Why martial arts do not work: 5 reasons

Self defense: when the problem occurs, it’s too late to understand

In most self-defense situations, 90% of  martial arts (both traditional and modern), do not work as we expect and unfortunately, when someone attacks / threatens us it’s too late to understand that:

  1. The aggressions are always different – No one attacks as it happens in the classical collaborative gym-simulations (read Self-defense: why 90% of martial arts does not work); no one will passively wait to be beaten by our preconfigured techniques, people violently react and their blows are not caresses (read How to use martial arts in a real fight)
  2. The street is not the gym – Fighting on the street we always risk our life; even if we tap on our opponent’s shoulder he does not stop to strangle us (read The 6 types of martial clash) and there is no soft mattress on the ground to cushion our falls (read What are breakfalls and how to learn them)
  3. Titles, prizes, and participation to seminars have no value on the street – As Bruce Lee teaches, a belt, of whatever color it is, only serves to hold up the trousers (read When a belt becomes a blindfold); if the mind is not prepared to face the stress level of an unexpected clash and if the body is not tempered by pain and daily fatigue, our hopes are near to zero (read Self-Defense: is it possible to always be ready to fight?)
  4. Real skills require deep study – Spatial intelligence, timing and cunning are worth a hundred times speed, strength and technique (read also The most important skill in combat); a skill truly acquired is the one who comes at the right moment, spontaneously like breathing (read How to acquire special abilities)
  5. To fight is the last option – If we attack first, we are the aggressors and not the victims (with all the legal consequences that it involves read Best martial arts for self-defense); in terms of personal safety, prevention, escaping and negotiation are 100 times more effective than any kind combat system (read Personal defense: the S.A.F.E. method)

The impact with the truth

It’s at that exact moment, the one when we understand that we are miles and miles far away from the level of preparation needed, that we catch the difference between:

  • What we think to know / control and what really we know / control
  • What is really effective and what absolutely not
  • What we are truly able to perform and what not (especially under stress)
  • What we should have focused our preparation on and what we did instead
  • How we were trained and how we would have to train ()
  • Physical training and mental preparation (to the stress level of a real aggression, read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///)
  • The limited human reflexes and the effectiveness of constant attention (read Constant attention: what is and how it works)

The limit lies in us

In front of the failure, the illusion fades immediately and instead of blaming ourselves for our superficiality (lack of reasoning and concentration), we unload the responsibility for our errors on the martial art, which, in a lot of cases (directly or indirectly):

  • Has been adopted in life vs death battlefields for thousand years (eg. traditional styles)
  • Is employed by special military forces of half of the world (eg. modern warfare fighting systems)
  • Is used at the highest levels of athletic competition (eg. sportive martial arts)

The fact is that in 75-80% of cases, the guilt is ours and the most common reasons are:

  • Too high expectations and too low preparation – Through movies, poor “instructors” (read Recognize a good / bad master: 5 characteristics), too high reference points (etc.), we have been introduced to an all-exasperated and imaginative view of martial arts (“magic” shots that annihilate anyone, effortless victories, one-week secret technique’s learning, hundreds of simultaneous opponents, etc., read also Forget everything you know about multiple opponents fighting)
  • We do not focus on learning the right things (in the right way) – We spend more time dreaming of being good rather than training, chasing titles rather than real abilities (read All the skills of 6 Dragons Kung Fu), calling us experts rather than searching for / correcting our defects, criticizing the others rather than facing them in no-cooperative sparring sets (read The meaning of sparring fighting in martial arts), focusing on physical violence instead of learning to use the mind to prevent / manage critical issues, etc.

If we seek for effectiveness, in tems of self-defense, there are no shortcuts

It is foolish to wait to jeopardize our safety (or that of those around us) to open our eyes and draw a furrow between:

  • Reality and fantasy
  • Serious training and waste of time
  • The instructors that increase our knowledge and those that limit it
  • The teachings they endanger our lives and those that couls save it

A real self-defense preparation requires dedication, sacrifice, focus and this is not for everyone.

Anyone who thinks to be smarter than the others searching for shortcuts, effortless tricks (etc.), soon or later will find himself having to deal with the tough reality:

  • People become good at what they do most – For example, an exquisite pastry chef is likely to be, at least, a discreet cook but it is equally unlikely that he could compete with an expert who has devoted his whole life to cooking fish; the same reasoning applies to martial arts, if we have spent our lives doing sublime acrobatics (or cool moves), how can we hope to resist to those who (for the same amount of time) have done nothing but fighting (even at a rough level)?
  • The only working techniques and tactics are the ones we have completely mastered – While, on the one hand, it is true that a good knowledge of combat technique gives us a remarkable advantage over an inexperienced opponent, it is equally true that an average knowledge puts us below his level (read A scheme to quickly learn any kind of technique); everything that does not comes simple and spontaneous as walking should never be used in a real combat (read How to learn faster)
  • Forms, sequences, drills, techniques and fighting sets are useless without sparring and conditioning – While, on one hand, it is true that forms (eg. from Karate or Kung Fu) help us to train precision, balance, trajectories (etc.) is just as true that they do not give us any rudiment for a real clash; the struggle is something live, unpredictable and always different; forms have not been studied for this (without conditioning and sparring they are useless, read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///)
  • Even if our body is athletically prepared, we are only at the 50% of the work – If our mind is weak we will probably fail; prevention, negotiation, planning, stress management (etc.) are fundamental abilities that no one who is seriously interested in self-defense can ignore; if we think that things like muscles and aggressivity can solve any kind of situation we are simply foolish

Have a wide range of possibilities

To gain good results, we must carry out all that is fundamental to our goal (not necessarily linked only to the struggle):

Let’s be clear, no one can excel in everything (mental aspects, strength, etc.) but we must, at the same time:

  • Privilege what we are good at
  • Improve what we are lacking

On the street, it’s only maintaining a broad vision that we can get (at least) a possibility to prevail; this way we can always count on a small advantage (eg. good use of legs, advanced flexibility, deception capability, speed of execution, etc.) in front of eventual opponents with overwhelming skills.

A note by master Kongling – Even for the combat techniques, we always need to have more than one choice available: let’s beware of those who offer us a single possibility of liberation, attack, defense, counterattack (etc.). We are all different from each other, as are our adversaries, weapons, environments of struggle, present mental dispositions (etc.); all this causes an entropy that is completely unpredictable and impossible to solve with (ridiculous) omnivalent answers.

In-depth articles


Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Have you ever faced a fighter stronger than you?

Author: Master Kongling

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