Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Some thoughts

I was reading an ancient copy of a martial arts magazine that I dredged up in my gym, & while I was reading it I saw a letter on the letters page from a reader. The letter was from someone who basically said that he thought it was nonsense that so many RBSD instructors were ex-doorstaff or had some sort of military connections, & that it didn't make any odds to what they taught. After reading this I thought of a 'video blog' sort of thing that my friend from Edinburgh Tactical Edge showed me because it made him cringe. The video on youtube was by a guy he used to work with. He's a doorman (or maybe ex-doorman now) & he had worked with him in the past; He said he was the doorman that was always 'in the toilet' if anything serious kicked off. I've met a few in my time, & sacked them all (its amazing how many of these paper tigers you meet working the doors, & generally they're the ones who are the first & loudest to pontificate about their experience & knowledge). In his video this gentleman is pontificating on RBSD as if he's some sort of authority on it; when in actual fact he hasn't got the martial arts or combatives pedigree to allow him to open his mouth & have an opinion worth listening to.

The gist of his video was off the back of the Bob Spour debacle, & how people should 'be sceptical' about their instructors claims & credentials. He goes on about instructors that claim to have worked 'heavy doors' but no-one has heard of them, etc etc etc. The trouble I have is that very often the people who come out with this stuff are the LAST people who should be! Now, I agree...........people should question things more; lets face it, it's how fighting systems evolve. Not all fighting systems want to evolve- & that is perfectly ok by me. If you practice a fighting art that preserves methods that are hundreds of years old as a warrior tradition I don't want people to go messing about with it. The Tenshin Shodan Katori Shinto Ryu don't need to be thinking about 'evolving' their material- it's perfect the way it is for what it is. If we're talking about something that claims primarily to be a self defence system it has to evolve with the times to be most effective. Lets face it, we're constantly learning more about the way the human body & mind works, so if we incorporate these new discoveries into our training we become more effective. Also, the 'methods of attack' change subtly over time with different trends coming to the fore, so we need to keep on top of that to be really effective also.

The trouble is, that we now have a situation where people who are to my mind inexperienced & underqualified to comment on things presenting themselves as 'experts' & setting themselves up like they're some sort of authority on whatever they're wanting to be 'experts' on. For example, the bloke pontificating on RBSD really has very little in the way of a martial arts or combatives pedigree. Is he a senior dan or degree grade in something? No. He's a no-body who has what seems like an over inflated ego & sense of self importance. Some of what he has said makes sense, but in the back of my head is a niggling little voice saying "how dare YOU be doing the questioning about people who have a damn site more experience than you". I have to say, as someone who is a trainer of SF I have very little time for Bob Spour after what he did. I think his RBSD material is terrible, quite honestly its some of the worst I've seen. But, I don't know the guy as a person, so I'm not going to start calling him names; & his pedigree in Muay Thai is a damn site deeper than many of his detractors can claim to have.

We have too many people with little experience or knowledge setting themselves up as experts, & I guess this is the curse of this interweb thing. Trolls are everywhere. Take for instance the people on a Filipino Martial Arts forum who were slagging Jason Gibbs & Jim Keating over 'The Battlescarf'. They seem to be a bit thick, because they don't slag Tarani or Baliki for their Sarong material, & it's the same thing- a flexible weapon. They did it when Jim first released the Bandanna material. Once again, it's people who don't have the brain cells to conceptualise things or think outside a very narrow alleyway of thought pontificating- & making themselves the arses in the end.

In Arbroath I have people setting themselves up as Martial Arts instructors who have no business teaching. I have one guy who has opened a kickboxing club after joining an organisation that is headed by someone that I consider the second biggest cowboy & purveyor of rubbish in UK Martial Arts. This guy teaches & actually grades his own students WEARING A BROWN BELT! The organisation he belongs to will turn you into an instructor after a short 'boot camp' as long as you're ex military & have a little self defence training; you don't even need to be a black belt! I've already inherited four of his students, because he is so unprofessional & he can fool some of the people some of the time but he can't fool them all all of the time! I have also got a 'Grandmaster in Ninjutsu' spring up. One of my students tore his poster down from the shopping centre notice board he thought it looked so 'cowboy-ish'. It was like a nightmare poster from the 1980's before desktop publishing. The guy had the class location down as a residential address, & worryingly had it down that he taught adults & kids. I checked with someone in the Bujinkan & this guy is an unknown! It looks like someone has decided that they're a Ninja, & felt like a Grandmaster of their own Ryu that day!

So whats my view on RBSD & some of the comments that have been raised? Well, firstly having worked a door does not an RBSD instructor make. A good instructor is NOT just someone who is good at what they practice. I know some elite level sports martial artists, world champions; but they're lousy instructors because they have terrible interpersonal skills or are more concerned in their own ability than in their students. I know a kickboxing instructor who was a pro boxer, but he is a terrible instructor. With RBSD just because someone is able to fight it doesn't mean they have a great deal of knowledge, professionalism, or the ability to impart knowledge & develop ability in students. So what advantage does doorwork give the RBSD instructor over an instructor without that experience? Its actually not really to do with fighting. My 19 years in nightclubs & pubs gave me a deep understanding of how interpersonal conflict really happens. Over 19 years I saw literally thousands of violent incidents, so I have an understanding of the reality of what we're needing to train the student to operate against. In my case I did doors where there was a great deal of trouble, & got involved in other stuff that put me in harms way a great deal; so I got to 'field test' what I teach too. My experience & knowledge wouldn't mean squat if I couldn't get it over to my students though- & I think I'm quite good at that actually.

