View Full Version : Practical vs Principles, Real vs Research

12th August 2015, 07:26
Perusing both martial arts and combative systems over the years, the difference between Practical vs Principle-based, and Real vs Research, has struck me as one sometimes not recognized by practitioners and commentators.

I feel we most often see the error on the Principle based and Research side of the equation. That is, training practices, exercises, drills, even the bulk of a discipline, much more about exploration of principles, playing with energy, working with structure in various ways being mistaken for practical and realistic fighting methodologies. This is not to say that some Principle and Research based stuff may not be directly practical.

Unfortunately, when the difference is not recognized, this serves to dilute the credibility of the art and/or its practitioners. When people are touting what is obviously more developmental exercise or practice as "realistic" there is a tendency to dismiss the art and "throw the baby out with the bath water."

For example, there is plenty within BJJ that is by no means street practical, or competition practical, on various levels. But I would not look at something like "flow rolling" or the various cooperative drills we do and say "see, this is practical fighting application."

Steering clear of specific arts, what and or how do people go about telling the difference between what is practical and realistic and what is more "research and development" oriented in what they do?

13th August 2015, 01:07
Steering clear of specific arts, what and or how do people go about telling the difference between what is practical and realistic and what is more "research and development" oriented in what they do?

That's quite a decent explanation of the problem of balance between practical and principles. Concise and to the point. I like it.

These are the three "questions" I try to remember when training with practicality in mind. I'm not saying these are the complete set or what everyone else should be using, just what I personally use. I suppose these are principles in a sense too.

How can I be hurt from here? (I want to try and minimize the opportunity of my opponent to inflict damage on me. That's armed or unarmed.)
Will I tire more quickly if I keep doing this? (I don't want to get tired before my opponent.)
Does this come naturally? (I don't want to be doing something that is counter-intuitive to my natural balance, posture, flexibility.)

13th August 2015, 16:13
Those are good questions, Matt. Another I would add:

4. Is this application dependent upon my partner's accommodation?

By that I don't mean all partner training, as practice always includes accommodation at some point.

13th August 2015, 20:06
That's a good point. Partner compliance while necessary for some practice can create a false-sense of the applicability of a technique.

It seems that there needs to be a set of over-lapping training methods to properly simulate portions of "practicality" in microcosm. I've yet to find a way to simulate the full-range of a high-stress combative scenario without compromise in some fashion for "realism." Otherwise we'd always end up with someone dead or in the hospital and that gets in the way of additional training. :laugh:

A "holodeck" could potentially provide that realism... but that's still firmly in the realm of science fiction.

14th August 2015, 15:39
It seems that there needs to be a set of over-lapping training methods to properly simulate portions of "practicality" in microcosm..

I think that is largely true - integrated and over-lapping methods. Then evaluated against ongoing experience.

Even a holodeck wouldn't do it as there is no actual fear of injury or death.

14th August 2015, 18:15
Even a holodeck wouldn't do it as there is no actual fear of injury or death.

I'm letting my geek-flag fly here, but... That is true, unless one is unable to distinguish between the simulation and reality. Set up circumstances such that they do not realize they've entered a simulation and it may become possible to simulate that. There's also a few instances where injuries in the holodeck had to be treated by medical personnel outside the simulation. Ski injury accidents as I recall. There was also the ability to remove the "safety boundaries" during certain combat simulations that allowed for the possibility for injury and death. A certain Klingon may have trained under those conditions. ;)

Ah, but enough of whimsy and the fantastical.

I was hoping to hear about how you differentiate between principles and research as well. I'm also curious as to what you mean by "research and development." The closest I've come to in that idea is to ask or answer the question during training "What if I do this?" However, that usually comes down to then identifying how my "research" fails at the above "questions."

Joseph Svinth
15th August 2015, 01:50
A simple rule of thumb is this. Does the technique work (once; assume they learn quickly) on industrial-sized gentlemen who are not on your payroll who are applying their technique correctly? If the answer is yes, then yours is a technique worth developing. Otherwise? Keep looking.

