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  • How comes so many old masters lost to boxers (esp, bare knuckle era) and even when they won, why they couldn't contend close range? What does this say about old school TMA's effectiveness?

Self Defense/How comes so many old masters lost to boxers (esp, bare knuckle era) and even when they won, why they couldn't contend close range? What does this say about old school TMA's effectiveness?


ABout a month ago I asked this question.

You made me do research and indeed the thing i learned that many older version of styles had blows resembling the angles from modern boxing (hook, uppercut, cross).

However one question comes up.

Whenever a traditional martial artist or practitioner of "traditional styles" loses to a modern "realistic" western fighter such as wrestler, MMA fighter, and especially in particular boxer, they will always point out that its because the school  the loser was taking is a McDojo and if it was a genuine practitioner of the old school method of training these traditional martial arts,  the western fighting styles (especially boxers) would be eaten ALIVE.

To quote from your article.

"These days, people talk about the "old days of martial arts" when there weren't that many white instructors. They go on about how hard it was to learn under Oriental masters and endure requirements that would get you sued today. Thing is, as "hard as it was way back when, "I remember a black belt in karate in the 1960s telling me that the only thing you could do against a boxer was to stand back and kick. Even first generation, trained by Orientals martial artists were getting their lunches eaten by boxer's hand work. Even though it was sport fighting, the boxing method was still winning."

From your details, its implying its Western practitioners who were losing and although training was much harder back for western trainers, they still didn't practise as hardcore as old school Asian schools (as you mentioned in another article, orientals didn't teach the round-eyes all the techniques and they dumbed down training to a considerable extent even though its still hardcore compared to modern western schools).

So the assumption I made was  it was not Asian practitioners who was fighting the boxers you mentioned in the article.

Thing is I learned with some research about Japanese soldiers during WW2 and later Chinese soldiers in areas stationed with Americans shortly after the war challenging American GIs. In particular there was one incident in the Philippines shortly after the successful Japanese conquest where  a marine held as PoW was discovered to have been a pro-boxer before the war and a Japanese officer who was a blackbelt n a style of karate challenged him in a ring duel. The marine killed the Japanese officer and it rocked the specific platoon which the officer was part off and the marine was later executed.

There  are other incidents of Chinese losing in gamble fights  where Chinese kung fu practitioners were losing.

So during the WWII period and the short peace afterwards, the record of Asian TMAs vs Boxing and Wrestling were mixed at best Asians tended to lose unless it was top masters.

I'll grant that most of these WWII era bouts were not exactly UFC style fights. For example in the marine vs Japanese, the details are not recorded, only the end results so I don't know if the marine was trying to box the Japanese or if he went life or death and got a stone from the ground and smashed the officer's skull, etc. In most of the Chinese vs American GI, it was under boxing rules  and the American military personnel in the ring were often  professionals before the war or were outstanding at the sport (representing the US navy in interservice sports bouts or winning army contests several times, etc) and often semi-professional paid by the US military to box part time for soldier recreation. While most of the defeated Chinese practitioners tended to be primarily farmers or other manual laborers and mediocre amateurs at their styles (some not even mastering the fundamentals to get a ranking in their school) and most only fought in the bout out of desperation for extra money. A number of these Chinese practitioners were even heavily injured soldiers or malnourished.

However the issue of Western practitioners beating Asians goes far beyond World War II. The movie Fearless starring Jetli portrays fights during the 18th-19th century period and already PROFESSIONAL masters of Kung Fu styles were losing to Western fighters. Its for this reason (along with Western imperialist oppression and China's destroyed reputation) that Jetli's character participates in bouts against many top estern martial artist and owns each and every one of them in an MMA style bout (some which even included weapon).

I am surprised how even back in the 19th and 18th century even styles that were not dumbed down and as hardcore as possible already had more defeats towards western fighting styles than many martial arts enthusiast would like to admit (evne though Asians still won more; from my readings of the time period it comes off as Chinese styles won 60% of the time which is only a bit more than half of the fights).

