Fitness For Fighting

Fighting/Self-Defense is the epitome of Interval Training combining cardiovascular endurance as well as anaerobic endurance. When coupled with the added psychological stress and associated adrenal dump of an unprovoked and unexpected attack, fighting is one of the most physically demanding venues the human body might be forced to endure.

Conditioning specificity for self-defense is a must for your overall martial art training. In the past, traditional martial arts used traditional training methods to strengthen and develop the body. Many of these practices while functional left a lot to be desired when it came to time involved and the return on that time investment. Today\\\\'s methods incorporate modern science and equipment that allow the student to strengthen specific attributes in the limited time that students allot to training while still holding down a job, raising a family, etc.... Swimmers train to swim, runners train to run, and fighters train to fight. There will always be crossover skills when it comes to conditioning just as there are crossover skills when training in various martial activities. but being a good tournament fighter or forms competitor will not guarantee success in an ally. You must train and develop the specific skill sets required to specifically deal with violence.

A street fight or assault for the average person uses a significant amount of physical strength in a very short period of time. One-punch knockouts are rare, even for trained practitioners. Whether you choose to fight or run, your overall conditioning has a high probability of being the determining factor of whether you win or get away. You do not necessarily have to be stronger than your opponent but you should be able to last longer than he does.

Your ability to take damage and survive is also relative to your fitness level. Most people when faced with violence tend to \\\\"give up\\\\" or go defensive once they start taking damage. Physical conditioning goes hand and hand with mental toughness. A strong, trained body usually equates to a strong mind and a strong mind does not give up no matter how much pain or damage has been inflicted.
There are no rounds or time-outs in a violent encounter. You must be able to exert high-intensity effort for as long as it takes to survive or end the assault. You must also have enough physical strength to push, pull, and strike with damaging force. Last, you must have the *Mental Toughness* to never quit.

by admin | 7 2012 9:44am | Articles | permalink | 0 comments

Self Defense vs. Fighting

I wrote this in 1988 when I first began teaching. A little simplistic but it shows my mindset at the time.

The goal of any true self-defense system is ensuring personal protection. There are many ways to accomplish this goal with some of them being physical and others being non-physical. The best way not to get hurt is to avoid any situation where danger or a confrontation might be possible. Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world and violence can happen anywhere and at anytime. When avoidance and awareness fail, self-defense is your next recourse, but you still don't necessarily have to bring it to a physical level. Self-defense is also about psychology; can you talk your way out of it? Can you bluff your way out of it? Do you have your running shoes on if talking doesn't work? Remember, we live in a violent world where a simple argument can lead to a deadly encounter. Weapons are readily available and those combined with drugs, alcohol and a "I don't care" attitude can make for a potentially deadly situation. Why take a chance to escalate a situation if the only things being exchanged are words? If you can walk away, walk away. If you can't walk away, talking hasn't worked, and you realize the situation is escalating to the physical level, it's time to act. You don't necessarily have to wait for your opponent to throw the first punch or make the first move but you do have to consider the results of your actions. In a court of law, anyone that reasonably believes that their person is in danger of physical harm has the right to defend them self, EVEN IF YOU HAVEN'T BEEN PHYSICALLY TOUCHED. Respond according to the situation. If it's a drunk, control him; if the assailant has a weapon and you believe he is trying to kill or maim you, you can respond with deadly force.

Now, what happens when you attempt your self-defense and it doesn't work? You miss with your pre-emptive strike, your timing is off, your strikes don't get the expected response, who knows? Anything is possible, self defense is not a 100% art and you have to be prepared for the unexpected. The situation has now gone from a self-defense scenario to a fighting scenario. In self-defense, skill, speed and surprise rule the outcome, but in fighting, size and strength are now more of a determining factor. In the fighting scenario, you and your opponent have squared off and you are both looking for openings and opportunities that either of you can take advantage of. This is the situation we, as KENPO practitioners, want to avoid for the simple reason that we no longer have full control of the situation. In self-defense, we control everything because we have the element of surprise and confidence in the knowledge of our skills. Once fighting has begun, we have to maneuver into a position where we can attempt to gain control back and apply self-defense techniques once again, but our opponent is now aware that we are a danger and will be much more wary of our actions.
Self-defense and fighting, two different worlds but still very related and either can turn into the other. While the KENPO practitioner does train to fight, both standing and on the ground, we acknowledge that our strength and the safest course of action lies in self-defense and that is the area we seek to perfect.

