Saturday, June 18, 2011

Jeet Kune Do San Diego

As always, it is difficult to express in a few words the philosophy behind the multi faceted training provided by Integrated Threat Response. If you keep an eye on the News around the nation or even in your own community, you'll find many reasons to prepare yourself for defense combat. Many schools unfortunately exploit these tragedies hoping that fear will drive clients through their doors. We, at ITR value the ability to neutralize a violent situation or person. However we believe that it is a mistake to allow paranoia to problematically affect your perception concerning the mostly good people that surround you in your community.

Jeet Kune Do San Diego
Self Defense San Diego
Martial Arts San Diego

Training seriously to properly identify a threat and knowing that you can respond with immediate and effective defensive combatives will allow you to strike a balance between the necessity of vigilant awareness and happy relaxation.
The foundation of what we provide consists in real self defense tactics, training methods that develop necessary attributes for functional movement. This training includes all empty hand ranges, fending off multiple assailants as well as facing deadly modern weapons from blades to firearms. Our tactics range from arrest and control maneuvers to punching, kicking and grappling all the way to limb destructions and even lethal force depending on our audience and their specific needs. It probably comes as no surprise then that our emphasis is truly in coaching people to develop the emotional constitution to survive an attack.
Cold logic plays an important role in our daily events, however it is our belief that no important decision is devoid of emotional content. This includes the behavior present in our immediate reactions to pain, fear and frustration as it does in out more well-thought- out behaviors displayed in our regular daily life. This emotional content can serve to help us successfully navigate an event or it can serve us poorly by causing us to over or under react. Over reaction often manifests as rage under reaction mostly manifests as paralysis in combat. The reality of the situation is that no amount of lecturing can condition a person to develop emotional awareness and control. The training must have “full body” feeling to it. Our Threat Response program is specifically about adding the emotional elements to all of the athletic, technical and tactical abilities we train in the martial arts through specialized training methods.
This goes beyond mere stress inoculation and explores in detail the different emotions and nervous system activity that may arise as a result of different types of stress. For example, consider what a person's sympathetic nervous system exhibits if I introduce a stimuli of a fearful predator such as an enraged dog as opposed to that same system's function upon seeing profuse bleeding. The difference is a major nervous system excitation in example 1 and a major nervous system depression in example 2. The dog may cause heart beat to rise, vision to diffuse or tunnel depending on fight or flight etc.. Conversely, the sight of blood may cause a lower heart rate and drop in blood pressure and result in nausea and fainting. Here at ITR we are not just fighters, law enforcement agents and military we are also dedicated to keeping up with modern psychology and neurology so that we may include it in our training. This is why many of our highest ranking people range from SWAT operatives all the way to professional practitioners of medicine (i.e. Chiropractic), Mental Health and Psychology.
It is clear to us that from their ancient inception, the martial arts have as their cornerstone an interest in emotional control. In providing emotional conditioning for our students and instructors, it is our hope that they will become more emotionally aware and stable without falling into the trappings of becoming too emotionally controlled or blocked. This ideal is a difficult balance to reach and it is with great care that we coach our students. An interesting note is that this subject was deemed important by none other than the founder of Jeet Kune Do Bruce Lee himself and it is with this in mind that we integrate emotional conditioning with functional JKD defense combatives.





Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Value of Exercise

I often receive invitations to teach seminars at other instructor's gyms and dojo's. I have also have trained more adult students than I could accurately count (literally thousands) over the years. There is something I have seen quite often over these years and it is only recently that I have articulated the reasons it causes a sort of negative visceral reaction in me. This is a kind of glib response but it gets right to the issue. What are the values of actually working out?

I watch instructors who have “earned” their black belts “supervise” students while they work out. I am not speaking of sparring but of simple push-ups, crunches, jump squats and planks. I suppose I have exaggerated. Very rarely do I see instructors even teach these things. When I do witness it I watch instructors with undisciplined form which actually cheats them of the benefit of working certain muscle groups. I do not wish to sound like an embittered aged instructor, in fact I am only in my 30's but I began martial arts in 1980. I have to say that learning how to exercise was and still is paramount to martial arts ability and to the benefits students experience. To be sure there are the benefits of fitness and athleticism but there are far more important benefits to the simple fitness work out. One benefit mentioned is self discipline. This can be thought of the process of training yourself to do things correctly even when they are not comfortable or easy. To keep good form even when it is uncomfortable is not as easy as it sounds. To stay on a schedule of non-negotiable fitness is also a worthwhile but challenging commitment. Good form is important for safety reasons while working out. It is also necessary to be able to control your form while fighting and tired. It is in exercise that a person first learns to feel uncomfortable yet do things correctly. Imagine a boxer dropping his hands because he is tired and has never developed the discipline to keep them in good position when he was uncomfortable. We all have seen what happens in that situation namely a knock out. I have been questioned by parents who wonder why I have younger children doing 30 reps of push ups or even more in a row with good form. My answer is always then same. To build the natural intensity needed for combat and to help students learn to navigate negative emotions. Currently it seems important in the following paragraph or two to explain my reasoning in a place where other instructors can read it.

If you do not train this in your students you are teaching them to escape even a worth while difficulty and worse to give up in the face of a situation where giving up may result in injury or worse. Worse? Yes, what if a child needs to struggle against an adult who is attempting an abduction? The child will not be able to over power the adult but will have to struggle to get a way and scream to bring attention to what is going on. So yes, even for self defense please keep in mind that intensity is absolutely required at certain moments no matter what the self defense situation is. Think about a date rape attempt where a person needs to gain mechanical advantage against a bigger stronger opponent. Being able to breath during intense moments can make all the difference and it is in exercise first that we are under stress and gain the ability to continue breathing. We need breath to fight and to call out for assistance. Working out is the first non-symbolic step to maintaining your composure in the face of physical / emotional difficulty. Therefore the work out has to challenge both body and emotions.

I want the instructors of the world to consider a fight they have been in, or even a sport fight. I am speaking of a real experience of intimidation here so either a real fight or full contact sport fight. If you have not at least experienced one of these as an instructor you should. It is only fair to put yourself through that for which you educated people. It will make you a better teacher during the difficult times because you'll remember how difficult a fight is physically and emotionally. Now for those of you who have either fought for defense or competed full contact remember that moment in which you were scared and uncomfortable but you needed the will to act? That moment when you were short of breath in some pain and saw an opening and had to take advantage of it in time? This moment of wanting to give up but acting instead is what lead to the self confidence you have gained through fighting. I am suggesting that the last 10 push ups in a set of 50 are a great way to begin training emotional intensity in a child or adult. They don't want to do anything but relax yet they have 10 more repetitions to go. This moment of wishing to be done but learning to endure in the face of duress is a most valuable emotional lesson. Exercise is the first level of training the emotions. We do not introduce fear (unless you count the social fear that you will not be able to keep up with those in your class) but we do introduce a significant amount of duress and discomfort. Do not cheat your students of developing this ability by being lax about their fitness and form. This goes for adults too. If they can't push through push ups than what makes you think they can handle the pressure of combat. I also suggest leading by example. As their coach and teacher they look to you as a role model. It is your responsibility to be a good one. Baring injuries if you cannot and do not display the ability to do a full body workout on a regular bases you just don't cut it as an instructor. The work out I put my students through at the end of each lesson (because they are warmed up), especially the children is 2 sets of the following with no rest: A) 10 push ups B) ten lower ab crunches C) ten upper ab crunches D) 10 deep breaths while doing a super man E) ten deep breaths while front planking F) 5 deep breaths while side planking on right then the same on left G) ten explosive jump squats. Every week we add 1 repetition or one breath to each exercise. I focus on impeccable form. Remember cycle through each of these exercises once and when finished do another cycle with no rest in between. The lack of rest is what builds emotional intensity. This is an advantage many school athletics enjoy over the martial arts. After 2 sets of everything stretch properly. I would recommend doing a work out with students at least once a week even if you work out on your own. Do this to be a good role model. If you are hypercritical in that you ask them to do what they know you cannot you will lose their respect and rightfully so. I always consider my instructors of the past gaining weight every year and huffing while sparring as I got older. I then look at my best instructors, My father John Gialanella, Joe Freyman, Paul Vunak, and of course Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto. These people mentioned work(ed) out religiously and it showed in their demeanor and in their fighting. I suppose I need not remind you but Dan is not a young man. He turned, if memory serves, 73 years old in July of this year 2009. He continues to stay in shape for his age (he looks and moves like he is decades younger). I still remember my father bench pressing 360 lbs at 63 years old. I also think of my mother who, recently in her 60's has changed her diet and has begun working out and has lost many lbs of extra weight that could have threatened her health. Again her activity level and ability is as it was decades ago. That is the kind of life lesson you as an instructor can teach a student. The display these people have offered and do offer serves for me still as role models I intend to imitate.

