Drills and Skills

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 30th Oct)


When people first start training, they are often in a rush to learn, and collect the techniques that they believe they will need, to survive a real-life altercation. They want to know what to do if somebody catches them in a guillotine, a head-lock or similar. Often, these escapes are seen as the essence of what self-defense is, rather than being recognized as an “interruption” in the fight, which should be avoided. Your first task, when engaged in most violent confrontations, will be to deliver as much repetitive, concussive force as you can. If your assailant catches you in a guillotine as you do this, then this is an interruption to that process, one which must be dealt with, before you can carry on with the task of continuously striking them. Escaping such holds and controls, is an “inconvenience” that you have to deal with in order to continue your fight. The idea is therefore not to get caught with these things in the first place, and it is your fighting skills, rather than techniques that enable you to do this. It will also be your fighting skills which will get your techniques, such as the guillotine release, to work. Unfortunately, skill development is often looked on as something that MMA practitioners, or martial artists work on, and that those practicing reality-based self-defense systems can bypass by using aggression.

Skills are developed through drills – and it is worth noting that drills are not scenarios. There are two basic types of drills in Krav Maga training: open and closed. A closed drill is one where the outcome of the drill is defined, and an open drill is one where there is no pre-defined outcome, and those participants involved in the drill create the outcome based on their actions and responses to each other. An example of a closed drill, would be one in which a pad holder with a focus mitt, starts out of range, and then moves into range, with somebody striking the pad when this happens. The goal of the drill being to train threat recognition, reaction/response time, range appreciation and power generation, amongst other things. The drill could be “opened” up to have more outcomes, so that the person striking the pad trains their decision-making abilities as well. Before all this happens though, the person involved in the striking portion of the drill, needs to have the appropriate striking skills, and this may be best trained with a non-moving partner, whose role it is to simply hold the focus mitts whilst they strike, so they develop the body mechanics, to punch/strike with power.

At some point, the student will need to take the skills they have learnt in these closed drills, and apply them in open drills, where there are no pre-defined outcomes. A good example of an open drill is sparring. There are rules and restrictions, as far as what can and can’t be done, and there is a format that participants adhere to, but when somebody is responding to a punch or other attack, they don’t have to do so in a pre-defined way; they are “open” to responding how they want to, and the person they are sparring with, doesn’t know beforehand what that might be. I have met a lot of people in the reality-based self-defense world, who don’t believe in sparring, because it doesn’t replicate what a real fight looks like. This is, once again, to confuse drilling with scenarios. Sparring doesn’t replicate real-life violence in a number of ways: it’s consensual, both participants know when the “fight” will start, they know when it will stop e.g. how long the round is, and what will end it, etc. But sparring, as an open drill, also develops a lot of fighting skills, such as an appreciation of range, how to effectively move relative to someone else’s movement, how/when to recognize that someone is vulnerable to a particular type of attack, etc. Sparring doesn’t reflect a real-life fight – it’s not intended to – but it’s a great way to develop fighting skills, which can be applied to scenarios.

In scenario training, we bring the “reality” element into our training. There are story-lines and motivations, that different participants in the scenario have. Time and distance are commodities that are in short supply, and some of the skills developed through open and closed drills can be applied, such as controlling range, where to position yourself and stand so that you can make an effective defense and counter-attack if necessary (not all scenarios may have a physical outcome to them), etc. This is where a partner doesn’t comply to the rules and format of a drill, but works according to the script that they have been given as part of the scenario e.g. a drunk in a bar who has had their drink spilt over them, and isn’t going to respond to any attempts at de-escalation, etc. Drills too, can have elements of “non-compliance” e.g. working against a pad-holder who doesn’t allow you to control range, and keeps closing you down, etc., but they are still drills, intended to build skills. It is in scenarios, where all of these skills may be tested in a way that reflects reality.

