Posts Tagged ‘martial arts’

I’m a firm believer in the idea that it’s the most basic skills you learn that prove to be the most effective. This is especially true in the martial arts. Often, the most basic, low-level, white belt techniques are the ones with the highest success rates and the greatest efficiency of strength and stamina. Though every martial art is different in their approach to the basics, and some instructional systems take longer to teach them than others or perhaps don’t teach them quite so well, this is almost a universal constant in well-developed, mature fighting styles.

As a matter of fact, I have been taking this idea to heart over the past year. I am a sort of hoarder of martial arts instructional materials. Books, videos, magazines, and web sites. I love it all. I used to pour over anything labeled “black belt techniques”. But about a year ago, I competed at the NAGA tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah. I finished in second place in both gi and no-gi, and I knew it was my proficiency with the most basic techniques (or lack thereof), not the intermediate or advanced, that determined my performance. It was, of course, my first time competing, and so my performance could also be explained by nerves, inefficient energy usage, and immature strategies. But my need to revisit the most basic techniques was the lesson that most stood out to me.

So for the past year that’s exactly what I did. I drilled only the most basic techniques. Of course I did whatever my instructor told me to, but when I was doing my own private training, and when I rolled with my training partners, I tried to make the basics work best for me. And several things happened. I saw a dramatic improvement in my performance against all belt ranks. The basics, it appears, do not just work on the white belts. I also started to develop my own personal style. I discovered my game (turns out, I favor heavy stacking passes, scarf hold, and s-mount), which is totally different than I’d imagined myself having. Last of all my I grew in my confidence in my own fighting ability.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a white belt still struggling to earn your first stripe, or a black belt looking to elevate yourself to the highest levels of competition. I highly recommend mastering your basic techniques and strategies until you can do them without thinking. Below is a video showing one of my most favored techniques, the Trap and Roll, the most basic escape from the mount position. I’ve practiced this one until I could pull it off on almost every other student in my class, and I’ve discovered another thing: much of your success with this technique depends on your timing, often early, just as your opponent passes into the mount and before he bases out.

What basic techniques should every martial artist know?

One of the great martial arts discussions of our generation is that of sport-oriented martial arts training vs. self-defense or “street” oriented training. Many people feel strongly one way or the other and have developed some compelling arguments for both. Since this is a big thing for Jiu-jitsu practitioners as well, I decided to share this video from the Gracies on the subject.

I found this a thoughtful video, especially the idea that self-defense is a collection of principles more than simply a list of techniques. As for my take on things, I believe martial arts sports competitions act as a laboratory, experimenting on and discovering new combat principles in a controlled environment that can be further applied in real combat. Competition is also a powerful motivator for training and constant improvement. The root purpose of martial arts training, however, is combat survival. A competition that does not imitate some conditions of real combat, at least in part, are probably less helpful. One example might be point sparring matches, where the fighting is interrupted to award points to competitors for landing strikes. While fun and athletic challenging, I have found the rules to be too limiting to encourage applicable martial skills. I think the sports should mimic real fighting, though I am not opposed to rules for safety.

Self-defense training, on the other hand, sometimes runs the risk of not being competitive enough. I’ve attended plenty of self-defense classes where the students were told not to spar since they were taught to fight dirty. As a result, many of these students lacked the muscle memory and the instinct to conduct themselves in a confrontation that extends beyond the initial exchange of blows. The ability to switch on the instinctual, combative “auto-pilot” can only be developed in actual fights or unscripted sparring sessions, which cannot reasonably be conducted without safety rules.

In short, I believe martial artists need a mixture of both sport and self-defense training to remain combat proficient. The proportions of that mixture, I believe, should be based on individual need and preference.

Which do you prefer, sports training or self-defense training?

The only thing harder than becoming a good fighter, in my opinion, is making a good fighter. Training other people takes a higher amount of artistry and understanding of the art than being taught. I think this is the defining characteristic of the martial arts. Martial arts is not so much about fighting as it is about teaching someone how to fight. This is where we get creative little labels for stances, techniques, and positions, such as horse stance, leopard’s  paw, tiger claw, and so on. It’s about seeing significant patterns in how a fight is conducted and won and explaining that pattern to others. It’s also about finding new solutions to complex problems. Fighting is, after all, a form of problem solving.

So that brings us to today’s challenge. I want you to watch a video. It’s not inspirational, professional, funny (or not meant to be, anyway), or even all that interesting. It’s footage of an amateur MMA match in Canada, and the fighters are, shall we say, inexperienced? For those of you who’ve taught martial arts before, it might just make you cringe. Here it is:


Now that you’ve seen it, here’s my question: what would you have taught either one of these fighters to win this fight? Assume you had only a little time to train them, say a month or two. What do you think would have benefited them most in this particular match? Be specific, and try not to use blanket terms like “how to fight”.

I will say without apology that the skill levels represented in this video are horrendous, but I still have respect for the two young men who stepped into that cage. It’s more than I’ve done, and it takes courage to face someone on such an equal playing field like they did.