15th August 2015, 02:28
LOL - yeah lets leave the holodeck behind...that being said the brain can achieve stress levels nearing "real deal" circumstances in stress based simulations - Force Science has done work in that area. Real pain is a factor, as is I believe a true opposing will.

I would consider R&D to be compliant work where we are engaged in a cooperative exchange. BJJ slow rolling is an example from that discipline. Its freestyle, its not choreographed, but its also not competitive; we are both trying to embody a feel and a flow. Aikido randori, a lot of Taiji push hands (not the competitive kind) are the same. Other examples would be uchikomi and variations.

Many of these are not "practical" in the sense that they are not actually applied fighting skill in a time-competitive, goal competitive environment. In order to do good uchikomi, for example, my partner has to cooperate and set himself up for me - give me the best "look" - to hone my technique.

The payoff is better fighting skill.But to equate uchikomi as combative skill isn't valid.

The same is true of the fundamentals of any art. It gets deeper than that but this is my meaning.

Kempo Guy
19th August 2015, 23:23
A lot of good points so far.

As far as the holodeck, turn off the safety protocols! :p

Seriously though, without actual life and death situations distinguishing what works has to be done in controlled environments with compliant, to a point, partners. MMA has given us a decent "laboratory" if we can get in the cage with opponents we have not seen.

There are things we can do to increase the reality of training though. Turn off the lights, spread obstacles around the mat, etc. For the next few weeks we are working on diminished capacity drills. If you get hurt in an altercation and can no longer use an appendage, or you trip over something and now have a badly sprained ankle.

If I hadn't done things like that years ago. I wouldn't have been able to deal with MS as well.

20th August 2015, 07:15
Mitch - you are really hitting on how training and experience can develop resiliency, when integrated appropriately.

25th August 2015, 19:49
Heck I don't know..... My son was a competetive Wrestler since he was little. He played Judo and studied some Shorin Ryu.

Sometimes I think his best self defense preparation was playing football since 6th grade. He was a really well balanced nice kids who learned to destroy guys at a flip of the switch. Yes it is just a game but there is an attitude there I see missing at most dojo. My Karate Sensei's old dojo had it but he was a cop and most of my seniors were cops and they were all their to learn how to kick ass and practice things that would help them on the job. Civilian students were welcome as long as we could hang....

I'm old and have mellowed out. I have no desire to go through that again. :laugh: Sparring and multiple oppenents, Bull in the ring, Grappling blindfolded, fighting with the lights out. Sparring while tied to your opponent. Not sure if these thing were to better prepare us or to provide more entertainment to Sensei.

Kempo Guy
28th August 2015, 23:47
I understand your reluctance, Ed. As a youth I questioned many things I was doing. But hey, I was the kid and student, the instructor was the expert.

Grappling blindfolded was done to teach the big boys not to use their muscle and count on it. I usually grapple with my eyes closed anyway...it makes me more sensitive to my opponents movements. Some of the things you mention are indeed, silly. Some have value. Just one guys opinion, though!

29th August 2015, 21:21
Something I am fond of is to lift to muscle fatigue before BJJ class.

30th August 2015, 14:48
Ed - I think that's very practical.

31st August 2015, 07:05
Something I am fond of is to lift to muscle fatigue before BJJ class.


Do you do that on a regular basis or occasionally?

1st September 2015, 21:00
It depends on schedule. Usually it works out to once a week. I think I use better technique as a result. I don't muscle stuff as much because I have no strength to force things. I transition to plan B, plan C, plan D instead of trying too long to make plan A work. I think it helped me roll more smoothly.

2nd September 2015, 17:43
Thanks Ed.

Do you feel that your fine motor skills are negatively effected by the pre-exhaustion? Also, do you feel that the pre-exhaustion effects your mental state, or did it when you first started (induces panic, calm, whatever)?

