Friday, December 01, 2006

Stick 'em, Dan'l

Recently, there was a discussion on Martial Arts Planet, in which a fairly well-known MMA (mixed martial arts) teacher talked about how silly the art of silat was.

MMA guys tend to judge all martial arts by how well they do in the ring, and since some martial arts don't go in for sporting applications, you don't see them in the ring.

The argument usually starts when one of the MMA folks allow as how anything that isn't what they do is pretty much worthless, which tends to ruffle a few feathers. They really like the phrase "alive training." This is basically sparring against an opponent, and they think that anything that isn't sparring is waste of time. Well, except for a few drills, like hitting the bag or shadowboxing, like that.

In silat, we call our drills "djurus," or "sambuts," but apparently, according to the MMA folk, these are "dead training," and useless.

My response tends to come down to, "Okay, you bring your Speedos and I'll bring my knives and let see does that alter the rules in my favor ... ?"

To which they immediately say, "Yeah, well, we can fight dirty, too! What makes you think we don't know how to swing a knife?"

Maybe, I say, you do. But if you knew squat about knives, you'd know you don't want to dance with somebody who is really adept at swinging one, because even if you have one of your own, YOU WILL GET CUT -- exclamation point and end of sentence.

If you are barehanded against someone who barely knows which end to hold and which one to poke, and you are an expert, it's still likely you'll get cut, but maybe in a place where you can get stitched up and be home in time for supper. Steel against flesh is a bad trade, generally.

Barehanded against a expert with sharp steel? I don't fancy your chances -- 0r mine, and I've trained for some time in a blade-based art. One of the things I've learned is, barehanded against a trained knifer is not the way to go. Even if you have a knife, better to find a path elsewhere if at all possible. (There's a Javanese saying: In a knife fight, the loser is ashes -- but the winner is charcoal. The term "Pyrrhic victory" covers it pretty well.)

In the ER getting sewn up is better than being in the ICU full of tubes and needles, but neither is as good as sitting at home having a quiet beer and fried shrimp.

The point here is -- excuse the pun -- that somebody who doesn't spend a lot of time playing with and against sharps likely doesn't understand just how nasty they can be, and they might have the notion, ala Richard Pryor's famous comedy routine, that they can just take that knife and shove it up your ass.

Good luck on that one. True, a knife isn't a magic weapon that will drop you faster than Obi-wan taking off a drunk's hand; somebody can get cut and fight on. But a knife is a better weapon than a fist, else we'd still be having wars barehanded.

The military dictum sums it up: You're not an ape, use a tool!

An art that plays with knives frequently tends to give you a certain respect for them. For thirty years of assorted martial arts training, I didn't have much interest or regard for knives -- I carried a pocket knife for cutting string or boxes or whatnot, but I liked sticks and swords, spears, sai, even nunchaku. Knives were up-close-and-personal, in-your-face, and scary.

The more I learned, the scarier they got.

After getting into pentjak silat, I came to understand that a knife was not just something you used to spread butter on biscuits. And one of the things I got was that a guy who trains barehanded all, or most, of the time who thinks he can dance in and slap a knife out somebody's hand and then KO him with a punch, no sweat, is a fool.

Such fellows might also be called by other names, like say ... "Dinner steaks ..."


Brad said...

Amen to that. We've gotten the same response in the Ninjutsu section. They don't want to understand, just tear down.

Mushtaq Ali said...

The really funny thing about all this is that the guy making all the noise has never been a competitor, has never fought MMA against someone outside his own students that anyone can find, has never produced a fighter who has done well in even the minor league MMA events, let alone the UFC.

I guess when you have no real talent, just size and strength, and no real ability to teach, what you do is attack Silat to distract from your own failings.

Being as I used to drive Guru Plinck to the Portland gym every week I have seen the guy a good bit, and know where his "tail" was when Guru was around.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

>"but neither is as good as sitting at home having a quiet beer and fried shrimp."<

This is an often-overlooked point, and it should be addressed: When considering the finer points between MMA and Pencak Silat, Beer and Shrimp make up a large portion of the thinking man's Silat game. A good beer, combined with some lightly breaded Tiger Prawns and curry dipping sauce are the pinnacle of knife combat, and indeed, civilized society itself. You see, beer is...Delicious. And everybody loves fried shrimp. Thrown in some knife training, a Juru or two, well, that's practically a whole system unto itself.

...And obviously a superior choice to the MMA guys, who consume Night Train and eat fried liver. Bleeachh.

Dan Gambiera said...

Cue Paul Robeson (to the tune of Old Man River):

"Cold Wet Liver
That Cold Wet Liver
It looks delicious,
But smells suspicious"

Anonymous said...

Oh, and 'nother thing. You forgot the Sarco Black Ninja Kerambit (Didn't know there were ninjas in Indonesia... Or in Pakistan for that matter, where these were made.)

I like this one because of the backhook and because it's more of a ripper than a cutter. It's poor steel but it's overengineered to compensate.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, kerambits have become the cat's pajamas in the last couple years. When I got my first one, they weren't much available in the U.S. Either you got one from somebody in Indonesia (you aren't supposed to carry them there anymore) or from a knifemaker who was into silat. There was one guy importing a modern version of the double-edged traditional model.

I exchanged emails with Steve Tarani four or five years back and we lamented the lack of availability. Tarani has a pretty good video of basics using the little knife.

Steve Rollert is a silat guy, and at that point, the ony U.S. knifemaker considering making kerambits -- and I got the prototype of his. He was going to call them "box cutters," to make them seem harmless -- until 9/11.

Now everybody and his kid brother makes them.

They are specialized tools, and require some knowledge for most effective use. They are better as great handles for takedowns than killing weapons per se.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that as a long, (though admittedly not very consistent), practitioner of several martial arts I can quote many commentaries about how to deal with knives from several very good masters.

As a kid who grew up in a less than entirely safe and savory town however, my own opinion on how to deal with an opponent armed with a knife goes more like "How the heck can I run like fuck without him closing with me?"

I suppose if one had a gun, but we were never able to afford guns back then.

I have been stuck with a couple of knives in my day, and I say "stuck" because nothing that happened to me qualified as stabbed or cut. If the guys that hit me had been more serious or I had been slower *shudder*.

They just don't understand, and they won't until someone has faced off with them with a knife. If they are very lucky they will survive with minimal damage like I did. They probably won't though.