We have all heard the saying never talk religion or politics in polite company, well to that statement we need to add a third option: martial arts. There are somethings that people get so rooted in, it is better to just walk away than engage. As a life long martial artist I have been having arguments with people about martial artists since longer than I can remember. Not counting the fact that everyone’s father, brother, or cousin is a super secret special forces solider or hells angel who has shown them how to fight (I heard this a lot when I was bouncing). People all have very strong opinions on what they are taking And who can blame them. Challenge anyone on anything that they have invested a large chunk of their life into and they are going to get their back up.
I hate to break it to you but there is no ultimate martial art, and there never will be. Most arts were great for the time period, environment, technological level, and culture they were designed in, but they were just the best possible answers to the questions of that era. Another truth that you are not going to want hear is that every martial art has a huge amount of amazing material that works exactly where it was supposed to; in a jungle, ring, city, on the battlefield or against another martial system.
In order to become proficient in self defense we need to understand why techniques were made and why those fighting methods were chosen for that system. Using Filipino martial arts as an example, do you think if the Filipino warriors were allowed to train with blades in the open during their occupation that FMA would even include stick? Understanding why techniques were developed and taught help you unlock your art.
As I have said before mixed martial arts gets picked on a lot by reality based types. But seriously if you walk into a ring and try and use your flinch reaction against a skilled mixed martial artist that knows he is in a fight… You are going to have a bad time. So in that environment the martial arts that encompass MMA (Thai boxing, karate, boxing, judo, ju-jitsu, wrestling,etc) are perfect.
I find that when people argue about martial arts they are not really arguing styles they are usually arguing environment and situation. Environment and situation are pretty much 90% of all the what if questions that martial artist debate about over beer. Yeah well what if I pulled a knife?” “Yeah well what if we were in an elevator?” Are very solid questions that are asked usually to knock down the other system.
So then does it matter what style you train… Nope, it matters how you train it. Making sure that your system fits into your reality. Want proof? Lyoto Machida became UFC champ (May 21st 2009) with karate as his primary striking system using very karate like stances and attacks. He didn’t switch what he trained, he added stuff but mainly he changed how he trained karate and all the applicable techniques that fit in the octagon came out and brought him to the top.
Krav Maga has literally blown up over the last few years not because they are showing anything new (minus marketing flare) but the way it is taught. Krav took boxing, wrestling, wing chun and other various arts and created an eclectic system that would work in their situation: a battlefield.
Now What we teach is nothing new or magical it is just using existing martial arts to help people deal with their own personal reality. Drills are far more important than technique, learning how to use your brain in a bad situation will always trump trying to think like someone else.
The saying I always use to sum this up is “it is not what you train, it is how you train it.” What you learn with a lot of reality based gyms comes from somewhere else and is adapted to fit our new era. No matter what your instructor tells you he did not “invent” anything. Every single tactical tommy has gotten that skill set or thought process from a traditional system.
In essence to quote Bruce lee (like every one else does) discard what is useless. All of the techniques ever devised or used made sense at one time, it is up to your teacher no matter what style they teach to know where a technique applies and if it applies to modern self defense or is just in the system to pay homage.