Saturday, April 04, 2009

My Extremely Uninformed Opinion on the Martial Arts


While Kyudo is called a “martial art”, I doubt that any Kyudo practitioner has delusions of being “combat effective” or believe that they are training in an art that will provide them with “street survival” skills. However I do believe that there are practitioners of various stylistic, meditative and “traditional” arts that DO believe such things. These are the people who believe that working on their “Chi” rather than their punching skills or physical conditioning will help them survive a confrontation. They are the people who think that a fight will somehow adhere to the protocols they follow at the dojo. These are the people who equate “martial art” with “combatives”. A Kyudo practitioner is not the same as a historic Japanese combat archer. A sport fencing master is not automatically someone who could survive a real sword fight and a master in a “martial art” who has never faced a resisting opponent should not be presumed to be more likely to prevail against someone who has.

In college, I studied the Afro-Brazilian martial art known as Capoeira for a year, and American-style boxing for two months. The latter was, by a very long way, far more practical. As the title to this post suggests, this is an extremely uninformed opinion, but I think that in an actual brawl, victory will probably go to the person to gets the heaviest blows in first, and most of these will come from fists.

Capoeira was a lot of fun and is very pretty to watch, but I think that this clip from a movie is a good representation of its practicality:

[Video Link]

Capoeira requires far too much maneuvering room, its acrobatic kicks and cartwheels make one vulnerable to being thrown off-balance, and the constant movement wastes energy. Boxing, on the other hand, taught me two things: (1) how to throw a punch and (2) how to take one. I think that most fights would be composed of these two activities.

But I'm really just guessing. I haven't been in a fight since I was 19, when four teenagers that I had never seen before (or since) came after me. So I ran. They just touched me before I got to safety.

If I ever were to study a martial art again, I'd choose something entirely pragmatic, like Krav Maga.

HT: James


Tom Jackson said...

Hunter Thompson mentioned something similar in "Hell's Angels" -- karate experts, real or self-proclaimed, often tried to show off their skills in San Francisco bars, and were routinely beaten up and thrown out by the bouncers. The difference was that the bouncers, having survived many fights before, were not afraid to get hit.

Joe Harris said...

Basically, there are two types of hand to hand systems available to the public. Martial arts which primarily focus on development of the individual so that many of the techniques are meant to challenge but not be functional (even though they argue against it).

Reality Based Self-Defense systems move away from self-development and focus primarily on self-defense also called self-preservation. RBSDs tend to cut out extraneous techniques that would not work against a resisting opponent and try to have only those techniques that work under extreme stress.

Krav Maga is one that does this and there are others as well. Tony Blauer and Richard Dimitri have systems as well that focus on self-defense.

Overall, here is what you look for in a system:

1) Awareness and Avoidance

2) Defusion of the Situation

3) Combat only if 1 and 2 fail

What you really learn is what most people know to do naturally but 1 and 2 teach how to bring them out to the best potential.

3 of course is the last option.

Does this mean that martial arts do not teach any self-defense? They do but what are the real chances of surviving an attacker but trying fancy jumping kick and the answer would be little to none.

John said...

Yeah, you can win a lot of fights by not getting into them in the first place.

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