Friday, February 17, 2012

CBTT Settles the Great Debates: Martial Arts vs. Combat Sports

Today in CBTT settles the great debates: Martial Arts vs. Combat Sports. Don't worry, I'm not going to go all Phil Elmore on you. I don't have a stake; I enjoy both methodologies.

In case you aren't familiar with this debate, this question is generally the AR/AK or .45/9mm of the martial arts communities. Some people choose to view this question as "What art is best for surviving a street encounter?" and some choose to view it as "MMA is superior and fuck all you faggots." (Note that this is not a question.) It seems to boil down to "Should an martial sport with full contact be considered superior for street fighting than a martial art with no or extremely limited contact?" That will be the version we discuss here.

(Full disclosure-I have trained heavily in both methodologies, with a later emphasis on Filipino stick arts. Also, I have a bit of gutter experience that predates most of my training.)

Let me start by answering that, the reasonable version of the question. YES. An airy-fairy dancing art that teaches you to block every hit in a pre programmed dance will get you killed on the street. Why? Because typically you don't see the attack coming and YOU WILL GET HIT. Sometimes you'll get hit hard, you'll get knocked down, you'll get blindsided by three motherfuckers in a dark alley, and you won't know what to do because you've never been hit before. I've seen some very good traditional martial arts practicioners just fall apart after they get hit the first time in an MMA environment-I mean everything, technique, zen, even blind instinct just comes apart because getting hit wasn't part of the plan.

That said, the main difference between a UFC bout and a street fight isn't that you are barred from kicking nuts or gouging eyes. The main difference is that in the UFC, you pick the time, venue and opponent for the fight, and in a street fight, you don't have that luxury. The street fight tends to come up as a surprise and even if you win, your day is pretty much fucked. You can look forward to a hard fight in the UFC, a test of skill, strength and will; on the street you want the easy fight, and more importantly your opponent does too. If you can, he'll use size advantage, numerical superiority, terrain and a wide variety of weapons to make it an easy fight so he can go home and smoke crack in peace. That is the fundamental disconnect between MMA and street fighting and, despite the chest thumping superiority of some MMA types, it can ruin your plan as much as not getting hit.

Fundamentally, you will fight how you train. If you train to never get hit, to dodge and weave and block Jackie Chan style through every encounter, that is how you will fight-and you will likely lose. If you train to take a guy to the ground and punch him until someone pulls you away, you'll fight like that-and win, until the guy pulling you off has a very small, very sharp knife that he ventilates you with over and over because you weren't even looking for him. Or maybe you just keep punching him because you aren't trained to disengage, and you drub the guy to death after he passes out and you end up locked up with a bunch of his homies instead. That is not winning.

So, what can we take away from this little foray into survivalist relevance from a guy who usually writes about Disney Sex?

1. Your style is not an ego thing. There are things to take away from any art-and things to leave hanging there as well.
2. You will get hit in a street fight. Make sure you've been hit before, or you'll be amazed at how little you know after it happens, assuming they ever finish unscrewing you from that mailbox.
3. What works in the ring doesn't always work in the street and no amount of chest thumping can make it so that it does.
4. None of these styles teach you enough about situational awareness. Situational awareness > technique.
5. Any style that does not teach you about the legal ramifications of using force against another person is an incomplete style. Period.

Thank you, and please don't flood my blog with pissed off comments because you think I called your dick small. Good night, folks.


  1. Your five points are obviously based on experience, which too many preachers on this topic lack.

    I had 15 years of aiki-jutsu under my belt before going to Torrance for GJJ. The combination is outstanding.

    But when I am asked by someone what they should study, I guide them toward a good Krav Maga shop if they want to learn how to break people in a short amount of time. Six months of hard Krav training will give skills that six months of aiki, or MMA, or any other art just can't measure.

    And all the martial arts training in the world is useless if you are not willing to break bones and rip guts, throats and eyes out of the other guy. And if you've never been hit, you don't want the first time to be in a real fight.

    Good piece.


  2. My daughter once asked me how I survived my all expense paid vacation in beautiful Southeast Asia. I told her the truth:

    1. I never went looking for a fight.
    2. I kept my head down as much as possible during one.
    3. I never ran out on a buddy.
    4. When I had to fight I cheated.
    5. I picked my buddies carefully.

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