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  1. #1
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    Default FUNCTIONAL MARTIAL ARTS

    I was scrolling past articles on Corona Virus and one caught my eye. It was an article on "Functional Martial Arts". It featured an overweight thirty-something with one of those candy striped belts wielding a staff. It struct me that the new term in vogue is "Functional". It is like "Tactical" was in the 1990s. Don't get me wrong. I am an avowed capitalist and know that nothing good is ever free and everything, even salvation, has a cost. But functional doesn't describe the image of Master Overeater, nor what he was planning to teach. So what would a truly "functional" martial art look like?

    The samurai had one, as did the Okinawans and the Knights of Europe...just to name a few. Here is what they all had in common and what a modern truly functional (meaning useful and results-driven in our modern times) system would look like today.

    1). It would prize and seek to develop strength and conditioning. Few Samurai or Knights were overweight. All were strong and fit for their era. We have images of the tools used to develop strength from the Okinawans and from the European books depicting the training of warriors. So before any technical nuances are sought, the base of strength, and applicable cardiovascular development is seen to.

    2). It would work every movement and countermeasure to access weapons carried. Samurai were great at this and all the stuff that now forms Judo and Jujitsu was intended to get to the sword. Same for the knights. Today the same situation exists. Whether the choice is to draw a pistol or not, every response should allow the opportunity to escalate. In the real world, when men fight, they do not fist fight for honor. Those are not the fights such a martial art prepares for. This martial art prepares for the fights that end up in a death...or a life changing injury. If you know how to prevail there, the idiot wanting to puff up his chest at a bar is hardly a challenge.

    3). It would not be sport oriented. Sport fighting and street fighting are vastly different situations and the modern sport focus contributes to gaps and training scars as the rules are the driving force rather than the result, which is quickly and suddenly damaging the enemy to the point where he is incapable of continuing.

    Those are what would define a system that is functional. The methodology of training would be the same as is commonly taught in the martial arts world. Aside from the mandatory physical training, the method of basics, templates (kata) and applied training applications with varying degrees of pressure would be the work. Things would not be over simplified or "dumbed down". Nor would the focus be on sparring or scores.
    Gabriel Suarez

    Turning Lambs into Lions Since 1995

    Suarez International USA Headquarters

  2. #2
    My cousins step son is 12 years old and about 60lbs overweight AT LEAST! According to her, he'll never need to worry about carrying a gun because he been training in, get this, Kung Fu for the last few years and is able to kill people if need be.

    People are stupid. Fat children who fall prey to BS can be forgiven, unfortunately many adults are just as delusional. There is a "Bushido Karate" place not far from me. Often ill look into the window when going by. I honestly dont believe I have ever seen a fit body in the lot.

  3. #3
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    This may be an over simplification in defining a "functional" martial art, but here goes.

    All fighting systems must have a foundation. In the gun world we might call this "core skill-sets". In the empty hand arena there are movements or Katas. These skill sets don't make us deadly, but functional within the chosen realm. Foundation skill sets provide a base for more specific skill development.

    Those specific skills should be based on what we know about fighting. Functional Martial Arts should include empty hand skills that could be considered lethal. Lethal empty hand skills can't be found at the strip mall dojo; to this we can turn to military instruction.

    A functional martial art must have an element of proof testing that isn't score based nor merit badged.

    On a side note:

    I've seen the term functional martial arts in social media. Most are pimping out a one or two day martial arts class. They're selling the KISS concept by teaching a half dozen kicks and fist strikes. They appeal to those who want to be deadly, but don't want to put in the time/work.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cacti Rat View Post
    Most are pimping out a one or two day martial arts class. They're selling the KISS concept by teaching a half dozen kicks and fist strikes. They appeal to those who want to be deadly, but don't want to put in the time/work.
    Catering to the "Look, squirrel!" generation.
    Waitin' for a squeeze...

    TWOTU Since March 2012

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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by IANative View Post
    Catering to the "Look, squirrel!" generation.
    Maybe, but folks have been selling this stuff ("women's self defense seminar" et. al.) since the 1980s *that I know of*. Maybe longer.

  6. #6
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    Some of this is just me rewriting my specific criticisms of Hojutsu Ryu, but these are also "functional" or practical considerations:

    1) Train primarily in the clothing that you wear. I wouldn't wear my suits for jujitsu training, but my training attire should ideally replicate my suits or daily attire. I don't wear anything like a gi anywhere other than the dojo, and the junkie/robber/criminal that I'm training to fight would also not be wearing a gi.

    1a) Wear shoes. Maybe you have to remove them sometimes in order to not destroy the mats, but wear shoes when you can.

    2) Speak English. I'm not a xenophobe, but this is America and we speak American. If a training school in Miami or El Paso decided to speak only Spanish, because of the clients that they served, that would make perfect sense to me. It does not make sense, though, to force Americans to memorize a limited Japanese vocabulary in order to train.

    3) Teach and train in a linear progression. This may not be possible in the current market, but I have no doubt about the benefits. Right now, people show up any time of the year, sign a monthly contract, and plug into an existing class. I don't think this works any better for martial arts than it does for a math or history class. It would be far better to have a fresh batch of students begin at the same time and progress through the material together. You could start new classes every X number of months. After the beginner phase, this becomes far less important. Again, I know that this plan generally won't work in business. But if you could make it work, it would be better for the students.

    4) Go beyond the mats. Some training occurs on the mats, some in the weight room, some on the road, and some in the classroom. Cover everything.
    Virtute et Armis

  7. #7
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    For a child/youth, there is nothing more functional than Folkstyle/Freestyle/Greco wrestling. It makes them harder mentally and physically and teaches how to dump someone, avoid being dumped, and control ranges. My 12 year old went from a boy to a young man this Nov- current in his first year. I realize that wrestling is not an old man’s game, but do feel there are movements that stay with you from years of practice. I don’t think there is a one stop shop for all needs for an adult starting from zero. You would need a clinch base, a striking base, a ground base, and all previous with weapons in play.

  8. #8
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    I think the sport orientation does a lot of harm. Tournament sparring has rules. Lots of rules. A serious fight has no rules except to survive. And a serious martial art teaches the techniques that would get you thrown out of a tournament...but will save your skin on the street.

    The more I read some of the posts here, the more I come to appreciate the quality of instruction at the Patuxent River Karate Club. Solid basics, good katas...and good bunkai for those katas. We weren't just waving our hands around. Plus weapons.

  9. #9
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    Mine...
    Quote Originally Posted by LawDog View Post
    Some of this is just me rewriting my specific criticisms of Hojutsu Ryu, but these are also "functional" or practical considerations:

    1) Train primarily in the clothing that you wear...
    Yes. But...

    1a) Wear shoes. Maybe you have to remove them sometimes in order to not destroy the mats, but wear shoes when you can.
    Yes, but...

    2) Speak English. I'm not a xenophobe, but this is America and we speak American. If a training school in Miami or El Paso decided to speak only Spanish, because of the clients that they served, that would make perfect sense to me. It does not make sense, though, to force Americans to memorize a limited Japanese vocabulary in order to train.
    Yes, but...

    3) Teach and train in a linear progression. This may not be possible in the current market, but I have no doubt about the benefits. Right now, people show up any time of the year, sign a monthly contract, and plug into an existing class. I don't think this works any better for martial arts than it does for a math or history class. It would be far better to have a fresh batch of students begin at the same time and progress through the material together. You could start new classes every X number of months. After the beginner phase, this becomes far less important. Again, I know that this plan generally won't work in business. But if you could make it work, it would be better for the students.
    I don't disagree. But for most schools this one is practically impossible. Many legitimate schools struggle to get enough people in the doors, and when a prospective student is interested you don't want to turn them away by making them wait a week or more before they can join. And when a school is big enough to support this model it's often a McDojo.

    Many legitimate schools are big enough to support separate classes for beginners, and that model works well.


    4) Go beyond the mats. Some training occurs on the mats, some in the weight room, some on the road, and some in the classroom. Cover everything.
    Yes.
    I don't disagree with the above but there is more to consider here. Unsurprisingly my view is colored by my background, and I recognize everyone has different interests and priorities.

    From a fighter's perspective, as someone interested in practical skills for both avoiding and engaging in violence, none of the trappings of a "traditional" (that's a loaded word) dojo are that important. I didn't need a gi to learn how to hit, and it doesn't make me hit any harder knowing the Japanese term for striking. And those trappings of the traditional dojo certainly CAN be an impediment to learning.

    From the perspective of the business owner, a lot of those trappings are necessary. There's a segment of the population that WANTS those things. Most people interested in martial arts want more than just self-defense skills. They are often looking for a sense of belonging, a community, an identity...something outside of themselves and bigger than themselves. Not everyone needs or wants that, but for those who do it's important...and it does bring people in the door and put money in the bank. There are a lot of bad examples of traditional dojos, but there are a lot of great examples too. It's not all about blood and guts. In my opinion it certainly must include blood and guts, but there's a lot of benefit when it's about more than just fighting and beating your bad guy to a pulp. It needs to come with some values that are baked into the training and some of those trappings encourage good values. That doesn't mean values can't be paired with a "non-traditional" approach, just saying that the traditional approach has some benefit here.

    Looking at it from the perspective of the instructor, some of those trappings have practical value beyond simply attracting a target demographic:
    *Putting on the gi is simple...you don't have to think about what you're wearing. You don't have distractions associated with fashion, with levels of income, with male/female stuff (yoga pants can be especially distracting). It makes everyone the same, which in this case is a good thing. And what I think is particularly useful is that it puts a student's mind in the right place...putting on the gi is a ritual where you set aside all the bullshit of the day and engage your mind and body in dojo training. It makes the dojo something more than just another gym (which has value business wise as well.) There's also a safety element involved.

    *Training barefoot has practical benefits. It helps you learn certain things faster, such as connection to the ground (something I think is a lot more important than most realize...as anyone who has trained with me can attest). I also think it's simply healthy for your feet which translates to the rest of your body. (I believe the simple act of being barefoot on the mat for almost 40 years has been a hugely positive thing for my health.) This doesn't mean training in shoes has no value...to the contrary, we need to understand how we move and react in different shoes and on different surfaces. This is one where time on and off the mat pays dividends. There are also safety concerns both with and without shoes.

    *Language - this is one where I take a middle road. I recognize that from a purely practical perspective, foreign terminology is an impediment to learning, especially for new students. And even for longer term students, those terms can be challenging. Over the years I've gone back and forth using Japanese terms. Today I use them interchangeably. I make sure new students know what we are doing in English, and I use Japanese terms enough that longer term students recognize them. There is absolutely no practical benefit in fighting terms...but much like French is the lingua franca of fencing and ballet, Japanese is the language of Judo, Aikido, Karate, etc. Sooner or later my students are exposed to other teachers and students, and if they don't understand at least the basic terms they would feel uneducated, and other organizations would view them as such. Perhaps not a huge deal, but I'd rather expose my students than not. But I also make it pretty clear to students my feeling on the subject...I put much more priority on practical fighting skills than on vocabulary skills. I make materials available to those who are interested, and to those who aren't we just hit stuff hard. I like to give students some choice on where they want to take their training.


    The funny thing to me is that here I am arguing for some of the trappings of the traditional dojo...but compared to much of my circle I'm on the extreme opposite end. I argue the other side...most of those trappings aren't really that traditional to begin with. In a nutshell, I've adopted things that I think have value, whether from a business, training or safety perspective.

    Iain Abernethy has done a couple videos on "traditional" things he does/doesn't do. I haven't had the time to watch them but I suspect he and I are largely on the same page.

    IMO the most important thing is that one trains. Look for the best stuff you can, look for it sincerely, train hard, and cross train whenever possible. Even if you can't cross train in other martial disciplines, train the things you know in different ways, with different people and in different places/contexts.

    The really good stuff is good, whether it has those traditional trappings or not. And the stuff that isn't good...it doesn't matter one damn bit what they wear or what language they speak. My instructor Ito always told me: There are two kinds of Karate: strong Karate and weak Karate.
    Brent Yamamoto
    Suarez International Tier 1 Staff Instructor

    Ready, willing, able. Bring it.

    Instagram: karate_at_1200fps

    Upcoming classes:

    Pistol Groundfighting, Texas

  10. #10
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    Mar 2011
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    Lots of words in my last post, but here's another take, regarding FUNCTIONAL martial arts.

    The shit has to work. It either works well, most of the time, or it doesn't.

    Maybe some of the students from PGF last weekend can comment on things that work and things that don't.
    Brent Yamamoto
    Suarez International Tier 1 Staff Instructor

    Ready, willing, able. Bring it.

    Instagram: karate_at_1200fps

    Upcoming classes:

    Pistol Groundfighting, Texas

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