February 2010

Self Defense Training Must Include Use of the Environment.

One aspect of self defense training that is often neglected is the awareness and use of the environment. An understanding of this crucial factor can mean the difference between a survival and a potential life threatening beating.

Probably the most are two excellent references on fighting strategy, whether on the campaign or individual level, are the Book of War attributed to a Chinese general Sun Tzu around 500BC (although this is shaded in controversy and may be simply a legend) and the Go Rin No Sho (Book of Five Rings) by Miyamoto Musashi (1584 – 1645). Although they can be difficult to interpret it is very evident that both of these commentaries place a strong emphasis on the use of the environment for both the preparation and the execution of a battle strategy and therefore provide a sound basis for a tactical foundation that self defense training should be built on.

By the environment I mean both the surroundings (terrain) and the objects in it. In addition, for maximum efficacy in our self defense training these factors must also be considered from the offensive and defensive points of view, including:

1) How to position yourself so that you restrict your attacker’s ability to strike.

e.g. getting a barrier such as table in between you and the attacker.

2) Placing yourself in a position where the surroundings cannot be used against you.

e.g. Standing with a staircase behind you, such that the assailant can push you down it.

3) The use of 2) above to put your attacker in a position that is dangerous to him so that you can use the environment in itself to inflict damage.

e.g. Same staircase as above or positioning yourself so that a large plate glass window is behind the assailant that you can drive him through.

4) The use of objects in the surroundings to both defend and attack with.

e.g. The use of objects such as: chairs, glasses and pool cues to strike the attacker , and also pay mind to positioning yourself so that access to such objects by the attacker is removed or made difficult.

Therefore, if you want to prepare yourself (and your students if you are a teacher) properly for real life self defense situations you must ensure that you include situational scenarios where you are exposed to the differing environments and terrains that you may experience, thus enabling you to develop the mind-set to be aware of what you have available and the dangers to avoid should the need arise.

In addition if you're looking for a no nonsense book on useful street self defense methods check out my "No B.S. Street-fighting and Self Defense Guide" by clicking here.

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Influence and Other Martial Arts Systems Claims to Ground-fighting Techniques.

One of the biggest changes to martial arts and fighting systems in recent years has been the emergence of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which ultimately led to the growth and development of the mixed Martial Arts or MMA systems and competition. And while the exact origins of MMA can be debated, it is difficult to dispute the opinion that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu influenced the emergence, growth and development of the phenomenum.

Probably the most important effect of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was that it exposed the weakness of the majority of martial arts to be able to cope with being taken to the ground. Although for many of us martial artists, who have been involved in real street fights, this was not new but we hadn’t done much about it believing that we could prevent anyone from taking us down if we trained hard enough.

The Brazilians, however, exposed this weakness as a major flaw in the way that us strikers thought, fought and trained. Even some of the more dogmatic, so called reality based fighting system trainers, resisted the glaringly obvious flaw in their thinking, giving simplistic reasoning for not going to the ground in a street fight. What they were not addressing was the fact that on many occasions, more often then not, that in a real fight it would go to the ground.

Another interesting trend that I could not help but notice, once the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the importance of ground-fighting was realized, was the sudden exposure of hitherto unknown secret ground-fighting techniques from all manner of martial arts systems, that emphasized striking, with the most glaringly ridiculous coming from Wing Chun Kung Fu and Tae Kwon Do practitioners.

Having been involved in martial arts for over 35 years now, I have been exposed to many systems of martial arts and either trained in them or kept pace with the literature pertaining to them. A few observations are worthy of note in placing extreme skepticism on the majority of claims by the authors of these secret exposure reports.

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1) There was no mention of true ground fighting techniques in karate or related striking systems before the emergence of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In a few styles of karate simple throws were taught followed with the application of an armbar.

2) Tae Kwon Do with it’s emphasis on kicking, particularly high kicking, would make the practitioner particularly vulnerable to being taken down.

3) Not only did I have Tae Kwon Do black belts coming to my gym to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but the highest ranking Tae Kwon do practitioner in my home city brought a classical Ju Jitsu practitioner in to teach him.

4) When Brazilian Jiu Jitsu appeared on the scene, fight challenges were issued and taken up. All the practitioners from the various systems that tried their luck failed; with the practitioners from systems that emphasized striking not demonstrating any efficacy, even from an expected defensive knowledge, on the ground. By this I mean that they didn’t demonstrate any familiarity or knowledge of how to move on the ground unlike the wrestlers and judokas who knew how to move.

5) The secret techniques that are now appearing in these systems like Wing Chun Kung Fu and Tae Kwon Do bare a starting similarity (but very poorly executed) to the methods we use in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Now, before you say all armbars and chokes are done the same, I mean to draw your attention to the way these systems set the chokes and armbars up and the little details in how they are applied. This is what makes BJJ distinct and has been the product of years of evolution. For another system that has been predominantly stressing striking throughout it history it seems very unlikely that they developed the moves separately and had been teaching them in secret until now.

6) One of the most influential martial artists of the 20th century, Bruce Lee, realized the importance of ground-fighting and had started to explore it. However, he did not draw his knowledge from his original art of Wing Chun, of which he was a very accomplished master, he acquired knowledge from Judo (Gene LeBell being a big influence) and wrestling. I am sure that if Bruce was still alive today he would have embraced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with a passion, as has his successor Dan Inosanto.

7) I have seen (in fact still have on my computer)a video taken of a real life challenge between two high ranking and high profile Wing Chun practitioners several years ago (one German the other Chinese). The fight started standing with a short striking exchange then went to the ground where it was broken up by the followers of these “experts”. The ground fight was nothing but a brawl with no ground-fighting ability being demonstrated by either practitioner.

Why can’t people just be honest, give credit to the people and systems that have developed knowledge that we, as martial artists, can all benefit from. I am a scientist and we as a profession place great value on the validity of origin of a finding and the use of it to expand our knowledge so that all mankind can benefit, and in doing so we always give credit to the source our inspiration.

If you want to incorporate ground-fighting skills into your system because you see the value and need, then do so, but give credit to where it came from and, if you haven’t done so already, get down to your local Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school with an open-minded attitude, put on a white belt, and be prepared to advance your martial arts knowledge and understanding to a completely new level. You will not only reap the benefits for your self but for all of your students.

I leave you to ponder on the words of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) “If I have seen further than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants”