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Ross Defensive Methods – on “self defense”

24 Oct

For as long as I have done martial arts, I have had very mixed feelings about “self defense” training. I know many people who practice martial arts, as much as two or three sessions a week, who are woefully unprepared for a real conflict. Of all the things that matter if you must defend yourself, technique is perhaps one of the least important. You must deal with the adrenaline dump and you must have experience with being hit, really being hit. Most “martial arts” programs either do not address these aspects correctly, or at all.

If you have followed me at all, you know that I do not believe anyone has a monopoly on Truth. If you are looking for source material for “self defense” you can find it in many places, but certainly a major resource is pre-war Judo. The politics of Japanese ultra-nationalism, the resulting war in the pacific and the American occupation all had direct impact upon the history of Judo and it might be hard now to understand that pre-war Judo was very much a martial art about fighting and self defense. It was the source material for the Gracie family’s jiujitsu in Brazil and for the pioneers of “self defense” in the west; American, English and French.

Pre-war Judo was perhaps the first mixed martial art as we now understand it, and it was fertile ground for, perhaps it even suggested, mixing with western boxing, western wrestling and French savate. A resurgence in interest in “combatives” means we can now find pictures, copies of the old manuals and even video of these many projects. They would be rather familiar to most modern mixed martial artists, but that is also one of my points here. Early attempts at “self defense” in the West were often not that different from the works produced by their Asian instructors. Asian and Western techniques were integrated and the program was directed at Westerners but really they were just another form of “martial arts” training.

Among the western pioneers of “self defense,” William E Fairbairn stands tall. Fairbairn was a British Royal Marine and police officer who developed hand-to-hand combat methods for the Shanghai Municipa; Police (SMP) during the interwar period, and for allied special forces during World War II. He also created his own fighting system known as “Defendu”. Among his source material was most certainly pre-war Judo, along with boxing, wrestling and savate. Of course, many focus on his years with the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) where of course he was exposed to Chinese martial arts.

A number of things made Fairbairn unique, but among them were both his practical experience and his scientific approach to the subject of fighting. He observed and recorded actual conflicts, noting what was actually used and the outcomes. His methods were not supposition, they were statistically derived.

Those who practice Chinese martial arts often focus on the Chinese martial arts influence upon Fairbairn’s work. They miss the point. As a historian of Chinese martial arts with good connections in Shanghai, I can tell you that the men Fairbairn observed, members of Chinese organized crime, were in fact well trained in martial arts. They were often actually members of various sects / pai / schools. Yet what Fairbairn observed, indeed focused upon, is what they actually used in real conflicts and which of those things actually worked! That is to say he could have cared less what “school” they belonged to or what they practiced as part of their “tradition” but rather what they actually did when a conflict occurred.

I often cite the Dog Brothers’ brilliant “DIE LESS OFTEN.” When it comes to real conflict, there are no guarantees. Ideally, a person should be training in a real martial art for both their fitness / wellness AND self defense. Certainly, my campaign towards more realistic and productive martial arts training is well known. Yet there will be people who are not going to pursue that sort of ongoing training. And those people also need “self defense,” increasingly so in this world! I am the father of a daughter and so I ponder these issues now daily.

In keeping with the above observation that no amount of training offers any guarantee, I have still created “Ross Defensive Methods” to offer realistic and practical training for the average person who is only going to do casual training. We will continue to offer seminars at my location in New York City, and begin to offer short-term courses as well. I will also begin a book on this subject. As always, I will do what I can to improve my little corner of the world.

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Monkey (Kung Fu) Business….

9 Dec

I write about a variety to subjects here, but almost all of them are controversial in some way. I also don’t have much of a “filter”. My belief system, which I often refer to as the “pillars of truth”, doesn’t lend itself to that sort of thing. I believe that you serve people best by telling them the truth; even the ugly, unpleasant, inconvenient truth. So people with delicate constitutions, thin skins and false ideas of “martial virtue” frequently dislike me. As you might have guessed, I simply don’t care about that sort of thing very much.

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Over the years, I’ve belonged to a number of organizations, associations and federations. In fact, I’ve even been part of the leadership of a few and maybe you could even say I have created a few. If you are a martial artist, chance are you’ve belonged to a few as well. So, ask yourself, WHY did you join those groups?

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Like a lot of martial artists, I joined at least a few organizations for what might be loosely termed “recognition”. Not even necessarily “rank”, thought there are tons that do that as well. Some are cons that simply sell rank. Many legitimately serve to issue rank, with good intentions. Virtually all groups issue recognition in the form of certificates of membership and such.

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But does any of that stuff, certificates, membership, rank, etc etc really benefit those who join? There might have been a time when a prospective student in the martial arts chose one school because the “master” was an 8th degree black belt and the “other guy” was “just” 6th degree. Today, I’m not really sure any of that stuff matters.

