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conflict management and practical karate
Updated: 2 hours 37 min ago

Mirror Mirror

Mon, 2016-03-07 12:00

Kata can pose interesting training conundrums.

Some kata are very evenly weighted on their use of both sides of the body for the majority of the form, while others can be very singular in their distribution of movement.

In general this does not bother most practitioners; after all for those that follow the line work model of training for their kihon, all seemingly core techniques are trained equally in both sides. The same is also generally true of kumite drills.

So is there any benefit in mirroring kata on occasion? Keeping the same order of techniques but stepping out on the opposite side to normal and continuing in the same vein throughout the whole form?

I believe there is.

Although I prefer to work my kihon through impact training drills with partners rather than line work, my kumite drills are formed directly from my bunkai for the core kata I practice. In theory therefore I am practicing a version of every movement from the kata on both sides. Surely there should be no need therefore for me to mirror my kata?

Reality is quite different.

In initial practice certain movements feel unnatural.

This applies less to common core movements such as Gedan Barai, Shuto Uke etc and more to those little hand and arm transitions or turns that are not always found in line work and yet form such an important part of good application. I can do these movements with a partner, but in solo training they feel forced, less comfortable, and that tells me that more practice is needed. The solo training has given me a form of feedback that my paired training has not: I am weaker on the other side.

The transmission of the kata on one side only does not mean that is the only way to practice it. It is not practical to teach the form on both sides on a regular basis. To do so would result in an undue focus on solo training time that is inappropriate in a combative discipline.

Switching sides in the kata in class is not an attempt to fill time, or to be perverse. It is a worthwhile exercise in highlighting where we are weaker, what we don’t know and what we cannot do. It is something that we should attempt to replicate in our own training rather than solely under the supervision of our instructor.

The mirror not only shows what is there but also reveals what is missing.

 


Malta Pinan Flow System Seminars

Mon, 2016-02-29 15:57

The Sunday morning group.

The Malta Karate Federation (MKF) recently invited Dr. John Titchen, Chief Instructor of the Practical Karate Association , to conduct a weekend seminar on Applied Karate. This seminar forms part of the MKF’s strategy to promote and improve training in all aspects of Karate amongst its members.

One of the throwing possibilities in Heian Godan.

Sensei John delivered a remarkable seminar, leaving us with a deeper understanding of the 5 Shotokan Heian Kata. His knowledge on the subject is staggering, spanning some 25 years of training. His teaching method was structured and pleasant and kept all of us involved and interested throughout. It was a fantastic experience for all who took part.

When is a step not a step? When it’s a kick (if necessary).

The seminar was based on Sensei John’s trademark Heian/Pinan Flow System, which examines the practical, combative application of the 5 Heian Kata against common acts of violence from a close combat point of view, integrating traditional ballistic impact techniques with locks, throws and holds and combining these into numerous seamless flow drills to simulate real time unpredictable fights.

When is a step not a step? When it’s a knee.

Interestingly, the Heian Flow Drills trained were not the traditional back and forth flow drills that go along fully predictable lines, but rather the seamless transition between ranges, and ballistic and grappling techniques, spinning in and out of different parts of the 5 Heian Kata “mesh”, depending on uke’s response. The emphasis in this kind of training is on “shutting down” the opponent as quickly as possible.

This Heian Perspective of Practical Karate compliments nicely the Tekki/Naihanchi Perspective being developed by the MKF in collaboration with Sensei Chris Denwood, of E.S.K.K® Martial Arts & Fitness , who also visits Malta from time to time as a guest instructor of the MKF. This area of training also ties nicely with the other valuable technical work delivered to us by Maestro Santo Torre  and Maestro Giuseppe Bartolo , offering the MKF members a truly unique, complete karate package.

If you can lift your leg that high…

…let’s twist again!

The seminar truly delivered what it claimed: “Dynamic and alive training drills that take kata practice and self defense skills to another level”.

The enthusiastic Maltese practitioners were left with a huge reservoir of practical and useful training material, which will be developed further over the coming months to help reinforce further the foundation laid for this area of practice within the MKF.

“Truly an amazing experience for us all by a gentleman Sensei who not only shared with us openly an integrated system of Heian applications to make our Karate more complete, but also taught us invaluable life lessons with his example, attitude and indomitable spirit. Thank You Sensei John.

Thank You also to the Executive Committee of the Malta Karate Federation for continuously supporting this aspect of training, in particular the President, Kenneth Abela, and Jesmond Schembri and Damian Vella Lenicker. Thanks also to my assistants in this venture Frank Vella, Charles Axiaq and Anthony Gauci.

