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Sometimes training overrides reality
                Montie Guthrie

The reasons why it's important

On this page:
Liars | Political Correctness Makes Liars | Legal Danger | Physical Danger | Psychological Danger | Learn Your Tools, By Thinking About Your Tools

We have a saying that is -- unfortunately -- based on too much first-hand experience:
     People who understand they are staking their lives on their training
    tend to be more open minded about training. Whereas the most
    closed-minded and dogmatic are those who are safely ensconced
    far away from doing.

At first glance this seems like a total paradox. Shouldn't people who are at risk of dying be more interested in finding THE answer? More specifically the answer that will save their lives? And, shouldn't people who aren't at risk of dying be more laid back and open minded?

Well, you'd think so, but that isn't the case.

The sad truth is you can modify an old saw to understand why it isn't the case. The original: There are three kinds of people. Those who think. Those who don't think. And those who think they think.

That saying can be modified to: There are three kinds of people. Those who do. Those who don't do. And those who think they do(1).

And unfortunately, that last group is made up largely by people who mistake training for doing.

The reason that the people who regularly stake their lives on their training are more open minded is
    1) They know every decision must be worth your life (including the
       decision to have an open mind).
    2) They've experienced enough live-fire danger to know that 'doing' is
      a whole lot more complicated than they were told in school.
    3) They know unknown unknowns (unk unks) can kill them. So they are
     always on the look out to turn unk unks into known unknowns -- or
      better yet, knowns.

On the other hand, people who don't have to worry about what-they-don't- know-killing-them are not only under less pressure to think, but are more prone to believe what they know is 'the whole of the subject.' This delusion passes for their reality. They not only lack anything to prove them wrong, but this intellectual fantasy is all that they can see. Worse, they often believe that what they know about a particular subject extends out into knowing about other subjects too.

This page examines some of the misconceptions and faulty logic that has lead to so many problems in the MA/SD/WSD/RBSD/DT worlds. Problems that don't manifest until you actually do find yourself in a situation where you must either stake your life on your training's workability or will find yourself being arrested for your actions.

By that time, it's too late. So what do you say we take a look at some assumptions about training before those problems show up?

We're going to start this section with a moral question: If a person honestly believes what he/she is saying, and yet is presenting false information is that person a 'liar?'

We ask this question because inherent in the definition of lying is  'intent to deceive."  That makes it a little more complicated. Let's say you line three people up. The first is a liar who willfully creates a falsehood for his/her own benefit. The first presents the lie disguised as the truth to the second. In turn the second tells that 'lie' the third.

Is the second person a liar?  We ask because:
    1) The untruthfulness of the information hasn't changed
    2) Unlike the liar, the second doesn't gain from the lie
    3) There is no intention to deceive

And yet that 'lie' is promulgated. In other words, even though there is no intention to deceive, the third person is left believing in -- what was originally -- an intentional lie.

We bring this concept up because the raw truth is that there are any number of instructors who are intentionally engaging in deceit by providing false, misleading and and incomplete information. And they are doing it for profit. There are also people out there who are knowingly providing the same flawed information for some really messed up personal reasons.

However, the majority of people have been lied to by these types and don't know what they are telling others is flawed, misleading or downright dangerous misinformation. Simply put, short of going out and picking fights in bars, they have no idea how to test if the information is valid.

But what they also don't know is what they don't know about the subject -- more specifically what they don't know about other subjects. (unk unks).

Political Correctness Makes Liars
If you answered 'yes' to the question 'someone who doesn't intend to deceive still being a liar' then you're a liar too. We say this because you are presenting politically correct (PC) influenced misinformation as self-defense.

Putting it bluntly, what is being taught as self-defense isn't! And not just from a legal sense either(2)

While one might point an accusatory finger at the MA/SD/WSD/RBSD/DT world for presenting bad information for commercial profit, we'd like to point out that there's another BIG doorstep this dead skunk needs to be laid on. Political Correctness has caused all kinds of confusion among those who train to the point they don't even know what self-defense is these days.

When it comes to violence PC thinking is basically any use of force is wrong. Now this is a silly, but common attitude. Recognize though it creates a vast pool of ignorance about the subject. Because violence is categorically 'bad' there is little interest in understanding it. It's bad and that's that.(3)

This attitude leaves those interested in training (or those who function in situations where violence is common) in somewhat of a pickle. On one hand you have a lot of people who are fanatical about their distain for violence -- people you have to deal with daily. On the other you have someone who'd happily bust your head open with a tire iron for the fun of it -- who if you're lucky you don't have to deal with daily.

