The physical version of my book, The Ultimate Guide to Unarmed Self Defense, is finally out! You can see it here on Amazon. For all of you who don’t live in the US, it’s also available on the European versions of Amazon. The digital version is available for immediate download, for anyone, anywhere, here.
Darrin Cook, from BigStickCombat.com, did a nice review of it here. Darrin’s blog is one of the few in my blog roll (at right), because I find the majority of his posts to be valuable and interesting. I just noticed that a couple of days ago he did another post referencing an old Pekiti Tirsia video I made, and I want to comment on something he said. Here’s the video he was writing about:
The quality of the video is rather poor and there are a few things I don’t like about it, but I made it more than 6 years ago…and the material is solid. So Darrin wrote:
If you take a look at Instructor David’s other videos, you see he is offering a lot of “meat,” really good techniques that other teachers would have held back.
Hiding The Meat
I thought about what he said for a while. And it’s true. But why would teachers “hide the meat”? Don’t they want their students to be as skilled as possible?
I think there are a variety of reasons, most of which do not involve bad intentions. Most martial arts I’ve practiced hide the meat. And the meat is often hidden in a large pile of inedible material. Honestly, I don’t think most teachers even realize it. They teach what they were taught. Especially if they don’t test their material, they may not even know the difference between the meat and all the other stuff. Many of them think that it’s all meat, so they’re not purposefully hiding it.
A Shooting In 1997…
I was hanging out with my sister and a good friend. All three of us were instructors at the same martial art school. We had already been branching out and trying to find the best material we could, but we were all still only teaching that one style (which was self defense focused). It was around midnight, and my friend was just opening the front door to leave. Right as he opened it we heard BAM! BAM! BAM!, and then tires screeching. A guy had just been shot walking in front of my house, an innocent guy in a robbery attempt.
We talked about it. What would have happened if my friend had walked out just a couple of minutes earlier? Would he have tried one of our gun threat defenses? One of the ones that we taught? Would it have worked? Would he be alive or dead if he had walked out just a couple of minutes earlier?
Very shortly after that incident the three of us quit teaching at the school we had been teaching at. The material wasn’t bad. It worked for many people who used it in self defense. But we knew it could be better. We decided to make “efficiency and effectiveness” the core concept of our training and teaching. We needed to.
The “problem” in my experience, is that most traditional martial arts teachers don’t need their material to work. It’s different for martial sports/combat athletics. Since their practitioners compete they do need the material to work, and it does work for what it’s designed for.
Use It Or Lose It
When the meaning of a thing changes, when you use it for something else, it’s easy to lose sight of the original purpose. For most people teaching and practicing traditional martial arts, they don’t need them to work. They practice for other reasons…for fun, for exercise, for a sense of belonging. So they don’t realize the difference between what works and what doesn’t, what is meat and what is not. Because for them, it is all meat. It is all fun. It is all good. And it all looks like it works, because it works in the training room, in a cooperative environment, in a conditioned environment.
When you’re doing or teaching something for fun you can come up with all sorts of fun/cool techniques and drills that really have nothing to do with functional self defense. Again, on the surface though, they appear to.
Using A Hat For Self Defense
A week or two ago, a former student, cop, and friend of mine sent me a video from a popular Filipino martial arts instructor showing how to use a baseball cap/hat as a weapon. A couple of the techniques were fine…throwing the hat at an opponent to distract him before nailing him, etc. And the instructor did make a comment about “having fun”, about training for fun, so maybe the rest of the techniques were more for fun than anything else. Nevertheless, the rest of the techniques were very ineffective and a waste at best, if not downright dangerous to even try in self defense.
I wrote back something along the lines of, “Just because you can use something doesn’t mean you should.”. But it looks cool. It looks fun. It probably is fun to practice! However, it’s not functional for self defense. It’s just that most people don’t think enough about these things, because they don’t need to.
Back To Pekiti Tirsia
I was fortunate to have a Pekiti Tirsia instructor who was ok with teaching me whatever I wanted to work on…just the meat. But when I went to Pekiti seminars, I felt 16 hours were spent going over relatively ineffective variations of core techniques and concepts that could have been taught in 1 hour, and then trained for 15 more. Instead, in my opinion, most students came away with a TON of memorized combinations, many of which were ineffective. Why? Why invent all these combinations for students to learn? I can’t say for sure, in the case of Pekiti. You could argue that each combination has a principle or concept embedded. But, just teach the concept in its purest form! Then, it can be applied to anything. That is, if the concept is functional.
Regarding teachers purposefully holding material back, in this day and age I would hope that’s a minority of teachers. That’s just a disservice to students, and to me, a sign that they don’t really know what they’re doing, that all they have are a few tricks.
I started practicing martial arts for self defense, and my goal has always been to teach functional self defense rather than material that looks cool, takes a long time to learn, etc.. I want my students to be able to defend themselves as quickly as possible. So it makes sense to “offer a lot of meat”. What’s equally important to realize, is that the vegetables and fruit are even more important than the meat! You need all three to achieve a healthy balance, and then everything becomes clear.
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