Thanks also to all participants and their families for making this event a huge success.”

Sensei James Galea

Technical Director MKF

The Sunday session summary.

Saturday afternoon group.

Friday night group.

 


Big Steps and Little ‘Uns

Tue, 2016-02-16 13:43

Have you ever walked down the street holding the hand of a small child, or noticed in passing another adult doing the same?

If the adult is not fully focused on the child, but on getting to their destination, they will tend to automatically adopt their normal stride. Alongside them, making many more shorter steps at higher speed, the child keeps the same pace, but working a lot harder to achieve the same aim.

I see this a lot in the martial arts. In this example we see an analogy with regard to the difference between more experienced practitioners and learners, between teachers and students, and the nature of goal setting for improvement.

What looks flowing and natural in experienced martial arts practitioners does not come naturally, even if the movements themselves are based on natural actions. They move freely because of the hours of practice that iron out the stilted steps of childhood into smooth transitions. Like a child growing up the less experienced student has to try much harder and make many more repetitions over a period of time in order to move in the same way as the adult.

The many small steps that a child must make to keep up with an adult is a reminder to those of us that teach that what seems easy now, and one simple unconscious movement, is actually made up of many more small steps for the beginner. To help them reach where we are now we must remember where we started and help them identify and make those early steps.

As students we look at other practitioners around us making those adult steps and we try to emulate them. It’s important for us to remember that to get to where they are we need to go through the small step process. We can try to hop, skip or jump the same distance they are walking, but it isn’t as efficient or as sustainable. Progress is predominantly achieved through the repetition of many small steps that, as we grow, become fewer and bigger, until they are no different to the ones we tried to mimic.

Training, just like life, is full of Big Steps and Little ‘Uns.

 

 

 


Introduce Failure Cascade into your training

Tue, 2016-02-02 13:38

We gain confidence from our successes, but it is from our failures that we learn.

As students practice more and begin to increase the levels of speed and contact, they should come to understand that the failure of one drill is the opening for the employment of another.

In moving from static to dynamic training all that happens is an increase in speed and pressure, so naturally not everything works: failure is the reality with which martial artists (or self defence practitioners) must deal. When failure occurs, if it has happened before, it is predictable. If the trainee knows the strengths and weaknesses of their tactics, and so can recognise what failed and why, then that failure should be both predictable, familiar, and prepared for; they should not be fazed by the eventuality or slow to adapt. Knowledge dispels fear. If the failure has occurred before, if it is predictable, then it can either be prevented, or recognised and turned into a new opportunity by the application of another drill. It is when the drill or pressure level has never been taken to the point of failure, that the training becomes unpredictable and the trainee is most at risk of making a bad decision.

In training I often set up different combinations of what I call a failure cascade. In this instance both attacker and defender in training know that if the defender fails to successfully employ a full counter (and thus end the drill) then the attacker will switch to the most logical next attack, forcing the defender into a new drill. This could run a sequence of several positions, all with different potential ‘end points’. As an example a failed haymaker could switch into a collapsing headlock or clinch, but as trainees gain greater experience and pressure mounts the haymaker could drive into a tackle which if successful could end up in a ground fighting drill or any number of stand up drills depending on the speed and adaptability of the training pair. As the trainees have drills to deal with headlocks, different clinch-like positions, tackles and falling to the ground, putting these into a dynamic context allows for greater development.

To win with a single move is not the highest skill. Anyone can get lucky. You should train to be able to turn any failure, any position, into a new opportunity before your opponent recovers, train and experiment until nothing surprises you, and you automatically adapt and overcome. If you have not prepared for failure, if you do not have redundancies trained and ready, then you have prepared to fail.

This short article is based on a chapter in Volume Five of Pinan Flow System: karate kata application for beginner to black belt.


The Giants are Pygmies

Sun, 2016-01-24 22:05

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Isaac Newton, 1676.

Karateka across the world owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Okinawan and Japanese instructors who, in the first half of the Twentieth Century, laid the foundations for a little known minority martial art to become one of the most practised in the world today. This important role has naturally resulted in those that founded styles in that era, or who pioneered the teaching of karate outside of Japan, becoming highly revered. They are quite rightly seen as the giants on whose shoulders we stand.

We should be careful however not to be led astray. It is right to respect these karateka, we owe them a great debt of gratitude, but their words or approaches should not be blindly followed. In fact I believe that to do so is to squander their legacy. I will occasionally quote an ‘old master’, but I only do so if what they say has been borne out by my research or that of other people whose research methods and experience I can quantify and thus value.

