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America's only "Native Martial Art"?
June 25, 2009 8:11 PM   Subscribe

"For a long time it has been a kind of martial arts Loch Ness monster: an American fighting form with supposedly sinister origins that many have heard of but few have seen or experienced. No one, it seemed, had any concrete proof that it existed, or at least none they were willing to share. Until (2:36) recently." Longer (5:19) ver here

As the article notes, there wasn't much info available about 52 previous to the past few years. Information was generally secondhand and culled from multiple sources. Here is a link aggregate that extends back many years, including a thread with plenty of (alleged) info embedded in it here.
The style(s) include techniques with names like Skull and Crossbones, Catch and Kiss, and The Crown.
Catch and Kiss was popularized by a person named Mother Dear on (in?) Rikers Island (second post down). (Wiki)
Some inside YT links contain NSFW rap lyrics and marketing.
posted by P.o.B. (68 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
The title comes from the wiki and could be considered dubious depending on how you define America and Native. Both Pacific Islanders and Native North Americans had fighting styles before this showed up.
Also before you dismiss this as ineffective, it has deception and infighting built into it.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:18 PM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice. The elbow work and flanking shares principles with the stuff I've learned in Muay Thai and Penjak Silat.
posted by yeloson at 8:43 PM on June 25, 2009


martial arts Loch Ness monster

Ness Fu just supplanted Space Yeti! as my next screenplay project.
posted by cog_nate at 9:04 PM on June 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Great post. I was recently doing some arbitrary YouTube exploration on this. Topic is cool as hell.
posted by penduluum at 9:08 PM on June 25, 2009


Link digging from those, Fwape has some really nice videos breaking down the spiritual aspects and the connection to breaking, which also, mirror penjak silat.
posted by yeloson at 9:33 PM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Damn, that dude (I don't know if it was Mr. Burley or Mr. Mark) has some snakey arms. I don't know if any of those individual blows could end a fight, but I could see an opponent getting seriously disoriented.
posted by lekvar at 9:34 PM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Framing 52, a self-published book
Breaking the Glass, a documentary that appears to be co-marketed with that book
posted by XMLicious at 9:39 PM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, wait... I think that book and video are by the same people being interviewed in the NYT video, they're wearing t-shirts with a symbol that appears in the book.
posted by XMLicious at 9:46 PM on June 25, 2009


What I want to know is, why is the second guy they interview in the first link wearing what appears to be a Newcastle jersey?
posted by asterix at 9:48 PM on June 25, 2009


Wait a sec, I've seen this before!
posted by saslett at 10:14 PM on June 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


Also, the flow and the movement of the elbows makes me think of Muay Thai Chaiya (skip to 1:30 and 3:10 to get to the good stuff and minimize listening to the patronizing, othering language of the hosts...)
posted by yeloson at 10:16 PM on June 25, 2009


Fascinating. And a very interesting style. You can easily see how it's an evolved form of bare-knuckle boxing.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:23 PM on June 25, 2009


Rashad Evans is a former Ultimate Fighting Championship light-heavyweight titleholder. Speaking by phone from Greg Jackson’s Gym in Albuquerque, N.M., he said that while growing up, he had heard stories about the 52 Blocks from older men when discussing prison fights, and saw what he assumed were parts of it in street fights.

In 2005 he met Daniel Marks at a seminar in Baltimore and found value beneath the legends, stories and memories.

“What it comes down to is just really practical boxing,” he said.


Yeah, Rashad has it right. "52 Blocks" is a cool name with a cool mythology, but the links in this post, just make it look like boxing practiced less rigorously. No hard sparring was shown, and it looked particularly bad in this video, so it really doesn't seem all that convincing.

Still, the guy featured in the article seemed to be open to 52 Blocktitioners competing in MMA. If he follows through, we'll get to see how well it really works. Actually, just seeing it in action against a sharp Muay Thai guy would be good enough, really.
posted by ignignokt at 10:28 PM on June 25, 2009


Very interesting. Thanks for posting this, P.o.B.
posted by homunculus at 12:12 AM on June 26, 2009


Ig, I'm not sure - does boxing regularly teach this sort of hand trapping?
posted by kid ichorous at 12:36 AM on June 26, 2009


Disclaimer: Never boxed. But I took a little Kali and this is reminiscent.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:36 AM on June 26, 2009


A couple of points I didn't initially make in the post. Aside from the aforementioned post title I do think this is, by some accounts, a unique African-American martial art, although it is basically Boxing+. I originally wanted to do a post about this awhile ago and found various links on it but didn't have something to tie it down. The more I read about it, the more intrigued I became, especially about it's possible origins in the Chittlin' circuit (vid is broken, but article is good read). Gah, that link should have been a part of my post but I or somebody else should do a Chittlin' circuit FPP sometime. Also a man named Dennis Newsome trained Mel Gibson to use 52 in Lethal Weapon. Newsome also claims that it's the fusion of African and European/American bare-knuckle fist-fighting styles...
What is shown is those videos is mostly light sparring, but keep in mind that it wasn't developed for sport and was meant that you used one or two of those techniques before you closed in and pummeled the opposition. Effectiveness...I don't know. This fighting style developed out of prison systems so I would find it hard to believe it was ineffective. Yet, when comparing styles there is multiple vectors to use as a good metric; the person using it, the learning curve, practicality, training regimen (see learning curve), amongst others. But all that seems to fall by the wayside when someone mentions the UFC as the de-facto measuring tool. The UFC was originally intended as a showcase for the Gracies and BJJ. Which it did very well, and it helped that the Gracies were highly trained individuals since childhood. It only took a couple of years before the UFC started transforming and MMA replaced BJJ as the standard. Anyway, to sum up my slight tangent here, I don't think it's practical for anyone to go into the UFC without grappling experience. So 52 Blocks training by itself inside the ring wouldn't be that great of an idea unless the person using it was extra-ordinary. Then again you usually don't get to pick out the where or when of your streetfights much less get info on the other guy's style and abilities.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:09 AM on June 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ness Fu just supplanted Space Yeti! as my next screenplay project.

So many sockpuppet names, so few five dollarses.
posted by rokusan at 2:10 AM on June 26, 2009


Very interesting. What I notice in the comments above is how different people of different martial art persuasions see parts of their style within this one. I am no different: I see a lot of wing chun in this - lots of threading and trapping hands and quick counters, lots of chi sau-esque pushing and pulling to expose gaps; to me it's no suprise to see the Bruce Lee influence discussed in one of those videos by a practioner. And it seems to even encompass some of the more generic and practical street defence techniques: I'm seeing the 'fence' and the 'riot shield' being combined with Karate forearm blocks and bon sau-larp sau, transitioning effortlessly into offensive boxing combinations with ducking and weaving, and back again. It looks as free flowing in style as in philosophy, always the sign of a good martial art. The ability to take things on, the ability to evolve. There is a lot to like in what these guys are doing.
posted by nudar at 4:45 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


This definitely looks like it already is an MMA style art. The NYT video makes it look exactly like nudar said, wing chun flowing blocks and strikes in close going smoothly to boxing when the distance increases. The Skull and Crossbones block and combination reminded me of either penjak or muay thai with its concept of attacking the attack with the elbow, although I know it's something I saw in a jeet jun do video on youtube somewhere, too. And while all these things are really good, it makes me suspect of the origin story of this coming out of the turn of the century, since these influences would have been nigh on impossible. I'd be extremely curious as to how it evolved, since it seems far too young to be a well-defined art (and not just boxing+other techniques, not that there is anything wrong with that), especially since it doesn't seem to have come from a history that was too prone to establishing long master/student relationships of the type that you need to really master a martial art.
posted by Schismatic at 5:40 AM on June 26, 2009


Which it did very well, and it helped that the Gracies were highly trained individuals since childhood. It only took a couple of years before the UFC started transforming and MMA replaced BJJ as the standard.

