All the gentlemen are dead

In the martial arts the concept of fighting fair often gets deeply engrained in the student. We can easily get swept away with the romantic notion of being able to dispatch a group of snarling, dirty fighting thugs with very clean knock out blows and solar plexus kicks that makes us the hero of good clean decent people.

As exaggerated as this sounds I think is this the secret image that many practitioners, teachers, and even master level teachers have. If you look at some of the mainstream applications to patterns it goes some way to support this idea. Simple brutal movements are often altered to make them more palatable. What may have been at one time a head butt changed to a shoulder strike or missed out completely and is just referred to as a step forward.

Techniques like, eye gouging, head butting, and biting are not only effective but easily accessible. It is sometime this accessibility that makes people disregard them as low skill techniques that should be left for the poor philistines and thugs that don’t train in martial arts or are so low skill that they will always be there for us when we need them. One more reason that they are being left out is that they are seen as unsporting or not fighting fair. Here in lies the issue, no one said fights were meant to be fair. In fact they are very often not. I don’t think that people head to the streets looking for a challenge match, what they want is a beat down with them on the winning side. Sticking to the idea of ‘fighting clean’ or ‘fighting fair’ could very well put you at a disadvantage

One argument that I hear from people who don’t want to include these techniques is that they are not traditional. This is based on the idea that they are not in the forms. This may very well be true but the fact that some of them are low skill, for example biting, that we can make the assumption that the student is already familiar with the ‘technique’. Therefore we can use the patterns to point out positions where a particular low skill technique may be applied.

The other issue with the ‘it’s not in the patterns’ argument is that they very well could be. Take a look at the opening of Toi Gye as an example. Instead of the first movement that is often seen as a block has our hand in the same position as it would be in a shirt or clothing grab. The following movement, pulling our hand to our chest and stepping forward, looks very much like a head butt to me. Later in the pattern there is a twin vertical punch., I don’t agree with the name or the standard application of the movement I teach it as an eye gouge.

Now this may be slowly my interpretation of the patterns but my point is that they techniques can be found there if someone wants.

We should of course look for skill and try to develop ourselves in different ranges and techniques, but this doesn’t mean that we should veer forget the low level skill techniques. In my next article I will be looking at ways of safely training these techniques.


3 thoughts on “All the gentlemen are dead

  1. Ørjan Nilsen

    Great post. If you look to older writings such as the Okinawan Bubishi or “The study of the China hand” and early writings of Mabuni, Kanken, Funakoshi and Motobu you will notice that all of them Writes about “unfair” techniques as part of their martial art. The study of China hand especially have a chart that shows the areas of study within Tode (old name of Karate) where among the usual kicks, punches, deflections etc you get Things such as: using Your voice, Deception, spitting, strategy, fighingt in darkness, using the environment etc. I think that some of the obvious technqiues to be used in fighting such as groin grabs are not necessarily shown in forms but what happens if the obvious technique goes wrong is shown. For instance you get a lot of wrist grab defenses in forms Applications. Grabbing the wrist is not an everyday occurance but if you try to grab the opponents groin, throat or gauge their eyes a very instinctive reaction from the opponent would be to grab the wrist and remove it from whatever it is you are trying to do. Sometimes the gauging of the eyes, grabbing of the throat or the groin is not shown as it is a technique anyone should be familiar With but you need to know what to do if it is countered. The headbutts you mention is something I have not thought of so now I am off to do all my forms and see if some movements are now in a New light;-) Thank you:-)

  2. Pingback: Sparring Drills part 2 | Tactical Taekwondo

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