"It's not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential."Bruce Lee
"You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between"Johnny Mercer
Back in the 80s when I was stationed in Germany with the US Army, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Italy. It was so incredible seeing the canals of Venice, to climb the leaning tower of Pisa and to go to the Uffizi gallery in Florence. But for me what was truly awe-inspiring was seeing the statue of David up close. I was speechless and reverential as I stood in the presence of this wondrous masterpiece.
There's a story about Michelangelo that's likely not even close to being true, but I love it anyway. Seems there was a guy who asked Michelangelo how in the world he could have carved such an exquisite statue as David. Michelangelo is said to have replied, "That's easy. It's the simplest thing in the world. I just chipped away at anything that didn't look like David."
But that's not how most of us approach anything. We like to add on. More and more.
We Are Collectors
Collectors are a strange and obsessive lot. They may start out in childhood collecting comic books (I did, and so did all of my friends), or action figures (do NOT call my GI Joe a 'doll'), or baseball cards. They enjoy their collection, enjoy looking at the items, trading them for others, completing a set. Somewhere along the line, however, and soon the joy of collecting is gone. The enjoyment is eventually replaced with an intense, rabid, frenzied search for more and more and more. One guy I met was obsessed with McDonald's Happy Meal toys. He had so many that he bought an outdoor shed to hold them, the kind where you normally keep the lawn mower and tools.
That's also how it is for this one guy I know who collects certificates. He's attended dozens and dozens of martial arts seminars and specialty fighting camps, and he always makes sure to get a certificate. Certificates of attendance, certificates of accomplishment, certificates of rank.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with getting a certificate. You pay good money to attend a seminar or training camp, and you might as well get the certificate that goes with it. Something to be proud of. For someone planning on becoming a martial arts professional and running an academy, with dedication to self-improvement so that he or she can teach others, certificates matter. They become a clear and tangible record of the training and advanced education one receives and the accomplishments one earns.
But this guy I know goes several steps beyond. He is obsessive about it. He's never satisfied and only wants more. He sincerely thinks that somewhere, sometime, somebody is going to reveal to him the SECRET KNOWLEDGE. That one technique or trick that helps him finally see the proverbial light.
He sees martial arts as one giant buffet table. And he wants to stack his plate as high as possible. And then add some gravy on top as well.
I've gotta confess. I've done this a little bit on my own path towards martial arts knowledge. I have attended dozens and dozens of seminars. I've bought books and videos and attended classes for over 40 years. For a long time I was convinced that I needed more--a new technique, an advanced tactic, a neat trick.
Three Simple Rules
But somewhere along the path I had an epiphany. My aha moment came when I went to a seminar one weekend and saw a very skilled instructor teach not one, not two, not 10, but approximately 20 different ways to respond to a specific attack. Those in attendance were absolutely confused and had no clue what they were supposed to do. There were simply too many options.
I decided then and there to have a garage sale in my brain. An everything-must-go, final clearance purging. I have now spent the last several years trying to determine the bare necessities, the absolute essentials, and eliminating everything else.
In a way, it's a return to my first introduction to JKD philosophy, and the three simple yet brilliant principles developed by the oft-imitated but never replicated Bruce Lee: Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.
Let's break that down.
Absorb What is Useful
The 1st principle of JKD is not about simply adding more and more and more. In the field of chemistry absorption is the condition of taking in another substance. I like this brief description from Wikipedia: "The process of absorption means that a substance captures and transforms energy."
That transformative process is key and involves thorough knowledge and understanding that is built on research and development, trial and error. To me it evokes the idea of a scientist in a laboratory who runs experiment after experiment, making adjustments and modifications, carefully gathering data from observation, and continually tweaking the final result.
In fact, martial arts shares much in common with the scientific process in that knowledge is provisional and never quite complete. New information may come along, a new idea, a rediscovery of something forgotten, an awareness of radical concepts from other fields, and things are shaken up. Think back to 1993 when the UFC came along, and grappling skills began to dominate over striking. Soon people were rethinking the ground game and adding (or rediscovering) long forgotten yet vital grappling techniques.
Discard What is Not
This 2nd principle of JKD encourages letting go of that which does not have a practical purpose. It seems that there is a tendency to promote form over function. While some people may be content with efficient, ordinary, nuts-and-bolts, bread-and-butter skills, most are not.
Instead of plain they choose fancy every time.
Watch a martial arts demonstration and you're likely to see complex, elaborately staged, intricately choreographed routines that resemble nothing like what you'd see in a real, violent street encounter. Is what they did useful? Probably not. But it sure looked cool.
This 2nd principle urges us to not lose sight of functional, no frills, common sense, time-tested, battle-proven skills. It challenges us to forget about the complicated, the grandiose and the embellished.
Add What is Uniquely Your Own
The 3rd principle is often skipped by the average martial artist. So much of what people do is simply a regurgitation of what they learned coming up through the ranks. Rarely does someone develop a distinctive and unique movement or application. They strive to do something exactly as they learned it instead of having a jazz musician's attitude of improvisation.
Some great examples of the 3rd principle in action: Combat Sambo, the Israeli combat art of Krav Maga and the highly popular BJJ are incredibly practical, recent developments which gathered previously existing skills and combined them and refined them, using troubleshooting and pressure testing to remove impurities, hone their fighting capabilities and focus on functional application.
Floyd Mayweather's focus mitt drills, in my opinion, are extremely innovative. Mocked by his competitors early on, several boxers have adopted similar training routines to improve hand-eye coordination, head and body movement, and accurate and rapid hand strikes.
And innovations are not just specifically about fighting. CrossFit, for example, aims for functional fitness. Cardiovascular endurance, speed, agility, power, and balance are targets for improvement in CrossFit workouts, and when you think about it, solid foundational attributes for fighters.
So innovation and improvisation may be more important than merely the gathering and systematization of techniques, training methods and applications.
As my favorite author, Tom Robbins so aptly puts it:
“Mockingbirds are the true artists of the bird kingdom. Which is to say, although they're born with a song of their own, an innate riff that happens to be one of the most versatile of all ornithological expressions, mocking birds aren't content to merely play the hand that is dealt them. Like all artists, they are out to rearrange reality. Innovative, willful, daring, not bound by the rules to which others may blindly adhere, the mockingbird collects snatches of birdsong from this tree and that field, appropriates them, places them in new and unexpected contexts, recreates the world from the world. For example, a mockingbird in South Carolina was heard to blend the songs of thirty-two different kinds of birds into a ten-minute performance, a virtuoso display that serve no practical purpose, falling, therefore, into the realm of pure art.”
I had the opportunity (maybe I should say misfortune) of sparring a champion high school wrestler way back in my early martial arts days. This guy was a true athlete--dedicated, strong, fit, coordinated, competitive and highly talented. Me? Not even close. This guy, like most wrestlers I knew, lived, breathed, ate and drank wrestling. It was an obsession for him whereas what I did was more like a dedicated hobby.
Most of my sparring in those days was against other martial artists. I had done some judo, a little karate and quite a bit of gung fu, and a lot of our sparring was full contact. We even did a lot of full contact stick fighting in those days. But even with some of the grappling training I had done, my skills were weak compared to his.
Here's what happened.
We shook hands, and he moved in quickly to attempt a tight tie-up, clench move. Oddly enough, I scored the first take-down with an outer leg sweep, just like I had learned in judo class. It was quick, and he went down hard.
But then he got back up.
And then he smiled at me.
It was not a friendly smile.
When he shot in on me and proceeded to lift me up, I felt like I was being launched into orbit. I hit the ground much harder than he did. I'm pretty sure that I left a little crater. After that he tied me up in what I can only describe as a slip knot.
Shooting, in wrestling, is an art unto itself. The best wrestlers can move in like a raptor strike and get an ankle, a leg, or even both legs. They can then scoop, lift, turn, tackle or sweep. These guys can change levels and penetrate so fast, they're like a blur.
Those from a fighting style that emphasizes striking have trouble facing a grappler. Think back to the first UFC in '93. Since then fighters with strong grappling/anti-grappling skills have now learned how to neutralize some of the grapplers' primary weapons, and we are now seeing more and more strike-heavy matches in the cage. In fact, the most recent Ronda Rousey match illustrates perfectly what happens when a striker knows how to use footwork, distancing and timing to avoid grappling attacks.
But early on those cage fighters with a background in wrestling, judo and BJJ were able to smother the strikers' fire. Catch wrestlers, shoot fighters, judoka, and BJJ practitioners simply had the advantage over guys who knew nothing about sprawling or defending against takedowns.
It was my experience in sparring this wrestler, along with other not-so-pleasant experiences such as boxing against a Golden Gloves champ, sparring with a Muay Thai fighter, and going toe-to-toe with some full contact kickboxers, that I started thinking in terms of a rock/paper/scissors approach to fighting. When the wrestler defeated me so easily I reached out to some grappling instructors and learned a few tricks on how to defend against the shoot. I'm not saying I could stop it all the time, but I learned just enough to be able to stay on my feet a little more frequently and thus be able to use striking. In an aikido class I learned a little about redirecting the attacker's energy. In some judo classes I learned about clinching and hand control. From a Muay Thai fighter I learned about controlling the head, and from some catch fighters I learned about duck unders. From some boxers I learned about matador-type footwork and evasive head movement and counter attacks. They also taught me about clinching and tying up the arms of the opponent, things that the referee will work to interrupt.
