Shopping for a new martial-arts school

For some months now my wife Cathy and myself had been the only regulars showing up for the MMA classes at our local dojo, Iron Circle. While this meant we got a lot of quality instructor time, I did wonder how the school could afford to run classes fotr two students.

Well, it turns out they can’t. Two days ago, Master Maybroda emailed us to tell us the MMA program was being canceled. Too many people, it seems, show up expecting it to be like what they see on UFC and bail when it isn’t. “You two outlasted all the wannabes” he wrote.

This leaves us with a problem. Where and how shall we train? We wouldn’t even consider just stopping. We’re martial artists – and, though my wife denies that this has become part of her self-identification in the way it is for me, she is no readier to give it up than I am.

Looking over the local Yelp listings for martial arts, and discarding schools we’ve trained at before but left for various reasons, we seem to be down to three alternatives…

Stay at Iron Circle and switch to the Tang Soo Do program. I considered moving us over to the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu track, but Master Maybroda doubts that would be a good fit because of the cereberal-palsy-induced range-of-motion issues in my legs and hips, and – sadly – he’s probably right.

Tang Soo Do would be a pretty easy road for us, as we already have black belts in Tae Kwon Do (which is closely related). I think all we’d have to do do to make black belt there is learn a handful of relatively simple forms. Indeed, the biggest issue with Tang Soo Do is that it might not be challenging enough to be interesting.

On the other hand, the instructors already know us and have a pretty good idea of our capabilities. We like and respect the head of school, and he likes and respects us. And the place is an easy 5-minute drive from here. These are not advantages lightly to be dismissed.

Another alternative is a place called (oddly) “Mr. Stuart’s” in West Chester, about fifteen minutes away. That’s where we’ll go, probably, if we decide our priority is to continue with MMA. They teach a mix of MMA, boxing, and an Israeli fighting system called “Haganah” which appears to be somebody’s branded variant of Krav Maga.

That’s interesting; I’ve had my eye on Krav Maga as a possible next style for a while now. It’s an aggressive, upper-body-focused power style with a lot of emphasis on improvised weapons and creative use of the tactical environment. A very good fit for my build and combat psychology, I think.

Our third possibility is a Shaolin kung-fu school in Berwyn, again about fifteen minutes away. I’m interested in this because my previous experience with Chinese kung fu (in wing chun style) was very positive; I’d like to get deeper into that.

We’re going to take time and audit a couple classes before committing to anything.

125 thoughts on “Shopping for a new martial-arts school

  1. I’ve only ever tried combination arts. I personally found the people at them to be decently reasonable and focused on the utility of movement rather than the form (by and large). However, with combo-arts, you can easily run into masters who are straight-out-jerks with no concern for injuries or social atmosphere of the dojo. It’s like shopping for a personal trainer in many ways.

  2. > Too many people, it seems, show up expecting it to be like what they see on UFC and bail when it isn’t.

    It’s pretty easy and safe to deliver that “ufc experience” — at least grappling on the ground and chokes or armbars, judo trainers teach that to seven year olds — so no wonder people set on that drop out quickly. But anyway, if you can do a serious mma session, bjj should be nothing new for you.

  3. My first inclination would be to try to stick with the instructors you know and like. Finding a good martial arts school is hard enough as it is. Do the Tang Soo Do and maybe offer to pay for once or twice a month private sessions in the MMA curriculum. Mayhaps if the Tang Soo Do is sufficiently easy for you to learn and advance in, you could offer your skills as a part time instructor / assistant in exchange for some before / after class private lessons.

  4. >Mayhaps if the Tang Soo Do is sufficiently easy for you to learn and advance in, you could offer your skills as a part time instructor / assistant in exchange for some before / after class private lessons.

    I think Master Maybroda would use me as an instructor in a heartbeat, if not for the insurance company’s insistence on formal accreditation I don’t have. He basically said as much a while back when I offered to teach a class on fighting with short blades, something I could do effectively in my sleep.

  5. There’s a typo: “to do do to” should read “to do to”.

    Also, as you have experience, is it necessary at beginner level to let muscle disorders affect what style you choose. I’ve got long muscles which is hurts my fine motor control a fair bit, but my friends who do martial arts (but don’t have any problems) insist it’d most likely be fine.

  6. How did you like Tae Kwon Do? I’m currently living in South Korea, where Tae Kwon Do is a national sport and a source of cultural pride. There are schools everywhere, albeit ones geared towards children. I haven’t done martial arts in a while but I want something to complement all the weight lifting I do.

    The choices I have available immediately are Tae Kwon Do, Yoga, Western Boxing, and possibly some Judo if I look around for it. I may study all four over the course of the next year or so, time permitting.

  7. I could be totally wrong, but… A martial art’s school that does Tang Soo Do with an “mma” class probably doesn’t offer the highest quality mma instruction around. MMA is bjj (with a legit lineage back to the Gracie’s, not a handful of japanese jujitsu ground techniques), free/folkstyle wrestling, and kickboxing.

    And while training isn’t literaly like being in a fight, the line “they expect it to be like what they see in the UFC” is a bit of a red flag to me. The techniques and nature of sparring should at least seem familiar enough from what they’ve watched.

    I know of traditional martial art’s schools in my area that offer “mma” classes, and they’re all sub par. It might be a good thing you’re moving on. Nothing disrespectful toward TMA, as they’re all interesting physical disciplines. They’re just not mma, and it’s silly when they try to brand their take on it as such.

  8. To offer the legit mma gym I went to for a long time as a comparison. There are BJJ, wrestling, boxing, muay thai, and mma classes. BJJ is taught by black belt Butch Hiles. Every practice includes technique instruction and full live action sparring. Belts are awarded either by Butch or by his coach Marcell Monteiro. The wrestling is taught by Mark Samples, a former collegiate wrestler. Every practice includes technique and live wrestling. The boxing is taught by Terrence Kelley, a former pro boxer and accomplished coach. One practice a week is technique and conditioning, the other is live sparring for advanced students and fighters. And the muay thai is taught by Butch. Largely it’s a technique class as there’s lots of kickboxing style sparring on mma nights. Which finally mma nights involve cardio, live sparring with striking and takedowns, and whatever the fighters need to focus on.

    That’s a good example of a legit mma gym. Anyone who wants mma instruction can reasonably expect something along those lines. If they’re not getting that, then they’re perfectly in the right fo rleaving. They’re certainly not wannabes.

  9. Trent,

    You will probably find some Taekwondo schools that train in Hapkido as well. Depending on what your interests are, that may suit your style.

  10. >How did you like Tae Kwon Do?

    The rather syncretic TKD variant I found worked fine for me – but really traditional Korean TKD, which is much more kicking-centered, might not have. Overall the style is not all that different from Japanese karate, which has had an obvious and heavy influence on it. The contrast is marked if you compare it with northern Chinese kung fu, which you’d expect on geographical grounds to have influenced TKD but doesn’t seem to have very much at all.

    I think TKD is a great first style. Five or ten years in you may find yourself wanting a bit more subtlety.

  11. >I could be totally wrong, but… A martial art’s school that does Tang Soo Do with an “mma” class probably doesn’t offer the highest quality mma instruction around.

    A fair point, but this particular school has very capable instructors in both. Not the same people; that would indeed be a bad sign.

  12. >That’s a good example of a legit mma gym. Anyone who wants mma instruction can reasonably expect something along those lines. If they’re not getting that, then they’re perfectly in the right fo rleaving. They’re certainly not wannabes.

    Iron Circle’s approach was much less focused on competitition. You’d probably have considered it BJJ plus cardio, but the BJJ side, at least, was very solid and well taught. We didn’t get as much boxing as you’re implying, but that was OK with me because I’ve already done several striking arts – I went there to learn ground fighting, and chose the MMA side because it had fewer technical restrictions. You can’t ground-and-pound in a BJJ class.

  13. Grammar Nazi rant follows.

    WRONG: “For some months now my wife Cathy and myself had been the only regulars showing up…”

    CORRECT: “For some months now my wife Cathy and I had been the only regulars showing up for the MMA classes at our local dojo”

    The word “myself” can not be the subject of a sentence (other than one like this that describes the word rather than using it normally). It can only be used as the object of a verb which has “I” as its subject. Similarly, “yourself” can only be used as the object of a verb with “you” as subject, etc.

    In the case of imperative mood, “you” is the implied subject, so “Go fuck yourself, Grammar Nazi!”, while physically impossible, is in fact grammatically correct.

    An easy test is to remove the “my wife Cathy and” from the sentence:
    “For some months now myself had been…” is clearly wrong, as would “For some months now me had been…”. It is often the vague feeling that “me is wrong” that leads people to say “myself” to “correct” the problem.

    As Austin Powers put it so well: “Please allow myself to.. introduce… myself.”

  14. Now that you’ve reached a natural break in your MMA training, I’d like to seriously suggest that you do something different. (You’ve already spent years on martial arts; maybe a change would be good.) Specificly, I would recommend that you and Cathy both take up riding. It’s another whole world of experience that you both can explore and share and enjoy.

    “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.”

    You can always tell yourself that you are training for a joust, or that Japanese martial art where you shoot an arrow from a galloping horse…

  15. What are your martial arts goals? Self-defense? Fitness? Historical interest?

    Some suggestions that come to mind, not knowing your goals, include Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do, Bartitsu, and Krav Maga.

    Of course, another constraint is what styles are offered in your geographic region…

  16. Eastern Arts is a traditional Wing Chun kung fu school in Reading. Sifu Randy (the owner) also teaches the Yang and Chen styles of Tai Chi. He studies under multiple teachers (different styles, including Wing Chun, Tai Chi, and Bagua) and has been practicing for over 20 years, including under Sifu Sonny Whitmore in New York, and Sifu David Briggs in Philadelphia. I hope the school isn’t too far for you. Their site is pawingchun (dot com).

  17. You might be interested in Indian forms of martial arts too. How about Kalaripayattu or Silambam? Unfortunately you might not find any instructors over in the US for these forms of martial arts. Most of the Indian martial arts forms are slowly dying due to lack of teachers and lack of interest.

  18. I have promoted Wing Chun in the past. I love it and fool around with it – hack it – probably at least a bit most days, even though I haven’t seriously trained for many years.

    Totally irrelevant, but I don’t often have such a good chance to say: my master’s master (William Cheung) and Bruce Lee had the same master: Yip Man.

