May 15 2017

MMA vs Wushu – A Fight Between Reality and Fantasy

MMAvsWushuWhen magic and fantasy come up against hard reality, reality wins. One clear demonstration of this are literal fights between fantasy and reality.

There are now multiple videos online of fights between mixed martial arts fighters (MMA) and various forms of traditional Chinese martial arts. They all go the same way – the MMA fighters demolish the traditional fighters in seconds.

At the extreme end of the traditional fighters are the chi masters. They claim that they can channel their magical life force, chi, to weaken, block, and even incapacitate their foes. The first part of this video shows a chi master in action. You can see how apparently effective chi is against indoctrinated students (who have “drunk the dojo koolaid”). In the second half of the video you can see how spectacularly ineffective chi is against an MMA fighter.

In a similar recent competition, MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong had an open challenge to any traditional fighter, and Wei Lei, a practitioner of the “thunder style” of tai chi, accepted his challenge. The fight went like all the others- Wei Lei was crushed in 10 seconds.

This result was entirely predictable. What is more interesting is the response of the traditional martial arts community and the broader Chinese population. They essentially got mad at Xu for pointing out reality to them. The Chinese Wushu Association posted a statement saying the fight “violates the morals of martial arts.” Xu has had to go into hiding because of the backlash against him.

Martial Arts and Culture

At the core of the resulting controversy is the question – what are the traditional Chinese martial arts? This is a complex question. Bruce Lee is credited with popularizing Kung Fu outside of China, and as a teenager I was big fan of Bruce Lee and martial arts. At least to American fans, Kung Fu, Karate, Tae Kwon do, and similar styles were about effective fighting. They were techniques for mostly unarmed fighting, and were taught for sport but also for self-defense.

Bruce Lee conveyed this also. In his movies you do not see the fantastical magic of chi masters, standing on a reed, flying through the air, or using magic to take down enemies. Lee was certainly theatrical, but he displayed physical fighting skill, not magic.

In fact Lee himself criticized the overly ritualized forms in traditional martial arts and created his own style, Jeet Kune Do, which was an attempt to strip martial arts of wasted motion and ritual, and to distill it down to effective unarmed combat.

That is also the goal of MMA, to borrow effective fighting techniques from the various martial arts, and to discard ineffective rituals based on tradition. MMA is essentially evidence-based martial arts, separating itself from tradition and magical thinking and using only what works.

Isreali Krav Maga is another fighting style that did essentially the same thing – borrow from various styles to create an effective and efficient (and deadly) fighting style for the military.

These evidence-based martial arts are gaining in popularity, because they work. It is also very easy to tell which fighting style is more effective when you have a direct head-to-head competition. When you see an MMA fighter pummel a chi master into the ground in seconds, the outcome is obvious and undeniable.

But tradition and culture are sticky things and they don’t die easily. What is fascinating for me are all the parallels between how the defenders of tradition respond when their belief system crashes directly into reality.

The Wushu Association claims that the fight was not “moral.” As far as I can tell, Wei Lei accepted the challenge and knew the rules. What, exactly, was immoral about that?

Defender of tradition have also said that the traditional martial arts are “not a competitive sport.” They are not really about fighting but about a ritualized method for saving face. OK, I can see that there might be a kernel of truth to that. Traditions often evolve over time, taking on new purposes. When old ineffective traditions are replaced by new more effective methods, they sometime don’t go away, they just morph into something softer.

Many alternative medicine treatments, for example, in order to penetrate mainstream medicine institutions, avoid claiming that they treat diseases. They are just touch-feely quality of life interventions. They don’t actually do anything, they just make people feel better.

Traditional martial arts is not really about winning a fight, but rather a stylized way to save face.

The problem is, these defenses are ones of convenience. They are a retreat from any verifiable claims whenever the light of science and evidence is shining. But as soon as the light is taken away, proponents go back to claiming that their treatments treat disease, or chi masters can actually knock out an opponent without touching them.

They try to live in the nebulous gray zone where they can make claims, have their fantasy, but then fend off any challenges to evidence with excuses.

Perhaps the most insidious argument, however, is the defense by culture. As the NYT article reports:

“When video of the drubbing went viral, many Chinese were deeply offended by what they saw as an insult to a cornerstone of traditional Chinese culture.”

That is the exact same response when science shows that acupuncture points don’t exist and acupuncture doesn’t work. That is probably why 100% of acupuncture studies coming out of China are positive, because a negative study would be an insult to Chinese culture.

The core problem here is when a belief system (whether cultural, ideological, or religious) is used to make an empirical claim, one that is testable by science. Facts then become an insult to the belief system, rather than just facts.

This is a huge problem with alternative medicine. “Indigenous healing systems” are given huge deference because they represent a group’s culture, often a small historically oppressed group. Saying that science does not support the empirical claims made by their traditional culture is portrayed as just another form of oppression.

Rather, I would like to see the development of an international standard (endorsed by the World Health Organization, for example, who currently defers to traditional healing methods) that traditional cultures are entitled to their own beliefs, but not their own facts.

All cultures eventually have to face a time when their traditions butt up against reality. No culture got it exactly right out of the gate, and we still don’t have all the facts and never will. Our collective empirical understanding of reality is constantly evolving. Traditional beliefs should abandon the notion that they have any privileged access to empirical truth, and become part of our collective exploration of reality. There are many aspects of tradition and culture that are not based on factual claims. Traditional beliefs can also be acknowledged as part of a culture’s history and tradition, without maintaining claims that they are factually true.

In my opinion this is a practical, respectful, and mature approach to culture and tradition, which simultaneously acknowledges reality. It is, by contrast, childish to refuse to accept reality. It is also hubris, bordering at times on racism, to claim that your tribe has special privileged knowledge that trumps the collective attempt of human civilization to understand empirical reality.

This conflict is most obvious when dealing with martial arts, because the outcomes are so immediate and unequivocal. The issues, however, or no different when dealing with medicine, history, human origins, or any other empirical claims.

55 responses so far

55 Responses to “MMA vs Wushu – A Fight Between Reality and Fantasy”

  1. BillyJoe7on 15 May 2017 at 9:17 am

    An obvious red flag to Michael Egnor’s traditional thousands year old philosophical bull

  2. BillyJoe7on 15 May 2017 at 9:18 am

    …or theological bull

  3. BigFrankieCon 15 May 2017 at 9:37 am

    “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”
    – Mike Tyson (a retired professional pugilist, of some note)

  4. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 9:43 am

    Steve, you’re so naive. The traditional fighters in all these instances clearly won spiritual victories. Spiritually they wiped the floor with those challengers, who now have to live the rest of their lives misaligned chi (which will probably give them cancer…eventually).

  5. Lobsterbashon 15 May 2017 at 9:52 am

    I don’t know… I totally get your point, Steve, but it feels like something is missing from this story.

    An analogy for US culture might be bringing a legitimate fighter into a WWE fight. Probably many (most?) of the Wushu fan club actually knows the tai chi master would lose, but that’s not the point to them. Perhaps they believe that one who challenges an actor should know that they are operating within the rules of theatrics (thus the “moral” comment).

    Again with WWE, imagine the boos and anger if a burly guy got into the ring and actually smashed his opponent’s face in with a real chair, ending the fight in 10 seconds and sending the opponent to the hospital.

    But as for the rest of those who buy into the fantasy too hard, yes, they need a reality check somehow.

  6. Adaboion 15 May 2017 at 9:53 am

    I love the analogy of MMA as science and “traditional” Chinese martial arts as pseudoscience. I’d like to expand on it further just for fun:

    MMA has a scoring system (the scientific method) that is utilized by the judges (peer review) who submit their score cards (scientific paper) at the end of the fight (experiment).

    It’s not perfect by any means, but I find it amusing nonetheless because I am a fan of both science and MMA.

  7. Kawarthajonon 15 May 2017 at 9:56 am

    I actually feel bad for the practitioners of the chi, even though what they are teaching is obviously nonsense. To believe so firmly that you have a magical power that you would publicly challenge an MMA practitioner to a public fight takes balls, and then get smacked down within seconds and internationally humiliated must be a very difficult thing to cope with psychologically. I am not surprised at all by the reaction of the Wushu Association.

