I am an old fat guy who's decided to train in MA -- what do you think about my plan?

Monkey Turned Wolf

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That is the ideal, but isn’t it realistically, impossible?
I'd say that depends. The first few moments are going to be difficult, but once you've got control if you can maintain it and stay focused on a possible weapon, it becomes much easier.

And the idea of doing whatever you're planning quickly is easier. It does not take very long to throw someone, and in a SD situation that's probably all you actually want to do before leaving.
 

Gerry Seymour

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But isn’t grappling sort of like non-sexual hugging?😐 A blade could be reached for without you realising and pressed into your body. Unless it was a sword, of course.
A good grappler is only going to be grappling in a couple of situaions:
1) They're already in trouble, and ended up grappling beacuse that's where they were. In a case like that, you're grappling whether you want to or not.
2) They are taking control - and will get it quickly. A good grappler won't just move into grappling range, then start grappling. If they enter that range on purpose, they're setting up the control on the way in. In this case, the other guy is likely to be either in a bad position to use a knife, or in a bad position to get to it.

When in striking range, you still have to find a way to control them, or you're repeatedly facing the knife.

I'd rather be at striking distance if a knife is already in play. I'd rather be in control in grappling distance when they want to bring it into play.
 
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saavedra

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Wow – thanks everyone! This response was exactly what I was hoping for: a lot to think about and discuss. (Plus everyone is cool, not my average internet experience).

First, to reply to something that Bill Mattocks said:

You're overthinking all of this.

This sounds very familiar… 😊 My wife agrees...

First, find out what is available where you live, during times you are available, for prices you can afford…Don't worry about this or that specific type of martial arts training or exercise or your weight or whatever.

The one reason why I’m coming at it this way is that I live in a huge urban area with a lot of MA choices, and I’m fairly certain that I live within easy distance of at least one decent boxing gym and one decent wrestling school. (FTR just querying “Muy Thai” within my zip code yields 15 results I can get to easily). As long as I have the choice, I may as well get opinions on what might work best.

I speak from some background.

Man, your story is super inspiring. Thank you for sharing it.

As to multiple disciplines. First, that's putting the cart before the horse.

Absolutely. It’s just one of those things where I like to conceptualize a plan of learning before I begin, with the notion in the background that I’ll likely modify or toss it out once things get moving.

My rationale goes something like this: as an overweight newb, I’d like to get some SD skills under my belt right away so that I have something with me in case **** happens, and also so I feel interested and engaged. But I don’t want my weight and health issues to provide an excuse for me to quit (or cause actual injury). So, if I start with a discipline that’s best suited to those issues and then move to another when I’m able to handle more, I feel okay with that.

The question of whether it should be boxing or wrestling to start is balancing health and age vs effectiveness. Most people have told me that boxing will be easier on the knees and other joints at first. But they’ll also say wrestling is better for the way fights actually go down.
 
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saavedra

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people seem to become competent in boxing much more quickly. It seems beginners can throw pretty scary punches in a shorter duration of training - not become excellent boxers- but fulfil the self-defence criteria you’ve listed....Punching bags and speed balls, jumping rope etc are great fun too, especially if you have ‘Eye of the Tiger‘ playing in the background. From my experience, boxing gyms seem to be very encouraging and supportive too, so you’re journey will be easier. Plus, those shiny shorts are so cool!
You hit the nail on the head…(although nothing will make me look good in shorts).
But boxing’s extreme cardiovascular nature will really augment your mass reduction.
Understood! It's been underway for a while and I'm making steady progress, but if boxing helps, I'll take it!

Although, my body has done this weird thing where exercise slows weight loss...but we'll see. I'll have more questions once things are underway.
Of the the two options you have stated, I think, you’ll enjoy boxing more because you’ll become competent more quickly, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and you’ll have fun getting fitter too. But it’ll still hurt! 😃

Let’s hear a counter proposal from one of our grappling experts. Wrestling well is so difficult!
Perfect summary - thanks. And thanks also for asking for the other perspectives :)

—saav
 
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saavedra

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From my experience, I would recommend taking a grappling art first if your intention is learning self defense quickly. The guys that I trained then gained abilities faster learning grappling techniques first, with striking coming later. As a group, we found that the students picked up what they needed for survival faster and easier this way.