As an instructor, keep in mind you may have to demonstrate and tutor a student for months until their form is good. Going through workouts will help you be patient with others as you will hold in your mind how difficult it really was and is to become and stay fit. If you are in need of material and your budget is low there are wonderful resources for learning how to exercise with out the need of equipment these days. Remember the lesson exercise teaches is multifaceted. Exercise is the beginning of a student's the path to life time fitness, self image, emotional content and eventually confidence in the face of difficulty. These lessons are important for all of life as well as self defense. I would love to see this attitude resurface in the martial arts but for now we have to admit that many instructor's possess the attribute of laziness so many good martial arts instructors lose students to activities such as football, track, soccer and basket ball. for more info see

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Reality Of A Serious Knife Fight or When the Shit Hits the Fan You Can't Stop It With Your Hands

The Reality Of A Serious Knife Fight
Or, When the Shit Hits the Fan You Can’t Stop It With Your Hands

If a person is unarmed, that person has a very low probability of defending him or herself against a knife-wielding opponent if that opponent is serious and committed to doing extreme harm.
When I was around 15 years old, someone who pulled out a knife during an argument and cut me in the shoulder. At the time I didn’t think so much of it but as I reflected on the event I realized five things. 1) He was aiming for my throat. 2) He missed. 3) He only swiped the knife at me three times. 4) He stopped swinging his knife more from fear than injury he incurred 5) At any rate this incident threw my whole concept of self- defense into question. These doubts became more severe as time passed. In this essay, I want to explain the reality of a knife fight for all that care to be informed.

Just so I am certain that my readers have a sense of the reality of the blade I would like to suggest an experiment. Do not do this without the supervision of a professional and all necessary safety equipment). Give your opponent a large red marker and let him or her flail (multiple, rapid, chaotic and deliberate strikes) the marker at you. Your goal is to try to defend yourself using any and every empty handed martial arts you know, against the marker. Try every technique you know and every technique ever suggested to you by an “expert” against this marker knife. Your opponent’s job is to continue to swing this marker at you repeatedly and without a prescribed pattern. He or she should attempt to drag the marker across you anywhere he or she could, to just attack by rapidly flailing this object at you rapidly and relentlessly. Eventually you may succeed in disarming your opponent. Now, look at yourself in the mirror. You will have red streaks on your hands, arms, across your eyes, across your groin, across your chest; you will have little marks where you were “stabbed”. Anywhere that you have a red streak is a place where your flesh has been split. Now hang a piece of meat from a string. Hit it a few times with a razor edged box-cutter (again wear all proper safety gear such as a cut glove and goggles etc..) or any other edged weapon you choose. The translation to reality then: would you be willing, now, to hand this same person who just had the marker the razor edged box cutter you used on the meat and re -create the disarming experience? Would you now trade a kick for a razor stroke across the groin or neck? Of course you wouldn't. Now ask yourself if you’d feel comfortable letting an emotionally charged, pain tolerant, experienced fighter or ruthless criminal flail at your face, hands, neck, and torso with a razor, a deserted parking lot or in a bar bathroom, or during a road rage incident where you have limited room to safely back away. Ask yourself if you would feel all right about some one doing this to you anywhere at all. All dramatically emotive speech aside, empty hands against knife is a losing situation. The danger involved cannot be overstated. That is the bad news.

Now the good news is, according to most sources, a knife attack usually lasts 60 -90 seconds. After that the attacker usually will run if he or she believes that an outside party may observe him or her. Keep in mind that the more isolated the location of an attack is, the less likely your attacker will become nervous and desist. Isolation can mean no one is around, it can also mean no one who cares is around. Further, the more emotionally charged or chemically altered an attacker is, the less likely it is that he or she will care about being observed. Therefore, you cannot depend on riding the attack out until your attacker becomes nervous and runs. You would have to posses too much information about your attacker from the onset in order to correctly make the judgment that your attacker will follow the average temporal parameters of these attacks. When the stakes are as high as your life, I would not be quick to gamble even on these decent odds.

So what’s to be done in a knife fight? Well here is an over view of tactics and the order of operations. Remember, all the secrets are in the training method as opposed to technique or knowledge of order of operations. Training method is what develops the qualities that make martial arts strategies and techniques work (i.e. timing and distance etc). Knowing what to do in an unstressed moment is one matter, being able to actually do it when it counts (i.e. when you may die if you don’t perform well) is another. Therefore find a qualified professional that is also qualified to teach the emotional dimension of combat. I had the former “knowledge” when

So here is the blue print for a knife fight based in the Filipino martial arts. Remember, without actually training it sufficiently, you will not develop the necessary abilities to use this information.

Why do I choose to base much of this information on the Filipino way of knife fighting? The context in which Filipino knife fighting developed is applicable to our current context and the details translate very well to our needs here in the United States. The Filipinos do not wear armor. These facts make their arts translate very well to the modern street attack in the United States.

There are 5 ranges of weapons combat, but only three that matter while training to survive most knife attacks. There is long “largo-mano” range. This is where two people’s weapons can respectively reach each other’s weapon hands but not each other’s bodies. In largo-mano range there is usually 2 to 10 meters of distance between opponents. This is the range you will strive to maintain if you want to survive an attack. Simply, the goal is to stay out of the attacker’s danger zone. Get too far away to be hit and then stay too far away. The second range is “sumbrata” range. This is where you can reach each other’s vitals with the weapon. Things happen faster than you can imagine (unless you have already faced a serious knife fighter) in this range. Still it needs to be trained in case you end up there in a fight and in order to develop the necessary speed of your reflexes. The third range is clinch range (hubud) range. In this range you need to be able to read your opponents body pressure and intention. There are methods to train all of these elements and I will not relay them to you here but what I will do is give you the order of operations in any weapons fight if running immediately is not a safe option.

1. Establish a safe (far) distance*

2. Produce an equalizer (your own knife, gun, stick, coffee pot, Sharp rock, Q-ball, pool stick, broken bottle etc.)If you can not produce an equalizer find an obstacle to place between you and the attacker.

3. Use your weapon (equalizer) “De-fang” your opponent’s snake. That is, destroy the weapon hand of your opponent by slicing through the blood vessels and tendons so he or she cannot hold his or her weapon any longer. You must back up in order to keep your vitals safe and simultaneously find the opportunity to render your attacker’s weapon hand useless. This is the major tactic of Filipino knife fighting. Usually as an opponent advances with a strike, the defender will simultaneously back away and “de-fang" the opponent’s snake.”

4. Terminate the fight (meaning injure to the minimum degree necessary in order to stop the attack) or disengage (run).

I have heard certain instructors advocate that a student attempt to find a vital target on an opponent immediately. I strongly discourage this strategy. It is my understanding that there is an adrenaline response that will allow an opponent to function for about 5 seconds after a deadly knife strike. Five seconds is a very long time in a knife fight. It is enough time for your opponent to find a deadly target on you as well, especially if you are close enough to him to be touching his body or head with your blade. I have also heard instructors advocating an initial arm block to an opponent’s weapon and a subsequent strike with your own weapon. This again is far too risky. Without wearing wooden, metal, or boiled leather armor, all your opponent has to do is pull his knife away from your block and you will receive a likely debilitating cut to the arm. Conversely if you detach his tendons controlling his weapon hand no amount of adrenaline will allow him to hold onto his weapon. Others arts may advocate performing an empty hands disarm on a knife wielding opponent. All of these ideas are highly and often unnecessarily risky. In short they are irresponsible self –defense suggestions. After being on the wrong end of an edged weapons attack I suggest this: Look for an equalizer! When I was in ninjutsu I was told to advance on a knife wielding opponent and “take his balance.” Even if I had no weapon. The problem with this strategy occurred to me after I was cut by an attacker. Even a person with no balance and with minimal leverage can effectively injure you with a knife, especially a sharp one. An Attacker could be stumbling backwards or in mid air and flail with well enough force to kill a person.

