Posts Tagged ‘fighting’

Fighting multiple attackers would be way more possible if shadow clones were real...

Fighting multiple attackers would be way more possible if shadow clones were real…

What kid did not fantasize about taking on hordes of enemies with his bare hands, like a character from Naruto or Dragonball Z? Heck, I still do! But it’s all part of the martial arts appeal, isn’t it? The training makes us feel competent, strong, maybe even powerful. Knowing you’re the toughest guy in the room feels pretty good. That brings us to the subject perhaps most contended and debated among martial artists: defeating multiple opponents. In martial arts culture, the idea of engaging and prevailing over more than one assailant at a time is a big deal, especially in arts that emphasize self-defense, and the ability to do so is considered the epitome of martial prowess.

As a matter of fact, this feature of martial training (or lack thereof) is sometimes used as a criticism of certain styles, such as grappling arts. You can get a pretty good summary of this argument by looking up a Jiu-jitsu video on YouTube and skimming the comments below. There’s always a critic who mentions Jiu-jitsu’s inability to engage multiple attackers. The argument goes like this: if you’re rolling around on the ground with one guy, his buddy is just going to kick you in the head, therefore Jiu-jitsu and other grappling arts are not realistic or effective against real opponents.

I call that bluff. Show me the evidence. I want to see the martial art that can fight off multiple attackers at once. And I don’t mean a choreographed demo. I mean video of a street brawl. A news story. Facts. Because as of yet, I have never seen evidence of a martial artist successfully fighting off multiple attackers with any martial art. It certainly never happens in sport. There are no two-on-one cage fights as far as I’ve heard. So how do we know what works and what doesn’t in these sorts of confrontations?

Actually, there are fighters who regularly engage multiple enemies at once successfully. They’re military personnel. Marines, SEALs, infantry, and so on. Also, law enforcement professionals. And how do they all do it successfully? Tools. Weapons. Anything that extends your range, or enables you to deal damage from farther away than your own arms and legs. Assault rifles, grenades, and mortar shells all accomplish this. But how do you do it without those things? Say, if you’re ambushed in a bathroom at a gas station? Good question, and not an easy one to answer.

Combat, you see, can be divided into parts. The big part, the sum of the whole, is the engagement. An engagement can be divided into smaller exchanges. An exchange is a relatively short trade of techniques between two combatants. This is where all the punches, kicks, blocks, chokes, and throws occur. A small one-on-one encounter may involve one or a few exchanges between fighters. This is a simple fight, the sort of thing most martial arts training prepares you for. It gets really complex, however, when you throw in additional opponents, since most human beings, regardless of athletic ability or martial arts experience, can only exchange with one opponent at a time effectively. You only have so many arms and legs, and you can only reach so far. You can’t hardly pay attention to more than one person at a time, for that matter. The big danger for martial artists occurs when they try to exchange with more than one opponent at a time. While you’re throwing a punch at enemy A, enemy B could be doing the exact same thing to you from directly behind. Don’t even mention enemies C, D, E, and F!

So how can it be done? First, if you absolutely must engage more than one opponent at a time, position yourself so you only have to exchange blows with one at a time. This requires mobility and survival skills. It might require you to escape from your current position (say, trapped in the middle of a group) and retreat to a more defendable position (like a narrow hallway or doorway). You must know how to minimize damage to your vital areas and how to escape a variety of common holds and bad positions. You must be willing and able to frequently withdraw from the engagement when your position is no longer defendable and you can no longer exchange with one opponent at a time.

Sound difficult? It should, because it is. The situation becomes further impossible when your opponents are armed and with every additional opponent. In order to prevail, you must hope that your assailants are unmotivated, untrained, unarmed, or unfit. Otherwise, your best bet is a firearm.

To get a feel for what this sort of situation is like, try a little two-on-one sparring. I recommend your opponents take it easy on you, since injury will be easier here than it would normally be in a one-on-one match. Try to position your opponents one behind the other for as long as you can, and try not to get cornered.

Here are a few videos with very different views on how to engage multiple attackers. Be sure to tell me what you think…

How would you handle multiple attackers?


