Administrative Contact: Neal Fletcher aka "Phrost"
Phone: +01.8165648488; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
911 SE 5th Terrace, Lees Summit MO 64063
This review courtesy of Phil Elmore at themartialist.com
"March, 2005: So there I was, surfing the Web innocently enough, when I stumbled on a link to an FAQ file at Bullshido.com. If you're not familiar with Bullshido.com, you needn't be; it's one of the more notorious troll sites on the Web. More specifically, it's a discussion forum peopled by a collection of ignorant, angry teenagers – a sort of Lord of the Flies for the virtual age, complete with a few token adults attempting to run the asylum from within. The site's members, believing themselves to be smart enough and experienced enough to "out" various frauds, fakes, and freaks in the self-defense community, have applied a unique mechanism for so doing: they simply make fun of everyone and everything. The exception is sportfighters; the site is essentially a fan club for mixed martial arts (MMA), the current fad in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
There's a commercial for an employment agency making the rounds on television as I write this. In the spot, a hapless office-dwelling fellow explains on the phone that he works with a bunch of monkeys. The camera pans back and we see that he is indeed surrounded by chimpanzees, hooting and slapping and scratching and generally making a lot of noise while accomplishing little. The imagery immediately brings to mind the denizens of Bullshido.com. Never have so few said so much so loudly while knowing so little. Over the time the site has existed (it started life as "McDojo.com," but was forced by legal threats from McDonalds to change its name) it's managed to ridicule just about everyone in the Reality Based Self Defense (RBSD) and martial arts scene in general, sparing no one save the select number of MMA types whose approach is greeted with acceptance by the chicken-wire-and-shoulder-pad clad denizens of this Thunderdome of the Internet. It wouldn't surprise me if the site was run from a server room inhabited entirely by hyperactive chimpanzees in diapers
You can imagine my reaction, then, when I discovered an entire Frequently Asked Questions file devoted to me and the participants of Pax Baculum, The Martialist's official discussion forum. I was dimly aware that the denizens of Bullshido.com spent a lot of time fretting over and complaining about me, endlessly linking to pictures from The Martialist. What I hadn't realized was how thoroughly obsessed they were with my publication, its editorial perspectives on self-defense, and my own credentials as... well, an ordinary guy who's never claimed to be anything but a private citizen. You could say that about the time Bullshido.com has taken the time to print a ridiculously long screed about how wrong you are, you've arrived on the self-defense scene. I knew I must be doing something right when I read all this.
Still, dedicated as I am to objective philosophy, I'm not inclined simply to let this badly reasoned piece go unanswered. It is very long, so this refutation and rebuttal is very long. If you manage to get through all of this you've got the patience to wade through the Bullshido.com forum. Be warned; studies conducted inhumanely on rabbits, mice, and Republicans indicate that reading that forum kills brain cells.
As I read further into the FAQ, my bloodshot eyes grew wider, my eyebrow arched higher, and my countenance grew more incredulous. While not written as poorly as I would have expected, the FAQ clearly shows how easy it is to mask one's bias and one's willful ignorance behind a collage of self-important rationalizations. Mildly remarkable for its pretentious style, the FAQ is also noteworthy for the great lengths at which it strives to expose... well, things I've already told everyone publicly.
The original file is a turgid list of claims, counterclaims, quotes from the demigods of the Bullshido universe (if you're curious, these are usually any of several sportfighting and MMA/BJJ personalities), and spurious conclusions based on the illogic of the author(s). For ease of reading, we'll take the salient points one by one here, separating each one in bold from my response to it.
The FAQ asserts that I and my forum participants do not "like" sportfighting systems, including "any style of fighting that encourages training for, and participation in, competition."
This is a bit of an oversimplication but points to a very specific point I've made at The Martialist – that sports are not fighting and that sport training is not primarily self-defense training. The topic was the subject of a point-counterpoint editorial. There are few arguments in the FAQ, if any, not addressed by my portion of the editorial, but we'll go over some of the same ground in the course of this write-up.
I don't have anything against sports training as such; it certainly has benefits for the practitioner. As I said in my portion of the editorial, however, sports training is not self-defense training. My interest is in pragmatic self-defense, not in sports or competition. The Martialist is devoted to realistic self-preservation and not to whatever ego gratification one derives from competing in sporting bouts of the type favored by MMA enthusiasts.
It's my suspicion that this, above all other possible points of contention, is the crux of the Bullshidoka's problems with me and my publication. I was watching Spike TV's Ultimate Fighter reality show, in which a group of would-be UFC/MMA competitors live in a house together while training and periodically fighting one another to see who is eliminated on a weekly basis. The participants in the show are fairly typical of the worst elements of the sportfighting crowd – vulgar jocks with the minds of children, who spend their time weeping, whining, and bickering with one another when they're not drunkenly punching through doors or pissing on each other's bunk beds. "There's no crying in the UFC," I complained to the television.
