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Aikido tested in urban combat.
July 25, 2006 6:56 PM   Subscribe


 
The old man was softly stroking the filthy, matted hair.

OK, I admit it: I expected the old man to lift the guy's wallet.
posted by SPrintF at 7:03 PM on July 25, 2006


That was an excellent story, and I can easily imagine such a situation occurring here.
posted by nightchrome at 7:04 PM on July 25, 2006


"Saddam! Come over here a second, I want to tell you about my persimmons... "

Nice story, thanks for the post.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:07 PM on July 25, 2006


Aikido : The art of getting out of the way, effectively.
Something everyone should check out at least a little.
posted by shnoz-gobblin at 7:08 PM on July 25, 2006


Quick^,^ loquacious^!^ Run^ like^ the^ wind^,^ while^ I^ hold^ back^ the^ unruly^ mob^!^
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:16 PM on July 25, 2006 [7 favorites]


I remember hearing that story at the start of my first aikido class (and probably everyone's first aikido class).

If you want to see people getting chucked around like ragdolls, however, this is still my favourite clip.
posted by krunk at 7:17 PM on July 25, 2006


Funny, I read this story in the book Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman.
posted by joshuaconner at 7:20 PM on July 25, 2006


Re: ^; stop it.
posted by odinsdream at 7:22 PM on July 25, 2006


Smart Dalek: I can't believe you took the time to caret-footnote all that.

I welcome unruly mobs with offerings of pancakes, freshly squeezed orange juice, fluffy bunnies and swift dealings of righteous vengeance.

Put down the bunny. It's not for eating. No, I'm not a student of Aikido.Boot to the head.
posted by loquacious at 7:22 PM on July 25, 2006


*boots odinsdream in the head*
posted by loquacious at 7:22 PM on July 25, 2006


Arrgh. This is an old story (I think I read it first in the Martial Arts Reader, Overlook Press), and I find it infuriating. Sure, in that situation, true aikido entailed dealing sympathetically with the drunken man. But there are any number of situations where this won't be enough.

Aikidokas should either be willing to demonstrate that the average (or even the above-average) student in their art can defend himself or herself against likely attacks, or give up and say that aikido is effective for exercise and qi development and a crap-shoot when it comes to actual self-defense. Too often, aikidokas skirt the question of applicability and leave the impression in the minds of potential students that this is a non-issue. Actually, if you follow this stuff closely, you find that there are quite a few stories of practitioners reverting to judo techniques in real-life situations, which I would find troubling if I practiced aikido.

My old sensei in aikijujutsu told me of a story where he and his wife were in Japan with another martial artist, and his wife asked the Japanese martial artist if he had used his skill in an actual situation. The man was offended, and told my old instructor to explain why to his wife. The upshot was that had such a situation arisen, it would have been shameful, as the application of these martial arts techniques would have been an admission of failure on some level.

I wish that his wife had responded, "please explain to your colleague that violent assaults may be rare in Japan, but they are less so in the U.S., and given that you allow people to think that you teach an effective form of self-defense, you have an obligation to prove it."
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 7:25 PM on July 25, 2006


Get your patchouli stink off my train! Move it, lardass!
posted by Soulfather at 7:31 PM on July 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


I think I like this one better.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:34 PM on July 25, 2006 [2 favorites]


Let me add that there clearly are some aikidokas that can demonstrate powerful and effective martial defense against unscripted attacks. My problem with aikido is that it is very much a martial art in which few practitioners really get the subtle body mechanics which make it potentially effective. Most others learn some semi-effective joint locks and throws, in which case they would be better off having gone with judo in the first place.

And, of course, the unwillingness to discuss and/or prove the effective of a given art is not limited to aikido by any stretch of the imagination. It's just that I've seen it a lot more with aikido.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 7:34 PM on July 25, 2006


Nice video, krunk. While the music is cheesy and physical sparring setup in that is improbable, a good Aikido demonstration is like watching a Jedi work the Force or something. It really illustrates the Zen concept of "effortless effort".

On preview, what UrineSoakedRube said.

However, the story is nice. And if I may mix up the philosophies and ideologies a bit I feel it's a good illustration of Satyagraha.
posted by loquacious at 7:39 PM on July 25, 2006


I love that story!

Oh, and UrineSoakedRube, I hear you. My experience with Aikido is that there are a LOT of, well... flakes. It seems Aikido attracts a certain demographic. And a lot of practitioners are just fooling themselves.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 7:48 PM on July 25, 2006


However, the story is nice. And if I may mix up the philosophies and ideologies a bit I feel it's a good illustration of Satyagraha.
posted by loquacious at 7:39 PM PST on July 25 [+fave] [!]


I agree, but the problem with the story is that it reaches only the sort of people who don't need to read it in the first place. How many people with violent tendencies take even a single aikido class? I think that it is a grave injustice to tell that sort of story to aspiring aikidokas, who are more in danger of getting hurt in an attempt to be peaceful than they are of being needlessly violent in a confrontation.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 7:55 PM on July 25, 2006


Die^ die^ die^!!!^
posted by knave at 7:59 PM on July 25, 2006


I think I like this one better.

Not only is that a terrible misapplication and abuse of metaphor, you also can't justifiably compare individuals to mobs - identifiable nations or otherwise.
posted by loquacious at 8:07 PM on July 25, 2006


The demonstration reminds me of professional wrestling. I am not questioning the abilities of someone who studies Aikido, but the demonstration seems scripted. At the very least, the partners allow themselves to be throw to some extent to avoid injury. I'd love to see another demonstration.
posted by batou_ at 8:22 PM on July 25, 2006


Monkey Style always beats Tiger Style.
posted by homunculus at 8:25 PM on July 25, 2006


I'm a fucking idiot^
posted by cellphone at 8:27 PM on July 25, 2006


"How many people with violent tendencies take even a single aikido class?"
Hi there!

The problem I face in aikido is getting an honest aggressive response. It's hard to find practitioners who are willing to attack well, probably because the focus is on the placid spirit and defense. My initial training is in harder and more energetic art forms. I'm not planning to deliver shin kicks or grapple much when I'm 70. (Although Gene LeBell was pretty formidible into his 60s) I do appreciate the soft style mechanics though, especially if you get an instructor who will strip away the mumbo jumbo. This is not to say I don't see the usefulness of chi (as visualization, and kinestetic memory particularly) or the ethos, but I think one of the advantages moving from a hard aggressive style to a softer one is that physical conflict loses its mystique.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:28 PM on July 25, 2006


Awesome book on practical Aikido (less about the martial art, more about psychology and strategy).
posted by moonbird at 8:31 PM on July 25, 2006


The ^, whether or not it's useful in other cases, is not useful for this post, I just have to say.
posted by blacklite at 8:33 PM on July 25, 2006


The problem I face in aikido is getting an honest aggressive response.

As someone who has practiced more aggressive styles as well as someone with friends that have done a variety of styles, let me say that you aren't the only one that faces that problem. Every awesome soft-style student that I see throwing people (i am included in "people") around is balanced by a less experienced but somehow more confident soft-style student that is surprised when they ask someone to throw a punch to their face and they get punched in the face.
posted by thedaniel at 8:37 PM on July 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


The demonstration reminds me of professional wrestling.

I was just going to write the same thing. Not to denigrate the discipline at all, but I'd like to see a demonstration with an aikido expert facing a master of another martial art. How effective would these throws and blocks be against somebody who understands those concepts?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:37 PM on July 25, 2006


Aikidokas should either be willing to demonstrate that the average (or even the above-average) student in their art can defend himself or herself against likely attacks, or give up and say that aikido is effective for exercise and qi development and a crap-shoot when it comes to actual self-defense.

Well, yes, that's the point, isn't it? When I was studying Aikido, it was pointed out to me that the -do suffix denoted a "martial" art that focused more on qi, rather than the -jitsu forms which were strictly martial in nature. Aikido is a martial art in the same way that Tai Chi is - both are based on movements used in fighting but are not, themselves, fighting arts.
posted by lekvar at 8:39 PM on July 25, 2006


Listen up, you grumptious humphaters: I did the wiki-caret thing because A) I like it, B) Not everyone is aware of what Aikido is or it's penchant for non-violent conflict resolution and C) Suck it. Suck it good.

You don't like it? Flag it. Take it to MeTa. Don't read it. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out. Send me a nasty email. Do us all a favor and keep it out of the thread. Or unbunch your collective panties and wait patiently for the backchannel "talk" function.

posted by loquacious at 8:42 PM on July 25, 2006 [8 favorites]


I liked it! I studied Aikido for a time and loved it. Thanks for the links!
posted by homunculus at 8:48 PM on July 25, 2006


I plan on doing some training in one of these "softer" arts (aikido, hapkido, or judo) after I've spent a few years of having fun being overly aggressive in kumdo (Korean version of Kendo). Good story, first I'd seen of it ...
posted by forforf at 8:49 PM on July 25, 2006


Aikidokas should either be willing to demonstrate that the average (or even the above-average) student in their art can defend himself or herself against likely attacks, or give up and say that aikido is effective for exercise and qi development and a crap-shoot when it comes to actual self-defense.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 7:25 PM PST on July 25 [+fave] [!]

Well, yes, that's the point, isn't it? When I was studying Aikido, it was pointed out to me that the -do suffix denoted a "martial" art that focused more on qi, rather than the -jitsu forms which were strictly martial in nature. Aikido is a martial art in the same way that Tai Chi is - both are based on movements used in fighting but are not, themselves, fighting arts.
posted by lekvar at 8:39 PM PST on July 25 [+fave] [!]


Hold on a second -- judo is a -do art, but one learns a fair amount of actual self-defense in the average judo dojo. A -jutsu art (incidentally: 'Jujitsu' is often seen. That is a dialectic corruption. Not very good -- Donn Draeger) means that it has its roots in a martial art -- with 'martial' in the sense that actual warriors used it -- not that it is necessarily more or less effective in street self-defense. One could argue, with a fair amount of justice, that -do styles are more effective, in that they are more likely to be in tune with 'peacetime' applications.

As far as Tai Chi is concerned (also incidentally: Taiji is a better transliteration, in that it's closer to the actual pronunciation. Pinyin is better at a lot of this than the old Wade-Giles), it really is not the case that it was and is based on martial movements, but isn't a fighting art. Chen Taiji, the root of Taiji forms and styles, was very much created as a martial art for use against bandits. Granted, most practitioners 'play' Taiji for health and fun, but that doesn't change the fact that it is, at base, a fighting art.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 8:57 PM on July 25, 2006


I'm a fucking idiot^
posted by cellphone at 8:27 PM PST on July 25 [+fave] [!]


You forgot to link the ^ to your profile.

There's no need for 10 billion posts complaining about the "^" Wikipedia link (I except blacklite's brief and polite note and Smart Dalek's funny one). We all get the point.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 9:08 PM on July 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


Terry Dobson was an amazing guy, who I had the great privilege to practice with. He was a big guy, who always said that, given his childhood, he was amazed he didn't grow up to be a homicidal maniac. He was a warrior who thought that the whole "new age" glorification of warriors was bullshit. He was one of the most inventive and intense teachers ever, and he really touched everyone he practiced with. He told great stories, if you could squeeze them out of him. This story is one that got published everywhere.

He ended up in Tokyo, mostly because he wanted to visit it before he killed himself. Fortunately for everyone, he fell in love with aikido after seeing O'Sensei at an exhibition, and became one of the early American students there (along with Robert Nadeau, who still teaches here in San Francisco, and others).

After Terry died in 1992, his partner (Riki Moss) and Jan Watson (an amazing photographer) put together a beautiful book of Terry's stories along with incredible photos. If you'd like to know Terry, this book is like what it felt like to sit with him and hoist a few beers. There's also a lovely interview with Terry in John Stone & Ron Meyer's book.
posted by jasper411 at 9:08 PM on July 25, 2006 [2 favorites]


Listen up, you grumptious humphaters: I did the wiki-caret thing because A) I like it, B) Not everyone is aware of what Aikido is or it's penchant for non-violent conflict resolution and C) Suck it. Suck it good.

Translated:


posted by spiderwire at 9:21 PM on July 25, 2006


The problem I face in aikido is getting an honest aggressive response . . . . This is not to say I don't see the usefulness of chi (as visualization, and kinestetic memory particularly) or the ethos, but I think one of the advantages moving from a hard aggressive style to a softer one is that physical conflict loses its mystique.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:28 PM PST on July 25 [+fave] [!]


Fair enough -- that is one big advantage of moving from an external art to an internal one (or a hard art to a soft art, although I hasten to add that hard and external are not synonymous, and neither are soft and internal). You (Smedleyman) aren't likely to hold absurd notions about fighting, but can still appreciate the difficulty of effective self-defense.

There is a catch in moving from external to internal, which is that you have to unlearn a lot in order to fully internalize the body mechanics of aikido, aikijutsu, xingyi, bagua, taiji, etc. It's damned hard relearning the way your body should move when you're older.

As someone who has practiced more aggressive styles as well as someone with friends that have done a variety of styles, let me say that you aren't the only one that faces that problem. Every awesome soft-style student that I see throwing people (i am included in "people") around is balanced by a less experienced but somehow more confident soft-style student that is surprised when they ask someone to throw a punch to their face and they get punched in the face.
posted by thedaniel at 8:37 PM PST on July 25 [+fave] [!]


Oh, yes. There's a whole lot more delusion than talent in the internal martial arts.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 9:22 PM on July 25, 2006


Aikidoist here. Aikido does work in practical self-defense, provided that you keep up your training and are reasonably well-advanced, say 2nd kyu (2 levels below sho-dan or "black belt") or above. Just like any other martial art, if you train constantly and seriously, it becomes automatic.

I had to use it once when an over-aggressive drunk bully type tried to take out his frustrations on me, half his size - it was completely automatic and I pretty much just got out of his way as he threw his weight at me. He face-planted into a couple of tables, and lost the will to fight... oops! I felt bad about it, partly because I already knew this Terry Dobson story... but in hindsight there was no way that I could have solved the problem the way he did. The time between when this guy decided he didn't like me to when he attacked was about 5 seconds.

It helps a lot if you train under a teacher who teaches what I'd have to call "full-range" aikido - application of the techniques over a range of power levels and "care" for your attacker, from relatively gentle, as you might use on a family member who's gotten out of hand, to brutally debilitating, which you'd use on immediately dangerous and violent, possibly armed attackers who aren't alone, in order to remove them from the fight so you don't have to worry about them anymore.

It actually doesn't require much extra effort to take most of the techniques up to a joint-destroying, bone-breaking, body-cracking level... and of course, using your environment adds to that. Not many attackers get up quickly after head-firsting into a brick wall. That's not "loving aikido," but sometimes it's necessary.

Finally, it helps to train with other aikidoists who are as serious about the martial defense aspects as they are about the ki and spiritual aspects. A couple of the guys I trained with were Newark NJ police officers, who had a real need for effective self-defense training. They both used the physical techniques, though happily very rarely, in the line of duty, but far more often applied the conflict-resolution philosophy.

Obviously, combat against other highly-trained martial artists is another story. I don't know how that might work out. I think the biggest problem aikidoists would have is coping with some of the really high-speed stuff... but that could be a matter of training. We didn't usually train at high speed, high power levels, although small groups of the more advanced students did sometimes.

If you're in the New Jersey area I highly recommend my former school. :)

Oh and geez... never ask someone to punch you in the face, even if you're a skilled martial artist! That's silly!

aikidoists should say "grab my arm" instead... ;)
posted by zoogleplex at 9:50 PM on July 25, 2006 [2 favorites]


The problem with just about every martial art, Rube, is that most people want to take the elevator to the fourth floor, but are unwilling to take the stairs to the tenth.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:53 PM on July 25, 2006 [2 favorites]


If you're in the New Jersey area I highly recommend my former school. :)

posted by zoogleplex at 9:50 PM PST on July 25 [+fave] [!]


I wasn't going to be the first to recommend an actual dojo, but since zoogleplex linked to his old school, I'll do the same. If you're in the California East Bay or San Francisco, I highly recommend this place to people interested in aikijujutsu. If you're interested in Japanese calligraphy, I'd go so far as to say that you must learn from this guy.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 9:57 PM on July 25, 2006


Aikido isn't a homogenous martial art, folks. There are variants that span the spectrum from some pretty airy fairy stuff right the way through to bone crunching realism. I started off training in aiki kai - the most orthodox school I s'pose - and switched to Shodokan. The emphasis on sport in Shodokan makes it far more like judo in its applicability. There are a core of 17 basic techniques which all have some very stripped down variants that work in a wide variety of settings.

That said, if anyone wants to criticise aiki kai as being ineffectual and overly co-operative between attacker and defender, I won't stand in your way.
posted by tim_in_oz at 10:05 PM on July 25, 2006


I plan on doing some training in one of these "softer" arts (aikido, hapkido, or judo)

Hapkido isn't exactly soft. It's sort of like a combination of Tae Kwon Do and Aikido, and your ability to advance in the hard techniques (punches and kicks and leaps and such) can determine what soft techniques you learn (grab my wrist!) But it's a lot of fun.
posted by homunculus at 10:12 PM on July 25, 2006


The problem with just about every martial art, Rube, is that most people want to take the elevator to the fourth floor, but are unwilling to take the stairs to the tenth.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:53 PM PST on July 25 [+fave] [!]


Yes, but I'd argue that what you learn in a karate dojo, judo dojo, or jujutsu dojo (the traditional Japanese style, not necessarily the Brazilian style), has a lot more immediate applicability. And I think that teachers of martial arts have a responsibility to teach some fairly effective stuff in a reasonable amount of time, or to beg off claiming any self-defense benefits. I appreciate the relentless power of a Koichi Tohei or an Akuzawa Sensei, but if this kind of power (and in the internal martial arts, this is a kind of power rather than merely a degree of power) is an exception rather than a rule, you have to look at what an average student can do in a reasonable amount of time (say, 3 years). In judo and jujutsu, you get some reasonable skills. In aikido, the techniques are a subset of what you get from Daito-Ryu aikijujutsu, and they are far more subtle and difficult for novice and intermediate students to grasp, even if they put in a lot of effort.

And if they are only willing to put in a moderate amount of effort? They deserve to learn some useful techniques to defend themselves anyway. Or at least they deserve to be told at the outset that they risk ending up with nothing no matter how long and hard they work.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 10:22 PM on July 25, 2006


Thanks for the recommendation, RUbe. I'm very interested in aikijujutsu, and I'll be looking into that dojo. Cheers.
posted by lekvar at 10:23 PM on July 25, 2006


Aikido isn't a homogenous martial art, folks. There are variants that span the spectrum from some pretty airy fairy stuff right the way through to bone crunching realism. I started off training in aiki kai - the most orthodox school I s'pose - and switched to Shodokan. The emphasis on sport in Shodokan makes it far more like judo in its applicability. There are a core of 17 basic techniques which all have some very stripped down variants that work in a wide variety of settings.

posted by tim_in_oz at 10:05 PM PST on July 25 [+fave] [!]


Just one more post, then I gots to go to bed. I do appreciate that a lot of people have learned some fairly effective self-defense from their aikido instruction, and good for them. Seriously.

But true aikido entails more than just the spiritual aspects of non-violence, blending with the attacker's energy, and so on. Those are tactics and strategy. There is an underlying body mechanic that is shared among all of the internal martial arts. If you don't get that subtle and powerful internal strength, it doesn't mean that a given joint lock or throw won't work to some extent. And I know that there are many aikidokas who can do some effective techniques without ever getting the true internal strength.

But then why bother with aikido? You're essentially doing traditional external jujutsu, and you're missing some techniques that could be in your arsenal. Or you could have done judo, and ended up with a larger selection of throws and more practice in free-fighting.

Face facts: aikido's appeal comes from the superhuman power that the greats (Ueshiba, Tohei, etc.) exhibited, not from the quotidian techniques that you can readily find in other arts. If the teaching truly emphasizes the internal, you can have real aikido and all of the monstrous power that entails, but you take a chance at not having anything to show for your efforts, because not everyone will end up getting it, and odds are your instructor probably doesn't fully get it either. If the teaching emphasizes the external form of the techniques and the tactical and strategic outlook of aikido, well, you're not really learning aikido.

That was kind of a sour note to leave on, sorry about that. Take care and good night, all.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 10:52 PM on July 25, 2006


Thanks for the recommendation, RUbe. I'm very interested in aikijujutsu, and I'll be looking into that dojo. Cheers.
posted by lekvar at 10:23 PM PST on July 25 [+fave] [!]


My pleasure -- I'm doing taiji now, but if I weren't, and I wasn't about 50 miles away from Albany, CA, I'd still be working with Davey Sensei. He's an excellent martial artist and an excellent teacher. I hope you like it.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 10:54 PM on July 25, 2006


Flagged as "offensive content".
posted by delmoi at 11:37 PM on July 25, 2006


That was kind of a sour note to leave on, sorry about that.

Not really, I think it's quite true. I graded a few kyu in Aikido a *koffdecadekoff* or so back before leaving after an elbow injury, and some people you trained against (even beginners with a lot of tai chi background), well, you could just feel that they were going someplace you hadn't been yet.
posted by Sparx at 12:09 AM on July 26, 2006


< i think i like this better.>

Eww, that is a bad story in so many ways - somehow the narrator knows the entire history of the big,bad Marine, how he behaved in the past and how he thinks now.

As someone else mentioned, you can't even begin to correlate a one-on-one fight with the Palestinian/Israeli/Jordanian/Syrian affair.
posted by zaacharia at 12:26 AM on July 26, 2006


Actually, if you follow this stuff closely, you find that there are quite a few stories of practitioners reverting to judo techniques in real-life situations,

I can vouch for that. I practiced aikido for a few years and I got a hell of a lot out of it. But on a couple of occasions where I head to deal with a real-life attack I finished it almost instinctively by means of a judo throw and a couple of kicks.

That isn't to say aikido was no use in a real fight: it is. I learnt much more from aikido about the subtler aspects of using an opponent's force to work against him. I think aikido technique made my judo throws much better and more effective.
posted by Decani at 6:17 AM on July 26, 2006


It seems a fundamental problem with Aikido is that the philosophy can get in the way of the practicality. At a very basic level, Aikido is about harmonizing energy; whether that energy is physical or mental (i.e. the intent). Unfortunately, too many people latch on to that, at the expense of effectiveness. I can't tell you how many times I've seen brown belts and black belts arguing with a partner that he was doing an attack "wrong". At these times, I felt like, "Dude, you're a brown/black belt! You should be prepared for an attack, wrong or otherwise." But, no... the "energy" was wrong, or he wasn't extended, etc. And don't get me started with people practicing without "resistance". Grrr...

zoogleplex - I've taken a few classes with Greg! He's a great guy.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:24 AM on July 26, 2006


When I was studying karate, we shared our space with an aikido class. We trained with them a couple times, and I have rarely seen a more useless style... I think the weakest of our students would have steamrolled the strongest of theirs. I personally didn't think I would have any trouble whatosever, as a green belt, taking out their chief instructor... her techniques seemed to require me to do stupid things, and I mostly didn't do stupid things anymore. She just had no defense against the straighforward punch to the face, as noted earlier in the thread. Even if I'd started out in one of her holds, I think I'd STILL have flattened her.

I had a distant friend from high school that studied a harder aikido style, and he could give my instructor (also a friend, actually, we were all about the same age) a hell of a time. I never saw them spar, but both spoke very highly of the other... and my instructor was amazing.

Aikido as taught by someone who isn't afraid of violence can be an extremely effective art. Aikido as taught by frou-frou and flower ladies... not so much.
posted by Malor at 6:33 AM on July 26, 2006


I think Malor is on to it... sparring across the arts with real contact shows you in the right way who is putting up and who should sit down.

That said, the most dangerous guy I ever saw in sparring was a tai chi guy. Jujitsu was the most effective in the hands of a novice. Karate and Aikido didn't get the job done for novices, though I never had the chance to throw down on anyone good...
posted by ewkpates at 6:54 AM on July 26, 2006


Excellent story and even more insightful comments. Thanks so much for this, all.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:19 AM on July 26, 2006


I took Ki Aikido for a very short period of time (6 months) about 10 years ago, and loved the art, but disliked the school and the instructor. If I hadn't moved out of the area, I probably would have stuck with it, as I was enjoying learning the practical skills.

When I moved, I moved to Boston and had the very great fortune to learn basic Chi Gung (Dragon and Tiger, Wu style) and Ba Gua Zhang (Wu/Water style) from Brookline Tai Chi. I got to a sort of low intermediate range for Ba Gua, learned primarily as moving meditation, though we did explore some of the martial applications from time to time.

The lessons I learned in both chi control and body mechanics have stuck with me for a long time, and since I left the school (another relo, unfortunately - I do miss it), I have been able to practice on my own at essentially the same levels as when I left, give or take not having an instructor there to instantly correct my alignment issues.

I definitely agree about practical application with most of you - if you want to learn to fight with some art, then practice with both sparring partners in the discipline who are martially-oriented, and with multi-disciplinary practice partners. Find out how your art works in the real, multi-displinary world. If you're a real punk, go get into a bar fight. You're not going to know with test runs with folks who have a vested interest in not pissing you off whether the stuff works with people who have a vested interest in hurting you.

That said, of the arts I've studied and the arts I've read about, the mythos is that within the Chinese arts, the trump martial art for kicking ass is Tai Chi Chuan. No, not every practitioner can kick your ass. Yes, the only ones who probably would be good in a fight would be those who practiced Tai Chi in martial contexts as well as Push Hands (Aikidoists may be familiar with this term - it's a part moving meditation, part martial contest of balance, centering, rootedness, etc.). But of the Chinese arts, the more linear arts are thought to be less powerful, so Kung Fu and Hsing I are the most linear, generically (with caveats for certain specific styles). Ba Gua Zhang is sort of a trade off between maximum chi power and subtle body mechanics (with lots of spiral movements), and then Tai Chi, apparently, if you're a master, you can use to kick everyone's butt hands down.

Aikido, with the example of O-Sensei to look at, is also somewhere around Ba Gua Zhang and Tai Chi Chuan in terms of chi power and subtle body mechanics, but the practice depends on the practitioner, and if you've got a practitioner with potential but little practice in kicking ass, the ass kicking is probably going to be seldom, if ever.

All this said, the scariest/most competent martially oriented person I ever saw was B.K. Frantzis, the lineal master of the Wu style arts at Brookline Tai Chi, who apparently has eyes in the back of his head, moves faster than I could perceive, and has amazing body control (including being able to control some blood circulation in his body), and amazing chi control. He has multiple black belts in multiple martial arts and is the living expert in the Wu style arts in his school of Tai Chi, Chi Gung, Ba Gua and related arts.

I have considered going to study Aikido at an Aikikai school near where I live, as well as considered trying to take private lessons in Ba Gua or Tai Chi, but haven't yet actualized it, so I just practice what I already know of Ba Gua and will go back when I find a school/time to do it.

