Only the Strong…

Posted: June 17, 2013 by beforethefire in Discussion Topics

Last week I got to rant about one of my pet peeves about martial arts, and it felt great! I can’t tell you how nice it was to get that off my chest. It felt so good, in fact, that I’m going to do it again. The pet peeve this time: using someone’s strength against him/her. We’ve all heard it, haven’t we? I wish I had a nickel for every time I asked a martial artist to explain their art to me, and they replied by saying, “******-do is about using your opponent’s strength against him”. To me, this is another blanket statement that often reflects a shallow understanding of the intricacies of interpersonal violence.

I am skeptical of martial artists who claim to "use the opponent's strength against them"...

I am skeptical of martial artists who claim to “use the opponent’s strength against them”…

*For those of you that use this phrase, I am truly sorry if you are offended. I wish to disagree with you, not insult you.*
First, I want to explain what a fight plan is. A fight plan is a term for describing the pattern or strategy you follow to win a fight. They can be general or specific. The universal fight plan is that used instinctually by nearly everyone when they fight, which is to overwhelm your opponent with strikes (punches, kicks, karate chops) until your opponent is no longer a threat. Some martial arts try to improve on the universal fight plan, mostly by teaching people how to strike better than their opponents. It is a strategy that tries to imbue its practitioners with greater speed, dexterity, reflexes, and strength in order to land more significant blows to an opponent than the opponent can land on the practitioner.

Most striking arts are an improvement on the universal fight plan...

Most striking arts are an improvement on the universal fight plan…

Some fight plans, however, try to circumvent the universal fight plan altogether. Jiu-jitsu, Judo, and wrestling use leverage to maximize the practitioners perceived strength while reducing that of the opponent. By improving their position, these fighters make themselves seem stronger to their opponents than they actually are. The use of submissions also foregoes the universal fight plan, opting to cause unconsciousness or injury via pressure and leverage rather than blunt force trauma.

Many grappling arts try to circumvent the universal fight plan altogether...

Many grappling arts try to circumvent the universal fight plan altogether…

Using your opponent’s strength against him, on the other hand, may seem like a fight plan to some, though I’ve never seen anyone actually implement it. It implies that the stronger your opponent is, the greater the damage you can inflict on him, as though your opponent’s physical superiority were some sort of weakness. However, I have never seen this plan successfully executed in a fight. I have seen fighter’s overcome the strength of their opponents through leverage, and some neutralize their opponent’s strength by controlling their range. I have never seen one fighter defeat an opponent because the opponent was stronger. If you have, I would love to hear about it, but I’ve never seen it.
Strength definitely has its place in fighting. The laws of biology and physics demand that every fighter, regardless of style or skill level, have some strength in order to fight. As a matter of fact, strength and other physical attributes can be very effective placeholders for skill as you continue developing as a fighter. I highly recommend any martial artist to undergo strength training to help him or her improve their martial arts ability. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with winning a fight because you used strength. It is, after all, your body, and you’re not likely to get into a fight without it! Just learn to conserve your strength, as well as apply it efficiently. Develop the skills that allow you to apply maximum force with minimal effort. In such a situation, strength becomes a real asset, since the more you have, the more it can be multiplied and used against your opponent.
That’s my rant about yet another popular martial arts saying. I think I’ll do this regularly, though I’m sure I’ll eventually run out of things to complain about. If you have any pet peeves about martial arts training or culture, I’d love to hear it.
What’s your fight plan?

  1. patrickasay says:

    I dare say that there are legitimate times in which an instructor could teach a technique that actually DOES use someone’s strength against them. However, the term is used too much, often times with illegitimacy.

    My fight plan? Plan A: Run…to safety. Plan B: Fight, but with no more force than the threat being posed against me. For example, if I am unarmed and someone pulls a knife, I am (most likely) legally justified in striking, perhaps eye gouging even, or throat strikes, to disarm the knife. If both of us are unarmed, I will attempt to use as much Jiujitsu as I can and, instead of ground-n-pounding him to a bloody pulp (with ensuing assault and battery charges), Perhaps taking him to the ground and submitting him until he calms down. I once got a guy in an OmoPlata, used my free hand to call the police, and when they came they couldn’t charge me for anything because I didn’t leave a mark on him and all I did was control him from hurting me. Clear-cut self defense case right there. It didn’t help him that he did have an illegal switchblade on his person.

    Anyway, VIOLENCE IS UNPREDICTABLE, so, as Brock said, “being well-rounded” is the best recipe for any martial artist attempting to translate their skills to a real-life violent encounter.

    Agree? Disagree? Thoughts?

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