Ok, I know the title was triggering and let me begin with giving my respect to almost every martial out there.
I AM NOT SAYING OTHER MARTIAL ARTS DON’T WORK!
But the concept of effectiveness and reality needs to be questioned because guys like this:
The title is to engage a discussion about a topic that is still controversial to this day: does (insert martial art style) work in a real fight? Self-defense vs. sport? People still talk badly about Karate and Tae Kwon Do even though top fighters in the UFC are re-incorporating it into their game.
Do All Martial Arts Work?
Am I saying all martial arts work then? Maybe. However, I think that even martial arts that have been tested in the octagon and the streets, like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, can become completely useless if they follow the path of some martial arts. Let me elaborate.
Reasons Why Some Martial Arts Don’t Work
1. The Dilution of Effectiveness Over Time
I think a lot of of martial arts were effective at first but it got diluted over time. Why? Martial Arts is taught by people and is similar to story telling. People used to pass down history through word of mouth and a good story teller likes to make it entertaining by exaggerating aspects or adding or subtracting part of the story to the facts. Over time, the story can change and further down the lineage techniques or applications can get interpreted differently. Aikido: Based On A True Story.
The transfer of knowledge over time can become a game of telephone if there isn’t a very strict review and auditing of martial arts like Jiu-Jitsu currently has. Unity of the martial arts is very important.
Another common issue in martial arts is fraud because scam artists realize there is money to be made. There is a culture of respect in most martial arts and it’s difficult for someone to question something they know nothing about to the person who they believe holds knowlege on how to kick their butt with a pressure point.
The same story telling analogy can be applied again through a fraudulent lineage.
2. Good Business Does Not Require Effective Martial Arts
Business aspects of martial arts can also weaken the martial art and evolve it poorly even without the fraud. For example, Krav Maga in suburban USA is not the same as Krav Maga practiced in the Israel-Palestine border. This is probably for a good reason, and quite frankly, the reality of street violence is simply different for these demographics.
Further, it’s easy for a martial artist to realize that from a business perspective it’s easier to keep students if you keep your students happy. Most people are not used to physical challenges in the US. There are martial arts schools that never spar or focus on physical fitness because of this reason. On the other hand there are people who just want a fun way to exercise which is why cardio kickboxing is a thing.
It is easy to keep students if you promote them often. I literally went to a Kenpo school that had a belt progression that was pretty standard until you reach a black-white belt halfway which kept progressing black-(insert color) until you reached your 1st degree black belt! Why? Keep the students happy. Some students don’t want to spar because it simulates a real fight and different people have their own interpretations of what pace or intensity to spar at. Let’s just eliminate it! Good business move, bad way to train.
3. The Modern Version Of The Martial Art Is Untested In Reality
I can tell you this, if you didn’t roll or spar in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the black belts in BJJ would be just like the black belts in non-sparring Aikido schools. You can learn every single technique in the world and even drill them with a partner but if you practice these techniques without a resisting training partner, you can only speculate that your techniques would work in a self defense situation.
I think a lot of martial arts are stuck in this trap of untested reality. I get it is difficult to spar with groin kicking and eye gouging but those don’t need to be tested because they work. But do you know if a groin kick will drop the attacker instantly? Maybe, probably not. I understand that some martial arts are ‘too dangerous’ to spar with. I respect safety, but look at a Judo throw tutorial for a specific throw and then look at a Olympic Judoka pull it off on someone. You will notice how ‘ugly’ the throw is because of the resisting opponent. It is very difficult to hurt someone when they don’t want to be hurt. We know Judo can be dangerous but hey practice in a way that is realistic to a degree. In fact, here is a tutorial Uchi Mata throw:
Now here are some Uchi Mata’s that were used by some of the best Judoka in the world effectively:
See the difference? It isn’t always pretty in reality.
