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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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August 31, 2011

The Role of Fighting in a Primal Life

By Mark Sisson
288 Comments

In today’s post I’d like to explore whether fighting is something missing from our lives. Before you protest, understand what I mean by “fighting.” I won’t be directly commenting on the war and violence we see on the evening news. Genocide, conquest, theft, rape, and murder? These are acts of coercive violence, wherein either an institution, an individual, or a group of individuals perpetrate violence (or coerce others to do the perpetrating for them) against people who have not consented. No, I’m talking about something decidedly different. Boxing, MMA, martial arts, wrestling, and just roughhousing with some buddies are all examples of two people consensually engaging in interpersonal violence. Going up against another person in single, consensual combat where personal enmity is not the motivating factor? I can’t imagine a greater test of one’s strength, speed, skill, and smarts. Let’s dig in.

Last time, I mentioned that violence was ubiquitous among early humans. Hominids have been fighting for millions of years, and every culture of humans has a fighting tradition, from the boxing, wrestling, and pankration (a freeform mix of boxing and wrestling, similar to MMA) of the ancient Hellenic world to the well-known East Asian martial arts (judo, jujitsu, karate, kung fu, tai chi, etc.) to the folk grappling/wrestling traditions that every culture across every continent seems to have. People fight, people like winning fights, and fighting systems improve a person’s ability to win fights, so even if our ancestors weren’t writing instructional manuals, they were probably learning to fight.

In the West, we hear the words “martial art” and imagine Mr. Miyagi, Shaolin monks, and Bruce Lee uttering “Be like water.” It’s come to be associated most strongly with Eastern religious philosophy, with “zen” (or whatever we think zen is) and calm, kindly old men who’d rather teach and talk than fight (but when they fight, you better watch out). And indeed, most traditional Eastern martial arts are linked to various schools of religious thought, but when you get down to it, a martial art remains a codified system of combat – a fighting system primarily developed to improve self-defense and physical conditioning. So why the spiritual stuff? Systematic fighting likely didn’t arise as a way to become enlightened or achieve perpetual serenity – people developed codified fighting because it helped them win fights and stay alive in battles – the philosophy came after as a natural product of learning how to fight.

What if fighting is a way to “tame the beast” within? By being aggressive for a short amount of time in a controlled environment where aggression is expected and understood, you satisfy the “need” for aggression. Remember that human aggression is probably an adaptive trait, a deep-seated holdover from the days when surviving and thriving meant killing things (and sometimes people) for food or territory. As I mentioned yesterday, aggressive people had a better shot at obtaining resources, retaining mates, and spreading their genes. Evidence for the effect of fight training on aggression is mixed. While a few studies suggest that martial arts training increases aggression, a recent review (PDF) of the literature found that the majority of studies show martial arts to have a favorable effect on aggression across all age groups. Of course, this all presupposes that “aggression” is always a negative trait that results in actual violence. If that aggression is used or redirected productively – when training or fighting – it may not even result in destructive or “extracurricular” violence.

In fact, I’ve yet to see any evidence that martial arts training increases violence outside of the ring/mat/gym. There’s some evidence that training in martial arts or other fighting systems reduces violence, however, and it appears to have a generally positive effect on mood. Three US elementary schools used a martial arts training program called the Gentle Warrior to reduce bullying in 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Participants who spent the most time in the program displayed the most empathy, fewer bouts of aggression, and a greater frequency of helpful by-standing, or helping out others who were being bullied; the effect was only present in males, however. Another recent British study found that youths who were involved in “combat sports” were subjected to fewer environmental risk factors commonly associated with criminality. It was questionnaire-based and totally observational, but it’s supportive of the hypothesis that martial arts does not increase violence. A similar study was undertaken to assess the impact of martial arts training on “high-risk” youth, finding that training improved self-esteem and gave high-risk kids a less favorable attitude toward violence in general.

Martial arts could even be rehabilitative. In female veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who had been sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers while serving, a self-defense program improved their mental states and reduced PTSD symptoms. The results were impressive. At six months, behavioral avoidance and depression had decreased.

For a sport that revolves around inflicting damage on your opponent, mixed martial arts has fairly low rates of serious injury. In a study of injury trends during 635 professional matches, lacerations (tearing of the skin from blunt trauma, like a fist or knee; ugly, but relatively minor) were the most common injury. Serious concussions occurred in 3% of matches, and no deaths or serious injuries occurred. A comparison (PDF) between martial arts, wrestling, and boxing found that boxing resulted in the most injuries, followed by wrestling, and then martial arts, but overall, the three combat sports had similar injury rates to non-combat sports. I’ve heard that since boxing gloves are bigger than MMA gloves, they allow the fighter to take more hits, so more damage accumulates, somewhat similar to the effects of padded running shoes. The pain is blunted but the damage is done.

Overall, I think there’s a strong case to be made that humans derive a lot of benefits from fighting in a structured system against peers, not out of anger, but with mutual respect. Indeed, it appears to reduce or redirect aggression, relieve stress, build self-confidence, and improve mood (and who couldn’t use a little less stress, a little more confidence, and a better mood?). In my opinion, structured combat training allows us to address the modern “violence deficit” without seriously hurting others, hurting ourselves, or getting into trouble with the law. Joining an MMA or boxing gym, learning to wrestle, or attending martial arts classes are probably ideal, as they provide the structure and guidance that a beginner needs, and they offer the chance to “fight” people who are there with a similar mindset and purpose. Another option is to roughhouse with a friend, but I’m not sure unstructured, untrained freeform fighting offers the same benefits as a structured fighting system, or if it’s even safe. If that’s your only option, exercise caution, don’t ruin any friendships, or consider a heavy bag instead.