    It isn’t really into ground fighting and grappling – wrong art if that is what you want. It is more into “boxing”; Bruce Lee often referred to “Gung Fu” as “boxing”.

    Much of the action happens when you are within about a foot of your opponent (ideally diagonally behind him so you can give him a good shot to the kidney before you start punching him in the head); this closeness seems dangerous to many people (at first, anyway), but it is really great – it is almost certainly not what your opponent is good at or good at dealing with.

    It is sort of like Aikido in that it is basically totally defensive – (generally) the only time an attack is initiated is to get your opponent to do something so you can react to it, or in some cases with multiple people trying to hurt you and you have to take one or more of them out of the game quickly… but still (generally), you might just aim you fingers at their eyes so they do something and you react to that.

    It is almost just a set of rules about how to move. During my last grading (years ago), I was demonstrating a defence against a spinning back kick – twice on the left side, twice on the right side – but when it came to doing twice on the right side, my legs were so tired that I couldn’t get my leg up high enough to do what I did on the left side. So I just stepped in a bit deeper and jammed with my knee. The details don’t matter; the point is that, in the middle of grading, I developed a new defence (to me at least). Within the confines of ways of moving that are based on the geometry of the human body, you can invent your own stuff. I believe this is quite different than TKD.

    One telling point is that I have seen, in Karate classes, students carefully measuring the distance so that when they are practising a block, if they miss or for some reason it doesn’t work, you don’t get hit. In Wing Chun, the attacker always has to do an attack that would hit you if you did nothing – otherwise there is nothing to work with. The defender virtually never gets hit (unless, say, there was a total misunderstanding about what was about to happen) because the techniques… just work. You are starting outside the range that he can just hit you; if you are inside that range, you should already be hitting him or doing something to get him to do something so you can be hitting him.

    It was supposedly developed by a woman (from the Shao Lin temple, of course) and can be performed by anyone that can step and use their arms. It is not a matter of how strong you are. It generally isn’t about how fast you are – it is more a matter of how soon you start to react. It is particularly good for a person with limited range of motion in the legs and hips. As you get older and have more limitations, there will be more techniques that you can’t use, but, hey!, if you are getting bored, make up some new techniques.

  19. WRONG: “For some months now my wife Cathy and myself had been the only regulars showing up…”

    WRONG: the subject is martial arts, not grammar or diction.

  20. >Eastern Arts is a traditional Wing Chun kung fu school in Reading.

    Alas, Reading is a good hour from here. Too far for two or three times a week, especially when I think I have other good schools a stone’s throw away.

  21. Eric,

    I can understand why you are interested in martial arts, but I’m surprised that you seem to need to endlessly move on through different schools and styles (MMA, Tae Kwan Do, etc). Is it that you are bored with what you know and want to try something new? Do you feel that you are not reaching your full potential by knowing one or two arts extremely well?

    Do you have some concerns that you will unconsciously mix different styles in an actual fight/contest/whatever? It seems to me that you get yourself tangled up and worse off than if you stuck to a consistent, but I have almost no experience on which to base that judgment.

    I have seriously considered taking up BJJ or MMA; there’s a school within a couple of miles, very convenient to work and home. If my husband were interested, we’d likely have already done so. It take more effort on my part to initiate it on my own, which doesn’t mean I won’t do it eventually.

    I took a couple of classes in Aikido back in college, but it didn’t work for me. Too stiff, I think, and while I’m no athlete now I’m still in much better physical condition than I was back then (regular gym workouts, yoga, etc). Also, the idea of an art that is completely defensive doesn’t sit right with me. I’m not interested in starting anything, but if someone else initiated an attack I’d want my training to give me the option to take him down completely, allowing me to walk away afterward without looking over my shoulder.

  22. Tai Chi. It’s time you started learning an internal art. Sadly, too many people teach it like pretty-hand-waving. A good discriminator is to look for weapons forms or any two-person work. Or you can ask about applications: “Is that where you break your opponent’s arm?” If they turn white, that’s not the instructor for you.

  23. >I can understand why you are interested in martial arts, but I’m surprised that you seem to need to endlessly move on through different schools and styles (MMA, Tae Kwan Do, etc).

    Don’t get the impression I change styles frequently. I’ve been at this for over 20 years, and usually I was forced to change styles by circumstances beyond my control – moving, having the school fold up, that sort of thing. My dwell time in each style has usually been quite long.

    That said, I do think it is a good thing to know multiple styles. Each toolkit is optimized for a different set of tactical circumstances. I don’t worry about “mixing” them any more than you’d worry about using a screwdriver and a pliers in the same repair session. I’d also have to say that anyone who gets confused by mixing styles is probably no damn good at either of them – there’s really a lot of commonality, regardless of how different the moves may superficially look, especially on the internal mental level. Earlier today I learned that the Marine unarmed-combat program has an excellent motto expressing this: “One mind…any weapon.”

    I don’t define myself as a MMA fighter or a TKD fighter or a swordsman or an aikidoka or in terms of any of the other individual styles I’ve studied. I am all of these things and all of them are part of me.

  24. >Sadly, too many people teach [tai chi] like pretty-hand-waving.

    I know. That’s why I haven’t gone there.

  25. I’ll probably just execute the “What would ESR do?” heuristic and learn *all* the martial arts.

    Every. Single. One of them.

  26. I am thinking about learning some martial arts, which one would you recommend to me? I never ever done any sports other than gym weight lifting, so I am strong, but utterly suck in every other department, can’t even dance to rythm. Obviously starting with something requiring a lot of flexibility like Tae Kwon Do won’t do for a start. I am thinking Wing Chun/Tsun, straight punches and low kicks seem easy. But I would like something where I can use my strenght, but probably not punching, as I don’t want to hurt training partners with strong punches, perhaps throwing people like Judo/Aikido might be a good idea? In that field one can use strength even in training safely I guess… I pick up and carry people in my arms easily up to 75kg or so, I should utilize this. Which one would be better, Judo or Aikido, which one uses strength more and flexibility less? Or any other ideas? Thanks in advance. (I am also thinking about the recent “european martial arts” fad, swinging some heavy halberd or Zweihänder around… eh, probably that is something for more experienced people.)

  27. >I am thinking about learning some martial arts, which one would you recommend to me?

    Well, if you want to use your strength, aikido is right out. Don’t worry too much about clocking your opponents with strong punches; I’ve found that one consequence of my upper-body strength is that I get very precise force and distance control when I strike. If you focus on that, you will probably develop the ability to meter the amount you deliver very exactly. Physically weaker people don’t have that option.

    Judo and aikido both require a lot of flexibility and use strength relatively little. Wing chun can be a power style but doesn’t emphasize it. I’d recommend some form of hard karate (tae kwon do, kyokushinkai, and shotokan are in this category) or boxing. If you can find it where you are, krav maga might be an excellent fit. Western martial arts (“swinging a zweihander”, fun stuff, I’ve been working on that recently) could be a good option, it’s not for advanced people only.

    I cannot say this often enough: go where the teaching is good. Once you’ve determined what general group of styles suits you physically and psychologically, quality of instruction is far more important than what individual style you land in. Audit some classes; look for good interaction between instructors and students; look for hands-on, results-oriented training; look for a school that emphasizes live sparring.

  28. I’ve done aikido for many years – probably close to 20 if I were to count. I’m still working to reduce the amount of strength I use (it is a significant element in my current grading).

    I want to emphasize ESR’s last point – don’t choose a school, choose a teacher. Visit a dozen or so schools and decide which of the schools is a best fit for you. Below is a link to another essay I wrote in response to someone else who was looking for advice on how to choose a dojo. (The link is to the middle of the thread; there may be other useful articles in the thread).

    http://martialarts.stackexchange.com/a/1301

  29. >http://martialarts.stackexchange.com/a/1301

    This is all good advice, and raises several questions you can use to evaluate a school.

  30. > I would like something where I can use my strenght, but probably not punching, as I don’t want to hurt training partners with strong punches

    Don’t worry about that. I’m a 5’7″ female computer nerd, a little on the round side, and I am accustomed to martial arts training in a military setting with men much larger and stronger than I, who fight for their lives for a living. Martial arts on a military base means having a medic at hand, and no worries about insurance or liability; we indulged in a *much* higher level of contact than you are likely to see in a civilian martial arts class. Yet, I’m still here, making the (also much taller and stronger than I) guys at my current dojo crazy. :)

    You can use your strength without breaking your uke, even if uke isn’t as strong as you are. You learn control. You train with armor or sparring pads when needed. You go home with bruises and like it. That’s being a martial artist.

  31. @Cathy: As to why esr has to keep moving from school to school, haven’t you seen the movies?

    “So…you think you know kung fu, eh?…HAHAHAHAHA!…You have disgraced the Shaolin Temple!…You get out!…and if you won’t go…these 20 ninja guys now coming out of the walls will chase you out!”

    And, of course, after he fights his way out, the Master speaks again:

    “HAHAHAHAHA!…that was my intention all along!”

  32. @Monster:
    Among this crowd it’s a fairly safe bet that any grammatical errors you observe are the result of the person in question knowing the rule in question and ignoring it. Furthermore, given the frequency with which educated speakers speaking mainstream dialects ignore certain rules, it is questionable whether said rules accurately describe English grammar.

  33. I would second the call for another essay about what you want out of your training. Tough to help make decisions if I don’t know the goals. For example the website of Mr. Stuart’s leaves a bad taste in my mouth; things like “IPTT counter terror urban warfare firearm training course” really aren’t for me. But maybe they’re for you, I don’t know.

    That said, you clearly value the two most important parts of choosing a martial art;
    a) a club with good teachers and students
    b) a club that has a location and class times that you can actually attend regularly

  34. I’ve always been curious about aikido. It looks cool, but is it a practical and effective method of winning real-world fights against non-complying, resisting opponents, or is it a game?

  35. @Tom Aikido shodan here. This isn’t a great place to answer that question.

  36. >This isn’t a great place to answer that question.

    Hell it isn’t. I’m a former aikido student. Four years; I wasn’t very good at it, but I trained with people who were and that’s enough time to learn what an art is designed for and what its strengths and limitations are. My judgment is this:

    Aikido could be very useful in situations where you must subdue someone attacking you without doing serious injury and without the appearance of acting aggressively. Good fit if, say, you’re a cop in a nice part of town or a bouncer at an upscale bar.