What if the unthinkable happens? If you end up being attacked and you don’t have your own knife you must your only chance of surviving is to use footwork to keep a “safe” distance. In long range you may utilize nerve strikes and fast low line kicks to keep your opponent at bay as you back away. If you are going to use these tools, please understand that they have to be employed with perfect timing or you will receive a likely debilitating cut. These tools will not end the fight; they will just buy you valuable time for escape or counter. Choose the tools that allow you to strike and move at the same time. The amount of time you can keep your opponent at bay may allow you to detect an opportunity to escape, to get an obstacle in between you and your opponent (a car, a table, a crowd, and/or to find an equalizer).

If you find yourself in trapping (clinch) range hanging onto the knife-hand do not let it go! Utilize other parts of your body to strike while maintaining control of the weapon (I recommend controlling the wrist of the weapon hand). A proper head-butt to the face or knee to the groin can be quite effective if you are using both hands to control your opponent’s weapon. Once again the timing is very difficult.

If you are wrestling on the ground with an opponent and he pulls a knife. You cannot back away because you are locked up; your only hope is to recognize that your opponent is going for a knife before he actually gets it out. If he already has it out, you must again trap the knife against the opponent or against the ground so he cannot use it. There are cases when you might hit him with a concussive “knock out” blow before his actually grasps the weapon in order to draw it. This is an extremely serious situation. If his hand is grasping the weapon or if it is already drawn there is a high probability that the defender will suffer a fight-ending wound. If you make even one wrong move, you will get cut, and with a sharp knife to get cut is to get cut badly. Too many instructors ignore this simple truth. To be fair, maybe they are unaware because they have never faced a very large, very angry man intending to do serious harm with the edged weapon he is holding. If you can find an equalizer, use it on his hand. I do train people for this grappling situation, but you will find that it is a situation that even very good grapplers seldom survive. I hesitate to even offer advice through an article and I will not advocate any strategy herein for any person who has not been trained and assessed by me personally.

The moral of the story: You need to be aware of an impending attack by way of recognizing the precursors to it. You need your own weapon to effectively counter a weapon-wielding attacker. You also need to know how to use a knife in order to defend against it. I say this often: The biggest mistake we make in martial arts is to compare our training to other martial arts or to schoolyard brawls! These are comparisons to the fights of fantasy and the fights of children. Instead we should, quite simply, compare our training to the situations that would seriously terrify us, the type of situations in which a person would never feel comfortable or look forward to. The situations we would fear for our lives or the lives of loved ones if we were faced with them. Only keeping that in mind will allow you to train for the situations that may kill you. This comparison is the starting point and the essence of realistic self-defense.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Part II. What kind of martial arts can we mix? (A look at technique and tactic of various martial art styles by a Full Instructor of JKD) Part II.

Many say that Bruce Lee was ahead of his time with his ideas mixed martial arts in the United States (there were mixed martial arts in ancient Greece such as pankration and I am sure in many other cultures as well). I believe this statement about Bruce Lee is true. It is only recently that many understand what it means to mix martial arts. This current understanding has been a product of both Bruce Lee's contribution and the no holds barred events that are currently on the rise. The fact that we need to mix arts for multiple ranges and contexts is one of the simpler ideas Bruce Lee gave to us with Jeet Kune Do. There are two problems that occur when mixing the arts. Firstly, there are many ways to mix arts. Secondly there are many arts to be mixed. This part of the article is concerned with the latter problem (part III will address the former problem). I know this article is long, but the 15 minutes it may take to read it may save you years of wasted training time for self defense.

My first experience in Jeet Kune Do (I will not name the organization because it is not fair to base a judgment of an entire organization on just one instructor) was a tragic money and time wasting example of mixing arts with no insight into functional purpose. I remember sparring a fairly large opponent (6 feet+ 200lbs +) and the instructor encouraged me from the sidelines to "just go in for a judo flip." I expected, in the beginning, that these types of suggestions were learning exercises and all would eventually be made clear. I went in for the flip and received a right cross to my face. I went in again and got flipped myself. I took a time out and approached the instructor. When I asked him what I did wrong and why the judo flip seemed almost impossible against the larger opponent. I also mentioned that it seemed impractical from punching range. My instructor just told me I needed to be faster. I told him I thought it would be better to use a tool like this flip only if I ended up closer to my opponent. I also told him that I think a judo flip was a poor choice against my opponent who was large and had a wrestling background. I felt like I was just running stupidly into my opponent's punches. He told me that the "flip" was fine to use against my opponent and that I could use it from long range. In any event the sparring resumed and I went in for the judo flip one more time and my opponent didn't budge. Instead, as I struggled with him, he punched me in the side of the head again and sent me flailing backwards. This type of occurrance was typical of the instruction I was given during sparring sessions. This particular day I had had enough. The next timei jabbed my opponent from long range and then went in. When my opponent and I clinched, I drove my knee into his ribs twice. This made him pause and disrupted his balance. I then threw him to the ground using the back of his neck (similarly to the way a Muay Thai fighter might) but twisting his head downward and to the side. My instructor became severely upset, he yelled at me and told me that he instructed me to use a (insert profanity here) judo technique. I told him that I would like to see him try to use it against my opponent because my opponent was larger than my instructor as well. He refused to demonstrate this full contact and told me to take a week off of training because of my attitude problem. He said that my knee strikes were an example of lost control, although they were intentional. I felt I had to hit my opponent with something that would disorient him enough so I could use the throw. I was certain, at this point, that something was amiss. It is one thing to practice tactics you would never use in a fight during some training inorder to develop coordination etc, but it is another to do it full contact when you are trying to recreate a “fight”.

