Bullshido by any other name...

... still smells just as foul:


I came across that Marie Claire "self-defence" video for wimmenz sometime last year, I think. One of the black belt instructors at my school saw that in his Instagram feed and showed it to a gang of us while we were sitting at brunch after a Saturday class. (At an Israeli hummus place, natch.)

Every single one of us erupted in disbelieving laughter when we saw the moves that a so-called "self-defence expert" had put together.

Now, it must be pointed out that the moves in that original video actually do have some basis in realistic fighting arts. They are just thought through and executed extremely badly, because the techniques applied to escape any of those specific situations simply do not work.

In my school's current curriculum, we shifted around the choke and bear-hug defences a bit at the end of last year, but all of the situations discussed in that video are in fact ones that we train for at orange belt. For example, we have a technique for getting out of the choke that is shown in the video. We also have a defence against a hand-hold on the same side - both with "fair force" and striking. We do have effective defences against bear-hugs - arms pinned, arms free, with momentum and throws, lifting, and from leg grabs.

For that choke technique, the reason why the MC-endorsed technique does not work is because the choke grip is not broken and the knee to the stomach will inevitably end up falling short, especially against an attacker with longer arms.

A much more effective way to deal with that kind of an attack is simply to "pluck" the hands toward oneself, therefore breaking the grip, while simultaneously delivering a very hard knee or kick to the nuts - and then carry on throwing strikes.

Hey, somebody just tried to choke you. He delivered a life-threatening attack against you. The concept of mercy went out the window the moment that he put his hands on you. As far as you are concerned, it is your job to put him DOWN.

In fact, if you want to see what those very same defensive techniques look like when executed by people who actually know what the hell they're doing, here you go:


(And yes, I know pretty much everyone in these Howcast videos. I witnessed a couple of them test to black belt.)

At this point I must inject a dose of realism into the never-ending debate about whether or not Krav Maga actually works.

The short answer is: yes, with caveats.

The caveats amount to the following:
  1. You must train realistically. When training to deal with punches and kicks, for instance, your training partner needs to try to HIT you. Otherwise, your training is rubbish and you'll look an arse. It is an absolute truth that you fight the way you train - actually, it is more accurate to say that you fight worse than you train. If your training is shitty, your actual fighting will be far worse than shitty.
  2. You must be prepared to improvise. The self-defence techniques that are taught in any art - not just Krav Maga, but BJJ and judo and all others - are merely very highly stylised versions of actual situations. In real life it NEVER goes down exactly the way the technique is taught in class. Those techniques are of no more use and value than a karate kata in the real world. The techniques are useful for giving you appropriate skills and muscle memory, but these serve only to give you the most basic tools needed to defend yourself in real life.
  3. You must spar. I don't care how many black belts you claim to have. I don't care how skilled you claim to be. I don't care if you practice by hitting pads held by ten people surrounding you. Put on a pair of gloves - 14oz boxing, 7oz hybrid, or 4oz MMA, I don't particularly care - and a groin cup and a mouthpiece, and go fight one person. If you cannot fight ONE person skillfully and out-strike, out-grapple, or out-wrestle him, in a controlled environment with even minimal rules, you cannot win a fight on the street.
  4. You must be humble. I have personally witnessed 1st, 2nd, and 4th Dan black belt tests in Krav Maga. As one gets higher up the ranks, the material becomes much more difficult, and any martial artist worth the name becomes more humble, not less, because he knows that he will never get to the top of that mountain of knowledge. At 2nd Dan black belt, one has to spar with someone holding a knife. If he stabs you - you FAIL. Not just that segment of material - the entire test. Knife-fighting is really hard. More people have been killed with knives and sticks, throughout all of human history, than guns and bombs - and almost nothing is more dangerous on the street than fighting against someone armed with a blade. If you think that you can train in Krav Maga, or escrima or any other fighting art, and consistently survive a knife attack on the street - you're a moron. Even the most highly skilled practitioners will tell you that at least 9 times out of 10, against a skilled attacker with a knife, YOU WILL DIE.
  5. You must respect the weapons. A gun, a knife, and a stick are all completely different weapons with different guiding principles behind their usage. A gun, when properly used, cannot be defended against - because there is no defence against a bullet traveling at supersonic speed fired from twenty feet away. A knife is a short, sharp edged weapon, which means that your single best defence against it is to increase the distance between you and the attacker. A stick is a long, blunt weapon, so your best defence against it is to collapse the distance.
The hard and sad fact is that most Krav Maga schools, worldwide, do not meet these standards.

