New on Facebook: Staffordshire Self-Protection and Martial Arts Group!

A place for the self-protectionists, martial artists, etc of Staffordshire to come together on Facebook: Staffordshire Self-Protection and Martial Arts Group.

facebook.com/groups/staffordshireSPandMAgroup

I thought it’d be a good idea to have a group for local martial artists, self-protectionists and people just generally interested in such things.

Quite often the groups on Facebook for such things are advertising brilliant and awesome courses, seminars, classes, etc in far-away places so I decided to make a group dedicated to our beloved shire.

Who’s out there? Feel free to join if you’re interested in martial arts, self-protection, health, fitness, personal security, free running… You’re all welcome! There’s a lot of related disciplines and fields of study that all benefit each other within the realm of self-protection and martial arts. If you know someone from Stoke, Staffordshire and nearby areas then invite them in and let’s get talking.

Discuss, ask questions, share, collaborate, advertise…

To all our local instructors: Feel free to advertise yourselves! Tell us who you are, what you do and why we should come and train with you!

This could be a fantastic opportunity to create a focussed, fascinating and useful online community.

Let’s see what’s going on in Staffordshire and promote our self-protection and martial arts communities!

Just click the link above, copy the URL or search for ‘Staffordshire Self-Protection and Martial Arts Group’.

See you there,

-Josh Nixon

Training Notes – 15.05.2015

High Guard NeonOur last session was a fun, functional, fierce and focussed look at two related subjects: the high guard and dealing with multiple attackers.

After the usual exercises, including some of the work on shifting our stances to understand the relationship between centre of mass, stance and stability that we did at the beginning of last week’s session, we got going with our skills focus for this week…

Work on the Closed High Guard:

The closed high guard is a powerful skill both in terms of protecting yourself from the damage an attacker wants to deal to you and as a way of inflicting damage yourself.

Made famous by the Keysi Fighting Method and (more recently) Defence Lab, the closed high guard (often called Pensador) is an excellent methodology to employ. It’s a simple and effective way to protect against knockouts by covering targets like the temples, jaw and neck, and it lends itself to close-quarters elbow strikes that are among the most effective and efficient striking methods available. Earlier this month we looked at striking from the closed high guard and snapping back to this form, and this time we looked at maintaining the position and using it in a couple of different ways; using the side of the shape to disrupt posture and the front of it (the pointed elbow) to strike without having to disengage from the guard position.

We also looked at, again, dealing with strikes using this guard.

Work on Multiple Attackers – stepping into ‘The Box':

This is a situation in which the closed high guard comes into its own. Last month we focussed in on a common dynamic of violence: the ‘pincer movement’. In this session we looked at this when launching a pre-emptive strike in order to escape, however then things became altogether more difficult.

We stepped into ‘The Box’.

We took it in turns to be surrounded by four people: one in front, one behind and one to each side. We looked at escaping by:

  • Using the ‘wedge’ biomechanical concept to get through a gap between two people,
  • Using biomechanical manipulation to do so with less chance of getting seriously hurt in the process, and then
  • Incorporating a pre-emptive strike to remove some of the danger (knockout) or demoralise the group (‘shock and awe’ intimidation tactic).

Padwork with Multiple Attackers:

We then split off into groups of 3. One ‘baddie’ presented focus mitts to their partner while another approached every now and again with a kickshield trying to barge the person who was striking. Meeting the barge with a closed high guard and striking in with the elbow, the ‘goodie’ then returned as quickly as possible to striking the focus mitts.

This quickly became a very intense drill, which is how we like it!

Excellent effort from everyone as always, and it was a pleasure to train with you all. See you on Friday! I can’t wait.

-Josh Nixon

All the details of this class are on the Public Classes page up at the top. Your first session is FREE and all are welcome to come along and take part. Every session is beginner-friendly. If anyone has any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Training notes – 10.04.2015

Elbow Strike Neon - LogoAfter the usual loosening off and joint rotation, we got to a gentle start this week with a focus on ground mobility. We looked at getting to the ground quickly and safely in the form of forward and backward fall absorption (falling without getting hurt on a hard surface), then looked at extending that skill into rolling forwards and backwards. This is a useful thing to do not only for the obvious benefit of dealing with falling over and minimising injury, but as a great core exercise and to encourage general mobility and relaxed movement. When falling, we’re also dealing with a very primal fear and so there is a psychological element to ground mobility work that shouldn’t be ignored.

