The Reality of Martial Arts

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I’m about to head to the Do Jang to be a judge in a promotion test.  That got me thinking this morning about the mystique around martial arts as compared to the reality.  Martial arts training is an effective means of self-defense and a great way to keep up with exercise.  In my opinion its greatest benefits, if you are faced with a violent situation, are:

  1.  Training in counters to common attacks, and not just one for each type of attack.
  2. Training in the weapons that you have.  We have many weapons, hands, feet, elbows, knees, forearms, head, even spitting can be useful at times.  We are not defenseless if our arms a pinned.
  3. Training in how the body works and how to go after soft targets if necessary.

This kind of training gives you confidence that you have some ability in case it is needed.  What it doesn’t do is make you cocky.  The more you understand the art, the more you know it is not a path to becoming a superhero.  There are realities that we all have to live with in this world.

  Martial arts training will not make you super strong or super fast.  When it comes to physical conditioning, you may have a leg up on others if you train hard.  In addition to my martial arts sessions I go to the gym and do aerobic and anaerobic workouts.  Still I’m not the strongest or the fastest person you’ll find, not even close. 

Martial arts training will not have you doing somersaults off of roof tops.  You will learn spinning kicks and flying kicks and you will also learn their utility is very limited.  A spinning kick is really only useful as a second strike in a combination and only when the first strike was at least effective enough to distract your opponent.  You never turn your back on an aware opponent.  The same is true for jumping kicks.  In my opinion, flying kicks are only useful when your target is focused on something or someone else.  It is useful if you come upon someone attacking someone else and they don’t see you at all.  Flying across the room looks good and it is fun to do but if the person sees you, they will just move out of the way.

The other reality is that size does matter.  If someone is six or more inches taller than you and they weight a hundred pounds more than you, your options are limited.  You must go for soft targets and try to stay away from your attacker.  Someone that size immediately puts you in a life or death situation and your only choice is to go joints, eyes, or some other damaging target.  On Hawaii Five-O Kono is always beating the crap out of big guys with roundhouse kicks and spinning kicks, that is not likely to work.  I would not risk having someone that powerful close enough to wrap me up.  We do training in escapes from grappling but there is a size limit.  Your odds of escaping are very low when there is a large bulk on top of you.

I’m five nine and about a hundred and seventy pounds.  If someone six foot five and over two fifty is attacking me, my only hope is to go for the knees, ankles, and hips.  I would hope to do enough damage to slow him down and then I would run like crazy.

If I am attacked, I have many options, but I am never assured of success.  I have a skill not a superhero costume.


Pete is a retired software developer, a writer, and a martial arts instructor. He lives in Maryland with his wife Cathy and they are enjoying their retirement. Pete is the author of four novels, "The Teacher", 500 Years from Home", and "The Long Journey Home" are available at; and "Pioneers" in available at the Kindle Book Store.

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Posted in Health and Fitness, Martial Arts, Opinion

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