William E. Fairbairn

“Get tough, get down in the gutter, win at all costs… I teach what is called ‘Gutter Fighting.’ There’s no fair play, no rules except one: kill or be killed.”

I highly recommend that anyone interested in winning a violent confrontation, study his materials.

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Training Notes

What is the best way to train Combatives?  We have been putting our thoughts together in preparation for a new class and re-vamping our current training methodology.  Our goal is to give people something they can use on the street as soon as they walk out into the world.  We have to create an immediate need for the training.  Unfortunately, many people have mental obstacles that prevent them from seeing the immediate need even though they express a desire to protect themselves.  This may be because they don’t really have a concept of what self-protection or real-world violence really entails.  You can hit students over the head with it, which is what some instructors try to do—you can scare them half to death with the brutal reality, but then you run the risk of losing students forever.  These are the very students that need help the most.  People have to be engaged as the individuals they are, because each of us has our own experiences, conditioning, etc.  We have to meet them where they are and bring them into the fold, so to speak, slowly.  People have all these wild ideas in their minds about fighting, based on what they see on television and in the movies, and the sports they watch.  But for real conflict that involves interpersonal human aggression, real mental preparation is required. 

We can tell people that fighting is not a goal, and we express this whenever we have an opportunity.  Certainly people need physical skills, also, for the times when all other measures fail.  Marcus Wynne talked about Combatives training, and expressed that people need to have the end in mind—what do they want to achieve?  Ah.  Imagery.  This keeps coming up in our research.  Students also need scenario training; we lead into this by again, creating the need in the beginning, and sharing real-life stories of survival and winning.  It is important to create a positive learning environment for our adult learners.  Even before running an individual through a scenario, the student needs to witness a trained response to a threat.  This way, they can model their own behavior after a successful response.  The scene should be set with descriptive imagery that appeals to all the senses, which helps to draw their minds into the situation.  Keep in mind that not all people can visualize.  We talked a lot about this in the Brian Willis’ Winning Mind seminar this past winter.  Some people struggle with mental pictures because they are simply not visually-oriented.  In fact, when they are told to close their eyes and visualize, they see NOTHING.  However, they can imagine with other sensory information.  If they are more kinesthetic, help them to imagine feeling.  If they are more auditory, help them to hear the sounds.  Assist them in imagining smells, and taste, if it is warranted.  Make an effort to paint the whole picture with more than just visual data.  

In his book, Sharpening the Warrior’s Edge, Bruce Siddle outlines design methodology and four goals for training.  I have paraphrased, here: 

  • Increase the student’s confidence in a skill at the subconscious level.  Quickly.
  • Increase the student’s situational confidence through stimulus-training-response exercises.
  • Utilize imagery [he calls for visualization, but go further!] to prepare the students for the threat stimulus, and a correct response to that stimulus.
  • Train students on breathing techniques to gain control of escalating heart rate. 

He also discusses the seven phases of dynamic scenario training.  Now, in the text, he is specifically referring to shooting scenarios and room-clearing techniques, but these principles can be applied to any combat scenario, in my opinion.  I have paraphrased here: 

  • Introduce fundamentals, letting students know what to expect, especially in terms of survival stress.  Give students techniques for diffusing the effects of survival stress.  Students must make a mental checklist of potential threats, the primary response and the secondary response options [what is a “failure drill”?].  Students may not remember stress management techniques initially, so remind them and explain how to apply them to combat performance.
  • Perform slow-motion walk-through of the steps and procedure.  This is the soft-wiring of the motor program they are creating in their nervous systems.
  • Perform segmented scenario, in sequence.
  • Slowly begin the process of engaging a static target while moving.  Speed picks up only after consistent practice in this phase.  If the scenario includes shooting, the students are introduced to target discrimination.
  • Role players wear protective gear and exhibit threatening actions—the threat is alive, now.  Students will become more nervous with this new variable and must be encouraged to practice stress management techniques.  Between three to five reps of the sequence improves accuracy.
  • Role players can now fight back.  Again, the stress level will increase for students.  The threat is only a single target at this phase, and should be simple and quick, which helps enhance visual reaction time.
  • Several scenarios should be designed to test students’ reactions to the fullest extent.  Role players must maintain control; students are still learning to react and are gaining situational confidence.  Survival stress management MUST be reinforced, and it takes several repetitions at this phase for students to become automatic and fluid.  If shooting is involved, scenarios should be varied so students experience both “shoot” and “don’t shoot” situations.

Notice how students are not just thrown directly into the meat grinder with this careful process.  It serves no practical purpose if we want the students to successfully reach the goal.  Variables are changed one at a time.  Role players must be properly coached. 

So, what if practitioners need to perform better?  Following a scenario, instructors can walk them through what went right, and what could be improved.  It is important to NOT focus on the negative.  The scenario can be broken down into segments, so as to work on each individual facet of a situation.  Instructors should minimize corrections, because realistic fights are never perfect or choreographed.  Students must feel successful following scenario training. 

We have talked in previous posts about the critical elements of close quarters battles, and they are: speed, surprise, and violence of action.  Kelly McCann says that martial arts is something you do with someone, and combatives is something you do to someone.  Just as Ignatius Piazza said in his blog the other day, “action is faster than reaction.”  Once the assailant has broken into your decision loop, you are playing catch-up, and it becomes more difficult to regain the upper hand.  If you sense an imminent threat, you cannot wait for confirmation because it may be too late.  Intuition, or sensing intention, must be your guide. 

In addition to becoming unconsciously competent through scenario-based training, students must learn how to articulate their actions for the legal investigation that invariably follows.  They become unconscious competent articulates.  Students must understand when to stop the onslaught when the target is no longer a threat.  If the situation has been diffused, people no longer have the right to physically engage the assailant, within the eyes of the law.  In our minds, it is important for people to win from a physical, mental, and legal standpoint. 