  8. Lobsterbashon 15 May 2017 at 10:08 am

    I wish I could edit my comment above. My point was already mentioned in your post… I suppose what I meant was that that actual believers in magic (likely a minority) appear to be hiding among the larger population that knows what’s really going on (and object to the theatrical infringement). The fans of wu (lol) is thus a gradual continuum of people, going from those grounded in reality to those entirely not. With people falling on every point in the spectrum.

    It’s difficult for us, on the outside, to tell them apart. Because they are defending the art for different reasons. This is arguably true for many things we label “anti-science” today, like anthro-caused climate change.

  9. jester700on 15 May 2017 at 10:39 am

    The problem with any group with a continuum of belief is that it’s always a moving target. Traditional martial arts may not actually help much with self defense ability, self control, physical fitness, etc – but these are the claims on most such web sites and yellow pages ads. And even if many don’t believe such claims, it’s often the neophytes that do, so when “masters” make claims, IMO they should be tested.

    How many folks who’ve learned that there is much smoke and mirrors originally got into it knowing that? How many still would have undertaken the study if they had known? I know *I* bought into some of it when I started. When I was later disabused of those notions, I stuck with it for other reasons, eventually leaving because I didn’t agree with the selling of the story to newbies.

  10. Kabboron 15 May 2017 at 10:40 am

    It certainly would be nice if these martial arts were indeed divorced from the magical nonsense that some people seem to think are required in order for people to be interested in them. You can strip that stuff out and maintain the reasonable position that martial arts are a form of art, and that practising them can still be good for an average person physically and mentally. I can’t imagine that most yoga practitioners (at least in the western world) think they are gaining magical powers through yoga, and yet it is very popular. Martial arts, take notice.

  11. Steven Novellaon 15 May 2017 at 11:03 am

    As I said, I have no problem with martial arts evolving into other purposes – art, expression, exercise, stretching, etc. It’s all good. I don’t have a problem with fantasy martial arts in movies, although I prefer the Bruce Lee genre myself.

    The problem is the blurry lines. Martial arts is sold as self defense. These masters, and others, either challenged MMA fighters or accepted their challenge, to an actual fight, knowing full well what MMA is. They did so to prop up their claims. I think they had to be delusional to some extent to do this, which just confirms the harm of these blurred lines.

    Further, the belief in “chi” that underlies these martial arts as art form or whatever is a real cultural belief that is also used to support an entire industry of fake medicine. This is an industry of fake medicine China is exporting to the world.

    To then hide behind – well, this is just an art form – is insincere. To cry – don’t criticize our culture – is also nonsense, inappropriate, moral blackmail, and hypocritical if you are simultaneously exporting that culture.

  12. Willyon 15 May 2017 at 11:23 am

    Kudos, Dr. Novella. I have zero interest in any martial art, but what a clever way to make points about the importance of actual evidence in any pursuit in life.

  13. noniditon 15 May 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Sorry Steven, but you are confusing an awful lot of martial arts here.

    tl;dr;
    1. Taekwondo and Karate are as effective as “usual” mma (but more specialized)
    2. Wushu and Krav Maga are pretty much the same in respect to effectiveness.
    3. Comparing two martial arts almost never actually makes sense

    Detailed:
    First, your analogy of “ki masters” with alternative medicine is absolutely valid and I won’t criticise that one.

    But you are completely confusing the difference between traditional and modern martial arts and the difference in combat-based/style-based martial arts.

    So traditional martial arts would be e.g. judo, karate, taekwondo, (classical) jiu jitsu, hapkido, wing tsun, wushu, eskrima, kendo, iaido, muay thai, aikido, tai chi, qigong, kyusho jitsu etc.

    Modern martial arts are things like boxing, kickboxing, mma, krav maga, greco-roman wrestling, military self defense, jeet kune do

    (There are others which don’t really fit like capoeira, sambo, bjj)

    Now you can order them by whether they are competition-based or self-defense-based.

    Competition-based are: judo, karate, taekwondo, kendo, muay thay, boxing, kickboxing, mma, wrestling, sambo, bjj
    Self-defense-based are: (classical) jiu jitsu, hapkido, wing tsun, wushu, eskrima, iaido, aikido, tai chi, qigong, kyusho jitsu, krav maga, military self defense, jeet kune do

    Now all competition-based martial arts are obviously very effective (since evidence-based) in their own set of rules. A good judoka will win against a good mma-fighter or boxer under judo-rules, as well as a boxer will win against mma fighter and judoka under boxing-rules.

    MMA is trying to losen the rules as much as possible to resemble an actual fight. However it is fatuous to think that it is equivalent to “fighting without rules”. Just some examples:
    1. MMA fighters don’t wear gripable clothes
    2. They wear boxing gloves
    3. They can’t attack the eyes, the fingers, the private parts
    4. They are in a 1-1 situation on a clean floor.
    5. They have almost the same weight
    6. The opponent is trained in martial arts

    That is where self-defense martial arts come into play. They train situational, possibly harmful techniques, but obviously cannot execute those in full speed while practicing. So they get more realistic situations, but can’t get the routine in training against a fully resistant opponent. That is why they usually fail in competition (This is the same for kung fu (wushu/wing tsun) as for krav maga or military self defense).

    However they may be better suited if you are a small girl against a drunk man. Or if you don’t want to kill/seriously injure someone for being an asshole. Or if you indeed want to kill someone.

    Finally – and one could write a whole book about that one – every martial art has drills which have to be trained again and again. In traditional martial arts those drills are usually practiced as forms. Things like Tai Chi and Qigong are “martial arts” which completely got rid of the situation-based training and only practice the forms for self-perfection.

    So those were never intended to be a “full” self-defense martial art. But of course there are esoteric idiots who believe in it. So those martial arts are the ones your article should be about.

  14. noniditon 15 May 2017 at 12:28 pm

    I have to clarify my previous comment:

    Wushu is a very wide term for martial arts, going from contactless forms (like Tai Chi) over semi-contact to full-contact. I was speaking about the widespread semi-contact wushu.

    However, if you search on youtube you mostly see performances with a massive focus on asthetics (this is by the way the same for many other traditional martial arts like taekwondo, aikido, hapkido, judp and so on). Those are certainly a part of the martial art, but it does not (necessarily) accurately represent it. (Of course there are some schools which focus exclusively on those parts)

  15. CKavaon 15 May 2017 at 12:37 pm

    nonidit,

    I agree with most of the points you make but some nits to pick.

    I’m not sure I agree with your traditional/modern distinction. What makes Judo, a system developed at the end of the 19th Century from existing martial arts systems more traditional than Greco-Roman wrestling, a system developed in the middle of the 19th Century from existing martial arts systems? Similarly, why is boxing modern and muay thai traditional? Both have long histories stretching back centuries. What criteria are you using to distinguish beyond Western vs. non-Western?

    When it comes to self-defence and efficacy, you mention that self-defence orientated martial arts train in ‘more realistic situations’ but without ‘a fully resisting opponent’. That to me seems like something of a contradiction. Training against scripted and telegraphed attacks without ever experiencing proper resistance is not preparing people to better handle ‘more realistic situations’. Or at least, I don’t think there is any evidence that such training better prepares someone than the equivalent amount of time in a competition based system that involves resistant opponents, significant levels of contact (grappling or striking) and requires higher levels of fitness.

  16. string pulleron 15 May 2017 at 12:37 pm

    For some reason, every time I share one of these posts on Facebook, the image that gets attached to my post is a stock photo of a mortar and pestle along with some flowers and almonds. I don’t know if you have the ability to change that, so that the image at the top of the post shows up. It may help with outreach.

  17. MosBenon 15 May 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Ckava, I think that his point is that self-defense martial arts train people in how to perform in a realistic scenario (eg., you’re in a parking lot and a larger opponent grabs you). They don’t usually get a large opponent to attack you like they mean it, but they show you how to disable an opponent quickly so you can get away (eg again, kick ’em in the balls). Competition based martial arts, on the other hand, train people how to score points within the scoring system established for specifi competitions. Generally there’s a concern to avoid thing that are too dangerous, injurious, etc., so you don’t see karate comoetitions where they try to kick each other in the balls. They do, however, sometimes train for full contact, so maybe they learn to take a punch better.