Matsumura, Itosu, Funakoshi, Motobu, Kyan, Miyagi, Mabuni, Ohtsuka to name but a few… these names ring loudly in training halls across the world. Their thoughts on karate are still read and studied. But these men are not giants by today’s standards, in fact in the modern world they are pygmies compared to many of the teachers with whom you could study.

How can I say such a thing?

There are trainers teaching today who have

  1. Had far greater experience of genuinely life threatening violence or who (through research) have collated a wealth of data from people (whether civilian, law enforcement or military) who have had experience and thus been able to draw important and reliable conclusions on optimum approaches to physical and mental training.
  2. Have a far better understanding of human physiology and biomechanics (backed by decades of research that is available to all).
  3. Have had more hands-on experience with other martial artists and have studied under greater numbers of experienced and competent teachers.
  4. Have had access to, and instruction in, a greater number of non-karate styles (again from high quality instructors) to broaden their perspective and increase their depth of understanding in their own arts.

Whether you are looking for a trainer that specialises in Karate for self defence, Karate as a form of Physical fitness, Karate (kata) as a form of moving meditation or dance, or Karate as a competitive fighting sport, or combinations of those mediums, there are large numbers of trainers all round the world who quite simply out-class those ‘giants’ of the past. It would actually be a poor reflection on both karate and those early pioneers if that were not the case.

We should respect those that have gone before us. But do not put them on pedestals or treat everything they said or did as gospel truth. Many of them had less experience and knowledge than either you or the person you train with. Honour their memory by carrying karate forward as they did and pay them the courtesy of respecting the reality of their humanity and fallibility.

 

 

 

 


Training Habitual Acts of Violence

Tue, 2016-01-19 13:40

Grabbing, pulling and throwing a haymaker – a dynamic unbalanced moment that is hard to ‘pose’ for the camera.

Martial Arts training that has any validity from a self defence perspective  must address the HAOV (Habitual Acts of Violence) that we are likely to face in a conflict management situation.[i] It is important for us to address realistic attacks rather than focus on martial arts, media or film-induced perceptions of violence. Due to its context, real violence rarely plays out in a similar fashion to any existing competitive rule-set, and training against well delivered martial arts techniques does not ensure good identification and preparation for, or success against, natural behaviours and wilder uncontrolled attacks.

There are a number of different terms in use in the martial arts and professional confrontation management communities to describe aggressive and violent behaviour patterns. The memorable term ‘Monkey Dance’, coined by Rory Miller, is now commonly used to describe pre-fight behaviours (where humans have much in common with other primates).[ii] Some trainers use the term PIA (Primary Initiation Attack) to describe the initial means of physical assault. In the martial arts community an umbrella term of HAPV (Habitual Acts of Physical Violence), has been used by karateka Patrick McCarthy, but I prefer the more widely used HAOV since it highlights the inclusion of certain actions that many would not regard as physical violence such as pre-fight physical posturing and verbal threats (what I might call Primate Posturing and Rory Miller calls Monkey Dancing). These are the point where avoidance training, the acknowledgement of flinch responses and your own personal protection strategies should come into play – before any physical violence begins.

 

What are HAOV?

The majority of the data on violent crime that I have studied over the last sixteen years comes from the British Crime Survey, the Scottish Crime Survey, Home Office reports on various Violent Crime Initiatives, Hospital Emergency Department reports on violent crime injuries, the Crime Survey in England and Wales, news reports, CCTV footage and data provided by the FBI on their website. The often unconscious behaviour patterns of participants in the high-adrenaline scenario simulation training that I have run for people from a broad range of backgrounds has corroborated a significant amount of that data and footage.

The weighting and predominance of HAOV does vary across the world. Cultural taboos, national pastimes and sports played all seem to play a role. While this may affect the likelihood of some attacks (such as the frequency of weapon use or ‘the most common attack’), there are a number of very common (unarmed) attacks that can be replicated to form the backbone of training against HAOV:

Space invaded with aggressive language and a head butt on the way.

Personal space invasion, arm splaying, head leaning forwards, telegraphing arm withdrawal, pushes, swinging haymaker punches, unbalancing pushes or grabs followed immediately by swinging punches, pushing and pulling, wild wind-milling punches while charging forwards (often head down), head butts (with or without grabs), knees to the groin (often preceded by grabs), headlocks, hair-pulling, tackles to the waist or the shoulder or the legs, clothing and shoulder grabs, lashing kicks to the legs or groin, stamping or kicking people on the ground.

The above ‘list’ is a starting point for the most basic physical element of training. It is best combined with a study of patterns of violent crime to develop context appropriate decision making training.

