Written in early 2000. This piece appears as it was then.
The Delusions of the Martial Arts
first written January, 2000.
Delusions of the Martial Arts
A Realistic Observation of the Martial Arts Industry
What all Self-Defence and Martial Art Instructors should read.
In reality fighting is by far more violent and is less organised than what is portrayed in Movies and by most practitioners of the Martial Arts. What seems to work in the Training Hall will very rarely work in a real fight unless correct attributes and tactics are employed in conjunction with practical and realistic techniques. Too often are Martial Artists worried about looking good or holding a black belt, and this often leads to the neglect of actual fighting ability. The very thing the Martial Arts are about. A real martial artist doesn’t necessarily wear a belt or a traditional uniform, if they do it is not a major part of their fight training. It is by far a lot wiser to wear clothing which is practical to train in yet at the same time is also similar to what you would wear in every day life.
In our modern world with so many information mediums we have access to numerous methods of combat and realistic methods and approaches to practical self-defence and fighting. Yet because of con artists and the dis-illusionest’s out there the average person is confused and is often lead astray. Instead of pursuing a truth they are given belts, an external measuring stick, which seldom relates to actual fighting ability. The student should be given training and techniques, which allow them to know how good they really are.
How often does an every day person asks a practitioner of the Martial Arts, what belt are they? Pity if the Martial Artist is not in a style where belts are awarded. Or what about how many bricks or boards can you break? I don’t think Mike Tyson could break bricks or boards but there is no disputing his punching power. These gimmicks which impress the uninformed have long plagued the real world martial artist for along time.
Instead of asking what belt some one is shouldn’t they ask how long have you been training for and how often? Some one who has been training for ten years but only practices twice a week for an hour each night is not as intense as some one who has been training for three years yet trains five times per week for around two to three hours a day. Then comes the efficiency of that training, Kata or forms are not as realistic as bag work, and bag work is not as realistic as contact drills or shadow boxing and shadow boxing and contact drills are not as realistic as sparring and wrestling. Then does this person train their attributes, do they perform strength, endurance, flexibility, power, enhancing exercises.
So by asking how long some has been practising the martial arts also leads to a dilemma, so then could we ask them how many fights they have been in and won or maybe even challenge them there and then to see first hand how effective they are?
By asking them if they honestly feel competent with there fighting abilities is a question enough, here though is where integrity and self-honesty comes into play. Will a 8th dan black belt actually admit that he has wasted all those years of training, and openly say to himself or another that he can not fight?
No, It is even unlikely that after a one on one encounter in the street with a bully, when the 8th Dan is defeated will they admit that their training has been in vain. Instead as it is a human trait, they will find excuses; they will justify the experience (If they survive the encounter at all). Only a few true to themselves individuals will learn from the experience, after the experience they will evaluate and ask the question which every one should ask…why?
It is too easy to follow and live in delusion, by accepting something without explanation or demonstration. Why chamber your punch at the hip when instinct conflicts with this. Do boxers chamber their punches in this fashion, after all their profession is heavily geared towards punching? Are they doing it wrong? No they are not. Yet so called martial artists, masters of fighting teach such un-scientific and impractical methods without question. They just do without reason. The average person without knowledge of fighting will follow blindly trusting these instructors to be specialists on fighting. Yet in reality most instructors would never have been in a real fight or would have even witnessed one. People when they do not understand something will deny instinct and natural actions and follow the exotic or a mystic way of doing things, and most oriental or oriental inspired fighting arts are like this. Without practical or realistic technique or strategy, instead they use hypothetical methods.
These styles or methods of fighting use in their defences against “common attacks” unrealistic and conditioned “counters”, “defences” and “responses”.
