Self Defense isn't Sparring...and neither is the SDTS

Self Defense isn’t sparring….

Self Defense isn’t sparring….

Self Defense isn’t sparring….

Brian: “I’ve been training really hard in the SDTS and the other day I was just messing around with my brother and he was able to get the best of me, am I doing something wrong?”

Damian: “Hey Brian, what happened when you gouged his eyes out and bit off his cheek?”

Brian: “Huh, I didn’t want to hurt him.”

Damian: “Then you’re doing the SDTS wrong.”

At the risk of sounding like some whack job, and I’m even rolling my eyes as I write this, the soul of the SDTS is to win by any means necessary. You must go dark fast. 

I don’t say this from some false bravado, but from what research and experience has told us. The people who have survived the unthinkable made the decisions to not GIVE A F$CK!

Therefore you need to train yourself to unlock your deepest darkest aggression as fast as possible – this is the essence of surviving a life or death struggle. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m probably one of the nicest people you ever want to meet. I’m active in the community, I coach, I volunteer – the whole bit. I don’t walk around like some tough guy a-hole. In fact I rarely ever talk about this in public.

But when it comes to self defense, I’m only interested in what gives me the BEST CHANCE of winning and based on my own experience and the dozens of real life bad asses whom I’ve either trained with, learned from or was just friends with…there is one universal truth…

What separates the living and the dead when it’s for all the f#cking marbles it the person who is willing to do whatever it takes to survive by any means possible.

Kick, hack, punch, gouge, bite, stab, shoot, bludgeon…BASH THEIR HEAD IN WITH A BRICK.

Whatever it takes.

Any system that leads you to believe you can “get away” with anything less is leading you down the wrong path.

Any person who tells you that this attitude is wrong has no idea about what real violence looks like. They don’t respect it and they clearly overestimate their ability to survive against someone who wants nothing better than to see you dead.

It has been proven that the ONLY WAY to teach yourself to get to that DARK PLACE as fast as possible is to practice that way.

You need to GO with FULL ON HATE. Summon it from the depths of your soul and with ONE MIND, ONE PURPOSE – BLIND RAGE – DESTROY whatever that stands between YOU and the next sunrise.

This is one big reason training partners are a problem because you can’t go as hard as you need to go, and that’s 100% full out. You’re not going to attack your partner with full on HATE – you’re going to STOP yourself just short of doing what you need to do, and that only trains you to stop when you should go harder…and that’s a problem. 

Pulling your strikes and pretending to gouge an eye is a far cry from actually doing it, so you BEST DO IT as hard as you can. After all, you play like you practice and if you PRACTICE pulling your techniques YOU WILL PULL THEM IN THE STREET – you’ve already programmed your muscle memory to do it.

I’ve never seen anyone practice one way and then when it was game time, did it another way. That’s not how training works. It’s like practicing free throws from 5 feet in front of the line and then shooting from the line in a game.

If you really WANT TO HIT, you need to practice to hit through your target.

If you really WANT TO STAB, you need to actually STAB your target.

If you really want to strangle, you need to REALLY strangle your target BEYOND the tap.

The physical training in the SDTS should be an EMOTIONAL experience. Preparing your mind to do whatever it takes and enableing you to FLIP THE SWITCH and GO DARK.

Now if you EVER get into a situation where you’re not sure what to do…DIG DEEP, find your hate, ENVISION doing the worst thing possible to your attacker at that moment HATE will lead the way for you. 

The SDTS is not for sparring, it’s not for “testing” it on your friends unless you’re willing to GO DARK…but who wants to do that to their friends?

Train Honestly,


PS. Look, if you want to play grab ass with your friends, go do Judo, Wrestle or some form of grappling. This will allow you to play with them without hurting them…plus it’s fun.

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Published by Damian (Instructor)

Founder, The Self Defense Company

Join the Conversation


  1. Pulling your strikes and pretending to gouge an eye is a far cry from actually doing it, so you BEST DO IT as hard as you can. After all, you play like you practice and if you PRACTICE pulling your techniques YOU WILL PULL THEM IN THE STREET – you’ve already programmed your muscle memory to do it.

    This looks good and undoubtedly will work, however, after all is said and done, the dust settles, then the cops bring me in for questiong and la dee la la, this is always been in the back of my mind of getting locked up after damage is done. ?

    1. William,

      If an eye gouge was the only difference between some 300 pound monster bashing your skull into the pavement or not…you wouldn’t do it?

  2. For all of you sceptics inclined to questions and comparing opinions, compare this -> as soon as you start boxing or wrestling with your opponent, you’re already bringing the fight to his terms. Then it is not only the question how good you are in such style of fighting but what if he has weapons and friends.

    What I’ve learned from Damian Ross is that self defense is all about exploding in your target fast giving your opponent no time to react. If a real fight was like a sportive match then both fighters would have plenty of time to grab a piece of weapon or just turn around and run.

    Dear Mr. Ross

    I wrote you message on FB, looks like you received a whole bunch of them. I dare to take this opportunity to wish you a happy 2018. Hope it brings you lots of joy and happiness. All the best!!

