Don’t Fool Yourself

The topic came up recently on the Iain Abernethy forum and I thought I would give my take on the subject.
Very often in the martial arts we approach our subject with a kind of arrogance that is not well founded. When we train, we tend to use the term, “untrained street fighter”. The arrogance is in the belief that anyone who attacks us on the street is inferior to us based on the fact that we are trained martial artists, and they are not.

This is not a well thought out idea, and in this article we will look a little more closely at what the truth of the matter probably is.

First let us take a look at a trained martial artist. We spend our time in a relatively clean, very much controlled environment. Any martial arts school, aside from the decorations on the wall, is going to look pretty much like any other martial arts school, a big open floor, mostly free from clutter. The classes will be pretty similar; repeated practice of techniques from the style or system. Whether this practice will be in the form of kata or partner drills makes little difference in what we are seeing. The bottom line of this point is that the situation will not be chaotic. You will know what you are working on, and you will know you are safe. Even in sparring, where you may not know the actual technique your opponent will be using, you do know that it will fall within the construct of a known set of particular rules. These rules are necessary (no matter how much this is downplayed) to ensure the safety of the participants. Over time you will develop a certain mindset regarding the training. You will not have to think about the rules, legal targets and techniques and so on. It will become a habitual act to follow these rules, and free the mind for the creation of strategy.

But here is where we fool ourselves.

We think that this training is for the real thing. It could not really be much further from the real thing, but we turn a blind eye to this fact and press on and convince ourselves that we are in fact training for the ultimate street fight. We know that whenever the day comes that an untrained street fighter is dumb enough to attack our well trained self, we will defeat them while dazzling the onlookers and bystanders with our prowess.

Now let us take a look at these untrained street fighters. Street punks have more than likely spent their entire life in or near violence. In the real world, there are gangs and fights every day. When kids in these neighborhoods grow up like this they are quite likely to have a much more clear understanding and much more intimate knowledge of violence than any martial arts student ever will. The fights these kids grow up having as a part of their life are not pretty, but they are violent. Proper technique and sound strategy are not to be found.

What comes to mind for me is a scene from “A Game of Thrones” wherein Ser Vardis Egan is in a fight to the death with a common sellsword named Bronn. Here is a look at it:

In the scene, the knight is well trained, and much better armed and armored. Bronn does not fight a clean or pretty fight, but he uses experience and “street smarts” to kill Vardis.

When violence happens, it is not going to be pretty. It is going to be sudden, and a lot faster than you can imagine. Visit ,  , and  for further reading on the topic by people who can present much more thoroughly, and from a much more experienced perspective.