T Nation

Martial Art Purely for Defense

I would like to learn how to defend myself properly (after I recently got my ass kicked by some random person who I think was high on meth or something).

On the plus side, I have pretty good absolute strength from powerlifting, and even though my technique is poor, I can still punch pretty hard.

The negatives are many:

  1. My reflexes are a bit slow. I am willing to practice blocks a lot, but movement economy would be very important for me, as I am simply not fast enough to do any advanced blocking technique. Same thing goes for dodging.

  2. I have poor balance and footwork. Any training techniques that teaches this?

  3. I’m not flexible enough for some types of kicks, but I do have strong legs, which makes me think I have potential to learn howw to kick quite hard, as long as I don’t have to kick high.

In short, I am willing to practice a shitload. I have never done any martial arts before. I think movement economy is very important to me. I’m a kind of stocky and big person with good strength. I can also take a puch quite well (used to get beat up a lot, just never learned how to fight back. Kind of built up some resistance. Of course, this wouldn’t work against an MMA fighter, but I just need something for basic defense out in public).

The two types of martial arts I had in mind were Krav Maga and Karate. Possibly boxing. I heard Karate is supposed to be really good at using short movements and simple blocks. Any advice on this?

If you’re looking for self-defense… well, you’re going to get a lot of varying answers, and every guy has their preference.

Couple things here:

Krav Maga isn’t a terrible system but like all martial arts it depends on who your teacher is. I see a few problems with it nowadays, but basically it comes down to the idea that organizations tell you they’re teaching you one thing when they’re really teaching you quite another. So get the idea out of your head that you’re going to learn super-secret commando stuff - you’re not learning what the Israeli special forces use. You’re going to learn a watered-down, highly marketed version that’s suitable for the American public.

Again, not saying it’s a bad system - it isn’t. But the techniques are going to be fairly close to MMA (except when you get to weapons training) but they’ll be taught to you by guys who aren’t fighters. As such, you’ll be a sort of jack-of-trades but a master of none. I’ve seen Krav guys punch. It’s better than someone with no training but it’s still shitty. I’ve seen Krav guys grapple. It’s better than someone with no training, but you’ll get killed if you role with a BJJ blue belt.

The third thing I don’t really like is it’s a lot of guys who have never been in a fight telling you EXACTLY what you YOU should do if you ever get into a fight, even though THEY have never been in a fight. This is pretty par for the course in all martial arts in America nowadays, but still, it worries me. The one Krav course I observed a few years ago outlined the changes they were making to how to apply a wrist hold, and noted that they were doing it differently “Because New York said so.” I assume that means the NY branch of their “leadership.” But the instructor pretty much said, “Yea, I don’t really get the change, but New York said so, so this is the new way to do it.” That sort of shit worries me.

Karate… eh. I spent a lot of years in karate as a kid, and took it back up as an adult for a brief time before I changed to boxing. As far as I can tell - and I can only speak for my own experience - the principles are sound, but they teach a lot of extraneous bullshit (middle blocks? knife hands? Low ARM blocks against a kick??) that will never work in real life. Also, many of the teachers don’t understand the movements themselves, and rare is the man who can break down a technique and really show you why its supposed to work, what it works against, and if it makes sense. I’ve seen them, but they’re rare. A lot of them are teaching things meant to be used with swords as hand-to-hand techniques completely unwittingly.

Also, I was never much for the bullshit top-down experience that most dojos give. So you have a black belt. Great. So I can’t call you by your first name? I can’t question if this is going to work, and ask what to do if it doesn’t? I have to bow to some fucking foreign flag at the beginning of class?

Eh. I could take it or leave it. But I ended up leaving.

Now, make no bones about it: I’m a boxing guy. I box. I teach others to box. I write about boxing. I live that fucking sport. So I’m biased as shit when I tell you that I think boxing is the best, especially for a guy with your particular set of attributes.

The benefits are as follows:

  1. It will teach you stance, footwork, movement, and balance. It’s inherent to the sport.
  2. It will sharpen your reflexes.
  3. It will teach you how to punch effectively in bunches and with power.
  4. It will teach you how to take a punch and not lose your fucking mind over it (see the karate guys when they get hit.)
  5. In a street encounter, it will keep you on your feet (critically important), able to slip, weave, counter, and run away.
  6. There’s no question that it works. There’s no wondering if a given technique will work “In a real fight.” They all work, because they’re meant for a real fight against another guy who knows how to fight. You need only search Youtube for “Boxer knocks out…” and you’ll find a million instances of where a fighter KO’d a guy easily in “the streetZ!”