We then stepped it up a notch by performing the aforementioned fall absorption when a partner disrupted our posture to take us down to the floor.

Loosened off and relaxed, it was time to warm up with a little padwork. The focus of this session that carried through everything we did was on maintaining situational awareness while performing a task. Though you didn’t know it – I hadn’t given any instructions about that specifically – you were all doing this very well in the next drill. I noticed lots of people looking around at the people most likely to attack them next, and shifting their positions to suit. Excellent work.

Padwork:

Everyone split up into pairs. One person held the focus mitts while the other smashed them with hammer fists. Whether singly and individually focussed or as a blitz of chaotic strikes, it was up to you. Each pair moved around the space freely and lots of good, stable posture was observed which facilitated relaxed and efficient striking.

At random intervals, I would shout ‘Change!’ and the padholders would run to the nearest padless person and attack them with the focus mitts. Employing a high guard, those people protected themselves by driving into the attacker and managing the distance effectively; proactively dealing with the threat instead of passively accepting the flurry of strikes. The pads were then presented for more striking, and this was repeated.

By having the padholders assume a predatory role in selecting their victims freely, the dynamic of the drill demanded a proactive response from the participants which provided some very rewarding training.

From there, we stayed in our pairs and focussed on a simple skill: striking a pad, then with aggressive movement into the attacker, gaining control of them and having that control tested by the attacker simply struggling as hard as they could to free themselves. We discussed appropriate footwork, posture and control methods including using the forearm against the neck when the attacker tried to move into us.

Partner Work – Skills Focus:

Again, we took some more time to focus on some skills we started to look at last week involving grabs, biomechanical manipulation and how to deal with the threat of what could come as a result of the grabs we’re encountering. This week we worked on using that grab as an opportunity, either for effective striking or biomechanically affecting their posture and joints using the arm they’re presenting. We found the following:

  • If they’re grabbing you with a hand, they don’t have much defence on that side of their head with which to stop you hitting them!
  • Never forget: if they’re in a position to hit you, you’re usually in a position where you can hit them too!
  • Coming on the outside of the arm is useful because you can hyperextend the elbow and you’re on the (relatively) ‘safe’ side.
    • You might be at the right position in the moment to get that armbar. You might not. If you’re not, just shove him away and run off! Remember we’re not interested in sticking around and doing anything flashy. If it’s there (and you need to), then use it. If not, do something else!
  • Coming on the inside of the arm can also be useful as collapsing it brings their head towards you. For striking this can be very useful but for control perhaps even more so. Gaining a good clinched position can be an effective way to gain the advantage you need to do what you need to do and leave.
    • Being on the inside of the arm near their centre line allows for lots of striking options, particularly at range 2 with your elbows (which is very easily done from a high guard). Elbow striking really lends itself to these close-up situations.

Focus Section: Violence Dynamics:

This section brought together all of the skills we’d been working on and put them into a useful context worth studying: the ‘Pincer Movement’. Here’s a quotation from an article that is actually chapter 2 of Geoff Thompson’s excellent book ‘Dead or Alive':

If more than one assailant is involved it is usual for one of the attackers to deploy the victim with distracting dialogue, whilst the other(s) move to your offside. Whilst the victim is distracted by the questioner, his accomplice(s) attack.

This was one of the most common attacks in the nightclub when I worked as a doorman and is a common, though, unbelievably, innate, ploy of gang robbery or rapes: the pincer movement. That is why so many people seem to get glassed or stabbed in the side of the face or neck because they are not attacked by the person in front that they are arguing with. They are attacked by the guy at the side that they do not see because of their adrenal induced tunnel vision (no one seems to teach these people to do this; they just do it instinctively).

There is a wealth of information in that chapter and I heavily recommend that you have a read. Better yet, buy the book. It’s packed with useful information and case studies. I’ve included it (and all its details so you can find it easily) on our Recommended Reading page. There’s more information I found in chapter 16 which was reproduced on that website on the appropriate response to multiple attackers and in chapter 2 (linked above) there’s a lot more information on violence dynamics, the criminal interview, etc than we could cover in this session.