A former H2H combat instructor in the military taught me about disruptive/destructive low kicks to the shins, insteps, knees, and groin. A Wing Chun gung fu instructor showed me some other low-line kicks that were hard to catch, difficult to see and almost impossible to counter. One TKD master I trained with was able to kick high, powerfully and accurately and could shut down a lot of grappling attacks.
All of these skills however are no match for a good wrestler, one who spends hour upon hour in the gym, in the weight room, and on the mats perfecting his shooting skills. They are lightning quick, with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it speed. They are strong and powerful and know how to set up their attacks with feints, slaps, grabs and fakes. Take a look at the number of UFC champions who have strong wrestling backgrounds and you'll understand the mantra: SHOOT HAPPENS.
Foreword by Iain Abernethy.
‘So here we are with the final volume of this series of books from John Titchen! You can now see John’s full interpretation of the Pinan series! How cool is that!
Gichin Funakoshi – who is frequently referred to as “The Father of Modern Karate” – wrote the following in Karate-Do Kyohan about these kata,
“Having mastered these five forms, one can be confident that he is able to defend himself competently in most situations”.
The Pinan / Heian series were therefore always intended to be a holistic self-protection system; and I think John’s books have shown a great way in which this traditional view can be realised!
While the past masters passed on the kata and a great deal of information about how they should be viewed and understood, they did not pass on a complete picture of the applications of the kata. We traditional pragmatists therefore have to do a little analysis (“bunkai” literally translating as “analysis”) in order to understand what the kata have to teach us. This invariably leads to differing “bunkai theories”.
When science sets out to assert a theory, that theory needs to be able to explain all the existing data and, crucially, it needs to be able to make accurate predictions. For example, the theory of gravity explains everything we see on an everyday scale, and it makes accurate predictions about how future events will occur. We can dismiss gravity as “just a theory” but if you step off a high building you are going to fall and accelerate at a rate of 9.81m/s until the resistance of the atmosphere has you reach terminal velocity; or you hit the floor (whichever happens first).
Now, does this mean we know for a fact and with 100% certainty how gravity works? The answer is no, we don’t. But the theories we have explain all the data and make solid predictions. We can put satellites around distant planets with these theories! I would say a similar process needs to be applied to kata i.e. any application needs to explain all the data and make predictions (i.e. work when tested).
Any bunkai theory needs to address the following three points:
- The bunkai must adequately address all parts of the kata (i.e. explain why the kata is as it is).
- The bunkai must be in accordance with the historical information we have.
- The bunkai must be functional in the context of civilian self-protection.
If a given set of bunkai can do that, then it is valid. In science there are sometimes competing theories, but all are valid if they can explain the data and they work.
John’s take on the Pinan / Heian kata is a very logical and well-structured bunkai theory. It is not a collection of “tricks” which happen to look like the motions of the kata, but a valid bunkai theory based on, and permeated by, sound underlying combative principles. It’s not the same as my theory, but I acknowledge its utility and the fact it meets all of my personal criteria for validity. It is very good stuff!
Now that the series is complete, you can take the information presented within and run with it “as is”, or use the information John has given you to help inform your own take on the kata series. We can then move past the “analysis stage” to use the kata in the way Funakoshi said they were originally intended: as a holistic self-protection system. This is what John has presented.
These books have made a great contribution to the collective knowledge base of the practical karate community. Well done to John for writing them! Well done you for reading them!’
Available across the globe the fourth and final volume of the Pinan Flow System is now available as both a paperback and ebook! Use the UK links below or visit your ‘local’ amazon provider or order it at your local book store!
I can now share with you all my ‘starting points’ for training the whole Pinan / Heian set of kata. This is not an end, this is just the beginning!
Manure has been used for thousands of years as a fertilizer. Apparently high quality manure adds vital nutrients to the soil. In a 2011 article from Mother Earth News, Carol Steinfeld encouraged people to compost their own waste! But be careful, unless you dilute your urine by as much as 20-to-1, you just might burn your plants.
Some manure, such as guano, or bat feces, is a much sought after substance because it has particularly high levels of nitrogen, potassium and phosphate.
In one nature documentary I recently saw there was a 300 foot mound of guano in a cave. Referred to as "Dung Hill", the mound in Deer Cave is literally covered in cockroaches. Should a bat lose its grip and fall onto the mound, the cockroaches will reduce it to a skeleton in short order. I don't consider myself all that squeamish, but I found myself doing upchuck sounds as I watched the insects crawling around in the dark, gnawing on those bones.
Here's what Jothan Yeager, aka "The Bald Gourmet," said about that 100 meter mound:
"When planning a trip to Deer Cave, you should know that you are in for an awesome but smelly experience. With over 3 million bats living inside the cave, there is bat crap all over the place inside. The stink is a bit stifling. It smells oddly like bad body odor, but with a wet mustiness that is hard to explain. If you’re sensitive to these sorts of things, you could rub a little Tiger Balm under your nose."
I need to remember that tip and always have some Tiger Balm ready for special occasions, when the guano mounds are particularly big and stinky.
Like, anytime when I go online.
People, it turns out, are crazier than anybody. There are mounds and mounds of crap everywhere you look. I'd like to think it's just fertilizer that helps rationality and critical thinking to move ahead. But I'm afraid it's just a load of bullsh*t.
Get your Tiger Balm ready. Here are just a few examples of some of the stifling, wet mustiness you might encounter:
1. People who have visited heaven and/or hell: There are some folks who have made a decent living out of writing books and giving lectures about their visits to paradise, purgatory or places of punishment. They describe the feeling of warmth and comfort of being in heaven. The sensation of joy and peace. Others describe the horrible tortures, the sense of dread and despair of hell. This is all just a vivid imagination, a misfiring of brain cells or even symptoms of mental illness. Just because someone believes it, doesn't make it so. I worked at a mental institution many years ago, and many of the patients had very accurate, lucid, consistent and persistent images in their minds. I never once considered that their thoughts had any connection to reality. The same goes for normal people who read books or go to movies to watch the fantasies of the "Heaven Is Real" proponents.
2. People who insist that angels are real: They will tell you that angels have saved them or their loved ones. They swooped down and rescued someone in a car crash. They pulled a child from a burning building. Or they stopped a terrible event from occurring. In a plane crash, the survivors will tell you that angels protected them, while forgetting to mention that others had no such protection. My number one issue with this belief in personal angels is the bias the angels seem to show by letting one person live and at the same time allowing hundreds of others to perish. This, to me, is the epitome of narcissism.
3. People who have been aboard alien space crafts: The stories are all quite similar. There is often a vivid account of being used as a guinea pig in some painful experiment. There is often a time distortion, where there are hours of time that simply cannot be accounted for. Perhaps they receive a message from the benevolent visitors, a message that we should love one another and eschew violence. They cannot offer physical evidence, and seem to believe that vivid memories are adequate. As skeptics have been saying for years, "the plural of anecdotes is not evidence."
4. People who heal others with the power of their minds: They feel your pain, perhaps diagnose a blockage in the flow of life-force, and then, with laser-like precision, they remove the obstacles and return the patient to health. Some do this telepathically. Others need to wave their hands near the body. The patient feels better after these sessions, so, of course, it WORKS! This bullshit has been going on for much of the history of the human race. Witch doctors, shamans and tribal healers had the power to heal. In some cases they legitimately knew about real herbs and plants that had medicinal value. But in most cases they knew that those who BELIEVED they were getting better often did better than those who doubted. The psychology associated with pain and suffering is still somewhat a mystery, but a positive state of mind might still be important in controlling pain and fear. In my own view, this is all a healer is doing--helping the patient tap into the inner power to manage pain and fear.
5. People who can knock you out with their mastery of chi: I've written lots about these charlatans. They can make you faint just with a few, strategic strikes. The best ones (that is, the biggest bullshitters) can do all of this without even touching the target. This is nothing but the power of suggestion, plain and simple. There is no special power. Chi does not exist. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Ix-nay on the I-chay.
6. People who believe the earth is young and that the global flood occurred: These used to be fringe beliefs, but now it's rather mainstream. In fact many people who hold political office or who are candidates for political positions--including President of the United States!--now express a belief in these outdated myths. Instead many will use the excuse, "I'm not a scientist," and they'll say that the voters should decide what gets taught in their local schools. They'll say that "intelligent design" should get equal time with evolutionary science. They believe that the park rangers at the Grand Canyon need to teach both "theories" about how the canyons were formed. They want taxpayers to foot the bill to build a replica of Noah's ark.
7. People who believe in Shaolin monks and ninja: There is scant evidence that the myths surrounding these groups is real. Most of the stories are simply legends that have grown with the telling. It's nothing but a Dungeons and Dragons type fantasy. Or cosplay. I feel a little embarrassed for the people who dress up like a monk or a ninja and who practice with exotic weapons. I want so badly to scream, "leave this stuff where it belongs...the movies!"