Thanks - as I said to Mr. Mattocks:

The question of whether it should be boxing or wrestling to start is balancing health and age vs effectiveness. Most people have told me that boxing will be easier on the knees and other joints at first. But they’ll also say wrestling is better for the way fights actually go down.

So this is the grappling side of the argument! Thank you!

Can I ask a follow-up: From what I've read and heard, grappling is usually given points for self defense over boxing/striking. The only counterargument I've heard is that going to the ground can be bad in a situation that's 2 (or more) vs. 1.

How would you frame a response to that?

—saav
 
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saavedra

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Thanks for the response, Gerry...
Learning falls is hard on the body. Once you get good at them, the toll is much less. The more weight you have, and the less supporting muscle, the harder they are. I'd suggest finding something that doesn't involve falls until you get yourself in shape. Boxing and other styles that don't involve falls are a great place to start.

This has been my concern. I've been told that Aikido helps with learning falls, although whether it helps with SD seems to be a matter of some controversy online.

Is there a discipline—MA or otherwise—that teaches falling as part of its training?

BJJ has a lot of options that don't involve throws, and the ground work is great for developing those support muscles, so anything that looks like BJJ is reasonable for starting, too - just make sure the instructor is okay helping you work without any real falls for a while (some takedowns can be done without much of a fall, so could be reasonable).
BJJ or Gracie seems to be the default training of choice in my area, which means more opportunity (and more charlatans too, I imagine—this is NYC after all, which is a magnet for con artists). Can you share what you see as the contrast/pro-cons are between BJJ and wrestling?

From what I see, it might be easier/more comfortable to do wrestling in NYC, but some flavor of BJJ has multiple options in the city and North Jersey.

—saav
 

gyoja

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Thanks - as I said to Mr. Mattocks:



So this is the grappling side of the argument! Thank you!

Can I ask a follow-up: From what I've read and heard, grappling is usually given points for self defense over boxing/striking. The only counterargument I've heard is that going to the ground can be bad in a situation that's 2 (or more) vs. 1.

How would you frame a response to that?

—saav
A decent BJJ class will cover these points. You are going to be at a disadvantage when fighting multiple opponents regardless. BJJ will allow you to use your weight to your advantage, get you into decent shape, and teach you to fall. Once you get a firm grasp on grappling, you should be ready to learn striking as well. Chances are that the school will have something available for this as well.
 

Leviathan

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When it comes to self defense I would consider Krav Maga. Designed by the Israeli army for close combat, seems effective, without any flashy flamboyant show techniques or - as far as I know - useless katas/forms. Not focussed on competition either but self defense. I would give it a try if I were you.

Regarding weight loss, keep on focusing on nutrition: that’s 90% of the job. I strongly advise you the book “the obesity code” by Dr. Jason Fung (you’ll find quite a lot of videos from him on YouTube to get an idea). I read it and find it fantastic. Spoiler alert: it’s not about caloric reduction (the failure of this method in the long run has been proved times and times again) but about insulin reduction.
 
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saavedra

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When it comes to self defense I would consider Krav Maga. Designed by the Israeli army for close combat, seems effective, without any flashy flamboyant show techniques or - as far as I know - useless katas/forms. Not focussed on competition either but self defense. I would give it a try if I were you.

Regarding weight loss, keep on focusing on nutrition: that’s 90% of the job. I strongly advise you the book “the obesity code” by Dr. Jason Fung (you’ll find quite a lot of videos from him on YouTube to get an idea). I read it and find it fantastic. Spoiler alert: it’s not about caloric reduction (the failure of this method in the long run has been proved times and times again) but about insulin reduction.

Thanks for the advice re: weight loss - one of the fundamental lessons I've learned is that exercise plays an important supporting role but isn't the main act. I've lost what I've lost by caloric reduction, and it's still coming off; it's been really gratifying.

But I'll check out the book you recommended; I'll embrace any opportunity to move forward by science rather than instinct.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Thanks for the response, Gerry...


This has been my concern. I've been told that Aikido helps with learning falls, although whether it helps with SD seems to be a matter of some controversy online.

Is there a discipline—MA or otherwise—that teaches falling as part of its training?


BJJ or Gracie seems to be the default training of choice in my area, which means more opportunity (and more charlatans too, I imagine—this is NYC after all, which is a magnet for con artists). Can you share what you see as the contrast/pro-cons are between BJJ and wrestling?

