Tag Archives: Self Defense

Sam Harris joins the blogging parade!

How’s this for a slice of fried gold? Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, member of the four horsemen, and all round sciencey bloke has taken up BJJ. What next? Dawkins in an MMA match with the pope?! (I would pay vast quantities of money to see that. Prediction: Reason by armbar).

As a card-carrying member of the militant atheist brigade – my rational jack boots and evidence epaulets look divine, dahling – I’m quite excited about all this. Sam Harris is a fantastic author. I highly recommend everyone to read Letter to a Christian Nation – it’s concise (96 pages long), clear, and as good a demolition of the absurdities of faith as I have ever read.

I am hoping him turning his laser logic onto a subject as full of bullshit as martial arts can only be a good thing. Having cut my teeth in the TMA world, I know first hand how delusional they can be. Write this is stone, tattoo it on your chest, and don’t forget it: Kata does not help you, chi doesn’t exist, you are only as good as your last fight.

Harris has tackled martial arts before, writing about the realities of self defense. I don’t really think I’m qualified to critique his viewpoint – the last fight I got into was in school, and the last fight I avoided was about 10 years ago (over a phone box, of all things) – but what he says here does seems consistent with other things I’ve read about “realistic” self defense as opposed to self defense as it’s taught in TMA: “Now you punch me. No, not like that like that, like this. No the other hand, oh you’re doing the attack all wrong!”

As an aside, I’ve always liked the term “Self Protection” to differentiate between the two. The logic is, I believe, that defense is something you need once you’ve failed to protect yourself from being attacked in the first place. Whilst it’s essentially a semantic thing, I like having the two terms. Of course there is a much simpler word to describe what happens when you need to resort to fisticuffs: Fighting. And make no mistake, the police take a very dim view of it.

Speaking of which: Harris actually links to someone, Lee Morrison, with whom I once attended a self protection seminar which I can sum up thusly: Avoid violence at all costs, but when you have no other choice – hit first, hit hard, and then RUN AWAY. This seems to be what Harris is advocating too, and makes a lot of sense to me. Why on earth put yourself in more danger than you need to be – both physically and legally. You call it “teaching them a lesson” the courts call it “attempted murder”.

Whatever your views on the whole self defense issue, I think we can all agree it’s worth reading. For my part I like the fact Harris refers to police’s views, quotes the stats (fuck yeah evidence!), and also has read the criticisms of his article (mainly about the role of BJJ in not going to the ground) and corrected his footnotes accordingly. It’s this attention to detail that excites me about his BJJ blogging.

I’m not going to go into details about the BJJ article, read it and judge for yourselves, but I really enjoyed it. I liked his analogy of drowning to describe being tapped – something I’ve done myself before, much less eloquently – and his rational approach to the reality of the subject he’s addressing shines through as always. He uses that video of the chi master getting punched in the face to illustrate the self deception of some martial artists. In his words:

Of course, it is sad to see a confused old man repeatedly punched in the face—but if you are a martial artist, or have even a passing concern with safeguarding basic human sanity, you will take some satisfaction in seeing a collective delusion so emphatically dispelled.

Exactly.

The one thing I will say is that the article is very dedicated to the self defense side of the art, something I could care less about if I’m honest, so might not be for everyone. Still, it’s not everyday a New York Times best-selling author starts writing about your martial art. Read it, fools!

For clarity, here’s the link again: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-pleasures-of-drowning  Enjoy!

 

 

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Lessons learned from… Moshing.

I’d apologise for not posting for so long but quite frankly you should all know by now it’s a miracle I get any article out, let alone on anything resembling a regular basis. I’m like Adams or Salinger – but without the talent.

Therefore in a desperate attempt to get something out I hereby present the first in a series of short articles where I talk random cod-shite about my life and then pretend it’s in somehow related to Jiu-Jitsu.

Lesson 1: BJJ prepares you for anything, even mosh pits.

