Sunday, March 21, 2010

Choosing A Martial Art: Playing For Points ... Playing "For Keeps"

When I was growing up, there was a big judo club in the Jacksonville area - Benny Davis Judo.  My brothers and I had a great time participating in this sport.  All students learned first and foremost how to fall without being injured (ukemi).  It is amazing how tense we become as we age!  Overcoming this fear is a big step - it is like learning to swim and not panic in the water.  In addition to learning the judo throws, pins, etc, we were concurrently getting some great exercise, learning some rudimentary Japanese, building mutual respect/honor and self confidence.  Our sensei (instructor), Ron Allen was an amazing teacher and judoka (practitioner) - his favorite throw (yes, I remember it well!) was uchi mata (inner thigh throw).   It was a lot of fun and a great sport.  I would encourage anyone looking for a great grappling sport to take a look at judo.  However, it is not primarily a system of self defense.  That would be jiu-jitsu - the art from which judo ("gentle way") originated.  To paraphrase what Professor Kiyose Nakae says in his book  Jiu-Jitsu Complete: Judo plays for points - jiu-jitsu plays "for keeps".     However, someone with a good background in judo could easily transition to jiu-jitsu. 

Over the years, I noticed an unspoken disappointment.  Some people new to the art would come to class with high expectations - to learn to defend/protect themselves.  Instead, they learned how to play/compete.   There were some self defense techniques demonstrated, but the main emphasis was always on competition.  I have seen the same sort of disappointment nowadays. People take a Tae Kwon Do (see link below for information on FREE lessons in Jacksonville), Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, kick boxing, etc. class for the purpose of learning self defense only to learn that they have just signed up for a sport / workout.  Don't get me wrong - these activities are indeed great sports and excellent forms of exercise for stamina and flexibility.  However, self defense (while taught) is not the primary emphasis in these arts.  While I enjoyed judo, I also wanted to learn more about self defense and I supplemented  my lessons with various martial arts/self defense books by Bruce Tegner, Ed Parker,  Koichi Tohei , Kiyose Nakae , et al.

So, what are your options if you want to learn how to defend yourself?  (i.e., just you and your wits).  Lots!  If you search the internet or your local phone book, you will see what I mean.  Too many?  Ok, you probably don't want to take Rex Kwon Do .  (I confess, I enjoy Napoleon Dynamite) There are some martial arts schools which take one from column a and one from column b, etc cafeteria style and then name it after the founder of the school or something-jitsu or something-do . No need to learn aikido, karate, judo, hapkido - learn the modern art of blend-jitsu!  There are other martial arts schools in which you have to be in great shape and/or very flexible to execute the moves.  (Even if you can do all of the cool high kicks, arm bars, etc you may find them to be very impractical in a "no rules" / street situation)   You also may be asked to learn complicated, multi-step techniques to escape from wrist locks, chokes, etc.   Is there an art that is direct, easy to learn, no frills, and highly effective against any opponent?  Yes.

To make a long story short, my search narrowed down to (Japanese) jiu-jitsu, aikido/aiki-jitsu and kung fu.  Jiu-jitsu and aikido (and karate)  have their roots in kung/gung fu -  a comprehensive fighting system  which includes strikes/kicks, throws and locks.  I continued to pursue the source instead of the derivatives. Within kung fu, my search further narrowed to Wing Chun Gung Fu.   (By the way, my search was the result of an inquiry made by my son Paul based on a Wing Chun book that he had been given)  The incredible effectiveness of Wing Chun is not dependent on size or strength; rather, it is based on proper body structure and positioning.  I have seen first hand the delivery of a seemingly effortless "1 inch punch" by our instructor/sifu that has sent people flying backwards several feet.  Below are some links to our local school Atlantic Warriors (Jacksonville, Florida), et al and a few articles about the school featured in the Florida Times-Union newspaper.  These will give you a better idea of what Wing Chun is all about.  Even if you are not in the Jacksonville area, there are links at the website which will help you find a school in your area.  Arrange for a lesson and experience Wing Chun first hand.


Atlantic Warriors Wing Chun Gung Fu
Sifu Jonathan Petree
(Jacksonville Florida)

The System Wing Chun
Sifu Bill Graves
(Sifu Petree's Sifu/teacher)
(Jacksonville/NE Florida) 

Orange County Wing Chun
Sifu Adam Williss

More to come!

Beware Attackers, I'm Prepared
 by Laura Capitano

 Laura Capitano's experience / review of  the monthly Women's Self Defense Course taught by Sifu Jonathan Petree.   By the way - browse through all of her articles - become a Capifano!

Chinese Martial Art Called Wing Chun Teaches Self-defense and Preservation 
by Maggie Fitzroy

Excellent article and photographs! Provides the reader with an overview of Wing Chun and features some interviews with Sifu Petree and students at the Atlantic Warriors Oceanside Location.

Ip Man  A must see movie/biopic about the Wing Chun Grandmaster!

(self defense)

A few years ago I remember talking to Ms. Seabolt about aikido - ki, the "unbendable arm" and sharing my (very limited!) knowledge of the art.  While my own martial arts journey took me elsewhere, she whole-heartedly became a student of this excellent art.  After several years of study and practice, Sensei  Dee Seabolt has attained high rank and is the chief instructor of The Aikido Center of Jacksonville.  A great school with excellent instruction! 


Yesha Ministries Offers Free Tae Kwon Do Classes  at several locations in Jacksonville!, Florida! My sons and I tooks classes/tested  with Yesha.  Excellent instruction and fellowship!  


Judo Ryu Jacksonville

I was sad when Benny Davis judo disappeared from Jacksonville.  I was delighted to learn that there is an excellent judo school here once again!


  1. Well Done. You do a great job decoding the vast amount of information on the internet for the non-martial artist who is in the decision making process. Thank You.

  2. Thank you, Sifu Petree. It is indeed a maze ... the sports-oriented schools teach self defense, but it is almost an afterthought - as if the same techniques used in competition would work on the street! In my opinion, most people are drawn to the martial arts because they want to be able to defend themselves and settle for something less in terms of their original quest.