    But there are important tactical options it won’t give you – it would be quite difficult to defend a companion with it, for example. You cannot pre-empt an attack within the aikido toolkit, you have to let it develop then redirect it. It would be even more difficult to actually attack with it – your whole training is against that.

    Inability to attack can a serious problem in real-world defense. Suppose for example your home has been invaded by two burglars and your firearm is out of reach. The correct tactical response is to charge; go in fast and hard and hit one with a disabler before they can coordinate to take you down. You can’t do that fighting or thinking like an aikidoka – a krav-maga-style scream and lunge with an improvised weapon is absolutely what you want in that situation.

  37. Traditional kung fu schools really vary in quality. Just because Sifu soandso studied under Grand Master Oldguy doesn’t mean all that much. Grand Master Oldguy had to make a buck too to keep his own school going. I skimmed through the Northern Shaolin Academy and I get that “Meh” overall impression*.

    When I read “Grand Master Willy Lin is very proud of the Northern Shaolin Kung Fu and Tai Chi Academy because our school teaches the Tien Shan Pai forms and weapons just the way they were taught to him by his teacher” I think “bullshit”.

    Grand Master Lin’s teacher probably made him do it 8+ hours a day, enforced a level of discipline you can’t do in after school camp without getting sued into oblivion, and didn’t have insurance companies watering down the curriculum. Which meant techniques could be regularly be practiced at full speed and power back in Taiwan back in the day but not so much in a strip mall studio in PA. Probably not in Taiwan anymore either.

    Between the options I’d go Haganah or stay with your current school. My impression is that Haganah schools can be either really good or just interested in selling you stuff. It’s hard to make a living at this so I understand all the little profit generators like gotta buy the school uniform, belt tests, yadda yadda yadda and I gladly pay for it but there’s a point where you get tired of nickled and dimed and the feeling that they’re just trying to sell you their next set of DVDs for their new McDojo belt factory technique.

    If you’re looking for something new I’d take a look and see if there isn’t a good savate instructor around. Otherwise I’d give Haganah a try if the instructor passes your sniff test.

    ObDis: Not a martial artist despite dabbling a bit. Now I’m just happy when nothing hurts when I play spar with my kid. My kid is doing MA so I’ve spent a good deal of time researching the schools around me.

    * I’m probably a lot more critical of the chinese martial arts schools than other schools.

  38. There isn’t a way to answer the question. Even if we had N volunteers go out and engage in Y fights, I still wouldn’t assign any confidence to the answer. (I’d also seriously question the sanity of N volunteers). Effective in what situation? By whom? against whom? What is your objective? Subdual? Death? Disarmament? Is your opponent trained? Hopped up on drugs? Single attacker? Multiple attackers? We need to model this question in some meaningful way.

    Let’s see if we can carve away at the question and find something close to a satisfactory answer.
    1) There are aikido schools that wouldn’t be effective; let’s ignore those for the moment and assume that you’d exclude those.

    2) There are aikido schools that would redefine the question loosely – many aikido schools would assert that de-escalating tension and avoiding the conflict is good aikido. I agree, but I think that is out of scope for your question.

    3) Every year the Tokyo Police academy runs a competition to select their chief unarmed combat instructor. I don’t have statistics, but aikido is frequently chosen. (Again, I don’t have strong statistics, but I suspect that part of the reason is that extended kinetic boxing matches with suspects are bad form.) Non authoritative link http://www.e-budo.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-7025.html

    4) The art I currently study (Tomiki Aikido) has been shaped by the requirement that it include tournament fighting. We do both weapon tournaments (knife fighting) and open hand tournaments (less frequent in my opinion, but that is idiosyncratic. ) One could make the case that tournaments are indicative of “effective” martial arts, and particularly knife tournaments. However I’ll freely admit that (a) most of the tournaments are against people who play by our rules (b) Rules have been adjusted to ensure the safety of the participants. However (c) I’m aware anecdotally of some aikido players who have been asked not to return to judo tournaments because they were undefeated. (Truth is they were exploiting a gap in the rules – a couple of techniques which are common in aikido but not in judo.)

    5) Again with the idiosyncratic exclusion, our dojo trains in group attack – 4 people on one defender. I’d argue that is “effective” in a couple of senses; the most important one being in training you in movement and strategy. I’ve heard too many criticisms of other arts (TKD seems to come in for abuse, although I have no direct knowledge), that they train in a very artificial environment that restricts the distance and scope of attacks. Group attack throws that out the window. Quite frankly if I can make it through 90s of group attack without executing a single technique (because I’ve moved in such a way that my attackers block each other and cannot effectively attack me), then I call that “effective”.

    6) Until recently we trained with judo chokeholds that can drop an opponent in under 5 seconds. We stopped training in them because there is accumulating evidence that even when done safely, this has the risk of causing brain damage. (What can I say, I work out with a whole bunch of doctors) I’m not going to claim that this is a fight ending Uber-technique; it does require some subtlety and experience, but I’d argue that this is effective in the sense you refer to in your question.

    7) We train with weapons (some aikidoists do, some don’t). (Usually sword, staff and knife, although we preserve some spear and long staff techniques) That teaches a different kind of effectiveness – there’s a completely different feeling when you’re 8 feet away from someone at the beginning of the engagement and less than a second later, the cut has finished and the engagement is over. (google search for saotome sensei kumi-jo #1. I don’t want to do it, because if I do, I’ll be distracted transfixed by the beauty of those techniques and I’ll never finish this essay.) I recognize that others may argue (In particular the constraints of Japanese swordsmanship are quite distinct from the WMA that esr and Cathy practice), but I think that the weapons work carves off another slice of what it means to be effective.

    8) Perhaps the simplest answer (and if this is tl;dr, then I apologize), I’ve had multiple very tiny women mop the floor with me. If you’re merely asking whether aikido contains techniques that are effective against a non-cooperative partner, then I can give you an enthusiastic affirmation. My daughter (whom esr has met, but probably doesn’t remember) isn’t 100lbs even when soaking wet, but I fear her techniques more than I fear some of the largest men in the dojo. I will enthusiastically take a high flying breakfall from any of the senior members of the club, but when I line up against her for ge-dan ate (? center body block strike? ), I have to steel myself for the fall, because she has come close to knocking me out. Small women (I’m not being entirely sexist here – female gender is closely correllated to a lower center of gravity and some more freedom in the hips, which facilitates excellent aikido) have a massive advantage. (Ironic adjective is intentional).

    Done correctly, the techniques work. (That’s probably true about all martial arts). Done right, you’re locking up ligaments and joints; the defender can only resist by destroying their own limbs. Of course the problem is to do it right.

    [You'd almost think that I love this art or something]
    esr, I’m sorry – I seem to have gone _WAY OFF_ the original topic that you set. Wish I had some practical advice for you, but you seem to have covered all of the advice I would have given you.

  39. I wrote: The correct tactical response is to charge

    Note that this is still the case if the burglars are armed. Hot burglaries are a special case this way; the goblins who specialize in them are hardened to violence and submitting puts you and yours at a high risk of being murdered anyway, with rape and torture more than possible first. As badly as getting stabbed or shot would suck, the outcomes from allowing them to control the situation would probably be worse.

    Of course, if you can disengage and get to a firearm that’s better. But…do you keep one loaded and accessible? Don’t count on having time to load. Even if it’s loaded, if they come at you fast you may not be able to grab and ready it before they engage. Also makes a difference how they’re armed; I’d run from a knife or blunt instrument, but I’d charge a gun. Tough to run from a bullet. In most of these scenarios, scream and charge is the best option.

  40. @esr

    >You can’t do that fighting or thinking like an aikidoka – a krav-maga-style scream and lunge with an improvised weapon is absolutely what you want in that situation.

    That is kind of what I suspected. Thanks for the assessment. And, of course, I am sure you would agree that none of what you said means that Aikido isn’t worth studying for other reasons than being effective self-defence trainin. However, I am trying to sort out styles that would be most effective for real-world situations. I am strongly leaning towards krav-maga as the best option, but the trouble, as you have identified, is finding good tuition.

    There is plenty of choice here in London, but sorting the crap from the quality is pretty difficult without personal recommendations.

    This question is especially relevant to people living in the UK because carrying almost anything with the intention of using it for self-defence is illegal here.

  41. You absolutely can pre-empt in aikido – it is called “sen sen no sen” – I can’t remember if the correct translation of the metaphor is “leaving last but arriving first”, but it is not to be interpreted literally. And Tomiki-Sensei said (very loosely paraphrasing) that most of the body of instruction was a commentary on face-strike.

    I’m really only disagreeing on detail – I think your summary is fair, but I had a brief moment of “Someone, somewhere on the internet is WRONG!” disorder and couldn’t help myself.

  42. >esr, I’m sorry – I seem to have gone _WAY OFF_ the original topic that you set.

    No problem – your response to the question was good in many ways.

    Unfortunately (and as you implicitly pointed out) a lot of aikido schools don’t actually teach fighting. Yours is obviously well towards the hard, combat-oriented end of the aikido spectrum; so was mine. Great for us, but too many aikidokas dropped in a real-world combat situation would find out the hard way that they don’t have any tools at all.

    Fortunately, the “soft” schools (to be avoided) aren’t hard to spot. If I’m auditing a class and don’t see (a) live sparring, (b) live many-on-one attacks, and (c) weapons techniques, red flags go up.

  43. @Mark C Wallace

    Thanks for that detailed answer.

    >There are aikido schools that would redefine the question loosely – many aikido schools would assert that de-escalating tension and avoiding the conflict is good aikido. I agree, but I think that is out of scope for your question.

    It is. I take it as read that I am going to do anything reasonably possible to avoid combat, especially unarmed combat. This is supposed to be preparation for the moment – and hopefully it never comes – when there is no choice.

    >most of the tournaments are against people who play by our rules

    I agree, and for that reason I pretty heavily discount evidence from tournaments.

    >Again with the idiosyncratic exclusion, our dojo trains in group attack – 4 people on one defender.

    That sounds great, and I think that is the kind of thing I would look for in a school. However, I still worry that all these people are playing the game of aikido. I use the word ‘game’ here not in a pejorative sense, but if you have a group of people who have all trained in the same way then things become far more predictable than a real-world situation.

    I suppose that is probably true of any martial art. And maybe what this discussion exposes is that it is not so much the art itself, but the way it is taught that is the main factor that will determine real-world effectiveness. If you train a lot in no-rules full-contact situations against a variety of fully-resisting opponents then you will no doubt be more effective, no matter what the art.

