Martial Arts For The Survivalist
October 16, 2012 by Brandon Smith
Physical strength, endurance, flexibility, adaptability and mental discipline are all attributes of a true survivor. Unfortunately, they are also attributes that are often neglected by the average survivalist.
The popular assumption is that if you have sizable food storage and can shoot straight, you are ready to rock and roll. But the first and most important weapon in any prepper’s arsenal is his own strong, healthy body. If a person is weak and unhealthy, no amount of gear is going to save him in the middle of a crisis situation.
Preppers who have spent all their lives enraptured in the world of firearms sometimes view hand-to-hand combat training with cynicism. The common retort is “Why use my hands when I have my Glock?” Indeed. Why should we? Perhaps because one day we may not have a weapon in our possession during a dangerous circumstance. Should a survivalist simply give up because he loses his gun or runs out of ammunition? I think not.
Survival in the midst of collapse and calamity does not necessarily depend on having all the right tools at all the right times. Sometimes, you have to improvise; and the only tools you can always count on are your hands and your brain. Martial arts training hones and refines these assets to perfection and teaches the mind to deal with the stresses and fears associated with combat. In fact, 95 percent of success in martial arts revolves around learning to accept the idea of someone trying to kill you so that you can move past the terror of the scenario and deal with it calmly and logically. Adrenaline, tunnel vision and unchecked emotion are the true enemies in any fight. We defeat ourselves long before our assailants ever touch us.
Another concept within martial arts that I find fascinating is the philosophy of Bushido, which is often mistaken as a brand of Eastern religion. Instead, it is a kind of warrior’s code, a way of dealing with adversity in one’s life. Struggling with obstacles — whether self-created or created by others — requires balance and the ability to take control of the problem and apply one’s own terms instead of the terms other people try to set for you. It is about leading the battle, instead of being led, while staying true to your conscience. In the end, we should feel no need to prove anything to anyone but ourselves. Traditional martial arts still contain elements of Bushido within their methodology, and I believe such practitioners are some of the few people left in the world who operate on a legitimate warrior’s code — something we desperately need in our culture today.
I have studied multiple forms of martial arts for more than 26 years, and I have found many methods that would work well for the worst survival situations and plenty that would be utterly useless. When I started my training classes for liberty movement individuals and families in Northwest Montana, my idea was to combine all the strategies that I felt were intuitive, easy to learn and quick to use. My goal was to help students to become physically capable of self-defense within a very short period of time, without running slapdash over important factors like mental strength and intelligent application. The program has done very well so far, and I would like to share some of the styles and strategies I now use in my classes with the rest of the liberty movement.
Shotokan Karate: Shotokan is a Japanese martial art using movements derived from defense methods common in Okinawa and streamlined for easier application. At first glance, Shotokan seems stiff and impractical, but that is not the case. Shotokan training is extremely intense, and the sparring matches can be brutal. Deep stances and sharp strikes train the body to hold ground even against a larger opponent. Shotokan practitioners can take physical damage unlike any other style I have seen beyond perhaps Thai Kickboxing. As the student advances, the stiffness disappears, and their strikes become coldly logical and precise. Shotokan is a perfect foundation art for beginners in self-defense. If they can handle this style, they can handle anything.
Thai Kickboxing: Thai is world-famous for its fast, devastating steamroller-type strikes and the ability of its practitioners to take a hit and keep on going. For a crisis situation, it is imperative that the survivalist be capable of absorbing and moving past the pain of a fight. In a SHTF scenario, it will always be a matter of life and death. There is no such thing as a hand-to-hand fighter who can avoid every attack and come out unscathed. Plan on getting hit. With the heavy arm-to-leg blocks of Thai Kickboxing that act as a kind of self-made brick wall, along with devastating leg sweeps and knee breaks, this art form is perfect for the dangerous possibilities of collapse.