Just to clarify, MMA (mixed martial arts) isn't a style the same way BJJ is. It's a variable mixture of two or more martial arts, which these days, almost always involves some form of grappling. The reason that MMA contests stopped being dominated by nearly pure BJJ practictioners is that everyone learned BJJ, and thus, getting the fight to the ground was no longer a ticket to an instant win. BJJ (or at least groundfighting) was proven to be essential by MMA and Vale Tudo contests; it wasn't invalidated at all.

Yet, when comparing styles there is multiple vectors to use as a good metric; the person using it, the learning curve, practicality, training regimen (see learning curve), amongst others. But all that seems to fall by the wayside when someone mentions the UFC as the de-facto measuring tool.

I agree that all of these things matter, and I don't think it's a perfect measuring tool, but MMA fights are still a very good test. The factors you mention are more controllable within a professional MMA fight than they are in a street or prison fight. Much of the time, MMA competitors are around the same size, level of experience, and as close to as intense a training regimen as a body can take, regardless of differing styles.

52 Blocks or something resembling it may have worked in prison, but against whom? Were the 52 Blocks victors way bigger or more experienced or more athletic than their opponents? We'll never know. The big problem with a martial art claiming that it is "street tested" is such a claim is inherently unverifiable.

Then again you usually don't get to pick out the where or when of your streetfights much less get info on the other guy's style and abilities.

Exactly. If it is claiming to be an effective stand-alone form of self-defense, it should be able to deal with grappling. And if I understand correctly, the point is to use one or two techniques, then get in close. If so, it really better have an answer to attacks from grappling range.

Frankly, it doesn't even look like it would even stand up against even a pure striking art like Muay Thai or Kyokushin karate. That said, at least one of the 52 Blocks proponents was vocal about getting it into the cage to test it publicly. This is a great attitude. It puts it way ahead of hundreds of other dubious "street-tested" martial arts. So, we'll either see them prove its effectiveness, run away, or find out that they need to go back to the drawing board and perhaps get it to a point at which it is effective.


As a tangent, I think MeFites and NYT reporters (and everyone else) should be just as skeptical about claims made by martial arts as they are about homepathic remedies, creation science, and miracle diets. They should demand rigorous tests and not accept excuses like "sorry, this can't be tested because it's too deadly and is meant for the streets." MeFites generally take a scientific approach to big claims, but something about aikido and kung-fu-type things just melts their hearts. I can understand - I was the same way before it sunk in that there are certain things I wanted to believe about fighting and martial arts.
posted by ignignokt at 7:10 AM on June 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


(I usually find it kind of amusing when someone drops in at the bottom of an active thread with a lot of information sharing and says "meh." I love seeing threads like this, where folks who know a shitload more about something than I do share that with one another via discussing the post.)
posted by lodurr at 7:29 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been hearing about 52 blocks for a while, and of course, the lore has always sounded interesting. It also sounded like 50% bullshit, the kinds of things I heard. There's a lot of oral history and legend mixed in there. Dennis Newsome was one of the first people to talk about it on the internet.

Also, I get the strong impression that, similar to kung fu, there isn't a single style of 52 blocks. Those different names may refer to different martial arts, to an extent. Styles were supposedly regional, and tied to local prisons. I've heard about techniques for fighting handcuffed, or using the wall to push off of for a kind of superman punch.

From what I've seen on youtube, the style does look very evasive, and practitioners don't seem to put much weight behind a punch. I imagine that some people could really make it work, but it seems a bit defensive for real street fighting. It almost looks more suited to the boxing ring, where you have a lot more time and you're trying to score points. I still don't know what to think of this art.

I recall reading Newsome talking about an Ethiopian martial art that sounds crazy, possibly effective and possibly bullshit, called testa. Supposedly, this is a martial art that focuses on headbutting, dubbing the head as the "big knuckle." The system has some strikes and grapples, but much of the focus is on setting up a debilitating headbutt. I'd link but there's not much out there. Sounds just crazy enough to work...I know I would REALLY not want to fight someone using an art like that (not that I want to fight anyone, but that sounds really bad).
posted by Edgewise at 7:54 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify, MMA (mixed martial arts) isn't a style the same way BJJ

That's why I said it replaced BJJ. That is also why I don't think this is an MMA. From what it sounds like it may have more than one root system, but I think it's very clearly a been made into one system. That's also ignoring there are multiple variations on the same thing here.

it wasn't invalidated at all.

I never said grappling was invalidated. There seems to be this idea that grappling is something new or that BJJ brought something to the forefront that wasn't there before. Grappling has been around for a long time. There have been people in the past who took on all comers and were able to handle them whether they were grapplers or not. Two people off the top of my head Huo Yuanjia and Mas Oyama.

MMA fights are still a very good test.

Yes, they are a very good test of MMA.

The factors you mention are more controllable within a professional MMA fight than they are in a street or prison fight...
52 Blocks or something resembling it may have worked in prison, but against whom? Were the 52 Blocks victors way bigger or more experienced or more athletic than their opponents? We'll never know. The big problem with a martial art claiming that it is "street tested" is such a claim is inherently unverifiable.


Well this whole MA system is unverifiable, but either you're saying 52 is not street tested or that it was created rather recently. Which I couldn't argue against, but by it's mere presence of it's proponents I would say it's definitely been street tested. Hell, I'll say it's been prison tested since the only people who knew it until recently learned it in prison. I don't think you could get much better PR for a martial art.

Exactly. If it is claiming to be an effective stand-alone form of self-defense, it should be able to deal with grappling.

No, it doesn't. That's an MMA question expecting an MMA answer.

And if I understand correctly, the point is to use one or two techniques, then get in close. If so, it really better have an answer to attacks from grappling range.

That was something I said to put what was shown on the videos into context. I don't know the style but that was an educated guess.

Frankly, it doesn't even look like it would even stand up against even a pure striking art like Muay Thai or Kyokushin karate.

In what context? Who's fighting? Where? Why? This is why I don't even like to get into these types of martial art discussions. The variables associated with these things can't be tested. A fight is different than a sport. No matter what anyone thinks. Sure you can train for MMA and it will carry over to the street. But guess what? You're automatically going to start tossing a lot of it out the window depending on the situation. It's like Bas Rutten puts out a self-defense video and it's all about smashing peoples heads into walls. I'll admit I didn't watch the whole video but I don't see those techniques in MMA.

MMA guys writing off other things as not good enough is the same as any other art doing the same. It's been going on for hundreds of years. And really in a fight it's rarely a style thing, it has much more to do with the person than any specific technique.

MeFites generally take a scientific approach to big claims, but something about aikido and kung-fu-type things just melts their hearts. I can understand - I was the same way before it sunk in that there are certain things I wanted to believe about fighting and martial arts.

It sounds like you already have the answer. Why waste your time here? I really do think this has always been a silly argument. Guns and knives outmoded hand to hand a long time ago, so why continue on with this when you are not going to get a satisfactory answer.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:09 AM on June 26, 2009


Just to clarify, MMA (mixed martial arts) isn't a style the same way BJJ is. It's a variable mixture of two or more martial arts, which these days, almost always involves some form of grappling. The reason that MMA contests stopped being dominated by nearly pure BJJ practictioners is that everyone learned BJJ, and thus, getting the fight to the ground was no longer a ticket to an instant win. BJJ (or at least groundfighting) was proven to be essential by MMA and Vale Tudo contests; it wasn't invalidated at all.

