(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 27th Aug)
The next grading is coming up, which means it’s a good time to focus on improving the basic and most fundamental skills of our system. To many people see gradings as a checklist procedure where they demonstrate their knowledge of the various techniques they’ve learnt – and if they perform them adequately they pass. In the UK educational system, simple memorization is graded as an “E”; it’s still a pass but at the same time it’s a pass that’s a long way from an “A”. In a grading you can pass with an “E” or an “A” but there is a difference. In our system, what identifies or makes the “A” grade student stand out is their performance and improvement in the area of the fundamental skills, the most important one being movement.
I can tell a “good” martial artist the moment they step out on to the mats: their movement is assured, and they know why they are moving. This is what separates them from the beginner, who is just learning the correct way/the technique(s) to move. Whether consciously or subconsciously the good martial artist know the reasons why they move: 1. To create opportunity, 2. To move away from an attack and 3. To make their own attack(s). These are the three reasons to move. If number one is performed successfully, point number two never needs to be performed.
Movement is everything: if you cannot create opportunity then the other person will dictate to you the terms of the conflict; you create opportunity by moving. If you can’t make a successful body defense in response to an attack, you will find yourself hassled and harassed to deal with the following attacks, and never be in a position to make an assault/attack of your own.
In any confrontation I’ve had to deal with, whether against single or multiple assailants, I have always set things up with movement (especially true when dealing with multiple attackers). This may have been in the pre-conflict phase during the interview/dialogue stage of the conflict or during the actual fight itself. This is why it is important to stay calm and assess the environment from the first instance it becomes obvious that a situation may contain harmful intent towards you. It is key to understand the use of objects in the landscape such as cars, walls etc that can be used to your advantage or hinder you in your movements. The dojo/studio floor offers an uncluttered and “sterile” training environment however this isn’t where you will be attacked and understanding how to move in real-life terrain(s) is a key survival skill – this is why we are looking to create a reality training area in the studio.
One of the reasons we have been doing so much multiple assailant/attacker training this month is to try and “force” movement. It is so easy to become complacent in movement when it is just one person against one e.g. both parties can “choose” not to move (this often happens because people naturally copy each other’s movements). In multiple attacker training this is not the case, as the movement advantage clearly goes to the attackers and so the target is forced to think and work harder with their own movement piece.
If there is one thing I can advise everyone on it is to start moving: in order to create opportunity for yourself and deny opportunity to your attacker(s).
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(Gershon Ben Keren - Tue 21st Aug)
Principle 10 - Move around your assailant, changing the angle of your attacks. Avoid being in a position where your assailants hips are facing/square to you (this is where they are strong). By changing the angle of an attackers assault you force them to “reset” their attacks creating time and space for yourself.
Whoever controls the movement of a fight controls the fight. Movement both creates opportunities for attack as well as denying the same for your assailant. Power comes when the hips and shoulders are pointed squarely at the target; this means you must prevent your attacker from “lining” you up in this way whilst at the same time creating situations that put them directly in your sights. Too often I watch people when they train or spar, just standing in front of their partner/opponent looking for some attacking opportunity to magically appear. If you are waiting for your opponent to simply make a mistake for you, you’ll probably not be in a position to exploit it when it happens i.e. you’ll be flat footed with your weight rooted. Your role is to create the mistakes you want your aggressor to make e.g. to get them to move in a certain direction, to get them as they move to load all of their weight on to a particular leg, to lean back to avoid a strike etc.To throw a person, you must first take their balance. Nobody willingly unbalances themselves – the human condition will do everything and anything to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
To throw somebody you have to overcome one of man’s most innate instincts: to stay upright. And yet people in training give up their balance and stability so easily. Next time you are working the hook and jab pads with a partner, watch how many times their back foot comes off the ground when they are throwing a rear strike. Their desire to hit the pad is so great that they over-extend themselves in doing so, with their head passing forward of both their hips, knees and feet. With their balance taken the simplest of throws, sweeps or reaps is possible. If a person’s attention can be shifted and directed, it is possible to move them in to positions that they know are not safe.
