Martial Arts Tips – The 5 Rules Of Fighting

 This image crossed my path the other day and though there’s never an end to “tips,” especially in this arena, these are five solid goodies to start. They might apply to a professional fighter, but they also make sense in a self-defense scenario.

NEVER MOVE BACK IN A STRAIGHT LINE

When you get “offline” (for example, at a 45% angle), you are forcing your opponent to slow down. As he redirects to refocus his energy on you, his strikes become weaker, and a window of opportunity opens during which you can retreat to a safe direction, strike back if still under threat, etc.

Moving straight back can also have you backed into something (or on the ground!) pretty quick.  A stagger is a stronger base from which to work, keeping you on your feet….where you need to stay.

 

NEVER SET

Keep moving! A stationary target is a lot easier to catch and strike. Movement also makes it easier to catch your opponent by surprise – a strike from a stand-still telegraphs your intentions much faster than if you are dodging about.

 

REDIRECT

Along with number one… When the opponent has to shift his focus, he also has to shift his weight, balance, and strength, giving you the upper hand.

 

FIGHT YOUR OPPONENT AS HE FIGHTS YOU

You never know what a person’s background is, or necessarily their style of fighting. In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to observe, but try to pick up on what he is…and isn’t…doing…as well as what he has in his arsenal. A knife fight when you aren’t armed means you’ve got a bold opponent fighting you (think: lunging slashes and stabs, unafraid of being cut in return.) If you happen to have a knife also, his movements are going to become a lot shorter, hesitant, and self-protective.

Stand your ground as much as you are able, maintaining that you are not a victim or someone to be pushed around.  The more calm a person can be (and it is a challenge, assuredly) the more nerve you will evoke in the other person. Chip away at the opponent’s self-confidence and he’s going to be a lot easier to get away from, or submit (obviously depending on the circumstance.)

 

PLACE YOUR OPPONENT WHERE YOU WANT HIM

If you are fighter by sport or profession, STUDY…and study hard. Observe what you can before hand.  If you have no ability to do so, test him to see which strikes he’s resorting to, or whether he wants to stay standing vs get you to the ground, whether he baits you, prefers kicks to punches, and which kinds…  When you understand what you are working with, you know where the weaknesses are.  

If in a self-defense scenario, you aren’t going to have time on your side. Do your best to note the person’s movement, as it is guaranteed to be either: their natural movement (and going to occur again), or their preferred movement (and going to occur again.) Being aware of the other person’s overall body movement can also keep us focused, giving us less time to panic.

 

Obviously, there are a slew of techniques and tips and methodologies out there…but these are good tidbits to keep in mind.

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Train The Way You (Want To) Fight

Training the way you want to fight isn’t always so easy. . .but in a way, isn’t that supposed to be the point? That we train in order to potentially defend ourselves?

The tough reality is that what your muscles remember under duress – which is going to be what you have painstakingly programmed them to do in class, lessons, practice – is what matters.  If you train to hand the gun back to the perpetrator – even with mindfulness and the knowledge that you *shouldn’t* – it may happen in real life.  Terrifying it may be, I’ve actually heard of cases in which just that has occurred… Scary.

The other day in class, our Sensei decided to do a drill combining old school (as in centuries-old Ninpo) traditional movements with a modern-day scenario and vibe.  We had to disable our opponent with a distraction or strike, get away (using those traditional techniques), get to and behind cover, and then “draw” our weapon. The drill was one of the most fun I think I’ve ever done…but I was also so incredibly excited to have another opportunity to flesh out a possible, modern situation. No matter how old movements, or kata, or patterns may be, there are gems within them that can be adapted for, and applied to the times.

I don’t carry, for one thing…so I’m not likely to have a firearm at the ready.  But the idea was what was most important here, and learning to do all of those things – without the stress – was hugely valuable.  What makes it stick? Repetition!  Memory needs to be formed so that when we ARE stressed, we can still perform those functions. Just one day of that particular drill isn’t necessarily going to help me out if something really goes down.  But…the principles and techniques ARE ones we use every day…

We learn to strike, distract, disable…that’s number 1. 

We learn how to efficiently get away, and to not injure our bodies (or injure as little as possible!) as we attempt to do so.

We learn to asses for cover and get behind it if that’s what the situation requires (versus getting away.) 

In practicing those things, our muscles learn on such a level that we work on “autopilot” after a point.  And that’s what you want!

The difficulty in this particular environment is that we don’t have real firearms, and we aren’t truly hurting our “attacker.”  On a range, in a special type of training, an individual who DOES carry can certainly practice his or her ability to draw, aim, shoot, and make the weapon safe – frankly I think anyone in a job in which carrying a pistol is required SHOULD be doing that anyway! 

