The essence of strategy, according to Sun Tzu, is deception. In our search for a Hand-to-Hand Fighting System, we can greatly improve our chances in a fight by simply avoiding what most people do in one: namely, throw punches. If you stand toe-to-toe with a better puncher, you’ll lose. But there is another factor that helps in our decision: “…every hand-to-hand fight we have documented [in Afghanistan and Iraq] has involved grappling, but not a single one has involved only striking…”—H2H Combat, pp. 8-9. So, how can we use the ultimate strategic idea of Sun Tzu? We cheat. The kick boxer shows up to a wrestling match—we’re prepared, they’re not. Most fights evolve into grappling—so, specialize in it. It’s statistics—improve your odds. Another factor that helps us decide on a good fighting system, is the fact that in a real confrontation, you lose fine motor skills. “… the more complicated the technique, the greater the likelihood that it will fail. Your technique must rely on gross motor skills… that are fast and hard-hitting to survive a fight.” Common Sense Self-Defense, p. 57. Complicated locks where you catch the in-coming fist; jumping spinning crescent kicks; bizarre ‘mystical’ throws—anything like that—should be avoided. You won’t be able to pull such techniques off in a real-life situation with your heart in your throat, the adrenalin pumping, and an 8 ft tall behemoth trying to rip your head off and shove it where the sun don’t shine. Guess what? Grappling relies on gross motor skills. From these factors, we can rule out systems that rely heavily on striking (as the core of our chosen system). They don’t fit in with our overall strategy of avoiding what most people do in a fight (striking), and where the fight naturally goes (grappling). Is there a grappling system used by the best trained real-life fighting forces on the planet earth? Yes. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is the core of Modern Army Combatives used by infantry up through special forces. Non-sport BJJ (make no mistakes, the rules came well after BJJ was developed) has another tremendous advantage over all striking arts: you can do the techniques at full speed and full strength. Strikers cannot practice this way—they’d all get knocked out and killed every class. Basically, you will perform how you are trained, especially in the panic of a real fight. If you train to curl up into a ball for your Judo match, you will probably do that in a real fight. If you train to only tap your opponent with your roundhouse kick to the face, you’ll pull back when you don’t wish to. OK, what about our friends, the eye gouge, the bite, and their drunken cousins, multiple opponents? Eye gouging, which is rarely practiced by most fighters, is a fine motor skill. More likely than anything, the gouger’s own fingers will miss the eye; they might even break (fists break during punches and are a much more solid structure than extended fingers). There is also a psychological aspect to overcome. Have you ever jammed your fingers into someone’s eyes before? If you have any hesitation now, you might miss any opportunity you have in a real-life altercation. These are points, but the biggest problem for relying on eye-gouging as some kind of antidote to grapplers, is that a good grappler will not let you be in a good enough position to deliver such an attack. As for biting, there are positions where you can bite—but only for the person who has the dominant wrestling position (mainly side control). Multiple opponents… “BJJ is useless.” Well, not much IS useful vs. two or more attackers. If you have two attackers who know how to COORDINATE and not fall over themselves, you have almost no chance of escape. BJJ does not crumble in the face of multiple attackers—there are many life-saving strategies that can be adapted for it: using one opponent as a shield against the others, throwing one opponent into another, etc. Regardless of the system, multiple opponents is a bad day. Because of all the reasons outline above, I have decided to make BJJ the core of my training. Striking is important and an essential aspect of training. I have 6 years in TKD and a spattering of experience in Western Boxing and Jeet Kune Do. But there was a huge, gaping whole in my self-defense. I’ve had to be honest and admit that years of training in strike-oriented arts, though not a complete waste, missed the boat when it came to real self-defense. As a former Assistant Instructor in Taekwondo, I know the sweat and blood strikers do put into their art. It takes an incredible amount of courage and objectivity to admit a mistake and do something new. That process is painful, true, but it’s much more painful to come to that realization under someone else’s boot.