I ain't puttin no wax on and I sure as hell ain't takin' no wax off.
May 13, 2008 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Experienced in Martial Arts? I am looking to begin training Krav Maga/KAPAP (with some BJJ thrown in) and some Kali/Escrima (with some JKD thrown in) in the very near future and was wondering if our resident Mefite Artists had any positive/negative experiences with any of them.

I've done some looking into the instructors themselves and checked the paper trails to ensure it's no mcdojo and in turn I have checked their teacher's credentials. The JKD/Kali/Escrima/FMA goes via Inosanto so no problems there - the KAPAP is via Major (Res) Avi Nardia and David Arama. The BJJ is via Royce Gracie and there is also some generic Muay Thai & boxing et al in the mix.

I've trained some in the past but not such a diverse bunch of styles. This is primarily for fitness and not for self-defence (I try not to hang out in places where I'd need to use skills such as these). I am not interested in competition fighting either. I am looking for effectiveness however. Even if I've no intention of using anything I think it's important that if you're going to train you do it right, otherwise I'd just do some Tae Bo...

If you've any experience with any of the above in any circumstance then please throw in your tuppence (that's 2c to you colonials) and let me know.

posted by longbaugh to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Above anything else, find an instructor you like and a class structure you find enjoyable. Being excited and committed to going to class is going to contribute way more to getting fit than any specific style. E.g. my first semester of undergrad, I joined a Muay Thai class. I think I dropped over 30 lbs in the class without even trying (I was a little pudgy going in), but I couldn't even finish one semester in the class because the instructor was a titanic asshole. Next term I went for kendo instead and it was as different as night and day. I enjoyed going to class (instead of treating it like going to the gym), ended up practicing outside out of class lots and got way more out of it than I did Muay Thai.

Related to the above, different styles attract different kinds of people. Not to knock the BJJ/MMA crowd, but I've found that it draws a non-trivial number of big, bulky guys that watch too much UFC and (either deliberately or just negligently) ended up unnecessarily injuring their training partners. If like it more rough and tumble, go for it. Similarly, Asian martial arts can attract ninja wanna-bes that end up trying to gouge your eyes and jab your throat. This is terrible stereotypical and likely not a problem in many studios, it's just something to be aware of.

In general, I'd just go watch a class or two at the studios you're considering. Figure out that one that's going to keep you the most interested and enthused. And, needless to say, avoid any studios that push gym-esque contracts.
posted by Nelsormensch at 9:34 AM on May 13, 2008

I'm not hugely experienced, but I did Kali/Escrima/Animals Shao Lin around 10 hours/week for a summer. It'll definitely give you a workout, but I don't know how effective it really is as a fighting thing. I don't even know if its part of standard Kali/Escrima/Arnis, but I remember knife practice (with rubber knives) being loads of fun.
posted by juv3nal at 9:36 AM on May 13, 2008

Best answer: One thing my old instructor suggested I watch for: look at the "brown belts" (or whatever their mid- to senior-level students are labeled) and see how they are. The reasoning is that it may be hard to figure out if the black belts there had received the bulk of their training at that school under the current instructors, and that you can't tell anything from watching someone who's been there only a few months, so pay attention to the mid-level students. They're the ones who've most likely started at that school and are probably the best examples of what the school currently offers.

As someone else suggested, watch a few classes first before committing.
posted by chengjih at 9:51 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been practicing Krav Maga at the Krav Maga Federation in Manhattan for almost a year. As I've never practiced any other martial art, I don't have anything to compare it to but I can say that my experience has been very good.

Like you, I had no desire to beat people up but wanted to learn something while staying in shape (lifting weights or running on a treadmill seems silly to me now - I always thought to myself: "what am I training for?"). With Krav Maga, I get to learn an extremely effective combat system and stay fit. Here are a couple of points that address some of the topics you mentioned:

Fitness: At the end of each class, every member of the class is soaked in sweat and on the verge of collapse - my school is very intense with fitness aspect of the system. The philosophy is that one needs to be ready for "battle" at any given time. I've overheard people in class who have done every other kind of exercise - from aerobics to boxing - and they all say that it's most intense workout they've ever had.

Not interested in competition: Because Krav Maga, at it's very base, is a combat system, competition is not possible as groin kicks, eye gouging, biting, and just about every other dirty fighting move is totally encouraged. Sparring is a requirement however, but it is about learning technique and not about winning a fight - the winner in a real fight situation, my teacher has said many times in class, is the person with the smaller hospital bill.