    I don’t know how you’d rank martial arts in terms of real world effectiveness. There are a ton of confounding factors.

  18. noniditon 15 May 2017 at 4:03 pm

    @CKava:
    My classification was spontaneous and of course is not perfect. I just wanted to give a quick overview and emphasize that modern/traditional is different from competition/self-defense.

    Also the other classification is questionable, there are e.g. more traditional judo or taekwondo styles, which focus more on self-defense. On the other hand there are also tournaments in e.g. jiu jitsu, hapkido or wing tsun

    But since those are interesting questions:
    It is in general very ill-defined whether a martial art is traditional or not. We usually refer to them as traditional when they convey traditional martial art values such as greeting ceremonies, have a belt system and have a classic/traditional set of techniques, which doesn’t change often.

    Therefore I would definitely classify Judo as a traditional martial art. Wrestling on the other hand is called Greco-Roman but is in fact something quite different from the traditional martial art. Same for boxing.

    About the self-defense part: Yes, this is exactly where the problems start. In self-defense you for example learn to delibaretely punch someone in the balls or gouge there eyes, push against the nose etc.
    In more military style self defense you also learn for example how to break the knee with a kick. Also you get for example situations with weapons, such as knives or with multiple attackers.

    All of this is more realistic than an ufc combat. However, since you can’t train those things with full power in many cases those who are training “sports” martial arts will be able to cope better with a real situation.

    But even if you are really good with those techniques, you won’t win a fight against an MMA guy under MMA rules. Obviously they train what is best in their specific setting.

    On the other hand you hear also many of those stories where a muay thai champion worked as a doorman and freezed cold in the moment where there were multiple aggressors with a baseball bat.

    PS: In my opinion the best option for real self-defense is something like 80% sports martial arts, and 20% self defense.

  19. Steven Novellaon 15 May 2017 at 5:19 pm

    nonidit – thanks for the extra information. I wasn’t really intending to write a review of the relative value of the various forms of martial arts. The distinction between sports and self-defense martial arts was completely outside the scope of my discussion.

    The point is, some styles and practitioners incorporate magical thinking and traditions that are ineffective for either sport competition or self-defense. They then defend them with appeals to culture, tradition, or by making excuses after they get trounced. If their style is not for actual fighting, don’t claim it is.

  20. Greg Shenauton 15 May 2017 at 5:37 pm

    My only personal experience with martial arts was when I took a couple of judo classes when I was in college back in the 60s. I don’t remember much, but I do remember the instructor taking the time to debunk one of the classic martial arts myths: the elderly, frail master who through his impeccable technique wipes the floor with a large number of young, massively fit fighters. He explained that this was (as mentioned in the article) all about respect. By artfully losing to the elderly guy, the young guys were buying into a traditional hierarchy of respect; perhaps someday, if they persevered, they would be on the receiving end of the same kind of respect.

  21. David Colquhounon 15 May 2017 at 5:40 pm

    I love the aphorism ” MMA is essentially evidence-based martial arts, separating itself from tradition and magical thinking and using only what works”.

    I heard a talk along very similar lines at the London Skeptics in the Pub, given by Rosi Sexton. She’s very well-qualified to talk about such matters because she’s a mathematician with a PhD inn theoretical computer science, as well as being a world class MMA champion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosi_Sexton

  22. rongaulon 15 May 2017 at 6:00 pm

    A lot of mushiness and false equivalencies here. I recognize the author doesn’t criticize the sports aspect, but what is left out is the aesthetic and fitness part. It’s martial “Arts”, not science, not effective military or street fighting science. Imagine someone instituting a “science based” drama program. Test a play by Shakespeare vs Tennessee Williams comprehension on high school kids. Well Williams wins. Let’s cut Shakespeare out of the curriculum and not be tied down to tradition. That’s how many cheerleaders of Xu sound.

    Yes any ki power bs should be countered. My sensei doesn’t do that. Any street self defense claims fought. My sensei doesn’t do that either. But Penn and Teller pointed out, in the age of handguns, any martial art’s claims of self defense is rendered bs the minute that bullet hits you, MMA training notwithstanding.

  23. noniditon 15 May 2017 at 6:11 pm

    @Steven:
    Of course you’re right. My comment wasn’t about the general statement of the article, but about the details, which, I think, are a bit mixed up.

    But i don’t think you can talk about this topic without making the distinction between sports and self-defense, since any kind of fight happens under certain conditions which may or may not resemble a specific kind of sports environment.

    But yeah, the examples going through the media right now are pretty indisputable.

  24. jester700on 15 May 2017 at 8:24 pm

    Idit – great points. Training is specific. Even in self defense training, do you train to take on 2 or 3 untrained drunks or one well trained opponent? Do you assume weapons? If so, do you assume your opponent can actually use it? If so, how do you train? Stickfighting with rattan (see “Dog Brothers”) is “more realistic” than using padded sticks, but you must use headgear. And with modern heavy fencing masks, it hurts less to get hit in the head than the hand or elbow. Thus, poor habits can evolve. Choices in how to mitigate the inability to have perfectly realistic training, even among arts with the same goals, results in different training, and in the end, different arts.

  25. CKavaon 15 May 2017 at 9:40 pm

    Nonidit,

    . We usually refer to them as traditional when they convey traditional martial art values such as greeting ceremonies, have a belt system and have a classic/traditional set of techniques, which doesn’t change often.

    Sure, I’m familiar with martial arts so I know about these tendencies but I think there is a rather problematic tendency to assume martial arts perceived to be more ‘exotic’ as more traditional. The belt system for example was actually a modern invention by Judo’s founder Jigoro Kano and was ironically intended to provide a ‘modern’ system of skill level recognition.

    Wrestling on the other hand is called Greco-Roman but is in fact something quite different from the traditional martial art.
    But this equally applies to Judo, which was not an ancient system but rather a newly invented ‘scientific’ approach to martial arts pioneered towards the end of the 19th Century. Greco-Roman wrestling probably shares about as much with older martial systems as Judo did.

    On the other hand you hear also many of those stories where a muay thai champion worked as a doorman and freezed cold in the moment where there were multiple aggressors with a baseball bat.

    I wouldn’t put much stock in such stories. Just like I don’t trust the various myths surrounding founders. It is possible for skilled fighters to be blindsided or to be surprised and unable to deal with weapons, they are not invincible. But I think self defence orientated martial arts often instill a dangerous level of self-confidence in people’s ability to deal with such attacks, when typically they have only been trained with very unrealistic levels of resistance. There are exceptions but yeah, I think you have to be really skeptical when dealing with systems claiming to solely teach ‘self defence’.

    I do agree however that someone training in a sport orientated system would likely be better in a real encounter if they, from time to time, trained in unconventional ways. But who has the time? 😉

  26. CKavaon 15 May 2017 at 10:11 pm

    Eugh… let me try that again.

    Nonidit,

    We usually refer to them as traditional when they convey traditional martial art values such as greeting ceremonies, have a belt system and have a classic/traditional set of techniques, which doesn’t change often.

    Sure, I’m familiar with martial arts so I know about these tendencies but I think there is a rather problematic tendency to assume martial arts perceived to be more ‘exotic’ as more traditional. The belt system for example was actually a modern invention by Judo’s founder Jigoro Kano and was ironically intended to provide a ‘modern’ system of skill level recognition.

    Wrestling on the other hand is called Greco-Roman but is in fact something quite different from the traditional martial art.

    But this equally applies to Judo, which was not an ancient system but rather a newly invented ‘scientific’ approach to martial arts pioneered towards the end of the 19th Century. Greco-Roman wrestling probably shares about as much with older martial systems as Judo did.

    On the other hand you hear also many of those stories where a muay thai champion worked as a doorman and freezed cold in the moment where there were multiple aggressors with a baseball bat.

