The physical self defence and karate tactics I teach are predominantly close range. While I do teach some longer range approaches, my emphasis on tactile strategies reflects the reality that even when space is available, the majority of non consensual violent confrontations begin, proceed and end at close range regardless of any training to maintain distance.
As a general rule the close proximity of what I teach results in having between one to four tactile points of contact on a person at any given time during a drill. To begin with this can be unnerving for students (even experienced cross-training black belts) who are used to learning by watching a drill and relying on visual cues at longer ranges to function in alive training.
Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them.
Unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi I’m not advocating that you let go your conscious self and act on instinct.
That comes later.
What I do suggest to my students is that once they are in tactile contact their eyes are not the optimum source of information, particularly if they are manipulating the other person’s posture (or preventing the other person from manipulating their posture) while looking to strike to control, or control to strike. Once in contact with another person, especially if we are touching both above and below the centre of gravity, we receive tactile information on the success of our actions and the other person’s intentions through our skin far quicker and with greater accuracy than our eyes (even when wearing clothing). This information hovers on the edge of our consciousness. If we don’t pay attention to it or cannot recognise it, then we don’t benefit from it and our skill development suffers as a result.
This is where in training we should give our eyes a rest, shut them, and concentrate on what we are feeling. Working with the eyes shut focuses the mind on the tactile cues that we often ignore, leading quickly to greater skill development and enhanced reaction time.
The benefits of ‘blind’ training are not just limited to the tactile arena. I have found that asking students to shield against haymaker attacks to the head with their eyes shut corrects all the little gaps that had been pointed out previously (and ignored) in sighted training. The more vulnerable feeling student automatically adjusts arms and posture to maximise protection to the head rather than watching for the punch and relying on their identification of telegraphs and reaction time to protect them.
The more training you do with your eyes shut the more attuned you become to both your position and posture and that of the other person. This results in faster responses to movement and unconsciously adopting more appropriate posture. Freed from trying to focus on stimuli that the body can read better, the eyes become more attuned to identifying information that is of use.
The more proficient you are at reading visual and tactile cues, the more appropriate and unconscious your reactions and pre-emptions will seem. To an external observer such ‘instinctive’ responses and sustained success may seem like luck.
In my experience there’s no such thing as luck.