 

References 

Siddle, Bruce K.  (1995).  Sharpening the Warrior’s Edge: The Pscychology & Science of Training.  Millstadt: PPCT Research Publications.

Bob Kasper's SWAMP

I was reading an old article by Bob Kasper, entitled “Swamp: How to Make The First Strike Your Last.”  He talks about power in combatives, and the idea that when you strike, you sure as heck better make it count in order to lessen a perpetrator’s commitment to the attack.  Being a relatively small person, I have always been keenly interested in being able to generate tremendous force with the body I have to work with.  SWAMP is a simple acronym for Bob’s five principles of power.  Apply these principles to make all your strikes count in the sense that your explosion of power breaks into his OODA loop and forces him to be reactionary; you are driving the bus.

S: Stay relaxed.  You slow yourself down if your muscles are tense.  Try throwing a punch with all the muscles of your arm contracted.  Not very efficient, is it?  Now throw a punch with your arm more relaxed.  Think about how you clench the fist right before impact, but stay loose at every micro-step before that moment.  Explode on impact.  Not easy, and it takes practice.

W: Weapon first.  Kasper says, “Let him feel the technique before he sees it.”  In other words, avoid telegraphing your movement.  This is also takes practice.

A: Acceleration.  Speed is critical.  Slow and steady, like the tortoise, is not going to win this particular race.  Be the hare, and beat him to the punch.

M: Move in the direction of the strike.  For instance, sometimes students will shuffle forward and leave a foot planted instead of bringing it along with them and moving the whole body into a strike.  The body is essentially divided in the effort.  Moving all the mass together as a cohesive unit is a beautiful thing, and makes all the difference in the efficacy of your effort!

P: Plunge.  We talk a lot in class about putting your a** into your strikes.  Not only do you have to move in the direction of the strike, but you have to utilize your bodyweight correctly behind the strike.  I’ve seen 220 pound guys punch with just their arms.  A lot of them are still powerful, but again, they are using just their arms.  Now, what if a 165 pound guy can put every ounce of his weight into his strikes, and strike as fast and decisively as a cobra, who do you think has the advantage?  How powerful do you think the 220 pounders could be with efficient body mechanics?

Use these principles with any technique.  As soon as you perceive the threat, explode.  Force him to change his mind, or diminish him to the point when he is no longer a threat.  As my other instructor often says, in so many words, “This guy brought me to this dance.  Okay, buddy.  Now, we’re going to dance.”  Make sure you are leading!

Informative Combatives Sites

Holy smokes!  I cannot believe we did not find this site before now.  I have already read some great articles posted out here on self-defense and close combat.  Very good stuff, and these guys trained with Col. Rex Applegate and Charles Nelson.  Here is the old site:

http://www.americancombato.com/

And here is the new site:

http://seattlecombatives.com/

Happy reading!

Improvised Weapon: Magazine

Recently we brought in a stack of magazines to class and told the students we were going to practice fighting with them. Naturally, people were curious about turning a magazine into a weapon. As it has been taught to me, improvised weapons are more of a mindset. The same can be said for combatives.

The other instructor tells the story best about quizzing Guro Dan Inosanto about Filipinos fighting with rolled-up magazines, and using them much like a palm stick before casually going back to reading the magazines (In my mind’s eye, I see him reading and whistling a tune). I imagine a little tape would be great to hold it together. Once we got ours rolled and ready for action, we realized what a multi-tasker a magazine can truly be. Jab it into vital areas and nerve motor points, use it with your hammer fists, or just swat that guy like a big, nasty horsefly. It’s all good. I like the way it concentrates the energy of the strike into one tiny area, like with a kubotan.

Not sure we could re-use our magazines. We tore those suckers to bits.

The Psychology Behind the Attack

I truly enjoy the articles posted on Low Tech Combat’s website. I believe they are well-written and certainly very thoughtful–they always give me something to think about, for sure. Here is an interesting post about the author’s thoughts on an article he read called “The Two Faces of Combatives”. He discusses combative behavior between animals of the same species (in the wild) as well as animals of different species, and draws parallels to the human animal. He goes on to talk about Affective-Aggression Combat (alpha male behavior), Predatory-Aggression Combat (predation for economic gain, or otherwise) and how identifying with a group, or as I call it, “pack mentality”, affects both types of behavior. Enjoy!

http://www.lowtechcombat.com/2009/07/two-faces.html

Cycling and High Low Principle

I was studying one of Kelly McCann’s combatives tapes today and he talked about the concept of Cycling, and the High Low Principle.  Both are effective in forcing the opponent to react.  In Cycling, with high line strikes, for instance, the hands and arms are in continuous flow.  Kelly uses his off hand to touch and manipulate the head of the assailant as his right hand is used to rain down hammer fists, and onward he cycles, alternating continuously.  It is great for keeping close contact, and I think it sets your body up nicely for each strike.  Think rapid fire: break into his OODA loop and go fast, hard and aggressively.

High Low is simply alternating between high line strikes and low line strikes.  Again, if you hit him with a face smash, then go straight for a knee or cupped hand blow to the groin, then back up to the head for a chin jab, AND you attack like a cornered wolverine, you will most likely be forcing him to react.  The more aggressively you strike, with intention, the harder it is for him to catch up and break into your OODA loop.  He was looking for a sheep, and instead he tangled with an angry tiger.  Yes, you must transform into the predator and fight with the same ferocious resolve (to borrow a term from Marcus Wynne) to end the confrontation.

In the previous blog post, about Lee Morrison, one of the videos on his site shows cycling of elbows.  That would be a bad day for anyone dumb enough to scrap with him.  🙂