Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Best Defense Part II: Foundation

Let's lay some ground rules so that we're on the same page. In any given fight, one side is driving and the other is along for the ride. One is acting, doing what he or she or they wants, and the other is reacting.

First objection: "But I'm trying to survive! That's doing what I want!" No, it isn't. Survival is an outcome that you hope for, it's not an action.

In order to prevail, you must act. It doesn't always mean take the initiative and bring the battle to the enemy. Sometimes it means take the initiative and run. Sometimes it means scream or hide. But if you are getting out in one piece it will because you took action. You started to drive.

So this is about defensive driving- active defensive actions that do not require you to see and understand what the bad guy is doing. Aggressive defense, in Joe Lewis' immortal words.

In order to understand defense, you must understand offense. I'm going to simplify it a bit and talk about damage, though a skilled fighter can also use unbalancing and freezing techniques.

In order to hurt you, the bad guy (BG) must put three things together- Power, Timing and Targeting.

POWER: If someone barely reaches you or tries to hit while they are falling backwards or just uses shitty body mechanics they can hit you in the throat or the balls or the eyes and you'll be okay...probably. There are many systems of power generation. Most require speed and speed takes distance to develop. Not much distance, with training. Most require solid contact with the ground- the key to a good punch is leg strength, not arm strength. Some use rotational power and snap- the power of the opposite hip snapping back to drive the fist. A few use gravity in a controlled fall. A very few use short range whipping action and bone bounce for shocking short range power. The most common power generator overlooked by martial artists is tool use. The knife is the exception to many defenses- you can kill or cripple while falling or with bad body mechanics.

TIMING: Of all the skills in martial arts, this is the one, in my opinion, that gets most over-complicated. Timing is simple in real life. You hit someone when you can get away with it or when you need to stop them from doing whatever they are doing.

TARGETING: Some places injure easier than other places. Would you rather take a stomp kick to the thigh or a snap kick to the base of the patella? A power punch to your upper chest or a light jab to your throat? This changes too, though- with enough power the whole body is a good target. Some things that are poor targets with a fist aren't too bad with a blade.

Those are the pieces of any attack. Here are the requirements for any movement.

Every action you make in a fight should do three things:
1) Decrease his ability to harm you.
2) Better your position.
3) Not get you hurt.

1) Decrease his ability to harm you: If you knock him out, you're golden. If you knock him flat, take away his wind or destroy his balance you've accomplished this aspect of the mission. If you sprint out of his range, you have decreased his ability to harm you.

2) Better your position. In fighting this means getting into a place where he can uses fewer of his weapons and/or you can use more of yours. One of my primary skills is the ability to get behind a BG in the middle of a fight. It's not hard, it's just that so few people train it because they aren't allowed to do it in competition. BTW- Running fits here too. It doesn't increase your weapons but it does decrease his.

3) Not get you hurt. If you do hit the guy on the jaw, step behind him for absolute control...and look down to see a knife sticking out of your stomach, you probably aren't going to have your best day ever. Offensive fighting and offensive mindset are important, but they are only one aspect of driving. You have to protect yourself and you have to do it actively.

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