From what I see, it might be easier/more comfortable to do wrestling in NYC, but some flavor of BJJ has multiple options in the city and North Jersey.

—saav
Any style with throws will necessarily teach falling. I’d argue the falls used in mainline Aikido (Aikikai) are hard to make useful outside the dojo, but I’m no expert on those falls. The most practical training for falls outside a dojo would probably be parkour.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Thanks - as I said to Mr. Mattocks:



So this is the grappling side of the argument! Thank you!

Can I ask a follow-up: From what I've read and heard, grappling is usually given points for self defense over boxing/striking. The only counterargument I've heard is that going to the ground can be bad in a situation that's 2 (or more) vs. 1.

How would you frame a response to that?

—saav
My response would be that knowing how to stay off the ground is a major part of grappling.
 

mograph

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My response would be that knowing how to stay off the ground is a major part of grappling.
Yep. I thought that in a self-defence context, the idea is knowing not only how to stay off the ground, but how to escape a grappler.

To invite grappling, to choose to embrace the opponent and take it to the ground in a fight, seems to make no sense. We'd be containing ourselves as well as the opponent, and if we immobilize the opponent, then what? Opponent taps out, we let our guard down, then the opponent strikes. Doesn't sound very practical in terms of self-defence. Or are we planning to choke them out? Sure, what could go wrong with that strategy?
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Yep. I thought that in a self-defence context, the idea is knowing not only how to stay off the ground, but how to escape a grappler.

To invite grappling, to choose to embrace the opponent and take it to the ground in a fight, seems to make no sense. We'd be containing ourselves as well as the opponent, and if we immobilize the opponent, then what? Opponent taps out, we let our guard down, then the opponent strikes. Doesn't sound very practical in terms of self-defence. Or are we planning to choke them out? Sure, what could go wrong with that strategy?
This all depends on what we consider grappling, and what our goals are.

Is our goal to escape with our lives? Then I don't want to go to the ground, probably. There might be a situation where I've got a knife or something, and I hold it to my opponents throat, giving me space against his friends, but that seems pretty niche.

Do I, for whatever reason, want to hold someone safely until someone else gets here? I might be dealing with an autistic individual who's definitely dangerous, but a social worker can calm them down, or a drunk friend who's going overboard, or in a hospital trying to restrain someone, or even LEO waiting on backup. I probably don't want to choke them out, but it'd be easier to contain a single person grappling than it would be striking, and I can think of plenty of situations where containing would be the goal.

And am I considering that a necessity for grappling? If someone comes at me with a knife, and I take them down with an armbar, letting me disarm them and run, that's grappling. If I do a leg sweep or throw someone on the ground, that's grappling. So is simply directing someone away from between me and the exit, if they're standing between us.

And then, there's the opponent. If I know they're dangerous in striking (I've already seen them knock some people out, or they've got a weapon and I'm barehanded) then I want to take them to where they're not as good, especially if I'm good there. I'm taking a risk there, of them having a buddy or something else happening, but if I can take them down, disarm them or break their arm or leg, that's better than a losing striking match (and in the same way I'm not pulling a punch in striking, I'm also not letting go once they tap to an arm bar/leglock). The comparison of choking them out to me is the same as striking their face. I might hold it too long and kill them, but I also might hit them too hard, or they fall down, and kill them that way.
 

gyoja

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This all depends on what we consider grappling, and what our goals are.

Is our goal to escape with our lives? Then I don't want to go to the ground, probably. There might be a situation where I've got a knife or something, and I hold it to my opponents throat, giving me space against his friends, but that seems pretty niche.

Do I, for whatever reason, want to hold someone safely until someone else gets here? I might be dealing with an autistic individual who's definitely dangerous, but a social worker can calm them down, or a drunk friend who's going overboard, or in a hospital trying to restrain someone, or even LEO waiting on backup. I probably don't want to choke them out, but it'd be easier to contain a single person grappling than it would be striking, and I can think of plenty of situations where containing would be the goal.

And am I considering that a necessity for grappling? If someone comes at me with a knife, and I take them down with an armbar, letting me disarm them and run, that's grappling. If I do a leg sweep or throw someone on the ground, that's grappling. So is simply directing someone away from between me and the exit, if they're standing between us.