At the same time, you mentioned in this article.

"I have a friend who breaks the Japanese martial arts into three categories. Classic, traditional and commercialized. The classic stuff has great body mechanics and wide application in both fighting and survival. Iíve seen it and it fuckiní works. I mean, if you try sports fighting stuff against them, they will hospitalize you. Not in an extended fight either. Iím talking they will break stuff as they piledriving your skull into the concrete. Youíre either not going to get up from that stuff, or youíre going to need a ride to the ER."

I am sincerely confused. In your NNDS article you already mentioned even old school practitioners had difficulty with boxing and western styles and were losing more than winning and even the victors had to keep range and rely on kicks to defeat boxers. Yet in your ConflictResearch article and all around AllExpert, you go around phrasing the classical systems were so fucking effective that it would put even the top champs of modern realistic fighting sport like Mike Tyson and Randy Couture to sleep from a brutal KO so hard that they'd have to sleep in the hospital for a month or two and spend half a year recovering when they finally wake up.

Did you mean by effective mechanics kicks? SO does that mean that even classical masters decide to fight a pro boxer at punching range  with only hands (but assuming many blows illegal in boxing such as palm strike and hammerfists at weak bone joints) he would lose unlease he does a grappling or throwing technique?

I am honestly confused. So by your message, is it better to concentrate of western boxing than learning spear thrust and other TMA hand strikes? Thats the message I'm getting from the NNSD article but at the same time you're also implying that classical styles were so deadly that not even counting kicks, throws, and other technqiues that are not hand strikes, a clasiscal martial artist would EASILY KO Muhammad Ali and BRock Lesnar using a special deadly one hit kill Wing Chun punch.

Can you clarify what you meant in this articles?

Because I really am trying to find out why old-school masters from the 18th century were already losing to bare knuckle boxers and so forte. I'll grant bare knuckle had far more techniques than modern boxing but this doesn't explain why even in the 1900s Asian martial artists were having difficult time with western gloved boxers and wrestlers in MMA No Holds Bared fight where Asian fighters were ALLOWED to fight without wearing gloves.

Okay, you're off in la-la land and you don't even know it.

Start with the fact that individuals going up against individuals is a lot more complicated than styles. So trying to unravel your question in terms of what happened in the past and who-would-have-won-style-questions-complete-with-historical-examples is going down a rabbit hole.

I'm going to give you an answer to someone else's question to explain ... well, lots of things.

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.

The bottomline is that going into the classical masters vs. boxers is hampster wheel of unproveables. You may think it's a way to the answer you're looking for, but you'll end up going around and around and get nowhere.

Shift your perspective. Try this "Training is for ingraining effective responses so you can do them without having to consciously think about them."  It's developing good habits.

For example, many years ago I studied Wing Chun. Then I studied Five Family Gung Fu. Both of those styles ingrained in me a lot of subtle hand work. I found out in the streets that by adding this subtle hand work to my bigger motions, I was getting WAY better results. I'm talking adding a twist or wrist flick to my block, blew the guy's arm out to East Bumfuck.

Because it worked so well, I really worked on ingraining that kind of movement  Here's the thing about it though -- those extra 'nasties' are so ingrained I don't even consciously know I'm doing them anymore. In teaching people, I have to stop and specifically show people to add these moves in. (I would eventually synthesize those movements into a drill I call "Hand Jive" after the Johnny Otis song.) Without these little nasties, yeah things might work. But with them, it's damned near guaranteed to work. BUT they have to be so ingrained it feels 'wrong' to do a move without them.

Some years ago someone asked me: What is the ryu of my art? "Huh?" Basically:What is the 'heart' of my art? What is the fundamental? The core?  I thought about it and my response was "From the moment I touch you, things go wrong -- and they just keep getting worse.

I've developed the habits to make that happen. When I teach handjive, I'm helping others develop those same habits. Habits that help you develop being able to "Git there the furstest with the mostest."

That's what you need to focus on -- not who would win a martial arts master or a boxer.

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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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