When I was a kid I used to watch old karate movies and I used to see the master punch the bad guy and he would go flying! As a gullible kid it seemed that karate punches were almost magical. As I grew up and learned a bit of karate – I learned how to break boards and bricks and thought I had a good punch. I mean all of the board and bricks were scared of me.
That was always the argument when I first got into karate – did boxing or karate have the most powerful punch. Boxers thought they did and the formal karate guys thought the did. Well I’m not going to sway any boxers opinions here but in this article I’m going to discus boxing vs karate punches, where the power is generated and some differences. And I will give away my secret to throwing a really power punch… relax.. more on that later but first here is a video that frames the question very aptly.
As you might know from reading this website I tend to focus on self-defense over martial arts (MA). Martial arts are interesting to me in the various forms such as studio sparring, tournment fighting (back in the days of the legal groin kicks), sport (boxing, mma, kick boxing) and what I started karate lessons for – self-defense so many years ago.
So while sport MA are fun to watch – they have no basis in reality as they have rules. I hear some of you yelling to the screen that (insert sport here) works in the street (insert expletive here)! I want you to know that I think any top fighter in any sport will do ok on the street. I don’t disagree.
But – with rules you leave out targets that I as a self-defense practitioner can take advantage of – for instance the groin, eyes, throat, knees and such. I also know some of you have iron nuts and not man (or even a woman) can harm you… sure they are… I’ve stopped listening to fairy tails when I was a boy. So lets agree to disagree on this point and get to the point of this post.
Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) daggar training is one type of improvised martial arts training we are starting to use. Here is a video of some basic HEMA dagger sparring for your perusal and then I’ll speak how Kenpo Karate initial movement can blend effectively to make the dagger an effective improvised weapon.
Maybe late one night/early morning, you are walking to your car from a night club with friends and you get attacked! What do you think your considerations would be? Do you have confidence in the way you train and the tools of your martial art?
Let me just say I have always considered fighting – fighting! I mean (and for my purposes I only use fighting for self-defense) whatever method of fighting you choose – it should be inclusive enough to have methods to take on most kinds of attacks. So if the odd thug that wants your wallet or pack of dogs attack you, or that ever popular fight over the quarter on the pool table happens to you and you cannot use your deescalation techniques you have perfected over the years – you will have to fight back.
To me fighting not only includes unarmed methods but using weapons with my martial art methods. This includes various improvised weapons (as I call them in Kenpo). To me this does not include depending on a weapon for self-defense but rather on my training.
Here is a video that initially speaks to improvised weapons that I like up to 2:20 and then it starts going into specific weapon martial arts methods. While I certainly agree that learning some of other martial arts can help if you need to use that type of weapon – I do not think you need to be an expert in eastern stick or knife fighting to use a stick or knife with karate for instance. So with that disclaimer please watch the beginning of this video and I’ll comment later.
How I got to the point on writing on America’s moral decline in view of self-defense is interesting I think so here goes. When I was a kid I was raised as a Roman Catholic and questions of right and wrong were easy. We had a book, church and traditions. I remember making the mistake of befriending a kid of low moral character who taught me the, “Harry Cemetery” rhyme. As it is no longer considered immoral to recite it I will post here to make my point.
This is Harry Cemetery
If you good you go to Heaven
If your bad you to to Hell…o everybody…
My mom did not seem to understand the finer point of linguistic nuance (you see I did not really say the word, “Hell”), grounded me and told me that I could not play with my (former) friend anymore.
You see morality viewed through the religious context was simple to understand. That was in 1968. You see a great number of Americans viewed morality in the same context. It was abhorrent to view morality (right and wrong) though a purely secular context.
Well as you know America was not perfect back then (as in any other time in history for any nation) but we as Americans seemed to mostly agree on the definition of right and wrong. We had crazies back then but they were not very demonstrative. The information age had not happened yet (Al Gore had not created the internet yet ).
So fast forward through the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s to the 21’st century, now many moral issues that were bad in the early 1960’s are now ok as viewed by progressives. I won’t go into all of the changes as that will distract from my main points. There is one issue I will speak to here… how the crazies seem to think life is cheap. First here is a quick video with some of the issues.
I have fond memories of my first gang attack back in the 5th grade. Me and a friend got tired of of the crowed swing sets and before the 3rd graders came to recess – we decided to take over their play ground. We were under the delusion that the two bigger fifth graders would be intimidated into letting us take over their play ground. Well as I recall we had no such luck. We took over two of their swings and told them to go away – this was our play ground now. The little munchkins responded by attacking us! We were only able to hold them off for maybe 15 seconds or so… I mean they came at us from all angles and soon we were rolling round in the sand and had to crawl to safety! We learned a hard lesson that day – never, I mean never get between the entire third grade and their play ground!!!
