Dogma exists everywhere in our society, and has done for centuries now. What was once the simple views and opinions of ordinary people have now morphed into the present dogma that almost every modern institution is based upon. Religion, politics, art, science, all of these institutions have their own particular form of dogma, tenets and ideas that are apparently undeniably true, which is what makes them dogma.
The world of martial arts and self protection is not immune to such dogma either, containing as it does many widely held beliefs and ideas that have little or no grounding in reality, yet are slavishly followed and perpetrated by those who, for whatever reason, refuse to think for themselves or go against the grain in any way.
People’s refusal to challenge the dogma in their fields of study, and worse, to pass it on to others as truth, has allowed these ideas and beliefs to be set more and more deeply in stone, to the point where they are left unchallenged, even by people who know instinctively that the dogma before them is wrong.
It’s just that we are taught that sacred cows cannot be touched and they must be left alone to get fat and bloated. Well I say, forget about leaving the sacred cows alone– slaughter the beasts instead!
The thing about dogma is that it blocks the road to evolution. If you have a belief or idea that is set in stone then you are basically saying that nothing can be done any differently. This is how it is and how it always will be, so I’ll just accept that and not try to change or further develop anything.
Dogma puts walls around your thinking and your creativity. There may indeed be a better way of doing something but because you have accepted one particular way to the exclusion of all others, you will never discover those other ways.
Holding on to a belief or particular way of doing something just because that’s the way it is or because that’s just the way you have been taught is not a valid reason for continuing to hold that idea or belief.
In self protection especially, the only reason why you should be holding a particular idea, belief or technique is because it is based on evidentiary proof and nothing more or less.
Proof should always trump dogma, but unfortunately this is not often the case (just look at religion and politics if you want proof of that, or even closer to home, your nearest dojo).
If you really want to have integrity as a martial artist or self protection practitioner, then you must avoid emotionally based dogma and put your trust instead in reason, logic and proof.
So accept nothing on faith and demand that everything prove its worth in the real world. Without proof, there is only fantasy and conjecture.
Now let’s take a look at some of the dogmatic ideas that exist in our little martial arts/SP bubble.
Dogma#1: The OODA Loop
I’ll give you my life savings right now (if I had any lol) if you can tell me how I can apply this concept, in real practical terms, to personal protection. No? Didn’t think so.
I’ve read a lot on this concept, I’ve posted questions on forums on it, asking people to explain it to me, to tell me how I can use it in a physical confrontation, and no one thus far has been able to give a concrete answer. Many instructors extol the virtues of this concept without ever explaining how exactly they teach it to students or how it can even be practiced.
The OODA Loop as devised by Colonel Boyd is ridiculously complicated and was meant to be taught to fighter pilots. Whether it helps fighter pilots in combat, I don’t know, but I don’t think it has any real applications when it comes to self defence.
Mick Coup told me recently that he took the time to get a real and deeper understanding of the concept, and he concluded it had no use in civilian self defence. I often sum it up as just putting your opponent on the back foot. So “interrupting the OODA Loop” just means you are forcing an opponent into reacting to your actions. That can be simply explained without going into the confusing detail that most instructors go into when trying to explain this concept.
In my opinion, the OODA Loop holds no value for self defence and the main reason people continue to teach it (I wrote articles on it in the past as well, mainly because I wanted to understand it and I thought it may have value) is simply because they think they have too, and because it is now accepted dogma and the diagram looks good on a PowerPoint presentation.
Personally, I won’t be giving this convoluted concept anymore of my time. Even if it proves to have value, the complexity of it makes it completely unsuitable for everyday self defence.
Dogma#2: The Cooper Colour Codes
More accepted nonsense. Why look over there, it’s a group of ruffians. I’d better shift out of my code yellow state and into code orange, just in case those ruffians try anything. Oh dear, a ruffian is challenging me to a fight…code red quickly. That’s better! I feel much safer now! I’d never have been able to handle this situation without knowing my colour codes! Thank you Mr.Cooper!
Yes…The colour codes demand that we make conscious what is already unconscious. It makes no sense. Either you are switched on or you aren’t! It’s that simple. No need to complicate matters.
Again, this system was designed for combat pistol shooting. Whether it holds any value in this regard, I don’t know. I just know that it holds no value whatsoever in personal self defence. There are better ways to teach awareness than presenting this nonsense on a PowerPoint slide (although the nice bright colours and pyramid style diagrams look good on the big screen).
Look, just because something is used in the military or law enforcement, doesn’t mean the same thing is going to work in civilian self defence. It seems enough to tell people that this shit is military devised for them to not question it.
It’s more dogma and the sooner it is binned forever the better. Either you have awareness or you don’t. End off.
Dogma#3: You Should Never Telegraph Your Strikes
This particular notion seems to be fundamentally sound on the surface, but a closer look reveals that it is almost impossible not to telegraph your strikes in some way. Even those who advocate moving the tool first (the striking hand) don’t do so themselves. They still pull back to load the strike to some degree.
