The following is inspired by recent discussions with MMA fighter "James Lightning" Wilkes who has raised the obvious MMA vs Reality Self Defense argument. By the way, James has been honest and forthright in his position and I appreciate his argument (and I'm not going to let that age comment slide - talk to me in 6 years sonny).
Regarding self defense, training in MMA is almost a complete waste of time. Like the old saying says "Don't ask a barber if you need a haircut." Most people who are proponents of MMA and martial arts training are either currently involved in teaching said methods. Like I said, I still regularly practice martial arts...just NOT as a mainstay for self defense.
Technique aside, lack of rules aside, tactics and method aside. Today I want to approach the discussion from a different angle: time.
MMA and martial arts instructors demand a lot of time to perfecting their craft. It takes years to start to understand the sport on a practical level. Unfortunately your average person doe not have the time or the desire to pursue such goals. If that were the case, the vast majority of martial arts school owners would have no problems filling their classes.
Here are the facts as we know them:
How many people and how much time do they spend even working out?
According to the president's council on fitness and I quote: "Unfortunately, few Americans engage in regular physical activity despite the potential benefits. Less than 10 percent of the U.S. adult population exercises at the level recommended by the 1990 objectives: "exercise which involves large muscle groups in dynamic movement for periods of 20 minutes or longer, 3 or more days per week, and which is performed at an intensity of 60 percent or greater of an individual's cardiorespiratory capacity." 9 less than half the adult population exercises 3 or more days per week for 20 minutes or longer regardless of intensity of dynamic movement of large muscle groups. The prevalence of physical inactivity increases with advancing age especially during adolescence and early adulthood."
That means only 10% of the adult population do 20 minutes of exercise, three times a week. That means 22 million American adults are doing what they're supposed to do while the other 223 million do less or nothing.
But wait, it gets worse when it comes to martial arts training.
Out of an estimated 245,000,000 Americans over the age of 15...
An estimated 18.1 million Americans participated in karate or some other form of martial art at least once in the past year. Only 9.4 million adults. That's less than 4 percent of the adult population.
An estimated 5 percent of adults (470,000) say they participated in martial arts last year at more than once, and a quarter of those (28 percent or 131,600) say they do martial arts "every chance they get."
This is the "hardcore" personalities that make up only 1% of the population. Again, these are people who say EVERY CHANCE THEY GET. We can assume that number to be lower since most people respond in how they want to behave and not how they actually behave.
Surprisingly, the martial arts participation bunch is fairly evenly split between men (52 percent) and women (48 percent). But for the most part, participants are young. Sixty-three percent are between 18 and 34, compared with 25 percent who are between 35 and 49 and 11 percent who are 50 or older. That means only 169,200 people over the age of 34 participated in any form of martial art last year. when compared to a population of 105 million (give or take) the percentage is only .16% of the adult population over the age of 34 participates on some level in the martial arts.
Combining the people who work out and the people who actually participate in martial arts you will find that an extremely small percentage really do train while the vast majority of the world likes to SAY they train.
The reality is this, the vast majority or people who train only train once or twice per week
When I had my school I observed something and it went along with what all of the marketing experts in the business told me. The average person will sign up and last 6 months to a year and train or twice a week for an hour. Only about 8% would compete in tournaments and train the necessary 14 hours per week to get their fitness and skill to a competitive level. It was our goal to retain students by offering them more and exciting events and promotions.
The idea of having to create more hoops to jump through and more "events" to entertain people turned me off so I decided to provide different tracks of training for people's different needs. Most adults wanted self defense so if they trained with me for 9 months to a year, they learned all they needed to know about self defense (This lead to the development of the SDTS Combatives Program. If someone wanted to compete we continued training in Judo and Knock Down Karate. Low and behold the people who opted to do the latter were younger and few and far between.
We can all agree that a person who shows a strong interest in martial arts training that holds a job and has a social life and a family can dedicate 2 hours per week for about 1 year.
We know not only from our experience, but from the people who have trained in SDTS style methods during the second world war, that they became proficient in a number of weeks (6 to 12) depending on their deployment and training.
How long does it take to become proficient in MMA? MMA has three major components, grappling, striking and submissions. In coaching Varsity High School Wrestling I could take your average kid at 12 hours a week for an 12 week season and get him to the point where he knew his ass from a hole in the ground. All "natural" factor aside, when he faced a kid with equal natural abilities and more experience he would lose. To become an "average wrestler" where you win at lease half your matches it will take you 3 years or 432 hours.