I think MMA really is its own thing now. Militech, ATT and other groups really do have an integrated training regimen that isn't just a mix of stuff. Some guys make elements from other arts work, and some things aren't practical for the ring either because they don't work or because, like the BJJ kidney kick, they don't fit in the unified MMA rules set.
posted by mobunited at 8:50 AM on June 26, 2009


What is shown is those videos is mostly light sparring, but keep in mind that it wasn't developed for sport and was meant that you used one or two of those techniques before you closed in and pummeled the opposition.

And if I understand correctly, the point is to use one or two techniques, then get in close. If so, it really better have an answer to attacks from grappling range.

That was something I said to put what was shown on the videos into context. I don't know the style but that was an educated guess.


Maybe this was unintentional, but it's dishonest to assert something you actually do not know for certain and then later back away from it as an "educated guess." I don't whether or not calling you out on this is going to help or hurt the discussion, but it's hard to ignore.


Exactly. If it is claiming to be an effective stand-alone form of self-defense, it should be able to deal with grappling.

No, it doesn't. That's an MMA question expecting an MMA answer.


I thought the canard that you can consistently avoid grappling range in an unarmed fight has long since been disproven. If you want to prove this for yourself, you (or anyone reading this thread) can drop in to your local BJJ school and ask if you can try it out with them. And yes, you can ask for someone that's practiced martial arts for the same amount of time you have and is not bigger than you and not more so that the factors are even.


Frankly, it doesn't even look like it would even stand up against even a pure striking art like Muay Thai or Kyokushin karate.

In what context? Who's fighting? Where? Why?


In an unarmed fight. Two fighters with approximately the same amount of experience in their respective arts that are about same size. You know, like at an MMA fight, except with biting and eye-gouging and whatever allowed. Where? Wherever. Why? To see what's effective.

This is why I don't even like to get into these types of martial art discussions. The variables associated with these things can't be tested. A fight is different than a sport. No matter what anyone thinks. Sure you can train for MMA and it will carry over to the street. But guess what? You're automatically going to start tossing a lot of it out the window depending on the situation. It's like Bas Rutten puts out a self-defense video and it's all about smashing peoples heads into walls. I'll admit I didn't watch the whole video but I don't see those techniques in MMA.

Well, the proponents of 52 Blocks claim it's effective as a form of unarmed combat. Bricks, etc. are not part of it. Its claims can easily be tested by public fight on video in which the participants are of similar size and experience - much like an MMA fight.


It sounds like you already have the answer. Why waste your time here? I really do think this has always been a silly argument. Guns and knives outmoded hand to hand a long time ago, so why continue on with this when you are not going to get a satisfactory answer.

I know that unarmed combat is outmoded, but when something claims to be an effective way to fight unarmed, what's wrong with asking for verification that it is an effective way to fight unarmed? 52 Blocks may very well work, but just like any other claim, evidence should be provided, not just "hey, it works in prison according to hearsay."

Why am I even bothering to comment? Because I want to present another viewpoint about testing the claims of martial arts that say they are effective unarmed combat systems. You can take it or leave it, but at least it's out there.
posted by ignignokt at 8:55 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


In an unarmed fight. Two fighters with approximately the same amount of experience in their respective arts that are about same size. You know, like at an MMA fight, except with biting and eye-gouging and whatever allowed. Where? Wherever. Why? To see what's effective.

I think that pob is right in putting these questions to you. While I think that grappling needs to be a consideration for every art out there, I think its importance is magnified a bit in MMA. The reason I say this is because, if I was in a real street fight (never been), then I would be a lot more reluctant to grapple. Where is this happening? If it's a bar, his buddy could wait until I get him on the floor, and then kick my head in. Or maybe I'm about to get a rear naked choke, and he pulls out a knife and proceeds to slice me to pieces. These are simple and common concerns that I would have in a real fight that have no place in MMA, and they change the dynamic of grappling significantly. Grappling is great for one-on-one, no weapons involved. But in real life, I cannot guarantee either of these conditions, and either one can turn a successful submission into a couple months vacation in intensive care.

Well, the proponents of 52 Blocks claim it's effective as a form of unarmed combat. Bricks, etc. are not part of it. Its claims can easily be tested by public fight on video in which the participants are of similar size and experience - much like an MMA fight.

I think you're taking 'unarmed' way too literally, coming at it from what sounds like an MMA point of view. In anything except sports, improvised weapons should be anticipated, and part of training.

Hell, in reality, good self-defense usually (hopefully) precludes fighting. The best self-defense does not involve armbars or tricky infighting but awareness and clearheadedness. See the fight coming, don't let your pride get in the way, and avoid it. So, to some extent, I think the entire discussion of "self-defense" is misguided. If we're to take the term literally, then the most effective techniques literally have nothing to do with throwing a punch.
posted by Edgewise at 9:28 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe this was unintentional, but it's dishonest to assert something you actually do not know for certain and then later back away from it as an "educated guess." I don't whether or not calling you out on this is going to help or hurt the discussion, but it's hard to ignore.

So you actually think, as an experienced martial artist, that those guys actually dance around like that for 30 seconds with arms all akimbo before they strike? You do know the difference between sparring and fighting right? Let me be more clear. I've watched a bunch of videos on this, including one clip where a couple of 52 guys were talking about how a fight shouldn't take more than a couple of seconds (The Crown video). So yeah, I don't think I was to far off with my "educated guess." And I'm not faulting you for basing an observation off my line of thinking, I was just alerting you to that.

I thought the canard that you can consistently avoid grappling range in an unarmed fight has long since been disproven.

Again, with the MMA perspective on this. You do realize you've only traded one close minded opinion for another, right? Yes, I've had friends drop into MMA and BJJ gyms and they did just fine without having to resort to rolling around with them. I don't care to because I'm fine with what I do. I've also had friends who were die hard BJJ guys and ended up in a street fight and realized sometimes that isn't the most realistic martial art. Especially when trying to shoot in on a guy on concrete. A guy who has multiple friends.

Let me give you the short answer to the rest of your line of questioning. You say let's test this out in to see what is most effective in a real life situation. How would you propose to do this? For a real life situation? Things are not equal. Life isn't fair. You can't set something up and then say well that's how it will go down, because there is no way you can set up the unknown. That's it. Maybe you're going to say that's stupid and whatnot but I really think you are not going to get a satisfactory answer by doing these comparisons. It's like those shows where they actually did do the shark vs. bear matchups, and now they have the ninja vs. pirates matchup show.
Now, do I think being an all around fighter is better than having one go to thing? Maybe. How much time do you have to train? Really, it comes down to that and the intensity someone puts into it. Beyond that you have the training regimen and learning curve associated with these things. The average BJJ student will have a steeper curve than your average Aikido students. I mean that as in after say a years worth of training, a BJJ student will have far more applicable knowledge than an Aikidoka. But I'm not going to say they scale the same either. If someone really wanted to be good at Aikido I think they could really train to take on a BJJ student and come out fine. If I had someone who had all the time in the world, I would give him as many skills as possible. But as most normal people who don't have a Ju-Jitsu master for a father and are not required to spend eight hours a day on the mat then yeah I think they should limit themselves and concentrate on what they like. Pick up some other skills as they see fit. I'm not going to through the specific arts to give my opinion on them because we've traveled pretty far of course as is. So again all these things fall back on to the person learning them, not the specific art.

evidence should be provided

This ain't the Wild West anymore, but this is the exact reason I make it a point to not tell people I do martial arts. Because if it's a guy, you can bet your ass the first thing that runs through their head is "can I take him?" And sometimes they need to find out. I don't need to prove anything to anybody. If you are doing martial arts because you are trying make yourself out to be some kind of bad ass then I think there needs to be some life reevaluating done.

Either you are giving this art credence or you are not. If you are, then you are going to have to accept the idea it was passed around through the prison system because that is the story behind it. Yeah, I'm going to say again, hardened criminals who know how to fight regardless of what it is are pretty bad ass dudes. If you don't give it credence, then you are making a really long winded case for calling bullshit here.

