Had an interesting conversation with M the other day.
We use a lot of bad analogies and terms when we talk about fighting. Well, perhaps not bad, but incomplete. I think that incompleteness trips people up.
"Chess with muscles at 100 miles an hour" sounds good, and it captures some of the strategic elements of a duel, but chess is turn-based. Even in speed chess, it's still "you go/I go". No such requirement exists in a fight. It can be "I go/I go/I go" (or you go/you go/you go). We can both go at the same time. Thinking in terms of you "you go/I go" turns out to be horribly unproductive (and for self-defense, almost completely useless).
The offense/thing is a similar problem. Somehow, the analogy of football came up: in football, you have one side on offense, and one side on defense, and the two don't mix. Hell, at the highest levels, you don't even have the same players doing both jobs. The guy who is on the offensive line does not play on the defensive line. Different job.
In a fight, offense and defense are relative. They can happen at the same time. They can be happening in different directions. I got on this thought because I noticed that, while M does better overall moving forward, he tends to get hit a lot. Turned out that in his mind, moving forward meant "offense", and he completely forgot about "defense". The idea that he could parry (for example) while moving forward hadn't clicked.
The flip side--there are plenty of great counterfighters who do well moving backwards. This is an arguable point, but I think if you're knocking people out while moving backwards, then you are on "offense" when you are backing up.
Mostly, I think this is a language thing. Fighting is weird and complex, and putting it into words tends to necessarily simplify the complex thing. It's understandable, but sometimes, it puts weird ideas into our heads (or our student's heads).