16 September 2008

TMA v Modern systems

Ive been thinking about traditional martial arts (TMA) compared to more modern systems for a while now and a thread on a forum today has sparked the matter for me. Like many older or less young martial artists and self protection practitioners, I trod my first steps on this pathway by joining a traditional martial art. It was a long process where I began at the back of the class in tracksuit pants and a t-shirt and gradually worked my way through the formation and ranks of the class up to the front where I was often the senior student there of about 40 students.

Humble Beginnings

I still remember my first night there where the assistant instructor took me to the rear of the class and taught me how to make a fist, what knuckles to hit with and that my wrist and fist should be in line which makes it stronger to strike with. I loved it! I was learning how to defend myself!

When I first turned up, I had absolutely no idea and that realisation is what prompted me to join up as there were numerous school fights happening at the time and I didn't want to get caught up in one and lose. The loser of these school yard fights lost stature and sometimes friends where the winner was swarmed with new friends. I wanted to be the winner! As it turns out, I never did have to draw on my new amazing super fighting skills.

Way of the Warrior

It was a long gradual process during which I read books such as The Book of Five Rings, Hagakure, The Art of War, and The Unfettered Mind. These books were quite an influence on me and directly contributed to my outlook on the martial arts broadening and my behaviour gradually changing. I tried to emulate the people I read about and tried to develop myself into a 'warrior'.I guess the youngish age contributed to me seriously aspiring to such heighty ideals. Although those goals were indeed large, it certainly kept me out of trouble where many of my friends were getting mixed up in illegal activities and getting caught. I really wanted to be good and DO good. The lessons coming out of those books meant a lot to me.

Change of Outlook

Today, my study of the martial arts is very different to what it was. I no longer practise a traditional martial art (TMA). As previous posts explain, I study systems which fundamentally develop ones ability to APPLY their techniques on a resisting opponent such as bjj, boxing and general MMA type systems as well as similarly structured weapons systems. I do this because fundamentally, the practise of martial arts aims to teach skills which give one the ability to successfully defend and counter any physical attack that may come their way. The systems I practise today focus on doing that for todays threat.

Different Threat Today

The threat we face on the streets today are very different than the threat faced in south east Asia hundreds or thousands of years ago which is what TMA were developed for and is still today, essentially, the focus of these systems. TMA is basically formal military training for a thousand year old battle field complete with formations, weapons of the era (swords, nunchuka, Sai etc.), uniforms, ranks and compliments to senior ranks (bowing).

Today, the threat doesn't attack with the above weapons or on horseback which is what flying kicks were developed for.

The Urban Threat

The threat today has had too much alcohol, uses violence and the shock of violence to his advantage, uses superior numbers, takes belongings at knife point, lurks in the dark in urban areas, carjacks, breaks into homes and in the extreme actively tries to kill other people for no real reason.

This list is not exhaustive. It is a very different threat environment to what the warriors faced in the past. We need to study systems that are geared up for todays threat.A Journey along MMA?

However, the scene surrounding some of the modern systems can appear quite unsavoury. A famous world champion boxer biting the ear off his opponent in the ring, MMA fighters puffing up their ego in pre fight slagging matches and general character traits not becoming a warrior that is espoused in the classics. Does this have to always be the case? Can systems like MMA be practised for their physical benefits and still facilitate the development of the mental and spiritual journey? Do fighters only practise boxing and MMA etc. with the hope to compete, become champions and seek glory and fame? Are there people out there who train in these systems and others because they ARE so effective then go home and read Musashi?

Best of both Worlds

I feel that the more effective, proven, high percentage systems of bjj, thai boxing, wrestling, boxing, dogbrothers, kickboxing and judo can offer a lot to the serious TMA practitioner if only they can look past the bad light that is sometimes shone onto these systems and look deeper at the fundamental true beauty of them. There is a lot to learn and studying these systems doesn't mean you have to give up your beliefs and become a hot headed fighter. Some of the most polite, respectful people Ive met have been MMA practitioners and the study of these modern systems involves a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication which is quite a spiritual journey to undertake in and of itself.

