Fighting Motives: Life, Death and Humiliation

Hey guys,

I'm still ploughing away at Fightland. Back from holiday and got a chance to write a big traditional martial arts piece on the factors which affect the development of martial arts disciplines. These are always fun for me to do, and I should have a part 2 coming soon.

Hope you don't mind clicking the link, and as always all feedback is welcomed!



The number of traditional martial arts techniques which have been written off as ineffectual, but which are now reappearing in mixed martial arts bouts, is growing by the day.

Just last week we saw Jon Jones demonstrate a traditional ju-jitsu shoulder lock from within the clinch. The overhook americana or ude garami was always a cool technique in self defence demonstrations, but it was never thought that someone would pull it off so effectively on a resisting, world class mixed martial artist.

It was a technique developed with one purpose, self defence, but Jones applied it in a competitive, sporting environment.

Similarly, a few years back, Shinya Aoki applied a classical winding armlock or waki gatame with great affect.


Here's Jigoro Kano, a jujitsu expert and the father of judo, demonstrating the same technique.

And here is Kyuzo Mifune demonstrating it in his master work The Canon of Judo.


How Techniques are Developed

There are two main variables which affect the applicability and development of techniques. The first is how they are practised. Training without a resisting opponent and against unrealistic, lazy attacks like the stepping punch of karate or zombie-like lunge that is common in aikido is just training the mechanics of a technique, without being able to actually manufacture or recognize the opportunity. The more you work with an opponent who will counter and deny your techniques, the further down the path you can go and develop further techniques and strategies.

The second variable is the intention of the technique. Certain techniques are much more suited to certain situations than others. While you have heard a thousand times "real kung fu / karate / aikido / capoeira / river dance is too dangerous for MMA". A lot of the time it is just complaining and excuse making, but there is truth in some cases.

A finger lock or eye gouge could save your life, but both are banned in MMA because they are disproportionately effective and rapidly damage athletes. And I'm not saying they shouldn't be banned--I don't want fighters to have two or three fights before their hands and eyes are so busted up that they have to retire.

While some traditional martial arts techniques are illegal in MMA, plenty are not and just haven't been utilized yet. Hell, there's plenty of techniques prevalent even in amateur wrestling which haven't found their way to mainstream MMA yet. But when you have a world class mixed martial artist, training with other world class fighters every day, and creating opportunities to apply these techniques, pleasant surprises come fast.

Today (and in the follow up part of this series) I want to talk less about mixed martial arts applications, and more about the catalysts which spur martial arts to develop in specific directions. The impetuses for the development of new techniques. In the traditional martial arts world there have been methods for use on the battlefield, for arresting rowdy drunkards, for protecting oneself from banditry, for protecting others and even for situations as specific as fighting on uneven ground or at night.

Every culture has it's own fighting traditions, but their intention determines which techniques are prevalent within these systems.

Life and Death in Jujitsu

The first catalyst for development is perhaps the greatest spur to creativity: fear of death.

In a street fight or a scuffle outside the bar someone could die, but it's rarely the objective of any party involved. You don't square up and swing punches if you genuinely want to kill someone. No, we're talking about martial arts in the context of warfare. As the Cold War demonstrated--nothing forces advancements in science as fast as war.

Let us not forget that martial arts are traditionally arts for war. Miyamoto Musashi, the great Japanese swordsman, lists use of the musket and horsemanship as martial arts. It could be said that any method taught to soldiers is a martial method.

One of the most important arts to our modern day MMA was jujutsu ("the soft art"), a traditional Japanese fighting method. Before evolving into judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu, jujitsu was considered a battlefield martial art and it was the property of the samurai, the warrior class of feudal Japan.

Brilliant action scenes in movies have us convinced that battles involving swords and armour are about running from opponent to opponent, slashing them, and moving on as they fall. Of course, a katana can take your arm or head off, but then what would be the point of wearing all that restrictive armour if you were just going to get sliced in half by the first blow regardless?

No, battles between armoured infantry were ugly events anywhere in the world. Swinging a sword at someone in plate armour causes the sword to act more as a slightly pointed bat. While Japanese armour was lighter than full plate armour, it was still an extra 50-60lbs slowing the movement of whoever was wearing it, and combined with the wearer's own sword, it provided good protection.

No matter what armour is worn, some areas cannot be protected as fully, normally where the body must articulate. Stabbing underneath the armpits, or down inside the breastplate (you remember, like in Game of Thrones) are nice ways to circumvent armour. And the helmet (in addition to significantly reducing the wearer's field of vision) can be used as an effective handle for neck breaks--something as relevant in jujitsu as it was to the S.A.S in the Second World War--but how do you get someone into position to do those things?

Well, armour weighs a good deal, and even if it allows you to move relatively freely, you will never be called agile while wearing it. If you get knocked down while wearing armour, you aren't getting up quick. Consequently throwing became a huge deal to the samurai. Ju-jitsu, in addition to it's many traditional arm locks and disarming techniques, deals largely with throwing the opponent to the floor for this reason.

Miyamoto Musashi in his Book of Five Rings (which I reference a lot, you should have picked it up for a couple of dollars by now) mentioned at length the entangling of or sticking to an opponent off of a blocked blow. He also articulated his belief in striking the opponent with the shoulder while sticking to their sword. If it was commonplace to stick to an opponent's sword after blocking a strike, throwing techniques would certainly be possible from that position. You know that after the punches have missed in a fight it goes to some form of clinch--it's not hard to see the same happening with swords and armour.

Ju-jitsu and Aiki-jitsu also focus a great deal on counters to wrist grabs. This seems silly when you consider it as a modern person in self defence situations--the most common grabs are almost always the lapels (to anchor and punch) or throat--but when you think about jujutsu's origins with the military it seems a lot more likely.