It is these child-men trapped inside the buff bodies of professional athletes who epitomize the Bullshido.com mentality. The sportfighting mindset is basically an immature and ego-driven outlook on life – the arrogant belief that one can be the strongest and the toughest (and that one proves so in competition against others) coupled with a deep and abiding insecurity about one's abilities. Thus such people dismiss the utility (and the need for) weapons of self-defense, believing that they can be tougher than any armed opponent (or they dismiss the notion entirely as a "waste of mental energy). Thus such people believe the way to "prove something works" is in the controlled conditions of one-on-one sporting bouts. Anyone who disagrees with this approach is therefore perceived as attacking the sportfighters' senses of self. My failure to see their sports as proof of their self-defense prowess (of how tough they believe themselves to be) is a personal affront to such critics, who lash out accordingly.
This attitude also expresses itself in how such people perceive my own published work. Because the sportfighter's central concern is asserting his toughness, his machismo, his ability to fight others, he views all other's efforts through this same lens. Thus, when I post a picture of myself in illustrating an article, or when I make any statement of opinion, the typical Bullshidoka (wrongly) believes I am trying to tell the reader how tough I think I am, or how skilled I believe myself to be. The reality is that I know I'll never be the toughest, the fastest, or the strongest guy on the block. I'm not arrogant enough to believe I'll be able to take on and best any attacker. I'm not insecure enough to need to prove myself to others. No, I'm an ordinary guy who understands that self-defense is NOT a game, NOT a sport, and NOT something at which to play. That is the essence of the "fight unfairly" philosophy of The Martialist and it is why those who understand the reality of self-defense also devote a great deal of time and effort to the study and use of weaponry, the pursuit of reality-based training, and the sober recognition of the difference between sports (however physically demanding) and real life.
The Bullshido.com FAQ incorrectly divides all parishioners into sportfighters and traditionalists, falsely claiming that the latter discourage all forms of full-speed, hard-contact training.
This is a fairly typical misconception on the part of sportfighters, who believe that they and only they understand how to train "alive" and how to do so against "resisting opponents." No amount of explaining one's training to such people will convince them that you, too, understand the need for such hard-contact training, or that you engage in it. No, the typical Bullshidoka is convinced that you are a mewling sissy-boy who refuses to "get in the ring" because you're afraid to break a nail, or something.
The reality is that among reality-based self-defense exponents, traditional martial artists, and non-traditional contemporary practitioners of various self-defense systems, there exists a wide spectrum of training levels and training options. I've been studying the martial arts since around 1990. In that time I've trained in a no- and low-contact Karate school, a hard-contact traditional kwoon, and a full-contact contemporary system (among other things). Because I am not a sportfighter, however, the typical Bullshidoka dismisses all of that training, presuming that I've spent my time with my face painted mime-white and my fists wrapped in oven mitts, shadow-boxing from behind a Lucite barrier.
Similarly, such people believe any and all other training methods have been thoroughly discredited, resoundingly destroyed, and humiliatingly refuted time and time again in various sporting competitions. As proof they'll cite video footage of such-and-such a traditional martial artist getting his ass handed to him in an octagon or a squared circle. "See! This stuff always fails!" Pointing out to such people that a competition of this type is not a realistic self-defense scenario (unless one goes about challenging the homeless to MMA matches, then stripping to the waist and boxing or shootfighting them) will be met with hoots of, "If it can't work in the ring, it can't work on the street!"
Certainly, there are plenty of martial arts schools and reality-based fighting systems out there whose practitioners aren't training realistically and aren't truly capable of defending themselves – but this can only be examined on a case by case and individual by individual basis. Most of the people offering training curricula I consider worthwhile aren't interested in sports competitions and don't waste their time with them – because they have nothing to prove to anyone. Realistic self-defense isn't a match between two equals, either; it's a spontaneous (for the defender) exercise in the dangers of real life, which include the presence of weapons, the potential for multiple assailants, and the necessity of fighting on less-than-ideal terrain (rather than on forgiving canvas).
