MMA vs Tradition – Part 1

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This begins a series of articles titled, MMA vs Tradition”, examining the contrast between the recently popular Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) phenomenon and Traditional Martial Arts. A new section adding to this article will be posted each Monday.


Martial Arts have been in existence before even the earliest written history of human civilization. It may be noted that the first time a human had to ball up his fist to defend himself or his loved ones, or to grab, push or shove another, or to find some way to survive against various predators, animal and/or human, this created a valid need for such activity.

Every major civilization; western, middle eastern, and far eastern, from the ancient Chinese and ancient Greeks to the present has contributed in some manner to methods of self protection and societal protection. There is no culture that holds a monopoly on such activity, although some do stand out more that others for their more profound and lasting contributions. The use of armaments to augment the more limited individual potential for defense has progressed significantly from the first rocks, sticks, slings, knives, spears, and swords to the modern Atomic era.


It would serve this discussion best though to delineate between “martial technique”, “martial science”, and “martial arts”.

For the sake of this discussion I would set a distinction between what I refer to as “martial technique” (fighting skills) or “martial science”, which would include any systematic approach to studying and developing skills necessary for self protection (including offensive options); each as compared to “martial arts”. My perspective is to view “martial arts” in the sense that it is a further refined subset of “martial science” yet unique in the sense that it opens the field for a much broader field of human development.

Specifically, this subset involves not only the physical and mental/strategic aspects of martial methods (protection) but also the emotional and spiritual aspects as well. “Martial Arts”, as such,  goes beyond simply practical application in the physical sense but also addresses the significance of emotional and holistic personal development for the practitioner.  Further, there is significant evidence to support the conclusion that without development in the latter two areas, even the most proficient “technician” risks the potential of being severely limited.


Copyright © 2010  R.V. PASCETTA, All rights reserved

(Go to Part 2 in this series)

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  • abe says:

    Interesting how when you talk to soldiers I know and worked with many most not all, but most have some sort of spritual aspect to them to go along with their physical skills. They say that when a bullet flies by your head one gets religion real quick "oh my god" lol.

    Look forward to more from this article not many instructors address the spritual aspect of martial arts most likely has to do with fear and/or lack of understanding!!

    • Thanks for your input. It has been my observation that the "spiritual aspect" of MA is either overlooked or exaggerated by many MA practitioners, including many seasoned instructors. I'm not certain whether that is due to a desire for tolerance and/or "political correctness" or, in the other extreme, is used to manipulate the less experienced student into a more cult-like relationship. In the near future I will be posting another article I have written titled, "Martial Arts – Mind, Body, and Spirit?".

      You will note the question mark because it seems as though there are many in our field who use these words but either have a completely different understanding of them or simply take advantage of the cliche. I hope to illuminate through this article and stimulate further discussion on each of four aspects: Physical Development, Intellectual Development, Emotional Development, and Spiritual Development, that the MA has the potential to provide.

      It is an involved subject so I hope the readers here have the patience to follow the multiple parts necessary to thoroughly address the subject.

  • abe says:

    Article on MIND BODY AND SPRIT Sounds Good, I look forward to reading.

  • Danny Danzi says:

    Shihan Pascetta, what are your thoughts about MMA vs. someone well schooled in GoJu? Having mostly studied the traditional GoJu methods, in today's times, I believe I would find myself at a slight disadvantage vs. an opponent with MMA or incredible grappling skills. My methods of offense and defense have forced me do my best not to let it "end up on the ground".

    Being a smaller man with more quickness, agility and endurance, I have to be very conscious of ground battle as most of my opponents will out-weight me by at least 75lbs and have a height advantage over me as well. I have since studied quite a bit of grappling techniques, moves and counters, but my traditional GoJu methods would probably fall short if I relied on them alone in today's times; since 8 out of 10 battles do end up on the ground.

    What are your thoughts about this and have you implemented grappling into the style these days? Also, what advice would you give to a smaller, lighter man such as myself? I'm about 5'5, 138lbs, but am VERY focused, coordinated, agile and accurate.

    In most of my unfortunate street battles when I have had no other choice but to defend, I attack swiftly and with every ounce of my being to end the contest as early as possible. I feel that procrastination on my behalf due to my weight and height disadvantages could be the death of me, so I go all out in full force while trying to remain tactful and intelligent while attacking as well as blocking. Other times, depending on what I may see in the first few seconds of my opponent, I may use the "hit and run, hit and run" tactic and hope I'm not caught in a ground fight in the process. How would you handle a situation being in shoes when you have no other choice but to defend yourself?