In creating effective scenarios, an appreciation of what real-life violence looks like, and how people actually respond in these situations, needs to be replicated. Not everybody will back off, after you disarm them of a weapon, not all people will move back, as you deliver continuous strikes and punches, there are those people who will fight back after you’ve applied an armbar, etc. All of these responses need to be trained for. Things that might be successful in a drill, such as applying an armbar when drilling groundwork, may not end a scenario – a participant may “tap out”, but the scenario restarted, recognizing that they are still able to fight on.

Self-Defense/Fighting is not just about techniques, it is also about skills development, and this means using drills to develop these things. A drill might train a skill that is just one precise piece of the overall Jigsaw, or it might train many skills at once, but in either case it’s not a scenario, and shouldn’t be confused as such. If you’ve ever worked a heavy bag, you are drilling a set of skills. The swinging motion of the bag doesn’t accurately reflect an individual’s movement – the bottom swings more than the top – but it is still a great tool for drilling movement skills, power generation, against a moving target/object, etc. To be effective in our training, we need to drill and train skills, learn to apply those skills in dynamic and open settings, and then transfer them to realistic scenarios.

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Violence & Alternate Realities

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 23rd Oct)


We see the world as we “feel” it, and not necessarily as it is. If you feel angry, you are more likely to interpret somebody’s smile as an aggressive grimace, rather than as an expression of happiness; and vice versa. Our emotional state affects how we see the world, and those within it. I have seen this happen when working door and bar security, where somebody in a good/happy mood, causes another person to become aggressive, by knocking into them, spilling a drink over them, etc., and is unable to read the intensity of the other person’s anger; sometimes believing their expressions of rage, to be part of a joke which is being played on them – after all, everybody is just having a good time. We also have a tendency to think that other people think like us, and share the same values as we do e.g. because we wouldn’t become physically violent if somebody spilt a drink over us, we don’t expect other people to become overly aggressive towards us, if we do the same to them. Because we have difficulty reading emotional signals, and generally believe everybody else to share the same rules that exist in our own reality, we can end up denying and discounting threatening behavior that is directed towards us.

Sometimes it is very clear that another person’s reality is different to ours. If we are in a biker bar, or a pub with a reputation for violence, we are probably going to accept that the “rules” around, and the consequences for, spilling a drink over somebody are different, to those we’d expect in a family pub. However, even in the most respectable of establishments, we may still run into someone who is predisposed towards using violence as means of righting a perceived wrong i.e. they may feel justified to use violence, and that there are no satisfactory alternatives available to them (this is their reality) – part of the process of de-escalation and conflict resolution, is to remove that justification, and help our aggressor determine alternative outcomes that would resolve the incident for them. It would be dangerous to underestimate a person’s readiness for violence, simply because in the same situation we would act differently.

Sometimes an aggressor’s alternate reality, is so different to ours, we believe that they must be misreading a situation entirely. Imagine walking into a bar you’ve never been to before. To all appearances, it seems respectable, is in a good part of town, and there’s nothing to indicate that it’s an establishment with a history of violence - if a place has many past incidents of violence and fighting, these are a good predictor that there will be future occurrences. It’s early afternoon, and the bar is almost empty. You go to the bar, pull up a stool, and order a drink. About 20 minutes later, somebody taps you on your shoulder and informs you that you’re sitting in their chair. You look around at all the empty seats, and tell them, that you were here first, there was nobody sitting here when you arrived, and that you’ve been sitting here for the past 20 minutes. Once again, but more emphatically this time, they inform you that you are sitting in their chair. At this point, you’re becoming more confused, and a little bit angry, that this person is trying to take your chair away from you – you arrived first, it’s your chair. Suddenly, you feel a punch to your kidneys, and when you look down your shirt and trousers are covered in blood; you’ve just been stabbed (knife stabs will often feel like punches). In your reality, this response may seem excessive but to your aggressor it may seem completely justified, and they may feel that there were no other alternatives available to them.