Martial arts culture is full of rivalries and dichotomies: traditional training vs. sport training, eastern arts vs. western arts, hard vs. soft. The list goes on. One rivalry, however, is one I’d eventually like to see put to rest. I’m talking about strikers vs. grapplers. In my mind, striking techniques and grappling techniques are but tools for achieving an objective. I began my martial arts training in the striking arts: Kenpo, Karate, and Taekwondo. Now I train Gracie Jiu-jitsu. Very seldom did these two different strategies meet for me in class, but now I see a little of one in the other can make a good fighter great.
Since I usually talk about the many virtues of Jiu-jitsu, I want to point out the incredible usefulness and versatility of strikes. I do agree that grappling is more appropriate for all levels of violence, since grappling techniques can be as gentle as they are effective. Strikes, however, are useful tools for opening opportunities, disrupting your opponent’s movements, and causing some quick, obvious damage. This is assuming, of course, that your opponent has become assaultive, and you are legally justified in hitting him.
Striking has so many great uses besides simply knocking someone out. One is to simply cause your opponent to move. Throwing jabs and crosses at your opponent’s face, for example, can cause him to cover his face with his hands and even change his posture, thus making him easier to approach and grapple. Mounting your opponent and striking him from above can, besides causing him to surrender, force him to raise his arms in defense, opening the way for an armbar or a shoulder lock.
Strikes can also cause your opponent to hesitate, stumble, or otherwise abandon their intended movement. Is he rushing towards you with his fist raised, ready to strike? A simple push kick to his leg or hip can stop his movement dead in its tracks, or even cause him to stumble and fall. Is he trying to grab your groin when you’ve mounted him (don’t laugh, we’re all adults here!)? A simple elbow to his face, even if it doesn’t connect, can convince him that such an exchange would not be in his favor.
I like how many things you can achieve through a little blunt force trauma. I’ve never been confident in knockout strategies. Knockouts are harder to get than most people think. As a grappler, however, I highly value any tactic that can help me close the distance with my opponent or illicit a predictable reaction from them. Though Gracie Jiu-jitsu takes up the bulk of my training, I sometimes pull out the target mitts and drill a few combos and my footwork.
Grapplers: how do you incorporate striking into your training?
Strikers: how do you incorporate grappling into your training?

Recently a New Jersey mom was cooking breakfast when a man broke in through her locked back door and began to savagely beat her in front of the woman’s 3-year-old daughter. Please watch the video below:

As martial artists and self defense practitioners, it is our business (and likely our moral responsibility, considering our training) to consider this footage and examine these circumstances. How did the assailant behave? What were the strategies and tactics employed? What were his goals? Also consider the environment. How did the setting of this assault affect the progression and outcome of events? Which objects were present that could have been used to make a difference? What training could this woman have had to help her prevent this from happening?

In other words: how could martial arts training have helped this woman?

I want your honest analysis. I would appreciate your assessment of the circumstances as they occurred, as well as your proposal for training that could have helped the situation. Here’s mine:

  • The attack occurred in a home furnished with large furniture, which may have hindered some movement. The attack initially occurred in the kitchen, where I assume there was an abundance of weapons of opportunity.
  • The assailant was larger and physically stronger than his victim. He appeared to be unarmed and to have little or no combat training. He employed the universal fight plan, overwhelming his victim with inefficient strikes until she was immobilized. It appeared his goal was to incapacitate her so he could rob the home undisturbed.
  • The victim was a woman of medium height and medium build. She was not so small that fighting back would not have been an option for her. She had little or no combat training. She employed instinctive, but inefficient defenses against the attacker’s strikes. With her daughter present, she was unable to escape quickly.

Conclusion: This woman, with the right training and preparation, could and should have fought back. The presence of her daughter made simple escapes slow and dangerous. It also made the attack all the more dangerous, since the daughter could potentially have become a victim as well. Ground fighting training, especially bottom positions with defense against strikes, could have reduced the injury she received during the assault. I also would recommend training in weapons of opportunity, since the kitchen was likely filled with utensils and other small objects that could have been used to great effect. Firearm training could also have been very beneficial, though she would have had to fight to get to it. Either way, dedicated self-defense training could have changed the outcome of this assault. She could have injured her attacker and delayed him enough to escape with her daughter.