On preview: As a followup to something Edgewise mentioned about unarmed or w/weapons. There is also some stuff in the links where it does mention these guys didn't mind fighting dirty. After all they were in prison. A YT comment (I know, I know):

the crown is deceptive its movement allows you to reach in your sleeve with your free hand and grab your shank. the shirt or jacket is usually coustomized , prisoners actually make prison uniforms. talk about trick up your sleeve. the shank is fastened to your arm with shoestring. jerk your arm it slides down into your hand. .coming out of the crown you throw your hat in opponents face and follow up with shankwork crowns are pointy remember that
posted by P.o.B. at 10:02 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you're taking 'unarmed' way too literally, coming at it from what sounds like an MMA point of view. In anything except sports, improvised weapons should be anticipated, and part of training.

No martial art can effectively deal with improvised weapons, as I and PoB said above. Sorry. If you have video of one working against a determined assailant, post it. The same goes with multiple attackers. That's why we might as well just deal with the claims that a martial art is good for unarmed combat.

When does grappling come into play in a street fight. All the time, when you're too close to punch. And no, grappling doesn't necessarily mean ground fighting. You can throw a guy to the ground, leave if he's knocked out, stomp on his head or armbar him otherwise.

P.o.B., most of what you said is just a reiteration of what you said earlier. You're saying you can't prove that a fighting system is effective at unarmed fighting. If that's the case, then no claim about any martial art is valid. I don't agree with that, for the reasons I've already stated. However, I do want to address this part:

The average BJJ student will have a steeper curve than your average Aikido students.

BJJ students learn things that they can use right away. I saw an overweight and not particularly skillful BJJ white belt control the self-proclaimed (aren't the all, though?) kung fu master Rudy Abdel. How? Sparring with resistance.

And no, I'm not giving 52 Blocks credence based on hearsay and the demo videos you posted. That doesn't mean I'll never give it credence.
posted by ignignokt at 10:33 AM on June 26, 2009


Ah, wish I could see those video links now...corporate firewall blocks youtube. Just to be clear, PoB, in case it wasn't, I was agreeing with you on the weapons thing.
posted by Edgewise at 10:34 AM on June 26, 2009


That's pretty much what I meant when I said steeper curve. I meant that if you charted with time across the bottom and skill up the side on a graph then the ensuing learning curve would most likely rise at a steeper angle for BJJ than Aikido.

I'm not giving 52 Blocks credence based on hearsay and the demo videos you posted.

Hearsay...lol. But hey, that's all that I've got for you though.

You could go and see these guy's in action for yourself though. Maybe challenge them?
posted by P.o.B. at 10:50 AM on June 26, 2009


Edgewise: Right. Agreed. My statement was a followup on what you said and was also reiterating on what I said earlier about the whole mess of variables of a real fight.

It was a YouTube comment anyway. Now THAT'S hearsay.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:55 AM on June 26, 2009


No martial art can effectively deal with improvised weapons, as I and PoB said above. Sorry.

You make it sound like you're laying down the final word on the matter -- sorry, I don't agree by a long shot. What about an art that teaches its practitioners to use improvised weapons, as well? Filipino stick-and-knife styles are very suitable. Fire with fire. After all, you said "martial art"....hell, most traditional martial arts were weapon-oriented. I'm not talking about MMA and kung fu, I'm talking about fencing, kendo, and the MANY different forms of stick fighting that have arisen separately in almost every culture. What would you call the training given to a German knight on how to use a sword and shield? I'd call that a martial art! Traditionally, most martial arts centered on weapons. Jiu-jitsu began as a style for samurais to use when they lost their swords on the battlefield...that's why there are so many wrist locks in the orthodox styles (i.e. for disarming opponents).

And who said anything about "effectively"? If someone has a knife and a tiny bit of competence with it, you're at a serious disadvantage, period. But knowing something about disarming is better than nothing. MMA-oriented training does nothing to prepare you for this, whereas traditional jiu-jitsu and krav maga training (and a lot of others) spends significant time on these topics. It's better than nothing, for what can be a fairly common and serious situation in a real life conflict.

Most importantly, you're going to be better off dealing with a knife (or multiple assailants) on your feet than rolling around on the ground. That was my main point vis-a-vis weapons. If you're going to just say that nothing is going to help you, you might as well lie down on the ground if someone comes at you with a broken bottle! Are you trying to say that this is a situation that you can't train for?

Look, MMA-type training can obviously be effective in a real fight, but it's not the only thing, and not necessarily the best, depending on the circumstances. The best thing, as I said, is knowing how to avoid trouble. That's why I feel a bit silly arguing about what is the best martial arts style for real-world self-defense. It's a bit like asking which missile is best for promoting economic growth.

Oh, and as for the title of this thread, "America's only 'Native Martial Art'?", I think you're overlooking all the different styles that American Indians must have practiced. Also, I believe there are pure American styles with the bowie knife and hatchets/tomahawks.
posted by Edgewise at 10:59 AM on June 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yeah, those were links to a discussion of boxing's peek-a-boo guard and some more compliant videos. Like I said, let's see it up against a Thai boxer. I'm not saying it won't work. I'm saying we haven't seen it.

I'm in Boston. Can you point me to where I can go see these guys near here?

I can help you out with working out with some people in the "MMA" disciplines. Let me know where you are.
posted by ignignokt at 11:03 AM on June 26, 2009


Oh, and as for the title of this thread, "America's only 'Native Martial Art'?", I think you're overlooking all the different styles that American Indians must have practiced. Also, I believe there are pure American styles with the bowie knife and hatchets/tomahawks.

First comment.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:08 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Filipino stick-and-knife styles are very suitable.

From experience, Kali and Escrima train with all sorts of improvised weapons. Sticks. Walking-sticks, beating-sticks, ugly-sticks, bamboo sticks, sticks wrapped in just enough foam insulation to hurt like the bajeesus without leaving a welt, short sticks meant to resemble knives, and dull knives that might as well have been sticks. I can say under some authority that if you ever have to choose between using a stick and a knife, take the stick and make great golfswings for the knees.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:15 AM on June 26, 2009


Also, I believe there are pure American styles with the bowie knife and hatchets/tomahawks.

Not to mention this.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:20 AM on June 26, 2009


I love the contention that unless the martial art is good against 300 pound dudes who spend 4-6 hours training daily, then it must be completely useless. That's the same kind of logic like militia gun nuts- "Unless you train to take out SWAT teams and special forces, a gun is completely useless!"

Shrug. The fighting tactics and logic of different situations require different things (pulling out hidden weapons, using improvised weapons, defending against all that, multiple opponents, using the environment so only one or two can rush you at the same time, maybe even, accepting you're about to take a beating but you can minimize the damage by doing these few things...)

But hey. You know. It's not like martial arts are filled with male insecurity or anything.
posted by yeloson at 11:24 AM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Edgewise - the head as a weapon was used successfully in bareknuckle boxing in the 18th and 19th century. It's ideal (along with the elbows) for smashing the hell out the opponents incoming weapons (i.e. their fist). Once they've disabled their own hands you can pretty much just kick the shit out of them. I've shifted well away from learning TMA stuff - I can't see much validity in a lot of it - 90% of it has been dumped by MMA practitioners and even RBSD folks are pretty much of the opinion that indexing and hitting lots to the head is the primary physical defensive tool.

I subscribe very much to the Core Combatives ideal as espoused by Mick Coup (who has his own youtube channel as well as a Q & A on this forum and once I can save up both a hefty amount of money and time off work will we pottering along to one of his seminars.