The negatives are as follows:

  1. We don’t kick. Ever. This is a positive or a negative depending on your background and your inclinations.
  2. We don’t really grapple. We do some shit in the clinch that could tranlate to the street, but it’s not really intended for that. And if we go to the ground, well, you’ve cut off Sampson’s hair.
  3. Nobody teaches you about use of force continuum, how street violence works, how to avoid and defuse bad situations, how to spot crime, etc. etc. We give you the M-1. We don’t give you the manual.

But still, the positives outweigh the negatives in my opinion, and the rest of that shit you can learn here and there from books and cops and other things. It’s the most effective martial art for real life in my opinion, outside of Muay Thai or MMA (which nearly every point mentioned here also applies to.)

My 2 cents

Damn, that was a good post by Irish. I agree with each and every point he made. I would echo one point specifically, which is, to learn to be effective in a fight, you have to…wait for it…FIGHT! This is where I think boxing has a huge advantage over many other combat sports / martial arts. There is an extreme emphasis put on actual sparring. It is amazing how different things are in the ring as opposed to in other types of training whether it be on the bags, mitts or anything else.

Boxing and some sort of grappling art where you are allowed to spar with full intensity.

Good post by Irish.

As someone who trains primarily for Real World self defense with some of the best RMA and sport fighters/coaches in the world (some of whom have been in hundreds of real life fights involving multiples, weapons, ambushes, etc… and train people for actual life and death combat) what I will tell you is that if you are serious about learning to defend yourself in the real world your best bet would be to try to find a Martial Art/instructor that teaches as many of the following topics well:

-Legal and Moral realities and considerations
-Verbal and postural self defense/confrontation management skills
-Cerebral self defense
-Fear management/stress inoculation training
-Effective total body striking skills (hands, elbows, knees, feet, head, etc…)
-Effective multiple scenario grappling skills (standing, on your back, smashed up against a wall, grabbed from behind, etc…)
-Effective “dirty/street effective” skills; both defense and deployment (biting, eye attacks, etc…)
-Effective modern weaponry (both conventional and unconventional types of weapons) defense and deployment
-Effective multiple attacker strategies
-Realistic terrain/environmental training
-Physical conditioning

If you can also find one that addresses survival skills (emergency first aid, building or finding effective shelter, gathering food and water, fire craft, etc…) that is also a great skill to learn in terms of defending your life or the life of a loved one in the real world.

Krav is ok in that it will address a fair bit of the above topics, but like Irish said, it has become somewhat watered down in many cases and as a result the instructors may or may not truly be proficient strikers, grapplers, weapons instructors, and from my understanding they don’t actually practice any full resistance sparring/active combat until you are fairly advanced. Maybe good for getting lots of students, but IMO you are just giving them a false sense of proficiency.

Karate really, really depends of the style and instructor. It is actually such a large range that it’s almost a useless description of a MA. Old school hardcore Karate schools/teachers can be brutally rough and can produce some seriously tough fighters. But, most Karate schools in the US do not fall into this category and can run the gamut from totally useless to about as useful as playing a non combative contact sport (like football).

There are also a lot of training methods (like body hardening) and techniques which require decades to really be used effectively and can take their toll later down the road. This wasn’t really an issue when they were being taught to soldiers who probably were not going to live past 40 anyhow, but for someone who plans on continuing to practice MA without becoming crippled and living into old age they aren’t necessarily the wisest practices.

Boxing is very good for teaching effective punching mechanics (though, you do need to be careful to not become overly dependent on the gloves and hand wraps and fail to learn how to make a proper “brawling” fist). It also teaches effective footwork skills, how to control distance effectively (in an open space), and how to use evasive head and body maneuvers to avoid incoming punches.

There are a lot of things relevant to real world self defense that boxing does not cover, but what it does teach it teaches extremely well and it is one of the most practical combat sports in regards to real world application. It is also widely available and due to the emphasis on sparring/fighting the skills taught are usually effective/battle tested (at least in the ring).