8. People who tell you that the risks of global warming are not real: These, mind you, are the same people who tell you that they aren't scientists, but then dismiss the scientists who have actually done the research. They are the same groups who believe in Pascal's wager, "the argument that it is in one's best interest to behave as if God exists, since the possibility of eternal punishment in hell outweighs any advantage of believing otherwise," but who seem to think all will be well if we simply ignore what the science is telling us about the slow march to doom if we don't change our stinking ways. Some actually believe that God Himself will not allow anything bad happen to the earth unless and until He wills it. Or they believe that the rapture and end times will come long before the end of human life burns out like a candle.
I encourage everyone to become familiar with the late Carl Sagan's "'Baloney Detection Kit,' a set of cognitive tools and techniques that fortify the mind against penetration by falsehoods." It's easy to be deceived. Even smart people can fall for propaganda, sensationalism and odd beliefs.
Learn to smell the bat guano mound before you get stuck in it.
Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit
Views on Evolution
Processing lots. Taught "How to Run Scenarios" without being able to understand the native language well enough to really evaluate how well everyone was doing. I think there are some things I don't have the skills to do myself. In future, I will probably have to create a cadre of instructors who can create teams to work in their native language. Much as it hurts me to say that, it's time to think about the next generation.
Taught InFighting on the second visit to the Netherlands. Have to think about this carefully as well. To do InFighting safely requires pretty high-level distancing, ukemi, control and confidence. People panic. They always call it something else but it is definitely panic. The class went very well in Natick, but that was a jujutsu school with very similar core competencies to mine and it was my (fifth?) visit there. They were ready and they knew how to be safe. Not that Chris' men and women in the Netherlands were unsafe or not ready, but there were some minor injuries. And there was a weird time compression thing, because I got through almost all of the sixteen hour class in eight. Still can't figure out how that happened.
Japan was very strange for me on an emotional level. I always assumed my first visit there would be as a student, not an instructor. In my head I had just assumed that the expats were the people who were so into martial arts that they changed their entire lives and gave up everything to get closer to the source. I was expecting on a very deep level to be the itty-bitty bug in a roomful of martial gods. And I found out, like every other time I've been around the immensely talented or famous or whatever, that they were pretty much people. Just like me. And we all have tons to learn. And learning with good people is kind of fun.
And oh my god they can drink. Had whisky, beer, awamori, and habushu, and that was on the first day, just saying hello. The dinner after the seminar was epic.
Habushu. Snake wine. Tastes remarkably like alcohol.
Also fulfilled an obligation. Had to go to the hombu of Sosuishitsu, just to say thanks. One family preserved something that kept me alive in some rough times. There's an eternal debt there. It was a good place and I liked Shitama-sensei. He's solid.
Met some good people, as always-- Quint, Peter, Joe, the Fearsome Foursome (Quint's kids) Iida, Shinya and James. Other names I don't remember.
And got to duel an entire generation of an ancient samurai clan simultaneously at their family shrine. Of course, the oldest was eight.Good times. But time to head home.
THE WILD, WILD WEST
"Conrad could be counted upon to engage in one or more knock-down, drag-out brawls with evildoers per episode, as well as any manner of stunts, all of which he performed himself with a team of stuntmen. This dedication to the show occasionally resulted in injury for Conrad, including a 12-foot fall from a balcony that resulted in a concussion."From TCM bio of Robert Conrad
In the 60s, this was my regular Friday night routine: Fix a snack--usually a Chef Boyardee pizza, which I made from a kit--set up the TV tray, and tune in to my favorite show, "The Wild, Wild West."
I loved the gadgets and the girls. Goes without saying. But what I really liked, what I waited for every episode, were the fights!
Jim West was one tough hombre. He routinely took on bigger men, he was often outnumbered, and he could take a punch. His fight sequences had a fresh, spontaneous look to them, and I've read over the years that it was because they only rehearsed a few minutes before actual filming began. Robert Conrad did most of his own stunts, and the stunt guys were part of a tight crew who were on week after week.
Here's what I learned from watching Jim West go wild every week:
1. Move fast: Say what you will, but Jim West was quick. He had raptor-fast hand strikes, and he moved through his opponents like a Ferrari on high performance fuel.
2. Use what's around you: Jim West would swing from a chandelier, throw a bottle of champagne, use a bar stool, or use anything else he could get his hands on. Essentially he cheated.
3. Practice: There were a few scenes showing Jim West practicing his karate/kenpo moves back in his specially equipped, luxury rail car. In real life Robert Conrad studied boxing and martial arts. It was, to many, their first exposure to the exotic Asian fighting skills. While his fights didn't adhere to any specific style, he nevertheless incorporated punches, kicks and defensive maneuvers not usually seen in Western TV programs.
4. Stay in fantastic shape: Jim West (Robert Conrad) was truly a lean, mean fighting machine. He always had washboard abs, and for a small guy he had an intimidating physique. He looked like he could out run, out swim, and out fight 90% of the bad guys in the show.
5. Don't show fear: Jim West was supremely confident. You might even say he was cocky. When facing a big, bad, bad guy, he faced his fate calmly. He didn't let fear or anxiety zap his energy. In one memorable fight sequence he faced off against Richard Kiel, the 7' 2" actor who went on to play Jaws in the James Bond movies. He leaped off of a balcony and punched Kiel down the stairs, and it looked unbelievably real.
6. Tactical Parkour: Go back and watch some episodes or stunt sequences from any WWW season, and you're bound to see Jim West climb, jump, tumble, and swing. He used his environment for offensive and defensive purposes.
7. Keep moving: Jim West was a man of action. Constant action. Once he started fighting, he didn't stop until he or the bad guy was down and out. He ran when escape was an option, and he dove into the crowd when escape was out of the question.
8. Adapt: Jim West could box, do gung fu, duel with swords or even use a bull whip. We never got the sense that he was an absolute master of any particular style, and instead we saw that he was versatile and deadly with a wide array of fighting skills.
9. Preemptive striking: In many, many WWW fight sequences Jim West threw the first punch. Often a quick right to the jaw of whoever was standing in front of him. He often body checked somebody, ramming his shoulder into someone's chest to knock his opponent off balance.
10. Fight through the pain: One thing I liked about WWW fights was that Jim West took a lot of punches. He was ambushed, thrown off of balconies, slid on bars through barroom windows, and knocked down stairs. He was beat routinely beat up, but he kept getting back up. He was indomitable.
Yes, I know they weren't real fights. I know it was just a TV show, but I tell you...to me? They were REAL! Now let's see...will it be cheese or pepperoni tonight?
"We have all the time in the world, Time enough for life..."Louis Armstrong
"Believe we're gliding down the highway
When in fact we're slip slidin' away"Paul Simon
I am a huge fan of AMC's television hit series "The Walking Dead" (TWD). Who knows what the world would be like if the unimaginable happened and people started turning into flesh-eating zombies. But I think TWD does a fantastic job doing precisely that--imagining the worst in the most realistic, harrowing and gruesome way possible.
In TWD individuals and small groups of people are trying to survive, not only struggling to get enough to eat and drink, but also constantly fighting off hordes of zombies. And, perhaps even worse, fighting off evil humans who have decided to throw conventional morals onto the trash heap.
You can learn a lot about fighting, real fighting, by watching TWD and zombie movies in general. In some respects the various defenses against zombies represent the way that self defense and reality based combatives (RBC) are currently taught.
Let me explain.
Zombies, by and large, have traditionally been featured on film as persistent, slow-moving, mindless creatures. On TWD the zombies, or "walkers" as they are generally called, are rotting corpses who shuffle along, slip-sliding away. The experienced survivors know to keep their distance, maintain vigilance, and go for the head to obtain a kill-shot.
This is the way that RBC defenses are often taught. The attacker, like a walker from TWD, is slow and methodical, and the defender has all the time in the world. I have watched numerous demonstrations at martial arts schools and self defense academies, and you see this a lot. In some cases the attacker, hands lifted in the classic zombie position, moves in like molasses, running uphill, on a cold winter day.
However, there are notable exceptions to the slow moving zombie cliche: For example, the zombies in Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" are infected with the "Rage virus," and they move incredibly fast. The zombies from the movie version of the incredible novel "World War Z" also move at almost hyper speed, as do the creatures from the "Resident Evil" film series and those from the Will Smith movie "I Am Legend". There are also martial arts and self defense styles that feature speed and chaos as part of their training methodology.
Have you thought about which zombie YOU are fighting?
Perhaps both methods of training--slow and fast, methodical and chaotic--have specific benefits.
The S.A.D. Method of Training
I was first introduced to the S.A.D. method of training by a Sport Jujitsu competitor in the mid 90s. This fighter trained under the exciting martial artist Ernie Boggs, founder of Sport Jujitsu. In one of Ernie's videos he describes the S.A.D. method as training in 1 of 3 progressive ways. I always liked Ernie's methodology, and I incorporated (blatantly stole) the concepts into my own training with a few modifications.
In the early phases of training fighting skills or sequences are often taught in a by-the-numbers manner. Using this method isolated actions, like slices from a pizza, are segments of a larger sequence of movements. The new student or the practitioner being introduced to new movements will often stand facing their training partner. The partner attacks, moving in slowly thus allowing the student time to practice specific skills in a precise manner. The instructor can make adjustments, improve posture and positioning, and remove superfluous movements in order to increase efficiency.
