Wednesday 6 June 2012

Real Self Defence

Real Self Defence, is a term that's very much in vogue these days. When I started out in the martial arts some forty years ago the term "REAL" wasn't really coined.Mostly, martial arts schools or "clubs" as they were more commonly called , advertised themselves by the title of their art. So in my locality we had "Wado-Ryu" , Taekwondo, Shotokan etc.

As fledgling martial artists,  myself and my peers often pondered ,discussed , wondered and argued as to the qualities and abilities of each art. To us , most of these arts were very similar. Each had its devotees wearing the traditional white gi. Each had various coloured belts and exotic sounding terms to describe their drills and moves. Gradually though, through magazine articles, we learnt a little about the differences. Some of these arts it seemed, favoured kicking, some had strong deep stances. One or two had movements that were somewhere in between.Growing up in, a town in north Wicklow I had little choice of martial arts clubs.

A Wado Ryu club had established itself and around the time of the Bruce Lee era had dramatically grow its membership, and a neighbouring town boasted a Taekwondo club.

  For me though the art that stood out was a system called Kenpo Karate. What made this different at that time was that the students ( at least the senior students) wore black gi. (uniform)  This was in stark contrast to the abundant white gi students in the area. Also, Kenpo did not use Japanese or Chinese terms. Instructors called out the techniques in English.Terms such as "horse stance" or "forward bow" conjured up images of regal martial arts mastery.

Though for me, the defining attribute that Kenpo possessed was in its presentation of itself as "The Ultimate In Self Defence". Now to a 12 year old learning the "Ultimate" art was quite something I can tell you. So I guess the marketing that Kenpo used worked quite well . It didn't hurt that Kenpo, was billed as an American system. Being brought up in an era when American, for all sorts of historical and cultural reasons, was to us in Ireland , a land of milk and honey, not to mention style and sophistication.

So Kenpo it was and I was quite content in my choice knowing of course that I was part of the "Ultimate" .
When I look back now of course calling any art the "Ultimate" was a liberal use of the what that word meant. Of course using the word ultimate wasn't a new concept in the arts. We had already witnessed "Supreme Ultimate Fist" or Tai Chi Chuan to you and me.

As the years progressed other arts queued up to join the ranks of systems who turn their students into the next Bruce Lee.Kick Boxing, Kung Fu, Ninjitsu all had their day in the sun.

Notably though none claimed to teach Real self defence? Kenpo still held its claim to be " Ultimate" though never quite venturing into the dizzy heights of  REAL!

I can't quite remember when I first heard the term REAL in relation to self defence or martial arts. Its seems to have permeated the vocabulary of  the community in the last decade or so. What is REAL?
What are we referring to as REAL.

In terms of defence,of hand to hand combat then REAL has a certain meaning.A great article on this can be found here 

Now to me if you want a REAL art to serve you in combat then you need to go to someone who has a had REAL experience in REAL combat.Honestly how many marital arts instructors can tell you that they have. No, I'm not talking about the drunken scuffle outside the fish and chip shop on a Saturday night.

SO I guess if we want to keep it real then unless we mean to get into a warrior mindset , and by the way , I don't mean some cooked up idea by a wanna be pseudo military systems guru,I mean you really want to keep the martial and the defence real THEN you have to SEEK the right people with the proper credentials. Most of us just don't. We accept as fact the self promoting spiel that is poured out in advertising blurb. No don't get me wrong there ARE "real" REAL defence /combat experts in relation to the MARTIAL aspect out there, you just have to find them.

Then if we don't wish to become fatigue wearing , warrior mindset, special forces commandos , what does REAL mean?

For me, it means REALLY engaging in your art. All of the arts that filled my mind as a young boy. were and are REAL.Those arts are taught by REAL teachers to REAL people living REAL lives,with REAL dreams.

I guess that in REALITY we as martial artists are engaging in pursuing our REALITY. Or, it may be said we are seeking a REALITY to pursue.

Its the ability or not of  any martial art in helping us to achieve our dreams/goals /desires and make those a REALITY that defines that art as REAL.

REAL is as REAL does.

Now how can you GET REAL?

 If you need any help regarding martial arts, self defence, personal development then please don't hesitate to contact me
Phone 089-4567533 or email me


  1. "I guess that in REALITY we as martial artists are engaging in pursuing our REALITY. Or, it may be said we are seeking a REALITY to pursue."

    Wise words and an excellent article.

  2. Thank you Neal, I appreciate you taking time to comment.
    Best regards