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

As in many areas of life, there is a big divide in the martial arts world. Often this division is made between Traditional Martial Arts and Modern Martial Arts or Combat Sports. I’ve recently made a whole video about how I personally define Traditional Martial Arts and what problems I witness in the way it is structured, yet I can not disagree that the term Traditional Martial Arts is still confusing when debating the world of martial arts. For this reason in this Martial Arts Explored episode, I decided to make a video getting down to the roots of what creates this division and why we should stop calling Traditional Martial Arts fake by clarifying the difference between “Traditional Martial Arts” and “Fantasy Based Martial Arts” – to better address and articulate the problem in the search for a solution. First of all I wanted to share that the first time I personally heard the definition Fantasy.

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

Based Martial Arts was when I met Matt Thornton, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who has founded a global organization known as Straight Blast Gym or – SBG. Decades ago Coach Matt Thornton used to be a practitioner and instructor in Jeet Kun Do, a martial art initially created by Bruce Lee with the vision to create an efficient martial art that included and combined techniques from various martial arts. Unfortunately, it seems that over the years, especially after the passing of Bruce Lee, the community of Jeet Kun Do started to focus less on functionality and more on simply incorporating various martial arts techniques, without testing it in live sparring to see whether it is functional.  Coach Matt was able to perceive this flaw and he coined a few terms which explained the existing issue very well. First of all he introduced the concept of Aliveness in martial arts, referring to the fact, that if the techniques are practiced in prearranged patterns with a cooperating partner who does not offer “alive” resistance, trying to counter the technique by various means – then the martial art is following quote on quote “dead patterns”, which do not develop absolutely necessary abilities when dealing with an attacker who is really aiming to harm or defeat you.

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

With no live resistance, AKA Aliveness – there is no way to really distinguish techniques which are functional, while martial arts who pressure test their techniques constantly, such as in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu when grappling or Muay Thai when sparring – end up mastering and polishing techniques and approaches which are highly effective – thus making them as Matt Thornton would call them: “Functional Martial Arts”. Meanwhile the martial arts which follow the so called “dead patterns” tend to believe that their techniques work just because it “looks” effective or because their instructors told their students that it works, which eventually leads this belief to become a fantasy, thus creating the final term coined by coach Thornton, which is – “Fantasy Based Martial Arts”. When looking into online debates on Martial Arts forums, Traditional Martial Arts often get criticized and looked down upon as unrealistic or sometimes are simply called fake, and I have to admit that I have been guilty of making this claim as well.

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

While I have defined in a number of my videos that my definition of “Traditional Martial Arts” is that of martial arts which rely heavily on tradition, still this term does not necessarily fully address the issues which people are actually trying to point out when criticizing Traditional Martial Arts. That issue is when certain martial arts claim to be effective in actual fighting, while many times the reality is quite far from it. It is common that the martial arts which make this unrealistic claim without actually pressure testing – fall into the category of Traditional Martial Arts, thus many martial artists or combat sports practitioners tend to call Traditional Martial Arts fake – yet to be fair – not all Traditional Martial Arts lack pressure testing as in for example Judo, while also some modern martial arts systems such as the Russian Systema or some so called “reality based self defense systems” suffer from the same condition. This is why I would like to encourage all viewers watching this video in these debates to consider the term “Fantasy Based Martial Arts” or “FBMA” to better define and point out the problem.

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

In order to fully employ it to use, I would like to further explore it in detail on what it exactly is. As most of you know my main martial arts experience for many years consisted of Aikido, which is by many categorized as both a traditional martial art and also a “fake martial arts”, and I personally believe it is done for good reasons. While Aikido online is heavily criticized for being ineffective, as I explained in one of my videos called: “Why Aikido is Disliked by BJJ and MMA Practitioners”, the criticism is actually not because Aikido is a traditional martial art and not even primarily because it is not effective as a means of fighting or self defense, but mainly because most Aikido people believe and fondly claim that it is effective. And I personally know how that works very well. For many years I also believed that it does work, until I eventually tried to test it under actual, live pressure of sparring and grappling, where a decade of my Aikido training did not work at all.

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

In this case it would be easy, and I believe, correct to say that for years I was living in a fantasy, believing that my Aikido was functional, yet what made it mostly a fantasy, was the fact that I was believing that I would be able to manage myself in a fight or a self defense situation, believing in it only based on hearsay and stories, without any actual evidence or pressure testing. I find this phenomenon to be best explained by what is known as the “Dunning and Kruger Effect”. This phenomenon was defined by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger initially by a study called “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments”, which explored the criminal case of McArthur Wheeler, who robbed banks while his face was covered with lemon juice, which he believed would make it invisible to the surveillance cameras. This belief was based on his misunderstanding of the chemical properties of lemon juice as an invisible ink.

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

To further understand how this phenomenon works, Dunning and Kruger later released another study called “Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence”, which pointed out that this phenomenon derives from the person’s ignorance of a given activity’s standards of performance. To put it more simply, if I have no education in singing and no understanding in what criteria of singing exists, I may as well come to conclusion that my singing is good, just because it appears good to me, or if for example my best friend who is also uneducated in singing would also say it is good and I would come to a conclusion that it is enough information to define my singing as great. As crazy as this sounds, it happens all the time and there are many recorded cases such as where terrible singers come to qualifications of singing shows as “American Idol” and miss-perform horribly, in the end being surprised that the judges did not like their singing, since they personally believe their singing is amazing.

