Monday, December 12, 2011

Drill Post #27: False Strikes

One of the more underused but useful tactics for entry is the "false strike." A false strike is a full strike not intended to actually connect, but close enough to draw a response. Note that the difference from a fake is that a fake/feint is usually a body indication of a strike that doesn't really get thrown. The advantage of a false strike is that it can be more convincing than a fake, but if the opponent tries to time-hit (strike at you as you are striking at him), then you should be just out of his range, and if he responds with a simple hand defense without moving out of range, then you are that much closer to changing up your strike or jamming up his hands.

To play with this, A throws a false jab or cross at B, and B throws a looping right or left (to use common punches) which should not be close enough to connect if A is controlling his range, OR tries to block A's strike. A responds to the attempted counter-strike by following in with a real strike, and responds to the attempted block with either another strike or a trap.

As with any drill, work at a speed that helps both partners.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Interview and Video

I recently did an interview with some video bits with Matt Numrich. Check it out at:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Drill Post #26: More Environmental Training

Another environment that is good to do some work in is the stairs. Problem solve being on the low side, high side, or both on the same level.

Also, around corners. Going sharply around corner of a building structure, whether on the street or in a building gives you minimal time to see something coming (even just another innocent pedestrian that you might bump into). I recommend the habit of going wide, and leading with your eyes. For that matter, coming out of a door into the street, it's a good idea to scan comfortably from left to right (if it's a normal outward-opening door) just as a not-too-paranoid habit.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Drill Post #25: Environmental Training

It makes sense that most martial arts training starts with a simple ideal environment: a smooth surface for stand-up training (no rocks or curbs to trip on), mats for groundwork (no pesky broken glass to roll on) and so on. When I have been in dodgy areas documenting graffiti (the second third of my professional life), I have been aware of the unfriendly surfaces, such as big river stones at one of the locations. I tried moving around and found no easy solution. The good news is that it would also be unfriendly for an opponent.

One environment that is more common for most people to find themselves in than under a bridge going over the L.A. River is their car. Clearly, there are numerous scenarios we can think of in this regard, such as how to get out of your car in a guarded way or timing the opening of your door as part of a counter, but let's start with a basic, someone trying to grab or hit you through an open window.

I'm not presenting a curriculum here, but suggesting that you play with possibilities such as using your covers and parries from the driver's seat. Also the perimeter of the open window is a good surface to grind or slam an attacker's arm against. Further, an attacker is generally not expecting you to pull you into his relatively stable position and continuing a counter attack with strikes, ripping and other effectively unsavory tactics.

I suggest you don't work with this kind of training where good citizens will either try to step in and help, or call the police!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Drill Post #24: Fakes

There are many ways to train and use fakes. This is one way I like to develop the conviction, or "sell" of a fake. By "sell," I mean that you are trying to make it look real enough that your opponent will respond as though it's real. A certain amount of the technique is like acting, they must feel your intention to hit.

The striker is at fighting measure for the hands, and throws either an actual jab, or a jab fake. Separate the strikes at this point, because it's not about combinations, but about the quality of individual strikes. The goal of the striker is make the defender try to block a fake, and the defender's goal is to see if he can distinguish between real and fake and only respond to the real strike.

Though that is the core drill, you can add on that if the defender tries to block the fake, then continue the jab, which in effect turns it into a "delayed" jab, and if the defender tries to block a "real" jab, then try to disengage to another strike without him being able to touch you.

As always, work at an intensity that works for both of you!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Drill Post #23: Chi Sao

Most of these posts are easy to understand by the general martial arts public, but "sensitivity drills" involve a more specialized training that may be harder to understand from verbal descriptions. In a nutshell, sensitivity drills are two-person drills where most reactions are determined by contact feel. Well known sensitivity drills include the "push hands" of T'ai Chi Chuan, "lubud/hubud" of Filipino systems, and "chi sao" (sticking/clinging hands) of Wing Chun lineage. However, it is easily arguable that any grappling and wrestling training is dominantly sensitivity based.

While the purpose of ground based sensitivity training, feeling for position and responses of your opponent, are generally clear, the standing drills mentioned are a bit more abstract. That is, it's not easy for the non-practitioner to understand; who is attacking or defending? Why not just strike etc.?

Addressing chi sao specifically (and remember this is a personal perspective that might differ from the traditional), the drill is based on the assumption that a confrontation can easily get "messy," that is, when there is an interaction between opponents that leads to contact of the limbs, possibly with no clear direct strike available. In such a scenario, chi sao provides the ability to feel what to defend in an efficient way, and how to feel or create an opening in your opponent's position at the same time.

