Joe Rogan’s Truth On Self-Defence & Mysticism

Love him or hate him Joe Rogan makes some very valid points on the topics of mysticism and self-defence in martial arts, specifically in regards to what works and doesn’t, and he does so in a clear and concise way that people get and understand… but he always creates controversy.

1. Mysticism. We have all seen the videos, mostly of little old Asian dudes in various parts of Asia using their Ki or Qi to send people flying, and sometimes North American’s as well, knocking people out with a touch.
Ki Master vs_MMA Fighter
In the demonstrations you will have VERY willing opponents seemingly being thrown through the air, or collapsing, with the “master” seeming to do very little. It looks like magic, and for the most part, it is. Magic in the sense it is completely fake. I mean come on! Give me a break. How can anyone believe this nonsense?! I understand it must be very difficult if you have studied a martial art under the lineage of one theses guys, but it is just nonsense. It has bGeorge Dillmaneen proven over and over, and now with the advent of MMA since the early 90s, there is no more curtain to hide behind. The call is out there. Prove it! And every time it comes close, it is either proven to be fake, or the practitioner has some lame excuse. The person wasn’t breathing correctly. The wind was off. Whatever. Sure, it looks magical and fun to watch, but people can’t be fooled as easily any more.

Not to say there are not people who can do some amazing shit. Someone like Wim Hof can do some crazy stuff with his mind! And he’s legit. Using meditation to stay submerged in ice water for 1 hour and 53 minutes without his core body temperature changing. Climbing Mount Everest in his shorts, resisted altitude sickness,
completed a marathon in the Namib Desert with no water and proven under a laboratory setting that he’s able to influence his autonomic nervous system and immune system at will. BUT! That is his own physiological system. He isn’t sending people flying like rag-dolls.

2. Self-defence. This one is a little trickier, and causes a lot more controversy and raises emotions. However, it is an area I speak from with some experience and authority. Does bunkai and fancy martial arts moves work in Self-Defense? I am going to say for the most part, no. Now, this is where the tension and ager rises and people get very upset (usually at Joe!), but lets try to look at this objectively and factually.

ThePerfectWeaponI studied a martial art called American Kenpo for many years and obtained a black belt in it. American Kenpo is often referred to as a “system designed for the street”, working off a multiple striking principle. Became famous from a movie called The Perfect Weapon, with Jeff Speakman. I felt pretty proud of the black belt achievement and had worked hard for it. I was very fast, I was very flashy and I looked like I knew what I was doing. However. This was only with a willing opponent. If I had someone stand and throw a punch or kick, let the strike linger and I knew what was coming, I would pull of the most flashy looking thing which looked straight out of a movie. The problem is… it basically is movie fighting.

When faced with a situation when I did not know what strike or attack was coming, and I wasn’t fully prepared for it, and the person was recoiling their strikes… I couldn’t do shit. My training went out the window, and I just began swinging and reacting. When the UFC came along it further gave me pause for thought. In the early days I would see people of different disciplines enter the octagon, only to have their training go out the window and begin swinging.

This had a profound impact on me. I had to admit a few things to myself. Firstly, everything I had learnt gave me an okay foundation, but there was no practicality to any of it. Secondly, I did nSpencer Bennett - Great Britain (IFK)ot know what it was like to be hit, or to really hit someone. As everything I did was prearranged.

Thus, I decided later in life to study Kyokushin Karate, which is a Japanese full-contact style without all the other nonsense. Made famous by fighters like Andy Hug and Georges St. Pierre. Luckily I lived in a city that had not only a phenomenal teacher of Kyokushin and former champion, he also was a kickboxer and understood the combat game. Steve Fogarasi of Contact Kicks Martial Arts. I started over again from the beginning, as a white belt, because in the combat world, I was a white belt. And let me tell you, it was a real wakeup call stepping in front of someone who was trying to hurt me.

osenseiSo, I get it when people are upset when Joe Rogan says their Wing Chun just won’t work. Or their Aikido won’t work. You have spent sometimes years or a lifetime studying something that some guy is saying is bullshit. But, I believe the reason there is so much anger is that people know its true, Joe is speaking from real experience and you feel you’ve wasted your time.

Lets face the facts, MMA is the closest we will ever get wing chunto testing this, and it has proven it to be true over and over again. There is a caveat. It isn’t all useless, and I think that is what people need to realize. You see it more and more. Someone will use with success a technique from his or her traditional martial art inside the octagon, and it works! Could be a kick or a way of moving, but it is unorthodox and it works. That is why the UFC is great. It can prove what works and doesn’t work. So, like Bruce Lee would probably say, adapt and use what is useful. Anything else, disregard.

Bringing this full circle, this is the reason many of these so-called self-defense martial arts create a false sense of security. Like my teacher, Steve Fogarasi, I do believe you can make some of it work, and there are legit people out there who can. However, you would need to focus hours, days and years of your life to make it second nature. Drilling and training over and over again. Or, you could just learn some very basic boxing skills a little grappling and call it a day. You would have enough to defend yourself in most street situations, and if you couldn’t, its unlikely more of that type of training would help you. It’s your choice.

kravmagaThere are some exceptions to this of course. Things like Krav Maga and Filipino Martial Arts which focus on close quarter combat specifically for military application. But generally, like MMA, they will use what is useful and disregard what is not. Very different in more traditional martial arts, which tend to hang onto everything.kali

So, yes, I agree with Joe and my own instructor. The only way to get better is to learn how to strike, block and grapple and use it. You can practice all the kata or forms you want, and you can practice as much as you want with a willing opponent. But the only way to truly defend yourself is to actually use it and drill it over and over again in a fighting situation, learning how to deal with the stress and emotion of it, the exhaustion of it, to learn how to take a strike and keep moving forward and survive.

In closing, I will say for me, my favorite “Self-Defence” practitioner, will always be “El Guapo”, Bas Rutten.


Comments 19

  1. Rick Matz

    As a young man, I spent a LOT of time training in Yoshinkan Aikido. I also worked in security at a hotel in Detroit. Aikido served me well in controlling people until the police showed up on the few occasions that I needed to use that training back in the late 70’s.

    Having said that, and knowledgeable of how Aikido is usually presented, I think that actually being able to use one’s Aikido skills has become a rare thing.

  2. Bill Stewart

    A friend of mine (tae kwon do) sponsored a George Dillman seminar at his school once. This was late 80’s as I recall. I attended with one of my brown belt students to support my friend. George Dillman was demonstrating how using ki and hitting certain points in sequence could knock someone out. I was a recently promoted nidan in Kyokushin. Although I had showed up with an open mind I was highly skeptical about what he was saying.

    I somehow got picked as an uke so he could “demonstrate” that it worked. I was standing in fudo dachi with a couple of guys behind me to “catch me”. Immediately after I was struck I was practically pulled off my feet from behind by the assistants telling me “we got you”, “you’re okay” and I was “assisted” to the floor! I was quite annoyed with myself because I had been focused on what was in front of me and hadn’t thought to worry about the guys behind me. They insisted that I’d been knocked out, although I never felt “out”. I asked my student after did I look out to him and he laughed and said “no” :))

    Sadly there are people out there who are looking for “magic” and will always be willing to pay these charlatans! There is no “magic”! There is a place for kata and kihon practice. There is a place for practicing with a partner who cooperates with you, allowing you to learn the technique or application. In the end though, nothing takes the place of practice against a “non-cooperative” opponent. It is the only way to prepare for what can happen in “real life”! Osu!!!

    1. Post

      Hi Bill, Thanks so much for sharing your story. A story that exemplifies what Rogan and myself were talking about. It reminds me somewhat of the religious charlatans who prey on people’s weaknesses when doing “healings”. I can’t believe they grabbed you like that from behind (actually I can believe it), and I can totally picture it too. To bad you didn’t get back up and knock him the fuck out with a “touch” of your own. LOL! As you said, there is no “magic” other than hard work and training. Thanks again for sharing! OSU!

  3. Mark Edgar

    your ‘story’ confuses me.. you say that bunkai doesn’t work in self defence?… then you juxtapose your opinion with MMA… A sport? there are rules in any sport and I don’t find MMA self defence… thuggery at its best. Secondly you say that all the training you did meant shit in the street… that’s because you didn’t apply your training to self defence.. you probably assumed a fighting stance ( as you would on the dojo floor) and turned the encounter into a ‘sport fight’.. this is where you are incredibly wrong!
    in a real self defence situation and using bunkai in its true meaning, you smash and break limbs( cant do that in sport fighting), you poke and gouge eyes( cant do that in sport fighting) you kick and tear groin ( cant do that in sport fighting)… there are rules in sport fighting and NO rules in self defence. I believe you have never really encountered a real life self defence situation! your story does not reflect this.. you must understand that in real life self defence situations you, the defender, is going to get hit/hurt and your training will go thru that and continue on destroying your attacker.. no one has ever said to me in my 40 years of Martial training that you will never get hit!!… it surprised me that you even speak of a lingering punch etc.. off course they don’t, but one must go forward to the attacker, with skill, and shut them down. This has nothing to do with a lingering punch.. too many holes in your story.. my opinion of Josh Rogan has somewhat faltered on his skills… get in a real fight and use what you have been trained in… no chivalry or manners, destroy the person who wants to hurt you.. no rules mate!

    1. Post

      Hi Mark, I want to say thank you for taking the time to read and commenting. Much appreciated. However, I am disappointed that you were confused reading it, as I try to make myself fairly clear in my writing. I will try to address your confusion here:

      1. I did not say Bunkai doesn’t work in self-defense. Quoting myself, I said “for the most part, no”. Bunkai absolutely can work in self-defense… if you train it day in and day out for years. There are folks whom I believe could pull it off. People like Iain Abernethy. But he is an exception, because it’s what he does every day. Most people train in their martial art 2-3 times a week for an hour or two per session. Bunkai is practiced very little of that time. If you believe a person in a life or death situation is going to be able to rely on that bunkai training,… I am sorry, but you are wrong and that person has false sense of protection and will get hurt, or worse.

      I am not going to really address your comment about mma being “thuggery”, because you obviously know nothing about the sport to make a comment like that, and like a religious zealot, will not be swayed in opinion.

      2. You made the comment about my own training saying “because you didn’t apply your training to self defence.. you probably assumed a fighting stance ( as you would on the dojo floor) and turned the encounter into a ‘sport fight’.. this is where you are incredibly wrong!” Well, you are making an assumption that is completely incorrect. If you know anything about American Kenpo, and based on your comment I am going to say no, it is not done from a fighting stance. Yes, I did have a couple “encounters” in my years, obviously more in my youth, and my basics did help for sure. BUT, only if I was unable to defend myself within the first couple of seconds, because ANY fight will then go to fighting guard (hands up) and more likely than not, to the ground. So, you better be good.

      3. Your comments about smashing limbs, groin, eyes, etc., no rules and mma being a sport, etc This is the argument always used by the devout believers of traditional arts. For this argument I believe Bas Rutten said it best. Do you think traditional martial artists are the only people who can do this? Do you not think a highly sklled mma fighter couldn’t break your arm, kick you in the nuts, or poke you in the eye? Come on… be real. And again, I am going back to the amount of time training. In a real situation with nerves, stress and anxiety, the average persons “training” is going out the window. Yes, someone like Iain Abernethy I believe could rely on it. But not the average joe.

      4. On you comment “I believe you have never really encountered a real life self defence situation! your story does not reflect this.” You are simply wrong and my story completely reflects it. In a real life situation, most training will go out the window and natural instincts kick in. Funny thing is… when that happens, it usually looks like mma. Interesting isn’t it?

      5. You talk about your own training and not using lingering punches etc. Good for you! Bravo! That is the way it should be in training. Unfortunately, in most systems of martial arts it isn’t the case. YouTube can show you this.

      I still find it humorous that you refer to mma as thuggery and later in your comment talk about fighting “no chivalry or manners, destroy the person who wants to hurt you.. no rules mate!” Nothing more needs to be said there.

      I am sorry that you find so many holes in my story. I suggest trying to give it another read. As I don’t believe there are many. I am saying the traditional stuff can work. IF you make it your life and train like its real life. Unfortunately, unless you can devote your life to it, this isn’t the case usually.

      As for Rogan’s skill, not much needs to be said here. He is a former national champion in “traditional” martial arts and a black belt in BBJ who trains with world champs in BBJ and MMA. My money would be on him.

      In closing, I do thank you again for reading and commenting and if I haven’t swayed you in your belief I did say within the article it would piss off people, but usually they’re mad at Joe 🙂 We can agree to disagree. Good luck in your training. Sounds like you are one of the few traditionalist who keep it real. Good for you! Osu!

  4. Martial Artist

    Karate, TKD, Aikido, etc…..alone by itself suck and give practitioners a false sense of confidence and security IMO. All professional fighters (Anderson Silva with Capoeira and TKD….Lyoto Machida with Karate, etc) all use boxing or kickboxing (Muay Thai included) as their base. TKD, Karate are useful when applied with some form of boxing or kickboxing. Ignorant people, particularly people who spent years and thousands of dollars on Aikido and Wing Chun and TKD don’t want to hear that. These martial arts don’t have practical sparring (like Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, etc). They also don’t emphasize strategic striking (head movement, footwork, etc).

    With that said…..takedowns and grappling (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Sambo, Judo, Wrestling, etc) are a totally different ball game and a completely different conversation. I began my martial arts with Boxing and Muay Thai….then began my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I will say this……….I feel 100% more confident in my striking thanks to my grappling experience. BJJ is a martial art (you can include judo, sambo, submission wrestling) that unless you practice it you will never understand. BJJ along is greater than any striking martial art by itself…..IMO

    1. Jesse

      Machida does not use Boxing nor Muay Thai as a base period. He uses Shotokan Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with a bit of Sumo here and there. Stop being so ignorant Karate is not much different from Muay Thai a punch is a punch and a kick is a kick. It’s not the style but the fighter.

  5. Lee

    Martial arts stems from eastern philosophy and religion Originally. I won’t go into to much detail about who I am or what I represent, but remember reading a book Mas Oyama wrote that explained about the energy body and meridians or internal chakras. Kyokushin no doubt in my mind stands at the top of the pyramid for Martial arts practice. The Kanku and calligraphy are and have spiritual meaning! Not agreeing with Joe Rogan ATAL here, and he no doubt wouldn’t be available for confrontation after I bring the proof and facts to the table that he is WRONG! He’s basically denying Eastern rooted arts and pumping up his Western MMA through his buisness network and aiming to irradicate Traditional or any styles that doesn’t conform with MMA. I believe it’s different horses for different courses, like the great pioneer of martial arts Bruce Lee said, “organisations and politics are not for everyone”!! Especially not for the individual fighter unless you are in the “Leader’s” or “masters” pockets! Back to spiritual practice……. If you chose to join a group that practice “real martial arts”, what defines this?? Who says that a decent guy that practices one of these styles like TKD, Aikido ect, how do you know if it might save his life some day in a life or death situation or not?!? Compared to maybe say some guy on steroids that attracts trouble and practices MMA! My point being, if you are practicing martial arts to become a better person you believe there is a path for you on a good side of yourself. If you are putting drugs into your body, suffer with addiction or alcohol abuse, you would be contaminating that good side with bad energy, so this is summed up basically by saying chi-energy or life force energy is real it’s how you harness it! In this video starting at 3:27 you will see either addicts or people with mental problems practicing martial arts under hypnosis by their “master”, this sums up the answers to people’s questions to this topic, over and out.

  6. Jet Black

    Let me share with you some thought regarding Wing Chun. Yes Wing Chun won’t work in MMA matches because most of its moves are not allowed per MMA rules. Take out the rules and MMA fighters won’t stand a chance.

    What Wing Chun Moves are Illegal in MMA?
    -Eye gouging of any kind.
    -Groin attacks of any kind.
    -Small joint manipulation.
    -Striking to the spine or the back of the head.
    -Striking downward using the point of the elbow.
    -Throat strikes of any kind, including, without limitation, grabbing the trachea.
    -Kicking the head of a grounded opponent.
    -Kneeing the head of a grounded opponent.
    -Stomping a grounded opponent.
    There are tons of throat strikes in partner drills/demonstration, as well as groin strikes.
    There also seems to be this repetition of the moment an enemy falters, one seizes the opportunity to go for their most vulnerable, weakest points. In this way, the back of the head or neck or spine become big targets, especially with downward elbows.
    Wing Chun has no ground fighting. If you put someone down, you don’t take the fight there. You stay up, and you use some of the arguably most powerful strikes in a striker’s arsenal, to points that would do the most damage. You use kicks that drive with the heel (classified as stomps), to their head.
    Finally, Chinese martial arts, including Wing Chun, have a larger focus on the weaker small joints, when it comes to joint locking. Small joint manipulation being disallowed means that any use of Chin Na is going to have to be improvised.
    The advanced moves include Biu Jee strikes that are basically ‘knife hand strikes’ to the eyes or throat.
    The low kicks of Wing Chun are designed to blow knees out, groin shots, etc.
    Wing Chun is not for the ring, it was developed for the streets.
    “Wing Chun” is designed for just one thing, and one thing only:
    to severely injure and incapacitate an aggressive opponent. It is NOT a form of exercise, NOT a form of meditation, NOT a sport and NOT used for demonstration – its sole purpose is to attack an attacker with more skill and more science than what the attacker can muster.

