Without Writing

The art of writing without writing… about fighting.

Empty Force and Empty Promises

Another exposé of no-touch knockout bullcrap has been doing the rounds. In this one, a wonderful group of skeptics attended an “open seminar” by a Finnish pseudo-martial artist named Jukka Lampila.

Those courageous skeptical fool-smokers really did a number on him, specifically by asking a set of very basic questions, by not flinging themselves in the direction of his pats, wafts, prods and pokes and generally not being willing accomplices to his cultish buffoonery.

I could spend the entirety of this post taunting his poor, misguided followers that leap into the air and fling themselves on the floor at the slightest provocation, and metaphorically shaking my head in disbelief that he’s probably still teaching the same nonsense back home, even after this very public experience. But this would not be the best use of anyone’s time, and I’ve already done it so often in the past relating to similar incidents, that it would be redundant.

Instead I’d like to take the opportunity to address two points.

Point 1:

These Empty Force bods may be very obvious in their leapy, flingy nonsense, but in reality they are no worse than virtually all Aikido schools, the overwhelming majority of Karate, Kung Fu and Tae Kwon Do schools, the majority of Systema and Krav Maga schools and many other so-called reality-based self-defence schools… in fact, the vast majority of all schools that claim to teach martial arts.

Empty Force is the same as Watanabe Aikido:

But Watanabe Aikido is the same as the more common Aikido: (they may actually touch each other, but not enough or in the right way to cause or warrant this kind of acrobatic tomfoolery)

But Aikido is the same as this type of Karate (“I coulda hit you if I really wanted to!!!”):

Which is the same as this kind of “killer kommando” Systema training:

Why do I say that all these apparently disparate things are the same? Because of the compliant nature of the training, omnipresent mystical drivel, and the fact that the practice never ever becomes significantly less compliant over time.

Martial arts 101:

– In a real martial art one practices a technique which has been proven to work on a resisting, non-compliant opponent.

– One may start to learn this technique in a compliant way, just to get used to the order of the movements, but one should as quickly as possible progress to being more and more resistant and realistic with one’s partner, until one is almost sparring with them in a focussed and limited way.

– One should then progress to actual fully resisting, uncooperative sparring, with no techniques prohibited, and attempt to employ or integrate the technique one just practiced in the most realistic safe environment possible.

– If you want to be really close to realistic, add extra stress factors where possible, e,g: Restricted vision, more than one opponent, training weapons, people screaming obscenities at you from the sidelines, people hitting you with foam shield pads when you least expect it… etc.

If you’re not doing this sort of thing, at least to some extent… you will have A: no idea whether your techniques are likely to work against someone who is really trying to harm you, and B: Virtually no chance of performing even an intrinsically GOOD technique when you need to, because you will not have trained it at the speed at- or in the kind of stressful environment in- you will be required to use it.

In this clip, some dreadful Karate no-hopers exemplify a few tendencies you’ll see in all bad martial arts practice, such as compliant inaction on the part of the “attacker”, unworkably flashy and mechanically inefficient techniques, and ponytails.

And to contrast in this clip former UFC welterweight challenger Jon Fitch demonstrates what an alternative training philosophy might look like. Bear in mind the key difference is resistance, not the tools employed. There is no striking in the Fitch clip, whereas in real life there would be… but even so it is many orders of magnitude more realistic- and more beneficial to its participants- than the Karate klip.

Point 2:

Instead of merely laughing at deluded people, we should see something like the above clip and then take a long and hard look at ourselves.

We must ask ourselves: How do we know that what we think is real and true is actually real, or true? Whether we believe that there were WMDs in Iraq; or whether we think that eating lots of citrus fruits will protect us from the common cold; or whether we believe that magic special shakey water (homeopathy) will cure our ills; or whether we believe that our Karate will work against a drugged up gangbanger trying to carjack us… We all have some false beliefs. Even a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic like myself. Buddhists might argue- correctly in my view- that our very perception of our self and our own existence is based upon a set of delusions.

