My wake up call came the second class (which was the first Kuntao Silat based class) I visited for the FMA school I still attend. I had spent a year in Aikido (although truth be told IMHO it was closer to being a step between Aiki-jutsu and Aikido).
I had spent a year looking for locks and takedowns. "If they throw a straight punch you grab the wrist, circle around, and throw them using kotegaishi"...right?
I watched the way the instructor and senior students moved. Opponent throws straight punch, crash in, attack like a rabid badger on steroids, while incorporating a takedown/sweep. Stay one top of opponent, lock up at least one limb if possible, and proceed to punch until they stop wiggling (in theory...we kind of pull attacks...really we just go slow so that the "attacker" has time to open hand check them...senior students go harder).
I was having some trouble getting into this new mindset so I asked the instructor if he could be more specific, expecting instruction like in Aikido:
"Place left hand here, right elbow to jaw, change grip while kneeing" etc. I was planning to ask something along the lines of "Should I be moving in to elbow or knee first?"
The conversation went like this:
Me: Should I be punching...
Instructor (cutting me off): Yes.
Me: Am I suppossed to be kneeing...
Instructor (cutting me off again): Yes.
Me looking frustrated and obviously a bit confused.
Instructor: You took Aikido right?
Instructor: I took Aikido for 2 years, then Wing Chun for about 2 years before I found FMA. Here's the difference...you aren't looking for a specific grab, you aren't going to force a technique. You are going to hit them as much as possible.
I immediately realized that while I respected my Aikido instructors, (and still do...they were/are great guys, that Aikido takes YEARS to maybe become somewhat effective...if you're good enough. I'm personally certain my old Sensei could handle himself...but that could be Aikido, or the fact he was Airborne for the Army, or a bit of both) that Aikido wasn't ever going to be effective for me.
I e-mailed my Sensei expalining what I'd been up to, he responded with, "Feel free to drop by class whenever you want, I hope you find what you are looking for."
My best friend is still in Aikido and sees "holes in my attack" when I'm showing him a technique involving a 28" stick. "I'd just tenken like this and counter with this." My thought is..."How are you going to do that as I'm hitting you with stick #2?"