In your reality, chairs are allocated on a first come, first served basis – you got the chair first, therefore it should be yours, and the other person should find another, regardless of whether they want it or not. However, in your attacker’s reality, the allocation of seats is based on “tenure”; for the past twenty years, they’ve sat in that exact same place, only to find you sitting there when they came in – you were sitting in their chair. When you kept refusing to move, and arguing back that it wasn’t their chair, they began to run out of options to get you to move, and so resorted to violence. It is worth remembering whenever you are in a dispute over something that somebody believes is there’s – whether it’s a chair, a parking space, or something else – that people will try, on average, three times harder, to get back what they’ve lost than to acquire something new. Your aggressor had a 20-year investment in that stool, much greater than yours. This may seem like an extreme example/situation, however where I come from in Glasgow, there are families who have tables and booths in certain pubs and bars, which they’ve always sat at/in, and anyone who was found “trespassing” in their space, would be dealt with violently (and I know from my travels that Glasgow isn’t the only city, where this type of behavior occurs).   

In 2016, a man in Boston was shot, over a parking space. There is a practice in Boston of using “space savers”, to reserve parking spaces after a snowstorm i.e. after you’ve dug your car out in the wake of a storm, you put a garden chair or similar into the empty space, to let other drivers know they shouldn’t park there. Whilst it’s not illegal to do this in Boston, it’s also not a legal right that you have; so somebody can remove your space saver and park there – and of course people do, which can lead to aggressive and sometimes violent confrontations. Because the realities of both parties surrounding the validity of “space spacers” are different, there is no common ground for compromise. The only way for the dispute to be resolved without violence, would be for one person to back down – and in the 2016 incident, when this didn’t happen, one person got shot. It is likely that before the gun was pulled, there was a period of dialogue, with both parties explaining to each other, why the other person was wrong. Unfortunately, deeply held beliefs and convictions, are unlikely to be overturned during such a dispute. If somebody believes they have a right to a parking space, or a bar-stool based on their reality, it is very unlikely that you will be able to convince them otherwise, especially when they are highly emotional.

It's a popular saying that you sometimes have the choice to be right, or to be effective. In your reality, you may be right, but that doesn’t mean in another person’s you are. To be effective, in these situations, and avoid a physical confrontation, you have to put ego aside and give up the chair, or the parking space, etc. Many people believe that this makes them look like a victim, and that it might encourage the other person to act violently towards them. This may be the case in some instances, when the individual was looking for any excuse to act violently towards you, but in those situations, you would be fighting for survival (not ego), which will allow you to defend yourself without doubting whether you are right to do so – in a fight for survival, everything is on the table.

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Acid Attacks

(Gershon Ben Keren - Tue 17th Oct)


I was recently asked by somebody working in the UK, about acid attacks e.g. how to predict, identify, avoid, and deal with them etc. To give an idea of the extent and prevalence of such assaults, this July two teenagers on a moped in London, carried out five acid attacks, in the space of 90-minutes – racing around and selecting victims at random. These types of attacks are on the rise in UK, and in London specifically - where more than half of all attacks with corrosive substances in the UK take place (there were over 450 reported attacks of this type in 2016). Even in London, such attacks aren’t evenly spread, with the borough of Newham (in East London), having three times as many attacks, as the second highest borough for such assaults – location and geography are key situational factors in any crime, something I have written about in more detail, in previous articles.

The rise in acid attacks, may be partly due to the work that has gone into dealing with knife crime. This is not to say that the UK, and London, has solved its problems with knife attacks (Between April and June of this year – a three-month period - there was a total of 5,237 knife possession offenses recorded in the UK), however a two-strike rule, introduced in 2015, in which minimum custodial sentences were set for those who were convicted of a second offense, may have made carrying a blade a less attractive proposition than it once was. With the UK Ministry of Justice still getting to grips with the sentencing terms for acid attacks, and not yet having legislation in place concerning the legalities and illegalities of possession of acid and corrosive liquids, acid may be at this moment in time a preferred weapon of choice for many criminals and gang members.

