Long live the fighters.
September 19, 2014 8:09 AM   Subscribe

 
I'll match up the very best highly trained martial artist against 3-4 foul street toughs with tire irons, bats, knives and shotguns.
posted by sammyo at 8:29 AM on September 19, 2014


I'll match up your shotgun carrying youths with a platoon of infantrymen.
posted by longbaugh at 8:41 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'll match up your platoon of infantrymen with a Roman legion, and a bunch of war elephants for good measure.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:43 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


...shotguns? Come on.

Great post, great title. Would never have come across this otherwise. In a similar vein: How to spot the bullshit in any martial arts drill, and what to do about it, by Guy Windsor.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:43 AM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


Remove the shotguns from the equation and Steve Morris would probably still have won in his prime. He was scary as fudge back in the 70s-80s.
posted by longbaugh at 8:43 AM on September 19, 2014


Immediately googles Ernesto Hoost...
posted by butterstick at 8:46 AM on September 19, 2014


Guys, read the article.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:59 AM on September 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'll match your Roman legion with one well-placed artillery strike from a Howitzer 10 miles away.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:01 AM on September 19, 2014


Those were great articles and the comments are very enlightening.
posted by KaizenSoze at 9:01 AM on September 19, 2014


...firing elephants.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:01 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


[Folks, let's bring it back to the articles, which are about hand-to-hand fight scenes?]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:06 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Fight scenes are tough to write -- I'm grateful for her Youtube tips. I see my next research project is to find writers who HAVE done it (Tolkien was in WW1, etc) and see what they do, as well.

Also remembering Christopher Lee correcting the fight choreography during LOTR -- "That's not what it sounds like when someone gets stabbed in the lung." -- 'cause he'd worked with SOE if not done any himself. :)
posted by Mogur at 9:39 AM on September 19, 2014


But-but-but LobsterMitten, we hadn't gotten to the Enterprise vs. Star Destroyer argument yet! And MeFi's Own is an SF writer, so... oh, OK.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:49 AM on September 19, 2014


I really enjoyed the articles, especially her examples of very real-seeming film fight scenes. The Haywire clip made me want to sign out of work early and go home and watch Haywire again. Unngh, so good.

Having said that, I didn't have as much patience with the apparent equation of realistic movie fight scene = good movie fight scene. There are a lot of other things portrayed in movies in stylized, narrativized, special-effectsish, "unreal" ways--very much one of the ways that storytelling can work, I think.

Like, criticizing the RDJ Sherlock Holmes fight scene for being unrealistic:
The whole sequence plays as though born in the fevered imagination of a wannabe who has never been near a real fight.
...I mean, yes? Yes. And I think that's its point, it's doing a Richied-up version of the superhuman attributes Holmes displays in the stories (boxing-wrestling-singlestick, calmly straightening a bent poker, etc.). Holmes is a superhero, and this is showing the (fictional, yep) superhuman ability of his supermind to do that sort of advance-parsing in a flicker of a second in a way real fighters cannot. (Hello, which is why he wins.)

Can't argue that it's silly, as she says, but I think the bigger question is, what is the scene/the movie going for? Realism? Or hyped-up-Richie-fied comic-book bullet-time steampunk? I would say the latter, so the silly works with the film's project. Which makes it kind of shooting fish in a barrel to say "OH SO YOU'RE SAYING PEOPLE CAN PREDICT ALL THESE FUTURE MOVES IN STOP-MOTION FULL SENTENCES EH? HOW DROLL."

But now having said that, I think I get a better sense of her deeper concerns when she goes more into the ways that martial arts (or rather "martial arts") teachers and schools and whatnot can use that sort of juiced-up-fictional excitement to paint themselves as really real, and fleece people out of their money who are expecting to learn an actual, useful fighting skill. So, for instance, I don't care that Batman Begins uses Keysi as a sort of amped-up superheroey fight style. But then when it explodes in popularity, if that helps skeevy people end up overcharging students who apparently think it's an effective fight style in the actual world? Yeah, I can see being bugged by that (although, is that the movie's fault for not being "authentic" enough? Or is it just one of the many sharks providing food for the many skeevetastic remoras out there?). Even if I still don't think the authentic scene = good scene equation is a fair way to judge every movie.
posted by theatro at 9:58 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


YOU'RE NOT MY REAL DAD, LOBSTERMITTEN!