For us at the dojo, we are working on handling whatever is coming at us as quickly and smartly as possible – but again, there are some strikes we simply cannot do.  In Ninpo, strikes can be highly unorthodox and nasty – breaking fingers, ripping ears, gouging eyes…it goes on.  It’s tough knowing we aren’t going 100% in this case, but we can’t exactly…  So we have to keep in mind that in real life, were our safety on the line, we can’t play the but-he’s-a-nice-“uke” (opponent / attacker) game. It’s a challenge, honestly – how do we bridge the gap, then?  I’m not sure you really CAN because none of us are out to break another classmate’s limb!

This is – for me – where the repetition comes in.  Learning to master even basic movement can take a lifetime, forget years! But in the daily (or as many days as can be managed!) practice helps solidify as many of the effective ways in which to handle a particular threat.  There are – keep in mind – an infinite number of movements available to us, and if we could study every Art and master it in a lifetime, we’d be golden.  Not the reality, sad to say!  Learning to even do a handful of “go-to”s is great – learn to do them properly, to do them well, and to do them with all shapes and sizes (some techniques are really tough with a HUGE partner!)  If you want a real challenge, do them blindfolded.

It’s a very “wax on, wax off” concept – the drills help our bodies to do these things as involuntarily as possible so, should the need arise, we actually CAN do something about it. We don’t always have the luxury of training exactly how we fight – this isn’t the Colosseum, after all – but we *can* do everything in our power to focus, to drill, and to get our muscles so familiar with the movements that they will come to our aid when we need them most.

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Martial Arts Humor – Preparation (And The Benefit Of Martial Arts in Life)

I have to say, Mr. Rogers, you let me down! 

The streets here are not exactly tame, depending on the block – happy-go-lucky mindlessness and handing out “hi, neighbor!”s is a surefire way to get in (possibly serious) trouble.

When I began Martial Arts, it wasn’t because I wanted to be “badass” or that I thought I’d need to fend of a gaggle of muggers, necessarily.  I was a lifetime athlete – primarily a performing one (ballroom dancing, figure skating, ballet, and the like) – and I wanted to up the ante.  I wanted more power, newness, and something that combined athleticism with artistry (which figure skating, for one, manages by default.)

That said, I was enamored of Martial Arts in general from an incredibly young age.  It had nothing to do with being a female, by the way – I’ve never felt that I couldn’t achieve the same thing the “boys” did, and in sports the men were more my idols than the women.  The grace and fluidity were something my body already knew how to create inherently, but the power and strength of male athletes inspired me on a whole other level.  

Martial Arts movies were common enough in our household – older brother = badassery.  And watching them, in and of themselves, made me feel empowered – imagine being able to do those things, and hold my own, for myself?!

I didn’t start (Taekwondo, Hapkido, dabble of Kumdo) until the third decade of Life, but I still don’t think that was “too late.” My current Arts are Ninjutsu / Ninpo, and Brazilian Gracie Jui-Jitsu. I feel that the combination of the former, and being in a new, and much tougher city than those I’ve lived in before, has prompted me to develop and even stronger situational awareness.  I notice my surroundings, but also am more attuned to the details – how someone is walking, if they are carrying something, if they look in shape and strong, or less able. . . It’s sort of just “there” and it makes me feel even more thankful for my training.

I can’t say whether or not my muscle memories would kick in – I certainly hope so – but I definitely know I am far more prepared than the average person, and have some chance of submitting, escaping, keeping my life. I’m also more aware in general, a direct result training with people, so I can possibly be more proactive.

It may not always be a “beautiful day in the neighborhood” much that my happy-empath spirit would like it to be. Mr. Rogers let a little me down but I picked up the slack and have trained my ass off in the last ten years just in case a “hi, neighbor” leans a little too hostile for my taste!

 

Humor – On A Cruise To Nowhere

I don’t drive recklessly, let me make that clear from the outset (because I don’t agree with reckless driving!)

While I do have a lead foot and love going fast…I DON’T, actually.  I don’t have any interest in being stopped and slammed with a  monster ticket, nor do I want to endanger myself or anyone else.  I DO have a courtesy card, compliments of a best buddy Lieutenant, but I don’t like to pull it out because I feel like “that guy” if I do.  Let me also point out that I have a red car.

That said, I’m positively guilty of mumbling under my breath when someone is in the left lane who really shouldn’t be – generally speaking I have somewhere to be (hence being in the car and driving to begin with.  Seems like common sense, right?)

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I find it incredibly frustrating because really…it’s no one’s right to manage anyone else’s speed (UNLESS you are in the car with that person – then you absolutely do have a right to speak up.  It’s never about breaking the speed of light, last I checked.  At least not on a main road (vs. dragstrip, for example!))    

