This story is part of a far larger effort to understand what works effectively in martial arts not by looking at what happens during contests in the arena, but rather by analyzing what happens outside the arena. What happens when martial arts are used on the street, to keep order in a club, or in this case, in a backyard gym. If you enjoyed it, check out more stories on:
•Martial Arts on The Street
•Style vs. Style
The video begins with "That Guy" at a martial arts training location. That Guy is a fixture at every gym - trying to ineptly teach others things he barely understands himself. In extreme cases, like the one in this video, That Guy is actually trying to teach the instructor.
Rahsun Herkul, chief instructor at Traditional Wing Chun Club North Hollywood, breaks down what happened.
Firstly, I’m not particularly proud of what went on that day. But it was a raw slice of life and for better or worse a teachable moment
This was a private session at my student's home in his backyard. The young man was not my student. He is 34 years old I’m told.
He came into my session with a former student saying he was there to learn. But soon after he got there I sensed he had other intentions. Nonetheless, I started to give him some pointers on stance and footwork, but he insisted that his way was better. (And I thought well why is he here then?)
I then tried to introduce him to a drill I developed called Lao Sao. But he found it difficult to pull off, got frustrated, and yelled ‘I had a bad week, I’m not here for all of this, I thought we were going to meditate?’ So I had one of my students work with him on Sui Lim Tao to calm him down. My student said ‘Waldo’ wasn’t interested in learning it. so he left ‘Waldo’ alone to come train with us.
While the rest of us worked on drills I noticed ‘Waldo’ punching on my heavy bag and playing around on my wooden dummy. but I was busy working on drills so it didn’t really bother me. Then he sat down and took a nap. He was in my session for over 90 minutes before the video started.
As I was running a drill with my students he woke up from his nap and yelled from the side ‘’your groin is open on that kick,” etc. I said, “Excuse me. Did you say something?” And he doubled down and said it again. I then said, “Please show me what you mean. Or whatever you want to show me.”
He then gets up telling me to “Get a cup cause I’m gonna kick you for real,” and as I was putting on my gloves he did a side kick on my heavy bag saying "he wants the real thing,” implying that he was really gonna try to hurt me. That’s about when the video begins.
NOTE: Don't miss the moment at 3:20, when Waldo tries a kick, gets knocked off balance, and then hops onto a stick that rolls away and upends him.
Sifu Explains What Happened During The Fight
I intentionally kept my gloves on so in case things went south he would be somewhat protected. But when he touched my face I reacted, struck him immediately. I closed the gap to initiate a quick takedown and a few gloved punches, never really wanting to hurt him too bad. When I grabbed his elbow to help him up I sensed he was going to try and hit me. That’s why I controlled his elbows and shoved him before he could. When he got up he did try to kick me, but I saw his arm move indicating the kick he was about to throw, so, I ducked and used a rising Fat Sao to unbalance him. As he fell I gave him another gloved punch for good measure.
Yes, I’m a martial artist, I’m also a 52-year-old grandfather from Brooklyn where things got handled very differently than things do today.
Should I have handled this better? Probably.
Could I have handled this better? I’d like to think so.
But we never really know until we’re in that moment.
And the moment that young man touched my face….I found out.
And that’s one for me to grow on…. (Him too 🙏🏾)
Then Waldo Called The Cops!?
He did call the police to have me arrested, but he didn’t know I had footage of the entire event. The police detectives and investigators watched the video, and said it was clear as day that he was the aggressor.
In fact, the final police report says It was a battery case: “Suspect pushed his head against the victim's head. Victim retaliated by punching him, suspect kicked out.”
They asked if I wanted to press charges against him. I declined. They were going to mark it as mutual combat, but after the investigation, the police report lists me as the victim of a battery.
Breakdown of What Happened
This page is devoted to discovering what works by analyzing what happens when martial arts are used not in big combat sports events, but in more "real as it gets" locations, like backyards and alleyways. These can be roughly organized into:
•Informal combat sports bouts; and,
This one had elements of a dojo storm, mutual combat, hard sparring, and self-defense. Police determined it was self-defense.
The first response is that That Guy Waldo richly deserved to get punched in the face. Every fight coach owes Rahsun Herkul a beer and a round of applause.
That being said, this altercation follows an unfortunate pattern of very long-standing. On the rare occasions when exponents of martial arts without a reality-based track record actually fight, it looks like a hapless mix of kickboxing and grappling, by someone with perhaps a month or two of experience.
Below is Emin Boztepe vs. William Cheung, two of the greatest Wing Chin experts of all time. When they fought what do you get? Sloppy beginner kickboxing and grappling. Apologies to any avid WC practitioners reading this; I don't intend to offend. But where is the Wing Chun? And why is there none?
Both Wing Chun Grand Master vs. Wing Chun Grand Master, and Provisional Wing Chun Master vs. Napping JKD Waldo looked more like kids fighting over Legos, than an exhibition of expert martial arts technique.
Provisional Wing Chun Master Rahsun Herkul said he punched, "never really wanting to hurt him too bad." Frankly, and with no disrespect intended, that is not credible; Herkul was in reality cursing that he would, "f*** you up," all the while throwing punches so ineffective that after dozens of them, Waldo appeared to be fine. And the ground control was much worse than the punching.
The reason MMA fights don't showcase exotic techniques is not because no fighter has properly learned wrist locks, or Kenpos, or Pak Sau, or whatever other misbegotten moves are being taught to the credulous in strip malls. As wise UGer MTH put it:
It turns out our early takes on combat sports of the grappling/striking variety are more or less representative of the way humans fight each other. The woo-woo that’s urged by what most of us recognize as TMAs is just fluff that’s just been gradually inserted by people who’ve never fought in their lives.
Sadly, even when exotic art adherents get in a fight, it doesn't seem to have much of an effect on their development. One exception was Bruce Lee. In 1965, he got into a gym fight with Wong Jack Man, and recounted what happened in an interview with Black Belt magazine.
“I’d gotten into a fight in San Francisco with a Kung-Fu cat, and after a brief encounter, the son-of-a-bitch started to run. I chased him and, like a fool, kept punching him behind his head and back. Soon my fists began to swell from hitting his hard head. Right then I realized Wing Chun was not too practical and began to alter my way of fighting.”
Anyone watching the video can see that Wing Chun is not too practical, but unfortunately, adherents cannot see it. And so it is that the practice of martial arts, much of it, remains mired in techniques that have very little applicability when they are actually needed, like an attempted head butt from Waldo.