I began looking for a new instructor and found one, Joe Freyman, who, at the time, was a Full Instructor of JKD (Jeet Kune Do), and the Filipino arts under world renowned JKD instructor and fighter Paul Vunak. Studying JKD, this time, really seemed to make sense to me as each art (and the arts were extensive) and the concepts they contained were presented to me. My study of martial arts took on a new light. I was actually encouraged to go explore and train other arts and bring them back to class for analysis, experimentation and even modification. The "judo flip" experience was made clear to me. It turns out that this technique comes from the sport version of ju-jutsu. Without extensive training in sensitivity (learning to read bodily pressure from an opponent) techniques of this sort are close to impossible. It was not a matter of speed it was a matter of reading my opponent's pressure. Even with pressure reading ability, these techniques are difficult to execute against a well-balanced large strong opponent. Watch how long it takes judo practitioners of even similar size and strength to throw one another. Further, I had tried to enter into trapping range for the judo flip in a passive fashion. In other words I hadn't caused pain in order to distract my opponent so it was easy for him to counter me on my way in. This type of passive single direct entry is appropriate if your opponent is not allowed to punch you in the face repeatedly (as in the pure art of judo). In any event I learned to read pressure and I am still building ( and always will be until I am finished training martial arts) my ability. One can never be too good at reading pressure. I feel that training with Paul and Joe was the first time any instructor gave me a realistic account of a "no-rules-fight" (street fight) with a bigger, tougher opponent. The things that Joe and Paul said to me resonated with my sentiments about real fights I had been in. They didn't shy away from the sometimes brutal necessity of things such as biting, weapons, groin and eye strikes. They also were not afraid to tell me that I would lose a real fight when I was doing something ineffective. I remember asking the question " How do you know it wouldn't work?" That was when they put a motorcycle helmet on my opponent and gave him gloves. Basically I was told to try my idea on an opponent who was trying to knock me out. My opponent was allowed to do whatever it would take to stop me. This experience was amazing albeit painful. Maybe I took Paul's advice a little too literally when he said "Put that helmet on every type of fighter you can think of." For a long time, every time I would find myself around a person that I would be afraid to fight no matter the style they trained or their size, I would offer to pay them $20 to wear the helmet for an hour and they could fight me as they saw fit. I would ask my paid opponent to just knock me out or tap me out or what ever and I would try to learn to fight them. Some of these people had spent time in prison and were not trained at all. Others were bouncers, martial artists, or athletes. You would be surprised at how many people look at you like you are insane when you proposition them this way. Sometimes the helmet session is a scary or defaming affair. One man even brought a case of beer, his own video camera and all of his friends to watch! He knocked me to the ground with his 3rd punch on our first session and I was unable to continue that day. He helped me to my feet and I took my injured self and my video of the fight home and watched it and re-watched. It took me 4 sessions (over a 5 week period) to learn to enter and neutralize this man in a fight while he was wearing a helmet, a cup, thigh protection and hand protection. I entered on him about 3 times during the first 5 minutes of our 4th session. On the 3rd entry, my elbow strike knocked him to the ground. When he got up a few minutes later he took off the helmet and gave me my $20 back. He said he couldn't continue and had to sit down. $80 later I had learned something about a fight I had never known before; How to enter on a large tough man who spent time in prison. It is difficult to explain what it is like to knock a motorcycle-helmet-wearing opponent unconscious until you have done it. It changes your mind about what works in self defense and what doesn't. You have to rely on timing and pressure, concussive force (body mechanics) and sensitivity instead of just causing pain. These were inexpensive, but painful lessons. Ultimately they were enlightening in the way of self defense. I will not allow a person to be an instructor under me if they have not gone through at least an amount of "helmet" training." I feel many people lack perspective about fighting until they do this. I will always be grateful to Paul Vunak for leading me to this experience. I feel that this is what Bruce Lee meant when he said to "discover the cause of your ignorance." This experience is invaluable for a self defense instructor, however, I am not recommending you do this with out expert supervision as it is very dangerous! The following is what found to be true of some different martial arts when I put the helmet on my opponent and told them to "just take me out of the fight." This will not be a complete list of every art and every concept in fighting. It will be an account what I found as I learned new arts and tried to adapt them to real fighting. The list of arts I will present is not exhaustive, but my hope is that the sample I chose is varied enough in their respective approaches to combat and strategies that it will give the aspiring martial arts student (as well as instructors) an idea of what is out there and the difference among arts. The phrase "Martial Arts", these days, is not synonymous with "effective self defense". Styles are not all equal, but they all contain at least one important element.

Every martial art ever developed was a solution to a socio/political problem of its time. These problems range from a need for personal self defense (dumog, wing chun kung fu, savate) to military combat training (leard drit and tae kwon do) to arts that blend self defense surreptitiously with dancing and tumbling as well as gave oppressed people an outlet for their creative spirit (capoeira) I want to take a look at the major tactical attributes of several arts and maybe even some of their methodologies. Much of what I say comes from personal experience as often martial arts systems assert that they fight one way, but when they actually engage a fight it looks quite different than they said it would. I want to stress this idea. It has been said before (by Bruce and then Paul) and I believe it to be true. "It is not the art or style or technique that makes a fighter dangerous. It is the attributes or qualities of an individual that dictate how well he or she can fight." The styles, tactics and techniques will always be secondary to these qualities or attributes. Bruce lee understood this and dedicated a whole section of his book "The Tao of Jeet Kune Do" to "qualities". I highly recommend reading it.


1. Savate has its genesis in Europe. France is the central geographical source of this art. There are two versions of savate. The sport is called boxe francaise. Savate means boot (old or heavy boot) in French. This is because the practitioners wear shoes and use them as weapons in order to penetrate and damage an opponent's organs and soft spots. This strategy makes it an important piece of self defense especially for smaller people. Originally savate contained open hand strikes. This may be because it was considered lethal force to use a closed fist in France in a fight at the times in the history of savate's development. The street version of savate in its most aggressive form uses whipping penetrating kicks with boot clad feet, closed hand boxing punches, elbows, knees, head butts, and eye gouges. There is not much ground grappling in savate but there is some. Rarely have I seen strikes utilizing shins as weapons in this art in its pure form. I have seen boots driven into the shins though. Its main features are whip-like fast strikes especially kicks in combinations using the shoe as a weapon. Timing, speed, agility, balance, flexibility and footwork of savate are superior in comparison with many other arts.
Paul Vunak along with Daniel Duby opened the first savate academy in the United States. Savate is one of my favorite arts because of the attributes it develops. Savate kicks are very effective but sometimes difficult to do. Practitioners have a high degree of athleticism and agility. The combinations of this art are difficult to defend against. The mechanics of savate are the only ones I have ever seen that allow a person to kick high in close quarters.

2. Tae Kwon Do: I have been told that the name of this art literally translates to "hand foot way." I include this art because it is the most widely trained art in the United States today. I am personally convinced that this art can have combat merit but I believe that it seldom does. I have seen this art produce some highly effective kickers. I say this because recently I took the time to count the number of tae kwon do opponents I have sparred over the past 2 decades. The number was well over 100. Maybe this seems a small test sample, but these practitioners were probably trained in close to 75 different schools. That is to say I have fought an opponent from at least 75 tae kwon do schools around the world. There are some fighting similarities in all of these opponents I have noticed. According to those with whom I trained this art. According to most sources Subak is the oldest word for the Korean arts that researchers can find. It is debated whether this art actually developed in Korea or was adopted by Koreans. In any event it was an art that emphasized kicking. It adopted hand techniques early on and possibly became known as tae kyon. It was originally practiced by the warrior class known as the Hwarang (arts such as hwarang do which is the name of a martial art translate approximately to "warrior way"). It included sword training, archery, and equestrian skills. During certain time periods in Korea, much culture, including the martial arts were repressed. There are many stories around the world such as this. As a result of these political twists and turns there were multiple name changes of the Korean arts and the organizations made for them. The origins of tae kwon do can be said to be these. The art developed for warriors. Later it was organized into a sport as well, but there is a non-sport version of the art. In my personal experience I will say that I believe that the art has been influenced too heavily by its sport dimension. It seems to me as if most Tae kwon do fighters are used to fighting only other tae kwon do fighters. This is a complete art but kicks are emphasized far more than any other range. The shin block from muay thai plus the thigh kick from muay thai seem to debilitate much of the preferred tae kwon do attacks. Practitioners of this art seem to be weak on the ground and in the clinch. Muay Thai kicks seem to wound their many weapons and the Thai shin block is a painful one to receive. I find that tae kwon do practitioners are far weaker than boxers in punching range. In trapping range there are many locks, sweeps and a few strikes. Tae Kwon Do's tool box in this range seems ineffectual against a strong fast opponent. Their ground fighting is not adequate to deal with the other grappling arts out there. Tae kwon do's kicks are snappy and acrobatic. I recommend training this art to learn kicks if you do not have a muay thai, or savate school nearby. The features I have experienced in tae kwon do fighters are flexibility, balance, endurance and strong high kicking.

3. Muay Thai from Thailand developed as personal self defense. The legend my original instructor told me is this: An ancient King was captured in battle. He was given the opportunity to fight the toughest fighters of his captors. If he won he would be granted his freedom. The story goes that he did win and from his return to his country forward the populace practiced this effective fighting style. My instructor informed me that there are theories that suggest Muay Thai is a fierce streamlined derivative of Pentjak Silat but with harsher training methods. It used to include head butts, biting and eye gouges. Much later muay thai became modernized for the ring as a "civilized" sport. . It, I believe is essential to self-defense because of its full body mechanics resulting in concussive hammer-like strikes. I would list Muay Thai is an art of powerful swinging shin kicks, powerful (but often slow when compared to western boxers) punches and devastating knees and elbows. It contains at least 3 of the ranges in its non-sport form and is quite brutal. Power, fierceness, brutally effective tools, endurance and intensity characterize muay thai. Footwork is a little slow and limited. Attempting to use its short range tools in long range is a common problem of thai boxers in my fighting experience.

