Friday, March 16, 2012

"That will never work" and Other Ignorance

We've all heard it when attempting to show a technique to someone who isn't a martial artist. Worse are all the ignorant* comments you'll find on YouTube -usually from untrained teenage boys who think they're Bruce Lee because they got in a fight once in 8th grade over some girl who didn't want them anyway.
"I wouldn't hold my hand out like that."
"I could easily just..."
"He's just letting the guy do that to him."
 "That would never work in a real fight."

We all know the responses to these objections -one of which is to demonstrate the technique faster and harder- but what if you're in a situation where that's not feasible such as discussing the issue in a fine restaurant (trust me, you'll get kicked out faster than you can play the Hawaiian Drums)?

All of these objections and more are quite common but it's that last item that I'd like to address the most.

Let's be honest. Most of us have never tried many of these techniques "for real" so we have to talk about the history of the system and how it was developed by testing techniques in real fights and all of that. The problem is that doesn't convince the ignorant; they came to their opinions without any help from facts and they'll keep it that way, thank you very much.

Even we practitioners can be lulled into thinking that certain things we do are "just because" and wouldn't really work or be useful in a real encounter. For example, when practicing your stances and such, it's easy to get into the mindset that these are just formalities and in a "real" fight you'd just do what you have to do to win.

That's partially correct, of course. You won't focus on whether your feet are perfectly aligned and your center balanced and upright in a horse stance during an attack on the street. However, by training our bodies to take certain stances and positions, we'll naturally do it in an encounter. Today it may seem forced and unnatural to drop into a proper front stance during a technique but after a while it should become second nature.

An example comes to us courtesy of the UFC; Benevidez vs. Urushitani.

Before you say, "the UFC isn't a self defense scenario" or whatever, I realize that. However, barring the exclusion of certain techniques, such as groin, throat, and eye strikes, and the fact that both people are voluntarily engaging in the fight it's pretty close. The key here is that it is as close to a "real" fight as trained fighters typically get. So, on to the example.

At the beginning of Round 2, Urushitani delivers what could have been a devastating kick. Benevidez reacts by going into a front stance and double forearm block. Although the front stance is not perfect (his back leg is not locked out) and he partially misses the block with his right arm, the incoming kick is not only halted in its tracks but driven back opening up a counter strike. Notice he drives forward into the kick; he doesn't attempt to back away. This meeting of force with force is what gives this technique its power.

Don't think for a second that Benevidez thought to himself, "Oh, he's about to kick me. I should go into a front stance and block the kick with my forearms." He just did it.

Think about this scene next time you doubt the usefulness of something you're learning. Trust the knowledge and experience of your Sifu. It's not being taught just for the giggles.

     *I'm using ignorant in its formal sense of "lacking knowledge."


  1. I love how it was just a 'natural' defensive move. Stepping in, blocking, and then taking advantage of the lowered left hand of the attacker. 'Target acquisition' is one of the parts of our training that I'm enjoying the most...

  2. Great point about the lowered left hand, Peter. That's classic Muay Thai style but it does leave you open for the counter punch if you don't make the kick count (as we saw here).