This is something I realised at Reading Festival. That’s where I spent my August bank holiday weekend this year, rocking out and Throwing the horns far more than is strictly appropriate for my age.

Personally I blame the line-up:  If they are going to pick bands from 10 – 15 years ago, then I’m going to channel teenage me to listen to them. Seems fair.

Reading 2010 Line-up

I was slap-bang in the middle of the mosh pit for Limp Bizkit which was, as I understand these things, fairly hardcore. Rollin’ was an interesting full contact stand-up drill  and Break Stuff, well, broke stuff. The thing is though, it really wasn’t that bad. I managed to keep my feet without too much trouble whilst other people around me were tripping over each other left, right and centre. It was like a take-down drill, just with more people. Who said BJJ doesn’t prepare you for multiple attackers? Ha!

All the impact and slamming into people wasn’t a problem either. Sure I had a few bruises but I think if you’ve spent years of training, week in, week out, getting crushed by someone two or three stone heavier than you who’s intent on ripping your head and limbs off – then being slammed into by a bunch of drugged up teenagers for an hour really doesn’t seem that big a deal.* There was a lull between songs where one guy I’d been bouncing off all afternoon turned to me all out of breath and  said  “This is fucking mental!!” and I remember looking at him – all sweating and panting like he’d just been gang fucked by mountain gorillas – and just thinking “Mental? WTF? This is Tuesdays for me!”… Kids today. No stamina.

I’m aware this isn’t a great insight – Doing a full contact martial art prepares you well for other full contact activities – but it serves as an important lesson. Previously to do doing BJJ I’d never really done mosh pits. I’d mosh at clubs, or with mates at parties, but that was it. I remember looking at the circle pit at a One Minute Silence gig when I was a student and just thinking “No fucking way!”…

I’ve only been in three mosh pits since starting BJJ; but in each of those times I’ve felt safe, in control, and not worried for my personal wellbeing  in the slightest. After all (as I said to my friends who refused to come up front with me) what’s the worst that can happen?

So the final point is this: It’s not just that BJJ allows you to not get battered or tripped or squashed in a mosh pit – it’s that anything that can give you the level of self-assurance and confidence where you simply don’t care about 40,000+  people all trying to crush you to death is clearly something of great merit. BJJ I salute you. Like this:  \m/

*in fact – some people would pay good money for a similar experience with slightly less clothes and more oil.

P.S. Actually. Thinking about it, the point might have been: Anyone drinking this amount of beer is impervious to damage.

The Aftermath...

I’d apologise for not posting for so long but quite frankly you should all know by now it’s a miracle I get any article out, let alone on anything resembling a regular basis. I’m like Adams or Sallinger – but without the talent. Therefore in a desperate attempt to get something out I hereby present the first in a series of short articles where I talk random cod-shite about my life and then pretend it’s in somehow related to Jiu-Jitsu. Lesson 1: BJJ prepares you for anything, even mosh pits. This is something I realised at Reading Festival. That’s where I spent my August bank holiday weekend this year, rocking out and throwing the horns far more than is strictly appropriate for my age. Personally I blame the line-up:  If they are going to pick bands from 10 – 15 years ago, then I’m going to channel teenage me to listen to them. Seems fair. I was slap-bang in the middle of the mosh pit for Limp Bizkit which was, as I understand these things, fairly hardcore. Rollin’ was an interesting full contact stand-up drill  and Break Stuff, well, broke stuff. The thing is though, it really wasn’t that bad. I managed to keep my feet without too much trouble whilst other people around me were tripping over each other left, right and centre. It was like a take down drill, just with more people. Who said BJJ doesn’t prepare you for multiple attackers. Ha! All the impact and slamming into people wasn’t a problem either. I think if you’ve spent years of training, week in, week out, getting crushed by someone two or three stone heavier than you who’s intent on ripping your head and limbs off – then being slammed into by a bunch of drugged up teenagers for an hour really doesn’t seem that big a deal.* There was a lull between songs where one guy I’d been bouncing off all afternnon turned to me all out of breath and  said  “This is fucking mental!!” and I remember looking at him – all sweating and panting like he’d just been gang fucked by mountain gorillas – and just thinking “Mental? WTF? This is Tuesdays for me!”… Kids today. No stamina. I’m aware this isn’t a great insight – Doing a full contact martial art prepares you well for other full contact activities – but it serves as an important lesson. Previously I’d never really done mosh pits. I’d mosh at clubs, or with mates at parties, but that was it. I remember looking at the circle pit at a One Minute Silence gig when I was a student and just thinking “No fucking way!” Now I’ve only been in three mosh pits since starting BJJ: Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit, and Guns & Roses** but in each of those times I’ve felt safe, in control, and not worried in the slightest. In fact I seem to remember being rather blase about it to my friends (who refused to fight to the front with me): “Meh, what’s the worst that can happen?”… And anything that can give you the level of self assurance where you don’t care about 40,000+  people all trying to crush you to death is clearly a *in fact – some people would pay good money for a similar experience with slightly less clothes and more oil. ** Well, Axl and his Guns N’ Roses cover band. More on this to come…
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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Sucks!

