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This blog is not meant to be a comprehensive text on the subjects listed above. However, it helps to define these topics from time to time.

True martial arts are practiced mostly as “arts” of movement and physical-mental skills. Getting the movements correct is the most important part. Applying those techniques, outside of the forms, is normally another skill set. When a self-defense encounter occurs, it may not be the same. When entering a tournament, it might also not be the same.

Tournaments must have rules. The situation is, by necessity, artificial. However, it can be an opportunity to use your skills in a competitive way versus another person. It can develop a certain confidence to compete with somebody outside of your school. In a martial arts tournament, the winner is often the better athlete or the person who trained more effectively according to the rules already set by the tournament promoter. Boxers, for example, spar a great deal with partners before a match.

Martial arts have a problem specific to them. The tournament rules or even the sparring rules leave out some or a lot, of the movements. It can require some adjustments in the training patterns of the participants. Winning or losing is quite often, not a true expression of how good that martial artist is at their art.

In self-defense, the number of techniques one can use can only be dictated by the local laws and morality. Some of the martial arts skills will likely be used. Your attacker will use attacks completely unlike what was used in formal martial arts classes. How useful those skills are, will come to life if one if attacked. Self-defense will be unpredictable and chaotic. Keep an open mind. You must save yourself and not be glued to the techniques learn in class. Therefore, it is important that a defender be “tied in” (sticky hand or leg skills) to their attacker’s actions, ultimately when life or limb is at stake. The best bets are more often, de-escalation or escape.

-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg

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