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miket's picture
Training for the attack vs. a feed (instruction)

Last night before the karate-dream fairy came to me, I had a thought which I duly recorded on a padI keep on the nightstand for just such purposes... smiley

It seems to me like there is a distinct diffference between "training vs. a 'feed'" and "training vs. an 'attack'".

To me a 'feed' is any agressive action that is NOT an 'all in' 'antything goes' attack.  'Feeds'-- even 'intense', deliberate feeds of multuiple motions--  are structured in nature.  Generally, they are 'known' to both sides in advance.  

'Attacks' by contrast, as I am attempting to define them here, are spontaneous and UN-structured in nature. 

I had a frustrating night in class last night because I was trying to get students to do the latter and they just weren't getting it...  I wanted them to go slowly, and pick quality shots, but to do so while moving in 'free action'-- albeit slow-medium speed motion free action.  What I got was mostly a bunch of crappy psuedo-boxing.

So, my first thought was, 'my guys need more technical training'-- i.e. the kind that would proceed vs. established or 'known' feeds.  But I don't really think that's the answer.  They all know 'enough' material that they could have taken better shots.  They just werren't doing it.  So, I'll own that as an instructional failure and not put it on them. 

If you think about it, most 'technical' training we do in the dojo is vs. 'feeds'.  Those feeds can be well-intentioned, intense shots.  But generally, there is a 'stop' at some point where the 'attacker' role 'holds' their motoion for the 'defender' role to do something.

Even so called 'sparring' drills are frequently delimited...  just hands, just these motoions, just rolling, just g&p, whatever.  And I recognzie those as necessary 'briding games'.   

By contrast, 'all in' free-motion drills are complete chaos.  And, understandably, you would expect to see somewhat of a 'degredation' in quality at this level.  But, how do you incentivize students to perform such that the 'best' quality motion comes out?  This was a beginners class, but I was still quite disappointed in thier seeming inability to 'bridge' between fully-spelled-out actions and fully-spontaneous actions.  LIke I said, what I got was a bunch of mostly 'bad' clinching and punching.  LOL, I guess it looked like a 'real' fight.  But I was pretty disappointed in the low 'percentage of application' that I was getting yesterday.

Any thoughts on closing this gap?  

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Yeah, if you've ever done the 'one step' drill that Rory Miller does at his seminars, that's a good starting place. Of course the downside is it is only really possible to do it slowly, and much of the dynamics of speed etc. are completely left out since you take 'turns'. Nonetheless, if you do the drill you will find people doing 'real' attacks. I have done techniques from kata i've hardly even practiced with a partner before while doing this drill..it's extremely good at making you see what is situationally effective.


There's a post about it, I can try writing a description if you've not heard of it before, but I can't gaurantee it'd make sense without doing a seminar with the guy, which i'd reccomend!

miket's picture

Thanks, Zach.  I am familiar with the drill (meaning I've read about it in Rory's books and on his blog).  I have done similar drills (we call them 'war gaming') with students and training partners and I agree its a good method.  Some variations we have played with have included 'skill isolations' (i.e. essentially the same drill but taking on predetermined 'roles' like "puncher vs. kicker",  "grappler vs. striker" and a "countering version" where one side gets two actions in a 'riposting'-type fashion (which I know is a method Rory specifically advocates against); in addition to 'all in' one for one.  I'd really like to go through it with him if I have the opportunity some day, he's on my 'people i'd like to train with' list. 

My train wreck last night was an attempt to do kind of the same drill, but at a 2x to 3x faster speed.  And like I said-- it didn't work too well in terms of the 'technical regurgitation' exhibited, but it may be that I just need to back the pressure down some and give them more reps at a slower pace.  Or maybe, the relatively degraded performance was a function of the speed.   But in all, its a good suggestion, thanks.

Part of the problem was, I wanted them to go at a slow speed, but the students kept 'amping this up' in terms of speed, which is an issue Rory noted with it.  Everybody wants to go fast.

What other types of drills are people using?

JWT's picture

Hi Mike

I have a couple of drills that work with this problem.

On my very first taught drill, defence agaisnt a round haymaker, we spend a great deal of the time doing the drill with focus mitts.  In this the attacker dons two mitts and swings with one for the defender's head - the defender is supposed to duck and counter strike, and the attacker positions his second pad where his head would be so that both can attack full pelt.  Once students are reasonably proficient in this drill we force them to close off the possibility of a second attack by blocking the Golgi tendon of the original haymaker arm, so the attacker can't swing in with a second punch.  If this is not done the attacker is free to make a sharp cross straight after the first punch.  It is a lesson in positioning and the need to close off future attacks as you defend and counter that is quickly learned.

I can remember writing a piece for Iain's Jissen Magazine a while back where I talked about the use of speed in training.  I try and avoid going at medium speed in training other than as a warm up for an exercise.  I would say that a huge amount of what I teach is done slowly to work the correct biomechanics and positions, and then drilled at full speed.  I find that allows students to think their way through multiple combinations and get used to adapting.  Personally I find that students do not mind lots of slow training, so long as the fast training is done hard and fast enough to make them feel they have had a tough workout.

When I do simulation days we do rehearsed training as well as spontaneous scenarios (where each person is briefed individually so no one but the external safety supervisor knows what's going on and most particpants are really having to think about what to say and do).  In rehearsed training what we do is we make up a flimsy scenario, and then an attack is made slowly with a slow response - allowing the student to think their way through a situation.  The same attack is then repeated at medium and a full speed.  The strength of the attack is varied according to the ability of the student.  In the video below we have a 3rd Kyu going lightly on a 9th Kyu (other particpants are there as closer safety observers and obstacles).  I thought I'd show this one as it highlights the false perception of one attack and one defence present in both the attacker and defender (and I end up walking on camera):


By contrast here is the same 3rd Kyu doing the same type of training with an instructor acting as the attacker (and an instructor and 1st Kyu acting as the two attackers in the two man).  You can see how in the slow and medium the attacker has little chance to respond, but under the pressure of the faster training an attempt is made at the counter attack.

The second scenario only films the two fast 'goes'.  In the second you can see the lessons learned from the first.  The 'bar' one is unrehearsed, has a complete mixed bag of grades (and a police officer in pink pretending to be a bouncer) and shows lots of little mistakes!  The final one is also unrehearsed and kicks off with one Dan grade punching another.

Here, hopefully showing a bit of progression, is a Shotokan 3rd Dan doing this rehearsed slow/medium/fast trianing for the first time against one of my instructors.  Anyone spot Unsu coming out on the fast one?

Sorry if that's gone off topic.  I just wanted to show how we do it in a contact environment.  Obviously if I'm teaching a Karate seminar then I'd do it through drilling the Heian Flow System.