Effectiveness: You've likely done some of your own research and have read that it's one of the most effective systems in the world. I can't say this is true for certain, but I can say that it's certainly brutal and vicious. So much so that at times, it kind of turns me off the idea of being in the class - there is no honor, the aim is to overwhelm your attacker and neutralize their ability to fight (often by attacking their ability to see, move, breath, etc.). As long as you keep a cool head about it and focus on the fitness and technique, the violence you're being taught becomes a background issue; a mindset to place yourself in if you ended up in a bad situation.

Hope this helps. Cheers!
posted by alrightokay at 10:27 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I used to go to a highly regarded local gym that had several champion BJJ folks among its ranks. The phrase that stuck out at me was, "BJJ is a great way to break an arm." And, for several people, it was.
posted by Madamina at 10:54 AM on May 13, 2008

As a side suggestion, some of capoeiristas in Framingham also train in BJJ, sometimes in the same facilities and with the same instructors. Might be fun for a change of pace from time to time.
posted by mkb at 11:22 AM on May 13, 2008

Response by poster: There is actually a Capoeira mestre in the local area but whilst I'd love to study it (it looks ace on the dance floor for one...) I feel that the practicality/effectiveness of the art is in the same category as aggressively eating yoghurt when someone is pointing a gun at you. Not that I am likely to have a gun pointed at me.

Or be eating yoghurt for that matter.
posted by longbaugh at 12:42 PM on May 13, 2008

Finding the right teacher is very important. The best teachers I've ever seen or worked under did'nt have any credentials whatsoever, or at least did not have the "paperwork" that "connected" them to someone "important". In the end it comes down to how satisified are you with your training.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:56 PM on May 13, 2008

The capoeira you see on the street or demo is for show. It's not the sole purpose of the art but it is there, not all schools and instructors will teach you. Part of the Capoeira is to hide it's intentions it's part of it's history. I've been training for 5 years and it's a good work out but I wouldn't apply most of the techniques in a street fight.

Competitive MMA has shown that almost all traditional arts and techniques are not as effective as a hybrid of styles focused on striking,grappling with submissions. That being said there still are rules involved. For pure hurt the techniques of Krav Maga seem like the "firstest with the mostest".

The thing is that Capoeira has kept my interest and I'm sure I'll continue for many more years, I didn't start till I was past 30. I don't think that the "effective" arts would keep me interested without competition or the need for real world application for very long.
posted by jade east at 1:59 PM on May 13, 2008

Best answer: Hey longbaugh, good on you.

I'm not familiar with those names. But who knows. The list of affiliates is growing like crazy these days.

If they are in the Inosanto system they will be here on Thursday at the Instructors Conference at Andy Wilson's school in Seattle. I will ask around and see if anybody knows them.

FYI: Lot's of people CLAIM an affiliation with Inosanto. Guro Danny, being one of the mellowest nicest guys on earth, won't ever contradict them or make a stink if they somewhat exaggerating that claim. Lot's of these cats take a few seminars and that's really the end of this affiliation. But that certain;ly doesn't mean they don't know the material. Especially Kali. That's an informal bunch.

That said for full disclosure I don't much like what I have seen in Krav Maga. Not that it can't teach you some good stuff or get you in great shape (I'll run down what to look for there).
My opinion may be somewhat out of date since I haven't rubbed shoulders with any of the KM instructors I knew since the early 1990's. And. The idiotic movie movie with J-Lo didn't help.

KM in general reminds me of Ninjitsu in the late 1980's in that it's claims of deadliness are, in my experience, exaggerated at best. Seems like every guy who ever once served (or knew somebody that served) in the IDF moves somewhere and teaches KM. In that sense it's also like TKD when every ex-Korean Army guy came to the states as a black belt and opened a TKD school.

For many years the KM I ran across were openly hostile to sport training and BJJ. Making all sorts of claims about how stupid BJJ (and MMA) was. But I'd get them on the mat and arm bar or choke the shit out of them. And, brother, I SUCK. So after all the hype I failed to be impressed.

I find it ironic that every KM school (and every Karate school and every Kung Fu school) is suddenly teaching BJJ curriculum (usually through some kind seminar affiliation), which I won't complain about. Even poor BJJ training is better than no ground training. Or worse the moronic ideas most Martial systems had about ground fighting prior to 1999.

