Curriculum Q & A’s From Emails in 2000 part 1

We receive about 150 emails a month here at straightblastgym.com. Most involve questions on whether or not SBG-type training is available in the author’s particular area of the world. A few questions every month always involve questions about our curriculum here. Because of that we have decided to post answers to the most frequently asked curriculum and training questions here in a Q&A format. Some of these questions were written on various bulletin boards and taken off the Internet. Others came to us in emails.

We hope this helps clear up many of the questions some of you may have about our curriculum. If, after reading these responses, you are still confused, try reading the interview with SBG President Matt Thornton, listed on this site as Q&A with Matt.

If, after that, you still remain perplexed, feel free to e-mail us at info@straightblastgym.com

We try and specialize in clearing minds of indoctrinated confusion.

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E-mail question:

Does this mean you guys don’t teach Jun Fan JKD anymore, and if not, why not? Also, do you not teach the Kali drills of JKD Concepts anymore?

Answer:

What we teach at the Straight Blast Gym is individuals. Not “styles”, systems, or methods; be they called Jun Fan, or Classical Gung Fu.

What we teach those individuals to do is fight on their feet, in the clinch and on the ground. How we do it is with ALIVENESS. Remember, all that matters is what YOU can do, and how well YOU can perform. The rest is just a semantic exercise in mental masturbation.

E-mail Question:

So are you saying that JKD is anybody that trains “alive” and in all ranges. If so, what about interception? Isn’t Jeet Kune Do the Art of interception?

Answer:

What about interception? Bruce Lee was fascinated by Muhammad Ali’s ability to intercept his opponent’s strikes. Was Muhammad Ali JKD, and if not, why not? You see, interception is a skill all great athletes acquire through ALIVE training. It’s not a product owned by any “style”, “system”, or man.

E-mail question:

Are you saying JKD is the same as NHB sport then?

Answer:

I am saying that if what you do works, it will naturally resemble NHB sport. If what you are doing doesn’t resemble some aspect of NHB then it’s, without a doubt, not athletic and, as a consequence, not functional.

Frequently asked question:

I don’t see what the difference is between what you teach, and NHB training. What about self-defense? Some of us just want to go home to our families and don’t care about brawling it out in a ring.

Answer, posted online:

This is a question that is becoming so common I thought I would try and address it as simply as possible.

The idea that there is such a thing that is “self-defense” training is in and of itself yet another in a long line of martial arts myths.

Let me explain. What works in “sport” is what works against resisting opponents. Much of what is passed off as too “deadly” for sport, is simply technique which will not work against resisting opponents. Obviously there are some foul tactics (such as biting and eye gouging) which could never be allowed in sport. Would you really want to go tit for tat with a Rickson Gracie, or Tom Erickson by biting or eye gouging?

What is the difference between “self-defense” Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and tournament Jiu-Jitsu? Not much. An armlock is an armlock, holding mount is holding mount, etc. There are some things you need to watch for, but I have always seen Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructors address these. For example, when Rickson teaches a seminar he will often teach the simple shoulder lock from mount position. He will say “for street, turn away from his face while you pop this because he may try and claw your eyes”, but the armlock is essentially the same!

My friend and Machado black belt, Chris Haueter, recently completed a video series with us titled “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Street Fighting” (featured in our new adverts in IKF and black belt) Do you think Chris taught a whole “different” version of Jiu-Jitsu? No, he simply demonstrated areas that need to be addressed for the street. The moves, the positions, the training, the conditioning, the timing. . .it’s all the same. He also made a good point that you could take a very good boxer and, in a manner of minutes, teach him to open his hands, how to strike the eyes, etc., and he would be very effective. However, if you took someone who knows no boxing, and has never done any sparring, and teach him or her just “streetfighting eye boinks” they will still get their ass kicked. They won’t have the timing, footwork, movement, coordination, etc. The same could be said of wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and all the other combat “sports”.

What about knives and multiple opponents? What about them? RUN! I cannot fight two large males who are strong and know even some of what I know. Neither can Randy Couture, Chris Haueter, nor (I’ve asked him) Rickson Gracie. If someone pulls a knife on me I am doing my best Ben Johnson imitation. I am not going to carry around a clipit and engage him in a knife dual. Bottom line is that if you are staying out of bars, away from alcohol, and “party” people, and you live a clean, athletic life, it’s unlikely that you will ever get in a legit streetfight. If you are attacked it will be by a predator. You will be out numbered and or he/they will have a gun and/or knife. NOTHING, let me repeat, NOTHING anyone could ever teach you, will even the odds in that situation. Your best defense in that situation is awareness and conditioning; to try and find a way out, and RUN. Period.

I know the Kali/ Escrima knife drills taught in the JKD Concepts world, etc. So does Burton and so do many others but I am skeptical, at best, about the application of any of it against someone armed with a real blade and bad intentions. Same with so called “multiple opponent training”.

Does that mean we never do it? No, all our instructors have done a simplified version of it (read tried it against resistance) and our students go through it as well, but you know what you really learn? You learn you don’t ever want to try and fight a blade or several people at once because odds are you’ll get a beating and that’s a good lesson to learn!

So why bother with martial arts at all then?

Because, done correctly, it can make you a better person, a happier person, and teach you lessons that will permeate your entire life. Correctly means athletically. The lessons learned on the mat and in the ring are true lessons of “Gnosis”; self-knowledge. It’s all about self-perfection. The real spiritual side to martial arts exists is the athletic aspects of it! Joseph Campbell once stated that the only true “peak spiritual experience” he had ever had was through athletics.

