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Expect the Unexpected Grass Hopper
The Myth perpetuated by Self Defense Oriented Martial Arts
I just received the following Email. I felt it needed to be shared because I feel a lot of people feel the same way?
I ran across your website searching for what was out there for self defense information and have found myself researching your and Mr. Cestari's methods ever since. I've trained in Martial Arts since 1984 and have studied primarily Tae Kwon Do but also have trained in Hapkido and Judo. I received my black belt in Tae Kwon Do at the age of 15 and at that time thought I was more or less Superman capable of defending myself against anyone. 2 years later at a party my skills were put to the test by the "tough guy" in town who wanted to see how good I was. It probably comes as no shock to you that skill had nothing to do with it. He approached me from behind threw me to the ground and had me in a pretty secure choke when the other people that were there pulled us apart and took us our separate ways. I wasn't hurt and it wasn't a life or death situation but what bothered me was that not only were my 5 years of training useless in that situation, they never even entered my mind...I froze. After that I dropped out of the martial arts for a while thinking either they didn't work or I wasn't mentally strong enough to execute them in a realistic situation. Later I started to research other martial arts with a different perspective especially when it came to self defense and in every case I found students that were basically being lied to and given a false sense of confidence that they would be able to defend themselves using these various tricks and techniques for situations that aren't likely to happen anyway. As you referred to on your website I can break out of a wrist grab no matter who the attacker is, but in my entire life I've never had anyone grab my wrist with the intent of harming me.
--Mike, 2nd Dan Tae Kwon Do"
Unfortunately, Mike's story is far too common. Anyone who has spent time in the vast majority of martial arts schools will see the instructor demonstrate and technique and then hear them claim, with 100% conviction, that this will work against anyone, any time. The majority of the time it's not the instructor's fault. It's a common misconception that was taught by his instructor.
The following are a list of generally dangerous misconception perpetuated by Martial Artists and Self Defense Experts:
1. You should be able to do any technique, against anybody, all of the time.
2. You should be prepared to fight with in the blink of an eye.
3. You should a specific response for each and every situation
a. That specific response should be deployed without hesitation.
4. The criminal or street thug is uneducated and untrained and does not stand a chance against someone who is trained.
5. You should remain calm.
6. Combative sport contest is what a street fight will be like.
7. The technique should look smooth and pretty.
Anyone who teaches these ideas should have their heads examined. First of all, these are impossible goals that have been perpetuated by the mystique of martial arts. All martial artists like the idea of being able to act like this and more importantly, like the idea of YOU thinking that one day YOU will be able to be like that. But, like Mike you may receive a rude awakening. I am sure there are "stories" of people acting in this way. But I will site the Gichin Funakoshi passage from his book Karate-Do. When he had to defend his life against a real attacker, what did do? Reverse punch? High block? No he grabbed the guy by his balls and squeezed until the guy passed out. Does this make him any less of a great man or martial artist? On the contrary, I think it shows his insight into the realities of a street fight- end it as fast and by whatever means necessary.
Don't set your self up for a fall. Understand the reality that the guy teaching has either never had a street fight in his adult life or learned from someone who never had any real world experience. Even then, I know guys who have experienced a street fight but have no idea or insight as to what they did or how they survived it. The problem is when you start to IMAGINE what MIGHT happen. Listen, your best bet is to understand general reactions. If you poke his eye, it will close. You will have no idea what this guy is thinking or feeling, nor will you care.
Below is a list of responses to the myths perpetrated by my fellow martial artists.
1. Not everything thing works for everybody. That's why you study a variety of techniques and strategies. You want to find something that fits you. You will naturally gravitate to what "feels" good. That doesn't mean try something a few times and dismiss it. It will mean that if presented with 5 techniques, some will come easier than others. Plus you will not be able to do the same things to a 250 pound person that you can do with a 110 pound person.
2. There is no way you will be at a 100% complete state of readiness. You wouldn't be able to function. Imagine being good to go every second of the day. The stress alone would kill you.
3. We talked about situation-specific self defense on the www.thetruthaboutselfdefense.com. It's ludicrous and it doesn't work. However, you should train for different positions. This is a must, but getting bogged down in details is a gross waste of time.
4. Criminals put "food on the table" by taking advantage of people like you. Psychos are predators that select easy marks. Both need to succeed. Do not underestimate their animal instinct. Also, don't confuse intelligence and cunning.
5. You will be emotionally juiced. If you're not you are either real crazy or real stupid.
6. The point of sport or contest is to win. The point of a street fight is not to lose or survive.
Also, when you enter a contest you know the when, where, how and sometimes who. And as rough as it is, you know the guy is not trying to kill you (I know sometimes it feels like that) but your life is not in danger. There are time limits, safety equipment and referees. That's why the Japanese have the two words bujutsu and budo. Bujutsu is the literal technique or method. Budo is the way of or symbolic of the actual method. I am going to stop there, I could write another article on that alone.
Does this mean that people who compete are push-overs? No. I'm one of them. What it does mean is that you should plan for what will happen and what you're expectations should be.
7. Personally, I've never seen a real fight look "good", even when the guys knew what they were doing. A street fight is brutal and ugly.
So why study martial arts? Training in martial arts is important and extremely beneficial. Elements of what you practice can be applied to a real fight. You will find you will only need a handful of techniques that suit you. Depending on the techniques or method will effect you time in study.
The benefits of studying the martial arts:
1. Self improvement. To improve your self it begins from the exterior. You can see this illustrated in many martial arts. Kano (the founder of Judo) believed the purpose of judo was to make better people. For example, if you quit smoking or you don't drink heavily before a work out, this a sign of self improvement and a benefit of training.
2. Physical fitness.
3. Self confidence
4. Self Awareness.
5. Understanding pain and sacrifice.
Anyone who would subject themselves to real martial arts training understands what these points mean. The more you put in, the more you get out. It's that simple.
The bottom line: put it all in perspective and use your common sense. It's funny to see well educated people follow some idiot around because he preys on their lack of self confidence. It's also sad to see that the majority of the martial arts are a con-game.
Lastly, don't believe anyone who has all the answers and nothing is guaranteed. It's a fight, its life.
Damian Ross is the owner of Zenshin and instructor of Tekkenryu jujutsu and Kodokan Judo. He started competing in the combative sport of wrestling in 1975 at the age of 7 and began his study of Asian martial arts with Moo Duk Kwan Tae Kwon Do at the age of 16 in 1984. In 1989, Shinan Cestari gave a seminar at Sensei Ross's dojo. Sensei Ross has trained under Shinan Cestari's direction ever since. In addition to Tekkenryu Jujutsu, Judo and Tae Kwon Do, Sensei Ross has also studied Bando. Sensei Ross continues his study of Judo under the direction of 8th degree black belt Yoshisada Yonezuka and Tekkenryu Jujutsu under it's founder, Carl Cestari.
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