Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Non-PC Martial Arts Post

Okay, I've done this before, but it's been a while, so ...

There is no one perfect martial art. No hand-to-hand system that covers every contingency. When I get somebody swaggering in with his Kantbeatme-fu, I ask him what his defense is for the twelve-gauge pump shotgun at twenty feet. (If he can dodge five or eight shots? then sign me up. Hasn't happened yet.)

So, stipulated -- no one system, probably no combination of any three systems -- will have all the answers all the time. So much depends on who is playing, what they know, how it goes down, and how frisky they are on a particular day. Toughest guy in the world on Tuesday might be way down the list on Wednesday. It all depends. A really nasty player in a so-so fighting art might take out a so-so player in a really nasty art.

Yeah, sure, right, uh huh, no problem, no feek.

Now, that said ...

Some arts are obviously better than other arts for some things. If you want to shoot targets with a bow and arrow, kyudo is apt to serve you better than kendo. Kendo will probably give you a better handle on a sword than kyudo, but probably not as much as iaido. It's the nature of the arts, what they choose to study. You want to want to learn Irish, you don't study French.

If I want to know about knives, I won't go to a TKD class. If I am looking for seventeen ways to kick you in the face, I will.

I didn't get into silat to become the world's deadliest street fighter. I wanted some depth in something and I was hooked by what I saw. I do believe I have enough to take care of most of what I am apt to run into in my life most of the time, my long-running debate with Rory about reality notwithstanding. I'm still there because I like what I'm doing, I have fun doing it, and I am slowly getting better at it. I won't live long enough to become a master at it, but everybody has to be somewhere, and that's where I am, viz martial arts.

I recently had a kid on another site try to convince me I should go study his art instead. Why, I asked, when I had a world-class teacher of my art within a couple hours, would I want to do that? I can get steak here -- I should travel halfway around the world to eat hamburger?

All of which gets us to the point that, lip-service aside, most of us who are long-time students of a particular art believe that what we do is maybe an itty-bitty, teeny-tiny bit better than what the guys in the dojo across the street are doing. At least that's my experience, given the folks to whom I have talked.

That when push comes to shove, our guys have the advantage, we think. Otherwise, why, we'd be across the street studying their stuff, right?

It is not politically correct to say this. It might not be accurate at all -- might be that the TKD guy down at Master Kim's can destroy me like a hyperactive four-year-old does a tinker toy tower. But:

I don't think so.

My experience is wide but shallow. I have played with a bunch of other arts, trained in six or eight, over a forty-three year period, gotten to brown and black belts in a couple, and what I am learning now seems ever so much more effective and efficient than those arts. In those forms, at least, I can compare and contrast.

The sixty-one year old me of today could whack the twenty-three year old black belt me in a heartbeat, albeit he was stronger, faster, and used to getting hit. No question in my mind, and not just because old and treacherous beats young and trained -- what I know now is a better system in its application than what I used to train in. It just is. I have answers for him. He wouldn't have them for me. Simple.

In a no-contact match with a ref and ring judges? I dunno, he might get a couple points. In a bar fight if I saw Young Me coming? Absolutely, he's outclassed. If he tried that X-block knife defense he knew, he would be filleted faster than a catfish on Friday night at the CYO fry-in.

This is not to say that there aren't a plethora of guys out there who could take me apart without raising a sweat. They could easily be so much better at their system than I am at mine that they'd have the advantage. Or maybe they are just plain rock-hard bulletproof. Whatever. But what we do seems lethally efficient compared to some of the other styles that I have experienced personally, or seen demonstrated.

I'm not that good, but the system makes up for a lot of that. Some weapons are better than others for some things because of how they are designed to function. At ten paces, turn and fire, I want the pistol, not the knife. You could be death with a blade, and me only a so-so pistoleer, but at sixty feet, I like my chances. I can wait until you get a lot closer to make sure I don't miss, too.

Some martial arts are better than others. That's how I see it. To pretend that I think otherwise would be hypocritical.

Now, which are better? That's open to debate. But of course, I do like mine ...


Kai Jones said...

It may be more like the parent-child relationship: if you're lucky you get a good match between the two. If not you can still teach/learn most of the necessities, but it will be harder and less fun.

So you found an art that is a good match for you: for the way you think, the way you move, the things you'd want to do anyway. It's the best art *for you*.

jks9199 said...

I've been taught that there are 3 approaches to martial training: artistic, sport, and combative. Each style really balances all three of these, based on various factors. And, to add another monkey wrench into the works -- each student makes their own balance, too. So... what's that mean?

Let's look at systems, first. Lots of commercial Tae Kwon Do schools out there are making a fair chunk of change with a sporting/artistic balance, with very little emphasis on combat. They're giving kids and familes an activity, they're prepping their participants/players for sports (maybe Olympic), and they're doing a few pro-forma "self defense techniques." Even further down the artistic end, you have lots of the Tai Chi Chuan programs, that are all about health, not combat. Going to the combative end, you have styles like Krav Maga, MCMAP, police defensive tactics, and so on.

But the individual practitioner can trump a lot of that; if they train realistically, and with an eye towards preparing for and applying their art against real violence, then that "dance" of Tai Chi becomes a very effective fighting art. Or, if they don't do this, then it doesn't matter how solid the program is -- they aren't prepared for the real deal.