The Bullshido.com FAQ walks over the tired ground of "deadly techniques" for a few paragraphs, proclaiming that the fabled thousands of hours of video footage that all sportfighters seem to catalog in at-home fighting libraries show no proof of such techniques "working." Reality-Based Self-Defense exponents and others who train in realistic, pragmatic defensive systems (be they traditional or non-traditional) quite rightly point out that you cannot train certain techniques against live opponents because you will kill them. Chops to the neck and throat, eyeball strikes, the WWII combatives chin-jab (a palm heel under the chin) – these are examples of such maiming or fatal techniques that supposedly "don't work" because they haven't been depicted in the Bullshidoka's VHS tapes. Point out to such people that sporting bouts aren't fights to the death (and therefore aren't likely to involve a lot of maiming and killing) and you'll be met with a lot of mumbling about how there may be rules, but there are precious few of them, and that the deadly fighting Kung Fu killer stuff just doesn't work, just doesn't work, just doesn't work – ad nauseam.
The very argument used is a circular one. If you state that sports aren't self-defense training and that you prefer to train in more realistic, pragmatic methodologies, you'll be told that such "untested" techniques "don't work" because they aren't used or aren't successful in the very sports you just said aren't applicable to your goals.
The dichotomy, ultimately, is a false one. I don't care in what you train as long as you train realistically, with realistic goals. Training for sports competitions is not one of those goals. Using such training to augment pragmatic curricula is fine, but holding up sports training as the pinnacle of self-defense is intellectually dishonest and ultimately unsupportable.
The FAQ asserts that I and the moderators of Pax Baculum, The Martialist's discussion forum, refuse to allow "critical discussions" of our methods. Rather than face such stinging criticism, the FAQ claims, we edit posts, delete threads, and ban users. Most Bullshido.com visitors who've found their way to that site after visting Pax Baculum, the FAQ alleges, complain of such treatment. The FAQ scoffs at the mission statement of Pax Baculum, which goes to great lengths to outline our vision of fair, intellectually honest discussion.
Mewling about free speech and fairness is the first refuge of the Internet Troll. In the time it has existed, Pax Baculum has seen several incursions by self-appointed prophets of sportfighting truth seeking to enlighten PB's members as to the error of their ways. Whenever such discussions were kept polite and civil (in keeping with our rules), they were permitted to go on. What the Bullshidoka (whose site is a very good example of the sort of vulgar pit of trolling a largely unmoderated free-for-all typically becomes) don't seem to grasp is that a moderated forum does not permit obvious trolling, flaming, and intellectually dishonest attacks. Such behavior will always be met with deleted posts, locked threads, and banned users. That's how a quality forum is maintained – but exercising discipline. Such discipline fosters an environment in which arguments can be substantive. Rational, substantive arguments are not something the Bullshidoka understand.
What so many people (who want so desperately to see me as the head of some bizarre fan club devoted to myself) don't seem to see (because they don't wish to see it) is that the majority of the posters of Pax Baculum can be counted on to disagree with me almost all the time, about a great many things. Yes, we have some core beliefs in common, and yes, our basic philosophies of self-defense are more similar than not – but I never get so much grief as I do from the established members of my own discussion site. I wouldn't have it any other way.
When we ban someone or moderate their posts, it isn't because we're trembling in fear at the incisive thoughts they offer. We are not hiding in the shadows cursing the blinding light of truth as reflected on us by the shining armored Knights of Sport. We're not muttering to ourselves in sibilant whispers that we simply can't manage to refute the poster's arguments and so we'd better take steps to remove the heretic from our royal presence. No, if we ban someone or take disciplinary action, it's because they couldn't manage to abide by our relatively simple rules. Sportfighters capable of rational, civil discussion are, in my experience, few and far between. The outlook of such people simply doesn't lend itself to such an environment. Anyone who suffers from such insecurity invariably sees all disagreement as an invitation to fight.
Those complaining that Pax Baculum is not run fairly are saying, essentially, "It's not fair that I can't troll and disrupt that forum!" This is why my associates and I chose to create a discussion forum for The Martialist – so we could have our own environment in which to discuss and exchange ideas and so we could run it as we thought a quality forum should be run. Unlike those who visit our site bitching and moaning about us, about our ideas, and about how we do things, we generally don't go to sites like Bullshido.com or the various sportfighting boards to tell the participants how wrong we think they are. We have nothing to prove to them. The reverse is obviously not the case, as so many Bullshidoka seem to spend so much time talking and complaining about us and our terribly rude refusal to let them push us around. It is they who come to us, desperate to prove... whatever it is they need to prove. This is very telling.
The FAQ asserts that I don't answer the question of my own qualifications in the self-defense field.
To believe this, you have to ignore everything I've ever written about the fact that I'm a private citizen without impressive credentials who doesn't claim to be an expert and who thinks the truth or falsehood of an idea is found in the substance of the idea – in how that idea is presented and defended, logically and rationally. The only reason anyone knows anything about my credentials is because I've taken the time to state what those credentials are and are not, publicly and honestly.
