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.

Not Everyone Wants the Same Thing

The complement of "X has Utility Beyond Self-Defense" is, "Not everyone wants the same thing from their martial art."  There are both reasonable and fallacious variations on this objection.

If you want historical reenactment, physical exercise, or a social circle, or meditation, that's great! But if a Civil War reenactment team, Yoga gym, book club, or Zen mediation school advertises that it cultivates fighting prowess, its practitioners should be prepared for debate. Schools that promise fighting skill they cannot deliver will wither and disappear over the next few decades, in the looming shadow of YouTube and MMA.  It doesn't matter if your art is beautiful or satisfying, if you make claims that are demonstrably false, customers will eventually flee.  As a counter-example, and with a few caveats, Tai Chi seems likely to avoid this gradual demise, as it primarily promotes itself as meditation and fitness, rather than fighting.

A valid reason is injury avoidance.  Training in some martial arts is more dangerous than others.  Near opposite ends of the injury-risk spectrum are Thai Boxing and Tai Chi; sadly they're also near opposite ends of the combative application spectrum.  Unfortunately these characteristics are correlated; fortunately they're loosely correlated.  There are some gems that provide high combative application and lower-than-expected injury-risk!

A direct example of this is a close family friend with a condition that means just about any impact or even bump to her head risks permanent, irreversible hearing loss.  It's unwise for her to engage in contact sports of any kind.  Kata and compliant-partner-training may be the most realistic fight training in which she can safely engage.  This exception helps to clarify the rule: To maximize your fighting skill, train in the martial art that regularly practices with the highest level of resistance your physical capability and acceptable injury risk allow.