Is your martial art effective?

To truly defend yourself and others against evil, carry a gun and train like a mother fucker. Besides that, we can practice in the arts…martial…arts. 😉  Is your martial art effective? We’re going to ask you some questions that may get you to think otherwise…

In Law Enforcement, Military and your civilian lives you need to ask yourself, unbiasedly (if that’s a word), a few questions about Martial Arts.

Just like buying a vehicle it’s pretty reasonable to ask yourself “What do I want to use this vehicle for?” If you work construction and routinely haul materials in your vehicle, maybe don’t buy a Prius.  If you have a two hour commute for work and spend 90 % of your time on the highway and you have a budget, maybe a full sized gas guzzling pickup truck is a bad idea.

With Martial Arts as your vehicle you need to ask yourself what you want out of it. And maybe you don’t really want much out of it at all, and that’s ok. But what is NOT ok is training, just for training’s sake, and thinking that you are getting something out of your training that you are not.

Some people just need some cardio, great, go take whatever freaking class you want. Lose weight, work on that old ticker in your chest, and have fun. But be aware that your Cardio Kickboxing will probably not save your life. This article won’t be focusing on this group.


For the rest of us. Some people are happy with their basic training that their department provides and have NO goal for what they actually want or expect from their combat training. If this is you than you should ALSO be aware, like the last group, that your department training will probably not save your life either. You may be blessed with a department that gives a shit about you and progressively trains to keep you alive on the street. Most departments don’t.

So now we can think about some tough questions:

  • What is your weakness in your combat skills? [need more ground work maybe?]
  • What threat(s) are you most likely to encounter? [every single night handcuffing a person that passively resists and pulls away?]
  • What threat, though unlikely, are you most concerned about, specifically? [Surprise stabbing, or close quarters gun pulled on you]
  • Have I ever trained to employ my pocket knife or gun under stress? Actual stress? Or do you just think you’re going to wing it? [while wrestling someone, and keeping one hand on your gun while getting punched?]
  • Have I ever trained how to handle/block/disarm etc a knife or gun when I can’t get to my own? Even to buy time to get to my own?
  • Is my martial art of choice a “ring sport” that has rules about no groin kicks or no elbows?
  • Does my martial art teach the principle of dealing with multiple opponents? Does it actually PRACTICE dealing with multiple opponents?
  • Does my martial art at least occasionally afford me the opportunity to get punched in the face, hard. If even on accident? [the street is not the best place to learn what that feels like]

Hopefully your brain is now engaged in asking more questions along this critical thinking path. Most operators that I ask these questions to have very few answers. And you don’t have to answer now, but start thinking.

This is not a “my martial art is better” article. I don’t believe in that statement at all. It just pisses people off. I believe you can take something positive from any art, even if it’s that you don’t like that art. Great! One huge problem with many martial arts and artists is that are very restrictive and don’t subscribe to the philosophy “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not” – Dan Inosanto.

Some things to consider about a few arts:
Philippino Kali has many disciplines that all share similar characteristics. Specifically Pekiti Tirsia is designed with Military and Law Enforcement in mind. It calls itself a “True Combat Art” that is designed and applied to kill using many blade options and includes training up to the use and defense of firearms. Some principles include not becoming tied up with an opponent during ground work so that you can easily disengage and handle another opponent; keeping your weapon side free and accessible during escorts and takedowns; it however, requires impeccable speed and timing and many many hours of the basics for techniques to become easily applied. If you are concerned with effectiveness than this (or any type of Philippino Kali system) is a great place to start…if it works for you.


Haganah – F.I.G.H.T. program. (An off shoot of Israeli Krav Maga):

One of the holes in several martial arts is that 1- they do not train with weapons, or at least effectively, or both offense and defense and 2- they seriously lack street scenarios. Headlock from behind, gun to the face/back/side, choked from the front/side/rear, knife attack angles, bear hugs; these are all part of the standard curriculum and you start learning them on day 1. There is NO BELT RANKING SYSTEM in the F.I.G.H.T. program. You simply work your way through the curriculum with a strong focus on the basics and on high repetitions while emphasizing the principles behind this combat system. I have heard an instructor say (more gracefully than I can quote) “The nice thing about the F.I.G.H.T. program is that should you rep out a technique on your first day in class, and that same threat by some chance happens to you that night, than what you learned today will work tonight on the street”. Large muscle group movements, easy to memorize, and while many of the techniques start off the same the middle and endings are all almost identical which takes a lot of the “deer in headlights” out of combat. Once you start moving you just keep going and your muscle memory takes over.