I've never pretended to be anything I'm not (I sometimes think it would have been easier simply to manufacture some sort of instructor ranking in some fictitious ryu and gone from there) and this drives my critics absolutely berserk. I'm an everyman – a doughy white guy of average intelligence and above-average writing ability with about a decade and a half of short-attention-span-theater martial arts cross-training to my credit. I've stated this plainly and openly in more than one venue.
The FAQ asserts that the question of my credentials is fair game because I "present my opinions as fact."
This is a favorite complaint of those who are so intellectually weak that they feel intimidated and offended by the forceful statement of any opinion with which they do not agree. By definition, anything I write is my opinion and my opinion alone. To persuade anyone of that opinion requires that I state my case rationally and support that case reasonably. If the reader then finds my argument compelling, he or she does so on the substance of that argument.
For me to say, "You should believe that I am right because I'm Phil Elmore and you're not" is as intellectually bankrupt as someone else saying, "You're not qualified to have an opinion because your credentials don't impress me." Appeals to authority are not substantive arguments unless the argument opposed is itself built on some claim to authority. As I've never claimed to have any sort of impressive credentials, I can't make arguments on that basis. I can only use reason.
The FAQ asserts that it is impossible to substantiate a claim that certain techniques are fatal "unless you are out killing people."
As part of the attack on my credentials, this infantile reasoning asserts that I'm not qualified to say a given strike will kill you unless I've murdered a few people and can point to the record of my murders to back up the assertion. The FAQ also includes the earth-shattering revelation that "killing people with your bare hands is a lot tougher than people realize."
Well, thank the heavens for that. If it was as easy to, say, snap someone's neck as it is in the movies, crowds of young men would fall over dead the second they turned their heads too quickly to follow a pretty girl walking by. None of this changes the fact that certain techniques are fatal (or at the very least will maim you) and that to practice these on a human opponent would be sociopathic at best. Unless you're willing to stand there while someone hammers away at your unprotected throat or shoves their fingers into your eyeballs, don't tell me there's no way to "prove" that some techniques can maim or kill.
I don't have to shoot myself in the head to know that placing a loaded gun to my temple is a potentially fatal act. Anyone with any grasp of human anatomy knows that the eyes are fragile, that the neck and especially the throat are vulnerable, and that certain actions taken to disrupt certain bodily systems will kill that person under most normal conditions. I'm fairly confident in saying that if I stab you in the neck, I'll kill you more times than I won't if we get together each week for "alive" neck stabbing training. What do you mean you're busy? You're not afraid to test your skills against a resisting opponent, are you?
This is really very simple. When you understand the obvious vulnerabilities of the human body, you understand that striking those areas very well could kill someone. Why is that so difficult to understand without a pile of dead bodies at your feet? This isn't some swaggering tough-guy proclamation; it's simple biology.
The FAQ asserts that while I say I don't claim to hold myself to the standards of those who've fought and died for our country, my statement is "clearly false." I've stated repeatedly that I'm not an expert, but I'm "clearly...encouraging people to infer" that I am an expert.
This is has got to the be the first time anyone has gotten upset that I refused to call myself an expert and then claimed that it was all part of some sinister conspiracy to make people think I am one. The Bullshidoka are terribly upset that I, who do not meet their standards of what an "authority" should be, have a popular martial arts publication and have achieved some small amount of success as a writer in the field of self-defense.
If someone finds my opinions compelling, they do so based on the substance of those opinions and on the presentation of those ideas – not on the basis of credentials I've never claimed to have. This, I think, is what bothers the Bullshidoka most – that I dare to succeed while being honest about myself, that I write material by applying logic and reason to my own research and my own martial arts experience, and that other people find this material helpful, entertaining, and engaging.
The FAQ claims, quite falsely, that I've been interviewed on radio programs "as a self-defense expert" (when in fact my interview on Kelly Worden's radio show includes a direct quote directly to the contrary).
The FAQ also states that the inclusion of my essay in Paladin Press' popular Warriors: On Living with Courage, Discipline, and Honor, coupled with the marketing copy that proclaims all the books contributors to be "experts," means that "clearly... someone out there thinks [Phil Elmore is] an authority on these subjects and is perpetuating this idea."
The truth of the matter is that I was interviewed as nothing more or less than I am – specifically, the publisher of The Martialist and a contributor to the Warriors book. Anyone who reads my essay in that book will find it in a section called "The Journey." The essay is not pompous, self-important bloviating on how tough or cool I think I am; it's a self-deprecating and heartfelt piece on the changes in my personality caused by my martial arts training and how these changes relate to the aspiration towards warrior ideals.
