This is a question that every martial arts practitioner will eventually be asked. Either by someone who’s trying to make fun of martial arts, someone who is genuinely interested in starting martial arts or even doubt’s you might get. When we say ‘are martial arts practical ?’ it could mean a variety of different things depending on what the person learning the martial art wishes to get from it, it could be confidence, discipline, weight loss, self-defence, etc. These are all topics up for debate whether martial arts are in fact practical or not, but for the sake of this article we are just going to focus on self-defence. Typically learning martial arts will improve your self-defence skills but this is not always the case, sadly there are martial arts out there that actually worsen your self defence skills. That was the simple answer to this question, if you’d like to understand why I came to this conclusion keep on reading as I’m going to go more in depth.
DeBunking Martial Arts Self-Defence Critics
Let’s start by answering some common questions I hear claiming why martial arts are in-practical.
- Martial arts nowadays have become way too commercialised and due to that there’s barely any self-defence left in it.I’m not going to disagree on that statement but this does not mean that martial arts aren’t practical. Times have changed before martial arts purpose was for war nowadays war isn’t handled the same way, because of this certain dojo’s have watered down their style to reach different audiences. If a person’s goal is simply to lose weight and learn some basic techniques he doesn’t want to be beaten up with sticks to train things like pain conditioning because that’s not his goal.It all comes down to common sense now, if your aim is strictly to learn self defence ask the dojo before hand. Ask the sensei to tell you what types of people the dojo is targeted for, what is commonly practiced within the dojo and see for yourself by attending, if there is no full on sparring in the lessons it’s obviously not meant to be for self-defence.People that say this obviously don’t know how to choose a proper dojo.
- I used to train but all we did was synchronized dancing how’s that supposed to help me in a fight (referring to katas and similar training).Firstly there are a lot of martial arts that do not practice forms or katas if that’s not your thing, there’s MMA, boxing, jiu jitsu, etc just pick a martial art that does not teach this type of training.Secondly if your sensei thinks that katas are meant for real street encounters, run away from that dojo as fast as you can. The purpose of the kata is more of a drill a shadowboxing sequence if you will. The intent behind it is that you learn to combine moves when dealing with various targets but its more of a drill to enhance your reflexes. So than when you are sparring one VS two your mind has some basic knowledge on how to combat more than one target, but if there is not one vs many targets sparring training, katas will not be of any use in a fight, they are in no way meant to be used that way and a good sensei will tell you that.
- Ow ye well I can buy a gun, what you gonna do if someone comes with a gun HA ?True un-armed martial arts have limits, we can’t beat a gun but that mentality is just plain dumb. It’s just like saying don’t take the necessary procedures to fireproof your house, if some guy comes in your house with a flamethrower your fireproofing is not going to be enough. This goes the same for having un-armed self defence skills it’s not going to make you immortal but it will definitely give you an edge over someone who has never thrown or received a punch to the face.And are you really replacing unarmed martial arts for a gun to keep you safe, not to mention it’s illegal to carry a gun on you in most places. Now don’t get me wrong having a gun on you is better than unarmed martial arts taking that you can aim, but a gun might not be on you, what you gonna do than ha ?FYI being able to wield a gun properly is actually a martial art, there are some martial arts that teach you how to wield a gun, ways to gain distance, pulling out fast, etc. For example Hojutsu is a martial art that revolves around using a gun, so if you’re into guns check that out.
Why Good Martial Arts Dojos Are Practical
Being in a good martial arts dojo that focuses on self-defence helps with :
- Being able to identify potential dangerous situations and avoid them. Martial arts might seem all about kicking your opponent’s ass but in reality martial arts train you to be mentally prepared in situations such as being robbed, targeted by some drunk guy, etc. A normal person instead of just handing his money over to the robber might try to attack, run or scream which could potentially end up very badly.A martial artist will be aware that the robber or attacker can be armed or have friends in the background ready to pounce on you and due to him being prepared for this situation would just hand him the money securing safety or if it’s a drunk dude try to befriend him or run away depending on the situation.The first rule of martial arts is to try and avoid a fight as long as it’s possible, being mentally ready for that situation drops the chance of you having a panic attack in that given scenario.
- Being able to handle multiple opponents. This is a very important skill any martial arts dojo serious in self-defence should implement if they want to make their teachings as practical and realistic as possible. Typically no one is going to attack you if they are alone, they might seem they are alone but in the background you can be sure there friends are lurking around.Now lets not be unrealistic here, martial arts will not teach you how to defeat ten guys at the same time like the movies show.What martial arts teach you in one vs multiple opponents sparring is, which techniques you shouldn’t use that are normally great in one vs one sparring but would get you killed in one vs multiple sparring. How to control your energy so that you don’t get tired while trying to reach your objective. The objective being to run away while still maintaining stamina to run.
- learning to disarm an opponent, this technique can save one’s life. In most occasions it should not be used and it’s more of a last resort technique one should do if there is no other option. It’s unlikely you will have to resort to this in your life time but if you were the unfortunate person in this scenario it could save your life.
Why Some Martial Arts Are In-Practical
In every community you have the good people and that tiny percentage that stain the name of the community, martial arts is not an exception. In fact I believe that that tiny percentage is a lot higher than it should be in our community which is really upsetting.
Martial arts that claim that they can teach you how to shoot ‘chi balls’ or make a ‘chi shields’ they are just glorified mimes. If you’re planning to become a mime they could potentially be useful to you but don’t expect to learn self-defence from these mimes.
There are also those martial arts dojos that make there own style. As if we don’t have an already large martial art list to choose from. Now don’t get me wrong custom styles are what further improve the style but most of these guys take a good move, make it look cooler and less usable. To make matters worse these teachers are usually the most confident people you will meet, saying stories how they beat up 5 guys at ones. This behaviour psychologically affects the students as they are looking up at this dude wanting to be like him, which gives the false impression or the dream to beat up 5 guys at once to be like there idol. This could potentially lead to situations that could have easily be avoided and instead of the student winning actually ending up beat up for no reason except to fill up his/her fantasy of being ‘cool’ like his teacher.
For a martial art to be practical it all comes down to that particular martial arts dojos teachings. Make sure that the dojo you are learning at fills the objective you have in mind.
All images have been taken from pixabay with a Creative Commons CC0 licence.