4. Boxing is a punching only art and is, therefore, incomplete. In its sport form it works best on opponents within your own weight class, but it can be modified to be devastating in punching range on the street., boxing contains the jab which is the single fastest (but not longest) long range tool in a fight. The jab is a primary tool in the mixed martial arts for this reason. The boxers jab is the most valuable tool in long range mass attack as well. Therefore boxing is a necessary but insufficient part of training. Boxers also have many wonderful ways (methods) of training the qualities that are needed in a fight. Another reason to train boxing is that they avoid or evade an opponent's strike instead of block. This may seem minor to some, but when you fight a person 100 lbs outside of your weight class, you'll notice that even when you succeed in blocking your opponent, his strike can often make you stagger or knock you off balance. Further, a block puts you in a reference position and no one is in pain yet. This raises the probability that your opponent will either counter you or worse yet, gain an irreversible advantage by moving first from that position. It is important to cause pain to an opponent immediately after landing in a reference position. This will buy you time to move decisively first. The jab is an invaluable tool for causing first pain from long range.

Boxing has superior footwork, timing, rhythm, weight shifts, economy, and endurance. Speed and body mechanics are also quite good. It is, however, only a two range art. It includes punching range and the clinch. Its punches in clinch range cannot do as much damage as the elbows and knee strikes found in other arts. The body mechanics for uppercuts and hooks are almost identical to those for elbows, so training boxing can increase your effectiveness at these things. One of the problems with boxing with out gloves is the power-line it uses. That is to say a boxer makes a fist when punching. The bones of the wrist are aligned in such a way that there is a straight line from the fists contact point (the knuckle of the ring finger) through the wrist and elbow. The amount of pressure generated by a boxer's punch mechanic can easily break this knuckle if the fighter punches into hard tissue (i.e. a jaw or forehead). Therefore it is necessary to modify the power-line and even the hand tool used at the end of a punch. While training Navy Seals I notice that they prefer to use their palm ( the carpal bone under the pinky next to the wrist) in order to avoid breaking their fingers. This is because they need fingers for other tasks during warfare and they cannot afford to break one frivolously. I have personally used a fist successfully and safely in self defense but with a modified power-line aiming the middle knuckle at a soft tissue target such as the nose, throat, side of the neck or jaw. I suggest that every martial artist spend at least 40 hours of boxing training at a gym, it is at least that important.

5. Kali is an extensive complete art from the Philippines. It contains all ranges and has some of the best training methods I have ever witnessed in my time in the martial arts. It includes devastating strikes and grappling. It contains highly effective maneuvers for all four ranges. There are so many Filipino arts that I will not distinguish between Kali and all the others here (such as dumog, panantuken, pananjakman, etc). In later articles I will do so in greater detail. There is a lethal feel and brutal efficiency to this art. It contains weapons that would be familiar to us on the modern day street in the United States. These weapons are short impact weapons, small fast razor sharp knives etc… These arts developed on the fishing docks, in the fields, in the jungles and in the streets all over the Philippines. Often these fights would go to the death. Other versions of Filipino arts were modified to defeat Spanish invaders. The arts of the Philippines are largely eclectic. Kali contains movements and tactics that are designed to work against larger opponents and use the opponent's strength against him/her. Kali also contains different degrees of force and tactics for mass attack. This art has so many virtues it is difficult to list them. I trained and researched martial arts for 17 years and decided that Kali was one of the best. This is the reason I have worked hard to achieve an instructorship certification in it with Paul Vunak.

6. Wing Chun kung fu: Legend has it that it was developed by a female nun and a girl in order to allow the girl to defeat the town bully so she would not have to marry him. It is my understanding that the girl's name was Wing Chun. This art, as the legend suggest, is an art of personal self defense. Its fighters are characterized by their ability to read an opponents body pressure and use it against him or her. This art contains techniques for immobilizing the opponent's hands and feet (trapping them) It contains straight punches thrown in centerline. It is a fast art of reading pressure, finding centerline in a fight, economy of motion, energy conservation, and efficiency. It does not boast the most brutal or powerful techniques but if you get your arms tangled with an opponents and are in a strength match with someone stronger than you, it is very important to be able to perform the movements from this art. Bruce Lee studied this art extensively with Yip Man.

7. Jujutsu developed as a battle field art in Japan. This art incorporated joint manipulation, throws, take-downs and grappling. Much later this art made its way to Brazil. In Brazil there was no armor and instead of melee combat with large weapons the fight was often one on one. For this reason, both fighters would often end up on the ground during a fight. As a result, the ground grappling aspect of this art became strongly emphasized in Brazil. Fighters did not always wear the traditional gi uniform in Brazil and they definitely did not wear armor, so quick wrestling-like take downs were used instead of the traditional throws and modifications of other techniques were used because opponents were not able to use their opponent's gi for leverage or as a weapon. This art is superior in grappling (wrestling) range. It can take a long time to defeat an opponent with this ( and all grappling arts) art so it is not well suited for mass attack and weapons since, when on the ground, it is impossible to stay out of the reach of an additional opponent's stomping foot or a weapon. Your only hope is to trap the hand holding said weapon. Small fast weapons such as the ubiquitous clip on knives we see today make this range dangerous on the street. Trapping a limb that is wielding a small knife is very difficult. On the plus side jujutsu works against larger opponents and can be gentle or lethal depending on the type of fight. I have trained this art in the Gracie tradition, the Japanese tradition and with Paul Vunak. It is best suited for a one on one no weapons fight. It is the best ground art in my experience.

8. Karate was first developed on the island chain that includes Okinawa. Its original meaning was 'china hand" which was later spelled to read "empty hand". It became popular in Japan long after it was developed in Okinawa. It is a complete powerful fighting style that utilizes all types of strikes with throws. It has some grappling but not too much. It was developed so the civilians on the Okinawa islands could defend themselves against invading warriors. There were techniques used to punch and kick through armor. Some bamboo and wooden armor was worn by the practitioners as well. It is an art characterized by power coming from the hips. It lacks in footwork and economy of motion. Due to the armor worn in the fights it does not translate completely to today's street. It utilized arm blocks for knives. This would not be practical against a razor sharp box cutter yet blocking knives is still taught (this is true of many arts). Blocking a knife with an unarmored limb could (and almost always will) result in a debilitating cut in the first few seconds. Blocks also don't work very well on fast boxers who hit in combinations. Since there are many boxers in our culture, and we do not wear armor this art is limited in its present day combat value.

9. Ninjutsu is surrounded in mystery. The ninja were clans of people who served a lord to whatever end. It is my understanding that the two major clans were named after mountains in Japan. There were the koga and the Iga. I received my black belt in what was explained to me as Koga-ryu ninjutsu. I have heard that the Iga clan eventually destroyed the koga, but I have not looked into it since my instruction during the 1980"s. The program I learned was in a tradition that included espionage, assassination, and intelligence (gathering of information). We had many instances of training where we were instructed to gather information about our enemies. Our trainings were usually broken into two groups of students. It was the opposing training group I refer to when I say "enemy". The ninja had to contend with samurai and hired guardians quite often. The goal of all of ninjutsu is stealth and to confuse the opponent. It is a complete art but it works best when ambushing an opponent. There were many weapons only some of which can translate to today's type of fights. The ninja were knowledgeable in the healing and the lethal properties of plants. They employed everything from swords to blinding powders (metsubushi) during combat. Many martial arts instructors suggest that their students "escape from an attacker and run." Ninjutsu is the only art I have ever trained that makes sure that the student is proficient at escape. It trains climbing, tumbling, hiding in all terrains, and camouflage. It is an art of stealth, agility and mystery. My school even included tracking, navigation and trap making skills as part of belt tests.

For self defense I have found ninjutsu useful when I had occasion to strike a single attacker and get away quickly while my opponent was stunned. I have found it less useful when I had to see a fight through all the way to a decisive fight ending blow without being armed. The curriculum of this art is quite extensive. The training methods for actual taijutsu (fighting movements) were not as sophisticated as methods for ninpo (stealth) in my experience. I want to take a closer look at this art because it was advertised not so long ago, as the ultimate martial art. An ultimate art is absurd to us now after watching the UFCs but I think this is important.

