As a seasoned and experienced martial artist, I find it hard to think and feel the same as I did when I first started training. I was a scrawny and uncoordinated 14 year old who would spend any spare change he had on the coin operated Double Dragon or Kung- Fu Master. I used to watch the animated character throw flawless techniques to lay the bad guys out on their ass, sometimes taking multiple opponents out with one mighty strike. In those days I thought that if I perfected my round-house and my reverse punch I would be able to achieve the same results thinking that the digital animation of the video game was modeled on real fighting skills of martial artists whose ability far surpassed even that of my instructor. This was before the console boom of the early nineties and of the Street Fighter and Mortal Combat games with their outrageous action.
I remember watching my instructor hopping on one foot snapping out crisp head high roundhouse kicks before chambering his knee and repeating the motion over and over again as he would chase a target pad across the leisure center court. In my mind I could see the bad guys getting knocked down as they all attacked in a line. As I would slam the reverse punch into the air shield I would imagine that through constant repetition I could develop a strike that would send shock waves through an attacker’s internal organs and break ribs. As I would perform the kata I would think that through some magic the movements would take out any man who dared attack someone who knew this sequence of blocks and strikes.
I received my first wake up call when a stiff jab from a boxing friend bloodied my nose and a right cross rattled my world. All I remember was covering my face as punch after punch rained down on my head. This experience made me pursue boxing as the ultimate fighting method. I soon learned to use my hands combined with footwork and body movements to attack from many angles, to parry and weave. For once other martial artists started to notice me as someone who knows how to punch, kick and not afraid of trading blows.
My second wake up call came with the impact of shin bone on my thigh shooting pain up my body. Something about the way Muay Thai utilized boxing with low kicks and clinch work made it an innately perfect fighting method. I still practiced the traditional martial arts and over the years became a Taekwondo blackbelt, but I learned to put everything into perspective. There is a sense of satisfaction in having the ability to throw and be able to score with fast head high kicks. Likewise it is satisfying to be able to perform a pattern with correctly executed precision, crisp movements, timing, balance, breathing etc.
Would the practice of a martial art make one more able to fight? That’s the million dollar question. No doubt, the conditioning, the coordination and all other attributes gained through training will pay off dividends. Just like training in rugby, rowing or football would make you a more conditioned and sinewy character. Would the training enable a slight female or out of shape office worker fend off or even survive a violent assault? If I said yes I would be selling the naïve, chop-socky pitch that pulled wool over my adolescent eyes many years ago.
Krav Maga, a system I discovered 10 years ago does not come under the banner of martial arts although often grouped as a martial art style. There is no showmanship, no melodramatic fight choreography. It is a system bourne out of necessity for self protection. As an instructor it is my responsibility to be able to explain fact from fiction, reality from myth to my students. If someone is worried about their safety and is being pro-active in seeking out training with me, it is my responsibility to only teach that which will produce results or at least facilitate survival and escape.
When I teach a defense, I am responsible in making sure that student understands and is able to apply the defense with minimal effort in a real situation. As someone who has spent years seeking out the truth in martial arts I feel a kindred spirit with those who come to me to learn no-nonsense, to the point, hand to hand combat. It is a powerful and rewarding experience seeing people leave my class with the tools and the knowledge of being better able to defend themselves from common types of attack; to see the difference that Krav Maga makes in their lives.