Still -- some styles are better suited towards real violence than others. It's inherent in the principles and tactics they use...

Steve Perry said...

Kai --

Undoubtedly it's the best art for me, and certainly it wouldn't be for everybody. But the post is just offering what I've heard in forty-plus years of training.

We all say the right things so as not to seem smug or superior. But we mostly have at least a touch of both.

In my experience.

Worg said...

At some point you just have to drop out of the debating society and realize that the argument is pointless.

Many times people buy into a fantasy world of what martial arts are, or what fighting is or should be. Their fantasy versions are different-- and the martial arts they pick are most likely very well adapted for the particular fantasy world that they subscribe to.

Most people make very good decisions based on their perceptions of the world. It's perceiving the world correctly that is difficult.

Nataraj Hauser said...

While I was getting my black in TKD I observed that the training I was receiving was likely going to be ineffective on the street. The obvious truth to that was that once in the ring, NO ONE performed any techniques the way we did them in class. No deep stances, no straight-line movements, etc. We did still use flashy head kicks, but those of us who actually hit with them (and didn't get clobbered in the eon it took to get our foot back to the ground) did it after feinting well enough.

I stumbled across a Paladium book titled "Black Medicine: The Dark Art of Death" by N. Mashiro. (AMAZON) and found it drastically altered my thinking. As a small man (5'8", 150 or so) many techniques I was learning would be ineffective against a larger opponant. I started to train differently as a result.

Fighting full contact, lightly protected, for two years was a great field test.

I'll get smoked in the real world.

Scott said...

Is silat useful unarmed? Fileting your younger self would be tricky without a knife....

I figure bjj will save me from one unarmed guy. Maybe. Don't know any shotgun defenses, alas.

Travis said...

"Is silat useful unarmed? Fileting your younger self would be tricky without a knife...."

Who the hell doesn't carry a knife (knives?)...

Steve Perry said...

I think that disconnect is a telling argument.

In Okinawa-te, we had all of the wazas, katas, one-step, two-man, and eventually, knife-attacks and defenses that we practiced.

When we stepped into the ring for freestyle sparring, we didn't any of that, it became a different art. If you did Waza #1 against a guy who didn't stop, but who kept coming, you'd get run over.

Now, sparring is not the street, but if all that step-back-block-counter-attack stuff wouldn't work in the ring on the mat against a partner who was giving you a serious line to deal with, how was in going to work in the Real World™?

In sparring, if you missed a block, you got hit, and you quickly learned what worked and what didn't in that arena.

If I had to know which hand you were going to use to choose the right block, what happened if I couldn't see it in time? Or if you feinted and switched on me?

I got pretty good at sparring, and that's what felt useful, such that it was, but it was as if I was learning two arts at the same time.

In what I'm learning now, what you get in class you can use in the circle. Not the forms per se, but all the moves in them can be mixed and matched and applied. No, you can't learn how to fight shadow-boxing in front of the mirror, you need a partner for distance and timing, but the principles of the solo practice plug right into the freestyle work. For me, that's telling.

First time I heard my teacher answer the question, "Which hand should I punch with?"during a demo, I was sold. Left or right?

"Doesn't matter," he said.

Really? Hot damn!

Ours is not the only art that does this, of course. But that it does gives it an advantage over those that don't, least in my mind it does.

Steve Perry said...

Scott --

We think silat is useful without the blade, but it is based on that, and as far as I know, we all carry knives, some of us more than one.

We are of the you're-not-an-ape-use-a-tool! school of thought. Your hands are for when your knife gets dull; the knife is for when your gun runs out of ammo.

Would I want to grapple with a good BJJ guy? Not particularly. But we have some training in groundwork that might be helpful there, and we are not above using whatever we can lay hands on to defend ourselves. If you have to defend yourself seriously -- and that's the only reason for fighting outside a ring -- you can't have too many tire tools or barstools ...

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

"Fileting your younger self would be tricky without a knife...."

and leave your older self with a lot of ugly scars...

"But the individual practitioner can trump a lot of that; if they train realistically, and with an eye towards preparing for and applying their art against real violence, then that "dance" of Tai Chi becomes a very effective fighting art."

There's a pretty serious limit on this, and that's what the teacher is willing/able to convey. Todd and I studied a year of Yang Tai Chi, and with all the commitment to realistic self-defense in the world, I doubt if we could have made it into effective fighting training. Nothing against the art itself; in fact, with our silat understanding we've figured out in retrospect that there was some good stuff in there. But it just wasn't being taught that way. If we'd stuck with that teacher, I don't think we'd have ever developed the necessary understanding.

Maybe we could have overcome that limitation, given enough time and study. But why bother, when there was better teaching to be had just up the road? In the real world, people shop around.

Master Plan said...

I think there are many other factors involved.

The primary of which as been mentioned.
If your teacher sucks, in terms of being able to make it work in practice, having an incomplete art, having an incomplete awareness of those focuses, etc, doesn't matter what the art is.

If your teacher sucks, in terms of *being able to teach*, then it also doesn't matter what the art is.

So that's a huge thing in my opinion that gets overlooked pretty often, because of:

People who spend a lot of time on internet forums posting about this shit are totally irrelevant, in my opinion. Really, totally unimportant. They might be good, they might be skilled communicators, whatever. The thing of it is that talking on internets, in public forums, is a really poor form of general communication, in my opinion.