While many kickboxing based folks deride chi sao as too refined, it is entirely relevant combatively. While a confrontation could certainly be ended with strikes and no sticking, it’s not at all unusual for things to get sticky owing to the natural chaos that can result from things moving and changing up faster than ones perception. As with the closely related trapping hands, one doesn’t “try” to stick, but it is very easy to find yourself in a chi sao related position. For example, if someone threw a haymaker and you “cornered” (biu sao da for the terminology-concerned) and they tried to block or muffle your incoming strike, you would be for an instant in “double inside” position. For another example, if you parried a jab as you hit up the midline (a time-hit which I like to refer to as a “split” for ease), and the opponent tried to parry or muffle your incoming strike, you would, for an instant be in “right handed” position. Also, something I observe is that it’s not unusual for someone throwing a strike to advance and not entirely withdraw the hand, creating an unintended sticking point.

Two ways I like to train students when showing the relevance of chi sao, are 1) playing the slob, i.e. after learning proper rolling, I play the untrained part of someone over-reacting to a strike in a continuous flow of messiness from one to another to give a naturalistic feel to the drill. I periodically counterstrike so they don’t get too complacent. I also emphasize direct striking when there is really nothing to stick to, and 2) Have them defend against a flow of strikes with the normal parries and covers, but stick only when I give them that attached energy.

This might not be the easiest to visualize, but worth playing with.

Bruce Lee "threw out" chi sao, who cares? He threw out many things that I'm not good enough to throw out. My understanding is that he thought that if someone was good enough to stick with him, he was good enough to beat him, and who was that going to be?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Drill Post #22: The Simple Foot Trap

Throwing, sweeping, take-downs and tripping are four broad categories of manipulating someone to the ground. As with everything else, there are pros and cons to each method, a various degrees of suitability according to body type, skill level and amount of time one might want to devote to making something functional.

When I was at the Inosanto Academy, in the Maphalindo ("Maylaysian Filipino Indonesian") related classes, Dan Inosanto would go back and forth between Bukti Negara curriculum from Paul DeThouars, and Filipino foot trapping. The Bukti Negara material required much more sophistication to make workable: very effective but requiring an understanding of power lines, anchors and so on. The Filipino foot trapping curriculum by comparison is much smaller and quite simple. That is not a negative, not a critique, but rather, a very positive thing.

Does anyone out there not understand that the more complex and precision-requiring a tactic is, the more likely it is that it will fail? I didn't think so.

A simple foot trap is often very effective without even knowing the optimal direction in which to push or pull the opponent. That is because we take for granted our constant ability to adjust our balance through movement, and as soon as that's interupted, our stability quickly collapses, and we most likely fall down.

In the recent fight between Pacquiao and Mosely, there was an exchange where Manny fell down, and indeed, when the slo-mo was played back, it showed Mosely inadvertently stepping on Manny's foot. All it took was that one moment.

To train the foot trap in flow, the trainer throws light but smooth hand combinations at the trainee, and as the trainee defends wth parries and covers (along with footwork), he also looks for stepping comfortably on the trainer's foot (keeping it light and un-crunchy for training). The defender should help keep the trainer from actually falling down during the drill.

This form of tripping is robust, does not put you in an unnecessarily vulnerable position, and is low maintainence. What's not to love?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Upcoming Interview

Hi All,

Just a quick shout that I'll be doing an interview with Matt Numrich for his JKD newsletter. He has interviewed many JKD instructors, so you may want to check into his site.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Drill Post #21: The Guarding Hand

The hand that is not striking while the other hand is striking is often, if not always, referred to as the "guarding hand" because it is thought to be most responsible for immediate defense during your attack (at least from the waist up). If you are throwing a right jab, the left is the guarding hand, and if you are throwing a left cross, then the right hand is the guarding hand.This is of course simplified for the sake of discussion, as someone might feel that head movement is more important than the guarding hand, for example.

Various systems stress the guarding hand should "always" be, on the cheek, centerline, by the armpit (many Gung Fu styles), by the side of the face on the striking arm side and so on. Which is correct? All and none. The problem is the "always" of it. Having the hand up by or in front of the face as a default is good, as it's at least potentially in the vicinity to defend, but to be more specific, the important issue is, where is the most immediately threatening hand of your opponent? Is it close to the right or left side of your face? Close to your face in the center? Your ribs?

To train where to put the guarding hand, play with this drill. "A," the trainer, steps into "B," the defender's, striking range, and B stop-hits with a jab. As B is doing so, A will have one hand clearly more close to B, so that B knows where to place his guarding hand. A varies which hand he places where, every time he steps in and B stop hits. A does not defend against the stop-hit, as this drill is all about the development of B's guarding hand, so B should take care to control his stop hit by either stopping short, or lightly placing his hand on A's chest.