A Renaissance

Its my belief (and not just me), that the study of the classics, some of these listed above, combined with hard, effective training is actually a pinacle in the history of hand to hand or low tech combat and the way of life that follows. For the first time in history, the worlds martial arts are being tested against each other and they are mutating and combining where today, there have evolved certain systems which are 'specialists' in certain areas.

It is not just the martial arts that are changing. The self defence industry is evolving as well. We have self defence systems such as ISR Matrix, Red Zone and S.T.A.B. knife defence that use the latest training methods to quickly allow for them to train students up to a good standard very quickly. ISR Matrix even integrate the legal use of force in their progressive responses to the threats actions.

When these different specialists are combined they form extremely formidable systems which is contributing to a true renaissance in the combative arts today.

It is a great time to be alive to witness it. Dont deny it, embrace it.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.

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  1. Great post! As martial artists, we really do have to figure out what we are training for. If its for fitness, discipline and well balance then any martial art really will do, however if its to survive on TODAYS streets we need to train for TODAYS type of confrontations.

  2. Yeah, its interesting. Ideally, it would be good to find a practical modern MMA and FMA type of style with the benefits of TMA such as honour, respect and just the 'way of the warrior' aspect of practise.

  3. Most TMA can be very useful in a street fight, but then again its how they are practiced that makes the difference, if all you ever did in boxing is shadow boxing then what use is boxing.

    Same with TMA's, if you go to a good school expect to be hit and to hit back and there are still a good number of TMA's around you just have to look and compare.

  4. While your intentions are good, I think there are many errors in your reasoning. This post says more about your need to contextualize your experience in TMA, which to me is one of failure. Failure to understand or uncover the purpose of the training, failue to discover how to apply it. Usually this failure can be attributed to the lack of real understanding those post-WW2 black belts had about the arts they were teaching. Since then their students just parroted their empty practice and adherance to form.
    Empty hand martial arts are a luxury, studied and developed by those warriors who lived through the battles, passing up through the lower ranks. The first weapon of war is the spear, or the bow & arrow, and new recruits were given these weapons and taught how to fight as a group or battlefield unit. Thus trained, they were arranged on the battlefield like pawns, and were equally as expendable. Those that lived were deemed superior warriors than those that were killed, and were promoted in rank, given more armour and given more advanced training in more prestigious (and more expensive) weapons -- the sword, axe, mace, etc.
    If you join the military today, you will see that it is not much different -- soliders learn how to use their weapons first (rifle, grenade launcher, machine gun) -- it is the focus of their training, with basic hand-to-hand stuff tacked on for exercise and character building. The real empty hand training goes to higer level special forces units whose members are likely to operate alone. Even then, it is commonly understood that if you are fighting hand-to-hand something has seriously gone wrong.
    However, I digress. Your greatest error is to assume that MMA, BJJ, etc are somehow more applicable than TMA. These arts are a step backward from true martial arts training, and toward sport, and are equally ineffective and artificial as the junk-TMA you have been trained in. They rely and take their base from strength and speed, and thus favour people who are naturally talented in this area -- usually those who are physically larger and generally speaking, younger than others. Hence we have weight classes in MMA. Without them, 98% of the time the bigger, stronger opponent wins. But the purpose of a true martial art is to train to undermine and overcome an opponent with superior strength, size and speed. This is the thing that TMA in the West have forgotten, or perhaps never knew in the first place. To train with this goal in mind means to take the harder path, and to not indulge in training and techniques that are easy to do -- using strength and speed is easy, requires little training and appeals to our base senses, much in the same way people say that fast food tastes better than fine dining. The stronger and faster you are, the less real technique you need, and the less able you are to apply real technique.

    Reflect on this.

  5. Good rebuttal. TMA's are worth the long study because they help to improve the self.

  6. I don't know what you are more confused about, the effectiveness of sports for self defence, that being attacked in our modern society is different in any relevant way than it was in the past, or that martial artists having challenge matches is something new. You should reread Musashi. He travelled all around japan picking fights with so called "masters" as a young man to test his skills. The main difference is that these callenge matches took place with weapons and without all the rules which make mma, boxing, wrestling etc., just sports and completely inappropriate for self defence. This is what makes them safe and allows people to compete in them using all of their strength without competitors being killed on a regualr basis.