I learned Karate as a kid and we learned the kicks while drilling them. I remember my first sparring session and I tried my best kick: a spinning side-kick. I spun and even got my knee up but I had no concept of kicking distance and I was too close to my opponent. I basically pushed my opponent at close distance with my foot, lost my balance, and fell on my butt.
Every career requires experience to be successful. You can have all the technical knowledge but if you have never actually performed the task, you will be bad at it.
People often forget about UFC 1-4 when MMA was not even in existence. This was an era where martial artists only trained one fighting style that they devoted their lives to. The practitioners wanted to prove to the world that their styles were the best. The rules were very flexible. In fact, groin hits were allowed, so was hair pulling and even head butts. In fact, there were no weight classes, no judges, no timeouts, and no time limit. There were two rules: no biting or eye gouging. Skinny Royce Gracie was picked out of six brothers to represent Brazilian Jiu Jitsu because he looked the weakest out of all the brothers. They knew that Rickson was the better fighter but they put in Royce on purpose.
If someone argued to me about how MMA rules aren’t realistic to a street fight and their techniques are too ‘dangerous’. I cannot respect such statements from a martial arts if they were too cowardly to face other martial artists in the first 15 UFC’s where there were no rules. I cannot respect a martial arts that has not been tested by people in reality. I will respect the martial artists who had the guts to step in the octagon against Royce Gracie, and lost, to discover that they had holes in their fighting styles. Many martial artists had the humility to learn other martial arts on top of their own to be a balanced fighter. That was the birth of mixed martial arts. Though the challengers lost, I still respect the martial artists who competed in the Gracie Challenges:
Now, I am not saying that you have to train martial arts from the perspective of getting into fights or self-defense. You can train for any reason. However, it is important for the instructors of a martial arts school to make sure their students are not filled with a false sense of confidence.
At our academy, we do not give blue belts (the belt after white belt for adults) to anyone under the age of 16 even if they have been training for over a decade. However, there are schools in certain martial arts that give out black belts like candy. Nice black belt, I too can buy one with money but the skills will not be there.
It is important to make sure your self-defense programs have been tested and used against live opponents. It is important that your self-defense programs require training with resisting opponents!
Yes, I can beat up a bag.
Yes, I can look really good in the mirror fighting.
No, you don’t know how to fight unless you fight or simulate it closely. Do your students know what it feels like to have adrenaline kick in? Do they know what getting kicked feels like? Do they know how exhausting it is? Do they know what panic feels like and how it takes a long time to control your muscle tension, relaxation, timing, breathing, distance, and much more, to make your techniques work?
If you say yes, but your students don’t spar, then you are a liar and your students are getting placed in danger. In fact, even if your martial arts is proven and constantly tested through sparring, it is easy to fall into hubris. I don’t care if you are the greatest fighter of all time. If you try to fight a guy with a gun, you are a fool. If you try to fight with a person armed with a knife, you are probably dead. Are you teaching your students that they should either run away first or try to talk it out? I know our school does.
It’s crucial to avoid fights if possible because that is the best self-defense. Inflating a student’s ego will increase their likelihood to engage.
Even Effective Martial Arts Can’t Cure Ego Sometimes
Let me give you an example of hubris that actually happened in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu recently. A three-time world champion Jiu-Jitsu competitor and instructor Thiago Guma, 29, was shot to death. I won’t post the link here but I watched the security camera. The gunman was running away from possibly a hit and run. Thiago confronts the man who has a pistol out and keeps walking towards the assailant. Let me repeat, Thiago WALK TOWARDS THE GUNMAN, who looks like he just wants Thiago to stay back. Thiago engages and the gun goes off and hits Thiago. The gunman then adds a few shots to the brain.
Thiago wasn’t defending himself or really anyone. The man was backing away with a gun and Thiago kept trying to close the distance. Hubris killed this man. Without context, the video looks like Thiago was attacking a another man with a gun. It looks like the shooter was the one defending himself.