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

At first, it seems that these bad singers are simply crazy, but as Dunning and Kruger explain, it is actually all based on the lack of that individual to understand the activity’s standards of performance, or to realize where he or she actually stands in the ability to really perform. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens in martial arts too. If we take my personal story as an example, before stepping into the ring with an MMA fighter to spar, I have never really sparred with an experienced fighter. At best I had a few sparring matches with my friends, who knew little of fighting themselves and while I barely made my Aikido work against them, compiled with all the stories my instructors told me of how Aikido would naturally come into use when I would be really attacked or that it is designed to defend against an untrained attacker, I believed that I could handle myself at least to some degree.

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

If you know my story, you also know that after rolling with a BJJ blue belt and eventually sparring with an MMA fighter, I realized that there is almost nothing that I could apply from my 13 years of training Aikido, when dealing with actual fighting pressure. In other words I knew nothing about the criteria which makes a person capable of dealing with an actual, unwilling opponent, or to say it even more simply – I knew nothing about real fighting or grappling, and having no understanding of what real fighting and grappling is – it was easy for me to believe that I am good enough at it, since I had nothing in my mind to compare or assess it with. And trust me, this was not a unique case. This same story happens all over the world, year after year in fantasy based martial arts. To avoid repeating this story, I sincerely hope that anyone listening to this video will look at themselves and will ask – how do I really know what fighting is? Why do I think I am capable of fighting or defending myself?

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

What is the evidence of my ability in this particular field? And is it not really limited in only performing choreographed movements together with a cooperative partner or fighting only under a very limited set of rules, against a minimum amount of resistance or factors such as for example punches only to the core area. As I’ve spoken in other episodes – there is nothing wrong in practicing a martial art which is not effective as long as there is complete honesty and understanding of it’s limitations. The problem arises when there is a belief, or in other words a fantasy of unrealistic assessment of practitioner’s abilities in a desired field, such as fighting or self defense. And if you look closely enough you will see that this fantasy is not equal in all traditional martial arts, which makes it unfair to flag them all under the same category. Judo makes a perfect example, as it is usually considered a traditional martial art, yet it is difficult to deny its effectiveness in its own field and the level of pressure testing under its given rules.

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

Different Karate and Taekwondo styles also offer different levels of sparring and pressure. And while it would probably be fair to say that more traditional martial arts tend to be fantasy based than combat sports, at the same time, once more it would be unfair to put them all in the same box, while also creating further confusion and difficulties in expressing and discussing exactly what the critique is being directed at, while broadly generalizing and calling Traditional Martial Arts fake. With sincere intent and hope to aid people who have trouble in defining whether their martial art is really delivering what it promises and with the intent to aid every person who is trying to explain to someone of what actually the problem with some martial arts is, once more I am suggesting to exchange the term Traditional Martial Arts to a more specific term – Fantasy Based Martial Arts, or FBMA when discussing about this specific subject. And with the hopes to do so successfully, I am offering a list of items that define or show a strong tendency in a martial art to be an FBMA: The lack of sparring or pressure testing. Sparring or pressure testing under very specific, limited set of rules, with very low levels of resistance or pressure. Heavy reliance on a cooperative partner. Strong investment in constant repetition of choreographed movements. The use of the term self defense without the ability to define what are the essential aspects of self defense such as detection, avoidance and deterrence.

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

Instead heavy reliance on “what if scenarios” and endless, not pressure tested response techniques. The claim that the martial art would beat a striker or grappler, without ever willing to actually prove its reliance on various excuses and justifications why this martial art is not pressure tested. Lack of evidence of the effectiveness of the martial art on any level, including recorded footage of its success in fighting or self defense scenarios. The claim that this martial art is designed to work against untrained attackers, without ever pressure testing it against untrained opponents, even with safety measures such as full contact armor. Mystification of certain aspects of the martial art, using such terms as Ki, Chi or prana.Refusal to test the martial art against martial artists of other schools or styles Claims that there are secret or special techniques, known only to the school.

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

In the end, if you look at the Fantasy Based Martial Arts list, while some aspects of them do apply in some Traditional Martial Arts, it shows that a Traditional Martial Art is not necessarily an FBMA. I want to admit that I was guilty of making that claim or being vague enough when using the term Traditional Martial Arts myself, yet I hope this episode of Martial Arts Explored will bring clarity not only in my own further explorations, but also in various discussions and the explorations of each individual martial artist. Let me know in the comments if you feel I’ve missed valuable points to the definition of Fantasy Based Martial Arts. Also, do you personally think the FBMA term may be beneficial in discussions relating to this subject? If you liked this Martial Arts Explored episode make sure to check other episodes by clicking here. And subscribe to the Martial Arts Journey channel to know when the next episode is out. Until then, I wish you to question the hell out of yourself.




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