The Internet is full of haters. Chairborne warriors who grasp one or two principles and use them to shield their weak self esteem by bashing every chance they get. An area of the martial arts under constant attack these days is traditional martial arts.

The criticisms of traditional martial arts tend to fall into a few camps:

  1. Modern commando wannabes who  claim that old-school martial arts won’t work on “the street”
  2. UFC fan testosterone junkies who think that winning sports matches proves a specific style of martial arts is superior to all others
  3. The misinformed who read stuff on Internet forums, grasp onto it, and believe it

All of theses stances are fundamentally flawed.

Even though I no longer train in traditional martial arts, I like to keep my mind open and learn as much as I can before opening my mouth or hitting the keyboard. I may not be the most educated person on the planet, but I have 30 years of martial arts study, which is more education than any doctor, lawyer, or professor. There are many people who can school me, but if you fall into one of the categories above – you are not one of them.

Here’s my take:

  1. Most traditional styles come from hundreds or thousands of years of battlefield experience. While many of them have transformed into something more spiritual, the principles and concepts are still there.
  2. Being tough, or a good martial artist has almost nothing to do with style and almost everything to do with the individual and the way they train. Good MMA people are good because they train hard and they train smart. Teach BJJ to somebody who isn’t going to work hard at it and they are going to suck. Your style is not going to do the work for you.
  3. If you want to train for self defense you train for self defense. You do not train for sport, or spiritual enlightenment. There is nothing wrong for training for sport or enlightenment, but it’s difficult to be all you can be with 3 disparate goals.
  4. “The Street” sounds really dangerous. Please tell me where this street is so I can avoid it. (I stole that expression from Raymond Desmarais). Seriously, self defense is not “street fighting”. Street fighting is brutal, but if you agree to fight with someone it’s a sport. Self defense is not about fighting and winning, it’s about surviving and escaping. If you don’t understand the difference, you’re not training for self-defense.
  5. If the only toolbox you have is a set of lethal skills, I hope you have a good lawyer on retainer. Training in killer commando techniques only doesn’t sit well in jurisdictions which allow for “reasonable force”. If some drunk guy throws a punch at you in a bar and you collapse his windpipe, you may go to the gray bar hotel for the rest of your natural life. Options are good.

I hear a lot of complaints from people watching skill demonstrations or attribute training that go something like:

  • That won’t work against somebody who’s resisting
  • That won’t work against someone on PCP
  • blah blah blah

This is just ignorance. When was the last time you saw someone in the middle of a round in the UFC pickup a jump rope and start skipping, or drop and do pushups, or start hitting a speed bag? Are you going to  lift weights out on “the street”?

I have been in combat commando type classes where the instructor had rank beginners “pressure test” what we were working on and people got hurt. A friend of mine broke his wrist. Why? Because the people didn’t know what the heck they were doing, hadn’t developed control, and their technique was sloppy as hell. Under pressure everything they learned went out the window and it turned into a slug fest. It takes training a long time to get past this point, there are no short-cuts no matter how tough you act.

I hope we can move past the meat-head, energy drink pounding, tribal t-shirt wearing, gladiatorial age that we’re in now. And let’s be clear, I mean no disrespect to any art, including MMA. I do not like the culture of disrespect that is present in so many these days. Someday I hope things change.

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