  7. Great rebuttal, I'm glad to see that there still are people out there who realise the true value of TMA, in applicability, as well as chracter building.
    At 36 A background in Judo Aikido AND Shorin ryu Karate, (dan grades in all) I made the transition to MMA with little effort in 2000, TMA prepared me very well, I am now 44 and over the last 2 years slowly drifted back to TMA, which I have found to be more fulfilling in many ways. My experience in MMA has enriched me, but the TMA's are the source, practiced properly they will provide you with all the weapons you will ever need.

  8. "For the first time in history, the worlds martial arts are being tested against each other and they are mutating and combining"... when did you begin your history? yesterday? Man has been testing his martial art against other men for as long as there have been people... or are you just overlooking the many brutal wars and battles that pitted different martial disciplines and philosophies against each other? I like your general outlook, but really the "new" MMA is really nothing new...

  9. Adam Dean, this blog post sucks. You understand very little about the martial arts and should not be writing a blog, posing as some kind of authority of them.

    Shame on Aiki-Journal for featuring you on their site.

  10. Firstly, I would like to say hello to all of the readers from the Aiki-Journal which is where the majority of the recent anonymous replies has come from. Thank you for taking the time to read and reply to this post. There have been some quite interesting comments of which come from a quite different perspective from mine which makes them especially interesting from a learning perspective.

    It will be quite difficult to reply to each comment as they are all Anonymous but I will use the first line of a comment to indicate who I am replying to.

    "While your intentions are good..."

    Interesting comment. The point you make about beginners first using the primary weapon of choice throughout the history of combatives is fresh to me, though sounds true enough. It IS true in regards to todays military. Its not something ive thought about much in the past.

    However I do disagree with your point regarding MMA/BJJ etc being less applicable than TMA. I do strongly feel that tactics and techniques from more modern systems are much more readily applied on an enemy who is fighting back than most TMA. I can find little argument against that position.

    You state that bigger, faster and stronger (and im paraphrasing) people in MMA usually win and therefore elude that those systems primarily are for bigger faster and stronger people.

    You then go on to say, 'the purpose of a true martial art is to train to undermine and overcome an opponent with superior strength, size and speed'.

    That is true enough, but is ignoring one very important fact. All things being equal, the bigger, faster or stronger combatant WILL win. It is not helpful to believe that these attributes do not significantly contribute to the outcome of an encounter. Fighters in the UFC are generally, closely matched for skill. This ensures an exciting fight which sells tickets and makes the promoters money. The fighters know that the fights will be tough. So they look for an edge. Their strength and conditioning is that edge. They do not ignore technique and tactics, they merely compliment these with strength and conditioning to gain an advantage.

    And yes, I acknowledge that many of the fighters in UFC are not particularly skilled. Some are just young and up for a bit of fun and fame for a few years before they move on to something better.

    In our search for the best tactics and techniques, it is important that we only include those attributes that are easily applied on a SKILLED opponent. It can become a bit of a trap to ignore the modern systems because you see little evidence of the little guy beating the big guy. These are trained fighters against trained fighters. When the skill is close, yes, generally the bigger, faster or stronger guy will win.

    Do not fall into the trap of only using techniques demonstrated on either a co-operating partner or against an unskilled opponent. This can be very dangerous ground to walk on.

    So I believe that more modern systems teach more applicable techniques and tactics than TMA in general. But I agree with your last point that it IS important, very much so, to not develop strength and conditioning at the expense of techniques and tactics. Tactics and techniques should be the foundation and the first thing taught. Once a certain proficiency is gained in these areas, and I do not have a particular date in mind, it will not hurt to do a little strength and conditioning. It is also quite good for general health and well being.

    "I don't know what you are more confused about..."

    I am not really sure what your point is. Do you want people to go around having sword fights to the death in todays world? And those that dont, arent teaching real martial arts?

    And yes, the threat today is very different than in the past. Do you think a freak on speed intent on pumping a kitchen knife into the stomach of someone 10 times in one second was found a thousand years ago as readily as it can be today?

    Whatever allows for people to train for combat in an efficient manner without people dying every second class is only a good thing...

    "Great rebuttal, I'm glad to see..."