I think these two get endlessly tangled around one of the points Mr. Perry is addressing, ego investment in style.

My style is great, my teacher is great, therefore you must be wrong.

Turns out your teacher trained my teacher. Who is right now? Because it also turns out that you are less good than me, even tho your teacher is better than mine.

It's also very very difficult to keep discussions on a reasonable track. BJJ is the ultimate (for ground fighting (in the sport style that I do)) becomes, "BJJ is the best art that ever was, for everything. A knife? Oh, I just take you down, effortlessly, and then choke you out.".

I think if more martial arts students posted less and wandered around their town engaged in mutually agreed rules sparring with other *real people* this would all be less of thing than it *appears to be* based on internet forums.

And I think *that* also gets missed. It's more about teacher than style, it's more about practitioner than style, it's more about scenario-situation specifics (bar fight? What does that mean? Me fighting my way out of a biker bar after pissing them off? Me getting in a punch up with a young stupid gym rat? Me getting attacked with a knife by a couple of members of the Mexican Mafia who are both prison trained and tweaked outta their gourds?) than it is about style. It's more about the purpose\focus of the training than it is about style.

But...fuck it, let's talk about style some more, because it's the most important factor. Or at least it's the easiest factor to discuss that has the most ego-investment.

If I say, "Well, I'm a better fighter than you", there's nothing to talk about really, but if I say, "Oh, *my style*, is so much better than yours", then we've got something to actually discuss.

I think also it's often hard to accept authority from strangers over the internet and easy for newbies (in any style) to parrot the party line.

Finally I think that online discussion often heavily informs opinions (be honest, how often are you really going to other schools and engaging in mutually enjoyable *discussion* about martial arts in general, compared to how often you are on, ueuchi-ryu, SDF, bullshido, or whatever *debating*...whatever) and that it's very very prone to *debate* over discussion. So we read X-style guy 1 talking about how X-style is super great and make assumptions about X-style. And we might really be making those assumptions based on his (ie, our projected) tone, word choice, and such.

Steve Perry said...

MP --

Sure, we are all keyboard warriors to a degree or we wouldn't be here having *this* discussion, would we?

But some of us have experience elsewhere. I'll briefly speak to mine:

When I started in MA, there was one school in my town. At my second school, I checked out seven or eight places before I found one I liked. During the three years I was there, I had occasion to cross hands with guys from a dozen other styles, some at my school, some at theirs. After that, I studied half a dozen other arts, plus assorted seminars. In the time I've been in silat, I've done a bit of that, as well, playing with folks in everything from other variations of silat, to kali, escrima, kajukenbo, krabi krabong and Systema. Couple MMA guys here and there.

Now, this isn't all-encompassing, nor is my experience deep; however, I didn't see anything that I didn't have some kind of answer for, systemically speaking. My stuff was as good as any and -- my opinion -- better than most, vis a vis how it dealt with assorted attacks.

There are a lot of guys out there far more adept than I, more experienced, and some of them have websites and blogs and offer their views hither and yon. While it might be hard to suss out which is valid and which isn't if you don't have a reference point, I don't see that throwing out the baby with the bathwater works

I'm comfortable enough with what i know and have seen that I believe I can look at somebody moving and get an idea of whether he's doing so efficiently and effectively. I could be wrong. Wouldn't be the first time. But if you have worked on something for a long time, you might get a feel for it ...

Scott said...

Maybe. BJJ school's the only place I've had my ass handed to me by women half my size unarmed. There are women who can do it on the piste, of course, but getting tapped by a 12 year old girl shocked me. I weigh 250, squat 350, deadlift 450... I really, really didn't see that coming.

anoninoz woz said...

Try sosuishi-ryu jujitsu. It's a battlefield art. About the only thing it doesn't cover are firearms and some instructors cover that as well. Not for the faint hearted though.

Master Plan said...

Grappling schools, BJJ in particular, seem to be good at this effect. Most of your advantages (overwhelming size (ie, weight) and strength) are neutralized by the rules. The rules also dictate that you fight their fight.

Unless she offered to let you start standing and come after her with kicks and punches anyway you wanted to, confident she'd take you down.

In the Judo place I went to we had a couple of under-18 state champs, both girls, both way tinier than me. They could throw me around pretty easily.

Had the objective been to beat the ever luvin' crap outta each other...I'm less certain their skills would have made the difference.

How much grappling had you done prior to that? Gi or no-gi?

Jay Gischer said...

Grappling schools, BJJ in particular, seem to be good at this effect. Most of your advantages (overwhelming size (ie, weight) and strength) are neutralized by the rules. The rules also dictate that you fight their fight.

Quite so. I can be very difficult to convince someone who has a big advantage in size and strength to set aside that advantage, even for the purpose of training. But it is quite necessary to do so in order to learn technique and sensitivity. These have a multiplicative effect on strength and size.

I study, and teach, a more traditional ryu of jujitsu, not Brazilian. Though the body of technique is pretty similar, we teach it in a radically different way. This works for some, but not for others. I make no blanket claim for it, but it fits me.

My feeling is that the "best" martial art is the one that motivates you to get out there and practice, study, train, learn more, and go deeper.

