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What is a Reality-Based Martial Art School, and How Does it Differ from Other Schools?

Posted: July 04, 2010

What is a reality-based martial art school? Well, a reality-based martial art is one that is designed to work on the street in a real confrontation, where there are no rules. The core art of our school is Jeet Kune Do. JKD is the art that was created by Bruce Lee, and as such, it retains the fundamental point of martial arts, and that is to survive and win in a street fight. Therefore, that is the over-arching theme of our Adult Program and we are a reality-based school.

Many would argue that all martial arts schools are reality-based, but that is not the case. Let me first explain that it is not the art that a school teaches that makes it reality-based or not, it is the training method. For example, many schools train their students to fight using a certain set of rules. As a result, their students may never learn to deal with things that are very common on the street such as punches to the face, kicks to the legs, and dirty tricks that an attacker may employ (simply because these techniques and tactics are not allowed in the tournaments which the school attends). While the art they are teaching may have originally been for self-defense, it has now been watered down and is being taught to win according to the guidelines of a competition. This type of martial art training is therefore referred to as sport-based, or sport-oriented.

First let me say that I think sports are great, and I am not knocking schools that choose to be sport- oriented. (In fact, I have trained in – and currently teach – many sport-oriented martial arts.) I am only pointing out that this is not the same as self-defense/reality-based martial arts. A person in the street will punch you in the face, and kick you in the leg. They may even bite you, gouge you in the eye, headbutt you, or strike you to the groin area. Any school that says they are teaching self-defense should be preparing you for these eventualities. If you are not preparing for these things, then you are not attending a reality-based school. On the flip side, I am thankful that they don’t allow these things in competitions, because no one wants to see the fighters become seriously injured. However, saying you’re teaching self-defense while not addressing these other areas is inexcusable and just plain wrong. Unfortunately, I see this happening more and more in martial arts schools today.

I personally believe that everyone should cross-train in as many different systems as possible, and that is why we teach so many different styles at our school. Furthermore, self-defense applications should be explained and worked on in every system that is taught (even if it is geared for sport). Sport-oriented arts like Boxing, Thai Boxing and Savate, are geared for the ring (sport-oriented), but they are extremely effective in the street. That is why I teach them at our school, even though we are a reality-based school. Any qualified instructor of the arts should (in my opinion) also be showing you how to modify the techniques of these arts for maximum efficiency in a street-fight. That is what we do with our students.

We understand that what works well for one person, might not work well for another, so in our view, the individual is more important than the style or system. The most important thing is the training method so that our students are able to defend themselves if the need arises. That is the essence of reality-based training.


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