Instead these are mere expressions or ways of enslaving one to convention, when in truth when one of these attacks come in the real world, instinct takes over and these drilled responses are forgotten or fail. Does this mean the student failed, the instructor failed or the system failed? I guess this depends on whom you ask. The instructor may say the student was at fault that they “were not advanced enough or did not deliver the technique a certain way”. Whereas the student may blame the instructor, the system or even themselves. Whatever the case, the fact remains it did not work as it was practiced in the controlled environment of class or the Dojo. Why? It is unnatural, the body does not fight like that, the techniques are to fine motor, the method of teaching was too rigid, and the training was far removed from reality. Did the student spar? Did they grapple? did they drill there responses with someone really throwing a punch at them? I doubt it. Was there any role-play? Did the student develop any attributes such as aggression, or did they learn any diffusion skills? No it is very unlikely, instead they stood like a robot swinging there arms around performing rigid blocks and counters. Or if they did spar it was with points in mind and ‘controlled’ techniques.
Let’s look at some “common attacks” and what is often taught as a counter. A straight punch, this is a potential attack which you may encounter on the street, however their “aggressors” delivery of this technique is so far removed from reality that their defence or counter is already doomed for real life. A street thug or aggressor is not going to chamber their punch at the hip nor will they adopt a classical Karate or Kung Fu stance. Then comes the counter, the demonstrating practitioner will already be out of the punch line of fire as the “aggressor” generally never actually throws the punch at them instead they throw it a good foot to the side of their face. If they block it, they use a rigid or very soft block and then by some miracle (or is it because the punch is so slow) they manage to grab the punching arm. At this point, the “aggressor” does not throw another punch or even attempt to resist his position (just as well, as in most cases the practitioner seldom is ready for another strike). Then follows the counter which depending on the style will be a unnecessary or weak technique, Tae Kwon Do will often have the practitioner throwing a head kick or kick combination, and if they do throw a punch it will be a weak and telegraphed chambered punch.
Most Kung Fu systems will have the practitioner executing animal like strikes which are fast yet rarely have any power behind them, such techniques as the Eagle claw strike, crane beak, or spear hand strikes. The kicks, which they may use, are seldom powerful, instead they are fast flicky techniques designed more for show than actual go. The Karate systems will use rigid blocks and usually will follow up with hip punches which look powerful because the practitioner screams his lungs out with a war cry (The bad breath is often more devastating than the punches).
Yet to the average person who knows nothing or very little about fighting this all seem very real and effective. They do not question and accept, assuming their instructor to be a great fighter and because of the belt or sash they wear they are honest and know what they are teaching. In most cases the instructors through choice or there own delusions ignore the duty of care, which they have undertaken. As instructors in self-defence they should teach their students how too realistically defend themselves under the most life threatening of circumstance. Belt grading has nothing to do with this, board breaking and point tournaments are gimmicks. Tools of deception, they are enemies to the honest truth of fighting.
In reality your body cringes, flinches or covers up naturally when some one throws a punch at you. This is instinct; this is the way the body has reacted for years. Such realistic systems as Tony Blauer’s SPEAR (Spontaneous Protection Enabling Accelerated Response) take advantage of this natural ‘response’. SPEAR uses the flinch to take the sting out of attacks, instead of flinching away, one ‘flinches’ towards the aggressor, taking the leverage away, while also covering themselves up, forming there body into a ‘spear’ (hence the clever acronym). Other systems have similar ‘counters’ a lot of grappling styles such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Submission Fighting, and Shooto use the clinch to take the ‘sting’ out of a aggressors strike or attack. By closing the distance effectively one removes the leverage or the ‘wind up’ of the punch. Why do these systems use such methods? They are born out of conflict, the founder of SPEAR Mr Tony Blauer works closely with Law Enforcement and Military personnel these are the people who have to use what works, they are not interested in looking good or appeasing tradition. Instead they must survive. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was born out of Mixed Martial Arts competition, fighting practitioners of various styles in open competition, relying on leverage, positioning and submissions it is effective for all people in self-defence situations.
When a student comes along who does wish to learn how to fight they in some cases are caught up in the conforming ranks of belt hunters, after weeks, months or even years, they forget the real purpose and pursue the mirage, the illusion. The quest for that empty prize, the coveted belt. A belt is in some cases an achievement, it does not mean that one can necessarily fight. As no two black belts ever achieved a belt under the same circumstances then neither does it mean all Black belts are equal? What it does stand for is the illusionary God like status awarded to people who stand over the masses because they think (Thinking you are something is far from knowing. Their perception is as deluded as their fighting method) that they are better, and through the masses ignorance they are awarded a status which is unwarranted, they are feared for the wrong reasons.
