what martial art to train in?

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Old Tiger

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Jun 26, 2003
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Originally posted by Black Bear
"Begin with the end in mind..." What is your main objective for training, and what are your secondary objectives?

Excellent suggestion. I think many times people become involved with a certain art or instructor for the wrong reasons.
Evaluate what it is you want to achieve and go from there. Is it fitness? Self defense? Becoming accomplished in a style that is an "Art"? Physical discipline? Rehabilitation from an injury? (don't laugh) Do you want something sport oriented? Combat oriented? Or both..?
Do you have physical restrictions to consider? Injuries? Would you do better with an art that is straightforward employing simple motor skills? Can you handle an art that requires complex motor skills? Would you feel better about learning a weapons based art that has less empty hands application at your age? Take a sheet of paper and use the "Ben Franklin Balance Sheet" approach. Positives on one side, negatives on the other. Be honest. Then pursue a good training environment, a capable instructor and something affordable, from there.

Personally, for what its worth, I feel it is important to pursue a course of training that is well rounded and will prepare one for all aspects and levels of combat. Striking, kicking,trapping, weapons, throws, grappling and environmental awareness just to mention a few. This is one reason I spent so much time in the JKD environment. At my age I have found that heavy duty striking and kicking training, (boxing, Thai boxing etc.) is very demanding on my joints and takes its toll. I still train this aspect but not as hard core as I used to. My main focus presently, again for what it is worth, is Groundfighting. I have trained in 13 styles over the last 30 years and always found that when we sparred realistically and when I encountered hostility in the street it inevetably ended up in a clinch and then on the ground. Even in weapons sparring. I also felt this was a very neglected area by many martial arts disciplines including some of those I was training in. So I have focused on training in groundfighting. I find it keeps me in great shape, flexible and strong. It also is a great combative advantage because even with the "grappling" explosion we have seen over the last decade or so... many systems do not adequately deal with it, some systems, not at all. This is one reason I am involved in Progressive Groundfighting Concepts. It is our goal to make realistic, practical and functional groundfighting training and concepts available to anyone who is interested without restriction or predjudice. We are as willing to learn as we are to teach and share. www.groundfight.com
Our forum is open to all who are interested and wish to share, learn and discuss grappling regardless of style or background.
I apologize, I have digressed. I share this as a fellow older martial artist and I salute your decision to pursue training. It is amazing how interest and training seems to fall off in general as people get older. So, hang in there and go for it! Let us know how you make out.


Sr. Grandmaster
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Aug 28, 2001
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Terre Haute, IN
I'd agree that most arts are fine--I just think that saying there are no bad arts is too strong.

Rich Parsons

A Student of Martial Arts
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Oct 13, 2001
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Originally posted by arnisador
I'd agree that most arts are fine--I just think that saying there are no bad arts is too strong.

More often there are bad instructors, check out the person and make sure you like them and think you can learn from them.


From Rich Dimitri: Senshido founder.

There seems to be allot of questions like these popping up. More often than not, it is the practitioner that make it happen, the style, range or tool that was used is incidental. However, this isn't true for many, this is the exception to the rule and not the rule itself. Like I mentioned a few times on previous posts, there are people out there who can make TKD work in the streets, this doesn't mean TKD would be the choice art for enhancing survivability.

In order for an art or system to enhance your chances at survivng a real fight, a real violent confrontation, an attmepted rape, mugging or murder, it is essential for this art or system to be rooted in reality.

This art has to be 3 dimetional. It has to properly (not adequately, not dabble in) but properly and fully deal with the emotional, psychological, and physical aspects in terms that replicate how real fights start, why they start, which attacks are the most common, how intention to action begins, etc.

Too many times the word 'sparring' comes up... "we spar hard", "we spar agaisnt various styles" etc. when was the last time you saw or heard of a rapist strap on a pair of 12 ounce boxing gloves, set a 3 minute time limit prior to raping a woman in the entrance of her own home?

Ask yourself the following questions and answer them honestly without thinking about how you train or any martial art in question.

What is a real violent confrontation?
Who are the most likely to be attacked?
How will you most likely be attacked?
What frame of mind will you be in when you are attacked?
Should you be concenred about the Tai Chi expert attacking you? Should you be concerned about the golden gloves champion attacking you or maybe the last UFC champion?

The real threats are the rapists, the muggers, the random bullies and ego jocks, the road rage incidents, the potential murderers, spousal & parental abuse etc.

The difference between the dojo and the street is the unknown. Remember, awareness, concsent and preparation will not be present. Your ttacker will not be squaring off you, he is not there to "spar". Therefore the mind set is that of surprise and the attack is usually sudden when one is ill prepared and most always starts with an attack on the mind which triggers emotional inertia. Like it or not.

A persons ability to perform certain techniques that require fine or complex motor skills greatly diminishes while under attack. On the other hand, gross motor skills such as grabbing, tearing, ripping, striking, biting are not only not affected during high stress situations, they are enhanced thanks to mother nature's hard wiring of our survival mechanism.

You want to know if your system will enhance your survival during a serious violent attack that triggered the mind and caused emotional inertia prior to you even being touched? How do you train? Does your training replicate reality YES or NO?

