Last week the Impact and Champion classes began a new module of training devoted to street fighting. This module is a great example demonstrating what applied, or functional martial arts is all about. I am often asked what “Applied” Martial Arts is. The simple answer is that applied martial arts is a combination of fighting styles that actually work out on the streets.
Many people excel in a certain martial art and are not aware that their skills may not hold up if they were attacked. At the age of 16 I had a reality check as when I started seeking to further my training as a fighter. Although I had obtained my black belt in Tae Kwon Do and performed tremendously well throughout my training, the truth was that I felt unable to defend myself against large, strong, and angry adversaries. I could kick really well and knew some forms and stances that are helpful in combat situations, but it wasn’t enough. I needed something more than Tae Kwon Do. I needed to learn how to fight.
After receiving some boxing instruction I visited a hole in the wall boxing center with crusted blood on the floor, water dripping from the walls, and the stink of stale sweat. There were a number of what I deemed to be large, scary men training intensely by slamming the bags and sparring in the ring. These were some tough guys. In my heart, I knew sparring these men would be a challenge, but having been my school’s top student in TKD, I had a tremendous amount of confidence that I would do well. Much to my surprise at the time, being able to do extremely beautiful martial arts forms (katas) and executing awesome high flying kicks seemed to be completely useless in the ring when someone began punching you in the face.
These boxers completely dominated and controlled me. Although I had a tremendous amount of skill in the martial arts, I realized that I could not stand toe to toe in a real fight. I knew I could be a great fighter; I just lacked the experience in applying what I had learned and needed to learn more about realistic, functional styles of martial arts. I loved forms and cool kicks, but they really did not do much in combat. Such a concept was contrary to what I had been taught and held to be true throughout my training as a martial artist. However, my desire to improve overpowered any pride I had and allowed me to see the truth.
This realization spawned a completely new mission in my training: seek, study, and learn to apply several of the world’s most functional martial arts in order to become a proficient fighter in the martial arts. I wanted the truth about self-defense and combat. I never wanted to experience the complete uselessness and submissiveness I felt at the hands of another person. I wanted to be prepared if the situation arose, for me to defend myself or others and I wanted to bring the best training to the students I was now responsible to teach. This mission had not replaced my love for the artistic training I had received, but simply added another level and complexity to the training that I desired.
This week my students will actually be putting on their tennis shoes and going out onto the lot behind my studio. I want them to feel their footwork on the pavement, to feel how their feet will slip a little on the loose pebbles; to understand the difference between asphalt and soft mats.
We have been talking about the reality of what might happen if we are attacked. I feel it is my duty to prepare my students and teach them strikes so effective they are outlawed in professional fighting because they inflict so much damage. Why? Because out if they are ever attacked the assailant is out to hurt them or worse. I want my students to be aware that if someone attacks them with a knife even the most proficient martial artist will probably get stabbed at least once and how to deal with that. Why? Because these are the things that go down in the streets.