    All I can say is well done and thank you. You have done TMA for a time, had an open mind and tried something new such as MMA. It wasn't for you so you went back. That is great. I hope you learnt some valuable things in your learning. At least you gave it a go.

    ""For the first time in history...""

    I must disagree with you there. Let me further explain my position here. It IS the first time that martial arts have gone up against each other on a scale never seen before.

    For one, simple reason. Today, millions of people from around the world fly to all areas of the world by aircraft. This is very new. Media presents information about martial arts from all corners of the globe for all to see. And then there is the internet and PPV TV...

    This is very much new territory in the spreading and comparing of information regarding the martial arts and self defence.

    In the past, did Brasil go to war against Japan? No. Did Indonesia go to war against England? No. But now, we see bjj (yes, I know its from Japan, kinda ironic...) against various Japanese martial arts and boxing against Silat. This IS new. Not only are they competing and being compared but someone from the US can go to Thailand and learn Thai boxing no problem. All of this is very new. There is a very raised awareness of what is out there these days. I really think this point is indisputable...

    "Adam Dean, this blog post sucks..."

    What can I say. Try not to let it get to you. Its not worth getting wound up for. There are more important things going on in the world. Instead of hating this blog post, maybe you should just forget it? That is much healthier. Do not resist it. Be like water, go around it, forget it and move on.

  11. "...fundamentally, the practise of martial arts aims to teach skills which give one the ability to successfully defend and counter any physical attack that may come their way."
    I couldn't agree more. Everyone has the right (and I think even the resposibility) to defend themselves.

    "The threat we face on the streets today are very different than the threat faced in south east Asia hundreds or thousands of years ago which is what TMA were developed for and is still today, essentially, the focus of these systems."
    I do not neccesarily agree. I think violence is violence and the same basic techniques of number superiority and and armed thugs is still the same as ever. Guns add a new dimension to it, but that is about the only practical difference. And, many of the modern asian arts (Karate for example) were developed for exactly the individual man defending himself.

    "Its my belief that the study of the classics, some of these listed above, combined with hard, effective training is actually a pinacle in the history of hand to hand or low tech combat..."
    I agree as well. There is something of value in many of the martial arts. And they all have their strengths and shortcomins. There is nothing wrong with absorbing what is useful from many...as long as you are actually training and learning reliably, not just to pad a martial resume youmight say. It is the intent and intesity of the training that make a superior martial artist...not a "superior art".



    And, to those "Anonymous" commenters out there...if you are going to bother to make negative comments...that's fine, but at least don't hide while you do it. Identify yourself somehow (nickname, first name, number, something...)

  12. Thanks for your feedback Marc G. Some interesting comments. Although I do still believe we face different threats than days gone by. If everyone had the same opinion, how boring a world we would live in! Happy training.

  13. Adam,
    First, thank you for opening what seems to be an infected wound in the MA community. By all means, lets lance it, let it drain and hopefully it will heal with minimal scarring.

    I come from a military/law enforcement background and have twenty years or so in the arts. Funny thing tho, I started in a more "Immediately Practical" training system in the 80s. I don't know if they invented the term MMA yet. I discovered I was searching for something and found it in Aikido. In addition to my Dan ranking, I also am a Law Enforcement Firearms, Defensive Tactics Instructor, and Impact Weapons Instructor.

    15 years later (with dozens of real applications with people who really wanted to really wanted to hurt or kill me) I have learned that Aikido and similar arts can be very effective in the real modern world. That being said...

    We are not talking about "TMAs v. MMAs" here. What we are talking about is separating the "Sports" or "Hobbies" from the path of warriorship. A warrior wears no label. He honestly inventories his surroundings and threats and compares them to the tools he already possesses. If his arsenal contains an effective response, great, he works to perfect the employment of that tool. If it does not, he MUST (becuase he is a warrior, not a student of a specific style) seek out an answer to the problem. If that search crosses the TMA/MMA border in either direction, so be it.

    For keeping that dialog open, thank you.


  14. Ed, thanks for stopping by and commenting. You highlight an interesting point.

    There is a definite distinction that needs to be drawn. That distinction between those who are engaged in a hobby (and all the best for them, it is a rewarding hobby no doubt), and those who walk the path. Those who walk the path may train in a TMA or a more modern system which utilises the concept of aliveness.

