Posts Tagged ‘self defense’

One of the great martial arts discussions of our generation is that of sport-oriented martial arts training vs. self-defense or “street” oriented training. Many people feel strongly one way or the other and have developed some compelling arguments for both. Since this is a big thing for Jiu-jitsu practitioners as well, I decided to share this video from the Gracies on the subject.

I found this a thoughtful video, especially the idea that self-defense is a collection of principles more than simply a list of techniques. As for my take on things, I believe martial arts sports competitions act as a laboratory, experimenting on and discovering new combat principles in a controlled environment that can be further applied in real combat. Competition is also a powerful motivator for training and constant improvement. The root purpose of martial arts training, however, is combat survival. A competition that does not imitate some conditions of real combat, at least in part, are probably less helpful. One example might be point sparring matches, where the fighting is interrupted to award points to competitors for landing strikes. While fun and athletic challenging, I have found the rules to be too limiting to encourage applicable martial skills. I think the sports should mimic real fighting, though I am not opposed to rules for safety.

Self-defense training, on the other hand, sometimes runs the risk of not being competitive enough. I’ve attended plenty of self-defense classes where the students were told not to spar since they were taught to fight dirty. As a result, many of these students lacked the muscle memory and the instinct to conduct themselves in a confrontation that extends beyond the initial exchange of blows. The ability to switch on the instinctual, combative “auto-pilot” can only be developed in actual fights or unscripted sparring sessions, which cannot reasonably be conducted without safety rules.

In short, I believe martial artists need a mixture of both sport and self-defense training to remain combat proficient. The proportions of that mixture, I believe, should be based on individual need and preference.

Which do you prefer, sports training or self-defense training?

The only thing harder than becoming a good fighter, in my opinion, is making a good fighter. Training other people takes a higher amount of artistry and understanding of the art than being taught. I think this is the defining characteristic of the martial arts. Martial arts is not so much about fighting as it is about teaching someone how to fight. This is where we get creative little labels for stances, techniques, and positions, such as horse stance, leopard’s  paw, tiger claw, and so on. It’s about seeing significant patterns in how a fight is conducted and won and explaining that pattern to others. It’s also about finding new solutions to complex problems. Fighting is, after all, a form of problem solving.

So that brings us to today’s challenge. I want you to watch a video. It’s not inspirational, professional, funny (or not meant to be, anyway), or even all that interesting. It’s footage of an amateur MMA match in Canada, and the fighters are, shall we say, inexperienced? For those of you who’ve taught martial arts before, it might just make you cringe. Here it is:


Now that you’ve seen it, here’s my question: what would you have taught either one of these fighters to win this fight? Assume you had only a little time to train them, say a month or two. What do you think would have benefited them most in this particular match? Be specific, and try not to use blanket terms like “how to fight”.

I will say without apology that the skill levels represented in this video are horrendous, but I still have respect for the two young men who stepped into that cage. It’s more than I’ve done, and it takes courage to face someone on such an equal playing field like they did.

My personal answer: this was a match between two very inadequate strikers. I would have taught either one of them the most basic ground fighting strategies. Close the distance, body fold takedown, pass the guard, mount, ground and pound. Submissions would be hard with those gloves on, so I would simply drill some heavy-handed punches from the top of the mount, side mount, and rear mount. I would keep the list of techniques short and drill them over and over and over again against live, resisting opponents. I think that kind of training would have given either fighter an immediate advantage in this fight.

How would you have prepared either fighter for this fight?

How ‘Bout Now…

Posted: July 11, 2013 by beforethefire in Humor
Tags: , , , , , ,

These Jiu-jitsu practitioners address the problem of eye gouging when ground fighting. For those who don’t know, eye gouging and other dirty fighting tactics are a common argument against Jiu-jitsu training.

How do you defend against dirty fighting tactics?

Fighting multiple attackers would be way more possible if shadow clones were real...