In many ways it is a more predictable weapon than a knife or a gun. There is a much higher chance of someone dying from a stab wound or gun shot, than there is from an acid attack, meaning that an assault that was just meant to punish, injure or maim somebody could lead to a fatality, and as a consequence, a higher sentence if caught. It is one of the reasons that Stanley Blades, Box Cutters and Razors, have been popular in Glasgow (where I grew up), as they would maim, and leave a visible cut or a stripe, when slashed, but weren’t particularly good stabbing weapons – and stab wounds, by and large, are much more likely to lead to fatalities than slashes (unless major arteries are cut in the process, and a victim bleeds out). During the 80’s and 90’s, many gang members, and teens I knew who carried a knife for “self-defense”, would tape two blades of a box-cutter together, with something that acted as a spacer in between them, so a “double stripe” – that was extremely difficult to stitch up - would be left. We should never doubt the ingenuity, resourcefulness and creativity of violent criminals, and a shift from knives and guns to acid, reflects this; if you legislate and crack-down in one area, another method of inflicting pain, and injury, and of maiming, will be found.

Another advantage that acid has over a knife or a gun, is that a criminal or predator can have their weapon out and on display as they talk to/interview their target. This means that they don’t have to reach for it, draw it, and make it operational, before it is used. Somebody intending to attack you with acid, can stand with an open water bottle, containing the corrosive liquid, and talk to you, without you being aware that they have a weapon, “drawn” and ready in their hand. The other advantage that acid has over a knife, is that it can be used at a greater distance. When working, I would always maintain a certain distance between myself and anyone who acted and behaved in a manner that might indicate they had harmful intent towards me, and anyone else I had a responsibility towards – I needed this distance so I could see their hands, and also have time and space to react and respond, if they were to pull a weapon. It’s important to note that this wasn’t a lot of space; close enough that I could carry on a conversation with someone, without them feeling the need to step closer, but enough that I had a chance of responding to any attack they might make. With an acid attack, the assailant doesn’t have to move in (a pre-attack cue), but can throw their liquid from where they stand, or even as they’re moving away. This makes physically intercepting and preventing an attack, extremely problematic, with the space created only serving one purpose, and that is to give you the time to turn away, and cover your face – the likelihood being that you’ll still be hit, but hopefully on your arms, back of head, rather than your face.

Having an awareness, of anyone with an open bottle in their hand – especially one which they’re not drinking from – and not discounting the fact that it could contain a corrosive liquid, is your best safety guide. Upping your awareness, when you are in locations where such attacks are prevalent, is also important; whilst you should never be switched off in any location, raising your awareness in others, where a certain threat is known to be prevalent is key. In many acid attacks, multiple assailants are present, and mopeds and scooters are often used – groups of young men, and pillion passengers on bikes, are things that should attract your interest.  If you are involved in any verbal altercation, with someone who has an open container, acting pre-emptively and disengaging quickly will be in many cases your best strategy – if you don’t have an option of initially disengaging and exiting the situation.

Acid attacks also demonstrate the need for first-aid skills, and knowing how to treat yourself and others as quickly as possible. It always surprises me, the number of people who practice reality-based self-defense and yet have no first-aid skills. If you train defenses against knife and gun, you should also train how to deal with stab and gunshot wounds. Being able to stop or slow down the bleeding so that you are still alive by the time you get to the hospital, improves your survival chances greatly – in many instances it will be quicker to get to the ER/Casualty yourself (with somebody else driving), than waiting for an ambulance. Having a bottle of water on you at all times, and knowing how to treat yourself or someone else (or be able to instruct another person what to do) if attacked, will lessen the effects of such an attack greatly.

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Active Killer Emotions & Motivations

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 9th Oct)


This is not an article on the recent Las Vegas shooting tragedy, but rather a piece that looks at the motivations and emotions that different killers have exhibited, as drivers behind their mass murders. This is not to justify their killings, or show sympathy towards them, but rather to try and understand what drives an individual to not just have the desire to kill on mass, but why it seems necessary for them to do so. Whilst I am sure that in both the fantasy and planning/preparation stages, a potential killer has doubts that they must overcome, by the time they come to execute their plan they will have convinced themselves that what they are about to do, has to be done. It would be wrong to try and search for a “rational motive” in any mass killing/active shooter incident, because there never is one, however to the killer there is always a logic (and inevitability) behind their actions, and to them, what they are engaging in makes absolute sense – and above everything else, has to happen.