The Straight Blast Gym is in Portland. Between our several locations in the area we have roughly 600 students. Out of those 600, 40% are female. Out of those 600 we have a competition team of about 11 active members that compete in Vale Tudo and Jits. That means 589 of them don’t, and have no intention of ever competing. They are here to get in shape, have fun, learn about themselves, who they are, and what they can really do. No illusions, no bullshit. They learn what they can do and, most importantly, what they can’t do! Most are middle aged, professional, and go to work everyday. Many are law enforcement. They use it every day on the street.

What we teach works just as good as anything ever could in the street. In the end, the pursuit of “street fighting” and “self-defense” is a dead end. Think of yourself as an athlete. Train realistically (yes that means like a “sport”) and the real spiritual part of all this becomes a reality. That’s the truth!

Question:

So are you saying you don’t teach street fighting anymore?

Answer, posted online:

I am saying that to train specifically for the intention of “street fighting”, is a philosophical dead end. Actually, I don’t believe there is a better way to prepare someone for a real life altercation than the way we train here. That’s still not the point. The point is that the pursuit of “street fighting” is never an excuse for not training athletically.

Question:

What about all the people who aren’t jocks, who were beat up and are just looking to learn to fight? Those who need the spirituality and self-defense skills that are offered by realistic “street fighting” training and traditional martial arts.

Answer, posted online:

Yes, many people come to martial arts to learn to fight. Many were picked on and/or beat up as a kid. Many were not “jocks” and lack a certain level of self-esteem.

The answer to that puzzle exists in athletic training and work against resistance. You can meditate under a waterfall, chant sacred chants, etc. all day long, but the scared kid inside still exists. However, once that person begins training “Alive”, against resistance, a wonderful thing happens. They learn what they can do, what they can’t do. They learn what they are truly scared of and what they are not. Low and behold, they begin liking themselves more. Action, is truly the high road to self-esteem, as Bruce Lee so eloquently put it.

I do a lot of work with kids that have emotional problems at the gym. I have also seen kids that lack confidence and self-esteem helped greatly by wrestling coaches and others who give of their time.

Contrast that with traditional self-defense and/or street fighting arts. Put these same scared kids in there and they begin wearing camouflage pants, carrying knives everywhere, thinking “tactically”, etc. Becoming just bigger dorks and obvious targets for a bully jock. They grow up and turn into the geeks you see at gun and knife shows. The become the ones who played Dungeons and Dragons in high school and were constantly picked on. Instead of confronting those issues through athletics, they resort to looking for the “mysterious”; the secret Silat master who can teach them to beat up the football players as they have always fantasized.

As Krishnamurti said, “Once you reject experience, and begin looking for the mysterious, then you are caught!” I find it interesting on the forums that are mostly populated by people training athletically, (ie: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, etc.) when the question of street fighting comes up, knives, multiple opponents, etc., most say, without hesitation, that they would run. I have posted the same scenario on “traditional” forums, populated by the Kung Fu, Aikido, Shaolin, Silat, etc, folks, and you would think you had never run into a bigger bunch of bad asses (at least over the internet). Of course, reality is that they would be the first to pee their pants and haul ass. The only difference is that they would feel like cowards when they did it. Whereas a real fighter, ala; Rickson, or Royler, or Couture, or even a good wrestler like Stephen Neal, etc, has nothing really to prove. They know what they can do.

The answer to the abused child and picked-on dork is athletic training. That’s where you can learn about yourself. They discover that they do not need to be ashamed or afraid around any other man. It’s the high road to self-esteem. The pitfall for them is the world of deadly martial arts and weekend commandos. In that world they can live out their fantasies without ever confronting themselves, becoming just another bitter geek filled with bullshit hippie philosophy.

Question:

I have seen lots of athletes who could fight like champions and were also badass Vale Tudo type fighters but who remained complete assholes! I don’t see how athletic training or fighting sports have helped them much.

Answer, posted online:

It’s obvious that athletics is no cure-all. The world is filled with pro athletes that are complete jerks. They’re on the news all the time but that’s not my point. I believe, absolutely, that you can have spirituality and a quest to better yourself without EVER becoming involved in any form of combat athletics. This is obviously the case. I also believe that you can have athletics, and combat athletics, without ever having a shred of spirituality or self-development. Again, looking at the news, that’s obviously the case as well.

However, this is where you and I may or may not agree, and this is my point. I do not believe you CAN have spirituality, and self development in the realm of martial arts without having it be athletic, Alive, and against resistance. If you are seeking that aspect of it (the spiritual) I believe you will NEVER find it if what you do is not athletic. For anything to have merit it must first be true. In our world that means it must work. That means it must work in an Alive environment. That means that it’s athletic. Then, it is possible that you can use combat athletics as a vehicle for personal growth. Whether or not every combat athlete decides to board that train is another matter.

I hope I made that point clear enough.

Question:

Why do you say you don’t teach Wing Chun-type trapping anymore?

Answer, posted online:

When was the last time you ever saw anything that remotely looked like a Wing Chun or “Kali”-style trap in a NHB competition? You probably never will, either. Guess what! There is a good reason for that!

Question posted online:

Sure, complex trapping combos may not work just like some train them, but don’t you think they help develop attributes like line familiarization, helping you see all the possibilities, and “hardwiring” your reflexes?