If control of range can be combined with lateral movement i.e. moving sideways, it is possible to attack a person from all angles and even take their back. Forcing a person to commit their weight to a movement freezes them in time. Lateral movements, accomplish this well, as a person if they wish to continue an attack must abort what they are doing and make a change of direction in order to line themselves up for their next attack. These are the moments to choose your attacks; as long as you have moved in a fashion that keeps your hips squared to your target.
Sparring is a great opportunity (in whatever fashion it is conducted) to learn these things. Next time you train play with one thing, not staying directly in front of your opponent. Understand how your movement causes them to move and what attacking opportunities your movement provides you with. Maybe spend the initial moments of your partner work, using your movement to learn how your partner responds to you; then calculate the attacks you could make that would exploit these. Train to learn, and how to get better and expect to make mistakes along the way.
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(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 13th Aug)
Principle 9 - Avoid staying in the “transition zone”either be close to your attacker or far away from them
One of the things that has always put me off boxing is theacknowledgement and acceptability that you are going to get hit as part of yourattacking process; something that is acceptable if in the process you are ableto score your points. Whilst I am the first to point out that in a real-life streetencounter you are going to get hit, and if a knife is involved cut, I don’tadvocate “trading” with an aggressor in order to get the upper hand and where aknife is involved there really is no concept such as “trading” with an assailant.
One of the major differences between a street-fight and asparring contest is the idea of “dead time”. In sparring contests/trainingthere are always moments of rest and inactivity between the bursts of actualfighting. This isn’t a bad thing it just reflects the nature of the training,where both opponents feel each other out and look for opportunity; also thepoint of sparring is not to “finish” the person you’re facing but to train withthem, using them to train your own skills and techniques. The Japanesedifferentiate between “Randori” (practice) and “Shiai” (competition), withinregular training everything is “Randori”, where the aim is prepare yourself forcompetition, or the “real thing”.
In a real-life encounter, there should be no “dead” time,a person should always be moving with intent, either to escape the situation orfinish it (finishing it, may involve movement that leads an aggressor to aparticular point/position where you are able to start the process of takingyour aggressor out of the game – a skill that sparring certainly helps todevelop). The “Transition Zone” refers to that space where both you and your assailanthave an equal opportunity to gain an advantage or dominance e.g. you can attackthem and they can attack you. This is not a zone to stay in but one you mustpass through on your way to finishing your aggressor or back out through inorder to disengage from them.
I will often see, in sparring, people jam up, cover up orfreeze in this zone. This is not a viable option, when there is the potentialfor a knife to be drawn in a real-life situation. Staying your ground and coveringup with a pair of 14 oz gloves on gives a false sense of security and a unworkabletactic for the street. Covering whilst moving out of this zone however may makesense, but staying stationary whilst taking blows (and cuts) is not somethingthat makes much sense if the focus of your training is for the street andreality.
Whatever drills you do, you must make movement part ofthem. You must learn how to move in and how to move out – in reality your goalis to do each one just once e.g. move in, finish, move out etc, or just moveout – anything else is just prolonging the fight.
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(Gershon Ben Keren - Tue 7th Aug)
One of the major differences between MMA (and other combat sports including Boxing, Judo etc) and Reality Based Self Defense, is that combat and ring sports take part in a sterile and controlled environment – this is what allows for the physical skills of the fighter to be showcased. If in the Octagon there was a liberal sprinkling of sand on the floor, which competitors were allowed to pick up and throw in each other’s eyes, we might not get to see if a person’s grappling skills could overcome another fighters striking ability etc. This is not a failure or something lacking in the UFC it just isn’t the point of it. I get frustrated when Krav Maga practitioners argue that they shouldn’t spar because it’s not fair on them because they can’t eye gouge and groin strike. Sparring training isn’t there to reflect 100% what a street-fight actually looks like but rather to build skills that can be used in a street-fight. It’s an activity which takes place within a controlled environment so that basic fighting skills can be developed for later use.