Here's my favorite aikido video clip: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4336452184790186495
posted by kalessin at 7:20 AM on July 26, 2006


Oh, the Ba Gua pundits also claim that one of the arts O-Sensei made Aikido out of is Ba Gua, or failing that, Tai Chi. I don't know if I agree, but it's interesting to note the relationship.
posted by kalessin at 7:24 AM on July 26, 2006


I really liked Steven's other story until the dude started drawing correlations. Then I just pretty much ended up pissed off and disgusted.
posted by ryran at 7:37 AM on July 26, 2006


I recently found some old film of the style's originator demonstrating aikido, and it made me think they whole art might be a sham. At some points he was just waving his hands around knocking people (his students, of course) over without touching them. I understand that other people may have refined the art into something useful, but watching the video, the old guy just looked like a cross between Yoda and a snake oil peddler. (It also occured to me that maybe the old guy thought he really did have this power, so his students fell down to make him feel better).

Maybe this is unfair, and I'd love to hear from one of the experts on this thread. But the film was enough to cross aikido off my list of potential arts to study (an ongoing search, BTW).
posted by Bookhouse at 7:49 AM on July 26, 2006


Rube wrote...
Yes, but I'd argue that what you learn in a karate dojo, judo dojo, or jujutsu ... has a lot more immediate applicability.

To what, exactly?

I mean, you and I may get attacked by ninjas every day, but I'm told that a good portion of the populace lives a peaceful existence featuring Volvos, Golden Retrievers, and lawn parties.

99.9% of their conflicts occur in the civilized world of corporate backstabbing and spousal infidelity. Punching, throwing, and grappling are all frowned upon there. In terms of practical everyday use, the philosophy of their chosen martial art is what gets put into use, not the moves.

I mean seriously, I don't want to discriminate against those of you who are regularly kidnapped and forced to fight death matches in steel cages, but the martial art foo versus martial art bar argument is fairly ridiculous. It's like arguing the merits of the M-16 versus the Uzi -- the actual conflict almost never comes up, and when it does you'll probably just use whatever you've got in your hands at the time.
posted by tkolar at 8:08 AM on July 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Rube wrote...
Yes, but I'd argue that what you learn in a karate dojo, judo dojo, or jujutsu ... has a lot more immediate applicability.

To what, exactly?

I mean, you and I may get attacked by ninjas every day, but I'm told that a good portion of the populace lives a peaceful existence featuring Volvos, Golden Retrievers, and lawn parties.

99.9% of their conflicts occur in the civilized world of corporate backstabbing and spousal infidelity. Punching, throwing, and grappling are all frowned upon there. In terms of practical everyday use, the philosophy of their chosen martial art is what gets put into use, not the moves.
posted by tkolar at 8:08 AM PST on July 26 [+fave] [!]


When I say applicability, I mean with regards to self-defense, not with regards to ultimate fighting. And on that basis, I think that aikido is ultimately wanting. Never been attacked? Good for you. The thing about physical assault is that the stakes are uniquely high -- you can get seriously injured or killed.

As far as applying the philosophy of your martial art to the world in general, I find that to be ridiculous beyond belief. You know, nobody (including my old aikijujutsu instructor, who was big on this stuff) has ever demonstrated any convincing or useful way of using martial arts philosophy in the real world, because these sorts of metaphors break down completely when you're not talking about fighting.

But if you actually think that aikido philosophy or tactics might be useful in the "civilized world of corporate backstabbing and spousal infidelity", just pick up a book on aikido philosophy and read it, and save yourself some time and money. But there is nothing magical about the actual practice of the martial art of aikido or any other martial art that will be of use in interpersonal relationships.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 8:26 AM on July 26, 2006


I'm probably just a sentimental old fool, but I found this story very affecting.

Even so, I'm cynical enough to wonder if the old man's approach would work on anyone outside of Japanese culture. Most American aren't ashamed of their degraded condition -- they're proud of it. The bastards listen to country music songs about how screwed up their lives are, and think that they're the victims of some Liberal conspiracy aimed at trailer-dwelling NASCAR fans with poor nutritional habits.
posted by bshock at 9:45 AM on July 26, 2006


That said, if anyone wants to criticise aiki kai as being ineffectual and overly co-operative between attacker and defender, I won't stand in your way.
Best comment of the thread.
posted by scrump at 9:47 AM on July 26, 2006


I had the honor of training Aikido for a few months in Melbourne, Australia. I understood that Aikido moves mostly came from a Samurai mindset which expected the attacker to have a long and short sword at their disposal.
Lots of the techniques I observed worked when executed by the high level belts, but the lower belts seemed to need a fair amount of compliance from the uke. This is not unusual in martial arts, but the obsession with form overtook practicality IMHO.
The hierarchical structure felt very stuffy and inflexible and did not leave much room for innovation. I understand that preservation of Morihiro Saito Sensei and Ueshiba's form is their primary concern, but as a practical modern martial art it was somewhat lacking. The practical applications would hopefully be second nature to a high-grade student, but was never explicitly explored while I was in the dojo.

"please explain to your colleague that violent assaults may be rare in Japan, but they are less so in the U.S., and given that you allow people to think that you teach an effective form of self-defense, you have an obligation to prove it."


Surely avoiding escalation to physical violence is the best outcome for any fight situation? Knowledge of the five stages of violent crime and how to avoid being in a situation where all are present is a great form of self defense.

In the dojo I train at we try to test every technique against the list of principles that we think are fundamental. A technique may not include all the principles, but we must be able to explain why this is the case. Techniques that adhere to the principles tend to be effective, regardless of their origins.

Finding a martial art that shows humility in the face of the ever-changing world of urban survival is a rare thing. Finding one that incorporates ground work as well as striking and throwing is unusual. There is a large degree of specialisation.

But there is nothing magical about the actual practice of the martial art of aikido or any other martial art that will be of use in interpersonal relationships.

I think this is true of any philosophy or religion if applied arbitrarily to any situation.
posted by asok at 9:48 AM on July 26, 2006


Bookhouse, go to an Aikido dojo and observe a class.

O Sensei was demonstrably a master matrial artist and had also been an Iaido duellist. His various exploits and deeds are documented by more than a few reliable witnesses.
posted by kalessin at 9:49 AM on July 26, 2006


I saw the students of one of NYC's better Tai Chi schools absolutely dominate and open sparring competition one year. And this was with some Gracie Jiu-Jitsu people there. (tho it wasn't long after the whole Gracie phenom, so who knows how long they'd trained in it.)
posted by lumpenprole at 10:06 AM on July 26, 2006


I'm cynical enough to wonder if the old man's approach would work on anyone outside of Japanese culture.

I was wondering the same thing. Even if you assume some universal human condition and universal sympathy there still is no universal language. In my neighborhood, if you were attacked it would be by someone who doesn't even speak your language.
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 10:06 AM on July 26, 2006


Rube wrote...
You know, nobody ... has ever demonstrated any convincing or useful way of using martial arts philosophy in the real world...

Weird, I use it all the time. I do tend to rely on the works of Sun Tzu more than Morihei Ueshiba, but they both have their places.

To each his own, I guess.
posted by tkolar at 10:43 AM on July 26, 2006


Wow in those video links the fighting is so fake. Any real sparring?
posted by uni verse at 11:05 AM on July 26, 2006


There's no need for 10 billion posts complaining about the "^"

Yes. Yes there is. To steal the principle behind SDB's links: the beatings will stop when loquacious admits he was wrong.
posted by gd779 at 11:53 AM on July 26, 2006


I have to agree with others in this thread that, while a touching and thought-provoking story, this would probably only happen in Japan, where respect for elders is still a core value of society. Certainly here in the UK the nation's yoof have exchanged such quaint ideas for posturing in front of their mates/girlfriends and collecting asbos in something that seems to amount to pride in being bad - cos the bad boys get the chicks and the cash - that's what their role models (Eminem, 50 Cent, Pete Doherty, Wayne Rooney etc.) teach them. The idea of a gang of 15 year old chavs being spellbound by an old man's tale of a persimmon tree would be funny if I didn't want it so badly to be true.

On preview: bejeezus, I sound old.
posted by bokeh at 12:27 PM on July 26, 2006


Even so, I'm cynical enough to wonder if the old man's approach would work on anyone outside of Japanese culture.

It worked when I visited Finland.

A drunk man was in a violent rage threatening physical violence against a woman. When I tried to intervene verbally, of course, his rage focused on me.

I have some Judo and full-contact Karate under my belt (pardon the pun) so I was not averse to a physical resolution of the conflict. I was, however, sober. He was drunk. It would not have been a fair fight and, had our positions been reversed, I would not enjoy waking up with a hang-over and a black eye with no idea how or why I got it. I decided to verbally appeal to his human nature.

My verbal attempt worked so well that he calmed down and apologized for putting on such a shameful show in front of a visitor to his country. It turns out that the woman in question was his girlfriend and he had just discovered that she cheated on him so he had every reason to be angry. Fortunately for everyone involved, the verbal approach calmed him down and everybody got home safely.

So yes, it will work on people outside Japan. And no, persimmon trees were not mentioned.

Note: There were instances here in Japan where the peaceful approach did not work so it really depends on who you are dealing with. Maybe I should have mentioned persimmon trees? :)
posted by cup at 1:06 PM on July 26, 2006


I'd just like to add that while there is certainly truth in the numerous observations that routine practice of aikido in the dojo is "fake" in the sense that much of it is about set moves, it is still a very real and effective means of self-defence in the hands of an expert. I've seen it.

I also went on a one-day course with a visiting Japanese sensei who was terrifying. I have never seen anyone move so fast, before or since. He actually told people to just come at him any way they liked, no holds, blows or techniques barred. He had them all over the mat.
posted by Decani at 1:23 PM on July 26, 2006


ObscureReferenceMan, Greg is most definitely a great guy, and a really special martial artist. :)

I feel really lucky to have trained there and learned from him precisely because he covers the whole range of Aikido both physically and spiritually. He has a couple other black belts in different karate styles, so he definitely brings knowledge of more aggressive techniques into the mix, and he teaches Iaido as well.

For example, I was having some difficulty really grokking some of the techniques, so I asked couple of the advanced students for help. Rather than show me or walk me through, they told me I needed to focus my attention more fully on watching Greg as he demonstrated techniques, because "he shows you everything you need, you just have to watch carefully." So I tried, and after a while I noticed that every time he went through a technique he would very, very subtly demonstrate all sorts of variations and points where the technique would have to be modified for different body types - and also he'd show you every single point at which you could add a punch or kick or weapon strike, as well as where a slightly different angle or a longer hold on a joint would inflict a lot more damage.

All the primary spirituality and care for the opponent was there, but if you paid attention you'd learn stuff you'd need in a real fight.

I wish I could fly back there every weekend to train... *sigh*

And yeah, to reinforce what was said above, aikido is not something that a novice can use effectively in defensive fighting. It takes a long time and a lot of training at a pretty high level to get to the point where you'll employ it automatically.

That said, it will powerfully transform the way you handle your body and how you're conscious of it (I'm sure this is true of every martial art). You'll walk differently, stand differently, even open doors differently. I used to be sorta klutzy before aikido... now I can't remember the last time I tripped or slipped and actually fell down (unless I was skating, doh). Threading through crowds is a lot easier too!

Oh yeah, and it's definitely necessary to learn the aikido weapons, the jo and bokken. If you don't, you lose out on understanding some of the deep core of where O Sensei grew the techniques, as they're rooted in spear and sword work. I think weapons work is a fundamental necessity to really grok aikido physically and philosophically. Plus, the weapons, especially the jo IMO, are huge amplifiers for most of the techniques - they're based on controlling rotation and leverage, and a big stick just gives you a longer moment arm.

Also, learning how to disarm a swordsman is very confidence-inducing, even though these days the guy's probably got a baseball bat or something.

If he's got a gun... he wins.

On preview, Decani, Greg did the same thing to our entire class once. He held off all 40-odd of us using only two techniques, no matter how hard we came in. The advanced students were all really trying to hit him, too. He actually got me in a "sankyo" wrist lock and used me as a human shield, moved me around like a puppet to block people coming in behind him as he tossed away people coming at him in front. Boy, I'll never forget that one!
posted by zoogleplex at 1:56 PM on July 26, 2006


Attending my only class of Aikido in Japan, I was pulled out of the crowd by the 80+ year old sensei who instructed me to grab him. Before I could get a grip, I was on the floor in agony. All he did was rotate his forearm. He never actually touched me.

Believe whatever you want. If Aikido or any art was "fake", why would it still be around? If you haven't done it, perhaps you can't make such judgements? I mean, your highly trained eyes MUST be able to pick out the flaws in an art practiced by someone for decades right? *sigh* The audacity of these doubters astounds me.
posted by Dantien at 1:57 PM on July 26, 2006


“which is that you have to unlearn a lot in order to fully internalize the body mechanics of aikido, aikijutsu, xingyi, bagua, taiji, etc. It's damned hard relearning the way your body should move when you're older”

I wholeheartedly agree. I find myself repositioning in throws to, for example, grasp the throat. There’s about an 1/8 second delay where I have to rethink and it really screws up my technique. Aikido instructors sorta frown on the use of poison hand techniques. Huh. Go figure.
Closest I can relate this - I feel like an ex-Sith studying with Jedi. But it’s worth it. I can’t fight like a 22 year old triathlete the rest of my life. And I’m not in the military anymore so training focused on the kill isn’t really viable.