I received an e-mail from a police officer who's apparently been on the force for many years. He read my essay in Warriors, found my website thanks to the write-up, and wrote to me to tell me how much he enjoyed the piece. It spoke, he said, to personal development he'd experienced earlier in his own life. It resonated with him because it was (if I may say so) honest and self-critical. Does his appreciation for that essay mean he now thinks of me as an "expert" on self-defense? Of course not.
What the Bullshidoka have such a hard time grasping is that I don't base the validity of my opinions on my resume. I base them on reason applied to the data available to me – the process of critical thinking in which we're all obligated to engage. I do it well – I've been a professional writer for well over a decade – and I do it honestly and earnestly. People find my words compelling because they're true and they're supported with truth to which those readers can relate.
Does this make me an "authority?" Does this mean I'm encouraging you to infer that I'm an "expert?" I don't think so. To me, calling yourself an expert or an authority means you're encouraging people to abandon critical thinking and simply accept you at your word because of who you claim to be. I have never asked anyone to do this and have demanded quite the opposite.
More to the point, the Bullshidoka are threatened and offended by the achievements of others in the field of self-defense. When derision is substituted for critical thinking, envious jeering is all one can offer in response to what others accomplish. Everything I've managed to do I've done on my own merits, rather than through pleas to some certification or other. This is something with which petty, angry children have a real problem.
Finally, the analysis contained in the FAQ is very telling. If my work is included in a book called Warriors, I must be holding myself up as some example of bad-assery... right? Because the Bullshidoka view mixed martial arts (or whatever their combat sport) as a way of showing the world how tough they are, and because they are so insecure about this quality (for whatever psychological or emotional reasons), they view everyone else's work through the same jaundiced eyes. They cannot grasp that some of us writing in the field of self-defense do not do so as a form of ego gratification or out of some need to play the role of bad ass mo'fo.
The FAQ asserts that I have no relevant self-defense experience and considers it "odd" that I hold a brown sash in a fighting style that I co-founded.
The FAQ states quite correctly that I have no law enforcement experience (though I did spend a little time as a Pinkerton security guard – a job that distills to, "Stand here for fourteen hours in this polyester uniform, and if you have to go to the bathroom, you can't). I have never claimed to have law enforcement credentials and have stated quite explicitly that I don't. The FAQ states quite correctly that I have no military or "legal" experience – which is also correct. I have never claimed to be a law enforcement officer or a lawyer and have stated quite explicitly that I am neither.
The FAQ claims my martial arts experience is "murky" (despite the fact that I've stated of what that experience consists more than once) and that, "Oddly, considering he co-founded [the style of Shanliang Li], he was only given a 'brown sash' instead of a senior rank 'black sash' as would be found in other traditional Kung Fu styles."
The Bullshidoka's confusion over this is understandable, given that they are not capable of understanding earnest motives or actions. More on that shortly.
I have always stated that I am unconcerned with rank and that I have earned no impressive credentials. I hold, in fact, exactly three official rankings. The first is a yellow belt in Chidokwan Karate earned in 1993. The second is a brown sash in Shanliang Li, the martial system I co-founded with instructor David Pearson. The sash was earned in 2003. The third ranking is a blue sash in Wing Chun Kung Fu in the William Cheung lineage, earned in 2004. The yellow belt represents a first-level rank in Chidokwan; the blue sash is level three of ten, and my ranking in Shanliang Li is the result of starting in the system as a beginner with NO rank and working my way up per my instructor David's directions.
The first photo shoot we did for Shanliang Li was when I held only a gold ranking; we did a second when I held a green sash. Much later, I earned my brown sash – and when my skill level in the system meets or surpasses that of my instructor David, I will have earned my black sash. I am not qualified to found a martial art by myself, you see. Shanliang Li came about as a result of informal training with a friend (the "garage martial arts" approach) whom I soon realized was quite a gifted martial artist. "You should formally found your system," I told David one day – and so he did, stating at the outset that he would only do it with my assistance and that therefore I was the system's co-founder. There is nothing secret about any of this; it is stated quite clearly on the Shanliang Li webpage.
An honest approach of this type is obviously very foreign to the Bullshidoka, who are convinced that everyone and everything that is not MMA or BJJ is some sort of fraud or scam. I have never been anything but honest about the founding of Shanliang Li and my participation in it – and I most certainly don't go around telling people they should listen to me because, hey, I've got my own system and all. The system isn't some vehicle for ego-gratification (again, the Bullshidoka view everything in such terms because ego-gratification is what motivates them in their insecurity) – it's an honest attempt to define a specific approach to fighting, one that is largely inspired by how my instructor David fights (but which has a few of my own favorite martial elements thanks to my suggestions).
The Bullshido.com FAQ proclaims that the site has "thousands" of registered users ranging from professional and amateur fighters to military and law enforcement personnel (and thus its members are qualified to judge others).