 

Training Habitual Acts of Violence

HAOV can (and should) be placed into context, so in addition to drilling against individual techniques , much as we might practice slipping a jab or defending against any combination of martial arts moves, there are a range of different ways that training can be broadened.

Vernal and Visual Cues

Physical attacks preceded by visual and/or verbal context to train the observational skills, positioning and body language of students so they are better placed to defend or pre-empt as necessary. Not everyone is a natural at adding this ‘extra’ dynamic to the physical attack but it is possible to train some people to take on this role. You can find out more about building the attacker here.

Multiple Combinations

Unlike competitive events a fair proportion of real violence begins and ends with a single attack, but it would be foolish to limit training to this. Training should also prepare students for determined sustained attacks. As with ‘free sparring’ this is a natural progression on from static drills to multiple combinations of HAOV.

Failure Cascade

We gain confidence from our successes, but it is from our failures that we learn.

As students practice more and begin to increase the levels of speed and contact, they should come to understand that the failure of one drill is the opening for the employment of another. In moving from static to dynamic training all that happens is an increase in speed and pressure, so naturally not everything works: failure is the reality with which martial artists must deal. When failure occurs, if it has happened before, it is predictable. If the trainee knows the strengths and weaknesses of their tactics, and so can recognise what failed and why, then that failure should be both predictable, familiar, and prepared for; they should not be fazed by the eventuality. Knowledge dispels fear. If the failure has occurred before, if it is predictable, then it can either be prevented, or recognised and turned into a new opportunity by the application of another drill. It is when the drill or pressure level has never been taken to the point of failure, that the training becomes unpredictable.

In training I often set up different combinations of what I call a failure cascade. In this instance both attacker and defender in training know that if the defender fails to successfully employ a full counter (and thus end the drill) then the attacker will switch to the most logical next attack, forcing the defender into a new drill. This could run a sequence of several positions, all with different potential ‘end points’. As an example to begin with a failed haymaker could switch into a collapsing headlock or clinch, but as trainees gain greater experience and pressure mounts the haymaker could drive into a tackle which if successful could end up in a ground fighting drill or any number of stand up drills depending on the speed and adaptability of the training pair.

To win with a single move is not the highest skill. Anyone can get lucky. You should train to be able to turn any failure, any position, into a new opportunity before your opponent recovers, train and experiment until nothing surprises you, and you automatically adapt and overcome. If you have not prepared for failure, if you do not have redundancies trained and ready, then you have prepared to fail.

Scenario training

Where possible, scenario training is a great way to bring elements of training together. You can find out more about building scenario training here.

 

An imbalance in training – drilling bad technique?

A number of years ago a good training friend of mine raised the question that if we were drilling against HAOV then logically (at least) one training partner is spending half that time using HAOV rather than the ‘superior’ techniques of their martial art. So can training against HAOV develop bad technique?

  1. Utilizing HAOV provides a better biomechanical understanding of the positions and ranges involved and the strengths and weaknesses of the techniques and tactics. Executing the techniques provides a far better insight than solely defending against the techniques.
  2. Any drilling against HAOV should be part of a broader training programme which will normally include pad work. Whether holding or hitting the pads trainees are executing the techniques of their chosen art (and observing them) and this (added to their defences against HAOV) means that they will always proportionally be spending more time on their own repertoire than on executing HAOV.
  3. HAOV are not necessarily ‘bad’ techniques. In some instances the difference between them and the tactics of normal ‘proven’ martial arts are minor or non-existent. The fact that they are both natural and generally very successful (especially against people unused to them whether they have had ‘training’ or not) means that having a good grounding in them as part of your practise isn’t a bad thing.
  4. HAOV can have benefits beyond ‘combat effectiveness’. If you are training for self defence then the majority of your movements should be executed in a protective power-generating posture which is sometimes known as ‘hollow body’. The wilder ‘haymaker’ type punches and pushes open up the body and serve as a great counterbalance to the ‘closed’ protective postures.

 

So, if you haven’t done so already, perhaps it’s time to add HAOV into your training drills.

 

[i]I adopted the term HAOV for my first published article on the topic in 2005 due to the training I have done with martial artists Rick Clark and Bill Burgar (who have both used the term in their books). Before that I had focused on researching violent crime and not used an acronym. I continue to use HAOV as in my experience it is now the most common term for the subject matter in the international Anglophone martial arts community. The term HAV is a recognised abbreviation for a medical condition, a form of aircraft and a form of media among other things. HAPV is normally associated with Hamster Polyoma Virus. As a result HAOV is useful for disambiguation. I interpret ‘habitual’ as ‘common and expected’ rather than ‘historical’.

[ii] R. Miller, Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence, (YMAA Publication Centre, 2008).