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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Had an interesting conversation with one of the fighters at Sityodtong last night.

He had spent some time teaching a mixed martial arts program at school whose central focus is (for lack of a better term) "reality based self-defense" (RBSD in the common parlance).

Apparently, one of the things that eventually turned him off to the school was that the head instructor had a tendency to make comments about how, while the MMA guys were "tough", the head instructor would "destroy" them in "real combat" because of his training.

This is not the first time I've heard of comments like these. They're rampant on the Internet, of course, but they are also quite prevalent in the real world. As someone who has invested a great deal of time in both a combat sport (Muay Thai) and a self-defense focused system (PDR/SPEAR), they annoy the crap out of me. Mostly because comments like these make parts of my job so much harder.

So here's a quick message for the RBSD folks: crap like this is why combat athletes don't take you seriously.

If you have not put some serious time into a combat sport (and I don't mean an hour boxing clinic at a weekend long seminar), please, stop talking about how you'd "wreck" combat athletes in "the real world". You don't know most combat athletes.


These are people who have deliberately chosen to participate in some of the most grueling sports on the planet. If they're in a grappling sport, they've spent time getting slammed, getting their faces ground into the mat, being choked, and having their joints twisted as far as their mobility will allow. If they're in a striking sport, they've spent hours slamming their weapons of choice (hands, feet, shins, elbows, etc.) into bags, pads, and people. Which, of course, means they've also been getting slammed back. Have you ever done rounds in a Boxing or Muay Thai gym? With the serious competitors? It ain't easy. It's even harder if your coaches are sending fresh opponents in every minute, just to make sure you're nice and extra tired. Or shark tanking you. Or whatever other twisted idea they've come up with.

Combat sports make you work hard. Really, really, hard.

Do they have a monopoly on hard training? No, not really. Anyone can train hard. But it my experience, these guys push themselves harder than most, because they KNOW they are going to have to use it.

That's right, they KNOW. Because unlike self-defense training (which we MIGHT) have to use, a combat athlete KNOWS they will have to use it. At bare minimum, they will have to use it in their daily or weekly sparring session (rolling, randori, whatever). If they're a competitor, they will use it in competition, and that means using it against someone who really does not wish them well.

Let me dig into that last point a bit further.

Combat athletes, the ones who are seriously competitive, tend to be a little...off. Seriously. These are people who decided that purposefully getting into fights sounded fun. Most people think that sounds crazy. Even people who train in martial arts (sometimes, even people who DO these sports for fun) think that sounds crazy. A lot of successful combat athletes genuinely enjoy fighting. Some of them genuinely enjoy hurting other people. Some are good people, and others are really not. But all of them have no problem throwing down.

Of course, these are generalizations. There are cowards in combat sport, bullies who can only handle being the winner, and can't take being on the losing end of an exchange. They rarely last. The ones who make it anywhere have to be able to hang tough. And many of them like it.

Oh, and by the way: guys who like to fight? Who have issues with violence, or anger management? They may, just may, have had some experience with "the street". Hell, I think you could probably learn more about the realities of "street violence" by talking to a coach at an inner city boxing club than you could talking to most strip mall commandos out there.

I'm generalizing, of course. There are shitty combat athletes out there. And there are fantastic self-defense coaches out there with little or no experience in the combat sport world.

But if we're going to talk about "reality based" self-defense, let's address reality: a skilled, athletic, motivated individual with lots of experience dealing with opponents who want to seriously injure him? That opponent is going to be hell on wheels, and if you think a groin kick and an eye-poke are going to be enough to change the equation, you might be in for a rude shock.

In the end, of course, none of it should matter. It's not a contest. Self-defense training isn't meant to prepare you to win an MMA fight, and combat sport training isn't focused on self-defense. It doesn't mean that one has more or less value than the other, and it certainly doesn't mean they can't complement each other. Honestly, I find the whole sport vs street thing ridiculous, but it just won't die. Still, I can do my part to try and help kill it.


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