Answer, posted online:

Think about what you are saying. You say “sure, complex traps may not work, but like Kali flow drills, they teach other things like line familiarization, the possibilities, etc. If it doesn’t work, what possibilities and lines is it teaching you?

It reminds me of the argument people make that say if you throw out that which doesn’t work, ie: complex trapping, you are throwing away the “art”. Art of what? If it doesn’t work, where’s the art? People don’t say Randy Couture is a great wrestler but he has thrown away the art part of wrestling. Or Evander is a great boxer, but he’s thrown out the art of boxing. That’s nonsense. The ART is in the performance! Not the repetition of dead patterns passed on through hearsay by a “Sifu”.

The last thing I will say on this subject is this: TRY IT OUT. The best and only true “Sifu” on this planet is experience, so try it. No, not against a shaved guy in a speedo, (where have you been hanging out?) but against an aggressive, large, pissed of man. If you can make it work I will be the first to congratulate you. In fact, I will personally fly you out to the gym and let you demonstrate that on an athlete who is at least ten pounds smaller than you and has less than two months training. I must warn you though, we don’t wear speedos here, so I hope that doesn’t mess you up?

No offense. Everyone is after different things. Hey, that’s why we have Aikido, right?

Question:

What do you consider “cutting edge” as far as JKD is concerned?

Answer, posted online:

The idea of being “cutting edge” is to be as well-rounded as possible. You have to be comfortable on your feet (boxing), you have to be comfortable in the clinch (greco/ muay thai), and you must be comfortable on the ground (wrestling/ braz jits). It’s not that complicated. Who spends all day fighting in the clinch? Greco-Roman wrestlers, that’s what they do. Who spends all day learning to land blows on an opponent? Boxers, that’s what they do.

For all the guys that still want the exotic, the fancy trapping, or mysterious arts…cool! If everybody had a million dollars, what would it be worth? Keep practicing you’re Jurus!

Question:

Why are you so hard on the idea of lineage? Don’t you think it plays an important role in preserving an art?

Answer, posted online:

Lineage, like titles, certificates, and the associated bullshit, is a disease. It serves only to distract from the true ideal of pursuing the truth in combat, regardless of where it leads you.

I know so many silly “Sifus”. They measure their progress by the size of their notebook. Accumulating yet another trapping combination, or abstract silat sweep without ever asking themselves “does any of this stuff work?” Worse yet, they never truly try it themselves; never discovering the truth about their own personal level of performance. Which, in the end, is all that matters.

Question:

Why do you say you no longer train the “vast majority” of Kali and Escrima drills taught in the JKD/Kali family. Don’t you think there are other reasons to train these types of drills besides just bashing people in stick sparring?

Now me for instance, I tend to be more predisposed to street fighting and the cultivation of real world self-preservation tactics, tools, etc. I use the weapons training PRIMARILY as an attribute builder because I think it’s safe to say that when you face the stick or knife under combative pressure, your ability to handle fighting pressure in the street is enhanced beyond belief. One Dog Brother Gathering will prove it to you. I don’t have any illusions about running into a stick and dagger match in the street, and while I know it may be possible, it’s far from probable. Now, on the other end of the spectrum, the technical study of the weapons (since the weaponry of the Filipino Martial Arts appears to be the topic more than the empty hand end) can build a lot of combative attributes as well, but if you train to be technical, you’ll be technical. If you train to be a fighter, you’ll be a fighter. And if you train both (as we all should) you should do it with a purpose, not a system in mind. Self preservation and self perfection are essential parts of the same thing. But rather than “JKD mindset” or “FMA mindset”, try looking at it from a fighter’s mindset or a technician’s mindset. Again, under pressure, you don’t rise to the level of your expectations, you fall to the level of your training.

Answer, posted online:

Consider your assumptions.

There are more “myths” and silly ideas spread in JKD circles then you could shake a Guru certificate at.

First off, the idea of training the drills long associated with the FMA such as Hubud, Sombrada etc, primarily for the “empty hand attributes”, makes absolutely no sense when you stop to think about it. What do you think will develop better attributes for empty hand fighting? Attributes such as timing, footwork, spatial relationships, flow, rhythm, etc. Actually sparring against an “ALIVE” opponent and/or doing yet another meaningless variation on a dead pattern drill such as box pattern. You don’t have to be a genius to figure it out and, yet, instructor after instructor, person after person, we constantly hear the same rhetoric about “attributes” and self preservation vs self perfection, etc.

Also, you must re-think the notion that there is a difference between being a good “technician” and being a good “fighter”. Have you ever heard a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor say to another “that black belt is a really good technician but he just can’t beat the purple belts in sparring,”? Being a good technician in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu means you have a good ground game in sparring. Not having a good ground game in sparring means you are not a good technician! Fighting of all sorts and ranges is the same. The idea that you can be a good technician without being a good fighter is another in a long line of myths that I hope you all come to question.

It’s never disrespectful to question the answers, but it’s cowardly not to speak the truth for risk of offending the long held JKD myths.

Question posted online:

Matt, I’m going to have to disagree with you. If I misunderstood what you have to say, please correct me, but it seems that you’re saying that all these drills are worthless. I agree that drills are worthless without sparring, but I also believe that if you have weaknesses in your game, they can be worked on in isolation, using drills. And then you have to be thrown back in against live opponents again. Boxing and wrestling and Judo, which all focus on competing against live opponents, have plenty of drills.

