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Why are forms not 'Alive'?

Believe it or not, there are still a few people out there that feel 'form', kata, or djuru training have some place for an athlete interested in performance. Why this belief still persists is a mystery, but lets see if we can lay the dead patterns to rest.

The main reason people falsely believe forms have some sort of value is usually listed as "muscle memory". The idea that a move repeated enough times, becomes smoother, or more accessible during an altercation. Repeating a move over and over again in the air will do absolutely nothing for your reflexes or so called 'muscle memory'. In fact, repeating a move or series of moves over and over again in the same pattern and sequence will actually be counter productive to your bodies ability to respond quickly.

First, there is no TIMING, without a resisting opponent in front of you. Since there is no timing to be had, your reflexes, or response time against a resisting opponent, will not change, increase, or be helped in the least.

Second, there is no impact, as there is against a heavy bag. So there will be no benefit to your strength, body mechanics, or conditioning. In fact, your body mechanics may become altered in correctly due to the fact that you are not making impact against anything, but merely striking 'air'.

Thirdly, even when shadowboxing (another comparison morticians like to make when making zombies), you never want to repeat the same series of movements to many times in a row! This is a basic rule all boxing coaches are very familiar with. Go to the well to many times and your opponent becomes 'wise' to your arsenal. An example would be a boxer whom always hooked off the jab. After the second attempt he becomes predictable, and easy to set up for a counter attack or knockout. This is why it's important to make sure your athletes shadowbox fluidly. Watch them to insure that they are NOT repeating the same sequence of movements, in the same order, over and over again.

One basic difference that can be seen between a JKD Concepts Instructor, and a performance orientated Coach, is the difference in patterns. JKD Concepts Instructors, and indeed most 'traditional' Martial Artists, are consistently looking to learn, memorize, and repeat more and more patterns. A performance orientated Coach is always looking to break patterns, and movements that are repeated in the same order. A Coach should instead be watching his athlete to insure that when shadowboxing, working the heavy bag, or any other piece of equipment,  that athlete is not always repeating the same route of movements or combinations. This makes a fighter robotic, stiff, predictable, and creates bad habits. There really is no justification for maintaining the antiquated bad methodology of 'form' training.

What about solo training?

That's a good question and one I get asked allot. If you are blessed to have enough extra time after working your stand up, clinch and ground games against resisting opponents, then you should be concentrating on conditioning. Endurance training, resistance exercises, and stretching would all rank high on the list. Even reading a book would be a much better use of your time the memorizing and repeating a dead pattern. If you are grossly overweight then you should be working that endurance training daily.  If you lack a good muscular physique, then you should be weight training correctly in order to avoid injury. There is always plenty for us to be working on!

Throw all the patterns and forms away. Stay fluid, and stay 'ALIVE'. -Matt (Mono Loco) Thornton

A Tired Debate

I see some of you still don't understand the distinction. The street vs sport, BJJ has rules, grappling should include biting, hair pulling, etc, is a straw man. It's a tired and meaningless debate. Its also the excuse that every master of DEAD martial arts from the traditional schools uses to explain his arts non effectiveness in a full contact environment. So anyone seeking to use this argument should be wary.

Let me be as clear as possible. I will borrow some of Dan Inosanto's terminology here, and yes Mr Inosanto is a Black Belt with the Machados, whom I consider some of the best GRAPPLING coaches in the world. (Try biting Rigan sometime, I worked it with him once and it sucks!).

You need to make a distinction between a "delivery system" and a sporting application of an art. As an example we will use a man I admire very much, Renzo Gracie. Renzo could see a bite, a foul tactic, a version of an armlock, from Silat, or White Crane, or Yellow Monkey Fever, etc etc, and probably be able to INTEGRATE and apply that move very quickly. Why? Because he already has such a strong base on the ground. He understands the positions, and he has a great delivery system. Compare that with say an Aikido stylist. He may see the same application for a bite, or a choke, etc, but never be able to effectively use it. Especially against a wrestler or another groundfighter. Why? Because he doesn't have that delivery system.

Mo Smith could see a punch or a kick or an elbow, from just about any striking art and probably apply it very quickly to his game. Why? Because he has a STRONG BASE in the delivery system of western boxing. Boxing has the body mechanics, footwork, timing, etc, that allow Mo to INTEGRATE those moves.

Randy Couture could see a sweep from say. . Judo, and probably use it right away. Why? Because he has a strong base in wrestling, and Greco. My main job at the SBG is to see that everyone that walks through the door develops that strong base in the delivery systems of stand up, clinch, and ground. Because they have a strong base in BJJ, Boxing, Wrestling, etc, DOES NOT therefore mean that they are "Sport Fighters". That's faulty logic and poor assumptions.In fact some SBG Instructors, including myself, spend a large percentage of time teaching law enforcement, and civilian self defense. Many drill daily using "foul tactics". It would be a HUGE mistake to assume that because they are very good at the delivery systems that they are not self defense orientated.