The only MMA site I’m familiar with is Sherdog, and from initial observations it appears to have a robust forum with some helpful folks who do the sport themselves (rather than just talk about professionals who do). If you want to get started with fight training, that might be a good place to start. If you’re looking for gyms or schools for instruction, quick Google of “mma gym (your city)” or “boxing gym (your city)” or whatever fighting art interests you will produce results. Be sure to check reviews on Yelp. A lot of places will offer beginner classes for free to let you get a feel for the place. Look for gyms with supportive, friendly teachers and students without visible egos. Don’t go joining Cobra-Kai dojo or anything like that.

I know from your emails that I have a lot of readers who are into mixed martial arts and other combat disciplines, so please – blow up the comment section with advice on how one gets started with learning how to fight. I’d really appreciate it, and I’m sure all our readers would, too.

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269 Comments on "The Role of Fighting in a Primal Life"

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shannon
shannon
5 years 3 months ago

I took a few “self-defense for women” classes. I enjoyed it. I was surprised at how hard women could hit. It did help me feel less depressed about being assaulted, and less vulnerable. The problem was, the classes were very far away from my house, and they were not offered very frequently. There didn’t seem to be much demand for them. I’ll look into the MMA thing.

Keirsten M
Keirsten M
5 years 3 months ago

The unfortunate fact is that most women take these classes AFTER an assault happens. I have trained some Jiu Jitsu and very basic Muay Thai, and my confidence levels increased tremendously. It is the little things, like being aware of your surroundings more. I don’t see myself being able to de-arm a huge man holding a knife, but I am confident that I wouldn’t allow that man to come that close to me without being aware of the danger about to ensue.

Melantha
5 years 3 months ago

The really sad part is that just taking a class like this can act as a deterrent to would-be attackers. You start carrying yourself differently and are less likely to be seen as a potential victim. I’ve been told I’m “intimidating” and I credit taekwondo in high school.

Alison
Alison
3 years 5 months ago

Unfortunately in my case, I had been doing sanda and Muay Thai for years, and under the influence of alcohol, I was still unable to prevent my sexual assault. It actually destroyed my confidence in the ring (I was training for amateur fights).

I only say this because while I still think martial arts classes will benefit women tremendously, I don’t want there to be an unreasonable expectation that you will be able to avoid confrontations. Your best defense is still to run away from any fight.

utb1528
5 years 3 months ago
Great article! I have been doing various martial arts for years. Growing up in Detroit and working in a jail I have had many chances to partake in violence. I have found that with a reasonable amount of training most of the fear of a fight is gone. This allows you to make a smart choice. Untrained people attack before it is necessary out of fear. If you people decide to take a new class go to a bunch of different schools and interview the instructors. Find an instructor with the same goals as you and jump in!
Jack
Jack
5 years 3 months ago

Confidence is the number one thing I got from martial arts in my youth. Going though high school was less stressful when I did not have to worry about being beat up easily. Many, many people wanted to pick on me for being the biggest kid there, but it was bad for them all.
Later, I learned various techniques of BJJ in the Army and have been a proponent ever since. I don’t like to fight, but I do enjoy sparring with a friend. There is something to be said about knowing your limits and them knowing theirs and learning together.

chris holland
chris holland
5 years 3 months ago
youth karate programs are pretty good. As a black belt, if i had the opportunity to train all over again, i would do boxing striking ( no competition until 18) and BJJ and wrestling training while young. I would also have a course on the arts overall, strengths and weaknesses as well. BJJ is king though. A great “karate” school (they are all different and use karate as a blanket term) can def include weapons training (the most fun) grappling and striking. if they dont do all of it, they are missing pieces.
aaron
aaron
5 years 3 months ago
violence against people by people is pathological, and useless, training for this agenda is foolish and egotistical. typical of jocko meatheads to believe that their superior physique will save the day… mostly their belief in their skills gets them into trouble, or they harm a loved one in a little “domestic fun” the fighting our ancestors did in the paleolithic world was against animals… bear, saber tooth tiger, wild dogs… this was a fight for your life not some wrestling match with your “buddy”… its so odd how people equate their personal aptitude with their battle outcomes, or their martial… Read more »
rose
rose
5 years 3 months ago

good on you. yes macho types, be super heroes instead of warriors

chris holland.
chris holland.
5 years 3 months ago
@ aaron, why not start a neighborhood watch and be armed to the teeth with self-defense and community defense skills rather than deal with a crazy (or crazies) who could be trained in these or similar arts yourself? I’ve trained with a team of local navy SEALs, sparred, weapons trained (police batons, all sorts of knives, guns etc). Opened my eyes to some crazy tactics and, being a young “tough guy” at the time (22 at the time) its like seeing the worl through a different lens, one where you arent invincible. my friends will tell you I dont start… Read more »
Ben
Ben
5 years 3 months ago

Hey, I go to Temple U too! Yes I have seen several thugs with guns run loose all over my neighborhood. A student even got shot on my street. I am thinking of training at Daddis Fight Camps soon. Where do you train out of? PS: That Aaron guy is living in his own world and is not aware of the evil world that was our paleolithic ancestor’s and our current world today.

Chris Holland
Chris Holland
5 years 3 months ago
Daddis Camps are amazing. Daddis is a highly trained fighter and he has a highly specialized team. My trainers (Im in a 1 yr masters school that owns my time, me and a buddy mix it up like 1 time a week independently). I’ve trained under Carlos Aldrete, formerly of Premier martial arts in Havertown (very good weapons and self-defense instructor, connected to amazing trainers, brown belt BJJ, master of many kung fu styles and kali, cert’ed in Krav, also very bright). I’ve boxed trained under Aldan Washington and in Upper Darby Gym, BJJ under Noah Spear of PLatoon Fitness… Read more »
an exsaparated "Jockomeathead"
an exsaparated "Jockomeathead"
5 years 3 months ago

Because a neighborhood watch isn’t fun? Face it: There is something hard wired into our brains. I mean otherwise, why would we take up martial arts? There has to be some element of enjoying it. And That’s there. I spar with my buddies all the time, and no one gets hurt. You’re either trolling, or you’re insulting people who are better than you at something because you tried and failed, or never even tried. Perhaps you’re sullen towards athletic types? Either way though, your comment is full of opinion driven fallacies.