    • HI Danny,
      I can see that you are really using your mind and trying to think this through. These are good questions, so please bear with me and consider my responses. The answers may be more complicated than you thought. First, be aware that there are several major issues that need to be addressed to answer this question accurately.

      The first question seems to be about “style” or “GoJu vs MMA”. Before you reach a final conclusion here you need to first examine the contrasts between the two more accurately. I’m not sure how far you have gone in you training with American GoJu but let me correct your assumption that it is a “traditional” style of Martial Arts. The fact is that, although the foundational technique and seminal principles in AGK that are at the core of the training are based on traditional GoJu, there has been significant modification over the past 50 years. Hence, it is more accurately named, “American” GoJu.

      The founder, the late Peter Urban, actually studied 3 separate systems of Karate; Goju-ryu, Kyokushin, and Shorinji-ryu. Although he used GoJu as the primary core in principle, you can readily see that where is was appropriate and things “fit”, there are elements of the other two systems in his modified version. You might rightfully acknowledge that Peter Urban’s system was probably one of the first truly “Mixed Martial Arts” in many ways, long before the term was popular.

      Further, my version is the “next generation” and beyond what he has developed. After spending most of my life training, I certainly have enough experience and research to contribute to advancing our system. In fact, although I studied USA GoJu extensively and was attracted to its versatility and GM Urban’s willingness to allow and even encourage creativeness. I also cross-trained in Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Aiki-Jitsu, Aikido, Grappling, Kickboxing, and Arnis. I never was interested in any of those systems for the purpose of teaching them or receiving advancements. Not because anything was wrong with them, but because GoJu was my preference, made sense to me and seemed to fit my personality. I also knew instinctively that I needed to master one system rather than confusing myself with multiples systems.

      What I discovered was that most of the things I found to be practical about those other systems were already in USA GoJu in one way or another. I didn’t need to change styles or make some mongrel mix, I simply was able to refine and develop a balance between elements in my own core system that were previously emphasized differently in one direction of another. What the cross-training did for me was provide an opportunity to examine the elements of my core system in the light of other perspectives and to view “specialists” of various elements of MA. By the way, I waited until I was more advanced and solid in my understanding of USA GoJu before I began comparing or experimenting.

      As a result, the present system of “American GoJu” that I practice and still continue to refine, is probably one of the most versatile that I am aware of. Of course, that is my bias, but after literally traveling the world and viewing some of the very best in MA, I think I have a fairly clear perspective. Each person must decide for themselves. Therefore, in conclusion to the first part of my answer, you have already made several inaccurate assumptions about American GoJu by assuming it is a traditional system and not being fully exposed to all the elements that have evolved. Perhaps that is due to who you did your adult training with or the length of time you trained with them.

      The second assumption that you have made was when you stated that “8 out of 10 battles do end up on the ground”. With all due respect to my grappling colleagues who I regard very highly, this is a fallacy. Quite frankly, these skewered statistics were simply a PR ploy to promote the UFC, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when it first came into the public eye. The FBI stats on assault show that this is completely exaggerated and actually the reverse of the real stats. But is you say anything enough times, especially on TV, then people begin to repeat it and believe it to be a fact rather than propaganda. Here you are unconsciously continuing this propaganda for BJJ.

      As a former full time Police Officer, and a Professional in Executive Protection with diplomatic and corporate experience, internationally, I can honestly tell you that it is quite rare to see most fights go to the ground. Usually when that occasionally happens, it is when a person is stunned, is knocked down, or is getting his butt kicked and grabs on for dear life pulling his opponent to the ground with him. Now, I must acknowledge since there is much more recent public exposure to grappling, that may change somewhat with time, but not enough to justify the 80% nonsense that has been propagated commercially.

      Third, the reality is that the last place any common sense person would want to be in a real life altercation would be on the ground, regardless of how good his grappling skills are. Why you might ask? Because of a number of contingent factors that aren’t present in “the Octagon”.