Killing is born out of fantasy, and the need and justification to kill is fed by fantasy. Eventually, the fantasy will grow to become something all-consuming, and the killer will enter an alternate reality, where they can only make sense of what is going on in the/their world, by looking at things through the lens of the fantasy. Every action and behavior any person, group, government or entity makes, will be understood as it pertains to the fantasy; a fantasy that leads the individual to one inevitable conclusion, that they must kill others.

Feelings are the conscious interpretation of emotions, and are what fantasies are based on e.g. a feeling/sense of injustice, may lead to a desire for retribution and punishment, that develops into a fantasy that involves killing others. Fantasies will feed and reinforce feelings and vice versa. In many cases, it may look like a shooter has just snapped, but in reality, they will have had their dark thoughts and fantasies for a relatively long time. Some of these feelings/emotions that past killers have had include: entitlement, injustice, bullying, isolation, anger/hatred and/or a desire to be recognized as a significant individual i.e. fame and notoriety. Rarely will just one feeling/emotion be at play, and it is more likely that an active killer, will have a shifting and complex cocktail of many.   

Many active shooters/killers have a sense of entitlement, as to how they should be seen, how they should be treated, etc., and kill, because they are not recognized by their group or community, as they feel they should be. In 2014, Elliot Rodger killed 6 people and injured 14, before killing himself. Before he went on his rampage, he uploaded a video to Youtube, where he explained and justified his motive. He explained that he wanted to punish women for rejecting him (one of the targets of his shooting was a sorority house), and punish men for being sexually active – he envied those who had active sex lives, when he himself didn’t. Throughout the video, he demonstrates a sense of entitlement, explaining that women were wrong to reject him in favor of others; and that because of this, women are sluts and whores who need to be punished. There is a sense/feeling (though it has no empirical backing), that one of the reasons school shootings are on the rise, is because successive generations are becoming more and more entitled, believing that they deserve to be treated in a particular way – and when this doesn’t happen, they become frustrated and feel a need to punish those who haven’t treated them as they felt they should have been.

Bullying takes many forms, and doesn’t have to involve physical contact. In 1989, Joseph T. Wesbecker went on a killing spree at the Standard Gravure printing works in Kentucky. Wesbecker had started out with the nickname, “Little Doughboy”, but it was later changed to “Rocky”, after he was beaten up in a bar by a woman he’d been hitting on. Wesbecker, wasn’t only ridiculed by his colleagues, he was also involved in a long, running battle with management, who refused to allow him not to work on a machine, which both his doctor and union, had stated was bad for his health – other employees had been excused from these duties on the same grounds. Wesbecker, felt that the whole world was against him; he’d divorced his wife earlier when he found that she’d been sleeping with his co-workers, and he was openly mocked both by them and his supervisors/management. Caleb Sharpe, when he opened fire on his classmates at Freeman High School (Washington), said he did so to “teach everyone a lesson” about bullying. People will turn to violence, when they believe there are no other alternatives to dealing with their situation. This doesn’t mean that they are right to do so, however to themselves this is justification. Both Wesbecker and Sharpe had been bullied for a long period of time, and both came to the same conclusion about how to resolve their situation, and punish those they saw as responsible for it.

