How Realistic is Your Training?

Considering that martial arts are, in essence, methodologies for fighting I always consider paramount to perform a reality check of each application. This is to assess if and when a technique or combination can be useful in a self defence or real fight situation.

Please notice that some styles, like kick boxing, tae kwon do and judo are to be considered martial sports and they follow rules that are designed to allow a sport competition to take place without causing serious injuries to those taking part in it. To some extend certain martial sports train full contact and a professional or a serious amateur of these is pretty safe in a fight as I recently mentioned in a previous post.

Certain styles that are pure martial arts, without sport applications, are meant to be useful for real fights and defending yourself. I am aware of a number of masters and instructors that remain pretty theoretical on the way they teach and assume that things will simply work: these people give a false, very dangerous, illusion to their students that risk to be seriously injured or killed in a real fight. It all good stating that one or the other technique will hurt an opponent, it’s another issue practicing it to ensure it works all the times.

So how do you perform a reality check? Here are some hints:

  • Have you tested your punches (or kicks, elbow or knee strikes) for real power?
  • The same strike might knock somebody down if applied to the head but just hurt a bit in certain areas of the body: did you consider that?
  • Have you considered how bad it could be hitting somebody in the face to find out that he hardly noticed the strike? What would you do then?
  • How much power do you think you need in order to knock somebody down or seriously injury them, allowing you to run away?
  • How would you react if somebody is charging you like a bull? Do you have a technique that would allow stopping or deflecting his attack?
  • Do you practice techniques that work at long, medium and short range? What about if the attacker is grabbing you?
  • Striking can be the non ideal solution sometimes. Do you practice techniques to seize the opponent and neutralizing him? Perhaps immobilizing him with a joint lock?
  • If you are below average the terms of body weight and size then you should consider training to defeat bigger people. What’s your body size compared to the average population?

I would be interested to hear comments about these issues.

How important is etiquette in the dojo?

One of the most obvious things somebody can notice entering a dojo (martial arts training room) is the general behaviour expected and respected by students in terms of:

  • Saluting and interacting with the master and senior students
  • Following instructions from the person running the class
  • Entering and leaving the dojo
  • Wearing and respecting a uniform

Having trained various styles of different martial arts I tried different flavours of expected etiquette, ranging all the way from the top formality of an Aikido class to the total laid back informality of a boxing club and I find myself standing in the middle.

I appreciate a level of formality and discipline that ensures, in a given class, to have:

  • A formal start and finish of the lesson
  • A level of respect toward the master or the instructors that ensure they can run the class, explain without disturbance and being asked in case of doubts
  • Some kind of uniform to identify members of the class in a distinct way
  • A way of identifying people’s ranking within the school to determine their experience: this is particularly important if the club has many members that train in different classes so that it can  happen to train often with new partners

I’d be interested in hearing different points of view on the topic.

Is a puncher born?

This is a question I found this morning on Yahoo! answers. The following text was submitted by Bigchief and it reads as follows:

Well im a our boxing club i was kind of surprised on who has the hardest punch.

During our bag drills we are asked to hit the bag during sets of 10, 20, 30, /// 30, 40, 50

Well we each get our turn to hold the bag when we are done, and during this time we hold the bag for the next guy. During this time i get a great understanding of the guys punching power.

Some of the boxers there who work out, and are kind of bulky , hit fairly hard, but not as hard as they look they would.
Some of the boxers who have muscle definition , but are not bulky hit just as hard.
What surprised me the most was that some of the boxers with little to no muscle definiton, hit the hardest.

This brings me to the belief that punchers are born, and muscle mass has little to no effect on power.

Id like to know if this is true, or if anyone else has had a different expierience , or if this is just a coincidence at my club.

And this is what I felt relevant answering:
In spite of the details about how bulky or defined each person is you are not specifying their weight: that can make a big difference in the power of their punches. Muscle mass and density will also have importance here, as some people are naturally stronger than others.

Punching power, given two punchers of equal weight, will depend in large measure from the overall body co-ordination when performing the action. A jab thrown using just arm and eventual shoulder power will have a certain level of power. On the other hand the same punch performed using the whole body, leaning toward the target even slightly and adding a half an inch step forward will result a lot stronger punch.

If you have access to a good coach he/she can teach you the concept in minutes: the point is then to practice it until it come natural, without thinking about the whole process.

I hope it can be as useful for you all.

Martial arts for self defence: are they useful?

When I start thinking about self defence a number of different things come to mind: I firmly believe it’s difficult to feel 100% safe, however strong or skilled in martial arts you might be. A lot of martial arts clubs or schools will advertise themselves as teaching self defence. What is in reality self defence? Many different people, from different countries and cultures, might have totally different ideas about it. Let’s say that if you are on the street, rather then in a bar or a club: somebody might approach you and trying intimidating you for a number of different reasons. Robbery? Sexual abuse? Drunken brawl? Road rage… you name it: I heard of some people that just like going out and punch in the face the first person they meet on their way. What if that person is going to be you?

The best self defence is not being in the dangerous situation all together. Fighting might not be a not a natural thing for many but evolution gave us natural defences. Our natural instinct plays funny games: if you are not mentally ready your brain will release a lot of adrenaline, your heart will start pumping much faster and you might just freeze or became irrationally violent and uncontrolled. Martial arts training can vary a great deal in terms of how realistic and practical is in a self defence situation. In any case I am convinced that practicing martial arts is the closed resemblance to a fight, to various levels of realism. Different approaches will assume you have to punch (boxing), punch and kick (karate, tae kwon do, kick boxing), throw and or manipulating joints (aikido, ju jitsu, judo, hapkido) and so on.

The other important factor to consider if you find yourself in one of these situations is how well you master the art you are practicing: a few months can be useful to understand a few moves; 12-18 months can give you a level of proficiency; 3-5 years you might feel the confidence. It’s always a safe measure not to advertise your proficiency in any martial art: ignorant people out there might want to challenge you and see how tough you are.

Practicing a martial art is not about being tough, it’s about improving yourself with techniques and practices that make you feel better, fitter, more agile and ready for action: that doesn’t mean you should look for it. At the same time if this person did not practice martial arts in the first place he/she would be even more vulnerable.