Martial Arts in The Collapse: A Question of Limits – Part 3, by Dr. Joseph

(Continued from Part 2.  This concludes the article.)

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) typically involves fighting with boxing gloves and no shoes; classical systems usually have no hand gloves and no shoes. Fighting without shoes is totally unrealistic for street fighting, as footwear is worn everywhere in waking life, except perhaps the beach, and shoes, as the French savate system shows, can make kicks more dangerous, especially with steel-capped boots. But even worse is the use of boxing gloves for striking. This is done not for mercy to opponents, but to protect the hands, which can easily break from strikes to hard bony spots of an opponent (like a punch that is blocked on the elbow). Thus, a habit is created of fighting with hand protection, as well as hand wraps, because the standard punch is done, not like the somewhat safer “sun” punch in Wing Chun, but with the knuckles up, and without wraps or conditioning, as in hard karate styles, the wrist may buckle and be injured. In any case, there are few situations on the street where one will have suitable gloves on, so there is an unrealistic aspect added here, regardless of boxing hand fighting being superior to the classical Asiatic systems with respect to hand techniques, in terms of functionality, practicality and ease of learning, as early practitioners such as Bruce Lee recognised. [15] It is all for nothing if on the street one breaks one’s hand and fail to take the adversary out.

Today, grappling and ground fighting are the “big things.” If one has been practising martial arts for all one’s life, as I have, over 55 or so years, fads are seen to come and go, such as the kicking fad in the 1970s when the Bruce Lee movies were popular; now it is MMA being commercially pushed; no objection, nothing wrong with a bit of capitalism. But while grappling has its place, it has its limitations for the street. Regarding ground fighting, MMA champion Forrest Griffin has written that “Unless the natural disaster that eliminated the majority of humanity somehow covered the surface of the earth with soft feathers, I would recommend doing everything in your power to keep a fight standing. Just think about all the rusty nails and jagged pieces of scrap metal that will be littered around.” [16] And as well, there are usually going to be multiple opponents, with weapons. Thus, in one video I saw years ago, two youths fought, one trained in MMA. He did a textbook takedown, then a ground and pound, then a choke, putting the other guy out. However, he did not see that a huge fat mom came on the scene. She delivered a snap kick to the MMA guy’s neck, and he fell like a tree that had been chainsawed.

The late Professor Bradley J. Steiner wrote a long essay, almost a book, entitled “The Great Myth of Groundgrappling Supremacy in the Modern Combatives Field” (2010). [17] Therein, he presented a comprehensive critique of the cult of grappling, and I say “cult” having in mind some YouTubers who have a fanatical, quasi-religious orientation to grappling and ground fighting. I cannot cover all of the points made, but mention a few of the main ones.

First, unarmed combat experts from the World War II era such as William Fairbairn, Rex Applegate, and many others, were skilled in grappling and ground fighting, but held that in war, the object is to dispose of an opponent as quick as possible, and going to the ground leaves one vulnerable.

Second, MMA has rules, precluding dangerous techniques such as eye gouging, seizing the testicles, and deliberate finger snapping, which may be possible with certain types of gloves. Of course, the MMA proponent on the street could do all of these “dirty” techniques, and will, but the point remains that some of these techniques can play havoc with standard MMA, BJJ, and judo practices, within the rules-based system. Finger snapping was practiced by some fighters in the ancient Greek pankration, the MMA of the day, and was highly effective, but not a crowd pleaser, and was common in 19th-century contest fights in southern backwoods, along with ripping out eyes. Yet this simple finger snapping technique could be trained to a level of perfection, much quicker than learning numerous locks and counters. The fingers remain the vulnerable link in the martial chain of MMA, and fingers are easy to break or dislocate. Skill can come from practice breaking sticks, and developing finger and grip strength; references will be given later.

