I posted something that happened to me earlier this week on my Facebook page and it seemed to resonate with everybody so I figured it might be worth exploring it here on my blog. I’ve titled it “The Idiot’s Guide to Martial Arts for Those Who Don’t Practice Them” because for the most part, that’s what all the stories I’ll tell here have in common: non-practitioners acting stupid.  So for a change, this article isn’t aimed at you folks who regularly read my blog, but at those who don’t and know zip about martial arts.


First things first, here’s what happened a few days ago:

I was teaching sword techniques during a private session in the aerobics room of a gym in Brussels. We were using cheap beater swords: non-sharpened metal blades that can take some damage. Suddenly, a big, burly guy walks in on me and my student. As he walks straight at us, he starts talking and it went something like this:

Him: You want me to rush you with that sword?
Me: No.
Him: You want me to rush you with that sword?
Me: No.
He walks closer and gestures to my sword, extending a hand. I turn it away slightly to make sure he’s still out of range and can’t get to me without lunging.
Him: What are you doing?
Me: Just training a bit.
Him: What?
My student: Tai Chi Chuan.
Him: Oh, I don’t know that stuff. I’m a boxer.
Me: That’s very nice.
Him: Yeah.
Me: Well, have a great day.
He gets the hint and leaves.

This isn’t the first such incident I’ve encountered and when I talk to fellow martial artists, they all nod their heads before sharing their own stories.  Sometimes those stories end with a body lying on the floor, unconscious and injured, whereas other times everybody walks away in one piece. Even though the goal should always be the latter, things can always escalate into the former if a non-practitioner insists on being stupid. Given as people who practice punching and kicking each other for fun tend to be at least a little more competent at fighting than those who don’t, here are some guidelines for them on how to act around a martial artists Read More→

Categories : Martial Arts
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A while ago, I asked people on my Facebook Page if there was anything they were struggling with in their training so I could do a blog post about it. Here’s what Jonathan said:

I find it challenging to develop an attacking mentality – I tend to be quite passive in sparring. Any advice on how to develop that?

A great question and this “How to be more aggressive in sparring” article is my answer to it. Let’s start with some basics first.

how to be more aggressive in sparring

Sparring with one of my students.


Why are you passive during sparring?

There are a bunch of reasons why you might not feel like attacking your partner when you spar. It’s hard to say with certainty which one is the case with you as each person is different, but here are some of the most common reasons:

  • You’re scared. Getting punched in the face hurts and it can be scary if this is new to you. When it happens during a sparring session, many people tend to become passive and defensive to avoid receiving more of those punches. This is perfectly natural human behavior but it doesn’t help you get better. You need to work through the fear and conquer it.
  • He hits too hard. This is similar to the previous. Not only are you scared of getting hit because it hurts, you’re scared of getting injured because he hits really, really hard. Fear of injury is also a natural reaction, but you need to accept it at a gut level as martial arts and combat sports are contact sports. Injury is always a possibility, no matter how hard or soft you spar.
  • He counters everything you do. Even if he doesn’t hit you hard, if he hits you every time you make a move, it can be so frustrating you just stop attacking. Frankly, if this is the case then you’re mismatched. If your partner is so good that he lands every technique at will and avoids all of yours, there’s no upside to sparring him. In this case, I would suggest going slower or getting another partner.
  • Your defense sucks and you keep on getting tagged. This is a biggie. Look at a muay Thai or MMA match: in most cases, a fighter gets hit through the holes in his defense as opposed to inherent openings in a technique. E.g.: every time you throw a right punch, the right side of your body is open, nothing you can do about that. But you can keep your chin low, your other hand high and raise your shoulder to protect your chin. It’s usually these technical details that people make mistakes against and the opponent sees it. And then he uses those against you.
  • You don’t know what to do. Sparring can be overwhelming and make your brain freeze up to the point of almost paralyzing you. Especially if you are afraid, it can be extremely difficult to figure out something as basic as picking the right technique to throw next. Getting used to adrenal stress and having a strong grasp of the basics goes a long way to solve this.

These are some of the most common reasons that get in the way of being more aggressive when you spar.  Fortunately, there are solutions for these and I’ll give you a couple of them here below. Let’s take a look at those now. Read More→

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100 Ways to Attack the Groin

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Master Ken is back in action, this time with IMHO his best video ever: 100 ways to attack the groin.

Put down any beverages and then start watching this video.


Categories : Video
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Bouncer leg kicks drunk guy

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One of the things you hear more and more in combats sports (in particular in MMA) these days is that “leg kicks don’t finish fights.” Somehow, people are under the impression that therefor the leg kick is not a worthwhile technique. Not just in the cage but outside of it as well. I know for a fact this is patently wrong, having use the leg kick both effectively on numerous occasions. As always, it depends on the person throwing that kick, the circumstances, etc.

I’ve written extensively about the leg kick and how to block it so I won’t repeat that here. I’ll post some links in the resources section down below. What I want to show here is the leg kick in a street situation because it can certainly work there to end a fight. There are other videos that demonstrate this, but this one is a great example.

