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Martial Arts Information

"A true master never recognizes himself as one."

My dictionary (Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Unabridged, Second Edition -- Deluxe Color) defines martial art as "any of various systems of self-defense originating in the Orient, such as karate, also engaged in as a sport." This seems to be the concept that most people have when they think about the martial arts. I don't know how often I've heard a "waaaaaahhhhh" followed by bazaar hand movements mimicing what a person had seen in an old martial arts movie when the subject of the martial arts is brought up. This shows how much Hollywood and not actual history has influenced peoples thinking (much like the current understanding of American history, I suppose).

The fact is that the spectrum of the martial arts is much broader that what most people are unaware of. How many would omit including boxing and wrestling in the category of the martial arts simply because they are of Occidental origin?. It should be considered that, along with the multitude of Oriental styles, there are also a number Occidental styles to consider. These include such styles such as Savate (boxe francais), Pankration (a reemergence of the ancient Greek Olympic combatives), Krav Maga, the Russian styles of SAMBO and R.O.S.S., Combato and numerous eclectic styles that have recently emerged. There is even concerted effort to study European Medieval and Renaissance Martial Arts (the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is an international historical society that is an excellent source, among others, for the practice of Medieval and Renaissance combatives).

I've used the term combatives a couple of times. Methods of Combatives is where the martial arts began, so lets get a definition for it. Here's what the U.S. Army says about Combatives in Field Manual FM 3-25.150:


Hand-to-hand combat between two or more persons in an empty-handed struggle or with hand-held weapons such as knives, sticks, or projectile weapons that cannot be fired.

Combatives methods are probably as old as mankind, but they didn't really begin to become martial arts until someone was able to find sufficient time from the day-to-day struggle to survive and begin to think about them and organize them into some kind of system. No one knows how long ago this began, but it was certainly thousands of years ago.

These early systems had basically one purpose: survival. However, as civilization grew and peace started to break out, the fighting systems, for various reasons, began to become civilized as well and to evolve into martial ways and martial sports. The martial sports limit the kind of techniques that are employed in order to avoid injuries (at least excessive injuries) and the martial ways become concerned a great deal with personal-development. There is really nothing wrong with this as such, it just depends on what you are looking for in a martial art. You may find limited practical self-defense application in some current styles. Again, it's all in what you're looking for. See Bob Orlando's Book Martial Arts America: A Western Approach to Eastern Arts for more information on the evolution/devolution of Martial Arts.

There are still styles that offer practical self-defense training, some examples are as Korean Hapkido (see local site link below), Jeet Kune Do derivatives and various Indonesian and Phillipine arts. Most Kung-fu styles have a sub-set of techniques called Chin Na that is very effective for self-defense, but it may not always be taught to beginning students. There are also a number of eclectic style currently evolving (some are good, some aren't, seeker beware) that attempt to gear their curriculum to the current "street" environment. There are good schools out there, so do your research and find something that will work for you, whether it be a martial sport, a martial way, or a combatives style.

FM 3-25.150 also provides the following basic principles of Combatives:


Underlying all combatives techniques are principles the hand-to-hand fighter must apply to successfully defeat an opponent. The natural progression of techniques, as presented in this manual, will instill these principles into the soldier.

  1. Mental Calm. During a fight a soldier must keep his ability to think. He must not allow fear or anger to control his actions.
  2. Situational Awareness. Things are often going on around the fighters that could have a direct impact on the outcome of the fight such as opportunity weapons or other personnel joining the fight.
  3. Suppleness. A soldier cannot always count on being bigger and stronger than the enemy. He should, therefore, never try to oppose the enemy in a direct test of strength. Supple misdirection of the enemy's strength allows superior technique and fight strategy to overcome superior strength.
  4. Base. Base refers to the posture that allows a soldier to gain leverage from the ground. Generally, a soldier must keep his center of gravity low and his base wide-much like a pyramid.
  5. Dominant Body Position. Position refers to the location of the fighter's body in relation to his opponent's. A vital principle when fighting is to gain control of the enemy by controlling this relationship. Before any killing or disabling technique can be applied, the soldier must first gain and maintain one of the dominant body positions.
  6. Distance. Each technique has a window of effectiveness based upon the amount of space between the two combatants. The fighter must control the distance between himself and the enemy in order to control the fight.
  7. Physical Balance. Balance refers to the ability to maintain equilibrium and to remain in a stable upright position.
  8. Leverage. A fighter uses the parts of his body to create a natural mechanical advantage over the parts of the enemy's body. By using leverage, a fighter can have a greater effect on a much larger enemy.

If one is master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time insight into and understanding of many things. -- Vincent Van Gogh

Recommended Martial Arts Books

Orlando, Bob. Indonesian Fighting Fundamentals: The Brutal Arts of the Archipelago. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press, 1996.

Orlando, Bob. Martial Arts America: A Western Approach to Eastern Arts. Berkley, CA: Frog, Ltd., 1997.

Sprague, Martina. Martial Arts America: A Western Approach to Eastern Arts. Wethersfield, CT: Turtle Press, 2002.

Tedeschi, Marc. Hapkido: Traditions, Philosophy, Technique. Trumbull, CT: Weatherhill, Inc., 2000.

Yang, Jwing-Ming. Comprehensive Applications of Shaolin Chin Na: The Practical Defense of Chinese Seizing Arts for All Martial Arts Styles. Roslindale, MA: YMAA Publication Center, 1995.

Local Site Links

Hapkido Information Page
On Chivalry - The European Code of the Warrior
Selected Martial Arts Links

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