Performance, Sports, and a Real Fight

Modern day martial arts has evolved into 3 categories. Having a clear understanding of these categories would help you decipher if an instructor is teaching what he preaches or is he saying one thing but teaching another.

On top of that, it helps clarifies our intentions for learning a martial art before we decide to invest time and money into one.

Performance
Certain arms of martial arts are focused on "Performing". Although punches and kicks are involved and the martial artists are all very fit, you will see them trying to perfect their movements. Some of them would practise very hard for a difficult routine so that they can score more points for their performance during a competition.

In such competitions, you usually see each contestant performing their routine, and judges grading them. Those with the highest scores win the the competition.

Sports
This is where the lines start to get blurred. Martial arts that prepare their students for a ring or octagon competition are considered sports (although there are some that can be very deadly and have caused death before).

There are rules, fighters try to respect one another before or after the game, and there are referees that make sure fighters do not break any rules during the match. 

"But this martial art is very deadly! Some fighters have died in the ring before!"

While it is true that deaths have occurred in some matches before, they are still categorised as accidents. If it was intentional, it will mean a 100% statistic that whenever two men walk into the ring, only one will walk out.

Real Fight

Version 1: Some self defense martial arts were indeed born to finish a fight as quick as possible. However, due to various reasons, instructors are not willing (or they do not know themselves) to teach students the most effective methods of finishing a fight fast.

Instead they prefer to focus on less critical things such as cardio and fitness, non-realistic drills to entertain the confusion of the students. If an instructor insists that fitness is a top priority to street self defense, it would imply that those who are not fit, deserve to die when they are attacked.

That does not make sense.  

Therefore, students under these instructors will find themselves spending a lot of time and money but unable to properly defend themselves even after months of training. Their instructor competence will seem very mystical and Godlike and the students are clueless as to how to measure their progression.

Sometimes instructors even come up with a watered down version of the actual art to make it "more suitable" for the everyday guy on the street.

Version 2:  These instructors know the danger of a street encounter. They feel the urgency to need to build up the competence of their students as soon as possible because we never know when trouble will find us.  

Tommy Carruthers have taught me that it is no joke if we present ourselves as teaching a street survival self defense martial art. All our time and energies should be spent refining and simplifying a few tools to handle all the situations that we might face. 

We teach our students the most efficient methods such that they already have basic information on efficient self defense after one lesson. The longer they train, they get more skilled they get at executing the techniques. The longer they train,  they are more prepared for different scenarios they may encounter. The longer they train, the higher their level of environmental awareness becomes.

So, is your instructor guiding you on a path they told you about?