Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

We all tend to believe that the martial art we practice is the best, yet what if unknowingly our martial art is based on a fantasy AKA is “fake”? For this reason in this Martial Arts Explored episode I created a checklist to double check if your martial art is fantasy based (fake) or realistic.

My name is Rokas. I’m a Lithuanian guy who trained Aikido for 14 years, 7 of them running a professional Aikido Dojo until eventually I realized that Aikido does not live up to what it promises.

Lead by this realization I decided to make a daring step to close my Aikido Dojo and move to Portland, Oregon for six months to start training MMA at the famous Straight Blast Gym Headquarters under head coach Matt Thornton.

After six months intensive training I had my first amateur MMA fight after which I moved back to Lithuania. During all of this time I am documenting my experience through my YouTube channel called “Martial Arts Journey”.

Now I am slowly setting up plans to continue training MMA under quality guidance and getting ready for my next MMA fight as I further document and share my journey and discoveries.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

Socrates is famous for saying, “I know that I do not know.” It takes a very wise person to know of things that you do not know of. To understand your limitations and to realize that there will always be greater truth to discover. Yet, what happens with people who do not know, that they do not know? Hi, my name is Rokas, and in this Martial Arts Journey video, we will take a look at a checklist to go through and hopefully figure out whether the martial art that you are practicing is unrealistic and fantasy-based, or whether it is actually delivering what it promises.

As I’ve said in the foreword, there’s no issue if you understand what you do not know. The same case applies in martial arts. Many martial artists and the so-called “reality-based self-defense practices” criticize for example, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. That commonly, it does not include strikes, often relies on going to the ground, and its many practitioners focus on the sports aspect of it. Yet in my experience, most BJJ practitioners are aware of these limitations and many gyms actually address these questions by either talking about them or including special self-defense classes in their gym to compensate for it.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

While if a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner is not aware of these lacks, it does make it into a problem. As long as he or she is aware of it, there’s basically no issue.

Yet again, this issue commonly arises in various traditional martial arts and sometimes “reality-based martial arts” when they are actually not aware of what they do not know. You can meet many various martial arts practitioners who believe their martial arts is the best. Actually, often enough, the martial arts which are the least functional and realistic tend to have the most confidence. Again, because they are not aware of how unrealistic they are. Otherwise, they would most likely do something about it.

Even the person who is viewing this video may be thinking that “For sure!” his martial art is not fantasy-based. Yet, what if it is the opposite of what this viewer thinks? In other words, to repeat myself, what if he or she does not know what he or she does not know? There are so many delusional martial arts practitioners who believe their martial art actually works, yet have no clue that they’re wrong.

How can you be sure that you’re not one of these people? To address this question, I’ve made a checklist of three questions by which answering, you should be able to assess whether a martial art is functional and offers what it promises or whether it is more likely fantasy-based. Or in other words, does not deliver what it promises. Thus, exists in a fantasy.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

Number 1: Do you know the clear source of knowledge which makes you believe your martial art works? To put it more simply, how do you really know that your martial art works?

Now, this is where it gets tricky, since there are a lot of false sources which may be mistaken for real ones and thus be relied on. That is why we will address a number of them. Many people believe that their martial art works, first of all, because their teacher says so. While we will look at questioning the teacher in another checkpoint, it is important to note that many do not question their martial art teachers when they claim that their taught martial art works, and do not seek direct personal experience or other type of proof.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

These students easily believe various stories about how someone defended from someone else using this martial art and do not consider the details by asking further questions. “How do I really know if the story is real? Did the defending person actually use a technique or self-defense method from the martial art? Or maybe he trained other functional martial arts beforehand and applied them primarily? Or maybe the person was very athletic already and the actual martial art just played a small role?

There are so many points and questions which may be crucial in successfully undermining whether the stories which are relied on are actually relevant or not in understanding whether the martial art is effective. Thus, if a school heavily relies solely on stories to promote the effectiveness of the taught martial art, that tends to be a bad sign. While it shouldn’t be the main point of reference, one more thing to consider is video evidence.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

If you will search on YouTube for people who successfully defended themselves using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing or mixed martial arts, alongside a few other effective practices – you will see plenty of options to look at where it was used in an actual self-defense situation. Yet if you will search for example, Aikido or Wing Chun, alongside other questionable martial arts effectively used for self-defense – you will quickly notice that there is little to no video evidence of it being used effectively.

Even if there are a couple of videos to take a look at, most likely they will be questionable of whether the video was not scripted or if there were no other special circumstances as the ones mentioned before. Such as if the person hasn’t actually practiced other effective martial arts beforehand and mainly applied them. Of course, there are many other bad signs, which we will continue to look at in the second checklist point.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

Number 2: Does the school allow you to challenge and experience its effectiveness personally without cumbersome guidelines?

Other sources which may mislead in developing a false impression of effectiveness in a given martial art may be the high level of specific skill in the martial arts practice of advanced students. Most martial arts which are practiced for years by someone under very specific circumstances will probably look great, due to their developed and mastered physical skills. Here, I am talking about various rehearsed solo katas, movements or choreographed cooperative exercises, which after being performed thousands of times indeed look impressive and deserve certain respect.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

Yet, the question here in regards to martial effectiveness is, how do these same skills work under different conditions? Let’s take Wing Chun, for example. A lot of Wing Chun schools have very specific blocks against specific attacks. When asked if you can challenge such a practitioner and see if these techniques actually work, most likely you will be asked to strike in a very specific way, which will be defended against in another specific pattern. Yet, what if you would feint? What if you would do a roundhouse kick? What if you would do a double leg takedown without announcing that you will do it beforehand?