Jay
5 years 3 months ago
Ridiculous. 1. direct results: Training in self defense develops the skills to maximize your chances of surviving an attack by another person. Too obvious to need to explain. “Failing to plan, is planning to fail”. Now, the real self defense skill is in target selection. Before you are attacked, you are selected as a victim. Lions don’t just run out into a herd hoping for the best. They watch, and select. They take the slow, and hurt, or sick. All predators are the same. Even, humans. They don’t just grab the next person that comes out of the mall. They… Read more »
Susan
Susan
5 years 3 months ago

Excellent. The idea that MMA is going to stop a bullet is not the point Mark was making. I believe what he meant and what Jay expanded on is exactly on target. Self-awareness, insight, change in who we are from the inside out….spiritual? Maybe. Effective? You bet!

Jay
5 years 3 months ago

Susan- Thanks. For a minute I thought no one had read my comment!

Sea
Sea
5 years 2 months ago

An excellent explanation, Jay. I never knew about the calming signal when dogs roughhouse. I’m curious if humans do this subconsciously as well. It seems that my well-trained (martial arts, weapons training) friends have a ‘cooling’ effect in high stress situations. Maybe they are, in addition to being confident, giving off calming signals…

Jay
5 years 2 months ago
Sea- People absolutely have calming signals. Look aways, contraction postures, not to mention the actual language used during escalation. Actually, the best time to see calming signals (just like in canines) is on the approach to a strange person to ask a question. They are actually very similar to dogs in that instance. Stopping at the edge of their personal space to show respect, softening of the facial features to show good will, raising if the eyebrows specifically to denote a “want”. Obviously, we’re verbal so we back our expressions up with “um…. excuse me…. I don’t mean to bother… Read more »
Dave
Dave
5 years 3 months ago

Aaron, you really can’t see any reason to up your fighting skills even a little? I’m no mma fighter, but, knowing wrestling/Judo/and just hitting a heavy bag, gives me an edge over someone who may mess with my family. I’ve used my wrestling skills to help a guy while he was being attacked by a group of guys.

Gino
Gino
5 years 3 months ago

The idea that our ancestors’ main hand to hand combat was for hunting purposes is preposterous. That is what weapons are for. Male-male competition is a biological imperitive that most species display, including our own. The fact is that in many modern hunter/gatherer societies violence/murder rates among males is significantly higher than in western countries (in some upwards of 50% of males die at the hands of other males). The idea of the peaceful “Noble Savage” is outdated and racist.

Jason
Jason
4 years 3 months ago
Maybe because martial arts in today’s world usually isn’t about real life fighting? Mixed martial arts, boxing , and wrestling, are used as sports for people to compete against each other. If you’re going to criticize these sports you might as well criticize hockey, basketball, football, baseball, and all of the other sports. And no the fighting done by our paleolithic ancestors was certainly not only among animals. like almost all mammals they fought each other to handle disputes and achieve dominance. And martial artists are hardly “jocko meatheads” as you call them. When most people join martial arts it… Read more »
WildGrok
WildGrok
5 years 3 months ago

I did judo in my childhood/teenager, it had a very positive effect. Looking forward to coming back to a dojo (most probably will do aikido)
Thanks Mark for a nice article!

Ian
Ian
5 years 3 months ago

I’d start to kneel regularly then – your ankle tendons have probably tightened since your teens and seiza will be uncomfortable until you have let them get used to the stretch.
Plus us westerners spend less time kneeling than the Japanese so we are not as used to it in general.

Tim
Tim
5 years 3 months ago

I take Aikido / Aikijujutsu and I love every minute of it. There’s something about being slammed into the floor that is so centering… I just can’t explain it. There’s no better way for me to burn off the stress from work than a good hour and a half on the mat.

Tim
Tim
5 years 3 months ago

And by the way, I highly recommend Aikido (and even more recommend Aiki-jujutsu if you can find it). I get a lot of great exercise, have learned a TON about how to handle myself in a variety of dangerous situations, and the ukemi (the falling and rolling) is extremely useful for other grok-like activities, such as falling from a tree or rolling over a truck tire, etc.

Michael C
Michael C
5 years 3 months ago

My entire family and I do Aikido as well. I definitely feel a lot more centered and calm when I go on a regular basis. I also like that it’s martial without being about winning or beating anyone.

Nomar Vazquez
Nomar Vazquez
5 years 3 months ago

Indeed, brother!

Primal Toad
5 years 3 months ago

“blow up the comment section with advice on how one gets started with learning how to fight”

I LOVE it!

I’ve had thoughts of taking yoga classes and I probably will too. But, I must be honest, these last 2 posts make me want to dive into martial arts or boxing asap too!

Dale
Dale
5 years 3 months ago

Actually some martial art systems offer Dao yoga alongside their other systems to develop flexibility. I do Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Dao Yoga, Qiqong and Qinna with my school.

Jeremy
Jeremy
5 years 3 months ago

The karate school I went to also offered yoga for no additional charge. I should go back: no longer too broke to afford the membership fee

Primal Toad
5 years 3 months ago
What do you all think of violence on tv shows and movies? I am talking about the KILLING. I’m mixed. I love the action and it does not have a negative effect on me. But, I do think it has a strong influence on children and teenagers. There is no doubt in my mind until someone proves me wrong. How do we prevent the young ones from watching this stuff? It’s kind of like some rap music… talking about getting drunk, getting high, etc. Not a shocker that people who engage in these activities in high school and college also… Read more »
Crystal
Crystal
5 years 3 months ago
To play devil’s advocate: what about the young people who watch those movies and don’t end up emulating what they see? My example: The Jackyl was my favorite movie when I was 12 (I had a thing for Bruce Willis). I’ve probably seen it several dozen times. However, I have never blown off Jack Black’s arm with a gun, no matter how obnoxious he gets 🙂 Personally, I think it’s important not to shelter kids from violence in movies, video games, music, etc. There’s no way to isolate them forever. So how do you keep them from becoming monsters? By… Read more »
Hal
5 years 3 months ago

Crystal – exactly. You can’t child-proof the world – you have to world-proof your child.