by admin | 6 2012 12:10pm | Articles | permalink | 0 comments

Why Are We Not Tough Anymore


Not sure where I read or heard it but I use the previous statement quite often to students and those I mentor. It is very much along the lines of a Friedrich Nietzsche quote "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger" used as a training mantra in the U.S. Navy's BUD/S Special Warfare Training School. Up until the last few hundred years, life was tough for most. 20,000 years ago, it was a struggle to find food, shelter, survive the elements, and to keep from being eaten. Once communities began to form and a roof was a sure bet, there was less fear from tooth and claw, but now man had to deal with "I want what you have". In other words, the strong took from the weak. Pretty much up to the industrial age and the Rule of Law, the majority of humans had to work hard as individuals and as communities to fulfill their basic needs. Work was very physical for both men and women and the image of the rugged individual persisted well into the 20th Century. With the widespread use of electricity and all of its wonderful progeny, leisure time became a significant part of our lifestyle and the concepts of adversity and struggle became a distant memory for most western societies. These days, adversity is finding a lost remote or getting to work on time. A struggle involves making a choice between eating at Outback or Chili's. Psychologists say that humans are basically lazy and that is why we have the modern wonders we have. Humans are always looking for an easier/better way to do things; especially those that help is exert less effort. Greater productivity in less time gives more time for leisure activities and for most; those activities usually don't require great physical expenditure or risk. We have become soft and spoiled and we like it. Today in the U.S., "Manifest Destiny" has been replaced by "shop 'till you drop" and "can I super-size that?" The vast majority can spend their whole lives without ever having to deal with the threat of somebody trying to take their stuff and/or killing them. Most of my students have never been in a fight let alone a violent physical assault. As the "softening" of our society continues, the weaker we become both as individuals and as a nation. Lucky for us though, the United States is known for its individualism, its rich history of overcoming great odds, and when push comes to shove, woe be to yea who try picking on us. Lt. Col. (Ret.) David Grossman introduced me to the concept of Sheep, Sheepdogs, and Wolves in his groundbreaking book "On Combat". The premise being the vast majority of people are sheep, and that's okay. Sheep keep society humming along on an even keel. Sheep are nice, adverse to violence, pay their taxes, and wave at you on country roads. They have found their station in life and are happy or at least excepting of it. Wolves on the other hand, are not nice, are willing to use any means including violence to get what they want, may or may not pay taxes, and usually see sheep as resources. Sheepdogs in turn look a lot like the wolf, have the same tools and are not hesitant to use violence but only for the common good. They keep the sheep safe and insulated form the big bad wolf. At one time, sheepdogs wore shinning armor or white. These days, they wear the camouflage of our services or the blue of law enforcement officers. Sheepdogs also come in a subtler form, those that recognize violence is a possibility and take steps to ensure they are prepared to meet it even if it includes using violence on their part. The common thread to all sheepdogs is ADVERSITY. Sheepdogs constantly challenge themselves by voluntarily taking on tasks that are difficult. Whether it's the mental and physical challenges of the military, the dangers of working in law enforcement, the blood and bruises of training in the martial arts, even the effort of going to the gym or shooting range regularly, sheepdogs always take the hard road. Unfortunately, choosing the challenge has become the exception while taking the easy way has become the norm.
I wish I knew the secret to wanting to make things difficult for myself vice sitting in front of the tube for hours. I don't always want to train, eat in moderation, or workout, but I do because I know I'll feel better about my choice afterwards. If your informative years have been easy with no expectations other than getting good grades and staying out of trouble, odds are you're going to want to continue that thought process as an adult. Simple efforts lead to simple rewards. Rewards lead to expectations and expectations lead to entitlements. Pretty soon, everybody is getting, and nobody is giving. Those that have struggled tend to appreciate what they have a lot more than those who have had things given to them. Hard work brings great rewards even if it is only the satisfaction of having done a good job. When I mentor youth, my message is one of effort, service, and choice/consequence. I believe the key is to get the word out to our kids through leadership programs such as Explorers, Scouts, JrROTC, and martial art classes. Even organized athletics offer many opportunities to teach kids the value of effort and challenge. As long as we keep having enough young people volunteer for the military, enroll in a Police Academy, or take responsibility for their own health and protection, we can keep the wolf at bay. Otherwise a nation of sheep with no one to protect it will soon become someone else's flock or worse.

