originally I got into martial arts because a friend was all "oooh kendo is so amazing. you gotta try it". which I did and was hooked on that for a while. Then I realised the club was very much just doing it as a sport while I was trying for that zen thing with the perfect cut and all. Then I left that place... then I went to see the good people att the WT-school here in Malmoe show some of the Leung Ting Wing Tsun and the Escrima Concepts and I figured I'd try it out... and now I'm soooo hooked on it. I think it's partly because I am a control freak - control the opponent - he can't do nothing while I can hit him anywhere at anytime. great fun
plus it's getting that perfect technique which is a thrill - had the same thing going when I was playing the guitar and the flute. on the bonus side I get from the two systems I practice now (escrima concept and the leung ting wing tsun) I feel I get the best self defence I can get - both to counter armed and unarmed foes. of course the grades are there - but they really don't matter so much, more of a way for the instructors to have any easier time teaching people I think. the thing about these two systems (I train in the organisation called The Alliance which has recently split from EWTO) is that unlike my encounter with kendo this is not done is a sportsy way - so we don't learn to strike so we get scores from judges and how to stick to rules, we learn a good solid way of practical self defence. Brutal - but effective.
anyhow - I'd really recommend checking out http://www.escrimaconcepts.co.uk/
(or for a video demonstration of basic escrima concept in a "real life" situation check http://wtmag.dk/FilmArkiv/unarmed%2Bpalm.wmv
) I find it to be a very solid system with the basic idea always being to be as safe as possible and dealing with opponents as fast and efficiently as possible (unlike some other FMA systems that know nothing of zonehitting but look darn great being performed). also I believe Master Steve (chief instructor of the system) does a lot of training seminars for police and other special forces around Europe so there must be something to it all.
the basic idea that seperates these two systems from other "self defence systems" is that ... well... a lot of other styles seems to have an attitude of "opponent does something, I counter that" (which could go on forever!) while here it is a lot of "pre emptive striking", more in the lines of "opponent is going to hit me - I better knock him down way before he can react". more offensive than your basic jujutsu and what have you. Personally I feel that is the way to go in a self defence situation (rule of the streets are "Kill or get killed") and it sadly enough seems to me that a huge percentage of systems and courses being marketed as self defence are practically useless - though they work just fine when you practice with a partner and tend to look quite nice. Of course with this more offensive look on self defence you could be getting into some problems with the police after the incident 'cause it often could look to bystanders that you actually were the one starting the whole fight and it ended with some guy lying down with broken bones and bleeding. To me that is an easy choise tho - I'd rather whack someone real good with my palmstick (ok it's a MagLite) and worry about whatever the legal system throws at me afterwards than try some fancy "oh I grab his wrist and do this and then I have seen my partner always kindly go down to the ground".
ok.. sorry about the long answer.
sorry to hear you had to skip out on the demonstration... and what is BNP?