As some of you may know, I participate in a lot of martial arts discussions. This includes talking with my fellow students in class, watching videos on Youtube (and commenting on them), MartialTalk, Reddit, and a few other places. In virtually all of these, I see commentary about what is good, and what is bad. Head kicks are bad, because your leg will get caught. Palm strikes are bad, because you might hurt your hand, unlike a punch (there was so much wrong with this I didn't know where to start). Wristlocks are bad, because you can't rely on pain compliance. That defense technique you did a video on is bad, because it only worked against a compliant partner. That wrist escape is bad, because I tried it and it didn't work. I've seen all of these things, and I've come to a couple of conclusions. There are a lot of moves in martial arts that work. How effective each one is depends on the situation and your comfort level with them. There aren't a whole lot of moves that are widely taught that don't work. If they don't work, it's more likely that you don't know how to properly apply them. (There are moves like no-touch that are pretty much bogus, but most techniques, concepts, or training methods will work if correctly applied). If you are not trained in a technique, then you shouldn't use it, because it is a bad technique. That's not a judgment of the technique, but rather your execution of it. So how do I apply this to the situations above? Head Kicks. I'm going over this one first, because as a TKD guy, we do a lot of head kicks. Now, there is plenty of evidence in MMA, kickboxing, and Muay Thai of well-timed head kicks getting a KO. There are also a lot of times where someone will throw a head kick and get caught, and then easily taken down and submitted. In most of these cases, I notice that the people with the KO tend to have a good quality in their kick, and the people who get submitted look very awkward. Like they hadn't trained that kick, but they saw it and wanted to try it out, and that test backfired. So are head kicks bad? No. But if you haven't trained head kicks, are they bad? Yes. Wrist Locks. My other main art, as some of you know, is Hapkido. We do a lot of wrist locks. A LOT of wrist locks. As much fun as it is to try and use as little effort as possible to make your partner do a front flip, the majority of our take-downs are not from pain compliance, but rather from our footwork affecting our opponent's center of gravity. In most cases, I can get someone to go down with my feet, more than my hands. My footwork is what makes it work. It's not just the pain compliance of the wrist lock, it's also the effect my wristlock has on their shoulders, the effect my feet have in directing that force, and possibly that my shoulders and hips have in pushing them further off balance. That wrist-lock take-down will work, not only because of the pain compliance, but because of the other things I do to break down their structure. Does that mean it's a good technique or a bad technique? It depends on how well you understand them, and have practiced the application. Defense Drills only work on Compliant Partners. I see this posted a lot on videos where a 1-step drill is shown. "That only worked because your partner is compliant." People who post this seem to have no idea how one-step drills properly work. If you just memorize the techniques, then...yeah. It's just a drill against a compliant partner. But if you learn the concepts and how to correctly apply them, it can be much more. Part of this is learning more techniques (that you can bring in when you fail to use the technique you're trying), and part of this is drilling against a decreasingly compliant partner. However, for the initial phases of learning, and especially for instruction, you need a compliant partner. That's because at this point, you're drilling a technique, and you're not applying it. The application comes later, when you increase resistance, run failure drills, spar, and experiment and improvise with the techniques. That one-step drill might train you to deal with a haymaker, but it can be applied: If you grab the 5th punch in a combination To a hand grab To your attack Pieces can be grabbed here and there where appropriate Now, does this mean one-step drills are good or bad? Well, they're good if used properly, because it's a great way to drill a technique on a person, instead of a heavy bag or an imaginary opponent. It's also a good way to experiment with different variations of the technique. But if you don't do all that, then these drills do become more of a dance, and less of a martial art. I can't figure it out, so obviously it sucks! There's a video I watched of two professional MMA fighters (at least I think they are) reviewing a women's self defense video. The video taught a technique I learned at 7 years old, and I understood better than these guys. It's something I've taught to kids as young as 4, who understood better than these guys. The technique was simple - open your hand to flex your wrist, and pull your thumb towards their thumb. It's a very simple concept You attack the weakest point of the grip (where there's only 1 finger) instead of the stronger points (4 fingers or the palm). It's an easy escape that I personally think every child should know how to do. However, these guys didn't understand the concept. They just copied the technique. Now, the technique was demonstrated with a cross-arm underhand grab. The escape in this case, is to pull your thumb across your body, towards your other shoulder. These MMA gurus used a cross-arm overhand grab. In this case, you would want to pull your thumb to the outside, if you apply the concept. But they copied the technique. So instead of pulling thumb-to-thumb, they were pulling thumb-to-palm and going deeper into the grip. Their conclusion? The technique is horrible and it doesn't work. My initial reaction to this video was that they failed, because they didn't understand the concept. Then I realized - the training video failed as well. Because these pro MMA fighters couldn't figure out how to apply a simple concept taught by the video. I know the technique, and it's a great one. I also know that for these fighters, it's bad, because they can't apply it. What does this mean? This means a couple of things. First off, whenever you're in a discussion with someone about what techniques work and what techniques don't, keep in mind that there are plenty of ways to achieve success in martial arts. I may punch with 3 knuckles instead of 2, or I may prefer open-hand strikes. I may focus on kicks, while you focus on punches or grabs. I may train mostly with forms and 1-steps, while you train primarily with a heavy bag and sparring. None of us are wrong, we just have different ways of learning and applying what we learn. It also means that if you don't understand a technique or concept, there are three things you can do. In order of worst to best: Try to apply the technique or concept without understanding how it works. This is what gets a lot of people tripping themselves up in fights Reject the concept for your own personal use, but respect those who choose to use it. For example, a boxer/wrestler not learning how to head kick, because it doesn't fit his style, but respecting those that can head kick. Learn the technique or concept in order to be able to apply it.