Flow and the "Failure Drill"

We talked in class last night about a very important concept we term the “failure drill”.  A lot of people bristle at the idea of a failure drill, and don’t like the negative connotations associated with the terminology.  I won’t get into all that.  The real concern is this: how often do we have a backup plan (A, B, C, or even D) when a technique fails?  The tendency of many people is to beat the dead horse—they keep working on the technique in a scenario in the event that it will eventually succeed.  Now, I am not talking about the process of learning a brand new technique.  That is totally different.  I expect failures as I work to acquire the new skill and get a feel for it through repetition.  I am talking about the situations we create in training wherein we have to use some defensive tactic, or even a pre-emptive, offensive maneuver, and due to timing, body position, or a whole litany of other reasons, the technique just fails.  So, we try, try again as seeking a new result from the same actions—hey, isn’t that the definition of crazy?  I’m sure the adversary is going to patiently wait while we get it right. 

Why not move onto a new technique?  Many of us were simply not taught that way.  We were not taught what it means to flow, which is one of the pitfalls of static training.  This is not to say that static training is bad.  On the contrary, it is a necessary step in the process of learning flow.  Nevertheless, many people get stuck in static training and camp out forever.  Training must evolve from static, to changing single variables, to something that mimics real life: dynamic flow.  Having more than one option to be able to branch to in a given situation is very important.  Then, having too many options gets into the whole Hick’s law problem regarding slower reaction times.  We must find balance! 

Flow can be encouraged and facilitated by good instructors.  A positive training experience helps students the most, but some learners are going to have a more challenging time becoming dynamic than other students.  I find those that are more rigid in their thinking patterns, highly self-critical, and very analytical, will have the most difficult time.  I can say that because this used to be me!  With the right mentor, I was able to relax and flow more than I ever thought possible.  Luckily, being dynamic in one area truly carries over into others (most importantly, the street).  I remember reading an inspirational little book about Parkour practitioners.  They talked about the practice of free running, and how it helped them see more possibilities and make decisions more rapidly in other areas of life.  The beauty of tapping into our subconscious processing!  Flowing with the body helps the mind flow.  We are energy beings, after all, made for movement—really before we are consciously thinking about anything!  I feel myself about to launch off onto some crazy tangent, so I will stop there.  Suffice it to say, it’s important to jump into the flow.


Training With a Master

This past weekend we attended a seminar with one of our instructors, Guro Dan Inosanto, and his faithful sidekick, Joel, at the Francis Fong Academy in Norcross, GA.  As always, it was an inspiring experience spending time around a true master, who is 73 years young.  I have often looked to him as a model of how I want to age, and he shares his philosophy of training and how he adapts as he ages.  I remember Dan saying one time, “I would rather wear out than rust out.”  Certainly both my parents “rusted out” at relatively early ages due to their lack of physical activity, and I see Dan as an example of what to do differently.  

We trained JKD concepts and went over a lot of basics, including the various attacks and fakes, and the importance of timing.  He brought up an interesting point about how even the best fighters among us, can have days when their biorhythms are off, and therefore their timing is also off—even the most skilled can be beaten on a bad day by the most unskilled practitioner.  We played with plenty of Silat (always hard for me), Krabi Krabong (parent art of Muay Thai) basics, and Kali.  As usual, by day two of the seminar, my brain was totally full and I was having trouble shoving more into it.  But, I diligently took notes—sure hope I can remember what it all means. 

I gained a renewed appreciation for how amazing our instructor is, and for the sheer vastness of the Filipino Martial Arts.  He talked not only about all of the instructors that influenced his JKD and Kali, but about the many different cultural influences of the Philippines: European, Tibetan, Japanese, Mexican (believe it or not!), Chinese, Persian and Arab.  We always get a history lesson during seminars.  🙂  Everyone’s system of “Kali” is different, which is why no one agrees on exactly what Kali is (many students ask this question), but then again, everyone’s JKD is different, if he or she truly embodies the ideal of absorbing “what is useful”.  Guro embraces all styles and systems, and emphasizes that none is “better” than the other; Bruce Lee recognized and wrote about the strengths and weaknesses in all systems.  Lee also focused on what he preferred based on what worked best for him, his body type and abilities.  Lee’s Jeet Kune Do was different from Dan’s, as my JKD is different from yours, or anyone else’s.  Interestingly enough, Guro Dan trains ground fighting 7 or 8 times a week, though it is not his preference to go to the ground; it is so he understands how the game is played and can defend against it.  He knows what to look for and avoid.  We talk about the same concept in our Gutterfighting and combatives, in general: avoid the fight whenever you can, but if it is time to be mean, fight as fiercely and aggressively as the predator that seeks to prey upon you, and become like the predator–your odds of winning the street “game” significantly rise.  This is more like self-offense, really.  Understand your environment as best you can—context is everything!  Dan brought up one other interesting point: a culture cannot exist without a martial art because in order to survive over any length of time, that culture must defend itself.  It reminds me of why I continue on with martial arts; it never gets boring and though many arts share so much, you could spend many lifetimes studying and never get it all.  There is always more to know!  

Check out the Inosanto Academy website:


and, the website of another great master, our gracious host, Francis Fong Academy:



Headbutting BOB

Headbutting BOB

I was doing some research recently on Headbutts. Holy smokes, I guess I never realized the multitude of ways the Headbutt can be used. I suppose it is just not a technique I have thought that much about over the years. I know plenty of people who look for the Headbutt constantly, and it really got me thinking. I have a hard skull—why not?

We actually do teach the Headbutt in our Gutterfighting—usually as a part of the rapid assault tactics (eye rake to Headbutt, knee and elbow strikes). Very close quarters kind of stuff—hey, you are noggin to noggin! With this one, we grab the back of the head or neck and drive it into the Headbutt. I suggest you use the top of your head around the hairline and not your own forehead. As the other instructor would say, that is a self-correcting problem.