I’ve had an epiphany. For ages there was this niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right, and couldn’t quite work out what it was.  At first I thought it might just be because my back’s been playing up again recently and I haven’t been as committed as I like to training. But then I read  Meerkatsu’s old post about other people’s views on BJJ and suddenly everything became clear:

BJJ is shit, isn’t it?

I can’t believe I’ve wasted all this time with it.  I’m really angry with myself.  That’s 2.5 years (roughly) of my life I’m never getting back.

I’ve been a fool and I have no-one to blame but myself.  I became  so solipsistic about BJJ that I literally forgot there was anything else out there.I just I became fell in love with the BJJ community and lifestyle that I lost sight of the big picture. If I’d have just looked outside of BJJ for five minutes and done some basic net research and I’d have quickly realised how badly it sucks. Thankfully for me (and you) there are some awesome videos on that site of the effective street techniques that we sport players are missing out on. You can check them out here. I am really pleased he covers a safe way to disarm a knife, something that BJJ has failed to address despite me being a Blue Belt.

Maybe I’m just bitter. After all, Lau Gar taught me these highly effective knife defenses:

And I stupidly gave it all up to pursue BJJ.

They say hindsight is 20/20, but they also say you need to make mistakes to realise what really is important in life. Or perhaps – you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone – So perhaps this epiphany is a good thing? I’ve learnt from my mistakes and I’ve realised that I’ll be much happier doing a traditional martial art that teaches me real-life self defense techniques.

Will I bollocks.

Ugh. I feel dirty even joking about it. Looking back I can’t believe I used to do this. And not only did I do it – I genuinely thought it was useful. Just click the link… What the fuck was I thinking? It’s not fighting, it doesn’t even LOOK like fighting. It’s fucking dancing is what it is. FUCK!

Now maybe I’m doing a disservice to the guy I linked to above – perhaps he does practise all those techniques he shows against resisting opponents and trains in what we would consider a “realistic” or alive manner*  – but it was an excellent way to illustrate my point. I am constantly amazed that in 2010 there are still people in the traditional martial arts community that think BJJ is nothing but a sport where everyone jumps guard no matter what the circumstances. That BJJ players are incapable of avoiding the ground even if it’s strewn with broken glass, lava, and used hypodermic syringes. That the early UFCs proved nothing as it “wasn’t a real fight”. And so on, and so on, and so on. Then you take a look at whatever their deadly ancient art is, and it’s always something like this… the horror.

And after that, I think you need a Renzo Chaser:

*though I can’t see any evidence that he does, so sod him.

peddling this idea that dead forms and dead drills teach you to fight.
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