How many real fights have you been in? If you are teaching self-defence, how many times in your lifetime, have you actually had to defend yourself for real? How many times when this happened did you honestly think to yourself, “I may die tonight?”
I get incredibly incensed by the matter of fact way so many self proclaimed self-defence experts are quick to shoot other people’s work down in their own industry or very quick to offer up an opinion (especially these idiots who post YouTube videos of other idiots teaching garbage on Facebook, when they themselves have no room to talk). Ironically if these self-defense critics were truthful, they have never actually been in any kind of real fight/s of note in their life. Some of these critics I know personally, they were the kind of guys who tried to avoid sparring, and if they did spar (or were pressured too), they were the first to wine about people going to hard on them. Yet, now they are Combatives, or Reality Based Self-Defense experts?
The martial arts world is a strange one. The world of self-defence is filled with greyness, a twilight zone filled with fantasy, mystique, and chest thumping Street Preachers. These Street Preachers, many of which live in the safe zones of middle to upper class neighbourhoods of the world — spread their gospel of street defence to a largely uneducated public, not forged in the fires of violence — but instead who have been fed a steady diet of Hollywood’s choreographed fight scenes, masquerading as reality (sadly this is what the ‘safe’ public buy, because they don’t know any better).
This was hit home to me a few years ago when I was invited to teach a seminar in one of the previous Eastern Bloc group of countries (these countries are often dominated by the world of Reality Based Self Defence). A three hour conversation ensued with my host, where he argued the whole way to our destination on why killer instinct was imperative to winning a street fight, and continued the conversation asking my opinion on a range of topics, from ripping people’s faces off, eye gouging and kicking people in the nuts as the ultimate street strategy to win a fight. Needless to say, listening to this guy, I was convinced that he clearly must live in the worst part of the country, where violence is on every street corner, and that he must be in fear of his life daily ( his students of course too).
It turned out that non of this was true. He lived in what by all accounts could be considered a sleepy town. He was well educated, with a degree, which afforded him a great job (yup he didn’t teach full time just like many of these self-proclaimed street fighters), and lived in a beautiful house nestled in the rolling hills of the country side (he never served in the military or law enforcement either). The fact that he was able to fly me out, and pay my private training rate, suggested he wasn’t struggling for cash. This isn’t an isolated case. With the exception of military operators and law enforcement officers I have trained, almost exclusively everyone who has brought me out to teach them and their students specifically ‘street fighting,’ if they were smart and aware would likely never have to use what I taught them.
You will be hard pressed to find Reality Based Self Defence schools in real, violent, underprivileged neighbourhoods of the world. You will be hard pressed to find many Reality Based Self Defence instructors who forged their skills on the streets, because just like their students, they too come from the middle to upper class neighbourhoods of the world. Plus lets be honest here, underprivileged neighbourhoods don’t have money for self-defence lessons, self defense is learned on the streets out of necessity, or if you lucky at the local boxing gym at the YMCA. All these wannabe Street Preachers are suffering from what I call the Scarecrow Effect. The birds think the Scarecrow in the filed of corn is the real deal — some kind of human weapon and they fear him — but the Farmer knows better. If you are smart, which I know you are, don’t be the crow, be the Farmer.
STREET FIGHTS ARE NOT NEATLY PACKAGED
I have written about my history of real fighting elsewhere on this blog, and I don’t write it as a way to inflate my self-importance, but rather to suggest credibility. For example, when I was in the military, no one REALLY listened to ranked soldiers who went to Junior Leadership School, but were conscripted at the same time just like we were. Rather, when a Sergeant Major, who as a full time soldier had seen real action, and survived real war during the Border Wars in South Africa spoke — we all listened. Why? Because he had credibility, he had been there, survived and returned to teach others. As far as I was concerned anyone else who didn’t have this real world experience, were simply theory junkies. And as we all know when it comes to theory, and fighting — all theory goes out the window, when the first bullet or punch start to fly.
In the army as soldiers this seemed simply obvious to all of us (but it didn’t prevent those JL’s from acting like they knew what it was like to go to war, sound familiar)? Yet, in the world of martial arts, people seem to accept advice from self-proclaimed experts who have never actually gone to ‘war on the streets’ so to speak, and they do so often without question. If they did, they would know first hand that complexity — which is mostly passed off as real self defence training — kills in real fights. They would know that, while one can execute a counter measure to an attack, the attacker/s will definitely fight back. No one who attacks you, unless you can pull off that one in a million stop shot, is going to just let you blitz them with your awesome Bourne Identity moves, and sit there and take it. People, especially attackers will fight back, and will fight back with everything they have (I am still unclear why this is so controversial on YouTube self defense videos.LOL) Fighting for real, where there are no rules, is unpredictable, chaotic, untidy, and potentially life ending.
WHAT REALLY WORKS ON THE STREET
Take it from me, if you really want to be able to survive a real fight encounter, where, you potentially could lose your life, you want to keep everything high percentage. This means, you have to look at everything you have been taught or think you know, speak to those who do know, and you will be told to drop 99% of it as bullshit. Simple, straight forward, offence and defence win fights. Awareness, before techniques win fights. Knowing when to disengage, and get your ass out of the danger zone wins fights. Avoiding places all together, if at all possible, that are known to be violent, win fights.
If all else fails, and you have zero option but to go hands on with someone, take it from me, you going to be relying on core fight elements. Good old fashioned boxing, knees, elbows, low line kicks, clinch — and enough ground skills, so that if you do end up there, you know how to get back to your feet — is all you really need, or want. In the countless ‘street’ situations I was in, especially working the door for several years in Johannesburg, I can tell you with full confidence that I won 90% of those fights with solid CM hand defence, a diving board jab, a diving board cross, a tight hook, horizontal elbow, front knee, side knee, a front midsection kick, and an inverted kick to an attackers knee (obviously not always individually, although that sometimes happened, but simply combinations of the above). That’s it! It rarely got more fancy than that.
When I look at most of what is passed off as self-defence, I am left wondering who are these people fighting? 99% of what they teach you don’t need, and I promise you, you will never use. The other 10% I never mentioned earlier could be considered as made up of using pushing, pulling, a neck-tie, and fighting out of the clinch, with maybe 1% of that some fancy shit, just because that day I was feeling cocky. People need to stop sipping the Reality Based “it was taught to the military” Kool-Aid. I was the Defensive Tactics trainer (or what we called Unarmed Combat) for my unit during my military service. I had most guys for less than 40-hours total of training if I was lucky (and I would never see them again). There sure as hell wasn’t enough taught to warrant a ‘black belt.’ Most other basic Army Combatives courses around the world fall in line with this amount of time, some even less — and it’s really up to the individual soldier to take it further (which most don’t). Lets just face facts, in the army, for the most part you shoot people, you don’t punch them.