Why Your Punches Are Sloppy in the Street? – The Self Defense Company

Why Your Punches Are Sloppy in the Street?

Why Your Punches Are Sloppy in the Street?

Why Your Punches Are Sloppy in the Street?

Why do seasoned martial artists and pro-fighters go from throwing precise, technically correct, crisp punches in the gym to wild haymakers in the street?

I noticed this phenomenon when I was bouncing. Guys like these would be hell in ring but when it came to the real thing, they would miss and throw arm punches that were incredibly ineffective.

Make no mistake…I’ve seen these guys break bricks and knock guys out cold in competition, but in the street, some of them looked like they never spent a day in the gym!

I was no different. I would abandon my formal training and resort to really simple movements like a double leg takedown and haymaker type strikes.

On the other hand, in the ring and in practice I could control my adrenaline and focus my technique – but in the street it was like someone put their foot down on the accelerator and I was out of control.

Later when I started learning what would become The Self Defense Training System, I discovered what really happens to the body when there’s risk of serious injury or death.

This is commonly referred to as “FIGHT or FLIGHT” and it only happens when you BELIEVE your life is in danger and there’s no way to control it. You can’t meditate it away and you can’t relax your way out of it. It’s evolution’s way of preparing you for battle, it’s here to stay and you need to embrace it and train within the confines of the skills you can perform. 

The chart above details exactly what happens when you truly believe you’re under attack and it is impossible to replicate it in training. 

When you perceive real danger you feel FEAR. Fear triggers the release of hormones that increase your heart rate and cause the effects listed above. This is scientifically known as the Sympathetic Nervous System Activation. Some people refer to it as your “animal brain.” 

The main point you need to take from this are the motor and cognitive skills that are available to execute when you’re in a real fight.

The problem is the skills you commonly practice in typical martial arts and self defense systems cannot be performed under fight or fight conditions.

Motor Skills are broken down into 3 categories

Gross Motor Skills – Walking, Running, Crawling and Jumping

Complex Motor Skills – Swinging a Bat, Kicking a Ball or a Somersault.

Fine Motor Skills  – involve the secondary and smaller joints like the fingers, wrists and elbows. 

Most self defense skills that are taught use Fine Motor Skills like: 

  • Weapon disarms
  • Joint locks
  • Wrist releases and other grip breaking techniques
  • Technically correct punches

If you look at most self defense techniques you’ll see intricate maneuvers that require precision and dexterity. Especially when it comes to weapon defenses.  

It seems the more dangerous the situation…the more complicated technique. When in reality, the more stressful the situation, the simpler the technique needs to be. 

For years I couldn’t figure out why my martial arts and self defense training didn’t work like it did in training.

But now I know, SNS activation is the reason why trained fighters look like they never spent a day in the gym when they’re in a real fight. It’s not their fault, they’re just trying to fit the round peg in the square hole.


Martial Arts is CHESS, Self Defense is CHECKERS. 

Martial arts requires skill, training and subtle movements to create openings and opportunity. It is based on specific counters and attacks in a controlled environment.

Self defense is literally the simplified version of martial arts. The overall concepts of combat are the same, but they are much broader. But as “simple” as these techniques are, the more BRUTAL and violent they need to be.

Self defense is an emotional, visceral experience and you need to prepare for it differently.

This is why I only use complex and gross motor skills in the Self Defense Training System. They’re the ONLY ones that work in real fight or flight situations.

The upside is these SDTS skills are:

  • Easy to learn
  • Simple to remember
  • Retained longer
  • Require much less time to practice

When is the last time you kicked a ball or rode a bike? Years right? Those are complex motor skills. Sure if you practice them you will become better but in general you can still perform them even after years of non-practice.

This is how the Self Defense Training System works. Once you know how to do these skills, they stick with you….forever.

Remember, the skills that are the easiest to learn, are the easiest to remember and the last to forget.

There’s a limited amount of skills that you can perform under stress. For self defense you need to focus on those and forget the rest.

Until Next Time…

Train Honestly,


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Published by Damian (Instructor)

Founder, The Self Defense Company

Join the Conversation


  1. This is great!  Thanks for the perspective.  I’m linking to your blog/article in one that I’m writing.  Too good not to share.

  2. This looks like Bruce Siddle and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s physio/psycho arousal model from On Combat. Top notch stuff, great article.

  3. I just noticed that – great stuff. I remember getting in a fistfight in high school after training in Muay Thai for a few years. All I remember is seeing red and throwing haymakers until the guy hit the ground despite all of those lovely straight punches I threw in the gym. Funny how so many systems totally overlook this phenomenon.

  4. Nicholas Vernem That’s because they’re created in the gym and only use sport as the barometer to measure success. Even the guys I knew who were good street fighters never reflected what happened in the street against what they did in training. 
    They kind of loosely associated their success with their training. Now I can say that if you’re willing to subject yourself to any rigorous training and willing to take the first step you will have a decent amount of success in the real world. But I shudder to think what those people would be like if they just focused on what really worked.

  5. DamianRoss piotrthe1st Can I respectfully disagree?   You have built an INCREDIBLE self-defense world wide community, based upon easy to learn skills,  proven  effective in real life violent  situations, and no doubt, have helped many to survive.   I don’t know anyone else who has been as competent  as you in this worthy mission, and I am proud to be one of your students and Elite members.  That sounds like “brilliance” to me!

  6. I think that if you really focus and train hard enough, you should be able to perform well in the event of an actual attack. It sounds easier than done, but if it is a part of your life, you will like be a better fighter and defender of your own self. After all, that was the original purpose of these martial art forms. https://www.master-sh-yu.com

  7. Completely agree with everything you’re saying.
    I’ve spent 11 years in training sanshou (chinese kickboxing) and when i was actually in the situation that i had to use it for real, i realised that absolutely none of it worked, all i can remember was everything going red and then just swinging left right and centre and when the mist finally cleared and i could open my eyes, the guy was on the floor and i had someone behind me holding me back.
    So, how could it be that in training and sparring i can demonstrate near perfect technique, yet under stress i looked like I’ve never stepped foot in the gym?
    And that’s exactly because of the points you’ve made, once you reach a certain number of beats per minute, all fine & complex motor skills go out the window and only gross motor skills remain.
    That is the only point i disagree with you on, you say that you only train gross and complex motor skills, but complex motor skills deteriorate under stress?
    So isn’t it best to just discard them and focus on what you know will work, regardless of how much stress you’re under?
    Unless of course you are training them more for self development, rather than actual self defense skills.
    I would like you to elaborate on that a little please?

  8. Hi Damian. Thanks for reposting this. We need to be reminded: Simple works. The examples of kicking a ball and riding a bike are right on. And, I will join you as a long time martial arts practitioner: most of what I learned in martial arts class was nice, clean techniques that work well in a clean, well-lit dojo with a clear surface, no obstructions (I defer to those with bouncing experience here), and a cooperative partner. When I was a student, and as an instructor, the instructions were: “Let you partner complete the technique so they can develop some ability.” Still true: I want to you practice until you feel more capable. Also true: Martial arts is like chess, Self-defense is like checkers. True self-defense/fighting is pretty simple. Hit as many good targets as you can, as best you can, until the threat is neutralized. Hit as hard as you can: see the other SDTS posting on Hit As Hard As You Can. Bernie.

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