It is a question of degree, if somebody has never been in a fight then they can tell you nothing about fighting,,,,,,,,they may be able to show you martial art.with an emphasis on "Art".....but little else....or maybe they can quote somebody whose knowledge they value, but that is it. It is a difficult call becaue I have known people with little training who did very well defending themselves and others with knowledge who did really badly.
Generally true but with important exceptions:
Having been in previous fights needs to be defined as to what a fight is or is perceived to be by students. Here I like the concise outline of Rick Wilson
Fast: Little or no warning. The tactic most often used is an ambush (home invasion) or sucker punch.
Incendiary, brutal and intense: Often jumping to violence quickly. It can be loud and angry or silent and as hidden as possible. The aggressor wants to get what they want at little risk to themselves therefore often a very violent attack is the tool – remember the Russian video of the fifteen year old girl being mugged (stomped to death) outside of an elevator.
Total commitment to do you grievous bodily harm or lethal intent: They have no intention of stopping until you are in the hospital or dead. Violence is their tool to achieve their goal. You mean nothing to them or their goal is the enjoyment of your suffering. Either way your wellbeing is of no concern to them. Taking your ability to fight back is.
High chemical cocktail dump: The intensity, brutality and violence level of a real assault will kick in the chemical cocktail and all the physical and physiological reactions that result.
An assault is not even a mutually agreed upon street fight. You do not move around at a distance waiting for an opportunity to attack, it will be Close Quarters Combat (CQC) immediately. Having said that, never say never, if the initial assault is repelled without taking the aggressor out you may end up at a distance but not disengaged from the assault and you will need to know how to close the distance and attack (this ability is also needed in multiple attack situations.) So still include sparring in your training.
You may be taken to the ground or knocked to the ground: You may end up on the ground while the aggressor(s) are still standing or the aggressor(s) may take you to the ground. This is a reality.
Possible multiple attackers: The types of people who assault you do not want a fight they want to hurt you therefore sucker punching and multiple attackers makes it “safer” for them. If they do this then they have experience and they know how to do it well. One occupies you while another blindsides you stomping your ankle into a pulp so you drop and they being to kick – a potentially lethal situation.
Possible Weapons: For the same reason as multiple attackers the aggressor want to hurt you with little threat to themselves so weapons gives them an advantage. Always assume a weapon is possible and if you are winning – very likely. If not one that is brought then one that is improvised.
Unpredictable Street attacks: While there are more and more trained people, or mimics, out there you will also encounter wild attacks and attacks not common to what is often thought of as “Traditional Asian Arts.” Patrick McCarthy’s “habitual acts of violence” is a great reference for Common Street attacks. Criminals train to take the advantage and this reality has to be prepared for.
Even if some teacher has had all these types of fights_ he may still not be able to teach anyone anything, especially if he is afflicted by the
the John Wayne syndrome — rushing without tactical restraint into a kill zone.
Generally, the ability to succed in violent confrontations is a multi-faceted one.
Any skills we may have developed in any discipline, be it martial arts, boxing etc._ all come down, in a physical sense, to the ability to hit your target with your body limbs,without fracturing them, hard enough to 'stop' the assaillant.
Our training under any teacher of any discipline has to contain perceived nuances of overcoming adversities and solving problems, as well as the physical tooling we all like to extol.
There are many areas you can gain this type of knowledge and conceptual experience that develops a person's attributes useful in a defensive encounter.
Rick Wilson has pointed to some of them.
As a base...we see in people that growing up and playing sports can show young men and women that they are capable of physical acts that border on violence. Guys on the football field are training themselves for a type of battle.
Then one of the glaring problems that floats rapidly into consciousness, in deadly force adversity training_is the human reactions under the stress of sudden aggressive attack _ and how these reactions, mental and physical, are drastically affected by the way we train and apply the techniques we’ve learned...empty handed or with defensive weapons.