But yes, let's...

My take is that, even though she explicitly recognizes the distinction in a couple places, she's still faulting media for being about what media is about - entertainment and visual spectable - instead of being about accurately presenting how fights are conducted. If you want to learn to fight, there are better ways to go about it than watching actors dance around each other. I mean the Sherlock Holmes scene, honestly? Has anyone, anywhere, ever gone, yep, I'm going to train to do that?

And doesn't every professional invariably find the presentation of their particular field of expertise in movies to be wrong - often embarrassingly so? That's because the purpose of a movie is not to educate people in the finer details of your particular specialty. She actually links to a video that shows exactly how disorganized and random, and frankly silly looking, real fights actually are. A Batman movie that looked like that Turkish street fight would just be ridiculous.
posted by Naberius at 9:58 AM on September 19, 2014


The problem, Naberius, is that the misconceptions about fighting that Hollywood presents gets people hurt, even killed.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:01 AM on September 19, 2014


Interesting stuff, but for all her gentle mockery of the Internet Tuff Guy brigade, there seems to be a bit of that sentiment underlying these articles. "Yeah, you THINK you're tough because you've got a black belt in TKD, but I know what fights are REALLY like." Well, OK. I'm also a bit mystified by her overall purpose, particularly when it comes to the depiction of fighting in media. OK, the fighting in Batman Begins and Sherlock Holmes isn't realistic ... and? So what? I mean, I guess it is sort of silly that a bunch of people went out to train in Keysi after they heard that it was what Batman was doing -- just as silly as the sharp decrease in sales of Merlot and the corresponding surge in sales of Pinot Noir after Sideways -- but as humans we largely function through mimesis -- we see something that appeals to us, and we want to imitate it; we see someone we think is cool, and we want to be that way. But anyway, since when is everything in a work of art supposed to be realistic? I mean, it's art; it's not supposed to be exactly like reality, because then it would just be reality. Different aesthetic styles will present things differently, sometimes flashier and more fantastic, sometimes more "realistic." One can subjectively prefer one to the other, but framing a particular artistic depiction as "bad" because it isn't "realistic" seems misguided to me. I get that fighting and martial arts are something that she's very into, and I can understand being annoyed because certain things stand out to her in a way they wouldn't to the untrained eye. But it isn't like either of those movies, to single out two of her examples, are primarily about fighting. The physical combat is a vehicle for more important parts of the story: Holmes is a brilliant detective, unmatched in reason and deduction; Batman is a lone vigilante out to punish the entire criminal underworld. It would be a different case if someone wrote a movie primarily about, for example, boxing, but every bout had them fighting like this. It seems to be an example of the general trend, exemplified by websites like Cracked.com, that nitpick films and tv shows for anything that doesn't seem realistic. Now, I'm all for critiquing plot holes and inconsistencies and bad writing and such, but there's a difference between plot holes and things that, while inconsistent with reality as we experience it, are completely consistent within the world of the artwork. But then again, maybe I'm just feeling old and crochety and missed the point.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:02 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is the rarest of rare cases where the comments are somehow better than the article. The author keeps contributing throughout the comment threads.

About eye gouges and groin kicks and other dirty moves. I think people get the wrong idea about how it works. This is not about techniques, legal or otherwise. It's about the mindset you need in order to survive in a fight. And it's true that fighting in MMA can't guarantee street survival [notably, a one-on-one grappling based style has serious practical disadvantages in that in real-world fights one's opponent often has a friend], but it offers you far more opportunities to get that survival mindset than learning techniques or drilling them outside fight context does.

