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He's very well trained in a bad system
                     Dianna Gordon

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Reliability | Standards | Further Resources

It's not the style. It is not the system. It is not the lineage. It's not who your teacher is. In the final analysis, that which will most reliably save your ass in conflict is your skill.

It is skill that will keep you from being struck
It is skill that will allow you to effectively deliver force
It is skill that will allow you to compensate for larger, stronger and more aggressive opponents.
It is skill that will allow your to deal with routine and improvise against the unexpected 

Physical conditioning, attitude, strike enhancers, secret fighting moves, blitzkrieg strategies, hardcore training, whatever MA style you study or even a gun and badge are nothing more than supplements to your basic skills. These enhance, maybe even channel, but they do not reliably compensate for a lack of skill.

Furthermore, if your skill is not in place, then there is a good chance whatever strategy you are attempting will fails. When that happens, these supplements do not reliably make up for it. If you think of mediocre skills as giving you 50% chance of success, think of these having no more than a 30% chance of success. While a possible 80% chance of success sounds good, that is only against a mediocre opponent. Against someone who has either skill or is committed to hurting you, your odds drop dramatically. Unless you carefully pick and choose who you fight, these odds will catch up to you. Against a skilled and committed opponent, the only thing that will save you is skill.

One of the defining characteristics of skill is the ability to achieve a defined goal under adverse conditions.. It is knowing what it takes to make that goal a reality and then being able to do it.  In other words, it is being able to effectively do what you need to do, even if the circumstances aren't perfect.


When we talk about "reliability" we are not talking about "guaranteed moves." Simply stated there are no such  techniques. Any move can be countered. Any move can be foiled -- sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally. A technique can be attempted that is not appropriate for the situation. In short, things go wrong. This is why there is no such thing as a "guaranteed" move or an "ultimate fighting system."

However, what we are talking about are standards. Standards that, if they are met, the move will work. Recognizing the difference between "standards" and "guarantees" is very important. Standards, when done correctly are not about doing a move "right" or "wrong." Instead, they represent the fundamental principles that a move is based on. Principles and laws that far supercede your opponent's ability to resist them. For example, "gravity works" is an undeniable law. If you "introduce" him to gravity, he will fall. There is nothing that he can do to prevent that.

What he can do however, is resist your attempts to "introduce" him to gravity. When he does that, there is a very good chance that the "standards" of the move will not be met -- especially if you are not focused on meeting them yourself. Thereby making his resistance more effective. When these standards are not met, then the move will not work -- or will only partially work.

When we talk about "meeting the standards of a move" we are talking about doing it in such a way that the functional goal of the move is achieved. If this basic goal is not being met, then odds are, something is wrong with how and/or what you were taught!

To use one of Tristan Sutrisno's  favorite example, the avowed purpose of a block is not to get hit. The question is, is how you were taught to block meeting that goal? If not 100% of the time, what percent of the time? If your blocks only keep you from getting hit 50% of the time, then that really doesn't reliably meet the standard of "don't get hit," now does it?

Unfortunately, many schools try to compensate for this failure to meet standards by sticking other emphasis onto the move. For example, the purpose of a block is no longer just not to get hit, but it becomes to hit and stun your opponent's arm. To fall back into street jargon "Whazzup wit dat?" The way that they are doing it can't even meet the basic criteria for a block, so they try to compensate by making it something else? Something, which incidentally, is more likely to take your arm further out of effective blocking position as you try to "strike" and thereby leave you more exposed and vulnerable to further attacks.

Such moves are not reliable. They do not meet the standards of the move or its avowed purpose.

Quite often, the reason for technique failure  is that the standards are not met. A failure to meet standards can come from three basic sources.

     1) The move, as it was taught to you, no longer meets the standards
     2) You didn't meet the standards
     3) Your opponent moved/countered, thereby preventing the standards from being met.

Point one: Simply stated a great many "errors" have crept into the martial arts, defensive tactics and CQC. These errors are major factors in the standards not being met. But, these "errors" have become so ingrained in these systems that they have become the "right" way to do the move. In otherwords, because the move has been changed or tweaked over the years to fit a particular mold it has lost its ability to meet the standards outside that particular context.

For example, if a "sports oriented" school focuses on point sparring then the nature of the techniques they use will gradually change and be modified to function most effectively under those conditions. In point sparring, speed is of the essence. In fact, it is far more important than effective power transference. These modifications, while working in the point sparring context, will not work in a self-defense context. They especially will not work in a professional use of force context. The fast light slapping blocks that work against a sport fighter just do not have the structure or other elements necessary to function against a committed heavy attack. Just as significant the brutal efficacy of CQC is totally inappropriate for a sports context or judicious use of force in a self-defense situation.

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