Often people who believe that any and all violence is wrong seem to be the ones most uncomfortable with your training. And they have no reservations about telling you what they think about you training to fight. Here is where PC has influenced training ... when facing such a person, most people in the MA/SD/WSD/RBSD training ask 'What if you're attacked?'

This is a mistake. It's a mistake not in the short run, but rather in the long run.

In fact, it works great in the short run. That's because all but the most extreme barking moonbats will grudgingly admit that sometimes force is necessary. Their answers go something like this: Okay, if it's self-defense -- with the caveat that it's still basically wrong -- it's at least less wrong.

POOF! With one wave of a magic wand of marketing ALL training has become for 'self-defense.'

The most violent, eye gouging, head butting, bone breaking, vicious system is NOW being called 'self-defense training.' That's not self-defense! It's  training for eye gouging, head butting, bone breaking, vicious violence! Which face it, in a VERY limited set of circumstances is what you need to do. But, you do it knowing it isn't self-defense. But the only way it can be sold without calling down the furies of the PC crowd (and the authorities) is to call it, self-defense.

It's rather sad, but in attempting to do a 'work around' around PC the MA/SD/WSD/RBSD/DT world have not only floated off into la-la land, but have lost any idea what self-defense really is. In some cases they themselves become barking moonbat fantatics about how what they are doing IS self-defense!

First thing's first. In case you haven't notice the word violence has been hot-linked several times on this page. That's because there's a BIG difference between force and violence. We highly recommend you go read that page as most people don't really understand what violence is -- or isn't. It will help you understand  the rest of this section.

The sad news is that the barking moonbats of both sides DON'T want to make a distinction! A person can be as rabid against any differentiation whether they are against it or just itching to unleash their deadly combat system on someone. They want to wreck havoc on someone and call it self-defense!

Here's the thing -- and granted that this is within limits -- we categorize the warranted use of force into four general categories.        1) Self-defense
       2) Rule enforcement
       3) Stopping an unacceptable situation
       4) Entertainment/Sport

Obviously a big problem with these categories is that they can be subjectively interpreted by individuals. For example an abusive child beater doesn't believe that is what he/she is doing, that person convinces him/herself that the beating is for two and three (It's uncool to beat on a child, but such people tell themselves that this torture is justified as punishment). That's where what you think must be balanced with what is both a) acceptable and b) effective.

On the other hand, when Uncle Albert gets drunk and breaking things at a family reunion you aren't running to a self-defense situation. Nor are you running to engage in a 'fight.' You're running to put a stop to an unacceptable situation. A situation that if you hand Drunken Uncle Albert a beating, is going to cause more family problems -- as well as it being an assault. Which is illegal.

When two boxers, MMAers, muay Thai fighters step into the ring before an audience, that's certainly not self-defense, it's sports and entertainment. When you step into a sparring match, you are firmly engaged in number four.

When a friend gets into a fight and you charge in to break it up, you're not fighting. Nor are you trying to restrain him (a'la Drunken Uncle Albert). Odds are that you're going to get punched as you drag him away from the other guy. But, that's not self-defense! That's an example of three. When a bouncer has to eject a quarrelsome drunk from the bar that's number two (bars cannot allow intoxicated individuals to remain on the premises -- they'll lose their alcohol license). When a cop gives a lawful order and the perp either tries to escape or goes on the fight, that's not self-defense, it's two and three again.

Calling these times to use force 'self-defense' is wrong. In fact, quite frequently it is willful deception and obfuscation. Putting that in plain English, it's lying.

A lie that puts you, the student, in danger.

Legal Danger
We want you to engage in a bit of mental imagery. Take the last mixed martial arts bout you saw. Put the participants in street clothes. Take them out of the cage/octagon and imagine them in a bar. Now play the action of the bout.

What do you call that?

If you called that self-defense lay off the crack pipe. It's a fight. At least that is what the witnesses, cops, judge and jury are going to call it. The reason that we had you do that mental imagery is that is also what the security cameras are going to record. And that recording is going to follow you into court before you start your extended stay at the county jail. That's because while self-defense is legal, fighting is illegal.

But how many people have you met on the internet who SWEAR that MMA/ Krav Maga/ Reality Based Self-Defense / combatives  ARE self-defense?

Bottom line, if you unleash that stuff on someone thinking that it's self-defense expect to be wearing an orange jumpsuit from the county. But why do people who are training to do this believe that is self-defense? Because that's what they've been told self-defense is! And when you're getting arrested you're going to be an unhappy puppy.

