Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What do I call, what I do?

Rory Miller has been blogging about martial art.  Specifically is what he teaches still considered martial art.  For the most part I felt that yes what he teaches (hope I don’t come off as arrogant when I say what I teach) is martial art.  That was until about half an hour ago.  My wife made a nice dinner, I’m still on Christmas vacation so I decided I should go buy a cigar to enjoy.  So I head down to the strip mall to the local tobacco shop.  I pick up a couple gurkhas.  I notice that the “martial art” school a few doors down is all lit up.  So I have to go take a peek.  It’s filled with little kids wearing gi’s punching and kicking the air.  Basically dare care in kimonos.  No different than the soccer, or dance classes my daughter is in. 
If that is martial arts, I don’t teach martial art
So what do I teach?  Martial sport?  No, I feel most martial sports will develop bad habits and glitches that will cause critical failures in actual confrontation.  Now don’t get me wrong, I feel everyone should get some tournament experience.  There are things you can’t learn about yourself without competition.  However, I also feel that the sport aspects of martial arts have been so over emphasized as to ruin the art itself.  Every martial sport started as a training drill designed to work one aspect of an art.  Over time the need for the combat aspects of the art dwindles and all the training revolved around winning the drill or game.  A saying I often borrow from Rory is that quality martial art should kill or maim your opponent.  In order not to kill or maim your partner something artificial has to be introduced.  Drills have rules.  When all that is left of an art is sport / games based on drills of one small aspect, then most of what is left is artificial.  See also, most of the good stuff is lost.  Traditional Jujutsu is a solid complete art.  Most good Jujutsu is gone.  Sport Judo, sport Karate, and Aikido for personal / spiritual development is all that remains. 
So, do I teach Koryu or traditional (before the Meji restoration circa 1886) martial arts?  No, sadly most Koryu guys I’ve encountered spend more time fighting over which school has the most legitimate heritage or the proper translation of Japanese terms that actually fighting.  However, everyone should get some traditional training.  Koryu arts contain the good stuff that sport arts have lost.  The challenge is in getting past the dogma, and learning the good stuff in less than 20 years.
What I teach has to be practical and simple. 
An individual can test the efficacy of any combat method (martial art) by asking himself this simple question “Will this work so I can use it instinctively in vital combat against an opponent who is determined to prevent me from doing so, and is striving eliminate me through means fair or foul?” - Paraphrased from Col. Rex Applegate’s “Kill or be killed” written in 1943:

So do I teach RBSD (reality based self defense) that emphasizes WWII hand to hand combatives?  Well, yes to some extent.  However, just as the good stuff of Koryu training is lost with the emphasis on sport.  The good stuff of Sykes / Applegate combatives is lost with the emphasis on “lethal” techniques as the simple solution to a problem you are likely never to face ( see previous blog on commando wanna be’s, or Marc MacYoung’s blog on the super bowl of violence).  Preying on the fear or fulfilling the fantasy of the uninformed is not martial art or RSBD.  That is martial business, no different from a fad diet.  Take this magic pill and you will get ripped without changing your diet of lifestyle.  Take this weekend seminar (only $1000) and you will become a dangerous antagonist who “fears no man” without training on a regular basis or changing your lifestyle.
You may be asking ok tough guy, we get what you don’t teach so what do you teach?
Fair question, I teach the legal and ethical implications of violence, avoidance, escape and evasion, violence dynamics, de-escalation, and counter ambush tactics.  I teach the good stuff of old Jujutsu.  I teach drills which emphasize small portions of the whole without developing bad habits or glitches.  I teach simple fundamentals that can be used instinctively in vital combat against an opponent who is determined to prevent you from doing so by any means possible.
So if not martial art, what do you call it?
The Japanese term I use is Taihojutsu
Tai: Body - Ho:  Control - Jutsu: Technique. Simply defined, Taiho Jutsu means control techniques.
A better definition of what I teach is Close Quarters Control Tactics.  Throughout history in times of peace or war professionals have had to control dangerous people to protect the rest of society.  Whether or not Close Quarters Control Tactics is martial art is a moot point.  I won’t change the definition of what I teach.  What I teach (what Rory, Mark and Steve teach)is martial art.  All I can do is strive to change the perception of what martial art is.   


  1. :-)
    I ran across another video on Marc McYoung's Website of Penn and Teller's show "BullShit." You can find it here if you already haven't seen it.


    The reason I bring this up is I think everyone that takes a mrtal art should watch this; as, it would help everyone be honest with themselves as to what there true goals are with learning it.

    Becuase, basicly thats what you are talking about. Looking with in yourself to see why you do it, and are working on the things that, you think, bring you closer to that goal.

  2. Kasey,
    After years of trying to understand names, what is a martial art, what's not, what's sport got ot do it, what is self-defense, what's not, etc, etc. I came up with the names "combat art", "combat sport", and "combat science" to put names to what are more largely understood as: "martial art", "combat sport", and "combatives" in that order. Perhaps someone has already patened that idea but it makes sense in my own weird mind!
    Your thoughts?
    -Neil Bednar