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What Do You Know? – Mark Hatmaker

Let’s use a conversation with General George Patton and a joke about a nun and a priest to teach us a lesson about martial arts and self-protection in general.

F. van Wyck Mason was a historian, a novelist, and a veteran of World Wars I and II. In the Second World War, he was appointed historian for SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) by Allied Commander General Eisenhower.

Mason was tasked with keeping tabs on all the major players of the day and to keep a documentary record of what happened, when it happened. He has many stories of cooperating and non-cooperating higher ups. Let’s let Mason himself tell us a story here:

Dwight D. Eisenhower

“I shall never forget my interview with the late Lieutenant General George Patton, Jr., who had started out even more hostile toward my mission than had Montgomery himself.

“Midway through my interview the General suddenly leaned over his desk and bellowed, ‘You don’t look much like a quill pusher, but it seems like you know something about history. Question is, how much?’ The fierce white brows merged. ‘Tell me, Colonel, what was the only battle that was fought between two generals world-famous at the time, who’d their best troops with ’em, who occupied exactly the terrain they’d selected and who fought the battle as they’d planned? When was it and who won?’

“To this day I don’t know what turned over in my memory and prompted me to reply: ‘Sir, I believe you are referring to the battle of Zama which was fought outside Carthage during the Third Punic War around 202 B.C. between Scipio Africanus and Hannibal.’ I couldn’t help adding, ‘Guess you know that the Romans won a decisive victory!’

“‘Now, by God,’ roared Patton, ‘that shines! Damned! If it don’t.'”

Colonel Mason found Patton nothing but cooperative from there on out.

On to the one about the priest who was giving a ride to a young nun back to the convent.

The Priest feeling a little overcome, tentatively places his hand on the Nun’s thigh.

She says, “Oh, Father, please remember Luke 14:10.”

The Priest says, “My apologies Sister, I don’t know what came over me.”

They drive on a few miles more, the Priest again allows his hand to rest on her thigh.

The Nun says, “Father, I beseech you please recall Luke 14:10.”

The Priest removes his hand, abject “Of course, I am so sorry.”

As they are pulling up to the convent he rests that hand again on the thigh and she again recalls Luke 14:10, he apologizes yet again. She exits the vehicle, he drives home.

Once home, embarrassed at his behavior he opens his Bible to Luke 14:10 and reads “Friend, move up to a better place.”

Ah, if only one knew their subject matter as deeply as Colonel Mason.

Let’s allow the anecdote and the joke to inspect and inform our own martial thoughts.

Have we ever heard any iterations of the following:

“I don’t need to know groundwork; my strikes will take care of that long before it gets to the ground.”

Hmm, really? A cursory look at almost any MMA competition or security camera-footage, or thug-posted video reveals this opinion to be a bit less than wise.

“I know grappling so I don’t have to learn how to strike.”

The flip-side of the preceding ignorance. We’ll allow the late great Carlson Gracie to answer this nonsense for us: “Punch a jiu-jitsu blackbelt in the face once and he becomes a brown belt. Punch him twice and he becomes a blue belt.”

Try these questions…

  • How many of your school-based self-defense scenarios match what you see in the aforementioned security camera footage and thug videos?
  • Do you see lots of standing full-nelsons to escape? Static wrist grabs to wheel out of with graceful aplomb? Knife-wielding scum who attack in such a way that that nifty stripping-disarm you learned at the last seminar is ready to go?
  1. The real world, whether in the cage or the street, provides observational evidence, statistical likelihoods of what we may encounter.
  2. The real-world does not conform to our wished-for scenarios of what a fight, attack, confrontation “should” be.
  3. The real-world is what it is and our training should be reflective of that reality.

There is a time and place for artistic martial expression, and a time and place for sport-based rule strictures, and by knowing our subject matter as well as Colonel Mason knew his history and better than the Priest who missed his opportunity we can better train ourselves, our students, and navigate the world as it is and not as we pretend it is.

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22 thoughts on “What Do You Know? – Mark Hatmaker”

  1. I want to take this time to thank you for your service to our great country. Thank you for helping keep us safe from the enemies. Thank you for your sacrifice and willingness to give your life for my freedom. I am a veteran and know the tremendous sacrifice you went through in training and serving. I hope you were able to have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. God bless you.

  2. Situational awareness, I’ll add to that by saying all katas and techniques you learn should be combined and mixed up shaken like dice in a can, use your instincts, if you can walk away then walk away, if not when you realize contact is inevitable there is no time to hesitate when that stranger becomes an adversary then welcome to my parlor said the spider to the fly, be aware of your situation, make that eye contact let them know that you have seen them, flow like water around them, it’s much easier to move yourself than it is to move another, if necessary deliver pain, if possible just flow by. Peace, joy… Thanks for the open forum…

  3. In a dojo you learn style and control. On the street you need any move that works and power to use it. You don’t have to look like Arnold in his prime but you must practice power on dummy targets, not people in a dojo.

  4. From what I’ve seen, Judo Grappling is superior to MMA Grappling, because it’s based on real-life Samurai warfare. The MMA people haven’t caught up yet. In fact they haven’t caught up with 19th century Prize-Fighting. Nowadays when Boxers get into a clinch the Referee separates them But (before they started wearing gloves) Victorian Boxers carried on, attempting Judo-type throws. That’s how MMA people should be setting up for a throw, not Wrestling-type “shoot” movements.

  5. I believe that all the forms ,katas and techniques thatwe learn from our various martial art schools give us a variety of movements to mix and adapt to the situation at that instant of unavoidable physical confrontation. Thus the need for practice practice practice.


  7. Very much liked the way the idea was presented, and one should think about how badly a Jiu-Jitsu blue belt could injure you if fighting for their lives, should you fall into their grasp. Always remember that to survive you must never underestimate your antagonist at any time. Even a angry drunk with a knife can cripple you for life if you think that they can’t harm you. Maintain your awareness.

  8. Bob,
    I was veryimpressed at my first encounter with your training. However; I am seventy and this is the very thing that worried me from the start. Having seen this kind of situation, but never involved, I know mental readiness is the first thing to get ingrained. It needs some repeated training to react without thinking to this kind of stuation.

    How do I do this without a dojo?


  9. Love the anecdotes

    Reminds me of some excellent advice.
    There are no rules.
    Victory is in the mind.
    Defence is a myth, there’s never time for that luxury.
    Whichever fighting mode an attacker squares up to you in, never mirror them. it only serves to increase their confidence.
    Create an opportunity to run and get away and off of their ‘home ground’, there are often ‘mates’ nearby waiting to jump on you.

  10. Loved the action packed narrative historical facts and dialogue in addition to the always intuitive Fight Fast situational awareness and counter measures especially the humorous dialogue between the Col and his senior commanding officer old blood and guts Patton ‘ if everyone is thinking the same thing nobody’s thinking” George S. Patton Jr.

  11. You know BOB Maybe I should go back to school. Instead a going back to the street. I do like street smart better. Cause that went SOOOM RIGHT OVER MY HEAD.

  12. If you ponder, for a moment, the following quotation, you will realize the relevance to this discussion: “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.” — Ayn Rand

  13. I studied Hoshinjutsu under Dr Glenn Morris not the stuff posing as Hoshinjutsu you see Hayes doing. Best response to a punch is not to be in its path. Hense Carlson’s response .

  14. Great wisdom in all.
    As I’m sure you know that the great Bruce Lee incorporated all arts into one. Very smart to learn all the you can so you can adapt to any situation.
    Thank you for all you do!