Also, I have little patience for those who think they know everything about a ryu after studying it for say, three months. It takes us years to get to full resistance drills, because if we do it any sooner, people will get severely injured. Until recently, joint damage was permanent, so the caution seems pretty sensible.

So someone might come in and decide we are a bunch of pansies, and this stuff would never work on the street. Some of them we can convince otherwise. Others go away, and that's as it should be, they need a different school, ours doesn't fit them.

Worg said...

Why do I want a kris so bad? Steve, you're not getting me to buy one.

That way lies madness.

jks9199 said...

"There's a pretty serious limit on this, and that's what the teacher is willing/able to convey. Todd and I studied a year of Yang Tai Chi, and with all the commitment to realistic self-defense in the world, I doubt if we could have made it into effective fighting training. Nothing against the art itself; in fact, with our silat understanding we've figured out in retrospect that there was some good stuff in there. But it just wasn't being taught that way. If we'd stuck with that teacher, I don't think we'd have ever developed the necessary understanding."

Absolutely. To pick on tai chi for a moment... most of the instructors don't have a clue as to fighting with it. (In fact, lots of them don't have a clue about tai chi, really, but that's a whole different topic.)

My teacher would say that you needed three things to become a good fighter: a good system, a good teacher, and the ability to follow directions. If you have all of these -- you will become a good fighter. If you have two, you might become a skilled fighter. If you have only one... you're probably up a creek.

As Steve said initially -- there are some systems that are "better" than others for particular uses. Some are more focused on the needs of real violence. If I want to learn to shoot in combat, I'm going to places like Blackwater or Frontsight. If I want to learn to use a katana - I need to look for iado, iajutsu, kenjutsu, etc. And so on... Silat seems to have some very good principles that apply widely and well... but it's not got an exclusive license any more than my style (ABA Bando) does.

Anonymous said...

"My teacher would say that you needed three things to become a good fighter: a good system, a good teacher, and the ability to follow directions."

"ABA Bando"

Your grandmaster has also lied repeatedly about insane exploits in Vietnam, stories so over the top that they would shame Baron Munchhausen. The man is a disgrace and is under ongoing investigation by the US military because of the preposterous claims he's made over almost 30 years.

Steve Perry said...

You need a keris, Worg. And one isn't enough. There are so many different kinds of magic you can hardly get by with less than eight or ten ...

Steve Perry said...

Let's keep it civil, folks. And at the very least, if you have critical things to say about somebody here, post your name -- sniping from concealment is not the way to win friends and influence people.

Yes, I am aware of the controversy regarding Dr. Gyi and i don't know enough about it to have an informed opinion; however, this is not the venue to hash it out.

Scott said...

MP: Grappling schools, BJJ in particular, seem to be good at this effect. Most of your advantages (overwhelming size (ie, weight) and strength) are neutralized by the rules. The rules also dictate that you fight their fight.


MP: Unless she offered to let you start standing and come after her with kicks and punches anyway you wanted to, confident she'd take you down.

Well, that's not how women generally get attacked though; if I was a rapist and she drew me down into guard I'd probably think I was succeeding right up until my elbow dislocated and the light went out.

MP: In the Judo place I went to we had a couple of under-18 state champs, both girls, both way tinier than me. They could throw me around pretty easily. Had the objective been to beat the ever luvin' crap outta each other...I'm less certain their skills would have made the difference.

True, I be more likely to *fight* a guy.

MP: How much grappling had you done prior to that? Gi or no-gi?

A little high school wrestling. Seemed like plenty right up until I ran into bjj; now I feel like a helpless idiot again.

Master Plan said...

Feeling like a helpless idiot is the best part of (learning) martial arts. IMHO. ;-)

Hmm, so are we talking about "how women get attacked\raped"? Or are we talking about martial arts?

The reading I've done indicates that women get attacked\raped by somebody they know who uses threats of violence to gain compliance. That's on the statistical average, which naturally has nothing what so ever to do with "reality" as it will appear in situ.

But, assuming you were a blitz rapist of some kind. Observed your target for a certain period of time. Chose when you were going to go knock on her door and ask if you could use the phone. Then showed her a gun, or just started the conversation by smashing her in the face with a what point does she draw you in to guard? It becomes an ugly discussion of possibilities, possibilities which are so vague as to be essentially useless in these kinds of things. Suppose there are two of you (attackers), suppose you are a friend of her friends and you get her drunk and then take her back to your dorm and then get her high and then slip her the rhohypnol. Suppose you are not raping her from the front\on top. Suppose you hand cuff her first. Suppose you hit her with a tazer\mace\bleach in the eyes first. Etc, etc, etc.

If we are talking about using a martial art inside of the school it's being taught, in a situation (sparring\rolling) where nobody is actually trying to kill\cripple anybody, with rules, well then....that's different.

I can't use Judo or Silat very well when I go to a boxing school and box with them. It would be very poor form I think.

There's plenty of "well I coulda..." and "oh, but then I'd just..." type stuff.

Depends on if we are talking shit on the internets. Discussing which style is "best" for what purpose. Debating specifics of a specific scenario. Intra-style discussions of what various fine points mean (when they say a straight back in Tai they mean *upright* or just *not curved\bent*?).

