Ask America’s SgtMaj: Martial Options

An anonymous reader asks:

   “I am thinking of taking up a martial art, I live near Cleveland and I have all kinds of options close by including Brazilian grappling, kung fu, tae kwon do etc.  I am interested in actually being able to defend myself rather than just fitness.  Any suggestions?”

I would say finding a good instructor is more important than finding the “best style” of martial art. It would be preferable to train under a sharp boxing coach rather than a Krav Maga instructor who is a clown. I have addressed some of my thoughts on martial arts before.

Personal defense begins long before any physical violence occurs.  The Japanese have a concept called zanshin: “dominating awareness.” Using our capability coupled with situational awareness, we can dominate our immediate surroundings with our presence. Ideally we have created too many variables for a potential attacker to deal with.  Our comportment, vigilance, and confidence sends him in search of an easier target. This starts by using that organ between your ears. See some of my earlier posts on that subject here and here.

I myself prefer weapons based forms of training. Seems to me things you can do with a weapon you can do with your hands too. I am a member of a traditional Japanese battlefield koryu. We train with various battlefield weapons like spear, sword, etc. This is a good basis for the rest of my training including firearms, believe it or not.

A little live blade action with odachi.

When I have the time, I like to spend a few days at the Spartan Training Center in Sedona, AZ. Their training focus is weapons based, ranging from rifles all they way to empty hands. One of their principle based training systems is called Battlehand:

Working with basket hilt swords is not only great PT but is a good tie in with firearms training.

A doorway drill with two bad guys.

On the subject of firearms, let me just leave you with a quote from the late Jeff Cooper: “The pistol – learn it well and wear it always.”

Again, a good firearms instructor is paramount as simply carrying a weapon doesn’t make you safe. It is a common misconception that a firearm somehow works like a talisman magically protecting the bearer from harm.

“Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.” – Jeff Cooper. 

In the end we need to engage our minds before we engage our fists. Shop around before joining any particular dojo,  club, or self defense school.  Make sure they are providing the product you want. Owning a black belt never saved anyone from a good beating.

Semper Fi!
America’s SgtMaj

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  1. “Again, a good firearms instructor is paramount as simply carrying a weapon doesn’t make you safe. It is a common misconception that a firearm somehow works like a talisman magically protecting the bearer from harm.”

    THANK YOU! My GOD I hate the arguments I have with idiots who insist that giving every schoolteacher in America a sidearm will automatically make schools safer.

    People who aren’t willing to take the time to learn how use a weapon properly flat out shouldn’t carry one.

  2. Zanshin was probably the most valuable thing I learned from kendo, even though it took me a while to catch on. Hopefully I can start sparring again after I PCS…

  3. You wrote: . . .Krav Maga instructor who is a clown. . . Waaaait a second. My Krav instructor was a clown! At kid’s birthdays. But he was a good teacher.

  4. CI Roller, you’re so shooty!

    Lin, indeed.

    Shay, lately the statement that’s been driving me nuts is: “How can someone who is armed feel threatened by an unarmed person?”

    Saker, apply that feeling to your everyday comportment. Ideally it increases your awareness of your surroundings.

    NavyOne, breaking kids arms at birthday parties doesn’t seem like a good business model for a professional clown.

    MSgt B, some folks never get it though.

  5. I’m with you about self-defense beginning in the mind, not the body. In that way, most forms of martial arts are useful, because people who believe that they can react radiate a competence that is off-putting to predators.

    By the way, I find clowns extremely scary, so maybe learning how to be a clown is a great form of self-defense.

  6. Under Commandant P. X. Kelly, us Marines were… disenmotivated toward combative self defense, by official proclamation.

    Seems the HQ of HQs was afeared we might hurt some poor belligerent civilian while on libo.

    We were the good guys. We wore white tee shirts to prove it. Even in the field, while training. It was, supposedly, not our job to go around being any kind of threatening to anyone at any time over any thing.

    Most of us tended toward ignoring the Word From On High, though.


  7. I have to laugh at myself….I thought you were getting married….you know, Marital Options…then I saw the woman with a sword…..


  8. Grimmy, discouraging Marines from learning knew ways to break stuff seems like a silly waste of time.

    Trudy, although there would most likely be swords at my wedding, they would probably be used to force me to the altar.

  9. Good advice, I have to say though, being a F-18 squadron mechanic (ordnanceman) my “green side” Isn’t as strong as it should be. Our MCMAP sustainment usually is grappling in the shop between flights.

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