First let me say that this is not an attack on the presenter, but rather an honest series of critical questions relating to context. It just so happens to be Fred Mastro, a martial artist that took the world by storm overnight, capturing the imagination of people all over the world with his charisma, personality and devastating demonstrations online.
Watch the video, then follow along with me for a second…
Proximity management is undoubtedly one of the fundamental keys to survival. Whether it be through identifying pre-fight cues and maintaining safe distance or through in-fight footwork, proximity management is a sweeping term that may include disengagement, creating space or closing space. In this video, the presenter takes an enormous risk by allowing the “bad guy” to not only close the distance but to linger in that dominating posture allowing for the situation to dangerously escalate. The entire scenario is predicated upon the assumption that the bad guy will not strike first. That he will not violently attack you, right then and there.
While there is a solid argument for attacking from non-violent postures, this particular scenario had the presenter seated on a chair behind a light, unfixed folding table as the “bad guy” stands towering next to him. If pre-emption came by way of the bad guy, the presenter would be in a terribly tough spot to defend and fight from. I will assume there will be subsequent follow-ups by the presenter. Despite the video not showing it, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the bad guy will provide resistance and subsequent counter-measures.
Despite these generous assumptions, I still think the presenter needlessly puts himself at risk. Even if the goal was to use non-violent posture as a launch pad for offensive striking, this can be achieved by tactically getting to your feet where you can continue to de-escalate or fight.
I believe these techniques are good for guys who want to fight to prove a point. In other words, these are great for taking the wrong course of action from avoidable, ego driven confrontations. It provides answers for questions we shouldn’t be asking like: How do I fuck up a drunk guy at a bar or restaurant really quickly? Teaching these tactics under the veil of self-defense is irresponsible and deceiving.
However, I will concede that after having frequented bars and pubs all over the world that there may be certain places where learning these tactics might be of some use. There are places in the world where a good bar fight still ends with sharing a beer with one another. There are places where consensual fights happen all the time where the intention is not survival because there is no real threat to life. Of course accidents can happen, but generally speaking, when you live in a small town, for example, the guy you fight at the bar may well be a colleague, neighbor or second cousin.
So now let’s get to the point of all this. Context matters. Particularly, YOUR context. The presenter can only present what he knows and believes in. For this reason, most instructional videos paint a vague context at best. You are supposed to fill in the gaps. You are supposed to assess and scrutinize what is being presented and determine if it is something worthy of your valuable training time congruent with your training goals.Now for a bit more context. I am a 38 year old, busy entrepreneur with two kids, a wife and a business to run. It is a severe understatement to say that I have very limited training time. For me, I choose to work on the fundamentals: Fundamental take-down defense, fundamental striking, and fundamental ground fighting. I want to continue my masterful use of de-escalation tactics that has lead me to an undefeated fight record…on account of never being in one. My advanced practice for self-defense will continue to be avoidance, de-escalation, and an understanding of human psychology.
It is often quoted by people whose training goals are misaligned with the video content they are watching that the presenter is trying to fool them into buying what they are selling. I don’t think the presenter, in this case, Fred Mastro is trying to fool anyone. I believe he is entirely convinced that these set of tactics holds relevance, efficacy and is worth the time investment in training. There are places in the world, under very specific circumstances where these tactics may well be perfect. A specific set of skills for a specific set of circumstances. If this is how you choose to allocate your time…fine. Its your time and its your life.
But if context matters, choose fundamentals. They allow you to be adaptive based on evolving circumstances…a fundamental set of answers for an infinite number of questions.