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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 hard style philosophy in their training? How might I decipher whether a Krav Maga school is authentic Krav Maga or a fitness class?

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    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 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 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 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. – Steve Weigand Nov 1 at 4:18
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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 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. – Chronocidal Nov 7 at 13:47

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