Fighting multiple attackers would be way more possible if shadow clones were real…

What kid did not fantasize about taking on hordes of enemies with his bare hands, like a character from Naruto or Dragonball Z? Heck, I still do! But it’s all part of the martial arts appeal, isn’t it? The training makes us feel competent, strong, maybe even powerful. Knowing you’re the toughest guy in the room feels pretty good. That brings us to the subject perhaps most contended and debated among martial artists: defeating multiple opponents. In martial arts culture, the idea of engaging and prevailing over more than one assailant at a time is a big deal, especially in arts that emphasize self-defense, and the ability to do so is considered the epitome of martial prowess.

As a matter of fact, this feature of martial training (or lack thereof) is sometimes used as a criticism of certain styles, such as grappling arts. You can get a pretty good summary of this argument by looking up a Jiu-jitsu video on YouTube and skimming the comments below. There’s always a critic who mentions Jiu-jitsu’s inability to engage multiple attackers. The argument goes like this: if you’re rolling around on the ground with one guy, his buddy is just going to kick you in the head, therefore Jiu-jitsu and other grappling arts are not realistic or effective against real opponents.

I call that bluff. Show me the evidence. I want to see the martial art that can fight off multiple attackers at once. And I don’t mean a choreographed demo. I mean video of a street brawl. A news story. Facts. Because as of yet, I have never seen evidence of a martial artist successfully fighting off multiple attackers with any martial art. It certainly never happens in sport. There are no two-on-one cage fights as far as I’ve heard. So how do we know what works and what doesn’t in these sorts of confrontations?

Actually, there are fighters who regularly engage multiple enemies at once successfully. They’re military personnel. Marines, SEALs, infantry, and so on. Also, law enforcement professionals. And how do they all do it successfully? Tools. Weapons. Anything that extends your range, or enables you to deal damage from farther away than your own arms and legs. Assault rifles, grenades, and mortar shells all accomplish this. But how do you do it without those things? Say, if you’re ambushed in a bathroom at a gas station? Good question, and not an easy one to answer.

Combat, you see, can be divided into parts. The big part, the sum of the whole, is the engagement. An engagement can be divided into smaller exchanges. An exchange is a relatively short trade of techniques between two combatants. This is where all the punches, kicks, blocks, chokes, and throws occur. A small one-on-one encounter may involve one or a few exchanges between fighters. This is a simple fight, the sort of thing most martial arts training prepares you for. It gets really complex, however, when you throw in additional opponents, since most human beings, regardless of athletic ability or martial arts experience, can only exchange with one opponent at a time effectively. You only have so many arms and legs, and you can only reach so far. You can’t hardly pay attention to more than one person at a time, for that matter. The big danger for martial artists occurs when they try to exchange with more than one opponent at a time. While you’re throwing a punch at enemy A, enemy B could be doing the exact same thing to you from directly behind. Don’t even mention enemies C, D, E, and F!

So how can it be done? First, if you absolutely must engage more than one opponent at a time, position yourself so you only have to exchange blows with one at a time. This requires mobility and survival skills. It might require you to escape from your current position (say, trapped in the middle of a group) and retreat to a more defendable position (like a narrow hallway or doorway). You must know how to minimize damage to your vital areas and how to escape a variety of common holds and bad positions. You must be willing and able to frequently withdraw from the engagement when your position is no longer defendable and you can no longer exchange with one opponent at a time.

Sound difficult? It should, because it is. The situation becomes further impossible when your opponents are armed and with every additional opponent. In order to prevail, you must hope that your assailants are unmotivated, untrained, unarmed, or unfit. Otherwise, your best bet is a firearm.

To get a feel for what this sort of situation is like, try a little two-on-one sparring. I recommend your opponents take it easy on you, since injury will be easier here than it would normally be in a one-on-one match. Try to position your opponents one behind the other for as long as you can, and try not to get cornered.

Here are a few videos with very different views on how to engage multiple attackers. Be sure to tell me what you think…



How would you handle multiple attackers?