“At some points he was just waving his hands around knocking people (his students, of course) over without touching them.”

I’ve had the honor of fighting a grandmaster - this can be done. Now I grant most of the explanation for this is shrouded in mumbo jumbo, but having been dropped without being touched myself I can tell you it works. In short - it’s a combination of misdirection (spatial disorientation) and getting the other person to offset their spine and misalign their hips. Do that and control their mental focus on balance and they drop themselves.
There are several excellent examples of this in the NBA. Michael Jordon has faked people out so badly they’ve fallen over themselves. Same principles.
This is not to say there isn’t a great deal of bullshit going on in the martial arts, or that your particular example is wrong. (YMMV). And indeed I suspect if his students maintained a wide base and made measured attacks (instead, I suspect, charging attacks) they wouldn’t get thrown around without being touched.

Kawika Phelps was one of the best instructors I’ve seen. And he makes it look effortless.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:20 PM on July 26, 2006


LONG POST

I wish I had seen this post yesterday so I could respond up top. I have heard the linked story told in about 10 different variations for years. It has been attributed to many people. I suspect it's like the Bruce Lee "roof top fights" stories... sightly exaggerated at best.

I can't stand these old chestnuts. They are simply groaners that give people all the wrong ideas about martial arts and fighting. It's time for a lengthy primer on Martial Arts and self defense. It's too important of a topic to let lay with the misconceptions I have read in the posts above. People could get killed thinking some of that shit is true.

I have trained and taught in self defense, Martial Arts and boxing for over 15 years now. I have trained and fought with Akidoka, Boxers, Judoka, Karteka, TKDers, and kung-fu'ers. I have fought ranked nhb fighters and boxers. Please listen to me when I say that when it comes to FIGHTING (in open rules environment) 90% or traditional practitioners suck shit as do how they train.

Before all you guys go ape shit you HAVE to know one thing. All these arts are beautiful forms of slef expression. I respect most of them deeply. But they are not for fighting. And. Fighting does NOT equal self-defense. I am compelled detail what I mean.

Self defense and Fighting. They are very closely related. But they are not the same.

Fighting is largely ritualistic. Mostly by choice. Often stylized to sporting application. Usually between like combatants. Usually between males.

Success in fighting is ALL about training and attributes. There are finite successful ways to train to win fights. This has been proven by the crucible NHB competitions in the 1980's-1990's (and old time catch wrestling and bare knuckle fighting before that in the late 1800's). And most of these methods involve western sport training paradigms. Training methods found in Boxing. Brazilian Ju Jitsu. Muay Thai boxing. Most people in the arts agree on this now.

On to self defense. The first MAJOR form of self defense in modern times - that one that is MOST important - is defending your self against the most common danger. Heart disease. ANY Martial Art that gets your heart rate up is saving your life. Let's face it most of us will never face a threat more serious than the one coursing through our arteries.

The second form of self defense is mostly involve involuntary situations and under unpredictable conditions against anybody. It is a stronger derivative of combat training. In the most extreme case of this kind of SD, martial arts will not help you.

Self defense is about awareness, aggression, balls, and knowing when to get away. It's about picking up a fucking lamp and smacking somebody over the head with it and knowing where the exit is. Any physical practice that helps train your aggressive responses or conditions you to remain calm or relaxed during confrontation will help in most situations your average person may face.

So. Yeah. Sweeping the feet out of an annoying drunk is pretty easy with any Martial Arts training. But. Taking on a juiced up 230lb construction worker or gangbanger who get's in fights every weekend and wants to kill you or stick his dick in your body orifices? Good luck with your Aikido.

This is where I say sometimes martial arts can actually hurt your ability to respond to attack.

Most Asian traditional martial arts (TMA) as taught in modern times are about neither fighting OR the second form of self-defense. They are about personal development. And that is great. But you should know that from the get go and have no illusions.

Empty hand TMA rarely help women or much smaller or frail people in dire circumstances. The people MOST at risk in extreme self defense situations. Weapons will. Not arcane swords. Not bokken or Sai. But sticks, clubs, bats knives and guns. If you're at rist for attack and need real SD training - then this is where you should start. If you can legally, learn to use a knife or a gun. Assuming you know that already then let's talk more about empty hand arts.

I am afraid that traditional Aikido, Karate and Kung Fu is often taught detrimentally to your safety.

Let me expand on this.

If you ar greatly outclassed in size and mass by a game aggressive opponent with SERIOUS intent to do harm—no matter if you have taken 25 years of Aikido (or any empty had art)—you are seriously in trouble. Especially if you wait for that attacker to make the first move.

This is where many rape victims have found themselves. Facing somebody who really out classes them physically and has already taken initiative.

Much of Aikido relies on responding to an attack with distancing and circular walking - I think called tai sabaki / mai ai — and then stand up grappling that involves fine motor skills. That's great. If you can train for 20 years. And only if you spar like crazy. It IS, however, poor offensive strategy when you really outclassed. You have to be able to attack first and not just respond.

There is an adage in combat that is true. The firstest with the mostest usually wins.

Then. Any system that relies on employing fine motor capabilities when under stress, due to the effects of adrenaline, has a very low percentage success rate. The fine motor skills will take many many years to train to a level of any kind of use. And even then...

...most of traditional sparring is highly choreographed and most drills are overly cooperative. You will NEVER learn to fight this way and you will likely not learn proper self-defense this way either. The more you sweat, the less you bleed.

I have found it very simple to get Aikidoka and Kung-fools - even advanced players - on their heels in sparring because of their base strategy and simply over run them. They usually have no real full contact sparring experience unless they cross train. Not against game aggressive opponents.

Then there is the matter of the ground. I have been encouraged by a trend for traditional arts to now include ground fighting, IE, Brazilian Juijitsu in their curriculums. This is long over-due.

For YEARS TMA (traditional Martial Artists) totally poo-pooed ground fighting and grappling. they ALL denied the basic realities of real fighting - because most never really fought.

That reality is against a larger determined opponent it's very likely the fight will end up on the ground. There will be a barrage of blows. There will be a clinch. There will be a loss of balance. Likely both of you are going down to the ground.

And if he is bigger and you don't know real ground fighting (not the absurdly stylized kind with fancy kicks and shit) you will lose. Countless times I have seen poor high school wrestling destroy 20 years of Aikido or kung-fu.

If your Akido does not include clinch/ground phase and position based (like BJJ) ground grappling and ground sparring (AKA rolling) then you are not learning any practical self defense at all. Sorry but that is true. If your instructor says otherwise he is a liar and you should leave.

Years ago after only six months of super basic ground fighting training I returned to an old TMA school of mine and completely dominated every single advanced student. Even the ones way bigger. And dudes. I SUCK at ground fighting.

Ground fighting is the ONLY system and strategy I have seen that truly matches most of the hype in regards to dominating a larger opponent. I have been submitted by 120lb women who have trained in BJJ for only a couple of years. They would not stand a chance against me standing.

This applies especially to self defense. Specifically women's self defense for obvious reasons. I am no larger really interested in the SD applications of what I do (other than avoiding hear disease) and I don't go in the ring anymore. But I do feel it necessary to defend the integrity of the practice occasionally.

So. Sorry I rambled. Maybe I should get a blog. But this thread scared me. I won't point anybody out. But misconceptions in the unlikely event you get in a real self defense scenario will get you killed. You have to know.
posted by tkchrist at 2:33 PM on July 26, 2006 [42 favorites]


Good point. I'm not a black belt aikidoist and I haven't trained in quite a while. If someone's that serious about trying to overpower me and does knock me over, my strategy will be to try to get at least one of my hands free and shove my thumb through one of his eyeballs or something similarly dirty and potentially lethal. I'm not going to go for trying to make someone submit if they're seriously trying to kill me, I'm going to fight like a wild animal.

That said, the point is to not let them get that close in the first place if you can help it. Awareness and knowing when to run away, as you say.

At the very least, martial arts and self-defense training can help you not be paralyzed by fear if someone twice your size attacks you.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:05 PM on July 26, 2006


tkchrist,

Thank you very much for your detailed post.

In it, you wrote:

There are finite successful ways to train to win fights... And most of these methods involve western sport training paradigms. Training methods found in Boxing. Brazilian Ju Jitsu. Muay Thai boxing.

What training methods would you recommend? If you don't have time to list them, could you please let me know which one(s) you find the most important?

Best Regards.

P.S. You should get a blog. You have excellent insights on the subject. Your comments about fighting/martial arts (in the blue and in the green) are useful and I appreciate you sharing your knowledge/experiences with everyone.
posted by cup at 5:34 PM on July 26, 2006


A friend of mine from college, Tracy Alpert has been training in Aikido since 1988 and is now a sensei. When I last had the opportunity to speak with her, I asked her a number of very pointed questions, since I was around when she first began her training and got to see how she was turned into quite the bag of bruises and was curious what the reality was.

I asked her about authentic application and she said that "run-kido' is still the best defense. Just run.

I asked her about the line that opponent size doesn't matter. She was pretty sure that she would have trouble with very large opponents and would run instead.

I asked her about how you're supposed to "gently show your opponent the error of his ways" by continually dropping him until he gives up attacking you. She said that you'd probably break bones unless your opponent knew how to fall, and even then many of the holds and throws have points where a little too much effort and you'd break bones. She's had several bones broken in training, if my memory serves.

In terms of overall physical effects, I was soundly impressed by the level of conditioning. When she moved, you could see the musculature rippling under her skin. Wow.
posted by plinth at 9:02 PM on July 26, 2006


Every martial arts person I have ever known has go out of their way to get into fights. Maybe they all went to the bad dojo in karata kid.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 5:40 AM on July 27, 2006


cup - there are quite a few questions in the green regarding the martial arts and the reality of using them in a real fight - I'd possibly suggest reading them if you haven't already or even asking a new question. tkchrist is always a good commentator on the matter and there are plenty of other MeFi martial artists happy to chat forever about different systems and their usage in real life situations.

General theory in MMA (mixed martial arts) is Jujutsu/Wrestling for ground fighting and Muay Thai/Western boxing for stand up fighting. Quite a few people will tell you that a mixture of these styles will make you a good fighter, what they won't tell you is why.
posted by longbaugh at 5:42 AM on July 27, 2006


'happy to chat forever'

Muay Thai and boxing help develop speed, range, spacial awareness and a hard body (getting used to being hit alot).
Jujistu and wrestling help develop balance, grappling, clinch and floorwork skills.

If you are fighting in an organised way with a set of rules then the combination is very useful, as in UFC.

It is my opinion that training boxing and Muay Thai will damage the body in the long run. Fighting is a pretty effective way to damage yourself permanently, whether or not the damage is inflicted by an oponent. Both Muay Thai and boxing use gloves which might lead a student to over-estimate their ability to punch without gloves.

Punching hard without damaging the wrist is a difficult skill to master. I would say that a makiwara would be a good tool for learning how to exert force through a punch. Repeated impact damage builds bone density and kills off the nerves a bit so that a harder punch is possible.

In fighting the ego is a dangerous thing, many fighters have alot of confidence in their fighting ability and subsequently can allow their ego to completely dominate.

The ego also plays a big part in self defense. If someone is deciding to attack you it is likely that their ego is playing a big part in this. If you can disuade them from attacking whilst allowing them to avoid losing face (even with regards to their ego) then they are unlikely to want to attack you again.
posted by asok at 6:23 AM on July 27, 2006


asok is a spoilsport for immediately answering the questions I left open...

Muay Thai is extremely tough on my legs. I'm 6'4" and have busted up knees from a life of stupid stuff so I have trouble with it now. I try and stick to boxing/wrestling in my sparring with the occasional shin kick thrown but I'm way to wary of busting up my legs any more than I already have. As far as gloves are concerned, we do full contact sparring with gloves but we use the lighter style of glove that leave the fingers free for grappling. Bareknuckle fighting has left me with split knuckles and several disturbing scars on fingers and hands. My #1 suggestion if expecting trouble however is a mouthguard. I am sick of having my teeth twatted out and loosened.

Also, whilst I have been in a few fights, I know that I'm not always going to win. That's why I try not to get into them in the first place.
posted by longbaugh at 6:37 AM on July 27, 2006


*makes mental note not to fuck with mefites at next meetup*
posted by slimepuppy at 7:48 AM on July 27, 2006 [2 favorites]


Just to add to tkchrist's post, If you are serious about avoiding violence in the first place, I would recommend starting here with DeBecker's 'Gift of Fear'. I would also recommend staying out of bars.

I train some TMA (Shito-ryu, for the record), but that really is more for form and personal development. My SD defense training is mostly Martial Blade Craft/Concepts and some scenario / combatives training, based mostly on Kelly McCann's combatives -style training.

My point is to echo tkchrist (or at least I think so); I train that stuff because the TMA stuff is NOT self defense. And I mostly train to avoid the situation in the first place.
posted by das_2099 at 8:13 AM on July 27, 2006


Re: MBC, that sounds great but the copy on that site makes me hesitate, something about the way they say "prestigious" makes me nervous. How easy is it to turn the one-time camp into a regular training regime or incorporate it into other martial arts?
posted by Skorgu at 9:01 AM on July 27, 2006


If you ar greatly outclassed in size and mass by a game aggressive opponent with SERIOUS intent to do harm—no matter if you have taken 25 years of Aikido (or any empty had art)—you are seriously in trouble.

while this is undoubtedly true, I would just like to point out that it is actually extremely rare that you are faced with an aggressive opponent who greatly outclasses you in size and mass and who has a SERIOUS intent to do harm. To claim that it's of no real use to train in martial arts because a worst case scenario will not be surmountable is a bit like saying we shouldn't bother with fire escapes because they'll do no good if someone drops a bomb on your apartment.