    However, I think there ought to be (or maybe I would just like there to be) some way of objectively determining whether there is real combat value in the techniques of an art. If we were trying to determine the efficacy of a new drug we would do a double blinded trial. What’s the closest practical equivalent that we could apply to fighting systems?

  44. >none of what you said means that Aikido isn’t worth studying for other reasons

    Absolutely. It’s a lovely art, and well worth it if you can find a good combat-oriented school.

    Since one of the places this thread has been going is how to find an art that fits, I’ll explain why I don’t study aikido any more – it’s not well matched to my physical build or my combat psychology.

    My most salient physical characteristics are (a) exceptional upper-body strength and striking capability, (b) poor mobility and range of motion at hips and below. This is as bad a physical fit for aikido as you could get if you were trying; it’s not a striking art, and it depends on subtle hip motions and footwork. Took me four years to figure out that I really shouldn’t be trying to jam my square peg into that round hole; my instructors of course, figured it out sooner, but they liked me and respected my bloody-minded persistence.

    Mentally, my instinctive response to combat situations is aggressive and intense – counterattack hard, scream and leap like a Kzin. There’s no real place for that in aikido philosophy and doctrine; somebody who’s wired like me is totally out of place in an aikido dojo just on the mental level.

    The right styles for someone like me are hard karate, boxing, krav maga, MMA, and weapons. I did learn a few useful things from aikido, though – mainly joint locks and pressure-point work, both of which the style is very strong in.

  45. @esr: “Mentally, my instinctive response to combat situations is aggressive and intense – counterattack hard, scream and leap like a Kzin.”

    Louis Wu: “I wouldn’t have your job [apologizing for insults done by Speaker-to-Animals] for anything.”
    Kzin ambassador’s assistant: “Obviously not, if you would fight a Kzin bare-handed.”

  46. You addressed my concerns, well. Sorry you lost your program, man. If it was me, I’d definitely go for kung fu. Just a fascinating art and culture.

  47. This may be my bias speaking because I have done judo the most but that would be recommendation. If that doesn’t work I would recommend wrestling, BJJ, or kickboxing in that order. I say this because of all the martial arts I have tried those are the ones that had several key qualities I look for:

    1) Do they teach grappling, and ground work? Obviously kickboxing fails this, but it succeeds on the other points so I cut it some slack. The old saying about a fight always ending up on the ground exists for a reason. Watch any two drunkards fight at a bar, or watch two of the most highly trained fighters in the world in the UFC, and you’ll see it time and time again. Unless both parties are committed to standing up, the fight will go on the ground, and the person who has the advantage there will usually triumph.

    2) Do they have competition and sparring built into their tradition? I say this because it keeps the class fun (competition always gets the juices flowing) and it allows you to practice the art full speed, which is incredibly important for getting actual practical use out of the art, which is something you seem to want. I know that it is old hat to say this, but 1000 years of kata is essentially useless in the face of a real-live, random opponent. Having sparring built into practice keeps things from getting too theoretical, which is something that I see too much in many of the TMAs that people traditionally go to. And having competitions gives you something fun to work towards to help spur your improvement.

    3) Does it actually work? For all of the talk about how the UFC isn’t an actual combat situation, at the end of the day it’s the closest we have and the above martial arts dominate it, wrestling/BJJ in particular. You can hear 1000 different people talk about how their particular TMA is far superior to wrestling, kickboxing, what have you, but at the end of the day if that was true these people could make millions as champions in the UFC. Instead they own a dojo and live a middle-class lifestyle. Until I see an aikido champion sit atop the UFC, or a tae kwon do champ beat up GSP, or a krav magna specialist use the legal manuevers available to him to tap out Ben Henderson, my instinct is to do what those guys are doing, and now what people claim I should be doing.

    As I said, my bias is towards judo, and it might be easy to find a nearby club that won’t charge an arm and a leg, but any of wrestling, bjj, kickboxing, or judo could be a great workout, effective, and fun.

  48. (b) poor mobility and range of motion at hips and below

    Ah forgot that…skip the savate idea.

    If I’m auditing a class and don’t see (a) live sparring, (b) live many-on-one attacks, and (c) weapons techniques, red flags go up.

    Krav (or Haganah) is what you want to do next. Seems like a very good fit for you. Low emphasis on kicks and they seemed to be low ones aimed to disable. Audited that, wasn’t for me, went back to recreational martial arts.

  49. >Krav (or Haganah) is what you want to do next.

    In fact, we just got home from visiting a place that offers Haganah; it’s the “Mr. Stuart’s” from the OP. We plan to take a trial class on Monday.

  50. FWIW, I always wanted to learn Krav Maga, but there are so few schools, only one in my area and an hours drive away.

    I like it because it seems so lean. A lot of these martial arts are so full of fluffy pseudo religious bullshit that it is a total turn off to me.

    In my form of Karate they make you do all these animals forms. I learned them because I have to, but again I think it is just part of the whole introspective navel gazing that is an important part of the art. I know, I am supposed to be respectful of the history bla, bla, and being part of the long chain passing down from our anscestors bla bla.

    OK, someone tell me how disrespectful and f-ed up I am now.

  51. >A lot of these martial arts are so full of fluffy pseudo religious bullshit that it is a total turn off to me.

    I groove on the internal, mystical stuff when it’s done competently. It has real meaning when you get into extremely precise force control (break only the fourth board in a stack of six, that sort of thing). I have touched that level of control once or twice, but not mastered it repeatably. (Which is what you should expect from a 20-year student; I’m not special in this respect.)

    Alas, competence at that end of the training is far less common than the ability to teach external technique. Usually the internal stuff collapses into empty forms and repeating poetry the actual content of which is not well understood by either teacher or student. The translation problems from Asian languages to English don’t help.

  52. I’d like to find a martial art that is a practical real-world martial art, but am terribly ignorant in this area.

    I expect that such a martial art would have to include instruction in:
    * strategy
    * threat recognition
    * de-escelation techniques
    * empty-handed combat
    * knife combat
    * firearms combat
    * improvised weapon combat
    * defending others

    I see strategy as the big picture aspects; thinking about where you choose to live, the places you choose to frequent, understanding the dynamics of N-vs-1 combat, understanding how the layout of your environment affects your ability to defend yourself and others, the role of law enforcement and of the courts.
    Threat recognition is the more tactical element of recognizing whether or not an individual or group intends you harm and their capability to do so.
    De-escelation involves methods of diffusing threatening situations peacefully.
    Then we arrive at combative elements: empty-handed, knife, firearms, improvised weapons. Each needs to be taught; both how to fight with them and how to fight against them.
    Those of us who have families need instruction on how to defend our loved ones from threats, and the complications that small children or an injured spouse may introduce.

    Ideally, the skills and knowledge would be taught largely in parallel, with an aim to develop some useful competency quickly. While I would expect a martial art to reward a life-time of study, one that supports “getting good enough” and then more or less coasting would help make it quite practical (though it should also tempt the student to go beyond “good enough”).

    Or at least, that’s how it would seem to me, based largely on ignorance. Is there a fundamental flaw in this concept of a desirable “practical real-world martial art”? Based on my miniscule knowledge of TKD and Savate, it does appear that some martial arts are much further from this ideal than others. If this is a reasonable measure to use, what martial arts or combinations of martial arts would be a reasonable fit to this outline? Which tend to be furthest from it?

  53. @Eli:

    There’s no widely practiced martial art that covers all of those things on spec — though I agree that all are important. There *are* schools that teach all of those things, however, you just need to find them. Also, not every one needs to be spoon fed as part of your martial arts program. I’ve picked them up in kind of odd ways:

    * strategy I find again and again — from things my father used to nag me about as a kid, to my own observations, to standing in a general’s office while he signed stuff, watching and listening as he discussed tactics with a junior officer, to watching violent movies with my friends who were front-liners (and paying attention as they griped about everything the movie had wrong), reading books, having long talks with my fellow sheepdogs, and so on.

    * threat recognition — I got good at reading people working with abused and at-risk kids in a volunteer capacity when I was a kid myself. I’ve honed the skill throughout my life, but that’s where the bulk of it came from.

    * de-escelation techniques — I learned by doing for the most part, though I’ve come across interesting insights in books now and again.

    * empty-handed combat — I’ve learned more about empty-handed combat techniques in my current martial art — Shorei Goju-Ryu Karate — than anywhere else. However, I’ve learned more about the realities of empty-handed combat by doing and from my military guys who do it every day.

    * knife combat — I had the privilege of taking an experimental modern knife-fighting course with some very hard-playing soldiers on one of the Army bases my family lived on not quite a decade ago. Good stuff.

    * firearms combat — Bits and pieces here and there — from the friend of my dad’s who first taught me to shoot (and how to do a basic twist disarm to deprive someone of their pistol at melee), to the guys at the ranges I frequented, to my military buddies, to a couple of blogs I follow

    * improvised weapon combat — I learned the most important thing there is to learn about improvised weapons from my dad when I was a little girl: If someone is trying to hurt or kill you, NOTHING is against the rules. Once you’ve really accepted that deep down, just get in the habit of looking around you and thinking “what if I tried to use…”.

    * defending others — THIS is something near and dear to my heart that is not taught nearly enough. I spend a lot of time thinking about this one, especially as I have a child. My first duty is to keep him safe at all costs. Most of what I know about this has come from my own rumination and experimentation (my son and I practice martial arts together, so we have a good framework for experimenting). One of my friends recently transitioned from a military career to working personal protection details in and out of the country, and we’ve been having some good conversations on the subject.

    I’d like to suggest the following additions to your list:

    * stress inoculation — For people who aren’t already experienced with violence (and even for those who are), stress inoculation is a must. It’s your opportunity to learn how you’ll react to hitting condition red, and to train away any glitches you find. No amount of training will help you if you freeze. I got this one the hard way, by having to deal with crises many many times. There are plenty of more controlled ways to get it, though.

    * situational awareness — developing the habits that keep you from being blindsided, or give you what you need to deal with the situation if you are

    * masking / self-representation — this is something that we’ve been talking about a lot lately in my dojo, and something I feel like I didn’t give enough attention to before. Anyone with a modicum of experience with martial arts, or a decent amount of experience with violence, can read who knows how to handle themselves and who doesn’t, with varying amounts of accuracy. Sometimes we want people to know we aren’t an easy target. Sometimes we don’t want them to know that we’re the person in the crowd who can stop whatever Bad Things they want to do. I’ve always relied on the fact that I’m an overweight soccer mom nerd to convey that I’m not a threat, but that isn’t enough. I’ve moved like a martial artist for years, it’s habit, and it’s been pointed out to me that the more weight I lose the more obvious it becomes.

