It was some four decades ago my journey started as a student, practitioner, and teacher of the “martial arts”. The term itself can be controversial, everything is these days, but it encompasses most of my training and has become mainstream as a description of what I do. Most training included (and still does) traditional Japanese arts, with extensive time in Korean arts, as well as weapons, and a smattering of other more esoteric training. Most was intensive, its my nature, anyone who knows me is nodding right now, probably laughing. The first 30+ years of my life were spent dedicated to training at the expense of all else. Starting at age 12 it has continued mostly unabated to this day. It has certainly changed, mostly due to age and compounding injury or damage, but some would say not much….
My practice and training has always been weighed against its value in a fight, not a contest. It served me well over 20+ years as a police officer, detective, and SWAT officer. Games were always there, they remain, but my training always separated the two. You play games, you survive fights, seldom unscathed. Proficiency at either does not guarantee succes at both, each have their place and value. Done correctly they compliment each other, incorrectly they get you killed. The same is true when firearms training entered the mix. The parallels far out weigh the differences, especially when it comes to mindset. Games are games, fights are not, an ageless discussion. Argued and discussed ad-nasuem that is NOT the subject of this blog. Its not the game, its the pitfalls of comparison that got me going this morning.
Drawing on the same parallel, around three decades ago a conversation was struck up with an instructor at an intensive seminar. Elderly at the time he had survived war, a long police career, and more than a few street fights. Given the language barrier it was difficult, but enlightening, and something that has colored my training ever since. It revolved around the age old arguments comparing the value and effectiveness of various styles of martial art. One of his clear quotes (paraphrased here) was “comparison is the venue of fools. it is time wasted that could be spent training. Martial training’s value is in its application, a product of the practitioner, not the system”. It is a tool; like all tools its effectiveness is based on the ability of the user and their willingness to perfect its use. Just because the tool is different does not mean it won’t work. At the same time, even this man, now long passed had a place outside combat effectiveness, although he was more directed towards its value as an art. Still, he made it clear that not everyone is a warrior, nor is all training for war. Sometimes it simply builds better people. Everything in martial arts training is not measured against its ability to be applied in a fight.
Working through the myriad of posts in FB, on Linked In, and others this morning the need to “compare” everything struck me and reminded me of those words. As a writer testing guns I have strived to judge each item on its merits, value, or effectiveness alone. From the very beginning I promised myself if that changed it was time to quit. Luckily, at least so far that has not been necessary. To me, the effectiveness of one weapon does not detract from that of another. Just because your favorite polymer wonder pistol is a great tool does not mean all others are not. New and improved is not always either, and old does not mean antiquated or ineffective. Endless comparisons as to the effectiveness of the AR and AK are so ridiculous as to be moronic, but the firearms world is full of them (and it). It sells, I get it it, does not mean I have to either like it, or perpetuate it.
Training is not exempt, in fact it is worse. One of the stupidest statements read so far went something like this “we have MMA and people still practice Kung Fu”. As if 5000 years of hand to hand combat was useless, and anyone practicing it is wrong, or ineffective, or cannot fight? MMA has saved the martial arts world? As if it is “new”? Every Asian country (or culture) on the planet with a traditional art was doing something similar, or more brutal at least 1000 years ago, yet somehow the “new and improved” MMA is the “only and true” combat art? The ignorance is almost embarrassing if not frightening – a testament to the rampant stupidity of many. Don’t get me wrong, its great stuff, but the be all end all it is not, nor is it the “only” true fighting art, new, improved, or different. It is however incredibly well marketed!
Evaluating firearms training extensively over the last 5+ years the “industry” is rife with similar meaningless comparisons. More marketing than substance, personality than practice it is the epitome of the scourge of comparison. Endless arguments over “techniques” that are largely similar, generally stolen or copied, and often useless. More time is spent comparing, or flat out denigrating everyone else than teaching or training. The same technique practiced (or named) by one “guru”, or “master” is revered by their followers, reviled by detractors. Rolling around on the ground on YouTube is criticized, probably should be, yet famous instructors sliding on their ass is revered. One pistol is a “fighting pistol” another is just for fun? Marksmanship is secondary in a “fighting” tactic? Speed is unnecessary, fitness overrated, it goes on and on and on….blah blah blah, yada yada yada – just more verbal diarrhea.
So, whats the point. In a world populated by social media, marketing, hype, and hyperbole it is critical you understand the game. All of those things sell. It sells guns, equipment, training, you name it – never forget that is often what its all about. Not always, but more often than not. Celebrity is meaningless, nor does it have any reflection on the value of training from those less famous. Sometimes the best training comes from those never seen on You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, or fancy websites. They probably have neither written a book or sold DVD’s. Backgrounds on websites and sales literature are to be taken with a grain of salt, and vetted for truth. The ability to do either or both is just as prevalent as hyped effectiveness and value. Most famous “gurus and masters” learned from someone that was neither famous or considered themselves a “master”. Just because they market what they do as combat training it does not mean they have either seen it, know what to do in it, or can train you to survive it.
The effectiveness of one type of weapon has zero bearing on the effectiveness of the other. Trained practitioners with a pistol comprised mostly of metal or using a cylinder are just as deadly as those using the latest combat polymer. Just because a rifle is old (or not an AR) does not take away from its ability to get the job done, it just does the job differently. Weapons touted by the current master, guru, or celebrity are not necessarily any more effective at their jobs than those they denigrate. Given years of investigating shootings, by officers and bad guys, those outside the LE world (with an issued weapon) seldom seem to involve the weapon de-jour, and somehow those dead or injured never seem to notice the difference.
Bottom line, this is a blog, so mostly a rant, but that is what these are for. Still, it seems to me, just like 40 years ago, the words of an old battle weary real word trainer of warriors holds true, “Comparison is the Venue of Fools”.