    Nenad Durutovic

    1. Hey Nenad – First EXCELLENT post. I don;t think I could have said it better myself, great observation.

      Second…HAPPY NEW YEAR and thank you. Really glad you’re here.


  3. The Commentators for the Rose Bowl spoke about how the Coach trained them to Run ANGRY, as if Every Inch was Life or Death! And that is how my High School Coach taught us! And to this day, he holds the Record for the highest win/lose % in GA HS Football!
    They taught us in the Marines, as well, that your RAW AGGRESSION may be what Saves Your Life!
    And like you, I am just the nicest guy you could know…always smiling and joking, friendly, involved in my community and Church, a Volunteer EMT, and was even working for a Christian company.
    But many years ago, it DID save my Life! I have to tell this as “an alleged incident” to protect myself…
    I was about to make a Night Drop at a bank, of my business’s daily cash receipts. The Company required us to be unarmed — in all their wisdom they felt if it was publicized we were not armed the thugs wouldn’t try to kill us! WRONG! I heard a voice say, “STOP! Turn around.” 3 armed assailants told me if I didn’t unlock the drop bag they would kill me! I didn’t have the key, and they weren’t kidding. I had ONE chance…or DIE! They were so Startled by my aggression that it ‘froze’ them for just an instant… and I am still alive… and 2 of them are not. The 3rd guy ran away, injured, and then I did the same! It was caught on camera, but my back was to the camera, and I had no fingerprints on the firearm… I kicked the firearms away from the 2 downed attackers, and took off with my Bank Bag! I went home, changed clothes, and went back over an hour later and made my Deposit.
    A few years ago, the brother of a good friend of mine was in a similar situation…and was shot in the head and killed.

    1. Yes Floyd you are so right, the “imminent” threat of raw violence absolutely calls for “RAW AGGRESSION” as a defense, and when combined with the SDTS, gives us the best chance of getting back home alive. We owe that to ourselves and loved ones. Yes, potential legal implications are a possibility, so preparation in this regard, deserves our serious attention and pre-planning as possible. But in that decisive moment between the fragility of life and potential loss of it, it is ONLY raw aggression guided by proper training that gives us the best odds. I stake my life and the lives of my loved ones on the SDTS!

  4. A great post Damian on the serious “must do’s” to hopefully survive imminent and brutal violence! Nothing fair, nothing sporting, nothing compassionate, and nothing nice about any of it. That’s how it is, like it or not, do it or not! It is up to each of us! I prefer to get home alive myself.

  5. Great piece Damian, always good to have that reinforced, its no good just having a crack at someone you have to incapacitate them asap or it will be you in the hospital or worse in some cases

  6. Damien, I always come across friends wanting to “see what I can do” and wanting to spar with me. The first thing I have always said is that I can’t show you without bringing serious HARM to you! From day one of starting my instructor training. I understood I have to go HARD or don’t go at all! Its not a game, this is real life.

  7. Damien, I always come across friends wanting to “see what I can do” and wanting to spar with me. The first thing I have always said is that I can’t show you without bringing serious HARM to you! From day one of starting my instructor training. I understood I have to go HARD or don’t go at all! Its not a game, this is real life.

    1. Yeah, it’s not a sparring thing…maybe pull out a knife and say “LETS GO!”
      Ok, I’m kidding but not really – but perhaps you can say that to kind of add a little perspective.

    2. It’s hard to say that and not sound crazy…but it’s the truth.

      Sometimes I’ll say, “Let me get my knife” (or just pull it out) and say – I’m ready!

      Again…makes you look a little nuts, so if you can deliver it with a sense of humor…all good.

  8. I trained in a martial art style with a similar respect for self defense and with the attitude that you must kill to be safe. Since then I’ve found that when I spar with people from other styles I become a punching bag, just on the edge of wanting to bite their throat out, but never letting myself. It makes me feel weak and useless, to know something that could save my life, while at the same time being used like a punching bag by sport fighters. I want to practice my self-defense against people who won’t let me win, but when I try, I find that I am basically boxing a boxer, and boxing more poorly than I would If I was just trying to box. I can’t ‘cheat’, and so I can’t win. If you try to tell them you have this ability, they look at you like you’re just a wimp and your making excuses for why you are so weak. There’s no way to win, other than to kill them to get their respect, which is, of course, kind of ludicrous. I want to be physical, but I don’t want to kill people, maim people, or even just blind them, unless they are really trying to hurt me, kill me. Being bullied, or harassed I can handle, but it does hurt myself esteem. It’s like waiving an unloaded gun at a bunch of a-holes as they mock me.

  9. The concept of Kill or Be Killed is not a new one by any stretch of the imagination.

    Another thing that is not new is the other guy thinking you are a wimp. Hell, let him think whatever he wants, as long as you know what your abilities are then what someone else thinks is totally irrelevant and should not matter.

    I would much rather avoid a conflict than being put in the position of having to kill an adversary, but the reality is if given no other option then whatever it takes to survive.

    The problem with self-defense training and the sports mindset is that with rules no one intentionally gets hurt, of course, every so often shit goes awry and someone gets a smack or two. But in true close combat self-defense, there are no games to play, no rules to follow, just instinct, and it is all out or your out.

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