Most of the time, assaults are not as exciting as as that, and having a general knowledge of the ways in which your body can effectively be used, and the ways your opponent is vulnerable, is generally better to have than not to have. I was mugged twice before I began training, neither time by Mike Tyson - both times the assailant took advantage of my being surprised and scared - one time by grabbing my neck, and the other time just by sort of getting 'up in my face' and pretending to have a weapon underneath his coat. Training has helped me learn to have my wits about me, to not be freaked out by touch and attitude - if someone tries to choke me, I will no longer be thinking "holy shit someone is choking me shit shit shit what do i do" but instead, is he cutting off air or blood supply? is he choking with fingers or an arm bar? Is he in front, behind, to the side, and which technique would be most effective ( - not that I would be literally puzzling over such details; I expect I would just react - I'm just laying out the instinctive reactions into words to clarify the difference.)

Which is all to say, no training can make just anybody into an unbeatable opponent - no amount of education will make just anybody into einstein, either. But training helps to broaden your awareness, and practice refines your application.

She just had no defense against the straighforward punch to the face, as noted earlier in the thread. Even if I'd started out in one of her holds, I think I'd STILL have flattened her.

I think who you train with is central. If you would be honestly thrilled to be half as good as the instructor after 10 years of hard work, then it's worth getting involved.
posted by mdn at 11:21 AM on July 27, 2006


"Muay Thai and boxing help develop speed, range, spacial awareness and a hard body (getting used to being hit alot)."

Now there is something most martial arts and especially aikido leave out. The ability to absorb getting hit hard is definitely one thing that makes a huge difference in a fight.

Aikidoists are supposed to be able to avoid getting hit, but what if you don't?
posted by zoogleplex at 11:57 AM on July 27, 2006



“Ground fighting is the ONLY system and strategy I have seen that truly matches most of the hype in regards to dominating a larger opponent.”
I agree with pretty much everything you said tkchrist except this concept (not that I disagree with what you’ve seen of course).
When I taught self-defense most of my female students longevity was about 8 to 12 months. Other schools had shorter or longer remaining students, so I figured, that was average. So I developed a weapons-centered program around that time window. Commercially available and concealable knives, other handy gimmcks like the dyed pepper spray (et.al) as well as some firearms training.
This did not go over big with a lot of people who thought of “self-defense” as learning how to punch and kick.
What struck me (eventually) is that some people are not willing to prepare themselves for combat - in your terms self-defense. They will not ever dominate an opponant no matter what tools (technique) they are given. And there is a social componant to any non-combat situation. (Combat instructors understand this. Indeed the Marine Corp moved away from training in the LINE system and to MCMAP to allow for non-killing situations)
In some respects I think Aikido addresses this social componant and I think there is a value to this story that goes unrecognized.
There is no technique or strategy that one can perform off the couch to counter an experianced “streetfighter.” One can however discover the nature and motivation of his aggression and difuse that. That is a valuable technique and one that is universally accessible without the body hardening or mental conditioning required for taking on a juiced up construction worker. One can sidestep the confrontation, find the root of the conflict and eliminate it. No domination required.
Obviously this won’t work with a maniac or committed rapist, but someone who doesn’t want to do the training, refuses to be mentally alert, and won’t arm themselves is a walking target anyway. And probably wouldn’t get off the couch in the first place to even do some cardio.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:29 PM on July 27, 2006


I for one would love to spar with Smedleyman, tkchrist and all you other guys. A MeFi beat-up/meet-up... Then, all down the pub for beer and meat products.
posted by longbaugh at 12:33 PM on July 27, 2006


What training methods would you recommend? If you don't have time to list them, could you please let me know which one(s) you find the most important?

I hope you get this.

This is great question because it actually CAN be answered in detail or in the abstract— with equal effect.

Let's tell you what NOT to do. The typical TMA school has classes like this:

A warm up that consists of fairly heavy excercises. Then a lot of deep "flexibility building" static and dynamic stretching. I cal lthose injury inhancers. Then everybody lines up in static stances - horse stance, front stance back stance - and they execute series of pre arranged techniques in the air that will increase in complexity. Then - if it's a really aware school — they will do a series of techniques in the air in a "fighting stance." Then you will go and do forms. And maybe get to stand up in front of a partner for 5-10 minutes and do "One Step sparring" pre-arranged movements with a partner. If your lucky you might get a couple minutes at the end of class to "spar" - usually a complicated set of rules forbidding contact to the face favoring the stylized strategy of the system amounting to a game of tag. The end.

This is NOT what you want if you want to lean to fight.

I must assume you mean you want to know what training methods are best for fighting... as I defined fighting.

AS in "Fighting is largely ritualistic. Mostly by choice. Often stylized to sporting application. Usually between like combatants. Usually between males."

I will open this a bit... I find that people who can fight are often much better at Self Defense - in both forms of improved Health AND preventing assault.

Sport based systems, like Judo, Boxing and Thai Boxing, emphasize improving athletic conditioning over developing what are mostly natural attributes. This will kill two birds with one stone— improved health and better chance escaping assault.

However, people who can defend themselves adequately (in the most common scenarios) may not be worth beans fighting. There are many traditional systems that place ZERO emphasis on athletic conditioning. Think of pressure point guru George Dillman and those fat Kempo guys in the 1980's. When players from those systems entered early NHB/UFC competitions they gassed out and were crushed.

I think training to fight FIRST is more efficient than training strictly for self defense.

How? People will use lot's of buzz words. Suffice to say this:

Live training.

Any art or form that emphasizes resisting partner training over kata, forms, or patterns. Most of your time should be spent in front of a partner who is resisting what you are doing. 70% of your training at least. The degree of resistance is up to you... but it should always be about 50% (depending on the size and skill of the partner) in speed and aggression.

Not that Kata or form are bad. They can be GREAT solo conditioning exercises. Even boxing has Shadow Boxing. But they will never, no matter what the Karate Kid or Push Hands told you, teach you to fight. Less than 10% of your training time should be spent on solo exercises. Unless it's like weight lifting or running.

If advancement in a martial system is tied exclusively to Kata or forms and you want to learn to fight... leave. If you like folk dancing and exotic esthetics? Stay.

Sport systems tend to track your cardio improvement. They tend to have more scientific structure. They tend to test you against resisting opponents - who are also getting better as you do.

Aliveness means the techniques should avoid complicated fine motor skills and instead rely on gross motor skills that do not require special speed or coordination to pull off.

You should be able to practice MOST of what you know at about 80% intensity with out worrying about killing anybody.

Your training should resemble this:

A light warm up simulating what you are about to do. Joint circles and very, very light stretches. Like jump rope, or foot work drills and shadow boxing.

Then you partner up for progressive, but BASIC, drills. For striking you start with a dry run of simple combinations and defense concentrating of form. Boxing would be jab, cross hook, leg kick. Your partner does what ever basic defense they need to practice - cover, or cover and slip. This is done slow. Light contact is made. You mix up your targets so your unpredictable. Low High Low. High Low High. if your partner flinches, slow down. A coach or instructor should be going around correcting form.

Sometime during this part of training you should be learning about hitting and entering into "clinching." This is the MOST over looked phase of standing fighting.

Then go on to timing training of some form. That is where a feeder feeds randomly from a set of one, two or three basic combinations and the fighter defends and counters with ever comes out (the feeder defends but does not counter). Faster but with very light contact. At this point people should be moving, circling, breaking timing, and using footwork. NOT standing in a line.

There are infinite types of timing sparing that should follow. Both partners trade back and forth until they develop a rhythm and real speed. Like "jab, catch, jab, random strike (cross, hook, overhand, simulated eye poke, kick).

Then you should HIT things.

Full speed combinations on Focus mitts or Thai kicking pads. The most import aspect of this that separates it from how most TMA train on pads is this: It is ALIVE. Your feeder or pad holder should be moving. They should also check your defense randomly by trying to hit you, clinch with you, sweep you, anything and everything you can safely do.

It is a one sided affair. You can only hit the pads in the hold configuration they give you. But they can hit or grab you anytime. It is a loaded drill.

These should be done in timed rounds. Your condition and intensity level during each should be tracked. AS you improve the drill should progress to better fluidity and higher intensity.

Once you can do several high intensity rounds like this you can move to sparring.

Sparring should be done at LEAST once per week. Contact and speed should eventually (unless you develop flinching) be about 50 -70% depending on the size and skill of your partner. This should be fun. It should emphasize learning. NOT winning, ego, or rank. Personally i think people shold remove any symbol of rank during stand up sparring. Avoid "balck-belt" syndrom all together. The advance people SHOULD take a bit of beating and not freak out.

Heavy or full contact may be done after about three to four months of medium level sparring with full safety equipment - and only for one or two rounds once per month.

Heavy sparring more than that is pretty stupid if you not going in a ring. And even if you are risking injury before a fight is pretty stupid.

The rules should include all ranges or phases of fighting — long range kicks, punching, clinching, throws, and ground fighting — as much as possible - SAFELY. Unless there is something specific you HAVE to work on.

If you want to learn to fight you MUST have an art that includes ALL the phases of combat. Many arts make the mistake of thinking ' I will avoid allowing the fight to go to "X" phase (often mistaken for range). Many striking arts fighter in the early Vale Tudo, UFC, and NHB thought this... the Karate and TKD guys thought they would use long range kicks, eye gouges, or "neck breaks" to avoid clinches and going to the ground phase. Guess what? They ALL lost because of this hubris.

If you want to know how to fight you have to practice the basics of every phase of fighting and the basic techniques most effective in that phase. Thai Round Kicks - outside phase. Power Punching - all phases. Knees, head butts, & elbows - mostly clinch phase. Dominant clinching to basic sweeps, throws or take downs. because every high school in the US produces wrestlers that may go on to be fighters (or criminals knowing wrestlers...hehe) you have to practice sprawls and whizzers (from plain 'ol wrestling) to defend shoots and takedowns. You MUST practice bear hug, double/single leg and John Smith take downs.

The technique you must practice most as a martial artist this: keeping your balance, posture, and your relaxation under control while meeting resistance.

Ground fighting and grappling sparring called rolling is different in that you can go 80% hard and not get injured - unless two noobs are paired together - then they should go 50%. You should roll EVERY time you you go to a grappling class. This is highly undervalued trianing.

There it is. If you want to be a better fighter employ most of the above and you will not fail. I guarantee it!
posted by tkchrist at 1:02 PM on July 27, 2006 [14 favorites]


To claim that it's of no real use to train in martial arts because a worst case scenario will not be surmountable is a bit like saying we shouldn't bother with fire escapes because they'll do no good if someone drops a bomb on your apartment.

Dude please re-read what I wrote. I know its like a million words long... but I CLEARLY said in the RARE instance you are out-classed and life threatened. The point is Aikido and other TMAs do not prepare you for this yet most claim they do.

I also mentioned that preparing for these situations requires awareness training. However, I challenge you to show me a TMA that routinely tests and trains awareness realistically? I want to see this school.

Men are more likely to get in fights. NOT self defense situations. Women and old people are the victims I am talking about.

If a man wants to harm you, another man, not fucking rob you, harm you he is going to choose you because he thinks he can beat you.

Either by ambush (as you described) OR because he is much bigger -or- because he is with four friends.

And traditional empty hand arts alone are unlikely to prepare our most vulnerable citizens well for these situations.

This NOT opinion it is cold fact and I have years of training with LEO on my side with this.

The problem is people think that arts like Aikido do prepare them for an out-classed match. It does not except in the most rudimentary sense. We are lucky in that you and I are not a vulnerable class in relatively safe North America. So 90% of the time we are fine.

How ever women can't always count on simply luck. Let me put it this way. Ted Bundy - 30+. Women - 0.
posted by tkchrist at 1:21 PM on July 27, 2006


It is my opinion that training boxing and Muay Thai will damage the body in the long run. Fighting is a pretty effective way to damage yourself permanently, whether or not the damage is inflicted by an oponent. Both Muay Thai and boxing use gloves which might lead a student to over-estimate their ability to punch without gloves.

This is absolutely true. If you aim for the ring or to fight you will damage yourself. My knees are a wreck. My right eye has a permanent floating black spot from a burst blood vessel - that covers about 10% of my vision.

You can employ most of the trianing WITHOUT all the hard contact and still get mcuh of the benefit. Though you wont be a comptetive fighter. A highly over rated occupation anyway.

Punching hard without damaging the wrist is a difficult skill to master. I would say that a makiwara would be a good tool for learning how to exert force through a punch. Repeated impact damage builds bone density and kills off the nerves a bit so that a harder punch is possible.

This is false. Please people do not listen to this. Unless you want to be crippled. Makiwara or any bare handed full force hitting of hard objects is terrible for your hands in the long run.

This canard has been diposed of so many times by medical science that I won't bother. You may as well eat tiger penis to enhance your internal aspect.

Train with wraps!
posted by tkchrist at 1:30 PM on July 27, 2006


Very interesting thread. The same subject was discussed at length here.
posted by weirdoactor at 1:54 PM on July 27, 2006


There is no technique or strategy that one can perform off the couch to counter an experianced “streetfighter.” One can however discover the nature and motivation of his aggression and difuse that. That is a valuable technique and one that is universally accessible without the body hardening or mental conditioning required for taking on a juiced up construction worker. One can sidestep the confrontation, find the root of the conflict and eliminate it. No domination required.