But I think Musashi demonstrated pretty well that when you want to win a real fight with death on the line you attack your opponents mind. At least that's what I get out of it. Attack them under the pretense of being a nice guy. Attack them from the air. Attack them when they are sleeping. Make them think it's a fist fight and then shoot them in the back. Whatever kind of thing you can think of to psych job them, disrupt their patterns\mindset, change the situation.

This is all speculation on my part tho.

I think the real secret to all martial arts is: Practice, every day, for about 20 years, with good intent.

I don't try to learn this stuff for self defense really. I learn it because I enjoy it. If I was in a high-risk job, contractor, operator, military, leo, organized crime hitman\enforcer, I'd be training much differently for much different sorts of situations. I'd be doing it with a team of hardcore dedicated thugs at a much higher intensity level. I'd hope to be planning the assaults\events well ahead of time and picking when\where\how they happen.

I'd still want to be attacking the minds of my targets of course. If they were Muslims I'd try to get them when they are praying towards Mecca. If they are cops I'd try to get them at home. If they are crack dealers maybe I'd go after them when they were in the club having a fine old time. Or maybe I'd wire a bomb to their engine while they are asleep.

But if we're talking about martial arts....whuteva'. Learning the system is learning the system, that's the goal for me. Better body mechanics, skill IN the system when used against others using the system. Those sorts of things. Vastly different. Again, all in IMHO, I'm no tough guy, no sanctioned violence professional.

Some guy said...

Darn! Another vanished comment. (I don't know what I'm doing wrong.) Since I'm too lazy to rewrite it, the upshot was this. To Steve Perry: I don't think you're just prejudiced in favor of your own style. I'm not biased in terms of silat - have never taken a single class - but have seen a demo and visted a school or two and was quite impressed with its brutal efficiency. Very little movement and - bang! - someone was on their butt.

And a new comment...
To jks9199:

I've been dabbling in traditional tai chi for twenty-odd years, believe it a wonderfully effective martial art... and think you absolutely made the right decision. It's nearly impossible to get non-bogus info about it in America. Some Chinese politely refer to it as "American tai chi", which less politely translated means "whatever silly-ass thing you Americans do and call tai chi". Fewer than 1% of tai chi teachers are competent to do tai chi; it'd actually much easier for me to find a competent SILAT teacher, believe it or not.

I'd estimate my skill level after a couple decades of frequent if not quite regular practice at orange belt. (I know tai chi doesn't have belts, but every once in a while I mentally award myself one. Ed Parker, Bruce Lee, and Chen Xiao Wang always show up for the mental award ceremonies; they're very nice. ;0) ) Now that's partly that I'm a klutz, but mostly because serious information and training is almost
not to be found. So be happy you did the smart thing and got out after only a year.

On the other hand, not to be immodest, but I AM remarkably good at being punched while moving in slow motion...

Some guy

Master Plan said...

It does seem like you get a higher signal\noise ratio in larger arts. Which creates the interesting effect that you get more signal\noise in MA in general.
While I still think that the focus of the student should match the focus of the MA they learn, if we restrict ourselves to the deliciously vague "real fighting" type of focus then it seems there is a lot less noise in the Silat styles than in say...TKD or Shotokan. Of course as soon as that is said there will no doubt be plenty of Olympic style TKD guys who can whoop my ass, or even the ass of a person who is actually *good* at this stuff.

The head of the Systema system said something once in an interview about how it was that his students were unlikely to be as good as him, because he could not train them as brutally as he was trained, and that his students students were even less likely to be good for the same reasons.

I think a fair portion of the Karate and Kung Fu being taught in America today is fairly distance (in terms of teaching generations) from stabbing people in the jungle with knives. I think Silat is closer, again, in teaching generations, than much of it, and that this, in addition to many other things, makes it a "better" martial art than a lot of what is available.

Of course if a lot of what is available is "crap" for "real combat" and some Silat is "closer to real" then you've got a pretty good case for saying it's a objectively better martial system for "real combat".

There are still all those more important variables....the teacher, the practitioner, the situation, the focus\intended use, etc, but if we are to strip those away I think a fairly convincing case can be made for Silat being "better" than strip mall TKD.

I dunno if I'd use for a MMA event tho. But then...maybe 25-50% (or more) of what I've seen in Silat is against the rules in MMA, so it wouldn't be a very efficient use of training time if cage fighting is your focus.

Scott said...

We were discussing that bjj is the supreme martial art, weren't we? ;-)

Kidding aside- hell, I don't know, I'm a boring middle-aged guy; early riser, teetotaler, desk job... what the hell am I training for? The occasional tournament, I guess.

But the resemblance between guard and missionary position means that a bjj grrl can seem to be submitting to threat while setting up a triangle, for example. Preemptively getting hit in the face would be a different order of problem, sure; not sure how I'd train for that one.

Master Plan said...

Scott, what's to "discuss"? BJJ *IS* the supreme ultimate combat\self-defense\fighting system!

It's interesting to speculate about.

One way I've heard it opined is training time over techniques.

In boxing you've got 5 punches perhaps, 2 defensive moves, footwork.

In silat you've got 18 djurus, 4 langkah, sambuts.

In Tai Chi you might have a sword form, hand form, chi gung, spear form, maybe more or less.

In Judo you've got a few dozen throws.

