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How Getting Beat Up Taught Me To Avoid Self Delusion

When I was young, like a lot of people who get their start in martial arts, I was bullied. Finally, when things got bad enough my parents signed me up for training in Taekwondo and it began to fill me with confidence. By the time I was an orange belt, I was sure I could take on the world.

So after football practice one day, having been picked on by another kid on the team pretty mercilessly, I decided that today was the day. This was my moment to stand up for myself. I didn't back down and it didn't take long for a ring to form around us screaming "Fight! Fight! Fight!" in classic junior high fashion.

This was it. I took my deep stance and he began to circle. My months of training were going to pay off. After all, I was trained, ready, and confident.

Aaaannd....he grabbed me and punched me in the face a bunch of times till I ran away with a bloodied face. I don't even think I got any punches off.

This was easily the most important lesson I could have learned early in my martial arts career because it taught me to separate the dogmatic principles of the dojang with what actually worked. It was not the last time I would find out how drastically disconnected the dojang was from the real world of violence, but it was my first and most powerful exposure to the flaws of my training.

Not long after that was UFC 1. Then later came Youtube. I started to see that most of what is taught in traditional martial arts is not accurate or relevant, but people are too caught up in what was passed on to them. It is impossible to challenge the commonly held belief and appeal to authority, so instead they convince themselves that the things they are learning will work.

Don't get me wrong. Forms, board breaking, and low percentile hapkido techniques can be a lot of fun. But over the years, I've found that I had to change the way I think about martial arts many times. There are a three simple rules I found have kept me from the disconnect from the school to the schoolyard.

1. Emphasize high percentile techniques. Spend most of your time practicing things like, jab, cross, front kick, or single leg takedown, and defending against a well thrown left right or tackle.

2. Pressure test. Most of your time should be in live training applying what you have learned under duress.

3. Never stop evolving.

These 3 rules have served me well, and if you can stick to them, you can learn to make your martial arts truly effective.

Greg Koval

Devil Dog Martial Arts

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