Take a look:

As always, I wasn’t there and neither are you. We also don’t have the entire event on video, nor can we hear clearly what is being said. We can only go by this video and what it looks like. That said, it looks like the bouncer went a bit overboard:

  • The drunk guy is perhaps obnoxious but he doesn’t seem to be aggressive. The bouncer shoves him back and the guy doesn’t seem to respond other than just standing there. His fellow bouncer (I assume) comes in and starts directing the drunk away. Again, no aggressive response.
  • The bouncer announces his intent. You can clearly hear him say “I’m gonna leg kick this guy.” Now I don’t know where this happened or what legal authority bouncers have there, but it seems a bit early in the conflict to go out of your way to make it physical.

Again, I wasn’t there. There might be other factors involved that justify this leg kick, but I don’t see them right now. If you put that aside, let’s look at the technique itself: Read More→

Categories : Self-Defense
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The pitfalls of slow practice

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One of my training brothers shared this article and made some comments about it. I went over to the site and after reading the article, I could only agree with his statements. I’ll get to that at the end here, but first, go read the article. It’s not that long.

There are a couple of minor issues I see here and a fundamental problem. Let’s start with the issues.

  • Slow practice is no secret. In fact, it’s a fundamental training methodology, both inside and outside of martial arts. In pretty much every sport or activity, you learn a new skill or technique slowly to get basic competence in it. Once you have that, you add speed, power and other aspects. Typically, when you want to correct errors, you slow it down again to figure out what’s wrong. Once you do, you go faster again. Granted, only a limited amount of martial arts make it a big part of their training, but this has been known for a long time. I really don’t see the secret here.
  • Slow isn’t always possible. I’m going to take an extreme example to make this point: take a look at this kick. How exactly can you practice this slowly? I don’t see how you can pull that off. I’m no karate expert, but I’ve seen more than one jumping technique in their forms. I’ve also seen them do many less extreme movements that require some form of dynamic balance, which makes it impossible to do them (correctly) at anything other than speed. For instance, try to do this type of footwork at a slow pace and still bounce.
  • There’s also “too slow”. In the article, the author suggests taking 2 minutes to perform one front kick. In my experience, that’s way too slow to train the kick correctly. At that pace, you’re mainly working the stabilizer muscles, which has a lot of value. But there are better ways to train those for 2 minutes than to insist on performing that front kick at the same time. More about that in a bit.
  • Not all TCMAs are the same. This is a minor quibble, but it needs to be addressed because it is factually incorrect. The author writes: “Slowness is vital in TCMA (Traditional Chinese Martial Arts), the historical progenitor of Karate.” I’m not going to touch the “progenitor” part, but as for TCMAs, that’s simply not true. There are hundreds of different styles and only in a handful (those that are considered “internal”) is slow practice a vital part of the training.

All in all, these points aren’t all that important to the main issue. Primarily because we can argue about them and there are all sorts of conditions that apply. So I’m not going to belabor the point. I am going to address the fundamental problem with the assumption that slow training is going to “Improve Your Karate Like Crazy.” Read More→

Categories : Martial Arts
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A while ago I posted a video of the basic striking drill I teach for stand up fighting in combat sports. Every student in my class starts learning it as of his first class and it works well in teaching many things at the same time. In that first video, I showed the basic version along with a couple ways to add leg techniques and in the article I explained the reasoning behind the specific details. In this video, the focus is now on strategy and tactics. Now the goal is to generate forward pressure on the opponent, to take the fight to him and put him on the defensive.

Very often, beginning fighters launch into a long flurry of strikes when they do that. They just storm forward and throw one technique after the other in the hopes that one of them gets through. This tactic can and does work. However, it typically leaves you open to counters when fighting experienced opponents. It also costs a lot of energy and if it doesn’t yield results, you just blew away all that energy for nothing. I believe a fighter who is both well-trained and experienced has much better tools for this goal than just going berserk on his opponent.

Progressive forward pressure is one of those tools.

I’ll explain in more detail below, first take a look at the video.

Here are some pointers on how to make this work for you: Read More→

Categories : Combat Sports
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A few years ago, I posted an article about a homeowner killing two burglars. I brought up some points, both good and bad, regarding the actions Mr. Smith took in self-defense. There were some heated comments and I remember receiving a bunch of nasty emails because some people didn’t appreciate the fact that I gave a nuanced opinion instead of picking a side in the pro-gun/anti-gun issue. We’re two years later now and Mr. Smith has been put on trial and has received his sentence:

Byron Smith has been found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. His sentence is life without parole.

Take some time to watch this video to listen to some of his testimony and audio evidence from the trial. You can also listen to more of the audio evidence here, starting around 4min. WARNING: NSFW, nor for children:

I’ll refer to both of these in a bit. First, I’d like to make a few points:

  • It’s not about morality. I tried to explain this in my original article but noticed a lot of people didn’t get my point; I’m not arguing a moral point. I believe you definitely have a right to defend yourself in your own home. My article was about the specifics, about how Mr. Smith did that; the things he did both right and wrong. The same applies for this article.
  • It’s about the law and its consequences. For decades now, I’ve been teaching self-defense and I’ve met tons of people who have a very skewed perspective on it. They think the self-defense laws give them a blanket permission to use violence in whatever way they want. My point in this article (and in most others here on my blog) is that this is bullshit. That’s not how society works, not for self-defense and neither for most other laws. It isn’t what you think that matters, it’s how the legal system sees it. If you willingly ignore this aspect, then you’re not all that bright…

That said, let’s take a look at the trial. Read More→

Categories : Self-Defense
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