the martial arts theory of everything

Martial Arts
Martial Arts (Photo credit: Tom Gill.)

“The principle of strategy is having one thing, to know ten thousand things…”-Miyamoto Musashi

The topic a friend and I have been discussing around the coffee cup lately is the “ultimate purpose” of studying martial arts. What is the real purpose we spend our time and money in the dojo? Granted different people come to MA schools for different reasons; self-defense, self-improvement, fitness, art, etc. then there are some who desire to live a “martial lifestyle”, which I want to discuss here. In my definition, a “martial lifestyle” goes beyond mere physical technique.

Differences in size, strength, fitness, experience etc. make it virtually impossible for any style of martial art to guarantee success in a confrontation to any degree of certainty. Internal aspects of mindset, situational awareness and “fighting spirit” have as large a role in combat as technique. We all have probably met black belts who, while technically proficient, would probably get their @$$ kicked in a fight. I’ve seen some people, very good MA’ists, loose their “fighting spirit” the moment they caught a good shot to the face. Martial Arts is ultimately (IMHO) a way of thinking as much as it’s a physical exercise. Musashi states in the book of five rings (loosely) “The way is not found in pursuits such as tea, flower arranging or dancing. But when the way is understood it can be found in everything”. I interpret this to mean that once you have realized the “martial lifestyle” you begin to see MA’s in other pursuits and realize that other skills can enhance your martial arts practice. Not too long ago, Paul M. posted that his hockey playing crossed over into this. He began to see MA principles enhancing his play and the physical training/athletic mindset enhancing his MA.

The Samurai, one of the most proficient individual fighters in history studied many different weapons, skills and arts; sword, bow, spear, horseback riding, swimming, unarmed fighting, firearms, fortifications etc. Our modern elite warriors (SEAL/DELTA etc.) have to be trained in many skills other than fighting; communications, navigation, driving, climbing, rappelling, combat medicine, call for fire (arty/air support), demolitions, as well as weapon skills and CQB, to name a few. The question I have is why do many martial artists believe themselves to be “warriors” (I’ve seen what I believe to be misuse of that term often) just because they are trained in unarmed/contact weapon fighting? One of the things I like about the recent trend towards “combatives” is that it approaches fighting as the unarmed component of self-defense. An issue in this approach is where does the burden lie in training? Is it on the student to determine his/her course and find the training on his or her own? Should instructors be bringing in seminar instructors on various topics or network with various sources to make other skills available? (i.e. bringing in Red Cross first aid instructors, NRA firearms teachers to train firearm safety)

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Many people like to start talking about pistolcraft with stance, but as stances are prone to a lot of change on the street, I like to start with grip, which is really the foundation IMHO.

Many people do not think about how to grip a handgun. For an auto pistol especially, the grip makes a big difference. There are various shooting systems; weaver, center axis relock, Chapman method etc. etc. that all recommend various grips. I figure we’ll just start simple…..

With your fingers and thumb making an “L”, place your strong hand as high up on the grip as is comfortably possible. The apex of the web of your hand should be centered at the rearmost point of the curve in the gun’s backstrap. This makes sure you are not gripping the gun too far, or not far enough, around the grip. The forefinger should rest naturally along the side of the frame above the trigger and the other three fingers should wrap easily around the frontstrap of the grip. The strong-hand thumb may either be in a “high” or “low” position. Caution must be used in both of these positions. Too low a position may actuate the magazine release, dumping your mag unintentionally. Too high a position may induce stoppages by unintentionally dragging your thumb on the slide as it cycles.

Your weak hand, should wrap naturally around your strong hand with all of the fingers below the trigger guard. Your weak hand thumb can lay over the top of your strong hand thumb to form a cross (“+”). Other thumb placements are thumbs bent, weak thumb pressing down on the nail of the strong thumb or thumbs stacked, strong on top of weak.

Both elbows should be slightly bent, but both wrists must be locked. The strong hand should be pushing forward slightly, and the weak hand should be pulling back slightly.

deadlift benchmark

The deadlift is a terrific but often overlooked exercise. Its strengths are its simplicity and impact. It is ideal for increasing head to toe strength. Many people avoid it because its not a “comfortable” lift, and its not an exercise that focuses on “show muscles”.  Some are afraid of back injury from all the word of mouth stories involving getting hurt while performing it. The plain truth is, if you adhere to some simple form rules, the deadlift is no more dangerous than any other lift. The main one being don’t round the back or move your feet once the lift is initiated.

If your fitness goals are to increase your metabolism, increase strength or lean body mass, decrease body fat, rehabilitate your back, or improve athletic performance, the deadlift is a marked shortcut to that end. Major benchmarks in this lift are bodyweight, twice bodyweight, and three times bodyweight deadlifts representing “beginning,” “good,” and “great” dead-lifts respectively. I finally cracked into the “good” bracket.

40 yo

2X body-weight: 350lbs

Olympic Bar: 45lbs
6 45lb plates: 270lbs
2 10lb plates: 20lbs
2 5lb plates: 10lbs
2 2.5lb plates: 5lbs

Total: 350lbs


I know..I the deadlift purist, the belt and wraps are wimpy, but I’m content with crossing the benchmark. At my age I’m just happy to be increasing in strength instead of decreasing. Now its onto lifting it for repetitions.