Individuals can become isolated for a number of reasons, including bullying, anti-social behaviors, and simply not being able to socially adapt to fit in with those around them. Once someone becomes isolated, they may start to feel that their “rules” of living are more important than those of society. If they feel that society has rejected them, they may feel that they are free to live by their own rules and standards. This is one of the features of the Columbine Shooting, where Eric Harris became enticed by the Nazi ideal of a Master Race, of which he saw himself part (entitlement). Already rejected and isolated, this allowed him to develop a number of dangerous views, ideas and opinions, that weren’t ever going to be challenged by those around him – because his community had effectively cut him off. Isolation can also be self-motivated, with an individual withdrawing from those around them because they don’t feel part of the group or community. Many people suffering from PTSD will withdraw, because they feel/believe that those around them don’t understand what is important and what is insignificant, and what matters and what doesn’t, etc. Feeling that they have no common ground, or shared experiences with anyone, they can withdraw and become isolated. On their own, they may start working to their own alternate reality.

The emotion that drives almost all instances of violence, is anger, and sometimes hatred. There are times when that hatred is directed at the community, as is the case with many school shootings (the school is the hub and focus of the community), and there are times when it is directed at a particular group. This might be an ethnic group, such as the 2015 Charleston Church shooting, that targeted African Americans. Dylan Roof hoped that his mass shooting would inspire other white supremacists and nationalists to start a race war. Both the Pulse Nightclub Shooting (Orlando, 2016) and the London Nail Bombings (London, 1989), specifically targeted those cities Gay communities, and were acts of hatred. The 2017 vehicular ramming in London, at the Finsbury Park Mosque, was an act of terrorism that specifically targeted Muslims. Not every target/location chosen has a relevance to a particular group or community – some are simply chosen because they offer the opportunity to kill the most people possible – but many are.

Perhaps the hardest motivation to understand, behind mass shootings, is the desire and need for notoriety; to be infamous. All of us want to be significant and relevant in some way, and want some form of recognition from others – even if that is just to be thought of as a good person or friend, etc. Human beings are social creatures and need to be connected to others in some way. When a mass shooting occurs, for a period of time, everybody knows the killer’s name, is interested in their life, their views, their beliefs, etc. Mass shootings are public events, that occur in front of an audience, and this is extremely important to understand – few, if any killers, given the choice, would prefer to not be in the news and talked about. Mass killers are competitive, each one wanting to kill more victims than those who went before them. They study and select their methods – and their targets – based on their ability to kill the most people possible (in the case of specific groups, where ethnicity, religious belief or sexual preference is the driver – it will be the largest number of victims within these groups based on opportunities presented). Active shooters want to be in the limelight, even if it is posthumously. To a certain extent, these killers are showmen, who want the attention of the world – and this is a large part of their motivation.

A mass killer may have all of these motivations, feelings and emotions present, to different degrees, and at certain times one may have more significance than the others. There will be many arguments about gun control in the coming months, some constructive, some reactionary, etc., however, attention should also be given to understanding why our society produces people with the need and desire to kill on mass, and how we can possibly recognize the warning signs of those who are starting to go down this path. Approximately four out of five mass shooters tell someone of their plans, and if we can understand the emotional and psychological makeup of someone who is serious about what they say, we may have the ability and opportunity – as has happened in many cases – to prevent future killers from executing their plans.

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Breaking Balance

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 2nd Oct)


If you’ve ever leaned back in a chair, and found yourself on the wrong side of the tipping point, you will have experienced a moment of panic, where your only thoughts and actions would have involved trying to regain your balance. The same will be true if you find yourself slipping on ice, tripping over an object, or losing your footing in some other way. It doesn’t take much to lose your balance. The head weighs about 8 pounds, and doesn’t have to pass too far from over the shoulders and the hips, to take your body out of balance – if this happens rapidly, in an uncontrolled fashion, that feeling of panic, borne out of our natural fear of falling, takes over. We may be able to train our body to respond to this sensation, such as by going with the fall, and making a break-fall, etc., but we can’t switch our thought processes to something else.

