Look at me! I am a bad ass! I swear!

There are some things in the martial arts and tactical training communities that bother me. I generally try to ignore them. At the very least, I try to not talk about them publicly, because some of those irritants (pet peeves if you will) can seem minor in the greater scheme of things. Occasionally however, they bubble up to the surface and I have to vent. Today is one of those times.

There is a really weird and distasteful thing you see in demos by some instructors in which, to put it as mildly as possible, they abuse their demo partners. It truly turns my stomach.

Many times it is a very small and subtle thing. The instructor is showing some cool move, does it really fast (often accompanied by his own vocal sound effects), and puts a bit more pressure on the demo victim, just to get a little more “oomph” into it and get the crowd to do a little mental “wow”. Often, the extra energy in the technique happens when the move involves a shifting of the body – maybe showing the instructor’s variation of a headlock takedown, he twists the other guy’s head a little more so there is a bug and visible shift. But all too often it also involves out and out striking, where the equivalent of a sucker punch is thrown. Maybe with a few “cycling hammerfists” making contact and the accompanying thud of the partner’s defenseless body. One of the ways to tell if this move is coming is if the instructor goes from a relaxed movement to suddenly going to super-intent and balls out speed. After the demo partner is trying to shake off the effects of the abuse, the instructor usually exudes the body language of a very smug self-satisfaction. It is so vile.

Of course, the demo partner feels the need to look tough so he says or does nothing about it. But this does not alleviate one bit the veil of scumbag-ness that is now on the instructor. How bad ass are you if you have to truly hit someone who is standing there and essentially giving you free reign?

Honestly, I think this is a deep reveal of the shallow character and deep insecurity of the instructor. His only way of showing what a monster fighter he is, comes about by hitting an unsuspecting target. Yeah, real cool. This trend can be so bad that people who regularly train with these type of instructors actually exhibit almost a flinch during training, similar to someone subject to regular spousal abuse.

The funny part is that you almost never see this in the combat sports. It is rare to see a BJJ person crank a submission extra hard while teaching, or a wrestler drive his demo partner smashing into the ground while showing a takedown. I cannot ever remember a boxer or Muay Thai instructor ever taking a cheap shot on me. My Savate instructor, Salem Assli, was huge on ALWAYS making contact even in light technique practice, and there was never one time in five years of one on one training where he ever sunk in an extra hard shot while teaching (in sparring was a different story! ). On the contrary, most times there is an obvious attempt by the doer to protect the other person.

I find it amusing that in the arts where there is constant contact and full pressure comes to bear all the time, there is so little of the cheap shots that accompany those arts that are more “street”, yet have little real or alive pressure to deal with. Perhaps if the martial art/RBSD instructors spent more time training real techniques and were able to continually see the effects, they would not be so insecure and less likely to sucker punch their compliant victims?

2 thoughts on “Look at me! I am a bad ass! I swear!”

  1. I agree Cecil, the teachers’ ability to protect their students’ safety is a big indicator of their character.

  2. You’ve got to the crux of a problem here. I’ve seen it in traditional martial arts and the RBSD scenes. And I’ve experienced both the “let’s get up and look like it didn’t hurt” and flinch response when on front of an instructor. When you’re young, you think it is just the way things are done. Until you get older and realise it is BS. And yes, I have never had someone in MMA do anything approaching this behaviour although I’m sure it’s not immune to this either. But as you said, from insecure instructors.

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