It is not exactly uncommon for a highly skilled Martial Artist to get beaten up by an ordinary bloke in a violent confrontation, deep down this worries a lot of people that train, but why does it happen and can we do anything about it?
There is a saying in the Military “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”, hundreds of years of conflict have proven this to be true. For any plan to work it requires all present to be on the same page, the enemy rarely co operates because they are working to their own plan. Victory usually falls to whoever controls the fighting environment to their own advantage, and not always the best trained or most skilled.
The environment of a violent confrontation is chaotic, anti social and messy, the environment of the training hall is orderly, social and controlled. It is a big ask to expect a smooth transition, but it is achievable.
When I say chaotic and messy I am not referring to emotional factors, they are influenced just as much by how our day has been, if we have had enough sleep or if we have eaten well as they are by any training, I am talking about the where and when of time and space, the Environment that the trouble takes place in, and this can be worked on in the training hall if we adopt a more holistic approach.
Nothing we do in training will be of any use to us, only the thinking behind it, the idea or concept of the work, this is mainly because nothing will happen in the same physical space, same head space or same time frame as it does in training, add to that the the Bad Guy will not be helping us and will definitely have his own plan so the environment will be completely different and we will be faced with the dilemma of changing the work to suit the environment or changing the environment to suit the work. I believe it is far more beneficial and in fact easier to change the environment, apart from anything else if we change the work we are no longer using our training.
What is the Environment?
The Environment is the totality of the unfolding event that is a violent confrontation, it is an event that is 50% our effort and 50% our opponents effort, trying to control our opponent is a dubious choice so what we are really talking about is controlling our relationship to our half of the environment, controlling only where we are and only what we do, while it is completely impossible to make our training replicate genuine violence we can make a real fight unfold like training by bending and moulding what is happening to be as similar as possible to how we do the work in training.
Most training is unstructured to a large extent, segmented into single attack and defence ideas occasionally linked into some kind of scenario that is obviously just a collection of the same single ideas, to be honest there is not really any other way to do the work, even Chi Sau ends up just the same old thing after a while, and then there is the whole aspect of training being a social pastime and the false positions that this allows us to inhabit without being aware that we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, not much can be done about this in a physical way, training is not fighting, sparring is not fighting only fighting is fighting.
“Only the thinking, only the concept of the work will be used”, if we accept this then we would do well to know what concepts are in play, what are available at our level of training and which ones suit our mentality.
And then actively and deliberately involve the Concepts in the training instead of expecting them to somehow crystallise out of the training.
Conceptually are we aggressive or defensive in our approach to the work, we cannot be both because they are opposing mind sets, simultaneous attack and defence is not a concept it is a practice, an application that we employ if we are being aggressive or being defensive.
Making this simple distinction will bring about changes to how we position ourself and how we move in and around the training space, our environment. In generic training when a partner throws a punch he is standing right in front of us, in the “Kill Zone” this is not going to be the case in reality, the opponent will not be where it suits us and not him, we will need to either allow him to step into the Kill Zone or we will need to take the Kill Zone to him, both are valid and equal, but to be effective we need to know our approach before the event.
In the same vein when a partner / opponent throws a punch at our head what is the principal result we want from our action, is it to prevent him making contact, is it to redirect his blow, is to take his balance, all very much from a defensive approach or is it to hit him hard, cause damage or to set up a situation for a chain attack, the aggressive option, again all are valid and equal, and many may well happen at the same time but we need to focus on just one aspect or we will be in two minds.
Much is spoken of Intent, often in a very small itemized way of having Intent in our strike, but what is our Intent for the whole situation, how do we see it starting, what happens next and how does it end? If we do not have an imaginary story arc and some possible options to these stages of the confrontation how do we lead it to a conclusion, how do we know when to stop.
If we have not already decided how it ends do we just keep kicking him until he stops moving?
How do we know when the fight is over?
In competition fighting it is easy, the Referee holds up our hand but how about a Bar Fight or an argument that has escalated to violence over a Car Parking Spot?
After you knock him out do you buy another beer, go and do your shopping?
What is the Concept behind our Exit Strategy?
At my School the Principal Concepts in play are to destroy the Bad Guys Balance, anyway you can, cause damage, any way you can, put him on the floor, any way you can and to leave the scene immediately, basically to fight to Escape, these simple ideas shape everything we do.
These are the concepts that we can and would do well to think deeply on and then try to include and absorb through training. Have an idea of how a situation could escalate into violence, even if we expect the Guy to throw a punch there will still be some element of surprise when it launches, in our Minds Eye see it play out to the end, observe what the Bad Guy does, how we respond, see how the Bad Guy moves as he attempts to change the environment from somewhere that he cannot hit us to somewhere that he can hit us, how do you prevent this?
How do we use it to our advantage?
How do we work this into our everyday training?
I will give some of the ideas we incorporate into our training in future posts.