Self Defense Martial Arts vs Sports Martial Arts Part 2

Attached is somewhat of a long video filled with disqualification fouls in MMA matches.  It illustrates a few major differences between the sport fighting environment and a realistic combat environment. Sports fighting negates all strategic factors which preclude a fight such as weapons advantages, numbers differentials and the element of surprise. It essentially pits you against an opponent in a strategically neutral fight.

Besides the strategic difference mentioned above (which easily could warrant its own blog post to discuss), sports fighting has been designed to eliminate the primary tactics which can mitigate differences between size and strength which are likely to cause serious bodily harm or death.  This is done to keep participants in a relatively safe environment and to ensure that fights are entertaining and do not end to quickly and easily.

Dangerous fight ending tactics are the focus of combat oriented systems such as the Tang Wei Fighting Method.  These tactics include all the things shown in the video that are illegal in competition and others. Notice how quickly they change the fight. In the combat environment two chief characteristics are that it is unscripted and unrelenting.  Blows landed in the video include eye gouges, knees to opponents heads when they are in compromised positions, up kicks when you ground fighting or stomp kicks to downed opponents and of course groin kicks.

These tactics as you see are total game changers, once impacted, the person that took the blow was either out altogether or they were on their way out of the fight.  When still conscious the victim immediately throws their hand up and is either incapacitated or has suffered a significant reduction in capacity to fight. In a real fight the person would not be saved by a referee.  In the moment where they are incapacitated their opponent is like a shark with blood in the water.  This gives a bit of a perspective about the stakes in a combat encounter.  It leads to a different training perspective.  It makes you want to learn everything you can about strategic avoidance and de-escalation and then it makes you gravitate to certain fighting finishing tactics that you want to become proficient at so that you can do to them before they do to you.

These tactics are dangerous and not something you can practice full bore with a partner over and over without major permanent damage being the result.  In a real encounter we do not necessarily want our trained reflexes to be only composed of movements which can be performed with a large degree of safety for an opponent.  Tom Garriga has often asked, “if you can perform the combat technique full bore on a partner and they do not get hurt, is it really a viable combat technique”.

There is a well known reality gap between all forms of martial training and real combat.  Nothing fully simulates combat.  The gap can be mitigated by focusing on tactics which can be practiced safely and this ends up with a sporting system that may or may not teach combat techniques on the side.  It can be mitigated by a combat system that focuses on movements that cannot be practiced full bore with partners and which conducts “sparring drills” rather than competition fighting. These typically fall in the category of self defense or combat oriented systems.  Sometimes combat systems then will have practitioners who participate in sports martial arts and develop a sports alternative mode for fighting.

One thing is clear, past a certain threshold of fighting, where life threatening motives rather than egotistical motives drive the assault.  Tactics that are “illegal” from a sporting contest perspective are not only not rare as they are in sports, they are the primary set of tactics.  Thus everyone concerned with self defense needs to have a fighting mode that understands them in order to use and counter them.

Consider the fights that are shown in the video.  If these were not accidental occurrences but were the primary targeting scheme of both combatants you would see a very different, gruesome and not marketable for television fight.

In short, the intent in street fighting is different, and getting out of it in one piece is victory. Both forms of training are legitimate, you just have to understand the difference in your own training so that you use the right mindset, strategies and tactics for each. The disrespect between sport based martial artists and self defense focused martial artists really gets old to me.

“estimates are dangerous, overconfidence is a sin” anonymous Tang Wei quote.


Tang Wei Martial Arts Association

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