Mailvox: C’e l’ho duro

The Baseball Savant opts for jujitsu over aikido:

I’ve been thinking a lot about martial arts training and did some shopping around. I think I’m going the jujitsu route. After reading the advice you gave on your blog back on December 20, 2006, I found a school pretty close to where I am. With med school I sort of needed it to be convenient. Anyway, I went and there were no women and the instructors were pretty cool and said they encourage contact fighting.

I’m not a real big guy at 5’10″/200lbs. However, I can incline bench 390lbs and squat 550lbs. I haven’t done regular bench in awhile. I thought the ground fighting you talked of sounded good because I’m not that big and long but I’m pretty strong and athletic and I thought maybe being in a martial art where reach would matter would hurt me a bit. You had talked of akido being a good self defense martial art, but can jujitsu be that too? With all the locks and chokes and strangles, it sounds like you can do some serious damage to the skeletal system.

Jujitsu is a great martial art for which I have a great deal of respect. One of our most dangerous black belts, who did pretty well in one MMO tournament, was also a jujitsu brown belt. That being said, I would tend to favor aikido because I generally prefer hard styles to soft styles. Hard styles tend to favor those with a lot of natural strength and provide for more aggressive techniques that I find to be a little bit safer if weapons happen to enter the picture. I once saw a guy who had a purse snatcher in headlock get knifed in the throat – in fact, that incident was the one that inspired Big Chilly and I to start our martial arts training – and I prefer to incapacitate quickly and without all the physical contact. In two out of the three incidents wherein I actually had to act, I didn’t even use a proper strike per se, I simply made use of the closest wall or floor. A brick wall is a lot harder than your fist and it hurts a lot less to hit someone hard with it.

Now, I was trained in a blended style that combined two hard styles, Shorin Ryu and Kali, with the soft style of Wing Chun kung fu. The latter was quite useful with some of the blocks and locks, but I personally dislike fighting at grappling range since it negates my usual speed advantage. Since BS has enough strength and size that most guys with any sense are going to be reluctant to close with him, I’m wondering if he might have a need for some offensive techniques that he’s less likely to learn in a soft style. If you’ve got plenty of your own strength, then why rely on a strategy that almost requires waiting for the other guy to throw his at you? But the truth is that any good instructor is going to teach you useful techniques from other styles regardless of his own style, and the more adept you are at one style the easier you’ll pick up the tricks of the others.

(Tangential aside: my favorite non-fight was when the Dragon we called Terminator nearly got into it with this obnoxious guy at my favorite night club. After a few words were exchanged, they both dropped into what were quite obviously the combat stance of an experienced fighter… and their eyes widened in mutual recognition of this. They just stared at each other for a moment, then Terminator said “so, do you want to match styles or what?” The other guy, who may have been obnoxious, but was clearly no dummy, shook his head and said “not really”. Terminator nodded and stepped, and the rest of us exhaled. I kind of wanted to see how it turned out, to be honest, but it could have also been really ugly and he was a pretty good friend of mine.)

One of the best things that my sensei incorporated into our training was regularly bringing in fighters from other styles on sparring night. So, we learned to keep boxers outside with defensive sidekicks while crashing our bodies into Tae Kwon Do kickers to knock them off balance before they could bring their legs up. A one-legged Wall of Bone topples over pretty easily if you just slam right into it. It’s one thing to know that you should work to your opponent’s weakness, its another thing to be forced to deal with very different strengths and weaknesses on a regular basis. I always had the worst time with the real kickboxers, the Muay Thai guys with the tattooed backs. They’d give you centerline and take a hard shot, then just hammer you from both sides. That open center was just too tempting to resist and I wasn’t sure what else you were supposed to do anyhow. I mean, the window’s open, that’s what you want, right? I don’t think I ever had the better of a single sparring round with any of them.

The American kickboxers, on the other hand, were usually a joke. They were basically like Tae Kwon Do guys who couldn’t use their hands very well, but couldn’t kick effectively either. You’d just wait until they raised their front foot for that little flick kick at your front calf and then stick them with a skipping sidekick. That would knock them off balance and their hands would flail about and open up their head, so you step in with hands, bang, bang, bang… no problem.

Anyhow, any martial art is much, much better than none, and jujitsu is definitely more useful than most because so many fights end up going to ground one way or another. Watch out for the wrestlers, though. Those squirmy bastards can be very tricky if you don’t lock up their neck at the start.