by admin | 6 2012 12:04pm | Articles | permalink | 0 comments

Dirty Fighting for Martial Artists

The argument has been around since UFC 1; most street fights go to the ground, BJJ rules on the ground, therefore BJJ is the best for street fighting. The "Street" exponents (RBMA, Combatives) argue that BJJ is learned under a codified rule system and that there are no rules on the street and a good eye gouge/throat shot will nullify any advantage that the BJJ guys have. Having spent most of my life studying a street oriented self-defense system as well as having a Purple Belt in BJJ and grappling for well over ten years now, my views on this subject have changed as my knowledge has increased.
Fifteen years ago, I was one of the "street-exponent" guys that decided that well placed strikes, presses, pulls, and breaks would take a BJJ player out of his environment and turn him into a reactive mass like anyone else that had a finger stuck in their eye or their trachea pinched. After several years in BJJ, I discovered that BJJ guys can do all that illegal stuff too and can do it better because they are well versed in using the ground to stabilize their targets. They are also very adept at hiding their own targets from probing hands. I have found the key to effective "dirty" fighting is to train regularly in all three areas, striking, groundwork, and illegal stuff. More and more striking schools are incorporating groundwork into their curriculum. Most BJJ schools offer MMA striking skills (boxing, Muay Thai, G&P) but again, these are taught in a sports environment. If you do not train to use the naughty stuff then odds are you will not use it when the balloon goes up. If you have never tried to gouge someone's eye, how do you know you can do it let alone know how someone will react when his eye is being attacked? If you have never pulled a clavicle, how do you know how deep you have to dig for a grip or how hard you have to pull to separate it? I've gone after both; with the eye, he fought through the damage (and there was a lot of damage) and he still picked me up and carried me across the room to slammed me into some furniture. I've gone for clavicles twice (pre-BJJ) and have yet to get a solid grip and without that, forget about a separation. Breaking someone's finger? Never slowed me down and there were no drugs or alcohol involved on my part.
In the early 90's, I attended a seminar with Paul Vunak one of the early proponents of RBSD and still a respected name in the field. One of the areas he covered was Kino Mutay, biting and pinching. It was a delightfully painful experience that also included hair pulling and was almost a system in itself, not unlike Chin Na for the Chinese Systems. Whereas most of the pinching, pulling, and biting were distractants, several specific attacks inflicted a significant amount of damage. Prior to that seminar, I thought a bite was just a bite and a hair pull was just a hair pull. Afterwards, I realized they were special tools that helped you reach a specific goal and when used properly, were very effective to that end. The most important thing I learned was that you needed time to facilitate maximum effect. This meant the target had to be stabilized and controlled in order for the attack to garner the desired result. If a human being can cut off their own arm in order to survive, do you really think a poke in the eye, fishhook to the mouth, or a bite to the cheek is going to make someone just give up and quit? These attacks are just tools and as tools, they need to be used properly to maximize their function. Hair pulls are used to create disturbances in balance and cancel zones. Bites and pinches are used to create openings and/or space. In extreme situations, they tear, crush, and gouge. Rarely will the infliction of pain alone be the primary motivator in making a really bad person give up their desire to make you a resource. While these are considered horrific attacks that can cause incredible damage as well as kill, they are still very viable options when it comes to preserving your life. Are you prepared to use them?

by admin | 6 2012 12:01pm | Articles | permalink | 0 comments

Traditional Martial Arts Or Combatives. No Softies Please!