It does help that he is both smart and funny as fuck.
posted by longbaugh at 11:27 AM on June 26, 2009


I love the contention that unless the martial art is good against 300 pound dudes who spend 4-6 hours training daily, then it must be completely useless. That's the same kind of logic like militia gun nuts- "Unless you train to take out SWAT teams and special forces, a gun is completely useless!"

That's quite the straw man.
posted by ignignokt at 11:29 AM on June 26, 2009


That's quite the straw man.

Not really. MMA folks basically respect it only if it works in the competitions. You don't see weapon training or multiple opponent training, even though those are real issues. The argument is always the same- bring it to an MMA setting- never, say, bring it out to the setting the martial art is training in.

Is a Systema guy or one of the Dog Brothers going to win an MMA match? Probably not. Will they cut you up or beat the shit out of you with a stick? Very likely. Would they do even better if the spent 4-6 hours training most days? What do you think?

An old buddy who is still doing the MMA stuff professionally explained it to me like this: "The fighting is fun, but most of the guys just love training. And we get paid to do it." Get anyone daily weight and endurance training like that and they'll probably kick the shit out out of most civilians, even without solid fighting training.

If you want to look at the effectiveness of any art, ask what it's context, and look at it's best practitioners. I mean, it's like saying, "ZOMG! Where's the ULTIMATE ZEN ARCHERY STREET SURVIVAL VIDEO LOLZ!!!"

The idea that only ring fighting is valid "effectiveness" is a strawman.
posted by yeloson at 11:51 AM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


But hey. You know. It's not like martial arts are filled with male insecurity or anything.

Well, they are martial, and all share (at least the external ones) the same philosophical touchstone of trial by combat. It's not even confined to the mall mc-dojos and "Tapout" jocks; practitioners of every art have a tendency to evangelize, physically. The ba-gua aficionados I've met will take every opportunity to make you play push-hands, to assert their dominance in that limited space of combat they excel in. To win. It is a end-state with which all competitive undertakings - with which all sports, or things easily reduced to such, are intrinsically loaded. You'd think it would get better once people came unstuck from the pride of school and style, and viewed it all as a syncretic experience, or merely fun, but it doesn't, and that's one of the reasons it holds less interest for me than it once did.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:51 AM on June 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


The systema guy will usually be a fruitcake 4 times out of 5, wearing combat trousers and watching S.4 SOVIET SPETZNAZ SPADE STYLE VOL.III on DVD. Just do a search of systema on youtube for some unintentional hilarity. Youtube really has made a huge difference to martial arts - now you can see actual fight footage and come up with actual defences and see how individuals from different styles and backgrounds cope against one another without them busting each other's dojo up.

If you want to know who will win a streetfight then it's a good idea to ask a doorman. They are far more likely to have experienced ructions in the past than most other careers. They are also more likely to have fought multiple folks and dealt with concealed weapons (on which topic - spare a thought for British coppers who have to face off against football hooligans with a nowt but a tin stick and some pepper spray). Nick Hughes is a fucking great big Aussie who as well as being an ex French Foreign Legion MP has also been a bodyguard and a doorman. His article here is well presented and intesting (along with pretty much all the other articles there as well - particularly the WWII Combatives ones).

kid ichorous - same thing with wing chun practitioners who will be all about the chi sau until they fight a boxer who doesn't stick to standing face on and laughs at their piddly little straight punches.
posted by longbaugh at 12:33 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not really. MMA folks basically respect it only if it works in the competitions. You don't see weapon training or multiple opponent training, even though those are real issues.

Those aren't the real issues because, as someone else said above, if you have problems with multiple people attacking with you with weapons, your problem is not going to be solved with martial arts. It's going to be solved by not getting in those situations.

So what can we handle with martial arts? Unarmed combat, for whatever purpose.
posted by ignignokt at 12:34 PM on June 26, 2009


I have to agree with the folks who are saying this is mostly academic - this MMA vs. etc. Taking jailhouse rock out of its environment eliminates a lot of its effectiveness - mostly a close environment with a lot of other people around. Sometimes in a shower, sometimes in a cafeteria or a cell. Usually you'd draw from that environment as a feature, not an impediment. Which is what makes it dangerous.

A lot of practitioners don't have the money for formal training, so it's done on an informal basis. Usually in places and circumstances that are somewhat close to a prison environment. Henry Horner for example. Cinderblock, close hallways, vacant lots with broken bottles outside - good luck going to ground there.
It does draw from to boxing in many ways since there are youth programs, at least out here, that teach boxing (church, Marines, and there's Golden Gloves, etc), but there's a lot of other informal training. As a more formalized method its in its infancy. But there are groups (gangs mostly) that teach their members - Four Corner Hustlers* for example (and/or in prison, the Vice Lords).
(*tangent they're abbreviated "4CH", which I find a bit humorous online)

So too - I've fought guys who have prison builds and their emphasis is on infighting and grappling in tight quarters, which makes them more vulnerable to compression locks, say, and longer range take downs since they're more into the clinch and moving to sit on your chest and beat on your face. But again all that depends on where you're at. In a cell, in a cluttered room, they're not going to be at a disadvantage.
Buddy of mine is on a sort team, he's seen a bunch of this in situ. Yeah, it is mostly one opening and then go for the throat. Which again - endurance is a big killer for a lot of these guys. Not a lot of room to jog in prison. (Or on the west side either really)
P.o.B. is correct in emphasizing the learning curve. There isn't a lot of solid teaching, it's mostly informal and the success of any given practitioner is more on their personal experience than on their training.
But - given the extensive experience most practitioners have, from prison and from street fighting generally, that's usually not the kind of problem it is for students of other fighting forms.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:34 PM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


First comment.

My bad, I typically skim the comments.
posted by Edgewise at 12:40 PM on June 26, 2009


Those aren't the real issues because, as someone else said above, if you have problems with multiple people attacking with you with weapons, your problem is not going to be solved with martial arts.

This is that one vanishingly-rare disaster that Filipino martial arts trains for, and I think fantasizes about. Hard. You do drills against multiple opponents.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:44 PM on June 26, 2009


Those aren't the real issues because, as someone else said above, if you have problems with multiple people attacking with you with weapons, your problem is not going to be solved with martial arts. It's going to be solved by not getting in those situations.

I think you're referring to my comment, but I would still disagree with your contention. Yes, it's best to avoid fights -- ALL fights, not just with knife-wielding gangs. Thus, in my mind, ALL combat training is for a worst-case-scenario. To train only for "ideal" situations completely defeats the point. Just because you are at a serious disadvantage doesn't mean that training is useless and you don't have a chance no matter what. It may keep you alive long enough to get the hell out of dodge.

Or, as I said, you can study weapons yourself, and pick up a broken broom handle. "Martial" doesn't mean unarmed. I even think that training with a gun can be considered a martial art, since there are different styles for shooting (especially with pistols in close combat). Bayonet training and a shovel? Kendo and a baseball bat? Escrima and a rolled up glossy magazine? It's all good!
posted by Edgewise at 12:55 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, PoB, I was hoping to put together a good 52 blocks post for my first mefi post, so I should be mad at you...but I can't stay mad at you! Nice post.
posted by Edgewise at 12:58 PM on June 26, 2009


52 Blocks! OMG. The mythical 52 Blocks is back again.

You know my brother has been working in correctional institutions for 19 years and has yet to see this 52 Blocks in practice.

That's not to say that something like it doesn't exist. When people feel a need to kill other people they generally will develop methods to it. And eventually if they are part of any culture — especially a "locked down" culture — they will systematize these methods.

But consider me skeptical about the veracity of the "history" of 52 Blocks. 52 Blocks as shown in these links is essentially bare knuckle and Catch fighting as it was originally practiced before gentlemen and governments got involved.

So. Is it bad ass? Sure.

So is my new art. It's called 4lb Crescent Wrench.