If the threatening hand of A is close enough to, say, B's chin, B will actively monitor (place his hand on that hand), but if it's not within six inches or so, B will not reach to touch that hand, as it may be a deception to open another line for a strike.

This is an easy way to make placement of the guarding hand a comfortable instinctive action.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Drill Post #20: Root Technique Shadow Boxing

There are many ways that Bruce Lee was smart and insightful about his training. One thing not commonly known, I believe, is that he knew that many things took a great deal of repetition to cultivate, and since repetition is boring, he developed many ways to approach the same goal to keep it more interesting. He had a number of ways to strengthen the same muscle group, for example.

As discussed in Drill Post #11, there are many ways to approach shadow boxing. One approach to add to your training is "root technique" shadow boxing. For example, take the jab or finger jab as a root technique, and then play with everything you can think of relative to that, defensively and offensively. Starting with some offensive examples; jab, cross; jab, lead hook; jab, rear hook. Then jab, leading to kicks (the visualization being that the opponent moves to a kick range in response to your jab). Sometimes complete your jab before the follow-up, but other times, just start or get halfway to completion before the follow-up. That is, the jab could be a deliberate fake, or you simply see the need to change up during execution. The initial jab may be practiced moving forward, backward, right, and left.

But there's more! The defensive aspects of this drill are as important and possibly more important than the offensive aspects. Remembering that someone's counterattack (inadvertently or deliberately) could come anywhere between initiation and completion, we have to be able to interrupt our jab at any point to move to a defense. So imagine during any stage of your jab; a hook coming on your outside or inside line; a high or low jab or cross coming over or on the inside; body hooks coming on the right or left. Your jabbing hand or your rear hand may be the hand that defends (if you didn't just slip or bob and weave). So for example, half jab, drawing it back to cover high or low against a hook coming on your outside line, and then without pause continue into your attack.

Time-hits (simultaneous defense and attack) can and should be integrated. For example, jab and immediately draw the jab back as a cross parry while simultaneously throwing the cross.

As usual, the options are endless and limited only by your imagination.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Drill Post #19: Do Something

I have talked from time to time with people that are so concerned with devising the perfect home workout, that if they don't feel it's comprehensive, they end up doing nothing at all! My advice is to not stress it, perfection being a weird concept to begin with. If you are one of those that suffer from this, just remember that doing any part of a workout is fine. Shadowbox or swing a stick while you're watching TV or listening to some music... doesn't have to be the ultimate anything. In response to the old "No Pain, No Gain" saying, a person I knew said "For me, it's No Pain, No Pain!" I like that; plenty of cultivation can be had without going gonzo. So next time you feel like your workout has to be all or none, just get down with your mellow self and do something, anything that fits your mood.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bruce Lee's Notes

There are two volumes of Bruce Lee's note that have been published: The Tao of Jeet Kune Do (1975), and Jeet Kune Do: Bruce Lee's Commentaries on the Martial Way (1997). Both are interesting and highly problematic. The Amazon blurb for second volume states, "This landmark book serves as a complete presentation of Bruce Lee's art of jeet kune do." That is an embarrassing statement, even if they are just trying to sell books. Where to start? For one thing, Bruce, for all that he did show and was open about, was actually very secretive, so many things that were dear to him, technically and strategically, would not have been made explicit. Things that are made explicit require closely supervised and subtle training, none of which is available in either volume, or possible to get in book form anyway. For that matter, notice how often in the book there will be something like, for example, a list of defense solutions to the side kick, and at the end of the list will be "Training Aids." Well folk, "training aids" are the drilling processes that make any of the techniques functional, and none of that is spelled out. Also, how are we to make use of such entries as "Understand!"??

So, are the books useless? Of course not; they are food for thought, but at each entry, ask yourself "Do I really understand that? Is that something I can do? And if not how might I construct training that will help me develop that skill or attribute?"

Again, in JKD, it's not what you know, but rather, what you can do.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

But You Knew That Already

I'm out in frozy Iowa, and the environment poses interesting challenges relative to fighting: patches of ice, hard uneven snow, and big bulky clothes. A Filipino strategy here might be "De Fondo," which if I'm remembering correctly is essentially holding your ground (since you are not going to be able to move around easily). Of course the JKD tactic of stop-hitting would be good if you see it coming early enough. Sure, a grappling scenario is relvant, but those with that perspective would probably still want to play in the environment with the bulky coats, hats and gloves on to problem solve the unfamiliarity. In the meantime, I'm glad the great odds are in my favor of just having a good time! So if there are idiosycratic environments that are part of your regular travels, it's a good idea to figure out how you would fight in it with your particular skill sets.