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The Balance between Realistic Self Defense and Fancy Footwork and Fun

Okay, so we all have heard the word “Martial Art” before. But, you will notice that we avoid using the term “Martial Art” to describe our system. Instead, we call it the “Martial Science.”

Why do we call it the Martial Science? Just as you would call something Karate, Kung-fu, or even Ninjitsu, we call it Martial Science. Still, it is and always will be a Martial Art. Okay, now that we have cleared that up, I would like to talk about the Martial Arts and why I believe it is important.

To me, the Martial Arts is a concept that explains balance in the system of Martial Science. To most, the Martial Arts is an umbrella word for systems of self-defense. But in RTMS we focus on my definition, what I consider to be a philosophy of Martial Arts.

To me, it is all about balance. And my definition (or a rough draft of it) of balance is something that offers a variety or both sides of the coin. To understand this, we will need to break up the word Martial Arts into two parts, the first being Martial and the second being Arts. Okay, now that we have some division, let’s analyze each part:

The Martial

This word is the symbol of realistic self-defense and combat. Martial is another word for Military and since we all have somewhat confused feelings about the military, we will just stick with Martial. Martial is that part that focuses on reality, not fiction. In other words, you won’t call a jumping-flying-spinning back kick a martial tactic. In a painful reality, combat really is, well . . . “combat.”

Combat isn’t sparring, dancing, fancy techniques or all that other stuff some instructors will swear by. It is very important to have a martial understanding when training in any system of self-defense. I hate to break the news to you, but most systems have no idea of what is or what isn’t going to work on the street. Most of the techniques, arm locks, wrist takedowns, and fancy kicks will not work in a real fight. They will assist in combat when developing the puzzle of natural responses, but they will not work the same as they do when practiced in the dojo.

Now there is a level of control involved with practice and there is an edge to be gained when you distract your opponent. This will assist in helping you perform, but it will still be a far cry from the way you perform techniques in class to the way you react on the street.

So a mental understanding is the first step to developing your martial abilities: knowing what will and will not work and using this as a foundation for development. The next step would be to actually learn some reality-based combat techniques. A lot of systems offer a great variety of these skills. For example:

You drop into a horse stance preparing for the fight. You side kick before the punch is thrown. It looks cool and stuns your adversary. The opponent reacts with a straight punch and you high block, and then throw a reverse punch to the solar plexus. Your opponent is immobilized so you jump into a spinning back kick. This knocks your opponent to the ground and finishes the fight.

Okay let’s use some reality:

You drop into a side horse stance preparing for the fight. Since you are in a very unrealistic stance, your opponent sweeps your leg right out from under you and you fall on your butt.

The opponent throws a punch and you high block and then throw a punch to the solar plexus. You hit your opponent in the solar plexus (great shot), but it didn’t cause the same result you get in class, so the attacker hits you with a hook punch with his other hand. Too bad you don’t practice defenses against multiple punches. “Ouch.”

You jump into a spinning back kick for the extra power. You miss and land as your ankle twists and you fall onto your back. Your opponent takes the fight to the ground. You end in a choke out. – fade to black.

Coming to an understanding of reality is key when considering developing your martial skills. Once you have both the mental understanding and the techniques to practice – you will then need to get in some action. Action includes getting a taste of the medicine. And the medicine is: sparring, grappling, give and takes and reaction attack.

Sparring will train you to work on your defenses and timing. You should have full protective gear and go full contact, under the guidance of an instructor, of course. A good way to get in a great sparring session is to work 10 minutes on each of the following areas:

1. Hands Only
2. Feet Only
3. Grappling only
4. Anything goes

Just be sure and keep the fight injury down to a reasonable level. Don’t play, but also don’t try to kill your opponent.

Grappling drills work on specific situations to enhance your ground fighting skills. These include scenarios and targeted workouts.

Give and takes are drills that are designed to toughen your body while developing your awareness. You start facing your opponent to work the offensive. You throw any kick or punch at your opponent and he or she either blocks or takes the attack (usually it is a take). The opponent then takes a step back and you continue until you throw about 10 strikes or kicks. Then it is your opponent’s turn to attack. When you are on the defense, be sure to pay attention to the way your opponent moves for each attack. Try to read the attacks and mentally prepare a response.

Reaction attack is a kind of full contact sparring session, only you won’t feel like you are sparring. You face the class with full protective gear on each person. Suddenly, one of the class members attacks you full blast. This is where you react to the attack and start moving. This type of exercise will help you control your fear and better prepare you for a sudden attack situation.

Okay, that is a brief description of one-half of the balance concerning the Martial Arts; here is the second half:

The Arts

With the popularity of full contact fighting competitions such as the UFC, many martial art systems are getting the very short end of the stick. I don’t just mean that the grappler is kicking butt on every system out there, but many people are looking for dojos that train freestyle fight or reality-based street combat while ignoring the styles that teach more of the ART. It makes sense; why train in Tae-Kwon-Do when you want to learn to defend yourself in a realistic combat situation? This is the kind of question that is seeping into the minds of modern day students.

This drawing a Swordis where the balance comes in. I believe that it is far more rewarding to train in both Martial and Art–equally. No matter how often I laugh at unrealistic techniques being taught in many schools, I will always train in the arts. The reason for this is that many of us are not just training for a combat situation. Training purely on street self-defense is not only limited, it can also get boring real quickly. I train in the Martial Science as a way to improve, not just survive a fight. I train to increase my flexibility, strengthen my muscles, improve my health, and enhance my overall ability. It is about being the best you can be, not just being a great ground fighter. To me, all the weapons, gymnastics, fancy kicks, and fun techniques are a great part of training. These are the things that make it fun.

We need to understand that martial arts training should be fun and not just a serious wake-up call. If you are studying only to learn to protect yourself that is one thing, but if you are training to be the best you can be, then you cannot exclude the other areas that make a martial art what it is.

Just imagine how boring your favorite action films would be. Think of life without Jackie Chan and his awesome theatrical skills. Knives may be sharp in the street, but that is no reason to make your life dull in the dojo. I guess I am still a kid at heart and would rather play than kick trees with my shins. But understand that I believe in an equal balance of the two. Still, I believe that they go together and the two of them create my understanding of the Martial Arts.

Also, the martial arts is (or should be) a “Way of Life.” This is hard to achieve if you are focused purely on street combat.

So ignore the people who make fun of your fancy skills (most of them are jealous) and kick the legs of those who don’t understand reality over fancy moves. It is a double-edged sword and if you are anything like me, you will love swinging around that sword.

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