Followup: Recreational Martial Arts is not Combat Training

Starke, as a recreational practitioner whose teacher is ex-police (and another who’s ex-Spec Ops), it may be worth noting that while military does put a premium on martial (in combat roles at least), MANY cops do only the bare minimum hand-to-hand & weapons training, and depending on jurisdiction that minimum can be a VERY low bar. I know plenty of ppl who only practice recreationally but could absolutely kick a beat cop’s ass 1-on-1


So, if your instructor is ex-police, or a former special forces operator, that’s not a recreational martial artist. They may be teaching recreational martial arts, but their own background started with the idea that they’d be using their training on someone else.

I’ll say this again, in case it’s unclear: Someone who spent eight years in The Corps, mustered out, returned to civilian life, and practices Shotokan in the park once a week, is not a recreational martial artist.

It wouldn’t surprise me to learn there are lazy cops out there. In fact, thinking back to what a friend of mine went through trying to find a missing police cruiser, I know full well there are lazy cops.

Could a cop get away with blowing off their training? Yeah. If their superiors don’t care, and let things slide, it’s certainly possible. Here’s the problem with this thought process: Hand-to-hand training isn’t a luxury for a LEO, it is a vital survival skill. A cop who is lazy enough to blow that off makes me worry. Not for their safety, but, that they feel safe without it.

Police have more options than just hand-to-hand. They have tazers, they have firearms, and most importantly, they have more cops at the push of a button. If your goal is to pick a lazy cop from the crowd, you’re going to take a bullet. You don’t want lazy cops, you want responsible ones who take this seriously, because they are less likely to resort to “easier” solutions to their problems.

Recreational martial arts does not prepare you for combat. Full stop. A lot of recreational martial artists think that it does. It’s a lie they tell themselves. It’s a lie that most competent martial arts instructors will try to dispel. The real tragedy is that the world is littered with the corpses of martial artists who thought, “I’ve been training for this, I can take that guy,” and paid for that thought with their life. A fact that any responsible cop would have drilled into your head.

Want to know how to quickly identify a martial artist who cannot take a cop in a fight? It’s the guy who says, “I could beat that cop’s ass.” They haven’t thought it through. They don’t understand how to operate in a real fight. They’re still looking at it like it’s some kind of Hollywood showdown. They don’t understand that this is not a duel. They’re thinking about fighting the cop like it’s a test of skill, where the worst thing that can happen is you get some bruises, a chipped tooth, and a night in lockup.

The guy the cop should worry about is the person who looks at them, sees them as a problem that needs to be removed, and looks for a way to achieve that goal. That is not a recreational martial artist. It doesn’t matter if their hand to hand background is recreational, because their methods won’t be.

Here’s your problem: In the moment you attack, the cop can’t tell these two apart. They don’t know you’re expecting to engage in an honorable, pugilistic duel. They just know you’re trying to kill them, you suck at it, and you need to be dealt with immediately.

If your training was gearing you towards practical applications of force, that ex-operator of yours would tell you that there’s no upside to letting the other guy fight back. You ex-cop instructor would be telling you that, “what you’re doing right now won’t help you in a fight.”

If you do get into self-defense, the priorities will be on creating an exit and getting out before you get seriously hurt. There is no benefit to continuing a fight. The is no legitimate reason to let a fight go on for a moment longer than necessary. In the real world, fights are dangerous, and the longer you stay in them, the more dangerous they become.

Every martial arts instructor I’ve had has been a cop. When I say this, “I could take them in a fight,” attitude sets me on edge, because this gets people killed. Not cops. Recreational martial artists who thought that good in the dojo meant good on the street.

I know this guy. He’s a fourth degree black belt in Taekwondo, has at least a year’s worth of Ninjitsu under his belt. Dude goes to college, signs up for boxing. He’s a fourth degree black belt, in his mind, he’s that damn good. According to one of the judges, his technique was beautiful. First round smeared by a USN cadet. Thing is, it’s boxing, the rules are set. He lived. By normal logic, he should have triumphed. Dude’s been practicing martial arts since before he could read. Recreational doesn’t prepare you for a fight, in the ring or out, no matter how bad ass you feel. It’s a different mindset. Dude came to kick someone’s ass, the cadet came to neutralize a problem.

I meant what I said, a recreational martial artist will be at a significant disadvantage when they go up against someone with a practical background. The recreational martial artist wants to win a fight, that impulse will get you killed. If this is new information, you might want to take a long look at your instructors.


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