      First, there are no mats on the street. Unless you’ve been thrown down in gravel, glass, concrete, or asphalt, it is easy to speculate how much those environmental “distractions” would or would not alter your “fight game”. Second, if you are a police officer or Professional Bodyguard you have the added element of falling or rolling around on all that equipment on your belt that is likely to be gouging into your kidneys and ribs as you try to place your opponent in your guard or submit him. Also, you expose your firearm to your opponent or one of his buddies the longer you roll around to finish him. Perhaps you have never carried a weapon, been in a crowd during a confrontation and realized the psychological impact it has on your performance when you are not only trying to protect yourself but also retain control of your firearm.

      Third, in a real life altercation, there is no guarantee that your opponent will not have assistance from others kicking your head in while you are taking 5-20 minutes to work yourself into a position to submit him. So, you can see there are numerous reasons to avoid the grappling scenario while, on the other hand, grappling should not be ignored in case you find yourself in that less likely situation. What thorough training in American GoJu does is address an area that is missed by most MMA and traditionalist. It teaches tactics and strategy that is used in between the two. During the time you may loose your balance or be thrown to the ground.

      I personally have been in a situation where I lost my footing and fell with an opponent on top of me while his buddies were also trying to get at me. I must say that the tactics were affective. By knowing a means of falling without injury, by punishing my opponent as I was on the way to the ground, by using him as a shield while his friends attempted to kick me while I was down, and then using the momentum that occurred when he desperately was trying to get off of me due to the punishment I was giving him from the bottom, this allowed me to regain my footing and ultimately disperse him and his cowardly “group”.

      You seem to be on the right track about fighting vigorously to avoid the ground though and also by having some ground skills in the event you are not successful. I studied grappling so that I would not be surprised by someone using it. Not because I wanted to mix up my martial art or be an MMA “Champion”.

      The last point, though, is probably the most significant. The point is that in any confrontation, it is rarely about one “style vs another”. We can do hypothetical scenarios til we run out of breath. Will the boxer beat the Kung fu guy? Will the Sumo wrestler beat the Greco Roman guy? Etc. etc. ad nauseum. In reality, any confrontation is always about the particual two opponents regardless of what they study and what they bring to the fight. In any given day anyone can be beaten. It is more about the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual balance of the individual than about “Style”. With that said, physical factors are relevant and where you don’t have size and strength it may be countered with strategy, tactics, and versatility. Trust me, I have seen more than my share and have been surprised a number or times how those elements can make the difference. And isn’t that one of the response that attracted you to discipline yourself with MA to begin with?

      The bottom line is don’t underestimate yourself. Seek the truth, watch out for self serving propaganda, and distinguish between fact and assumptions. I hope this long dissertation has not bored you but has given you some food for thought and a different perspective to at least consider. Good luck with your training.

      “… AND THAT’S THE WAY I SEE IT”. ®

  • Danny Danzi says:

    Hi Shihan Pascetta, and thank you so much for that detailed, informative and not one bit boring response. That Sir, was an incredible read and I sincerely appreciate the time you put into that for me. Just to set the record straight though, when you mentioned the "on the ground" stuff % being falacy, I was only speaking of what I have seen throughout my 43 years of life. Being a musician and having also traveled all over the world and having seen my share of bar fights and street fights, most of what "I" have seen always seems to end up on the ground and I've not seen much "toe to toe into submission" confrontations other than when I myself have done my best to end a confrontation that way. So my observation on that was pretty much my personal experience which was not meant to be represented as factual or of a percentage. I'm not disagreeing with you as I know you have way more experience in this than I do and even more so being a police officer, it's just how "I've" seen things by luck of the draw I suppose.

    I also agree with what you mentioned about who I did my adult training with and for how long. This could be the reason I had the misconception of feeling like GoJu alone might put me at a disadvantage. I've not trained with anyone for a very long time but train on my own a few times per week just to keep my skills up and maintain what it is I DO know presently. I'm sure the current teaching agenda is probably quite different than when I was studying years ago. When I trained with Master Urban for a bit, just as we were really starting to make major gains, he left the area. That was quite a treat to have him living in my town to where I could just show up at his house and hang out with him. Hearing his stories and allowing him to feed my head are some of the things I will never forget in my life. I feel quite blessed to have known him and trained with him as I'm sure you do as well. So many people will take part in GoJu and probably wonder about the man that brought it to us…it's an honor for me to say "yep, I knew him and trained with him" but I sure do wish it could have been longer. Then again, he's given us a few incredible teachers like yourself to carry on the legacy so not all is lost. 🙂 Thank you once again for your insight and thoughtfulness, I really appreciate it and really enjoyed your response.

