Invariably, the people around me that know I’m involved in martial arts will include a few clueless souls
that simply have to strike up conversations with me regarding the arts.  Avoiding all of them seems to be
impossible, and the one that will sneak through has read one issue of Black Belt Magazine and seen
every single episode of Walker, Texas Ranger… which in his mind means he can speak intelligently on
the subject.

My last such conversation went south in a hurry.  
“Dude, I heard you teach Karate or somethin’.  So you gotta black belt, right?”  I never give a square
answer about my rank, it never ends up being a good thing.  However, on this occasion I happened to
be with someone who was glad to answer these questions for me… much to my chagrin.
“He’s a 5th degree, like a master.”
“No way!  Dude, why aren’t you fightin’ them guys in the UFC or something instead of workin’ here…?”

Now, usually I just nod my head when someone starts reciting “the world according to me, by me”; but
this one just stopped me in my tracks.  The guy was completely serious.  My facial expression must
have said “What the hell did you just say?” because my new friend felt compelled to explain his remark:
“Some of them guys are just first degrees and some of ‘em don’t even have a black belt.  If I had your
rank, I’d be in there fighting and makin’ the dough, Dude…”
There were so many things wrong with this sentence, it didn’t merit conversation.  Unbelievably, I
answered him:
“No, you’d probably get the hell beat out of you… just like I would.”

For those of you who haven’t seen the training regimen for a UFC type fighter, it is absolutely brutal.  In
its inception, the UFC was created to pit one martial art against another, spearheaded by the Gracie
family to show that their brand of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was the superior art.  The combatants of the first
UFC events were pure to a specific style or hybrid.  Those days are gone.  Now, there are basically two
types of fighters in the UFC events: Strikers who can grapple, and Grapplers who can stand and trade.  
They are all in remarkable physical condition, and do little else except train for the next event.  I watched
a documentary on Mark Kerr on cable a few years back.  Mr. Kerr was followed throughout several days
which included his training sessions as well as his fights.  I really, really don’t understand why anyone
would put themselves through that… for any amount of money.  In this particular documentary, the last
event in which Mark Kerr and Mark Coleman were both competing (with Coleman eventually winning),
the purse was $50,000.  Yes, that is a pretty nice deposit into anyone’s account… but consider what a
heavyweight title fight in boxing is by comparison.   Boxing is plenty tough, but I can’t remember ever
seeing a boxer tapping frantically to keep from having his arm pulled off or because he was turning blue.

So how do I think I would do in a UFC type event?  Well, I think I’d make an OK referee… but I sure as
hell wouldn’t fight in one.  I have an administrative position at an aircraft manufacturer.  It’s an office job
that I spend at least ten hours a day five days a week.  I have a wife and two children and I play with all
three of them.  I train every day, some days only for about 30 minutes; on a good day I’ll manage a
couple of hours.  I hit the weights a few times a week.   I eat pizza and/or ice cream every chance I get,
and it shows.  I ride my bike when it’s warm enough outside.  This isn’t the training schedule for a fighter
going into a no-holds-barred event.

Don’t go relegating me to the ranks of the “walking sheep” population just yet.  All I’m saying is that I
haven’t devoted my training to protect me inside a cage wearing only spandex shorts (now THAT is an
ugly mental picture).   In my old age, I have narrowed my scope of “event horizon” to what would
constitute the need to fight.  It’s not going to be in any sort of ring, or on a mat, or because someone
called me a name.  I won’t fight unless I absolutely have to.  I packed up my ego a long time ago, and
have nothing to prove.  

The battles that I prepare myself for are ones that I hope I never face, unlike the UFC competitors.  My
fights have no rules.  If I can pick up something and utilize it as a weapon, I will because my adversary
will probably do the same.  Conditioning?  I’m in as good of shape as most guys my age (which isn’t
necessarily “good”), but that really doesn’t matter.  I can do just about anything for 15 – 20 seconds…
which is probably twice as long as a real event will last.   Because Kombatan fights in all ranges I’m far
from defenseless with just my hands, but if I get my hands on something blunt and 2-3 feet long, the
odds change dramatically.   Bum rush me in a parking lot, and I’ll show you why 5 Way Grandmaster
Steve Todd tells us after engaging a lock to “find the nearest Buick”. Threaten my family when I can get
to a knife, and I’ll turn you into an organ donor… I don’t care how bad you think you are.

Before one begins training in any art, they must assess what it is they want to learn.  One might take up
the arts in the interest of self defense.  Others want the cultural experience.  Perhaps a person’s job
requires some additional training, such as law enforcement officers.  Some eventually aspire to teach.  
Still others have the desire to compete on one level or another.  

As for me, I’m quite pleased with the path I’ve chosen.  I prefer to blend in and look unassuming; I like
being the wolf in the fold.   I’ll have to do something about the people around me that insist on blowing
my cover, though.  I’m also pleased with not having chosen a career that would retire me in 5 years and
leave me crippled.  Besides, that whole broken-nose and cauliflower-ear look doesn’t suit me.    

And for all of you guys that think that anyone that studies the arts should be involved in no-holds barred
fighting events… turn off the TV and go outside.  
"You mean you're not in the UFC?"
(Picking a Martial Art that deals with your adversary)
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