What is a Shark Tank?
In our training, we use the term Shark Tank to describe a pressure testing method where one person has to face multiple opponents in sequence. This is strictly a one-on-one experience lasting a minimum of 5 minutes. Every 60 seconds, a fresh opponent jumps in and your previous opponent rolls out.
Shark Tanks can be used in all kinds of combat training – striking, grappling, weapons.
The White Belt Experience
In the beginning, being the main participant in a shark tank can be an intimidating prospect. Getting a fresh opponent every 60 seconds means that you’re going to get more tired as the rounds go by, but your opponent is always going to be fresh. With that being the case, your main goal should just be survival – mental and physical.
Physical survival is simply a test of your cardio capabilities. Your body is going to be screaming to stop in the first few minutes because each fresh opponent will be attacking at their best while yours is diminishing. It will feel like you’re getting your butt handed to you the whole time.
Mental survival may not happen until after the experience is over. Feeling like you’re losing for 5+ minutes will definitely humble your ego. By the end, your mind will be reeling from all the submissions and strikes you let through. Just smile and know that you made it to the end. Not giving up, coming back for more, and knowing you’ll have to do it again in the future is the mental test.
Once you’ve embraced the suck of going through a shark tank, you can start making it work for you.
For my money, shark tanks serve three purposes – endurance training, self defense training, and asymmetrical training.
This is the most obvious purpose – get better at enduring longer fights. If I can survive a 15-minute shark tank, a 3-minute match should be a walk in the park. This is potentially 100% true and it’s the one purpose that doesn’t need you to do anything special. Just jump in the tank and eventually your body will adapt.
You’re going to fight multiple people and you’re going to have limited ability to control how those extra attackers join the fight, so you will almost always be at a disadvantage. You can choose to just accept this as to why shark tanks suck and not benefit from it or you can recognize it as a chance to improve your skills. You do not get to set your battleground conditions, so recognize that and work around it. You have 60 seconds of overcome that disadvantage.
Self Defense Training
How does Self Defense Training differ from Endurance and Asymmetrical training? Aren’t those important for self defense? Totally, but they can also lead to a misunderstanding of self defense. When your personal well-being and potentially your life are at risk, you do not want the fight to go on forever and you may not have time to overcome your disadvantages.
So how does it work? If you want a shark tank to serve you for self defense, all that matters is that first opponent. Win the first minute and the rest is just endurance training. Win the first minute and you will be able to control how your next opponent joins. Win the first minute and you can set the pace for the second. Win the first minute and you may be able to go into the second better rested.
When you are fighting for your life, you want the fight to be over with as quickly as possible. That’s why I think you should focus on the first minute every time. As you get more experienced, you can start thinking about winning more minutes.