    It is however, my firm belief that those walking the warriors path are wasting valuable time by NOT engaging in a large percentage of their training time in today's more modern systems. They have been proven again and again to be functional against a resisting opponent. From that base, more lethal techniques can be added that cant be used in training due to safety limitations.

    But that 'Aliveness' base is vital.

    Again, thanks for contributing Ed.

    If you have anything else, please don't hesitate to continue the conversation. I love the conversation especially when it is conducted in a mature way. It is very beneficial and promotes learning, for me and I am sure all the readers.

  15. I don't feel at all qualified to talk about MMA, but one aside I would add is that there's plenty of good and bad in TMA, and thus, one assumes, by extension in 'new' arts. For example, I've experienced dan-grade Aikido that is pathetically unconvincing and some which was scarily effective.

  16. martial sports have rules. judo, bjj, muay thai, mma, boxing all have rules. it might make you feel good to grunt and sweat and feel like you can go toe-to-toe with an assailant. but i think instead, all you're going to develop are bad habits.

    better to train in aikido and really walk the warrior's path.

  17. An excellent post. Training for realistic threats is of utmost importance for anyone truly interested in the protection of one's self.

    With this in mind, I am still shocked at how many self defense schools STILL don't teach situational awareness as a trainable skill. Nothing keeps you out of trouble like NOT BEING NEAR TROUBLE in the first place.

  18. @ Ape, True, there is god and bad everywhere. It is all largely down to the instructors. I know of Karate instructors who also teach very good reality based self defence courses as well.

    @ Anon, You just don't get it. The rules are there so people don't get broken necks, arms and legs. Are there not rules in Aikido? Try fighting back next time you are the Uke and see what happens...

    @ Kyokushinblog, Definitely. Situational awareness is VITAL.

  19. Hi Adam,

    Thanks for this post. I have read all comments and can emotionally relate to most points of view at some stage in my life so far.

    I enjoy your academic approach to this broad subject. And to summarise it in a short post has provoked many people but I'm sure it will inspire some.

    I am happy to see you have patience with guys that post negatively about your lifetime of studies. It shows characteristics of a evolved TMA practitioner.

    I hope that people who read this post are open minded, but not so open that their brains fall out. I have been around the block in martial arts a few times and I'm still young. And no it's not a problem with patience, I just like to understand new and old martial arts. Especially their history and cultural attachments.

    Also, I only train systems for modern applications. Not surprising I could only really find them in modern systems. I found that a lot of TMA had too many assumptions about modern day conflicts but supplied weak or no evidence. The good TMA guys would pretty much use/steal information from another system but would tell you it is a part of their ancient roots, I guess they are just protecting their regular income supply. Nothing wrong with this if you like learning your lessons from a liar.

    A friend and a great MA teacher of mine told me something a while back which put a nice atheist smile on my face. He said, "all systems, including aspects of what we do, is based on belief..." I then thought immediately that belief about faith. Faith meaning "trust or belief without proof, and "faith" is often used as a substitute for "hope", "trust" or "belief"(Wikipedia). So you see there is a dilemma here because many systems practice safe passive drills which challenge fitness but offers minimal for raw emotional instinct or reality and "belief" in violent situations is just plain stupid. You may as well pray the rapists, muggers and terrorists away or hope that karma will get hem once they have ruined some lives. Anyway he then explained to me what he actually meant :) basically the mind is the driver of the vehicle. The more skilled the driver, the better the outcome. Just think what happens when you place that driver in a good vehicle! Sorry if this patronizes or confuses some folks out there.

    An before then this same coach asked me, "what do you want to learn? I don't care if it's for sports or pure street focus, just say and I will teach you what you want. Otherwise you're wasting your money."

    Sorry about the long drawn out essay before adding what I wanted to your post for those who are interested... If you want to learn something, approach it academically and question the information, research and supply evidence, present the work and prepared to defend or change (there is no shame in this) it and keep working hard. NEVER assume! Even if what you learn seems like common sense; I assure you, sense is not very common these days.

