Earlier this afternoon, I was speaking to a gentleman who had taken the equivalent of 18 months worth of martial arts. It was not a McDojo by any means (his teacher was a gentleman named Steve Habib, of Marysville, CA who is quite a good fighter), but to many who are not really in “the know” when it comes to real martial arts–would dismiss this gentleman’s martial arts experience. He had taken Tae Kwon Do lessons, learned a few Hapkido moves here and there, and worked out regularly with a Kenpo Karate student. This man had once been soft and overweight, but under Sabumnim Habib’s tutelage, had become very fit and had learned to spar.
The dojang was located next door to a gym, run by a Nigerian body builder named Chaka (forgot the last name), who was a chiropractor prior to pursuing a career in body building, and the gentleman I met supplemented his workouts by lifting weights. Under Habib, the man, Scott, learned to punch and kick and to fight. Under Chaka, he learned proper techniques for weight-lifting and became very strong and developed a physique he still has today. Scott proudly holds a Yellow Belt in Tae Kwon Do, and has not had a martial arts lesson in over 15 years, since achieving this Yellow Belt. But listen to his experience…
He was in the Air Force and worked overnights with 12 hour shifts. He could not attend regular classes, so he attended the morning class and ended up sparring with his teacher two days a week for about 10 – 15 minutes each time. In his classes, he only performed about 25-30 reps of his punches and kicks, but occasionally did 50 to 100. He did all the things TKD students did: kata practice, stance training, one-step sparring, basic self-defense. About two or three days a week, he lifted weights with Chaka and two coworkers from his military unit. And at least one day a week, he got together to spar with other young men from his unit.
Doesn’t seem very profound, does it?
Well, some things significant did happen. Scott became confident. He bulked up a little. He felt his strength develop. He learned, in essence, to fight. His meetings with other karateka were infrequent and casual, and they were not Black Belters. But they were fun. After a little over a year of this (his version) fanatical training experience, he had learned to handle himself, and ridded himself of the fear of fighting. 18 months after meeting Habib, Scott got out of the military, and got a few jobs, eventually becoming a police officer. One of those jobs was a security guard in a restaurant/club, and this is what inspired me to write this article.
Scott was a bouncer and he said something really, really profound: I was in no way an ass-kicker. But I wasn’t afraid of anybody after facing Mr. Habib twice a week, and I felt like I was strong enough to give any man a run for his money. Even when I faced guys who looked scary, and I was a little nervous, and could command the situation to keep myself out of a fight. Wow. No stories about kicking the bad guy in behind. No stories about hurting people. He simply avoided trouble by not being afraid to do what he was trained to do, and knowing that he had the physical ability to carry it out if needed.
Let me restate that for emphasis:
He avoided trouble by—
- Not being afraid to use his art
- Knowing he had the physical ability to do what he was trained to do
In a nutshell, Scott had learned basically how to fight. He didn’t learn any MMA moves, or how to fight from the guard, or how to knock a man out, or how to disarm a knife-wielding opponent, etc. He simply learned how to throw a punch or kick, and what to do if he was attacked. Then, he developed a little physical ability by lifting weights–and I’m sure that was accompanied by the appearance of a man you shouldn’t screw with. The result is what we in the martial arts would call a self-defense success: a man who doesn’t have to fight. But if he had to fight, he would be able to perform.
As teachers, this is a good teaching strategy to have. We give them skills they can use, and then make sure we have trained them well-enough that they’ve developed some strength to ensure that weapons are powerful enough to get the job done. When those two goals are accomplished, you end up with a guy who can avoid trouble just by not being a sitting duck. See, most bad guys know who to avoid–and sometimes, often, they can see what’s in your T-shirt and know that messing with you is a mistake.
You could do what I do, and teach body weight exercises. But that is the long way. Weightlifting is something that does it much faster, and you don’t need a whole lot of learning to train yourself. I call this “weightlifting self-defense”. Simply put, you could take what Scott told me and eliminate the martial arts lessons (but keep the weightlifting) and accomplish the same goal. Because the bottom line of Scott’s philosophy is that he didn’t necessarily know a lot about fighting, but he looked the part and felt the part. And for most trouble makers, that’s all you need.
He proudly holds a Yellow Belt in Tae Kwon Do, and as a police officer he had used a few of those techniques a few times, I’m sure. But I believe his martial arts knowledge is legitimate and useful and serves the purpose that the martial arts is supposed to serve. McDojos across America promise this in nearly every ad I’ve ever seen: Self-confidence. But in at least Steve Habib’s Han Mi Tae Kwon Do Studio’s case, he delivered.
Thanks for visiting my blog. If you happen to live in the Twin Cities area and are looking for good martial arts, I highly recommend that school. (And no, I am not paid to say that! LOL!)
Hey, while you’re here, go over to the “Offerings” page and order my book! Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months