Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Techniques and Principles (Building upon a strong foundation)

By Joel Persinger

I am a great believer that techniques, without a deep understanding of principle, are useless. One simple example is this: if I don’t understand the use of kinetic energy, learning how to punch will yield punches which are weak and ineffective. Yet another example is that of body type and size. Say what you will, but in my world, size matters. It is an indisputable fact that techniques which work for a small person when combating an equally small person may not work as effectively when the little guy is trying to fight off a six foot, six inch, 350 pound hulk. Likewise, techniques which work for a person with a low center of gravity may not work as well for a person with a high center of gravity when applied against the same or a similar opponent.

In addition to the basics of physics, body style, age, relative agility and size there is also the issue of martial style. Techniques which fit well into one martial system may be cumbersome and unworkable when used within another. Thus my friend & instructor Mike Patterson’s analogy of building a car,

“Mixing and matching is analogous to grabbing a hodgepodge of car parts from different makes and models to build a working automobile. You might be able to build something that looks like a car but it will not run effectively, if it runs at all, simply because the parts are not made to work together.”

In today’s world of martial arts, mixing and matching has taken on a life of its own. Gee, one has to look no further than the term, “Mixed Martial Arts” to see the point. The result has been a significant “movement” creating folks who look like martial artists, but whose collection of techniques often does not work together effectively, or at least not as effectively as it might. Yes, a rear naked choke is a rear naked choke and a hip throw is a hip throw. But, when techniques are simply piled upon one another without any foundational guiding principle, there is no way for the practitioner to understand and evaluate what fits and what does not.

Now, before you get out your poison pen and start sending me hate mail accusing me of bashing mixed martial artists, let me make a few things clear. Not one martial style known today was created in a vacuum. All of them evolved over time as guiding principles were established and perfected and as techniques were explored and honed. It can also be accurately said that martial styles have borrowed from each other by taking parts of other arts which fit well into the system and, in many cases, adapting them further to make them fit even better. Since time is not static and since our ancestors did not freeze martial styles in place for all eternity, we shouldn’t either. We should learn from the example of those who came before us by learning from other arts thereby exploring new frontiers.

Where we have lost our way is not in that we have elected to bring new and different techniques into the fold. Rather, it is that we have forgotten to let the foundations of our arts guide us as we incorporate new ideas. For example: I have spent most of my history studying the Karate style arts. Along the way, I have studied internal Chinese arts a little and Filipino martial arts a lot. In fact, my first instructor taught a Karate style art with Arnis De Mano mixed in for good measure. As a consequence, the foundation for my martial arts journey was firmly built upon a mixture of Karate and Filipino Martial Arts. They are very different, and yet my first instructor was able to put them together so that they worked in unison. Thus, my foundation is different than most. But it is strong.

On the other hand, I have a student (who, by the way, teaches me too). He has been studying Hsing-I for twenty years or more. As I teach him the various aspects of Filipino Martial Arts he relates what he learns to his foundation. Consequently, his movement and his application of the techniques he learns from me are very different from mine. Some things which work well for me, will not work well for him and vice versa. Some things may work well for him only after he has adapted them to fit firmly upon his foundation. This is not because the techniques don’t work. It is because our foundations and the guiding principles upon which they were fashioned are different.

The bottom line is that learning new techniques is fun and very positive. However, there is a difference between collecting disjoined techniques as you might pile up unrelated car parts in a junk yard and carefully examining, honing and shaping new techniques to fit well upon your foundation, just as you might select premium, well fitting parts with which to build your car. I submit that that the latter approach will help you become a more complete martial artist, while the former may leave you only a collector of junk.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tell your kids it is okay to fight

From CrossFitKids magazine
-Jeff Martin

We have been told for years that fighting is morally and ethically wrong. That it is never the answer. This belief has threatened our country’s security and now we see the effects it can have on our children. Fighting is not wrong in the cause of self-defense. It is not wrong for our nation to proactively protect itself nor is it wrong on a personal level to respond with physical force when threatened.

When I was young and in school a little boy hit me in front of the teacher. He was reprimanded and sent to detention. On the way out of school he told me he was going to do it again the next day. When I told my parents about the incident, they told me if he tried to hit me again, I was to hit him. Actually, they said hit him hard enough that he will never want to hit you again. I did and he didn’t.

A couple of years ago my wife went to pick up one of our boys at preschool. She found him hiding under a desk. When she asked him why he was hiding he said he was hiding from one of the other boys who had choked him several times that day. When my wife approached the teacher she was told that the boy “was having trouble at home and just acting out.” While I sympathize with the child who was having trouble at home, this was somehow supposed to excuse him attacking my son. That night we taught our son a simple Krav Maga self-defense technique. He in turn shared his new knowledge with his teacher. His teacher made it very clear to him that under no circumstances was he to defend himself. He was to get her attention instead (with a child’s hands wrapped around his throat) and she would take care of the problem. We of course relieved him of that notion.