So you see my first experience with a mass/gang attack did not go quite as I had expected. Later on in the sixth grade I was able to escape two twins that had a hold of each arm – running me into a pole. I remember a cartoon where the character tripped both attackers right before they reached the pole and banged their heads together! I tried that and it worked like a charm! I had another experience in sixth grade where two twins thought they could out wrestle me. They were a year older and on the wrestling team. I told them I could pin them both and it was on… after about five minutes I managed to pin on of the twins with my hands to his shoulders as my shin pinned the other by his throat!
So I knew it was possible to defeat a gang of attackers – but I knew you had to have an edge – that I assumed had to be better fighting technique. Before I launch on what you can do if you are attacked by a gang of thugs, first watch this video of what not do do. I have fond memories of that third grade class kicking my butt as I watch this video.
[Disclaimer: This post is speaking specifically about older men or women that find themselves being threatened with lethal force by younger men or women – so a true fight or flight, if fight… it is for your life – so no holds barred defense including is the ultimate response. I am not endorsing mayhem or killing in the course of a normal lower-threat self-defense scenario.]
Sadly I was disappointed while searching videos of old men (or women) fighting in perceived self-defense situations. Youtube is full of that kind of stuff nowadays due to cell phone cameras. So the real question, “Can older aged men (women implied also) train effectively for fighting?” really came to mind and spurred this post. I intend to frame this argument from the perspective of an old man trained as fighter in his youth (my situation) in the martial arts of some kind. While my art is Kenpo – you could interchange almost any striking art with the same issues to overcome.
As a young man karate students are taught to avoid fights, walk away, deescalate and maybe even run away! This is all an attempt to avoid needless carnage for perceived slights and needless fights over quarters at the pool table (I don’t know where that came from). As a young man – hormones surge through ones body and everyone (men and women) are preening for each other. No one wanted to look weak and many did not let challenges to their man or woman hood go. They defended their honor! Even most martial artists ignored the advice to walk away and digressed to fisticuffs at the drop of a hat.
Well fast forward to late middle ages to the elderly and you will find many that the mind is still willing but the body does not respond so well. Even among martial artists (the subject of this article) you will find old men that will fight a younger man at the drop of the hat. I will argue that older men cannot fall prey to their youthful horrormones [misspelling intended] and actually have to use some of their fast dissipating grey matter and fight smarter at old age if they expect to win. It does not matter your rank or how many fight stories you can tell your children (grandchildren?) about what you could do in your youth! Them times is not now!!!
So please review the first part of this video about some common sense deescalation techniques that while all should consider – old men have to do in order to put up a reasonable defense!
It was the mid-1980’s and I was having a conversation with an old guy I knew from another business. He owned a metal shop and the conversation got to fighting. He knew I used to own a karate school and thought I could take care of myself. He told me that he knew karate and was good at street fighting. We went back and forth for a while with our experience and I assumed since I outranked him I could win easily in any kind of fight. Well as you know in a street fight there are no rules. I squared off with Henry and as I was getting ready into my stance – he jabbed an eye-poke at my forehead!!! My ego was great and my counter punch caught him in his gut and I declared myself the winner!
It reminded me of my childhood cap-gun fights arguing who got who first. You see in a real fight it only matters who wins and winning most often is taking an early advantage and keeping it. Fights only last seconds if someone knows how to fight. I could not accept that a man in his 50’s could get one over on me (a fighter in his 20’s). But looking back on that incident the way a real fight would have gone is me temporarily unable to see while the old guy had his way with me.
I bring this up because of today’s topic, “Are the martial arts effective in a fight?” Save yourself some reading and I’ll tell you the answer now… maybe.
First I would like to mention that the martial arts I am speaking of include Eastern and Western martial arts. I am not discriminating here. I have always said fighting is fighting is fighting. No matter what techniques you choose to accomplish fighting – there are only so many ways to do it and everything is known. So I include karate, kung fu, wrestling, boxing, muay thai, jiu-jitsu (Japanese and Brazilian), judo, savate and so forth… any martial art you can think of I am including in this list.
Check out this short video from a school owner I found on youtube, Fred Mergen, about will MMA work in a street fight to frame the arguments.