  20. Hi Wai, thanks for your thoughts and comments. Much appreciated.

    What you say I agree with. Always approach something with a critical mind. Especially in the martial arts. There are too many instructors out there who should not be allowed to instruct others. But of course, there are also excellent instructors that everyone should spend some time with.

    The main point with any form of martial arts training, is to know exactly what it is you want to get out of it. Like you say, is it for sports, a cultural study or fighting skills? Then go out and seek the best training for what it is you want. And be honest with yourself about what it is you are really interested in.

    Life is too short to be putting in a lot of hours for something you are not exactly after. Seek out the solution to what you want to learn.

    It's been interesting reading your comments. Thanks for popping by Wai.

  21. I'm sorry Adam but one more dissenting voice here. You offer your rebuttles and they sound convincing but... how many life or death situations have you been in? I twice have been attacked with weapons, knives in both cases, and both times my TMA training has saved me. I regularly train in an MMA gym, practice Aikido, and teach Hapkido and kick boxing.
    I can say without a doubt no "modern" system such as bjj or boxing would of saved me.
    The TMA's have their history seeped in combat, from the kung-fu that protected buddist monasteries for centuries, to the ju-juitsu that devoloped from the combat techniques of the samuri.

    Bjj is a sport, boxing a sport, wrestling a sport, all of these are great if you play by rules, in a ring, with one opponent, with no weapons, so yeah under these conditions MMA is great. But i teach my students how to eye gouge and choke with an open hand, to use small joint manupulation, and many other things that aren't allowed in the ring.
    I love MMA, I love full contact, I love the chess game that is BJJ but i know from both years of history and years of experience that TMA (at least the ones i have practiced, not sport arts like TKD or judo) prepared me for both the ring and the street.
    I realize some of these people are posting as anon but i most cases you totaly ignore the points they make or misconstrue what they are trying to say, that is unfortunate but not unexpected.
    Nice article but if you ever want to be introduced to some serious TMA's I know a Si-Fu that was raised as a Shaolin Monk for 25 years.....If you are up to a real awakening let me know.

  22. Hi ernest j, you begin by saying my rebuttals sound convincing but... how many life or death situations have you I been in? What??? What relevance does that have to my convincing rebuttals? And then later you go on to say my responses ignored their points or misconstrue them. What is it? Your argument is all over the place.

    Just going by your first question, do you also want to know if ive killed anybody? A bit of a silly and personal question and random point all round.

    ernest j, I appreciate your feedback, I really do, but to say no 'modern' system would have saved you is a bit, silly as well. There is more to modern systems than bjj and boxing. Of course they do not teach knife defence. Some bjj instructors do, mostly the Gracies. So the likelihood of them helping you in a knife attack is slim. Obviously. Its like saying your sword school training hasn't been helping my bo work.

    No 'modern' training would have helped? Try this video which covers a very modern approach to knife defence,


    This sort of training wouldn't have helped you? No doubt? I find that hard to believe.

    I have heard the comment about rules many many many times. It shows a lack of knowledge as to why the rules are there. It is so people can train hard against each other in an Alive manner. Think scenario training, think realistic drilling, think sparring, think randori, think wrestling. Your opponent can fight back. They can counter. They can set you up. They can use your quickness and strength against you, you can use theirs against them. They can go light, medium or full-on against each other.

    The rules are there because they allow for a training method which far surpasses static training methods. Static training needs to come first to develop and consolidate skills. But as soon as competency is gained, more and more pressure needs to be built up. Aliveness is introduced. Real combat is alive. It is dynamic. The rules based training allows drills to be used which closely simulate the real thing.

    Do you really think a bjj student would stick to bjj rules on the street? Madness. The rules are for safe realistic training. The bjj practitioner in a real encounter (and I am only using bjj as an example because you mentioned it, yes multiple attacker etc etc), will get to a dominant position. From there they can do whatever they want. They can strike, choke, lock, hold, whatever. This allows for the legal use of force to be considered as well. From that dominent position they can choose what technique to use.