2nd September 2015, 22:21
No. All I'm doing is lifting to failure about an hour before class. It is just a matter of muscles feeling like jello. I'm clear headed and not exhausted. I just have no mucular strength. I also don't really overthink it much. This was just training advice I tried and liked.

It is not like what my Karate Sensei and other LEO friends have disscussed with me about range training at academies where they run laps and lift and do calthenstenics induce fatigue and increasing heart rates then firing at target to see how it impacts sight picture and accuracy. Think of all numerous scenarios where an LEO may have to draw a weapon after a foot race or physical struggle.

Never had any issues in Brzilian JiuJitsu with panic. I was a 40 something Judoka who thought BJJ was easier on the body then the pounding I started to take in Judo. By nature my ground game is patient. I conserve energy well. I would have 20 somethings who were in way better shape gas out on me while I maintain and control position and wait for opportunity. It irks me how the recent Judo rule changes have gutted Judo of a lot of the chess game.

28th November 2015, 19:03
Ambiguity is huge when trying to make the gear change from cooperative to competitive/non-consensual combatives training.

One of the best--and really the only safe/reliable--methods that I've found for working through combatives to higher and higher levels of stress, adrenaline, etc. is to provide very clear structures for both training participants. This means setting up an OpFor / Blue Force arrangement where each side has competing goals, though these goals may not necessarily be the same.

An example:

OpFor attempts to gain a grapple with Blue Force, proceed to the ground via a single leg or double leg takedown, and gain the mount. That is all that they are trying to do; they must stick to the script.

BluFor has to apply their combatives skills toward whatever goal: maintain / regain a standing position, deploy a weapon and deliver verbal commands, deploy a weapon and engage point-specific targets (center of mass shots, or whatever), achieve a dominant position and then disengage, etc.

Victory conditions are either OpFor gains and maintains the mount for three open hand strikes to the Blue Force combatant's head OR Blue Force successfully achieves their victory conditions. A third party referee calls "Index" or whatever safety word to end the scenario.

What is good about this kind of structure is that it allows the OpFor to provide specific, skill-oriented challenges to the BluFor, but still apply them at upwards of 80% of full power. Further, BluFor doesn't necessarily know what is coming at them. Maybe this time, the OpFor will be compliant to all verbal commands until contact is made for handcuffing, and then will dive on the BluFor's weapon hand/gun. Maybe this time the OpFor will preferentially stay on their feet and deliver repeated overhand rights, trying to put BluFor's chin into the cheap seats. Maybe this time, OpFor will just posture and yell, but will eventually comply with verbal commands and won't engage. BluFor has no idea. They just have to respond with whatever combatives skills they have been training.

There are a lot of variables that can be tweaked here. BluFor can be allowed to be pre-emptive with violence, for example. OpFor may have a hidden weapon on their person. OpFor may have a friend that can join the scenario.

The point is, each side has clearly set boundaries to what they can and cannot do, some of which are clearly known to all participants (no biting, gouging, elbows to the face, or whatever else is deemed appropriate and safe) while others are unknown to the Blue Force combatant. Instead, they just have to roll with it and apply their training in real time, against a resisting opponent who has very clear goals and wants to 'win', even if winning doesn't mean hospitalizing someone.

28th November 2015, 20:49


An important element with this kind of training is the devolution to "sparring" can be avoided with proper oversight. This is important when training for an open, armed, combative versus competitive environment. The two are not the same and the approach should have some key differences as far the goal intended.

19th February 2016, 02:56
Steering clear of specific arts, what and or how do people go about telling the difference between what is practical and realistic and what is more "research and development" oriented in what they do?

I have just one word in the back of my mind: efficiency. Just because to be efficient it means 2 things for me:
1. you understood the situation you are into
2. you can't be efficient without using minimum effort with maximum effect

Martial arts are giving you words (technics) and some syntaxes (situations where technics are applied) but you are the writer after all.