As far as the BJJ example goes, I’ve heard a story about Kimo going into Joe Moreira’s studio, wiping the floor with the blue belts and purple belts there and being awarded a purple belt on the spot. If this story is true, would you consider Kimo a good technician because he could wrestle opponents with less athleticism and strength up to a purple belt level? Or would you say he was an awesome physical specimen and fighter who had a lot to learn about technique?

Answer, posted online:

No, I did not say drills where worthless. I said dead pattern drills (such as Sombrada, Hubud, Numerado, & 99% of the drills most JKD/FMA people do) are worthless.

They have little to no practical application in a real stick fight. If you want to see drills that WILL have a positive effect on you’re fighting skill then check out Burton’s new tape. If the difference between alive drills and dead patterns is still a mystery to you, then you won’t understand what I am saying anyway.

In regards Kimo. He is a good technician. If he was just strength and power he wouldn’t be able to beat purple belts of his own weight. We regularly have 200lbs + power lifters enter the gym who are easily beaten by 150lb blue belts. If that 200 + power lifter beats a 200+ Brazilian Jits trained blue belt…then there is a problem with that blue belt’s “technique”. Remember, at the time he fought Royce, he was much bigger and stronger than Royce was; still, Royce won.

Let me make this as simple as possible. YES, you can be a tough fighter without knowing any technique, just due to attributes, size, strength, conditioning, aggression, etc. HOWEVER, you cannot be a good “technician” without, also, being a good fighter. Otherwise, the term “technician” becomes absolutely meaningless!

What most people describe as technical proficiency in the FMA can be described as this “looking good in a demonstration against a non-resisting cooperative stuntman in front of a crowd of people who don’t know any better.”

The fantasy distinction between technician & fighter was created by people who can’t fight and/or don’t want to make their students do what it takes to fight (ie: spar). You can fight without being a good technician, but you can’t be a good technician without being able to fight! Otherwise, what does being a good technician mean?? Think about it.

Please, above all else, try it!! Take your “drills” into the realm of uncooperative opponents and let that be your guide. Not hearsay repeated verbatim from a “guru”.

A response to the same post made by Burton Richardson:

Guru Matt,

I would just like to add the point that most of the drills developed in FMA were because sparring with the weapon was too dangerous. Now we have very good sparring equipment, so we can spar safely, or do realistic sparring at full speed and power with the protective gear. Therefore, the old drills are not really needed, and may actually hinder the fighter’s development. For the record, I did Hubad drills for over twelve years and never ever was able to use any of it in sparring. I thought it was because I just wasn’t good enough, but then, later, realized that nobody I knew had ever pulled any of these types of techniques off. I believe that a lack of testing over the years is responsible for the art straying off course.

Drill, spar, adjust the drills, and spar some more. This is why those weird Straight Blast Gym guys are so good.

Online Question:

Hi Matt,

All of your and Burton’s points are well taken. So for the rest of the post, try to take what I say, not as an insult or a challenge, but as questions from someone who’s not that experienced and may be a little on the stupid side.

I still am unclear on the difference between an alive drill and a pattern drill. Could you give me an example? When we do Hubud at my school, we do work in random variations off the pattern. We throw in kicks, Dumog, traps to get to the neck, etc. But I’m pretty sure this isn’t what you mean about an alive drill.

Going to an earlier post by Burton in the thread, would you be talking about progressive resistance? For example, learning the footwork and body mechanics for a new throw, then the entrance and actual throw, then practicing it moving in different, though set, directions, then practicing it with an opponent moving in different directions and then, finally, against a resisting opponent. (Sorry that went on so long.)

I appreciate your taking the time to answer. The things you and Burton are saying are new to me, and I want to wrap my mind around this stuff.

Answer, posted online:

Hello balance. Don’t worry about offending me with a challenging question. I am just a little blunt, so please don’t take that as aggression.

In regards Aliveness, I would ask you to take a look at my first tape titled Aliveness. I know that sounds like a plug but I really went to great effort in that two hour tape to explain just that.

Secondly, I would suggest you spend a good month or two just stick fighting. Don’t over think it. . .just do it!

PS: Make sure you use real sticks and allow the ground. Then, go back to your drills. You sound fairly intelligent, so I am guessing that you will have reached your own conclusions at that point as to just how hollow and empty those drills really are.

I hope that helps.

Also, why do you need “Hubud” as a shell in order to add other elements such as “Dumog” etc.? Why not just fight for position in the clinch? Why the pattern? Greco Roman has a drill known as a pummel, which would serve you well.

Online Question:

With regard to the drills listed above as “dead drills”, do you feel that they hold no value at all for more advanced students? Meaning, what about newer students (like myself) who are getting familiar with the concepts of rhythm, timing, sensitivity, footwork with weapons, etc.? Or even newer students, who may have never picked up a stick or other weapon before?

Online Answer:

Why would you want to use movements that will not work in actual sparring to “familiarize” yourself or a newcomer with that weapon? Then, when it comes time to actually use the material, discover that you’re distance, timing, and rhythm are contrived from the start?

Doesn’t it make more sense to practice a drill that involves the same movements you will actually use when you fight? You will still develop attributes. In fact, you will develop much greater attributes because the motion is “Alive”. Then, you ever will with a demonstration drill.

If you are VERY interested in the subject, I implore you to take a good look at Burton’s new weapons tape, watch, think, do, and go from there.

To answer your question, NO I do not feel dead drills have any function for beginners, either. In fact, they are even more dangerous for beginners because they may, in fact, think what they are doing is real, and that’s a bad assumption!