In an up close and personal physical altercation, telegraphing becomes far less important than it does in say a sparring situation, where the range and overall setting of the fight is much different.
To get real stopping power in a strike it must be loaded in some way first. What’s the point in not telegraphing a strike if it means there will be no power in it? Is it not better to load the strike first (which in real time, will take no more than a millisecond to do) to make sure there will be enough power in it to make it effective?
Power should trump speed in a self defence situation. Your main goal should be to put the other guy down as quickly as possible and to do that you must have powerful strikes, and to have powerful strikes you must load them up to some degree.
So not telegraphing and notions of “tool first”? More unfounded dogma that needs to go.
Dogma#4: When Striking, Your Rear Leg Should Always Be In Contact With The Ground
This is another piece of dogma that I include here, not necessarily because it isn’t true, but because it is never questioned by anyone.
Why? Why should I keep my foot on the ground? Why shouldn’t I take it off the ground? Ask anyone this and they won’t be able to give you a straight answer. The most you’ll get is, Because that’s just how it is done.
I’ve experimented with striking while allowing the rear leg to lift of the ground. Did doing so have a detrimental effect on the strike? No, not at all. Did it improve the strike? To some degree, yes, because it allowed me to get my total body weight into the strike. The only thing you have to watch for is over doing it and losing your balance. A more balanced way of doing this is to allow the rear leg to slide forward. This has the same effect as lifting the leg in that it allows your total body weight to go into the strike, but it affords you better balance.
Anyway, the Superman punch in MMA? Any questions as to the effectiveness of that in the cage?
Dogma#5: Blocking And Trapping Works In A Real Fight
No they don’t. And even if they did, why would you waste time blocking or trapping when you could be striking?
Dogma#6: Grappling Is Good For Self Defence
This one still persists to this day, despite much evidence to the contrary, along with the notion that all fights end up in the ground.
Fights only end up on the ground if you mismanage them and don’t employ your strikes properly.
And do we really need to debate why going to the ground isn’t a good idea in a street fight?
Dogma#7: Technique Trumps Strength In Grappling
No it doesn’t, despite what the Gracie clan would have you believe.
Have you ever tried to grapple someone much bigger and stronger than you? How’d that go for you? Not too well I’d imagine. Most of the time, the stronger person will come out on top, literally. It’s almost impossible to win at grappling with a bigger and stronger opponent without resorting to dirtier tactics, like clawing, biting and gouging. That’s just the reality of it.
Dogma#8: Chi Actually Exists
Despite the claims of many masters and the pseudoscience they often use to back up their claims, chi or ki or whatever you want to call it, has no basis in reality and there is no scientific proof to back it up. It’s just wishful thinking and self-deceit on the part of the people who claim to have it.
I believe that we have an inner power that we can utilise but this power is nothing mystical or mysterious the way chi is portrayed to be. It is simply a product of practice and learning how to use your body and mind as a whole, as a complete system. It is tapping into your potential, not some imaginary power source that can be used to fling back opponents without you even having to touch them. That’s just charlatanism, nothing more.
Dogma#9: Pressure Points Can Be Used In Real Fights
The pressure point guys live in the same bubble as the chi guys. I mean have you ever stopped someone in a fight with a pressure point? I doubt you have, and if you did it was probably a child or a little old lady…or one of your dojo acolytes who helpfully fell into unconsciousness after receiving your one touch finger strike to the whatever point on your wrist…
I’m not even going to waste anymore words on this, except to say that all these master types should just fuck off out of it.
Dogma#10: Something Is True Because An Expert Says It Is
Probably the worst dogma of all and undoubtedly responsible for much of the bullshit that permeates the martial arts.
I’ve said before on this blog and on the Facebook page, just because someone proclaims themselves to be an expert or an authority on a subject, doesn’t exempt them from being full of shit.
The only way to counter this dogma is to believe otherwise and start thinking for yourself.
When I first got into self protection I checked out a great many instructors and authorities on the subject, many of them big names. I often hung on their every word simply because I thought they were experts and couldn’t be wrong, or that their motives where pure.
Over time however, I began to think more and more for myself and these experts began to seem more and more transparent to me. I began to see through them and a lot of the stuff they were teaching.
Today, there are only one or two instructors that I have any real respect or admiration for, and they happen to be the ones with the most integrity in their work. A person’s work should speak for itself. It shouldn’t need to be cloaked in bullshit in order for it to be put across to people.
The more you think for yourself, the more dogma you will see and thus disregard, strengthening the integrity of what you do and who you are.
Just ask this one simple question: Why? Why like this and not like this?
Force the proof.
I’d like to hear from you guys on this subject. What other dogmas exist in MA/SD that really annoys you? Let me know by leaving your comments below.
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