Now that we’ve had some posts and a few readers, I think it’s only fair to take a little time to reintroduce us, the writers, to you, the readers. As we’ve discussed before, there is a lot of pressure in martial arts for the instructors to be seen as legitimate or authentic. The first step of that, of course, is to let you guys know who we are and why we’re writing.

The interesting thing about this is as part of this post I’m going to be introducing Patrick, the guy who posted the last video. Unfortunately, I can’t get a hold of him since he dropped his phone in a river, so I’m going to have to summarize his pedigree and background as best I can and let him correct me later.

As for me, I’m Brian Brock, also known by beforethefire on my blog. I’m a black belt instructor in Applied Martial Arts, a mixed-discipline self defense style. Applied Martial Arts is a flexible, adaptable self defense system for helping people develop the martial skills required to survive a wide range of violent scenarios, from simple one-on-one encounters to the more complex, high stakes situations often only encountered by law enforcement and warfighters. As an instructor for the system, I can also be seen as a researcher. I try to develop my understanding of interpersonal violence and fighting from case studies and my training in other disciplines. I’m belt-ranked in both Taekwondo and Gracie Jiu-jitsu. Another one of my responsibilities is to continue developing Asay Jiu-jitsu, a basic grappling and ground defense program in Applied Martial Arts.

Left to right: Jared Emfield (Gracie Jiu-jitsu black belt), me, Ryron Gracie

Left to right: Jared Emfield (Gracie Jiu-jitsu black belt), me, Ryron Gracie

Outside of martial arts, I’m a father of three and a dedicated husband. I’m also an English teacher, hence the insane amount of writing I seem to be comfortable with. I live in Idaho.

Patrick Asay, the other contributor to this blog, is a black belt in Taekwondo, Kung-fu, Uchudo, and the creator of Applied Martial Arts. Patrick developed Applied Martial Arts as a way to find practical applications for the martial skills he developed in his traditional martial arts training. He was motivated by his need to protect himself while living in Hawaii, where he became engaged in numerous street fights. Patrick crossed-trained with numerous martial artists and law enforcement professionals on his quest to refine his system. As a result, Applied Martial Arts is a system that covers many ranges and conditions that occur in real-world violence, such as striking, grappling, ground fighting, weapons, obstacles, and injury.

Patrick is currently looking for a new phone.

There you have it, the men behind the proverbial curtain. The last thing you need to know about us is the reason for our blog. Our vision when we first started posting was to create a community of martial artists who could discuss training and application of martial arts in a respectful, objective manner. So far, we’ve had great input from some of our readers on everything from belt ranks to training journals. Check out the comments on our posts to read them! We hope to see more people following this blog and responding to the posts (especially if they disagree), and I look forward to reading your responses.

What is your martial arts background?

Recently a New Jersey mom was cooking breakfast when a man broke in through her locked back door and began to savagely beat her in front of the woman’s 3-year-old daughter. Please watch the video below:


As martial artists and self defense practitioners, it is our business (and likely our moral responsibility, considering our training) to consider this footage and examine these circumstances. How did the assailant behave? What were the strategies and tactics employed? What were his goals? Also consider the environment. How did the setting of this assault affect the progression and outcome of events? Which objects were present that could have been used to make a difference? What training could this woman have had to help her prevent this from happening?

In other words: how could martial arts training have helped this woman?

I want your honest analysis. I would appreciate your assessment of the circumstances as they occurred, as well as your proposal for training that could have helped the situation. Here’s mine:

  • The attack occurred in a home furnished with large furniture, which may have hindered some movement. The attack initially occurred in the kitchen, where I assume there was an abundance of weapons of opportunity.
  • The assailant was larger and physically stronger than his victim. He appeared to be unarmed and to have little or no combat training. He employed the universal fight plan, overwhelming his victim with inefficient strikes until she was immobilized. It appeared his goal was to incapacitate her so he could rob the home undisturbed.
  • The victim was a woman of medium height and medium build. She was not so small that fighting back would not have been an option for her. She had little or no combat training. She employed instinctive, but inefficient defenses against the attacker’s strikes. With her daughter present, she was unable to escape quickly.

