“Hi, I was interested in your classes, but I wanted to know, do you train for street or for sport? I’m interested in reality.”
A beginner to the martial arts and self-defense can be forgiven for making assumptions. Yet this myth of sport versus “reality” pervades the martial arts community and on-line debates. It shows no sign of ending. I can remember having these questions when I was a young man in high school. I can remember debating it on-line in the early years of forums such as Bullshido. To this day, the conversation still goes on.
When I was in college, I majored in Philosophy, much like my inspiration, Sijo Bruce Lee. One of the first classes every Philosophy major takes is “Introduction to Logic”. In Intro to Logic, we had to memorize fallacies and learn how to recognize them in debates. A fallacy is the use of invalid reasoning in an argument. Fallacies may be used by someone who has not constructed a properly rational argument, but they are often also used by people attempting to fool someone, either themselves, or others. Regardless of this, the proper response to someone proposing a fallacious argument to you is to cast the argument aside, rather than get caught in it. The argument is invalid because the logic fails.
The argument between training for “the street” or “reality” versus training for sport is largely one massive fallacy and those posting up on either side often have their own reasons for doing so. The fallacy in this argument is called “false dichotomy” or “false dilemma”. A false dichotomy proposes that an issue is either A or B, and nothing else. It is either black or it is white. You are either my friend or my enemy. These dichotomies are often used by someone trying to force you into taking a position they have constructed for you, rather than allowing you to logically argue your own position.
I love the eye jab or biuji. I am a Jeet Kune Do man after all. I have entire strategies built around it and teach it to every student who comes into my school. It is a technique and tactic that will not fly in any sort of sportive venue, MMA, boxing, or kickboxing. It is advocated by many instructors who say that training for the street is different than training for sport. Here in lies the fallacy.
I cannot throw a biuji with any sort of accuracy or assurance in self-defense if I haven’t learned to box. A boxer trains to throw a jab against moving targets, his opponent’s face, while his opponent is actively trying to jab him back. A jab can target an entire face, which in a boxing match, is actually hard to hit. How can I rely on my biuji hitting an eye, which much smaller than a face, if I can’t throw a jab?
It is for this reason so many legitimate self-defense instructors have background in sport training systems and incorporate sport training methodologies into how they teach self-defense. I had the opportunity to train with Kelly McCann last year. A good portion of the Combatives training was spent on developing basic boxing skills. I know I can face smash an opponent because I know I can throw a cross. My Jeet Kune Do sifu, Harinder Singh, is known for teaching the dirty grappling system of Kina Mutai, which incorporates biting and eye gouging. Many say that if they had to fight a trained grappler, they would rely on dirty tricks like biting, but the difference between what Sifu teaches and what others teach is that he actively trains Brazilian Jiujitsu in a sportive fashion to develop his skills and abilities in grappling, so he knows with absolute assurance that he can employ those nasty bites when he needs to.
Will strategies and tactics require different approaches in training for a sport competition versus a self-defense situation? Absolutely, but that line is nowhere near as hard, the issue is nowhere near as black or white as some would have us believe.