Three Letters Re: Self-Defense Advice

Dear Jim,

Tae Kwon Do is a perfectly adequate martial art, and very accessible. However, it is so popular it has morphed into several markets. Make sure the school you are attending teaches fighting and self-defense. If they
say they are “non-competitive,” then they are a glorified exercise program, not a martial art. Also, while all sparring is good, there’s sparring intended for learning to compete, and sparring intended for learning
to disable attackers. Stress to the instructor you want to learn self defense and have no interest in competing in tournaments. If they are unwilling to accept that, they’re not the right school for preppers.

Competition oriented schools will stress punching (which favors males and taller fighters) and high kicks (above the waist). Martial arts intended for defense will stress both hands and feet, low kicks and joint strikes (a damaged ankle slows or stops a pursuer, for example), and grappling with the intent of pinning or disabling. – Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog’s Editor At Large)

Mr Rawles,
I would like to reply to “A Happy Homemaker in California”. I know the best class for her kids. Mine are enrolled in Sierra School of Survival, run by Doug Huffman. You have the option of online or in-person class time. I have my family enrolled in both. It is a urban/wilderness survival course. It is a whole-family course from food storage, food collecting, weapons training to your children being able to free themselves from zip-ties. The first class my boys 17 and 15 went to, a very capable tiny 12 year old girl whooped them in knife drills. I watched this girl disarm attackers, scale an eight foot fence in two seconds and clear a room with a Airsoft pistol. As JWR said it is all about muscle memory, and they get drilled. – Amy M.

Mr. Rawles:
Just a brief comment concerning an item that appeared in SurvivalBlog, re: Self Defense Advice. JWR stated: “You need to physically practice, to develop muscle memory. I’d recommend a year of Tae Kwon Do to learn kicks and punches, followed by at least a year of Jiu-Jitsu, to learn grappling and falls.”
Rather than take Tae Kwon Do and Jiu-Jitsu separately, why not take the Korean martial art of Hapkido, which combines elements of both systems you mention? Hapkido is a comprehensive system of hand-to-hand combat, including kicks, punches and other strikes, as well as holds, throws and joint locks, as well as ground techniques. It also has devastating cane, staff, and edged weapons methods, as well as gun and knife disarms (where applicable). Hapkido has no sporting arm; it is designed solely for real-world use. It is favored by some of the best military, law enforcement and security pros around, including U.S. Special Ops personnel. The members of the presidential guard of the Republic of Korea are required to be experts in hapkido, and all members of the South Korean armed forces take instruction it and/or Tae Kwon Do.
Many of these organizations have been taught Hapkido by the founder of Combat Hapkido, Master John Pelegrini (I am not affiliated with him in any way). Another legend in the art is Steve Sexton, the subject of a Patrick Swayze 1980s movie Road House. The movie is mostly nonsense, and Swayze isn’t doing Hapkido in the movie. However, see Steve Sexton’s instructional videos on YouTube or at his own web site to see a hapkido master in action. Mr. Sexton has survived hundreds of violent encounters in his long career as a security professional, he has “been there, done that” and knows what works. He is a 7th Dan in Hapkido. Jino Kang is another master you can see on You Tube. I am privileged to know Master Kang, who is one of the finest people and martial artists around, in addition to being an amazing practitioner of his art.
The only drawback to Hapkido is that it is a somewhat rare art and can be tough to find in some communities, in which case your recommendations make sense, as Jiu-Jitsu and Tae Kwon Do are more common.
I have studied hapkido for six years, and it is very effective, at least in my experience.
Most any legitimate martial art is valuable if one is diligent and trains consistently and hard – you are entirely correct that “quick fixes” don’t work. You have to be willing to pay the price in hard work, pain, blood, sweat, and injuries at the dojo to become proficient. There are no shortcuts.
Perhaps the most important benefit I have derived from martial arts training is psychological – namely, the warrior mindset. As important as physical hardening, technique, skills, and practice are, they mean nothing without the will to use them when necessary. These benefits carry over to the use of weapons and arms, by the way, which is one reason martial arts are prized within the Marines and other military organizations. The martial arts foster aggressiveness, tenacity, endurance, skill, leadership, teamwork, individual initiative, and many other sought-after qualities for the individual soldier or Marine. – F.P.