Boxing With The Monkey: The Roots of CMD!
by Rodney King
A decade has passed since the official formation of Crazy Monkey Defence. Yup, one decade later, we are still around. I feat anyone in the martial arts world would recognise. This seems, at least for me, a good time to reflect. A lot has changed in Crazy Monkey, we have refined our curriculum, we have dabbled with all kinds of different techniques, strategies and tactics — some we have kept, others have been discarded. What is relevant is not so much what has changed, but rather what has stayed the same!
To understand this, one has to know how and why Crazy Monkey came about.
The short version: I grew up on the South Side of Johannesburg in Government housing (similar to the projects in the USA). It was clear to me early on, how smart you were was irrelevant how tough you were was. Part of my attraction to martial arts was the very real need to learn how to defend myself. I had no father, no siblings and a mother who was a raging alcoholic. I was, sadly, pretty much left to my own devices to navigate a neighbourhood consumed by violent characters, and a school playground full of bullies.
One of my first experiences in martial arts was in karate. I trained off and on for years. I distinctly remember at 15 paying for my karate lessons by cleaning the dojo floor after sessions each night. Even though I was awarded a 2nd dan in karate, and even fought for the northern command army karate team during my military service — in the back of my mind I was never really confident that what I had been taught would work in a real fight. Growing up where I did, getting into a fist fight happened at least twice a week. When running away wasn’t an option (always my preferred strategy), the fist fights I got into never went to plan as it did on the dojo floor. It seemed that what came out was less than 1% of the lessons I was taught. For a long time I thought I must be doing it all wrong, until I had a realisation, which moved me into a new martial direction.
As I looked around my high school, it was very evident that the guys who hardly ever got picked on were either the A team rugby players, or the boys who boxed. As I never had any talent for rugby, figuring this boxing thing out seemed like a sound strategy to stop the intense bullying I was constantly subjected too. I started boxing. I gave it everything I had. I even bunked school to spend more time in the ring. Within a year, I was being picked on less. I started fighting back by grade 10, my final year of school before my mother kicked me out of the house — and this time, I was winning. The bullies started backing off and leaving me alone. As sad as it is, I learned again, when you are living in a violent environment, violence is the only language (some) people seem to understand. My fists ultimately saved my life, because taking it by my own hands, was always on my mind.
As I entered the military, and then headed of to Thailand in the early 90s to train Muay Thai, it became clear that without a high school diploma, and with fight skills, employment options in the mainstream were non existent. On a chance recommendation, I entered the world of bouncing. For the next several years I fought outside some of the roughest nightclubs in Johannesburg. 300+ street fight later, surviving multiple mass attacks, a few stabbings and a round whizzing past my ear, I became the Head Cooler, the top gun, with over 70 bouncers working for me. It was this experience above all else, that set the stage for Crazy Monkey Defence. My number one realisation in all that time, and surviving and winning more street fights than I care to remember — that the truth was: boxing is king, boxing wins fights.
There is a reason that in the toughest neighbourhoods of the world you hardly find a ‘reality based self defence school’ — but you will always find boxing gyms. In REAL fights, not the fantasy ones portrayed on youtube by camo wearing wannabe Navy Seals, boxing wins fights. Crazy Monkey Defence then, was developed through the experiential ground of real fighting. I am sure anyone could agree, that 300+ street fights over several years is a valid litmus test on what will, and wont work in a fight. Of course, Crazy Monkey Defence works amazingly well in the world of combat sports too, but its true nature, is the street.
I write this because in a world filled with fantasy martial arts, and ‘experts’ the argument it seems to me is always against boxing. Yet, one doesn’t have to take my word for it, just go onto youtube and look at what is passed off as self-defence training, then do a parallel search for ‘real street fights’. Do your own comparison. In ‘almost’ all cases of the real fights you can view on that platform, you will see something that looks like boxing. Sure we could argue that these are simple street thugs and they don’t know what they are actually doing, but the truth is, as I learned growing up, it is those street thugs who actually do know how to fight. The reason these fights are often ridiculed by the experts of self defence is because, the real fights you will see on platforms like youtube are not neat, orderly, and they don’t look good. In other words, they don’t fit the neat sterile packaging often presented by the so called ‘fight experts’.
Fights are nasty, unpredictable, and never tidy. People in real fights miss punches they throw, slip, fall, and crash into things. This is the reality. The question then is, if one has to deal with this kind of chaos in a fight, what is the best method, style or system to train? Again, if one watches those real fights on youtube (not the fantasy, choreographed ones) what will become evident is that you have to learn how to box. I will agree here too, that that kind of boxing isn’t completely the combat sport kind either, it is more akin to a gypsy bareknuckle match than anything else. But ultimately its root is boxing. Boxing skills hold up just as well in the pressure of the ring, as they do on the streets. And here is where Crazy Monkey Defence enters.
Let me address something first before the keyboard warriors get their knickers in a knot. While I put Crazy Monkey Defence together, I never once said what I teach can only be found in Crazy Monkey. On the contrary, if something works, one will find it in other systems that work too. If i have made any contribution to the world of martial arts is that I have combined often dispersed elements of functional striking into a cohesive system built of real tested outcomes born on the street (I am sorry living in your cushy upper-middle class house, in Arizona where the worst violence you have ever encountered is road rage on your way to work, doesn’t count as a litmus test for what works in a fight). People can say what they like about me, but unlike most self proclaimed experts in the world of self-defence I have actually been in fights, and have lived in violence for at least the first 30 years of my life (I still live in one of the most violent cities in the world: Johannesburg). Crazy Monkey’s functionality is a testament to this.
When I think of Crazy Monkey, it is first and foremost a boxing based program, specifically created to survive the violence of the street, but engineered in such a way, that even the least aggressive amongst us, can learn how to apply those fight skills themselves if called upon. Personally for me this is where Crazy Monkey stands out. For one it’s boxing for the street. Secondly, it is tested everyday in sparring. Thirdly, we have created a unique coaching method so that anyone can learn how to develop their striking game, and even if they never encounter violence in their life, if they should ever need to defend themselves they can. In this sense, Crazy Monkey is first and foremost a street defence system, all else we do today, was born out of those trials.
While we advocate a positive expression of martial arts, and we care deeply about helping our clients achieve inner management skills for their life and career, we NEVER forget our roots. At the heart of self-preservation are two over arching truths, if you want to survive in a self-defence situation you need two things, great boxing (both on the outside and in the clinch, often neglected in sport boxing), and great jiu-jitsu — if you have any extra time to devote to training, then feel free to dabble. Sadly much of what people should be dabbling in, becomes their focus. Look, its far easier to pretend to fight, than actually to do it. There is no pretending in boxing — well I guess only if you don’t box!
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