Lately, I’ve been inundated with video after video of martial arts experts, combative experts, and street fighting experts pedaling their systems of self-protection, self-defense, and reality based fighting….

Many of these videos have some good material in them. Truly. Some valid ideas and points of clarity. That’s fantastic!

I’d say that you should look at them. I’d also suggest that you look at them critically. This includes my videos as well.

Why look at them critically? Because in every one of these videos there are a list of assumptions that you need to look at and evaluate it by. Assumptions like:

Is the spatial relationship overly defined?
(Are they already too close? Or so far away you could eat your lunch before engaging?)
(Multiple attackers set up in positions that are defined by the “hero”?)
(Is there a known weapon and the space already works in favor of the person with the weapon?)

Is the emotional relationship already defined?
(Is the bad guys intent really bad? Or is he a guppy?)
(Does the “Hero” get to be more aggressive than the bad guy?)
(Is anyone really bothered emotionally or is everyone pretty calm?)

Is the structural relationship already defined?
(Does the setup for this encounter require a committed attacker who waits….?)
(Is the counter response a pre-defined counter response?)

Is the timing relationship exaggerated?
(Does one party move slowly or give an exaggerated attack and the other party moving at Mach 1?)

Is the natural relationship similar or lopsided?
(Is “hero” huge, strong, tall, long, skinny small, fast, quick, etc. by comparison to the bad guy?)
(Does the bad guy use his weight, strength, reach, targeting, intent, will, etc. or just lay out there?)

Is the ultimate end foretold?
(Is there a “this works and this doesn’t work” story?)

Is the environmental relationship assumed?
(Are we on mats? Uneven ground? Slippery or dry surfaces?)
(Are we all dressed and ready for action?)
(Are there obstacles and life shit happening around?)

There are probably 10 other assumptions we could go through and detail out. It is the nature of training versus chaos and fighting. Be aware that you are being sold. Be critical in your thinking.

It has been my own personal experience in fighting that most absolute methods go out the window, no matter how good they are. What someone will tell you will work— might not—or it won’t work as well as it did in your training—or it won’t even show up one way or the other.

What works, presents itself when it presents itself, and doesn’t give a shit what someone else says will work or not.

If you respond to what is presented, in the right timing, with what is needed you are going to be 100% effective. That is what you should be training to do.

This is the primary reason why so many people talk about principles, attributes, and concepts rather than techniques.

Of course there’s a Catch-22, because too much reliance on etherial methods leaves you believing your own bullshit. It’s like binging on self-help books and never applying a single thing.

On the other-hand if you only ever apply without understanding the greater context of relationship assumptions, it’s like applying a self-help book to someone else’s life.

And let’s get this right, it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference where something comes from, whether it is silat or karate or hapkido or jiu jitsu. Where most arts get effective is where their cultural identities start to disappear.

And finally, if you ever need to use the tools, it’s your damn life at stake not someone else’s! Make it work—whatever you decide to pursue.

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.

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