May 16, 2005

Reading Log: Martial Arts vs. Actual Combat

Something I could have added to my recent list of Ten Things I've Never Done is "been in a bar fight." Reason: I would probably lose. For all those white, yellow, gold, orange, green, blue, purple, red, brown, black, and sky-blue-pink-with-stripes belts out there, though, who are considering popping into the local pub to test your skills -- or who have tried it and wish to improve their results -- I offer the following insights that were emailed to me by a tai chi chuan classmate who has substantial experience in jiu-jitsu and other martial arts.

My classmate received the information, in turn, from his longtime martial arts mentor, someone who has trained in Taiwan in the three Chinese "internal" martial arts styles (Ba Gua, Xing Yi, and Tai Ji) with masters there, as well as in jiu-jitsu and other "external" styles, and who is one of twelve interviewees in a book called NEI JI QUAN, edited by Jess O'Brien. O'Brien calls his twelve subjects "the most seasoned practitioners and teachers I could find." The book attempts to demystify the martial arts, explaining how and why they work in terms of Westerm kinesiology and physics.

Here's what my classmate reports:

We were talking about actual fighting today in class. My martial arts brother in LA has a list of important attributes one needs in combat situations. It tracks well with my own experience and other research I've done.

In order of importance:

1 - the willingness to fight
2 - experience, meaning that you've been hit before and you have less fear
3 - physicality, strength and endurance
4 - martial arts technique

Interesting that technique is number 4, eh?

Item 1 is NOT anger, unless that's the only way you can become willing. It means you can organize your defense and unleash your offense. That's what makes druggies and the insane so dangerous, they don't hold anything back; they go full throttle.

In item 2, fear induced physiological effects can degrade one's performance tremendously. It's amazing what can happen to you under such stress. Your fine motor system may be unable to insert a key into a lock or dial 911. Your auditory system may shut down such that you don't hear gunshots or warning shouts. Your near vision may shut down such that you can't see the sights on a pistol or the numbers on a dialpad.

Cool is the rule!

Now let's all go into the garden and listen to the birds.