The term “martial arts” literally means “war arts,” and reality based systems have returned to that original concept emphasizing techniques and training methods that best prepares people to survive today’s modern wars: violent crime, terrorism, and warfare on the high end of the conflict spectrum, and how to deal with harassment, intimidation, and minor injury assault for low intensity conflict.
Reality based systems prefer principle-based training, beginning with initial instinctive reactions followed by simple gross motor skills in accordance with applicable laws (use-of-force continuum). All techniques should be learned and adequately performed in minutes, and not years. After sufficient repletion, and a plateau has been achieved then, proficiency is maintained through regular practice and review.
Since reality based systems are only concerned with conflict survival there are typically no belt systems or antique uniforms as found in the traditional based systems, no competition as in sport based systems, and no unnecessary rituals or traditions. Any techniques taken from traditional and sport based systems are stripped down to maximum efficiency.
Jim Wagner, considered to be the father of the modern reality-based self-defense movement, was the first self-defense instructor to introduce police, corrections, and military methods to the civilian martial arts community back in 1999 in his highly popular and controversial column HIGH RISK published by Black Belt magazine for over a decade and then the following year in Europe through Budo magazine (Cinturon Negro, Budo, and Kampfkunst). From his works came detail explanations and teachings of criminal methods, terrorist attacks, low intensity conflict, and the legal implications of self-defense. Jim Wagner defines reality based as:
Training and survival skills based on modern conflict situations that the practitioner is likely to encounter in their environment (their “reality”), in accordance with the use-of-force continuum of that jurisdiction.
Although there are new systems springing up all the time calling themselves “reality based” a true reality based system not only teaches conflict (armed robber, sexual assault, chemical attacks, criminal knife attacks, carjacking, terrorist small arms attack, etc.), but pre-conflict (necessary knowledge and techniques before a fight) and post-conflict (necessary knowledge and techniques after a fight). True reality based systems also rely heavily upon realistic scenarios (when to use techniques and decision making) and implementation of stage, lighting, props, and proper safety equipment. Stage blood, Airsoft guns, simulated explosives, inert stimulant chemicals, and sound effects are just some of the innovations that are incorporated into the training.
Systems that are in the reality based branch include Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection, Israeli HISARDUT, KAPAP, Krav Maga, LOTAR, Russian Systema, Kelly McCann, Jeff Anderson, W.R. Mann, military combatives and police defensive tactics just to name a few.