    I didnt write this post to be about which system is better than the other. I wanted to highlight that the best practise would be some type of combination of the two. That there is good and bad areas of both. But all of the traditional martial artists who have commented have made it that way but showing their egos. They cannot admit any shortfalls in their own styles. They have written very defensively and their arguments have been largely flawed. Most of their responses have just confirmed things in my own mind. Sadly, these defensive comments from traditional martial artists just highlights that the benefits of TMA do not always get absorbed by the students. It is shameful on them as it reflects poorly on the many good and open minded TMA practitioners and instructors out there. Poor attitudes by TMA is like poor fighting skills to an MMA fighter.

    Thank you for your offer re the real awakening. I will pass. Ive long since been exposed to the best TMA has to offer. I will never forget it. I was lucky to meet and train with him for five 8 hour days. He had over 50 yrs experience and had long ago founded his own style. You actually say you teach it.

  23. "In the end it does not matter what you have trained, what matters is how you have trained. Incorporating realism and stress to exercises brings everybody to the same conclusion; there is no absolute truth in what you do, there is only a partial glimpse of reality through realistic training" -Jari Peuhkurinen

    With this I just want to say to the physical part of the self-defense training is that, it really does not matter what you train. You need to think HOW you train! Does it reflect reality? What is your understanding of reality?

    Realistic training exercises will bring you closer to reality. Problem is that people tend to modify the training according to the technique they are training. Attacks are designed to suite the defenses, so people will experience success. This is often done without conscious thinking. This leads to false sense of security. The training flaws are not researched. Think about this.

    Design drills and exercises that are testing your ability to improvise your techniques and tactics...this is the only way to train. Constantly question the things you are training.

    Another thing is that people rarely realize that the physical fight situation can be divided to two parts:

    1.The event where you are surprised and attacked powerfully, which makes you experience the natural reactions and you are just trying to survive. --> the attacker is mentally and physically overpowering you. In here it is not about the techniques if you can overcome the attacker; it is about your attitude, your mental toughness, and the ability to come back to the fight.

    2.The event that you can see the attack coming and are prepared (the most commonly practiced situation). After the first shot you are mentally and physically in winning position. In here you can apply the more complicated techniques and things you have practiced in the gym.

    How to get to the situation number 2. is the most important thing to practice. Or should I say, how even avoid getting to the situations at all :)

    So you see... the debate of TMA versus modern system is in vain. You should be researching and discussing the methods of training and instructing.


  24. Hey Jari thanks for your comments. I agree with much of what you say. Not entirely but then how boring would the world be if we all agreed hey? hehe.

    I believe 'what you train' is just as important as 'how you train'. For the 'what', all techniques need to be gross motor skills otherwise they will probably not work under pressure. And I know you too Jari follow this idea as I have read your writings on your site (which is good stuff by the way).

    The 'what' is the foundation. If the 'what' is done poorly the 'how' will just build on a foundation of straw. Under pressure, the whole thing will come tumbling down.

    You raise some good points about attacks suiting defences. Well brought up. Attacks need to simulate what happens in the real world. As long as defences can be applied against a resisting opponent (which began with skills training and then gradually became more and more alive) in training who is attacking like a real attacker would, then you're on the right path.

    I do agree that those two extremes happen. But there is also everything in between. A person may see what is unfolding in front of them but it escalates real quick and they are not prepared, they are still overwhelmed emotionally and mentally and physically. A person might get into a heated discussion with someone. Then it gradually turns into an argument. Next thing, the other person throws a big punch. It wasn't an all out assault but the defender couldn't see it coming either because they were emotionally invested and involved.

    It's a good point you raise when you say getting to your number 2 is what it is all about. This involves not being caught by surprise. This involves knowing the high risk times and places where Alpha male and Predatory attacks occur. This involves knowing the signs and indicators of attacks. But if all of that is done well, you should be able to avoid attacks altogether. Very true Jari.

    Thanks for popping by. Always interesting reading your comments.


  25. Hi Adam! You are truly right, if everybody would agree there would be no discussion and development :) Thank you for visiting by pages and I am glad you liked what you read there.

    I think you did not completely understand my philosophy under my statement "how you train versus what you train".

    My thinking is that it if you know you know what reality is and how to train realistically, then the what you are training part will be moulded by the training to meet the needs of the defense. So it all comes down to how the training is conducted and more specifically to how the attacker is playing his role and attacking you.