Please share your assessment of this scenario. How will you train yourself and others to prevent this sort of thing from happening?

Here comes another installment of the pro Jiu-jitsu invitational, Metamoris 3. This time it features a rematch between two Jiu-jitsu legends: Eddie Bravo and Royler Gracie. Bravo defeated Gracie via submission in Abu Dhabi ten years ago, something many critics said was a fluke. Now they’ll have another go, presumably no-gi since that’s Bravo’s MO. I love the direction these Metamoris matches go, since the rules put greater emphasis on submissions and Jiu-jitsu mastery. For those of you unfamiliar with Metamoris, the competition features a 20 minute time limit, with no set point system. The winner must submit his opponent or, if the time runs out, be selected by a panel of judges who assess the match without points. These matches feature the biggest names in submission grappling, and are extremely entertaining to watch, whatever your martial arts background.

Who do you think will win? Eddie Bravo or Royler Gracie?

A lot of people like to argue about which of all martial arts styles is the best, “best” meaning “most effective” most of the time in those arguments. Never heard this argument before? Go to YouTube, look up a self defense video, and proceed to the comments section below. It’ll be there. The hard part about this argument is, of course, that fighting is a form of complex problem solving, the complex problem in most cases being interpersonal violence. And, like most complex problems, violence has many possible answers whose effectiveness is hard  to quantify or measure. That is why, I believe, martial arts can be considered arts. Just like there are many ways to paint a portrait, there are many ways to navigate the progression of violent acts from an opponent. Hence so many martial arts styles.

There are a few, however, that stand apart from all other styles. These are the combat forms and martial arts of armed forces. These are the martial arts practiced by those who regularly experience combat on its grandest scale. The most notable of these arts is MCMAP, or the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. It is a heavily researched, well formulated program that tries to instill in every marine far more than simple hand to hand combat techniques. It is also the military combat training system most recognizable as a martial art, complete with a colored belt rank system. This program, I believe, is head and shoulders above all other military martial arts styles, not only for its physical training aspects, but for its mental and character emphasis as well. Their challenge is unique and daunting: to produce warriors who are not only unafraid to run towards the sounds of gunfire and engage the enemy at any range, but also capable of functioning as emotionally and mentally healthy members of the societies which they protect.

Physically, MCMAP is everything you could hope for in a combat-ready martial art. It emphasizes the use of strikes, grappling, arrest techniques, disarms, and a dizzying array of modern and improvised weaponry. It ties seamlessly into the principles of armed combat, so marines are able to switch between armed and unarmed techniques without hesitation. It is a flexible art that trains marines to be as lethal or non-lethal as is most appropriate for the situation.  Marines are more than just killers, after all, and regularly deploy on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

More impressive to me, however, is the fact that the Marine Corps tries to instill moral values and intellectual lessons into their warriors as part of their martial arts program. To sum it all up in a few words, these lessons of moral accountability and warrior tradition are called the warrior ethos. In an article in The Marine Corps Gazette, Andrew Lubin explains what the warrior ethos is.

“The warrior ethos is a code of conduct… that embodies a life where integrity, loyalty, honor, and selflessness, and courage are one’s guide. Starting thousands of years ago with the hunters, these concepts evolved into the warrior societies where protection for the tribe was best achieved as a group working together. The rudimentary laws arising from the successful tribes evolved into the warrior ethos practiced by the Spartans and others where courage, cooperation, and acknowledging the strength of the group over that of the individual, enabled the tribe or the nation to survive.”

I often get skeptical when I’m presented with a list of pseudo-Asian philosophical values in a martial arts class, but the warrior ethos speaks to me. I think this is evidence that there are martial arts out there that are truly American, as opposed to distillations of Asian or Brazilian culture. I wish there were more civilian martial arts schools patterned after this program, complete with bayonet training and all!

How does the warrior ethos compare to the ethics taught in your martial arts training center?


I wish my training journal looked like this...