Well as martial artists,.. heck, as a species, it’s time to take a look inwards, and decide what we want to be our method of telling truth from falsehood.

I suggest that hard evidence should be our guide. And the skill of being able to weigh evidence is not a natural skill we’re born with, it requires hard work. In fact, it requires as much hard work as learning to punch or kick or throw or lock or strangle properly, and it’s arguably more important as a skill for martial artists than any of those things.

Because how can we be martial artists without practicality?

How can we be practical without knowing the facts?

In a sea of lies and exaggerations, how can we tell what the facts actually are, without the skill of critical thinking?

We can not.

6 responses to “Empty Force and Empty Promises

  1. Peter McCarney 2013, December 31 at 9:26 pm

    Thanks for this. A thought-provoking article. I have seen a very senior Trad JJ BB demonstrate a similar technique including a No-Hands Knockdown. A shame really as he was and is a genuinely highly skilled exponent with a mil and boxing background. It only worked because of his “Suggestion” and with other factors, the BB student complied. Fortunately, we were not persuaded. Even so, it’s an easy trap to fall into when you’re searching for something beyond the accepted Syllabus to teach to high-grades.
    One other point which we overlook in the dojo is the absence of the sheer violence of an unexpected street attack. Better to recognise the threat and not be there. Anyway, thanks again for your post. It helps to keep us “honest” – in the old boxing term. Regards

    • withoutwriting 2014, January 1 at 8:09 pm

      That’s when I’m really disturbed by no-touch woo… when otherwise physically skilled instructors try to demonstrate it.

      When someone who has zero physical skill states they can knock someone out with their “ki energy”, it’s bad enough, but when a Ju-Jutsu black belt claims to be able to do it? Terrifying. Because their physical skill in other areas lends their fictional claims more weight, and makes people more likely to believe their nonsense.

      Here’s Bruce Lee on honesty:

  2. Avenger 2014, February 16 at 5:53 pm

    (1) You’ve exposed EFO Empty Force, which concepts is to neutralize an attacker without touching him, as a complete fraud. The video has completely demonstrated that. Nice job!
    (2)However, you exagerate quite a bit when you assert that EFO is no worse that what it can be taught in some schools of Aïkido, Karate, Taekwondo, Krav Maga or Systema.
    (3) From what I’ve seen in all the videos you’ve posted, it seems that the partners have to make contact to realize correctly the execution of their techniques, unlike EFO Empty Force.

    (4) You’ve posted two videos of Aïkido’s demonstrations, which can be misleading about the meaning of the concepts of Aïkido. During a demonstration the Aïkido’s practitioners have to make as many as techniques in a limited amount of time. In this context, the partners can sometimes hurry up and we can’t see the fondamentals of the technique.
    (5)Let’s watch a lesson of Sensei Tissier about the concept of Anticipation through the technique Shiho Nage : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpGcP3tgPUU
    (6) We can see step by step the realisation of the technique. First, Tori anticipates the attack and gives his hand to lead Uke to grab it. As soon as Uke grabs the hand, Tori gets out of the line of attack by making a Tai Sabaki. embroiled by his momentum, Uke loses his balance and Tori has the opportunity to perform his technique. Eventually, Uke falls because of the effect of the wristlock, it’s useless to resist at this stage.
    (7)So Aïkido is a real martial art, though it needs a huge amount of time of training before the practitioner can perform it in a self-defense context.

    (8)You provide us a video of a competition karate. We can’t classify it the same way as Aïkido, because there isn’t any competition in traditional Aïkido. We can watch some combats regulated by rules. However, we can see that the competitors are quite fit and some blows actually hurt a bit. However, this isn’t a video showing karate in a self-defense context.
    (9)Here’s for example a demonstration performed by Lyoto Machida and his brothers of karate’s techniques for self-defense purpose : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fudaXn1gKI

    (10)I know hardly anything about Systema, and from the footage you’ve provided, I’d tend to believe this system is bogus. However, after having done some researches, I’ve found a video showing Spetsnaz training in Systema : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnyszAefKyI
    It’s maybe what you’d call “killer commando” training.

