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  • Writer's pictureBrad Parker

On the Road to Self-Defense Mastery

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

Photo of man on the road to mastery

Throughout the Tactical Studies Group site you are going to run into terms that we use to describe our relative position on the timeline between beginning to learn self-defense skills and attaining a level so advanced that it can be considered mastery. And we're guilty often of using different models to try to communicate the very normal and real journey we all experience when learning the myriad number of hard skills in the areas of self-defense, personal protection, first-aid, and weapons. It's useful to be able to think about your level of proficiency and the effort needed to become more skilled at whatever action we are trying to learn at the time. And the models or expressions we use can be varied depending on the article or demonstration. They are most often used as a teaching aid. Different models and expressions resonate differently with different students, so let's take a look at some you'll see show up here. One of the more common expressions is that we need to crawl before we can walk, and walk before we can run. So you may see this as:

Crawl. Walk. Run. Another common one that we use is martial arts related. In many martial arts systems colored belts are awarded to indicate your skill level along the path of mastery of that particular martial art. Beginning with a white belt, a number of different colored belts are awarded up to black belt -- the sign of an expert in that system. This is where we talk about performing at the black belt level. A typical Brazilian jiu-jitsu belt ranking system goes like this:

1. White belt 2. Blue belt 3. Purple belt 4. Brown belt 5. Black belt Here's another way that I've seen this explained:

Stage 1. No effort and no mastery Stage 2. Invested effort with no mastery Stage 3. Proficiency with effort Stage 4. Effortless proficiency Stage 5. Mastery with effort Stage 6. Effortless mastery Another favorite that shows up is a similar model which relies on some clever semantics: 1. Unconscious incompetence

2. Conscious incompetence 3. Conscious competence 4. Unconscious competence The first level describes a beginner stage in which you don't even know how much you don't know. The second level is where you realize how much there is to know, but your skill level is still very low level and clumsy. The third level is when you are proficient at a physical level, but you still need to think about the movements and the skill. The fourth level is when your mental and physical levels are so advanced you don't even have to think about your performance -- it's natural and effortless.

In the end, it really doesn't matter what model you want to choose. Remember, we are students first, and students always. The point is to be able to identify where you are in your journey from ‘Beginner’ to ‘Master’. This can help determine which areas you might need to invest more time and more repetitions.

Train like your life depends on it.

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