I have found that starting with a call-and-response, back-and-forth type of sequence is a good way of introducing new skills. The defender is focusing on one specific reaction and is able to drill this movement over and over. As efficiency improves, I then layer on the 2nd or 3rd movement.
With sufficient drilling the student will build muscle memory and be able to respond to an attack in a smooth, effective manner.
The attacker is compliant at this stage, and the aggressive actions are slow and deliberate.
This phase incorporates 2 important features: Quicker movements and more resistance. The aggressor not only speeds up the attack, he also is less compliant to the defender's actions and counterattacks. He adds energy and momentum to his own aggressive actions.
The instructor may also begin adding complexity or variations. Let's say the attack is option A, and the defender's response is option B. At this phase, and after a number of solidifying iterations, the defender may answer not with B, but with C.
With some creativity and plenty of time to familiarize and practice each sequence, the flow from attack to defense, and the flow from movement to movement achieves a smooth, almost effortless fluidity. This fluidity then allows greater speed, more quickness from action to action, and reduces reaction time.
When you hear the word "dynamic" you probably think of such characteristics as forceful, chaotic, high energy, and the element of change or surprise. All of these can be used at the next phase of training.
Not only are movements more forceful at this phase, but there is an element of realism. As Bruce Lee said in the movie Enter the Dragon: "We need emotional content." I would also add we need combative context. In a real-world emergency self protection (ESP) scenario, there is plenty of emotional intensity. There may be anger and rage (remember the rage virus from "28 Days Later"), and there will definitely be the intent to do damage.
Using adequate safety gear the students can ratchet up their training to increase the force without worrying about injury. Obviously the defender must learn to control his or her emotions and to use combat breathing skills so as not to waste energy. The instructor must set limits on the force or contact level allowed and may need to step in if the action becomes too intense. Good conditioning is a must not only to ensure a full gas tank of energy but also to help in avoiding injury.
At this phase the instructor may introduce what I call PIC or Progressively Introduced Chaos. This means that methodical becomes improvisational with surprise variations added to keep students on their toes. Remind students that they may make mistakes, but that each mistake is an important element of learning. When mistakes occur allow the student an opportunity to revisit the same scenario with new and improved responses.
Happily, the student who follows a steady and progressive S.A.D. training protocol will eventually switch to cruise control, responding automatically and instinctively to each attack.
AND SWEAT AND BLOOD"You see, we never ever do nothing nice and easy.We always do it nice and rough."Tina Turner
"There's the right way and the Ron way."My Dad
Me and Tina Turner are simpatico. No, I'm not talking about dancing in high heels.
I'm talking about a basic philosophy. You see, when it comes to fight training I always thought it should never ever be nice and easy. Instead I thought it should be nice and rough.
I always approached fight training as realistically as possible. I'm not saying it was the right way, but it was definitely the Ron way. Full force, full speed, full contact was pretty much the way I trained for many many years. Most of the guys I trained with had a devil-may-care, go-for-broke, tap-out-my-ass attitude. Hit him hard, and they'd hit you back harder.
It was kinda stupid, but all in all I was pretty lucky. My injuries were slight; mostly bumps and technicolor bruises. A bloody nose, a black eye, a busted lip. My toes were ugly and gnarly, my shins were razor sharp, and my knuckles were usually swollen. I often had a limp.
I didn't go in for a lot of safety equipment. Did I mention how stupid I was? Did I also mention that I didn't have much money? Safety gear was expensive, and there really just wasn't much to choose from. We begged, borrowed, and stole our equipment: Boxing headgear, knee and elbow pads, wrist and ankle wraps. Foam sparring gear wasn't yet available.
As I got older, more mature and a tad smarter, I started easing up and rethinking my entire training approach. People I trained with were less interested in getting hurt. It made sense to be able to train as injury-free as possible. As more affordable safety equipment became available, I began promoting the use of gearing up as much as possible.
So how hard should you train? Well, look at some of the toughest athletes on the planet and take a cue from them. I'm talking about boxers, Muay Thai fighters, collegiate wrestlers and rugby players.
Let's take a look at rugby players first. I think it's one of the most brutal, full contact sports in the world. One guy whom I used to teach had been a rugby player back in college. He was tough and strong. He didn't seem to feel pain like most regular mortals. But he was also supremely conditioned. We ran wind sprints, hill sprints, and piggy back hill climbs as part of our training. While I had trouble walking once we were through, he was ready for more. He deadlifted hundreds of pounds, and he had an explosive way of doing bench presses and clean and jerks. He had a thick, mesomorphic body shape, and he was well muscled. His neck was thick, he had Popeye sized forearms, and his glutes and traps were huge.
He also did a lot of stretching and agility work. He insisted that the kicks and punches we used were full force. I remember one time giving him a powerful jump spinning back kick in the chest that barely phased him.
One thing that sets rugby players apart is their mind-set. They laugh at pain and discomfort. They do a lot of explosive, plyometric, dynamic flexibility type training to get their joints ready for fast acceleration and rapid changes in direction.
Next are collegiate wrestlers. I think they are the most supremely conditioned athletes on the planet. They push themselves well past what would mean total exhaustion for most of us. They have to have fantastic, explosive strength and bullet-out-of-a-barrel quickness. They do a lot of anaerobic conditioning, constantly drilling for speed and precision. Socrates supposedly once said, “I swear it upon Zeus an outstanding runner cannot be the equal of an average wrestler.” They have amazing lung power, shaped by hour upon hour of on-the-mat and in-the-weightroom training. They do long, slow, distance (LSD) road work like a boxer and wind sprints like field and track runners.
Dan Gable, one of my all-time heroes, once said "Once you've wrestled, everything else in life is easy." Gable was known to have trained when all the other wrestlers had gone home for the day. I've heard that he walked around school on his tiptoes to develop his calf muscles.
Boxers and Muay Thai kickboxers are also extremely tough. They do lots of long runs, often starting out the day at dawn doing 5-miles. Some run on the beach because it's harder on the legs. Another secret is their bag work. They spend round upon round, hour upon hour, learning to hit the bag with everything they've got. And it's not just mindless hitting. They have to remember to move and to keep their hands up. Pad work is also vitally important, not only for precision but for mobility and snapping power. I've seen Thai boxers kick and knee long, thick shield-sized pads for dozens and dozens of repetitions, and it seems like they get stronger and stronger as they go. Interestingly they seem to hold back power in a lot of their sparring sessions so as to avoid injury. But power here is relative; what seems light to them would knock most of us out.
MMA fighters bring together striking and grappling skills and not only develop a wide array of skills, they also approach training and conditioning in highly sophisticated ways. Just watch Ronda Rousey train if you want to see a master athlete in action!
I should also mention cross-fit athletes. Guys like Rich Froning Jr. are a new generation of competitors who are well rounded and expertly conditioned. They do very interesting, never boring, workouts that make me sweat just watching them! I recently drove past a Box (what they call their gyms), and I saw several female athletes doing overhead squats with giant Olympic barbells. I was very intimidated!
All in all I think there are certain sound principles we need to follow:
1. Gear up. Buy as much safety gear as you can afford and keep it clean and in good shape. Mouth guards and head gear is a must. Some of the guys who teach self defense gear up head to toe. Chris Roberts for instance, uses full body protection and encourages his students to go crazy as they kick and punch him during special training drills.
2. Get aerobic and anaerobic conditioned. Run. A lot. Run long distances. Run short distances fast. Run hills. Run cross country. Run barefoot in the grass or on the sand if you can. Drag a sled weighted down with sand bags or weight plates. Use one of those parachute contraptions or have your buddy try to hold you back with a bungee cord. Do hikes with a weighted vest or a loaded up back pack.
3. Do functional resistance training. There are tons of great books out there that can teach you just about everything you'll need to know to get in the best shape of your life. My favorite is The Functional Training Bible by Guido Buscia. It's loaded with practical information and specific exercises as well as the scientific reasoning behind his regimens. Another great resource are the books by Martin Rooney, a genius at coming up with new and innovative ways to push your body to new levels. I have is book Warrior Cardio, and I refer to it often. I was an early proponent of plyometric, explosiveness training. I had read about the training being researched and developed behind the Iron Curtain back in the Cold War days. East Germans and the Soviet Union had scientists coming out with new ways to develop seemingly super human abilities, and plyometrics was a big part of their routines. This is mainstream now, but still cutting edge. This training not only makes you more fast and powerful, it also helps to prevent injuries.
4. Train smart. Don't try to compete with everybody else. Instead compete with yourself from yesterday. Try to get better in slow, incremental ways. Don't increase the weights by much. Just a little more weight, a little less rest in between sets.
5. Find like-minded training partners. Mature guys with little bitty egos are the best in my opinion. Approach every training session with a no-nonsense manner, but still try to have fun. Keep the training interesting, and switch it up. Do grappling some days, strikes another. If you're injured, you'll definitely need to do something that doesn't compound the injury. Swimming or pool work is great. You can do quite a bit of your combat drills in the water to help you build strength and endurance.
Most of us are not planning on being professional athletes or cage fighters. We mostly want to get fit and learn to fight effectively. You don't have to go all-out everytime. You can pace yourself and approach your training in a sensible manner.
But I really think that hard training is the way to go. Have fun, stay safe, and get ready to sweat!
