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This comprehensive, well-written discussion was written by Ethan, a Good Looking Loser contributor. The original post was on this thread in our Martial Arts Forum. I encourage you to leave your questions, comments, praise or hate mail there.
This article doesn't necessarily represent the viewpoints of Chris (Good Looking Loser). I have no qualified view of Martial Arts, it's cool stuff that I know virtually nothing about. I carry a semi-automatic gun and/or knife, where legal and when appropriate. I did pick most of the images for this article though, some coming from one of my video games- Mortal Kombat.
Introduction By Ethan X
I’m going to start off by saying that I don’t mean for this post to disrespect anyone or anyone’s preferred martial arts style. What I do want to do is give a realistic, no bullshit look at martial arts. I see guys all the time asking what kind of martial art they should learn. Most of the time when guys are asking this question it is because they want to learn how to take on another guy and win in a fight, not because they want to learn discipline or respect. Guys want to have a sense of confidence knowing that they can take care of themselves if they ever got into an altercation. So while there are other aspects to martial arts that can be beneficial (learning discipline, getting fitter, etc) I’m primarily going to be judging the following martial arts on their ass kicking potential.
I don’t pretend to be some expert on handing out beat downs, although I do have a long history in the martial arts and like to think that I am very objective with regards to the things that I learn, so I have no problem calling out bullshit when I see it. Again, I mean no disrespect to anyone, I just call it like I see it.
Before I really begin telling you what martial arts are bullshit and what martial arts are legit, I should probably give you some background about me-
I’ve been involved in martial arts since I was very young.
I am a former high school and college wrestler.
I hold a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and am a certified instructor.
I have studied Judo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Krav Maga, and boxing.
I have competed at a low level in local MMA.
I also grew up in a pretty rough neighborhood and have been involved in numerous real fights and self defense situations.
I witnessed my first stabbing at school when I was 12 and my second when I was 14.
I myself have been attacked with a knife, and I can tell you that no matter how cool the Hollywood makes it look, there is nothing at all glamorous about defending yourself from one.
So while I may not be some guru, I do have a lot of practical experience, and I have thrown down on the street with both skilled and unskilled fighters.
Let me call out some bullshit straight out of the gate because I see people spreading it all the time.
It goes something like this-
“It doesn’t matter how big you are. It’s all about the training.”
These are the same people who say that looks don’t matter at all but haven't been getting laid.
Yeah, if you’re super smooth and really confident, an ugly not-as-good-looking dude can pull hot chicks and out game a good looking guy with ease.
But all things being equal, it’s better to be good looking than not.
In the same way, in a fight- it’s better to be the bigger and stronger guy.
Yes, if you’re really well trained, it’s possible for a smaller dude to take out a bigger dude. I’m positive a 155 pound wrestler who got to the Olympics could beat the shit out of an average 220 pound frat guy. But if that 220 pound frat guy was also a college level wrestler, now you’ve got a real fight on your hands, and there is a good possibility that the 155 pound Olympian is gonna get a beat down.
All things being equal, it’s better to be trained than not trained. And all things being equal, it’s better to be the bigger guy rather than the little guy in a fight. Anyone who says otherwise is full of…….. you guessed it……. BULLSHIT!!!
So here we go. This is a list of martial arts that are actually legit, and will actually teach you how to fight.
Legitimate Fighting Styles
Freestyle Wrestling [Legit]
Western Wrestling started in ancient Greece. It was one of the original sports in the Olympics Games and today is a common sport offered at almost all high schools and colleges. I myself wrestled in high school and college. I can tell you for a fact that wrestling will help you in a fight. Western wrestling has the advantage of being a competitive sport meaning that after thousands of years of trial and error, only the best, most effective techniques that work against a real human being who is actually fighting back are taught.
A few of wrestling’s strengths are that it mimics certain aspects of a fight pretty well, while being relatively safe. The goal of wrestling is to get your opponent to the ground, and control them well enough to get them to their back and hold them there. Most real fights occur at the grappling range, and a good percentage of them do end up on the ground. Much of the time two guys going at it in a bar are just throwing themselves at each other with as much aggression as possible trying to hit the other person as hard as they can, so learning how to fight in close, take control of your opponent’s body, get them to the ground, and hold them down is a very useful skill.
