The Problem with “The Drawing Board”

Darrin Cook posted this clip on his blog:

And it got me thinking about martial artists who teach “defense from ___” classes. Many years ago when I was training for Olympic style Tae Kwon Do, a Kung Fu brother of mine put on a seminar he titled “How to Fight Tae Kwon Do”. I was around many of my kung fu brothers at the time and was invited to be an observer for this seminar. Some of my classmates, knowing that I was fighting in TKD tournaments, kept asking me for my opinions throughout the seminar and it was very difficult for me to hold my tongue. Here was the problem. My Si Hing (older brother) did in fact have a TKD Black Belt. But he was many years away from it, and as far as I know, received his Black Belt from a commercial school (by our standards) as a young boy. He had done no competing at all as a Tae Kwon Do man, and was terribly unqualified to teach what a Tae Kwon Do fighter would do in a fight. Basically, he had gone “to the drawing board” and rationalized what a TKD fighter would do, as well as what should be done to combat his technique. Too many martial artists have done this, and dare I say it–including the great Bruce Lee.

If you want to learn how to fight a grappler, it’s very easy:  fight one. And do it a lot. Hopefully, your relationship with this grappler is good enough that you could ask him for feedback and clarification on what he was doing while you were fighting him.

If you want to learn how to fight a Tae Kwon Do man, find a Tae Kwon Do man, and fight him. Read the above paragraph for more…

Martial artists aren’t doing this. Majority of the time, they are trying to come up with the dynamics of the experience of fighting against another style without fighting (sound familiar?) in the safety and comfort of their own “drawing boards” without ever stepping foot in front of the men they are attempting to learn to beat. And that’s the problem with skimming the surface of an art and then teaching it. That’s the problem with reading books about boxing and fencing and then having generations of people swear you know how to box and fence. What qualifies people as an expert? Simply knowing? How about thinking you know?

I remember being at a Jeet Kune Do seminar with some friends (actually, being *dragged* to a seminar by my friend, Guro Guy Kinanahan) and witnessing a man who had obviously had NO Muay Thai fights teach very lousy Muay Thai to the students… and then certifying them! What the hell? I fought what would be considered “Muay Thai” style for 2 years, and I wouldn’t dare teach a Muay Thai class. Yet, after years of active fights against Muay Thai fighters, I am qualified to teach a “how to fight Muay Thai” course. (not that I ever would) My students are active on the local Muay Thai circuit, and in fact in 2009 we won two of the 3 “Triple Threat” series of tournaments.

And this is where my philosophy of “don’t cross-train, cross-fight” comes in. If you are a Silat man, you do much better learning to use your Silat–which is already your specialty–to fight a Muay Thai guy, than it would be to drop Silat for any length of time to study Muay Thai and add it to your repertoire. Because–what would you have, pretty good Silat mixed in with some lousy beginner Muay Thai skills? You think that’s going to win you some fights?

So the guy in the video may be a pretty good Wing Chunner. But he ain’t being tackled, I can guarantee you that. And that demo he’s showing you is a very poor presentation of what to do against a tackle. This isn’t to say that he can’t fight. It’s not making a judgment of his ability to fight a grappler. But the way to learn to stop a tackle should somehow begin with getting a guy who knows how to tackle you and have him TACKLE you.

And please don’t insult us with “well, he’s doing a half-hearted tackle to show the technique.” A full tackle against a full defense will show the technique, thank you. Either it works or it doesn’t. If the technique works, show that it works. That’s all I’m saying.

Point number two:  If you want to truly go “to the drawing board”, you need two to tango. You already have your art. Go to the next guy’s drawing board. This way you are learning, and you are testing. Anything less than that, and you’re just fooling yourself. Just like darn near every “How to fight against _____” seminar and book and article and video I’ve ever seen. Sounds like some guy is getting ready to show you some style he knows nothing about, and what he would do if he was a superior fighter. And since this is your dream, everything works, doesn’t it?

My Si Hing basically made a fool of himself that day (which is why I’m not sharing his name). He fumbled with techniques he was unfamiliar with. His semete (attacker) fumbled with techniques he performed very poorly. And I really hope no one in the seminar who paid their $25 weren’t convinced of those horrible “defenses”. After the seminar, I sparred with some of the attendees (yes, I know they were just students…) and hopefully showed them how difficult it is to fight a TKD guy–and I was only an average TKD guy–because they were taught that TKD was so easy to fight.

I’m pretty sure that there is a whole school full of Wing Chun guys who think grapplers are idiots who can’t fight, and defending against one is going to be easy as pie. Very sad…

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