So, if there is one, what's the bottom line? (I think both Steves will get called out a bit on this one, but they're big boys.)
One of the most basic problems is in the realm of how martial artists are taught to move. They are taught to move right. They are taught to strike or throw or lock correctly. This works in a controlled environment.
It's the same with basketball players: throwing free throws they can do it with precision and consistency that any sensei would applaud... but they can't deliver that kind of precision in a free-for all. At some point each player has to transition from moving right to moving well, just getting the ball through the hoop from an unstable platform against resistance.
Most martial artists take it to exactly this level with sparring and think it is enough. They forget (or don't know) that all live training has built-in flaws for safety. At the best, the flaws become habits that can get you killed... at the worst, they become "the right way" to do the technique. The part about safety flaws is an aside. The meat is this:
Games are simple. Life and violence are not. If you take the basketball player who can really move well but suddenly the basket is defended by a rugby, soccer or lacrosse team, using their tactics, his moving well has to come to an entirely new level. When he is not allowed to know what kind of team he will be playing against in advance, that's another level. And in real life, sometimes putting the ball through the hoop isn't the way to score. Sometimes it is and you don't know until you are there.
So most martial artists learn a collection of very specific ways to move. It's like having a toolbox filled with pre-cut jigsaw puzzle pieces and jumping into a jigsaw puzzle and hoping to find a gap that happens to fit a piece you have. It works sometimes, but people in real life actually say, "He attacked me wrong."
What the practitioner needs to do is to soak all of his puzzle pieces and mash it into a sort of paper mache that you can cram into an hole you can find. It won't look pretty....
Steve (Perry) talks about ingraining technique until it becomes a natural way to move. That's key, but it needs to be checked because it is much easier to believe than to do. When you bump into someone accidentally, do they get knocked back? If not, you aren't naturally walking with power. When your wife turns around in the kitchen and she has a knife do you automatically close and shut down her arms? If not, it's not instinctive yet. Do you cover as naturally as you answer a phone or strike the solar plexus without targeting as unconsciously as you shake a hand? Do you automatically stand so that you can pop knees or exploit weak lines? Where are everyone's hands in a crowded room? Do you monitor shadows and reflections without thinking about them? Do you sometimes forget how to teach a technique because you can't remember another way to move?
Crossing hands with Steve Barnes he was very comfortable with close range chi sao style movement- pushing, trapping- but he had an instant of hesitation whenever I didn't do it 'right' breaking contact, say, or head butting. Lawrence Gonzales in "Deep Survival" pointed out that one of the dangers of getting good at something is that you tended to stick with the script, responding to what happened the other hundred times instead of the different thing that is happening now.
Long training, especially with a system and instructor that you admire, sets you up for this. You come to believe and expect and internalize his idea of what a fight will be like. The concentration on doing things 'right' combines to instill a tunnel vision that what you are training for, the venue where the system has worked (and all good systems are designed for something and work very, very well in their natural venue) is the only reality out there.
Years before we met (and I don't really feel we've met yet, but we've chatted a few times) I sat in the back while Steve Perry discussed fighting with a bunch of SF fans and writers. Steve said, "If you are ever in a knife fight you WILL get cut." I started to raise my hand and my lovely wife elbowed me in the ribs and whispered, "Cookie!" which is our code word for "Don't be a monster."
Steve then said that no one ever, ever attacks overhand with the knife in a reverse grip... and my hand started to go up again.
Thing was, I've had five knife encounters (sort of, two could be considered assassination attempts and two were pre-empted, one pretty decisively.. not sure 'fight' is the right word) without a scratch. Sean has had six without a scratch. Brad had one with just scratches, literally, and he almost bit the dude's ear off. Mauricio, on the other hand, has some scars that impress me, which takes some doing.
One of my attacks was the reverse overhand thing and one of the others might well have been if he'd ever got a chance to move. It's actually pretty common.
Not putting Steve on the spot- this happens to almost everyone who trains and I've seen students swallow crap whole in cop classes and SWAT classes and HNT classes. You start to confuse training with reality. You've never been attacked that way in class and your instructor has a logical reason why no one would.. and you turn to your students and start using words like "never" and "always".
Which are dead give-aways. Crap, I've had physics fail on me twice... but once was in my favor, so it balances so far.
Bigger than this "moving right" issue though, is thinking and perceiving. If people could just see what was right in front of them, combative training would be completely unnecessary. All humans already know how to move. In any given situation there are obvious and effective options. With no training at all, people are often blinded or frozen by their social conditioning.
Unfortunately training, particularly training in disciplined movement, instills these templates of what an attack looks like and the right way to move. You wind up looking through the templates and comparing learning and experience instead of looking at what is right there.
This is easier to demonstrate than to explain. You can go into a competition with your mental rolodex of armlocks and flip through them looking for a technique that matches what you see...or you can just see a straight arm and opportunity to apply force in two places.
When a martial artist is taught striking and grappling, they tend to do one at a time. Instead of looking at their body and the threat's body and doing the efficient and effective thing they decide if they are in wrestle or strike mode and try to remember an appropriate technique.
One of my drills is to get the students up on the MOVEMENT/PAIN/DAMAGE/SHOCK paradigm and put them in a free play (sparring, continuous one-step, etc) with the caveat that at any instant they should be able to do any of the effects to the opponent.
The reverse POV, the technique paradigm:
MOVE THREAT/STRIKE/TAKEDOWN/LOCK/PRESSURE POINT/STRANGLE at any given time and in almost any position, the student should be able to do all or almost all of them. Too often training, instead of teaching the student to see more, blinders them into seeing less.
The ideal is simply to see the situation as it is. All of your solutions are inherent in the situation. As an organism, you see it complete and true... but as a trained, thinking person you perceive it through created filters. Teachers teach the filters and students learn them: "You see that possibility? Good, Grasshopper, you are now a yellow belt. See two possibilities? Six? Aaah, blackbelt!" But the default, the natural thing with open eyes is almost infinite possibilities.
So in most training they aren't learning to see they are learning to focus, which is a way of not seeing the extraneous- which, in this case, means all of the hundreds of things the instructor doesn't know how to exploit.
Sonia has trained with me a bit and she says good things about my teaching, but the truth is I haven't taught her one damn thing. She'd learned to move and strike and throw and twist and slash and stab long before I ever met her. All I've done was point at the things she missed seeing because she was too busy following scripts.
She had the aikido movement down but only used it at aikido distance- and it works much better at extremely close range once you learn to see the voids. She knows how to force someone off balance but wouldn't remember it was an option in a fist fight. She knows, intellectually, that it is easier to beat someone up from behind but she almost never attempted to get behind me in action- intellectual knowledge never expressing in motion.
So (and forgive the long post) I've met very few martial arts instructors who could really see and even fewer who gave their students permission to see. What gets people killed aren't the moves or even the false confidence. It's setting their brain- their perceptions, their expectations, their assumptions and their reactions for a limited interpretation of what they might face.
I can almost hear, "You can't train for everything." Trying is the opposite of the right solution. Humans are immensely adaptable, perceptive. Our eyes don't quit seeing mountains because we've been watching the ocean (though we can be trained that only mountains matter or only oceans are real). You practice seeing and you practice acting.