While it is a GREAT modern combat system to train in, it may not give you exactly what you are looking for. One of the things that the previous KALI art provides is a lot of subject manipulation, or placing the opponent in a position that you want them to be in, especially for Law Enforcement that is a large portion of our hand to hand requirement…grab them, restrain them, twist and pull and bend and get them proned-out and finally handcuff.


Jeet Kune Do – sometimes referred to as Bruce Lee’s Kick Boxing:

An absolutely fantastic art. There is a LOT of hype about the Bruce Lee name. Caution: Many martial arts studios say that they teach this art but have absolutely NO affiliation and no certification to the Bruce Lee name or the true art. For a complete list of certified instructors world wide visit . The art teaches combat philosophy or combat science, it teaches you how to punch, how to kick, how to use the tools you have on your body (head fist elbow feet knees) and gives a very comprehensive offensive and defensive base of knowledge. It is a belt rank system and towards the higher end of the belt ranking they is quite a bit of curriculum to memorize and reproduce through testing. I think this is one of the greatest arts you could begin a martial arts career with. Since it is a blend of several arts it is very easy to take what you have learned in JKD and apply it to many other arts. I have absolutely nothing “bad” to say about it. I can however say that since it is a rank structured system you can expect to only have access to more techniques and training once you advance within the art, and there is not a big influence on weapons training. Think of this as a solid base of boxing, kickboxing and ground work, but with a very large set of advanced options built in.


Muay Thai or Thai Boxing:

I tried to find a good video, but I kept finding videos of people putting all sorts of gear on, people doing tons of non-combat cardio like running and setups, and lots of short bursts of guys (and girls) kicking pads and guys in the ring occasionally for sport. But that is the picture I would have painted of the art anyways. These are not in themselves bad things. If you find a good Muay Thai academy to train at, and you put in the effort, you will definitely get a kick ass cardio workout, you will yell and kick and punch and leave it all out on the floor, your confidence will boost along with your cardio, you will become lightning fast with your kicks and punches, you will defend against kicks and punches, OH and elbows and knees. All good things. And if some random big dumb bully at a bar wants to pick a fight with you, and you are pretty well established and have been Thai Boxing for any decent amount of time, I’d agree that his ass is going to be unpleasantly surprised.

The cons: It is a ring sport. Which means it is 1v1 focused only. Zero ground work. Zero weapon work. Your opponents will all be limited to the same strikes as you. There are no groin kicks allowed which means the stance is wide open and difficult to quickly defend against someone kicking you in your nuts. But if you need to work on your cardio and want some bad ass kicks and lots of throwing them ‘bo’s, this is not self defense but is a GREAT addition to whatever regimen you may already have.


Brazilian Ju Jitsu:

Many people say to start with this art, because (god I’ve heard this a thousand times) “80% of fights end up on the ground”. Ok. I’ll be the one to call Bull Shit on that one. Not all fights end up on the ground. I actually prefer to keep (at least myself) on my own two feet. And for the record, me body slamming somebody straight into a pair of handcuffs doesn’t count as “on the ground”, to me anyways. However, yes, it is a great idea to know what the fuck to do when you are flat on your back and someone mounts right on top of you and starts beating your face into ground beef. Sure. I’ll agree. However this is not a combat art. It is a sport. There are rules. And in the sport / competitions you have to wear special clothes to perform special techniques. There is not a strong emphasis on punching and kicking and there is no emphasis on weapons… Kinda. I have heard little bits and pieces of information that occasionally when this art is brought to Law Enforcement agencies to help their officers that they help officers protect their weapons side of their body etc. And mixed martial artists that end up in the ring that may specialize in BJJ often add their own heavy emphasis on punching and kicking etc. into their own training programs. Without getting too far off into a rant, my suggestion: Go spend your time and money with another focus with an actual martial arts academy to learn more focused combat arts, and find a friend who does BJJ (I promise if you ask you will find someone) and learn some of the basics and throw a mat on the floor of your garage and roll with a buddy. There.


This is obviously not an all inclusive list, but it might give some beginners some ideas of where to start, and hopefully some experienced “Martial Artists” may have asked themselves what their programs are good at and more importantly what they might be lacking. If I could give you this whole article in one sentence it would be: Put some serious thought into what you want out of your martial arts training, and ask yourself if your specific art of choice is able to deliver that to you.