    (11)Eventually, I think the Fitch clip (no comment on the karate clip…I think that it’s a compilation of the failed sequences! Ludicrous!) is a bit absurd. They dive into the hand that holds the knife of the partner to disarm him. They could impale themselves on the knife by doing so. Moreover, they use both their hands to hold the armed hand, though the agressor still has one hand free to hit. Fitch while unarmed even tried to perform a take-down on his partner! Who would try to do that against an agressor armed with a knife? You should run instead of trying this suicidal tactic!

    • withoutwriting 2014, March 21 at 10:29 pm

      (1) I can’t take credit for the video. It’s a wonderful piece of work, well done to those that made it.
      (2) Rather than being an exaggeration, it was a well evidenced point in the post that Empty Force is nonsense, but Aikido, point-karate, Systema etc… are all equally nonsensical.
      (3) You miss an important point: Making contact in an impractical way is just as bad as not making contact at all. In fact, it’s worse, as to the uninitiated (like yourself, I’m afraid), unrealistic contact can appear to be effective.
      (4) All demonstrations of Aikido technique are impractical, in my experience. And obviously so. Only self-delusion and ignorance can explain why some folk don’t see it.
      (5)Your video of this Christian Tissier bloke doing unrealistic Aikido moves is a perfect illustration of how impractical Aikido is. *No-one* who actually wishes to harm you will allow you to do these kinds of fantasy techniques on them. The Aikido of Tissier is no better than the no-touch Aikido of Watanabe. Impractical contact is no better than no-contact.
      (6)Your reeling off of flowery and irrelevant Japanese terminology notwithstanding, actually at any stage it’s perfectly possible to resist Aikido techniques. Go to an Aikido class and try it. Simply don’t allow your partner, or the instructor, to twist your wrists around. Pull your hands away. Stiffen your arm so that your arm can’t be manipulated. Do any number of things that a standard average joe on the street would do. You’ll quickly find that the Aikido does not work, and that all those who study it intending to learn self-defence from it are deluding themselves.
      (7) Well obviously Aikido is *not* a real martial art, as it cannot be used for actual combat, and has never been demonstrated to be useful in a controlled combative environment. But it’s interesting that now you’re resorting to the old fake martial art argument of: “It does work, it just takes years and years to master before you can actually use it”. Well even if that were true (which it isn’t), what use is it then? Why spend thirty years learning how to twist someone’s wrist just right, when three months of boxing, kickboxing, BJJ or wrestling will give you combative abilities that work *right here and now*? And have been proven to work against fit, conditioned opponents *on film*?
      (8) My dear chap, you’re missing the point again. Point Karate can be compared to Aikido in that they both contain fantasy elements. In Aikido the fantasy is relating to the mechanical effectiveness of the techniques. In point-Karate the fantasy is related to the fact that people don’t hit each other intentionally to harm each other. A person can win a fantasy contest like this, when they would lose an actual physical contest with the person they’ve outscored.
      (9) Yes, Lyoto Machida is well known for using his own real fighting prowess (in MMA) to sell his daddy’s fakery (Karate). And also his daddy’s habit of drinking pee. https://withoutwriting.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/biggest-disservice-to-martial-arts-award-2011/ So
      what’s your point?
      (10) And what is it that you think this hilarious video represents and/or demonstrates?
      (11) The Fitch clip represents two people trying things out in a really resistant environment. It’s what training should be. It’s far from reality, as no striking was employed. But if you wanted, you could slap the gloves on and gumshields in, and take it that step closer. But that’s not the point, my lad. The point is that this clip of people vigorously trying to stop each other is FAR, FAR more realistic and obviously more beneficial to its participants than the choreographed fakery that you so enthusiastically defend and subscribe to. Frankly you should wake up, like all those who go doe-eyed over fancy exotic dancey nonsense like Aikido.