What is reality? Go to your nearest 'hard reputed' club or bar on a Friday or Saturday night and simply observe the behavior, the initiation, the escalation and the treacherous development of a few fights. See if any of the participants "spar", stand at 4 or 5 feet away from each other first and square off. Check it out and compare it to the training that you do.

You'll notice several things. You'll notice that while someone is being grabbed with feral anger, he is also being severely verbally agressed. You'll probably also notice that one or two or even more of his friends are standing behind him screaming and yelling for him to kill you. You'll probably also notice that you are instinctively grabbing him back trying to maintain your space and that the words coming out of your mouth are for the most part, not exactly defusing the situation...

Is this how you trained the 2 arm lapel grab last time in class? Or was it just you and your class partner while he grabbed you in a 2 arm lapel grab with some degree of force but simply stood there waiting for you to execute your technique?

What about other attacks? Which one's do you spend more time on training?

How much time is devoted to defending against the jab, the thai kick, the technical clinch, the side kick, the perfectly executed hook punch, the arm bar, the wrist lock?

How much time is devoted to defending against a sucker punch in the middle of a verbal confrontation, a hard tackle off of a verbal assault, a knife coming out while struggling in the clinch.

How are you dressed while doing this? A gi? Thai shorts? Tank top? Bare feet maybe?

What about winter boots? A 3 quarter jacket? Jeans? Heals? Suit and tie? 30 pound schoolbag on your back?

If you isolate an attack without incorporating realistic levels of physical and verbal aggression in order t trigger the emotional inertia, when faced with a real attack outside the dojo, ring, matts whatever... the student will more often than not experience 'freezing' from lack of suffice information. The mind will have no comparable experience making it almost impossible for them to respond effectively. Why? Because the brain will revert bak to the training but the training never dealt with this unfortunately "new information". No one in class ever nearly put me through a wall while grabbing me like that and calling my mother a filthy c*** licking whore?!?!

How much time does your system devote to avoiding and defusing a potential threat with proper tools based on reseacrh, experience and statistics? It's not enough to simply tell someone you don't want any trouble. It's not enough telling someone you don't want to fight. This is NOT defusing a fight at all. On the contrary, the majority of what is being taught as verbal defusing in most schools today will actually escalate the situation. When was the last time you actually verbally de-escalated the scenario you were in where it didn't go physcial and your partner who was the intended attacker turned around and said "Damn man, I didn't know what else to say, you got me."

What about the physical aspect? Well, what about it? Like I mentioned earlier, we are already hard wired with a survival mechanism, mother nature took care of that. If your physical arsenal consists of tools or techniques that require fine and complex motor skills, then the chances of them working are minimal, argue all you want, it has been scientifically proven time and time again. So your physical arsenal should enhance what God already gave you as opposed to negate it through stylistic intereference (your bodies desire to perform a move that directly negates the already bypassed cognitive brain by the mid brain due to the adrenal stress and fight ot flight response).

What does your physical arsenal look like? How many hours do you spend on elaborate submissions, on perfecting your punches, kicks, elbows and knees? How much time do you spend actually using these tools not in sparring but in fighting against the unkown opponent? Unknown meaning, you don't know if he has a friend on the side who'll jump in, you don't know if he's carrying a weapon or not, you don't know how he is going to react or what he is going to do because there are no parameters created by rules in sparring... this is real now...

Let me add to this the following:

Does your style spend a considerable amount of time teaching you about the legalities of your implications in a real fight? How to deal with witnesses? How to talk to a cop if your caught?

What about the revenge factor? Does your system teach you that after you've won your fight that the guy you just beat on may seek revenge? Do they teach you how to deal with the sometimes grim aftermath of your actions?

Real violence is behaviorally rooted. Sparring isn't. Martial arts training is physically rooted. "When someone does this, you do that." Not many explain or teach how to avoid "someone doing this" in order for "that" not to become the primary choice action. So, is your training behaviorally rooted, yes or no? Does it take into consideration pre contact psychology yes or no? Is the physical training adaptable to your hard wired survival system or are you trying to reprogram thousands of years of evolution with new techniques that require timing, torque, distance, and a high degree of skill and cognitive processing? You be the judge.


Black Bear

That's a good post, and it's very Dimitrian. You know, I used to train with a Blauer coach, and as you likely know, there's very little difference in the stuff they do. And I'd give answers like that too, but you know what? In many cities, there's a good chance that the questioner won't find ANY school like that. So it's good sales copy, it's probably even kind of TRUE, but if I can get the guy into a place that's progressive, alive, uses gross-motor movements throughout the ranges, and hopefully considers ecological validity to some degree, then great. They can pick up the balance from internet searches, vids and other supplemental stuff.

The other thing being that I NEVER train in street clothes, much for the same reason that I warm up before my workouts even though I know I can't warm up before a real assault: in an assault, you accept that you've gotta do what you've gotta do and you'll deal with a sprain or torn jeans as they come. But in training, you don't wanna bring that stuff on yourself unnecessarily. If we train in street clothes, it'll be just once in awhile, "just to see". Normally we train in athletic clothing, wrestling shoes, mouthguard, etc. We train on puzzle mats for goodness sake. Over the years I've become less rigidly fanatical about "realism".

Still, good post. And if he can find a place that does RBSD in that vein, it's definitely a plus.


good post bear, especially the first paragraph.

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