Good ol’ Sensei Seth decided to poke fun at the various martial arts styles and show us what would happen if you put them all in the same room together:
He was so successful with this that he decided to include a few of the “newer” arts in a follow-up:
And then he decided to show us all what would happen if the so-called “street-lethal” arts all decided to get together:
Since I do have some experience of my own with martial arts, I’ll add my own observations below of how and where and why they fail.
First things first: no one who knows anything about serious martial arts, discounts the effectiveness and power of real BJJ.
Those who follow MMA generally know how the Gracies introduced their particular style of jiu-jitsu to the world. They basically started by challenging practitioners of the then-dominant Brazilian martial art, capoeira, to street fights. Now, capoeira is a highly acrobatic, and quite entertaining and flashy, style involving lots of jumping and spinning and aerial kicking. So the most natural way to negate that advantage is simply to grab a capoerista and dump him on his back, then beat the shit out of him on the ground, or strangle him.
This is undeniably and unquestionably effective. But any BJJ practitioner who continues to claim, thirty years after UFC 1, that BJJ is the undisputed master of street fighting, simply does not know what he is talking about.
UFC 1 proved that BJJ is an extremely effective combat sport, and provides significant advantages to smaller fighters when taking on larger and heavier ones. However, if you hear a BJJ coach claiming that this means size does not matter… I have two names for you.
The first is Masahiko Kimura – yes, that guy. The one who invented the arm-mangling lock that bears his name. He tossed Helio Gracie around like a ragdoll in their encounter – in a fight that Gracie knew he would lose. He said as much after the fight. And Kimura snapped not one, but two of his bones in that encounter.
Why? Because Kimura had a massive size and strength advantage, as well as serious knowledge of throws, trips, and holds. And that is how you negate the power of BJJ.
The second is, of course, Kazushi Sakuraba. The man known as “the Gracie Hunter” went on to demonstrate how catch-wrestling techniques, along with extremely powerful leg kicks and distance control, can negate BJJ skills:
And then there are those BJJ coaches that claim that they have great ways to counter knives and guns:
There is nothing dumber than claiming that you can roll with someone with a knife, on the ground. That completely misunderstands the point of the weapon and its effective range.
Knives are short sharp weapons. They are most effective at close range. Therefore, to fight effectively against them, you MUST open up the range to a point where the knife cannot reach you.
More to the point, when you train to defend against knives, you have to train against people who actually attack you with intent to harm. That is the only way to make a knife defence “realistic”. Otherwise, you’re just play-acting.
Ah, yes, my beloved Krav Maga. The martial art that I trained in for 5 years, right here. So… does it work?
Yes. It does. But most people who teach it, are fundamentally unserious about the art and how it works.
I have written extensively about Krav Maga for years now, so I will try not to repeat myself too much. I do want to make clear, though, that most Krav Maga instructors have really dumbed down the art to the point where it truly is a joke among serious martial artists.
There is a reason for this. Every martial art goes through this process of dumbing down and commodification. That is exactly what happened to karate, taekwondo, judo, and literally every other martial art, ever, including BJJ. The plain, hard fact is that the more black belts you produce, the more attention you get, and the more students you gain, and the more money you can make by franchising out your own particular interpretation of the art.
In the process, though, one of two things tends to happen.
Either the art loses its lethality and speed, to accommodate for less fit and less capable students, and standards lower to let the weakest students feel like they have accomplished something meaningful.
Or the art becomes rigid and hierarchical as an overreaction, sticking to the principles of the founder without ever innovating and incorporating new techniques.
The very best schools in any martial art, Krav Maga included, recognise which techniques work, and which ones have to be revised, as practitioners gain experience and skill. That is why, a few years ago, the Krav Maga Federation in New York did a complete rewrite of its entire curriculum, throwing out techniques that didn’t work, reordering existing ones to make more sense within their belt system, and adding in huge amounts of new material related to groundfighting.
That is the sign of a martial arts institution that takes self-defence seriously. So is real, serious, hard sparring and fighting with intent. You don’t get points for looking good and flashy at the KMF – you get points for demonstrating effective techniques that could break people in half under stress.
Compare and contrast this:
You tell me which one takes real-world fighting and actual pressure more seriously. (Hint: it’s the style that doesn’t involve play-acting where the attacker just passively resists.)
I know very little about Systema, or Sistema, or whatever it’s called in the West. The Russians write it as Система Спетсназ, and I know how to pronounce it in their language, so I’ll stick to “Sistema”, as that is the closest transliteration.
Either way – what is Sistema? I don’t know. All I will say is that, based on what little I have seen of it, the basic theories seem pretty sound. However, there are plenty of YouTube videos of complete idiots doing incredibly stupid things and playacting as if their techniques amount to actual self-defence. So you’ll have to judge for yourself whether they actually work.
Here’s an example of true Russian bullshido:
Now before any of my Russian readers get pissy – and apparently I do, in fact, have at least one or two Russian readers – let me be very clear that I am NOT insulting your martial art. I’m insulting idiots who make your martial art look dumb.
I have no clue what real Sistema looks like. Most of the videos that I see on YouTube look laughably stupid and show a remarkable lack of real self-defence techniques, awareness, knowledge, or skill. Supposedly, Sistema comes from the Russian military, and unlike the US military, which is fundamentally unserious about war nowadays, the Russians do study the art of killing people and breaking things very carefully.
That is why their military can actually win wars, whereas the US military these days cannot.
If anyone can find examples of real Sistema that obeys the principles of range, timing, speed, power, aggression, and hard contact, then let’s see it. I simply don’t know enough on the subject to have an opinion – but I can recognise bullshido when I see it, and a lot of what I see being marketed as Sistema is nothing short of pure bullshido.
My advice to anyone looking to study martial arts remains the same today as it was 8 years ago when I first starting writing on this subject. You MUST find a serious school that puts an emphasis on real-world skills and actual training. And you must find a school that not only permits sparring, but requires it. Nothing short of hard contact and real application will allow you to make progress as a practitioner of a real martial art. You must experience the humiliation of being bested by people smaller, lighter, and weaker than you in order to destroy your ego and move to the next levels of awareness, skill, and speed.
Real martial arts teach self-awareness, discipline, humility, and generosity of spirit. That is why real martial artists are actually some of the most unassuming people that you can imagine – because they know damned well that they could break you in half without even trying. But they don’t want to hurt you – they want to teach you.
Find such men (and women) and learn from them. That is a most productive and beneficial use of your time. But do not waste it in search of the “perfect” art – no such thing exists. Spend your time instead looking to better yourself and become more skilled in the Warrior’s Way.