    • Hi Danny,
      It is my pleasure to share opinions and even “war stories” with you. I agree that Peter Urban was quite a gem and definitely a blessing to my life and my martial arts career as well. In spite of his personal style that had the tendency to embellish for affect and somewhat exaggerate the stories he told, there was always substance behind his “findings”. In many ways he was truly a “genius”.

      Fortunately, I had the benefit of studying under his direction while he was still able to perform and teach the physical aspects of his martial arts. As you probably know, in the later years he did more discussion and conceptual “sharing” than the physical teaching and training. As a result, I would be surprised if you or anyone at that period of time ever saw him demonstrate or even teach the ground fighting techniques he developed. Further, although he was quite innovated and aware of the significance of taking a person to the ground or how to defend if you went to the ground, his technique was still less sophisticated than what we developed later. He definitely formed the foundation and forged the way for us though, and we had one of the few systems that integrated “ground” conflicts into our training long before BJJ or MMA became popular in this country.

      With respect to your “barroom” experiences, I can definitely see what has influenced your perspective. In fact, I believe in that particular environment, the percentage of confrontations ending on the ground are likely to be higher, even if the 80% propaganda is a large exaggeration. However, it is important to examine how and why that occurs before determining what training method and mindset would best prepare you to deal with those possibilities.

      First, let me preface my opinion based on specific experience rather than theory. Somewhat like you, in my career, I spent more time in bars, nightclubs. discotheques, than I would like to remember. When I first left the Police Department and opened my Dojo full time I needed to supplement my income while building my business. I was recruited to head security a a local club that had recently converted from a “biker bar” to one with a dress code and cover charge. You can imagine the conflict that occurred weekly as our clientele gradually changed.I worked that job and at other bars for about 5 years until my business was too busy to do both and then I continued to train and place a number of my advanced students in similar jobs locally.

      Prior to that,before I was a Police Office and while I was in college, I also supplemented my part time Dojo income by working in a club that had 5 bars, upstairs and down, and two name bands playing weekly. The head “bouncer” would write each of the teams names on the wall and count with “slash marks” how many people each “bouncer” threw out that night. We had at least 4 men working and there always seemed to be “action”. (I can only speculate how much of it was instigated by the other bouncers when they were bored.)

      At 165 pounds I was dwarfed by the other bouncers. None were less than 250 and some over 300 pounds. No one knew I was a Black Belt except the owner and the head bouncer until the others began to guess after seeing my actions. They began to speculate how someone so much smaller could control with much less force. In fact, I definitely used verbal skills successfully even more than my hands. I stood out because I was the last to fight with a customer but when it happened, it was over quickly with minimal damage. It was an educating and eye opening experience for me.

      Quite a number of years later I was hired as Director of Operations for large Security firm. Along with developing, training, and organizing Executive Protection teams, my responsibilities included to supervise and train less qualified individuals to provide security for major concerts featuring major artists and professional boxing matches at Casinos in Atlantic City and other major Concert venues throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. As a professional corporation we had to also deal with criminal and civil liability issues along with safety of the teams, clients, and attendees of those events. Quite a challenge at times.

      Some years later and most recently, while going through a drawn out divorce action, I had shared custody of my young son. I was unable to travel on brief notice as required to do the Executive Protection work I mentioned before. As a result I began to do armed security work in Philadelphia. I organized and trained other licensed Enforcement Agents to do the same. The majority of the work was done in concerts and nightclubs.

      The majority of my clients owned and operated clubs that featured Hip Hop, Reaggeton, Hispanic, Jamaican, or Asian music along with those ethno-centric crowds. Unfortunately, during that period in Philadelphia I found myself and my teams in the middle of many drunken melees, confrontations involving multiple assailants, edged weapons conflicts, and the illegal use firearms. I won’t bore you further with the mundane details and how many reports, debriefings. and subsequent investigations involving the PPD I was involved with. Blah, blah, blah….

      Anyway, my point is that we have both seen the bar scene extensively but from different perspectives. What I have ascertained (beyond the study of FBI and civil litigation statistics) is that there is certainly a higher likelihood of confrontations “going to the ground in that environment”, but still a relatively small percentage. More significantly, what we need to examine critically are the factors influencing that possibility, and ultimately, what are the most practical and appropriate ways to train and prepare for such contingencies.