    * combat psychology — Can you kill someone if it’s called for? What are your go buttons? How do you react to stress? How do you react after a stressful situation? How do you keep yourself sane when SHTF, and how do you protect the mental and emotional states of those around you? How can you get focus when your body and brain are amped up to condition black and you need to make decisions effectively?

    * emergency management — Sometimes the right thing is to strike, sometimes it’s to provide medical attention. Sometimes you need to keep terrified people calm, or get them to act. Sometimes you need to get someone out of a crushed car, or get reporters away from a trauma victim. Being a sheepdog isn’t just about martial arts — there are many ways you can protect yourself and others.

    * fighting to the goal — This seems like it would be taught everywhere, but I’ve seen schools ignore it completely more often than not. When you get the idea of “winning” a confrontation in your head as an acceptable goal, you’re abstracted away from the real goal in a way that can cause bad decision-making. Is your goal to get away, or to put down the target? To protect yourself or to protect someone else? To reach a specific point of safety? To prevent some other negative outcome, or cause some specific outcome?

  54. @Eli

    You asked pretty much exactly the question I have in mind, but asked it much better than I did.

  55. @HedgeMage

    >However, I’ve learned more about the realities of empty-handed combat by doing and from my military guys who do it every day.

    Do they really? All the military guys I have ever spoken to about this always say that the absolute last thing they want to do is get into unarmed combat. They always seem extremely keen to keep the enemy at least pistol – and preferably rifle – length away.

    >* stress inoculation — For people who aren’t already experienced with violence

    Definitely on my list. I am pretty sure I would stand a good chance of freezing up in a real encounter. I’ve been fortunate to have avoided violence so far in my life. Big unknown for me.

  56. esr,

    As part of your and Cathy’s evaluation of Mr. Stuarts program, inquire as to whether or not the instructors there are Krav Maga Alliance certified. Whether the instruction offered follows the more eastern martial arts belt-ranked format offered by Darren Levine afiliated schools or the less formalized style of instruction promoted by David Kahn, the possession of KMA instructor certification is a reliable first pass measure of a trainer’s technical competence and ability to actually teach the subject matter.

    Finally, you likely won’t find a school in the US that rigorously teaches the actual syllibus taught to the IDF – no school can be profitably run on such a basis, the civil legal liability risk is enormous and the rate of student attrition excessive. :)

    Depending on what you want from the training (and the type of school available), you both ought to enjoy KM training as it posits that defense requires simultaneous offensive action to be successful; I certainly have these last 20-odd years off and on (sadly, more off than on I’m afraid).

  57. >As part of your and Cathy’s evaluation of Mr. Stuarts program, inquire as to whether or not the instructors there are Krav Maga Alliance certified.

    They’re not. They’re affiliated with something called “Haganah F.I.G.H.T”. I asked the head of school how it related to Krav Maga and he claimed that Krav Maga stopped evolving 15 years ago but Haganah continues to incorporate new stuff. He also claimed to have IDF people (the word he used was “operators”) as trainers. I reserve judgment; I expect to be able to read a lot from what’s taught in my trial class on Monday.

  58. @Tom:

    It depends on the assignment. For my front-line guys you are exactly right — they prefer the enemy at firearm (or, if they can get it, tank or artillery) range. However, a good portion of my buddies were MPs who did everything from what LEOs do in civilian-land to dealing with PoWs in detention areas where (like in a civilian prison) weapons were not brought into certain areas during normal operation, and so on. It was a couple of MPs from my knife-fighting class whom I thought of in particular when I talked about guys doing it (hand-to-hand) regularly in their job. They introduced me to joint locks, pain submissions, and other less-damage-prone hand-to-hand concepts for the first time, and led me to think differently about some of the violence I’d seen or been party to in the past.

  59. At this point in your life you have more than the basics down, and you get the idea of a fight–surprise, speed and brutal aggression carries the day.

    The first thing you have to ask yourself (which you may have, but I don’t get a good sense of it here) is what you’re after. If you’re looking for a place to continue to practice and refine what you’ve been taught, then you know what to do.

    If your goal is to broaden yourself as a warrior (or to “round out” your skills) then that’s a different thing indeed.

    If it’s the former I have no advice for you. If it’s the latter, I’d suggest something as different as you can find. There looks to be a Systema (Russian Martial Art) place about 25 miles away from West Chester, PA (which is as close to your home as I know of). Systema is, well, your pain threshold will go up. No, I know it’s high. So is mine. It will go up. Those guys are hard. It’s a mix of striking, kicking and grappling. And upside down tomahawk throwing.

    I’ve been studying Escrima for about 9 months. I don’t particularly find it interesting, but after studying in the Bujinkan for 5 years it certainly offers a different perspective. I don’t know if it’s the art, or the instructors, , but I’m in a really small town in the middle of nowhere, and you get what you get. It has, however, been good for my wife who also trains in it.

    (this next bit isn’t directly Our Host, but to the audience)

    Folks always want to know “what art is best”. This is like asking “what language is best”. It’s not the art, it’s the artist. I don’t care how much BJJ you’ve done, how many esoteric arts you’ve studied, whatever, you get in a dark alley with Mike Tyson and you’re in a fight for your life (note the ring is different).

    Different arts, like different languages, *aim* to solve different problems. Krav is a *great* art if all you want is self defense in the modern context. It’s not a particularly broad art, but it doesn’t aim to be. It’s something you can study, and in a very short while be able to defend yourself against common attacks.

    In a sense it’s like Perl or Python (not to carry the analogy too far) in that a beginner can get up and running fairly quickly, and after a while the rate of growth slows down a bit. It slows down *generally* after the person learning it has reached the boundaries of their problem set, but some folks hit the limit and need or want to move on.

    Other arts–like Systema and the Bujinkan (that I am familiar with) are more like C/C++ in that initially they’re not very useful, but after a while they artist gets a bit of depth and subtlety that others may not. This comes at a price–time and dedication.

    You have to be honest with yourself about what your goals are and what your commitment level is going to be, and plan accordingly.

    Don’t mistake my comments above about escrima–part of why *I* don’t find it interesting is that I spent 4 years active duty military, have studied 3 other arts over the years, and it’s a class of *mostly* beginners. If you’re new to the world of MA, and you get a good instructor it’s *great* training because you spend a LOT of class swinging sticks at each other. Just having someone swing a stick at you is *great* training.

    Thing is, if you’re already old enough to have a job and the spare time to read stuff like this, it’s unlikely you’re going to be the next MMA world champ. Which doesn’t make the art useless, it just informs you as to what it’s useful for. If you like competition, train for competition, but if you don’t like it, and know that that sort of life isn’t for you, then train for what you need.

    Oh, and buy a gun and train with that. Because while all these martial arts talk about how it’s more about skill than about brute strength, bullshit. It’s about who gets their firstest with the mostest, and even a 75 year old grandmother can face down a pack of young punks if she’s got surprise, brutal aggression and a .38.

  60. >If your goal is to broaden yourself as a warrior (or to “round out” your skills) then that’s a different thing indeed.

    That’s what I want. I want to be very focused on effective combat in the real world (as opposed to, for example, tournament fighting) for a number of reasons including the fact that my threat model still includes Iranian assassins.

    I found the Systema place, it’s about 20 minutes from here which makes it logistically possible. Given the style’s reputation for extreme brutality (which you’ve done nothing to disconfirm) it is realistically possible that I won’t want to go there, but I will investigate.

  61. @William O. B’Livion

    >Oh, and buy a gun and train with that. Because while all these martial arts talk about how it’s more about skill than about brute strength, bullshit. It’s about who gets their firstest with the mostest, and even a 75 year old grandmother can face down a pack of young punks if she’s got surprise, brutal aggression and a .38.

    Yeah, that’s one of the reasons I want to find a truly effective method of unarmed self-defence. Guns are not only highly regulated in the UK, but if you do own one (and it’s certainly far from impossible) it is effectively illegal to use it in self-defence. There’s at least one poor bastard in prison right now because he had the temerity to defend his family against a burglar using a shotgun.

  62. Eric, I wish you lived a little closer to south Jersey. I don’t know whether you’ve done any Hapkido, but I think you’d love it. I have some friends in West Chester who train in Shotokan (we all trained together in med school). A hard traditional art like Shotokan or Tae Kwon Do is a great foundation for Hapkido.

  63. >I don’t know whether you’ve done any Hapkido, but I think you’d love it.

    From what I know of the art, yes, I probably would.

  64. @esr
    > I groove on the internal, mystical stuff when it’s done competently.

    You know you have mentioned your mystical side obliquely a few times here. I am super hyper rational, but to be honest, the older I get the more I realize that that tiny sliver of brain we call rational consciousness is just the surface tension in a very deep well indeed.

    I think I have asked before, but I’ll bug you again. I’d love to hear your thoughts on mysticism, ritual, wicca and how it fits in the life of someone as rationally oriented as you.

  65. @Brian Marshall “WRONG: the subject is martial arts, not grammar or diction.”

    Some people have these sorts of things as a pet peeve, especially when it’s a hypercorrective error.

    @Jon Brase “Among this crowd it’s a fairly safe bet that any grammatical errors you observe are the result of the person in question knowing the rule in question and ignoring it. Furthermore, given the frequency with which educated speakers speaking mainstream dialects ignore certain rules, it is questionable whether said rules accurately describe English grammar. ”

    Your argument is true for most “errors”, but hypercorrective errors are different – they tend, much more often, to be the result of having been incorrectly told that there is a rule that you have to use the form. Replacing “Me and X” with “X and I” in a non-subject position [generally a result of someone having been corrected for it in a subject position as a kid, and also resulting in the implied, totally imaginary, rule that first-person pronouns have to come last in a list] is another of this class.

  66. @Random832

    >rule that first-person pronouns have to come last in a list

    I have always regarded this as politeness rather than a grammatical rule.

  67. >Thanks for sharing. You have left me bewildered and confused.

    Heh. And, once again, I achieve my purpose in life.

  68. > Heh. And, once again, I achieve my purpose in life.