I used to have this argument all the time when I was practicing Judo. Martial Artists from striking arts would argue that Judo was unrealistic because striking wasn’t included in Randori/”free practice”, I could argue that boxing, Karate and Tae Kwon Do are unrealistic because their sparring methods/format doesn’t include grappling. We could all argue all day about this. Judo taught me how to move, stay balance and keep thinking whilst larger people pushed, pulled me and grabbed my clothing (all things that happen in real life confrontations). It taught me a particular dimension of the fight, just as Karate and Tae Kwon Do sparring teach people other dimensions of the fight. Training each dimension distinctly, certainly leads to better martial development in that particular area – which is why tonight at 8:00 pm we spend a dedicated hour, as we do each week (and always have), training groundwork on its own without much focus on the parts of the fight that bring you to ground. We specifically control the environment to allow us to develop these distinct and necessary skills.
A real-life confrontation between you and another individual(s) is not simply an incident that involves you and this other person. This is not the Octagon, where the cage represents the boundaries of your world and the possibilities of what could happen are limited within the cage walls. Your focus cannot solely be on the one person you are facing – this is professional security 101 – if it is, you are bringing a sparring, combat sports mentality to the street and whilst this is fine in training it demonstrates a real naievety and “innocence” about what reality actually is and looks like. As I always stress there are 3 assumptions to make: 1) Your assailant is armed, 2) he is technically and emotionally competent and 3) he is not alone.
It has always amazed me the number of individuals who engage in what they believe to be one-on-one fights and confrontations whilst in social settings – I saw this so many times when working door in pubs and night clubs. Few people go clubbing alone, most go with friends or in a group, so why would you think that when you get in to an argument at the bar you are only potentially dealing with one person? Having spent enough time in garrison towns in the UK, I have seen more than enough times the consequences of someone engaging in a justified verbal exchange with a short haired guy at the bar, who fails to realize that the other 12 short haired guys in the bar are his mates who along with him have all just returned from a particular warzone or similar. This is the danger of “tunnel vision”: you only see what’s directly in front of you.
Nobody is 100% sure of why we develop tunnel vision when we become angry or fearful. There are obvious benefits to being able to focus on the direct and immediate threat as well as definite downsides – when our greatest threats were from wild animals and the like (or if you’re a certain presidential hopeful who believes humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time then include T-Rex’s and Pterodactyls in that list of things to be scared of) having the ability to focus entirely on one thing and excluding all others is a definite advantage. It may be that we go tunnel vision as our brain switches of various sensory functions, such as hearing and the ability to see in color (two abilities that can go when under high stress) and so turns off or down our peripheral vision to martial its finite resources to be able to have enhanced reaction times etc in order to deal with the job at hand. Whatever the reason, under stress we suffer from tunnel vision and so lose our ability to understand the environment around us, including the third parties who may be coming to our aggressor’s assistance. Surviving a real-life encounter is about controlling the entire environment not just dealing with the person in front of you.
Scanning is a simple method of returning your peripheral vision and also understanding your environment e.g. third parties coming towards you, exits to escape by, obstacles to shield you and create barriers as well as objects to use as weapons. When you scan it has to be active. Scanning involves moving the head, not just furtive gazing, which means you must be able to control the range between you and the person you are first dealing with (good use of your de-escalation/interview stance will enable you to do this). By looking at and for objects around you, your eyes will focus on things at different depths/distances and it is this which causes your eyes to widen their field of vision. This will also have a secondary effect of helping to de-stress you.
Real life encounters happen in real-life situations and environments, where there are third parties, different objects and different terrain. The mats are the environment in which to master the techniques but they need to also be trained in different environments and in different ways to fully develop them.
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