Let’s be honest…

Just for a minute I’ve decided to take the gloves off…. I love the martial arts in all of its variety. It’s a lot of fun. It can be useful in a variety of ways from developing a sense of body culture, to pursuit of understanding for a culture that is not our own, to a social mechanism, to a source of physical growth and challenge.

Over time, with the right material, the right mindset, and the right approach to training you might even get to a place where you can use that growth in defense of yourself or another.

But, if we’re honest, that all depends. There’s nothing in the majority of martial arts schools, styles, and practitioners, that suggests that’s a reality.

If I was really being honest, I’d say that most people want to touch their toe in the “pools of danger” (stolen with reckless abandon from a good friend who you have probably never heard of— D. Friesen) without ever taking the bath. Hell…. not even getting their foot wet, let alone taking a bath in it. And that’s ok. It is not for everyone.

My only real concern, is that you think you’re doing it when you’re not—and then you’re passing it on as though you are—to others who probably don’t even stand next to the pools.

Look, for your own safety be honest about what you’re doing. Let it be your hobby. Let it be a sport. Let it be fun. You don’t have to take it any further. Nobody really expects you to. The rest of the world looks at it as a hobby already—albeit ever so slightly more intriguing then ping pong.

If, on the other hand, you are trying to dip your toe into the “pools” then stop fucking pretending in your training. No seriously—STOP PRETENDING.

What do I mean? Here’s a list of shit you do that is a complete lie. Look at it. Evaluate yourself. Evaluate your students if you’re an instructor.

  • Your attacks aren’t on target—but are generally in the space of a target that might be there…. Someday….
  • In fact, you’re not even targeting anything at all…. (I mean you don’t want to actually “hit” anyone right?)
  • Your attacks don’t reflect something you’d do in real life…. Like at all…. (Or maybe the do…………..???)
  • Your training partner is paused and waiting vulnerably for you to decimate them with your deadly ass techniques…. Always.
  • Your deadly techniques are any kind of long movement series…. 4 parts? 5 parts? 6 parts?
  • You can’t adapt what you do to pressure…. Pressure? What pressure? Yes. Exactly.
  • You require someone to attack you in specific ways…. Always.
  • Your attacker has feet glued to the floor…. Always.
  • Your feet are glued to the floor…..
  • You think you’re different and your training is different but you’ve never tested it or had it tested…. Ever.
  • You actually believe you’re going to use pressure points against someone besides friends…. Hahahahaha!
  • You believe you’re really going to “get there” while you teach or train maybe 2-3 hours a week, and have a normal job, and responsibilities while also doing the rest of the shit that I’ve listed….
  • You practice two-man drills that never progress…. Ever. You just add more of them….
  • You practice dueling exclusively….
  • You don’t expect to ever be the guy in the wrong….
  • You don’t put yourself in shitty awkward and uncomfortable positions….
  • You practice forms and never apply them in real-time….
  • You practice against the weaker, smaller, less skilled….
  • You say to yourself that it’s because you’re still learning…..

That’s a pretty good list. I could add more and more and more. There’s so many ways we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are developing applicable skills in our training. Got one to add? Put it in the comments below. It would nauseate me to hear even more and I know you’d enjoy that.

Look, as I said, I’m totally cool with this being a hobby for you. It can be a hobby, a passion, and even a career but until you are honest with yourself it’s not going to be a very useable life-saving skill.

Like it. Hate it. It won’t change it. Only you can do that. Let’s change the look of our industry by taking that first step and dipping our toe into the pool and being honest. Stop talking about being a warrior, respect, honor and courage, and then lying to yourself and those who are coming to you. That’s nonsense.

Rant over,
Guru Stark

Sean Stark
Founder of Pencak Silat Pertempuran. In looking for a martial art that was practical and artistic I found Pencak Silat. In silat I found an art that's organic nature allowed me to change it to make it culturally realistic and still allowed me to have the benefit of art and body culture.


  • User Avatar
    Philip Ledgerwood
    January 26, 2019

    Hey Guru Stark,

    Really appreciated this article. There are some hard truths to think about, both on the side of what our training consists of and what role training has in our daily life. I say this as the guy who has the family, normal job, etc.

    I’d sum all this up as – the farther you are from actual fighting, the less you should think of yourself as a fighter.

    To your list, I’d add:
    – Your technique (or entire martial art) is “too deadly” to practice in a realistic manner
    – Your partner never throws a second punch when you’re practicing defending against punches
    – Your technique has the phrase “then you” in it when describing it and it requires that nobody has moved

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“My first thought was, who am I to teach?”