While this may be true, a brief (or not so brief) read through the site does not reveal the sort of complex meeting of the minds one would expect from such a distinguished collection of hardcore fighters dedicated to outing frauds and busting fakes. No, what one finds is a vulgar pit of trolling characterized primarily by the members' willingness to put their credentials on the line and... tell other people they look funny. Why, they'll even post pictures and... talk about how the people in those pictures look funny. As I said at the outset, never have so many said so much so loudly while knowing so little. The defining characteristic of Bullshido.com is scatological, ignorant arrogance masquerading as critical thinking.
The FAQ asserts that at Bullshido.com, if "you don’t know what you’re talking about people will let you know it. We have lots of members and chances are someone on our site also has intricate knowledge on whatever topic you’re speaking. This makes it very hard for liars to exist on our forum for long. Some sites such as Pax Baculum call this “childish” or “trolling” but it’s really not. Bullshido is simply a hostile environment to the frauds, flakes, and freaks that collect in the martial arts world."
This is fundamentally dishonest. Very few of the members of Bullshido.com actually know what they're talking about; the rest are children pretending to know what they're talking about, masking their ignorance behind facades of arrogance and hostility. The site is also far from unique in proclaiming that its members will honestly tell others when they're talking nonsense.
Pax Baculum is dedicated to honesty in debate and to heated discussion; our members frequently disagree and I go to great pains to make sure dissent and criticism are tolerated. What we don't allow is the pursuit of immature agendas. What we don't tolerate is obvious trolling – cruising for a reaction without any real substance to one's arguments. Bullshido.com is simply a hostile environment, period. It substitutes for critical thinking the derision of almost everyone and everything. If you actually read the barely literate ravings of most of the site's members, you'll find the "intricate knowledge" of most of the members consists of a willingness to use profanity and make racist and sexual jokes... all while telling people they look funny, of course.
"Bullshido believes that good people and good ideas can stand on their own without moderator protection," the FAQ drones on.
Anyone who's seen a good forum drown in vulgar trolling, where all the members with anything interesting to say get tired of slogging through reams of verbal chaff and homoerotic innuendo in order to talk about anything of substance, has seen this philosophy of the unmoderated slugfest play out. It's ruined several forums I once enjoyed and I vowed that Pax Baculum would not fall prey to the same foolishness.
Intellectual honesty and rational discussion are very specific concepts with very specific requirements. Most of the members of Bullshido.com couldn't manage even the simplest of substantive debates; they are fundamentally incapable of it.
The FAQ goes on to rehash the same sportfighting arguments I refuted in my point-counterpoint editorial at The Martialist. Any points that might be made contrary to my own arguments are feeble rationalizations at best. For example, when the danger of multiple opponents is brought up (such a scenario invalidates the groundfighting methodology favored by many UFC-style sportfighters), the response is simply, "Sportfighters have friends too! It ain't hard to learn to bite somebody!" This completely ignores the fact that in a real-life self-defense scenario, the aggressor chooses the time, the place, and the circumstances. Most don't choose to attack roving groups of sportfighters who are presumably moving from gym to gym drinking Gatorade and challenging passers-by to cage matches.
The FAQ asserts that a lot of the "Pax Baculum guys" endorse grappling schools and other sports-base training, but insists that "these guys" simply don't train the way the Bullshidoka insist is the only real way to train against "resisting opponents."
In order to illustrate this, the FAQ lists a few quotes out of context and then makes some blatantly false conclusions about them. For example, the Circle of Death training methodology is proclaimed to be unrealistic training because "There is a pre-scripted winner and loser and it doesn’t offer full-resistance." This is simply untrue and the natural result of any group of people who want so much to believe something that they see and hear nothing to the contrary (no matter how many times it is stated).
The Circle of Death, for example, is an endlessly adaptable drill that can be done with low power for beginners and then ramped up to greater levels of contact as students advance. There is no scripted winner and no predetermined loser. Acting as the "attacker" in such a drill, I have personally taken down defending students and "won" the encounter when, as the attacker, I am supposed to be defeated (according to the uninformed Bullshidoka, at any rate).
The Bullshidoka point to photos of the drill and note that the participants are not wearing protective gear. They must, therefore, be pulling punches. This is an ignorant assumption. The school in question (where I took the photos and about which I wrote the article) regularly engages in hard-contact training, sometimes with protective gear and sometimes without. Beginning students rarely practice at the hardest levels to start, but this is because they are beginners. I have posted plenty of photos of students at the same school actively fighting while wearing protective gear, but no doubt those photos would be met with similar rationalizations.
