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Is Your Martial Art Preparing You for Real-Life Self-Defense?

Ken-Gullette-Toughman-3What is real-life self-defense? What is real-life self-defense with the internal arts?

Do I need to step into a ring and go full-contact these days to prove myself?

Do you?

There are suddenly a lot of keyboard warriors out there who seem to think so. Personally, I have mixed feelings about it. I have always enjoyed fighting, but as an adult, I believe it is much better to learn how to fight without getting hurt and without hurting someone else.

When my 15-year-old student was grabbed by a drunk step-father who was preparing to punch him out, my student broke the step-father's elbow with chin-na we practiced in class. That's real-life self-defense.

When my student who is a police officer took a fugitive rapist down with Pi Chuan, a Xingyi technique, he didn't ask himself during the encounter if he was using internal energy just right. He simply took down the man who was considered dangerous.

Ken-Gullette-Toughman-2When three drunk guys at a concert wanted to fight me, I remained centered and managed to defuse the situation. There was no violence, there were no lawsuits, nobody went to the hospital and nobody lost their job. That is real-life self-defense, too. 

Sometimes, the best fighter is the smartest.

I love to pad up and go at it in class. My students do even when they don't pad up. I have done it less the last few years for health reasons, and instead I have tried to work on my internal movement and the body mechanics related to effective fighting.

Most of the guys who troll online and criticize others for a lack of fighting skill because they are not going "full contact" are guilty of mental masturbation. They can't fight, but they are keyboard warriors. Most of us who are out here trying to get better -- especially those of us in the internal arts, where the principles of good fighting are more complex -- are at different levels of mediocrity, practicing, understanding, taking baby steps.

Recently, I have been feeling stronger after stopping some medication (blood thinners and Lipitor) and plan on ramping up the sparring even with one lung. For years, I have realized that if I was hit in the head by a sparring partner while on blood thinners, it could easily cause a hemmorrhage and even death. To make matters worse, Lipitor has made me feel weak for years and I didn't realize it was the culprit until two months ago.

Ken-Gullette-Toughman-Jab-2Since 2009, I've had to do a lot more coaching than sparring, and it sucks. Hopefully, that will change, but in the end, I'm at the point where I have to wrap my head around being a coach more than the one in the match.

I suddenly know what guys like John Calipari probably go through -- coaches who would love to get in a play during the championship game but have to pace the sidelines and coach the players. It's very strange.

The video below is from the Toughman Contest in Sioux City, in March or April, 1991. I was 38 years old. I'm the one in blue. By the way, I wore number 14 because it was Pete Rose's number. Big Red Machine fans will understand. This is not internal fighting. It is boxing, and it took place two years before I trained with the Iowa State University Boxing team, so I really was not a boxer when I did this fight. It shows.

I loved it. There is nothing like putting it on the line -- one on one -- the ultimate personal competition. It's why I never lost a fight growing up. I tried to avoid fighting, but when a bully pushed too far, I would fight, and I really enjoyed it. Usually, I was not the toughest fighter. But I was always the smartest. One of the reasons I was the smartest was because I tried to avoid fighting!!

Get it?

Even in the full contact match below, you can see near the end that I was trying to have fun. In my opinion, fun is one of the main reasons to do martial arts. The last thing I want to do is hurt someone.

We study the internal arts. We are trying to get better at using the internal arts for self-defense. It is a very deep, worthwhile, and difficult goal. The principles are much more difficult than in many other arts. If we have not mastered it, there are no claims of mastery being made. But we do enjoy the journey.

This blog post was triggered by an arrogant asshole who I don't even know who "questioned" whether I could use the internal arts in a fight. Please forgive the profanity, dear readers, but -- really, Motherfucker? Does it make you feel better about yourself to troll Facebook and make superior comments about the skill of other people? By the way, I searched this guy pretty thoroughly. There is not one photo or video of him doing anything at all. Figures. A keyboard warrior.

If I have to use martial arts to defend myself, it will be a very dangerous situation. Like my police officer student or my 15-year old abused student, I will not waste any mental effort criticizing myself if I don't adhere to my attacker, or use the right amount of peng, if my Dan T'ien isn't rotating quite right, if I don't follow his technique just right or if my fajing is not perfectly connected through the body. I will simply try to break his knee, elbow, or face as quickly as I can. Better yet, it would be really great if I am able to remain centered and again defuse the situation so that no violence occurs. 

There are a few people online claiming near mastery of the internal arts, but most of us are simply learning, showing, discussing, and trying to move forward in our understanding and skill. I enjoy folks like Stuart Shaw who are pushing internal artists forward in their actual fighting skill. Far too many internal artists are into "meditation" or the "woo" aspects of the arts. But when someone I don't know visits my page and starts "questioning" whether I can fight with my arts, that's a type of arrogance that deserves a smackdown. And when you are talking about real-life self-defense, there are many ways to use our training, including defusing a situation.

I don't study the internal arts to fight in the street. I already know how to fight. There is a reason the word "art" is included in "internal martial arts." It's fun, it's deep, it's a form of self-learning and self-expression, and it is fascinating to explore and improve my skill over a long period of time.

In the end, there are many benefits to the internal arts, and many ways to use it for real-life self-defense. Not all of those require you to prove yourself to dumbasses who are trying to pee higher on the Internet tree. I suggest doing what I do -- block these arrogant bastards who have probably never had a real fight, and just keep on studying and practicing. And if some of them want to get in a ring and run the risk of concussions, they can knock themselves out. I will still be the smarter fighter in the end. 


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