Physical Danger
Realize that Marc didn't go into the martial arts to become a 'fighter,' he was a fighter already. He took this training was to make him a better. And yes, as a Los Angeles street thug deeply enmeshed in the Life, he really didn't care that the violence he was engaging in was illegal. And he certainly didn't limit his definition of street fighting to empty-handed techniques. In fact, for serious incidents the preferred answer was to pick up a weapon -- for everyone. Empty handed violence was for only when
    a) When you didn't have time to grab a weapon
    b) When you wanted to throw someone a beating for unacceptable

Empty handed stuff wasn't for fighting. In fact, nobody was interested in a stand up toe-to-toe struggle to see who was tougher. Empty handed work was for punishment, it was what you used to beat down someone who'd disrespected you. But more specifically someone who wasn't enough of a threat that you had to kill him or her.

You read right 'her.' Although Marc didn't believe in hitting women, in the circles he ran in, empty hands strikes were used to let a woman know she was out of line. Violent people don't limit themselves to only attacking men, they'll gladly attack anyone. And for those they don't wish to kill, they use empty hands to met out abuse. Which is why all the puffed up internet studs going on about how their MMA makes them so tough are laughable to Marc. They might as well be bragging how they've perfected wife and kid beating.

That's the real attitude of the criminals/street fighters/violent assholes that you think you're preparing to 'defend' yourself against in your school.

But because of the intentional smudging and clouding of definitions by the instructors, people believe they are prepared to fight off such an attacker. Whether they are wearing oriental clothing while doing traditional forms or are studying a supposedly military 'combative' system or are doing 'reality based self-defense.

Marc often looks at such people and ask "What technique from (fill in the blank) do you use to defend against someone standing in the shadows with a shotgun near where you park your car?"

Bottom line, if you're enough of a empty hand fighter that beating you down is too iffy, they'll grab a weapon and do you. This is why we say there is a HUGE difference between self-defense and fighting, fighting and martial arts and martial arts training and preparing for self-defense. Self-defense includes the possibility of that guy in the shadows or a mugger bringing along four or five friends as well as weapons.

Now having said all this, you might think that we're saying martial arts are useless for dealing with violent people. NOT true. The trick is to realize that threats comes in many different levels. You are teaching a particular tool. Any tool works great in some situations. Yet there are other situations where the same tool fails miserably. (Regardless of what anyone says, there is NO ONE tool that covers everything).

Yet, by lumping every kind of potential situation under the heading of 'self-defense' you do you your students a grave disservice. By telling them that your system -- which works great against handling Drunken Uncle Albert and by that fact alone has great merit -- will also work against the kind of violent monsters that Marc used to slam and jam against, is setting them up to be gutted like fish. Self-defense against that level of monster is a whole lot more complicated than just punching and kicking.

In the same breath however, we will tell you that the level of force that works against those monsters will get you branded as a monster yourself if you unleash it on Drunken Uncle Albert or your friends.

As we often say, breaking someone's neck is easy. Set up the conditions and SNAP! What is hard is teaching people when it is time to do it and why. And just as important why it isn't time to do that.

Psychological Danger
We have a saying that we wish was a joke. It goes:
    You'll only have two problems if you try to apply your martial arts training,
       1) If it doesn't work
       2) If it does work.

While it is easy to fantasize about using your training to fight off a bad guy, life is NEVER as simple as fantasy. The imagined scenario is some bad guy walks up to you in a dark and lonely place and makes a threat display, then in a blaze of martial arts mastery you defeat him.

The raw fact is, violence is seldom that simple. And when people discover this the hard way they are severely traumatized.

We've met two kinds of trained people traumatized by violence. Those who -- after investing heavily into believing that their training provided them with some kind of self-defense 'wundertool' -- were savaged when their training failed. When someone has invested heavily into a belief system, the fall out from unintended consequences is even more traumatic than if the person had no such beliefs. In fact, often the false belief that one is prepared to handle ANY level of violence puts that person in MORE danger than someone who is not trained at all. The latter knows he/she can't handle it and turns and runs immediately. The person with a false belief tries to stay there and 'deal' with the danger. They pay for that mistake in blood.

The other kind is  someone who reacted exactly to their training and then with sickening horror realized that the amount of damage and pain they inflicted on a person was unwarranted. Realize that such an event will stay with you for your entire life! And over the next 20 or 30 years your perspective is going to change. As time goes by, words like 'deserve' and 'should have' are less and less effective at rationalizing what you did to another human being.