    I wouldn’t put much stock in such stories. Just like I don’t trust the various myths surrounding founders. It is possible for skilled fighters to be blindsided or to be surprised and unable to deal with weapons, they are not invincible. But I think self defence orientated martial arts often instill a dangerous level of self-confidence in people’s ability to deal with such attacks, when typically they have only been trained with very unrealistic levels of resistance. There are exceptions but yeah, I think you have to be really skeptical when dealing with systems claiming to solely teach ‘self defence’.

    I do agree however that someone training in a sport orientated system would likely be better in a real encounter if they, from time to time, trained in unconventional ways. But who has the time?

  27. tb29607on 15 May 2017 at 10:55 pm

    Thank you Dr. Novella for another article that will resonate with my medical students.

    I should also thank you for educating me on how to describe the gross deficiencies of pseudoscientific studies. As a resident and fellow I did journal club “ad nauseam” but never learned to critique truly bad studies.

    You provide an invaluable service. Thank you and please keep up the good work.

  28. noniditon 16 May 2017 at 4:32 am

    @CKava:
    Yes, you’re right. As I said before the term “traditional” is very ill-defined and therefore it doesn’t make much sense to argue about whether a specific martial art should be labeled traditional or not. Maybe “western”, “eastern” and “other” would be a better classfication. 😉

    As for the ‘stories’: This wasn’t about glorifying self-defense martial arts, but about pointing out the problems in competition-only training. I completely agree with you regarding self-defense martial arts.

    PS: Just found an article, which nicely points out the main problems of ‘traditional’ (whatever that may be) martial arts:
    http://www.amam-magazine.com/traditional_arts.html
    (Especially 1,3 and 4 also apply to real self defense situations, point 2 mainly if you have only one opponent).

  29. SteveAon 16 May 2017 at 7:30 am

    Slightly tangential to the topic, but if you’re interested in this sort of thing (especially from a combat perspective) I’d recommend reading up on William ‘Dangerous Dan’ Fairburn https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_E._Fairbairn.

    Most of his publications are now available as ebooks.

  30. Sarahon 16 May 2017 at 11:12 am

    I’d imagine these styles, at one point, did have practical antecedents, and some certainly carry useful techniques even today. I suspect a modern Wing Chun practitioner would find themselves wrecked by the original users, who would have used it to actually win fights. The styles gradually take on a ritualized form that depletes them of effectiveness over time. The chi nonsense is just a prescientific rationale for how one person beats another through skill, fitness, and determination. MMA is then about picking the remaining good techniques from among the styles, developing new tricks, and seeing what works best without bias to tradition.

    That’s just my speculation, though – I don’t know nearly enough about the history of martial arts to say if it’s accurate.

  31. jester700on 16 May 2017 at 11:36 am

    The modern idea of “Martial arts” is actually kind of an oxymoron at the outset. They’re primarily empty handed, when rule #1 is “get a weapon in your hand”(contrast this with many Filipino and Indonesian arts where training begins using weapons and the empty hand movements are derived from that.)

    But I don’t think empty hand fighting was ever an especially highly developed thing, because it was auxiliary for the people who actually had to fight for a living or in defense. The stories about systems developed to be used unarmed (monks, Okinawan farmers defending against samurai, etc. ) are, let’s say, “highly suspect”.

    But yeah, even beyond that they’ve evolved to be safer for participation, thus less effective.

  32. Creeping Malaiseon 16 May 2017 at 10:25 pm

    “Okinawan farmers defending against samurai”

    And even the Okinawan styles are based around the use of work implements as makeshift weaponry.

  33. SteveAon 17 May 2017 at 7:31 am

    Creeping Malaise: “And even the Okinawan styles are based around the use of work implements as makeshift weaponry.”

    Hence the ‘nunchaku’ which are supposedly based on rice flails.

    I wonder if someone is developing a modern martial art based on the offensive use of swivel chairs, computer keyboards and paper staplers…

  34. jester700on 17 May 2017 at 12:03 pm

    SteveA:”I wonder if someone is developing a modern martial art based on the offensive use of swivel chairs, computer keyboards and paper staplers…”

    That sounds like a Jackie Chan movie.

  35. DevoutCatalyston 17 May 2017 at 6:32 pm

    jester700: “That sounds like a Jackie Chan movie.”

    Sounds like the Stephen Chow movie God of Cookery.

  36. djjosh21on 17 May 2017 at 8:03 pm

    Yeah, I’m not really sure I get the point of this, seems like comparing apples and oranges. MMA does have rules. So if I make up a new sport and call it ‘EG’ (everything goes) that allows biting, attacking private parts, etc., then the EG guy will pretty much win every time. EG would be much more effective at beating the opponent than MMA. Then the MMA people will be crying about morals the same way, no? They become just another traditional martial art compared to EG.

  37. jester700on 17 May 2017 at 8:17 pm

    djjosh,
    Yes. And then someone invents “EGWW” (with weapons), and they trash the EG folks. And on and on until we have…pretty much a couple of armies duking it out, which is, after all, martial.

    I think the original point was that many traditional martial artists, schools, teachers, etc. claim that their arts are so good for empty hand combat or self defense so that they would succeed against MMA folks. I’ve not seen many claiming that biting, gouging, etc. were critical to their success, and in many matches that I’ve seen it wouldn’t have made a shred of difference.

  38. djjosh21on 17 May 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Yup 🙂 So it just comes down to who has the most H-bombs!

  39. Sophieon 18 May 2017 at 3:51 am

    There are some points here that I feel are very misleading, and some key details that have been overlooked.

    (1) MMA by definition is created by taking the effective elements from various martial arts. (2) Therefore must be some merit to many different martial arts or their would not have been anything to steal to create MMA. (3) Rules are everything. Essentially everything nonidit wrote is very accurate and relevant to this discussion. (4) there are delusional people everywhere who think they are invincible, there’s Professional MMA fighters who think they will never lose, or who request to fight someone way above their weight class because they are just so talented. The early days of the UFC is filled with many such examples, there’s only a few anomalies, like Brazilian jiu-jit-su, where shorter, lighter combatants prevailed vs larger opponents. Usually the smaller, lighter, or out of shape men lost, vs bigger, fit men. This was just until they ironed out the kinks and got a real weight class system set up.

    Ronda Rousey famously said she would retire undefeated, right before her devastating first loss. She also talked a lot about being able to beat the male professional MMA fighters if only they would let her face them. Does anyone here really think Rousey would beat the best male MMA fighters in the world? If this happened and she lost would we advance the idea that MMA gives people fantasy ideas about themselves?

    We should advance this idea anyways, anyone who has ever spent an hour in a serious modern MMA gym will see many delusional people who think they will all be the greatest fighters the world. In the same way when you take an improv class or something you see a lot of people who swear they are going to be the next big thing. Or your dad’s casual garage band, those people all thought they would make it big when they were in high school. They fantasize about it all the time.

    I’m a feminist, but I have to draw the line somewhere. 135lbs vs 200lbs is quite significant, add to that the differences between musculature and just the fact that men’s MMA has been around much longer and probably has more competition and therefore higher standards. She would kick your ass, make no mistake, but probably not her male counterparts especially not the higher weight classes, she could win some matches, but not consistently enough to be champion.

    The biggest thing I think everyone here has overlooked is the basic idea that any kind of self-defense training gives you basic experience.

    Many people have never been punched in the mouth. Many of the readers of this blog have never had to fight for their lives. Or even suffered minor scuffles in their adult lives. It’s quite likely to go your whole life without ever getting in a serious fight.

    However, I’ve never in my life called 911, but I learned the number. I wonder why that is? As a kid I was taught to roll on the ground if I ever caught on fire, but I was never set ablaze. I was taught to avoid strangers in vans, but no stranger ever lured me with candy into his van.

    Interestingly, I was never taught how to resist being raped, how to fend of a bigger aggressor. Interesting huh? In elementary or high school school we never learned what to do if a man grabs you by your hair and shoves you to the ground.

    It’s such a male privilege to never have to worry about being sexually assaulted. Never having to fear if you are going to be okay taking that Uber alone at night. It’s no wonder why so many women do not physically resist, when being attacked and often do nothing. Freezing during rape is said to be quite common. They are not even slightly prepared for the situation.