      • William 2015, April 29 at 10:20 am

        I can not speak on the Jedi arts or on Aikido as I have not trained in it. What I can speak of is point fighting and its benefits and draw backs.
        1) Just sparing against a person trying to hit you back will make you a better fighter than someone who does not spar. Your timing, awareness and speed will all improve. The more you do it and the higher level you do it the more it will improve. This will make you a better fighter. Anyone who doesn’t think so is a moron.
        Point fighting give people the ability to compete in combat but in a controlled environment with small risk of long term brain damage. Something you have claimed you are against.
        Getting using to being hit is a good thing when it comes to a fight. This will happen in point fighting. Not all sparing is so controlled. During my black belt test I had to spar the 5 black belts on my panel. This was at the end of the 5 hour test and my master was the last. He took care not to injure me but I had bruises for a few weeks. I don’t want to get hit but I am not afraid of getting hit.
        2) It can build confidence and in young people that is very important, especially when it comes to being bullied. Standing up to a bully can often stop it. I am sure you would agree that being bullied is bad.

        Draw backs
        Point fighters learn to use techniques that are only good in tournaments. Some will put you in a very bad position and leave you vulnerable to other attacks. The time spent practicing these could be used on more effective real world techniques.
        While point fights will get hit it is not like it would be in boxing or kickboxing. This could also be considered a good thing to the long term health of the person.
        3) These draw backs can be corrected if one chooses to go into full contact. This is based not only on my personal experiences but also with others who made a more than successful transition, Joe Lewis, Benny Urquidez, Lyoto Machida and many other who made the transition. The benefits far out way the draw backs.
        4) There are other styles that would be more effective but those are not always available. Muay Thai schools are not easy to find. Free style or Greco Roman wrestling isn’t taught much outside of high school except at few MMA schools and then only a few classes. BJJ is becoming more prevalent but not in many small cities.
        5) The Fitch video would look the same if you exchanged the knife with a remote control. Nothing realistic about it.
        6) In your final statements you claim hard evidence should be a guide to the truth after posted the Fitch video. In another article you claimed Bruce Lee’s boxing record was a fact and had no reason to discount it even if it is totally unverifiable. You think it makes your case against a man you hate so the facts don’t really matter. You also said critical thinking was key. But in another article you are incapable of that because of your bias and hatred for one man. Since you are incapable of it there your likely incapable of it in general. If you are willing to spend time and energy trying to humiliate someone in an article and makes me wonder what reason you had to write this or any article. 7) Maybe you should grow a pair and do what the skeptics did when they exposed “EFO”. Put point fighter to the test. Go to a school and set up a camera and give them your opinion on point fighting. They should have an extra pair of pajamas, some head gear (not that you would need it since what they do is useless), and gloves you can use. Go to an adult class not a kids class. I know I will never see you post that video.

      • withoutwriting 2015, May 10 at 3:50 pm

        Thanks for your comment. Even though I disagree strongly with you, you have at least made the effort to flesh out your points with some background reasoning, and I appreciate that.

        I have taken the liberty of numbering your points above for ease of responding to them.

        1) You state that ‘sparring no contact is better than not sparring at all’. This is the first time in your long post that you are guilty of perpetrating the informal logical fallacy “False Dilemma”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma But it won’t be the last.

        You are here presenting only two options as if they are all that exist: Either no sparring, or sparring no-contact. But of course there are many other options. One can spar with full force to the body, but no contact to the head. No risk of sub-concussive brain trauma that way. Or one can spar with full force to the body and only kicks allowed to the head, as they do in Kyokushin Karate, where the risk of sub-concussive or concussive brain trauma is still very low compared to hard sparring kickboxing. But of course, the best way to train striking is to train in some form of unlimited kickboxing. One doesn’t have to go full contact all the time, of course, but if you have never done ANY full contact training, you will simply be fresh meat for the beast when it finally goes down. To use your rather offensive terminology, “anyone who doesn’t think so is a moron”! Or more accurately, anyone who doesn’t think so is simply deluded.

