By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2007, All Rights Reserved So, what are we training for anyway? This is a question that everyone who studies the martial arts should ask themselves every so often, after all there are many reasons to study.
So, what are we training for anyway? This is a question that everyone who studies the martial arts should ask themselves every so often, after all there are many reasons to study.
Some people study the martial arts for the pure enjoyment of it; some people study the martial arts for the exercise; some people study the martial arts for the social interaction; some people study the martial arts for the prestige of rank; some people study the marital arts because they enjoy competition, and then there are those people who study to learn to defend themselves.
Of all the reasons given, the only reason that I’m concerned with is the last; I train in order to defend myself and my loved ones from anyone that may try to harm them. I couldn’t care less about the prestige of being a “master instructor”, and I couldn’t care less about competing or going to tournaments. The social interaction is nice and I enjoy being around people who share my interests, but first and foremost I enjoy studying the art of self defense.
Now that I’ve defined the reason that I study I have to decide HOW I’m going to practice and thus we come to the point of this article. The point I want to touch on here is how we train to learn self defense.
If you go to most marital arts schools, watch TV, read martial arts magazines (or pretty much any magazine nowadays), or go pretty much anywhere on the internet you’ll see that pretty much everyone trains for self defense by sparring or doing MMA (mixed martial arts-the whole Ultimate Fighting Championship thing). Now, that’s fine if that’s what you want to do but that won’t be a whole lot of help during an actual violent altercation (someone trying to seriously injure or kill you).
Today it seems that EVERYBODY is brainwashed into thinking that MMA is the “end-all-be-all” test for martial arts and if you don’t believe that then you don’t know what you’re talking about, and if you don’t put on the pads and spar then you’re totally clueless. During my classes I’ll have people walk in and want to talk about taking lessons and everyone has the same line of bullshit. Now and then I get people who are interested in learning to defend themselves but it seems that all anyone under 30 wants to do is MMA training, and I’m sick of having to de-brainwash people.
Let’s look at self defense logically for a minute. Since I have decided that the reason I want to train is to learn to defend myself, the next questions I have to ask is WHAT I am learning to defend myself from and WHO I am learning to defend myself from? So the basic question here is what threat do I really face? I am not in the military anymore, I don’t do security work, and I am not a policeman, I am just “Average Joe Citizen”. And what threat does “Average Joe Citizen” face? The answer is crime! Since I don’t do dangerous work and I don’t go to bars looking for fights, the only person that I have to worry about attacking me is a violent criminal, and therefore the threat that I face is violent crime.
According to the FBI, “violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. According to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s definition, violent crimes involve force or [the] threat of force.” [Underlining added for emphasis] (To learn more about violent crime in the
So that’s it; for me, “Average Joe Citizen” the threat I face is some violent criminal coming into my world and trying to rob, rape, violently injure, or kill me or my loved ones, so that is what I need to be training for. (It should be noted that most violent crime is actually committed by individuals you know as opposed to strangers. I believe that around 80% of all violent crime is committed by relatives or acquaintances.)
Now that I know why I’m training and what threat I’m facing, I now have to decide how I’m going to train. In other words I have to decide how I’m going to model violent crime and here is where the plot thickens.
To find a way to model violent crime you have to study violent crime and the ways criminals commit violent crime. If you actually spend some time studying violent crime you’ll see very quickly that traditional sparring and MMA are not an accurate model.
I have an article around here that I’ve written called “Romantic Martial Arts” that talks about how real violent crime in no way models the sparring scenario used by martial artists. If a violent criminal wants to rob, rape, assault, or murder you they will just walk up to you and do it; they won’t walk up to you, put their hands up, get in a fighting stance, announce their intentions, and then allow you to get in a fighting stance so the two of you can go at it like to see in traditional sparring or MMA matches. Their attack will come out of nowhere, it will be fast, it will be violent, and it will be scary as hell.
Spend some time on the internet or watching TV shows like “COPS”, “Shocking Police Videos”, or pretty much anything on “Court TV/Tru TV” and you’ll quickly see that fighting stances and the “give and take” of MMA and sparring don’t occur during an actual violent confrontation. Watch security camera footage of criminals attacking average people and you’ll see that each and every time the criminal just nonchalantly walks up to their victim and attacks them once they are in arms reach. Quite often the criminal will try to engage their victim in idle conversation to distract them and allow them to get closer for their surprise attack. Almost every single act of criminal violence starts with a surprise attack, often from the side or the rear, or a sucker punch.
Quite often this tactic is learned in prison. In prison inmates actually learn how to victimize people from other inmates or from actually doing it. If a criminal wants to stab you, for example, they won’t walk up to you, stop just beyond arms length, show you the knife, swing it around, and then attack in a large slashing motion like you see on TV or in a lot of marital arts schools. While this type of attack does happen it is only used by inexperienced and untrained individuals who often are attacking out of blind rage; an inmate quickly learns that it you want to stab someone you conceal the knife, walk up to the victim either from behind or from the front, pretend that you are going to walk by them, and then once you get about a foot away from them you stab them a few times as hard as you can in the torso, in a upward direction, and then you walk away. This kind of training is the standard kind of training that criminals give each other and that is why when people report that they have been stabbed, very seldom to they say that they even saw a knife. The truth is that when people get stabbed they very rarely ever see the knife that stabbed them and most of the time they don’t know they have been stabbed until later when they see the blood, before that they think that someone just punched them really hard.