    By developing the exercises and attacks to reflect reality, the training will show the flaws in your techniques (the what part) and you need to be able to adapt. This is development. It is not about the technical development (the what part) what guides your training it is the (how part) what does it. It can take you either direction, depending how it is done.

    So of course the what part is important, but it is a complete waste of time to argue about it, because how the training is done is the key factor. One should not be asking what you train, one should be asking how you train.

    I think my overall point in here is that people devote too much time on discussing what TMA or modern system you are training, what technique you are doing against this or that attack, what would you do if somebody...
    The time should be devoted to developing how to train and the test your stuff under that realistic exercise. That is your best guide and teacher.

    Keep in mind that one needs to understand that all the training is flawed somehow. That is a good place to start the development :)

    The two scenarios part I mentioned was meant to describe the moment where the first attack is launched (no matter what has happened before). Depending on your preparedness and reaction you will end up in a "upper-hand" position or you will end up in "worst-hand" position. The degrees vary. There are no absolutes or black and white in self-defense, everything depends on something, I think R.Dimitri has said something like this and I totally agree. If you train for the worst case scenario, then all the other scenarios will be more "easy" to handle mentally and physically.


  26. Ahh I see. You are talking what system etc. I can see where you are coming from. How you train is more important.

    The 'how' is why I am such a big supporter of modern systems. Most good modern systems use the very best, latest 'modern' training methods, the HOW.

    Techniques are taught, skills developed, some minor drilling is introduced, resisting is introduced, that resistance then enables further counters etc, then more and more alive drills are used with more and more resistance, very free drilling can then be done, once those techniques can be applied under pressure, the drills can begin as realistic scenarios, the scenarios start simple, then progress to more and more complex with props, stimulating the adrenal responses in the body which can closely simulate real encounters. Like Dave Grossman espouses, we are trying to 'inoculate' ourselves of the responses of being under pressure. As pressure is gradually built in training, we can inoculate ourselves against it. We will be almost immune to tunnel vision, slow motion time, inability to think logically etc. Almost.

    It is a much better position to be in than experience those physiological responses for the first time in a real violent encounter. That is where too much force is used because you could not think clearly about the situation, you miss that second or third attacker to your side because you had tunnel vision, you fail to see escape options because you were fixated on the guy at your front coming at you, your techniques fail or perform miserably because you have never used them when adrenalised etc.

    So yes, I agree Jari, the how is more important than the what. But largely the 'what' can provide indicators of the 'how' that is practised. But not always. Many traditional schools run very effective training sessions and scenario based training as well. And Rich seems to know his stuff as well. I have heard many good things about him and Senshido. I agree totally, there is no black and white.

    Always good chatting Jari.



  27. Hey Adam, I came across your blog at Davesbjj, saw you did a seminar in Malaga. There are some real scam artists from Australia running defence classes at the moment, so I thought i would see what you had to say. It was really refreshing to hear what you had to say regarding modern training techniques and 'aliveness'

    If I am being honest I don't think your going to convince any of the TMA'ers with good arguments, 'You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink' Until these guys get punched in the head just once in a 'friendly' spar, maybe more than once:), double leg take down or back control and then try to apply their magic techniques they won't understand.

    And I agree, What you train, makes just as much difference as how train. I could train 20 years at pillow fighting and become quite deadly or I could do a year of Muay Thai. This 'its the fighter not the style' is diplomatic bs.


    Fight the good fight mate, and don't expend too much energy on arguing with people with their head in the sand, they are only looking for people that confirm their own delusions. I might be worth coming up with some canned responses that give them a path to do their own research. Just a suggestion.

    1. Hi Anon. Thanks for popping by. I am not sure where on Davesbjj you saw it, but I have not done any seminars in Malaga. Perhaps it is a misunderstanding? Regardless, glad you found this article of interest.

      Thanks for your words of encouragement too hehe. Not everyone wants to hear that the last few years (or 10 or 15 or whatever) have largely been a waste of time in relation to be able to apply technique against a resisting attacker. It is tough for them. It was tough for me when I first changed from traditional to modern. Felt like I was starting over again. But it has been well worth it.




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