7 posts / 0 new
Last post
Finlay's picture
Training attacks

Hi there

This is an issue that I hope i can explain properly but it came up when I was planning a drill to do with my guys.

Most martial arts are really good at defending its own attacks, TKD can deal with kicks and judo players can neutralise throws. However swap those two over and holes start to apear. This is not news to anyone, but how does this affect us when we are develoing drills?

as an exampe.....

I did a drill with my guys  where they were starting in the clinch and one was trying to put a hold on the other. I limited the holds to headlock, guillotine, and bear hug (we were going to progress each of these to the ground later)  The other person could stop the attack or break from the hold if it was successfully put on. I took out breaking away from the drill to work on reaction time and body awareness. i also wanted to create a bit of 'struggle' instead of just clean techniques.

My issue here was that I was asking the guys to practice holds that I wouldn't really want them to use and maybe developing the wrong habit of actually looking for one of these holds in a clinch. however, without practing these things semi live or live then we don;t get the relaism that we would be after. This would be akin to some Aikido schools learning lots of techniques against a punch without ever learning how to punch.

So to break this down.

-  how do we train people against attacks without turning the attacks into a habit

  - How do we get people to attack in a fixed way in a semi live fashion if the attack is something we don't want to turn into a habit (this is the same point as the one above put in a different way)

- Are holds like headlocks etc. things that we should be teaching students anyway if we can teach them a progression ie. headlock to throw, bear hug to take down.

I have a feeling that the last point may be the best answer as in a fight sometimes these thing just happen naturally and our students need to be able to deal with it

hope this is clear enough


Th0mas's picture

This is a good topic! 

It is another great training dicotomy, one of the many conundrums where we must make a compromise in the interest of training, which then reduces the effectiveness of our training!.. Not unlike the stuff we do that is essentially training for failure..like in flow drills or using control when striking etc

This is definately something that I've noticed in my own circle of training partners...leading to situations where your training partners just don't know how to do effective HAPV attacks!.. What do you do? Teach people to attack in a way that may be sub-optimal to ensure the training senario is more realistic? If I constrain how my partners attack me, am I projecting my own inaccurate views on real violence, or as you mentioned above teaching poor habits? This is a slippery path Leading to happy self-delusion,  dogmatic tradition and comments like "you're not attacking in the right way"..aaah! 

If I had to make a stab (pardon the expresssion) at getting it right, I think what is a priority, and what is very hard to get right in a training environment, is the sheer ferocity of real violence. In some respects this is more important than getting the "look" of the HAPV perfect, and has significant cross-over benefits for the uke (or attackers)..being able to practice switching-on the anger, agression and ferocity.

Anyway I don't think I have an answer, but I would also love to hear how others have "overcome" this challenge.

DaveB's picture

I think one solution is to split learning martial art into two phases: The development phase in which we focus on attributes, strength, speed and coordination and supplement this with a base of general martial ability (so how to punch, kick, throw, basic evasion, joint locking etc; and a true study phase, where the focus narrows to the system of strategies being taught as a given art. It's the development phase where students learn to be comfortable with a variety of styles of attack in order to facilitate the latter stage where any drill should be tested against all variations.

Leigh Simms
Leigh Simms's picture

I think that it is important to learn and understand the nature of combat and part of that training is the HAPVs. I think its a necessary evil to teach them, but teaching them with the disclaimers what there purpose is and that we should note they are being used to help their training partner. 

I remember reading an article by John Titchen when he briefly outlines the pros and cons of training HAPVs.


Mark B
Mark B's picture

Is it possible to learn and understand actual violence if you lack experience with actual violence? Can martial artists who have no exposure to real violence truly understand how to train to neutralize real time attacks? Can these processes be learned by reading books? Can the application of kata become almost comic book , even if it appears to be the real deal?

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Good questions them Mark! My thoughts:

Mark B wrote:
Is it possible to learn and understand actual violence if you lack experience with actual violence?

You would hope so otherwise all self-protection, police and military training is pointless :-) We don’t train our soldiers by sending them to war: We take the lessons of war and ensure the soldiers are prepared by training them for what they are likely to face. We should do exactly the same for civilian self-protection i.e. take the lessons of those who have been there and prepare training programs accordingly. Personal experience as a mandatory “must have” is essentially encouraging dangerous behaviour (poor self-protection in itself) or criminal activity (i.e. seeking actual violence).

The trouble we have is that martial arts types are prone to reinventing criminal violence in the image of the art the practise i.e. “solution” leads to a fictional representation of problem, as opposed to the real problem leading a working solution. We see this in karate / TKD “one-steps”, sport based ground fighting depicted as a perfect solution of criminal violence, and so on.

Mark B wrote:
Can martial artists who have no exposure to real violence truly understand how to train to neutralize real time attacks?

Yes. So long as their training accurately reflects the nature of criminal violence, and not the fictions “style lead reinvention of violence” discussed above.

For those who think the answer to the above question is “no”, I would ask how can you teach self-protection honestly and in good conscious if you believe your training to be ultimately pointless?

Mark B wrote:
Can these processes be learned by reading books?

No. But books and other sources of information can be very useful if they help inform effective training. I think the likes of Geoff Thompson, Peter Consterdine, Rory Miller, Marc MacYoung, Dave Grossman, etc are very valuable in that regard.

Mark B wrote:
Can the application of kata become almost comic book , even if it appears to be the real deal?

Absolutely. We see lots of that I think. But it won’t appear to be the real deal to the educated eye unless it is the real deal. Everything in kata (and training generally) should be entirely in keeping with the first hand experiences of those who have faced violence; but it odes not follow that everyone therefore needs that experience themselves (outside of training). If it’s not in keeping with those experiences then we are in “reinventing violence” territory again.

All the best,


JWT's picture

Thanks Leigh for the mention.

I think working out how to include HAOV into training, both in terms of accurately representing them and ensuring that the time students spend as 'attackers' does not detract from their martial arts technique, can be fraught with problems. As with any element of training having clear objectives and an good understanding of possible methodologies is very important.

I think Iain hits the nail on the head.

All the best

John Titchen