You guys this argument about what works and what style does what I'm pretty sure this has been hashed out to death already. Like a 100 years ago by Jigoro Kano.

Martial Arts are equal parts physics, anatomy, physical training and psychology. They all share pretty much the same basic techniques — some high percentage of potential success, some with a low percentage of potential success — because there are only so many ways to throw, break, gouge, render unconscious, and kill a human being.

But what various arts don't share, at given points in their history, is a realistic perspective on training methods. How you train is what matters. And what you find as you train realistically si about 90% of all the techniques you learned won't work. For you. The remaining 10% may work for a small number of people out there. But not you. The difference between an effective "system" is the level integrity in which they will deal with this fact.

This perspective has been grossly missing from about 90% of all traditional martial arts schools for about the last 40 years. And it was only re-introduced recent with the advent of MMA in the mid nineties. And begrudgingly.

When I was still teaching Karate in the early 1990's I would point my instructors to these Vale Tudo tapes I saw out of Brazil and show them how Karate and Kung-fu was faring in actuall no-holds open matches. These had NO rules. Other than no weapons. And the ground fighters and grapplers were winning. Just like they did in 1880's and 1890 when Jigaro Kano first used the open match laboratory to test his JuJitsu/Judo methods.

My instructors response was much the same as many people in this thread and many people still out there in the MA world. "It's not the same on the street."

While true this is mostly a strawman response. Unarmed hand to hand fighting is anachronistic in the first place. And the fact was in those Vale Tudo matches people were being disassembled methodically before they could do any of their deadly eye pokes, neck breaks, rabbit punches or groin attacks. I say that was a valid study for self defense purposes.

Yes. A big part of this was being taken to an unfamiliar phase of fighting. Ground fighting.

But that is not all. The misnomer and mistake TMA's make is this. It took most TMA people 10 years to add ground fighting to their systems. Or more disingenuously - to "rediscover" the ground fighting they claimed was "always there."

And when several years of ad hoc BJJ abilities still didn't turn out devastating traditional fighters now we see a return to how ground fighting and mma are just "sports" again.

Talk about missing the point.

You want to train the attributes you really need to fight? There are finite ways to do it well. And the most functional ways are to obey the edicts of sports science and competitive training paradigms with real performance metrics and de-emphasis the culturally inspired aesthetics - like forms, and chi, and all that.

Now with former Karateka like Machida in MMA suddenly 80% of the karate and kung-fu schools out there using kick-boxing sparring, focus mitts and Thai pad drills, doing pummeling, ground fighting and no longer practice rising blocks our out-to-in blocks or absolute worthless shit like that except in forms. The smart schools are relegating forms back to purely conditioning. Which they are great at.

MMA training is a sport. but sport training is superior in many way to traditional training because you can go 100% effort during training and not hurt anybody permanently. Where most traditional systems never really approach even 60% with out also implementing all sorts of limiting rules.

Why is MMA sport training superior? When you can run your body at 100% of your performance capacity you are going to be better and nearly everything your body has a potential to perform. This is a fact. And when your doing a a fighting form with 80-100% resistance from your partner you inherent timing is going to be better than somebody who does mostly cooperative training.

This paradigm goes for any kind of Combat oriented training. Accept this as fact.

As for self-defense. Seriously? Do people really care about that shit anymore? You know what self defense is? Self defense is hitting the other guy over the head with fucking lamp becuase he looked to see if Elvis was indeed walking in the room so hit the fucker— and then you run. And an MMA traning person is gonna likely have quicker responses than an Aikido guy. But so what.

While I think ground fighting skills are absolutely crucial for say women's self defense against sexual assault since striking has lower percentage with major size disparity most of self defense is pure aggression and balls. Which is very hard to teach. (Speaking in terms of after the deescalation phase is over and it get's physical. I was never good at deescalation. Escalation? Now that I am an unfortunate champ at.)

What typifies this attitude is a story from years back somebody on this very board told me about all the weaknesses they thought BJJ had because they did a Dalton (that cheesey-ass tiger grip throat crush) on a BJJ guy while they were sparring and the BJJ guy had him in guard. And this guy got mad because the BJJ guy went ahead and arm barred him. "In real life would have been dead!"

Uh. What? So let me get this straight you are friendly sparring with a guy and he is showing his art that you are not familiar with and while in guard you go for your kill move. Like you would "ON TEH STREET (tm)." So. Asuming your not a Street attacker and are interested in self DEFENSE how many muggers, serial killers, rapists... HOLD YOU IN THEIR GUARD. Yeah. "Give me your wallet whilst I hold you between my legs on the ground!"

BJJ knows what it's vulnerabilities are, obviously. There are no strikes, right. They know that. It's a sport. They know that. But YOU don't know all the nifty things BJJ can do. Why ruin a perfectly good situation to improve your own knowledge by being a douche bag. You know what you are capable of - if you are honest with your self. So learn. Not every single technique or style is about what a bad ass you are on the street.

I realize that MMA has now been inherited by the douche bags, jocks, and bully's. But don' let that ruin what it can teach you. Don't their egos give rise to your own ego. Ego or not most MMA guys know what their limits really are. Most TMA people don't.
posted by tkchrist at 1:24 PM on June 26, 2009 [10 favorites]


God but I love tkchrist in an entirely manly men type fashion.
posted by longbaugh at 1:32 PM on June 26, 2009


tkchrist, this from the end of your bit is so applicable to so many other things, that I think it bears extraction:

You know what you are capable of - if you are honest with your self. So learn. Not every single technique or style is about what a bad ass you are on the street.
posted by lodurr at 1:37 PM on June 26, 2009


* Disclaimer
Have not sparred in two months. Have not free rolled more than two minutes in four months. Have not fought in a ring in nine years. Bad-ass-ed-ness severely depreciated. Am fat and slow. Use advice sparingly.

posted by tkchrist at 1:56 PM on June 26, 2009


More on 52 Blocks.

I don't want to seem like I'm dissing the post P.o.B.. I'm not. The links were very good.

52 Blocks in those videos uses nearly identical entries and defensive movements to the limb destruction's in Kali/Panantukan and, like I said, all that was present in Bare knuckle boxing back in the day.

Now the MMA types call it "Crazy Monkey" defense like Rodney King does at Straighblast. Unfortunately with the 8oz MMA gloves they have over-streamlined most of the interesting features IMHO.

Once you go bare handed all that de-fanging the snake type stuff —the chip-shots with your elbows to your opponents fists—works real well. Though the Catch and Kiss thing I'd never attempt off a jab personally. But off a wild overhand into Tai Otoshi? Yeah. Money.

I'm a big fan of all the gross motor defensive cage type stuff. So I would have no problem endorsing this guys gym regardless of how I feel about the veracity of 52 Blocks as a historical style. Good post.
posted by tkchrist at 2:18 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"As for self-defense. Seriously? Do people really care about that shit anymore?"

Well, gang members are people (although some are folks....never mind). But yeah, most of the emphasis is on not slipping, staying on guard, etc. exactly from getting ambushed by someone with a lamp. So mostly environment training, if it can be called training. And mostly openings for the pistol. Although stabbings are common as well.

I don't know how appropriate the "don't get into fights" mantra is for purposes of this discussion. True as it is as a maxim generally. Violence is a matter of course in the culture that uses this.
And this "No martial art can effectively deal with improvised weapons" I don't know WTF that is. People do survive knife attacks. Presumably they do offer some resistance. Been cut myself. It's no damn fun, but there are ways to deal with it, including giving your opponent something else to think about. And most rooms are filled with objects that can be used as weapons.