Western Boxing: It’s not an Eastern martial art, but Western boxing teaches incredible punching power. Eastern martial arts focus on speed in order to inflict damage, but Western boxers hit harder because they assert more body weight behind their punches. Of course, it is more important to learn speed and timing before learning to hit hard. The most powerful punches in the world are useless if all they do is sweep the air. Western boxing is an incomplete fighting style, but a fantastic addition to the survival martial artist’s repertoire.
Jiu Jitsu: Jiu Jitsu is a grappling martial art from Japan, though you wouldn’t know it by the way the Brazilians have commercialized and franchised it. Jiu Jitsu is indeed the flavor of the decade for self-defense; and, though I feel it has been way overhyped, it is an incredibly effective style for ground situations. That said, let’s be clear: Jiu Jitsu is actually a very limited fighting style, especially when you’re not in a cage and you are confronted with more than one attacker. Survivalists should learn grappling techniques so that they know how to defend against takedowns and return to their feet. In a real combat situation, you never try to go to the ground on purpose. Multiple opponents will decimate you within seconds while you are trying to put a choke hold on the guy in front of you. Add a knife into the picture, and purposely jumping into close quarters with the intent to “grapple” will be a death sentence. Successful fighters will always combine Jiu Jitsu with other art forms in order to round out their abilities.
Hapkido: Hapkido in my view is the perfect antithesis to Jiu Jitsu and any other grappling art. It should be at the top of every survivalist’s list of fighting methods. Hapkido focuses on joint locks, joint breaks, using centrifugal force, pressure points, eye gouges, throat attacks, etc. Generally, it is very difficult for someone to grapple with you if you break his fingers or wrists, hyperextend his kneecaps, or crush his windpipe. One twisted wrist could put a dedicated grappler or wrestler completely out of commission. Knowing how to counter grappling using grappling is fine, but knowing how to utterly disable a grappler is better. As a survivalist, it is important to learn both.
Taekwondo: A Korean style, Taekwondo has received a bad rap over the past few years as an “ineffective” martial art, but usually this comes from people who have never actually practiced it. Like Jiu Jitsu, it is a style limited to a very particular range of attacks and scenarios. Taekwondo focuses on kicks to the extreme. Sport Taekwondo is not a practical measure of the style’s use, and this is where its tainted reputation comes from. In truth, Taekwondo has the fastest and, in many cases, the most devastating kicks in the world. The use of kicks depends on the mastery of the fighter. If he is fast and precise, then his strikes will make his opponents feel like they’ve just been hit by an oversized utility van. If he is slow and unfocused, he will be tackled to the ground like a rag doll and pummeled in an embarrassing manner. That said, one well-placed kick can crush ribs, crack skulls and knock an opponent into dreamland before he ever knew what hit him.
Jeet Kune Do: Created by the venerable Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do’s philosophy is to adopt what works and set the rest aside. It is essentially a combination of the short-range tactics of Wing Chun combined with the long-range tactics of Japanese and Korean styles. Jeet Kune Do’s goal is to be a truly complete martial art; so far, it has proven itself in this regard. If you can practice only one style of self-defense, this should be it.
Ninjitsu: The brilliance of ninjitsu really dwells in its “think outside the box” mentality. There is a sort of cleverness and unpredictability to it that makes it so dangerous. Ninjas in feudal Japan were assassins, but they were also the guerilla fighters of their age. The combat methods of ninjitsu revolve around surprise and misdirection, which are factors that always work in the survivalist’s favor.
There is no way around it. The Martial arts make a survivalist better at his job, which is to thrive in the very worst possible conditions. It’s not just about fighting; it is also about developing a fighting spirit. Beyond the utility of self-defense, we survivalists must strengthen our inner world as much as our outer shells. It takes time, patience and a willingness to struggle. Any person who masters a martial art has not only shown a dedication to his own physical prowess, but he has also proven he has a mental toughness that will carry him through any catastrophe. That kind of toughness is a rare commodity in America today and, when found, should be greatly valued and encouraged — especially by the liberty movement.