This is part of a series of articles inspired by an interview with Matt Thornton.  It is a collection common fallacious arguments and strategic errors regarding martial arts efficacy.  From here on, when I write an assertion like, "X works," I mean:

  • Substitute for "X" any specific martial art, system, or technique.
  • "X" is generally applicable in a real fight.

X Works for Self-Defense, not Sport

To discount evidence of efficacy via the thousands of MMA matches over the last couple decades, someone may object that their art works for self-defense, but is hobbled or limited in the constrained environment of sport fights.

The pragmatic rebuttal is that there also exist thousands of hours of video, usually from cell phones or security cameras, of street fights (both mutual combat and criminal assault).  Love it or hate it, cameras are everywhere.  More examples are better.

The principled rebuttal is articulated well by Renzo Gracie and John Danaher in Mastering Jujitsu, as they discuss the philosophy and development of Judo (emphasis mine):

In combat, the value of a technique is limited by the student's ability to apply it.  It therefore makes more sense for instructors to allocate most of their concern to finding methods of training the techniques into students, as opposed to simply accumulating more and more techniques.

If you train in an art that does not demand that you apply your techniques against resisting opponents with a high degree of freedom of action, it is exceedingly unlikely that you will successfully do so for the first time in an actual fight.  That is, the closer your training environment is to reality, the more evidence it provides you that what you learn in the dojo will work for you in the street.