What we are saying is that the kind of movement done in sports competition is not designed to created the physics that create immediate damage to another human. By this we’re not talking inflicting pain. We’re talking about breaking something in the attacker to end the attack… (Immediate means that, you’re about to be attacked NOW! Not threatened, not intimidated, not insulted, not your feelings hurt, not scared, but about to be physically attacked. The other important word is ‘harm.’ That’s an important term because it implies not pain, but intense — if not permanent — physical injury. A fat lip hurts, but it is not harm. Yet, this is the kind of stuff you will NOT be taught in most martial arts schools. By instructors who claim to teach you self-defense).
It depends on the martial art, and the school, and the teacher, and the fight. Every fight is different. Is it a shoving match, with a few drunken punches thrown? Or is it somebody coming at you FAST with a knife and a deadly look in their eye who has used knives on people before? And which of these scenarios are you training for?
These are basic questions many martial artists skirt around. They are uncomfortable to think about.
This is one of the things I like about Marc “The Animal” MacYoung. He should really call his website “No Bullshit Self Defense.”
Back in 2000, when I really started studying fighting and self-defense in earnest, there were not many books on the subject. I got the basic ones on Wing Chun, by DeMille and Leung Ting and J. Yimm Lee’s book. But these were mostly reiterations of the drills I was learning in class, with a little theory thrown in on the side.
I learned a lot more from the books I found on street fighting, because these were lessons from reality. One of the best was Cheap Shots, Ambushes, And Other Lessons: A Down And Dirty Book On Streetfighting & Survival by Marc “The Animal” MacYoung.
There is a lot of fantasy going on in martial arts schools around the world, largely because many Classical arts do not have hard sparring and because there is not much real fighting going on among people in everyday life. So its easy to build up these ideas in your mind about what “would” happen in this or that scenario. If you are going to engage in this sort of thinking, you need to start by understanding the nature of real violence, the sort of thing you might encounter against an oppoent who has had fighting experience and is aggressive. One of the first real steps I took in the right direction was reading Marc MarcYoung’s pragmatic perspective on street violence back in the late 90s.
One example (and I forget which book this was from): he talks about the common fantasy of knocking the other guy out with one punch. I even remember that common phrase from high school: “There’ll be two sounds, me hitting you and you hitting the ground.”
MacYoung tells the story of how his Dad, a steel worker, fell three or four stories off a high rise under construction and landed in a pile of scrap and plywood. When he got up and checked himself for broken bones, his foreman asked if he was OK. When he said, “I guess so,” the foreman jerked his thumb upwards – like, get back to work. MacYoung’s point was, you think you are going to knock a guy like that out with one punch? You better hit like Mike Tyson and even then you’ll probably need more than one.
MacYoung’s work (his books and his website) are antidotes to the fantasy and wishful thinking rampant in the martial arts. His life in the streets (I think in LA) forced him to confront the reality of street violence.
People will use weapons. People will trick you and pretend to be injured. Fights will not be one on one. Friends will join in and kick you on the ground. Their girlfriend will stick a knife in you. Random strangers will get involved. There will be chairs and tables and loose gravel and oil and broken glass on the ground.
The real world is random and chaotic.
On the street, bullshit doesn’t walk, it lies in the gutter bleeding.
MacYoung has recently started teaming up with other reality-based self defense proponents like Rory Miller and Lawrence Kan, for instance in the excellent “Little Black Book of Violence.”
More on this band of brothers later.