IMO, the difference between armed and unarmed MA's

Juany118

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First: I am interested if the more experienced people in the forums would sound off and critique my theory here.
Second: when I say armed vs unarmed I mean; "armed" arts put weapons front and center like FMA, HEMA, Kenjutsu, some styles of Silat etc., even if they have empty hand techniques taught later or in tandem. "Unarmed" arts put the unarmed techniques front and center, even if later they teach weapons, such as Wing Chun and other Kung Fu forms, Okinawan Karate styles etc.
Third: the way I look at them is, to a degree, informed through the lens of being a soldier and then having the transition to a law enforcement.
Fourth: I am referring to traditional martial arts and their direct descendants, not modern fighting systems developed for military forces.

So the difference as I see it:

The armed art is about "ending" the opponent himself...

---Now if you look at the arts that place the weapon front and center, typically, you represented the authority. It could be the Shogun or your Lord al la feudal Japan, the Chieftain al la FMA or Silat, King or Feudal Lord al la HEMA (just a few examples). The point is you were a soldier/warrior blessed with the duty to fight in battle for the authority. You went to fight on the battlefield and that means focusing on "ending" your opponent. Now yes the opponent may not have died but for you to continue moving onto the next opponent the previous opponent had to be dead, maimed or simply so severely injured that there was no chance whatsoever, during the course of the battle, that they would come back to haunt you or another fellow soldier. It would take weeks, even months to recover to full function, if that was even possible. Basically if the opponent lived, it was by happenstance. You saw an opponent who looked dead or dying to you so you moved onto the next.

The unarmed art is about "ending" the threat...

---First, typically these martial arts were developed by those NOT representing the authority. Look at the weapons you will eventually learn in WC, as an example. Yes the butterfly knife is now a sophisticated weapon but historically, I believe, it is a technique one could use with a butcher's cleaver, and the long pole used by boat man. Many other arts that eventually teach weapons use farm implements because the authority largely outlawed "true" weapons to all but those serving them.

Second, It is INCREDIBLY hard to "end" and opponent in unarmed combat. Yes it can happens, but it is very difficult and takes some SERIOUS dedication to make it happen if not by chance/accident. So if learning an unarmed art it makes more sense to learn how to simply end the threat vs the opponent themselves. Knock them unconscious, break rips, hyper-extend or dislocate joints, bruise and trauma, pain compliance them to the point that the pain they are felling simply makes their brain say "we're done."

Now the end effect can be similar to the first category (weeks or months to recover) but unlike that category, if your opponent is groaning in pain on the ground, obviously not "ended" in total, you would not be trained to "finish them!" (sorry shameless Mortal Combat reference). In essence, your job is done, time to move on.

Finally: none of the above is to say either art is "best". It is only to look at, for lack of a better term, the philosophical back drop that makes the arts different in mindset.
 

geezer

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I don't agree that armed arts are necessarily military, derived from following authority, or exclusively directed at ending an opponent's life, or that unarmed martial arts are less reflective of authority or have less harmful intent.

Many cultures, both Eastern and Western, had traditions of dueling and ritualized combat between groups that stood apart from warfare. Depending on the culture, dueling could employ weapons or empty hands. Again depending on the culture and period in question, such duels could often result in death, or be sufficiently restricted, even with bladed weapons that although injury was common, death was not. For example duels in Europe could be fought to the death, or just till one party was severely wounded and unable to continue, or stopped at first blood and honour was served.

I find it likely that while martial art skills (with and without weapons) may have been historically connected with and influenced by military combat, they have a stronger connection with traditions of dueling:

Duel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

Paul_D

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Second, It is INCREDIBLY hard to "end" and opponent in unarmed combat.

On the contrary, every week you can find a story of soemone killed by one punch. It's not the punch the kills them, it's their head hitting the pavement that does it.
 

Paul_D

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So if learning an unarmed art it makes more sense to learn how to simply end the threat vs the opponent themselves. .