    I wasn’t taught basic self-defense techniques until I walked into a random class out of boredom when I was in college. There for the first time in my life someone actually tried to seriously pin me down against my will and prevent me from escaping. Admittedly the techniques I learned were not easy, but with some practice I was able to put up some resistance. The controlled setting is obviously not the real thing. But it’s hard to imagine being ready for the real thing without some training first. If you just freeze during an assault then it’s not doing anything, a lot of people justify it as “well at least I didn’t get killed.” The reality is that rapists are not going to murder you, and that a tiny amount of resistance, screaming, putting up any kind of fight at all, is much more effective than doing nothing at all.

    Males aren’t immune to sexual aggression. Prison rape still happens, I wonder how you would feel about getting some basic self defense training before going to prison? Is it still silly then? Wouldn’t have time for it?

  40. SteveAon 18 May 2017 at 4:28 am

    Cozying/Sophie: “I wasn’t taught basic self-defense techniques until I walked into a random class out of boredom when I was in college. There for the first time in my life someone actually tried to seriously pin me down against my will and prevent me from escaping.”

    I’m curious. Is this a genuine problem for you in real life? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where people don’t want you to leave the room?

  41. CKavaon 18 May 2017 at 6:54 am

    Males aren’t immune to sexual aggression. Prison rape still happens, I wonder how you would feel about getting some basic self defense training before going to prison? Is it still silly then? Wouldn’t have time for it?

    Sophie,

    Who are you directing your comments towards/correcting? I don’t see anyone dismissing outright the value of training in martial arts or claiming that all people training in MMA are invincible. People are just discussing what makes for the most effective training and generally agreeing that you should focus on systems that allow you to train with resistance and avoid those that use unrealistic methods and too much hyperbole. Do you disagree with any of that? Because what you are advocating (that people should get some basic self defence knowledge) still seems completely compatible with most of the advice above? Indeed, you seem to have had an experience with actual resistance given you describe someone seriously pinning you down…

    On the issue of delusions of grandeur, my limited experience of MMA gyms doesn’t accord with what you report. I haven’t noticed an unusually high amount of delusional egomaniacs, largely because people with unrealistic expectations and large egos tend to get frustrated with training and leave relatively quickly. What you describe seems to apply better to fans of the UFC/MMA. It’s true though that shows like The Ultimate Fighter, the success of Conor McGregor and the general tenor of the UFC and other American MMA promotions, are encouraging more fighters (and wannabe fighters) to behave arrogantly and ‘talk smack’ to increase interest/ratings but that is not typically reflective of the atmosphere during training. Even the biggest assholes in MMA generally have good relationships with their training partners. There are toxic exceptions but you find the same thing in any competitive sporting environment.

    In my own experiences the largest egos and unrealistic perceptions of ability I have encountered have not been with people practicing the more competition focused systems (like Judo, Muay Thai, BJJ) but with more ‘traditional’ or ‘self-defence’ orientated styles (e.g. Wing Chun, Ninjutsu). I’m talking in broad generalizations, of course, but just saying my experience differs. Maybe what you are talking about is a US MMA thing?

    As far as Ronda having a massive ego and making various unrealistic claims- I agree. She raised the profile of women’s MMA and deserves credit but she clearly hasn’t been able to handle losing. Still maybe she motivated some women to get interested in training or the kind of self-defence you describe.

  42. Sophieon 18 May 2017 at 10:34 am

    SteveA,

    I’m curious. Is this a genuine problem for you in real life? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where people don’t want you to leave the room?

    How is this an acceptable reply to a sincere comment about resisting rape? Anyone? You think women not being prepared for a statistically significant threat is a joking matter? Be sure to pass that along to your daughters.

    CKava,

    Comments do not have to be directed at people. I never claimed to correct anyone. I am allowed to mention things that no one else mentioned. I made it pretty clear that I felt like some things were being ignored. You for example wrote:

    …when typically they have only been trained with very unrealistic levels of resistance. There are exceptions but yeah, I think you have to be really skeptical when dealing with systems claiming to solely teach ‘self defence’….But who has the time?

    These statements directly undercut any kind of women’s self-defense training. Taken at face value they would lead you to say that it’s either a waste of time, unrealistic and not to be trusted. They also demonstrate that you are unaware of how training works. You have to train under weaker forms of resistance before you are ready for the reality. There is literally no training system in the world that starts you at “realistic resistance,” therefore even mentioning this as a point against self-defense makes no sense. You learn to form your letters before you are expected to write an essay. You learn the fallacies and easy examples of informal logic before you are expected to write good arguments.

    As you previously described, with your comments on gun control, you are not American. Over here MMA is huge. I also said serious gyms. I really doubt you’ve walked into a gym where current UFC fighters train and teach. Yes those places are filled with people who think they are going to make it big. Most of them end up not making it due to many reasons. For every pro there are tens of thousands of people who dedicated their lives to going pro who did not make it.

    Delusional people are everywhere, and since MMA is much bigger here than the older martial arts, by the laws of statistics, there are going to be many more people who know some MMA and have delusional ideas about themselves.

    Also just a small point: Also almost every MMA fighter has belts in different martial arts. Brazilian jiu jitsu, is pretty central to modern MMA, you need to spend months learning it. Is it enough on its own? Of course not, but if you watch a street fight between a boxer and a BJJ master, what do you think happens?

    Some of the best fighters have years of just college Olympic style wrestling before they quickly transition into MMA. Does wrestling not have practical point? Is it just silly men in leotards being weird?

    Of course it is useful, it teaches you balance, how to stay on your feet in a fight, how to throw, grab and hold and opponent, and basic flow/relaxation under pressure.

    The most common thing with new people when they first train in any kind of wrestling is that they are so tense, and get so incredibly tired in the first few minutes, while the more experienced person is not tired at all.

    This isn’t because experience makes you so much stronger and gives you more stamina, it’s just because with experience you learn to not try to advance a position that won’t go anywhere, but a naive opponent will struggle and try to force moves that are not mechanically advantageous for them. I can spend very little energy in guard and make someone have a hard time trying to defeat me.

    I can’t count the number of times someone has tired themselves out, trying to force a choke when all they have is a crude headlock. Or an armlock when they do not have a good hold or lever. Or become all sweaty and out of breath simply trying to incorrectly pass my guard, then when they pause to rest or show obvious weakness and fatigue I strike.

    Just like giving you some basic experience with aggressors, self-defense also teaches you what kind of resistance is effective, what type of positions to advance and what positions to beware of, it also teaches you to not be so tense and waste energy on stupid things, the best people I’ve trained with are so incredibly relaxed.
    —-/
    Please go read what I wrote, pay attention to the overall message not the specifics. Explain to me in one sentence what I got wrong.

    Would the world be better without my comment? Would this discussion be better without it? Did I contribute nothing useful? Is not rape a statistically significant thing we should be discussing in a conversation about self-defense? Is it not interesting that there’s likely just a bunch of men discussing this in this comment section, with no female perspective? Is it not a fact that men do not have to worry about sexual assault as much as women? Or that freezing up is common during rape Or that most self defense grants basic experience, that is helpful for teaching resistance? Aren’t there studies that show resistance during rape is highly effective?

    Please go ahead and correct me if I’m wrong.

  43. Bob.Newmanon 18 May 2017 at 11:24 am

    We’ve been down this road and it might be best to simply not engage. Sophie is unlikely to learn from their previous missteps and any interaction are likely to be similarly fruitless. That being said I do enjoy the vigorous debate. I guess I’m happy either way so I declare myself the winner. This victory seems truer that the “victories” claimed by other frequent commentators.

  44. CKavaon 18 May 2017 at 11:47 am

    Sophie,

    Ok in one (maybe two!) sentences… You have completely misunderstood what I am saying and are attacking various arguments I haven’t made. I agree with your overall message that more people should consider issues of self defence and ideally should seek out some basic training- and that this is especially useful for women.

    Now on to the specifics…

    I wonder how you would feel about getting some basic self defense training before going to prison? Is it still silly then? Wouldn’t have time for it?

    You finished your post by stating direct questions that seemed like they were directed at someone in particular, and I thought it might be me but wasn’t sure so I thought I’d check.