      First, are the logistics of a crowded area where there are tables, chairs and other obstacles that limit mobility. Second is the flooring surface that is likely to become wet when drinks are spilled, especially if there is no carpeting. These logistical factors increase the potential for loss of balance and falling to the ground. Third, is the possibility of being pushed and shoved by other people nearby when a fight with an opponent begins. Lastly, is to recognize that when most untrained individuals become hurt by a stunning strike or blow they tend to grab on in order to avoid being hit again. If the other person is not trained, again, this is the beginning of a recipe for loosing balance and ending on the floor.

      So, those are the factors the most likely cause a higher percentage of fights ending down on the ground in certain bar scene confrontations. With appropriately trained security response, most of the confrontations on my “watch” rarely ended on the ground though. The real issue here is that although one must prudently consider these possibilities and hopefully train to be prepared, is grappling the best solution to the problem in these situations? As I have already outlined in my previous response there are many reasons why this may be the worst option. Also, note that the number of situations ending on the ground is certainly impacted or limited by the factor of no training.

      As a result it would seem most logical to train for these possibilities but in a manner that emphasizes 1.) Retaining your footing; 2.) How to fall without injury if you loose balance; 3.) How to protect yourself and counter fight as you’re falling; 4) How to defend from the bottom keeping the adversary off of you if you end up there; 5.) How to regain your standing position; 6.) and LAST, how to grapple in the event you have NO OTHER CHOICE. The point of this logic is that Grappling should not be eliminated as an option but it is most prudently the LAST OPTION, not the first or primary.

      So, to me that doesn’t translate to mean making MMA or BJJ your primary system/art, but to learn a system that includes at least some of those techniques or supplement your training with those techniques and awareness. Further, if they are not integrated into your “fighting system” they will be less natural and subsequently less effective. Like I have stated a number of times in several of my articles, “It’s all good”, however, IT’S NOT ALL PROFITABLE!

      I enjoy the exchange of ideas with you and thank you for sharing your real experience with me and everyone here. As I mentioned at the finish of my last response, the results still end up being based on the individuals involved, and what they bring to the fight. It seems to me that you have done well within the scope of your own training and knowledge. The bottom line is that you are using the “real weapon”: your mind, intelligence, reasoning capabilities, and awareness. That is to be commended. The body and techniques are only the “tools” and it is up each individual to determine what investment he/she should make to obtain and sharpen those “tools”.

      My best to you and I hope you have the opportunity to train more formally again. My impression is that you would continue to be an excellent student and perhaps one day a good MA teacher if you so desire. As a musician you must have already realized the parallels and transferable skills shared between the art of Music and the Martial Arts. That is the topic of another discussion. GOD bless and stay safe.

      “… AND THAT’S THE WAY I SEE IT”. ®

  • Danny Danzi says:

    Hi Shihan Pascetta,

    I can’t express how much your responses have inspired me and really opened up new ideas for me. This is priceless information you are sharing and I sincerely feel blessed to be able to coorespond with you on a daily basis. I promise not to wear out my welcome. 🙂

    You’re correct about GM Urban and my training with him. He did show quite a few physical methods, but at a very slow pace that was way less aggressive than what he showed you I’m sure. But the teachings and head work as I like to call it, were truly extraordinary experiences. I can still remember my friend Mark Tursi (you may have heard of his father) telling me his mother was seeing GM Urban. I was like “you gotta be kidding me?! The father of my style of karate living in Williamstown 5 minutes from my house?!” At the time I had heard quite a few incredible stories about GM Urban and he was like the god I’d never meet. Kinda like the Pope, you know he exists but chances are you’ll never meet him or spend any quality time with him. Hahaha! When he moved and we lost touch, I tried to keep tabs on him by communicating with his daughter Julia from time to time who married one of my best friends Bob, who was a drummer in one of my bands. I actually knew her before I met GM Urban for the first time.