I used to be on a women's self-defense demonstration team. We did lots of groin kicks and eye gouges for pretend. When I remember it I break out in hives. Saying, 'I could poke you in the eye' or 'I could kick you in the groin,' sounds great in theory. But unlike in martial arts demonstrations the opponent isn't going to come at you in a predictable way and he isn't going to just stand there while you do the move. Not to mention that it takes quite a lot of aggression to kick somebody in the groin or claw at their eyes. This destructive aggression for many of us isn't easy to come by.

posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:05 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Or, on postview, what theatro and Naberius said.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:05 AM on September 19, 2014


Never bring an elephant to a howitzer fight.

Umm. I'm finding some conceptual errors with the essay. First, stage fighting is a thing. It's always been a thing. It's been immensely popular part of film since its inception. If you think Batman Begins is cheesey and fake, wait until you get a load of Jackie Chan and Samo Hung! (And, let's be honest kids, Bruce Lee's on the fantasy-rather-than-reality side of the line.)

But the point of a Hollywood or Shaw Brothers fight isn't to show fighting. It's to amuse people with spectacle, to delight and amaze and shock and horrify. Most actual fighting is clumsy, and too close to see anything interesting unless you're an expert - more, most people are done after only a couple hits.

This entire essay strikes me as someone complaining that people should watch college greco-roman wrestling on public access TV instead of Wrestlemania, 'cuz pro-wrasslin' is fake.

Second, Steve Segal is a highly accomplished Ai Ki Do practitioner*, and while what she says about training for actual combat is true, and he's from a time before MMA when cross-discipline hard combat wasn't done all that much, he is an expert in a well regarded category of holds, throws and footwork. I can definitely see a younger fighter wanting to learn them to improve their repertoire (and get some cross-branding promotion going on, bills to pay).

(*Ai Ki Do is a mostly a style martial art - it has no striking moves due to the philosophy of the school's founder. This makes Segal's offensive moves in the movies a mix of flipping people into stationary objects, and Hollywood haymakers - stage fighting. It's pretty funny once you know to look for it.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:13 AM on September 19, 2014


Interesting stuff, but for all her gentle mockery of the Internet Tuff Guy brigade, there seems to be a bit of that sentiment underlying these articles. "Yeah, you THINK you're tough because you've got a black belt in TKD, but I know what fights are REALLY like." Well, OK.

While this might sound "tough guy", it's anything but. The reality is that fighting is its own little world, and requires a certain mentality. While we can simulate it to some degree, even those simulations are imperfect. And there's a real problem in martial arts with people confusing rank with fighting ability
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:26 AM on September 19, 2014


Interesting stuff, but for all her gentle mockery of the Internet Tuff Guy brigade, there seems to be a bit of that sentiment underlying these articles. "Yeah, you THINK you're tough because you've got a black belt in TKD, but I know what fights are REALLY like." Well, OK.

Somewhere I read once that it is an ironbound convention of the vampire genre that you must have a scene in which it is explained to your protagonist that your vampires are real vampires, and unlike that movie bullshit, they can [go out in daylight/be seen in mirrors/eat garlic/other]. Similar rules seem to apply to any discussion of fights or fighting technique.


I'm also a bit mystified by her overall purpose, particularly when it comes to the depiction of fighting in media. OK, the fighting in Batman Begins and Sherlock Holmes isn't realistic ... and? So what?

I think the bone she's picking is not that movie fights are unrealistic per se, it's that people don't seem to realize how unrealistic they still are. The old-school "flying jump kick that sends a guy through a wall" has been replaced with "two dudes hitting each other in the kidneys in an abandoned factory" and that people seem to be under the impression that this is portraying realistic, "streetstyle" fighting, and not simply another variety of highly stylised play acting that would fall apart if applied in real life.
posted by Diablevert at 10:27 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've trained in Tae Kwon Do and in Muay Thai (with an MMA bent) and my impression was that, within the community, there is not quite as much delsuion as the author suggests about the threefold distinction between martial art, combat sports, and actual street fighting.