Thanks for your opinions. Irish, you convinced me to learn some basic boxing, and you confirmed some of my own thoughts about it. Boxers certainly have some really great footwork. I think my reflexes will improve in time as I practice. I looked up a place to learn some of the skills, and I found a place that teaches boxing. The guy who runs it seems legit, and he competes at a national level here in sweden. He also told me that boxing would suit me, because the moves themselves are quite simple (of course, mastering them is another story). And he promised to give me a free lesson next week :smiley:

OP,
Irish and Sento’s posts are excellent and should be read twice. You cannot receive better advise.

Brilliant posts above! I just want to reiterate the value of a good teacher, and I believe thats more important than the art. I am also interested in self defense and I take Taekwondo. Not most peoples first (or second, or third?) choice and it wasn’t mine either. But my instructor is amazing and it’s him thats caused me to stay and train hard in that art.
If it comes down to which art, then I second what magic said.

[quote]InflamedJoints wrote:
I would like to learn how to defend myself properly (after I recently got my ass kicked by some random person who I think was high on meth or something).

On the plus side, I have pretty good absolute strength from powerlifting, and even though my technique is poor, I can still punch pretty hard.

The negatives are many:

  1. My reflexes are a bit slow. I am willing to practice blocks a lot, but movement economy would be very important for me, as I am simply not fast enough to do any advanced blocking technique. Same thing goes for dodging.

  2. I have poor balance and footwork. Any training techniques that teaches this?

  3. I’m not flexible enough for some types of kicks, but I do have strong legs, which makes me think I have potential to learn howw to kick quite hard, as long as I don’t have to kick high.

In short, I am willing to practice a shitload. I have never done any martial arts before. I think movement economy is very important to me. I’m a kind of stocky and big person with good strength. I can also take a puch quite well (used to get beat up a lot, just never learned how to fight back. Kind of built up some resistance. Of course, this wouldn’t work against an MMA fighter, but I just need something for basic defense out in public).

The two types of martial arts I had in mind were Krav Maga and Karate. Possibly boxing. I heard Karate is supposed to be really good at using short movements and simple blocks. Any advice on this?[/quote]

If you go the Karate route the best one is Isshinryu. The reason why is because it’s the most evolved of all the karate systems. It originated in the 1950’s and was intended to be a system for masters to learn. It does away with a lot of the awkward movements of classical karate that may have been effective against armor clad 17th century Satsuma Klan samurai but are liability against modern opponents.

There is however one important caveat, not all teachers are equal. Some teachers came in from other systems and brought a lot of classical bullshit with them.

It sounds like you are big, brawny and can take a hit. With that going for you, your lack of balance could be quite a weapon. Possibly all you need to do is close, latch onto someone and they are going down. So BJJ might work well for you.

Good to see you back sifu.

No. Stay the fuck away from BJJ.

You should do one striking art, and one grappling art.
Pick one for each category:

Striking:
Boxing or Muay Thai.

Grappling:
Judo or Wrestling or Sambo.

[quote]legendaryblaze wrote:

No. Stay the fuck away from BJJ.

You should do one striking art, and one grappling art.
Pick one for each category:

Striking:
Boxing or Muay Thai.

Grappling:
Judo or Wrestling or Sambo.[/quote]

I understand where you are coming from, but to be fair to BJJ, depending on the teacher and context it can be a very effective skill set to have and does contain the stand up techniques of Judo/wrestling though admittedly doesn’t generally put as much time into them. Many purely competition based schools/teachers do only teach the sport side though and so focus too heavily on fancy stuff and being on the ground (or purposely going to your back), which is not the same as the original self defense side of BJJ, so it is important to find a school that teaches the more Reality Based stuff if that is your purpose for training.

[quote]Sifu wrote:

[quote]InflamedJoints wrote:
I would like to learn how to defend myself properly (after I recently got my ass kicked by some random person who I think was high on meth or something).

On the plus side, I have pretty good absolute strength from powerlifting, and even though my technique is poor, I can still punch pretty hard.

The negatives are many:

  1. My reflexes are a bit slow. I am willing to practice blocks a lot, but movement economy would be very important for me, as I am simply not fast enough to do any advanced blocking technique. Same thing goes for dodging.