We all know the kid our freshman year of college that had been super locked down for their entire life, and once they get out on their own, they just explode.

I don’t ever want to be the parent of that kid. I would much rather have them be tempered to deal with the world as it comes to them.

Brad C. Hodson
5 years 3 months ago

I could even argue that children benefit from watching violent programming. I even wrote a paper on it back during my school days (won an award, too!). Rather than regurgitate, here’s a link to the paper: http://www.lavc.edu/english/page9/page14/page14.html

Siyyad
Siyyad
5 years 3 months ago

You can’t child-proof the world – you have to world-proof your child.

Awesome. Thank you!

JulietteD
JulietteD
5 years 3 months ago

I like your saying also “you can’t child-proof the world – you have to world-proof your child.”
I will definitely keep it in my mind as I raise my two young boys.

Vasco Nevoa
5 years 3 months ago
I too love that sentence!! It sums up what I eventually found out by myself by the time I had my second child. And a big part of world-proofing a child is exposing her to physical confrontation in a controlled environment. That is how we lose our fear of physical engagement, and fear is the ultimate reason we strike first. Being (almost) fearless eliminates the aggressive response, by my experience. The temptation of wanting to “clean up the world” is there for any conscious parent, but the world is what it is by large majority and some people will always… Read more »
Jack
Jack
5 years 3 months ago

I teach my son to walk away first, just as my father taught me. This served me well for a long time, but there came a day where it didn’t. I have recently taught my son take-downs and various throws and some striking.
You’re never going to make a perfect viewing experience for kids from TV, so teach them WHY it’s bad when something happens. Heck, I remember sneaking out of my room and downstairs to watch The Crow late at night. Talk about violent.

By the way, I’m gonna use the comment posted here. “World-proof your child” that’s amazing. Thanks.

Mark
Mark
5 years 3 months ago
Unfortunately it is a Reality point. What is real? How many of our children have seen a cow slaughtered. Realize that you have to pluck the feathers before you can eat a chicken? Food becomes a bit surreal to them. So to does the violence. Killing and warfare without consequences. I sat down one day with my son and went over some articles written by veterans about how they had a hard time dealing with the death they caused and saw in WWII. We talked about it and what it would mean to kill a man, I even used a… Read more »
Louis
Louis
5 years 2 months ago
Toad, you’re making big assumptions about the interaction between violence on TV and youth violence. The most glaring problem with your analysis is when you suggest that people who listen to rap music will engage in the behavior condoned by the lyrics. You neglect A) that the reverse could be true, namely that young people who engage in this kind of behavior identify with the lyrics and therefore listen to the music, and B) that the there is a significant segment of the population that listens to rap and *doesn’t* do this. Either way, it used to be rock ‘n… Read more »
Greg
5 years 3 months ago

I have participated in many different forms of martial arts including mma, boxing, thai boxing, bjj and jeet kune do concepts.

I can definitely attest to the fact that practicing martial arts makes people less likely to get involved in any fights.

GBJJ
GBJJ
5 years 3 months ago

100% agree. Fantastic post Mark- loved it. Ive competed in MMA, BJJ and trained in Muay Thai and Boxing for a number of years and this kind of disciplined training undoubtedly reduces my tendency to get in street fights!

Also just wanted to let you know at my BJJ school we have a number of avid followers of PB and your site Mark so thanks a lot!

John@Martial Arts
4 years 10 months ago

Martial arts are for self defense and not to involve in any fights.

Jim
Jim
5 years 3 months ago

I think an “acceptable” form of physical contact with other men (speaking as a man) is a huge benefit of sports/martial arts. I don’t believe in training that is based in fear or aggression, though. I find Systema to be a good blend of “real” contact while training the body to be relaxed and calm.

Kris
Kris
5 years 3 months ago
I will attest to that as well Jim. I have been taking Systema for almost a year now. Sure we pound on each other in training, but there’s a lot more going on. To those of you who don’t know, Systema is a Russian art, and focuses aroung BREATHING. Sure there’s some hitting and kicking, but overall, it’s very fluid. I’ve taken several arts before, and this one is the best. It’s almost like yoga. You learn where you hold tension, and how to deal with your own fear. You get a very primal inter-perspective as you learn what makes… Read more »
Nic
5 years 3 months ago
I know this is not any kind of martial arts but I played football in high school just like a huge number of kids do every year. It provided me an outlet for a lot of pent up aggression but that was not the best outcome of my participation. I was a part of a team doing battle together. Every Friday night we would all suit up in the same colors and fight a trench warfare and there was a victor and a loser, every night we played. I hit people, got hit, fought for my friends beside me and… Read more »
tebu4
tebu4
5 years 3 months ago
Glad you wrote about football here. As a woman, I’ve never played football, but I’ve seen the value of it in my son’s life. There is a comraderie between him and teammates that I think must be akin to fellow warriors in battle. I watch him and his team gather on the field and literally ROAR at each other, to get pumped up for the game, and I know there is something deep and primal and very needfully masculine in these rituals for him. He is, by the way, a gentle, loving and nonaggressive young man off the field. He… Read more »
J. Stanton
5 years 3 months ago
If you want to learn combat skills and have the opportunity to compete, but you don’t fancy getting punched in the face (or want to work your way up to it), Brazilian jiu-jitsu (“BJJ”) and catch wrestling are both competitive sports in themselves and foundational skills for MMA and unarmed combat generally. Moving on: Violence on an individual, personal level is something we’ve been dealing with for millions of years. Our role models, our stories of heroism, are all about individuals or small groups. It’s still coercive violence…but it’s coercive violence that we’re evolutionarily prepared to deal with. In contrast,… Read more »
Joe
5 years 3 months ago

Let me put my two cents in for training in a traditional martial art. I’ve been involved in karate for over 20 years. Many styles minimize contact to the head (which makes fighting less realistic but is probably a plus for long term brain health) and attract a different group of people than MMA gyms. I blog about eating paleo while training in karate (http://karateconditioning.blogspot.com/) if anybody’s interested.

