Today I’m taking a look at the decision making process for choosing the correct martial art for you and your family. Many years ago, in response to a reporters question, then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld gave a brilliant answer that has gone down as one of the most glorious examples of double talk in history. He is essentially breaking the strategic process of choice, into three categories:
- known, known’s – things you know
- known, unknown’s – things you know that you don’t know
- unknown, unknown’s – things you don’t know that you don’t know
Here is the press conference bit:
It’s a classic, you’re welcome. I’m going to add one more that follows through the full spate of the logic:
- Unknown, known’s – more on that later
Mr. Rumsfeld’s attempt to use this logic as a means to appear smarter and talk down to the reporters (he failed) notwithstanding, the logic is sound when attempting to make important decisions like bombing other countries or choosing a martial art.
I am going to stick to my own experiences in training, and as a school owner at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy since 2003, in giving examples of where these four fundamental understandings can be helpful for you. Further, I’m going to focus on the two biggest variables; the art, and the instructor. Your personal goals and the way you learn, will also be of utmost importance. There are many other things including, but not limited to; the facility location, the facilities cleanliness and amenities, your finances, those of the facility and, of course, the collateral damage of your bombing. Wait, no, don’t bomb the karate school (unless you are Ted Cruz, then well, you won’t be happy until you bomb something), just don’t bomb the karate school… please…
The Known, Known – My approach to the known, known is simplicity. Do you like things to be simple (not easy)? The two arts that I have trained that come to mind are Muay Thai and Cacoy Doce Pares (CDP). Both are what I would call sparring systems; your progress is going to be achieved less through memorizing vast, progressive curriculum, and more through one on one, face to face sparring. Of course, every system must have the sparring element firmly embedded (more on that later).
Personally, I feel that the “full contact” nature of Muay Thai becomes untenable at a certain age, whereas, CDP can be trained you whole life, witness SGM Cacoy still sparring into his 90’s. I’ll find a good example and place it at the end.
The Known, Unknown – Many systems/ teachers will be the first to tell you that their training is going to take you to a certain point and no further. My American Kenpo instructor Manny Reyes Sr., for example, would always teach me the weapons techniques from that system (specifically the blade responses) and be quick to point out that the entry must disarm or control the weapon, if not, you must not continue. You must admire a teacher that knows what’s missing. I feel that most systems do not even try to be competent at all ranges (weapons, feet, hands, stand up grappling and ground). I want you to try to find a system that attempts to develop all of these ranges AND addresses the concept of multiple attackers. Having said that, the systems/ arts that know that they are not complete can often be a good place to begin training given all other considerations.
The Unknown Known – Now, you may remember, that this is the point that I added to the Rumsfeld dynamic. The unknown, known can fall in to two distinct areas for me. First you have the set up where an instructor is proficient but lacks the ability to teach the material. This can best be seen displayed in sport martial arts schools (MMA, Tae Kwon Do, Judo et al). In the competition scene there are a few schools that are noted for putting good players on the mat as instructors in exchange for tuition. It can be difficult to succeed under these circumstances, especially for youngsters.
The second unknown known is far more dangerous. This is the DVD trainee, someone who thinks they know, but have never really worked the viewed material with a proper training partner. It is far better to know what you don’t know then to not know what you know. I know… try to keep up.
The Unknown, Unknown – This guy can be the most DANGEROUS. Stay away from coaches and trainers that think they know everything. Those guys that carry a belief system of arrogance that shelters them from outside learning. I’ve met a bunch of these guys over the years, “keeping it real”, as Chris Rock says, “yeah, REAL dumb.”
Chris can be offensive to some so, it’s up to you…
So, naturally, this brings us back to the sparring concept. The BEST way to find out what you don’t know is through sparring. Virtually every single one of my Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS) brothers and sisters has gone through that sparring session (mine was with Zach Whitson, the founder of CTS) where we discover that we have so much unknown, so much to learn. Addressing the concerns about not knowing is a common trait that I see in my friends that are advanced martial artist’s. You simply have got to WANT to know, and that will lead you to the training. Then you have to humble yourself and get in there. As they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” Find a teacher with a thirst for knowledge.
When choosing a martial arts training facility for yourself, or member of your family it is a good idea to have some ideas about what it is that you want. It is also very important to be open to knowing that you do not know all that is out there. All reputable schools will give you an opportunity to try some classes for little or no investment (we offer one week FREE), to allow you the chance to see what you may not have seen before.
Get out there.
I’ll see you on the mat!
Guro Russ Haas
As promised (a lot of folks watch SGM Cacoy and find out a whole bunch of stuff they didn’t that they didn’t know):