You see, the Bullshidoka desperately need to believe that they are tougher than everyone else and that anyone who does not train as they do must not be training at the same levels of contact. This goes directly to their self-esteem issues, their insecurity about their abilities to defend themselves, and – at some level – to their very manhood, (as most of these people are male). To be confronted with someone who doesn't care what they think and who has nothing to prove to them drives them berserk and confuses them greatly, which in turn becomes hostility (as anything they do not grasp angers them).
The FAQ asserts that the "Pax Baculum guys" do not advocate sparring.
This is true – but only when you define what "sparring" means. It is also untrue – depending on to whom you speak. For example, I take a dim view of sparring as a barometer of one's ability to defend one's self because I think most sparring is an unrealistic one-on-one duel that bears little resemblance to a self-defense scenario. While I'll tell that to anyone who listens (and my Wing Chun instructor felt the same way), I also spar at near- and full-contact in my own training, most notably in Shanliang Li. Simply because I do not advocate something as a preferred training methodology, or as the judge of whether you can defend yourself successfully, does not mean that I do not do it (or that I don't enjoy it).
When I trained in Wing Chun Kung Fu, my instructor would tell anyone who asked that his students "don't spar." We did, in fact, spar – for the "combat drills" in which we engaged, particular the more "alive" drills, would have been characterized as hard-contact "sparring" by anyone unfamiliar with the school. The "Circle of Death" drill is itself a freeform sparring drill, though Sifu called it a "combat drill" and would not have characterized it as sparring.
The FAQ asserts that sparring develops the attributes of a fighter.
This is true in the same way that competing in stock car racing develops the attributes of a driver. When attributes are removed from realistic context, they are still of some value – but that value must be kept in perspective because of that loss of context.
The FAQ goes on at mind-numbing length about the benefits and definition of full-resistance "alive" training.
Given that so much of this has little to do with Pax Baculum or me specifically, it seems more likely that the author of the FAQ was simply seething to write a rebuttal to material I'd written on the topic of sportfighting.
The FAQ asserts that Chi sao or "Wing Chun trapping" is not applicable to the form of "fighting" advocated by the Bullshidoka.
This is a fairly typical response from those who know very little, if anything, about the development of touch reflexes in the traditional arts that use chi sao. I've written extensively on the topic in covering Wing Chun Kung Fu in general.
The FAQ rattles off the standard list of criticisms (most of them spurious) of Reality Based Self Defense instructors and curricula. ("Everyone knows the scenario is a scenario so it's not real world training!"
I'll pause while you roll your eyes.) We simply don't know that [place RBSD personality here] "can fight" because he or she won't climb into a ring and prove it. This is a big point of contention among sportfighters who, because they have so much to prove to themselves and to the rest of the world, are completely stymied when someone has no desire (and, more importantly, no need) to prove anything to them. Interestingly, very few of these people burning to know if various RBSD instructors "can fight" are willing to attack one of them in real life in order to find out.
The FAQ wrongly confuses scenario training with rote technique training.
"Sportfighters know that it’s the attributes of a fighter that work in a fight, not the 1000’s of scenarios you’ve drilled," the author states. "A good punch or takedown will work in any situation you come across whereas a scenario that is practiced only a few times won’t."
This is so ignorant that it's shocking. For one thing, the purpose of scenario training is not to instill in the student a rote series of techniques such as, "If I'm standing at an ATM and a guy swings for my head, I do Combination Series 15, but if I'm walking down the sidewalk and someone throws a bottle at me, I use Variation 12 of Technique Seven..." Scenario training in conjunction with hard-contact technique development fosters the very attributes that help someone succeed in self-defense – adaptability in the face of unpredictable and hostile situations, combative drive, and willingness to use force when confronted with violence.
For that matter, it's NOT true that a "a good punch or takedown" will work in ANY situation you come across. This is the fundamental problem with sportfighting training, divorced as it is from realistic self-defense context. A takedown on glass-strewn asphalt carries with it a great deal more risk to the defender than it does on canvas – and it may not work at all. Punching someone wearing a motorcycle helment is similarly inadvisable. By contrast, I know a fellow who beat down another man using that same motorcycle helmet; no amount of MMA or BJJ would have saved his opponent. It was my friend's willingness to use violence decisively that determined the outcome of the altercation.
The FAQ dismisses the risk posed by the presence of weapons.
Most sportfighters, because their training does not incorporate weaponry (for obvious reasons – the average MMA or UFC bout would be fairly brief if the fighters were swinging motorcycle chains or knifing each other), dismiss the dangers of (and the utility of training with) knives, firearms, and other weaponry. The idea that a fat white guy with a knife or a gun can maim or kill a chiseled MMA hero bothers most sportfighters. No one likes to think their hard hours of sweat and blood can be negated by the pull of a trigger or the snap of a blade. Realistic self-defense exponents, however, recognize the need to use force multipliers in order to stack the odds in their favor – for those exponents are not arrogant enough to think they can overpower everyone they encounter with brute force or a competition record.