Some limitations of wrestling are that its primary focus it to get someone to their back, not necessarily to submit them. It therefore doesn't actually teach you how to end a fight very effectively. Wrestling can also be dangerous if there is more than one opponent. You don't always want to take a fight to the ground. You never know if a guy has a knife on him or if his friends are ready to kick you in the head after you're on the ground.
Muay Thai [Legit]
Even if, like Chris, you don't know much about fighting, you've probably still heard of "Muay Thai".
Muay Thai is basically kickboxing in which elbows and knees are also allowed.
If you are a real Muay Thai fighter, you’re carved out of wood. I don’t think I can really do justice to how tough these guys are.
Just watch this video. It speaks for itself.
Boxing will teach you two things really well. How to throw a punch (important), and how to take a punch (more important). If you put a skilled boxer in a real street fight up against your average guy of the same size that doesn’t know anything, the boxer will win 18 out of 20 times.
Like I just said, boxing will teach you how to throw a punch, and how to take a punch. However there are some limitations to boxing, and some aspects that just don’t work on the street. Boxing has the positive aspect that it is a sport and therefore is rigorously tested in actual competion against an opponent who is fighting back. Certain strategy aspects of a 12 round boxing match however are unrealistic. In a real fight, there is hardly any strategy going on. It’s usually a violent engagement that lasts anywhere from five seconds to two minutes. There are just two people trying to land punches. Guys may square off and trying to gauge distance, but very rarely to guys actually use any real strategy like feinting, or rhythm, or energy conservation. Those things are fine in an athletic competition, but are sort of useless on the street. Boxing also doesn’t teach you how to fight on the ground or how to avoid getting taken to the ground by a wrestler, so if the fight ends up there, all your boxing skills are basically useless. That being said, boxing is a legitimate ass kicking skill, but you should probably learn some ground fighting as well.
Will teach you to throw a proper/powerful punch.
Will teach you how to take a punch.
Will give you the experience of actually being punched in the face.
Will teach you how to cover up and stay standing when a big guy is wailing on you.
Certain strategy aspects are good for a competition, but are unrealistic on the street.
Doesn’t teach you how to avoid getting taken down or how to defend yourself on the ground.
Here’s a video of a Turkish boxer fighting against a bunch of guys.
Notice that as soon as he is engaged in a real fight, all real strategy goes out the window.
What was really helping him in the fight was his ability to maintain his balance, throw more solid, accurate punches than his opponents, and his ability to stay somewhat collected. Boxing will teach you all this.
BJJ/Submission Wrestling/Sambo [Legit]
A descendent of traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu made is claim to fame in the mid 90's in the Ultimate Fighting Championship by defeating every other martial art at the time in a no holds barred cage fighting competition aired on TV.
The premise of the show was to pit masters of every martial art against each other to decide once and for all what the most effective fighting art was.
Sumo masters fought boxers.
Wrestlers fought Karate black belts.
Tae Kwon Do Olympians fought Judo players.
The ultimate winner of the competition was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
BJJ is still regarded as the most effective grappling martial art in the world and is studied by every professional mixed martial arts fighter in the world.
It specializes in submissions during grappling between two opponents via chokes, and joint locks. BJJ is a very technical and scientific style that actually works.
Here’s a video of two members of the Gracie family demonstrating and explaining some fascinating BJJ moves (as well as a wrestling move) that they saw used in a couple UFC fights.
From this video you can see how technical and scientific BJJ is, and maybe get an appreciation for how much of a chess match submission wrestling really is.
Sambo is a Russian martial art very similar to BJJ. It's also a submission wrestling style, but puts more of a focus on leg locks. It is also legit.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) [Legit]
Mixed Martial Arts.
The fastest growing sport in the world. Made famous by the UFC in the mid 90's, the art has evolved much since then. While every fighter has his own strengths and weaknesses, most professional fighters now incorporate Boxing (Western and Muay Thai), Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Wrestling into their arsenal. As such, there is no such thing as "pure MMA" because most of the moves from MMA are taken from other arts.
