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Self Defense/How accurate is the maxim "it is not the style that is effective but the practitioner of that style" when it comes to judging effectiveness?


One of the common cliches not spouted about everywhere in the martial arts world (especially in MMA and style vs style fights) is:

"It is not the style that is effective but the practitioner of that style".

It indeed makes sense at first until you realize its a statement so vague and generalized there's got to be missing gaps in it.

As someone experienced in martial arts and street violence what do you say about this? This question is so vague I will use 3 circumstances.

1)Style VS Style

I always see people always try to use this statement to prove all martial arts styles are equal or more importantly as a strawman to prove why traditional martial arts or RBSD school fails completely against real incidents. In fact its so common to see instructors say this when evidence against their teachings occur such as say a low ranking student goes into a bar and gets his ass hand down I will literally see instructors bring up this maxim. In addition its also a common attack by MMA fanboys of bashing traditional martial arts.

2) Proof one does not need to take lessons in systemized schools or even doesn't need to get real world experience in violence and that one can improvised to become a master of fighting.

Going jand in hand with the last sentence, I seen MMA fanboys literally state this all the time when people call out on them as not properly learning mechanics and lazily just watching videos and sparring with (other unproven fanboys who don't even have a blackbelt in a style) in the ring. Basically they use this all the time to prove one does not have to be par tof a school or under the tutorage of a genuine expert because they believe so long as someon can do it effectively, it doesn't matter if you're learning the proper way or not. People who use this excuse for this reason spend their time entirely on books and dvds and literally do "imrpovised training. Not just on how to "patch techniques" as you call it, but they even rather than buying proper eequipment like real free weights (dumbells, barbells, kettlebells) and heavy bag they use shoddy improvised stuff  like filling a sandbag or relying on bodyweight exercise for strength building.

3)The  Streetfighter

Oh I cannot tell you how many people often use the hardass street fighter as proof traditional concepts in TMAs and conventional schools of RBSD, etc don't work. They will point out the fact the street fighter handed ass down of martial artist is 100% proof it doesn't matter what art you learn or how you train or what techniques you use or how experienced you are, as long as you as an individual is good you'll handle yourself.

It sounds like a repeat of the second scenario except the second scenario specifically revolves around improvising and being stingy and lazy about taking the proper path to become a badass.

This 3rd is well beyond belief. Many people who use this excuse literally have this notion street fighters are just inborn and never had to do a single pushup or never had to experience getting hit to become the unstoppable badasses taht they are.

I'll stop here but I am curious  about this modern maxim in MMA and in particular have you come across the three scenarios I listed? I seen them all the time in the MA crowd but I finid it strange hardasses and classical martial artist never came across these type of people.

I'll expand on 3) later but I am curious if this maxim is utter BS and oversimplifying complexities of martial arts and violence or if there is a grain of truth to it?

My wife and I have a saying "He's well trained in a bad system."

That leads to my standard response of how many martial arts are like a car with no engine. It's shiny, polished and has the form, but it's missing what makes it go. Other cars are missing tires. Still another has no tires. Still others only need a battery to make it work.

Without even going into interstyle issues, you can have people who do the SAME style, but the quality of what they do varies radically from school to school. It gets complicated from the very start. The same technique, but the way this guy does it won't work. The way that guy does it might work -- given certain circumstances. And the way that guy does it works.

Now some people use size, speed, strength and raw aggression to make flawed (bad) systems work. And, against smaller, weaker, less committed and unskilled opponents this actually works. But here's a question.

Straight up size, physical conditioning, strength and aggression win most 'fights.' So let's say someone is big into MMA -- which require gym time to pump your physical conditioning and strength. So if that's the case is it the MMA training that's getting it done or is it size, physical conditioning, strength and aggression?

While the MMA might enhance them, it isn't the MMA that's actually getting the job done. This also applies to the traditional martial arts. How many missing engines (bad body mechanics) are being compensated for with size, physical conditioning, strength and aggression?

Which brings us back to well trained in a bad style.

Where things get REALLY complicated is when you start mixing and matching the individuals involved.

I often say "A lot of people go into training to become a fighter. I didn't. I went in to become a better fighter."

If someone isn't really a 'fighter' the best system in the world won't help him against someone who is. Whether the other dude is trained or not. On the other hand, if the person is a fighter and is trained in an effective version of a system, then that guy is going to be a handful -- no matter what system it is.

It really isn't about the system, it's how well someone can perform in a fur ball. Good training can help. Bad training can hinder.

And yet, never forget sometimes you just come up against someone who is a better fighter than you. Shit happens in violence. There ain't no guarantees in this biz.  

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Marc MacYoung


Street self-defense, crime avoidance and personal safety


I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles in 'situational poverty.' I have dealt with criminals and violent people all my life -- both personally and professionally. I have written 15 books and 6 videos on surviving street violence. I was originally published under the name Marc Animal MacYoung. (Animal was my street name). I've taught police and military both internationally and within the US. I've lectured at universities, academies and done countless TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. I'm a professional speaker on crime avoidance and personal safety. And I am an expert witness recognized by the US court system. My bio is at My abridged CV (Curriculum Vitae) is at

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