Teaching civilians "combat" related arts is, in my opinion, not very practical. First off "Combat" happens on a battle field with rules of engagement where you are essentially given a bye to kill mother fuckers if feel you it even remotely necessary. It is very rarely necessary on city streets in peace time and you sure as shit have no bye to go wasting motherfuckers. You can't just yell "halt" to some guy crossing the street towards you and then shoot him in the face if he doesn't. You can on a battle field.

Secondly combat you use guns. Any military empty hand training is simply an "oh shit" system to get you to a gun. What most of these RBT systems have done is fill in the gaps very inadequately.

Third. Self defense is a much more difficult thing to teach becuase all the assumptions are different. In self defense your guard WILL be down. You will be on the shit end of the stick and likely the other person will have gone first and will be bigger than you. You sure won't have an assault rifle and 60lbs of battle rattle strapped on you. Other wise there will be no SD situation at all. And, if he brandishes no weapon, in most jurisdictions you can't just kill the guy even when you are out matched. Besides most SD situations are not all that severe for most adult males in the west.

So. How do you, as a six hour per week civilian who wants live a normal life, prepare for that? I have yet to see any pure SD system that is adequate unless you want live life like a paranoid freak. Keep that in mind.

AS for fights? 99% of the time you volunteer for those. So you shouldn't be fighting outside a ring. And if you end up getting in fights your an asshole. And as a former asshole I can tell you that fighting outside of a ring is wholly unsatisfying and literally boring. Most people can't fight at all and fighting them is pathetic.

So. BJJ in my opinion is very, very, practical in terms of empty hand training (no weapons). It assumes you are in the weaker position. It assumes you have been knocked to the ground. And on the ground all those attributes that give you trouble standing are somewhat nullified. You are always training alive and dynamically and you can train at nearly 100% effort with out risking serious injury. This is very difficult to do with standing and striking arts without resorting to sport training.*

In all striking arts and RBT (so called "Reality based training") the method of stand up training has to be very cooperative in order to perform safely. This means the practitioner must accept a certain level of ambiguity as to how well they really could actualize the training. And let me tell you 99.9 % of people OVER estimate how well they can perform any technique they have not done at 100% effort against 100% resistance. Find out how they got their BJJ instruction. You shouldn't be learning from anybody under a purple belt in the lineage they state - not in any formal class setting that you pay. And I wouldn't training under anybody that hasn't earned rank by competing at least four of five times. I say this not becuase competing is the end all be all. Not at all. But these days you can be sure that anybody claiming ranking in BJJ has competed as they will have been vetted somewhere along the way.

Also any good instructor should roll with their students. Any good instructor should get occasionally tapped out by their students. Any good instructor should constantly be checking and verifying their own skill level with out ego by training with people BETTER than them in any given area. If an instructor doesn't go or seek out certified trainings themselves and can't approach things as a beginner... they are no good.

Ask your instructor when the last time they went and trained under somebody else... it should be constant.

*This is WHY sport competition was invented and the crucible test of that was proven by Jigaro Kano a hundred years ago when Judoka kicked the shit out of "samurai" trained JuJitsu. And why personally Ii encourage people to compete at least ONCE, just to gauge where they are in terms of performance. Though there will be no way of knowing if you could do the deadly stuff you at least know where your base attribute level is and how far you have come.

If your interested in the ONLY SD application of your training, if that is your number one concern, then you have to full contact spar. And I mean FULL contact. If they don't offer full contact sparring or if you don't want to do full contact then you won't really ever know how well you can perform the techniques under pressure. Thus there will be ambiguity. There is nothing wrong with this. How ever anybody claiming bad-assed-ness that doesn't full contact spar somewhat routinely is full of shit. I no longer do full contact (very often). I am not a bad ass. The skills are perishable.

If you can live with this type of ambiguity? Then KM (or just about anything) will likely be just fine for you. But know it and accept it and if your instructors also can't admit to you that this ambiguity exists with their (yes, they may have killed ten Hezbullah terrorists with just their thumb) students then to me that is sign of dishonest instruction.