To understand the dynamic of the pincer movement, we performed a simple acclimatisation drill to start: in groups of 3, we had two people continuously walk towards their ‘victim’, with one always trying to come around to their ‘blind side’ and get around them to a position from which they could attack. In this stage, we simply used our footwork to maintain a position from which we could see both partners clearly, and attempted to get them close together so that only one was in a position from which they could attack us at any one time.

Afterwards, we had one partner engage the ‘victim’ with conversation while the other initiated an attack. Dealing with an attack (from both partners), and running away, the ‘victim’ then had to justify their actions to the group as we did on Red Nose Day. Some points to remember:

  • Don’t stick around and fight if you can run. While in initial training the consequence might just be getting ragged around a bit and slapped or taken down by your conscientious partners, in an assault that could be one of them holding you on the floor while the other stamps on your head until you stop breathing. If you can run away, run away!
  • Don’t let them get too close! If you feel threatened and you can run, just run. If you can’t, but shoving the guy out of the way can give you that escape, then do it. Run away.
  • Don’t hesitate either. If you know you can’t run and you have to deploy force in order to change the situation so you can escape, don’t wait around before you do. Once you’ve decided on your action (and the need for it) then do it with conviction and without hesitation. This article quotes the words of Miyamoto Musashi (an expert Japanese swordsman and rōnin – author of The Book of Five Rings) on the matter: ‘When facing multiple opponents, you must attack first and keep attacking until the danger subsides.’

In the drills we did today, I saw people managing the distance between themselves and others effectively. I saw people demonstrating excellent relaxed striking (hitting extremely hard too). I saw people putting the skills we’ve been developing into practice in a very difficult situation. Most importantly, I saw them doing so efficiently and then justifying it afterwards.

Incredible effort, lots of sweat and even a little blood: excellent training with excellent people.

Well done, all of you. The ability and dedication in the room was truly humbling.

A pleasure and a privilege as always. See you next time!

-Josh

All the details of this class are on the Public Classes page up at the top. Your first session is FREE and all are welcome to come along and take part. Every session is beginner-friendly. If anyone has any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Training Notes – 03.04.2015

Elbow Strike NeonAnti-grappling!

This session was a lot of fun – we explored some ideas to help us deal with common methods involving grappling and develop some useful skills with that in mind.

We started, after the usual loosening off, with some breathwork under stress. This took the form of simple exercises done with good breathing, followed by inhaling and performing the exercises with that breath held, and exhaling before performing the exercises with empty lungs.

This kind of breathwork is useful for lots of reasons. It places greater emphasis on the quality of your breathing while exercising by giving an extreme counterpoint to effective breathing, but also it helps us deal with the very real fear inherent in not breathing. By dealing with this fear, even a little, we can help ourselves to panic less in the event that someone tries to stop us from breathing in a violent encounter. In contrast, we also appreciate much more viscerally how seriously we should take such an assault, and how quickly we need to act in order to prevent syncope: a loss of consciousness.

From there, we moved onto tension and relaxation drills: Person A tries to manipulate Person B’s spine and effect a takedown by disrupting their posture (we looked at this in detail when we trained on Red Nose Day), while Person B resists with tension. This made for a great core stability exercise! Then, instead of using tension to deal with the stimulus, we used relaxation: allowing the push to continue past us and moving to a position of advantage. Like fighting a ghost. We also did some padwork with resistance from the padholder, having to forcefully push them off us before being able to strike the pads they presented.

IMG_20150408_130057 - CopyWe focussed in on grips themselves for the next section, using grabs to the wrist, arm, clothes and throat to look at the anatomy of a grip and how to break it. We found that, as the weakest part of a grip is the gap between the thumb and fingers, what tends to work best in breaking that grip is moving what’s been grabbed in the direction of this gap, and moving the grabbing hand in the direction of the back of that hand. That’s difficult to articulate, so have a picture!

In this example, we moved the hand in the orange direction and ourselves in the blue direction (if possible – we did this up against a wall too). If there’s two hands, they just need to go in opposite directions! This is very simple to do and show, but complicated-sounding to type.

Grip Size ComparisonWe also found a simple thing to bear in mind: the wider the thing being gripped, the weaker the grip on it. Thus, a grab further up the forearm is structurally weaker than a grab to your wrist.