In the Kapap training, we used the Rising Headbutt. You’ve got to be really up close and personal with this one because you are moving straight up his centerline, dragging your face through it, as you thrust your whole body upwards towards the prize—his chin. One of the instructors often used a Sideways Headbutt, (and sometimes a shoulder strike) during weapons disarms. I must say they worked out very nicely, especially since the hands are all tied up—just stay aware of the business end of the weapon!

I’ve seen folks use Rear Headbutts in scenarios where the attacker has grabbed from behind. Well, no one should ever allow themselves to get into that position in the first place. Stuff happens, I know, and we are occasionally switched off. Often space is created with the hips (bend at the waist and drive hips back), the head is tilted forward (chin to chest) and then snaps back, using the area below the crown as the striking surface. Lovely! You really might need it if your arms are tied up, so it is good to know this weapon is there, and can be used straight back, or even diagonally.

Headbutts present themselves in other ways, and much like improvised weapons, you just have to open your mind to the opportunities.  Look for situations in your training where you may be able to employ them.  One point to keep in mind: if you can hit him with your head, rest assured he can do the same to you. Look for and avoid the opportunities for an enemy to go head-to-head with you.

Now here is an individual who has really done the Headbutt justice and turned it into an art form. I mean this guy, Gerald Moffatt, has truly written a treatise on the subject, and I recommend when you have the time, to peruse his article entitled, “Headbutts, or How to Be a Nutter”:


Cheryl Watterson Gets Steven Mosley's Take on Firearms

On blogtalkradio, Cheryl Watterson interviews Steven Mosley, of Combat Hard Fitness & Fighting, on firearms, the importance of training on your gun of choice and basic combatives skills, and our new course, hosted by KBX Gym: Home Firearm Safety and Basic Pistol Course.


Cheryl Watterson Interviews Melissa Soalt, AKA Dr. Ruthless

Perhaps some of you have watched her video clips on YouTube, or even her self-defense DVDs, such as Fierce and Female.  Here is an interview on blogtalkradio between Cheryl Watterson and Dr. Ruthless regarding her work (over 2 decades in this industry), self-defense as it particularly pertains to women, warrior mindset, overcoming fear of injury (what will happen if I don’t fight?!), and the importance of training with full emotional content.  Very interesting stuff, and good insight on training women, in my personal opinion.


Also, here is Dr. Ruthless’ website:


Cupped Hand Strike

The Cupped Hand Strike is one of the basic techniques we teach in our Gutterfighting.  This technique often seems fairly natural to women, and they appear to enjoy training it more than the other techniques.  Think of it as a slap, but with a little more curvature in the hand—in other words, it is cupped!  The hand should still stay fairly relaxed, though.  The target is the head, but if you are able to get the ear, it has a nice concussive effect upon the eardrum.  In fact, in Applegate’s book, Kill or Get Killed, the strike is called an “Ear Concussive Blow.”  He taught using both hands to hit both ears.  I can imagine the effect, literally slamming a pocket of air into each ear canal.  Yow!  If you ever watch some of Dr. Ruthless’ videos, she also likes to use both hands in a very close quarters situation.  I recall seeing a video of Paul Vunak teaching the Slap, and his hand makes almost a whipping motion because he keeps the hand so relaxed and the wrist very flexible.  This reminds me of what Kelly McCann talks about regarding weapons against the head, which is a very rigid, bony structure; flexible weapons work very well for rocking the brain and causing a KO.  We like to call this “rebooting the computer.”  Kelly often recommends using the open-hand, like palm strikes, face smashes, chin jabs, and cupped hand strikes, as opposed to punches, which also pits one bony structure (your knuckles) against another (his skull).  It stands to reason that with punches and no gloves, you have a good chance of sustaining a lot of damage.  Boxer’s fracture aside, learning to slap is a little easier skills-wise, and more readily available to the new practitioner; boxing skills take much more dedication to acquire!

I would teach this particular technique from the protective fence (arms outstretched and slightly bent, palms facing you), or a more aggressive fence (palms facing the aggressor).  The scenario might be that the adversary is encroaching on your space, has ignored your protective barrier (the fence), and you kick off.  However, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to basically shoot from the hip and strike from a ready stance, or with your arms at your sides.  Train from all these positions.  The Cupped Hand Strike can come from the front hand, but we usually start teaching it with the rear hand—folks just have an easier time with it.

I like the way Lee Morrison sets up the strike—a bit of misdirection!  Very cool: http://www.urbancombatives.com/cuppedhandblow.htm

Here is Dr. Ruthless with her “primal” self-defense–yeah!  She uses a double Cupped Hand Strike at the beginning of this video:

Ha ha!  Here is Paul Vunak teaching the “Ear Slap.”


Post and Videos on Brachial Stun

I first learned about the brachial stun in talking with a friend who was a former police officer–it was a technique he learned in police academy.  In our Gutterfighting class, we teach the long ax hand technique to the Brachial Plexus Origin, which is a nerve bundle located in the side of the neck comprised of the the median, radial, and ulnar nerves (these travel down and feed into the arm).  LEO’s are usually taught to use softer portions of the arms and hands, as using bony portions of the wrist and arm like we sometimes do with the ax hand, moves into the area of deadly force.  Hitting this nerve bundle really zaps the electrical system, and can cause a stunning affect that could very well cause an adversary to collapse onto the ground.  Having been hit in the Brachial Plexus Origin, I can personally attest to the fact that it really hurts, and I experienced pain and strange electrical pulses up and down my left arm all day long after the fact.

Here is the post with a couple of good videos: