Thursday, March 01, 2007


This guy is, without doubt, one of the best in the world. Highly trained. Vastly experienced. Well known and well respected. Also flippant, irreverent and sarcastic. These are a few of my favorite things. He started training about the time I was born. Deep down, I think that he thinks that I'm an arrogant puppy. That's okay, too.

In his living room, talking about fighting and writing and people we know, he brings up a "revolutionary, new" thing: he describes it. It was basic to my early training. It's, in a way, what jujutsu is. Old style jujutsu, anyway. I say words to that effect and his eyes narrow a bit.

We're both products of our training. Not just in what we do or the way we handle problems (and this man has handled a lot of high-end problems) but also in the way that we see things. He learned distance and timing in the ring and reinforced it with the careful attention that road officers pay to proper proximics. My distance and timing comes from a closer range based on an ambush paradigm... and it has been reinforced in a crowded jail. It works for me, very well, just as his has worked for him. But it's different, not just in movement but in thinking.

To illustrate a point he shows a combination- cover, startle blow, damage blow. Cover, not a block, because he knows damn well how rare it is to make a block work in a fight.

NB- This does not mean you give up defense. The best analogy I can make is that your brain is too slow to play man-to-man defense and you must learn to play zone.

Continue: Watching him, his body mechanics are superb. The cover is rock solid, the 'startle blow' is perfectly aligned, bone-to-bone conduction from his knuckles to his rear heel. It could do far more than startle. The action of the first blow ballistically loads the torso muscles for a crushing follow up. In three short moves you can see how good he is.

But it's nothing like the way I would move. Something similar to the same cover, but drop-stepping in to close on the threat. Same hand used for the first blow but because of the distance more circular than linear, designed more to spin the spine than to impact and to lead my feet in to raise my center of gravity so that the power blow would crash...

Differences from early training- he was taught to see conflict as a matter of strategy and timing. I was taught to see it as strategy and controlling the center. His hands were his tools and he learned all the ways you can create speed by messing with the threat's mind. My own body weight was my primary tool and it was drilled into me how to use it as a force and speed multiplier.

We're both experienced enough to see and appreciate the differences and use them sometimes, too, but the differences are deep.

And that's very cool. Because there are very many ways to be good and it's an honor to hang out with someone who is that extraordinary in such a different way.


Anonymous said...


Have been reading a lot of your posts on the blog for quite some time. Great stuff mate. There are some really inspiring things I haven't even begun to think out clearly yet.

I'll be off to Japan again in April to train in Sosuishi-ryu and see Russ if his schedule allows.

Cheers and God Bless.

-Steve Delaney

Anonymous said...

I know you posted this a while ago, but I just wanted to tell you that I found this post to be incredibly insightful. It forced me to do some introspection I might not have done otherwise, and help me find some internal clarity about why I tend to approach training the way I do.

So...thanks for the insight. You've got a lot of great stuff here.

-Jake Steinmann