Finally, much of MMA grappling and especially groundfighting assumes that one is not aged. Over the years injuries accumulate, and arthritis always comes, like winter. Lower back problems are common after decades of power lifting, and other athletic activity, martial arts being no exception. It is sometimes hard enough to get out of bed in the morning, let alone wanting to go to ground with an opponent. A related point is that wrestling and the grappling arts take up a large amount of time, and time gets rather short as one ages, so there may not be adequate benefits for time committed, as time and tide wait for no man. The same argument applies to much of the martial arts, especially the classical systems, which are far worse than the relatively time economical MMA. [18]

Finally, in grappling and groundfighting, size and strength matter. I recall seeing one MMA YouTuber, very much a true believer, who mentioned in passing how a novice student he sparred with, who was enormous and powerful, easily overcome his grappling techniques, but this YouTuber did not then appreciate that this showed the limits of his martial art. MMA fighters are tough, they spar a lot, and almost always weight train, and train far harder than classical martial artists, making them superior athletes. And since the 1950s, progress in weight training means taking anabolic steroids, and growth hormone, with blocker drugs prior to contests, if drug tested. Wrestling and grappling alone produce great strength, as witnessed by wrestling greats of the past such as the great Gama (1878-1960). Going to ground with larger opponent will put one at a severe disadvantage, and this fact is not altered by the occasional MMA match where someone like Royce Gracie defeats a behemoth like 514-pound Akebono Taro; he is the exception to the general rule.

As far as strength goes Professor Steiner says: “The combatant needs all round fitness – with strength heading the list of specific attributes demanded in hand-to-hand combat. The combatant is cheating himself if he does not train seriously with weights. Weight training builds strength. And raw, plain strength is the basic physical attribute of the hand-to-hand fighter. He needs ruggedness, general fitness, a degree of endurance and stamina, speed of coordinated movement, and a high threshold of pain – all of which is assured when a good weight training schedule is employed, with nothing equalling the strength-building possibilities of weight training.” [19]

While it would be ideal to have a barbell, a set of plates, a squat rack, and bench press at one’s survival retreat, that may not be possible if that equipment has not already been moved there. No way will one be moving chunks of steel in a SHTF scenario; there are too many more important preps to take, if one has foolishly not moved prior to the collapse. Still, before the collapse, weight training at a gym, preferably a home gym, should be undertaken, over unarmed martial arts training if there is an either/or choice because of finances and/or time. Weight training involving progressive resistance exercise has numerous health benefits, both physically and psychologically, including preserving what is left of manhood. [20]

I will not skim over basics here of how to do lifts, as there is an enormous quantity of information on the basic lifts, such as the squat, bench press, shoulder press, deadlift, chins, abdominal exercises, and calf exercises, along with Olympic lifting to develop explosive strength/power. [21] Developing a crushing grip strength is important for melee weapons fighting: see; and, and destroying the digits of MMA-style attackers. For YouTube sites with experts going into the fine details of strength training, the best ones in my opinion are (just put the names in the YouTube search box): Athlean-X, Jeff Cavalier; Squat University, Dr Aaron Horschig (very good on dealing with injuries); ScottHermanFitness; Power Athlete and Renaissance Periodization for an academic critique by Dr Mike of all the nonsense in the iron field, almost as much nonsense as in the mainstream classical martial arts (mystical “chi” power, and all that).

However, barbells, plates, benches, and squat racks may not feature in one’s survival retreat. Perhaps there is not enough room. Not to worry, as detailed by Brooks Kubik in Dinosaur Training (2006) [22], and numerous videos and training courses, one can develop strength working with rough objects, such as stones, buckets full of rocks, logs, steel pipe, and basically any hunks of heavy matter. During the Covid freakout, when gyms were closed, during lunchtime at the hospital, I went to a close-by building site, where the workmen I knew would let me train lifting building materials, which they found amusing. But it was a good enough workout. Necessity is the mother of invention.


This article has considered the relevance of the unarmed martial arts, in both a collapse and post-collapse scenario. It was argued that there was nothing wrong with undertaking such training, which will have fitness benefits, and some spin-off positive effects upon melee weapons abilities. However, given time constraints and the expense of yet more lessons, provided one becomes skilled in melee weapons use, including the walking stick for politically correct woke, present normie society, unarmed martial arts can be put down the list of things to do, as MMA champion Forrest Griffin has said. If one can do such training, all well and good, but if not, there are ways around the issue as has been suggested in this article. Weight training to develop strength and power would rank higher.

Focusing upon MMA, admitted to produce superior fighters to most classical martial arts systems, there can still be seen intrinsic limitations to the practices, and unarmed against a good knife fighter will be a potential disaster for the MMA practitioner on the street or the post-apocalyptic wastelands, keeping within the unarmed paradigm. Indeed, a little while back, a leading MMA champion, Anthony Smith, had difficulty dealing with a drug-crazed home invader who turned up screaming at his door, then broke in, and indeed, most of us would as well. (See YouTube, “Anthony Smith Describes ‘Terrifying’ Account of Intruder in his Home,” April 2020). The feral absorbed everything this powerhouse threw at him. I have seen a fully drugged out small woman take six hospital security staff to restrain her, as the drugs she was on, making her freak-out, gave her seemingly super-human strength, and no perception of pain. That was what Smith faced. Of course, classical unarmed systems would have even more of problem here, but I think not a razor-sharp katana-wielding homesteader, in a Mad Max WROL situation.

This is a somewhat painful conclusion to reach for someone who teaches unarmed martial arts for self-defense as a poor earning living in the present cost of living crisis, but that is where the argument has led, and our duty as writers at this site is honesty, as people’s lives can be put at risk by fantasy advice, such as claiming the ability to simultaneously take out a small crowd unarmed, as I once saw at another site.

I would welcome a reader critique, or confirmation, of this conclusion within the framework of an expected impending Mad Max multigenerational collapse, but until then, I leave the matter as it stands.


[1] M. C. Schippers et al., “Is Society Caught Up in a Death Spiral? Modelling Societal Demise and its Reversal,” Frontiers in Sociology, March 12, 2024: doi: 10.3389/fsoc.2024.1194597.
[2] See the argument given in S. J. Smith and J. W. Smith, “Dark Age 2.0: The Coming Collapse of Civilization,” July 13, 2023

[3] D. Tueller, “How Close is Too Close?” S. W. A. T. Magazine, March 1983.

[4] D. Pentecost, Put ‘Em Down, Take ‘Em Out! Knife Fighting Techniques from Folsom Prison, (Paladin Press, 1988).

[5] F. Griffin, Be Ready When the S*** Goes Down: A survival Guide to the Apocalypse, (it Books, New York, 2011).

[6] As above, p. 45.

[7] C. Courtley, SEAL Survival Guide: A Navy SEAL’s Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster, (Gallery Books, New York, 2012), p. 147.

[8] J. D. Aylward, The English Master of Arms from the Twelfth to the Twentieth Century, (Routledge, London, 1956/2023).

[9] H. Talhoffer, Medieval Combat: A Fifteenth-Century Illustrated Manual of Swordfighting and Close-Quarter Combat, (Greenhill books, London, 2000).

[10] J. Meyer, Art of Combat: A German Martial Arts Treatise of 1570, (Frontline Books, Barnsley, 2020).

[11] M. Chidester, The Flower of Battle, (HEMA Bookshelf, Somerville, 2021).

[12] D. Hagedorn, Durer’s Fight Book; The Genius of the German Renaissance and His Combat Treatise, (Greenhill Books, London, 2022).

[13] Bladefighter, “Weapons-Based Martial Arts for Survival,” June 23, 2012, See also the letters, “Six Letters Re: Empty Hand Survival,” February 28, 2020,

[14] As above.

[15] B. Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Tao, (Ohara Publications, Valencia, 1975).

[16] Griffin, cited note 5, p. 48.

[17] B. J. Steiner, “The Great Myth of “Groundgrappling Supremacy in the Modern Combatives Field” (2010),

[18] C. Savage, King of All Things: A Guide to Man’s Martial Purpose, (Pirates’ Cove Publishing, 2022), pp. 170-171.

[19] Steiner as above, note [17].

[20] T. Durden, “How Picking Up a Shovel Might Solve the Masculinity Crisis,” February 25, 2023,

[21] B. Starr, The Strongest Shall Survive, (Fitness Consultants and Supply, 1999); M. Rippertoe, Starting Strength, 3rd edition, (Aasgaard Company, 2011); J. Lewis, Destroying the Opposition: Programming for Powerlifting, (Kindle, 2019).

[22] B. Kubik, Dinosaur Training: Lost Secrets of Strength and Development, (2006),