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I know organizations that exist to give out rank outlines, rank requirements and, honestly, “cool stuff to teach”. Many instructors believe if they have more to teach, better stuff to teach, “cooler stuff” to teach, or manybe even “secret stuff” to teach that will translate into more students. Most of the martial arts industry is built upon ideas of rank outlines, rank requirements, belts and tests. Yet, again, I really have to tell you that in today’s world I am not sure any of that matters at all either. In fact, the more material you have the HARDER it might be to function as a business!

I’m just getting started, MUCH MORE to come in the next few days…..

Steal, steal a lot, and steal from the best…..

28 Sep

The other day a guy who trains with me (and who has an extensive background and trains in a lot of different places) told me that one of the other instructors he knows told him he shouldn’t train with me because I steal stuff…..

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If you know me, you probably already knew that would be my reaction… But more seriously, I have three different responses to this “attack”.

First, of course I steal stuff! I have stated MANY TIMES my opinion that if an instructor claims to have no influence other than their primary art/primary instructor they are either being dishonest or are unacceptably intellectually lazy.

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It is impossible for one person to have all the techniques or the “answers”. Even an organization like mine, where I am friends with and continue to network with many respected fighters, coaches and trainers, we can’t make such a claim. That is precisely why you’ll find us consistently training with others.

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Second, if you really think I “stole” stuff, ask how did I do it? How did I learn it, integrate it into what I do and how am I able to teach it? Let me put it another way, the instructor in question told my “friend” (won’t even call him a student) that I stole stuff from him (well, it is quite a funny story there, but that is another blog). My friend told him basically, “yeah, but he understands it better and explained it to me better.” So, I ask you, who really “owns” it? The person who thinks they “had it first” or the person who really understands it?

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Third, how do you “own” anything for me to steal it? Does anyone really think there is one technique that only they and their teacher have? Human beings all have one torso, one head, two arms, two hands, two elbows, two legs, two knees and two feet. The reality is, NO ONE OWNS TRUTH. You might as well accuse me of “stealing” your air!

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This stuff is really the product of small minds and insecurity. Never be afraid to attend a seminar or go to another school to train and learn something new. Take every opportunity you can to train with the best. If a famous fighter or teacher is coming to your town to do a seminar, or is a reasonable traveling distance from you take that opportunity. Don’t be afraid to “steal” and don’t be concerned with what others may say. The “purity” of certain traditional martial art traditions is not only an obstacle to your advancement; it is in fact a myth!

Truth does not know “respect”

9 May

Truth is. Truth is independent of all other factors. Truth does not have considerations. Truth does not know “respect”. This means, as much as I may respect my teacher, it does not change the facts. It has no bearing on Truth.

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My teacher may be a very skilled martial artist. He may be an accomplished fighter. The Truth may also be he has many failings as a human being. He may have given me incorrect information. He may have knowingly lied to me. All human beings have some orientation, many have actual agendas. If we embrace Truth, we must acknowledge all of this; the good and the bad. In fact, unless we take it all in, we limit our own view, our own growth.

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I had a student who totally admired Mas Oyama. He watched a copy of the fictionalized film “Fighter in the Wind” (바람의 파이터). One day I was explaining this concept of Truth and used Mas Oyama as an example. My student got very upset, he said you have to “respect” such a famous teacher.

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My student, in his youth, of course missed the point. Mas Oyama was obviously very skilled. It is without question that he trained many very skilled Karateka and fighters. Modern Japanese kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) both have direct links back to Mas Oyama and Kyokushinkai. Mas Oyama changed the face of modern Japanese martial arts.

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Where Truth is concerned, none of those facts have anything to do with the reality that it is very likely that Mas Oyama did NOT engage in those many fights which have been attributed to him. Mas Oyama also spent considerable time in the Professional Wrestling and many of his marketing tactics came from that world. If you want more details on what I mean by this, google Jon Bluming….

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People are always seeking an external authority. They do so because it alleviates them of the responsibility of thinking and taking responsibility for action. “Respect” is a crutch; we use it to avoid asking difficult questions and pondering the significance of Truth. Martial arts is certainly not the only place this happens, but it happens frequently in our world.

Why “Lion’s Roar Martial Arts”?

7 Oct

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“It is said, upon the birth of the Buddha, he stood up, pointed one finger to the sky, pointed the finger of the other hand to the earth, and roared like a lion to announce he had arrived”.
– The Lantern Passing Record

The lion is considered a divine animal of nobleness and dignity, which can protect the Truth and keep off evils. So, perhaps people can understand why in the Ming Dynasty, a martial art associated with Buddhism was called “Lion’s Roar”. But for my personal method? Is there more to it?

“I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path.
– Jiddu Krishnamurti

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I have developed in my approach to martial arts the idea that one must always train with Truth. Yet Truth is subtle and elusive, and as Krishnamurti stated in so many variations, it is impossible to organize in a static form. Thus, my method is always adapting and changing. If it were not so, it would not be a living thing, and it would cease to be practical and relevant.

In retrospect, my interest in practical application of the martial arts and in training fighters inspired the process by which I came to this conclusion. In combat, you become interested in what works. If something is ineffective, regardless of its origins, you rationally discard it. A major theme of my method is that it is not what you practice; your style, system, tradition, lineage, teacher or school. It is HOW you practice. You must practice with Truth.

