One of the fundamental differences between martial artists and violence professionals is the ability to choose the appropriate goal and to fight to that goal. It is single-minded (though the awareness should be wide open). Single minded can be taken wrong: Fighting to win is one thing. Fighting not to lose is something completely different. A violence professional will do one or the other. A martial artists tends to try to find a balance, and they tend to be very confused by someone who ignores the balancing niceties and just does what it takes. YMMV.
Even worse, the stated goal in a martial arts class is rarely the real goal. In the class, you may be told or believe that you are practicing 'fighting' or 'self-defense', but the students are actually always striving to make the teacher happy. So they try to move the way the teacher moves and they try to 'flow'.. and they don't run or draw hidden weapons or break the pattern. Breaking an expected pattern is almost always a good survival strategy.
The seminar went well and I did what I was supposed to do. Kj would present a drill, the students would practice it, and then I would explain how it could get you killed but also what was inside it that made the drill valuable. 'The drill is not the thing' was the mantra for the day.
One of the drills was a continuous attack with two weapons and the defender, with a short stick, was to flow and counter attack. I've seen this drill a lot in arnis and related arts. I paired with one person and we played for a few seconds before I stopped it. "Change your mindset, " I said, "You're thinking about flow and foot work and stuff. Let's do the same thing but this time, HURT ME."
For the rest of the drill she was still fluid, but the improvement was palpable. How she moved, her distancing, her targeting, her balance of offense and defense were profoundly different. Profoundly improved, from the survival point of view.
I did/said something similar with an instructor rank. He didn't get it, so we switched- he went for the continuous attack. I'm not sure what I did could be called a flow. In slow motion I slipped him, took his back and extended his spine. Owned his balance, both his weapons were neutralized and the pommel of my stick was over his exposed and stretched trachea. His eyes got very big. He saw it, he could move as well as I did (honestly, better- he probably has more original issue joints). Within a half hour, though, he was back in the exact same pattern of movement he had started in. The years of training had ground a deep rut for his mind.
This really came to my attention hard towards the end of the seminar. KJ had me go over how real knife assaults happen- close, fast, surprise if the threat can get it, usually in a confined space, and with part of you grabbed and controlled. There are a few things that work from there and we played them, had them practice. The notebook with the pictures of knife wounds was on the table. They knew or should have known that this was the no bullshit deal- maybe just a few percentage points of chance, but stuff that had worked against real attacks, against attacks the way they happen. Everyone started backed up against the wall with their partner/enemy at bad breath range.
Within ten minutes, all of the bad guys had taken a step back so that they could work at dojo range and were giving long, slow, obvious leads. The technique works better that way, I guess.
The weird part, and the danger of patterns, is that they had all done it and no one realized it.