First, let me define hard style. So, most martial arts have a soft and hard version of practicing them. Soft style would be doing the minimal harm to get out of a situation; while hard style is maximizing harm to make sure you remain safe. So, soft style you'd toss some in an arm bar and then run away; while hard style you arm bar, dislocate at the elbow, maybe damage the shoulder, and then run away.

There's a difference behind the philosophy. Essentially, Hard style practitioners view maximizing harm to the assailant reduces their risk of receiving harm back. If you make sure the assaulter's arms are broken he's probably not going to get back up and chase you down. I don't want to get into a debate about self defense philosophy.

Krav Maga seems ideal. With a few huge caveats most schools are basically Tai Bo, and not the same martial art being taught to the Israeli Defense Force. Conditioning is great and all, but not what I'm looking for.

I'm mostly looking for umbrella organizations that would vouch for the quality of a school by membership. I have no interest in competing in a sport, and would prefer a style designed for real world combat. I believe those techniques would be more ideal when you don't have the limitations designed into the UFC in terms of strikes and holds. I do have experience in Kendo, Hapkido, Taekwondo, Karate, and Jujitsu; it has just been years since I practiced.

Which styles / schools are known for this hard style philosophy in their training? How might I decipher whether a Krav Maga school follows this "Hard style"?

  • 2
    Your example of a soft martial art is contrived. If you apply an arm bar, you are either maintaining it to immobilize the opponent until they calm down or help arrives, or you are going to break their arm. It's really unsafe to "toss in an arm bar and run away". You would either engage and apply the arm bar, or run away.
    – mattm
    Oct 31 '19 at 21:37
  • By fake I mean the schools, where they're not teaching an actual martial art. Stuff like this. I get it that you just have to attend one class to tell. youtube.com/watch?v=NCDA6LBvyuM
    – ZeroPhase
    Oct 31 '19 at 21:39
  • @mattm There are better examples, but they're graphic. When I took Hapkido the instructor mentioned there are multiple ways of practicing it. He showed us a technique where you start with the finger tips, and work your way into an arm bar applying joint locks along the way. He mentioned there's another more aggressive means of applying the technique where you break bone and tendons. When the joint gives resistance you keep pushing.
    – ZeroPhase
    Oct 31 '19 at 21:45
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    Your definition of hard vs. soft style doesn't match the mainstream one. Soft style is anything which doesn't meet force with force, but which yields to the force, redirecting it. Soft styles involve sensitivity. You need to feel the force of your opponent dynamically, as you are redirecting it. Whereas hard styles will generally power through forcefully. Both hard and soft styles can be used maliciously with maximum intent to harm, or can be used minimally. Nov 1 '19 at 4:18
  • 1
    I'm not going to answer a question brainstorming ways to learn to disfigure and torture except to say this: I pity people obsessed with brutal or forbidden maiming techniques. It's not healthy; it's an indication of something in the direction of mental illness. As kindly as I can: please try to get involved in a sport instead, preferably a combat or team sport. I came across this point of view years ago from Matt Thornton and every example since has made me believe it more strongly. May 4 '20 at 12:10

This is not a question of style, but of human decency and staying within the bounds of law. Maximum damage instead of necessary force only is both immoral and illegal. Every responsible instructor will tell you that.

Apart from that, it is impossible to design a useful training when focusing on maximal damage only. Either it will lack resistance or produce too many injuries even with protective gear, which leads to either a lack of viability or a lack of partners respectively.

Taking your definitions, everyone has to train 'soft' (yet alive, against full resistance, with protective gear) and then will be able to escalate appropriate to the level of threat.

Overall, Krav Maga is the closest here, given good instructors. Yet, even they will know and tell you that a maxim of 'maximum damage only' will eventually get you killed or into jail if you ever face a situation where you have to defend yourself.

There are very few situations where you are legally allowed not to care about the appropriateness of your defense. They all involve an obvious and imminent threat to your very survival. Training only for these is for the battlefield. Otherwise, it has to be considered either sadistic or paranoid.

  • In most of the US stand your ground applies.
    – ZeroPhase
    May 6 '20 at 12:32

For you, rule out sport-based instruction. Sports are preoccupied with safety issues, which you obviously are not. Otherwise, I am not sure style-based pointers will be useful; what you are really looking for is a fighting instructor independent of style. As you have pointed out, this is difficult even if you identify a style with desired philosophy like Krav Maga. Sorry, I do not know enough about Krav Maga to be more helpful.

I studied at one kung fu school where the fighting philosophy was of the grab the opponent's ear, rip it off, then hit them with it variety. Despite this, most practice sessions were skill and body development oriented, and sparring was infrequent. I suspect this is not what you are looking for; I think you may have additional unstated criteria.

Practicing with liveness is always an issue at this aggression level. You can't practice with badly injured partners.

  • Oh for sure. I'm looking for mostly sparing where you pull punches. Along with sessions of getting techniques down. I just know the Krav Maga philosophy is don't start fights but finish them as quickly as possible. It's designed so a disarmed soldier on the battlefield has a chance of coming home.
    – ZeroPhase
    Oct 31 '19 at 22:25
  • @ZeroPhase An important thing there is that Krav Maga is designed for soldiers. If you ever tried to use it like that in a civilian self-defence scenario, you would most likely find yourself charged with using excessive force, and prosecuted extensively. Your definition of "soft" (which is not the one used by Martial Arts) is in fact "staying within the bounds of law". Many decent and responsible Martial Arts schools would look at your "how do I deal the most damage" mindset, and refuse to teach you. Nov 7 '19 at 13:47
  • Excessive force is not a thing for most of the US. I assume make sure the assailant cannot pursue, and then call the cops.
    – ZeroPhase
    May 8 '20 at 0:32

I've just read about Jeet Kune Do. It's definitely a hard style martial art. There are lead finger jabs, and focus has been on hitting soft spots like ribs, solar plexus, neck, groin, eyes, knees.

Bruce believed in no rule fighting and he maintains the philosophy of not fighting for fun like today's events. It is definitely oriented towards killing. He also didn't use to participate in martial art events.

Don't know about verifying authenticity of Krav Maga.

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