I have also been, to my dismay, in an uncommon number of street and bar fights. The main learnings that have come from that are that:

1. They are over very fast
2. They are almost always decided by "dirty tactics"

When you are in a real fight, you are never sure whether the other person is trying to kill you or not. You are both overcome by adrenaline and other mind altering hormones and any one of us could become the sort of person to stove someone's head in with a rock in a parking lot out of fear or anger or what have you. So you do whatever you can to survive and damn the consequences.

I've been on both the receiving end and the beneficiary end of the outside party punching a combatant in the back of the head, and that's a pretty defining aspect of real combat.

I learned how to throw a proper punch in Tae Kwon Do and that is the sort of thing that pays of in a real fight. I learned how to actually shield myself from blows without trying to parry them in Muay Thai and that is really the sort of thing that actually pays off. But the main thing about real fights is that the only thing that gives you the skills you really need (i.e. not freezing up or losing your shit) is experience. But then, if you find yourself developing that experience, you have probably done something wrong in your life.

As a writer, I try to take all this to heart and the main thing I do when I write fight sequence is try to introduce a sense of urgency and surprising quickness. Everything happens so fast that the experience of the fight itself is dwarfed by the experience of trying to make sense of it afterwards.
posted by 256 at 10:35 AM on September 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


Well Lobstermitten really isn't my dad.

Surely we can at least agree on that?
posted by Naberius at 10:46 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm also a bit mystified by her overall purpose, particularly when it comes to the depiction of fighting in media. OK, the fighting in Batman Begins and Sherlock Holmes isn't realistic ... and? So what?

This entire essay strikes me as someone complaining that people should watch college greco-roman wrestling on public access TV instead of Wrestlemania, 'cuz pro-wrasslin' is fake.

My take is that, even though she explicitly recognizes the distinction in a couple places, she's still faulting media for being about what media is about - entertainment and visual spectable - instead of being about accurately presenting how fights are conducted.

God you guys are annoying. The point is that most people have absolutely no experience with actual fights. Therefore, (because humans as a group are stupid) they think that the fights shown in movies are realistic. That annoys her so she wrote some articles about it. Have you never heard of the CSI effect?
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:48 AM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm going to share with you a link to a video produced by the Eugene, Oregon police department. There are some things about this video that make me uncomfortable when it comes to the meaning of a snap decision in light of racial profiling, and I hesitate to post it in light of recent events in Ferguson. That is a huge subject and I really do not want to open up all that pain. With that said, I want to draw your attention to the opening minutes in which police behavioural consultant Alexis Artwohl says, of assessing what happened in officer-involved shootings,'We were expecting these events to defy the laws of physics. We were expecting officers to defy the limits of human performance, we often expect them to have a perfect memory and make perfect decisions when in fact research clearly shows that human beings are not capable of either one of those things...the training and judgement of police officers was frequently based on myths, assumptions, and personal opinions that necessarily may not be true...it's a difficult thing trying to explain these events to the world at large who have been trained by Hollywood rather than what really happens.'
So, she feels "uncomfortable" about quoting someone whose job is helping cops get away with murder. That last sentence, the one she is really focused on, is the line guys like this "behavioral consultant" trot out to explain to juries why the video which shows a cop shooting an unarmed man isn't what it seems to be.

Also, she still sounds like a teen-ager fascinated by power, and power derived from violence.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:55 AM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't doubt that there are lots of people training other people in styles more than fighting, but this isn't intrinsic to the system, but a failure of training.

When I studied Wing Chun, most of our drills were organized around potential street fighting scenarios, so we had to respond to absurd haymakers.

During a drill I asked my sifu 'what if you can't control the other person' (I forget what the specifics were but I remember the question), he replied "Just grab them by the hair -- most people don't expect it and they likely won't have any idea how to escape"

Of course I followed up with "But isn't that fighting dirty?" And he taught me the most useful thing anyone interested in self-defense should know: "There is no such thing as dirty fighting. There is only effective fighting."
posted by 99_ at 11:09 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


This makes Segal's offensive moves in the movies a mix of flipping people into stationary objects...