But isnt finishing the opponent exactly what MMA fighters are trained to do? It is only the intervention of the referee that prevents the opponent being ended. They are not trained to stop once an opponent is unconscious, quite the contrary they are trained and told to continue to strike a downed & unconscious opponent and stop only when the referee intervenes.

Take away the referee, for example a street fight or a self defence situation, your training/muscle memory kicks in, you keep striking even though your opponent is unconscious, there is no referee to stop you, what is the end result going to be?
 
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Juany118

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But isnt finishing the opponent exactly what MMA fighters are trained to do? It is only the intervention of the referee that prevents the opponent being ended. They are not trained to stop once an opponent is unconscious, quite the contrary they are trained and told to continue to strike a downed & unconscious opponent and stop only when the referee intervenes.

Take away the referee, for example a street fight or a self defence situation, your training/muscle memory kicks in, you keep striking even though your opponent is unconscious, there is no referee to stop you, what is the end result going to be?

Tapping out, which the referee ends, under current MMA rules would result in the lasting serious injury, in this case joint dislocation. Ground and pound, while yes could eventually end in death, is where you go from the art to the practitioner. If you punch a helpless target in the head non-stop of course you can cause death BUT how many Martial arts (that don't have a referee) actually teach you to mercilessly punch a target that can't defend themselves? I am speaking of how arts are codified and then taught.

As for the last. I have been in more than a few "self-defense" situations irl due to my occupation and also responded to the scene of incidents where others have defended themselves. Those who just kept on pounding mercilessly, in self defense, are the exception and they actually ended up getting arrested as well because in civilized society self-defense only applies to when the threat ends. Even in China in the 18th and 19th centuries (perhaps earlier) challenge matches often had the combatants sign death waivers. Without them, if a competition accidentally died, their opponent could find themselves arrested for murder.
 

Flying Crane

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I suspect that given the roots of many systems practiced today, in the reality of a few centuries ago when we did not have police, courts, ambulances, and 911 to help us out, martial practice was deadly serious business, including unarmed. You had nobody to rely on. If a threat came your way, you had to take care of business, or end up maimed or dead yourself.

So they took care of business.

I also suspect that weapons and empty-hand training went hand-in-hand. I do not believe there was much separation. Anybody could find a stick, anybody could carry a knife as a tool for daily use, this stuff would have all simply been part of the training. All was fair when it came to keeping yourself, your family, your friends and neighbors, and your village safe.

It was all about ending the enemy.
 

Paul_D

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Ground and pound, while yes could eventually end in death, is where you go from the art to the practitioner.
But that is my point, the art of MMA teaches the practioner to keep striking until the refree intervenes.

If you punch a helpless target in the head non-stop of course you can cause death BUT how many Martial arts (that don't have a referee) actually teach you to mercilessly punch a target that can't defend themselves?
Probably none, which is why I didn't mention other arts, only MMA.

As for the last. I have been in more than a few "self-defense" situations irl due to my occupation and also responded to the scene of incidents where others have defended themselves. Those who just kept on pounding mercilessly, in self defense, are the exception and they actually ended up getting arrested as well because in civilized society self-defense only applies to when the threat ends.
Agreed, but then I never said otherwise.

:)
 

JowGaWolf

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First, typically these martial arts were developed by those NOT representing the authority. Look at the weapons you will eventually learn in WC, as an example. Yes the butterfly knife is now a sophisticated weapon but historically, I believe, it is a technique one could use with a butcher's cleaver, and the long pole used by boat man. Many other arts that eventually teach weapons use farm implements because the authority largely outlawed "true" weapons to all but those serving them.
Where does the Spear, the Chinese Broad Sword, the Jian and other straight swords, the Guan Dao, None of these were farm implements, but are taught in systems where unarmed fighting is taught before weapons. Just trying to get a better understanding of your perspective.
 