I give a high percentage bet that most Wing Chun practitioners would not be able to deal with the change and unpredictable conditions. And, not to say that this issue is only in Wing Chun. Probably the same will be experienced in most Aikido, Kung Fu and other types of traditional martial arts schools, which heavily rely on cooperative training and repetition of dead patterns, without a live pressure from an attacker who is intended to do actual harm – instead of following the choreographed scenario.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

In these schools, if you will present such a challenge, most likely you will be asked to either attack in a very specific, predefined way, which will of course not happen in a realistic situation. Or, you will be given an elaborate explanation, a.k.a. excuse, of why you will not be allowed to attack in any way you want either due to some philosophical beliefs or because it is “too dangerous.” Now, to quickly debunk the “too dangerous” myth – realistic, functional and effective martial arts do not have an issue with it being “too dangerous.”

A Judo player will most likely easily throw a less experienced attacker who will try to tackle him. Same as a BJJ practitioner who will either choke out or submit a person who would challenge him, all the while without really hurting him. An experienced boxer or kick boxer may land a few medium intensity strikes or kicks on such a challenger, as long as he attacks with modesty, to show that he will not succeed without significantly hurting the challenger either.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

If he attacks with full force, well, maybe he will experience a strong sense of pain in his leg, liver, or face. Yet that will not kill him and the proof of martial effectiveness will still be received. No wonder the Gracies were able to challenge practitioners of all possible martial arts and beat them without killing them, or significantly hurting them for dozens of times. Yet again, if a martial artist or a reality-based martial artist will tell you it’s too dangerous to accept such a challenge and prove that their martial art works – a high level of alert should be turned on.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

Last, but not least, I would also advise to see how the questioned martial art performs under pressure – either a real-life attack or a sparring session. If a martial art is fantasy-based, as soon as it will receive real pressure (a.k.a. an attacker who is not allowing himself to be thrown or be punched at and is attacking in spontaneous unpredictable ways, intending to do some level of actual damage). This fantasy martial art will very soon start to look very similar to effective martial arts, such as boxing, wrestling or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

In other words, all the beautiful solo movements, katas, and choreographed motions which have a very specific style, under real pressure will fade away almost entirely, leaving the most basic ways of fighting based on instinct. Thus, giving another alert sign that if this martial art would be effective as it is practiced, why does it look entirely different under real pressure? On the opposite end, martial arts which are effective will look pretty much the same as how they are practiced since their method of practice is effective to begin with.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

Number 3: Does the teacher allow himself to be questioned and constantly challenges himself?

Once more, many martial arts schools idolize the teacher whether by passing on stories to others of how powerful his martial art is, or by obeying him without question. In such a school, if a beginner has doubts about the martial art, which actually happens in most cases where fantasy-based martial arts are involved, the student is either given a very brief or sometimes even a very elaborate, unconvincing explanation of why he should not have any doubts, or is scolded for questioning and is downright asked to not do it anymore.

Creating circumstances where a belief that questioning is a bad quality is developed, which further gets involved a student in a fantasy-based martial art. Such a teacher will usually by no means allow himself to be challenged either at all or unless under very strict conditions, as described before. What is even worse, such a teacher has probably stopped challenging himself altogether and has most likely not left his comfort zone for a very long time, only demonstrating the “effectiveness” of his martial art only with his high ranking students who know exactly how to properly respond to basically make him look good.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

A teacher who has truly effective martial arts skills will most likely seek to be challenged regularly either by his students or even outside of his school. He will either spar with his students or even ask them to challenge him in one way or another to keep honing his own skills. A great example of this is Rickson Gracie, who reportedly would grapple his students while creating additional challenges to himself, such as tying down one or even both of his arms, or doing it blindfolded.

A teacher like this will most likely not hesitate to welcome a practitioner of another martial art in his school and test his own and the visitors skills because if he is teaching an effective martial art, he should be pretty damn good himself and better than most people who walk into his school, and he should be able to effectively prove it. On the other hand in fantasy-based arts and “reality-based self-defense” schools, the teacher will most likely avoid such visitors by all means or will try to dissuade them from presenting an actual challenge.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

If someone who is better than the teacher/instructor comes into an effective martial arts school, a teacher of such a school will actually happily invite this person to teach a class instead of him. Because a person who practices realistic, functional and effective martial arts, know the reality that he will never be the best and unbeatable. He is simply better than most people. Yet if your teacher acts contrary to this, that is one more bad sign to look after.

That happens very often in fantasy-based martial arts where the instructor presents himself and is looked at as invincible. In summary, while these are only three checklist points to ask yourself, if you are sincere about the process of answering them – they should give you more than plenty of information to find your answer whether your martial art is fantasy-based or not. If you come to a conclusion that it is, it is not the end of the world.

Martial Arts Journey (Rokas, Lithuanian trained Aikido, documenting his journey in MMA):

I know from my personal experience that it is not easy to leave a martial art that you’ve invested years into, where you are respected and acknowledged for your skills, and you are about to enter a place where you feel like a complete beginner again. Yet in the end, a fantasy is a fantasy and a lie is a lie. If what you have invested into, even for decades, turns out to be a fantasy and a lie – do you really want to keep investing into it? Or is it better to stop doing it today, than tomorrow or worse, 10 years later? This was Rokas and I wish you to own your journey.

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