    That’ll be the Eris aspect playing the long con. : )

    I go back and read that essay every so often, to give my logic mind a kick in the pants. It is always a good read.

  69. As long as this topic has come up, I could use some advice myself.

    Current physical condition:
    I’m a middle-aged woman in reasonable but not athletic shape. I’ve improved my strength and endurance somewhat in the past few months by switching to shorter but higher intensity sessions at the gym. I’ve been doing yoga for about 18 months now and it has helped my flexibility somewhat, but I’ll never be a gymnast.

    Threat model:
    As part of my career, I sometimes have to go into stores and apartments in “the bad part of town”. For example, last year I did some research work with food-stamp recipients in not-very-nice parts of L.A. At other times I am evaluating stores on the wrong side of the tracks. These trips are typically a plane-ride away, so anything I can’t carry on a plane is not viable as a weapon. I don’t plan (or expect to be capable of) Iranian assassin take-downs. This is just about convincing potential unskilled young punks who want to rob or rape that they can find easier pickings elsewhere.

    Experience at martial arts or other combat:
    Essentially zero. And no interest in tournaments.

    Strengths and weaknesses:
    Like most middle-aged women, I don’t have a lot of upper-body strength. My legs are somewhat stronger, as I do a lot of hiking and some biking and backpacking. I’m also not very flexible (e.g., I cannot touch my toes with my knees straight). However, I move and react quickly. For example, I routinely walk very fast, yet I can stop on a dime if a door opens in front of me or someone comes around a corner. I also react fast if something is dropped on knocked where I am standing, and if someone accidentally steps on my foot they’ll discover that my foot is not longer there when their foot comes down to the ground. My sense of balance is good, which shows up in my yoga. Any arts that rewards speed of motion and speed of reaction without need high strength or flexibility is ideal.

    So what would everyone suggest? BJJ and MMA are offered at a nearby place, while others are farther away and might represent a bigger commitment than I’m ready to make. But I have just scratched the surface of doing research.

  70. @Cathy: There is one technique that I can recommend to you before anything else. Just practice kicking to the side. Don’t try to kick high. You want to kick your assailant in the knee or shin. Keep the line of your foot parallel to the floor. (This maximizes your chances of hitting him). As you kick, your upper body will naturally bend away from your assailant, balancing you and helping to keep the rest of you out of range.

    Practice this at home. Kick suddenly, and bring your leg back, and your body upright quickly. Practice both sides. Do this often.

    This is the one technique I got from the book, “Kill, Or Be Killed”, by Col. Rex Applegate. It works. I used to live in the bad side of town. When I was beset by three young muggers, I kicked the one on my right, and he went down. The other two picked him up and ran off.

    There are self-defense courses that will show you other practical tactics that will help keep you alive, while you are still trying to make some progress at whatever dojo you eventually choose.

  71. @ Cathy

    Always hard to give advice at a distance, but based on your descriptions of self and scenarios above I would suggest starting out with a very basic set of skills and practice them rigorously. Maybe a heel-palm front strike (think punch with the heel of the hand instead of a closed fist) and a hammer fist – strike with the fleshy art of the closed fist opposite the thumb side of the fist instead of with the knuckles. These two strikes would allow defense straight ahead as well as to the side and, if combined with a forearm sliding block (allowing the attackers hand/arm/knife/etc to slide along your non-striking forearm while directing the attacking force out-of-line with your body), would give you a reliable offense/defense move useful in most attack situations which ought to permit you to attempt flight if circumstances make that seem possible (every event has unique considerastions governing such decisions). If you wear hard-soled (walking) shoes, a front kick with the side of your heel into an attackers shin is amazingly excruciating and is often easier to deliver than the traditional groin kick. Any kick should be no higher than the attackers crotch (and knee/shin is safer for you) until you get him/her on the ground, then let your Brandi Chastain loose at whatever body part is open on your way out of the area.

    Defense is largely predicated upon being aware of your surroundings and knowing how to read the social signals people always display. Knowing what certain behavior from a given segment of society frequently means in a given circumstance is an under-appreciated aspect of martial arts training IMO, as are a calm and confident demeanor. If you look “ready” without offering direct challenge you will often be taken at your example and left alone as a result. I wouldn’t count on that outcome automatically, but looking tougher than the available alternatives plays to your benefit in the predator calculus.

    Hope this gives you some useful ideas to begin building your defense skills arsenal.

  72. Cathy: Krav Maga (note I am not a practitioner) is pretty much custom made for what you’re after.

    It, especially in the beginning, focuses on the most common attacks and defenses and gets you up to speed in those. It (as I understand it) does a bit of sparing and “stress inoculation” as another poster put it.

    This is mostly what you need right up front–how to punch, kick and block, and enough getting bumped around so it doesn’t freak you out if/when it happens.

    As to weapons, I suggest a hair brush: http://www.hand-tools.com/product-detail.php?prodnum=CS92HC My wife has carried hers on a plane several times. It helps that it’s full of hair.

    I can’t use one, being effectively bald.

  73. A little off topic, but my T’ai Chi teacher has been working with reverse abdominal breathing– tightening the abdominal and lower back muscles on the inhale and releasing them on the exhale– and has found that it leads to less vulnerability and better mental focus while inhaling. However, he’s also interested in more information on the subject.

    Have any of you used that sort of breathing in martial arts and/or meditation? What effects have you seen? Other details?

  74. @Cathy: This is really old-fashioned, but wear a small hat, held in place with a large, antique hat pin. You’ll know what to do with it.

  75. That hairbrush that William O’Blivion linked to is really cool, but in New York, it would be an illegal dagger or dirk. Also, disguising it as a hairbrush makes it a concealed weapon.

    Another law spoiling the fun…

  76. > I think I have asked before, but I’ll bug you again. I’d love to hear your thoughts on mysticism, ritual, wicca and how it fits in the life of someone as rationally oriented as you.

    Once you asked me why I was a Christian, and I said something like Eric would know. I had experienced fellow believers as the embodiment of Jesus, in the same way folks have experienced Eric as Pan. You know, when you democratize and then anarchize Christianity via the Reformation, where anyone can form a new church with it’s own distinct theology, doctrine and practice, it’s really *hard* to keep the mysticism out, especially since people really want it. I think that the First Amendment and the wholly fragmentary nature of Christianity here is responsible for why it is still alive here, even though moribund in much of Western Europe.

    It even feeds back into the more hierarchical creeds. I was part of a Charismatic Catholic group in high school.

    And in Africa, Christianity kicks butt! The hierarchy has almost no power, and Christians experience the mystical on a regular basis.

    Yours,
    Tom

  77. LS,

    I have seen tactical flashlights, pens, umbrellas and canes which cannot be confused with concealed weapons. They are simply very strong and difficult to break, so they make great “improvised” weapons.

    Yours,
    Tom

  78. @Tom DeGisi: New York law spoils the fun again. All those things are ‘dangerous instruments’. You might as well carry a baseball bat slung over your shoulder and be done with it.

  79. >I had experienced fellow believers as the embodiment of Jesus, in the same way folks have experienced Eric as Pan.

    Sincere congratulations on your theophany, but I fear you took the wrong lesson from it. The universe was telling you to be a mystic, but you turned into a faith-holder instead. That’s a bad, bad mistake.

  80. Nancy, I’ve not seen an awful lot of good instruction on reverse breathing. I can do it, but I find that it’s so unnatural that I lose focus soon and stop doing it. Or maybe it’s just my oooohhhhh, look, shiny!

    Dr. Jwing Ming Yang has a few books on the core of breathing techniques, with original Chinese, literally translated chinese, and his interpretation of what the hell the chinese actually means. From my own practice, I see value in what he has to say.

  81. Everything is a weapon. If you have to think of particular things which make good weapons, then you’re not thinking correctly.

    Please elaborate.

    Because it is certainly true that some found objects make more *effective* weapons than others. Considering why this is so, as in what makes one particular object more effective as a weapon than another doesn’t seem to be wasted effort- it would help you better improvise when the need arises. Keeping an eye out in different environments for potential improvised weapons would also seem to be useful, just like keeping an eye out for exits (should you need one).

  82. @esr
    > Sincere congratulations on your theophany,

    I don’t see any support for a Christian type religion in Eric’s piece at all. Maybe I misunderstood his piece, but I doubt he actually believes there is an external potent being called Pan. The chord it struck with me was simply that the human psyche is an extremely deep well and most of us barely scratch the surface of its depth. I think that there is a lot in there that is very powerful in ways that are extremely difficult to measure on a material level, and I have no doubt that that deep well has very powerful abilities to communicate with other people.

    It is my experience that some people are almost hypnotic in their personal manifestation, and not for reasons that are readily measured by the five senses. Why? I’m sure there is a materialistic explanation, but I don’t know what it is.

    Sorry Tom, I don’t see that this in anyway gives support to the basic tenents of Christianity. And external, intervening omnipotent god. The utter depravity of man. The salvation by the unjust substitution of one for another. The belief in the efficacy of prayer or the literal truth of the Bible. I don’t see it.

  83. >It is my experience that some people are almost hypnotic in their personal manifestation,

    Yeah, and it’s of course completely coincidental that I have repeatedly demonstrated an ability to hold audiences all over the planet in the palm of my hand and sell challenging ideas against resistance. It couldn’t possibly have had anything to to with my having channeled a god, because mystics never develop exceptional charisma as a side effect of that.

    Given the frequency with which I’m asked variants on “How do you do it?”, I’ve often felt surprised that more people don’t connect these dots.

  84. re: weapons

    That hair brush was way over the line – you could spend years in prison without taking it near an airport.

    But your basic hex-cross section Bic pen…..

    Not having watched TV for about 2 decades, I have no idea if or how they are advertised now, but when I was a kid, there was one TV ad where a famous hockey player did a series of shots with a hockey-stick with a Bic pen through the blade of the stick so that the pen point (presumably) was what hit the puck.

    It Works – First Time – Every Time

  85. @ Jessica

    The Bible is true – it quotes Jesus who was the son of God – he says so right in the Bible!

    Some reasoning is so circular and so tight that it chokes the life right out of a person.

  86. @Brian Marshall
    Not all religious people have such a simplistic view. I know Tom DeGisi, He is a pretty smart person. I doubt very much we would get sucked into such a silly vortex.

    Christianity is a lot more than crazy bible fundamentalists.

  87. @ Jessica Boxer

    Christianity is a lot more than crazy bible fundamentalists.

