Why Asian Martial Arts Are Impractical For Most Men

Why Asian Martial Arts Are Impractical For Most Men by Charles Sledge

Let me start this by saying that I have nothing against the Asian martial arts. All when in the right hands and performed by the right practitioner can be deadly and effective methods of combat. However with that being said I do not think they represent the best form of study for most men, especially men living in the Western world for a variety of reasons which I aim to explain below. This not an attack on Asian martial arts simply the observations that I have made and have heard from others.

The first martial art that I ever took was Shorin-Ryu karate. I spent a good portion of my youth at a small dojo in a small town ran by great instructors. I was lucky to have proficient instructors from Okinawa. I learned much about fighting, discipline, and how the body functions in combat from them. As a kid it put me far ahead of those around me in regards to handling myself in fighting situations. In addition to providing me discipline that few my age had. I am incredibly grateful for my experience and instructors and if I still lived there would certainly go back. However my experience is not the typical one.

The Commercialization of the Asian Martial Arts

Most of the Asian martial arts came from long study and hard work from dedicated farmers and practitioners. Not moms on the go or kids who want to earn a black belt to show to their friends. When the Asian martial arts came to America they inevitably met with the commercial culture of America. What was once a study steeped in tradition and patience was replaced with the number one goal of making money. What took some a lifetime to earn was given to others within a fraction of the time.

The same thing happened to boxing at the turn of the century. Businessmen picked up gyms and started “training” and cranking out “fighters”. The old ways were lost to the money and you had people running around claiming to be boxers, black belts, or something that once meant something yet now means nothing. For example to achieve a black belt once meant something. It meant you had a level of dedication and skill that most did not. You earned it. Now a twelve year old can “earn” a black belt.

I have seen many “McDojos” crop up all over the place. I go in and there is usually a white instructor peddling classes for soccer moms and their children. Not for warriors. This unfortunately seems to be a trend that is only growing and if profitable will only continue to grow. Real dojos are becoming harder and harder to find. The MMA craze has helped to take the marketers over the “UFC gyms” (which is a whole other story) but there are still many clowns residing in McDojos all over.

Predicated On A Lifetime Of Study

The Asian martial arts are predicated on a lifetime of study. They are not made to turn weak suburb boys into warriors within twelve weeks but rather they are supposed to be a way of life for the practitioner. The Asian martial arts performed properly stand in direct contrast to the Western way of life. Where everything is about convenience and instant gratification. Because of this the majority of Americans would be averse to true Asian marital arts training and the dojo would go out of business. You can always find true hardcore places here and there but it is getting harder and harder to do so.

So you see my problem isn’t with Asian martial arts rather the way they are done in Western cultures. Asian martial arts take a long time to master. For a kid who is getting his ass beat in school everyday it’s going to take a long time at the dojo before he can defend himself adequately and that’s with a competent instructor and a true training environment. When performed at a high level practitioners of the Asian martial arts can be just as deadly as a boxer or street fighter but at the earlier levels this doesn’t hold true the majority of the time.

Say you have two identical kids put one in boxing for eight weeks in the other in a hardcore karate dojo and the boxer is going to whip the kid doing karate ninety nine times out of one hundred. Tens years down the line with consistent study who knows but for short term there is no comparison, on average.

Practical Application

I have done karate, wrestled, and boxed throughout my life and I would say without a doubt the one that gave me the most bang for my buck was boxing. Others may vary but that is my own findings. I have much respect for the Asian martial arts and those dedicated to their study. However for the average person I would recommend a Western form of fighting. Again if you don’t have the heart and dedication it doesn’t matter what you do but for becoming fighting efficient in the shortest amount of time possible, look at Western styles.

For example military combat styles such as those outlined in Cold Steel were designed to take weak pasty boys into killing machines in a very shortened time span. Sometimes as short as eight weeks in times of war. Most people are not going to put in the time and effort to become a master of any fighting style that they choose. Which is why I would recommend boxing for those who want to put in time and G.I. type fighting for those who want to put in the smallest amount of time possible.

If you have found a great Asian martial art dojo with competent instructors who truly are dedicated to their art then by all means stay where you are at. You are the exception. There are skill great dojos out there and Asian martial outs can be practical. It’s just that the chances are your local dojo is going to do nothing for you other than take your money and give you a sense of false confidence. Now I don’t do one particular craft but read and study all looking for similar themes and what works and what doesn’t in real life situations. Regardless of your study understand its applicability for the street, aka reality. Regardless practice hard and cultivate your will to fight.

If you have any questions you would like to see answered in a future post send them to me at charlessledge001 (at) gmail (dot) com. If you found value in this post then I would encourage you to share this site with someone who may need it as well as check out my books here. I appreciate it. You can follow me on Twitter here.

-Charles Sledge

Charles Sledge

  • I agree with much of what you said. Most schools in the USA nowadays are woefully inadequate as a means of teaching someone to defend themselves. There’s typically too much focus on the wrong elements (forms, drills, sparring with many imposed rules, etc). One thing I’ve began to focus on over my many years of training are concepts and philosophies as opposed to specific techniques.
    From Aikido I’ve developed a keener understanding of staying centered while disrupting your opponent’s center.
    From Filipino Kali I’ve learned that your first priority should be to disarm an attacker before moving in for the kill (figuratively speaking).
    From JKD I’ve learned the importance of being able to smoothly transition from one fighting range to another without breaking my own rhythm.
    Finally, from TKD I learned how to utilize my footwork to always stay mobile and ready to strike.
    Always enjoy a conversation about martial arts, heh.

    • Wow thats impressive Unabashed. Agreed I think that oriental martial arts can all teach you something and can be effective of course that is all constituted on having a proficient instructor. Do you have your own dojo?

      • Nah, I used to teach at a martial arts school, but left because the owner was getting too deep into political games and was really letting students test that had no business testing.
        I now train at another school where I study all the styles mentioned above and help out the instructors as needed. There’s some certifications that my current school offers that I’m wanting to get so I can lead self-defense workshops in my area. My current instructor is legit. He’s trained police units and has worked with SEAL groups. Really good stuff.

        • Ah I see. That’s neat. It’s always nice to work with someone who you know is legitimate. I find fields that are life or death such as real military and police instructors tend to be harsh but effective. Which is exactly how instructors should be.

          • Indeed. I got accused a few times of having too high of expectations for the students I taught or that I pushed them too hard in class. This was coming from the same people that let ludicrous amounts of bullshit slide. They were concerned about having large classes with tons of senior belts. I was concerned about making sure the students could actually defend themselves.

          • It’s a tough balance running a martial art studio. I think the best bet is to have a side hustle so that you don’t have to sweat about losing a few clients. But most don’t think of this. Good on you for sticking to your guns, the students will thank you later in life. Like the father who disciplines his son vs the one who lets him do anything.

  • Scarto argento

    Yes fairbarin / cold steal fighting style is the real deal . During ww2 it was assumed the japanese were martial arts masters , the American soldier had to learn combat that was effective with little time to master . Hence open hand palm strikes , shuto chop , fingers to eyes , stomping , gross motor movement . Nothing fancy or flashy . Our military back then had better h2h training than today’s soldier

    • Agreed, simply, effective, and to the point how fighting should be.

  • Mr. Tilde

    What about martial arts taught to military like Sambo ?

    • I don’t know enough about sambo to have an opinion on it. From what I’ve seen most stuff taught in the military seems to be pretty good and so are Asian marital arts when taught by the right instructor.