I have had the opportunity to train in JKD, MCMAP, MAC, PFS, and KMW Krav Maga. I also had the privilege to have been exposed to SCARS/SAFTA/CQD, SBS Combatives (Jap-Slapping), and Systema. I enjoyed every minute of the training and learning experiences and would gladly participate in more opportunities to work with any one of the instructors or groups again. With that said, the question arises; are Combatives/Reality Based Martial Arts (RBMA) better than learning Traditional Martial Arts (TMA)? Like most of life's questions, it depends on personal experience and goals. Let's take a 10-cent history tour of the martial arts in general. Structured hand-to-hand combat pre-dates the Old Egyptian Empire with the primary emphasis being to kill or disable an enemy if a weapon was lost in battle. Adult sports came about as a means to test military related prowess and skill. Cultural and geographic differences took H2H in many different directions but the one common thread besides making their skills as effective as possible was the requirement of self-discipline, which included mental toughness. Those that had the aforementioned requisites that fought and won, got to pass their knowledge and experience on. For hundreds of years, these skills were pretty much isolated to the military class. As time passed, former military types would teach to their families, relatives, and friends. Most know the story of Bodhidharma, an Indian monk who taught Buddhism at the Shaolin Temple in China. The monks were lacking the physical and mental strength required for the hours of meditation, so they were taught an Indian martial art based exercise to toughen them up. This combined with the indigenous martial arts eventually became the base for many Chinese and Japanese systems. Europe had it's own roots in Egyptian wrestling and Greek Pankration. While not as structured or formal as the Asian arts, they were still very effective in their own right. As the need for personal fighting skills faded, the styles and methods became the property of those few that had the desire, attitude, and discipline to learn, improve, and test them. They pretty much remained family, ethnic, or professional military taught skills up until the late 1800's when the need for carrying personal weapons diminished and the public, especially law enforcement, began to see the need for an edge. William E. Fairbairn is generally recognized as the Father of Modern Combatives. He studied and tested various Chinese and Japanese martial arts while working as a Shanghai cop in the early 1900's eventually developing his own system called Defendu. Not much in the way of fluff or formality, but for its time, it did what it was designed to do which was to give the masses a quick and dirty way to break things on another human being. At that time, the masses were military and law enforcement types who again, had the requisite discipline and attitude to jump into the fray because it was fun.
Cut to today where almost everybody knows of, or trains in the martial arts. The Asians had turned many of their arts into personal development vehicles and with national sponsorship, sent martial emissaries through out the world. Most westerners live in relative security so the need for a personal self-defense system is minimal at best. In other words, we have become soft. With the commercialism of the martial arts in the 70's and 80's, the modern karateka is more apt to be some eight year-old Black Belt swinging a pair of glowing nunchuku while doing aerial kicks. The softening of the martial arts in general has been going on since instructors realized they could make a living teaching "karohtee". These days it's self-improvement, fitness, sports, and in fewer cases, self-defense. So where does that leave those of us who truly desire to learn real self-defense and fighting skills. For many today, it's Combatives, military or street oriented systems that rely heavily on contact and attitude vice uniforms and bowing. Simplistic, gross-motor skill based striking taught in high energy, high stress environments. With the right mindset, they work very well. Watching two SEAL's or SBS Operators work CQ material is like watching a single purpose driven machine accomplish its design. These types of professionals are trained to go into dark places of the mind reaching levels of controlled violence that most people will never comprehend, let alone experience. Even at the induction levels of their training, they are broken down and rebuilt as mission driven warriors whose use of violence is just another tool in their kit. They use what works and don't give a crap about being pretty or formal. Take that same material and give it to a civilian who hasn't developed the "kill or be killed, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" mindset, and the efficacy changes. This is where the divide comes into play. In a past Blog, you read the Sheep, Sheepdog, Wolf concept. I believe there is a large group of people out there who will never be able to effectively deal with violence. Whether it be social conditioning or "I was born this way", some people just go to crap when faced with somebody trying to hurt them or worse. They will probably never accept violence as an answer unless they experience some life-changing event. Others want to take charge of their own security but don't have the physical skill set to do so. They just have lousy motor-skills and all the training in the world won't improve them. Another smaller group has the desire and the skill set but not the mind-set and this is where either good martial arts or combatives training can come into play. For years, martial art training was very militaristic and brutal. Lots of pain, fatigue, blood, and broken bones where the norm in any dojo, kwoon, or studio. Like the military, old school training required intense discipline and obedience to your instructor. Failure to obey or not put forth the required effort resulted in punishment. It was in this environment that the "warrior" mindset was created. Those that survived, reached higher levels of skill and those that couldn't hack it, went back to being sheep. Combatives try to recreate that military regimen with lots of yelling, movement, full power striking, mini-scenario drills, and functional fitness training. Combatives also lean heavily on massive amounts of firepower or repetitive striking using gross motor skills. While simplistic and functional, it's not always the best way to get the job done. Some schools of thought look at Combatives akin to having a sledgehammer as the only tool in your toolbox.
Since they both work, why choose one over the other? Well, the answer can be summed up with one simple question; what is your end-goal? If your end-goal is basic self-defense in a short period of time, go with Combatives. On the other had, if you truly want to dig deep into a system as well as find out what you are made of, look into the more combative systems of the martial arts. These will vary with system and instructor but some of the more recognized "violent" martial arts are the Aki-Jiu-Jitsu or Samurai Systems, the Hawaiian Systems (Kenpo/Kempo, KajukenBo Family), Archipelago Systems (Kuntao, Silat, Kali), and one of the new kids on the block, Kyokushin. These Systems will teach mindset; complete anatomical weapons development, body conditioning in order to take punishment, and hardcore fighting skills. Again, some people will not have pre-requisite complex motor skills for higher biophysical usage as required by many martial arts. That's okay, look for a system that complements your abilities as well as your end-goal.
Over the years I have come to the belief that the style or system you choose to learn isn't quite as important as how it is taught and what are your expected results. I train Mills Kenpo because I like the speed, power, and violence of it as well as the logic and science that makes up its driving force. I train in Combatives because I enjoy the randomness of the interaction. Any training where the real risk of injury or danger is present will develop mindset. To paraphrase Frank Mir when asked to compare TMA with Combatives (specifically Krav Maga), his statement was along the lines of "when going to a gunfight, do you bring along the guy that shoots two nights a week in his free time or do you bring along the guy who has made a lifetime journey out of combat shooting". I know who I want covering my six.

by admin | 6 2012 12:00pm | Articles | permalink | 0 comments


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