    Wow I didn’t know you were doing the bouncer thing…God knows the stories you can share there. I can’t fathom how rough that must have been. You touched on another fantastic topic and that is, trained vs. un-trained. I never really thought of that before until you brought it up. It reminds me of 2 knife fights I was in. One was with a wild man who was so unpredictable, he was more dangerous than the experienced fighter in my second experience with this. The experienced guy was easy to predict because his strikes were “from the book” exactly as he had learned with no improvisation or real tactfulness. That’s like a guitarist learning a scale from a teacher and using it verbatim how it was taught without using his mind to embellish further. The experienced musician will tell in under 3 seconds what the notes will be in the scale and what is coming next. Very mechanical and predictable, if that makes any sense? The un-skilled fighter kept me on my toes. Neither hurt me thank God because it was broken up before it got horrible, but I nearly took care of the experienced guy before it was stopped. So I guess this is somewhat the opposite as far as trained vs. untrained in this scenario.

    It’s funny you mention teaching in regards to me. I always loved it when I was chosen by my Sensei’s of the past to demonstrate techniques to other students or be the one they called on to beat up on. Hahahaha! I actually teach music in a sense and I never realized it was my calling. From guitar lessons to recording lessons using video for online students, it has become my new vice. But to get back on topic, I would have loved to teach karate. I think my issue has always been I have never found my home as far as a DoJo. When I studied with you in Twp, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life to be honest. However, once you moved to Blackwood, it was a bit more difficult for my parents to bring me there which is why I never continued. I’ll have to stop in and see you some day and say “Hey Shihan Pascetta, I’m that dude on the net that types you novels!” 🙂

    Awesome analysis on the Grappling information. If I were to think of weakness in myself, that would be it because I have worked so hard at top fighting. My challenge was to get my feet to be as good as my hands, my blocks and counters to be as good as my strikes and of course my mind to be ahead of all of them to hopefully stop a situation before it got out of hand. I did wrestle in school and have tried to experiment with some of the new tactics of today as well. So though I may not be an expert in the Grappling field, I have a fair grasp on it. Falling while attacking…now THAT is something I’m interested in. Looks like I need to pay you a visit sooner over later. 😉 Thanks so much again for all that you have shared. I know how busy you are, but it’s a blessing to be able to communicate like this. God Bless YOU also Shihan Pascetta and thanks once again for making an incredible difference.

    • Hi Danny,
      Please contact me on Facebook and I will give you a direct email address and send you a private message with my phone number. I have a few more questions for you and share another passion with you, music. I've played guitar since 1964 and played professionally in a band during my later high school years and through most of my college years. The insights I've gained in MA would probably be matched with the insights you may be able to share with the guitar. I'm seriously interested in the possible exchange. There are no accidents so, perhaps the LORD has more in store for our interaction. Time will tell.

  • Danny Danzi says:

    Hi Shihan Pascetta,

    I received your email and responded back to you with my information as well. I look forward to talking with you about this other passion. 🙂 That's really incredible…I had no idea you were a musician. For sure, no accidents. God works in mysterious ways and I try my best to never question them. It's funny, a good friend of mine who is also AGK and my insurance guy, is the guy that turned me onto your site. When we get together to talk about insurance, we get on the martial arts trip and your name always comes up. I believe he may have studied with you as well at one point but trains with John Austino as of now who is also another friend of mine. Small world, isn't it? Wow 64 eh? That has to make you a classic rock/blues guy! If so, I'm your man. Hahahaha! Mix a little of this new stuff in with the old, and we'll make an MMA guitarist out of you. 🙂 I look forward to talking with you about this when you can.

  • Scott Sileo says:

    I too have pondered the size question. But as with many MA questions, the answers are right in front of us. Time and time again, Shihan and Sensei have drilled into our heads "just don't be there when the (kick/punch/strike) gets there" yet, we insist on making it Rockem Sockem Robots. Think of the many soft and circular motions that we are taught as White Belts. To me, they are rooted in the very concept of deflecting the attack and negating the size and strength advantage. To your point, Danny, and Shihan has hammered this home, the ground situation generally occurs when something else has gone wrong. Grappling can be effective in neutralizing an otherwise stronger opponent, but speed, distance, and timing can never be replaced. Furthermore, using one's mind to see the situation before it unfolds can represent the greatest advantage. My "a ha" moment is finally upon me. No longer can I, at 41 and with heavy legs and creaky knees, hope to overpower someone, even at my weight and supposed "advanced" status. I need to learn the art of "green" fighting, as Shihan said to us not long ago while instructing. This is using your opponents momentum and energy instead of yours, and using your vision to anticipate the next move, or, as Shihan and Sensei Austino have demonstrated, forcing your opponent to make mistakes, for which you already have an answer.

