I don’t have my own martial arts style; but I do have a personal philosophy. It is not new or original, I don’t think, but it is not a part of the mainstream thinking in the wonderful world of martial arts.
I was comfortable with my boxing, Kickboxing and Taekwondo experience; mixed in with some Shotokan and Kung Fu. However my life as a Martial Artist changed when I took one small class with Master Michael Proctor. My eyes were opened to take a close look at a reality I already knew, but ignored, the reality that the world has become a very violent place. The rules of street fighting have dramatically changed.
The unwritten rules of fighting fair are now out the door. People actually enjoy just TKO an innocent person who they don’t even know. The victim could be a young man, young lady, a pregnant woman, a mom with her baby or even a senior citizen. They love to take videos of these innocent victims getting TKO and place them in Youtube. Almost immediately those videos go viral. As you read the comments it is not strange to find LOL, “Laughing out loud.” Can you explain to me how can these events be comical to anybody? It is the society we are living in today.
Master Proctor presented the statistics. One in particular stayed on my mind since. A woman is raped in our nation every six seconds. As a married man and a father of four daughters, I then started a journey to deeply judge what I knew, the kinds of tournaments I participated in, my street fights and the traditional martial arts and how to reconcile all that with the brutality of the streets.
I am a work in progress, but I have come to very strong convictions as it refers to my approach to teaching martial arts to my students. To start with, I don’t believe in Forms as practical tools of self-defense. I know this will create problems with many of my martial arts colleagues, but I can’t find much practicality in the use of forms. Forms are pretty, but real street fights are not. The way we practice is the way we will react. The constant practice of throwing punches with one hand while placing the other by your ribs or even waist, it is not practical, but indeed very dangerous and it is one of the many aspects that throw me off regarding forms.
Just the other day I was talking to a military man who told me the story of this great martial arts instructor who used to specialize in teaching police officers. As he taught how to disarm an attacker with a knife and gun he would go down a line of officers, have them point at him with the weapon, one by one, he would disarm them very quickly, effectively, and then return the weapon to the officer in training. He was just teaching, no problem, right? One day this instructor found himself in a real life situation, he followed his training and quickly disarmed the attacker, but he made one mistake, he gave the weapon back to the attacker as he did countless times in the training of others. That day, had there not been additional police intervention, the instructor would have facilitated his own death.
I am also turned off by the athletic and talented martial artist who comes up with a system that is very effective for him, but totally obsolete to the average human being such as myself. He is able to defend himself based on who he is and his natural abilities. I can try the same techniques and get killed. It is not that his techniques are no good, but they are no good for me unless I possess the same degree of athletic prowess.
So, do I use forms? Yes, but only as an aerobic exercise, as a show and to demonstrate disciple, as everybody must learn each one of those moves. But in terms of self-defense I look for what is either universally effective or effective to that particular person. For example, I do not only teach the Taekwondo way of throwing the sidekick, but I also teach the Shotokan and the Kung Fu way. I let the students find what actually work better for them.
This may sound unprofessional, but I love to watch Youtube videos of real street fights; those videos give a fountain of information and a better assessment of what could work or not. I do teach a pattern of a self-defense techniques, the natural way a human body will react to certain strikes and good logical follow ups. I also believe in applying pain in self-defense to give a time to escape, but I leave room for that student to find himself as a martial artist.
In those Youtube videos I have seen men effectively defend themselves with a jab and cross; nothing fancy, just powerful 1-2 combinations. I have also seen a young man defending himself with reverse hook kicks to the face of an attacker. Some teach not to kick high, but for these young men it was easy to place a kick in the attacker’s head
I am now in this wonderful journey of re-discovering myself as a martial artist. I still hold-on to some traditions; I still find Biblical principles to be the most valuable contribution of a martial arts instructor. However, when it comes down to self-defense we must find that middle ground between the safety of the dojo and the brutality of the street. For me, that teaching dynamic is a responsible approach to the sensitive topic self-defense; anything less is indeed irresponsible and dangerous for our students. My heart really goes out to martial artists who only train for the point system. They become champions and develop a false sense of security in their skills. When these same martial artist jumps to any full contact competition or when they find themselves in a life and death situation, they are the first ones to fall completely apart.