No Big Fish In THIS Pond

I get called to the carpet often by Filipino Martial Artists and other “reality-based” martial artists because of my support of martial sports fighting.

Their main point is that tournament fighting is not “real” fighting, and because rules are involved, winners/losers declared, there is the element of safety equipment, designated “kill” zones, time limits, etc., that fighters are therefore playing a “game” and are not prepared for actual combat because there is too much simulated combat. I completely disagree.

All fighting must be simulated. Even when soldiers and police are practicing their techniques for combat, they must have the same standards in place to ensure safety. Live rounds in target shooting is no different than training with live blades for the Eskrimador. And I guarantee you that in combat exercises, our soldiers are not shooting at each other with live ammunition. So is that too unrealistic as well?

I have various reasons for saying that the martial artist needs some level of competition in his or her life–or they are not practicing the “martial” arts. Because in order for your activity to be “martial”, it must involve a winner and a loser, it must involve aggression, it must involve one party dominating the other. It is not “fun”. It is not casual. It is not a cooperative activity. The martial arts must be challenging and makes you nervous. It must make you risk being defeated, and as long as defeat doesn’t make you stop, you’re still doing it.


I hear from martial artists all the time who tell me, “I tried competition fighting. Didn’t succeed, but… blah blah blah.” What was the “blah blah blah” part? Wasn’t realistic enough? Led to bad habits? Too much politics? Blah blah blah, my friends is total B.S. Whatever your reason, you stopped fighting because you weren’t successful. If you won, you’d probably stay in it long enough to gain some benefit from it, and you would understand the point of this article. But you lost, and the #1 thing martial-like artists do when they don’t do well is to come up with an excuse why the whole thing is stupid and real martial artists don’t engage in those activities. It is a cop-out, and as a fighter the only thing you can do to make your argument convincing is to engage in an activity that has fewer rules, hits harder, and runs more risk of injury. And sorry, but drills and “realistic” techniques (lol) are not what I’m talking about. The truth is, most martial artists who don’t do well in tournament fighting stop fighting. So they spend the rest of their lives preventing their students from engaging and trying to convince other martial artists that tournaments will keep you from developing fighting skills.

I’ve written quite a bit on what tournament fighting can do for the one looking for real fighting skill, so we won’t waste time here discussing them for the umpteenth time. I do, however, have one more thing I want to say. Being in the company of aggressively training, competitive fighters can only sharpen your skills more. Regardless whether or not you are the best fighter in the group, simply being in their company will help you improve. You will be humbled, forced to work harder, get faster and stronger, develop better timing, and come up with more realistic, better-researched strategies and techniques. Those who do not wish to be challenged avoid this group, because it is far more comfortable being a big fish in a small pond of inferior (or less confident and knowledgeable) martial artists and students. They want to be among friendly martial artists who are eager to “show” you what they learned in the latest seminars and DVDs. The kind of guys who will compliment whatever you come up with and never say “I don’t see how that will work”, nor will they ever challenge you like the guy from the tournament will. Only the hardest stones sharpen blades, and some of these guys prefer to avoid the stones and rub their wooden blades with other wooden blades. And before you know it, you end up with martial arts “fighters” who never fight, only put on drills and demonstrations of martial-like arts, and their skin is so thin, everything that resembles doubt offends them. In other words, they like hanging out in fish bowls where three or four guys make each other feel like we can all be big fish… and none of them are carnivorous.

While the martial artists who do not participate in the feel-good Master-promoting events, but instead will hang in circles with other fighters try month after month to prove that he–and not you–deserve to be the big fish. If any of them could get into that tiny little safe jar, they will eat all of you for a snack.

And this is why the idea of a challenge frightens the hell out of most martial arts “masters”, while those who call themselves fighters, peruse flyers and announcements… looking for someone else to beat to prove their worthiness.

There is a saying that the decline of Black Belters with a high degree starts at a far younger age than those who have longevity with a lower degree. The guys who chase degrees and titles actually stop demanding more from themselves and testing themselves in order to do all the political stuff to get recognition. On the other hand, the guys who forego promotions in order to become the biggest fish spend more time training, fighting, revising and fighting again for years. And by the time they get old enough for someone to really call them master, a ceremony is no longer necessary, and their accomplishments and reputations will be attested by their opponents, not their friends.

This is the path of the real martial artists.

Thanks for visiting my blog.


Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

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