    I have a great deal more Id like to add, but want to see how this discussion progresses.

    • Great revelations, Scott! Or should I have said, "Great Scott… revelations!!!!"? LOL In all seriousness, the revelation must come first at this point in your training. Now the next step in your training is to be taught and regularly trained in a series and set of drills that actually expose you in a progressive manner to examples of how these concepts may be implemented. These are well beyond simply "soft and circular motions" although you are on the right track. Remember, you will fight the way you train unless you have a void in your training and then you will do what is instinctive, no matter how ineffective it is. Also it is easy for an instructor to repeat the obvious concept but his/her real responsibility is to create a training model or environment that makes it "real" to the student. Now that will be a much mope profound, "AH HA!" moment.

      <span style="color: #ff0000;">“… AND THAT’S THE WAY I SEE IT<span style="color: #ffff00;">”. ®</span></span>

      PS: Since you and Danny are friends and seem to be on a similar track mentally I will invite you and him as my guests (no cost other than your time) to at least one or more semi-private sessions where I will demonstrate and expose you to some very pertinent drills that may open your eyes even further. I will email you with my number and you can talk with Danny and tell me if you are interested.

  • Scott Sileo says:

    You raise another great topic, Shihan. That of "instinct" This is something else Sensei talks about alot, and it is so true. I can think of only one real life situation that I have had, and I have very little recollection of it other than the beginning, which was your textbook "drunk guy" glancing roundhouse, and the end, where my knee was firmly planted in his shoulder blade. The fact that the middle is a blur tells me that instinct must have kicked in. I still find myself wondering how Id react now, especially since every other guy out there fancies himself the next Tito Ortiz. Given that I've had the benefit of instruction from some of the greats, starting with Sensei Castagna, I am confident that instinct would once again kick in. That said, the closer I get to Black Belt, the more I realize how little I actually know.

  • It is difficult to speculate the difference between the way an individual’s mind works as compared to another individual in a crisis. At best we can only recount our own experience and then speculate the “reasons” for the differences. My own experiences have been quite the opposite of what you described. In every real life physical encounter I’ve experienced, time seems to have changed to “slow motion” where I could remember not only the most minute details but also the thought processes as they occurred. There is only one situation ever, that I can recall where part of the encounter was “blurred” in my memory. In that particular case, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the shear number of opponents and, of course, I was very fearful.

    Not fearful in the sense that I doubted my ability, but caught somewhat off guard as I realized there was not only one opponent but 5 others. For a brief moment I could not determine who in the crowd were adversaries, as a result, the 5 others seemed more like 50 coming at me from every direction and angle. My “Monday morning” analysis showed that was not actually the case, though at the moment it felt that way. Fortunately for me, all the realistic training I had done began to “kick in” and I began to execute as thought it were another exercise in the Dojo. That experience reinforced for me the significance of mental and emotional training that must occur along with the technical training and physical conditioning.

    Another interesting observation was that once the tide turned in my favor, the minute details of each move, offense and defense, again came to me clearly as though it was happening in slow motion. My recall afterward was more like a video as in other confrontations I’ve experience except for the that brief period when I was psychologically and emotionally overwhelmed by the weight of the odds against me.

    Many years later, when I was on assignment in Egypt I had a similar confrontation and against even greater odds, more opponents, plus they were armed (not firearms, thank GOD). This time the physical interactions and exchanges again played out like a slow motion video. I was again very fortunate that the training I had done worked efficiently and effectively without hesitation. In analysis, I come to the conclusion that the difference between the two incidents had less to do with the physical threat and more to do with my own mental state of preparedness and subsequent state going into the fray.

    In the first incident occurred when I was drawn into coming to the assistance of a colleague but was not given an accurate assessment of the logistics. When the proverbial S**T hit the fan I was caught totally off guard for a brief period. I think that this was probably my most vulnerable moment because the similar experience years later involving overwhelming odds was quite the opposite. I firmly believe that a culmination of all my practical professional and street experiences were a significant factor in me being able to regain the focus and mindset to turn an ugly situation around.