  7. B60943

    A word on MMA vs traditional martial arts when it comes to self defense.

    Who would win in fight between a boxer and a judoka using judo rules? The obvious answer is the judo player, the opposite is also true if they were fighting using boxing rules. This is true because both martial artist are masters of their own craft within their own rules.
    MMA is not an example of self defense because MMA fights are not based on self defense rules. To be a great fighter and win every fight you get into, study MMA because that’s what MMA specializes in, winning fights.
    Self defense operates using completely different rules. The number one objective is not to win a fight, rather, it’s self preservation. Real self defense deals with awareness and psychology and as a last resort using enough physical violence to escape and not get charged with assault due to excessive force.
    So what does this all mean?
    It all comes down to what you train your body to do when it’s on auto pilot during a highly stressful situation regardless of you preferred method of combat.
    An MMA fighter trains day in day out to become the greatest fighter in the universe but has little time to learn about the psychology of a criminal or concern themselves with key points of awareness. There’s not much anyone can do against a gun to their head, by that time, the fight is already over.
    Like wise someone who studies what is considered a traditional martial art will find themselves hard-pressed in a violent encounter, if they don’t train live scenarios, because they are not use to that degree of violence compared to an MMA fighter.
    So, to say that traditional martial arts wouldn’t work in a self defense situation and using MMA seen in the UFC or Bellator and the like as proof, is a mistake because MMA does not operate using self defense rules. In the end it doesn’t mater what form of combat you train in if you don’t train live scenarios and study the psychology and awareness components of true self defense.

    1. Post
  8. B-

    My sons, 4 & 6 have been taking American Kenpo (Tommy Chavies, Ed Parker System) for 9 month, 5 hrs every week. Kids LOVE the class and LOVE Tommy. It’s been amazing to see them grow in confidence, learn discipline & structure. I see no need to change, and will let this play out as long as I can.

    My 1st & last fight was 30sec in 8th grade… considering my decades of travels, perhaps I should teach self defense classes? So I know nothing of fighting, aside from movies & TV highlights. Nada. I just started watching some MMA and YouTube interviews of various fighting ideas. It’s too early to worry about my boys… Yet since I just read this article…

    I presume one can’t go wrong with any Martial arts in the beginning? If a kid/person/my sons decide to take “fighting” seriously: AFTER SOME YEARS OF KENPO, WHEN & TO WHERE WOULD THEY PROGRESS? BJJ then May Thai? I appreciate your wisdom and/or opinions; I expect to keep my boys in this for a good long while. Sincerely, B-

    1. Post

      My background is in American Kenpo as well, with a black belt. Fine system, just not realistic. I received a black belt without ever fighting, or sparring full-contact. Hence why I went to Kyokushin. That being said, it is a good base to start with. Personally, if I had a kid, I would put them in BJJ first and foremost. The most well-rounded and practical. I would then supplement this with Muay Thai or Kyokushin (because of the traditionalism and character it builds). I would invite you to watch this video. Thanks for reading! OSU!

  9. Daniel W.

    It seems to me like people always point to the frauds and say “look this stuff isn’t real” but they don’t look at people like Bruce Frantzis and Jerry Alan Johnson who know the real thing and have been fighting all their life. Jerry Alan Johnson went undefeated and he got challenged by karate, kung fu, muay thai, bjj guys, etc. The traditional method is to first do cooperative drills, then do semi-cooperative, then full contact fighting and drills that are non-cooperative. the traditional fighting method is to test to see if what you can do works because if it doesn’t you will get messed up. the idea that people don’t pressure test is, in my opinion, a phenomenon that has been recently developed by teachers because if the teacher does the real traditional method he’d have no/few students and no/few students=no money and no money=no food/rent. people may not know this but during Bruce’s and Jerry’s time and before there was a lot more fighting going on. this whole idea that in the traditional method they didn’t test nor fight is a bunch of b.s.

    Anyway, this is a video that people should watch it’s by Adam Chan:

    1. Daniel W.

      Also want to note that history has shown that as time passes there is the original way that it was done, but as time passes bits and pieces get left out when it is transmitted so after a few generations people are practicing a movement and they have no idea why. originally there was a very specific reason but over time people forgot so it ends up being an “empty form” (which is another reason why many martial art schools suck, it is because they were taught incorrectly or weren’t taught at all).

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