That was always the best part of Seagal movies.
Hero has to walk around a table? Someone's getting flipped onto it later.
Hero enters an alley? Someone is getting bounced off a dumpster.
Villians are playing pool? Someone is getting a cue stick to the head.

It's like the martial arts movie equivalent of Chekhov's Gun.
posted by madajb at 11:10 AM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


martial arts are cool and all, but there is something kind of fucked up about spending that much energy thinking about kicking people
posted by thelonius at 11:27 AM on September 19, 2014


That last sentence, the one she is really focused on, is the line guys like this "behavioral consultant" trot out to explain to juries why the video which shows a cop shooting an unarmed man isn't what it seems to be.

Yes, but it rung very true for me: put another way, "if you give guns to cops then they'll shoot black men when they shouldn't because our society is racist". That seems a reasonable statement: the correct policy response - stop having all these damn guns - may be impossible in your current state, but that doesn't make the observation wrong. Even if it is used to bad effect.
posted by alasdair at 11:30 AM on September 19, 2014


"martial arts are cool and all, but there is something kind of fucked up about spending that much energy thinking about kicking people"

Most of us do it for reasons besides beating people up. It's a good workout, good body conditioning, can be psychologically healthy (assuming you're not just some idiot looking to beat people up), a good social opportunity, etc.
posted by mrgoat at 11:38 AM on September 19, 2014


While this might sound "tough guy", it's anything but. The reality is that fighting is its own little world, and requires a certain mentality. While we can simulate it to some degree, even those simulations are imperfect. And there's a real problem in martial arts with people confusing rank with fighting ability

I'm not disagreeing with that at all, nor am I doubting that she could beat the living shit out of me. I have no qualms with her presentation of the reality that street fighting =! MMA fighting =! systematic MA training. My reaction is more to the perceived smugness of the presentation, which, admittedly, could be projection on my part.

God you guys are annoying. The point is that most people have absolutely no experience with actual fights. Therefore, (because humans as a group are stupid) they think that the fights shown in movies are realistic. That annoys her so she wrote some articles about it. Have you never heard of the CSI effect?

Hey there nooneyouknow, sorry I annoyed you. I'll try better next time, please don't flying jump-kick me in the head.

Alternative:

I think you totally missed the point of my comments (and those of the others that you quoted). There's a difference between saying, "Movies present fighting like X, but in real life fighting is more like Y" and "Movies present fighting like X, but that's stupid because in real life fighting is more like Y."

I get her points, and I'm not saying that she's wrong factually speaking -- of course no fight ever plays out in someone's head the way it does in Sherlock Holmes. But I'm saying that to fault the film or scene on that basis alone is a bit ridiculous and blinkered, and frankly the analysis as a whole doesn't tell us all that much about the media, and not really all that much about fighting (except: "it's not like it is in the movies").

There are far more interesting and productive analyses that could be done on this subject: the ways that on-screen violence is used to tell a story (again, with Holmes it's about his powers of deduction and prediction, and how he uses his mind to master the world around him); the aesthetic fashioning of violence in media, and how that has changed over time -- for example, since the Bourne movies and films like Haywire or Enough (the J.Lo film where she learns Krav Maga, I think) there seems to be a vogue for a certain kind of fighting, often in small spaces not normally associated with combat (hallways, offices, bedrooms, etc.) and using common items as weapons (lamps, chairs, etc.). It would be fascinating to consider what these sorts of trends tell us about the place of violence and fighting in our cultural imagination.

And as far as the CSI effect, or related to what NoxAeternam said:
The problem, Naberius, is that the misconceptions about fighting that Hollywood presents gets people hurt, even killed.