Historically ninjutsu was not generated out of a need for self defense. Successful completion of the mission-objective of the ninja was sacrosanct. Much of the information gathering and message carrying was done by memorization. In fact, we had to train to build pneumonic memory devices and report what we observed accurately. For belt tests we had to remember a message and report it back accurately 3 weeks later to the instructor. Survival during combat was not the end-purpose of this art. Completing a mission satisfactorily was. A ninja could not risk losing a fight with an opponent that might trap and interrogate him or her (the female ninja were the kunoichi). The Ninja often carried a small amount of poison for the purpose of suicide. If they were in a most likely defeated situation, they would not try to win the fight or escape, this was far too risky. They would simply commit suicide before taking the chance of being captured. If your goal is to survive or fight through the lethal losing situation, ninjutsu is not your art. Yes, this art trains you to fight in order to escape, that is good, but if the chances are too high that you will lose, historically the ninja would ensure that he or she would not be interrogated via ending his or her own life. This is a phenomenal war-time art but historically the ninja did not concern themselves with self-preservation after a certain point. I will include here that I attempted to take a knife away from an opponent in a real fight using what we trained in my old dojo. The same thing that worked in the dojo resulted in a fairly bad wound on my shoulder in the real fight. This wound came way too close to my throat for comfort. In fact it would have been my throat if I didn't execute a shoulder roll from boxing at the last moment. After studying ninjutsu as a child, much later I studied with the Bujikan system but was concerned with the rigidity of the art as it was taught to me. I felt my instructor was not flexible enough to allow for new ideas that would be conducive to navigation of modern violent situations. The general attitude in my school at that time was that the art was superior and needed no help from other sources. I left this system in order to expand my martial arts experience. My feelings here are mixed however. I trained briefly with an instructor under Robert Bussey in the 1980's. That instructor was open to including useful non traditional elements to his art such as a jab and cross from boxing. I regret to admit that I don't know if Mr. Bussey organization still exists as I have been out of the loop for well over a decade.

10. Tai chi is an art from China. Many people do not consider tai chi a martial art. I actually used to make fun of it as a combat art. I learned my lesson, as usual, the hard way. Tai chi is an art of grounding, base, balance, leverage and breathing. If used correctly, tai chi can be used to shove (sometimes violently) even a larger opponent off balance. In fact, if I understand the history correctly, the tai chi we usually see today is similar to the warm up and cool down used in combative training. In between the warm up and cool down, the practitioners used to shove one another violently around a training room with the same motions you'll find in the art you see today. In the art form that is so common today, the only elements not included are the leverage-points of the body where a tai chi person might apply pressure and timing. I believe that tai chi is the most effective way to move another human being in a fight if you cannot grab your opponent's limb or neck (if you can grab a limb or neck then dumog is the most effective way to move an opponent without striking).

11. Pentjak Silat is a complete martial art from Indonesia. From what I under stand the term pentjak or pencak signifies the region of the art (Indonesia) and “silat” means martial art or fighting art. I heard someone say once that “pentjak means to play and silat means to kill”, but I have found no evidence of this meaning of the terms in my research.
There are 5 major styles of silat. It, like kali, has a lethal feel to it. Although I personally prefer Kali's training methods I will say that I am highly impressed with this art's combat value. The movements are effective and the explosive speed of silat practitioners makes them dangerous opponents. I have trained silat on and off for about 8 years. It is very similar in ways to Kali as it includes weapons and all ranges.

12. Jeet Kune Do (JKD): There is much confusion about JKD. It is truly not an art that can be defined as just an art among the other arts. Jeet Kune Do is a concept that literally means (the way of the intercepting fist) more broadly it can be thought of as the way of interception. The kanji surrounding its symbol translates to "using no-way as way and having no limitation as limitation." The essence of JKD is not totally captured in the literal translation of its name however. JKD promotes the attitude that recognizes the value and limitation of every particular art and strategy. The JKD person exposes herself/himself to all types of experiences in a fight so that he or she can utilize every art (but no particular art all the time) exactly when he or she needs it. The idea is to be continually switching in an out of arts as is necessary for his or her goals. It is combining all that is necessary at the moment to achieve your goals. Obviously self awareness of these goals is important.

Jeet Kune Do does not only recognize the value of the interconnection of all martial arts, but the interconnection of all movement and further the interconnection of all things (as Taoism does). This breaks down all the rigid guidelines of particular style and way, allowing one to see fighting as an "alive" dynamic process that demands constant adaptation just like life in general. This is why there has been much confusion over that which Bruce Lee has said. Although "there is no superior art all the time, JKD practitioners work to develop the ability to find the superior martial arts movement or tactic of the moment in a fight". The essence of JKD insofar as self defense, then, is in the non-arbitrary seamless blending of the arts in a way that will work best for the user. For example, I do not have the timing and speed of Bruce Lee. So if he were fighting a fast boxer he might be able to use a savate kick to the groin in order to intercept his opponent's punch. I, however, might have to use a more economical tool such as limb destruction from kali to neutralize the fast boxer's jab. We would both be doing JKD because we both had knowledge of what art was appropriate in order to counter the pressure of our opponent, but it would not look like the same "art". Indeed it would not be the same art because it is never just an art.

To say that JKD has an absolute essence is where the confusion arises. If you are looking for an easy solution or a hard fast never changing rule, you will not find it in JKD. What you will find (if your instructor is a good one) is a constantly evolving base of experience from which you can draw your insights. Keep in mind that JKD is flexible in its approach to problem solving, but the jkd practioner still takes problem solving seriously and tries to be rational yet creative as he or she does so. To attain "no-way" still takes much hard work.

Just as JKD treats everything as interconnected, it does not assume that any entity has the same essence as any other. This sounds confusing, but let me explain. I will adhere to the theme of a fight because presumably you are reading this to learn more about self defense. Keep in mind this is my personal interpretation of what was taught to me.

Let's say you have been in a fight where a person tried to punch you in the face. Is this essentially the same type of fight as one in which an opponent pulled a knife on you? Is the knife situation the same in essence (does it feel the same, does it take the same amount and degree of qualities to navigate it successfully) as having a gun pulled on/shot at you or a baseball bat swung at you? What I am saying is that the feel of a situation is different every time you add a new element. One situation feels potentially lethal or even probably lethal, the other one (just being punched) doesn't. Add an additional attacker to any of these situations. Imagine how that changes things. Now add an observer, how does that change the feel? Now add a person that you are responsible for protecting (I.e. your child). How would that change the feel? These fights are interconnected in that they are all violent encounters. They are more generally connected in that they are examples of human interaction. Experience in one, however, does not necessarily translate to experience in another! One experience has to be similar enough to another in order for the individual to extrapolate effectively. It is only in breaking down the guidelines yet remembering that your individual experience has to be vast and substantial that you will begin to know how to navigate different situations on a level that is deeper than mere intellectual pontification. I believe this was Bruce Lee’s meaning of “formlessness”. JKD is an endeavor based on the recognition that an alive and thinking being (a human) has a vast amount of potential. In recognizing that potential, the individual through discipline, experience, reflection and hard work, can acquire the freedom to choose and re-choose any course of thought or action, as she or he sees fit. This is why JKD normally does not offer belts but it should continually offer enlightening experience. It is the content of this experience that is so important. My personal belief is that this process offers the student ownership of all that he or she learns instead of forcing the student to refer to "the expert or master" at every roadblock and question mark. JKD is a process of progressive emancipation and independence. In my experience, many martial arts instructors require the student to become more dependent as time goes on. Bruce did not require this because I believe he knew that too much dependence and rigidity would ultimately limit new insight therefore limiting the positive progression of the art. To my mind, this awareness seems to be a virtue of Bruce Lee and a virtue of good instructors. Although the ambiguity that comes along with this lack of rigidity is an opportunity for less than qualified instructors to confuse and misinform a student. Opportunist of this sort are ubiquitous in all areas of life and it is up to you to avoid them.

Bruce Lee himself said that "knowledge is not enough" and to "apply" if you want wisdom. Although I am not Taoist I will paraphrase one of the Tao's most important ideas "the true path can not be spoken of, it can only be walked." Meaning, not everything I say or Bruce Lee said will be able to be understood as I or even he intended it until you, the student of martial arts, gain experience. Experience is a never ending quest while you are alive. In light of this assertion, I am convinced that all good instructors are still active students. I hope this article will help you find a suitable guide for that experience at least in the martial arts.
Part III of this article will address how to mix martial arts effectively. Please check back for the next installment of the mixed martial arts series and thank you for reading.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

part I Mixing Martial Arts for Effective Self Defense

Part I. Why do we need to mix martial arts for self defense?