Question via e-mail 1/14/2000:

Matt, I agree with much of what you say but I still think you guys are now teaching a ‘sport’ and not combat! Combat, “street fighting” is much different. What about military style training methods and people who just need COMBAT techs?

Answer:

No problem. I appreciate your questioning, sincerely. I also completely understand your point. I just don’t think it’s very valid.

You see, how do you test reality for the street? Do you purpose street fighting? Beating up some drunks in a bar? What does that prove? You say, “science”. Where is the acid test?

I don’t follow the logic of “street fighting”. It is a philosophical dead end. It is impossible to prove, and it is constantly used as an excuse not to train athletically. That may not be the case with you, but you must understand that 99% of the people that rail against NHB as being a ‘sport’ and not for street, are Aikido and Kung Fu geeks that couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag. They are looking for the ‘secret’ Chinese master that’s too ‘humble’ to actually spar, as he has no ‘ego’, and will teach them to beat up those naughty football players that have picked on the poor kid since he was in grade school. Do you see? It’s all a big cliché, a joke!

I believe what we do is the best way to train anyone for a street altercation. But the idea of street fighting is still meaningless. You must test yourself against real athletes to be able to evaluate performance. And performance is all that matters. Chi Sau ain’t going to cut it.

As far as the street fighting stuff goes…believe me, I have heard it all before! The military training methods, etc. I was in an elite unit of the military. We didn’t learn much of anything for hand to hand. It’s not a priority as most encounters are handled at the end of a 5.56 round. What is taught is a simplified version of what we do. Simplified due to time constraints, not effectiveness.” -Matt

Post made by ‘Don D’ at Mousels forum 1/21/2000:

Interesting. We should all be progressing, because that’s what JKD is all about. Is there anyone out there who says “No, JKD should not be about progressing.”? Somehow, I doubt it, so it’s not a very useful statement to base a discussion around. What is progress? That may be more relevant. Does it mean only learning new stuff? If so, does it mean you shouldn’t learn what your teacher does? What his teacher did? What counts as ‘new’, since you almost certainly learned it from someone else? Do you have to reinvent every wheel, with only philosophical guidance? I don’t think that definition of progress will work for me. How about defining progress as becoming a better fighter? Do you think Dan Inosanto is a better fighter since he stopped learning from BL? Hey, he progressed! How about these mysterious ‘some people’ you refer to? Are they better fighters? Name a name, I’ll give a real opinion and not a veiled allusion. Do you think BL would have defined his progress as having something to do with having learned lots more stuff, or at getting better with what he knew? I doubt if he’d define it either way. He’d measure his progress by how much better he was as a fighter. Not being a ‘Vale Tudo’ guy, or a ‘Jun Fan Gung Fu’ guy (didn’t he stop using this term well before he died? Why is anyone still using it? Hmm…, or an FMA guy, or whatever. That I have learned indirectly from him, is to break a fight down to timing, distance, and rhythm. Increasing your control of these makes you a better fighter. That there are at least a handful of strategies you can use to ‘score’ an entry or hit that work pretty well if you understand the circumstances that are appropriate to each. That simpler is usually better. Perhaps most of all, that motivation is the most important part of any intentional success.

What improvement has been made on that approach to martial arts? And yes, by thinking like that, I’m doing exactly what Bruce Lee did and “trying to be like him”, whether I go to my BJJ class, my Wing Chun class, or my (mythical) Jun Fan Gung Fu class. -Don

Answer posted at forum by Matt:

Your post is well-placed on one account Don D, and that is the fact that the only measure of progress is performance, period. Not accumulation of technique.

This is an obvious truth.

Now the question becomes, how do you measure your performance? How do you measure your performance, Don D? You said fighting, not Vale Tudo? Please explain how you measure that? Are you going to hit the bars and beat up some drunk frat boys? Are you going to take on that badass gas station attendant that couldn’t run a half mile without falling over dead because he smokes two packs a day? How do you measure performance in the realm of “street fighting” which is in and of itself a meaningless concept!

Test yourself against real fighters, athletes, boxers, wrestlers, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guys. Now you can measure your performance! Where would 99.9% of JKD people be (yes that includes all the original JKD people) in such a performance based test? I submit to you that they would be on their back staring up at the sky after being beaten to a bloody pulp by one of those “sport” or Vale Tudo guys.

YES, performance is the only true test. Increased performance is the only measure of progress AND performance against a real fighter, an athlete, is what matters. Eye boinks and kicks to the nuts will not save you if you have no background in boxing, wrestling, or Brazilian jiu-jitsu. If you don’t believe me stop by the gym here in Portland and try it. That’s reality!

In regards to what JKD is or is not…. As Krishnamurti often said, “The word is not the thing!” Most ‘Vale Tudo’ guys I know (damn those sport guys again) easily grasp what it’s all about. The simple sayings borrowed by Bruce Lee from the likes of Krishnamurti, Allen Watts, and others, that seem so cryptic to the “Martial Artists”, are easily grasped by fighters. Because the word is not the thing. To know JKD is to do it. If you are not a fighter (read test yourself against real fighters, read ‘sport’) then you will probably never get it. And that’s okay, because in that case, you were not meant to. -Matt

Response posted by Don D 1/22/2000:

