I have had lots of conversations with lots of people about martial arts. Many people with little or no experience in the field often believe they are right about many, many things that they obviously don’t understand. I think this is something to do with the nature of fighting, and of the way many people need to believe they are badass in some way in order to feel good about their pathetic existence. I am obviously one such person, only instead of being wrong, I’m right. Some of these people attend an hour-long class in a gym practicing some system or another and then tell their friends “oh yeah, I do system X.” These people will say things like “Thai Boxing is the most effective system for street-fighting” or “Tae Kwon Do is just kicking” even though they’ve never attended a class in either under an instructor who knows what he’s doing (a rare commodity in London). And even if you’ve attended a class, you’ve still no right to comment on the merits of a system unless you truly understand it, which seldom happens in a class or two. Like Akira says, you’re ten years too early.
These people are, by and large, normal, intelligent, rational people. So when they tell me with conviction that they’re right and that I’m wrong, even though they clearly have no idea what they’re talking about, I am often dismayed. I wish that wasn’t so, since their view is so inconsequential, but the magnitude by which they are wrong is so great, sometimes my brain spasms from the conclusions they have reached. So, in an effort to cast a +5 banishment spell on these idiotic ideas I will put down here some stone cold facts that seem pretty fucking obvious to me, even though Real Actual People try to tell me otherwise, despite my having spent more than half a lifetime in training.
Fact 1 - all martial arts are offensive. This seems irrefutable to me. Someone attacks you, you break them, they stop attacking. The only purely defensive maneuver is to run away. I did read about an interesting system once that someone had created that consisted solely of moves that get your body into a position where you can run away. Now THAT was purely defensive. If someone is set on attacking you, the only way to stop them is to beat them down. I’ve never heard of anyone blocking their way out of a situation and I’ve not heard of any systems that consist of only blocks. And even then, that’s attacking their limbs.
Fact 2 - the fastest way to develop power is not to refine your technique - it’s to put on weight. Admittedly, the muscle kind is better than the fat kind, but really, either will do. Technique takes years, muscle takes weeks.
Fact 3 - there is no such thing as a purely soft art or purely hard art. All systems have aspects of both, but in varying degrees. Even Tai Chi has striking.
Fact 4 - it’s not the system, it’s the person practicing that determines the effectiveness of a fighter.
Fact 5 - the terms karate and kung fu refer to families of martial arts and are not systems in themselves in any sense other than as very broad categorisations.
Fact 6 - all striking systems are pretty much the same, at their core level. This is because the human body can only effectively produce force in so many ways. Spinning is one, straight line movement is another.
Fact 7 - not all fights go to the ground. Most one-on-one fights do, sure, but I’ve not been in, or seen, a one-on-one fight for a very long time. Going to the ground when you’re outnumbered is effectively death.
Fact 8 - the assumption that some martial arts have no spiritual aspect to them, or that some are more spiritual than others, is wrong. Spiritual cultivation, for lack of a better term, is not something that you get taught straight away, or possibly even ever. It’s a natural by-product of devoting yourself completely and utterly to any one thing. Martial arts practice tends to bing that out in people, so you find that strange spiritual dedication in the martial arts world a great deal, but in my experience you also find it in athletics, cooking, fishing, drivingÂ
in any sphere of human performance, really.
Fact 9 - training just once or twice a week is pretty much useless for anything other than having fun. In which case - I hope you’re not in my class because you are bringing down the quality of the teaching, overall, since your casual fucking namby pamby needs are being catered for while I’m supposed to learning how to be badass. However, I acknowledge the merits of having people like you in my class, because it makes the prices of a class financially viable, which is in my interests. But if you’re in it to actually learn a system, you are failing.
Fact 10 - none of it really matters anyway. Nobody really fights anymore, everyone has knives or guns and yes - a knife will probably fuck you unless you are AMAZING and the other guy is an idiot. Even if they don’t have weapons, they will have friends. And nobody fights with honour, so it’s all about surprising the other guy and getting in the first hit. Then it’s over. And thinking about it, you don’t really want to hurt anyone, do you?
Fact 11 - you should never go beyond 10 facts in a list.
Disclaimer - the author of this article is not actually much cop in a fight and has played more Street Fighter II than anything else. But he’ll still take you on.