Mike
Mike
5 years 3 months ago

Sounds cool. I’ll definitely check that out. I’ve been trying to square up my training with the Primal lifestyle for awhile. It would be awesome to see how someone else approaches it.

Skinny Fitness
5 years 3 months ago

Nice post. The Gracie Brothers have a Jiu Jitsu program that teaches kids to be “Bullyproof” and it focuses martial arts techniques that build confidence. Bullys will observe the confidence in these kids through their demeanor and attitude and likely pick another victim.

https://www.graciekids.com

If they do chose to engage a kid who has gone through this training, they will likely regret it.

My own son was confronted by a bully at school after training with these guys and let’s just say nobody he won’t be bothered again.

Sean – SkinnyFitness

Jared
Jared
5 years 3 months ago
I fight in Systema, which is an ancient Russian martial art. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systema There are lots of schools around the US and Canada. With the modern form of it being headquartered out of Toronto. I tried different martial arts and liked it the best b/c it covered things that I thought were truly beneficial. Plus, if you walk into a school and see only special forces and swat team guys, you figure out quickly that you are in the right place. There is no cheesy belt level or kata to memorize. Most of the class is one on one or one… Read more »
Mike
Mike
5 years 3 months ago
I’ve been training in Karate for awhile now, and I’ve had the privilege of working with some respected instructors from other styles. The one thing I’ve noticed is that the best fighters are also some of the kindest gentlest people I know. The hotheads generally don’t last long, so that may be part of it, but I’ve met people who are, if you see them fight, terrifying, but you’d never suspect that if you met them in everyday life. I’ve been trying to figure out what causes that Sensei effect. I originally thought it was dure to release of aggression,… Read more »
Big T
Big T
5 years 3 months ago

> The one thing I’ve noticed is that the best fighters are also some of the kindest gentlest people I know.

I agree with that. My current sensei is about 5-foot-6, skinny as a rail, and just a nice person, but she can throw a 300 lb. guy across the room. She can also move like lightning with a bokken (wooden samurai sword).

homehandymum
homehandymum
5 years 3 months ago

Totally agree. We made friends with a lovely couple a few years ago (at an antenatal class). The husband/Dad was the sweetest, most generous, nicest and straight-up guy you could meet.
He was special forces.

I can’t imagine him ever picking a fight with anyone – he had nothing to prove to anyone.

Sadly, he was killed in Afghanistan just a couple of weeks ago. 🙁

Minh
Minh
5 years 3 months ago

You wouldn’t happen to live in GA and your sensei wouldn’t happen to be Mary Giles would she? I’ve been told that she kick ass 😀

Minh
Minh
5 years 3 months ago

You wouldn’t happen to live in GA and your sensei wouldn’t happen to be Mary Giles would she? I’ve been told that she kick ass 😀

Thornton
Thornton
3 years 10 months ago

Yes, I live in Atlanta, GA, and Mary Giles is my sensei. She does kick ass, and she’s a very nice person, too.

Uncephalized
Uncephalized
5 years 3 months ago
I think a big part of it is that once you are really, truly formidable, you no longer have any need to posture and pose or threaten to keep people from starting violence with you. You also, presumably, have had a chance to learn that every fight is a real risk of injury or death no matter how good you are (you could always mess up, or trip, or the other guy could just be faster than you), and would prefer to avoid it if possible, because it’s not abstract to you, it’s a real, possible consequence of violence. So… Read more »
fitmom
fitmom
5 years 3 months ago

I’ve noticed this, too. The big burly guys look formidable, and can be…but there are tiny little ladies and awkward shy teenagers and meek-looking middle aged men who can kick ass six ways to sunday. And you’d never know it, seeing them on the street.

Tim
Tim
5 years 3 months ago

This is something that messes up the observational studies as well. Since hotheads don’t have the discipline to do serious training, that fact that people who have been through training aren’t hotheads comes as no surprise.

Big T
Big T
5 years 3 months ago

I studied Tae Kwon Do as a child, studied Aikido in college, and am now (at age 43) studying Shinkendo and Aikido. I can definitely say martial arts helps my mood and gives me a safe outlet for frustration and aggression.

Ward
Ward
5 years 3 months ago
I trained at various forms of kick boxing and I played football in highschool and college. At 50 I took up Brazillian Jiu Jitsu and Judo and it has been the best athletic experience of my life. I have also run and lifted weights and I love to swim. I lift very little anymore but love kettlebells and body weight excersizes. Violence is a fact but more often than not I think it comes out of fear and martial arts reduces that fear and produces confidence. I enjoy BJJ and Judo more than striking because there is more thought involved,… Read more »
Daniel
Daniel
5 years 3 months ago
i spent the last 25 years or so training in various martial arts. and while i have let that part of myself go recently, i do maintain that the martial arts do provide a constructive avenue to release aggressive instincts. that being said, i dont really feel that we “need” systematic training systems to feed the “need” for violence or aggression. any pursuit that allows us to be aggressive even if momentary can work. i’ve found that tracking and bow hunting work just as well. so does hunting hogs( im from texas and yes, we run down wild hogs here.… Read more »
Josh A. Kruschke
Josh A. Kruschke
5 years 3 months ago

What is your goal? Is it just for fitness or do you want to learn to defend yourself?

Sports fighting and Self-defense are not the same and require different skills.

The skills you need to defend yourself from social violence are different than the ones you need for asocial violence.

Know what you are learning, don’t confuse learning sport fighting with learning to defend yourself.

