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!

 

Martial Arts Humor – Injuries And The White Belt

It’s funny…but not.  Especially because it isn’t so much the white belt who ends up hurt, but the training partner.

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(C) Cartoonstock Jcen624

We all start somewhere, no question about it – accidents ARE going to happen, it’s Martial Arts, for crying out loud.  BUT…

But…

It’s absolutely vital that newer students are not only encouraged to slow down, but ASKED to.  The first nose fracture I sustained a few months ago wasn’t from a white belt – it was a tough technique, a few parts went awry between us…it happens.

But this time it was more the result of over-excitedness, and lack of body control – common to newer students.

I went slowly.  I made a point to say “because this is designed to break the arm and damage the joints, it’s really important to go slowly.  It’s easy to go too far before your partner has a chance to tap…”  

The message has to come from all of us, though – it has to be engrained from the get-go, because many of our techniques (self defense-based, as much as offensively-based) are designed to injure.  Even when a technique is meant only to control, there is room for an accident mindfulness makes a HUGE difference in lessening the potential for injury on the mat.  

After I took a heel to the face, re-fracturing my nose, a fellow student took the time to say (to my distressed training partner) “you really need to go slower.  You have a high energy – that’s great -but in here, we really have to go slow…and slower still.  We go slow for a LONG time.”

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I think there’s a misconception that going slowly is a bad thing – it ISN’T.  As the saying goes, slow is fast, fast is slow… Being deliberate in the movements builds – first of all – the proper muscle memory. Bad habits are a NIGHTMARE to fix – you want to be drilling the correct mechanics of the technique so, when it matters, that’s how you respond.  

The other part of that is…you actually CAN hurt the person you are working with.  It isn’t a stretch because that is precisely what you are learning to do.  If you are more senior, you don’t have to be overbearing – but it is partially your responsibility to guide others when you notice they aren’t as in control as they need to be.  Sometimes even then…accidents occur.  So back up your peers if you need to – my friend stepping in was appreciated because while my partner won’t forget she fractured my nose…she was given extra reinforcement from the messages given to her afterwards.

Martial Arts – Beneath The Surface

This Gif says it all so well…

Still waters run deep, they say.

Don’t trust the surface…

You NEVER know who you are dealing with.  What their training is. How strong they are.  What their (mental) stability is like…

Be mindful.

Be aware.

Be the predator that doesn’t show himself unless he needs to.

 

For more Martial Arts posts

Practice, Practice, Practice

I recently moved to a new City – one I know nothing about.  Having lived in the same “home town” for three and a half decades, it definitely takes adjusting.  

Sometimes you say “I’m moving” and people assume it’s a piece of cake, it’s just around the corner, or that it only involves your “stuff.”  (Did you ever see the George Carlin bit about “stuff?” It will have you in stitches whether you’re moving or staying put – fair forewarning, he doesn’t censor particularly!)

But no, it isn’t just about the physical aspects – a new location, a new living space, or new furnishings – which would be far less daunting.  In most cases, moving involves fully uprooting all your reference checkpoints.

One of those reference points for me has been my Martial Arts – I have studied Taekwondo for some years now, along with Hapkido and Kumdo as adjunct disciplines (I’d love to have delved more deeply into those as well, Hapkido in particular, but as an adult, time is a huge factor.  Our resources are also more limited!)  I had the blessing to be taken under my Grand Master’s wing, on a regular schedule, and what he wanted to focus on, we focused on!    

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Despite two devastating injuries – both to my knees – I have continued with my study…not surprisingly, to the chagrin of my loved ones.  In any sport (at least in my own mind) injuries are par for the course – I aim to be as safe as possible, but I have absolutely, out of necessity, toned it down.  To give it up completely, however, was simply not an option – I devoted myself to regular classes, and stretching and practice on my own time irregardless.

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I am still preparing for my next promotion, sometime in the next few weeks in my original home town.   I no longer have my class, my Grand Master, my peers, nor my familiar surroundings with which to continue on this path, but I HAVE to practice, lest I lose my form, memory, flexibility, or skill – these are, without question, a use-it-or-lose-it deal.

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I am eager to reach this benchmark as it has been a long-standing goal.  My move, however, came at a time of great transition for me…far too great to enumerate without launching into a novella!  It’s been a whirlwind of “wonderful”…but even wonderful can be overwhelming.

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Had I not been prepared to participate in the coming promotion, the next step would have been to find a new Art in which to achieve.  One could continue with Taekwondo, reaching far beyond 2nd Degree (my Grand Master is a 9th), but there is an overwhelming feeling of “change” to 2015.  The year has already blessed me with many changes, all of which have been positive. ❤  

Martial Arts is known for its roots in, and focus on, discipline. In my view, discipline is the backbone of the Arts, tempering the sometimes volatile and emotional nature of human beings, and grounding us solidly in what truly matters.  

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Given my circumstance, this means holding off on moving forward until my goal is reached.  Some people might jump into a new Art during the grace period, particularly having moved to a new City without a school branch, or familiar Dojang – new start, after all.  For me personally, though, rushing into a new Art feels foolish – I prefer to focus, stay loyal, and do the best I can, new training circumstances notwithstanding.

I found a room today at my new gym with a ton of heavy bags…and I lit up.  Flexibility is one of the first things to go, so stretching and maintaining my kicks is incredibly important.  I am not in the Arts to “fight,” I should interject.  As I have mentioned in other posts, Martial Arts is so much more for me – it is a dance, albeit a deadly one.

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We still don’t have a set date (which would possibly unnerve any of the students – and it is!), but I am doing my best to review what I know on my own.  My Grand Master always made a point to say it takes “character” to practice solo, and the sentiment extends to many aspects of our person – our morals, our discipline, our determination, our passion…  We need to stay hungry, especially when we are faced with change.

When everything around you turns upside-down, there is a way to stay centered.  It doesn’t mean you won’t be frazzled in the process, but it gives you something familiar to embrace mentally, spiritually, physically.

It is that “something” you can take with you no matter where you go…in Life, or in the World.  

Your spirit is ever-present, and stronger and more equipped than you may imagine.  Trust your memory, work hard, stay hungry…stay grounded.  In many ways, in a century of massive change, that really is all we CAN do.

I’m okay with that.  I’ll be in the back room going through my forms. 

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#NOMERCY, Nitromethane Drag Race shirt – says it all!