Mars was the Roman god of war. The term martial is a derivative of his name; literally then, this originally meant the war arts. Today, however, the phrase martial arts can refer to full contact sport fighting, medium contact competition, point fighting, katas, cardio kickboxing, and weapon forms competition. In this article I will be mostly talking about martial arts that are true to their etymological namesake. That is, self- defense when there are no rules or limits as to what can happen. To be clear, I am making a distinction between self defense defined as physical intervention and prevention of conflict defined as more of a mental act of awareness. I regret that I have to begin this article with a disclaimer but I believe it is necessary to do so. The disclaimer is simply that self defense is a complex and vast subject that contains within it many psychological and physiological dimensions. The fact of the matter is that there are so many potential variables that can occur in a real attack, it is impossible to say everything about self-defense in one article or even in a whole book. Think of this as the foundation for a progressive series of articles that address the many topics of self-defense and combat in depth. I would like to inform students who want serious self defense so that they may develop high standards for what they require from their instructors. It is time for you, the student, to start expecting and demanding more from us, the self defense instructors. You have a right to know the limits of our expertise when it comes to self defense. You may have to protect your life (or the life of a loved one) with what we teach you. There is no higher personal responsibility I can think of than that. In advance I would like to thank readers for their patience as I make my way to a discussion of all of these dimensions (if there is an area of martial arts that you would like to know about please e- mail me so I may address your concerns). In part one of this article I will explain the 3 major features of a martial art as I justify the necessity of mixing different arts for complete self defense training. I will also offer a little information about my background so the reader understands the perspective from which my ideas originate.
June of 2007 marks my 27th year as a student of martial arts. I began with boxing training with my father when I was 3 and in a few years I moved on to training ninjutsu until I obtained my black belt. I continued to train with my father who was an ex police officer and an ex-82nd airborne paratrooper. Since then I have studied Karate , Jujutsu (in both the Japanese and Brazilian tradition), I have fought matches in Muay Thai for 7 years and continue to train it still, I have boxed for 6 years and train it still. I even briefly held a certification to teach krav maga but I allowed it to expire because I was not entirely satisfied with what I was teaching or learning. I am currently a Full Instructor of Jeet Kune Do, The Filipino arts and Mixed Martial arts under Paul Vunak who, in the way of self defense, I hold in the highest esteem. I trained largely over the last decade (and continue to do so still), with Paul and his organization of Executive Progressive Fighting systems (formerly known as just Progressive Fighting Systems). As for my experience fighting full contact and in self-defense, I will only list what is necessary to illustrate my ideas. I feel that the dramatized "tough guy" stories of needing to fight because where, when, or how a person was raised have become otiose and to my mind extremely repetitive and boring. To say just a few words, many people involved in martial arts training have a story to tell about why they decided that it would be wise to learn effective self defense. For my part, I started training martial arts because I was fascinated by them. My interest in effective self-defense started later. After I faced a few situations including attacks in which knives were involved and a firearm attack. I realized that what I was taught about attacks in martial arts schools was not the same thing as what I knew to be true in a real attack. I hope I am never put in a dangerous situation (never put myself in a situation) like again. The reality of it is that some of these attacks have happened in environments in which I never expected an attack. The gun attack happened outside a convenience store on my way home from teaching a lesson. This occurred in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. Being an avid traveler both in and out of the United States has, at times, put me in compromising situations. Even though I would never seek out dangerous situations, these situations find many people even in places that are consider safe. Check the violent crime statistics within a 50 mile radius of your area. You may be shocked and dismayed. Further, domestic and international travel will sometimes increase the odds of a person needing to defend him or her self. It is amazing that we need to still convince some citizens that self defense training is an unfortunate necessity for today's (and yesterday's) world. In light of all of the recent school shootings I think people are beginning to realize a certain truth that law enforcement officers and rape crisis workers have known for years. That truth is simply that no one plans on being attacked. It is at least possible that a suburban grade school teacher may have to face a deadly threat even at work. It is my personal belief that we are not na├»ve but that we (me included) have our day or our week planned out and our plans do not include the possibility of an attack. In an abstract distant way we know someone may attack us someday, however we don’t think it could happen 1 minute, 10 minutes, or just an hour from now. I never want to advocate fear. Even though prevention of an attack is best, I believe that we all (most of us anyway) would like to be empowered enough so we do not have to live in a timid fashion avoiding all potential dangers (even if we do avoid many dangers it is impossible to avoid all of them). I think of martial arts like I think of the ability to change a flat tire or the ability to perform CPR and first aid. These are not things we need to focus on all of the time, but if you need it, you will wish you had the ability to perform these tasks properly. Self defense takes attributes such as timing, awareness, ability to stay calm, ability to assess clearly, and body mechanics etc… So it requires a little more work to maintain the functional ability for self defense than it does to change a tire.
Where does a person turn for self defense training that works in a real threat? That question is more difficult to answer than it appears prima facie. I don't think I would be met with incredulity if I informed you that a toe-stomp or palm-heel to the face are often insufficient force to dissuade a violent criminal. Further, I think you might believe me if I told you that if you try to block a knife you will most likely receive a debilitating cut. Imagine somebody swinging a box-cutter wildly at your face in a dark parking lot. If you have to disarm a gun while you are afraid you will quickly notice that all the relaxed scenario based training you’ve had with the rubber gun in the dojo will not help you to neutralize this type situation. In this fashion we are influenced in a pernicious way by Hollywood. One kick or punch seldom debilitates an attacker. Attackers simply fight back in real life and what’s more, they are often more experienced at fighting than are their victims. Now here comes the surprise, would you believe me if I said that training to develop the qualities that allow you to fight are much less painful than full contact sparring and self defense. It took me a long time to believe the statement I just made. Since my goal is to inform readers I will say briefly that there are two types of self defense training. One is scenario based and the other training is intended towards increasing attributes or functional qualities. Such as any sport. Some training is to develop wind or timing or accuracy. Other types of training are to teach a player about a particular situation. These are two sides to a single coin. They are both important but scenarios do not mean anything without attributes. Scenario training without attributes is about as effective as a dance routine would be during a real attack. What if I taught you to shoot a basket ball from the foul-line? I explained how to make a “T” lining your wrist up with the basket. I explained keeping a loose wrist with your elbow down, explained the guiding hand and how to arc the ball into the hoop. After a few attempts you start to make baskets. Then I throw you into a game on the court with people who have been playing basketball for 5 years. This is similar to what happens to a person in a real fight if they have only trained sparring, katas, and scenarios. They know some things but are at a loss when real threat occurs. We need to train more completely for self defense.
After years of ranks and belts in upwards of 20 arts, and at least some training (sometimes briefly sometimes extensively) in over 60 different styles, some ideas have become clear to me. The idea of training one art or even just ten arts is absurd if you want to be a functional and complete fighter. Even if an art contains techniques in all combat ranges that art is not necessarily complete in the sense that it is adequate for all modern self-defense needs. Belts do not translate to anything but a piece of cloth in a truly violent encounter. You do not need to fight full contact constantly in order to become proficient at self defense. I have seen black-belts of all types lose and lose tragically out side of the dojo where there is no mental/physical warm up and no obvious warning preceding a violent explosion. Incidentally these ideas have been suggested before (by Bruce Lee) I was just too inexperienced to understand it when I read them. The other realization I've had is that there are some situations, which, even though you train for them, should never feel comfortable (i.e. hearing possibly armed intruders in the middle of the night breaking in your home or a drug altered criminal swinging a knife at you). As I suggested before, a real attack can range from a school yard fight with an exchange of one or two painful punches (and insults), all the way to an ambush involving deadly weapons and even to a lethal mass attack or riot. Which, out of these type of situations do you trust your instructor's expertise in? Any one of these fights can take place in any of the fighting ranges. These ranges will change throughout the course of even a single attack. The possibilities are vast. There are so many things that can happen that any one strategy for self defense seems to miss at least one crucial element that may occur in an attack. Even the arts that train all ranges may not contain the most