Effective Martial Arts

People talk a lot about “effective” martial arts. 

Effective for what? 

To defend yourself against a bad guy trying to hurt you, rob you, rape you or trying to hurt a friend or family member?  Keeping yourself safe while defending off an attacker is extremely important in marital arts training.  Staying healthy is another direct result of some styles of martial arts.  Training Tai Chi, Qigong and forms training are excellent for your mobility, flexibility, strength and mental clarity.  

Learning self-defense while learning how to make yourself stronger and healthier is the martial arts way.  

To many people, “effectiveness” in martial arts means to beat someone up.  But, what about controlling a situation with martial art skills but not necessarily maiming them?  Many people don’t realize that it takes more skill to control and not hurt the opponent.  It takes more control, and control is only gained over time and intense practice.  

“Perceive the way of nature and no force of man can harm you.  Do not meet a wave head on.  Avoid it.  You do not have to stop force.  It is easier to redirect it.  Learn more ways to preserve rather than destroy.  Avoid rather than check.  Check rather than hurt.  Hurt rather than maim.  Maim rather than kill.  For all life is precious, nor can any be replaced.”  ~Master Kan (Kung Fu TV Series, 1972)

When it comes to self-defense what if you don’t want to hurt the person you need to subdue?  What if you have a friend or family member who is mentally challenged, drunk or just needs to be detained before he hurts himself or another?  What if you are working as a bouncer or security guard where restraint is a priority? What if you are being filmed?  What if you’re a man who needs to control an upset woman or a 160lb. 12 year old boy?

Being able to control someone without hurting them is a higher level skill.  Skills developed through chi-sau or push-hands are perfect for this situation.  Chi-sau, known as “sticky hands,” are following drills from Kung Fu.   They teach sensitivity:  you feel and measure the pressure the people put on you, and you redirect that same amount of energy.  This type of training does not rely on strength or even speed, but simply on reading, following, and measuring the opponent’s moves.   

It is important to build a strong base through stance training and have a flexible waist.  Stance training includes holding different stances for long periods of time, mainly the horse stance.  Footwork training is also very important.  You must be light yet rooted in order to move fast and to defend takedowns.  Footwork can help to get out of the way of an attack and stances can keep you from being thrown.  A flexible waist can help you set up throws and strikes while yielding to an attack.  There are both hard and soft techniques and there is a time for both depending on the amount of force put on you.  

In most martial arts schools training is done in a way to keep it real as possible without hurting, crippling or killing your partner. 

Realistic, effective training usually includes sparring gear for striking and agreeing to tap before a break or being choked unconscious.  O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, said, if you hurt your opponent while doing Aikido, you are doing it wrong.  I understand now what he was talking about:  complete control of yourself and others while in the moment of combat.  This is a high skill level many never attain.  This level of skill gives you many more options when in combat at any level.  

Martial arts must be effective for self-defense.  There are many different styles offered in the martial arts community.  Some schools focus mainly on striking, throws or ground, while some incorporate all three.  Usually a school will incorporate several different training methods for a well-rounded system of self-defense; this is what I recommend.  Which ever your preference is, make sure it is effective and proven to work.   

Train hard, train smart, finish healthy.

Sifu Hughes