This subject is big enough to have its own hub, and yet it is something that many instructors have never thought about when it comes to what they are teaching. And that puts you in danger.

Learn Your Tools, By Thinking About Your Tools
A good craftsman knows the tools of his trade. But there's more to that than just knowing how to apply a particular tool. A huge part of craftsmanship is knowing when it is time to apply a tool and knowing when it isn't. When we talk about learning your tools we are talking about mastering this aspect as well.

Tools have limits and applications, but liars will lie and present them as wunder tools. Hopefully by this page we've shown you that whether this is intentional deception, a simple lack of experience or a reaction to politically correct thinking, believing that you have a cure-all, wundertool given to you by your training is a bad -- perhaps fatal -- mistake.

You don't really know your tools until you know how to effectively apply them in different environments ... or if you should even try to apply them at all.

That's a simple statement, but it has big implications. In order to be able to use different tools for different jobs, you have to know there is a difference to begin with. You have to think before you can do. Learning isn't enough, you have to think about your tools. If you haven't thought about these things before you try and use your tools, small environmental  details will rise up unexpectedly and destroy you.

Interestingly enough a good example how small changes in environment can challenge when, where and how you apply your training can be found in the PRIDE/UFC. Pride fighters were accustomed to functioning in a ring and knew how to use the ropes to their advantage. However, in a cage, the details of how to use that cage change. After UFC bought Pride, a number of Pride fighters had to learn a different strategy about using the cage, because using the cage like you did the ropes got you into deep trouble fast. That's an example of how something small and simple can have major impact on how you use your tools.

In closing we'd like to take a quick look at training goals. This is a two point issue, myopia and flying blind.

With myopia, people tend to believe their training is complete. And why shouldn't they? In the safety of the school you can deal with everything that is coming at you because basically
    a) you know what's coming
    b) there is a known response to it.
As big as the buffet of techniques that come at you, they are all known in the school.

Because we get accustomed to certain buffets, we tend to forget that no matter how big a buffet is that isn't ALL there is.

This creates a comfort zone. And with that comes both myopia and --in some cases -- arrogance. They're cocky because they know they can handle anything that comes at them in their comfort zone. You can take a TKD player outside his comfort zone pretty easy -- just tackle him. The problem with these new hybrid mixed martial arts is that they believe their cross training prepares them for everything ... they don't recognize differences between the sport that they are doing and what is out there in the big bad world.

 Remember that changes in environmental details means you have to change how you apply your tools. If something as small as a change in the ring to cage can cause a change in tactics, how much of a change are you going to have to implement if one of Marc's old runnin' buddies decides that you've annoyed him?

Another big appeal of lumping everything you're doing as 'self-defense' is that it takes away the spooky feeling of flying blind.

Realistically if you don't know details of what you are training for you can't train right. You can't build a training hierarchy to deal with what you don't know. This is a huge issue.

Let's take an ultimate fighting championship fighter as an example. Knowing when, where and against whom he has a match he and his trainers are going to create a training hierarchy. They're going to watch the tapes of the opponent and come up with a training regime specific to that fighter. He'll train to withstand the  other fighter's strengths and focus on how to exploit his weaknesses.

However, you can take the best UFC fighter and tell him, you're going to get into a situation. You don't know when. You don't against whom. You don't know where. And that fighter will be at a loss at how to prepare. Odds are he will revert to a known, but generalize set of training standards. He'll work out, cross train, practice against what he thinks are the most common attacks. However, all that training will do him no good when unloading groceries from his car, five guys with machetes come running out of the shadows.

But do you think the school owner is going to tell you that? No. What he will tell you is that the training he provides covers ALL contingencies. And odds are he's pirated and incorporated programs into his so he can point to it and say "see, we prepare you for that!"

Realistically speaking you can't prepare for everything. (Think the UFC fighter facing the machetes). But what you can do is sit down and assess what kind of situations you are most likely to run across.

It is up to you to research and find out as much as you can about the kind of situations that you are most likely to find yourself in. A big part of personal safety is training to handle what you are most likely to face.



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1) In both versions the last group are not only the most dogmatic, but also the loudest. (What's more is they also are the ones doing the most damage to the subject). Return to Text

2) As we've said many times on this site, self-defense is a legally defined term. As such it doesn't matter what you think is self-defense, your actions must conform to that standard because that is what you will be judged by.
Return to Text

3) Try Googling "violence, quotes" and see how many quotes you find extolling the virtues of non-violence instead of quotes about responsible use of force.Return to Text

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