Conclusion: This woman, with the right training and preparation, could and should have fought back. The presence of her daughter made simple escapes slow and dangerous. It also made the attack all the more dangerous, since the daughter could potentially have become a victim as well. Ground fighting training, especially bottom positions with defense against strikes, could have reduced the injury she received during the assault. I also would recommend training in weapons of opportunity, since the kitchen was likely filled with utensils and other small objects that could have been used to great effect. Firearm training could also have been very beneficial, though she would have had to fight to get to it. Either way, dedicated self-defense training could have changed the outcome of this assault. She could have injured her attacker and delayed him enough to escape with her daughter.

Please share your assessment of this scenario. How will you train yourself and others to prevent this sort of thing from happening?

A lot of people like to argue about which of all martial arts styles is the best, “best” meaning “most effective” most of the time in those arguments. Never heard this argument before? Go to YouTube, look up a self defense video, and proceed to the comments section below. It’ll be there. The hard part about this argument is, of course, that fighting is a form of complex problem solving, the complex problem in most cases being interpersonal violence. And, like most complex problems, violence has many possible answers whose effectiveness is hard  to quantify or measure. That is why, I believe, martial arts can be considered arts. Just like there are many ways to paint a portrait, there are many ways to navigate the progression of violent acts from an opponent. Hence so many martial arts styles.

There are a few, however, that stand apart from all other styles. These are the combat forms and martial arts of armed forces. These are the martial arts practiced by those who regularly experience combat on its grandest scale. The most notable of these arts is MCMAP, or the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. It is a heavily researched, well formulated program that tries to instill in every marine far more than simple hand to hand combat techniques. It is also the military combat training system most recognizable as a martial art, complete with a colored belt rank system. This program, I believe, is head and shoulders above all other military martial arts styles, not only for its physical training aspects, but for its mental and character emphasis as well. Their challenge is unique and daunting: to produce warriors who are not only unafraid to run towards the sounds of gunfire and engage the enemy at any range, but also capable of functioning as emotionally and mentally healthy members of the societies which they protect.

Physically, MCMAP is everything you could hope for in a combat-ready martial art. It emphasizes the use of strikes, grappling, arrest techniques, disarms, and a dizzying array of modern and improvised weaponry. It ties seamlessly into the principles of armed combat, so marines are able to switch between armed and unarmed techniques without hesitation. It is a flexible art that trains marines to be as lethal or non-lethal as is most appropriate for the situation.  Marines are more than just killers, after all, and regularly deploy on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

More impressive to me, however, is the fact that the Marine Corps tries to instill moral values and intellectual lessons into their warriors as part of their martial arts program. To sum it all up in a few words, these lessons of moral accountability and warrior tradition are called the warrior ethos. In an article in The Marine Corps Gazette, Andrew Lubin explains what the warrior ethos is.

“The warrior ethos is a code of conduct… that embodies a life where integrity, loyalty, honor, and selflessness, and courage are one’s guide. Starting thousands of years ago with the hunters, these concepts evolved into the warrior societies where protection for the tribe was best achieved as a group working together. The rudimentary laws arising from the successful tribes evolved into the warrior ethos practiced by the Spartans and others where courage, cooperation, and acknowledging the strength of the group over that of the individual, enabled the tribe or the nation to survive.”

I often get skeptical when I’m presented with a list of pseudo-Asian philosophical values in a martial arts class, but the warrior ethos speaks to me. I think this is evidence that there are martial arts out there that are truly American, as opposed to distillations of Asian or Brazilian culture. I wish there were more civilian martial arts schools patterned after this program, complete with bayonet training and all!

How does the warrior ethos compare to the ethics taught in your martial arts training center?