Don’t Blame the Technique
The other day I was posed what seemed to be a very simple question; Realistically, how long it would take to learn enough martial arts to defend oneself in the average street confrontation. You would think that after 50 years in the arts the answer would be easy, but since I tend to overthink things, I took some time to consider the question more deeply. Of course, we are not referring here to an attack by trained ninja assassins, nor to being mugged by a mob of Russian gangsters in a dark alley.
The question here refers to an average real-world confrontation.
To research this a little more thoroughly I went to the most knowledgeable source I knew, namely my HaeMuKwan Hapkido teacher. The information I received did in fact surprise me a little. I realized that the person posing the question was not interested in becoming a professional instructor nor a MMA fighter, but rather simply wanted enough training to competently face the average deadly threat and therefore the time frame for the learning curve was less that I’d expected.
I was surprised to learn that the government’s most highly trained warriors (such as the CIA or The Secret Service bodyguards etc.), receive only a total of about 400 some odd hours of continuous training. That didn’t seem to me to be a particularly large amount of time to cover such a broad topic, yet it was then pointed out to be that it is not just the training but the intensity and the follow up practice that makes the difference. I learned that the Army’s Combatives course is also relatively short but that as one can imagine, those who realize they may face combat are always practicing on the side, and on their own time. It was never so true that practice makes perfect.
In the past I have witness martial arts schools that demonstrate a technique during a class and then due to a lack of a building block type curriculum may not use that technique again for months to years on end. It is hard for a student to develop muscle memory or physical reflex with that kind of interval.
I have also visited schools that take a “monkey see monkey do” approach to instruction. They impress young students with overly advance techniques that do not provide a learning foundation to be able to understand the usage of such techniques. By the same token, demonstrating a technique without the proper knowledge of applications, principles and meaning of the movements will create a talented mimic who will get killed in a real-world confrontation, regardless of rank.
The key to success lies not merely in repetition alone. Repeating a sloppy move a thousand times will not magically transform it into a sleek and effective technique. The key to success is knowledgeable instruction combined with intensity of training while at the same time incorporating technique development into a step-on-step repetitive learning. Practicing a technique once with a complete misinterpretation of the when, how, and why, to use it will surely mean its failure during application. Then the tendency is to simply blame the technique for the failure.
So perhaps the answer to the question of martial arts training lies not in the actual time frame but rather in the dedication, practice, and learning curve of the practitioner.
About the author: R.W. Stone is a veterinarian in Florida. He is an avid horseman, martial artist, best-selling western author, and a firearms enthusiast. Currently Stone is ranked a sixth dan in Haemukwan Hapkido, a third dan in Daehan Yudo and a second dan in Kukki TaeKwondo. He is the Master Instructor at the American Dragon Martial Arts Academies in Ocoee, Florida. You can learn more about the school at https://americandragonkoreanmartialarts.com or read his daily thoughts on Martial Arts at www.facebook.com/groups/koreanmartialarts