What about ex military instructors? The guy who wrote the letter into the magazine felt that they had nothing they could really offer RBSD. In truth, military combatives DO NOT make better civilian self defence systems! Military systems by their nature tend to teach skills that are 'too hard' for the street- the methods are high up the force ladder & would often result in the defender in legal trouble after using them. For instance, use a Fairbairn 'chin jab'. Its a great technique, but when your opponent (who has just swung a drunken punch at you, or grabbed you & is threatening you) has their teeth chipped & splintered, jaw broken, bites their tongue off, or dies because the back of their head hits the tarmac; you'll be seeing the wrong side of the justice system yourself. So just because a system has been taught to the military doesn't mean it's going to be a good civilian methods of self defence. Also, military systems are meant to be able to be taught in a VERY short period of time to the densest squaddy. The WW2 combatives needed to be capable of being quickly taught to some farmers boy from the highlands who had half a brain & too much affection for sheep! The methods work, but if you have a bit more time to devote to training there are more sophisticated options that you can learn (note- 'sophisticated' is different to 'complicated') which give you better options when you are needing to defend yourself in the civilian world. My Tactical Edge system for example originated as a method of combatives for SF use. Over the years a civilian syllabus developed that keeps the concepts developed in the military system, but has expanded greatly upon the syllabus & has geared what we do to the different 'role' of the defender.

What the military or ex military trainer brings to the table is an understanding of how people act under extreme duress. They should know how to train people to operate effectively under severe stress, & they should have some good basic fighting skills that they can conceptualise into effective methods that can be lawfully performed by a civilian. Being ex-special forces doesn't mean the person is going to be an amazing instructor though, for the same reasons given in the 'doorstaff' paragraph.

Now, I'd like to put my 'tuppenceworth' in. I have a guy here in Arbroath who advertises himself as a 'self defence specialist' even though he's got no combative experience. The guy has never worked a door, so he's not really seen how violence happens in any depth. He's never had to deal with violent situation after violent situation, so he doesn't know if what he teaches really works or not. He's never found out whether his tactics or mindset will disolve in the 'fog of war'. So how can he be a 'self defence specialist'? Ask yourself a question. If you had to get an operation done, would you allow someone who had never performed surgery to do it? They've read all the books, but they've never cut up a cadever or done any time in a hospital. They've read 'Greys Anatomy' & seen ER plenty of times though. Comfortable with that? I thought not. How about the next time to fly off on your holiday? Would you be happy if I stuck someone in the pilots seat who had never actually flown an aircraft, but had a couple of thousand hours on Microsoft Flight Sim? Once again, I thought not. I think personally that anyone who puts themselves up as a 'self defence specialist' at a high level should have a great deal of martial arts experience & lots of real life knowledge & experience. It might be that they did doors for a long time, or were active military & had instructional duties in a specialist unit, or were law enforcement in a place where they were very active dealing with violent crime for several years. At the least they need to have been trained DIRECTLY by someone with this knowledge & experience, so that it can be imparted to them in a meaningful way. Most of all, they need to be able to impart this knowledge & experience into their students so that they don't have to go through what their instructor went through; & that brings us back to simply having good instructional abilities & interpersonal skills.

If you teach a sport, be proud of it & teach it for what it is. Don't tell people its self defence, because it isn't. As a rule of thumb, if it involves punching people in the head & face it's not ideal for self defence. Go down to the local A&E dept at around 3am on a Sunday morning & you'll see why, as all the chavs roll in with broken fingers & knuckles from punching people in the head. Those little piggies don't stack up too well against that thick skull. Now, I know you maybe do zillions of knuckle press ups, or use a forging post & can punch a brick without damage. Remember, a brick is sitting still & your opponent is trying not to get hit. I've seen very skilled boxers & high grade martial artists break their hands in real life when their opponent moved & they didn't hit quite right. Punching works well then the target doesn't move, or if you're wearing gloves. Otherwise, use something more resilient. If you're in military combatives then it becomes more critical. If you're on a four man unit behind enemy lines, & you break your fist on some hard jihadists head you are now a liability to the rest of your team. Servicing weapons is now a pain, loading magazines, working with explosives or detonators, or using comms gear is now very difficult. If you're law enforcement punching to the face & head is not ideal either. Using the fist to the face has a real risk of splitting the thin skin across the knuckles, & getting blood on blood contact with a smackhead that is HIV positive isn't good. I personally know of someone who this happened to & he spent a year taking anti-retrovirals & shitting himself! In TaeKwon-Do we see classes that basically just teach 'sport TKD' having 'Korean Art of Self Defence' on all their posters & flyers. Like I say, be honest about what you teach. I tell anyone who comes to my classes that we don't do competition, so if they want sport or to compete they would be best going somewhere else. If you teach sport be honest with yourself & your students, & don't kid them that their sports martial arts is going to work against a chav with a crow bar.

So finally, I'd like to say that the martial arts is a HUGE world with a MASSIVE amount of great stuff out there from some great teachers. It's a shame that there are some cowboys & trolls that inhabit the same space & time, but it's the same in any endevour I guess. Be honest with yourself, & be honest with your students & you can't go wrong. If you train in sports martial arts be proud of it. If you train in 'Traditional' martial arts be proud of it. If you train in RBMA be proud of it. They're all great until people start trying to make them into something they're not. Don't listen to every pedigree-less troll on the internet, don't waste your time. Go out & make up your own mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment