Sport Martial Arts -VS- Street Self-Defense

There’s an ongoing debate in the martial arts community on the differences between training for sport competition and for self-defense.  Here’s my experience:

Many years ago, as a young man, I worked as a deputy sheriff for Hawkins County Sheriff’s Department. By this time I had been training in the martial arts for several years and had already attained the rank of black belt and had competed in and won many competitions in the region.  I was very confident in my fighting skills because I had the black belt around my waist and trophies on my dresser to prove it. This was the case until I was actually faced with a mountain of a man who told me, “I’ll tell you what little man, if you can get those handcuffs on me then you can take me to jail.” I was terrified! Here I had been training for years and years and had won numerous tournaments but now I’m shaking in my boots because I didn’t know what to do. Everything ran through my mind, do I kick him? Do I pop him with my lighting fast back fist? Do I shoot him? Or, do hit him with my night stick? Finally, I decided to spray him with pepper spray. I was so scared that when I say I sprayed him I mean I SPRAYED THE CRAP OUT OF HIM! Almost half of a can! Anyway, to my point I had been training in sport karate for a long time and wasn’t able to defend myself when faced with adversity. This changed everything for me. I sought out to find a system that would get me out of this type of situation.

I dove head first into pressure point and pain compliance training, which was at the time a big deal to cops. The thought of grabbing a guys wrist and manipulating it or jabbing your finger into the space behind their jaw to get them to comply just seemed really cool. A few of us would get together when we were off and we’d stand there right in front of each other and strike and manipulate these pressure points and without a doubt we were able to get the desired results. This was until one evening I got a call to back up a city cop who had more than his hands full of a drug enraged man who was terrorizing a local grocery store. As we all approached this man, to my best recollection there were five of us, I already had it in my mind that I would strike him in a cluster of pressure points located at the base of your neck then as he would, without a doubt, be knocked unconscious I would slap on some type of pain compliance lock and gingerly walk him out of the store, a hero! Well that’s not what happened at all! This guy took everything that we threw at him. Just to give you a visual he was about 5’3″ maybe 115 pounds with long hair and a long beard and a Charles Manson style tattoo on his forehead. He walked through us like we were nothing, that poor guy took a beating and kept on coming. Finally, we had to all just grab a limb and run with him to get him out of the store. So by now I’ve learned that sport karate doesn’t win street fights and pressure points had failed me too, what now?

Well after having seen what Royce Gracie was able to do in the UFC I decided to try and learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The unfortunate thing is that there was no one in the area at the time who knew this stuff well enough to teach it, and this was before YouTube. So I picked up some here and there where I could, nothing very significant.

Fast forward a couple of years and I’ve joined the Army and I’m living in South West Texas and I see a flyer for a Muay Thai class. I had heard of Muay Thai through the Jean Claude Van Damme’s movie ‘Kickboxer’ other than that I wasn’t real familiar with it. So I decided to swing by and visit to see if it’s worth doing. This was one of the best decisions I had ever made as far as martial arts goes. I learned more about how to generate real power than I had ever learned. I found that my sport karate techniques really weren’t that far off with just a few minor tweaks and adjustments I could really see how this stuff would work on the street or in the ring. What I really found unique about the way my Muay Thai coach taught was that he didn’t hold back, never once did he say, “here’s this or that technique but we can’t practice it because it’s too dangerous.” There was nothing hidden in tradition or left for interpretation, it just was what it was and if it didn’t work for you don’t use it. We spent hours and hours drilling the most basic techniques, never anything fancy. We destroyed Thai pads and focus mitts and when the time came, each other. Finally, I had real striking skills that I was confident to use on the street or in the ring.

Moving ahead another year or two I got the unique privilege of being one of the first, non-Ranger, instructors in the U.S. Army’s Modern Combative program. This program was comprised of mostly Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I was very excited and trained to become an instructor and in turn taught hundreds of soldiers on Ft. Bliss. Of course as an instructor, you’ll always get some numb-nuts who wants to challenge you and, to be quite honest much to my surprise, I was able to win every time because we had spent hours and hours drilling the most basic techniques. Are you starting to see a pattern here?

You will fight as you train, so you should train as you fight.


There’s a whole lot of garbage out there. There are some martial artists that have made small fortunes teaching crap to anyone who’ll pay. There are a lot of schools out there that don’t allow physical contact because they have convinced themselves that if they were to hit someone that they’d surely die. Here’s what I now believe, if you can’t drill a technique at 100% then you won’t use it when the poop hits the fan, anything else will leave you shaking in your boots. See I had been training the wrong way, I had been taught to pull punches and hit with the back of my open hand in order to score a point or to throw some ridiculous kick that almost never hit its mark, even in training.

I finally, after a few of decades of martial arts training, realized that the concept of training for self-defense and training for competition should be synonymous. Don’t waste time practicing eye gouges and one shot-one kill techniques because when the time comes to use it in real life they just don’t work. Instead, work on the principles of generating power from your hips in order to be able to throw a harder punch or kick. Practice an escape from someone who has you in a mounted position thousands of times, with your training partner giving you real resistance. Learn how to get hit! Yes, there is a way to learn to get hit.

There’s a lot that you can do to simulate combat in a controlled environment through sparring, but on the street you just never know what may happen because there are so many variable to an actual street fight that it would be impossible to have a training scenario for each one. So I say learn the principles, toughen your body so that if you do get hit you can take it, get comfortable with closeness so if in a real life situation if someone gets on top of you, you don’t freak and you know what to do. This is what we offer at Bushido MMA. Whether you want to be the next big UFC star or you just want to know how to defend yourself when some nut decides that their bad day is your fault, we’ve got it covered using the same principles.

Come See Us Today And Take On The Best Martial Arts Training In Town

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