I’ve been thinking about the topic of whether martial arts should keep up with the times or remain in its’ “pure” form.

Let me elaborate. I tend to think of martial arts as a vehicle to defend oneself. Self defense, in other words. From that perspective, should it not make sense for a martial art style to evolve so as to counter any fighting strategies one might encounter in a potential street self defense situation?

I think that it’s safe to say that the scene is different today than, say, in the 1950s. Back then, there were no BJJ, or MMA type of fighting systems. In contrast, we have to consider basic defenses against those who either train in a MMA style or are influenced by it. There is no question that MMA and BJJ has become hugely popular and has crossed over into the mainstream, for better or for worse, depending on your perspective.

To be more specific, one can safely assume that MMA styles have become quite popular with a certain age demographic and those are males between the ages of 18 to 35. While most are honourable and are in it for fun and competition, one cannot rule out someone from this age demographic using MMA-ish techniques during the commission of a crime. In light of this, I think that it behooves one to learn basic counters to common MMA techniques in order to mount a successful defense.

In contrast, those who insist on teaching a style in an unaltered form, or because “that’s the way it’s always been done” are fooling themselves if they think that it would survive an encounter on the street. If they are going to peddle themselves as teaching self defense while not altering or adapting the style to suit today’s environment, they are doing their students a disservice. They need not make any radical changes to teach effective self defense. For example, a few weeks ago, Master Ken Smith showed how a traditional karate move could be used to devastating effect against a common MMA takedown technique. It was an eye opener as I had wondered, over the years, how realistic the technique in question was (hint: it comes from Pinan 5 of Shotokan Karate). When Master Ken showed the application of the move, it was an “aha!” moment for me. Now I’m more curious than ever about the applications of traditional karate moves in a street self defense situation. One need not abandon whatever you are studying to come up with good defenses against potential MMAish perpetrators.

Of course, if one is looking for perfection of one’s character or have a desire to compete in tournaments, that’s a different story and there are plenty of schools who excel in tournament training. However, they may not be the place to look for practical realistic street self defense.

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