The 7 Deadly Sins of Street Fighting And How YOU can Avoid Them!

The “Seven Deadly Sins” are familiar to most people, regardless of their faith. They were also made more popular in the movie “Se7en” starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in the late 1990′s. They represent the most “objectionable vices” in peoples’ lives, which include gluttony, greed, pride, wrath, lust, sloth and envy.

As I’ve dealt with my own martial arts downfalls over the years, and now have seen thousands of students go through my self defense academies, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see certain patterns. The point is that we all make mistakes, and avoiding any of them can save time, money and pain.

As a result, I narrowed down a list of “Seven Deadly Sins of Street Fighting”, when preparing for real life combat. These are not the mistakes people make when training for a tournament, nor do they focus on the mistakes people make when wanting to learn about an Eastern culture by studying traditional arts. These “cardinal sins” are the problems people run into when training for real life violent altercations.

If you can identify which sins you are currently committing, and find “redemption” through fixing them before they become your eternal downfall, you’ll be ahead of the game. The following goes far beyond which “art” is the one you should learn, and focuses on you, the practitioner. Correct them now and be in “martial arts heaven”.

Now for the 7 Deadly Sins of Street Fighting

“Range Gluttony”

Most martial artists who have at least picked up a martial arts magazine or turned on an MMA tournament in the last decade have realized that there is more than one range in self defense. However, if you still limit yourself to only two or three ranges, you are still cutting yourself short and committing a major street fighting sin. Many become gluttonous, or over indulge, in one range while forgetting the others.

In the ring, two or three ranges may be used, but out in the street there are a total of five: Kick Boxing Range, Close Quarters, Ground Fighting, Weapons and Mass Attack (multiple opponent defense). If you are ignorant to one or more of these ranges, this sin could be the end of you.

Redemption: Get training in all five ranges, without getting caught by the fifth street fighting sin.

“Technique vs. Attribute Greed”

Matt Numrich demonstrating gauging the correct distance - one of the 7 deadly sins of street fighting mistakes.

Today I see so many self defense practitioners lacking balance in their ability. They go from being too greedy between technique and attribute development, and take either to an extreme. First, you have to understand the difference between what a technique is, and what is an attribute. A technique is the mechanics of a move, or the “how to”. How to put on a choke hold, perform a punch or a weapon’s disarm. An attribute is a quality one possesses, which helps them pull their techniques off in real life. Examples would be coordination, timing, distancing, speed, power, sensitivity, and line familiarization, to name a few.

Those who are greedy towards the technique side may “know” a lot of moves, but don’t have the athletic qualities to make them happen when it counts. On the other hand, those who excessively train more on the attribute side have incredible athletic ability, but don’t know what to do. Using the teachings of Bruce Lee, if you are too technique focused you become robotic, but if you focus too much on attributes, you become too animalistic and out of control.
Redemption: Balance out your training by educating yourself on the techniques, but put the flight time in training to also have the attributes to pull them off. Just make sure you pay attention to street fighting sin six when doing this.

“E3 Pride”

“E3″ is a term I use to make sure my techniques and training methods filter through a series of “judgment days”. It stands for Effective, Efficient and Easy. Many times I see practitioners become arrogant to what they train, and how they train it, with a sense of pride. Their favorite move becomes their favorite because it “looks cool”, or because they’ve been doing for so many years. They have totally forgotten that it is INeffective, INefficient and NOT easy… but they do it anyway.

Let me break down these “mini filters”, and what they mean. Everything you do in martial arts must be:

Effective: Your techniques have to be successful against different sized opponents and useful in different environments. I know you may be able to do a spinning kick in the well lit dojo against someone your own size, but can you do it in a narrow hallway against someone who has 75 pounds on you?

Efficient: Of course your moves must be quick and economical, but so must your training methods. Training a move for hours a day may make you “Most Dedicated Student of the Year”, but is there a way which can cut down your training time, and give you similar results?

Easy: The moves I do and teach must pass the Jr. High School test. If they are not easy enough for a Jr. High School Student to do, forget it. When you’re under real stress of a real attack, your mind goes to mush. Make your moves easy, and stress won’t effect them as much… unless you forget about the last sin.