    From your response I gather that you were directing some of the sentiment my way but you seem to have largely misunderstood what I was saying. You connected ‘…But who has the time?’ to an unrelated sentence, here’s the original sentence:

    I do agree however that someone training in a sport orientated system would likely be better in a real encounter if they, from time to time, trained in unconventional ways. But who has the time?

    The context here was that I was agreeing with nonidit that some training for self defence scenarios would be beneficial, even for those training in competition styles. My comment ‘but who has the time?’ was meant as a light hearted acknowledgment that training schedules in competitive styles are usually pretty packed, so while it would be nice in an ideal world, it is unlikely that practitioners of competitive styles are going to devote training time to such efforts. Most people have a hard enough time keeping up with making standard progress in their chosen system.

    These statements directly undercut any kind of women’s self-defense training. Taken at face value they would lead you to say that it’s either a waste of time, unrealistic and not to be trusted. They also demonstrate that you are unaware of how training works. You have to train under weaker forms of resistance before you are ready for the reality. There is literally no training system in the world that starts you at “realistic resistance,” therefore even mentioning this as a point against self-defense makes no sense. You learn to form your letters before you are expected to write an essay. You learn the fallacies and easy examples of informal logic before you are expected to write good arguments.

    Sophie do you have experience in martial arts training or are you basing all this on a self defence course? You later mention wrestling training but then switch to talking about your guard, which is typically a term used in BJJ. Anyway, it might help if I know what experience you are coming from?

    I am well aware of how martial arts training ‘works’. And no I wasn’t dismissing any and all self-defence training, I was quite specifically saying that people should be skeptical of self defence training that solely relies on compliant and unrealistic drills because this can provide a false sense of security. Not all self-defence training falls under this criteria, but a lot of it does.

    I also didn’t say anything about having to start immediately with ‘realistic resistance’, I just said that for self-defence training to be valuable that needs to be a component. Yes you also need compliant drilling. The problem comes when you don’t do anything but compliant drills/scenarios. As far as ‘no training system in the world’ that involves no resistance training from the get-go, I think I started randori in my third session of Judo. Randori is the kind of thing I mean when I say ‘realistic resistance’, I’m not talking about knife fights to the death, I’m talking about your opponent resisting with a reasonable amount of effort.

    Also just a small point: Also almost every MMA fighter has belts in different martial arts. Brazilian jiu jitsu, is pretty central to modern MMA, you need to spend months learning it. Is it enough on its own? Of course not, but if you watch a street fight between a boxer and a BJJ master, what do you think happens?

    I have no idea why you are telling me this? BJJ also doesn’t take months to learn, it takes years. What’s the stuff about the streetfighter?

    Some of the best fighters have years of just college Olympic style wrestling before they quickly transition into MMA. Does wrestling not have practical point? Is it just silly men in leotards being weird?

    Errr… no. Olympic style wrestling is an extremely effective form of grappling. Training seriously in it would be very beneficial for someone’s self defence abilities (even with them wearing funny leotards and women wrestle too so it’s definitely not just ‘silly men’). I honestly have no idea who or what you are arguing with but it doesn’t bear any relevance to anything I’ve said. Your summary of the benefits it offers is pretty accurate however.

    This isn’t because experience makes you so much stronger and gives you more stamina, it’s just because with experience you learn to not try to advance a position that won’t go anywhere, but a naive opponent will struggle and try to force moves that are not mechanically advantageous for them. I can spend very little energy in guard and make someone have a hard time trying to defeat me.

    Ok… again is this directed at me? What you are describing about people tensing up when they first engage in wrestling is true but that’s precisely the kind of reason I am advocating people train in systems where they get the chance to experience some resistance and able to become more relaxed and responsive. It sounds here like you are arguing for the same position I am?

  45. Sophieon 18 May 2017 at 12:23 pm

    Bob.Newman,

    Awww another critic, how adorable. Instead of commenting on “how” I said something, or how you personally “feel” about me as a person, why don’t you actually respond to “what” I had to say? I only gave like ten questions, any one of which would be a great starting point for a discussion.

    Is it because it’s hard to actually engage? Is this why your first and only comment in this thread neglects to mention the subject matter of the article or the discussion in the comments?

    Ckava,

    Sophie do you have experience in martial arts training or are you basing all this on a self defence course? You later mention wrestling training but then switch to talking about your guard, which is typically a term used in BJJ. Anyway, it might help if I know what experience you are coming from?

    I’ve noticed this before, you have this like gotcha journalism style where you attempt to find any slight inconsistency and then use it to base attacks, instead of staying on message.

    Whether it’s in the conversation about the nature of identity, and you focused on how personality can slightly change over time, instead of the entire point I was making, which was that personality is a big part of identity that isn’t dependent on active recall, therefore identity is not best explained by episodic memory. Or if it’s here where you claim you agree with my message but don’t shut up about the tiny little details you find incongruent.

    I never said that “guard” was an Olympic wrestling thing, I said it after in a discussion where the words “…new people first train in any kind of wrestling…” I also went back and forth between MMA, wrestling and BJJ in the discussion. Assuming that I don’t know what I’m talking about because of one line, and ignoring the overall picture, is a trademark CKava move.

    Does it look like my comments were written by someone with no experience? Someone who doesn’t understand the difference between those three systems? Seriously, I want to know. Because if not, then what are you doing questioning my expertise based on a single word: “guard?”

    Your comments on Olympic wrestling also fly in the face of what I wrote. I clearly explained how it’s useful and not silly, in the lines right after what you quoted. You left them out, to explain how useful Olympic wrestling is? … really?

    The idea here is that many studies show that any kind of resistance is highly effective in preventing rape. Freezing and not resisting out of fear is quite common. Any kind of basic women’s self defense training is clearly a good thing for the world. No one mentioned any of this in these comments and many people undercut the value of self defense systems… because you are men? You haven’t had to worry about this. I’m sure you would like your daughters to learn to resist. How are they going to learn that if they aren’t trained or no one teaches them how to fight back? Like I said,
    I was taught how to roll on the ground if I ever caught on fire, but it never happened. What’s statistically more likely, my clothes catching fire, or encountering a sexually aggressive man?

  46. CKavaon 18 May 2017 at 1:15 pm

    Sophie,

    It’s not just tiny details that are incongruent. Your entire response to me is confusing. Your comment was directed specifically to me (“CKava,”) and written angrily, as if it is correcting me, but then goes on to make arguments about things I’ve never suggested – e.g. that olympic wrestling is stupid- and support rather than contradict my previous points – e.g. how people tense up the first time they experience resistance training so they should experience that in a controlled environment.

    And the same goes for the ‘gotcha’, I’m not trying to catch you out, I’m just confused and still am. Do you train in BJJ or wrestling or something else? It sounds like BJJ, but when you first mentioned it you called it Brazilian jiu-jit-su and then commented that it takes months to learn, which combined with the guard/wrestling mix up (which apparently wasn’t a mix up) suggested you aren’t very familiar with the system. But your post at the end is written like someone who has some experience, or at least is very confident of their awesome guard game. Hence, the confusion and the question.

    Your comments on Olympic wrestling also fly in the face of what I wrote. I clearly explained how it’s useful and not silly, in the lines right after what you quoted. You left them out, to explain how useful Olympic wrestling is? … really?

    Errr (again)… No they don’t, they agree with you? You said its useful and asked me if it was silly, implying that I had suggested that? I responded no, I think it’s useful and pointed out that I had never said it was silly. I also specifically stated: “Your summary of the benefits it offers is pretty accurate” so I didn’t ignore that you ‘explained how it’s useful’. I genuinely don’t know what you are fighting about here. From my perspective we both agree on the value of wrestling- you (for some reason) just incorrectly assumed that I didn’t.

    Any kind of basic women’s self defense training is clearly a good thing for the world.

    Ok, here’s a point we actually seem to disagree on. I think a woman’s self defence course that teaches unrealistic defences and provides people with an undue sense of confidence in their abilities to subdue an attacker is potentially dangerous. So I wouldn’t say all women’s self defence courses are good, I’d specifically recommend those that provide training that is likely to be effective and useful.

