Martial Art Journey (A YouTube Channel Documenting Rokas Leo’s Journey in the World of Martial Arts):

When you take a look at some martial arts – while their choreography may look amazing, for a person who has done functional combat sports, or someone who understands the reality of self-defence – sometimes the question of what do these practitioners expect from their elaborate movements, may come up. While it may take years to master these beautiful looking techniques, an experienced fighter knows, that most of them are not applicable in a real life fighting situation, yet often enough, masters of these complex martial arts believe that they are actually capable of fighting, and they bathe in the glory of their organization and many students. While observing all of this we are often left to ask – how do things in these martial arts get so twisted? And do these martial arts masters actually believe the effectiveness of their abilities?

Martial Art Journey (A YouTube Channel Documenting Rokas Leo’s Journey in the World of Martial Arts):

Hi, my name is Rokas, and in this Martial Arts Journey video we will take a closer look at how martial arts and combat sports get twisted.

While I was a student of Aikido, I always had a doubt if it would work in a self-defence situation. When I would express that doubt to my instructor, he would become upset about me having a lack of faith, and he would tell that I simply need to train more, and that Aikido takes years to practice until it becomes effective as a form of self-defence. This was also what I read online in the Aikido community, when I was seeking answers about the same question. Believing this, I became obsessed about training, doing extra training all the time, and asking my friends to strike harder, and did my techniques as hard as I could. Yet we were still doing basically the same static techniques, just with more energy, and I continued to believe that all I need, is just more techniques, to know all possible defences against all possible attacks, and since I did not know all of them, my doubts were justified.

Martial Art Journey (A YouTube Channel Documenting Rokas Leo’s Journey in the World of Martial Arts):

Wanting to still remove the doubt, I decided to add a more fighting oriented art into my training regime, and thus I started practicing Wing Chun Kung Fu. Yet while I was able to pick up the complex movements quick enough, because of learning all the complex movements in my Aikido training, and I trained very intensively – the doubt stayed. When asking my Wing Chun instructor about this doubt, I was told pretty much the same as what my Aikido instructor told me – just train harder, question less and one day you will get there. That when I will be attacked in the street, if I have trained enough, I will be able to use it all. Yet while I was attacked more than once in the street during that time, even after 3 years of dedicated training, my techniques did not kick in, and I ended up just randomly punching the attackers to defend myself, and then ran away. All these complex techniques that I learned never showed up in a self-defence situation.

Martial Art Journey (A YouTube Channel Documenting Rokas Leo’s Journey in the World of Martial Arts):

Years passed, and I devoted even more years to training Aikido. I even became a full-time live-in student in an Aikido Dojo, with a high-ranking instructor, where I spent three years doing intensive training. While there I was told that I should invest into spontaneity, and not expect too much out of static techniques, still there was no pressure testing and high resistance training. When addressing my doubts, I was just told to believe that if one day I will be attacked, my training will naturally kick in. The doubt never went away still, but with time I learned to push that doubt away, and eventually I made myself believe that I reached that point of training, where now I know how to defend myself, and if the occasion happens where I will need to use these skills, they will appear naturally.

Martial Art Journey (A YouTube Channel Documenting Rokas Leo’s Journey in the World of Martial Arts):

As years passed, I was not confronted by a situation where I would have to test that theory, and I ended up opening my full time Aikido Dojo. While self-defence was never the most important part of my teaching, I believed that I knew enough about what self-defence is, and that I was capable of teaching it. After all, I was a second-degree Aikido black belt who spent years of intensive training in martial arts.

I learned many excuses along the way, such as: ‘Well, there is not a big chance you will get attacked anyway’, and the good old: ‘Just train this way long enough, and these skills will kick in naturally when you will need them.’ I learned to pass on the same justifications that I used myself – as knowledge, and when I was asked to, I even taught a women’s self-defence seminar based on these untested skills that I took over.

Being the head of a Dojo, a black belt who has been training in martial arts for many years, my students rarely questioned me, and I did not feel that I could question my instructor for the same reasons myself. After all, he trained for even more years than I did, with some of the most famous martial arts instructors out there. If he says it’s effective self-defence – it has to be. Luckily enough, my mind was interested enough in truth to eventually start questioning, and a few years later being exposed to Brazilian jiujitsu helped as well to realize I was looking at the wrong places.