Some good websites and interviews.

http://www.martial-secrets.com/

http://www.martial-secrets.com/2011/08/14/marc-animal-mcyoung-%e2%80%93-animal-list-bbq-interviews-2011/

http://www.martial-secrets.com/2011/05/31/martial-secrets-12-part-1-of-2/

http://www.martial-secrets.com/2011/05/31/martial-secrets-12-part-1-of-2/

http://practicalbudo.blogspot.com/

🙂
Josh

Daniel
Daniel
5 years 3 months ago
and yes the sensei affect is real. ive had some great ones that were mean as hell but most of them were extremely kind in private. just had to know them. but it does come with killing the ego. ego death is crucial to ANY kind of skill in the martial arts beyond superficial gymnastics. and i believe that the spiritual aspect of marital arts (if it did not originate in the wu dang mountains) really only became part of the systems AFTER buddhism came to china and fused with taoism to become chan or zen(japanese). warriors realized early on… Read more »
Abe Wagner
Abe Wagner
5 years 3 months ago
I am a professional MMA fighter and I can say that martial arts has changed my life. I do agree that there is something primal about testing your skills and fighting spirit against another man. Also, I’ve seen studies that show the winner of a physical encounter receives elevated testosterone for a few days after (presumably b/c 100,000 years ago the fight would have been over breeding privileges with a group of females). And it’s true, you do feel euphoric for a few days after a decisive win. Not as much after a decision win though I’ve noticed.
jeff
jeff
5 years 3 months ago

Are you the Abe Wagner that took out Tim Sylvia? Sweet!

Abe Wagner
Abe Wagner
5 years 3 months ago

The one and the same.

Trav
Trav
5 years 3 months ago

Weren’t you also on The Ultimate Fighter?

Abe Wagner
Abe Wagner
5 years 3 months ago

This is also true. Also, I’m in this round of the Bellator heavyweight grand prix.

Mike
Mike
5 years 3 months ago
It’s ironic but true, fighting really does make you less aggressive for the most part. When you get in there and actually mix it up, you know your strengths and weakness. You don’t have to assume you have fighting skills because you know. You understand that even winning a fight can be very taxing both physically and mentally and that if you can avoid a physical confrontation, you will almost always be better off in the long run. I am actually shocked that more people don’t train in combat sports because you really get 2 for one: fitness and learning… Read more »
Mustafa Korkut
5 years 3 months ago

Dear Mark, i do some JJB from time to time. I would like to know , where do we place the JJB workouts, they are fairly intense, in a way, but also very fun to do. So if you could just tell us, if I do let’s say 4-8 hours a week, that’s 2-4 days, and do the primal workouts, i wouldn’t be forcing myself too much, would I ? Thanks

George
George
5 years 3 months ago

You could use the workouts you already do as your base, throw in some strength specific workouts and you are set, even just 2 a week would be fine.

Weathered Donkey
Weathered Donkey
5 years 3 months ago

A great place to get started is the Lions Den. Awesome people and fantastic trainers. I belong to the one in CT. Even professional fighters such as Ken Shamrock and Mikey Burnett stop by from time to time and teach.

Joanne - The Real Food Mama
5 years 3 months ago
Its an interesting topic for sure. My two young boys love to wrestle and play fight with their dad (I would usually play too, but a preggers belly is getting in the way) and I often wonder if we would treat a daughter the same way…in my mind I would. I was a tom boy growing up and i believe that my parents ability to recognize that we all need to be active in that way made me a more well rounded women. I have other mom friends who wouldn’t dream of letting their daughters wrestle and play fight like… Read more »
Erick
Erick
5 years 3 months ago

I have two boys and two girls, and I think our wrestling is about even between the boys and girls, and the girls are still as girlie as you can get (dolls, dresses, hair, etc.)

They all like to dog-pile on Mom, I think even more than on me (I tickle back.)

Mike W.
Mike W.
5 years 3 months ago

So Mark, how would you structure your carb intake if you were training in MMA, say at least one skill session per day and probably 4 good hard strength and conditioning sessions per week? (This would be probably be pretty minimal for some) I realize that every individual will be somewhat different but what do you think as a general guideline? Refer to “Primal Compromises for Athletes”????

Isa
Isa
5 years 3 months ago
Hi, As a female who trains, Muay thai and BJJ, plus some olympic lifting, I can honestly say, it lifts your spirits, keeps you fit, and unlike almost every other physical activity has no boredom quotient… as an ex ballet dancer, I loathe sport and exercise… triathelons to me are 3 ways to be bored…. MMA is great, power, strength, flexibility and complexity. Most combat gyms are friendly and open, if not you don’t want to train there.. Brazilian jiu jitsu is one of the most complex activities to learn that there is. It takes up to 10 or more… Read more »
George
George
5 years 3 months ago

Fighting is part of our fight or flight mechanism an an essential part of our psyche. Physicality is essential as well to overall well-being.

Too often we are taught to “flight” versus “fight”. Talk to any WW2 vet (they are getting fewer and fewer so find one!) and they are all fight. Too much today we tell children and adults to “go get help” for their problems instead of “fighting” and solving it on their own.

Time to bring the fight back.

Jenny
5 years 3 months ago

Good points… violence between humans is natural to us so we might as well do it in a safe context.

I think there’s a lot of overlap between this topic and big game hunting, another violent activity we don’t engage in often yet we evolved with it. Arguably we probably had to hunt more often than we had to fight other humans.

Regardless, I would wager that both of those fronts could be satisfied by controlled aggressive behavior like martial training. Maybe even some non-combat sports.

tom h
tom h
5 years 3 months ago
I Love this Post! I recommend readin Yukio Mishima’s Sun and Steel. The guy may have had some personal hangups and weird politics, but he hit the nail on the head when it comes to combat sports. There is no truer way to confront the limts you place upon yourself. I’m trying to integrate the Primal BluePrint Fitness and Movnat type training of the 10 fundamentals into a weekly schedule. I do Judo/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, stickfighting, bouldering, yoga, swim, lift heavy things, sprint….I’m busy but trying to streamline things. I think these two systems could meld together nicely. I think… Read more »
jk
jk
5 years 3 months ago
My recommendation: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). Also known as “the gentle art” in particular, BJJ is a grappling / submission based martial art. – Practicality: BJJ has a proven track record of being a martial art that actually works. Check out this kid :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ans2z3IHa0Q – Reduced chance of injury: Since there is no striking, you can train BJJ at a high level of intensity without injury. Contrast this with striking-based martial arts. Injuries do happen, but BJJ has a built-in system to prevent them: you can tap out (in other words, you tell your partner “ok you got me”). –… Read more »
bodhiC
bodhiC
5 years 3 months ago

I agree. I’ve been studying BJJ for around two years now and I can’t say enough good things about it. Since adopting the Primal Blueprint it’s really helped improve my Jiu-Jitsu game and increase my level of fitness.It also does wonders for increasing concentration and relieving stress.

