Fitting Martial Arts into the Life of a Prepper, by Matthew G.

While watching season two of Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Channel I noticed the “consumer prepper.” These are people who think of a problem and quickly try to throw money at the situation instead of trying to find the best solution to their issue. In one episode a wealthy older man was fearful of a major earth quake in California. He bought thousands of dollars of freeze dried food, the most expensive firearms, and even a helicopter to fly him out if things were really bad. With all of his money he made a poor choice of putting his daughter into a Tae Kwon Do school. I’m not going to bad mouth here about the down sides of Tae Kwon Do, I myself started out in Tae Kwon Do as a teenager. What disappointed me was he had his daughter learning a sport, not a self defense system. Most Tae Kwon Do schools have their emphasis on scoring points, nothing more. In the five years I studied the art I didn’t know how to throw a decent punch.

I started out, as I said, in Tae Kwon Do at the age of thirteen. After my first three month contract was up I switched schools and spent the next five years at a better school that focused on skill and technique as opposed to contracts and money. After that I learned American boxing and even became runner up for a local Tough Man contest when this event was still boxing instead of the MMA (mixed martial arts) of today. Through boxing I quickly learned that its better to fight smarter and not harder. I suffered from constant headaches while sparring and after some research found that boxers have many negative repercussions from repeated strikes to the head. Regardless of head gear and gloves the brain rattles around in the skull and can cause severe side effects down the road. Mohammed Ali would be the prime example of this.

After a short break from martial arts due to getting married and having a different life I was back studying at a school that offered several styles. The point of the school was to find something that suited you. I studied Judo, Jujitsu (Japanese), Aikido, Muay Thai, and some Chen style Tai Chi.

So what should a prepper look for in a martial art? One would think that any martial art would due looking at the name. A better translation would be military art. While they all have their roots to some form of combat fighting most have become sports over many decades of peace. There are some that kept to their roots and are still the most useful fighting styles in the world.
For a SHTF situation you want an art that has several qualities.

  • Striking (kicking and punching)
  • Grappling
  • Throwing
  • Pins and locks
  • Weapons training (disarm and using)
  • Multiple attackers situation

To sign up for anything less than this would be a waste of your time unless nothing else is available.

So what are the arts that cover a majority if not all of these skills?

First I’ll describe some standing arts and why they are useful. Tae Kwon Do is handy for its footwork and speed, quickly learning the distance between yourself and a attacker. Boxing gives a person similar distancing and foots skills with the added benefit of speed, power and accuracy with punches. Muay Thai combines these two arts with the added use of elbows and knees.
The ground arts have their benefits as well. Judo, while it is a sport over a self defense style is very aggressive and teaches how to throw, wrestle, pin or joint lock an attacker.
Aikido has grown a reputation for being a very effective fighting style. Using wrist locks and hip throws similar to Judo and Jujitsu the art teaches how to turn a attackers energy against them. After years of experience a person will learn how to effectively defend themselves against a untrained attacker. The downside is that after watching Aikido students sparring with students from other styles at the dojo annual potluck the skills are difficult to use on highly skilled attackers of other arts. The upside was learning how to disarm a person with a knife and using a Japanese sword (ken). A person may think that skills in Kenjitsu are impractical, I would have to argue that it becomes handy when a stick is your only weapon and the techniques translate well. The famous swordsman Musashi killed one of his opponents with a wooden ore he took from the boat he traveled on. Sometimes the technique and not the weapon is what matters.

Japanese Jujitsu would have to be one of the most well-rounded arts that are still around today. This is not to be confused with Brazilian Jujitsu that is popular on the UFC fighting circuit. After World War two the American military quickly learned that this hand to hand fighting style would be beneficial to troops in the field. Army hand to hand combat manuals and much of the marine corp. fighting system is based on Japanese Jujitsu. I was fortunate enough to study a Okinawa style of Jujitsu at the school I attended. The instructor favored knife techniques and encouraged his students to carry legal folding knives for self defense. In the state of Michigan a concealed knife has to be a folded blade and under two and a half to three inches, I always get different numbers depending on the police officer I ask. Along with knife work we also learned to work against multiple attackers, working as a team or group, never ending up on the ground, always expect attacker number two even if it looks like there is only one guy.

Jujitsu has a wide variety of tools that you learn from wrist locks and throws to striking and pressure points. As a prepper, Jujitsu was the only art that I found to be the best suited for my self defense needs. While this is the only style I studied that had these characteristics I know of others that have similar techniques and a combat mindset.

Ninjitsu uses many of the striking and grappling techniques that are used in Jujitsu. Also a Japanese style of fighting, ninjitsu incorporates different weapons to their school such as chains, throwing stars and various bladed weapons. My former meditation instructor and several Jujitsu students I trained with trained in this art form. While comparing techniques after class we found that many things were similar what came to be the biggest difference was the teaching of the “bush doctrine” and their school of Ninjitsu, attack first and destroy your enemy if you think they are going to attack you. I found this puzzling as a follower of the Gray Man theory, don’t be noticed and only attack when needed.