The problem is particularly bad on the West Coast, for reasons that go back about thirty years to the time when the original students of the art broke away from Imi Lichtenfeld's organisation in Israel. There are schools out there which treat Krav Maga as a cardio class and do not permit contact at all - which is more than a little ridiculous given that the very phrase means "contact combat".

If you remove the "contact", you don't have "combat".

It may come as some surprise (or maybe not) that Krav Maga is not actually taken very seriously, on the whole, within the martial arts community. That is because it does not take much by way of skill, practice, or technique to be able to defend oneself at a low level.

In reality it takes tremendous amounts of practice and attention to detail to figure out how to defend properly against weapons, or multiple attackers, or other urban survival situations. And that practice involves learning how to fight - really fight.

And as Ramsey Dewey himself explains, far too many so-called Krav Maga "experts" cannot actually fight their way out of a wet blanket:


The key point here is that being good at "self-defence" is actually a misleading concept. You cannot be good at "self-defence" - that is a pointless and fruitless occupation.

That is because "self-defence" is a euphemism.

When people say "I can defend myself", what they actually mean is, "I can fight others to the point where I can beat them down and hurt them so badly that they stop trying to hurt me".

To be good at "self-defence", you must therefore be good at fighting.

And the only way to get good at fighting, is to fight.

That is why my primary advice for anyone who wants to take up martial arts always centres around sparring.

If there is no contact permitted when executing techniques - that "art" is not realistic. If there is no full-contact sparring, grappling, or rolling involved - it is bullshido. If there is no actual combatives or sparring class offered - it is nonsense.

Do not waste your time, money, or effort on such schools.

There is one final point that is worth remembering with respect to self-defence courses and classes for women. This is for the girls:

Ladies, understand one thing very clearly. In any realistic fighting scenario, you will almost surely be facing at least one man. Your opponent will be bigger, stronger, faster, and tougher than you. A man and a woman of the exact same height and weight will still be unequal in terms of muscle mass and strength, especially in the upper body.

If you are honestly stupid enough to believe that you can take on a man in a realistic fighting situation on the street, and win, you are delusional.

And you will get very badly hurt. You may be severely crippled. You may even die.

That is not to say that there is no value to be found in women learning martial arts. There certainly is. Martial arts toughens them up, makes them stronger, and teaches them what specific vulnerable targets and pressure points need to be attacked on even the most determined male assailant to make him stop hurting them.

But, for women on their own, the two best defences are, and always will be, a gun and the skill to use it properly.

I train regularly with women. I spar with them too. I am extremely gentle with them, because I have to be; if I spar against the girls with the same kind of speed and power that I do with the guys, every single one of them would be limping off the mat with concussions.

I stand at 1.77m (5'10") and weigh 87Kg at any given point in time (about 192lbs). I like sparring and have no problems whatsoever with gearing up and hitting hard - though I certainly do not claim to be very skillful. Very few women could stand and bang with me on the feet. (I will readily grant that most women with significant grappling skills could take me down and choke me out - though it would not be easy for them.)

There is only one guaranteed way that a 120lb woman could take me on in a fight and win - by pulling out a pistol and shooting me.

That is the beauty of the gun: it is the great equaliser. Not for nothing do the Texans like to say that God created men, and Sam Colt made men equal.

Ultimately, martial arts is, as Mr. Dewey himself explained, a search for Truth. It is Truth obtained through harsh experience, pain, suffering, commitment, focus, and the hard discipline of mind, body, and soul. And the truth does not care for sloppy techniques, bad training, or feminist propaganda.

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