Best for Self Defense: Sport or Traditional?

One of the favorite arguments amongst martial artists is to compare the relative values of a sport martial art like Muay Thai to a traditional martial art like Wing Chun, against the standard of the revered Street. The Street, of course, being the mythical place were evil monsters exist whose only purpose in life is to defeat your most beloved training technique. It happens within styles as well: your sport Judo isn’t as good for real self defense as my old-school Judo. Or Olympic Taekwondo vs your current kwoon Taekwondo. It’s a bit of a pointless argument. Odds are, neither are really good at preparing you for a self-defense scenario. It’s really not the purpose of most martial arts schools. Most schools are around to preserve knowledge, and to pass on the traditions of the teacher. This isn’t a bad thing. As Cicero says, it’s in our nature to seek…

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A Change is Gonna Come

Valkyrie is now open. It took us years to put in the base work, and six months of headaches, tension and bureaucratic fighting to get the doors open, but here we are. Grand opening was a success, lots of people showed up to support us and there was fighting til nighttime, followed by friendship and beverages. Now we are into the business of being a school. I was asked recently what my philosophy of martial arts was. It was an interesting question, as I’d spent a lot of time leading up to the opening writing about what the school offered people. That’s not the same thing, though. I’ve also written here before about what drove me to start martial arts training, and how my motivations have changed over time.  It’s still not what I would call my philosophy. I had an old student show up last week. She was in…

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Bullshit and Lies

Do you want to be an eagle or a crow? Common sense and admiration are fantasies. We look at the eagle, the hawk, and the falcon and think of the power, beauty and above all deadly efficiency of the raptors. Why would you want to be the common, when you can be the exceptional? Who wins a fight, Crow or Eagle? The eagle has talons, and that wicked hooked beak. It’s bigger than a crow. We name fighter jets after eagles and falcons because we recognize the true warrior power of these creatures. If you want to inspire with your martial arts school, you would have no problem using a raptor as your logo. A crow is a small bird. Sure, it’s smart, but it’s got tiny claws and a beak better suited for opening mcdonalds waste packaging than hurting anything. They are drearily common, and mostly derided as a…

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Aeschylus, the Turtle, and Arwrology

Taught the third class in our four class self-defense series last monday, despite being sick as a dog. It went well. Six hours in and I feel like everyone has a good grasp on the basic materials. The small field trip really helped, hanging out for a while and practicing recognizing individual and group dynamics. Learning to see and categorize what would otherwise just be a “gut” reaction is a skill more people should develop. The third class was mostly the reverse CPR class. We covered all the ways to stop someone quickly and thoroughly. We covered why humans are hard to stop, unless you hit the right button. And we talked about how to push each button just right. I think it says a lot that such material is the rarest thing in martial arts. Doesn’t matter how bad-ass a martial art is, most of the class isn’t going…

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Self Defense Classes

Next week marks a big new step in martial arts training for me. Valkyrie will be teaching our first ever self defense classes, as a four-class series. I’ve resisted teaching self-defense for years. It’s what I taught when I started teaching martial arts, but the more I learned, the more I leaned away from teaching it. I had some good reasons. The primary reason was that I never felt I could devote the teaching time necessary to teach usable skills. I’ve always felt an urgency about teaching self-defense. What if the student needed to use the newly learned skills on their way home from class? Could I teach them enough to survive in one class? The self-defense market was my secondary reason for not teaching. The market is made up of buyers and sellers, and between the two of them self-defense has become defined as a product…a thing you can…

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Heaven and Hell on the Night Train

Good dramatic title, isn’t it? One of my favourite zen tales is the story of the badass samurai looking for a little wisdom. He came across a priest, and asked this priest about heaven and hell. The priest started to swear at the warrior, belittling him. The warrior grew angry, and reached for his sword. The priest looked that the warrior as the sword started to come out of the scabbard, and said “Now you enter the gates of hell.” The warrior froze up, realization dawning. He slid the sword back into the scabbard. “And now you enter the gates of heaven.” Good wisdom there, and a deeper lesson than you think for martial artists. Class last night was one of those rare and special moments. We’ve wrapped up two lengthy training phases, and as such the week had been designated for rest. No formal class plans, no workout. The…

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