What Makes an Effective Martial Art?

What Makes an Effective Martial Art?

This will be the first actual post of this blog and I can’t think of a more appropriate post than my philosophy of martial arts.

First and foremost, a martial art has to be effective.  I don’t mean to rule out that martial arts cannot be focused on entertainment or finding your inner zen, to each their own.  However, the effectiveness of your martial art will greatly increase your odds of surviving a street fight should one ever happen and let’s set the record straight here that martial arts should prepare you for street confrontations.

So, what makes a martial art effective?  Long-range weapons, counterattacks and footwork are typically the variables I examine when determining the viability of a martial art.

Long-range weapons, generally, ensure your survival since you can attack and defend as far as your weapon will allow.  When you think of long-range weapons you might jump right to swords and spears but realistically, you wouldn’t be carrying those around in public.  Aside from attracting unwanted attention, martial arts are meant to be subtle forms of deep expression.  So, then, what are your options?  Out on the streets, anything could be your weapon if you have the mind for it.  A stick on the ground, your ruler that you use for school and if those are out of sight, even your car keys will suffice!  Now, this is assuming your opponent isn’t using a gun or some other projectile weapon.  In my experience living in Toronto, CA, people like to carry around pocket knives for self defense or other purposes.  Against someone holding a knife, your long-range weapon should provide enough distance for you to prevent him from slashing you.

Counterattacks and footwork really go hand-in-hand.  In other words, one doesn’t necessarily come before the other.  Whenever I think of counterattacking I think about that old saying about how the best offense is a good defense and that couldn’t be more true in martial arts.  Continuing with the image in your head of holding your long-range weapon up against your opponents short range weapon, if your opponent is smart he’ll call it a day and leave you alone.  However, if we’re preparing for a real life confrontation, always assume the worst.  Again, typically, if your opponent is using a knife, he’ll do the predictable move of raising his arm upward and running toward you trying to get that overhead stab.  To most experienced martial arts practitioners, this may seem ludicrous but it’s rare to find someone who actually knows what they’re doing and is why they may be using a weapon in the first place.  Although, these days with MMA being the cultural phenomenon that it is, you never know who knows what.  Anyways, arm raised and running toward you like a madman will leave your opponent’s arm completely exposed for your long-range weapon to do some damage.  This isn’t disarming damage by any means.  The point is to counter his attacks.  So, as your opponent tries and tries again each strike from your long-range weapon will weaken that arm and eventually render it useless.  The nerves will be so damaged from your repeated strikes that your opponent won’t be able to hold the knife any longer, especially if you continue to strike the same spot which is an entirely different skill that can be covered in the future.

No good counterattack comes without excellent footwork.  Think of fencing.  Someone is always on the offensive and moving forward, while the recipient is on the defensive and moving backward.  Not to exclude the footwork of other martial arts, fencing just happens to be one that I find exceptionally useful.  Applying this to our ongoing example, your opponent continues to try and swing down with a knife to stab us and you’re repeatedly striking the same spot on his arm that’s wielding the knife.  All this being done while you step back as your opponent steps forward.  Usually, the sequence is as follows: opponent steps forward, opponent begins attack, you step to the side to flank or step back, you attack the arm wielding the knife and any other body part in the process and reset.  Now, the ball is back in your opponent’s court.  That sequence doesn’t follow through in every fight that will ever happen, it’s just an example.  There are many possibilities in fighting and it might not always work out.

I hope this post has provided readers with some insight and if not don’t hesitate to comment on why it didn’t.  Also, what do YOU think makes a martial art effective?  Do you think martial arts should have a different focus?  Let me know!