You should train for black swan events


As a part of our martial arts training, we should try to imagine black swan events that we might experience and then train for those possible situations.

To begin with, let’s define a black swan event.

The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying that presumed black swans did not exist – a saying that became reinterpreted to teach a different lesson after black swans were discovered in the wild.


So in essence, for this discussion, we’re going to say that a black swan event is something that we can’t even imagine happening to us but would be a major issue if it did.

Some examples: being kidnapped or car jacked, having a gun pulled on us, having multiple attackers surround us.

I asked some of my students the other day if they had ever planned what they would do if these things happened. They admitted that they had no plan. They did not even think about it.

So for the purpose of this article, we’re going to assume that there are events like the ones mentioned above that while you agree are not impossible scenarios in your mind, you don’t really imagine them happening to you and therefor have not planned what you would do.

Also, the point of this discussion is not to come up with with what you would do, just to get you to make a decision to think and come up with a plan for whatever situations you can imagine.

You might be asking yourself right now, why would I be spending my time and energy coming up with a plan for a “black swan” scenario that by definition is most likely not going to happen?

Good question. Here are two reasons.

First, if that (unlikely) thing ever does happen, you’ll be prepared. I assure you, you’ll be grateful you practiced for it.

Secondly, and this is really the main reason, it primarily serves as a way to practice for the things that you will encounter in a way that you may not otherwise try. This is a terrific way to move away from some habits and ruts you may be in.

You way you train and the things you practice are probably somewhat predictable. Even if you do new things regularly, I’m sure there are certain things that follow your pattern.

So thinking of things to prepare for and practice against will allow you brain and body to search for new ways. New moves, new thoughts, new reactions.

One of the things we talk about regularly is training to make things automatic. You may be thinking right now “then why are you trying to get us out of the habit of the things we are repeating?”

Great question.

Think of yin and yang. Sometimes we need to reinforce our habit, sometimes we need to break them. Balance.

So first, try to think of some things that you never encounter. Then, think of how you would deal with those situations. What would your first reaction be? What techniques would you use? What would you say? What objects would you use?

Practice over and over. Pay attention to everything.

Now look at the things that are part of your habits. Make note of what’s the same as usual.

Then, look at what’s different. What’s not a part of your typical response?

Take this experience and apply it to the things you do in normal training.

This is how you grow. This is how you get better. This is how you become better every day.