Wrong place, wrong time. The class had voted to work on surviving an attack. One of those skills is hitting hard. The defusing and de-escalation part had been the focus of the whole morning. The question was good, in a way, and I had to address the whole class.
There are stages in a fight. If you see something that makes you suspicious, something that's not quite right, you have options. You can gather more information. You can leave. You can prepare a weapon or alert your friends and partners.
If you do nothing, or don't see it until the person becomes overtly threatening, you have fewer options. Leaving, de-escalating, gathering resources and alerting your team are still on the table, but now they come with extra risk. You will likely set him off, if he wasn't going before. You will almost surely increase your chances of being suckerpunched if your attention is on resources or you try to leave when you are too close. You can pre-empt here, and I showed a social pre-emption. No injury, but usually even more effective than trying to suckerpunch first.
But once it's on, once a bad guy has made violent contact with you, de-escalating and gathering resources are off the table. Mostly. By all means yell for help as you defend yourself. But never instead of defending yourself.
By the time you need to hit, it is too late to do anything but hit. And if you are going to hit, you need to hit well. Generally, if you aren't finishing things, you are escalating them.
Context and timing. Real attacks versus sparring artifacts. One of the common patterns of shanking works from a handshake. The bad guy shakes your hand on some pretext and then pulls you in as he stabs you about in the armpit. I don't usually teach knife defense for a number of reasons, if you know me, you know the reasons. But if you have certain jobs I'm willing to show you what I know under the assumption that you will think for yourself, adapt, and take responsibility for your own survival.
The best defense I've found for the handshake shanking is structural. Very quick. One of the students said, "But all I need to do to defeat the defense is let go."
Absolutely right. That's all you need. But that would predicate on a threat, with full lethal intent, grabbing your hand of his own volition and for his own purposes who is savagely using that hand to yank you onto the tip of the knife...and that threat halfway through this fully committed action sensing that you have a defense, sensing that you are applying the defense, completely aborting his own committed action AND doing the one thing that monkeys almost never do under stress-- open their clenched hands.
Yes, there is a simple counter and no, you will never, ever encounter it in the field.
There are a lot of things, especially in traditional martial arts, that work great for real situations but are difficult or suck in sparring. The hip and shoulder throws in judo are hard to get and involve turning your back on the opponent, but in real life people jump on your back. Karate's x-blocks are all but useless in sparring, but they are a godsend when something unexpected and shiny suddenly arcs towards your belly-- a big, gross-motor move that covers a lot of area and gives you a lot of close-range options.
There is stuff that works under close-range assault, and there are options that only work with sparring timing and distance. Do not, ever, confuse the two.
"I don't want to waste time learning power generation because I could never hurt a big man."
Grrr. I've broken ribs on people much bigger than myself. Collapsed a trachea on someone who out-weighed me by over 100%. With an informal survey, we are now at, officially, 119 people who have either used a cup-hand slap to the ear, had it used on them, or seen it used. How many of those 119 incidents have seen the receiver keep fighting? Zero.
Small people can hurt big people. The smart way, of course, is to use a tool. It happens and it has happened. But if you are weak and small, your body mechanics must be superb. And there's no rule that say big, strong guys can't have better body mechanics than yours. There are no guarantees in this world.
But how fucked-up is it to say, "I can't win so I won't try." Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Right now, in your mind and every day in training or in choosing not to train, you are laying the groundwork for your success or you are laying the groundwork for your failure. Winning and losing doesn't happen on that dark day when you run out of options. Winning or losing is something you are doing right now.
The structure and void AAR was the last post. It seems like a long damn time ago. After that it was exploring Manhattan with Teja, and one evening each of talk and hands-on with David Ordini's Krav NY. It was fun, and David has some great ideas for the future. Can't wait to break the toy he is building.
Up to Rhode Island, where Chris Thompson hosted a weekend on how to run scenarios. Scenarios are easy to do poorly, hard to do well, and bad scenarios can do immense harm to students. Not just physically, but programming bad tactics and limiting options. Not to mention the potential for having to deal with an emotional crisis. Two days is an introduction to the mechanics and a heads up on the issues. Hopefully, it's a gateway for the attendees to start taking their teaching game to new levels.
Some very good scenarios, designed and run by the class. Eye openers, as well. A few who fought when they shouldn't. One who fought too late. One who saved a baby and questioned the decision afterwards. The class revealed some good natural actors who will be brilliant roleplayers. Some with a start on being good facilitators.
Three days in Salem were fairly relaxing-- some training in the evenings, lots of talking and debriefing. Meeting with friends (Wes). Found a unicorn. Sort of. My wife has a favorite beverage that they quit making in 2010. I saw four dusty bottles on a shelf in an interesting section of Boston. Bought them all. K is very happy.
Then two days of filming at Jeff Burger's new dojo. It was a blast. A really good crew from all over the area. We were filming "Drills" and the video will be different than the book. Lots of the exercises in the book are internal, or paper. Some require doing questionable things in public places (we did demo one of those) and some, like scenarios, are far too serious and complicated to learn by video. And also remembered a couple that aren't in the book. Fun. Jeff said it will be the best video I've done.
Same time, Jeff was shooting his first video for YMAA, "Attack the Attack." Jeff's one of those guys who should be well known-- extremely skilled and experienced and a talented teacher-- who has always been happy to quietly do his thing in his own quiet corner of the universe. Glad he's finally getting some exposure.
Last for Boston, two days of InFighting at the MetroWest Academy of Jiu Jitsu. I love playing with JJ guys. We have a shared vocabulary (though I think I use more Japanese than they do) and they aren't afraid to fly. There were other people there without the throwing and grappling background, but skilled JJ players were able to keep them safe.
I love infighting! We covered striking at that range, including targets and power generation, specialized strikes and kicks. Takedowns from tangles and at speed. Gouging (damn, I think I skipped biting class. Eh, we had some krav people there. Everybody got bit anyway). Skeleton manipulation offensively and defensively. Locking. A truly great weekend.
As you can tell, I'm late on this AAR because...
Two nights and one day home (40 hours) and I was back at the airport, heading to Zurich. Spent last weekend with a Bujinkan club there (Thanks, Phil) and got to see two old friends (Phil and Murray) and meet a slew of new ones. The class covered a lot of the basics, my basics anyway. Only two hours to look around before things kicked off with ConCom on Friday. Then rock and roll through the weekend (where bruises were distributed, stories told and schnapps imbibed) and out on a train Monday morning.
BTW, I also love being alone traveling and buying food with minimal language skills. And watching some crime crews case potential victims. Frankfurt Rail station was very interesting. And you can get a pork shank at the cafe.
Then on to Fritzlar and Wegas. Actually have some sight-seeing time. Saw Wewelsburg yesterday, a triangular castle with two histories. One was the history of the castle going back to 1600's. The other was a completely separate tour of how the castle was used by Himmler as an SAS school and intended headquarters.
Then, and most spectacularly Externstein. Hit it right at dusk. Gorgeous. Should be featured in a fantasy movie. Haven't uploaded the pictures yet, but I'll probably add one on when I do. Stay tuned.
Then dinner in an old castle. Traditional food. No electric lights. A great end to a big day.
Today, more sight-seeing. Friday an evening VPPG in Fritzlar. Saturday and Sunday will be the first attempt at "How to Run Scenarios" through a translator. I think we're using the Highway Riders MC clubhouse again. Which is a unique space. Very cool
Next week teaching cops near Mainz. The weekend after, ConCom and InFighting in the Netherlands.
Then home for a week.
Jake likes to experiment. When he saw me post on the blog that I was toying with the idea of teaching a class just on two fundamental principles, he wanted to run with it. The class was yesterday. Debriefed with a couple of students last night. Deconstructing it today.
11 people attended. Three extremely experienced MA/instructors, two complete beginners, the rest with varying degrees of experience. Four had trained with me multiple times, two or maybe three had trained with me once before, just under half were strangers. Four women, seven men. One wheel-chair bound. I would say tradition jujitsu and muay thai were the most represented.
Covered: What each student though was meant by "structure & void" in the first place. Parlor tricks with structure (e.g. "unbendable arm"). Power conservation, including pocket structure and how to structure circular strikes. Bone slaving. Application of leverage. Spine extension. Working into the skeleton vs. breaking connection with the ground. Using the threat's structural weak and strong lines to increase damage or to unbalance. Structure and balance on the ground. Swimming, shrugging and posting. Angled structure, sawing and rolling bones. Dead zones (did I cover that explicitly?) Offensive and defensive use of voids. Creating, finding and filling empty space. Void zones in balance (one can only fall into space, not structure. Dropping into a created void. Chock blocks. Defensive use of the threat's structure. Constant forward pressure as a game of impact, compromise and pivot off the impact point or into the available void.
What went well:
I'm a terrible judge of my own work, and the formal AAR process deliberately avoids "what went wrong". From the debriefs and the after class ritual, the people who attended enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. As expected, the beginners and senior practitioners got very different things out of it. One of the beginners found it very intuitive. That leads to big gains fast. The seniors were using it to organize things they already knew and to make some things explicit that students often miss. All of the teacher levels expressed that they were struggling with how to integrate it into their regular classes. That goes in the "went well" section because it means they thought it was worth integrating.