        Actually facing someone who wants to hit you in the face and is TRYING to hit you in the face is fundamentally different, FUNDAMENTALLY different than facing a no-contact opponent who might accidentally hit you. And the latter won’t prepare you psychologically, physically or technically for the former. All the great strikers would agree with me on this point. You MUST train full contact if you expect to fight full contact.

        2) You state that confidence in young people is very important, but in fact you’re wrong. Confidence that is misplaced can lead to more problems than it solves. The strong prey upon the weak. The best recourse for the weak is to *avoid* the strong, not to try to fight them. And if young people feel overconfident because they’ve done some fake playfighting in a karate class, they are likely to be beaten down when they respond physically to a bully that outweighs or otherwise outmatches them.

        You are not the only one to bring out the old anecdotal saying: “Standing up to a bully can stop the bully”… but I’ve personally seen more than one occasion when standing up to a bully led to the bully beating the living sh*t out of the person who challenged their dominance. Nobody talks about THIS very possible outcome, everyone yammers on about the former. There are reasons for that that should be obvious.

        We should be teaching our children tried and tested tactics for personal safety, not unrealistic fantasy fighting that might get them hurt in a real situation.

        3) You rightly state some of the drawbacks of point-karate and similar “no contact” styles. But you state that these can be “corrected” by going into full-contact… I’m sure you can anticipate my response: Go into some form of full contact FIRST. don’t waste years of your life playing tag in pajamas at all.

        Pretending that you can fight is dangerous. If you want to really know how to fight, you have to *get close to the fight*. That’s not easy, it may even involve occasional impacts to the head. But it’s not something that can be made rosy and child-friendly. It simply isn’t. Fighting is hard, scary and dangerous. Training for it must at LEAST be hard and even scary to bring you at all close to the real life experience.

        4) You state that “muay thai schools aren’t easy to find”. Well I’m sure that’s true in some places. But in virtually any big city in the western world, it’s not true. But either way, that’s not relevant to the point, because it’s better to NOT train, or only to train strength and fitness, than it is to train in pretend-fighting and come to believe yourself to be better than you really are. That- as stated before- can actually be dangerous to one’s health.

        5) You state there’s nothing realistic about the Fitch video… but you’re simply showing how ignorant you are about realism in training. In that clip there was genuine intent to stab, and genuine intent to grab and disarm. There was also a great degree of experience and technique going on. The participants were expending ENORMOUS amounts of energy trying to accomplish their discreet goals. That was the realistic element of the training, and it’s FAR more important than any other aspect of training. Without genuine intent and genuine resistance, the quality of training is non-existent. Virtually all your techniques that you practice in a compliant, no-contact environment will fail when your opponent starts to have different ideas than you.

        6). you’re commenting on my Bruce vs Chuck article here, in case anyone is wondering. I’ve inserted a link into both your comment and mine. Suffice it to say that my Bruce vs Chuck article is well reasoned with plenty of evidence cited and logical inferences drawn. It is categorically untrue that my hatred of the ultra-right-wing nutjob Chuck Norris influenced my judgement on who was the better martial artist.

        7) Are you suggesting that I, someone who has made the effort to train in a full-contact, non-compliant setting, should go to a non-contact Karate school and challenge one of their number to a fight? What would that prove, exactly? If I were to put a beat-down on someone who had never trained full-contact, it would only prove that I was a better fighter than they were. It wouldn’t prove that full-contact was a better training method. Likewise if the non-contact person were to- in some magical fantasy world- smash my teeth in, it would simply prove that I myself was a dreadful fighter. It wouldn’t prove that non-contact training exclusively can make people into fighters.

        No, we’d need a different test to the one you suggest. A test that’s actually already been carried out: There are zero fighters in the full-contact arena that only train non-contact. They ALL train in full-contact. Once a week, sometimes multiple times per week. Do you think they WANT to do that? No. They HAVE to do that. That by itself is proof that someone cannot develop their fighting skills to the level at which they can compete with others, just by wafting their hands and feet a few inches from each other’s faces. End of story.

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