useful tactic or address the training of emotional elements (i.e. fear or anger control) of the fight. Try using your ju-jitsu from your car seat while an opponent is punching you and demanding your money or demanding your automobile at midnight in a convenient store parking lot. Try this when you are sick and groggy. Imagine you got out of bed and went to that convenient store to get some medicine for an upset stomach. What if you child is in the back seat of this car? Can you just give up the car now? Running away is not always an option. Even a no -holds- barred champion does not have to fight under the type of duress I just suggested! I do not wish to scare anyone but this is the reality of crime. I have taught free and discounted seminars to rape victims. The stories these victims have told me are truly heinous. I have taught self defense secretly to master instructors who are insecure about the self defense they were taught. They ask me not to tell anyone that they take private lessons with me. I have had no- holds- barred fighters quit training with me because they begin to automatically fight in a way that would get them disqualified in a competition. Well, I guarantee confidentiality as to the identity of the instructors; however I find it interesting that this occurs. Further, I find it disquieting that these same instructors teach self defense (have taught self defense) in which they have no confidence! These facts, among other enlightening experiences, have changed the way I view self defense. If the future articles seem a little brutal in the way of what I am promoting, please remember that I am offering advice about self defense against violent criminals, not against a school yard bully.
The news I have just shared may lead some to believe it is impossible or even futile to prepare for complete self- defense training. This despair, although understandable is misplaced. A fighters ability to continually adapt in a fight and switch to the exact martial art movement he or she needs at precisely the moment he or she needs it is able to be developed if the instructor's knowledge and training methods are adequate. This is one of the most important and still one of the least understood principles that the late Bruce Lee suggested. We have to begin by comparing our training to the correct coordinate system. In short, we have to stop comparing our self defense training to all the other martial arts out there and start comparing it to the terrifying situations that we hope we never encounter. For example, I can compare karate to wing chun, or krav maga to muay thai, or I can compare any one of them to a real gun fight. We must compare our training to what we know of the real attack in order to train for real self defense and not a watered down version of martial arts that will not be sufficient in order to save your life during a threat. This is why a self defense instructor must speak from experience. (The necessary experience of an instructor is crucial and I will answer any questions you may have about this personally). You deserve to have your concerns addressed so please do not hesitate to e-mail me with them). Before I begin, I would like to encourage people to carry self defense products such as pepper spray and stun guns. These are non-lethal if used correctly. I have experimented with many products personally. I found pepper spray and stun guns to be effective in non-lethal self–defense. In the way of lethal self defense, firearms are obviously quite effective as are edged and impact weapons. Before you purchase any of these please check your local laws.
What happens when you do not have a self defense product available to you and you need to defend yourself? What do you do when you fumble and some how lose your self defense item during the attack? At this point you will need to be able to adapt to a new strategy. This will involve martial arts. Since it will involve martial arts, it is best that you understand as much as you can before you choose a martial arts program. The purpose of this 3-part article is to make sure you can find a responsible qualified instructor.
There exist three main features in all martial arts. The first of these is technique. A synonym for technique is tool. I like the word tool, like a screw driver, it important to have one but it doesn't mean much if you don't know how to use it. Try using a screw driver to pound in nails sometime. Tools are the least important feature but are still worth mentioning. An example of a tool is a boxer's jab or a Thai boxer's horizontal elbow smash. The next feature is tactic. A tactic is how a fighter employs a tool. For example does a Thai boxer use her elbow-smash leaping in at her opponent from long range or does she wait until she is close enough to bury it into her opponent's face during the clinch? Does the boxer use his jab in long range or does he try to use that straight long tool during the clinch? These are too examples of tactic and some ideas, you may notice, sound more effective than others. As the old saying goes; "it's not what you do, it's the way that you do it." The third feature to martial arts is method. There are many areas in which we use the term method. By method I mean training method. This is the most important feature of any art or training program. Paul Vunak opened my mind to this idea valuable idea. The training methods are the most important because it is the training methods used that actually allow a fighter to develop the qualities and attributes that make tools and tactics work in a real- time fight. These qualities include timing, body mechanics, balance, ability to relax in a stressful situation etc… Just as in any sport, say soccer, you have a technique using a chest catch to stop a ball's momentum and absorb the shock from the impact so the ball doesn't ricochet away from you. The tactic: You use the chest catch when the ball is kicked too high for you to use your foot in order to stop it. You use it to control the ball's descent right to your waiting feet. Without attributes say timing the relaxation of your chest perfectly so that it that allows you to control the ricochet of the ball, or being at the proper distance so the ball doesn't fall short of your chest, the tool and tactic are useless. The method of having a partner kick balls towards you slowly as you learn to control this action and then as you progress your partner starts to deliver the ball to you with more intensity until the drill's intensity matches the game's intensity is what will allow you to develop this ability. Now imagine you go through these chest motions with an imaginary ball and then expect it to translate to the game. To compare these two training methods is much the same as comparing boxing jab/parry drills to a kata. Although a kata may develop mechanics, weight shifts, and balance, it will never develop timing. There is no one there to time! It can never develop a sense of adjusting distance because there is no one from which you can to distance yourself! At a certain level, methods must progress. They must gradually progress in the direction of combat. This should give you an idea of what I mean by method. Fighting is no different than other sports in this manner. Method is so important, it will be addressed in later articles, but I include it here to give you an idea of what is worth looking at in training.
Tactics and tools are important as well. It may be obvious but I am going to say it anyway. So many things can happen in a fight, it is important that the defender has more than just one strategy and many tools and tactics at her or his disposal. Even if an art has tools and tactics in every range, it may not be adequate to deal with the pluripotent events found in a real attack. Another reason to favor variety is that you may end up fighting a person who is superior in the same tactics and ranges as you. In this situation, it will be the person with more in her or his tool box that will probably survive. The more ways one can adapt in a fight, the less likely it is that he or she will be at a loss as to what to do next in a fight. As in any thing else, if you cannot adapt your tactic with automatic immediacy (on the fly) when it is necessary, chances are you'll stop moving altogether. Even if you don't stop moving, you may get stuck in a mode of continuing a tactic that is not working. Either way you are probably going to lose. That is because when one fighter stops and the other one doesn't, the one that stops usually loses. If both fighters stop, it is the one who resumes effective combative motion first that wins. So, to reiterate (and you will hear this again) Bruce Lee's idea: "there is no superior art all the time: therefore the fighter must strive to find the superior combative movement of the moment in a fight." After all, what survival comes down to is a series of proper choices (although they are rapid and automatic or reflexive choices if you have trained well) about what movement would effectively achieve your goal. Let me illustrate with a few more quick pictures. You are trained in tae kwon do and you see an attacker coming. The only problem is you are standing on a sheet of ice outside your car. It might be helpful to know trapping range at this point. What if you are a boxer and you didn't see your attacker coming? Let's say your defense starts after you have been shoved off balance and are leaning against your car with a drunken guy twice your size choking and punching you. You punch him back but you have no leverage because you are off balance and you are running out of wind. Jujutsu might be useful here. What if you see your attacker coming and you kick him successfully. Then, the next thing you know, he is swinging a knife back and forth at you in rapid combination. Can you catch or block the razor edged knife that is moving at 100 mph? It would be important here to understand what the art of Kali has to teach us about blades. What if you successful punch an opponent and he retreats in order to take the pressure off of himself and his intentions are to continue his attack as soon as he gets some space. It might be useful to be able to kick him in order to keep pressure on him. I believe that this is clear enough. In a real attack there is no predicting events, you just have to deal with them as they happen and many, many things can happen. Real threats, as opposed to sport fights, mutate. One second they are one thing, (i.e. some punches are being exchanged) and the next second, it turns into a mass attack involving weapons. Clearly we need to have a mix of martial entities available to us.
So what are some different strategies out there? Part two of this article is an overview of styles and strategies. So check back the schedule is probably a new segment of this series of articles every two or three weeks. Thank you for reading segment one.
Full Jeet Kune Do and Filipino martial arts Instructor Jack Gialanella