So using our "Average Joe" formula of 2 hours per week, it will take you over 4 years to get an average skill set in wrestling. The same holds true for Judo, BJJ, Karate, Kick boxing and what have you.
So look at it this way, Average Joe to become OK (just OK) in MMA takes 1,296 hours. Or roughly 12 years of training. Training without injury and any other setbacks.
To reiterate my point: this is just to become average. Looking at the numbers now, if given a choice between MMA and focusing one one particular discipline, you would probably be better off sticking to boxing, wrestling, judo or BJJ. At least you could be really good at something than just average at a lot of things.
On the other hand, you can train in a system like SDTS Combatives and develop a specific skill set purposed for self defense with in those time constraints. For the time it would take you to become proficient at a strangle you could learn how to implement a whole cadre of skills that would end the fight well before you ever were in a position to strangle.
The people who criticize this type of training have never even trained in our methods. Yet, we have trained in theirs and choose this as the first line of defense over all others. Most people who train in the SDTS Combatives have already experienced combat sport and appreciate it for what it's worth.
Let's put it this way, because this is really what we're talking about. If you took two guys of equal ability and trained on in MMA and the other in SDTS Combatives two times a week for an hour over the course of the year and then put them in a self defense situation, logic dictates the SDTS member would have a better chance of survival.
Listen, you're not a professional fighter and you're not going to be one.
What makes a really good MMA fighter? Someone who has an extensive background in a grappling art. Sure there are exceptions but the vast majority of champions have a wrestling or grappling background. You can not expect to start from ground zero as an adult and be successful in MMA. You need a foundation sport. The established sports of wrestling and Judo are king. Randy Couture walked in pushing 40 and kicked everyone's ass and Rhonda Rousey is on her way to tear through the world of women's MMA but here's the kicker in the world of wrestling and judo, these guys are good, but they're not the best in the world. The reason the best Judo fighters don't compete in MMA is because they are training in government sponsored programs for the Olympics. Believe me, if Japan, France, Britain, Brazil and Germany started letting there Judo fighters compete in MMA in their prime, a lot of people will have their hands full.
Same holds true for wrestling. Right now the best MMA talent is in collegiate wrestling and out of all the kids who won national titles this year I bet not a single one will go to the UFC. Why? Because there's no money in it. All of these kids are graduating and going to get 6 figure jobs where they don't have to get punched in the face. If there was some REAL money to be made in MMA I assure the landscape would change dramatically. When I say real money, I mean NFL, MLB and NBA money. Right now you couldn't pay half of Peyton Manning's salary with what you pay the entire stable of MMA fighters. If the UFC ponied up the real bucks you would see some serious talent in the octagon. But you won't because as long as the UFC can sell pay per view all they need is a couple of guys to knock the crap out of each other.
Your training for self defense needs to be "mission specific" like the SDTS Combatives Program. If you're like most people and have only 2 hours a week for 12 months to develop a skill specifically tailored for defense.
At some point you must come to grips with the fact your time spent training is limited. It's our goal not to change your life but to give you something that you can really use successfully within REALISTIC time constraints.
Please don't misquote me. I never said you can not defend yourself with combat sports. I would be incredibly wrong and based on my own experience, a liar. Boxer, wrestlers, MMA fighters and the like have been doing it for decades. All I'm saying is that there is a more efficient and practical way of doing it and the research has already been done from 1911 to 1950 regarding reality self defense. But after all is said and done it's your common sense and experience that will show you the truth.
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Damian Ross is CEO of the Self Defense Company and developer of The Self Defense Training System, the most lethal and effective self defense system in the world, The Guardian Defensive Tactics Police Combatives Program, 60 minute Self Defense and the Family Safe Program. Mr. Ross also founded the Self Defense Instructor Program that helps people develop their self defense careers from the ground up. Mr. Ross is originally from Ridgewood, NJ where he was a High School Hall of Fame Athlete in football and wrestling as well as a varsity wrestling coach. He then went on to Lehigh University where he was a varsity wrestler and football player. Mr. Ross has 3 black belts, 4th Degree in Tekkenryu Jujutsu, 2nd Degree in Judo, 2nd Degree in Tae Kwon Do. In addition to his martial arts experience, Mr. Ross spent 8 years in the professional security and personal protection business. He is internationally recognized as one of the foremost authorities in reality based self defense.
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