Flying Crane

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Tapping out, which the referee ends, under current MMA rules would result in the lasting serious injury, in this case joint dislocation. Ground and pound, while yes could eventually end in death, is where you go from the art to the practitioner. If you punch a helpless target in the head non-stop of course you can cause death BUT how many Martial arts (that don't have a referee) actually teach you to mercilessly punch a target that can't defend themselves? I am speaking of how arts are codified and then taught.

As for the last. I have been in more than a few "self-defense" situations irl due to my occupation and also responded to the scene of incidents where others have defended themselves. Those who just kept on pounding mercilessly, in self defense, are the exception and they actually ended up getting arrested as well because in civilized society self-defense only applies to when the threat ends. Even in China in the 18th and 19th centuries (perhaps earlier) challenge matches often had the combatants sign death waivers. Without them, if a competition accidentally died, their opponent could find themselves arrested for murder.
I would say you need to understand that there is a difference between the historical context in which a method was developed, contrasted with how that method is practiced in modern society today. These can pose a very different reality.

And to your point about how systems are codified, well my system contains some truly destructive methods, punches delivered in a way deliberately designed to break the neck or snap his head back and drive him head-first backwards to smash his skull. Of course we cannot actually do that in modern Western society. But those methods exist for a reason: at some point in history they were seen as a good idea.
 

drop bear

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There is generally different mechanics.

I don't punch a lot of guys in the wrist for example.
 

Gerry Seymour

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First: I am interested if the more experienced people in the forums would sound off and critique my theory here.
Second: when I say armed vs unarmed I mean; "armed" arts put weapons front and center like FMA, HEMA, Kenjutsu, some styles of Silat etc., even if they have empty hand techniques taught later or in tandem. "Unarmed" arts put the unarmed techniques front and center, even if later they teach weapons, such as Wing Chun and other Kung Fu forms, Okinawan Karate styles etc.
Third: the way I look at them is, to a degree, informed through the lens of being a soldier and then having the transition to a law enforcement.
Fourth: I am referring to traditional martial arts and their direct descendants, not modern fighting systems developed for military forces.

So the difference as I see it:

The armed art is about "ending" the opponent himself...

---Now if you look at the arts that place the weapon front and center, typically, you represented the authority. It could be the Shogun or your Lord al la feudal Japan, the Chieftain al la FMA or Silat, King or Feudal Lord al la HEMA (just a few examples). The point is you were a soldier/warrior blessed with the duty to fight in battle for the authority. You went to fight on the battlefield and that means focusing on "ending" your opponent. Now yes the opponent may not have died but for you to continue moving onto the next opponent the previous opponent had to be dead, maimed or simply so severely injured that there was no chance whatsoever, during the course of the battle, that they would come back to haunt you or another fellow soldier. It would take weeks, even months to recover to full function, if that was even possible. Basically if the opponent lived, it was by happenstance. You saw an opponent who looked dead or dying to you so you moved onto the next.

The unarmed art is about "ending" the threat...

---First, typically these martial arts were developed by those NOT representing the authority. Look at the weapons you will eventually learn in WC, as an example. Yes the butterfly knife is now a sophisticated weapon but historically, I believe, it is a technique one could use with a butcher's cleaver, and the long pole used by boat man. Many other arts that eventually teach weapons use farm implements because the authority largely outlawed "true" weapons to all but those serving them.

Second, It is INCREDIBLY hard to "end" and opponent in unarmed combat. Yes it can happens, but it is very difficult and takes some SERIOUS dedication to make it happen if not by chance/accident. So if learning an unarmed art it makes more sense to learn how to simply end the threat vs the opponent themselves. Knock them unconscious, break rips, hyper-extend or dislocate joints, bruise and trauma, pain compliance them to the point that the pain they are felling simply makes their brain say "we're done."

Now the end effect can be similar to the first category (weeks or months to recover) but unlike that category, if your opponent is groaning in pain on the ground, obviously not "ended" in total, you would not be trained to "finish them!" (sorry shameless Mortal Combat reference). In essence, your job is done, time to move on.