  2. I have poor balance and footwork. Any training techniques that teaches this?

  3. I’m not flexible enough for some types of kicks, but I do have strong legs, which makes me think I have potential to learn howw to kick quite hard, as long as I don’t have to kick high.

In short, I am willing to practice a shitload. I have never done any martial arts before. I think movement economy is very important to me. I’m a kind of stocky and big person with good strength. I can also take a puch quite well (used to get beat up a lot, just never learned how to fight back. Kind of built up some resistance. Of course, this wouldn’t work against an MMA fighter, but I just need something for basic defense out in public).

The two types of martial arts I had in mind were Krav Maga and Karate. Possibly boxing. I heard Karate is supposed to be really good at using short movements and simple blocks. Any advice on this?[/quote]

If you go the Karate route the best one is Isshinryu. The reason why is because it’s the most evolved of all the karate systems. It originated in the 1950’s and was intended to be a system for masters to learn. It does away with a lot of the awkward movements of classical karate that may have been effective against armor clad 17th century Satsuma Klan samurai but are liability against modern opponents.

There is however one important caveat, not all teachers are equal. Some teachers came in from other systems and brought a lot of classical bullshit with them.

It sounds like you are big, brawny and can take a hit. With that going for you, your lack of balance could be quite a weapon. Possibly all you need to do is close, latch onto someone and they are going down. So BJJ might work well for you. [/quote]

I’m not knocking Isshinryu or disagreeing with it’s history, but I don’t really think it’s fair to say that it is more involved than say Kyokushin as, just like boxing or Muay Thai, Kyokushin practitioners regularly spar full contact (yes I know they have that weird thing about not being able to punch to the head) and thus the art is continually evolving. I realize that the ring is different from real life and perhaps Isshinryu’s skill set is better in that context (don’t have extensive experience with the system), but I still think that statement is a bit too biased.

Also, don’t know if people are aware or not but back in 1963 Mas Oyama (founder of Kyokushin) sent three of his fighters to Thailand to answer a challenge from Thailand’s best Muay Thai fighters. Oyama’s fighters won 2 out of the 3 fights (both by KO; the loss was also due to a KO). So, I think it’s fair to say that if we are going to consider Muay Thai a legitimate striking art, that of the Karate systems you would have to also consider Kyokushin legit.

Of course, you also have examples of Karate fighters being successful in other full contact arenas (GSP, Andy Hug, Bas Rutten, and Semmy Schilt were all Kyokushin practitioners, Machida is a Shotokan practitioner, Joe Lewis and Bill Wallace were both Shorin Ryu practitioners, etc…), but in many cases those fighters adapted the arts and eventually went beyond them.

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
I understand where you are coming from, but to be fair to BJJ, depending on the teacher and context it can be a very effective skill set to have and does contain the stand up techniques of Judo/wrestling though admittedly doesn’t generally put as much time into them. Many purely competition based schools/teachers do only teach the sport side though and so focus too heavily on fancy stuff and being on the ground (or purposely going to your back), which is not the same as the original self defense side of BJJ, so it is important to find a school that teaches the more Reality Based stuff if that is your purpose for training.
[/quote]

Any suggestions on BJJ schools that emphasize such things in the bay area, CA by any chance?

Or any good combat/grappling school in the bay area, CA for that matter. I would like to do judo, but current schedule and judo schools’ schedules clash rather badly.

I honestly am not that familiar with the CA Martial Arts scene as I’m out on the East coast.

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
I honestly am not that familiar with the CA Martial Arts scene as I’m out on the East coast. [/quote]

That’s unfortunate =(

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:

[quote]legendaryblaze wrote:

No. Stay the fuck away from BJJ.

You should do one striking art, and one grappling art.
Pick one for each category:

Striking:
Boxing or Muay Thai.