“I actually agree with pretty much everything said after my post above. Even yours, Matt. Performance is the key, not the name or names of martial arts you’ve studied. Being proud of having taken some particular brand of martial art, or of not having taken it, is a limp game. Yes, there are many people who can kick my ass. I’m not a professional athlete or fighter, and don’t pretend to be. On the other hand, if Mike Tyson can kick my ass (he can), does that mean I should consider everything I know worthless? Put it this way, if you can’t beat Shaquille O’neal or Allen Iverson one on one, does that mean you’re playing basketball wrong? Does being able to kick a drunk frat boy’s ass or the cancer-ridden gas station attendant’s ass mean I’m doing it right? Sort of yes, actually. It just doesn’t mean I should go around thinking I’m the best. The dirty little secret of martial art training is that you’ll never know how good you are (though you can certainly get an idea of how bad). The various tournaments around can give you some idea, but it’s not the same as having somebody pull a knife on you or your wife, or walking past a gang of hoods staring you down, or a cursing nut on the bus about to explode. The tournaments are great, but no, they’re not the ultimate measure of your skill. There isn’t one. Testing yourself in hard competition is necessary, but it’s still only a test, and not some knifed of ultimate reality. Since I don’t have the time, inclination, or talent to train in ma as a professional athlete would, I won’t worry about trying to beat the guys who do. I won’t win, and I’ll accept that. Measuring yourself against the best, while enlightening and humbling, is inaccurate: measure yourself against how good you’d be if you’d put the same amount of time and effort into something else. Progress is measured by your fighting ability, not somebody else’s. -Don

Answer posted by Matt 1/22/2000:

Don D, you have missed the point completely. What you call the dirty little secret of martial arts is nonsense. It is not that complicated to get an accurate picture of where your skill level stands.

Let me see if I can make this as simple as possible. NO, you do not have to be a fantastic full-time athlete to reap the benefits of Alive training.

However, if what you are doing is not done against some form of resistance (hence sport) then it is just another dead pattern. It is not Alive, and it will be of little help to you against anyone, athlete or otherwise. You may still chose to do it, but it’s not a martial art. It has become a dance or a demonstration.

Does the fact that you can-t beat up mike tyson mean your (whatever it may be) style is no good. Of course not, that’s a silly and meaningless statement. However, if you cannot deal with a boxer who has had maybe a year or two of training, and is 30 or 40 pounds lighter than you, then yes, your training is probably just more b.s.

Savvy was 100% correct. The real benefit to all this comes from the athletic training against resistance. That teaches you about yourself, your ego, and that is where all the ‘spiritual aspects’ of martial arts exist. The idea that you practice ‘street fighting’ is a meaningless concept. It is also a dead end in terms of self-improvement.

If you are still confused Don D, I implore you to take a good look at our site. Statements such as yours have been asked and answered a million times over, and we post much of the info there.

In regards to a ‘challenge’, I am not trying to be aggressive or vindictive. I am just telling you that the illusion of street fighting martial arts is getting old. If you are ever in the area I am willing to let you see for yourself. Experience is the best teacher, and you may never ‘get it’ until you have had your ass handed to you by someone much smaller.”

Also keep a few points in mind.

Don D, you stated that NHB was in no way the ultimate reality of fighting. . .no sh*t! Thanks for sharing that amazing observation. Again, you are stating the obvious.

You agree that performance is the only real measure of progress, then please tell me how you intend to measure increased performance if it’s not through some form of sparring??

Will you do it through a form. . .”my Sil lum tao was much better today”?. Will you do it with a drill “Chi Sua”, Hubud, whatever? Please tell me how you intend to measure performance if it’s not through some form of sparring?

You see, it may involve simulating eye gouges, or having multiple attackers but it still must be ALIVE! and hence, athletic. So if you have discovered some fantastic new way to gauge performance without sparring, by all means share it, as I would be the first to claim interest.

I am also tired of hearing how NHB training is for only strong young athletes. The logic of that is so faulty it’s amazing. It assumes that there must be some secret form of deadly martial arts out there that are better for little weak people to practice. As they could never make NHB style moves (braz jits/ wrestling/ box) work. Takedowns are takedowns, punching someone in the head (or opening your hand and boinking there eye) is punching someone in the head, and an arm lock is an arm lock. If a 230lb wrestler who is a professional athlete has a hard time making some esoteric throw, or hand trap, etc, work, then how the hell is some 155lb desk jockey going to pull it off?

Everyone can train NHB style techs safely. Our Brazilian Jits class here is filled with many women, and older people. Is it harder for them? Of course! It always will be but that doesn’t mean they should stop what they are doing and take up Wing Chun hand trapping. Then they would not only have a harder time…it would be impossible for them.” -Matt

Question via e-mail 1/24/2000:

Matt..thanks for the insights. Appreciated. Aliveness, movement, etc. are all well and good, but many would argue a closed fist would break in a real fight precisely because of the unpredictableness. Hence boxing would not necessarily be the best striking choice. Same with wrestling and multiple opponents—I read your advice to run, but if you are walking down a narrow Jerusalem street and two self-proclaimed ‘holy fighters’ attack or one pulls a knife, you can’t always run away. No doubt, boxing and wrestling offer much better real-world conditioning, impact and otherwise, than martial arts…but the above examples DO occur in the real world. I like what you have to say, I’m just trying to fill in the holes, so to speak, compared to hand-to-hand skills I’m familiar with. Please comment, with respect always, Dave.

Answer:

Dave,

Thanks for the e-mail. The answer to your post is simple. Yes, it is possible to break your hand boxing in the street. The reason for that is that boxing provides you with the body mechanics that allow you to hit as hard as humanly possible for your particular body weight. It’s physics, plain and simple. Try opening your hands. Whether you are palm striking, finger jabbing, or punching. . .the body mechanics, footwork, timing, and motion remain the same! As common sense as that may seem, people still seem to argue the point.