Thus we get ‘Black Belt syndrome’, that disease which people get when they reach a perceived level, they feel their ability and knowledge is absolute. They stop learning, and refuse to listen to any one who hasn’t got a belt rank higher than them. They are high on this power trip which they get from people who worship there so called abilities, who willingly through ignorance pay thousands of dollars to them and who obediently follow them. They refuse to listen to another’s opinion; Mixed Martial Arts events are considered by these so-called masters to be unrealistic. Yet their forms or kata’s, hip punches and tap kicks are realistic expressions of the martial arts. Few rules fighting events have no relation to real street self-defence, though point fighting and brick breaking events do? Who cares about what belt rank you are? Apart from your students or ‘peers’ does a thug waiting to mug you really care if you are a red sash in five animal Kung Fu? After all he and two of his mates are waiting for you while you walk cockily down the street, that is of course until you encounter them. What will happen then do you think? They will let you pass as soon as you boast to them your skills, “hey watch it fella’s I can do a 490 degree Tiger tail flip kick”. Instead I fear they will simply rush you and lay into you. Then do you not think training realistically would be wise?
Often a lot of members of the Traditional or ‘conventional’ (commercial) fighting community say that Modern scientific innovators are deluded and have no knowledge of modern fighting, yet they who are blindly enslaved by tradition follow a method, which is so many years old, are suppose to be enlightened?
Fighting technique is not like a wine; age does not make it better. Like all physical events and abilities refinement and evolution are needed to improve what is. Techniques of yesterday are not always obsolete just as they are not always right. Do not deny change or evolution, just because you are a black belt with so many Dan’s does not mean you have nothing to learn again. If there is any belt in the martial arts worth achieving then it is the white belt. Then can you keep on learning, and once you stop you are a fool. Look at what is and question the method. Look through your eyes as a human being, and not as a Karate Black belt or a red sash holder in Kung Fu. Do not let ignorance and tradition cloud your perception. Congratulations you have been awarded a belt, but do you feel honestly confident when you walk down the street, have your demons left you? Did you leave your comfort zone in order to getting this belt?
Fighting is just that, a struggle, a violent contest, a physical confrontation. Thus it is not a cultural art, a method of historical aesthetics, analyse why you train if it is for fitness then let it be so, if it is to look good then continue to do so, if it is art then express yourself. Do not mistake any of those though for what the martial arts are really about, FIGHTING. God Honest fighting, surviving conflict. If that is the real reason then learn, and train. Do not delude yourself, you can not afford to, after all it is your life, and at the end of the day you must protect your own interests.
Tradition and Convention are good for a cultural art or when one does not wish to grow, but is it not about fighting? Do you not profess to be a fighter? Why do you teach as you teach, because you were shown this way, what of evolution and progression? Perhaps you should relabel what you teach, “Cultural Arts, the way of understanding the past”.
If you wish to learn bathe in knowledge, experience what is out there, there are so many great innovators and fighters alike who are willing to share (maybe for a price) but is it not worth it. Is knowledge not worth it? Can you not share what you know with them, secret techniques are often the false techniques that ‘Death Touch’ is a deception so why not share what you know with your contemporise. What price would you put on your life and the loved one’s who warm your days? Is it all priceless? Then isn’t learning real self-defence worth it, you have to go beyond that zone of familiarity go beyond the customs of merely hitting a bag or doing forms, instead you have to develop yourself into a fighting entity who cherishes every day of life.
Ego is well and good when there is a crowd, but don’t lie to your self or trick your very own conscience with your own egotistical ignorance.
Now go away and look at yourself in a mirror, honestly as a human being and ask yourself why. If you find no answer then some day you will, if an answer comes listen to it.
Train for the right reason’s. It’s your life so guard it.
(They are only my humble opinions)
Kym Robinson 5 January 2000