    You are, of course, correct. As is frequently the case, a significant part of the purpose of my post was an attempt to be funny. Part of my philosophy is:

    – Being right is good.

    – Being right and funny is great.

    – Being right and funny in a way that makes people look at an idea in a new way is wonderful.

    In any case, I just recently had a protracted email argument with a family member about Christianity. The thing I found most odd was the belief in the bible… this belief doesn’t seem, at first glance to have any basis at all outside itself.

    But then I developed a theory that, particularly mature adults – people with much experience – have regrets and a god that can be a redeemer can make all the regrets either go away or be OK. They want to believe in such a god. If they were taught as a kid to believe the Bible, it seems to provide the perfect solution – believe the Bible and everything else is just following the manual and the elders.

    Or in short: faith in the Bible is the ticket to having the god they want.

  88. >the ticket to having the god they want.

    that’s true for most religions, at least for those with gods that have person-like characteristics, i think.

    I also think it’s more a matter of “having the gods they need” – mostly to get a handle on what Jessica calls that “deep well” of human psyche. Something along the lines of “Man created god(s) in his own image’.

  89. @Cathy

    Here’s my 2 cents, from a martial artist who used to have a very similar threat model:

    I don’t like MMA as a first martial art for anyone. It’s worth learning, just not first. It’s young, and under most instructors lacks the structure to get newbies going with good fundamentals from the start — something you’d have to make up for later in your training.

    BJJ is a great option for a small, fast person. Watch out for schools that are overly sport-focused, as many are, but a good self-defense-focused BJJ program sounds like it would be right up your alley.

    Krav Maga is, IMHO, not a great idea as a first art unless you are stronger and larger than I expect from your description. My brief experience with Krav did make me want to learn it…after I had more hand-to-hand experience. Many of the techniques in Krav assume rough-parity-or-better size/strength on the part of the practitioner. This can be compensated for with excellent body mechanics — but you have to have excellent body mechanics. In my current martial art (Shorei Goju-Ryu Karate), we have techniques that my 9yo can use effectively against a grown man (not all of them, but enough to buy time for the mommy karateka to intervene). Krav Maga isn’t like that — as a 5’7″ not-terribly-fit woman, I’d be at a serious disadvantage against a 6’3″ very fit man were Krav the only thing in my toolbox. You *can* learn those body mechanics while studying Krav, it just means a longer time-until-usefulness than you would probably have in a different art.

    Some forms of karate would suit your aims, some wouldn’t. Too much variety there to draw a general conclusion.

    Whatever art you study, please remember:
    — The art or style you study is not nearly as important as finding the right school/instructor. Try out some classes, see how it feels.
    — Martial arts is what happens after everything else has already gone wrong. Take the time to learn to recognize patterns of violence around you in time to avoid or de-escalate when possible, and have the skills to do so. It’s great to be able to handle yourself in a fight, but it’s even better not to have to. (Even when de-escalating, I must say that it helps to know that hoping for the best isn’t one’s only option. I found that as I became more confident in my martial abilities, I became better at avoiding their use.)
    — Many schools of empty-handed arts do not teach you to deal with an armed assailant. Make sure you learn this somewhere, as there’s no guarantee those young punks won’t have a gun or a knife. Martial arts don’t make one invincible, but the more we train the more options we have should SHTF.
    — If you are licensed to carry a firearm at your departure and destination locations, you can travel with it by plane, you just have to check it in a locked case.
    — Never discount the utility of improvised weapons.

  90. @HedgeMage: [long post with many suggestions]

    Thanks. This all sounds like very good advice. Any techniques that assume parity of size and strength vs. an attacker would likely not be of much use to me near-term. And I agree

    I’m not so much concerned about de-escalation etc.; after all, in 20+ years of adulthood I’ve never been attacked, and have generally been very careful in any situation that looked like it could be trouble. I’m just trying to cover all the bases. My current career does put me in positions that I would not have voluntarily put myself in at other points in my life, though not frequently.

    Re: armed assailants, I agree that any school worth attending should be teaching techniques against attackers armed with knives. I’m less sanguine about attackers with guns; in most cases I can picture, I might be better off (especially as a non-expert) not even attempting to resist in that situation.

    Once I get through the current immediate crunch period in my life, I can see that I’m going to have to visit 2 – 3 schools and check out instructors. Unfortunately, I get the sense that the BJJ school near me is family-oriented and that probably means they are on the “sport” end of the spectrum. There are two Krav Maga schools not far away, one of which is next to a library I frequent, so they would be easy to check. There are probably other local schools of which I’m not aware.

  91. If you are licensed to carry a firearm at your departure and destination locations, you can travel with it by plane, you just have to check it in a locked case.

    And remember to declare it!

    I’ve done this, though only once (BOS DTW for GwG at Penguicon). It wasn’t nearly as unpleasant an experience as I dreaded it would be. The flight out was downright entertaining because I had a rookie attendant at the baggage counter who had never done a firearm declaration before and wasn’t sure what to do. I stepped her through my printout of the relevant TSA regulations and airline policies, and pointed out the part which said that she was supposed to inspect it to make sure it was unloaded. At that point she went into total deer-in-the-headlights mode, then after several seconds of awkward silence she whispered “I’ll take your word for it”, slapped the declaration sticker on the case, and herded me along.

  92. @kn
    > “Man created god(s) in his own image’.

    FWIW, I don’t actually agree with that, not about Zoroastrian (like Christianity) based religions anyway. I think “society created god in a suitable image.” It works at a higher level than an individual. Much of the moral code in these religions is detrimental to the individual, but beneficial to society. (Of course a strong society is a benefit to the individual, however that is a tragedy of the commons thing.)

    My favorite example is the different attitudes to promiscuous sex between men and women. Even today, promiscuous women are considered bad, and promiscuous men are admired. Clearly this is detrimental to horny girls. But it benefits society in that the genetic inheritance is more readily secured. It is obvious who mommy is, it is not obvious who daddy is. So the horny chicks have to keep their pants zipped so that their guy can be confident that his resources are committed to his genetic progeny.

    Which is pretty screwed up on a whole bunch of levels. But it is what it is.

  93. Much of the moral code in these religions is detrimental to the individual, but beneficial to society … Clearly this is detrimental to horny girls.

    It’s “detrimental” to the short-term whims of horny girls, but it’s beneficial to their long-term interests. Maybe that’s just another way of saying the same thing, but I think the distinction between irrational whims and rational self-interest is worth making.

  94. This is sort of orthogonal to the matter at hand, but my Sifu said many times on many occasions:

    Do what you have to do and then RUN AWAY

    Wing Chun is basically purely defensive, but people never see the initial thing your opponent did – all they see is you apparently pounding the shit out of him. People that see you and/or the guy’s buddies will all be witnesses that say you just went berserk and attacked the guy.

    You don’t want to argue this in an assault case in court, you want to RUN AWAY and not let it turn into an assault case.

    And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor…

    Wing Chun was supposedly invented by a woman (from the Shao Lin monastery, of course) for a woman. It was designed to be learned quickly (the second woman told a guy that was trying to get her to marry him to come back in a year and fight her – if she lost, she wold marry him).

    It is designed to be effective against someone that is potentially much larger, stronger and/or better than you are. Your strikes are not assumed to be very powerful, but most Wing Chun techniques end with doing a chain of punches to the guy’s head – you want to bounce his brain against his skull, so as to do an interrupt on his brain, giving you the chance to finish him off or RUN AWAY.

    It is for defending yourself on the street, optionally badly hurting (or even killing) the attacker(s). It is NOT good for a bouncer in an up-scale club.

    If you have never trained in a martial art, and you do at least two or three classes a week (not counting purely conditioning classes, which I didn’t go to) and do at least a little work at home, you can expect to be able to “do Kung Fu” in a year and at least be a whole hell of a lot better at defending yourself than when you started.

    I often found that I sort of picked up what was involved with a technique in a class. I would go home and fool with until all of a sudden it just clicked – I could tell that I had it right because it… just works.

  95. @Monster
    > It’s “detrimental” to the short-term whims of horny girls, but it’s beneficial to their long-term interests.

    It is the tragedy of the commons. It might be beneficial to society’s long term interest, even if it isn’t to the benefit of the individual in the short and long term. For sure it is not to her benefit in any timeframe that people generally measure.

    > distinction between irrational whims and rational self-interest is worth making.

    Speaking personally, when I want to get laid it is rarely either irrational or whimsical. I think it is kind of patronizing to suggest that it is for anyone. In fact, it is a biological imperative, arguably the very purpose of life itself.

    It makes me want to go on a rant on the difference between society’s memes on female sexuality and the reality of female sexuality. But kind of OT, so perhaps I should shut up.

  96. >It makes me want to go on a rant on the difference between society’s memes on female sexuality and the reality of female sexuality. But kind of OT, so perhaps I should shut up.

    Yes, but only because it’s way OT for this thread. The next time I post about sex or evo-bio, you have my official encouragement to rant.

  97. This is, again, sort of orthogonal to the original topic in that it relates to why someone would want to learn martial arts. Or, in this case, not so much.

    Primary Point: It matters where you live.

    View: Alberta is red-neck country

    Aspect: The Stampede involves a LOT of drinking and virtually no violence.

    Aspect that I just find so interesting that I am just compelled to describe it:

    Near where I live there is a car with a sticker on the back window that says:

    SO GAY
    I can’t even drive straight

    I find it amazing that someone would have such a permanent sticker on their car. Calgary is just a very easy-going live-and-let-live sort of place, despite a strong tradition of relating to the frontier.

  98. @esr
    >Yes, but only because it’s way OT for this thread.

    Hmmh, martial arts schools: Sweaty bodies, loose clothing, lots of grabbing each other, throwing people around… Yes, you are right, WAY off topic.

    :-)

  99. >>> “Man created god(s) in his own image’.
    >FWIW, I don’t actually agree with that, not about Zoroastrian (like Christianity) based religions anyway. I think “society created god in a suitable image.” It works at a higher level than an individual.

    When I said “man”, I was thinking plural, general, as in mankind, not 1 individual.
    So yeah, this (also) works at the level of societies.
    My point was that ‘gods’ are personifications of human traits – religion starts were people begin seeing those personifications as external, real/supranatural beings.I think this also works for monotheistic religions such as christianity, it just might be a bit harder to fit many traits into one god. Maybe that’s why christianity developed a Father, a Son, and a Spirit.