    P.S. I don’t have any daughters but I would encourage them, if I had any, to learn basic self defence from an effective course.

  47. Bob.Newmanon 18 May 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Sophie,
    I hope you are not truly as angry as your online persona appears to be. I’ll put your name on my church’s prayer list for the time being.

  48. Sophieon 18 May 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Ckava,

    So if I wrote:
    “Any kind of basic critical thinking course is clearly a good thing for the world.”

    You could write almost exactly your comment. Let me ask you though, do you honestly think I am recommending training that isn’t effective or useful?

    Do you think I’m suggesting people don’t find a high quality course or instruction? Do you think zero training is better than even a flawed course that simply said “resistance is effective?”

    Also what are you talking about women’s self defense courses giving them an undue sense of confidence. It basic training for defense. What exactly do you think these women are going to do, go out and behave dangerously just so they can try to escape from a hair pull or a grab?

    Your comments are what it looks like when someone just wants to fight.

  49. CKavaon 18 May 2017 at 1:39 pm

    lol, honestly Sophie given how you have been storming around since you joined the thread, I’m not inclined to take your advice on posting etiquette particularly seriously.

    Assuming your questions are made in good faith…

    Let me ask you though, do you honestly think I am recommending training that isn’t effective or useful?

    I honestly don’t know. You initially seemed very annoyed that I would dare suggest martial arts based self-defence training to be useful, should ideally giving include some element of resistance but since then you seem to have gone on to argue almost the exact point when discussing the value of wrestling.

    Do you think I’m suggesting people don’t find a high quality course or instruction? Do you think zero training is better than even a flawed course that simply said “resistance is effective?”

    I don’t know that a course consisting of a slogan would be that beneficial to anyone. And yes, I do think that 0 training is better than highly unrealistic training because of the issue of false confidence.

    Also what are you talking about women’s self defense courses giving them an undue sense of confidence. It basic training for defense. What exactly do you think these women are going to do, go out and behave dangerously just so they can try to escape from a hair pull or a grab?

    You are talking as if there is some single set course for women’s self defence and no variation. That is not the case. There are many self-defence courses for women and men and a lot of variation. Some teach dangerous things, like supposed gun disarms, or techniques to disable a large attacker that are unrealistic. When these are practiced with no resistance they can give people the impression that they are able to deal with threats they cannot. People are unlikely to seek out threats, but they might respond to a situation- say someone pulling a gun by doing something unwise e.g. attempting a gun disarm.

    Does that make my position clear? It’s been the same since the thread started and it applies to both men and women. If you want to learn self-defence then ideally train in a competitive martial art that you enjoy, if you want to take a course look for one that includes some element of realistic resistance. Avoid courses which make outlandish claims about self defence and ONLY involve compliant drilling.

    I still don’t think our positions are that far apart, actually. I was just highlighting the point where I think we do disagree but seems we might not?

  50. Sophieon 18 May 2017 at 1:57 pm

    CKava,

    If a self-defense course just teaches women to thrash around like a crazy person, scream at the top of their lungs, and to continually resist. Then it’s infinitely better than nothing.

    Especially since freezing and doing nothing is a common psychological response.

    If a critical thinking course just teaches you to not contradict yourself, it’s infinitely better than zero training.
    —/

    The idea here is that it’s a well documented phenomenon that freezing up and providing no resistance is a common thing that happens in assault cases. It’s also been studied that putting up any kind of resistance is effective.

    The idea is not training elite soldiers, it just to prepare women for a statistically significant threat. One that can be avoided in many cases with some resistance.

    I did not make any outlandish claims about gun disarms or anything like that. But disabling a larger attacker is possible. Either way, this isn’t the point. You don’t actually have to defeat the would-be rapist in hand to hand combat. You just have to scream, thrash around, claw at their eyes, then run. Literally anything you do to buy yourself time, alert others nearby or make the attacker have to fight, is shown to be effective.

    A lot of Krav Maga for example is focused on improvised weapons, unique strikes other than punches and kicks, and using your environment. Things that most people would never think of doing while in fight for flight without training. I don’t care how big you are if I push you down a flight of stairs, dig my nail into your eye, elbow you in the throat, smash your head with textbook, drive my heel into your foot, head butt your nose as hard as I can …you are going to think twice about the amount of effort it’s going to take to assault me. I don’t have to win. I just have to make it difficult.

  51. noniditon 22 May 2017 at 9:32 am

    @Bob.Newman: Not helpful.

    @Sophie:
    Although agreeing with most of what you said, I am still confused which position you are defending and against whom. Could you shortly point out what exactly you are criticising (If it wasn’t just a misunderstanding)? Since I have the impression, that we all pretty much agree on this topic.

    @CKava/Sophie:
    I think you are both right about whether ‘esoteric’ self-defense is better than no self-defense at all, but you are talking about different situations.

    CKava is right, that for example in situations like armed robbery it is highly disadvantageous to be overconfident in your skills, since this might get you killed pretty fast. A good instructor will tell you, that you should never ever engage in a fight where weapons are a possibility (even if you don’t directly see them), but there are certainly instructors out there who teach you knife defense or gun defense without this disclaimer.

    In a situation, where someone is going to rape you on the other hand it may be very advantageous to be overconfident in your skills, since the opportunity costs (getting raped) are much higher than the risk you take (again, if the guy doesn’t have a weapon). The same may be the case in an unarmed conflict.

    In all of those situations it may very well be possible that the aggressor can’t deal with your sudden confidence and will refrain from attacking you, but the else case is very different.

  52. Sophieon 23 May 2017 at 12:06 pm

    nonidit,

    Could you shortly point out what exactly you are criticising (If it wasn’t just a misunderstanding)? Since I have the impression, that we all pretty much agree on this topic.

    [Sophie, previously] There are some points here that I feel are very misleading, and some key details that have been overlooked.
    —–/
    The biggest thing I think everyone here has overlooked is the basic idea that any kind of self-defense training gives you basic experience.

    Many people have never been punched in the mouth. Many of the readers of this blog have never had to fight for their lives. Or even suffered minor scuffles in their adult lives. It’s quite likely to go your whole life without ever getting in a serious fight.

    However, I’ve never in my life called 911, but I learned the number. I wonder why that is? As a kid I was taught to roll on the ground if I ever caught on fire, but I was never set ablaze. I was taught to avoid strangers in vans, but no stranger ever lured me with candy into his van.

    Interestingly, I was never taught how to resist being raped, how to fend of a bigger aggressor. Interesting huh? In elementary or high school school we never learned what to do if a man grabs you by your hair and shoves you to the ground… It’s no wonder why so many women do not physically resist, when being attacked and often do nothing. Freezing during rape is said to be quite common. They are not even slightly prepared for the situation.

    [emphasis mine]

    I outlined how the narrative of the delusional traditional martial artists, versus the science based MMA fighters is flawed. It wasn’t just Rousey herself that said she would retire undefeated, there were commentators and articles written about it. She herself has many delusional ideas about herself.

    In my personal experience, I’ve met many people in the amateur MMA world who also have many delusional ideas about themselves. People who think that they are the best in the world because they won a very specific weight class in a tournament in the middle of no where. There is also tremendous levels of dishonesty in many prestigious gyms. There are teachers who don’t advance their student’s official belt ranking for years, just so that their gym can win in as many skill brackets as possible. Therefore bring their gym many trophies from each tournament.

    https://www.jiujitsutimes.com/whats-the-meaning-of-sandbagging-in-jiu-jitsu/

    Essentially, these students have years of training, but they compete against people who just have a few months of training, they both are officially classified in the tournament as beginners.

    Other MMA people have more dangerous behavior. For example, 2 people I trained with for a long time would regularly get into bar fights, every weekend. One of them was a pretty well known instructor. Sometimes they would win. Sometimes they would end up in the emergency room. They would always need to go out with a group of friends, because they were so notorious that one time Pete was walking home alone from the bar and he was assaulted by an individual he had previously humiliated in a bar fight that same night, this person got some friends together and they beat him to within an inch of his life.

    I wonder what led Pete to that situation? Was it not (1) an overconfidence in his own skill level, a (2) delusional idea that MMA was for bar fights and not 1 on 1 competition, (3) combined with a pretty pathetic understanding of human nature?