Think of the different lessons these two stories teach. In the first, my parents taught me not only that I had a right to defend myself but that the responsibility for my safety rested with me. In the second, the opposite lesson was taught. My son was told his safety was someone else’s responsibility and under no circumstances was he to defend himself. If you have been taught the first lesson, you react instantly to someone threatening your safety. If you have learned the second, you look for an authority figure to help you when threatened. If there is no authority figure to stop the attack you waste valuable time deciding what to do and how to react. We are complicit in the victimization of children by predators if we are teaching children to look for an elusive authority figure for help.

A few months ago, we watched in shock, the video of poor Carly Bruscha simply allowing someone she doesn’t know to walk up, grab her arm and pull her away. She looks confused and frightened on the video. It takes only an instant for her abductor to move her out of the cameras eye. What a different video we might be seeing if at the instant she was touched by the man she launched into him biting, kicking and using everything she had to keep him away from her. I heard a retired FBI agent say, that they knew of no case where a child who was fighting back was killed in the course of an abduction. The reverse is not true. If abducted the outcome is almost universally bad.

On a news program this morning, they ended the story by saying there is “evidence the little girl fought her attacker to the end.” The problem is she didn’t fight in the beginning. Building good character goes hand in hand with a belief in the right to self-defense. Your children must know when and where to apply the defensive skills you teach them. That responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders and on theirs. If you build good character, then self-defense will be exactly that— defense. It will be a reaction to an act of violation, and every child has the right to defend himself if violated. Our children need to be given permission to fight. Yes, they ALSO need to be taught good judgment so they know when fighting might be wrong.

But to demand that children discard their moral right to protect themselves is a lesson that should not be taught in any school or in our society. Children need to know it is morally and ethically right to fight and defend themselves the instant they are physically threatened.

By Jeff Martin of Brand X Martial Arts & CrossFitKids

Tell your Kids it is okay to fight.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

"You are not stabbing me right!"

Rolling Skating in a Buffalo Herd

Recently, I was teaching an impact weapon class and observed an event I have seen a gazillion times between workout partners. One old hand. One new rookie. The experienced hand tells a brand new person how to properly hit him with a stick. Properly! Because his response "won't work" if the rookie didn't attack - properly. The new guy had some flimsy, wrong-wristed, amateur way to strike that was quite lame because he was new to the baton. Honestly, it does remind one of the old Jim Carry skit on the In Living Color TV show:

"You are not stabbing me right!"

But, the sad thing is, the new person was actually hitting his partner as he would in a fight. And sadder still, the vet partner was only prepared to fight against the proper veteran angle of a skilled fighter's delivery. The saddest point? That "wrong" way is likely to be how 90% of the population will actually attack you.

Want to see a new counter and response from a tactic or technique? Bring a new guy into your workout class. Man on the street. We can almost guarantee he won't attack you "the right way." Nor will he respond "the right way." He will squirm out of your joint locks. He will step in the direction of his fall and confound your takedowns. He'll pell instead of mell. Shuck instead of jive.

The new guy might punch funny, swing a stick poorly or deliver a weird, lame line of attack. He may will shoot you, and quite well, like a cowboy from an old black and white western. But he still shot you first. Martial history is replete with these stories of new people inflicting injuries on vets. Remember the story of the first-day, gangly teen-ager, who accidentally stuck his finger into the eye of a Brazilian black belt and put the veteran black belt out of commission for months?

Several issues for the veteran are at the core of this phenomenon. One is, what I have called for two decades now, the myth of the duel. Systems train against the mirror image of themselves and fight against the overt and the subtle methods of their system. It is an insidious little, cancerous problem. Like a tunnel vision, only it becomes tunnel-vision-fighting.
This mistake is easy to read and understand here, yet martial practitioners still suffer greatly at the hands of the radical and different. Conventional warriors suffer at the sneaky ways of the guerilla. The rule-abiding cop fights the no-rules bad guy. Kick-boxers suffer at the hands of ground fighters. Wrestlers suffer at the hands of ground n' pounders. Firearm-range, paper-target shooting champions suffer at the rabid, trigger finger of the alleyway thug. The boxer never sees the hammer fist. This bloody list of interdisciplinary mistakes is almost endless. Train to fight the enemy you expect.

Second, remember not just to train in a multi-disciplinary manner but to fight against these so-called, "rookie/wrong-ways" of common attack. These are high-percentage probabilities.

Year-after-year your fighting system, your rules of engagement, engrains itself into your muscle memory. You become use to the lines and methods of hand, stick, knife and gun attack that your system delivers. Then someone spits in your eye and hits your head with a frying pan. Wait now - what belt level was that again?

By Hock

(Taken from March CQC Dispatches)