Jay
5 years 3 months ago
YES!!!! I’ve been waiting for someone in the mainstream to realize the value of martial arts training (specifically the realistic varieties)is the primal lifestyle! Glad to see it. As is usually true the blending of these ideas are not new, but certainly forgotten. Gorges Hebert (founder of the Natural Method, precursor to MovNat) included it way back when. I would encourage anyone following the Primal lifestyle to look specifically for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I could write an entire article on the physical and mental fulfillment of grappling as it relates to being Primal. As well as how we integrate those workouts… Read more »
Zulu Cowboy
Zulu Cowboy
5 years 3 months ago

This guy knows what he is talking about: check out his personal fight record, lineage and students. I personally benefited from his insight and wisdom for a good few years. (he also writes a great blog).

Jay
5 years 3 months ago

Small world! Don’t recognize the handle, but I’m glad you enjoyed your time with us. Thanks for the compliments.
Jay Jack

Stan the Man
Stan the Man
5 years 3 months ago

The Gracie brothers seem to have a good system for teaching kids to fight without making them into bullies themselves.

https://www.graciekids.com/Default.aspx

Sassy
Sassy
5 years 3 months ago
Martial arts has many more benefits than negatives, though there are negatives, just like anything else. I had an interest in MA since I was a kid. but never had opportunity. fast forward. youngest son is the ‘fat kid with thick glasses’ (his words, not mine) who gets picked last for all the teams. TKD classes gave him something he was the only one on his team. Win or lose, it was on him. (youngest kid also the one you do NOT want to piss off, because he has learned sneakiness from older siblings) He excelled at the sport, competitively… Read more »
John
John
5 years 3 months ago

I would recommend Krav Maga. If possible train with certified instructors under Krav Maga Global (KMG) or International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF

Beau
5 years 3 months ago

I’d second this suggestion. Krav Maga is an awesome combination of thoroughly (and pretty immediately) effective self defense and an awesome workout. I’ve been training for around 4 years and love it.

The gym I train at blends in a lot of sparring (once you’re in level 2/3+) and there are also separate “fight classes” where all you do is spar if you’re looking for that. Nothing compares to standing up, face to face against someone who intends to hit you, and beating them to it.

Nate S
Nate S
5 years 3 months ago

I’ll throw in a shout out to KM as well. It’s more of a street fighting/self defense system than a martial art, but it still comes with a lot of the side benefits – confidence, awareness, discipline, etc. If you’re looking for more of a sport, KM might not be the route to take, but if you’re looking for a great workout with practical, street-tested skills give KM a shot.

KravInstructor
5 years 3 months ago

Absolutely I recommend Krav Maga. If you are in the United States, however, what you are looking for is a Krav Maga Worldwide licensed school with KMW licensed instructors. There aren’t many KMG or IKMF schools in the US…

Mike
Mike
5 years 3 months ago
As a veteran of the football field and a thrice-deployed war veteran I completely agree with the idea of controlled, purposeful, organized violence exercised within the bounds of “friendly” competition. As was stated above my high school football days provided me with a foundation of cooperation and team spirit mingled with a violent outlet. It gave me awareness of the exhilaration of direct physical conflict that can result in victory or defeat. Defeat and victory come as a result of the team and awareness of what the team is doing to take care of you and what you can do… Read more »
TSJ
TSJ
5 years 3 months ago

I would love to have the chance to get into some form of defense or martial arts – I think it would help out with the confidence, especially living in the #1 most violent city in the country.

The problem? Things martial arts all seem cripplingly expensive in a city where you’re lucky to have a minimum wage job. Any suggestions on how to get in on self defense or fighting arts when you’re just barely making ends meet?

Mike W.
Mike W.
5 years 3 months ago
Find a gym that you are interested in try to meet with the gym owner. Explain to him your money situation and tell him/her the amount you are limited to spend for the month. Some owners might consider allowing you to clean the gym or mop the mats to make up the rest of your monthly fee. After you learn some of the basics of the art, you might be able to trade some time helping with children’s classes for some of your monthly fees. It’s a long shot but worth a try. The bigger commercial type gyms will probably… Read more »
utb1528
5 years 3 months ago

Also try College, Churches, and municipal recreation centers. Some have clubs you can join with very reasonable prices.

shaun
shaun
5 years 3 months ago

Extreme video game and movie violence is desensitizing. You experience that violence in an insulated way the retards your ability to empathize. If punch you in the face I have to witness the your pain first hand. If cut your head off in a video game we giggle, fist bump and go get another round of beers.

Richard
5 years 3 months ago

Brilliant. We’ve taken self defense (krav maga) classes at two different schools and just enrolled in a new one Monday night. It’s a great workout and great stress reliever if nothing else.

Jzoe
Jzoe
5 years 3 months ago

Learn some basics on youtube and do them on your own. I shadow-boxed and learned how to throw some nasty kicks over the years, but recently joined a club where I can utilize my fullest potential! DISCIPRIN!

Timothy
5 years 3 months ago

I have experienced many forms of exercise, and I’m no stranger to pushing my limits, but nothing on earth comes close to the level of exertion of a grappling match on the ground. Many times I have been unaware of how hard I was working until nearly passing out. Bipedal sparring is a close second.