  100. Krav maga isn’t all that upper body focused. I don’t know about you, but I am not interested in an art where “groin kicks are a regular occurrence”. Quote is from one of the answers, from someone who practices and teaches krav maga here.

  101. >I don’t know about you, but I am not interested in an art where “groin kicks are a regular occurrence”

    I did a Haganah F.I.G.H.T. class last night. The style is very close to Krav Maga; I think the differences are mainly political of the revered-instructor-A-fell-out-with-revered-instructor-B sort.

    I was told that the style has no kicks above the waist. The kicks I observed, and performed, and had performed on me, included: (a) a plain vanilla rising kick to the groin (a groin cup is the only required equipment), and (b) a shin kick to the opponent’s outer thigh. Both effective, both well within my palsy-limited ability.

    I did not find the groin kicks directed at me off-putting; my partners had good control, and I find it easy to take that kind of physical risk in stride anyway. I requested that my partners kick and strike to light contact (which seems to be a notch above what they normally do with newbies), I did likewise, and the results were excellent fun all around. In truth, they could have tapped me considerably harder without upsetting me. That will come, I’m sure, if I continue there.

    Based on this experience, and the fact that groin cups are required equipment, I readily believe the claim that “groin kicks are a regular occurrence”. They fit the apparent tactical doctrine of the art, which seems to be heavy into soft-tissue strikes and going for the fast disabler. (Evidence: We also practiced eye gouges and fingernal rakes to the face and eyes. Incidentally, the way you drill the former is by thumb pressure on the orbital bone above the eyesocket.)

    However, it is also clear that the repertoire of kicks is relatively small and simple. The upper-body techniques, by contrast, are quite elaborate, including strikes and guards I had never seen before (which, since I’m trained in five arts and have closely observed at least a dozen others, is actually a pretty strong statement of novelty). So, yes, what I saw can be fairly described as upper-body-centered. To about the same degree that wing chun is, actually.

    It was a good experience. I was paired with a couple of assistant instructors who I found impressively capable and well-centered. The students seemed to fall into three groups: (a) a gaggle of college kids and twentysomething professionals (many in this group female) all very earnest but not very good, (b) would-be hard guys with shaven heads and a lot of ‘tude, none of whom are anywhere near as intimidating as they’d like to think they are, and (c) long-term students who are serious martial artists, have no ‘tude at all, and are quite good. Cathy and I will fit in with group (c) just fine if we keep training there.

  102. >I found the Systema place, it’s about 20
    >minutes from here which makes it logistically
    >possible. Given the style’s reputation for extreme
    >brutality (which you’ve done nothing to disconfirm) it
    > is realistically possible that I won’t want to go there,
    > but I will investigate.

    It’s not brutal–at least the two or three times I’ve trained with Systema guys on stuff where our interests lined up they weren’t breaking each other into little pieces, but they believe that part of conditioning to fight is getting used to a certain level of pain and discomfort. A higher level than most of the other places I’ve trained. Well, except maybe Marine Corps Boot Camp, but that was a different level of discomfort.

  103. >but they believe that part of conditioning to fight is getting used to a certain level of pain and discomfort.

    In general I’m good with that; I actually prefer to train at an intensity level sufficient to give me the occasional stinging hit and bruise. My philosophical reasons for that are probably similar to Systema’s – how ya gonna fight if you can’t handle pain? Also, as I’ve written before, when I’m adrenalized being hit often transmutes into a kind of bliss (this might be the same endorphin-release mechanism masochists exploit, though I have no sexual tendencies in that direction).

    One of the things I liked about Mr. Stuart’s is that they’re totally willing to make contact and use enough force to register as an actual hit in training. But that could be pushed too far; taking damage in training isn’t good. Remains to be seen whether Systema exceeds what I’m willing to take on a regular basis. We’ve arranged to audit a class at the Systema place next Tuesday.

  104. @ ESR
    re: Warriors, Gays, Nurturer and Wizards

    The idea that it is good for humans in general to have some men want to be warriors and some gay men want to help with the kids falls neatly into the idea that I like about “archetypes”.

    I have never read Jung and I am under the impression that he believed some silly stuff, but I am deeply into the idea that there are hard-wired patterns that various people fall into. You mentioned three of the most fundamental archetypes:
    – the warrior
    – the nurturing mother (gay helpers fit so well here)
    – the wizard/shaman/geek
    plus there is another big group:
    – worker / labourer

    I have always related to the wizard archetype – I stand outside the primary hirerarchy of society, not a hermit, but a loner, with an intelligent pet (an Amazon parrot for the past 13 years who uses the word “hurts” applied to himself that I taught him applied to me). The Shaman is a role in a tribe. Another image I like is: in the Kings court with all the (upper class) people dressed and behaving in highly structured ways with vast numbers of rules about their conduct, I am the oddly dressed guy standing in the shadows, whispering into the Kings ear. Now it is often the geek – at times the only one that can get away with breaking the company dress code.

    Engineers and technical people are like the wizard/shaman/geek archetype but fitting in much better, not being outside the primary hierarchy of society.

    Society needs varying proportions of people that strongly fit into particular roles so the brain has various hard-wired patterns for these roles. Different folks relate to, or fall into, different patterns.

  105. The traditional/mythical intelligent pet of wizards and witches is, of course, the raven.

    There was an experiment in which a crow was taught how to use a piece of wire bent into a hook to pull a tiny pail of food out of a hole too deep for the crow to reach without the hook. At one point, several times, as I recall, the crow was given an unbent piece of wire and it bent it into the hook shape it needed.

  106. I love the Chinese Kang-fu style…You may continue with it in your future…May God help you out in it

  107. I’ll second the “Internal Arts” comment, especially because of what you said about breaking the fourth board out of six.

    I’ve recently attended Dragon Arts, one of the best internal arts schools in the country… but Omaha Nebraska is probably much too far away for you to travel on a regular basis. A really good school like mine is extremely difficult to find, but they will teach internal cultivation alongside practical application, and it can very deeply refine your skill as a martial artist – I feel it would be the perfect balance for your extensive MMA training. Instead of being at the point where 70%-90% of your time is spent in free sparring within a week or two of walking in the door, you will spend hours standing in awkward positions and/or walking in circles. The benefits in terms of hand-to-hand combat take quite a bit of time to manifest, but believe me, they will manifest. We’re talking about the “calmly step out of the way” stuff you usually only get to see in movies.

    In addition to Tai Chi, any school that teaches the traditional versions of Hsing-I or Bagua well would meet the “internal” requirement. Just make sure you’ve got the real deal, because there is a harder, more modern version of Bagua out there as well… I doubt you will encounter any “fake” Hsing-I, just because it isn’t popular or well-known compared to Tai Chi or MMA. My final argument for the internal cultivation styles is that each of them is a near cousin of the hacker ethos… but again, this isn’t immediately obvious when your training starts.

  108. If armed nut cases in the bedroom – Goblins – is one of the scenarios, and ESR’s natural reaction is scream and charge, I am not convinced that “calmly stepping out of the way” is going to be the right fit.

  109. Of course,if the goblin has been trained, when esr screams and charges, the goblin calmly steps out of the way, and plugs esr as he goes by…

    Seriously, the sorts of people that break into homes do not spend years training in the martial arts. If you are going to charge, however, I question the value of screaming. You have signalled your intentions, you have wasted time that would be better used in closing the range, and the gunman may instinctively shoot at the source of the sound – YOU.

  110. >If you are going to charge, however, I question the value of screaming.

    A fair question. But I think you understimate the value of shocking the adversary out of the script(s) he has mentally prepared for the situation.

    And you don’t scream then leap, you do both together. Part of the point is to rattle him so freezes for that crucial 250 milliseconds or so.

  111. I have noticed that the guys who provide security for private businesses seem to have no difficulty getting rid of unwanted guests even when heavily outnumbered or outgunned, whether by non political criminals, protestors, or “occupiers”, and do it without winding up in an unfavorable you tube video.

    I wonder if this involves some special training that might be paraphrased. “How to thump the bejesus out of no good scum while looking courteous and helpful on you tube”, though I am sure that it has some more businesslike name, like “how to helpfully escort guests off the premises when they are reluctant to leave”

  112. James A. Donald, if the methods are aikido-flavored (or actual aikido), it’s probably joint locks. It’s not “thumping the bejesus”– it’s causing pain for short term control. No bruises. No fun for spectators. Just compliance.

  113. A fair question. But I think you understimate the value of shocking the adversary out of the script(s) he has mentally prepared for the situation.

    And you don’t scream then leap, you do both together. Part of the point is to rattle him so freezes for that crucial 250 milliseconds or so.

    This actually works. Sometimes, against some people. I was once at a HS fencing match, watching a friend compete against a guy everyone thought was a future Olympian. The one touch my friend scored (or came close to scoring) came when he charged and *screamed*. The fellow froze up for just an instant, just that once.

    Possibly I’m wired funny, but when you scream at me my reactions are faster, more focused, aggressive and violent. Best to charge me silently. I doubt I’m *that* atypical, so regarding the whole screaming thing YMMV.

  114. I’m a little puzzled at you defining BJJ as a slow takeoff mma. It’s one of the most basic self defense in a hurry practical martial arts I know of. In the infamous whataburger fight, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVeI6WXtmeI, a guy uses extremely basic jiujitsu (clearly hasn’t trained more then a couple months or is very bad) to defeat a larger opponent then himself.

  115. I’ve been taking Krav Maga for almost a year now. Prior to that, I had 4 years of Ninjutsu (not the “movie ninja” stuff, but legit. Look up Stephen Hayes).

    Anyhow… my opinions…

    Ninjutsu – I loved it. I found it effective. It worked for me. However, it takes time to learn.

    Krav Maga – I love it. Effective. Works for me. Easy to learn. Literally, you can have some form of confidence in a matter of classes.

    If there was a Ninjutsu school near me (I had to move years ago)… I’d still attend. However, the closes school is 2.5 hours away. Outside of BJJ, the only other thing I considered taking was Krav. It’s 15 minutes away.

    Nuff said…

  116. Eric, sorry to hear about this. I have, during visits to the US, tried Bujinkan, and I recommend it highly. It is suitable to people of varying ages. I have also attended some classes in London.

    For example, check out this website for a list of dojos in the US.

    http://www.ninjutsu.com/dojos-links_usa.shtml

  117. Pingback: 20 Day Challenge – Day 6 | Sunny With a Chance Of Armageddon

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