Without a strong base on the ground, on your feet, and in the clinch, you can attend every "streetfighting" seminar in the world. Study every grappling art in existence, and still never be much of a fighter. That's the problem with the JKD Concepts paradigm. Does that mean all JKD Concepts people are like that? Of course not. Some have taken the time, and the pain That's involved in earning that strong base.

I have people walk through my Gym door every week from out of town. They are here to take privates, and many aspire to be SBG Instructors. The first thing they do is roll on the mat, and most cannot hang with the white belts at my Gym, let alone the Blue or Purple belts. Then they box, and often they turn their back, reach out, fold under the pressure of being hit. It's just an environment they are not used to. They go away with a list of things to work on, a true knowledge of where their real skill level is, and hopefully a positive and productive experience. But, they do not go away with Instructors certificates.

In a few cases I have looked online and seen that a Month or so later these same people have traveled to other JKD Instructors and become "certified" Instructors. I think That's fine. But That's not what the SBG is about. Even if someone says that the only goal they have is to teach beginners 'self-defense', they still must OWN a good BASE in stand up, Clinch, and Ground. That doesn't mean we are a SPORT Gym. It just means we have high standards.

Once that BASE is acquired, then an athlete can go on to integrate other moves, or ideas very easily. They will be able to put those moves into CONTEXT because they have a strong base of skill. Without that base people become lost in a classical mess very easily. Led astray very easily, because they just don't understand. A purple belt in BJJ who knows how to bite and gouge eyes is a COMPLETELY different beast from a "streetfighter" who bites and gouges eyes but doesn't have the base in that 'delivery system'. If you want to be a good fighter, and reach your own personal full potential, you MUST have that base.

Also, I do not dismiss the danger of blades. In fact I know just how dangerous they can be, and so does every other SBG Instructor. They part of the curriculum, and they are addressed. But, I am very wary of people who talk about cutting arteries, and stabbing people in the guard, etc. Many times (not always) these people tend to be the kids that got picked on in school, lack a certain sense of self esteem, etc. I believe that people like this can be greatly helped through SPORTS. Whether it's boxing, wrestling, BJJ, Judo, NHB, etc. This type of athletic event can help someone like this gain real self esteem. But too often, instead of going down that route they I see them being drawn into the "streetfighting/ tactical" stuff. And I think this usually just increases there paranoia and fear, and eventually leads to anger.

This is why I think the sports paradigm is much healthier. The weaker members of our society are the ones that can use sports to improve their life the most. True self defense skills like awareness, maturity, lack of substance abuse, firearms, pepper spray,etc, can always be added. And should always be added. But the scared kids that get picked on are best helped through sports, and they are the ones I enjoy teaching the most because I have seen such a productive and great change that sports can bring to them. -Matt (Mono Loco) Thornton

Hey Matt, is this guy any good?

"Hey Matt, is Sifu such and such any good? Hey Matt, what do you think of Guru whatshisname."

I get these questions often. Many of my e-mails every week seem to begin like this. 99% of the time I think these e-mail are sincere, and they are asking me because they feel I will be honest with them. However, most of the time I wind up giving them the same answer. If I have never seen that person spar, wrestle, or train in an Alive way, or any of his people spar, wrestle, or train Alive. . .then my answer is, "I honestly don't know? Go check them out."

This brings to mind a recent post where someone asked if another Wing Chun Instructor was any 'good' at stand up fighting.
When Rory (aka:Cheeky) responded with this statement:

"I have only seen him doing wing chun trapping and such. I have never seen him throw any rounds"

It seemed to be ignored, but it was an honest, and very smart statement. If you want to know if someone is "good" at fighting, or teaching some element of fighting then you must:

  • A) Watch them spar, or pull off their movement against a resisting opponent. or
  • B) Watch the "Instructors" students spar, or pull off their movement against a resisting opponent.

There is really no other way. Since as Rory say's he has "never seen him throw any rounds", or presumably seen his students "throw any rounds". There is really no way to tell if they are any good.

Anyone can 'look good', even 'look crisp' hitting focus mitts. Or demonstrating one and two step sparring, etc. It has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with whether or not they can actually fight, or know how to teach anyone else how to fight. All it means is. . .they know what they think it should 'look like'.

Think of BJJ. Anyone who has seen a UFC, or watched one instructional video, knows what the mount position is. They could probably "demonstrate the mount position". If they are alert, and glib, they may even be able to DEMONSTRATE an armbar, or other 'move' from there. If you just LOOKED at them DEMONSTRATE mount, and then just LOOKED at a black belt BJJ player DEMONSTRATE mount, you may not be able to distinguish the difference at all. Especially if you are fairly new to the ground, (first few Years).