What could be better:
- Organization. Heard at least one "drinking from a firehouse comment." I think if I organized it better, the information received would be the same, but would feel less intense and retention would be better.
- Organization II. Normal for a beta-class, but I was constantly remembering nuances or making connections that were not in the lesson plan.
- Organization III. List the parts, drills and pieces of class and put them in the order that they play off and reinforce each other. Makes it easier for people to grasp and retain.
- Teaching methodology. Classes at this level should be extremely interactive. I got time conscious and wanted to make sure people got all the information they paid for. Not sure anyone noticed except for me. Could be solved with more time.
- Teaching methodology II. Having a unified game to bring all the parts back to for experimentation is central to my usual teaching module. The best game for this material is infighting randori, which is pretty intense for a seminar format. Also, requires more time and might shift Structure and Void to be a mini version of infighting.
- Personal. Working with someone in a wheelchair I was shocked by how much I take for granted about my own physicality and how little I knew about different, less obvious effects. Like not being able to work core muscles. For class purposes, some things will simply not be possible and some require crazy work-arounds that may not be efficient enough to be worthwhile. Between the two of us, we knew enough about physiology to get most things to work, but I'm a little humbled.
- Equipment. I should not be allowed to teach without a dry erase board.
- Complacency. I get pretty foul-mouthed.
- Play more. Feedback from the beginners was that often the words were confusing until the physical parts of the exercises, and then it came together. Must remember that this is experiential, touch is the only way to learn to fight. Train with respect to that.
- Ground part was important, but I cover it better (more time) in the 2-day Intro to Violence. Too big a chunk out of a four hour class. Maybe. there are really important aspects of structure and void that are more apparent on the ground than standing. Have to think this one through.
Time to get moving, though. And this will be fun, and busy, and intense.
Details for most of it are here:
The first two workshops will be this weekend. Saturday, a one-day intro to violence. The usual: Efficient movement, fighting to the goal, a quick overview of SD law, of context, of violence motivations and dynamics. Power and counter-assault. More if we have time.
Sunday's workshop gets me excited. There is very little new information in either martial arts and self-defense. People have been bad to other people since before there were people (judging from pre-human fossils who appear to have been hit from behind with an antelope bone). The quest now is to organize the information in ways that make the package tighter, easier to understand, easier to apply-- and do so without becoming vague or useless. So Sunday will be four hours exploring the principles of Structure and Void. Which sounds all cool and esoteric, but it is only how to offensively and defensively use your skeleton and the bad guy's skeleton (structure) and how to exploit the empty space between you, the threat and the environment (void.)
Then to Manhattan for a pair of evening workshops on the 16th and 17th. Gonna cram as much data in the first evening and principles-based physicality in the second as I can.
The following weekend in Rhode Island at "Just Train" will be an instructor class, "How to Run Scenarios". Scenarios are easy to do, but hard to do well. And if they're done poorly, they can mess students up on multiple dimensions.
The next week, three of the days will be spent filming Drills for YMAA during the day. Evenings, the plan is to run the CRGI/Chiron Instructor Development course. Specific material on teaching principles-based self-defense, limits of knowledge, trouble-shooting difficult students, developing and maintaining rapport with specialty teams-- stuff like that. It's _going_ to happen, even if we haven't hammered out exact location and price point. If everything falls through, I'll get with the interested people and do the class over dinners.
And then top it off with an infighting weekend at the Metrowest Academy in Natick. Martially, InFighting is the thing I love above all things, and a traditional JJ school will have a lot of the fundamentals down, so there will be some good people to play with.
Then home, for a few days, before hitting the skies for Europe.
See this image of Chuck? See how he punches and punches and keeps on punching? I know exactly how he feels.
May I introduce you to some of my pet peeves? I have several. They get on my nerves, or, as one lady I know used to put it, "My reserve nerve."
1. TRIGGER: The pressure point fighter. He holds seminars all over the country. You show up, notebook and fee in hand, and he will demonstrate how to render someone unconscious with a few well-placed touches to chi meridians or pressure points. He has a name and/or number for each one. There are hundreds, maybe thousands. He can knock out people left and right. Doesn't matter how big they are, they drop like a sack of dough. Speaking of a sack of dough, that's what you're going to need to spend to learn all of his secrets.
2. COMMANDO: The military instructor. He has taught members of the Special Forces, Navy Seals, and the FBI. He has not actually been in the service, but he's the go-to person for elite warriors. He knows a million ways to kill. He is reluctant to teach this stuff to civilians, but, for the right price, will begrudgingly do so.
3. ROLLER: The new grappling instructor. Just a few years or so ago, he hated, HATED, grappling and ground fighting. Thought it was all B.S. Told anyone who'd listen that this was a bunch of junk, that it didn't work, that it was dangerous and ill advised. Now he seems to be an expert. His curriculum is full of stuff that wasn't there not that long ago. Says it was ALWAYS there, but that he only taught it to "advanced" students.
4. CHAMP: The title holder. Claims to have won championship titles that you've never heard of. Says he defeated the best of the best. Tells you that Google doesn't always list these tournaments because they were highly illegal death matches. Is reluctant to share any specific details for fear of retribution or criminal charges. Has tons of anecdotes about the men he has injured.
5. TIGGER: The former bouncer. He was a bouncer, and he likes to remind you of this...often. He bounced people out of clubs. Busted his knuckles on lots of hard-headed drunks. Learned his lingo from the Roadhouse movie. Has had more fights in one weekend than you've had in your entire life. Thinks that what YOU do is a load of crap and is glad to tell you so.
6. MONK: The peaceful warrior. He USED to do what you do. Enjoyed fighting. Saw the ugly side of the street and was knee-deep in violence before he saw the light. Now speaks primarily in Zen koans. Smiles. A lot. Likes the smell of incense. Thinks that you should NOT learn to fight, and instead you should train to improve your spirit. Teaches stuff that will get you killed if you ever have to use it.
7. REBEL: The rule breaker. Thinks the UFC is a joke. Tells you what would happen if HE had to fight one of those behemoth MMA fighters in a REAL fight without rules and referees (usually consists of poking the eyes, ripping the groin, and dislocating the fingers). Says they wouldn't last a minute on the streets where he grew up. Somehow doesn't look all that tough.
8. HOARDER: The collector. Has enough certificates to wallpaper his living room. Can take an hour to list all the people he's trained with. Has his picture taken with them to prove it. Acts like he and they are old chums. Can critique your moves til the cows come home.
9. CHATTY CATHY: The blowhard. Goes to a seminar and can't wait to ask questions or offer commentary. Knows more than the instructor. Does not mind giving advice to anyone who'll listen. Was vaccinated with a phonograph needle. Has a dozen what-if scenarios he'd like to ask you about. Can talk non-stop about the history of a specific technique. Monopolizes the conversation. Beats the proverbial dead horse.
10. PHARAOH: The master. Believes that he is at the top of the pyramid. Sees you at the grocery store and calls you Steve, wants YOU to call him "Master." Loves hierarchy and titles. Loves belts. Loves striped belts. Thinks you should bow when you see him. Teaches you how to bow the right way. Spends more time lecturing about respect than actually teaching how to fight. Usually has the starchiest uniform.
This four part series is designed to be a brief introduction to the field of non-violent resolution tactics.
Part Two – Verbal Approaches
Part Three – Body Language
Part Four – Personal Psychology
PART TWO – VERBAL APPROACHES
This is such a huge topic that it seems trite to try and narrow it down to a simple set of guidelines that will help people. Some people don’t need (much) advice or training. They already have the ‘gift of the gab’ and can smoothly talk their way out of trouble under pressure or indeed talk another person out of trouble.
Unfortunately if you are not naturally talented then the best way to improve is practice. Real practice comes with risk and potential cost and in any case unless your job requires it your primary aim should be to avoid putting yourself in situations where de-escalation skills are required. Despite that, the underlying principles of good de-escalation are those of good communication, and those are skills that we can all work on all the time.
What you say will depend on the circumstances. I can’t tell you exactly what to say. What I can do is share a teaching mnemonic that I use to outline underlying approaches. This mnemonic is deliberately simple, with each headline word conveying an overall message and each heading letter summarising a number of different skill sets.
READ to LEAD to DEAL
We want to read a situation accurately so that we can lead it to a successful or safe resolution by achieving a deal that both parties can accept.
RECOGNISE if a verbal strategy is viable or appropriate under the circumstances.
EXPECT a physical response at all times and maintain alertness and a safe posture.
ADAPT your tone, volume and phrasing to that of the other person and if possible use to build a connection for good communication.
DECIDE on and constantly re-evaluate what you think is the best course of action.
LISTEN to what the other person is saying.
EMPATHISE with their point of view to enable you to ask how best to help or offer a solution.
ACKNOWLEDGE the issue that is being raised and try to offer a solution.
DISTRACT (and defuse tension) by asking open-ended questions, by involving other people, or (if necessary) to create an opportunity for a pre-emptive strike.
DISTRACT (and defuse tension) by asking open-ended questions, by involving other people, or (if necessary) to create an opportunity for a pre-emptive strike.
EMPATHISE with their point of view to enable you to ask how best to help or offer a solution.
ACKNOWLEDGE the issue that is being raised and try to offer a solution.
LISTEN to what the other person is saying.