In regards to fighting multiple opponents…good luck. There is no art that will allow you to do that. Does that mean that it’s an impossible task? Absolutely not! But, it will take a lot of conditioning, toughness, and attributes. that can only be developed through hard sparring and athletic training.

One and two step practice of “deadly” techs against a cooperative partner will get you nowhere.

Hope that answers your question. -Matt

Question:

Matt,

I think I have a pretty clear understanding of your thoughts on “street fighting,” “self-defense training,” and so forth. But I didn’t see any discussion on what I’ll call “scenario-based training.” By this, I mean the type of training done by instructors like Peyton Quinn, Tony Blauer, and others. Their training methods attempt to mimic the conditions of a street attack. Specifically, the “attacker” in the training scenario will approach the student, begin cursing and swearing like a street thug, and generally “get in the face” of the student. Before the actual physical attack begins, the student has to make some effort to diffuse the situation verbally. After the physical attack begins, often a second assailant will come out of nowhere in an attempt to surprise the student. The attackers, and maybe the student, will be dressed in some kind of armor that allows for full contact, or near full contact, striking and grappling. The instructors list several reasons for using this type of training: (1) physical street assaults are usually preceded by some words exchanged between victim and attacker. (2) legally, you are not allowed to bash a thug’s head in unless a physical attack is imminent. As Paul Vunak says, “You can’t jab somebody in the eyes just for cutting you off on the freeway.” Therefore, you need to get a feel for when a verbal assault turns into a physical assault. (3) fighters will experience an unfamiliar, potentially disabling adrenaline rush in a street attack that isn’t replicated by regular sparring. So you need to experience this in training, prior to ever getting attacked. (4) you won’t have a chance to get into boxing stance, bai jong stance, or traditional martial arts stances in a street attack. You also won’t have a chance to warm up, stretch, wrap your hands, etc. Accordingly, students need to practice fighting from natural, non-fighting stances. (5) it’s just more “real.” After watching a tape of some of Peyton’s students, I have to say they look like they can fight. Some of them may not look too athletic, or very pretty, but they appear to be kicking the crap out of a very aggressive, resisting opponent. Some without any prior fighting training.

Just wanted your thoughts on this type of training, and whether you incorporate any of it into the SBG curriculum. Thanks, David

Answer:

Hi David,

The short answer is I think that type of training is great, and yes, we do some.

The long answer is that I also believe that if you are into this for the long haul (training for life), then the time spent learning to actually box, wrestle, and do Braz Jits, is priceless. When street fighting only trained people jab the eyes that’s great, but often they drop their hands, telegraph their shots, and lack mobility. In short, it looks like bad boxing. When a trained boxer learns to jab the eyes, things seem to turn out better. When street fighting only trained people roll around on the ground and scratch and pinch and bite, they often look really poor. They tire quickly as they are not used to the ground, and cannot control position, or escape from bottom without the use of “foul tactics”. In short, it looks like bad Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and if matched against good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or wrestling, I am afraid they might take a beating. However, take a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt and teach him to bite, and scratch, and poke, and you have a completely different animal.

It’s also worth noting that there is no end to the level you can reach when it comes to Jiu-Jitsu, and “Alive” training. So, from a self perfection standpoint, it provides a vehicle that can be driven your entire life.

Having said all that, I still believe that courses like those described in your email do have value. Especially for those that don’t want to train for life, but are looking only for a shorter lesson in “self-defense”. I do not know Mr. Quinn at all so I cannot speak for his stuff, but as regards Tony Blauer, I have seen some of his material and most of what I have seen I like. I think he probably has much to offer.”

Take care. -Matt Thornton

Question:

Matt,

I wondered what you would say to someone such as myself who has never felt the need for refined fighting skill, but has nonetheless come to completely buy into the SBG philosophy. I guess I’m just trying to make sense of my motivation. The physical conditioning the training offers is reason enough, but let’s face it. It’s a fighting class. I consider myself a non-violent person who is secure enough in his person to never feel anger or hatred toward another human. I do believe these two emotions are weaknesses. Of course there are always irrational and purely malicious people out there that you’re bound to cross paths with at times during your life. But that aside, how do you separate the negative stigma attached to the word “fighting” from the positive value of SBG?

Thanks, Pete

Answer:

Hi Pete,

Thanks for the email. That’s a great question.

I make the distinction by drawing a separation between ‘street fighting’ or self-defense & assault situations, and what I refer to as honorable combat. Honorable combat could be wrestling, boxing, jiu-jitsu, anything that involves a real opponent who is giving real resistance. In honorable combat both parties have agreed to participate and agreed to the rules. In an assault there is no agreement and no rules. Assaults are meaningless and worthless. You do what you need to do and go home. Honorable combat is a world and a half away from that. I believe working within the realm of honorable combat is what forces people (especially men) to confront their own egos. The pettiness and insecurity seems to have little or no place to hide. This is especially true with combat athletics. Probably because the very nature of the sport leaves no room for excuses. (team sports leave plenty of room for excuses, one on one combat is pretty straightforward.) Now, you could apply that methodology to anything by constantly forcing yourself out of comfort zones. This does not have to be just ‘fighting’. It’s just that, for whatever reason, I believe that fighting is a very effective tool for this. The most effective tool I have ever seen. However, in the right hands/minds I believe art in the form of music, painting, sculpture, etc may also be valuable in this way. I find a clear similarity between the violence of an opponent and a work of creativity left undone.

