Sunday, August 19, 2012

Costs Versus Benefits

I've said it before and I'll say it again, there's a way to train without jacking yourself up, yes? So if you love being a tough guy and getting pounded on, read this:

Comfortable Complexity

As I have written about before, the simplest actions involve intrinsic complexity if they are in flow, with the potential to go in many (arguably infinite) directions. If we diagramed all of the things that commonly happen offensively and defensively as you try deliver a jab, it would quickly become a very dense diagram. If we tried to memorize or codify all of the potential footwork variations, for example, it would be very "top heavy," meaning that it would require an unwieldy amount of conscious mental work and that's not the way to go.

Don't get me wrong, a good deal of mental work is required to understand good technique and training process, but any neurological/cognitive research will confirm that what we do best is done without conscious internal dialogue, or without sub-vocalizing at the very least.

To make fine-tuned (i.e. complex) responses natural and comfortable requires training games where choices are made in the moment. Kinds of sparring would of course be included in that category, but drills can be constructed around any kinds of choices that you are looking to deal with. My recommendation is that when constructing a drill, you start with the lowest amount of choices possible, two and then add more choices progressively. The intensity should start mellow and build appropriately. What I like to do eventually is to throw something at the trainee that is not what the drill is focusing on, and if the trainee responds smoothly to the unexpected offensive opportunity or defensive need, then I know the response is genuinely there for them.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Drill Post #30: More on Footwork

Interesting how much has been written and demonstrated in JKD and kali circles about footwork, but it's always very black and white as it were. In other words, the "slide and step advance" in JKD, for example, is always shown as bringing your rear foot all the way to your lead foot which then moves a step forward. However, the movement of the rear foot, and therefore the distance of the advance, could easily be any where from a few inches to anywhere up to the lead foot and indeed should be practiced with varying distances so that you are comfortable moving an appropriate distance to, for example, deliver a stop kick. Same with the "step and slide advance," where you move your lead foot a comfortable step (usually defined as half of a step distance). If you thrust forward as far as you can, it's called a "push shuffle." But again, we should practice it anywhere from moving one inch, all the way to  the full push shuffle. The slide and step has easier potential to go further than the step and slide, but beside the distance you want to move, the choice as to what footwork you use is made by where your weight is and what tool you are attacking with, hand or foot.

To develop the choice making smoothly, the trainer moves forward and back at varying distances from the stationary trainee (but without crowding him at this point), and periodically stops and says "Go!" at which point the trainee immediately advances with appropriate footwork to touch a target with a hand or foot.

Then do the same drill but with both partners moving. Developing the instinctive feel for proper attacking footwork is a crucial skill set.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Where the Magic Happens

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Drill Post #29: Before A Trap

As I have written about in a long previous post (from my potential book) on trapping, when you try to strike someone, there are four kinds of responses: 1) you successfully connect, stunning them enough to follow up, 2) they evade, 3) they try to obstruct you (whether in a naive or trained way), or 4) they try to tough it out and strike at the same time (or perhaps just happen to strike as you launch your strike). Since my first concern is being as safe/uninjured as possible, then option 4 is of central concern. Dealing with this circumstance, a very possible one, is one of the most neglected parts of training among those that are interested in trapping. Specifically, this is a "pre-trapping" skill, something that you may have to deal with that nullifies trying to trap for that moment. To train this understanding, drill in the following manner. The trainee throws either a mellow jab, cross or jab and cross at the trainer, controlling his punches so as to not quite hit the trainer although being at striking range or false attack range (just outside of a good connecting range) so that the trainer can either strike with impunity (representing the guy trying to just out punch you), OR obstruct you somehow. In the first case, you either abandon the attack and defend, or you continue the attack while defending in an appropriate manner: in the second case you either continue the attack to an open line or, it the energy feels right, trap. The point that is often emphasized on the posts here is that cognitive development is of primary importance in order to make the physical skills work.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Drill Post #28

One of the things that Ted Lucay-Lucay wisely pointed out, was that commonly what happens when two people fight, they both over-aggress and end up looking like two old college buddies giving each other enthusiastic tent hugs. Another way to put it is that they didn't control their striking distance. This is not the same as "fighting measure"as has been discussed in earlier posts, but effective striking range. That is, if  you are trying to strike someone with hand strikes, for example, then as they try to crowd in past your strikes, you need to either keep adjusting your distance, moving back, circling right and left, so that  those strikes are still at a range where they work, OR, you change tools and tactics for the range you find yourself at. This is actually a challenging skill to maintain under pressure, as it's human combative instinct to try to simply out-punch your opponent.

A drill to work maintaining the proper striking distance is to have the feeder with focus mitts, feed a changing series of targets while moving forward or circling in on the trainee while the trainee keeps up a fairly steady stream of strikes while constantly adjusting the distance so as to maintain proper range for the strikes.

It may help as preparation to work simple combinations starting with the following initial movements: a) side step or circle left while initiating a combination, b) side step or circle right doing the same, or c) "drop back step" (i.e. if your right side is forward, drop the right foot forty-five degrees to the rear while keeping your right side forward. This step has many names) initiating a combination with your now-rear hand: that is, if your right side is forward and you drop back with your right foot while firing what is now your right cross. The advantage of this move is that you are retreating while being "active," the euphemistic term for doing something to cause pain to your opponent.

Twitter feed

Hello all, this is just a quick post to say I've joined Twitter and you can follow me @LASelfDefense. Thanks for your continued support and interest. Look forward to reading your tweets.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I've written about odds, probability, before... a subject near and dear to my heart. For example, that having good skill as a fighter doesn't guarantee a good outcome on the street, just better odds that it will go your way. On a given day, the best team can loose to the worst. Anyone that touts an Unbeatable System is naïve or a liar.

And while it's common and understandable for students to think "If simple sparring can easily not be 'pretty' then how much more difficult and messy will a real fight be?," the good news is that a basic one-to-one confrontation can be much easier than sparring for several reasons. The first is that a stranger doesn't know your game, as a training partner would be. Second, the average mook has telegraphic habits. Third, in sparring games (and that's what they are, let's not kid ourselves), you are not really jabbing your partner in the eye or throat, so it of course continues when in it wouldn't in reality. Even the emotional aspect can be easier in a fight: in a controlled setting you can afford to be nervous, whereas if something happens more suddenly in the street (not always but commonly), it's a "Go Now!" situation that doesn't give you the luxury time to be nervous. I have a student where just such a thing happened, and without going into details, he dealt with things quickly, smoothly and efficiently, and then when he was back in his car, he started vibrating. He asked me "Was I afraid and just didn't notice it at the time?" and I said No, it was just that now he was feeling the adrenalin dump. Had the confrontation played out longer, that could have been a problem, but it was over quickly enough for that to not be so.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Just A Thought

Certainly people quit martial training for many reasons; lack of money; getting too busy with work-related things; family issues; or even maybe they felt they learned or experienced what they wanted and that was good enough. But I was talking with somebody at a party recently who mentioned having studied martial arts for a while. Sounded like he quit, as I believe many other may have, because at some point he intuited that was he was doing was just rote technique and not something that felt real somehow even if he was not clear what "real" would be. I think that's a more common thing than is acknowledged.