Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Second Major Type Of Martial Art: Combat Sports

Martial arts which fall into the combat sport category focus on defeating another skilled opponent. You are basically training for a duel against a highly-trained adversary. There is a high emphasis on strategy and developing fight I.Q., which is the ability to adapt to your opponent's reactions in the heat of the moment. The most lethal techniques (i.e. attacks to the groin, throat, and eyes) are banned for safety reasons. Most of the time, you will fight in a controlled environment such as a ring, which has mats made out of canvas or other soft materials to prevent injury. Combat sports include boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, MMA, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and capoiera, in which the fight is typically disguised as a dance.

The chief benefit of combat sports is that they provide a safe environment in which you can practice your techniques against a real person. Even in full-contact bouts, there are referees and doctors to minimize the damage you will take in the match. Combat sports also include exercises to improve your timing, accuracy, distance management and other valuable skills which will help you if you are attacked by a real assailant. Not to mention that they are a fun way to get to know other martial artists.

The main drawbrack of combat sports is that they only prepare you for a single foe with a code of honor. Since the most lethal self-defense techniques are "against the rules", they are barely covered, if they are taught at all. Due to this, much of what you learn won't work against multiple aggressors who are trying to kidnap, rape, or kill you. Additionally, most combat sports have weight classes, gender and age divisions to keep the fights fair. This is not realistic: most assailants are big, strong, young male hoods who could care less about fighting fair. A technique which works on someone your size may not necessarily work on them. For example, if you are a 100-lbs. girl, that right hook to the jaw might work against other 100-lbs. girls. But if you use that against a 250-lbs. musclehead, you'll probably wind up with a broken hand and the worse beatdown of your life before the inevitable occurs. Also, most combat sports don't teach you defenses against armed opponents. The ones that do (such as fencing and kendo) don't teach defenses against modern weapons. The few combat sport instructors who cover modern weapons' defenses tend to teach ones which have never been battle-tested. These techniques are really just guesswork on their part and not anything that you would want to bet your life on.

You should study a combat sport if you already have a firm grasp of modern self-defense and want to see how you measure up against other skilled martial artists. If you want a fun hobby that allows you to meet cool people, combat sports are also for you. If you want to compete professionally, that's fine, too. Just make sure that you start as young as possible (I suggest by your early twenties at the latest). It would be wise to have a practical college degree to fall back on as well.

Next week, I will cover the final type of martial art: traditional martial arts.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The First Major Type Of Martial Art: Modern Self-Defense Systems

When you are choosing a martial art, you must have a basic understanding of your own needs and interests, as well as what that particular system teaches. Doing this will not only save you time and money, but it will allow you to find instructors and fellow students who have similar goals in mind. This will lead to a healthier and more enjoyable training environment for everyone involved. For simplicity's sake, I have organized the martial arts into three major categories and will cover their basic strengths and weaknesses.

Remember, these are generalizations. Since each individual style is unique, you will need to do your own research to determine which one is best for you.

Modern self-defense systems are the first major type of martial art. These systems only have one goal in mind: survival. Your chief concern is to make it home safely to your family and friends every night. For that reason, these systems only teach simple, battle-tested moves that can be learned within days, weeks, or months. They are also constantly updated to deal with the evolving tactics of criminals. Some examples of modern self-defense systems are Krav Maga, MCMAP, and Systema.

The chief benefit of these systems is that they teach you effective techniques for dealing with modern weapons such as guns and knives. They are very well-rounded, training you in grappling as well as striking and weapons' defenses. That way, you will still be able to survive if the fight goes to the ground. They also teach you realistic tactics for dealing with multiple opponents, as well as practical moves for dealing with much larger assailants. In other words, you practice a lot of groin kicks.

The only drawback with modern self-defense systems is that, since the moves are so simple, a highly-trained opponent will be able to counter most of them. For example, if you try to kick a Shotokan black belt in the groin, they will probably see it coming and knock you on your butt. That being said, most assailants are not world champion fighters or dedicated traditional martial artists, so your odds of winding up in that situation are slim-to-none. Just in case, many modern self-defense instructors encourage cross-training so that you can still survive if you are that unlucky.

You should study a modern self-defense system if you have no previous martial arts experience and don't have a lot of free time on your hands. For example, if you are a businessman who works 60 hours a week or a single mother raising two children, these systems would be perfect for you. If you are a traditional martial artist or a competitive fighter, you would still benefit from the weapons' defenses which these systems teach. Not to mention that they can show you how to apply the techniques which you already know in a more practical and efficient manner.

Next week, I will cover the second major type of martial art: combat sports.