Martial Art Journey (A YouTube Channel Documenting Rokas Leo’s Journey in the World of Martial Arts):

Yet I know from experience how easy it would had been for me to stay in this nutshell of believing that I know the answers. People believed me, and that should have made me right, yes? Even if somebody disagreed with me and saw through my plot holes, I could have easily given them one of the elaborate justifications that I collected through many years of searching for them, in order to silence the doubts. Luckily enough, I didn’t. Yet I know how easy and comfortable it would have been to do it.

Now I am sharing with you this story to present a personal experience and example of how easy it is to twist your understanding of martial arts and self-defence, even after devoting dedicated years into it.

While watching a martial arts master presenting a demonstration of complex techniques, or explaining his misguided understanding of fighting or self-defence to others, for a person who really understands what these realms are about, sometimes it may be difficult to comprehend whether this master believes his own tale, or if he does it for business purposes, to convince people to pay for his teaching.

Martial Art Journey (A YouTube Channel Documenting Rokas Leo’s Journey in the World of Martial Arts):

From my experience and observations of spending a decade in the traditional martial arts world, almost being in that situation myself, I tend to believe that most of these cases are based on an elaborate, from generation to generation passed on justification system, where a master ends up believing it. Because at the beginning there is nothing else for him to choose from than believing his own master and his tales, given the authority. And after years of dedication to the practice, it would simply cause too much discomfort for the now ‘master’ to admit to himself and others, that what he invested so many years into, is not really what he thought is.

As human beings we are creatures of comfort. We will sometimes end up going incredible lengths to justify something, instead of facing the truth. While in the long run it would be more beneficial for us to face the truth, it would cause great discomfort to us in the present moment. And thus, we avoid it with everything we’ve got.

Martial Art Journey (A YouTube Channel Documenting Rokas Leo’s Journey in the World of Martial Arts):

Now not to say that this attitude applies only to traditional martial arts. More and more often the question of whether focusing entirely on the sports aspect of Brazilian jiujitsu is not hurting the self-defence aspect of it, is raised by some of its high-ranking practitioners, including such legendary figures as Rickson Gracie. Many MMA practitioners firmly believe that practicing just it, entirely takes care of their self-defence knowledge, forgetting to address such question as multiple attackers, weapons and prevention. And while personally I’ve experienced much more clear headedness and honesty in the combat sports realm, it is not to say that it’s entirely safe from at least a degree of delusion, that is often common in traditional martial arts.

Martial Art Journey (A YouTube Channel Documenting Rokas Leo’s Journey in the World of Martial Arts):

When considering all this, it is important to take a step back and to double check ourselves. To review our strong beliefs, and everything we say to ourselves and to our students, and to check why are we so sure about what we say to ourselves and others. It is so easy to adopt the thoughts of others as truths, just because they were told to us by authority. It is so easy to believe an answer, just because it is comfortable for us and it fits our current beliefs. But when we are talking about something as sensitive as self-defence, we carry a huge responsibility to both ourselves and others in terms of safety, and sometimes even matters of life and death. If we do not critically consider all of our beliefs and thoughts, we may end up doing someone a big and even dangerous disfavour. And even if we put life and death matters aside, having a lack of critical and honest thinking may dramatically limit our personal growth and actual abilities.

Martial Art Journey (A YouTube Channel Documenting Rokas Leo’s Journey in the World of Martial Arts):

It is important to respect and admit that some martial arts masters devoted years of sweat and training to develop the beautiful looking, choreographed movements and skills that they possess. All the energy and dedication they’ve spent to reach their level of achievements should not be taken lightly and disregarded, even if it does not entirely fit with truth. Yet that being said, we also have to understand the importance of what effect we have upon our lives, and the lives of others, by not questioning ourselves and our authorities. And even if the truth is uncomfortable, we must come to face it sooner than later, until it faces us.

So, before I end, I leave you with this question. Do you relate and identify yourself in the story that I’ve told? And did you come to the moment of questioning – your own journey?




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