Grips to clothes, however, were not quite so easy to break quickly and so we used that grip to effect various biomechanical manipulations or bypassed it altogether to capitalise on the striking opportunities that the grab gave us. The difficulty in breaking these grips lies in how the material tends to wrap around the fingers into the middle of the tightly clenched fist, as the picture to the right shows. Clothes Grip GIFThus, it’s generally more efficient to use these grips to our advantage instead of focussing on them and trying to break them. Everything the attacker does presents us with opportunities – we just need to know how to look for them and what to do with them.

Once we’d worked on the anatomy and angles regarding grips and breaking them, we put this basic knowledge into practice against some of the more common assault dynamics involving grappling:

  • Grab with one hand (typically clothes/chest, or throat), followed by a strike with the other towards the face.
    • High guard, intercept and drive through with the elbow before following up with control and/or striking as necessary.
  • Grab around the throat up against the wall (either one hand, typically followed by a strike with the other, or a concerted effort to choke with both hands).
    •  Various methods of breaking the grip and using the high guard and elbows to strike while maintaining control of limbs, head and shoulders.
  • A ‘shoot for the double-leg’ takedown, involving the attacker grabbing both legs and pushing forwards and upwards with their shoulder, in an attempt to flip someone over so they land on their back or the back of their head.
    • Sprawling and turning the tables on the attacker: allowing their own movement to be their downfall (literally!).
  • To reiterate some previous points, a bear hug.
    • Sometimes it’s just as easy as standing up in the right place: using your whole body to disrupt their posture while you improve yours.
    • Sneaky strikes work wonders.

We discussed how the grabs themselves that we’re looking at are rarely the most pressing issue when it comes to the assault that’s taking place – nobody tends to just grab your clothes and leave it at that, otherwise we wouldn’t be overly bothered by it – but rather it’s the followup that we’re most concerned with. The grab to the clothes isn’t a problem, but the punch in the face following it is! The bear hug in itself isn’t much of an issue, but the other three people hitting you while your arms are pinned are! That’s why our response has to be as fast and efficient as possible – especially if the person attacking knows what they’re doing or is naturally stronger than you are.

Again, it’s worth mentioning the force continuum here: we’re not interested in sticking around once we’ve dealt with the assault and battling it out, having a wrestle (despite the fun and games between Steve and I whenever there’s the opportunity for some wrestling!) or ‘teaching the scumbag a lesson’. We’re getting to a position of advantage and doing what we need to do to escape and stay safe. That’s it. Sometimes one or two good, well-placed and well-timed strikes is all that’s needed. That’s when you didn’t manage to see it coming, evaluate the situation and talk your way out of it (or just avoid it altogether) in the first place of course. Never lose sight of the goal of your training: survival and escape.

As always, it was a pleasure to train with you all and many thanks to everyone who came. I hope you all had a very happy Easter and see you next time!

-Josh Nixon

All the details of this class are on the Public Classes page up at the top. Your first session is FREE and all are welcome to come along and take part. Every session is beginner-friendly. If anyone has any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Training Notes – Endon – 28.03.2015

Elbow Strike NeonThis week we went old-school with a few of the classic drill formats. I think we can all agree it was an intense one!

To start off our old-school sesh, we warmed up with some joint rotation, stretching movements, etc high and low. To loosen off and get into the swing of things, we worked from pushes and strikes to develop footwork and positioning using a Systema, Taiji and Aikido-influenced methodology, and then used circular footwork and positioning (situation allowing) to deal with grabs much like elements of Baguazhang in some respects, as this nicely explained video I saw a while ago by Richard Clear shows.

Then once we were warmed up and loosened off with the softer skills we got straight to it: classic partner padwork with some solid focus on basic striking methods: jabs, crosses, rising knee strikes, low hook kicks and jab kicks.

Then a short speed drill ensued, whereby partners tested each others’ reactions by presenting pads and leaving them in random places to be hit, leaving less and less reaction time. At random times, on command, padholders would chase their partner to the end of the hall trying to score points by tapping them on the back, head or shoulders with the pads.

After that, the group all came together to drill as one:

Running the Gauntlet:

This was the main section of the session, and was a lot of fun all around as well as being a great test of endurance, willpower and combative efficacy. Each drill involved each person in the group going dealing with every other person in the group before the next person had their turn.

Gauntlet 1: People one-by-one in a line.
Everyone stood in a line, and attacked the combatant however they liked one at a time. Making their way through the line, the combatant had to reach the end. After dealing with the last person, the combatant ran away and everyone would chase them to the end of the hall.