I wish my training journal looked like this…

Here’s a subject I would appreciate your feedback on, especially if you’ve ever kept a martial arts training journal. I’m currently brainstorming ideas for developing journals dedicated to martial artists for recording the details of their training sessions. The first, of course, will be geared towards Jiu-jitsu practitioners. Instead of simply having writing space, I thought of including some of the following:

  • Dedicated spaces for recording the techniques you covered and the people you trained with.
  • A list of symbols and shorthand script for common Jiu-jitsu terms (mount, guard, trap, sweep, ect.).
  • Monthly and weekly goals.
  • Competition dates and results.
  • Space for recording warm up exercises and fitness training.

I’m still in the concept phase of this project, but my ultimate goal is to mass produce these and make them available to martial artists everywhere. This is the sort of thing I think can be helpful to a lot of people, especially since some martial arts require such detail-rich instruction many people forget much of the material the next day. This will probably be one of those things I’ll work on every once in a while over the next year.

After that, I’ll be sure to publish them in scroll form, complete with ninja spells to guard your most forbidden techniques from the eyes of the uninitiated (patent pending).

What do you write in your training journal?


The whole purpose of starting this blog was to get people to talk about martial arts. I kinda felt like the more common forums for martial arts discussion were unfocused, narrow, and hostile. Case and point: YouTube. Look up any martial arts video on YouTube and proceed to the comments section below. What you’ll inevitably find is a cacophony of NSFW language and vulgar arguments (and strangely, harsh grammar corrections) all aimed at a answering a single question: Which martial art is best?

But this argument isn’t just limited to YouTube. It seems to be part of our martial culture. Take UFC for example. It started in 1993 as a tournament between practitioners of different martial arts to see which martial art would prevail in a no-holds-barred competition. Though UFC has moved on from that question, martial artists all over the world are still trying to answer it. Which, of all the countless styles and variations of mankind’s fighting systems, is best?

UFC 1 was all about answering questions like "Can a Jiu-jitsu fighter beat a boxer?"

UFC 1 was all about answering questions like “Can a Jiu-jitsu fighter beat a boxer?”

But define best. For that matter, define martial art. What you might find, if you’ve spent any time visiting various martial arts training centers, is that the definition of Karate or Jiu-jitsu or Taekwondo largely depends upon the people running that individual training center. When I was fifteen years old, I started training ATA Taekwondo. I loved my instructor, I loved the forms, I loved the training. I swore I would study ATA Taekwondo my whole life. When that school shut down, I found another ATA place and tried a few classes there. Big difference. In fact, I haven’t gone back to ATA since. So what changed? The instructors…

That brings me (finally) to the main point of this article. A martial art, in the sense of a system of fighting that can be rated against others in a contest, is defined by its dojo. It’s not the techniques or the philosophies or the forms or even the organizations that create good fighters. It’s the instructors, trainers, coaches, and other assorted staff that make up the dojo.  A  martial art is defined by its sensei.

Want a great example? Let’s go back to the UFC. In its early years, who was the undisputed man to beat? Royce Gracie, of Gracie Jiu-jitsu, of course. And what was the defining characteristic of Gracie Jiu-jitsu that Royce apart from every other fighter in those competitions? It wasn’t his ground fighting. Ken Shamrock was also a grappler and submission artist. So were Kimo, Dan Severn, and that Judo practitioner (I forget his name). Royce won because he was better trained. Remember the Gracie Train? The Gracie family, the UFC’s first fight team, was a unified collection of Jiu-jitsu masters and trainers that honed the skills of one of their smallest, weakest members until he was able to beat the best the world had to offer at the time. That’s a dojo.

The Gracie family walks out to the cage as a single, unified group...

The Gracie family walks out to the cage as a single, unified group…

I think I’ve made my point. But I still feel like there’s a question to answer here. Which martial art (and by martial art, I mean dojo, training center, or academy) is best? I will try to find out by posting my own video reviews of local martial arts training centers.  Unlike many forums that give a simplistic scale of awarding stars or a number between one and five, I plan on dissecting the center’s instructors, training style, facilities, and other attributes that affect its ability to turn out good fighters, competitors, and practitioners. I hope it will facilitate some interesting discussions in the comments section. And, of course, the reviews will be done with all due respect to these trainers and instructors. I expect the comments will be the same. We don’t want this blog to become an extension of those foul YouTube keyboard warrior sparring sessions…