit and so on.
So please, when you train, get out of the habit of standing and waiting for your partner to politely attack. There is a place for it, but it is just that, a place, not the destination. Learn to be opportunistic, not reactive! Likewise, if your counter does nothing to upset your partner's structure, balance or psyche, they should continue with their movement.
Our latest download covers drills designed to develop timing and coordination and, importantly, how the skills gained are then mapped onto actual use. It might not look as crisp or pretty as a good demo, but it will stand you in much better stead for real life.