Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Ancient arts, modern world – are they fit for purpose?

This blog no doubt will upset the die-hard traditional practitioners but the content of the blog does have a serious point to it and that point is do old bugei martial arts systems have real practical use in a modern world?

Arguments on this very issue have raged for many years now and the internet forums for the martial arts are a blaze with arguments on who and what is the best way to deal with physical violence. I am going to avoid the subject of weapons; the reason for not discussing the weapon arts comes mainly down to the fact that the majority of mature adults know that it is illegal both to carry and use weapons in public, that said there are a few idiots out there that think they are the exception to the rule.

To continue the blog I’d like to use an issue that is always hotly debated amongst martial artist and instructors alike: joint locking. Now we’re not going to use a particular martial art in general as an example as there are far too many to discuss from all cultures, not just Japanese. I have met instructors who are adamant that effective joint locking will work with the use of good evasive foot work and control of the aggressor rendering the attacker immovable and in great pain.

Having been on the receiving end of many a sankyo and nikkyo both in ju jutsu and aikido I can agree with the claim of effective pain, however I would like to mention that these techniques were performed in the dojo under controlled conditions, with the ever present thought of the insurance policy in the back of your mind if the technique is performed wrong or too brutally and the fact that as an uke I am allowing the technique to be applied freely so tori can study the technique.

As a former doorman I have never gotten a joint locking technique applied to control an unruly customer; there are a few reasons for this: one, we usually worked as a team or group to deal with violence and two, the environment is totally different from a clean respectful dojo with an insurance policy. Outside the dojo there are no rules and the average aggressive person that is pissed off through drink, drugs, you spilt my pint and you’re trying to get off with my bird will not be compliant or respectful to you; also keep in mind that we are discussing controlling one person here and not multiples.

Over the last six years I have been invited to teach on many courses and on all these courses we have always taught simple and direct techniques in a controlled, aggressive manner. These techniques range from elbows, head butting, knees and one of my favourite techniques, biting but to be totally honest this would only be used in the extreme.

Now I am not condoning violence as something to be proud of or that these techniques are an answer to all threats of violence; believe me, I have been on the receiving end of a good kicking so nobody is infallible.

All situations are different and have unique problems that have to be dealt with at the time but I like the techniques I have used in the past; I would use them again in the future, such as pre emptive striking, closing the distance using atemi waza and then control the aggressor if it is needed using joint locking.

In this modern day and age I believe that the only real use of joint locking outside of the martial arts should be by law enforcement, prison guards and the military etc. The reason I state this is because they usually work as a unit and not a singular person when trying to subdue and control an aggressor; how many times have we seen half a dozen police officers trying to control someone to get the cuffs on? Now this comes down to the law and rules of engagement they are bound by; even so I have witnessed quite a number of police officers used to finally control an aggressive drunk when a good old fashioned right hook or elbow would have solved the issue much quicker. Many say the police have their hands tied and I agree having read the police manual on the use of force to detain a person, in my opinion it all comes down to covering backsides and insurance.

It is not my intention to use this blog to promote our particular way of training or use of technique, nor do I claim that what we do is the be-all-and-end-all in the self protection world. Indeed there are many more experienced people out there than I and deal with these issues on a daily basis in a variety of employment situations. That said, I have stood in line and learnt from these people and I personally agree with their methods and approach, many would not.

I was motivated to write this blog having read the statements and articles by Sensei Taran McCarnum and Sensei Dave Thatcher. I will admit to only knowing them through the martial arts community but their honesty and candour was something I was immediately drawn to, further more I also agree with them on the issue of the amount of total rubbish being taught as safe practical defensive techniques in a combative situation.

Thanks to YouTube every man and his dog wants to be on the big screen to strut his stuff and make his claim on what is effective to deal with violence and let’s be honest there is some total crap out there; everything from rape prevention to gun stripping an opponent. There are a lot of issues usually not discussed on these videos such as terrain, emotional state, environment, one or more aggressors, weapon involvement, drink, drugs and adrenaline etc. Also none of us are psychic so no-one can predict how any given situation will turn out and no amount of training will solve that but it does give you an edge providing it is practical and hopefully effective.

On recent courses up and down the country I have witnessed absolutely abysmal training standards and techniques been taught to deal with violence; this training came across as a corporate product guaranteed to work one hundred percent of the time, all the bells, whistles, badges, certificate of attendance and more gold on a black belt than black. The instructor was extremely confident in his verbal delivery skills and motivating the group but the content taught was in my opinion total rubbish and not a true reflection of what I have in the past witnessed on many occasions.

Teaching gun disarmament to a society that does not use guns personally on a daily basis and the fact that the average person is not desensitised to firearms is both dangerous and fool hardy; even I could not tell you how I would react to a gun shoved in my face, then again I am no body special either. The knife work was impractical and the attacks were slow and controlled from the attacker; real knife attacks are fast, aggressive and in some case not seen until you have been stabbed. This course was a classic case of a classical martial art being used to sell a product and give false confidence to those that attended. No doubt the instructor knew his art inside out but was using it in a foolhardy way.

For the most part if I attend a course and think a particular technique is total rubbish I just don’t take it on board; I have met some really arrogant instructors laying down the law on the rights and wrongs of effective self protection and why they are right and the rest of the world is wrong.

I have had the privileged to have trained with what I consider instructors at the forefront in dealing in effective training methods, not just techniques but training the body and the brain to deal with violence. The one thing that stands out with all these instructors is the practicality of technique in the given situation; simple techniques delivered in a brutal manner if warranted. The guys have been at the hard edge of what most of us will never have to see or deal with and personally I agree with their methods.

Complicated techniques such as joint locking may have their place on the ancient battlefields for the use of stopping a samurai drawing sword but I personally have never had my wrist, elbow etc. grabbed in a fight and I am certainly not going to ask a person to grab my wrist just to try out a technique when I can drive an elbow to your face or stick in a good head butt.

At the end of the day all of us will do what we want to do with regards to training and practising our chosen martial arts or modern training systems. However it is my wish that “you” having read this blog at the very least question yourself, your training and methods of training.  There are large groups of people training that do not spar hard so how can they know if they can take a punch? Not to mention those that train only in a pure art but never train to use it effectively or adapt it for fighting.

Quality effective training or disillusioned week in week out rubbish sold to you as a product? Only you can make the choice, I hope it’s the right one.

To find out more about Evasive Self-Defence Combat System visit http://www.esdcs.org or e-mail John Barrass at: john@kurinami.wanadoo.co.uk