Redemption: Focus on effectiveness, efficiency and ease. Put all of your techniques and training methods through these filters, and you’ll instantly become a better street fighter.

“Game Plan Wrath”

I’ll make this one quick, because it sums up the previous sins perfectly. If you don’t have a streamlined game plan of what to do in each kind of situation, you’ll be like a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn’t there. I often relate this to seeing your neighbor packing up their car, and you going over to ask where they are going on what looks like a vacation trip. Imagine if they looked back, shrugged their shoulders, and said “We don’t know… we’re just going to start driving…”.

You must have a concrete strategy of what to do in each type of situation, and you can use the five ranges talked about earlier as a guide. What is your course of action if tackled down to the ground? What is your first and second step if someone attacks you with a knife? Or, how do you specifically deal with more than one person attacking you?

How does this tie into wrath? Your “game plan” should be able to be conveyed in one or two phrases. If you don’t have a game plan, you’ll be “just driving”, many times acting out in fear, anger or wrath in an altercation. It is these emotions which can get you in severe trouble. Responding in wrath to someone who cuts you off in traffic, or acting out in wrath when you should walk away from an altercation is the story behind too many lawsuits. Therefore, knowing what do to even before or after a situation goes down is a smart way to round out your game plan.
Redemption: After you have addressed the previous sins, write down a quick game plan of what to do in a Kick Boxing Range fight, Close Quarter situation, Ground Fighting assault, Weapons attack and Mass Attack mêlée.

“Information Lust”

We all get seduced by a cool new move we see in a ground tournament, flashy knife disarm technique at a seminar and “CGI’ed” flying kick-punch we see in the latest action movie. Many times we take it a step further and start to overload ourselves with too much of this stuff. We think more is better, and more will make you smarter. Our lust for more takes over. Overwhelming yourself with 48 new blocks, 96 new guard escapes and 31 gun disarms usually confuses you, slows down your progress and leads to massively decreased recall of even your old information.

Redemption: Using the previous lessons, use “E3″ as a filter for what you dedicate your time to, and make sure you have all of your ranges covered.

“Environmental Sloth”

Let me ask you a question: When was the last time you did that arm bar on asphalt? Did you try that stick disarm outside on a cold rainy night? Did you practice that kick boxing combo in a tight room, like a bathroom against an unchoregraphed attack by two people? My guess is no on all counts.

I’m guessing you know what Lust and Pride are, but what is Sloth? Sloth is having apathy or indifference, and in this case having those towards environmental and scenario training. The sin committed here is that we get so used to our padded walls in the dojo, matted floors and a supportive training partner who gives us what we need. We forget that many moves will not have the luxury of good light, open floor space and an opponent around our own size and skill level. It is this sin that leads to many “well skilled” practitioners getting beat up out in the street.

Redemption: Train creatively and open yourself up to several variables and elements. Lighting, ground surface, debris, unhelpful opponents, weather, etc. You might want to check on this article for stress training.

“Conditioning Envy”

I was taught that one of the reasons people “lose” out in the street is because they simply are not conditioned. I was taken aback because it seemed too easy of an answer, but I found out that it is true. First, realize that you have to be conditioned three ways: Physically, Mentally and Emotionally. I find that unsuccessful self defense practitioners usually have at least one, but usually two unacceptable areas here. Let’s go over each:

Physically: You must have the cardio capacity to last for a while, and the muscular make up to be fast and strong. Having flexibility and other athletic qualities doesn’t hurt either.

Mentally: I equate this to having the knowhow, the “smarts” to have the answer or simple game plan of how to respond to a kind or type of attack.

Emotionally: This is the forgotten one. If you don’t have the emotional muscle to push through the hard workouts, you probably will give up when the going gets tough. Learn to fight through it. Deal with emotional fatigue, frustration and even anger and fear.

The fact is that many of us know these ways we should condition ourselves, but instead of doing something about it, we just become envious of those who already have. Worse still, we have envy, but pass other people’s success as natural talent, not realizing the blood, sweat and tears they’ve invested.

Redemption: Make sure your training includes these elements. Train hard, and find partners and instructors to take you past your comfort zone. Look up to those who have the level of conditioning you desire, and find ways to model them.

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