Grab someone's lapels when they go for their short sword and you get disembowelled. Grab their wrist and you can halt the drawing of their sword while you go for your own. Because of the wearing of the short sword (the wazikashi), the wrist grab was a more commonplace concern than it would be for you or me down the pub or in the club, where the lapel grab or two handed push to "hold my back, bro!" posturing are far more commonplace.

And so, responses to what seems an uncommon attack to us seem a lot more reasonable when placed into historical and cultural context.

To see the life and death principle motivating martial arts today, one need only look at the streamlined close quarters combat systems of armed forces around the globe. Perhaps the most well known is the Israeli method of Krav Maga. Krav Maga concerns itself largely with unarmed defences against armed opponents (just as Jujitsu did) but with more live training practices than traditional jujitsu which, like all traditional martial arts, became incredibly formalized over time.

An interesting point which many Japanese jujitsu styles and aikido also focus on is that of the classical restraints. In judo, which developed from jujitsu through the focus on live sparring (the theme of the next article in this series) pinning positions are more akin to those we recognize today under the "side control" or "100 kilos" name. The classical jujitsu pin, however, is extending the opponent's arm along the floor with pressure on the triceps. By bringing the near knee onto the triceps the near hand can be freed to strike the back of the opponent's head.

Against an untrained opponent who doesn't know to keep his arms in, this position can be a neat thing to know.

From Gozo Shioda's 'Total Aikido'

But this brings us on to our next catalyst for creativity in the martial arts.

Arresting Technique


A second motive which has shaped martial arts development around the globe is the idea of arresting technique or the "come-along". Policing has never been easy, and even if you are carrying a sword or gun, it cannot be your first response to a belligerent drunkard, or a youth who has pinched someone's purse and is trying to run. Consequently controlling techniques using reasonable force had to be developed.


In the modern era "reasonable force" is under constant scrutiny, and policing techniques tend to steer well clear of actually hurting the target. Perhaps the most recognizable arresting technique is the hammerlock. This is so well known that it is often called a "police armlock". It is simply a shoulder lock where the arm is taken up the back and then pulled away from the spine to create pressure. If you can get an adversary's hand up their back in this fashion and press them against something--like a wall or a bar--it can be very difficult for them to do much.



Two applications from Rex Applegate's Kill or Get Killed


The hammerlock was actually a great deal more popular in the days of catch wrestling around Wigan. Changes in the grappling meta have seen it largely disappear, but it's still applicable if you're a good grappler and know it's there. I'm sure in a decade or so some technique will be rediscovered for which the hammerlock is the perfect counter. The development of the game works like this, in questions and answers.


Mario Sperry used to love the "one armed man" guard pass into a hammerlock. Indeed, in his excellent DVD series he recounts using this technique from inside the closed guard to win a tournament final in 1997.


Inside closed guard, Sperry passes the opponent's right arm under the latter's back. Sperry now holds his opponent's right hand with his own right.


Sperry brings his left hand over to catch the opponent's right hand with his left again. Notice he is using the now illegal four fingers inside grip. Finishing the submission from here is unlikely, but the opponent has stunted offence as Sperry moves to open the guard.

Shinya Aoki (appearing in this article for a second time), was able to hit a hammerlock from a similar arm behind the back guard pass. Another case of a classical technique being adapted and applied in a competitive environment.

In Chinese kung fu (I will use the most common name but it is variously called chuan fa, quanfa and numerous other things), there is a sub-branch of technique known as chin na. Chin na is translated as "seizing and controlling" and, for the most part, it does just that. For instance, in 1936, Liu Jin Sheng wrote a manual for the Zhejiang police force detailing arresting techniques called Chin Na Fa. This manual detailed dozens of simple and effective arresting techniques which probably wouldn't be permissible in most civilized nations today.


The U.S. Colonel, Rex Applegate, in his master work Kill or Get Killed, wrote of two types of arresting technique. There are those which "restrain by inflicting pain or the threat of pain", and those which "destroy balance or dignity". The techniques in Chin Na Fa and in chin na in general fit mainly into the former category. Certainly, nothing makes a man think twice about fighting as getting a hold on one of his fingers, his hair, or fish hooking him.


It is never good to pretend that techniques are unique to a particular martial art, however. In Chin Na Fa the aforementioned hammerlock makes an appearance.



As well as "Pressing on the Celestial Drum", which we call the Full Nelson.



To give you an idea of the power of the Full Nelson as a restraining technique, the name comes from Admiral Nelson, a British naval commander who was elevated almost to the status of a deity in public opinion during his life. To "put the Nelson" on someone was to utterly dominate them. It is banned in amateur wrestling because of the pressure placed on the neck, but there is no better way to escort a drunk out of a bar and know that they can't swing at you or anyone else.

Continues at:


In for later. Phone Post 3.0

King Trav - In for later. Phone Post 3.0
Subbed for later aswell ... Thanx jack!!! Phone Post 3.0




Ttt Phone Post 3.0

Jack slack, best poster on the UG I appreciate what you do! Phone Post 3.0

That was good shit. Saw that on the Fightland site last week. Phone Post 3.0

YES Phone Post 3.0

Mr. Slack,


Great writeup for an amazing fight.


What did you think of Mayweather/Maidano and are you going to make a writeup on it? What is the currenyt state of Floyd's skills? I don't understand the calls for a rematch. It wasn't very close in my mind. Maidano did a lot of wild swinging for the fences while Floyd subtely and artfully picked him apart.

Bunch of butt hurts .


Great job Jack!!


They really need to get you on TV doing some of these type segments.