So ... we should make all fighting in films as realistic as possible so that ... people will be better fighters? I'm not really sure what point you're trying to make or what problem you're trying to solve.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:15 PM on September 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here we have an account by a karate teacher of his six years working as a bouncer. He has a very clear notion of what works in fights: quick, simple, small techniques, often below the waist. The part about working as a bouncer runs through chapter 10.

http://web.archive.org/web/20020911182631/http://www.brooknet.com/oyama/Oyama_Bouncer6.html
posted by ckridge at 12:30 PM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's interesting that almost everyone is fixating on the movie aspect, when to me by far the more interesting aspect was her experience of rampant bullshit in the martial arts.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:32 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


when to me by far the more interesting aspect was her experience of rampant bullshit in the martial arts

That is in and of itself problematic. There is a long - very, very long - history of martial artists slagging on different styles and practitioners as being "ineffective" or "useless in a real fight" or "all style, no substance." I don't see how her opinions are fundamentally different or more insightful than typical online interdiscipline bickering. Ignorance of Segal's achievements as a martial artist, long before he was a movie star, is indicative she may not be as widely studied in the field as a whole as she presents herself. She's into hard combat competition, that's awesome, but it's a perspective that may not lend itself to objectivity.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:47 PM on September 19, 2014


Incidently, apart from the martial arts, Tricia Sullivan is a damn good science fiction writer and everybody should read her.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:35 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Steely-eyed Missile Man: well, 2 of the 4 posts are almost entirely about the representation of fighting in film, and the 4ths is about the representation of fighting in fiction, whereas really the first is the only one that really addresses the martial arts culture in any depth, so...
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:36 PM on September 19, 2014


My fairly minimal judo training as a kid did actually turn out to be useful when I got older and into the rare physical contest I couldn't simply talk my way out of. But the other guy being even more drunk was much more of an advantage.
posted by sfenders at 2:15 PM on September 19, 2014


Selection of a martial art which is practical to the extent that it can be used in fights you do not wish to have is important. Fights you do not wish to have is one of my basic criteria for "actual fighting," because it differentiates these combats from the scheduled and scripted exchange of blows in uniform. I thought I might be in the right martial art when they revised their curriculum when AIDS hit kind of big to avoid parts where actual blood is shed.

It turned out to be an effective style, but a good portion of its effectiveness might be laid at the feet of the various instructors — feet that were often in surprise contact with parts of my body — who worked hard at ironing out any bad habits I might have acquired, either by verbal correction or, failing that, actual pain. However, one of the first things I was taught was something that was counter to the "fake combat" of Sullivan's article; I learned how to take a beating.

We were often paired up with someone who heavily overmatched us in skill, speed, strength, reach, size, and so on. I witnessed an instructor casually break the cup of someone who kept relying on his protective gear too much, but without doing any serious damage to the bits underneath. Belt tests required us to spar against all of the brown and black belts who showed up after quite literally hours of having to demonstrate katas, techniques, and various combos. Each one of them three times. I learned that if I were hit, even if I was exhausted, I wouldn't just fall over dead. I got my nose broken, that sort of thing.

As a shrimpy kid, I already knew if someone wants to hurt you for a while, you have to make them stop if you would like to to stop and our sparring sessions reflected that. Often, a match wouldn't be over until I managed to land solid blows on my instructors, I was not allowed to simply passively absorb blows or try to wait them out through nothing but defensive or evasive moves.

That part about the "unchained" white belts hammering the black belts was something I ran into at our school. We had an instructor who was famous (in martial arts circles) for his fighting abilities, and people would show up all the time from the local Get Your Black Belt In Six Months belt mills, wanting to fight him. This got annoying so the answer was, "Sure, but you have to fight one of the purple (a very low-level rank) belts and win." Then the purple belts would trounce the glory-seekers from the belt mills and that would be the end of that.

This all sounds sort of awful typed out but the calculated pain served its purpose well. If I am drafted into a fight I do not want to be in, I will do my best to either run the hell away or end it with all due speed before I am seriously. I'm a crappy runner, so it usually comes down to surprising the individual in question to the extent that they're going to decide not to try to hurt me any longer. I also learned that some fights are in actuality about someone wanting to get in a blow, and that if you throw the fight, it's over and nobody gets hurt. That's an option, too.