There have been numerous studies done with violent criminals and there have been many that have stated that in prisons the marital arts are considered a big joke. Some criminals actually said that they loved when people studied marital arts because it made them easier targets. They’ve stated that people who study martial arts think that violence starts with two people in fighting stances and so it’s very easy to take them off guard by just walking up and sucker punching them. Many repeat violent offenders have actually said that they actually count on people studying boxing or martial arts because it is so easy to use their training against them. For example, they said that when they throw a punch at an average person they may instinctively put their arms up to block it, but if you suddenly throw a punch at a boxer or martial artist they will instinctively step into a fighting stance instead of trying to block it right away, and they end up getting while they are getting into their stances.
If you actually spend some time studying violent crime and watching videos of attacks it should be easy for you to see that MMA and sparring actually trains you to do all the wrong things during a real violent attack. I can’t stress this enough: sparring and MMA are NOT an accurate model of violent crime, what they are is a method of competition.
Now I know that some people will get upset by reading this and they will say that I don’t know what I’m talking about because they have been in fights, and have seen people fighting, where the altercation started with both parities in fighting stances. To them I say that they are absolutely right, but, we’re not talking about the exact same thing.
If you’re talking about going to someplace like a bar and having words with someone, and having that situation wind up in a physical altercation then it may start with both of you putting your hands up and assuming fighting stances and it may even follow the sparring/MMA model. However, while people may classify this as a “fight” or a “street fight”, what it is not is an instance of criminal violence, it is a competition.
If you want to go pick fights with people then that is your business, and if you want to call yourself a “street fighter” then more power to you; but what you are doing is competing with another person to see who will come out on top. The goal is not to maim, cripple, or kill, rather it is an ego based altercation where you try to best your opponent.
A “fight” is a kind of altercation that is voluntary because most of the time people who get into it are actually looking for it, and because it is not an instance of criminal violence you can actually walk away from it before it escalates to the point where people start swinging. The main difference is that a “fight” is all about stroking someone’s ego by besting someone else, and an instance of criminal violence is not always avoidable, you can’t just walk away from it, it often evolves multiple assailants, knives, guns, or some other weapon, and if you don’t come out on top you or someone you love could wind up dead.
Even with “fights” where the goal is not to seriously injure or kill someone, as a guess I would probably say that only around 20% of them start with people assuming some kind of fighting stance before they attack, and around 80% of them start with two or more people arguing at close range and then start swinging from no noticeable stance at all. It is just a guess but I do know that studies have shown that about 80% of all physical altercations happen during or just after an argument so I’m probably fairly close.
Another issue that those brainwashed into thinking that MMA models reality may have with this article is the notion that that MMA is important because 90% of fights end up on the ground and you need to know how to defend yourself there. While I believe that everyone should know how fight when on the ground, this statistic is dead wrong.
People sure know to quote this statistic but they don’t know where it came from. It actually is a misquoted finding from a study done by the Los Angeles Police Department. The study reported that when a suspect resists arrest, about 90% of the time the arresting officer(s) has to take them to the ground to cuff them. Not quite the same is it?
While it is true that fights do go to the ground, very few actual violent assaults end up as wrestling matches. The fact is that over 90% of violent assaults start with a right hook to the head and end right there when the victim falls and bounces their head on the ground. Actual fights involve people getting hit, falling down, and then getting hit and kicked while on the ground. Sometimes people do end up on the ground but that is because they have been knocked down, tripped, slipped, or they don’t actually know how to fight and have grabbed each other and tussled until they both fell.
If you do end up on the ground all that MMA shit is the last thing you want to do. Those MMA guys are in terrific shape because they need to be…wresting around is a lot of work. Here is the truth they don’t tell you about in the MMA world: if you’re on the ground you will be able to reach at least one of the following, their eyes, their fingers, or their groin. If you’re on the ground wrestling and you can reach their eyes all you have to do is dig your fingers in his eyes until he starts screaming and grabs his face. Then you push him off and run away. If you can reach his fingers all you have to do is grab one or two fingers in each hand and forcefully “punch” them in opposite directions breaking them like a wishbone (of course other finger breaking techniques can be used). If you can reach their groin all you have to do is hit up into their groin and grab their testicles and then violently shake them back and forth like you’re trying to rip them off and they will stop fighting.
They don’t teach this in MMA because MMA is a sport and going after the eyes, groin, and fingers (small joint manipulation) is illegal. They also don’t teach this during sparring because sparring is a sport also and you don’t want to hurt each other.
The only way to accurately model a violent attack is to simulate a violent attack. Give a partner a rubber knife and have them walk up to you and try to either stab you (murder) or take your wallet (robbery). Have them do the same thing with different weapons, sucker punches, and have them come from different directions and angles. Start slowly and when they come up and reveal their purpose, usually by starting their attack, do your self defense technique. Go slowly to make sure that no-one gets hurt and when you get more comfortable you can go a little faster. This is the only way to get accurate training. You have to practice the exact same way that violent criminals attack.
If you want to do MMA or spar then that’s fine, more power to you, just don’t confuse it with real self defense training because it is not.