LEAD to DEAL is not simply a catchy mnemonic. The fact that the meanings are the same but the order has changed is a reminder that communication is a constantly changing fluid process.
When you can do that, it's a powerful strategy. Damming flood-prone rivers has been so successful that only historians have a grasp on the immense damage that unpredictable flood cycles used to do. An aircraft carrier constructed of 60,000 tons of steel and powered with nuclear engines can ignore all but the most extreme weather conditions.
I would say that is the second most common strategy. Evidently, people prefer even an evil stability to all of the possibilities that come with freedom. But that's a long talk over coffee.
The most common strategy is to pretend to control it. You can, with enough resources, control things you understand. Without an understanding, and a fairly deep understanding, all attempts to control become a gamble. Most common example is central planning of an economy. The planners would have to deeply understand a huge number of industries, the interplay between those industries, and somehow have to correct for the fact that a large number of humans, the cleverest monkeys ever, will be actively trying to subvert the system. This is what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls "Naive interventionism." "Something must be done! We don't understand the problem, actually, and have no idea if what we are going to do will actually work or make things worse... but something must be done!"
On the micro, we have martial arts. Which are largely a stylized, impressionistic, ritual of violence and controlling violence. "When you achieve your black belt, you will be ready." Ready for what? You can't know the answer to that simple question-- no one gets to know what bad stuff the future holds. If you can't know the question, you should be incapable of feeling confident in your answer. But people feel confident all the time.
Like economics, violence and self defense always involve other people, and people are the cleverest monkeys on the planet. It's not just mechanics, but mechanics applied against a moving target who may understand what is going on better than you and certainly wants you to fail. And each of those people will be different in some way.
The third strategy is to give yourself up to the chaos. Abandon. To immerse yourself in it. Not become part of it, but recognize that you have always been part of it. You have always been one of these adaptable, clever, frequently unpredictable monkeys. This (whatever 'this' is in a given context) can be chaotic, but not beyond what the human brain and body evolved to solve.
It's scary-- humans prefer even an evil stability to chaos. But it is also powerful. And it works. It takes confidence, but also builds confidence. And there's no way to learn it theoretically. You have to get in and mix it up. Take chances. Push the edge of the envelope until the envelope changes shape.
It also requires faith. Not in the religious sense. Dangerous stuff is dangerous precisely because you can get hurt. Chaotic means that you can't know the outcome. And jumping into that with both feet pretty much defines faith. Or stupidity. No one gets good at this stuff because of their overabundance of common sense.
To sum up:
The first strategy--Control the chaos:
To an intermediate grappler, a beginning grappler is completely under your control. You just make him do what you want him to do.
The second strategy-- Pretend to Control the chaos:
"We train not to go the ground in our dojo. If you're facing a grappler, all you have to do is..." says the man who has never grappled.
The third strategy: Abandon
The superior grappler doesn't bother to control the intermediate grappler, because everything is a gift.
This four part series is designed to be a brief introduction to the field of non-violent resolution tactics.
Part One – Underpinning Principles
Part Two – Verbal Approaches
Part Three – Body Language
Part Four – Personal Psychology
PART ONE – UNDERPINNING PRINCIPLES
All aggressive and violent behaviours have underlying causes, which could be summarized under the headings of chemical factors and psychological factors. These are interrelated but for the sake of brevity are listed separately. Understanding and influencing these (through communication) is the best way to resolve conflict.
These may be far more varied than the examples listed below, but can generally be categorized as immediate or primary causes and underlying or secondary causes.
Immediate causes affecting decision-making and behaviour:
Physical presence or (over-long) eye contact interpreted as a challenge, overly alpha or beta male body language, a push or stumble into a person, the spilling of food or drink, a vehicle accident, peer pressure, denial of a perceived need.
Secondary causes affecting decision-making and behaviour:
Family or work stress, suppressed anger (generally linked to the former but inhibited by potential consequence), racism or social/political beliefs, past experiences, peer pressure, the role and acceptability of violence and aggression in both upbringing and normal social environment, fatigue, past success in achieving aims through aggressive or violent behaviours.
These could be categorized as physical and social factors.
The relative sizes of parties involved, perceived strength and ability of the other party, the ‘known quantity’ of the other party, body language, perceived alertness, company (of either party), immediate consequences, likelihood of injury.
Peer reaction – acceptance or alienation, legal and family or work repercussions, the social acceptability of aggression and violence within the individual’s social group.
Through positioning, body language, listening and using appropriate tone and speech the underlying aim should be to attempt to reduce the individual’s motivation to continue to use aggression and possibly attempt violence, while strengthening their inhibition against such approaches.
Alcohol or other substances weaken inhibition and can reduce awareness and comprehension. This will affect the ability of another person to influence the individual’s motivation and inhibition.
Underlying medical conditions
Due to a pre-existing health condition the other person may not necessarily be on the same ‘operating system’ as everyone else and may not respond in the same way.
Aural and visual exclusion along with other side effects of adrenaline may hinder communication and attempts to influence the individual’s motivation and inhibition.
It is unlikely that there is much that you can do once an incident has already begun that will mitigate underlying chemical factors. If spotted early enough then the effect of drugs such as alcohol can be reduced by slowing absorption into the blood stream by providing food and withdrawing further alcohol (if safe to do so), but these are factors that are largely outside your control.
It is important to be aware of the role of chemical factors as ‘tipping points’ in an individual’s behaviour patterns. Whether they are part of the primary or secondary cause of the problem they may lower the probability of a successful non-violent de-escalation.
One thing every predatory criminal needs is privacy. The quality of privacy depends on the type of crime. Beating a member of your gang that you suspect of breaking the rules might go better if the other members can watch, but you'll certainly limit civilian and police witnesses. The quantity of privacy varies as well. Rape and torture murders can take days, muggers may only need privacy for a few seconds.
There are only a handful of general strategies to get some one to a private place. You can intimidate them, trick them, lure them, follow them or wait for them.
Following and intimidation rely on assessing the victim, but very little intelligence gathering is needed. You want someone smaller, weaker, less confident to intimidate, someone oblivious to follow. Those are instantly obvious. The other strategies, usually, will have an element of intelligence gathering.
Not always. Just like fishing you can try to match the lure to the specific fish you want or you can cast a wide net. In "Think like a Freak" the authors pointed out that it might seem stupid that the Nigerian scam emails you get actually say they're from Nigeria. Everyone's heard of the Nigerian scam, right? But when you cast a net that wide, sending thousands of e-mails, you want to weed out the bad prospects as early as possible. If I send 1000 emails saying I need help getting millions out of the Nigerian bank, the 995 who recognize the scheme and don't answer have allowed me to concentrate on the five that might fall for it. Efficient use of time.
One personal version. "Hey, you from America? I love America. You know, there's a shrine that's not on the tourist map. It's a little far..." Which, could be targeted to the person trying to go native and be different from the other tourists, but works just as well if you ask every tourist you see.
When the isolation strategy is targeted, there will be some element of intelligence gathering. Surveillance is a possibility, but following someone for days to figure out his or her routine should be rare. Very labor intensive, far more evidence of premeditation, and I can't speak for other people, but I always thought the Hollywood cliche of the target who has the same meal at the same restaurant at the same time every day pretty damn unlikely.
Most intel gathering comes in a simple conversation-- the phone call claiming to be from the IRS is a big one now. Ted Bundy would strike up a conversation with a woman in the library on campus. In any first conversation at a university, three things come up: "Where are you from?" "What's your major?" and "Which dorm are you in?"
It's rapport building. Knowing your hometown tells me about background we have in common. Your major is a big clue both to the possibility of common interests and how you see your future. Where you live on campus tells me your socio-economic background and how social you are. But Bundy used the routine questions for something simpler.
If you ask a target at the library where the target lives, you can scout the loneliest place between the library and the home.
It can be hard to spot someone gathering intel. Like many long-term crimes (e.g. creating a relationship so the predator gets the victims home and access to bank accounts and can groom a victim), the criminal excels at imitating the steps of a normal relationship. Ted Bundy used the normal conversation scripts to extract the information he wanted. There are a finite number of tools, good guys and bad guys use the exact same tools.
The best exercise, from my point of view, is to practice it from the other end. Strike up conversations with the intent of finding out as much as you can about the other person while giving up as little as possible about yourself. Don't lie, just focus the conversation back on the other. Not only will very few people notice you aren't answering, they'll be flattered to be the center of attention. And they'll spill their guts.
Seeing how easy this is will help you recognize when you are on the receiving end. It will also teach you how rarely it is necessary to share. And, weirdly, the focus on others can even make you more popular.
The techniques of karate kata have many possible interpretations. What each individual sees in the kata will vary according to their own experience and how skilled they are at identifying potential applications.
Not every application taught need be practical.
As a case in point in my Shotokan classes I teach a wrist grab defence using kata movements that isn’t the simplest or most effective method of escape, but is a very effective drill for teaching appropriate positioning, optimum biomechanics and principles of controlling and unbalancing. While doing so I always stress that it is drill about biomechanics and usually show the faster escape. In similar vein for my Heian / Pinan Sandan drills in both the older Heian Flow System and the more recent Pinan Flow System I included a spinning back elbow and back fist. While this has been successfully used in the UFC, it is not the most practical of techniques, but its inclusion was to a large extent to illustrate that point by making it an opening for students to unpredictably encounter a number of different positions and attacks which would lead to spontaneously training other drills.