Finally: none of the above is to say either art is "best". It is only to look at, for lack of a better term, the philosophical back drop that makes the arts different in mindset.
At least some parts of what we now know as "unarmed combat" systems was originally taught to complement armed combat. They were more "disarmed combat" for when a soldier lost his sword on the field. As such, they were intended to be just as serious as weapons work. In some of these, we see little weapon s work, simply because the soldier was assumed to already know that.
 
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Juany118

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Just wanted to further detail how I came to my conclusion, while also admitting everyone made excellent points.

I don't agree that armed arts are necessarily military, derived from following authority, or exclusively directed at ending an opponent's life, or that unarmed martial arts are less reflective of authority or have less harmful intent.

Many cultures, both Eastern and Western, had traditions of dueling and ritualized combat between groups that stood apart from warfare. Depending on the culture, dueling could employ weapons or empty hands. Again depending on the culture and period in question, such duels could often result in death, or be sufficiently restricted, even with bladed weapons that although injury was common, death was not. For example duels in Europe could be fought to the death, or just till one party was severely wounded and unable to continue, or stopped at first blood and honour was served.

I find it likely that while martial art skills (with and without weapons) may have been historically connected with and influenced by military combat, they have a stronger connection with traditions of dueling:

Duel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

First to dueling with weapons. I think there is more than a little historical evidence, at least in the west, that dueling descended directly from military arts. They may have "refined" it, made it more "gentlemanly", but it was in large part, especially in the formalized methods of Europe something anachronistic, the modern aristocracy (either by right of title or wealth) following traditions founded in feudal knights and and "trial by combat."

While historical fiction I think a good illustration of this is in the following film (one of my favorites actually) The Duellists (1977) - IMDb. As they go through the Napoleonic era you see their dueling styles change in time with the weapons they used in combat. Yes, the fighting style would be different on the battlefield, the rules of dueling and different conditions brought about changes but clearly informed by the battlefield. I will address "unarmed dueling" in the last response.

I suspect that given the roots of many systems practiced today, in the reality of a few centuries ago when we did not have police, courts, ambulances, and 911 to help us out, martial practice was deadly serious business, including unarmed. You had nobody to rely on. If a threat came your way, you had to take care of business, or end up maimed or dead yourself.

So they took care of business.

I also suspect that weapons and empty-hand training went hand-in-hand. I do not believe there was much separation. Anybody could find a stick, anybody could carry a knife as a tool for daily use, this stuff would have all simply been part of the training. All was fair when it came to keeping yourself, your family, your friends and neighbors, and your village safe.

It was all about ending the enemy.

I know the techniques you note exist, that is why I noted just how hard it is to kill another person without dedication. I totally get there are techniques where a blow can break the neck, or the skull but these techniques are VERY hard to pull off in a real knock down drag out fight. There are choke holds and the like that, when skill is equal, are also very hard to pull off. Often these techniques, to have what I would at least call practicality, need to be used from surprise or as a "finishing" move when you enemy is all but eliminated as a threat already. The moves that get you to that point are 95% or more of what you learn.

But that is my point, the art of MMA teaches the practioner to keep striking until the refree intervenes.


Probably none, which is why I didn't mention other arts, only MMA.

Agreed, but then I never said otherwise.

:)

The reason I noted MMA, boxing has a similar thing where the fight is called when the opponent can no longer defend themselves, is that, to my knowledge, these techniques are only taught when there is a referee.

Where does the Spear, the Chinese Broad Sword, the Jian and other straight swords, the Guan Dao, None of these were farm implements, but are taught in systems where unarmed fighting is taught before weapons. Just trying to get a better understanding of your perspective.

That is where I draw the line between Martial Arts taught under the blessing of the authority. There were different ages in China. As an Example WC (according to legend) was developed during a period when the Imperial Court outlawed weapons among the general populace. Many of the classic Shaolin styles (which use such weapons) however were developed when, to an extent, the Monks were seen as an authority figure. Yes their fortunes rose and fell depending on the Dynasty, even sometimes based only on a particular Emperor, but the existence of the weapons in these arts can be seen still through the concept of MA's created under the color of having some sort of authority, whether is be Secular or Spiritual. Also note however that the Shaolin styles also include the rather classic "not authority" weapons as well, staffs, canes, 3 section staff etc. I think it would be unreasonable to say that these would be a product of when the Temple's fortunes had "faded" in the eyes of the Imperial Court.