However, if you where on bottom, and attempting to escape mount position, you would know in a heartbeat which one knew what he was talking about. The novice gets bucked off, or winds up in guard easily, and the black belt drinks his coffee from mount while you struggle on the bottom to escape in futility. (or in Luis's case... drinking a big soda, in Sharp's Case smoking his crack pipe, and in Adam's case, staring at a centerfold of Vin Diesel)

I think this point is fairly clear. As a truism, it is also clear that stand up fighting, and fighting in the clinch is absolutely no different.

Many people can 'DEMONSTRATE' a neck tie, but when a real Muay Thai clinch fighter throws one on you then you know. Many people can now 'demonstrate' an underhook. However, I ASSURE YOU when Couture gets that position on you, (and dammit he will), you will have a new found religion when it comes to the clinch.

One of the major flaws with non-alive training is that the very clear and distinct differences between novice, and expert, become wiped away.

This is in part why so many Instructors seek to cling to dead pattern's, memorized drills, and one and two step demonstrations. Without them, where would they be in terms of real fighting skill?

How do you know if you are a world class Silat person? How do you know if you are an 'expert' at 'WC' hand trapping?
Is it surviving some street fights? Is it in the pursuit of the holy grail of many JKD Concepts Instructors. . ."good form". . .which becomes defined as knowing more variations, and switches in Pak Sau Cycle then the next guy. Or looking 'crisp' on focus mitts.

How do YOU know?

Imagine saying this: "See that guy with the Black Belt over there. I watched his solo form in the back. . .and then he taught this footlock technique. He is one of the greatest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guys alive today!"

Without ever having wrestled with this above stated Instructor, or watched him wrestle against another resisting opponent. It would be absurd! Obviously, to tell if someone is better then you, an Instructor, or expert at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, all you have to do is roll with them, or watch them roll against someone else. no choreographed demonstration of his deadly BJJ moves. no well performed memorized dance, kata, djuru (you pick the word) no 'lineage' would ever be an acceptable substitute in BJJ. Why? Because BJJ is an Alive, performance orientated Art form. Rorian could be your father, but if you have not put your time in on the mat, you would never be considered a BJJ expert.

I know how we define an Instructor and Coach. We define it based on PERFORMANCE executed under Alive circumstances. Your own, and that of those you are coaching.

I KNOW Chico has great stand up because I've seen him spar, and sparred with him. I have watched him knock more then a few people out. I know he can Coach well because all his people also have great stand up. That's not subject to debate. I can clearly say in good conscience that he is GOOD. Same goes for the other SBG Instructors. Same goes for Rigan Machado. I have rolled with Rigan, and obviously his students. The fact that he is an expert at BJJ, that he is GOOD, is again not subject to debate.

But, what about those that don't train Alive? A wing chun guy, Silat guy, etc. Are they good? I can't say. Without Aliveness. . .how can you possibly define good?  -Matt Thornton

"Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish." - Euripides  

"Well Known Guy:......the difference between sport fighting and combat is a myth.......if your fighting arsenal doesn't resemble UFC/MMA matches a little bit. Then it is not functional!".

I am not sure who this person is talking about, but that is certainly not something I said, and if it's an attempt at paraphrasing then it's a very poor one.

Do we address these other issues of self defense?

Answer, yes, when I teach I usually refer to it as the ABC's of self protection, and there are several articles about this subject here, on our website.

Do tactics and circumstances change between "sports" environments, and self defense, or law enforcement?

Of course they do.

However, the basic conditioning of your body, and the prime skill developed in the root delivery systems, and the training method (Aliveness) remains a constant.

To see how these delivery systems are used in areas such as Law Enforcement I would suggest checking our ISR program at

Luis and Paul will be releasing an ISR for civilians tape series next Year that details these skills for civilians self defense as well.

Do I emphasize the "street" aspects of what we do all the time?

That depends completely on who I am speaking to, and with. When teaching LE, or Military, they have specific needs. When teaching civilian self defense, they also have specific needs. When teaching athletes looking to compete, they too have specific needs. Etc.

I have written a great deal on the subjects of awareness, paranoia, and the anger and sadness that many exhibit who find themselves drawn to guns, knives, and violence. This is not a critic of all RBSD systems, or "people". Rather, it is a commentary on 'one' type of person that often finds themselves drawn into such things for unhealthy reasons. The reality of such people is self evident for anyone understanding the point being made. For those 'types' of people, a little athletic training can go a long way towards continued peace and well being.

So yes, we have extensive curriculum for RBSD, Law Enforcement people. For bladed self defense we use the STAB program. Another one of SBGi Coaches, Jerry Wetzel, has also developed the 'red zone' program, which is also highly functional, and follows a similar paradigm.

Yes, we will be releasing various projects in the near future on the subject, and anyone who is a Police Officer can now purchase the ISR Matrix tapes at

And no, we are not an MMA Gym. Less then 2% of our students are interested in fighting MMA. Most are here for self defense, health, fun, and friendship.

The fact that we do also works within the environment of fully resisting opponents is a nice side effect of functional delivery systems.

Matt is the SBG President, family man, Coach, Athlete, and wanna be Rock Star

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