If you are in the left lane, presumably you are passing, or just cruising along.  You aren’t on-the-button with the speed limit, and you definitely aren’t under.  Or…maybe I should say…”shouldn’t be.”  It’s a given that if you are over to the left you are – indeed – maintaining a speed generally higher than the limit…by more than 2 miles over, by the way.

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I can’t STAND mediocrity generally…but when I’m driving, I’m okay in the middle lane most of the time.  At least that way I’m not having to flash my lights at the slow poke in front, and I’m not having to speed beyond what I’m comfortable doing.  The left and exit lanes are always there when I need them (and it would be awfully nice if other people got the gist of what they are for too.  Wishful thinking?  Maybe.  But a girl (in a red car!) can dream.)

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Intuition

Trust it.

Without hesitation.

Don’t make excuses.  Don’t justify, internalize, or minimize. That “feeling” you have – great, bad, or otherwise?  It’s dead on.  

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That elusive, evolutionary mechanism residing within your center – brimming over with feeling, and yet altogether “emotionless”. . . That space JUST KNOWS. Humans may indeed be flawed and fragile, but we have been designed – by whomsoever you chose – to survive against the odds.  Our “gut” tells us when things may be tipping in our favor, and when they might go awry (there actually IS a sabretooth hovering in that bush behind you.  RUN.)

Modern life has someone drowned to reflex, but it hasn’t gone anywhere.  No, it’s still there, jumping up and down with red flags a-flying trying to tell you that guy isn’t good for you on any level…that the job relocation actually IS what you need…or that maybe you need to rest today instead of pushing yourself to the point of immune shutdown.

These days life is fast-paced and all-consuming – here I am typing these words, with a cell phone plugged in next to me, texts coming through…and three other windows open, one of which is e-mail.  What happened to the “down time” of old?  What happened to actually FEELING and be aware of our own physiologic sensations?  Technology?  Maybe… It’s certainly sped up the planet to a spin that’s hard to keep up with – forget about time for a coffee, let alone having a moment to catch your breath and re-calibrate with your gut. Meditation?  What’s that?

Still…despite the onslaught of time-robbing “stuff,” the intuition is ever at the ready to guide you.  That split second flutter you feel is trying to tell you something.  So even if life has gone on warp speed…take a moment to LISTEN.  As best you can.  You don’t have to take a five-minute time out…just take a breath and listen to what your body, gut, and intuition is saying.  It’s got your back 1,000% – think of it as your personal, built-in radar, programmed to keep you alive and well.

And if you are one of those people who ARE aware but choose to ignore it?  Do a little test and listen next time… Making excuses or turning our cheek the other way?  It only hurts us in the end.

I do believe that things happen for reasons – many of the lessons I had to learn stemmed from deliberately overriding my gut (consciously and unconsciously.)  Neither, I suppose, is the better teacher – one just happens to be a lot less painful.  Especially after the fact when that flutter says – in the deep recesses of silence at night – “I told you so.”

Yeah…  You did.

 

Tap Out!

This is something I believe in adamantly...

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I hate to say I’ve seen this, but it happens all the time. Sometimes during training you will catch people waiting to tap – on occasion it isn’t “almost too late,” it’s already too far. 

I am the first person to appreciate drive, and the desire to compete (particularly with oneself – many of us who devote ourselves to Martial Arts are goal setters, and personal achievements are important.)  That said, there is absolutely ZERO room for bravado.  I see it plenty, and we all have a right to behave the way we want to – but it is an attitude and approach I simply can’t get behind.

When we are training, we MUST be mindful.  If we are a higher belt, mindful awareness should go without saying.  And if we are a lower belt, someone who has rank should be making the point that it is not only OKAY to tap, but that students are encouraged to.  There is no shame, you are not admitting some horrifying defeat by doing it, nor is it a sign of weakness.  You are training intelligently.  Period.

Tapping is intended to keep you – and your body parts – safe!  You want to train as long as possible, right!?  When you feel pressure, you should tap.  If it hurts, you waited to long!  

Fortunately at my Taekwondo and Hapkido dojang, as well as at the Ninjutsu dojo, and Jiu-Jitsu school, tapping is highly encouraged so that we are in the game as long as possible.

And it isn’t totally about avoiding injury either.  Tapping is important feedback for your training partner – when you tap you indicate that they have “gotten” the technique.  If you wait to long, they will apply more pressure or torque in order to execute the technique…all the while NOT knowing they’ve already done it properly, injuring you in the process.  

I know that movies out there like to push the “tough guy” image, but class is not the place to be acting like you are impervious.  You aren’t.  Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali weren’t either.  We are flesh and blood – bones break, tendons snap, accidents happen.  

So if you feel discomfort because of a technique, that pressure is telling you that you are about to go into dangerous territory – as in, beyond normal mobility and range of motion.  So do yourself – AND your partner – a favor.  

TAP!

Tap, tap, and tap often.  

The safer you train, the longer you can keep at it!