As far as anger and hatred being a weakness, I am not sure I would argue that point with you. Instead, I would ask you to think more on it. Is it a weakness if a mother, who has just discovered her child was victimized, shows anger at the molester? Is it weakness if a father who had his entire family wiped out in Rwanda shows anger at the radio announcers who inspired and lead the genocide? Is there such a thing as righteous anger? I am not being clever, I don’t claim to know the answer, just the question. As far as hatred. . .I think it’s more important to acknowledge it, then ask why you feel it, when did you begin feeling it, where did you learn it from, where does it come from? Acknowledge it, open the box and look inside. Aha, now we can address it and eventually ask the all important, how can we leave it behind? I think it’s dangerous to simply label it weakness and ignore it. If you hate you hate, ask why, and move on. This ability to look into oneself is what it’s all about, and I believe it’s the absolute hardest thing for most humans to do.

Things labeled as weakness, or ‘bad’ don’t always go away, they often just become repressed. Things repressed often lead to perversion and hypocrisy.

I hope that helps clarify my thoughts on this matter. But, that was a good question.

Take care. -Matt Thornton

Question:

Do you think you can use gi techniques for the street?? I know you have to include the punches, kicks, head butts, and elbows when training for the street at least I do anyway. I think using gi techniques are useful because in a street fight there is usually something to grab on to. What’s your opinion on that??

Thanks, Carl

Answer:

Hi Carl, yes I do, and in some ways I think gi is sometimes more functional in the street. Especially in the wintertime. I believe that a blood choke is the most effective, gentle, and humane way to end a fight. So yes, I think GI BJJ is great, and do plenty of it myself.

Take care. -Matt Thornton

Question:

Matt,

Hey, I have a question about JKD. In some of your forums, you’ve commented on JKD. What do you think of Paul Vunak’s curriculum? I trained his curriculum for a while, and I am now accentuating it with some BJJ. I love the BJJ and I am doing this for self-preservation, not NHB. Do you see any shortcoming with PFSJKD? If so – I do have the option to train in Muay Thai or boxing, but I would be spreading myself thin. I am 30 years old and am in grad school so I am limited to 2x/week. If you recommend either boxing or mt-how long should I expect to do them? Again, I expect to defend myself against the common nut and (hopefully) will never meet a Dan Henderson or Rico Chiapparelli on the street. I am currently maintaining (and love) Paul’s curriculum + BJJ. Your thoughts?

P.S. Thanks again for your past advice. -Mark

Answer:

Mark,

Sounds like you are having a good time and that’s all that matters. I think Paul’s RAT curriculum is great. However, if you ever want to actually learn how to fight well on your feet you are going to have to get in with someone who is trying to knock you out, and spar. Nobody, not Paul, or me, or anyone else, can do that for you. There is no other way. Until you do that, you will never truly know in your heart what you are, and are not capable off, and in terms of “self-preservation” that’s vital information. Once you have done that awhile you can back off and train lighter. However, until you do that, you are to a degree, fooling yourself. As you do not yet, “know”. Nosce Te Ipsum.

Who you train with, who they are certified by, etc., does not matter. What does matter is the level of intensity, contact, and athleticism that you become accustomed to operating under during training, and pressure. -Matt Thornton

Question:

Hi Matt:

I have just finished watching your second video series. Excellent videos. I could go on all day complementing them, but I am really writing to ask a quick question. Unfortunately the MA school I attend does not always use Aliveness (which you define so well in your videos and web site) as its guiding principle. People will often defend training methods where Aliveness is not a factor. During a discussion about training methods someone said to me “What about boxers hitting the heavy bag, and speed bag there is no Aliveness there, so hitting the bags is a waste of time, huh? Hitting the speed bag doesn’t look anything like fighting so that must be a waste of time too, huh?” I replied that the heavy bag was good for things like body mechanics, and could be a great workout in itself. The only response was, “Well if there’s no Aliveness how can it be any good, huh?” Anyway, just wondering if you had ever fielded a comment like this? Perhaps the answer is that people will always find some semantic nonsense to prove their point no matter how clear the truth seems to be, and that this kind of talk is better preparation for a debate than for the ring.

Thanks. -Kevin

Answer:

Hi Kevin,

You are correct. People will defend their beliefs because they are feeling defensive, because what I said is true. Sadly, those people are usually beyond help, anyway. Their reasons and motives for training do not revolve around performance, the way an athlete’s motives will; Therefore it’s a different, and in many ways, dysfunctional paradigm they are trapped in. Accumulation, certification, and false pride. In regards to a heavy bag, you can make heavy bag training more “Alive”. . . . by moving around, and not using repeated patterns like a robot. However, there are many things we may do that improve are bodies that are not “Alive”. It’s just that ALL of those things fall under the category of CONDITIONING. Lifting weights is not Alive, but it will have a direct impact on your body. Where Aliveness comes in is when you include a partner. BJJ is a great example. You could roll around with a stuffed dummy on the mat, and practice knee ride, punches, etc. This would be very similar to a boxer hitting the heavy bag. However, if you never, or rarely wrestle “Live” against a fully resisting opponent, you will always and forever suck. You would never be able to compete or reach the performance level of even a beginner blue belt. You must have Aliveness, it’s as simple as that, that’s where timing and ability in BJJ come from. As it is in BJJ it is in stand up and clinch. Focus mitts don’t teach you to box, boxing does, etc. Hope that’s clear? Take care and tell me how it goes. -Matt Thornton