So I agree that “fighting”, in the way that lion cubs tussle, is very good for you indeed. Aggressing against others, especially when paid or commanded to do so: not so much.

Brett
Brett
5 years 3 months ago

Do it! Do it! Do it! It does not really matter what style you train in. Just pick a reputable instructor and dive in.

Its fun. Its working out with a purpose. It trains your mind as well as your body. Just like any other endeavor, once you get into it. You will start by picking the art. Then the art will pick you.
\m/(-_-)\m/

Tom
Tom
5 years 3 months ago
This is pretty much theoretical discussion. I have been involved in Martial Arts for a long time including, Muay Thai, MMA and JKD. I love these sports, but they have very little to do with healhty living if done seriously as the number of injuries is overwhelming. They may build a character, fitness or relieve the stress but getting involved in full contact combat sports means paying with your health – full stop. On the other hand some dilluted KungFu class or so called self-defense classes will not help you to defend yourself – they may just get you killed.… Read more »
Brett
Brett
5 years 3 months ago

Dude. You don’t need to go balls out full contact to have fun training. You also don’t have to go starting fights just because you train martial arts. I have been training for 20+ years and I am healthy, fit and am still having fun training JKD, Eskrima, Boxing, BJJ…..
\m/(-_-)\m/

shannon
shannon
5 years 3 months ago

Agree. The people I know who have done martial arts for years have a lot of injuries. And, I also know people who have trained for years and still don’t feel as if they could win a street fight, especially against guys with weapons. In my ‘hood, the attackers are armed with pistols. It would be stupid to try to fight one of them.

pocopelo
pocopelo
5 years 3 months ago

Amen, Tom. Do an internet search. There are companies out there who do “self-defense” instruction whose only qualifications are a miminal instruction course for their instructors. A complete joke that does nothing but give people a false sense of security.

Jeff
Jeff
5 years 3 months ago

Well timed again Mark. I’ve been trying to decide between a Shotokan Karate gym or an MMA gym which has Muai Tai and Jujitsu (along with crossfit classes). The MMA is more expensive, but has more to offer. I like the Karate though because you also learn shadow arts or Katas, which I think would be just as valuable as the martial art itself.

JNaughton
5 years 3 months ago
I studied kung fu many, many years ago. I was never less inclined to “prove” something by fighting. Probably a combination of increased self-confidence and the realization that “winning” a street fight proves nothing. I haven’t retained much of the physical skills I developed way back then, but have kept two lessons: 1) Do everything possible to avoid a fight, especially running away, as it’s pointless. 2) If you have no other option but to fight, go “all in” — no rules, no mercy until you can safely leave. I have a minor complaint about the phrase that martial arts… Read more »
Reacher
Reacher
5 years 3 months ago
As someone who has played hockey for 50 some years and who has also trained in martial arts for a long time, my opinion is that playing in combat like sports and learning to fight is generally a positive thing. Number one is that it gets rid of aggression. It seems to use up testosterone and you are pretty mellow after participating. Number two is that learning to fight and protect yourself is a necessity and both young males and females need this type of training. It gives confidence, teaches young people that sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t.… Read more »
CT
CT
5 years 3 months ago
Long-time martial artist, I’ve trained in many disciplines, and while a catch-phrase in this area is “self-defense”, far more important for me is defense of others. I can take a beating if necessary, however I could not tolerate a loved one getting attacked while I’m there. Being able to defend my wife, family, friends is far more important to me than self-defense. And yes it’s true that once you achieve a certain level of proficiency, you can send most would-be attackers packing with a calm stare. Lastly, I will say that the only way to really be able to fight… Read more »
George Matheis
5 years 3 months ago
I have been fighting or making a living off teaching people to fight for a long time. First as a cop in the ghetto, and now running my own training company, I train everyone from soccer moms, to the military. I am also a Combat Skills Instructor for the DOD. This topic is near and dear to my heart. I believe that controlled “violence” prevents street violence and bullying. Boys naturally rough house, and too many Mom’s who don’t understand the importance of it shut them down. It is a good thing to get punched in the face and the… Read more »
Rachel
Rachel
5 years 3 months ago

I started submission grappling (like BJJ) two months ago, and it is the most exhilirating thing I have ever done. It’s primal, intense, very physical AND mental.

Grappling brings you into body contact with a wide range of people, and it’s strangely satisfying. In our society, we are often physically isolated from other people, and the friendly competition of grappling is a great way to make physical connections.

Jaime
Jaime
5 years 3 months ago

Great point! Another alternative is Tango!

Rosemary
Rosemary
5 years 3 months ago

I train in Krav Maga – not only is it a great workout, but it is also a great way to release excess agression, anger, stress, etc. in a controlled environment, and get hands-on experience with fighting and self defense without getting hurt.

Ruby Rocker #77
Ruby Rocker #77
5 years 3 months ago

I’d definitely agree that controlled “combat” is a healthy engagement. I play roller derby – and while it’s not hand-to-hand combat, it’s still an aggressive, full-contact sport where there is a controlled, yet combat-driven environment. It is really incredible to feel and witness the positive results – it is a perfect channel for inner aggression, and many women will report an overall increase and improvement in mood, self confidence and health.

Great article!

Kevin
Kevin
5 years 3 months ago

A friend of mine and I hit the park the other night for a couple of rounds of boxing. You learn a lot about yourself when you are getting punched in the face. I can’t say when the last time that I had the adrenaline flowing like that night.

Jaime
Jaime
5 years 3 months ago

fight club!

Bill
Bill
5 years 3 months ago

You don’t talk about Fight Club…

GEON
GEON
5 years 3 months ago

I have been practicing and teaching a full-contact martial art that utilizes continuous sparring. I can’t say enough positive things about martial arts – its good for the mental and physical balance and provides strength in a very positive way that has lots of benefits.
Calming the mind and balancing the body are great goals and this is a solid path to attain both!
Its rare that anyone gets hurt in our classes – as finding control is what this is all about!

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