Wednesday, September 13, 2006


So this is the crux, down and dirty specifics about training for violence... but I can't do it. Context is too big. Questions need answers: What are you capable of doing? What are you willing to do? What scares you? What freezes you? Do you even know when you are fighting for your life and when you are fighting for your ego? What tools do you carry for self-defense? How much time will you put into tools? Can you access them at close contact and under stress? What kinds of threats are you likely to face? With what weapons? At what range? Do you have a duty to act? Do you have a duty to retreat?

Any advice I can give can be negated by certain answers to the above questions as well as a million more. With that warning in your head, we can proceed. I'll give you some training methods, what they are for and where they can screw you up.

The critical things to train for are the surprise of a sudden assault and the chaos of the fight itself.

Patrick McCarthy has made a list of Habitual Acts of Violence, a compilation of common attacks. The list is long, though, and responses to ambushes have to be instantaneous. Learning and training that many stimulus/response pairs would take a long time. The key is to come up with a very few responses that cover a great many of the stimuli.

Operant Conditioning is the training method to help with ambush. You need a very small number ( I teach three per student and use about five myself) of high percentage counters to sudden attack. They have to be simple, powerful, based on gross motor skills, provide protection, close the distance (because I am an infighter- this is my prejudice, YMMV), do damage and better your position. Then they need to be trained to reflex. If they work with the body's natural flinch reaction, they will be learned faster. Students who flinch away and throw up one arm adapt quickly to the Dracula's Cape entry. Students who instinctively throw both hands in front of their face adapt easily to the spear entry. One of these is picked for each student and the response is paired to the stimulus of "any visible threatening action". In addition, they each learn one for attacks from behind (including being yanked off their feet backwards by the hair) and one for being powered off their feet forward from behind.

The kata of classical jujutsu are an extremely advanced training method for dealing with the habitual acts of violence of their time.

The problem with OC for ambush is that you must remember what it ISN'T. It's not good for or designed for sparring. It must be trained simply. It must be trained against an ambush style of attack: in other words one that is committed and done at full power and speed. If the students providing the stimulus are allowed to feint or switch attacks or get tricky it destroys the conditioning. A crook in an ambush doesn't swing the baseball bat halfway and then pause to see if you react so that he can react so that you can react...

Dealing with chaos. For this you need live training. You need to mix it up, to roll and brawl and box and spar. You need to spar with multiple opponents and with weapons and in cluttered areas and against people who have studied things you've never heard of and against people who haven't studied at all. Listen to me here: THIS WILL NOT TEACH YOU TO FIGHT. If you are paying attention and pushing yourself, it will teach you to be comfortable in chaos. In a real fight (or in real life) you are never totally in control anyway, and that makes people freeze. You need to know what it feels like to be overwhelmed and concussed and pinned and out of breath and surprised until it becomes just a data point. If you have put yourself through everything, suddenly realizing you can't move your left arm has no more emotional power than the smell of a new flower. You can literally become exhilerated that some one had the skill to hit you in the face and enjoy the sensation and the knowledge. (Mac put something on the board once about the stage of "getting hit and liking it" I've done it for a long time but I'm just starting to understand it now. Thanks, buddy.)

The problem with live training is that it is fun and alive.. and any bad habit picked up is hard as hell to get rid of. People who point spar have spent hundreds of hours practicing missing. People who strike hard but rely on gloves will do more damage to their hands than to a skull. People who practice the sweet ippon throws of judo have trained to reflex a follow-through that helps the opponent avoid damage. People who practice 'position before submission' rely on time they may not have. The harder you train for a specific venue, the deeper the habits are ingrained and the harder you freeze when things change.

But if you can deal with surprise and deal with chaos, the rest of training is cake.

You need to learn how to move someone else's body.
You need to learn how to move yours.
You need to learn how to generate power.
You need to learn where the good targets are and how to hit them with your eyes closed. (Not kidding here. If you can't fight blindfolded you can't fight with blood in your eyes).

That's it, really.

One more thing- the very essence of dealing with chaos is giving up on the idea that there is a solution or an answer. There's just whatever you can do right now. If you feel you have the answer, whether its a style or a training method or a technique, all that you have done is put chaos in a box in your own mind. Chaos doesn't fit in boxes and you have set yourself up for surprise. Let go.


nosceteipsum said...

You blog is consistently in the high end of the top 5 blogs I have the pleasure of reading on a daily basis. Thank you.

"If they work with the body's natural flinch reaction, they will be leaned faster"
That is God's own truth! Something the Russian's learnt a while ago. And something that every martial artist comes to realise after coming through a few scrapes.

Rory said...

Thanks and welcome. Soooooo... what are the other four blogs?

Anonymous said...

Jeeze Rory, another darn good post. It also helped me to figure out how I'm going to teach my first class this weekend.