The Five Most Useless Martial Arts & Fighting Styles
By Henry Walter
- Self-Defence Classes
I first got the idea for this article whilst lying in Finsbury Square on my lunch break, last summer. I was watching a self-defence class being taught in the open sun, about fifty feet in front of me.
Whilst everyone appeared to be having a good time, it occurred to me that everything they were practicing was virtually useless. I have no idea what the name of the class was or what art the teacher claimed to be passing on, yet the techniques all relied on the students using a few well practised set moves to incapacitate their attackers.
The problem with this approach can also be applied to ineffective martial arts such as aikido. Real fighting is fast and unpredictable. As anyone who has sparred a live opponent in a legitimate martial art will be aware, people are unpredictable and differ hugely in the ways they attack and defend.
The only way to fully learn effective fighting techniques, that actually work, is to practice against a resisting opponent who can apply a full range of attacking and defensive techniques.
The techniques being taught in the class I observed featured such classics as grabbing the arm of the aggressor as they attempted to punch, before twisting it behind their back or grabbing their leg as they kicked etc.
All the students were easily able to apply these techniques with their fully co-operating classmates during the carefully choreographed drills. All were blissfully ignorant that without Superman’s reflexes these techniques would be virtually impossible to deploy on a non-cooperating opponent.
The slightest variation by the attacking students would have thrown the defending students completely. During the session there was no sparring at all, of any kind, just the continuous rehearsal of the same set moves over and over, which all relied on the attacker behaving in a set way.
Self-defence classes come in only at number five for me because they vary hugely and some can contain snippets of useful punching and kicking technique if taught by a competent instructor, though the majority do not and can even instil false confidence.
- Sumo Wrestling
Sumo wrestling is a national sport in Japan. Whilst two heavy set men grappling in a circle, attempting to push each other out of it, apparently makes for a popular spectical, the sport’s techniques do not covert well to genuine self-defence.
Sumo wrestling, whilst filled with nuances, is essentially the art of pushing. It contains no other combat elements and practitioners rely a lot on their weight. In true fighting scenarios sumo wrestling skills prove next to useless, as Takamishu Daikichi discovered when he attempted to use his sumo skillset in UFC 1, succumbing to a head-kick, from kickboxer Gerard Gordeau, after just 26 seconds.
Another Japanese import, aikido relies on using your opponent’s strength and weight against them. Watch any black belt Aikido video on YouTube and you will likely see an impressive looking array of wrist locks and throws. Some black belts will even deflect attacks from multiple opponents at the same time, throwing and twisting them one after the other.
The problem with these impressive videos is that the opponents are willingly cooperating. These are not the open sparring sessions they appear to be, rather more rehearsals of set moves. Aikido only works if your opponents attack you in a certain manner, whereby you can employ its wrist grabs and throws.
Aikido training is based primarily on two partners practicing pre-arranged moves. One attacks and one defends. Real fighting just doesnt work like this and aikido is completely ineffective if your attacker attacks you in a way that varies from set Aikido techniques.
- Combat Tai Chi
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese art practiced primarily for it’s health benefits and meditation uses. Whilst practitioners mostly use slow arm and leg movements to create mental calmness and clarity, tai chi supposedly has large self-defence elements. This is had led many to ask the question of whether the art can actually be used as a primary form of self-defence. The answer is an emphatic no for any sane person.
Whilst tai chi is no doubt wonderful for calmness and fitness it’s slow, zen-like movements do not lend themselves well to real combat scenarios. In common with aikido, it’s fighting techniques are taught as rehearsed moves without the application then being moved into live, unscripted sparring.
Tai chi fighting techniques are aesthetically pleasing to watch but there is next to know proof that they actually work and many of the techniques practitioners publically highlight, such as back-slapping an opponents ribcage with the back of your hand, are clearly ridiculous.
- Touchless Knockout
Touchless knockout, otherwise known as no-touch knockout, is a seemingly extremely powerful self defence technique that will automatically render an attacker unconscious from some distance. The only problem with this art is that virtually no one believes it is legitimate.
Skeptics believe apparent demonstrations of touchless knockout techniques to be the result of collusion or even delusion on the part of the people “knocked unconscious” during the demonstrations.
The touchless knockout technique utilises chi energy, known in China as the energy of life itself. Unfortunately there almost as many public skeptics of chi as there are of the touchless knockout and to this day no one has been able to prove it’s existence.
One famous proponent of the touchless knockout is American martial arts “guru” George Dillman.
National Geographic once decided to make a documentary on Dillman’s method. One of Dillman’s top instructors, Leon Jay, agreed to attempt a no-touch knockout with a sceptical participant.
The technique was not successful and the sceptical participant walked away very much still conscious.
Dillman later stated that the participant was not knocked unconscious because he wasn’t a believer in the no-touch knock out technique. As a combat sports participant and someone with a noted interest in combat sports, I am occasionally asked which is the best martial art or fighting style for self defence. I struggle to recommend the art of the touchless knockout for this reason.
Picture the scene. You are enjoying a stroll through the mall with your partner. A man walks past aggressively and assaults your partner. In a flash you thrust out your arms and make a whooshing sound from several feet away. The man flies back unconscious, convulsing on the ground and everyone stares at you like you’re something out of a Marvel film.
Now picture this alternative scenario. A man walks past aggressively and assaults your partner. In a flash you thrust out your arms and make a whooshing sound from several feet away. Unfortunately in an unlikely twist of fate the attacker is “not a believer” and you are left thrashing out your arms, making increasingly frantic wushing sounds as people in the mall start to giggle and you begin to take a beating. I think I’d rather try my luck with bullshido, sorry Aikido.