My personal answer: this was a match between two very inadequate strikers. I would have taught either one of them the most basic ground fighting strategies. Close the distance, body fold takedown, pass the guard, mount, ground and pound. Submissions would be hard with those gloves on, so I would simply drill some heavy-handed punches from the top of the mount, side mount, and rear mount. I would keep the list of techniques short and drill them over and over and over again against live, resisting opponents. I think that kind of training would have given either fighter an immediate advantage in this fight.

How would you have prepared either fighter for this fight?

How ‘Bout Now…

Posted: July 11, 2013 by beforethefire in Humor
Tags: , , , , , ,

These Jiu-jitsu practitioners address the problem of eye gouging when ground fighting. For those who don’t know, eye gouging and other dirty fighting tactics are a common argument against Jiu-jitsu training.

How do you defend against dirty fighting tactics?

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?

Now that we’ve had some posts and a few readers, I think it’s only fair to take a little time to reintroduce us, the writers, to you, the readers. As we’ve discussed before, there is a lot of pressure in martial arts for the instructors to be seen as legitimate or authentic. The first step of that, of course, is to let you guys know who we are and why we’re writing.

The interesting thing about this is as part of this post I’m going to be introducing Patrick, the guy who posted the last video. Unfortunately, I can’t get a hold of him since he dropped his phone in a river, so I’m going to have to summarize his pedigree and background as best I can and let him correct me later.

As for me, I’m Brian Brock, also known by beforethefire on my blog. I’m a black belt instructor in Applied Martial Arts, a mixed-discipline self defense style. Applied Martial Arts is a flexible, adaptable self defense system for helping people develop the martial skills required to survive a wide range of violent scenarios, from simple one-on-one encounters to the more complex, high stakes situations often only encountered by law enforcement and warfighters. As an instructor for the system, I can also be seen as a researcher. I try to develop my understanding of interpersonal violence and fighting from case studies and my training in other disciplines. I’m belt-ranked in both Taekwondo and Gracie Jiu-jitsu. Another one of my responsibilities is to continue developing Asay Jiu-jitsu, a basic grappling and ground defense program in Applied Martial Arts.

Left to right: Jared Emfield (Gracie Jiu-jitsu black belt), me, Ryron Gracie

Left to right: Jared Emfield (Gracie Jiu-jitsu black belt), me, Ryron Gracie

Outside of martial arts, I’m a father of three and a dedicated husband. I’m also an English teacher, hence the insane amount of writing I seem to be comfortable with. I live in Idaho.

Patrick Asay, the other contributor to this blog, is a black belt in Taekwondo, Kung-fu, Uchudo, and the creator of Applied Martial Arts. Patrick developed Applied Martial Arts as a way to find practical applications for the martial skills he developed in his traditional martial arts training. He was motivated by his need to protect himself while living in Hawaii, where he became engaged in numerous street fights. Patrick crossed-trained with numerous martial artists and law enforcement professionals on his quest to refine his system. As a result, Applied Martial Arts is a system that covers many ranges and conditions that occur in real-world violence, such as striking, grappling, ground fighting, weapons, obstacles, and injury.

Patrick is currently looking for a new phone.

There you have it, the men behind the proverbial curtain. The last thing you need to know about us is the reason for our blog. Our vision when we first started posting was to create a community of martial artists who could discuss training and application of martial arts in a respectful, objective manner. So far, we’ve had great input from some of our readers on everything from belt ranks to training journals. Check out the comments on our posts to read them! We hope to see more people following this blog and responding to the posts (especially if they disagree), and I look forward to reading your responses.

What is your martial arts background?

There are some parts of martial arts culture that I will sometimes criticize, but naming your style after an animal will never be among them. I sometimes get jealous of the Kung fu guys that get to say they use crane or tiger or monkey technique (I would hate to fight monkey style, because chimpanzees scare me). Being a Gracie Jiu-jitsu practitioner, I kinda miss out on the whole animal mascot thing, but maybe it’s not too late to change. So that gets me thinking, which creature of the animal kingdom best represents Jiu-jitsu as I know it?

Snakes are okay, or maybe even great. They strike. They constrict. They’re definitely grapplers with potent striking power. But snakes have been done to death (thanks a lot, Kobra Kai Dojo). So what is another animal with a reputation for constricting and grappling with its prey?

This is what I want my opponents to see when I settle into side mount...

This is what I want my opponents to see when I settle into side mount…

Behold the mighty octopus! Seriously, I don’t think this real-life Krakken gets enough face time on martial arts tee shirts or academy logos. And if you think about it, this is an animal totally dedicated to grappling, and has a famous reputation for its stealth and intelligence. Though the Muay Thai guys might be miffed that I’m claiming a truly eight-limbed animal, I lay my claim to the wise, mighty octopus as the mascot of my Jiu-jitsu style!

What animal best represents your martial art?