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For more than twenty years, I have been known for producing fighters. To many it appears I run a school and have a curriculum that is far removed from traditional Chinese martial arts. I certainly have never been anything less than completely forthright about my cross training and my incorporation of different material, especially non-Chinese martial arts, into my teachings.

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Yet, I still consider the core of my teachings the material that Chan Tai-San taught me. I have compared it to a human body; Chan Tai-San’s methods are the skeleton, the connective tissues, and the heart. My cross training has certainly filled in certain areas, but in other cases all that it did was give me a deeper appreciation for material I already had learned from Chan Tai-San. I had never abandoned my teacher or his methods; I had simply expanded and evolved them.

There are those who learned the same system, even those who studied with the same teacher; but who do not teach how I do and have not produced the same results. It is clearly not WHAT they practice. It is HOW they practice. In this book, I examine traditional Chinese martial arts and ask if there is anything inherent in them to account for those who cannot practically apply them? The answer is NO. It is not the material, it is the PROCESS.

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I am completely comfortable with my method and my approach. I have already tested and proven it in many different venues. I strongly believe that I have never abandoned my teacher or his methods; I have simply expanded and evolved them. My current method combines old (traditional) and new (modern) methods. It combines both Chinese and non-Chinese methods. This is because I am dedicated to Truth, and Truth transcends any tradition, any school, any lineage, or any teacher.

Believe in yourself

1 Mar

If you’ve never felt sick, never had doubt, never experienced fear, if you’re healthy, if you’re successful and if you have everything you want in life STOP READING RIGHT NOW… this blogg is not for you.

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Diagnosed with Leukemia at age six, I was as weak and sick from the treatment as I was from the disease. I had missed a year of school. This is the time when most children learn to play sports. I participated in none of that. Somehow? Luck? Chance? Fate? I found the martial arts.

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Chemotherapy and radiation results in nerve damage, doctors told my parents I would never be able to lift my knee above my waist. I was lucky, they never told me, so I never knew I “couldn’t do that.”

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Doing martial arts taught me important lessons about life. Nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself and are willing to do the work. The path is simple, but not easy. But if you keep working toward your goal, you WILL achieve it. At times, you learn to make pain your friend. That is why I believe in the martial arts, believe everyone benefits from them, and have thus taught them for most of my life to others.

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Eventually, I also discovered that the lessons of life, that we have found in other sources, also need at times to be applied to your martial arts practice. Like Yin and Yang, the relationship is a two way street. It’s all about achieving a balance. As I previously blogged, you need to always train martial arts with truth. You also need to realize that every person is like a snow flake. Everyone wants and NEEDS something different. Not everyone wants to be a fighter. Some people are healthier and fitter than others. You NEED to address and accommodate all these factors.

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Over the years, having faced my own personal challenges and overcome them, I’ve developed this worldview. It is NOT the fortune cookie wisdom of traditional martial arts. It is practical experience gained from my personal life. A fusion of the REAL traditions with a modern progressivism. Today, it informs every aspect of my martial arts program.

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Use truth as your path…

23 Feb

People who know me from the internet tend to think of me as that somewhat abrasive guy who does nothing but talk about fighting. I certainly talk a lot about fighting, and I’ve trained a lot of people to fight in various combat sports. But in a school that has around a thousand members, these competitive athletes are less than 5% of the population. And that was true even when I was at the height of my fighter training career.

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Every day, six days a week, I teach classes and train the majority of my student body. Most of them don’t have any interest in competitive fighting, many don’t even want to do contact at all. By far, the vast majority of my time is spent helping people achieve their goals; both physical and mental. I help people to be healthier, to look better and most importantly to feel better. Feeling better is both a physical state and a mental state. I am a firm believer, what is the point of having a strong body but a weak mind?

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The point I am going to make with today’s blog is that I use the same methods and philosophy to train both my athletes and my so called “normal students.” Reality is, LIFE IS A FIGHT. You have to be prepared for resistance, you have to overcome obstacles, you have to work hard and you have to face your fears and your self doubt. I said this in the clip below;

Integrally related to this is the concept that the ONLY WAY to do this all is to do it with truth. A responsible coach doesn’t put an athlete in a match without the proper preparation. A responsible coach doesn’t lead an athlete to think they are better than they really are. Certainly a responsible coach wouldn’t teach fake skills to an athlete and thus set them up for a beating in a match. As in all things, truth is always the correct path and you should always do the right thing.

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Unfortunately, all too often in the martial arts community I see quite the opposite. We talk a lot about personal development, developing values, being better people. Then instructors try to teach things they aren’t qualified to teach. They teach watered down or just plain fake “skills” to people. Rather than being honest with their students, challenging them to make REAL EFFORTS, and as their coach being there and being accountable for being part of the process; they have found it easier to lie to them, to give fake praise, and to puff up their egos.

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I can tell you from years of experience, the path of truth WORKS. It’s a simple concept, but simple doesn’t mean easy. It’s not easy, it’s difficult. But anything worth having is worth the effort to attain it.

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