How Martial Arts REALLY Work…
(and how they DON’T)

Part 1 – Accidents and Algebra

I was walking out of the hardware store this afternoon when the idea for this article hit. In pretty much the most literal way. It is a snowy Nebraska day. I slipped and fell just as I approached my car. Now, I have a pre-existing chronic back issue, have been working all day, and had my hands full. I have every reason to be seriously hurt right now, but I’m not. I’m actually fine. Other than maybe some bruising on my shin as when I fell my legs slid under my car. How is this miracle possible? Luck? Maybe a little. Mostly it is due to skill.

I have been practicing the martial arts now for 32 years. The skill I have practiced probably the most right after my basic punch, front kick, and high block is the backward fall. So, when my feet suddenly slipped out from under me my own muscle memory kicked in as it knew this sensation, and what to do because of it.

Now, before I go any further I want to take a second to give a quick warning to the reader. Caveat Emptor: This article isn’t likely to make me very popular, and if you are going to continue to read it you need to check your ego at the door. I’m not here to hurt your feelings, and I am not unsympathetic to those who have been in real-life self-defense situations. I can’t be as I am one myself.

If you have never trained in martial arts, or taken a self-defense course before, then let me give an analogy to make all of this easier to follow. It’s a quiet, but snowy winter night. A driver is headed home when suddenly they hit a patch of black ice. What happens next? Well, if all other conditions are the same (including the vehicle), then the main thing we should look at is the driver. I will let you pick for yourself which driver you would prefer to be in that exact moment:

A) A 16 year old who has been driving with their license for two months, and this is their first winter on the road.

B) A 35 year old who was born and raised in these conditions and has had many winters of driving in them.

C) A police officer who has been on the force for about 10 years. In addition to their driving in civilian life spends all day in a car as part of their job. They’ve also had special training for vehicle maneuvers in critical situations.

D) A NASCAR driver who has been rated as the #1 driver in their sport for the last 15 years straight.

Now, you could probably make an argument for why you would want to choose to be B, C, or D, and I would let it slide. You didn’t choose A though, did you? I can give you the exact same choice when it comes to surviving a battle:

A) Army Recruit about to finish Basic Training B) Retired servicemember who has served 2 tours of active duty in a time of war. 3) Active duty soldier who has a post in a current engagement. D) Active duty Navy SEAL.

See my point? The main difference in both of these scenarios comes down to the following variables: quality of training and the amount of experience. Believe it or not, this is exactly what the Chinese mean when they talk about “Kung Fu”. You see, Kung fu is not a Chinese word for martial arts. No, that’s “Wushu”. Kung fu means “skill”, and it is a composite of the words for “work” and “time”. In other words, to have real skill at anything you have to work hard for a long time.

So, martial arts need to be practiced hard for a long time to develop real skill. Seems legit so far, right? What about actually fighting with them? That we will cover in part two…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.