The FAQ quotes Scott Lockhart as saying you can avoid random violence by steering clear of "bad" people, places, and situations.
This is the head-in-the-sand attitude of those who don't truly understand the nature of the "random violence" about which they spend so much time blathering. Choosing to go armed in society, to carry the tools of multiplying force, is a recognition that you can't predict everything and that violence may find you even in the most "safe" of places.
The FAQ asserts that having a "combat mindset" is not necessary for self-defense.
The author of the FAQ displays a disturbingly ignorant attitude towards what the combative mindset actually is. Being ready to use force when you confront it and being prepared for emergencies (both utilitarian and combative) is not the same thing as basing your outlook on fear of the unknown or obsession over what might happen. It is the recognition that it is better to be prepared than not to be prepared. It is a realistic outlook, as opposed to the arrogant (and, at times, naïve) attitude of those who swagger around believing the number of pushups they can do will make the difference when facing a bad attitude or a blade.
The FAQ asserts that going armed, possessing a combative mindset, is "dangerous."
This is the usual rationalization of those who lack something and therefore wish to believe it is unnecessary. (There's an old list of martial arts quotes in which "You shouldn't use high kicks on the street" is said to mean, "I can't do high kicks," and there's a certain amount of truth to that.) Being prepared – obtaining and carrying certain tools like guns, knives, flashlights, and so forth – certainly does require some mental energy. This is not energy wasted unless you have precious little mental energy with which to begin (and I suppose it's fair to say that most Bullshidoka fit this description).
It's very common for those who don't understand the reality of violence or the utility of weapons – and especially for those who are so insecure in themselves and their abilities that they express these needs through sportfighting and bodybuilding while aggressively expressing their contempt for those who don't – to proclaim that those who are armed suffer from any number of problems – feelings of inadequacy, paranoia (anyone more prepared than a Bullshidoka must obviously be paranoid or he would not be more prepared), anger, a small penis, whatever. This is, for the most part, a combination of ignorant or wishful stereotyping and simple projection. It is, in fact, a plurality of self-described sportfighters and their icons who suffer from "feelings of inadequacy, shame, physiological fear, and paranoia."
The incredibly long-winded FAQ concludes, mercifully, with the statement, "Bad arguments can be compelling if you don’t look closely at the evidence."
This is certainly true; the entire Bullshido.com FAQ on Pax Baculum and me is a very good example of a string of "bad arguments" that might look good at first glance among sympathetic audiences.
Contrary to what the FAQ claims, sportfighting is not a "reliable platform for testing and analyzing the theories of combat." Combat and sports are different things. Proper training for self-defense – for combat – requires reality-based scenario training and a recognition of environmental conditions that sportfighters ignore or too easily dismiss. While such sport training does have benefits, it is not the primary means of developing the attributes necessary to achieve success in self-defense – no matter how much angry screaming to the contrary is done by those whose senses of self are inextricably wrapped up in sportfighting dogma.
The Internet contains a lot of information. Some of it is useful and much of it is nonsense. If you seek reliable, pragmatic self-defense training, you need a system and a school whose instructors recognize the realities of violence and embrace the full spectrum of training methodologies. Competitions and sports can be used to augment your training, but falsely believing your sport to be a self-defense curriculum does you a disservice.
The Bullshido.com FAQ incorrectly describes Pax Baculum (and, I suppose, The Martialist and me) as somehow other than "up front about the evidence that exists today." What these incredibly ignorant, hostile, and childish individuals fail to realize is that a failure to agree with them is not a failure of honesty or integrity. An emphasis on factors other than those they choose to emphasize is not a scam or a fraud; it is a difference of opinion and a correspondingly different approach. It is the over-reliance on sport and arrogant machismo that does would-be students of self-defense a terrible disservice; it is those who practice this approach who are not "being very objective or honest despite their pleadings."
No amount of "demanding proof" will help someone who lacks the mental ability to discuss something rationally. No amount of arguing will convince someone who is so entrenched in his sport and in his feelings of inadequacy that he believes all arguments must be settled by "throw-downs," "smack-downs," or brawls. No amount of posturing, no pretensions, and no insistence on the UFC worldview will change the fact that these represent willing evasions of reality that will help few earnest citizens achieve success in realistic self-defense. It is the sportfighters, the Bullshidoka, the angry children trapped in the bodies of cage fighters, who have something to prove – to you, and to themselves.
Don't play their games.