As for Kali and or Eskrima. It's HUGE art. Seriously. I've been playing with Kali on and off for over seven years and I have not even scratched the surface. It's one those systems that really won't yeild much for dilettantes or dabblers. Unlike BJJ or Thai boxing. Which even six months to a years worth of solid six hours per week training will get you a good functional applicable base. But then again with Kali if you are getting a double stick of dagger fight? You have done something horribly wrong in your life. So it's worth playing with Kali in my opinion for all the other indirectly realted attributes it can yield. And it's a shit load of fun. But don't expect anything much from in any practical sense for many, many, years. There is just too much too it.

What look for in terms of training?

Are the overwhelming and obvious majority of drills WITH a partner?

How much of the training is repetition and how much is dynamic with at least some level of resistance?

For instance when they go to focus mitts or Thai pad drills do they do at least one or two rounds where the feeder (the holder) is giving real feed back. Like throwing punches (slow is juuuust fine here) to check the guard and moving. If the advanced students are standing still when they hold pads and just stand there while the fighter hits? That is bad training. They should be moving all the time and occasionally challenge the fighter with some kind timed unpredictable movement. Okay in the beginning to JUST learn the holds. But nobody past a year should be "setting" their holds all the time ever.

Basic form. If they are training striking are they also training head movement. Do the advanced students keep their chins tucked (eyes looking through their eye brows)? I can't count how many schools I have visited where people stand straight up and down while throwing punches with the chin sticking out. That tells me that their instructors have never been knocked out. And that means they have never really fought.

Does each person get a minimum of 20 minutes drilling per session? Like five 3 minute rounds with no more than a minute rest ( with little spoken instruction) between. Are there pure conditioning sets mixed in? IF your shirt isn't soaked by the end of class something is wrong.

Look for active resistance in the drilling. It doesn't have to be more than like 50% resistance (you WANT to train with "success") but it has to be there as much as can be possible.

Do they MEASURE your fitness level? IE: Does the school set goals for your fitness? Do they allow for it be scalable (age, experience)?

And most of all: Are people SMILING when they train. Are they having fun? Training for a fight can make you a sour-puss but regular training should be fun — NOT forced. If they all walk around looking like pissed off bad asses then it won't be worth it for you no matter how many guys they put in the Octagon or how many Terrorists they kill.

Anyway. That's pretty much it. I'll ask around at the instructors conference for you.
posted by tkchrist at 2:55 PM on May 13, 2008 [10 favorites]

OH. Sorry I mes read your "This is primarily for fitness and not for self-defence" as the other way around. So just the bottom part of my reply matter.

In light of that pretty much anything that excites your sense of creative physical expression and gets your heart rate up and your mind focused is going to pay off. I think you will have a very good time.
posted by tkchrist at 3:18 PM on May 13, 2008

Man. I was so distracrted when I typed all that. There is a paragraph missing and one out of place.

"It's easy to confirm the bona Fides of a BJJ instructor. Just watch them roll. If they look like a pregnant cow flat on it's back... well... you know.

Most important: Find out how they got their BJJ instruction. You shouldn't be learning from anybody under a purple belt in the lineage they claim - not in any formal class setting that you pay. And I wouldn't training under anybody that hasn't earned rank by competing at least four of five times. I say this not becuase competing is the end all be all. Not at all. But these days you can be sure that anybody claiming ranking in BJJ has competed as they will have been vetted somewhere along the way."
posted by tkchrist at 4:02 PM on May 13, 2008

Hey are you in so. cal? Since you mentioned Royce.. he's out in Torrance. I went there few years ago, my friend went to Rickson's place in West LA.

It was okay when I went but I thought it was too short, 30 minutes for like $20 if I remember. I felt like it's better to take few classes, but get together outside and free spar. I'm not sure how it is now but once they started having catalogs with official gracie apparel, and rorion and royce modeling like a JC Penny catalog, I thought "this can't be good".
posted by 0217174 at 4:16 PM on May 13, 2008

Nice post tkchrist. Jeez, I would add a well thought out rebuttal (to some of your points) but I neither have the time nor patience.

One thing that bears to be repeated and everyone should say to themselves every once in awhile:

I am not a bad ass. The skills are perishable.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:29 PM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nice post tkchrist. Jeez, I would add a well thought out rebuttal (to some of your points) ...

I should as well.
I should re-type it so it actually is coherent. I was on the phone and multi-tasking and it came out pretty disjointed and illiterate and not quite what I was after. But close enough that I'm too lazy to do it again.

Just email me when you get the time, POB.

One thing that bears to be repeated and everyone should say to themselves every once in awhile:

posted by tkchrist at 6:52 PM on May 13, 2008

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