Looks like a modified Jodan Uke, to me...
Of the many undying topics of conversation in the world of martial arts is the topic of the effectiveness of Traditional Martial Arts for a real life self defense scenario.
There are a few common threads that come up during a conversation between a Self Defense practitioner and a Traditional Martial Artist on this topic and having trained on under both schools of thought I can tell you why many people on both sides don’t have any idea what they’re talking about.
(After rereading this post I think it would do justice to examine the flip-side of this coin and talk about the areas where Traditional Martial Arts should make greater strides toward modernizing. Drop by soon for the second installment.)
One criticism Self Defense guys have about martial arts is it’s reliance on training in deep stances and that they are useless in a fight. Well, setting aside the fact that this kid would disagree, this is a bit of a moot point for two reasons: first, no one (sane) uses deep stances in earnest whether it be competitive, sparring, or a real self defense situation. And second, in most martial arts the higher one is in rank the higher one stands in fighting. This does, however, lead into the second point often made in critique of Traditional systems.
It takes too long to learn:
On this one I’ll agree. One big flaw I find in most martial arts systems is that they do have a long learning curve. True that a novice who connects with one solid strike to a vulnerable area with the proper technique can bring down an assailant, but who wants to rely on being lucky?
This will be discussed further in future posts, but one must understand one of the primary reasons why martial arts retain a longer learning curve: it was a requirement to do so. With arts that are focused on “jutsu” (combative techniques), such as Kenjutsu or Jiu Jitsu, soldiers in a lord’s standing army must train constantly and, ideally, keep in good physical condition because they could be called upon to perform their duties at any time. It would not do for soldiers of a standing army to learn 10 quick and basic techniques over the course of 6 weeks and then slack off.
For arts centered on “do“, such as Karate-do or Hapkido, these often have elements that are meant to impart changes in character that will allow the individual to become a better person/ reach enlightenment/ etc. – no one becomes a better person in just a few weeks. Further, they were very often employed by law enforcement agencies dealing with a multitude of situations, from murderers to simple drunks; so not only was constantly honing their skills a job requirement but they needed many different techniques to deal with real life scenarios. An Okinawan “ufusaji” (street cop) wouldn’t reverse punch a drunk in the throat and kick in his skull just because he got a little rowdy – diverse techniques were required for him to perform his duties and it takes time to polish each one. (If you’d like to read more about the fascinating history of some of Karate’s first professional users, Matt wrote an amazing article which expands further on this and I highly recommend you stop by…after you’re finished reading this one, of course!)
Traditional Arts are stagnant:
As part of their marketing efforts, some of the more fervent proponents of Reality Based Self Defense will criticize Traditional arts because they do not keep up with modern weapons and modern scenarios. After all, when was the last time you were attending a tea ceremony and were attacked by an assailant wielding a naginata?
To see the weakness of this argument let’s imagine ourselves 300 years in the future when everyone will have lightsabers and rocket boots. When our Jedi descendents discuss the primitive fighting styles of the early 21st century they say that “traditional” systems like Reality Based Self Defense have not kept up with technology. And the future “traditionalists” of Reality Based Self Defense will say that while it is true that their arts were born when projectile based weapons were the deadliest and commonest of dangers, their art has evolved and adapted to lightsaber technology and is now completely Jedi-proof.
The same rationale is applicable to nearly every Traditional system in our present time. If the keepers of the art are dedicated to it being a “living art” then in addition to passing on ancient techniques, they have added curriculum which deals with modern threats.
The Dojo isn’t the Street:
When I hear this it is usually elaborated that on the street there are no referees, no rules, and if you end up in a fight it wont be barefoot and on the padding of your dojo. And all this is true!
But again, this type of statement is usually made as part of a marketing pitch to try to distance their “product” from others. Lets face it, if you are training in Reality Based Self Defense there will certainly be differences. But you will still be training in a special room, wearing unrestricting clothes, and when you spar there will be rules, padding, and someone to stop the fight in case of injury or accident.
That isn’t to say that Traditional Systems can’t learn something from their Reality Based Self Defense brothers. I have heard of some schools using loud music and special lights to simulate dance club environments. I’ve also read about the use of extreme verbal abuse (something like this guy) to familiarize students to certain alpha-male confrontation scenarios. This kind of confrontation training is especially useful in deescalation exercises and Traditionalists would do well to add this to their training.
This list can go on and on but I believe the point is made. What is sad is that the world of fighting arts has fallen victim to its own marketing and subdivided itself into Traditional Arts, Sport Arts, and Reality Based Arts. This is a sin of the worst kind because a system of fighting needs to incorporate all these aspects in order to optimized and tested. Stagnation and death begin only after the keepers of the arts buy in to the notion that they are their own label.