When we spar, or are involved in a fight, we can turn our pain management systems on, in order to control our experiences of pain – we can also condition ourselves to reduce the feeling of pain e.g. if you’ve never experienced the trauma caused by a roundhouse kick to the thigh, when it first happens the pain will be excruciating, but after several years of training and conditioning where you’ve experienced this type of pain over and over again, the effect will be lessened – you will know what to expect, and you will have learnt to manage it. If you have to deal with someone in a real-life confrontation, who has experienced many fights before, your striking is not going to have the same effect, as if you were going up against someone who’s never been in a fight. The experienced fighter is going to expect to be hit, and probably won’t care too much about it – the shock and surprise of being punched will have left them a long time ago, and if they’ve been drinking or taking drugs, being punched/kicked, etc., is unlikely to disrupt them. Taking their balance, however, will.

One of the most common initiating attacks I’ve seen, and experienced, is a hard push followed closely by a punch. Even the untrained attacker knows that whilst their target/victim is falling/moving backwards all their attention will be on trying to regain balance, and during this period they will not be in any position to make an adequate defense to the following strike/punch. Most fights are over in seconds, and the person initiating the attack is normally the successful one; if they can keep the other person off-balance and moving, it is unlikely that they will recover enough to both defend themselves adequately and respond with attacks of their own – most will emotionally crumble at this point and take themselves out of the fight. Taking balance is the key in delivering success to this type of assault. As martial artists, we may look down on these unsophisticated tactics, however we must ask ourselves why trained people often fall foul of them, and a large part of that answer is that we can’t train ourselves out of that moment when we first lose our balance. Even if we are experienced Aikidoka and Judoka, who once we recognize it, can respond, we are still vulnerable in that moment – and our focus goes to initiating the break-fall, not dealing with a follow up attack - this extremely short window is what the untrained but seasoned fighter is able to exploit (and we should learn to exploit it as well).

Using simple pushes, that take an assailant’s balance, can also help us position our assailant so that our strike, punch or kick is more effective from a power generation perspective. When pushed, a person will try to regain balance, by centering and attempting to root their weight. When they do this ,their legs become vulnerable to low kicks, as their weight will be loaded firmly on them. This can easily be trained and developed in sparring. A variation of this – that doesn’t involve taking balance – is to push yourself off an attacker, pressing their legs into the ground, as you move back and kick the legs. This is another way to make sure that weight is loaded onto the limb you are attacking.

Taking an attacker’s balance when you are disarming them of a weapon, is a good way to take their attention away from the knife, gun or stick they are holding. Disarming should not be a static process, it should involve moving the person, so that all their attention is directed towards them staying on their feet, and not on retaining their weapon. If this movement can be combined with lower-level combatives, such as knees and kicks, then all the better – arms and hands should be kept, controlling the weapon arm, and weapon. When a person is rag-dolled around like this, they are disorientated and focused on one thing only: regaining their balance. Attacking balance, should be put on the same par, as attacking with strikes and punches, and in reality, is often much more effective at disrupting an assailant’s assault, whether it is armed or unarmed.

Attacking balance is the first thing that should be done when attempting to throw or perform a takedown. Unfortunately, many people still see throwing somebody as an act of “lifting”, which requires strength, and this is not helped when videos and photos, show a throw being attempted on someone whose head is still over their shoulders, and their shoulders positioned over their hips, etc. This is why it is virtually impossible to throw someone who is punching with good form, as unless they are over-committing to the strike, their balance won’t have been disrupted – plus, if they are recoiling the punch, there is little to no chance of taking/grabbing hold of the arm. There are some very, very restricted instances in which throwing someone who is punching is possible, but it relies solely on their movement and them giving up their own balance. Balance taking, makes a throw effortless, because the person is already falling, and only requires being directed. This is a skill which takes time to develop, however it is one that allows a smaller person to overcome a much larger attacker, where there is a significant size and weight disadvantage e.g. a 110 LB individual, will be able to generate more power against a 250 LB person through throwing, than they would through punching/striking.

Balance taking doesn’t have to be as “sophisticated” as throwing, sweeping or reaping, but the tactical advantages it gives should be appreciated and understood. If we recognize that pushes followed by some form of attack, work well for untrained individuals in confrontations, we should look at ways we can incorporate and improve on them, in our own training. An individual is perhaps no more vulnerable when they have lost balance, and this is something we should use to our own advantage.   



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