I get it, he was trying to be a hero. He tried, and died for it. In reality, that’s not his job. He wasn’t in danger if he backed away. I know this because the shooter didn’t shoot right away. I give my condolences to his family and friends, but the lesson here is that even a world champion should not attack a man with a gun.
If the shooter was on a rampage or had Thiago cornered with murderous intent, I would not be so critical because he died defending himself and others. In this case, however, he was not engaging in self-defense.
Now, this man actually had the tested skills to fight and maybe that was the ego boost that killed him. On the other hand, a similar ego can happen if you give a kid a black belt too quickly or tell your students they can defend themselves when they cannot.
Why Jiu -Jitsu Works!
Jiu-Jitsu is an effective martial art because it is practiced in a way that is safe for the students to train in a way that simulates a real fight. There are many martial arts that are known for this like boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, MMA, Kyokushin Karate, and more. There are martial arts like Kung Fu that get a lot of negativity because there are a lot of schools out there that don’t train effectively and have never been tested. However, within the world of Kung Fu, guys like Cung Le were produced and fought professionally.
It is silly to say ‘Karate’ doesn’t work. It’s accurate to say that it is crucial you do your research on ANY martial arts school and verify that they can help you achieve your goals.
There is another concept that people forget, which is the fact that the individual does not represent to whole group. Different people can learn the same techniques and some can apply them quicker and others cannot. The problem is that a single practitioner cannot be used to judge an entire martial art or self-defense system.
Watch this group of Karate ‘black belts’ and tell me what you think…
Even the heavy metal can’t stop the cringe and lack of skill. However, it inspired masterpieces like this:
So, is Karate worthless or ineffective? I don’t know, maybe ask Lyoto Machida or Connor Mcgregor. Here is Michael Venom Page using Tae Kwon Do:
Individuals, schools or even affiliations of some martial arts should not be used to make a final judgement about a martial art, but it is the duty of those teaching the martial art to keep it ‘real’.
There were a lot of videos that inspired me to start Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Katharo Training Center in Littleton, Colorado. I saw a former Navy Seal and war veteran Jocko Willink talk about BJJ, and I figured if one of the most dangerous humans alive considered it a super power, that’s good enough for me.
However, the ones this one made me want to train Jiu-Jitsu even more. There was one where a black belt in BJJ visited his friend’s Jiu-Jitsu academy and pretended to be a white belt. He proceeds to tap out everyone. Here it is:
Then, I watched real BJJ belts expose fake black belts which was something I had never even heard of coming from a Karate background. Nobody ever questioned the legitimacy of a black belt from the world I came from. There are a LOT of videos like this:
I’ll just say that if you’ve trained real Jiu-Jitsu for a year and end up rolling with a fake black belt, you’ll know, probably cause you’re going to be tapping them out. If you know boxing, and you sparred with me, you would know before the first punch is thrown that I don’t know how to box.
Identify why you want to train Martial Arts!
All-in-all, it is important to know what your goals are when you train martial arts. If you just want some fun exercise, cardio kickboxing or even Tai Bo could work for you. If you want self-defense, MAKE SURE IT WORKS. Ask a cop, ask a bouncer, ask people who incorporate self-defense into their careers to make recommendations. Once you pick a martial art you want to train in, it is crucial to find the right school. Not all Jiu-Jitsu schools focus on self-defense. Some martial arts like Judo, which is great at self-defense, doesn’t even market themselves as self-defense. Some schools that brand themselves as self-defense programs teach ninja garbage like this:
Remember, if it is easy to attain, it probably isn’t valuable. If a black belt is your goal, just buy it on Ebay and save some money. In fact, that’s a simple way to test out a school, if you’re good at it right away, or you get a black belt in 2 years, you’re probably at a McDojo.
If you’re in Littleton, Highlands Ranch, or Englewood, Colorado looking for a martial arts school with a solid self-defense and fitness program, feel free to give us a call at 303.932.1202 or walk-in to schedule your 30 Day Free Trial. We’re friendly and safe but our Jiu-Jitsu is pure.