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The realities of the black belt

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Steve Cross

Cross Martial Arts

It is a common misconception that having a black belt is paramount to being a self-defense expert. 

Unfortunately, some black belts also believe this. 

Each martial artist is inherently protective of their own style and training, so much so that many martial artists ignore the realities of the short falls within their systems, sacrificing their own self-defense training at the cost of saving face to their parent system. 

I have trained in both Traditional Korean Hapkido and Taekwon-Do for nearly 25 years.

During this time I have come to realize just because I was a black belt, I have not always been a self-defense expert.

The art of self-defense combines the aspects of physiological techniques, attitude, preparation, and tools. 

Without in-depth knowledge and training in all of these areas of self-defense, a person is not prepared for the reality of violence. 

Guns, knives, martial arts, violence awareness and prevention seminars, etc are simply tools that one can use in a self-defense scenario, but by themselves they are not the embodiment of self-defense.

One of the largest trends today among martial artists around the world is sports martial arts. 

Why not?

It is fun, exciting and almost everyone can participate in it. 

Some schools are so focused on sports martial arts today; they ignore the traditional aspects of their arts’ forefathers, tragically, at the cost of their students’ self-defense skills.

Most modern American martial arts comprise some elements of self-defense, but usually within a very constricted system of steps and hidden techniques, where the modern practitioner is unaware of the actual self-defense application.

During the past decade, we have witnessed an explosion of martial artists training in grappling, thanks to the popular full contact, no holds barred martial arts championships such as the UFC. 

With this we saw the shortcomings of some striking and "traditional" systems against a well rounded fighter; one who could close the distance, control their opponent, take them to the ground and then dominate them with striking and submission holds. 

Thanks to this, many modern day martial artists realized the importance of ground fighting skills and began to implement these skills into their workouts. 

Many martial artists realized they needed to supplement their training to become more well rounded because they saw it either first hand or on television.

Maybe it is the nature of mankind to downplay the seriousness of one’s own limitations and have a false sense of security in one’s own ability. 

Just look at Americans who have firearms in their homes, believing just owning a firearm will provide them security. 

Obviously, this is not true and the person will most likely never have time to retrieve the firearm from the gun safe if someone broke into their house in the middle of the night. 

Have we as martial artists become that complacent, believing that our forms, sparring and traditional weapons work will provide us with all the training we will need if we ever have to fight for our life?

Some may be offended by this editorial and to those I ask you to examine your own self-defense philosophy.

Does your own style and training prepare you for a life or death struggle? 

For some martial artists, training is a way to improve oneself either physically, mentally or spiritually; they could care less about self-defense and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, to think one is a self-defense expert just because a black belt is tied around your waist is a risky and false sense of security.

If self-defense is an important outcome of your martial arts training, make sure that your training involves simple and realistic techniques that are easy to use. Avoid complicated self-defense techniques that involve multiple steps and fine motor skills. 

Do not be biased and ignore other self-defense tools and training such as knife and gun skills.

An assault on your life will be quick, devastating and brutal; your response to these attacks must be the same.

I’ll see you on the mat!

Steve Cross is the head instructor and owner of Cross Martial Arts Center in Midlothian. Cross is a 4th Degree Taekwon-Do Black Belt, a Certified International Instructor, and a high school Communications teacher. For questions call 972-775-1857 or go online at www.crosst kd.com.

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