Krav Maga, from the books and videos that I have studied due to a lack of schools in my area, this maybe the one school better suited than jujitsu to satisfy a prepper’s needs. A collage of easy to learn techniques geared toward a modern combat setting, this style is the present day equivalent of what Jujitsu was a hundred years ago. Created after World WarII by Jews that were tired of being victims, Krav Maga combines what they deem to be the most useful techniques from various arts and throw them together as a new combat style. Because the art is used in real combat settings like the middle east, techniques change over time when it is found something does not work for what ever reason. This is something new to martial arts as many arts will still teach an obsolete technique for the sake of tradition as opposed to practicality. I did train with one man that had studied Krav Maga for years. When he moved to my home town he decided to study MMA instead but found jujitsu to be very close to his former school of training.

When looking for a school it is important to look for a few things. Keep in mind that these places are businesses and they make their money from having students. First talk to the instructor and learn if he is going to teach you what you are looking to learn. Second, avoid schools that trying to pressure you into signing a contract. A real instructor will want you to want to be there and not spend your time trying to get your money. Look around and see if the focus of the school is on sports or self defense, trophies on the walls or medals are a good indication of sports emphasis.

Sometimes a good indication of a practical school is if local law enforcement study at this school. In my Aikido class we had several sheriff deputies that attended and some of them had police techniques that were added to the school curriculum. If law enforcement is studying something that they are betting to save their lives it maybe exactly what you’re looking for.

Weapons of opportunity is a skill that a good school will teach. While we had sticks called yawarbo, in Jujitsu, that we used for locks and pins we were constantly told that anything from a pen to a magazine could work the same way. When you learn to use a knife it is important to realize that the same techniques can be used with a stick or a pipe. There is always something in the immediate area that can be used for a quick advantage, even a rock. Learning to be flexible in a combat situation can be a valuable tool. Find a teacher that will teach you how to think and not just react.

Many preppers spend hours at the gun range learning techniques through muscle memory. The same principle applies to martial arts. Most of what you will learn is reactionary muscle memory just like with a gun. If a prepper spends hours learning how to use a gun and researching what the best gun is, dishing out hundreds of dollars for the right gun to suit their needs, wouldn’t you do the same thing when learning hand to hand combat? Time is precious, to spend it learning things that won’t work and will get you killed in a real life SHTF situation would be a tragedy.

Do your research, find a good school. If you can’t find a school, find books demonstrating the techniques. Practice on a dummy or even a tree. It may sound crude but this is how martial artist practiced for centuries. These days I spend my spare time training on a heavy bag, repeating the same moves dozens of times and moving to the next one. I spend more time in my basement on my bag than I do at the gun range. For low budget preppers this is a cost effective way to learn self defense and stay in shape. When needed, the first time you throw a punch in self defense will be a shock. Afterward you may not remember doing and ask what happened. This is the muscle memory reacting to the situation and not “you.” This is the type of training you want to have. Its better to throw a punch when your gun jams than give up and wait to get shot or beaten.

I don’t live in the best neighborhood in the world. With a high crime rate and a low average income I’m in one of those places not recommended for a prepper to live. I’m fortunate enough to have never been in a fight in the last eight years of living here and only pulling my gun out to prevent an attack on my property. So far things have been about as good as they can be around here. I attribute that to my martial arts training and paying attention to my surroundings. There have been occasions that I have witnessed beatings, stabbings, and shootings and so far I have come through unscathed. Being a prepper that doesn’t have the option of bugging out I have come to realize that hand to hand combat is a very real reality in a urban environment. Bullets do run out. How many can you carry? What are you left with when a gun jams? A positive mind set is a real asset to a prepper and hand to hand training adds to that.

To close this article I’m going to share a story I read in Black Belt magazine years ago. A Judo student was in Las Vegas for a tournament. While walking to his car he was approached by two men that tried to mug him. The first man was unarmed and threw a punch. The Judo student threw his attacker like he learned in class. The attacker hit his head on the car during the throw and was knocked out. The second man was armed with a knife and came at the Judo student. This time the student placed this man in an arm bar. The attacked smacked his hand against his legs in pain. The sound of the smacking reminded the Judo student of “tapping out.” When a attacker in a grappling school like Judo “taps out”, a light pat on the floor or the person pinning, it signals that the hold works or the attacker is in pain, usually both. As you may have guessed the Judo student let his armed attacker go and was stabbed several times afterwards because of how he was taught. It is very important to look into how you will learn. A style that teaches you to fight with rules translates to a style where you think there are rules in the street. During SHTF this is a matter of life and death and learning how to defend yourself should be take just as seriously.