If you train, for us middle-aged, boring people, who aren't likely to get raped, or assaulted, say, twice a week? For 2 hours? Or even 3 times a week? Maybe a young college stud, lots of free time and energy, 4 times a week, for 2 hours.

4-8 hours in a week. 16-32 hours in a month. Perhaps 400 hours in a year, for round numbers sake.

How many techniques do you work during that time?

In boxing...7. So maybe 60 hours per technique. Again, to use round numbers.

In Judo, with maybe 50 throws, it's 8 per throw.

Of course it never breaks down that way in reality.

But, point is, BJJ folks will probably whoop ass at grappling, as it's what they spend the vast majority of their time on. A boxer will probably whoop ass at punching.

Over time it'll tend to average out, but certainly playing your opponents game is going to be a bad idea. Grappling with a Silat guy might be a good idea if you are a BJJ player. Knife fighting? Not so much I'm thinkin'.

Anonymous said...

Mr Perry, in your opinion/experience were there other arts besides Silat that were what you term "positional" in nature? were they also weapon based arts or were they empty hand? I'm considering studying an art. Ive tried Kempo and some Tkd. the teachers were good i just felt that that they weren't for me. So now im searching and the thoughts of those experienced in different arts are interesting and food for thought. Langdon

Steve Perry said...

Langdon --

Depends on what you want it for, and how much time and energy you are willing to spend.

If you want to play in tournaments, TKD is fine.

Krav Maga will probably give you enough self-defense skill if you aren't the kind of guy who goes looking for trouble and tries to avoid it.

Several of the SE Asian arts, the island stuff, play with knives and sticks -- from the Malay peninsula, Indonesia, Philippines.

China reeks with arts, ditto Japan, Korea, India.

A guy with decent boxing skills and a bit of judo or ju jutsu probably has enough on the ball to handle himself in barroom brawl just fine.

As MP points out, all arts are, by their nature, positional, but from my experience, nobody seems to pay as much attention to it as pentjak silat, and our version in particular emphasizes it more than others I have played with. Being in the right place at the right moment negates a lot of speed and power. A hard-style that depends on power punching or kicking can work just fine, but these are not old men's arts.

O-Sensei was a kick-ass kind of guy when he was young, and a lot of his skill was something he could take with him as he aged. A lot of aikido today leaves out the smash-face stuff the old man did.

As you get older, your circles have to get smaller. You have to learn how to fight smarter and not harder, and skill matters more than muscle. Any art that will allow an old guy to keep up with younger ones is going to be based more on position. BJJ has old guys and little girls beating big and strong folks, so obviously it is not simply about strength.

A good BJJ guy is likely to be able to handle himself just fine, one on one, most places. Multiple attackers, I dunno if I'd want to be on the ground. Armed? No. A silat teacher I know tells a story about seeing a heavy-duty grappler shoot in on a guy who didn't have a prayer -- until he pulled a knife and stabbed the grappler real good.

It's all relative, and because I like my art and thing it is better than some, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of other arts and players who are nasty bad-asses.

Attitude matters a lot. The skill added to that trumps attitude alone.

Worg said...

I will say one thing about silat: they know really well WHY they are doing what they are doing, and they are capable of explaining it.

A lot of the reason why many other arts aren't as effective as they could be is because they are "by rote" arts. "Do it this way, don't worry about why."

After a few cycles of that, the "decision loop" gets shot to hell and they forget why they were doing certain things, and then the integrity of the movements begins to rot away.

I can see things in karate forms that are extremely devastating. And I doubt very much, many times, that the black belts doing the forms know they're even in there.

Some guy said...

To Master Plan:

I didn't quite get your comment about "higher signal/noise ratio in larger arts". Did you mean the ones with wider motions? But your comment about silat seemed to contradict that. (I'm not sure if you just intended "noise/signal"in the above phrase or if I misunderstood what you were saying.)

Closeness in generations to serious martial use seems like an interesting link to an art's effectiveness. The Filipino arts were still used in World War II - lots of jungle so the machete wielders weren't just shot up from a distance - for seriously mortal purposes. So there are still a lot of teachers around only one generation away from routine combat use, and it's known for simple practicality, so that helps support your theory.

As to your time/techniques ratio as a measure of effectiveness, very interesting idea, but I'd leave out the tai chi. (Honestly, I'll shut up about tai chi soon. I know, I know; I'm obsessed.) Before being able to actually execute any of the techniques you have to learn an entirely different form of physical coordination, one not based on cumulative torque as normal coordination is, and this normally takes years if ever learned at all. This messes up your ratio because to the time spent learning the techniques you might have to add five to twenty years of "preliminary" time.

My obsession aside, that might explain why some arts seem to like "chunking", training different techniques as one technique, or at least perceiving them that way. (For instance, any strike from a particular angle, regardless of weapon or technique might be perceived as a "number 1" in some Filipino arts.) This would for practical purposes reduce the number of techniques - (or reactions) - in your ratio, making the art more effective. I guess someone could conceivably even revamp his training to take advantage of your ratio. Good food for thought... Thanks.

Some guy

Steve Perry said...

SG --

I think the signal-to-noise ratio notion about larger arts is in relation to the size of the art in regard to numbers. And perhaps age.

If you are in a system that has hundreds of thousands of players in schools all over the world, and has been around for a long enough time, a certain amount of civilization has naturally occurred. Wouldn't be good to have students breaking each other with any regularity. Bad for business. For broad appeal, getting bashed frequently is not-so-good for word-of-mouth advertising, not to mention potential lawsuits.

