Challenge yourself before you are challenged

Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon.

I’ve sometimes encountered martial arts instructors who possess a moderate body of knowledge and are satisfied with that. They’ve been teaching what they know for years, and they have no desire to learn new martial skills.

I find this baffling. The body of known martial arts knowledge is vast, not to mention that which is still unknown. And yes, there is still knowledge waiting to be discovered.

A complacent instructor can fool an inexperienced student. When the student says, “Why don’t we study groundfighting?” the instructor can say, “We don’t let people take us to the ground. If they try, we knee them in the face.” And the naive student nods his head, not knowing any better.

In real life, complacency is dangerous and will get you killed.

Let’s say you know 100 techniques, and you know them relatively well but have never used them in real life or practiced against resistance. One day you’re attacked on the street. You try one of your 100 techniques, but the attacker counters it somehow.

“What? How did he do that?” You have never seen that counter before, and you’re momentarily confused. In that moment, you get clobbered, and maybe even killed.

You don’t have to become an expert in every area of combat, and you cannot. There’s too much. But you can specialize in one area, become extremely good at it, and then learn the basics of other areas as well. If you’re a skilled striker, learn how to escape the most common joint locks. Learn to throw someone bigger than yourself, and to counter throws as well. Learn a few good escapes from common ground positions like guard, half guard, side control or mount. If you’re a grappler, learn to strike at least moderately well, and to survive an attack by an aggressive striker.

Martial artist blocking a kick

Never stop learning

I’m the creator of my own style, Hammerhead Hapkido. It’s a fairly large style, covering every combat range. I’m constantly modifying my techniques. I add footwork; I discard techniques that have too low a success rate to be practical in the street; I add effective techniques that I’ve picked up from other arts (I’m not afraid of mixing styles); I make changes based on observations of my students, on my sparring sessions, and on my real-life self defense encounters.

A martial artist must always be practicing and studying. Experiment with your techniques. What if it breaks down at point A, or point B? How can it be countered, and how can the counter be overcome? Don’t wait for some thug to challenge you. Challenge yourself first.

Wael Abdelgawad, Founder
Hammerhead Hapkido

1 Comment

  1. I’d like to add that people of all skill levels are welcome in my classes. I believe everyone can benefit, from beginners to skilled martial artists.

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