I mentioned earlier that I have been involved in MMA fights. I am by no means a UFC fighter. When I say that I competed, I mean in small little local things where all the surrounding gyms came together for a little competition. I am not a professional MMA fighter. I do have a lot of experience in it though and can tell you (as you probably knew) MMA is legit. It has the best of everything. It teaches you all the elements of combat (throws, strikes, takedowns, chokes, joint locks, etc), it is a competitive athletic sport, so only truly effective techniques are used, and it comes as close to mimicking a real fight as most people would like to come.
Where MMA might fall short in the street (and this is very minor). Is that MMA doesn't allow certain moves such as eye gauging, hair pulling, groin strikes, stomping on a downed opponent, etc. This means a lot of very effective moves that could save you in a real fight can't be used. For example, if you're mounted on top of someone, you don't always after to finish them off with strikes or a submission like you do in MMA, you can always grab their head and smash their skull into the concrete. If you train too much in MMA you might start thinking too inside the box and forget that there are a lot of other really effective ways to defend against an attack if you're willing to fight a bit dirty. That being said, MMA is fully legit.
Dog Brothers Martial Arts [Legit]
While you may think MMA is pretty hardcore, I’ve got something for you that is even more extreme.
In fact, this style proudly displays their UFC rejection letter stating that their art is "too extreme for the UFC."
In my opinion, the Dog Brothers are some of the toughest fighters on the planet.
As such, their martial art is probably too extreme for most people.
They teach VERY realistic knife, stick, and hand to hand fighting. Their philosophy is "Higher consciousness through harder contact." and as such, they practice with real wooden sticks at full contact in real fights with each other. They are based in Southern California, but travel all over the world teaching what they've learned from thousands of realistic fights to military, police, and prison guards all over the world.
While they may appear to untrained observers to just be a bunch of guys wailing on each other with no skill or finesse, they are in fact highly trained martial artists who are scientifically studying how real fights work with regard to fear, aggression, and the adrenal response on individuals during life or death encounters.
These guys are truly on the cutting edge of martial arts. Most people don't have the mental fortitude to train at this intensity. If you don’t watch any of the other videos in this post, watch this one.
Krav Maga [Legit]
The original “Jew-Jitsu.” Krav Maga started in Israel. In Hebrew it means Contact Fighting. It’s a realistic, highly aggressive system of self defense moves and fighting concepts that have been battle tested throughout the world. Krav Maga is taught to every Israeli citizen during their military training. It is used around the world today by police, military, and counter terrorist units. Krav Maga is the closest you’re going to get to a top secret, super spy, military fighting style. I would recommend it as the best all around system along with MMA. It’s will teach you a lot of really effective moves in a really short amount of time.
Training in Krav Maga won’t get you as good at ground fighting as BJJ. It won’t get you as good at stand up fighting as Boxing or Muay Thai. It won’t get you as good at throws or takedowns as Judo or Wrestling. But you’ll get intermediate level training in all those aspects of combat, with all the fluff removed and only the useful techniques remaining. In other words, you probably won’t beat a specialist, but you’ll learn to beat your average Joe who decides to take a swing at you. Where Krav Maga really shines though is its weapons defense techniques. It is one of the only martial arts in the world to have such a heavy focus on realistic weapon defenses. If you want to learn how to defend yourself from a gun/knife/machete/baseball bat/grenade/machine gun, Krav Maga is your style. You think I’m kidding with the machine gun and grenade thing. I’m not. Krav Maga was designed as a military combat system. They can teach you techniques to use against grenades and machine guns.
Some Krav Maga studios can be a little “McDojo-y” but they are better than nothing. Find a legitimate school. Most of the really hardcore places are in Israel where they train professional counter terrorist teams and body guards, but there are some good places all over the world. One of the best things about Krav Maga is that it doesn’t take very long to become proficient in the techniques.
The "No-Bullshit Analysis of Fighting Styles" by Ethan X continues-