And then, there's the opponent. If I know they're dangerous in striking (I've already seen them knock some people out, or they've got a weapon and I'm barehanded) then I want to take them to where they're not as good, especially if I'm good there. I'm taking a risk there, of them having a buddy or something else happening, but if I can take them down, disarm them or break their arm or leg, that's better than a losing striking match (and in the same way I'm not pulling a punch in striking, I'm also not letting go once they tap to an arm bar/leglock). The comparison of choking them out to me is the same as striking their face. I might hold it too long and kill them, but I also might hit them too hard, or they fall down, and kill them that way.
Or, from personal experience, they run into you and you have no choice but to go to the ground. Keeping him there was the most effective way for me to control his weapon.
 

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The traditional martial arts are very hard in which to become competent, taking years of obsessive training, reading, research and various forms of conditioning. They’re somewhat like learning to play the violin: the first two or three years are characterised by screechiness and scrapes of ear horror! They are ‘full body’ endeavours requiring every limb, back, hip, elbow and knee to be relatively healthy when beginning. To continue to the point where you will feel and look competent requires a great deal of persistence and sheer bloody mindedness! This is evidenced by the high attrition rate of those starting their MA journey. They’re effectiveness as self defence is hotly debated and questionable in my opinion. Martial arts are not easy and they’re quite a lonely, self-motivating pursuits.

For whatever reason, (I suspect very effective coaching techniques), people seem to become competent in boxing much more quickly. It seems beginners can throw pretty scary punches in a shorter duration of training - not become excellent boxers- but fulfil the self-defence criteria you’ve listed. This a purely subjective observation and I’m not a boxing expert, but this is my non-expert observation. Punching bags and speed balls, jumping rope etc are great fun too, especially if you have ‘Eye of the Tiger‘ playing in the background. From my experience, boxing gyms seem to be very encouraging and supportive too, so you’re journey will be easier. Plus, those shiny shorts are so cool!

But your self-reported levels of fitness will be a real handicap. Being as overweight as you are (Your BMI = 46 and the normal range being 18.5-24.9. I’m allowed to talk about this as a former but reformed fat person 😉) and with the commensurate reduction in cardiovascular fitness that likely accompanies a BMI of 46, things will be very tough for you without substantial calorie restriction. But boxing’s extreme cardiovascular nature will really augment your mass reduction.

Of the the two options you have stated, I think, you’ll enjoy boxing more because you’ll become competent more quickly, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and you’ll have fun getting fitter too. But it’ll still hurt! 😃

Let’s hear a counter proposal from one of our grappling experts. Wrestling well is so difficult!
Boxing is a martial art which encourages practicality from the moment you enter the gym. It will get you fitter and stronger much quicker than a standard martial arts class. Being overweight is not an issue if you are dedicated and you only need look at guys like George Foreman to see that weight needn't be an issue. Tyson Fury came back from a difficult time in his life, lost around 140lbs and immediately challenged Deontay Wilder for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. I wholeheartedly recommend boxing as a martial art - it offers so many more benefits than a traditional martial art and is a great way of getting yourself into tip-top shape and feeling more confident in everyday life 🥊
 
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Gerry Seymour

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Yep. I thought that in a self-defence context, the idea is knowing not only how to stay off the ground, but how to escape a grappler.

To invite grappling, to choose to embrace the opponent and take it to the ground in a fight, seems to make no sense. We'd be containing ourselves as well as the opponent, and if we immobilize the opponent, then what? Opponent taps out, we let our guard down, then the opponent strikes. Doesn't sound very practical in terms of self-defence. Or are we planning to choke them out? Sure, what could go wrong with that strategy?
There could be times that'd make the most sense in the situation. If I don't see escape as a good option (my knee is trash that day, so no speed in running, perhaps), my best bet might be to get them in a situation where they'll wear themselves out. I'm more efficient on the ground than most folks (and less efficient than @Tony Dismukes - perhaps by the same margin), so letting them waste their energy that way could be to my benefit.

I also greatly tend toward side control, because I find it easier to extricate myself there, as compared to being in either mount or guard, or even having their back (though the latter can make extrication easy, if you add in a rear naked choke). Even better if I can find control where I'm on my knees and they are flat(ter) - like with some shoulder and elbow locks.

That said, given other options, I'd prefer not to be tangled up with them, in case the situation changes.
 

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