True. De-escalation skills are very undervalued. Like. By me. I think one can talk ones way out of 99% of common confrontations. No karate chops required.

Since I know little about that I don't address it.

In closing let me repeat what my poor grammar and typos butchered before:

I know this is contradictory but I have ZERO interest in training self defense any more. It bores the shit out of me.

It is ultimately self defeating to worry about being attacked. Eventually you tend to attract the type of situation you want to avoid when you spend so much enery "training" for it.

I train purely for the excercise and physical expression of it.

I often train with TMA guys who are fairly new or are hyped up on SD. These guys I call ninjas. They expect something terrible to happen all the time. They are the guys who want to practice eye pokes, neck breaks, pressure points, gall bladder #33 strike, chi blasts or they carry around fifty knives on them. Anything to simply avoid the reality of hard athletic physical trianing and the cucible of confronting your weaknesses doing it. I used to be like that.

These are the TMA guys when I roll or spar with them they say "lets go light" by which they mean "You go light and I will spaz out and go insane and try to hurt you." They poke and they gouge. And most of the time the end up napping or snapping because the will not tap in thier frenzy to "win".

They are always obsessed with SD and kicking ass. They are always afraid somebody is going to beat them up.

By contrast most of the fighters I know could care less about SD. Some are Egotistical or animalistic on the mat, sure. Some will use you up. But most are not that way. Not the ones that stick around. Most will play hard or soft win or lose.

If it's not in the ring most don't care about winning and do it for the joy of doing it.

Most people I know who spend thier time sport training are more like that. Less interested repelling down buildings or karate choping throats.

I suppose that is where I am.

I hope you all find joy in your training what ever that is.
posted by tkchrist at 2:24 PM on July 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


*looks up from eating tiger penis*
Yeah, that ‘iron hand’ is silly anyway. The hardest thing one will strike on an opponent is their skull. And we should avoid doing that. A big calloused knuckle striking nerve plexus = a non-calloused knuckle striking nerve plexus.

Bouncing is a decent concession to training (as opposed going and picking fights) for learning -as tkchrist mentioned - control while meeting resistance. That or play rugby.

But be aware of your intention. My training comes from the expectation of being in combat. Consider your goal when training. Do you just want to adequately learn to defend yourself? Do you want to survive in your neighborhood? Couldn’t you just move? Are you going to prison? Also, are firearms an option? Are there weapons you can train to use as well? Can you take them with you? (I’ve got a very nice wood and brass weighted cane f’rinstance that I can carry anywhere) But there’s improvised weapons as well. Empty hand to hand combat skills are swell, but those exist to compensate for when you are not armed. To (again) echo tkchrist, many traditional arts teach impractical weapons use. Swords are great, but it’s not going to be at the bar with you.
(although Hwa Rang Do as Mike Echanis taught it had some exellent military/self-defense applications - Moo Gi Gong had lotsa focus on improvised weapons).

I’m studying Aikido as refinement of my own style. For that it’s working quite well. But there are some techniques I would never perform in a real situation. In part because I focus on mechanical application (I don’t mind breaking bones) but also because of the time it takes to execute and the posture one is left in (beyond body posture - combinations).
The technique in and of itself might be excellent. But in terms of chess - if you position yourself too defensively, you won’t be able to attack well.
Those instincts, using the right combination for the right situation, reading an opponant’s intent - can be developed in Aikido (at least as far as the style I’ve seen) but they come much more quickly through mixed forms (as others have said - mixed martial arts).

/again - thanks tkchrist
posted by Smedleyman at 2:57 PM on July 27, 2006


I think, as a sort of warm-down from this thread, a little revisiting of this timeless classic might be in order.
posted by Decani at 6:49 PM on July 27, 2006


I would recommend 24 Fighting Chickens to you folks. I think his articles themselves, especially the ones that expose some of the bullshit, would make a good FPP.
posted by madman at 2:04 AM on July 28, 2006


This is false. Please people do not listen to this. Unless you want to be crippled. Makiwara or any bare handed full force hitting of hard objects is terrible for your hands in the long run.

I stand by my statement. Developing a strong punch is a difficult and long term commitment. This style of punching is unlike that used in any combat sport. This is not about retracting the punch when the target is contacted.

We can debate the value of the different styles of pugilism, but in delivering power there must be training of the muscles that are used to push the fist through the target.

Did you take the time to read the linked article about the use of a makiwara? Maybe I should have been clearer OT about the use of the makiwara. The training method with a makiwara is not like that you might practice with any other pad or punch bag due to the variable resistance.
A proper makiwara is a flexible post which helps develop the ability to 'punch through' the target unlike any other training method I am aware of. Also, as the post bends it requires you to change the angle of the punch to 'punch down' into the target.
The training method I am familiar with involves putting the fist on the makiwara and pushing it. Impact is not necessary. If you want to start an inch back from the target this is a good way to practice the 'one inch punch'.

Punching a bag or any target bare-fisted will damage the knuckles if there is any lateral movement of the target whilst the hand is in contact (skinning the knuckles). You will damage your skin and knuckles if you practice bare handed against a punch bag for any length of time. So practice this kind of thing for short periods, you will probably have to take a week off if you draw blood. Any training aid can be miss-used.
Any repeated impact will thicken the bone and effect the impacting limb in other ways. Tennis players have denser bone in their dominant arms, for instance.

Having said all that, I think I am about 5 years off developing my fists as a reliable weapon. I do not practice any pugilism outside of the dojo and do not have a makiwara of my own. Punching is simply used as a distraction for me at the moment, to keep the oponent's mind occupied while I keep him unbalanced and try to get position for a lock or take-down.

On the subject of pain, a training session with Terry Wingrove .doc was 'the most painful hour' of my Sensei's life. Worth a look in if you are interested in using points, nips and pain compliance or just experiencing a whole bunch of hurt with little chance of long term damage. Here .wmv is one of my Sensei's training partners experiencing that Wingrove feeling.
posted by asok at 5:25 AM on July 28, 2006


asok is a spoilsport for immediately answering the questions I left open...

I left it an hour!

A MeFi beat-up/meet-up... Then, all down the pub for beer and meat products.

As I am practically vegan I am sure my beansprout powered body would collapse under the force of the carnivores ; )
Plus, I don't fight as I might get damaged!

Yeah, that ‘iron hand’ is silly anyway. The hardest thing one will strike on an opponent is their skull. And we should avoid doing that.

Indeed, hard -> soft and soft -> hard.

If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's: The first MAJOR form of self defense in modern times - that one that is MOST important - is defending your self against the most common danger. Heart disease.

And a good thread was had by all.
posted by asok at 8:06 AM on July 28, 2006


Punching a bag or any target bare-fisted...[snip] any training aid can be miss-used.
Any repeated impact will thicken the bone and effect the impacting limb in other ways. Tennis players have denser bone in their dominant arms, for instance.


*sigh*
Sorry for the "last-word-isms" here.

Asok. Listen to me. Please. I'm not questioning repeated impact on ANY surface —bag or otherwise— causes damage that and can build bone density.

It does this WITH gloves on as well.

It is BARE HANDED impact on Makiwara (any way you train it) or bags I, and medical science, have a problem with... the damage then begins to out wiegh the "build" up part.

Same with training in bare feet. Another discussion.

As you get older all the damage becomes cumulative. That little ache ten years ago becomes tendonitis, than hyper-extension becomes an daily morning agony. And the bones, connective tissue, and ligaments become tough and more brittle (for lack of a better medical term) they heal slower and slower... this is fact as I'm sure you'll agree.

So. Training bare fisted is macho bullshit and Karate guys do it because.. well that's the way they do it.

I did it for years asok. YEARS. And I hit WAY harder now and have never broken my hands since I started boxing training with wraps. Hitting bare handed will not signifiactly improve your punches anymore than if you wear wraps and 10oz bag gloves. Not if you train hitting properly with mindful attention to detail and intent. Like you said "any training aid can be miss-used."

FWIW: I have used Makiwara, I find it no better for training wrist alignment and strength for hitting any more than simply wieght lifting or push-ups. Now, true, the traditional method I was taught also involved hitting the board fairly hard — and that may, or may not be "correct".

My point is this. Do not train your punching — and hitting objects fast or slow — with out at at least wraps. The benefit is negligable to the risk.
posted by tkchrist at 10:59 AM on July 28, 2006


I don't know if anyone's already made the recommendation, but everyone who's reading this thread should familiarize themselves with the writings of Marc MacYoung.
posted by scrump at 12:01 PM on July 28, 2006


The point is Aikido and other TMAs do not prepare you for this yet most claim they do...The problem is people think that arts like Aikido do prepare them for an out-classed match. It does not except in the most rudimentary sense. We are lucky in that you and I are not a vulnerable class in relatively safe North America. So 90% of the time we are fine.

well - first off, I should point out that I'm female.
second, I suppose I disagree that my martial art represented itself as having claimed that it prepared me for the worst case scenario you describe, any more than I would think going to college would guarantee me a Nobel prize. Training in hapkido* has made me more capable of dealing with danger than I was before training, but obviously not indestructible. But I didn't go in expecting to be indestructible...

Now, I train for many reasons, self-defense being only one part of the attraction. I find it fun. It provides exercise. I find it visually beautiful, like dance. I find it a welcome kind of non-social social interaction (grappling or even sparring with people can be quite intimate in a way, but it isn't about the relation between you; you're focused on a goal -). I find it mentally and personally rewarding, as a part of my way of life.

All that said, I still think it provides some use as a method of self defense. Sure, if someone wants to sneak up behind me and slit my throat before I even notice they're there - or for that matter, shoot me from across the parking lot - then there isn't much I can do. And you're right that if a group of people want to get me, they will in all likelihood succeed. But I dunno that a gun or a knife would save me in that situation anyway - plus if you're not well trained, a weapon can just be used against you. And, I'd never be paranoid enough to carry a weapon with me all the time on the off chance that one day I'd find myself in so desperate a situation that it'd be my only hope. But in a situation like either of the times I was mugged pre-training, I have no doubt that what I've learned would be useful. Members of my dojang have used techniques in the wild, and though I haven't had to, there have been a couple times I've started to think about it (a crazy guy on the subway once started pounding the wall right next to my head, for instance - ) And most assaults I have heard about have been of that variety, rather than like ted bundy. I am not going to spend my life attempting to prepare for ted bundy. You say, ted bundy 30, women 0, but I kinda see it, ted bundy 30, women 3 billion, you know? It's just not that likely that that extreme a danger will come my way, and if it does, whether I've done enough enough bag training is probably not gonna be the deciding factor.

* - I've been training in hapkido with a little cross training (visiting masters, weekend seminars hosted at my dojang, that kind of thing) in judo and jujitsu, so I am not certain whether it would fall within the "TMA" category you describe or not. We do light sparring and ground work, but we also do coordinated techniques, and forms, and traditional weapons (sword, cane, staff, sai, fan, yadda yadda), etc. The full gear sparring is pretty much only used for high belt tests, but we do have it.
posted by mdn at 12:53 PM on July 28, 2006


I suppose I disagree that my martial art represented itself as having claimed that it prepared me for the worst case scenario you describe, any more than I would think going to college would guarantee me a Nobel prize.

yikes, that's a train wreck of a sentence - i'll assume you know what I mean.

posted by mdn at 1:00 PM on July 28, 2006


Hate to be the devils advocate here mdn - when are you going to have a sword, sai, or fan, etc. on you?
I think the argument to aesthetics and fitness training and the basic reasons you mention for appreciating the art of martial arts have been conceded to.
I would say that you can train quite well to prepare for someone planning to shoot you or sneak up on you to cut your throat.
Weapons training, for me, was part of the 'martial' end of the equation.
My students trained on uneven mats with debris strewn randomly around the floor, we trained in low-light, we trained with strobe lights and loud music on, we trained in jeans and winter coats. In the middle of sparring I would sneak up behind my students and sound an airhorn, squirt them with water or throw kicking shields at them. We did role playing. We trained against multiple attackers. I would drill students through long calisthenics and then have them fight fresh opponents. One of my female students said "This isn't fair" I said "Exactly." If I thought I could safely liquor them up before training (and maintain sanitary conditions) I would. Anything that would free their minds to react purely from reflex and training. Any female graduate of my self-defense program would probably have handed Bundy's head to him because no matter what the social component of his attack was, and no matter what their normally desired social outcome would have been, once combat was entered they would have reacted purely from reflex.
I dig your "a good plan now is better than a perfect plan tomorrow" sort of idea, and I agree, but there is a difference between relying on a tool that is solid and dependable and relying on one that isn't. So it's not a matter of which martial art is better, etc. - but deciding what goals are right for you and what odds you prefer to work with. And those tools - the set of techniques and mindset you learn - vary. Not only in degree, but, as tkchrist amply pointed out, in kind and scope. It all depends on the risks you are willing to take and what you want out of training and study. Tkchrist suggests (ultimately) one's goals and expectations be properly aligned with that training and study. And from your statements, yours seem to be. That many traditional martial arts are inferior for certain purposes does not invalidate them in totality any more than saying a station wagon isn't as good as a Jeep off road. Although a closer analogy would be that some SUVs don't perform off road as advertised and off road tricked out Jeeps do.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:04 PM on July 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


tkchrist,

Thank you so much for your detailed posts!

I will work your suggestions into my daily routine (especially with regards to using wraps/gloves as opposed to bare knuckles and increasing time in front of live opponents).

Your thoughts regarding ego are excellent, too.

People suffer needless injuries when light sparring escalates just because a kick or punch connects with someone's fragile ego. It is especially sad when such injuries occur before a regional tournament/competition.

I definitely think that you should write a blog on the subject.

You will save a lot of people unnecessary grief and injury.

Again, thank you and best regards!
posted by cup at 4:31 AM on July 29, 2006


tkchrist, whats wrong with training in bare feet?
posted by the cuban at 8:46 AM on July 30, 2006


Any female graduate of my self-defense program would probably have handed Bundy's head to him

well, being somewhat culturally illiterate, I'm not sure what ted bundy's methods were, and whether they were beatable - if they were, I would think my training would have prepared me as well as any to respond intelligently to the danger - I honestly do think that what I've learned would be very useful in most situations. I'm simply admitting that it doesn't make me immortal or anything. And sure, learning weapons like cane or sword may seem archaic, but on the other hand, everyday objects can mimic their utility, and practicing the art of handling them well can allow you greater flexibility with whatever it is that you do end up using to defend yourself. I may not use an actual (x) to strike my opponent, but I will know how to effectively manipulate objects of various sizes and shapes, etc. The more weapons you know how to use, the more languages you are literate in, so to speak.

I agree with tkchrist's suggestion that there are certain people who are kinda "ninjas" - the folks who spend time (ostensibly) worried that they'll be arrested for carrying a concealed weapon when someone discovers the nun-chuks in their bag - but really I think most people who spend significant time actually learning an art do become more familiar with the way their body works, and the way bodies in general work, and hence will have a much greater chance against a surprise attack than someone with no training. Whether your school or mine would ultimately be more useful seems a somewhat silly argument, in the end. I try not to be overly confident that I'm safe, but I do think I'm far more comfortable with possible physical interchanges than I would have been; I think I'm "in the running" now in a way I probably wasn't before, but I don't assume that means I can hand people's heads to them on platters. Depends how dumb they are about their own fighting strategies, really (and plenty of untrained people are plenty dumb in that area - what being 'dumb' means is relative to begin with, i guess). If I'm up against someone who really knows what they're doing and also outclasses me- well, lotsa factors make a difference; in any case my chances are way better than they'd have been previously. Whether your training or mine would be more beneficial - I guess we'll just have to arrange a fight club style meet-up someday :).
posted by mdn at 6:49 PM on July 30, 2006


Any female graduate of my self-defense program would probably have handed Bundy's head to him

Right. Including the ones he blugeoned to death while they were sleeping?
posted by lumpenprole at 10:46 PM on July 30, 2006


Attending my only class of Aikido in Japan, I was pulled out of the crowd by the 80+ year old sensei who instructed me to grab him. Before I could get a grip, I was on the floor in agony. All he did was rotate his forearm. He never actually touched me.

Before I could get a grip...
posted by pracowity at 12:09 AM on July 31, 2006


“Right. Including the ones he blugeoned to death while they were sleeping?” - posted by lumpenprole

Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. I am indeed a mighty martial god under whom’s tutelage ascended masters are born who are invincible under all conditions.

It’s a general expression of zanshin, alertness coupled with low/no light firearms training. I feel confident that any of my students would stand a better chance than someone completely untrained. Martial training is more than just physical movement (but you’re welcome to test that any night and try to sneak into my house. I’m the nice one, my wife uses hollowpoints).
posted by Smedleyman at 3:12 PM on July 31, 2006


“I'm not sure what ted bundy's methods were, and whether they were beatable - if they were, I would think my training would have prepared me as well as any to respond intelligently to the danger”

Any method can be overcome. And I’m not disparaging your training. If you think you’re prepared that’s great. I can’t have an opinion on that not having met you. I’m more than happy to take you at your word.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:22 PM on July 31, 2006


I'm very much into self-defence but have never considered Aikido. This doesn't mean that I think it's useless, the opportunity just never arised. I am curious, however, of how Aikido deals with the typical Muay Thai attack (shin kicks combined with punches and elbows). All demonstrations of Aikido I've seen are of the type of which Krunk linked to: the initial attack was to grab the opponent's hands or something to that effect. Not very convincing.

Also, anyone seen unscripted Aikido defence against knife attacks?

For the record: 17 years of martial arts training (TKD, JKD, Lameco Eskrima, Bukti Negara Pentjak Silat, Gracie BJJ, Muay Thai, Dumog, Pangamut, Western boxing) and when I spar it still looks nothing like the grace and style of what I've seen of Aikido. I doubt that fighting ever looks elegant.
posted by theemptinessinside at 10:40 PM on July 31, 2006


Also, anyone seen unscripted Aikido defence against knife attacks?

As I understand it, the roots of Aikido are in bladed weapon techniques, so a defense against a knife attack would be an adaptation of an empty hand attack. Or vice versa.

tkchrist, an interesting discussion which we will have to continue elsewhere.
posted by asok at 3:42 AM on August 1, 2006


Damn. Last words again!

Ok. Everybody is on me for saying TMA's are "useless in extreme self defense."

Useless is an exaggeration. However let us delve into the recesses of our own imaginations for five seconds. Put your selves in the shoes of a novice or beginner in the martial arts. In that mind set what was THE defining example of "self defense" in martial arts? Remember? Movies, right? For most of us it was movies. Seeing a guy kick peoples asses in movies with chops and kicks. usually he was out numbered. Usually he was fighting much larger foe's. Am I right?

When the novice pictures SD in his or her mind they picture kicking ass. Jump kicking the knife out of an attackers hand. Or Steven Segal and a perfectly executed maeotoshi — throwing one attacker into the other two attackers. At the very least you picture J-Lo taking only three weeks of Krav Maga and kicking the shit out of her 220lb psychotic husband with a throat poke and a palm heel strike.

The small vanquishing the strong.

We do not picture de-escalation of an angry drunk. Not awareness. Not escape and evasion. Not getting punched in the face, knocked down scrambling on the ground to gain a positional advantage and choking the fucker out and running away. We especially do not picture years of hard grueling athletic training — unless it's balancing on a pole while juggling clay jars or some such traditional nonsense.

This is part of the exotic romantic appeal of traditional martial arts and it is hard to shake. Face it. Unless you actually HAVE fought glorious victory IS what you picture when you picture SD. Be honest.

And 99% of TMA's encourage the idea that their arts are FOR fighting such scenarios with esoteric training methods. This is my main problem with them.

Ask your self why no modern army in the world has people balance on poles, do kata, or practice with sai? If this prepared you for real life or death combat —even empty hand— why wouldn't we train our soldiers this way?

If your life is on the line and you are small and weak - fighting for your life empty handed is idiotic. Nobody that lived to pass on a sensible gene has done this since before cave man times.

Yes, Aikido, karate and kung fu are just fine for about 90% or what you are likely to face. A drunk. An unskilled half assed non-committed attack. A heart attack.

But people REALLY at risk — small women with large abusive spouses, serial rapists who ambush, old people forced to live in dangerous neighborhoods — empty hand TMA's will not help them.


The more weapons you know how to use, the more languages you are literate in, so to speak.


Wrong. I'm sorry but that is wrong. Certainly learning the basic concepts of blunt impact weaponry has wide utility. But a knife is NOT a sword. A sword is NOT a stick. A stick is not a bo.

The tactics, ranges and strategies are all totally different. Having MORE options and techniques is not good. Being able to generalize from a few IS good.

You fight how you train.

Even in ancient times an archer learned archery, a swordsman learned fencing, etc. Yes among the elite fighting Classes - like samurai - there were renaissance warriors. But there is a life time of study and all of them had a single emphasis. The samurai it was the sword.

For SD and combat you are BEST off learning one or two of the most common weapons. Impact and short blade. And - if possible - hand gun.

...Any female graduate of my self-defense program would probably have handed Bundy's head to him...

Oh. no.

My brother works for Florida state corrections in maximum security. He oversee's some of the worst violent criminals in the nation. These guys lift weights all day and practice how to stalk and hurt people ALL FUCKING DAY. When they get out they are 230lb hurting machines who have practiced rape ON OTHER MEN.

Do you understand this? These guys rape 180lb pound men who themselves are hardened to a life time of abuse and aggression and fight all the time. Our prison system is a rapist training ground that produces guys who WANT you try to karate chop them. They get off on it.

If you're a woman and you are training an empty hand TMA alone to defend your self against the unlikely encounter with a skilled rapist or killer like Ted Bundy then also carry lube and a suicide pill as back up.

Whew. That was unpleasant.

For artistry and cultural study you learn as many weapons and forms of movement as you can. But NOT to prepare your self for combat or SD. This is a fallacy perpetuated by people WHO DO NOT FIGHT.

Now. What started this was my separation of fighting and self defense. And. For fighting. Open rules or street fighting. Against skilled (or un-skilled but tough) voluntary combatants. And most fight are usually voluntary or they are not fights, they are SD... If you want to fight, learn arts that actually fight. If you want to learn SD from serious attack then learn things that are proven in combat SD like real modern weapons.

If you want to have fun, get in shape, make friends and have a life time of filling activity then do whatever martial art you want. Do Combat Flower Arranging for all anyone else should care.

...and when I spar it still looks nothing like the grace and style of what I've seen of Aikido

This brings up a very very important observation that should expose a great deal about the TMA fighting fallacy.

Go to a Kung-Fu, Karate or Aikido school that actually free spars. Especially open sparring with people out-side their respective arts. What does it look like?

Bad kick boxing. 50% of the trained postures and stances go out the window and people mostly flail about slapping at eachother. So. If you want to learn to fight why not actually learn fighting skills from people who actually fight?
posted by tkchrist at 12:14 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


The story, beautiful as I thought it was, made me think of another story a friend told me. He was having a few beers with some friends in a cafe, when one of them accidentily bumped into some guy. He apologized, upon which the guy got aggressive, after which he once again apologized, and offered the other guy a beer. In reply, the other guy threw his glass of beer into the face of my friend's friend, who to this day has a huge scar along his face.
posted by Zombie Dreams at 4:01 AM on August 2, 2006


“Oh. no. My brother works for Florida state corrections in maximum security.... Do you understand this?”

Uh, yeah, I’m not big on matching pedigrees on the internet. My credentials in hand to hand combat greatly outweigh having a C.O. for a brother. My credentials greatly outweigh a violent prisoners’. Maybe I was in the military. Maybe I trained to kill for a living. Maybe I used to train others to kill better and faster. But really - prove it. Maybe I was a friggin’ astronaut. Maybe I’m an 18 year old kid in my mom’s basement. Those are just words. But since we ARE dealing with words - you didn’t read much of what I said.

“If you're a woman and you are training an empty hand TMA alone to defend your self against the unlikely encounter with a skilled rapist or killer like Ted Bundy then also carry lube and a suicide pill as back up.”

Again maybe you don’t read so well - my self-defense course incorporated firearms and other common weapons training. Find me a rapist that can stand up to a glock full of glasier safety slugs and a set of cool reflexes and I’ll adapt my course to him.
We trained in low light, we trained in streetclothes, we trained in pajamas, we trained with obsticles, we - fuck it man you didn’t read it the first time how do I know you’re even reading this?
But if we’re talking no rules encounter give Gunny Marlow or Gunny Collett a call at (703) 784-1030 or 703-784-5345 (or 0278) and I’m sure they’d be happy to find you a girl who could take apart just about anyone.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:52 AM on August 4, 2006


Relax smed, I was responding to the hapkido chick. I pulled the wrong quote.
posted by tkchrist at 2:49 PM on August 4, 2006


PS. I think a good black belt programs should have at least basic defensive firearms or firearms safety as a minimum requirement.

But I appreciate you get'n all fired up like that. Nice to know I can still troll even accidentally.
posted by tkchrist at 2:53 PM on August 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


“If you're a woman and you are training an empty hand TMA alone to defend your self against...”
And it goes without saying I agree with this point. I simply don’t wish to argue from assumption about - for example - mdn’s training because I know nothing about her experiance.
I disagree with some of her statements, but as to her assertions that she’s capable of “x,y or z” I have no basis on which to challenge her. I agree with your statement that TMA won’t help someone who is really at risk, but I agree with mdn’s general statement that some training is better than none - given a person understands the point you’ve made.
I’d equally assert that a person who jogs regularly is better equipped to handle a very serious and dangerous situation than a couch potato.
Certainly there is a good deal of misrepresentation on the part of traditional Asian martial arts teachers, but people aren’t robots.
Hopefully some petite woman isn’t going to have so much false confidence instilled in her that she’ll go toe to toe with someone my size.
None of my students would. It makes as much sense as me fighting a tiger.
But there are methods for a single person to kill or evade a tiger. These have varying degrees of success and ease and those methods are what I taught. And it made me unpopular in certain quarters because people want the traditional martial arts illusion instead of the dirty reality. I myself would not teach a “self defense” class with my name on it that amounted to little more than an aerobics instruction. But that distinction has been made. I’m finding aikido useful as refinement, this does not somehow interfere with what I know. It’s working well for me and if I can learn to manuver some goofball into throwing himself over a table, so much the better. I’m really not into lawsuits.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:53 PM on August 4, 2006


“Relax smed,”

Kind of a contradition in terms there.
*pauses awkwardly*

So, I guess I was pretty much just going on there....uh...sorry.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:56 PM on August 4, 2006


/if I don’t make an idiot out of myself at least once a day I get this nasty kink in my back.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:14 PM on August 4, 2006


I usually don't get uppity if people want to teach tae-bo and call it self defense. In the long run I think being in shape is far more important than being a bad ass, anyway.