Fights are absolutely fast in real life. I would guess that most are decided within about twenty seconds of the first strike thrown and are done before a full minute is done. This is actually a feature, not a bug. Fights which go on too long accumulate damage in an escalating fashion as one party attempts to deal out more and more pain in an effort to end the fight. An overwhelming set of blows encourages people to emulate Ed Gruberman from Tae Kwan Leep: "Mind if I just lie down here for a minute?"

This is all a very roundabout way of saying that martial arts do exist which do what they say on the tin, but I agree with the author in the sense that, yes, many martial arts aren't as useful for the fights you do not wish to have as they claim.
posted by adipocere at 3:28 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


mrgoat -you are right of course, the sort of person I am thinking of, always daydreaming about getting into street fights and messing dudes up, shouldn't be taken as representative, at all.

I don't have a lot of experience in fights. I saw one real fight, in a parking lot. We were blocked in by one of the vehicles of the people involved. The thing that really did impress me was how fast and out-of-control it was. It was pretty scary: two guys were fighting, and we could see that the friends of the guy who finally won the fight had knives out behind their backs, waiting to see what happened. Losing guy ends up down on the ground, getting kicked in the head. Then a guy came charging out from a loading dock, waving a baseball bat and yelling that the cops are coming and no one is leaving. This is when I thought I was about to see someone get killed - he didn't know about the knives. But the guy who had won the fight charged him and grappled, got the bat away, and left fast with the knife guys. It could have been much worse, but it was pretty awful.

Based on what I saw, no thanks. Learning some self defense is a fine thing to do, but I'd work mostly on my running if I thought I was likely to be around that kind of thing again. I'd say that a martial arts person would need to be very highly skilled to stand a chance against guys who like putting people in the hospital out behind bars every weekend!
posted by thelonius at 4:54 PM on September 19, 2014


If the Haywire scene is realistic and Fassbender's job is to kill Carano, why doesn't he knife her in the neck or cold-cock her with that lamp when they enter the room? Donkey-punching her is just about the least effective option.
posted by El Mariachi at 5:29 PM on September 19, 2014


Because that particular scene is supposed to be juxtaposed against the usual 'retiring to the room at the end of a hard work day' scenes in the Bond films. In other words, watch it again as a sex scene.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:43 PM on September 19, 2014


Also, these types of articles are a dime a dozen in the martial arts world, and they're all the same.

The thing is, the martial arts are pretty much the same as dancing. Everyone does it differently and everyone has a different experience.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:49 PM on September 19, 2014


This hit me like a ton of bricks while watching a revered Hong Kong Kung fu movie:

Dancing is story-telling via movement. Will Odette and Siegfried fall in love?

Stage fighting is also story-telling via movement. Will the Bride have her vengeance?

Stage fighting is dancing.

Jackie Chan is a dancer. Jet Le dances. Rocky movies? Dance.

Bruce Lee was the greatest dancer in history.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:57 PM on September 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


Fights you do not wish to have is one of my basic criteria for "actual fighting," because it differentiates these combats from the scheduled and scripted exchange of blows in uniform.

This is the part I fail to understand in this debate - maybe I have lived a sheltered life - but who gets in "real" fights of this kind often enough to actually have developed a style about it? Tricia Sullivan criticizes all those other martial artists for not doing "real fighting", did she get her fighting experience by wearing a cape and fighting crime in her spare time?
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:32 PM on September 19, 2014


I've been in maybe 12 real fights in my life. That's not enough to develop a "style," but it's certainly enough to develop a very solid internal model of what being in a fight feels like.
posted by 256 at 9:51 PM on September 19, 2014