I think the big mistake is assuming we're talking 'art' at all here. Well, some of you are. But I think the mistake is buying into the mystique that sometimes goes with codifying combinations and methods. Same development as "Golden Dragon Stretches Right Claw" or "White Snake Throws Tongue" say. It's just as culturally rooted. (A lot of that in martial arts draws from poetry and mythical beasts, etc. etc. - Interesting how the names of the combinations are stylized by/from rap lyrics)
And that, again, has a lot to do with the gangs and the social order. So hell, even talking fighting here is a bit off base, since there's so much backstory that has to go in conflict.
I mean - someone is going to beat on you. Ok. Why? You didn't show him respect? You owe him something? Ok. Maybe you can beat him. Now you have to deal with his crew (or on the outside his set), and if you beat him bad enough they're going to kill you. With, y'know, weapons. By ambush. Though that depends on if you're affiliated or not and other factors. So, maybe you'll just take a beating.
(Speaking of training - sometimes beatings are handed out as punishment by higher ups, and sometimes for toughness training. Mentally you would be ready for incoming blows , but physically it'd run you down and you risk permanent injury. So, yeah, I'd rather go with sport training)
And it depends on the where as well. Which prison. Cook County Jail is a brawl-o-rama, f'rinstnce. Beatings aren't even personal - from the guards, other inmates, etc. It's pretty much just chaos because its overcrowded and people are being moved in and out so frequently it's hard to get a group together. Not impossible of course. On the other hand, somewhere like Menard, it's hard to get into fights, but you do have industry and a mess, so you do (or have had) rapes and whatnot and more organization.
So again - taking this out of its environment really does a disservice to exploring it at all. Physically - 10 by 8 cell, tight hallways, etc. but there's a whole social component here as well. Method of acting. Not showing fear. Retribution. Respect. And ways of doing that and showing that, etc.
MMA practitioner vs. Black P Stone trained in JHR - pretty much doesn't matter the outcome does it? I mean the gangster is operating on an entirely different wavelength.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:59 PM on June 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


BJJ students learn things that they can use right away. I saw an overweight and not particularly skillful BJJ white belt control the self-proclaimed (aren't the all, though?) kung fu master Rudy Abdel. How? Sparring with resistance.

I know that fight and the background. They're both cocks, though Abel's more of one. They both spar. They both initially exchanged respect at the end and then starting crapping on each other again. It only demonstrates what happens when dodgy stoppages influence a fight. There was no ill intent in those stoppages, but speaking as a guy who likes grappling, I would really like it if somebody stood me up and reset me standing after some dude whales on me, kicks me so that I visibly crumple, and actually punches my head into the mat as I flail forward trying to get a single leg or some underhooks -- and as far as applicability goes, if I manage to stuff some guy and knock him down while I stay standing, it's not exactly useless.

I mean, I agree with the sentiment but that's a terrible example.

I've been following the 52s thing for a while. One interesting thing is that some of the guys who look good are really boxers, Muay Thai guys, etc. One of the guys in the Daniel Marks sparring vids is a Muay Thai guy with the youtube handle of Nakmeezy, for example. A lot of it looks like codified slapboxing with a few tricks -- but the barrier between sports, easy play and self-defense aren't hardwired. If you look at Trinidadian stickfighting you'll see different levels of seriousness, for instance. Plus, when I see videos of old Filipino MA grandfather figures that spirit of casual play is there as well. So I say it's real now, even if it wasn't real before. These guys'll get a genius a la Dan Inosanto who will really know how to capture the essence. Maybe they already have, but we haven't seen it in public.
posted by mobunited at 3:18 PM on June 26, 2009


Buddy of mine Dave (not his real name) was a JKD practitioner (trained by Numrich, who I don’t really like, long story) and he went to jail for 3 years. Robbery (his life went to shit, bunch of things happened to him, he couldn’t get a job and he wound up homeless and started stealing, another long story).
He said it didn’t really help him except for once.
This is pretty much a 2ndhand story, but if anyone I knew was going to be ok in prison, it was my buddy Dave. Because he was damn funny, he’s got a big mouth, but he’s very personable and respectful. Oh, I wouldn’t trust the guy in the same room I keep my big bucket o’change in, but he was fun to hang out with. So he’s in Vienna (I think) - a minimum security prison and it’s pretty much a cakewalk as far as that goes and he’s talking about what a martial arts superstar he is, blah de blah. But he gets in trouble with the GDs for something (I forget).

So he’s talking to the guards, which was a no go, because of course, Illinois prisons don’t have any gangs according to IDOC. So he’s looking for back up, again, nada, because he wasn’t a gang guy and though he made friends, no one that’s going to go to war.

So he’s flipping out thinking he’s going to get raped, killed or at least beaten within an inch of his life, skills or no skills.
Now that prison (from what he’s said), the cells were long, but tight on either side. And you could go into your own cell and lock your door with a key. And for the most part he spends his days doing that. So someone gets the key from his cell mate or something. And five guys are coming after him. He doesn’t know this at the time. He sees some guys angling towards him, so he goes into the cell and locks the door.

Well, these guys open the door and start coming in. And he’s at the sink/toilet drinking and he turns around just as the first guy lunges at him. Doing that, he flattened himself against the bunk and spit out a ton of water and mouthwash, the first guy, water/fluid in his face, trips and cracks his head against the toilet.

Second guy is right behind the first guy and he trips over the going prone first guy and the water all over the floor and cracks his skull against the top of the sink/toilet. So the third guy is right there behind them working on avoiding that and Dave jumps on the top bunk and kicks him in the head.
Nice kick, from what he said, because he had his hands on the bunk rail for leverage. The third guy’s head goes back and smacks the fourth guy, who was advancing, in the face which busted out his front teeth. So the third guy goes down with a broken nose and big gashes in the back of his skull while the fourth guy goes down holding his face.

Fifth guy didn’t catch much of this. He just pulled the door closed so, I guess, no one could come in and help Dave. So Dave scoots over and kicks this guys head into the door and he’s got a big advantage on the only real fight he had.
Which ended fairly quickly. Not all of them are out, so he begins to punch and kick guys who are already pretty well busted up getting blood all over himself and the cell in the process because head and mouth trauma bleeds pretty profusely for a bit.

Meantime prisoners are gathering around the cell without, y’know, looking like they’re gathering around the cell. And guards aren’t completely stupid, they start heading over what with the bumps, bangs and yells coming from Dave’s cell.

As they’re coming up, Dave opens the door with his key, and walks out wiping his hands free of blood and whistling.

Pretty much stopped everyone cold, because all that was seen from the outside was five guys trooping in, lunging at Dave, the door closing and then the sound of all kinds of carnage, then the door opens and Dave walks out fresh as a daisy cleaning other people's blood off himself.

So now, yeah, he’s the second coming of Bruce Lee. But he’s still got a gang problem and the place he was at, the protective custody area was full or under construction or some such. Whatever the case was - they were going to transfer him to another penitentiary for protective custody. So he calls me, which was a feat in and of itself because I was overseas at the time, and he’s telling me he’s scared, and that they’re sending him to a higher security joint with more gang members so even when he gets back to general population he’s going to have to watch his back all the time, etc. etc. I felt bad because what the hell could I do about it? So we’re both thinking this is him saying goodbye more or less.

So later on, he gets out, he tells me the whole story. Not all at once of course. The first story he really did disable five guys himself in tight quarters. Plus they were armed. Then of course, he planned all this to happen that way, it wasn't just luck. Etc. Etc. Variations depending on the time, beer, company, etc. The end of the story was the same though.