    In the Egypt incident the client and I had encountered the potential assailants earlier and at first we were able to make a seemingly successful attempt to disengage and avoid physical confrontation. A short time later, when on the highway in our vehicle, we found ourselves on the bad end of a high speed chase against two vehicles with superior speed. By the end of the chase we were ultimately boxed in and run off the road resulting in having to confront two carloads of assailants directly. There was literally no where else to go. My subsequent analysis concludes that having the time to mentally and emotionally anticipate the confrontation along with quickly framing the potential strategy and tactics necessary prior to the final engagement was what made the difference. By the way, I was definitely praying before I stepped out of that vehicle and into that circle of armed assailants. Praise GOD.

    So, when using the term “instinct”, please remember that this can also become a double edged sword. The “instinct’ a person has may very well be what puts him/her in a more compromising situation especially if the training is not realistic and pertinent to the challenge at hand. It takes a particular type of training to develop refined and technical “instinct”.

    The mode of training must go far beyond the specific techniques and must progress from predictable, to less predictable, to non-predictable. The interaction with the training partner must begin with cooperative, then progress to less cooperative, and end with non-cooperative practice. The intensity of force used in progression must likewise go from minimal to forceful. You cannot skips the steps on these ladders and the Master teacher must know when is the most appropriate time move to the next step and to change the drill. Of course, it all must begin with correct and effective execution of techniques that are functional and flexible in application and pertinent to the scenarios you prepare for.

    Unfortunately, in this commercial or at least somewhat commercial environment of modern society too much emphasis in training is given to learning the techniques for the next “test” rather than learning how to apply what you have been taught. I sometimes wonder if many of even the “better” technicians who are teaching really understand or even know what is missing. Ultimately, you will see the fruit by the consistent quality of a majority of the students produced and specifically be able to see how they stand out in comparison to others in the industry.

    Anyway, I wanted to be sure that you understood what I was referring to when I used the word “instinct”. As a teacher I have come to value the power of words and accurate terminology. However, all teachers must face the fact that the message sent must also be received. An excellent example of this is when you attempt to translate from one language to another. The words are not used the same way in many cases. Subsequently the translation must take into account the colloquialisms that exist in both languages. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Master to be aware of this and insure the most accurate translation, not the student.

    I hope I haven’t bored you with my “War Stories” but they came into mind when trying to use a real life example to respond to your thoughts.

    The bottom line in Martial Arts is that there is no substitute for doing the training, and also doing it in the most effective sequence. For the teacher, the words are only one part and both must fit and match together for the student to progress and arrive at many of those “AH-HA!! moments you referred to. One of my biggest criticisms of many MA Masters is that they may sound very accomplished when talking about theory that they have heard about (and may actually think they understand), however, when they are challenged to apply it, something is missing. Even more significant is whether they can provide the type of training that produces the realistic results in the majority of their students, not just a few, or in their own personal skills.

    In my opinion, that is the mark of a true Master; not simply his personal skills, not his time in grade, not his belts, or diplomas….


  • Danny Danzi says:

    Incredible war stories Sensei and great responses Scott! Not to mention, after last night, I got a little taste of this "green" fighting and learned a lot about instinct. While training a bit with Sensei Pascetta, to him I was a table with 4 legs. Each leg represents a weakness in me. It is up to him to decide which weakness I have to where he will exploit it, and eventually 2 of those legs in that table will be gone to where it will fall.

    If he had to fight me for real, he'd have A, B, C and D tactics already planned before a puch, kick or block was initiated and all this would come instinctively. How I "bring it" is how he decides how to deal with me, and whatever he decides, it will be me fighting his fight. This brought me to question "but Sensei, what happens when your opponent may not have a visible weakness or he is as skilled as you are and you know this for a fact?"

    This brought about a story of a fight he was in to where he fought a man he knew in his heart was better, faster, younger, and more powerful than him. Sensei won the fight…and beat the guy with his mind. He made the guy question his own skills when Sensei was ready at all times for the guy's most powerful tactics. If you're most powerful weapons fail and you get countered continuously, your morale drops and you begin to get frustrated. Instead of being the aggressor, Sensei waited…let his opponent throw all caution to the wind, figured him out, and countered and scored with each failed attempt from his opponent.

    At the end of the story, he mentioned "I wasn't better than that guy, but his weakness was within himself in how I managed to make him think I was better than he was."

    That's just priceless when you think about it. And that ain't just the way he sees it, I see it that way now too! LOL! What a time I had last night…that's all I'm saying. 😉