When Ali fought Frazier, did people say, Ali will be the better man tonight, because he is wearing red shorts? Can the skill of a martial artist be judged by the color of his belt? Many people would say, Yes, that’s why we start with a white belt and end with a black belt. The color of your belt is supposed to communicate to the rest of the world where you stand as a martial artist. This idea may be true in a sterile environment where the rules and expectations for obtaining the belt have been clearly stated. However, I have met many black belts who may have been masters of their art within the confines of the training hall, but in reality knew little about fighting outside of this known environment. Likewise, I have known people who have never taken a martial arts lesson in their lives, but who I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. On the street we don’t wear colored belts to let the rest of the world know where we stand as martial artists. On the street, there is an

A big person can rely on strength and momentum, and doesn’t need a great degree of skill in order to bully a smaller person. Unspoken hierarchy of rank and skill. A high rank is, in itself, no guarantee for success.

Since the martial arts are unregulated, you will find many skill levels among our black belt population. The 52 Blocks martial artist, student and instructor alike, must therefore examine how realistic his training has been. You must also look at which types of 52 Blocks techniques fit your mental inclination. Simply put, what do you like? Which 52 Blocks techniques have you trained in the most? Are you flexible enough to perform these techniques with balance, speed, and accuracy? Even a highly skilled individual may not want to rely on punching and kicking his opponent into submission, because his smaller build will simply not produce the momentum needed to end a fight. Also consider that a person attacking you has probably some experience with street violence already. A strike or a little pain is not likely to stop him.

Next, consider realistic time. If you kick your opponent and it doesn’t deter him, you may try to kick him again. But will he have time to move into close range and smother you before you have a chance to launch your next kick? Many of the defenses and disarming techniques taught in the martial arts are much too slow and complex for real time. When somebody intent on killing you attacks you with a knife, she is not likely to halt her attack in mid-air and let you do an upward block and some complicated joint lock. When somebody rushes you from a distance of 20 feet, you may not have the time to reach for your gun and point and shoot.

Let’s say that you set up a scenario in which the bad guy attacks with a punch, and where you are supposed to use some sort of predetermined combination as defense. The problem with this idea is that in real life you won’t know the speed of the attack or the type of follow-up technique the assailant will use. You won’t know how you will react if you get hurt. In the orderliness of the training hall your only concern may be to learn how to do the technique correctly. You can use your fine motor skills effectively in the training hall where you don’t experience the mental stresses of an actual encounter, but you might not gain valuable insight into a real scenario.

You must also understand your limitations. It is good to be confident in your abilities, but it is not good to be overly confident.

1. When we train in a known environment, we tend to fall into a rut; we train with the same people all the time, and we do the same techniques over and over according to specific patterns. As a result, we become complacent.

2. When we train with people that we know, we seldom use realistic force. It is therefore difficult to determine whether or not your techniques really work.

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