My thing is Muay Thai, on and off. Done lots of stuff before that. That last street fight I got into, two years ago, featured me sweeping and holding down someone until he calmed down--"high percentage" techniques favoured by MMA folks. The fight before that, ages ago, featured a couple of wristlocks, which are commonly said to be "low percentage." You never know. It's my feeling these days that a lot of the more unusual techniques really wok when you have an effective base, or exist in a certain historical context. Wrist grabs and locks are common in Japanese martial arts, for example, where the combatant is likely to be armed with a sword, knife or jitte (Edo period police truncheon). A lot of Pacific Archipelago methods with weapons came from cultures where for a long time, people carried knives constantly, as practical tools. These are groups of people who in many cases, possessed a basic degree of skill and the methods they created were more supplemental than ground-up development.

Besides that, though, there are tradeoffs. Many combat sports gyms mistake attrition for transformation. They're do not introduce their regime in a progressive enough fashion to acclimatize people, and those unable to adapt drop out. For those people a different art would be better for self-defence because they will learn something instead of dropping out and learning nothing. Consequently, it's easy to claim you can crank out badasses when people predisposed to be badasses are the only ones who stick around. In gyms where the priority is supporting the fight team, this is an advantage, but not so much for the folks who won't be on the team. Judo and BJJ have been revolutionary in combining both approaches in a balanced way, by being practical and accessible.

The difference between combat sports, which are highly effective, and traditional martial arts should be considered in the context of the societies where many of them were developed, which respect age and promote lifelong participation in culture. Training may serve artistic or military drill purposes. On the bad side, this creates the mythology that there are 100 year olds with the death touch because they can perform a form really well (and help from students who are expected to take a dive out of respect, which reached its nadir in films of Morihei Ueshiba knocking people down with Aikido without touching them thanks to the extreme respect/suggestibility of his students), but on the other side of things in the arena of combat sports for every exceptional figure who, by dint of luck and genetics, lasts a long time, there's a pile of neurological and musculoskeletal wreckage: people who should have got out and didn't, or had an accident, and are now permanently injured or are cans who act as living dummies for real talent.

To put it another way, you'll never be as good at standup grappling as a wrestler if you practice, say, Chen Taijiquan, but your chances of being able to play at it without pain are probably better. Again, there are always exceptions, and athletes have longer lifespans than they used to. A couple of years ago I was surprised to find out that the Dog Brothers, who are known for full contact stickfighting, practice a number of drills that might be criticised as impractical or "dead" because among other reasons, they want to keep practicing.
posted by mobunited at 2:00 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have seen how bouncers are portrayed in movies and on television. Honestly, it makes me laugh. They always show the bouncer sitting at the corner of the bar, drinking quietly, talking to a nice-looking girl. When something starts happening, he stands up slowly, and walks over to the troublemaker. Slowly, and with a swagger, he picks up one guy, says a few words to him, and the fight is over. Everything is slow and graceful. If it ever does get violent, the bouncer takes some guy outside, shows him the butt of a gun, and the troublemaker runs away.

Unfortunately, real life is not like that. A good bouncer doesn't sit in a corner. He moves around the room, picking up bottles and empty glasses. He talks to people, making a mental note of who is drinking too much, who is looking for trouble. He gets a feel for the crowd and its mood.

He also keeps the other bouncers in mind ­ where they are in relation to his own position on the floor. That is important when quick reaction is necessary.


Though my job as a bouncer/security is less nightclub and more checking IDs, this statement from the Oyama Bouncer link is one of the best I've heard explaining how to be a good bouncer. Having done it for the past four years, I can easily say that I have had to break up fights and, yeah, they're over very quick. I have not once seen anyone pull out any fancy flashy moves. I definitely haven't pulled out any of my fancy martial arts training though my Judo has definitely helped me in controlling a situation which is more because of my knowledge of my balance and where the other person's balance is. Usually, you just rush in and, if you can, take the person you know and drag them out of the fight which usually stops it. Otherwise, you choke or otherwise incapacitate one of the assailants.

The Oyama link is great and really is a good portrayal of door/security/bouncer duty.
posted by lizarrd at 11:42 AM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


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