When an application is specifically designed for practical use I notice that some people often fail to see the wood for the trees.
It is easy to over-focus on mimicking the techniques or sequences of the form but forget the overall context. If you need to strike, control or escape from another person then they will also have an agenda.
This means that they are unlikely to be holding you limply, are likely to be prepared to hit you, or may continuously be trying to hit you or get to a position where they can hit you unless you take steps to prevent that. Always protect your head and as much of your body as you can.
Unanticipated aggressive and violent confrontations tend to cause a significant adrenaline release unless you are very familiar with them and a non consensual or unpredictable event will cause different reactions to a predictable or fully consensual one. In such situations even very well trained people have difficulty utilizing fine motor skills or targeting accurately and this should be reflected in applications (for example see my kicking in self defence video). The same hormonal cascade (along with other substances) may render pain compliant / dependent techniques ineffective.
The context of the drill should be realistic if the drill is supposed to be for self defence. Appropriate habitual acts of violence (HAOV) rather than style or rule format specific attacks, and not over-skilling or under-skilling attackers / training partners. In similar vein you need to be clear whether what you are doing is legal for the envisioned circumstances if you are training it for practical purposes rather than historical curiosity.
Hitting or striking a resisting person isn’t as easy as working with a compliant training partner. As a general rule at close quarters (where most violent incidents occur and remain) you will need to strike to control and control to strike.
The potential of practical karate kata application is incredibly vast, but when interpreting kata for such purposes the ‘trees’ of the individual skill sets should always be seen within the context of the wood that represents the nature of actual violent confrontations.
So, background-- You have to know your principles, understand them. And you have to have a clear idea of what you are actually teaching (most common mistake, people equate fighting with self-defense.) Your ability to pass on knowledge is absolutely limited by the clarity of your understanding of that knowledge. And what follows is a process, but you must know how to teach and how to communicate separately from this process. For instance, criticism is rarely effective teaching.
On a psychological and emotional level, you have to prep people for learning. One of the most toxic things we have done in martial arts and in some of the reality-based systems is to make conflict special. People come to us convinced violence is alien to them, it is complicated, it is hard to learn. Emphasize that this is natural. The physics are the same as any other physical activity and the mentality is part of their evolutionary heritage. It's been hammered and brainwashed out of them, but they are all natural fighters, all survivors.
I like having an over-all game that skills will always tie back to. The game has to be well designed. Minimal bad habits (if people don't go to the hospital, there are safety flaws built in. If they do go to the hospital, they don't learn anything while recovering.) It must be what it is and no more (I never call the one-step a fight simulation. It is a geometry problem made out of meat, and your job is to solve the moving meat problem as efficiently as possible.)
I like the game to have a competitive element to it, but no winner or loser-- you are going to strive to be more efficient than me, but if you excel at that, you haven't beaten me, just given me a more challenging problem to solve. The problem with full active resistance or any form of direct sparring is that the only the winner learns that "it works against a resisting opponent." The loser, who probably needs the skill more anyway, learns that it fails against resisting opponents. Failure is not a lesson you want to teach. Not at this stage. This is the play stage where you are familiarizing with principles and what you can do, and looking to increase efficiency.
I start with the one-step. That's the slow motion, taking turns, efficiency exercise described in Drills: Training for Sudden Violence, (That's Smashwords. Link to Amazon Kindle.) Next level up is to blend that into a faster flow drill. Flow helps to lock in the skills, but as you go faster the students will miss opportunities. And that's always the balance-- you need speed to handle speed, and you need to practice speed to not be overwhelmed. But that always comes at the price of: 1) missing opportunities and slowing down learning. 2) The safety flaws become more important. A slow elbow to the head you can make contact, a fast one you have to pull. 3) The faster you go, the harder the training ingrains, good or bad. Including the safety flaws.
The third level is full blown infighting randori. Your students need supreme control and confidence to do this well and safely, and frequently, this one has a winner. It integrates skills better than anything I know, because it is too close and too fast to process cognitively.
So those are the games I tie back to. We play the game, the one-step first. Before any instruction whatsoever (they get an extensive safety brief and a demo) they play. The only criticism at that point will be for safety and staying within the rules. Like any other game, they have to learn the rules. Most important is time framing. It's a slow motion drill, so it is easy to get competitive and speed up to "win".Because they can do this successfully, it helps convince the student this is not special or alien. Gets them over that first big hurdle.
Next stage, you need to know your principles inside out. Then come up with ways to demonstrate them. Not techniques to remember, but sensations to feel.
Tie it back to personal experience "structure is just like pushing a car" but remind them it can always be more efficient. Or: when you do a squat, are you ever on your toes? Of course not. And you don't sprint from your heels. So heels down for power, heels up for speed. Basically, students may not have been consciously aware of their own bodies, but the body mechanics of physical altercations are the same body mechanics they have used every day.
Design or find a specific game that works a specific principle. Sumo is awesome for learning about the interplay between using structure and exploiting momentum.
Or demonstrate the common traits of a class of technique. I show one aspect of leverage by pointing out the different high-mechanical-advantage leverage points on the body and have the students experiment with them. The experimentation is key. And this is one of the places, where, as an instructor, you have to be careful. A lot of martial artists have been damaged by their previous instruction. These are the one who are always asking if they did it 'right' or which finger to use or how to grip. They are so used to being corrected that they are more concerned with the instructors criticism than success or failure they can feel. You have to deflect this by asking the only question that matters: "Did it work?"
Then bring bring them back to the general game, so the new stuff start to work with everything else. They shouldn't obsess on the new skill (e.g. only trying for leverage points) but the new skill will be fresh in their minds, and will come out a lot.
Repeat the cycle. Break them out of the game to work on something else, like targeting. Then put them back in the game. Theoretically, you could, after each skill, increase the speed. When they are starting to do it reflexively, pick up the speed to the flow level. Finally lock it in with a contest-level fast and hard game (infighting randori.
I don't do it that way. They can work on the principles in one-step forever. I move them to flow and randori based on their abilities and confidence level. Animals learn through play and the first exposure to randori should be fun and slightly overwhelming but shouldn't make them feel terrified and helpless.
The last, critical piece to self-defense is to occasionally run good scenario training. That allows them to use their skills in tandem with their judgment. And use more force, because of the armor. That said, scenario training is very hard to do well and safely and easy to do poorly. And poor scenario training can mess up students, physically, tactically and emotionally. It is better to stay away from the completely than to do them poorly. Last CCA for this post: I'll be running scenario training (and other things) in Rhode Island next month. Information is here: http://chirontraining.com/Site/Sept_in_New_England.html
So, Jim, not a single technique anywhere in that progression.There are some caveats, though:1) Done properly, it allows and encourages creativity. Which means your students will innovate some sneaky shit and beat you far sooner than if they train in techniques. This is not a good method for egotistical instructors.2) It can be hard to measure and test. Using this platform for jointlocks, we've gotten untrained officers improvising locks under pressure in an hour. And some of those locks would seem to be advanced. But they wouldn't have been able to name a lock or to demo a specific lock. Which makes organizations and concrete thinkers get the twitches.3) It's incompatible with most martial arts business models. The student/teacher relationship will shift to colleague/colleague very quickly. I like that, personally.
Partially because play is the way animals naturally learn, partially because, in a complex system working rote drills hampers more than helps.
Principles-based training involves understanding the principles and applying them in chaos. It's much harder to teach, because knowledge isn't enough, the instructor must have understanding. It's less measurable, less "objective" but infinitely more useful under stress.
Technique repetition may lead to knowledge. Actual experience leads to understanding. Play, if the games are done well, can give you a start on understanding, maybe some insight.
As understanding deepens, you are able to "batch" more and more things. To integrate techniques that seem disparate into single thoughts. As you do so, you process things faster, you become more efficient and decisive.
A technique-based practitioner may go into a fight with a rolodex of forty hand strikes and twenty kicks in his head. He'll try to use this unwieldy mental rolodex and probably get his ass kicked. Memory is simply too slow. Taught in a principles-based way, one level of abstraction up is to understand that striking is just power generation, targeting, and conformation. If you understand it, your rolodex of sixty has become a rolodex of three, with a vast reduction in reaction, action and decision time but an increase in flexibility and adaptability. That's if you understand it. The problem is that if you only know it, you're going into the fight with three mental rolodexes that have to be cross-indexed under pressure. That's bad.
As your understanding deepens, your integrating concepts become simpler and more efficient. In Meditations on Violence I wrote about meta-strategies. Many of the extraordinary fighters I know have complete battle systems that can be expressed in a single sentence. "Destroy the base." "Defang the snake." "Take the center."
Simpler and more efficient, but also, expressed in words, they will seem more abstract. Memorizing techniques is easy. Nice and concrete. Teaching power generation, targeting and conformation is a good size to chunk the information. It gives beginners efficient tools and increases flexibility in hours instead of months. But every so often I want to go really deep, experiment with teaching a workshop on "Structure and Void". I think it would be a really powerful integrating concept, a good framework to teach. But I fear it's too abstract for most people. It would probably only be useful to people with a good depth of understanding already. There are far fewer of those.