Other Martial arts using military weapons, such as Xing Yi, have a close realition between the armed and unarmed movements and, some scholars say were even codified, if not out right developed by Generals, hence again under the color of authroity.

At least some parts of what we now know as "unarmed combat" systems was originally taught to complement armed combat. They were more "disarmed combat" for when a soldier lost his sword on the field. As such, they were intended to be just as serious as weapons work. In some of these, we see little weapon s work, simply because the soldier was assumed to already know that.

Indeed but here, at least with the arts I have study (either physically or in theory) a goodly number of these arts are "okay, you lost your weapons, what else do you have" and they very often have an extensive pool of techniques to get your opponents weapon and it is with the weapon that you "finish" the opponent.

I guess what it came down to, in my mind, was this... the simple mechanics of what it takes to kill a person and then applying practicality in training. You would not see battles on the field fought unarmed. The minute mankind learned to pick up a rock, a stick, then found the rock they could sharpen, then tie that sharpened rock to a stick etc., the way we fought war was with weapons. The idea there. clearly, is to kill. The idea of fighting unarmed, in battle, was "oh crap I lost my weapon". Is it easier to try and disarm the arm of another opponent (to get his weapon and use it) or is it easier to get inside his guard unarmed and crush his neck with a strike or strangle him?

On top of this you have the a multitude of "unarmed" martial arts that do eventually teach weapons later on. Can the unarmed martial arts kill? Of course they can, but it seems that the main point, logically, would be to end a threat or take your opponents weapon as it is far more difficult to kill without one in an active fight. I think people underestimate how hard it is to kill another human being short of strangulation. It takes between 1,000 and 1200 ft lbs of force to break a neck. To simply fracture a skull (which isn't universally fatal) around 1,100 lbs. I said strangulation was "easy" because to collapse the windpipe only takes about 11 lbs of pressure but remember if simply collapsing it you need to wait until asphyxia kicks in which takes minutes, so you need to first get into position THEN have the dedication to follow through. It takes only about 33lbs to crush the average windpipe BUT other trained martial artists will likely have the neck muscles in that area built up AND you run into the point that a simple strike will not be met by a stationary target in a real fight, so the most practical way again is as a "finishing" move or to try and move into a hard choke hold where you can really torque down. And 95% of your techiniques in unarmed combat, barring surprise attacks, are to get you into a position where you can pull off these challenging techniques.

So with all of the above perhaps I should have a more nuanced opinion? Weapons based fighting, especially edged, has the primary function being to "end" the opponent (you can of course fight simply to maim/injure), unarmed based fighting's primary function is to end the threat (though it can intentionally kill under idea circumstances).

If I am still off, no problem. Just spit balling here out of boredom. I tend to think about weird stuff like this when I don't have practical matters to turn my brain too and it usually starts when the insomnia kicks in so my thoughts are ll over the place lol.
 

geezer

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If I am still off, no problem. Just spit balling here out of boredom. I tend to think about weird stuff like this when I don't have practical matters to turn my brain too and it usually starts when the insomnia kicks in so my thoughts are ll over the place lo

Yeah, I'm the same way. Interesting stuff to think about and discuss, especially with a few like minded martial artists over a beer. Look me up if you are ever out in Phoenix!
 
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Juany118

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Yeah, I'm the same way. Interesting stuff to think about and discuss, especially with a few like minded martial artists over a beer. Look me up if you are ever out in Phoenix!


Funny you should say the last. My wife and I were just talking about perhaps taking a trip out there between Feb and April next year. She has family out there, I friends and they suggested that time frame because we kinda enjoy Ren Faires (one of our "geek" hobbies) and the Faire is in Gold Canyon.
 

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