    Not a single person here mentioned negatives to MMA training in terms of the discussion in the article. People said it was analogous to science and insulted traditional martial arts as well as self-defense. No one mentioned that martial arts give you experience with being in the situation. It’s useful to know what it’s like to fight after getting hit in the nose. Before you are in that situation. It’s useful to know that resistance is effective, that many women freeze up and are just passive, and that you should fight that. Also it helps to understand the stats, rapists are not equal to murderers.

    Ckava went so far as to say self-defense classes might give women dangerous self confidence…. This misses the entire point, any class that teaches “resistance is effective” is a good thing for humanity. The stats show us that rape is a statistically significant threat to women, and that any kind of resistance is an effective countermeasure. Women who use forceful resistance are no more likely to be injured than women who did not resist. Women are the victims here, they don’t get into situations where they need to use self-defense to get out of, because of over confidence. I guess it’s overconfidence to assume you won’t be assaulted by a guy at a party. Or that your Uber driver won’t try to force himself on you when you are coming home from the bar.

    If someone is close enough to sexually assault me, then their gun/knife isn’t immune to disarm techniques. If you are advanced in something like Krav Maga, you know that distance is what makes guns effective, and you know many different ways of either neutralizing the threat of the weapon or disarming the person. If they have their finger on the trigger, then any kind of sudden jerk or strike will likely make the gun go off, all you have to do is make sure the gun is not pointing at you when that happens. Acting like “oh there is a gun, nothing I can do,” is not honest. If they are within range there is plenty that a skilled practitioner can do. I have even held an airsoft gun on a skilled instructor myself, with the instruction “shoot when you see me move or feel me resist.” I was disarmed quite quickly over and over, most of the time the gun didn’t even go off, and when it did, it didn’t hit him. I hit myself in the leg a few times. The only times I managed to shoot him I the face mask, were when I reacted before anything happened.

    You likely not going to be shot, stabbed, or killed, for screaming and resisting. Gunshots lead to bullet holes, women who are bleeding to death are not very sexy. Gunshots also mean noise and attract attention. You have to remember that when someone uses a gun or a knife to threaten you, that they have no more ultimate threat than that. It’s also human nature to flinch, recoil and move around against the wishes of an aggressor, at least initially. So if you argument is something like “if you resist you will get shot,” then you don’t understand human nature. Most people don’t stay perfectly still when a gun is put up to their face. Therefore some movement is likely to be tolerated, if it’s not then I guess most hold ups, assaults at gunpoint, would end in shots fired. Therefore I can move, and attempt to resist. If I’m skilled then I stand a real chance.

  53. CKavaon 23 May 2017 at 9:37 pm

    Sophie you are training at the wrong gyms.

    Your description of super ego-driven douches who have no idea of their actual skill level/limitations and instructors who go out to pick fights at the weekends sounds like the Cobra Kai. In my experience people who are competing in almost any sport regularly face ego checks, and are not typically like that. Similarly, most of the high level competitors I’ve met, with a few exceptions, are not aggressive in their normal life because they don’t have anything to prove. You can always find individual examples (cough, War Machine) or toxic gyms but that’s the same for MMA/TMA or really any sport/endeavour in life.

    I know you will claim that this is the way it is in the US, but I don’t buy that, the Americans I’ve trained with and the gyms I’ve seen in the US are pretty similar to those in the UK/Japan. The way you paint it the whole MMA community in the US are knuckle dragging brawlers, which is a prominent stereotype but not one that I think is accurate.

    It’s useful to know what it’s like to fight after getting hit in the nose.

    You mean its useful to train with resistance? Good to know. You don’t experience getting hit in the nose if you only ever train compliant drills.

    Women who use forceful resistance are no more likely to be injured than women who did not resist.

    No one including me is saying that women should not be encouraged to forcefully resist. I am saying that self defence courses that involve resistance are better and those that involve unrealistic self-defence training, including gun disarms, are worse.

    Your confidence in your gun arm disabling skills is illustrative, especially the comment that guns are most effective at distance. I’m not saying people give up all hope in a gun situation but I am saying that deploying some super effective gun disarming moves should be a last resort.

    Its also notable that we are now into the realm of discussing appropriate strategies to deal with rape scenarios involving unknown armed assailants. This scenario relates to a small percentage of cases but is the typical scenario that martial art self-defence courses focus on. And that’s part of my issue with such courses, since most rapes are not committed by attackers in dark alleys with guns. They occur ‘at or near’ a person’s home and are performed by someone known to the victim, often their ex-partners, without the use of a weapon. Resistance in such a scenario is still essential but it’s very different psychologically than dealing with an unknown assailant in a dark alley using skilled gun disarms.

    And yet even with all of the above, and despite your best efforts to show otherwise, I still think we are mostly in agreement. You place higher value on self-defence courses and things like gun-disarms than I do, but we both agree that gaining confidence and being encouraged to ‘resist’ in some form is valuable and that the public, especially women, could benefit from some basic training. Based on the illustrations you provide we also seem to agree that training with resistance is necessary, despite your claims to the contrary.

  54. Sophieon 23 May 2017 at 10:47 pm

    CKava,

    In my experience people who are competing in almost any sport regularly face ego checks, and are not typically like that. Similarly, most of the high level competitors I’ve met, with a few exceptions, are not aggressive in their normal life because they don’t have anything to prove.

    We must be on different planets. The world I live in is filled with examples that run against your story. I have witnessed many examples people who are total jerks learning MMA just so that their ego can be backed up by some skill. The example I gave of the instructor is totally real. But you don’t have to believe it, just go watch professional MMA and do some googling. You will find many examples of inflated egos.

    So by any sport do you mean football? Because I can think of a few famous examples of sexual assault being perpetrated by football players as a “bonding experience,” or just other types of behavior like this, at the high school and college level. This Baylor case is probably the most infamous recent one.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/09/sports/baylor-football-sexual-assault.html

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baylor_University_sexual_assault_scandal

    There are other cases wherein the colleges engaged in a coverup and ignored the claims of the victims.

    What’s interesting here is that you seem to completely unaware of the role of ego in sports in general. Only someone in denial, unaware or being dishonest would attempt to claim that that sports have an ego check effect on people and lead them to not be aggressive in their personal lives.

    In fact, just with football anyone can easily formulate an argument that there are numerous examples of assaults that we can say it makes people violent. We can argue that concussive syndrome leads to bouts of rage and domestic violence, quite easily, and many have.

    I would describe most sports in the opposite way you described them. I would say that they are activities that encourage outlandish ego displays and quite often nurture young egos and churn out douchebags. Have you ever watched a hockey game? Fighting is encouraged, it’s part of the culture, fans love it. Is that not just a primal dominance display? Do you think the average hockey player has a sensible ego that was “checked” by their experience on the ice? I think they get actively encouraged to be assholes. I would say the same about professional fighters. Football, hockey, and professional fighting also involve regular head trauma, which can often lead to low impulse control and violent behavior. Therefore we can argue along cultural lines but also along plausible biological explanations.

  55. CKavaon 24 May 2017 at 12:51 am

    We seem to be discussing different things.

    Ronda Rousey is not representative of the average person training in MMA (or Judo!) anymore than Ronaldo is representative of the vast majority of people playing in local soccer leagues. And even with that, although arrogance/ego sells and the UFC (and other brands) actively encourage fighters to become ‘personalities’ and stoke controversies, you still have plenty of prominent counterexamples to the Rousey/McGregor/Rampage template e.g. folks like Randy Couture, JWP, Roger Gracie, Demian Maia, and GSP.

    But to be clear, I am not disputing that sports, and success in sports, can lead to inflated egos and that a degree of self-belief/arrogance is likely to be correlated with success. I also agree that the nature of combat sports attracts a certain element of aggressive, unpleasant people.

    I am just specifically disagreeing with how far you attribute this character to the entire MMA/BJJ/combat sport community. It might reflect your experiences but if so I reiterate that you are training at the wrong gyms. Your characterization matches what I see promoted on the UFC and TUF but not what I’ve seen in actual gyms or with most high level competitors.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.