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Are you studying the martial arts for self defense, or for some other reason? This may sound strange but, your focus and goal will determine whether a particular style, school, or teacher is right for you!
I have been studying the martial arts for over two-thirds of my life. I began by studying Goju-Ryu Karate when I was twelve years old in 1975. I then progressed through other arts like aikido, jujitsu, Bruce Lee’s jeet kune do, Shaolin kung-fu, and tae kwon do, before finding and concentrating on ninjutsu – the martial art of Japan’s ancient Ninja.
Now, please don’t confuse my intentions with that of comparing these other systems to the one I currently hold teaching credentials in. In fact, I have a problem with much of what is being taught as ninjutsu and budo taijutsu as well.
No. My focus in this article is on street readiness and the ability and suitability of any teacher, art, or program to teach you what you need to know to defend against and survive a real-world attack.
That being said, you should probably also know that my experience is not limited to my martial arts training. In fact, I learned much of what I know, and developed many of my perspectives and beliefs about real-world combat while working as a police officer, undercover investigator, private detective, and body guard.
So, when I say that most martial arts and instructors approach self defense backwards, I’m not doing so from a “my-way vs their-way” mentality. I’m saying it because I’ve seen way too many martial arts students get their you-know-what’s kicked by completely untrained attackers on the street.
And the reason this happened was because, while they were learning the “official” step-by-step skills of their chosen martial arts system, they forgot to make sure that they were also learning how to defend against their most likely threats.
If you’ve ever trained in the martial arts, you will be able to associate what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, the following should help.
You see, when a student enrolls in the typical martial arts program, he or she is typically introduced to that systems “basics.” This includes the unique punches, kicks, blocks, and such that make up what we often call, the “style.”
Unfortunately, many of these official techniques were designed to handle the fights and fighters…
several hundred years ago!
I’m not implying that you should not learn the techniques of the style you’re in. What I am saying is that, if your focus is self defense, and your goal is to be able to defend against a brutal attacker – today, in the 21st century – who is bigger, faster, stronger, better skilled, and maybe even better armed than you…
you had better be learning those skills in the context of what your most common threats might be.
Of course, if you’re studying for tournament fighting, asthetics, a love of Asian culture, or just to boost your confidence because you have something cool to show your friends…
you can ignore everything I just said!
If you’re still with me, here’s an example of what I’m describing:
My own students are learning the art of ninjutsu – sometimes called budo-taijutsu. They are learning this because that is what I hold a master-teacher’s license in, and the art that lies at the foundation of my Warrior Concepts program.
In the basic levels of training of this martial art, their are sets of techniques collectively known as the “sanshin no kata,” the “kihon happo,” as-well-as varies fundamental skills like rolling, breakfalls, defensive postures, and the “traditional” striking, kicking, and grappling techniques.
However, the introductory forms, as they are taught in Japan, do not match the attacks that 21st century street attackers will throw at you here in the West. So, at the same time they are learning these basic “forms,” my students are required to learn basic self defense techniques, designed to deal with the most common threats and attacks they might face today.
And, I don’t mean “today,” as in “this century.” I mean “today,” as in…
Because you don’t know when, or in what form an attack will come at you. So, you must be prepared from day-one, to escape from, avoid, de-escalate, or defend against an attack – not wait until you’re a Nth degree black belt!
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