Most laws recognize the notion of assumed risk, i.e. you are taking a martial art wherein people try to hit or kick each other, now and then that will happen and you knew you weren't joining a knitting class. But even so, if you have large numbers of students, the chances of accidental injury are apt to go up, so bigger systems have eliminated certain techniques that are risky in practice.

And the idea that your teacher, or his, was using this stuff on the street regularly brings the question of effectiveness a bit closer to home, as you point out. If you have never been in a fight, your teacher hasn't, and his teacher hasn't, perhaps that's might make you wonder more than if all three of you have mixed it up along the way and are still here to talk about it.

My teacher is fond of saying that he's no knife fighter and he doesn't want to be. But his teacher was, so he learned from somebody who had a clue.

Master Plan said...

Yes, for signal\noise I mean, a large art has more practitioners, usually meaning lower grading standards, or more limited focus. So, less quality.
But also, a larger art has more schools and more students.
So when we talk about "Karate" or "TKD" we are usually talking about "the average martial artist".

It kinda clouds the pool at the stats. I know perfectly well that you can have a very competent karate fighter, but on the average I would think a karate fighter is less skilled\able to whoop ass\defend themselves than an average boxer or an average silat player. But then....there are a LOT of karate folks and not so many silat folks. So the signal\noise for karate is very very high. Nothing against the art(s) itself.

That is if my town has one guy teaching Silat in a basement with 8 serious students, but 10 commerical karate schools and 4 commericial TKD schools, each of which manages 10 classes of 12 people in a week then we've got maybe 100-1000 karate & TKD students, who are being told that they know "martial arts" and "self defense" but only 8 folks who are learning blade combat and something besides (what is likely, on average) to be sport\tournament fighting. Of course we might also find one Okinawan karate guy teaching 4 black belts in his back yard that are all far more skilled than any of the 8 silat students. But they are kinda lost in the noise. We could say the average silat guy is better than the average karate guy, but not all of them.

Mr. Perry said it better and shorter than I did I think (guess which one of us is the pro writer? ;-)).

For the Tai Chi, yes, there is a lot of that as well. Un-training to be done before real training can start.

Tho I think Tai Chi is simply one of the more obvious about this. I think that most systems have their own methods of power generation (or movement style) but that Tai Chi is often taught with that as an up front goal, given more time, attention, or at least lip service, than in other systems.

But I don't find, what I can do of, the Tai Chi movement style incompatible with other sorts of training. That is, and I expect other will disagree, and I'm no expert, nor even particularly good, I think that most MA teach better body movement at a deeper level than often given credit for, and that the way in which Tai Chi can teach you to move can be found in other arts, or applied to them. But that's just my opinion.

Steve Perry said...

Tai chi. I can claim no expertise in this one at all.

Long ago, I learned a long Yang form. By the time I had, I knew enough about basic weight-shifting that I could see some potentially very powerful moves in it. There is a simple sequence early in the form that involves using one hand to support the bent wrist of the other hand in a pressing motion. Has one of those colorful Chinese names like, "Press Wrist Forward ..."

Um. Anyway, I realized that if you did that at speed, shifted your weight behind it -- stepping and dropping, ala Bruce Lee's one-inch punch was even better -- then that move would essentially concentrate all your weight onto a spot on the back of your wrist about the size of a quarter.

I fiddled with it, and incorporated it into my public demo. Stand a guy up, have him hold a pad in front of his chest, put a second guy behind to catch him and I could knock the biggest volunteer off his feet.

It was like being hit with a 200-pound baseball. Pretty simply physics, really.

It was very powerful, if slow, and I didn't see a lot of practical combat functions for it -- though I can see more now.

I'd show the move in slomo silk-reeling time, then speed it up, and it always got a rise out of the audience when the linebacker went sprawling.

Without experience, though, I don't think you'd be able to pick up stuff like this from the exercise forms.

Some guy said...

Hi. Late comment as always, but for once I have a good excuse; my PC at home is so virus-ridden I can't access almost anything and it becomes unusable after two minutes, hence the delay. Now I'm back at work and can write.

Master Plan, sorry, I was being dense. I was thinking in size-of-movement terms, and thought you were saying that silat would be more efficient with its smaller movements than those of "larger arts" like karate and TKD. Duh. Now I get you.

Before I reply about the tai chi, I'm painfully aware that I may well come across as just another True Believer pimping His One True Art, particularly as I'm going to be saying, "no, really; it's different". I can't prove it on the net but I'm actually a skeptical sort and recognize that the martial art I learned in my first two years - "American tai chi" - was, how do I put this delicately?, crap. So please consider the possibility that this isn't just knee-jerk loyalty to my art because it's my art.

That said, in my opinion, the body mechanics in traditional tai chi are so different as to be incompatible with most other martial arts. It's not that the large movements look particularly different; it's that the underlying physical coordination is just different than we use for everything else. For instance, I've dabbled in capoeira and arnis de mano, and the underlying physical coordination is identical. Anyone trying a kick or stick strike is going to be using their body pretty much the same way, even if they're not very good at the actual technique. The coordination is based on cumulative torque, including a lot of hip movement. In tai chi the coordination is based on - simplistically - compression and uncompression, like a spring. (Not like the wing chun 'spring', though.) And the hip movement isn't so important; teachers will sometimes hold beginners'hips still to try to make them use the right muscles for this way of moving.