Grappling:
Judo or Wrestling or Sambo.[/quote]

I understand where you are coming from, but to be fair to BJJ, depending on the teacher and context it can be a very effective skill set to have and does contain the stand up techniques of Judo/wrestling though admittedly doesn’t generally put as much time into them. Many purely competition based schools/teachers do only teach the sport side though and so focus too heavily on fancy stuff and being on the ground (or purposely going to your back), which is not the same as the original self defense side of BJJ, so it is important to find a school that teaches the more Reality Based stuff if that is your purpose for training.
[/quote]

I understand that, but really the focus of most BJJ schools is ground work. When I was in the military there was this BJJ guy who wanted to play fight or some male bravado shit. I told him sure. He got on his knees (no homo??) and took a grappling “stance”, and I was like w0t.
I think you should focus on staying away from the floor and learning how to put people on their ass. Learning an art where your strength is being on the floor, tangled with an individual (who will probably not be alone) is not the best way to go about this.

Boxing or Muay Thai and Wrestling or Judo or Sambo.

Wrestling, Judo and Sambo have enough ground work that I feel unless you want an absolute mastery of ground grappling, negates the need for BJJ.

[quote]legendaryblaze wrote:
I understand that, but really the focus of most BJJ schools is ground work. When I was in the military there was this BJJ guy who wanted to play fight or some male bravado shit. I told him sure. He got on his knees (no homo??) and took a grappling “stance”, and I was like w0t.[/quote]

Rofl. That’s hilarious. At least all the BJJ folks I’ve met had the sense to recognize that they’re learning a sport.

[quote]legendaryblaze wrote:

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:

[quote]legendaryblaze wrote:

No. Stay the fuck away from BJJ.

You should do one striking art, and one grappling art.
Pick one for each category:

Striking:
Boxing or Muay Thai.

Grappling:
Judo or Wrestling or Sambo.[/quote]

I understand where you are coming from, but to be fair to BJJ, depending on the teacher and context it can be a very effective skill set to have and does contain the stand up techniques of Judo/wrestling though admittedly doesn’t generally put as much time into them. Many purely competition based schools/teachers do only teach the sport side though and so focus too heavily on fancy stuff and being on the ground (or purposely going to your back), which is not the same as the original self defense side of BJJ, so it is important to find a school that teaches the more Reality Based stuff if that is your purpose for training.
[/quote]

I understand that, but really the focus of most BJJ schools is ground work. When I was in the military there was this BJJ guy who wanted to play fight or some male bravado shit. I told him sure. He got on his knees (no homo??) and took a grappling “stance”, and I was like w0t.
I think you should focus on staying away from the floor and learning how to put people on their ass. Learning an art where your strength is being on the floor, tangled with an individual (who will probably not be alone) is not the best way to go about this.

Boxing or Muay Thai and Wrestling or Judo or Sambo.

Wrestling, Judo and Sambo have enough ground work that I feel unless you want an absolute mastery of ground grappling, negates the need for BJJ.[/quote]

You really, really shouldn’t judge the entire sport of BJJ from your impression of just ONE guy. There are plenty of world class BJJ fighters, like Rodolfo Viera and Travis Stevens, that would change your mind about the stand up game of BJJ. Granted they have a Judo background, takedowns are still an integral part of jitz, even if it isn’t the focus… Much like a judoka ripping your arm off after he rag dolls you.

With that said, Gracie jiu jitsu has a certain criteria for it to be considered Gracie jiu jitsu… And one of them is ‘Is It Applicable In The Street’. If it isn’t, it is used to train for BJJ competitions, but isn’t considered to be Gracie style.

I guess it’s my turn to say this again. Judo was derived from jyujitsu. Admittedly nowadays most schools focus on the ground/sport side of it and that is why most people think that Jyujitsu is rolling on the ground. Even if you go to NAGA or whatever you start standing up and the better your standup/clinch takedown game is the more times you will win.

Also if you go to a Gracie school, you will learn Gracie self defense as they call it. It is straight up old school Japanese judo moves. you learn choke defenses, bear hug defenses punch defenses etc. most of them end up with you putting the bad guy on the ground in a position to start a submission or to flee and go see your momma.

Being a Krav guy originally so to speak even though I started in Uechi Ryu karate I prefer the Krav stuff more but the Gracie techniques are effective and some even look like krav but “softer” I learn them for when I work security so I don’t get a lawsuit from punching a guy in the throat and kneeing his gonads flat.

Now I am not saying run and to Jyujitsu at all. Most schools focus on rolling and fighting from the ground, that’s the fun technical stuff that most guys want to do… Self Defense you can learn in krav in 3 months then start focusing on really learning how to fight and move onto ground fighting.