My dream Martial Arts school would have a mixture of the traditional approach to self discipline with the sporting approach to training athletic conditioning, progressive resistance and aliveness. It would contain no belt ranks and a pared down FMA, boxing, judo, and BJJ curriculum with mandatory weight training and firearms safety.

And there would be a zero gravity room and combat androids.

I am looking for investors.
posted by tkchrist at 3:30 PM on August 4, 2006


:-)
posted by Smedleyman at 9:41 PM on August 4, 2006


Relax smed, I was responding to the hapkido chick.

I guess I'm the "hapkido chick" - what in particular were you responding to? I am not the one who claimed that any member of my dojang could destroy a hardened serial killer no matter what his method.

Oh. no.

My brother works for Florida state corrections in maximum security. He oversee's some of the worst violent criminals in the nation. These guys lift weights all day and practice how to stalk and hurt people ALL FUCKING DAY. When they get out they are 230lb hurting machines who have practiced rape ON OTHER MEN.

Do you understand this?


Yeah, I don't think I'm the one you want to address here either. I know from sparring drills that fighting someone significantly bigger than you is not easy (and that being the bigger person makes you feel pretty powerful), and I already said above that I'm not spending my life preparing for the unlikely possibility that one of your brother's charges targets me. I do martial arts for many reasons, including self defense, which I define as being capable of dealing with hyped up kids, drunks, or general 'opportunity criminals', e.g., date rapists or muggers. If a heavyweight champion wants to hurt me and is reasonably smart about how he goes about it, he will obviously have the upper hand - even for the 'chicks' that smedleyman trains. That is why there are weight classes in boxing. Even if you carry a gun, if your hands and wrists are not that strong, it could be turned against you (more important for me is that I have too much stuff to carry as it is, and the chance of needing it is too small for me to consider taking a firearm everywhere I go).

I'm more aware of weak spots, more capable of combination moves, more able to manipulate objects or coordinate my own body effectively than I used to be, but a 230 lb killing machine probably just has to get one good blow in - I realize this. I also realize that most people on the streets are not 230 lb killing machines recently released from maximum security prisons.

by the way, hapkido is not aikido - the idea of hapkido is a full range of yin and yang; the redirect/suction etc moves of aikido are what we call the 'yin' techniques, but we also do trapping locks /strikes etc more like jujitsu. Plus as I've said the school I train has some judo and jujitsu cross training. The one thing I would like to add to my training is a familiarity with firearms; we do gun defense techniques but with rubber guns, so I don't know as much about the mechanics (ie, is the safety lock still on, etc) as I would like. But, it is largely a curiosity thing since the likelihood of actually needing that info is not that great.
posted by mdn at 6:18 AM on August 6, 2006


MDN, I wasn't meaning to single you out, truly. I may have read all the stuff up there and lumped it all together.

I know you know taking on a huge guy toe to toe is a bad idea. But I still detect things in the tone of your posts that worried me... I could totally be off base.

Let me expalin. I feel guilty about teaching women SD back in the day because I fear it was so usless to them. I am so hyper sensitive to it now...

Even if you carry a gun, if your hands and wrists are not that strong, it could be turned against you

And this one thing here is exactly why.

Yes. It can be used agaisnt you. So can the draw string of your sweatshirt. That was how Mia Zappata was raped and murdered here in Seattle. Another women I trained was was gagged with her bra and tied up with a belt.

Your own size, trust, and desire for a civilized life can be used against you.

That is no reason to not prepare for a civilized life. Or to go around with saggy pants and topless.

The notion that firearms are used against people, BTW, came from an old study in the 1970's with Women cops.

It was a totally sexist and bogus study loaded to disqualify women from seeking LEO practice. It attempted to show how often women cops had thier guns grabbed. Male cops had about the same gun grab rate when the study factored in equal training time for men and women.

Cops are not citizens. Citizens are not obligated to arrest a bad guy. The tactics are totally diferent. Yet. That "used against you" idea now exists as a horrible sexist cannard that continues mostly unchallenged in SD training.

I was told the same thing. Guns and knives will be used against you. It was why we taught empty hand SD. Convenient for us.

I dont' endorse anybody carrying a gun or knife if they are not at risk or if they cannot engage in serious training.

But it bears repeating that your primary insitnct for SD, when distancing and de-escalation have failed - should be looking for improvised weapons and and exit and not engaging hand to hand. I think you apprreciate this already. But does your training?

It is my hope that your SD training includes this vital concept.

Ugh! Let's not talk about SD anymore. It depresses me.

Let's just go have fun.
posted by tkchrist at 4:27 PM on August 6, 2006


The notion that firearms are used against people, BTW, came from an old study in the 1970's with Women cops.

for the record, the notion came to me from doing gun defense techniques - I realized it adds another dimension to the fight but doesn't necessarily benefit the one who introduced it. I actually didn't realize it was a common belief. but as we've agreed, the point is moot unless you're in serious enough danger to arm yourself on a daily basis.

So can the draw string of your sweatshirt.

Yeah, of course, anything can be used against you - that was really the point - having a weapon adds a weapon to the table, rather than definitively adding points for your side, so to speak. I have reasons other than self defense for wearing clothing, despite its potential use as a weapon (and my school has done belt techniques, collar chokes, that kind of thing), but the only reason to carry a gun would be to 'even the playing field', and the fact is it isn't quite as simple as that.

anyway: I do appreciate what you're getting at, I think; there are people, who study my art and who study other ones, who have fantasy-based ideas of what getting a "black belt" means. The master where I train always says that 1st dan is where your training begins, not where it ends, and I take that seriously; the colored belts are always negative numbers (you start at 9th gup, or whatever, and move up to 8th, then 7th, etc) and the idea is meant to be that defining someone by those colors helps you to know how much of the basics someone has mastered, before you really start training, to prevent injury or improper technique. Unfortunately a lot of people think of a black belt not as passing the entrance exam, but as a final diploma. It is true that having the basics is a very important threshold, but to get there and think, well, done with that! now I'm invincible! is just dumb.

My attitude in life is essentially that everything is a work in progress, and certificates, awards & degrees are just social ways to encourage each other to keep on, but it seems particularly obvious to me in physical arts that rank is symbolic and individual, rather than an indication of your ability to win a particular fight. It is possible I learned this in spite of my training, but I think I learned it because of it.
posted by mdn at 3:44 PM on August 8, 2006


A slight quibble with (addition to?) tkchrist's comment about self defense versus fighting. But first, no amount of bold-facing or italicizing could convey how strongly I second scrump's recommendation and suggest everyone reading this thread to spend an hour at Marc MacYoung's pages.

That said, there's another way to look at the difference between self defense and fighting (a view emphasized throughout the MacYoung site):
Self defense is legal; Fighting is illegal

Self defense is doing whatever you need to do to prevent or stop yourself from being harmed when unjustly attacked.

Fighting, though, is a mutually aggressive altercation.

Self defense becomes fighting when the immediate danger/threat is removed and one passes up the opportunity for escape, opting instead to prolong the encounter.

In practical terms, and taking out the other (very real) variables that come into play -- such as hostile witnesses and/or how believable the bad guy's lie to the cops is -- in a self-defense situation the bad guy goes to jail; in a fight, though, you both go to jail.
posted by CodeBaloo at 3:31 AM on August 9, 2006


Since people keep mentioning Mac Young I have to give my opinion.

Nothing against the people who posted his website but for the record: It is widely held that Marc MacYoung is an idiot.

He is a marketer and book seller. For YEARS he was one of the loudest critics of ground fighting... yet never stepped up to PROVE his claims. By actually fighting anybody.

As far as I can tell he takes what other people have said about fighting and SD and re-digests it and sells it with a 200% mark-up.

Was he, or is he, a Bad Ass? Maybe.

Was he in a gang or did he get in street fights or whatever? If he says so. So what. So have a lot of people. that doesn't qualify him for shit when it comes to training people.

I've been in Street Fights (TM). And you know what? As far as training difficulty, I would take almost ANY street fight over 3 minutes in a MMA ring with Ivan Saliverry or Tito Ortiz.

Just a word of advice:
Anybody that puts a TM after a technique or names a common technique with some absurd hyped out term like "The Shredder (TM)" [ I know, I know, that was the Senshido guy Richard Dimitri not Mac Young) is likely full of shit and is just selling you something.

Use discretion listening to these guys.

Will said technique WORK? Maybe. Sure. Who knows. But I bet you can learn it at a Judo club or boxing gym without paying for the patent rights.

And fighting is not illegal. The cops I fight once a month would be surprised to learn this.

Nor is SD strictly legal. But. Whatever.
posted by tkchrist at 10:29 AM on August 9, 2006


tkchrist, that wasn't meant as a slam of you're post at all. And if it gave that impression, I apologize, it wasn't the intent.

Just for frame of reference, I currently get into it with psychotics, schizophrenics, depressed/bipolar folks, and belligerent drunks a couple times a week. And, though not in the past 10 years, or so, but for about 7 years, I got into it (rarely because my size prompted running more than resisting, but occassionally) with shoplifters, often gang members or groups of gang members. And before that, I worked a few years as a bouncer in a club just south of D.C. -- so I've been in far more "real" fights than most martial artists.

My background is sport and MA judo (eons ago) and recently, a style of kali that meshes combat judo, Lameco escrima, and Pekiti-Tirsia kali, and even a bit of dumog.

That said, the reason I recommend the MacYoung site is that it, as did your comment I responded to, illuminates many of the aspects of a real fight in which many (nearly all, I'd venture) martial arts fail to adequately prepare its practitioners. For example, recognizing when you cross the line from defending yourself into being just as guilty as the guy you're fighting and understanding the legal ramifications. Or understanding that if you pull a blade and the guy's wound patterns don't perfectly support your claim of self defense, you're fucked in criminal and civil court. Or (and here's some of that ground fighting criticism) pointing out that while achieving the mount and pummeling the guy into a cherry Slurpee might be a great idea in the ring, in a real fight the guy's buddy is likely to put a pool cue upside your head, or stick a busted beer bottle or pocket folder in your side. Interesting and enlightening reading is all I'm sayin'.

Again, no offense intended.
posted by CodeBaloo at 7:44 PM on August 9, 2006


Oh. None taken, bro. None Taken.

I just thought , since it was his third mention I'd pitch in my 2¢. I could be completely misreading the guy. But as you know Martial Arts is rife with charlatans. Particularly becuase so many sell things without any proof of thier claims. Martial Arts is fairly unique like that. People can go to an instructor and take what he says at face value... like a cult leader or something. If they claim a special awareness, in terms of SD, but hide behind either the typicaly traditional asian rubrick of "testing is a western idea" or "that is sport, what I do is Str33t!" I get mighty suspicous.

PS> I like Kali and escrima a great deal. It is one of the arts I find often is taught with a good mix of traditional, non-traditional, and aliveness. I especialy appreciate stick and knife sparring. I tell boxers to do it everyonce in a while. Helps with footwork.
posted by tkchrist at 8:19 AM on August 10, 2006


“having a weapon adds a weapon to the table, rather than definitively adding points for your side, so to speak.” - posted by mdn

I have to disagree with that, unfortunately I have very little common frame of reference with many folks here. I’ve fought for my life. There are many variables in any situation with varying degrees of probability. (I’m reminded somewhat of the “fight a bear with a knife” thread) We can debate theoretical details endlessly, but what we’re actually doing is attempting to cast the intial premises of the conflict to advantage our own outlook.
What tkchrist had outlined (legal details, etc. aside) was a general principle concerning disengagement.
Fighting (in his terms) allows for the possibility of disengagement. You can stop. In a self-defense situation disengagement may or may not be an objective, but either way it is something that has to be achieved.
For legal purposes, yes, disengagement should be an objective. However in a life and death situation the objective is survival. There are limited sets of circumstances in which attempting to disarm a firearm wielding opponent can be handy - there are far more that focus on disengagement that are more likely to result in your survival. I am not addressing your technique specifically mdn - just what I’ve seen being taught.
One of the main situations in which uniform police officers get killed is when they attempt to return fire rather than take cover. They don’t minimize their profile, they don’t so much as duck. In training people who’s lives depend on proper response the focus is on anticipation and prevention of the introduction a weapon. At least until you can introduce yours. Factors there depend on mobility and distance. If you’re close enough you can do something about it, if not, find cover and if you need to (or can) return fire. Or evade and retreat. But this is considering things in a life or death situation with a lethal aggressor. YMMV. Either way the fact that a gun or knife can be used against you does not negate the tactical advantage of a weapon in your hand (given you have any idea how to use it) nor more importantly does it negate the advantage in acheiving disengagement if you so choose. One wonders why fletc doesn’t fold it’s firearms training and CQB division and train people to simply disarm gun wielding thugs and turn their weapons against them.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:58 PM on August 10, 2006


Smedleyman, your comment brought to mind my one and only time live encounter involving a handgun. Doing loss prevention for Zayre department store (20 years ago, or so) I went to stop a guy who'd swiped some videotapes, and he pulled a small revolver. I was right there with him so I went in and we went to ground. After maybe 20 seconds (which seemed like 10 minutes), he broke away from me... and still had the weapon. As we both got up, I was now 10 or 12 feet from him and my only options were to go back toward him and get shot, or find cover. I hit the deck in the lane between two registers. The guy came back into the store and raised his pistol toward me. Whatever his reason (maybe the gathering crowd?) he suddenly turned and ran. Never was caught.

Looking back, I understand the cliche about something like "rather be a live chicken than a dead idiot".
posted by CodeBaloo at 5:35 AM on August 15, 2006


Absolutely, CodeBaloo. Retreat is often your best option.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:10 PM on August 17, 2006


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