Those that follow this blog know that I was a fourth degree black belt in a traditional martial art. I say was because I believe if you haven’t kept up with or practiced something for years you can’t claim it any longer. Anyway, I have blogged many times that most martial arts may be good exercise, good stress relief, a good way to meet people, etc. but they are far from effective self defense. Why would the masters thousands of years ago have developed arts that weren’t really self defense? Well, when they developed them they were self defense. Examples;

-Learning to use martial art weapons such as the sai and kama may be fun but have no practical application today. When they were developed the peasants were not allowed to own weapons. They learned to protect themselves with farming implements. That is what these “weapons” really are. It made sense at the time.

-In the days of the Samurai the Samurai sword was the ultimate in weapon technology. If you were the best with the sword you were virtually unbeatable. Today anyone taking a good weekend handgun course (such as Combat Focus Shooting) would defeat the best Samurai…all day long. Today learning the Samurai sword is a hobby but…it made sense at the time.

-There was a time that martial arts training was forbidden. Forms made sense to remember all the moves that the student knew. Since there usually weren’t partners around and definetly were no heavy bags, focus mitts or kick shields forms made sense for practice at the time. Speaking of forms, have you ever seen forms where the practitioner moves their hands in quick circles and then places their palm on their forearm and slides the palm? This was from a time when the aristocrasy showed their wealth by wearing long sleeves. That part of the form actually represents pushing their sleeves up before they can attack. Not overly practicle to practice today. It made sense at the time.

-When I was in the martial arts we spent a lot of time in front stances and horse stances. When I found out the history behind those stances I wondered why i had wasted so much time with them. The front stance was for balance when fighting aboard a ship. The horse stance was from a time when peasants had very few options for getting out of poverty. One option was to join the military. The military fought from horse back. The peasants couldn’t afford horses so they practiced their moves in a deep squeat, PRETENDING that they were on a horse. It made sense at the time.

-Peasants knew that they would be fighting attackers who were on horse back. They developed high flying kicks to knock attackers off of their horses. Learning those made sense at the time.

-Judo started out as a combat art, not a sport. Judo flips and throws were developed to quickly put down (with out following them to the ground and being attached) attackers who were in armor. Crashing someone to the ground with an extra 100 pounds of armor usually ended their attack. It made sense at the time.

-The uniform that most martial artists put on weren’t really uniforms when developed. They were a cheaper, unbleached copy of what they wore every day. No sense in messing up your good clothes. The “black belt” represented excellence but wasn’t awarded, it was just a dirty belt. The longer someone wore their belt to practice in the dirtier it got (this was waaaay before washing machines). By the time it was black you had put some serious hours into training.

All of this made sense in it’s day but for self defense now make very little sense. Today we are attacked by blades, sticks and handguns. If you are looking for pure self defense for today traditional martial arts just doesn’t do it. A system developed for the IDF in the past sixty years would look like a better bet to me! BE SAFE!


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