Since I'm admittedly both a dabbler and a klutz when it comes to martial arts, let me relate my competent tai chi teacher's opinion.(In case it sounds like now I'm pushing my teacher I'll say that he was a competent tai chi practitioner but too impatient for teaching.) He'd been a marine, learned judo, - I think he was on the Marine judo team, but am not sure - taught karate, which he'd taken in Okinawa, and dabbled in aikido. (For him dabbling meant "only" seven years.)So a serious martial practitioner, not a spiritual puppies-and-light kind of guy. He took up tai chi specifically for the mechanical efficiency and power of the weird body use, which he hadn't found in his other arts. (Except, oddly enough, aikido where he first observed unusual power levels but he couldn't find any place that taught the body mechanics.)

And he absolutely thinks that the tai chi body mechanics are very different than "normal". coordination arts he's taken. I'm fairly sure that if you have him punch a pad which measures force and have him do a karate punch with his karate body mechanics and a tai chi punch with the tai chi body mechanics, the meter would just read significantly higher for the latter despite his much longer karate experience. If things work the way I think they do it shouldn't be mystical or fu-fu; the tai chi mechanics should be subject to simple objective measures of efficiency.

I actually started studying tai chi because I'd heard good things about it in a martial sense. For instance, Moving Zen - excellent martial arts read, by the way - got me interested because it was by someone who loved karate, moved to Japan to study it, ...and when he was there was blown away by tai chi and considered it physically more efficient than his art. Much more impressive recommendation than someone who wrote a tai chi book talking about how efficient tai chi was.

As to the hand-behind-wrist movement, probably anything with enough power behind it can be applied, but I'd be a little wary of having both hands tied up in roughly the same spot. Interestingly enough, according to the Chen family, this movement was developed to DECREASE power. I don't remember which Chen ancestor it was - anyone interested can find it on the net - but one of them killed someone he didn't mean to kill with a palm (strike or push?; I don't remember). He felt awful about it and wanted to avoid ever doing it again so he began laying one hand against the other person and hitting IT with the palm; enough power was transmitted through to the other person that he could do some damage but he wasn't accidentally killing anyone.

I'm happy to discuss tai chi (obviously) but, no fear, I won't spend a lot of time blathering about it in response to future posts and comments. It just seemed to fit in with this post and the comments. (Wish I could say the same about chess when IT comes up... :0) )

Some guy

VC said...

Thought this was a cool way to illustrate a knife attack.

Steve Perry said...

Better to illo gun, I think. Some of those organs are going to be hard to reach -- ribs and sternum and what not in the way, and kidneys in the back.

The Gino said...

Hello Steve,

What is the best way for me to learn Mr. Plinck's silat, short of moving to WA? I have the videos and am practicing the djurus shown on there as best as possible. I read all your blog posts to try as glean as much as I can from it. I have also read the 'Principles' page on Mr. Plinck's site. Is there anything I can do to augment my understanding and practice? I am currently located at Berkeley, CA for school so moving is out of the question for the time being. Please advise. Thank you!


PS: Can't wait for the new Matador book to come out!

Scott said...

Master Plan: "But, point is, BJJ folks will probably whoop ass at grappling, as it's what they spend the vast majority of their time on. A boxer will probably whoop ass at punching.

Over time it'll tend to average out, but certainly playing your opponents game is going to be a bad idea. Grappling with a Silat guy might be a good idea if you are a BJJ player. Knife fighting? Not so much I'm thinkin'."

Then there's that awkward moment when bjj thinks we're rolling and silat draws a knife; urk.

One of the reasons I like bjj is it can be really light and recreational, just a positional game. And if a rowdy person needs to be calmed down, lying under a 250# scarf hold for a minute, let alone a 250# knee ride, will exhaust him without injury. Knives have an equally harmless application, of course: "Look! I have a knife!" But the scale from scarf hold to heel hooks seems a lot more finely grained than anything available with sharp things.

Just talking, of course; dance whatever art you like. Always seemed to me that a really practical person would just carry a Glock.

Steve Perry said...

Glock? You goin' to a Tupperware party?

Master Plan said...


That's a good point and worth mentioning. All good SD students know that you gotta win the fight in court after the fight in the street, but often this gets sorta passed off under the veil of learning bad-ass ginsu-fu.

I've seen some restrain\control moves in Silat, but I've also been victim to both that scarf hold and the knee ride, and...yah, they work, real real good.

That is also one of things I enjoy about BJJ (and Judo as well)'s just good clean fun. Or sweaty fun, same\same.

Hugh Motz said...

I think it will always be a given that, when someone takes up a certain martial art form, they’ll always think that it’s better than other forms, subconsciously or otherwise. But you’re right: there are so many forms of martial arts, and they all focus on something that the other forms don’t usually dwell on, so each form is useful in some way or another. There shouldn’t really be a hierarchy, in my opinion. I’ve only ever taken taekwondo, but I don’t think that’s better than jiu jitsu or aikido. One thing we can all agree on, however, is that martial arts teaches us discipline and respect, which is why it’s never a bad idea to try out a class or two.