Apparently his guards told the guards at the other prison he was some kind of martial arts super bad ass and had killed five guys with his bare hands (as opposed to them pretty much disabling themselves for the most part). So Dave, an otherwise non-violent criminal, gets the full violent psychopath criminal treatment by the guards who also decide to point a shotgun at his head for good measure through the prison on the way to protective custody.
This appreciably elevated his otherwise zero cred status in that prison.
It was a few days before the guards there learned he didn’t kill anyone and why he was in protective custody. But he learned to keep his mouth shut, so no one really tested him again and he got out of prison without any extra holes in him.
So, pretty much, his JKD = a couple good kicks in three years and the rest of the time keeping his mouth shut.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:16 PM on June 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


'with,' sorry.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:18 PM on June 26, 2009


It's so funny that people assume that when I say martial arts are full of male insecurity I'm only talking about MMA - I also include the hippy-peace-perfect-drill schools and the -ZOMG-we're-ultimate-warriors-vs.-20-machete-maniac schools as well.

For most civilians, this is what shit is when it happens to you:
- more than one guy, jumping you or threatening to
- 1-2 folks armed, either with actual weapons or improvised ones

If they're mugging you, give them your stuff.

If they're not, then they're intent on harming you for whatever reason, including none at all, and what you need to know is enough to a) survive what you're about to suffer, b) hopefully know enough to stun one or tangle a couple so you can get the fuck out.

For most civilians, the training that makes sense is:
- situational awareness (as above)
- realistic drills-to-sparring that give -enough- principles and basics that they can pull out and save their bacon without having to do hardcore conditioning and training

Of course, that kind of training really only needs short courses, workshops and refreshers, not training year round, and that doesn't keep schools open or feed into male inadequacy fantasies of having 5 guys laid out at your feet. One is about getting the fuck away from danger, and the other is about dickwaving.

MMA is effective if you have the time to train like that. Otherwise take some basic skills, learn some weapon skills(so you can defend), learn about dealing with 2-3 people and move on.

Self defense should never have you facing off against someone.
posted by yeloson at 4:43 PM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"could be considered dubious depending on how you define America and Native"

And 'martial art.' Hasn't really occurred to me, but there is a lot of emphasis on the eastern martial arts here (and/or TMA). Are we actually talking fighting or combat techniques when we say 'martial arts' or self-defense or what?
If that's the case I'd be wrong in saying martial arts don't deal well with weapons. CQB on the other hand, deals excellently with weapons.
I tend to shy from these discussions because of all the cross-pissing, but what qualifies as a native 'martial art' in America? Or native to America. What's the criteria?
It can't be just eastern.
So ok, Savate, Svebor and Liu Bo are 'real' and 'native' to france, serbia and italy because in a Paranza (say) you just use sticks
So it can't just be weapons. At least not projectile weapons. At least not chemical explosively driven projectile weapons.
What I'm saying here - is it the lack of firearms incorporation? Because that would certainly invalidate the bum rush JHR, at least outside of prisons.

If weapons and firearms are on the table, then you've most definitely got the LINE and MCMAP systems, not to mention SCARS (which, yeah, some of it stems from Chin Siu Dek's work when he came here) or the SPEAR system (or the unfortunately named "Defendo") in Canada if we're using North America (if we're using "America" as the continents - then obviously Gracie jujitsu, Mani stick fighting, etc etc., doesn't sound like we are).

Of course those are straight combat styles. But then, so is San Soo and Teuk-gong Musul (which I've been on the receiving end of) and they're 'martial arts' even though they too are combatives. Krav Maga? I'd have to say it's straight hand to hand combat. No question it's Israeli though.

Seems to me a lot of unarmed fighting arts adapted and mutated in the U.S. though if not originated. Hell, most of the foreign sounding ones are as American as Chop Suey.
Shen Lung five animals comes to mind. JKD was founded here (Oakland, debatable though).
But Paul Arel was teaching his system of Jujitsu before or concurrent with the Gracies. Their stuff is "Brazilian" why isn't his "American"?
I'd argue MMA is American. One can debate its 'purity' I suppose, but it's pretty well American even though shootfighting went back and forth from here to Japan. And hell, plenty of mixed forms predating MMA, pankration, caestus, etc.

I dunno - must it come from antiquity? Is lethality a factor? Some MMA techniques can be lethal. Sport applications?
What would define something as both 'American' and a 'martial art'?
Not meant to be a criticism of anything really, just looking at the bounds of the discussion.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:29 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wife tells me it's Teuk Gong Mu Sul. Whatever. All looks like Kuk Sool to me.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:42 PM on June 26, 2009


And now I'm being pelted with DVDs and magazines.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:44 PM on June 26, 2009


Can I just mention how awesome this thread is? I mean, it has me reconsidering martial arts again. Thanks everyone.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:44 PM on June 26, 2009


52 Blocks in those videos uses nearly identical entries and defensive movements to the limb destruction's in Kali/Panantukan and, like I said, all that was present in Bare knuckle boxing back in the day.

Yep. I'm not really a fan of catching someone's punch or even blocking for that matter. The only person I've seen actually talk realistically about the problems with blocking is Tony Blauer
So I don't really think I would necessarily ascribe to some of the ideas they got going.

The origins and background info of this stuff is what I find most interesting to me along with it's connection to boxers like Archie Moore, Frazier and the like.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:39 PM on June 26, 2009


Their stuff is "Brazilian" why isn't his "American"?

Marketing.
Is there any big difference between BJJ and traditional Japanese besides the spelling?

It kind of makes me think about JKD. There's only something like 12 techniques total in JKD. Then when a certain someone started teaching it people kept asking for the real stuff so he doubled up and started teaching Eskrima alongside of it. Now it's a mish-mash and no one really can say what the hell JKD is comprised of. But I would submit you could probably talk to someone like Ted Wong or Howard Williams. Both of whom were taught JKD and have never done any other martial art and so probably won't have any other sway on what they teach. And yet the only dude I know who could probably really pull of JKD is Tommy Carruthers
He's one of the few people I've seen up close and thought they had scary abilities. When I hung out at his place in Glasgow and watched him train it was ridiculous. He did all kinds of things, like strapping forty pounds to each of his arms and punch a glove up and down the floor. And I fully believe that was after years and years of training like that to get to a point where he was able to do those things.

To calm some of the waves here, and at the expense of dredging it back up, I'd like to say that it's not that I'm against any types of martial arts but against the idea that we can invalidate any of them. Especially by means of comparison.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:30 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there any big difference between BJJ and traditional Japanese besides the spelling?

The groundwork is comprised of mostly the same techniques (with a few added ones like the omoplata, gogoplata) but the big difference is that they are far more explicit in their instruction with regard to setting up these techniques. They have codified a lot of different entries to techniques and technique combos, and this is why the average BJJ guy has the advantage on the ground against the average judo or jujutsu guy. After all, it's important to be able to choke correctly, but that's not very useful if you can't get in position for the choke.

Of course, this comes at the cost of a de-emphasis on throws.
posted by ignignokt at 10:28 AM on June 27, 2009


Things metafilter does surprisingly well: martial arts
posted by tehloki at 5:19 PM on June 27, 2009


tehloki, that is a loaded (and insightful) observation. [and flagged as such.]

so many practitioners come out of the woodwork on these threads, and vanishingly little of the mall-ninja bullshit is in evidence. I learn shit by reading the martial arts threads on MeFi. That's cool. But I'd really love to be able to know why these go well, even when people disagree, while, say, typography threads *shudder* inevitably degenerate into dualistic religious posturing. Is it that formal styles inculcate respect between fighters? That's part of it maybe, but a fair number of practitioners of less traditional styles seem to show up and really participate in conversation, and I wonder if they all have the same standards of respect.

Maybe it's that in fights you get winners and losers. But that's not it either, I think, because so many times y'all say the equivalent of "but who really knows?"

Maybe that's it: Maybe what MA demonstrates is chance? (Where the MA'ist is keenly aware from practice that chance favors the prepared...)
posted by lodurr at 8:04 AM on June 29, 2009


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