Gauntlet 2: People one-by-one in a circle.
This was the same as the last drill, but instead of going through a convenient line, the combatant is completely surrounded by people. One at a time, these people attack however they like in a random order. Once the last person is dealt with, the combatant runs away and everyone else gives chase.

Gauntlet 3: Pads, one-by-one in a line.
The combatant has to get through a line of pad-holding partners, performing different movements (hook punches, hammer fists, etc) on each. When each section of the line has been finished with, the combatant must forcibly move their padholding partner out of the way with biomechanical manipulation in order to approach the next padholder. Once the last padholder is finished with, the combatant runs away while all of the padholders chase them, trying to tap them with their pads.

Gauntlet 4: Pads, one-by-one in a circle.
As before, this was the same as 3 but in a circle again.

Gauntlet 5: Pads and a stick, at random, in a circle.
This time the pads were presented at random by padholders in a random order, and sometimes the combatant would be attacked with a stick. Sometimes they would have multiple padholders to deal with, or a padholder and a stick-wielding partner, or multiple padholders and a stick-wielding partner. Any padholders who weren’t presenting pads walked around the combatant getting in the way.

These drills were a lot of fun, but also developed three key attributes for anyone interested in honing their self-protection skills:

  • Endurance. The ability to get very tired very quickly again … and again … and again … and still be effective.
  • Proactive positioning and situational awareness. The ability to keep as cool a head as you can when surrounded by people, prioritise targets and deal with an attack while keeping an eye on what others around you are doing. With positioning, the ability to get out of that crowd as quickly as possible and make yourself a more difficult target to overwhelm in the first place!
  • Tenacity. The cultivation of what some martial arts refer to as ‘indomitable spirit’: the mindset that does not give up and is not intimidated into submission. The will to respond, escape and survive.

As always, it was a pleasure to train with you all and many thanks to everyone who came. I hope you all have a great weekend and see you next time!

-Josh Nixon

All the details of this class are on the Public Classes page up at the top. Your first session is FREE and all are welcome to come along and take part. Every session is beginner-friendly.

Evolutionary Self-Protection is Moving to Endon

Hi everyone,

Wesley Methodist Church that we used in Stockton Brook has now been sold and so we’ve found a new venue for our Friday class!

Thankfully, we’ve only moved down the road to Endon Village Hall on Station Road in Endon (ST99DR). For those who haven’t been that way before, just keep going along Leek New Road past Endon High School until you come to a crossroads. Turn right there onto Station Road (there’s a church on the corner) and it’s just about 100 yards down there on your right. Car parking spaces are at the front.

It seems a great venue – nice and clean, and bigger than the last place we trained in. I’ll really miss the church in Stockton Brook after training and teaching there for about 8 years now – we all will – but I’m really looking forward to training in Endon.

The details are all on our public classes page but for your convenience:

Endon Village Hall, Station Road, Endon, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST9 9DR
All ages, fitness levels and ability levels welcome!
Fridays at 18:00-19:00.
Just £3 per session (£2 for NUS card holders). First session FREE!

See you tomorrow!

Josh Nixon
Founding Instructor, ESP

Please note we also offer affordable private and corporate training options for individuals and groups of all ages, as well as student discount on all our training, discounted flexible block booking options and a rewarding referral scheme.

B&W Collage

Training Notes – 27.02.2015

IMG_20150214_121842This week’s session was a lot of fun – many thanks to all who attended! It was wonderful to welcome so many new people all at once and awesome to have two more experienced members return after we’d missed them for a few weeks. We really got that particular kind of atmosphere this week that you can only get when you get more in than expected.

I hope you all have a great weekend and see you next time!

For those who are new to us, when I write these I often link to associated important concepts either on Wikipedia, other websites or our own small wiki that I’m working on for our specific concepts.

Threat Awareness is worth a look, as well as Threat Evaluation and Threat Avoidance. Communicative Strategies will come into play next time when we look at distraction and pre-emptive striking, and the Force Continuum is extremely important to bear in mind.

Of course, if anyone has any questions then feel free to get in touch!

This week, we looked at:

  • Footwork, posture and positioning: the importance of good posture can’t be overstated enough. As the squats, slams and burpees will have shown you in particular, good posture is everything.
  • Use of ‘The Fence’ to manage distance proactively (Without looking aggressive!) when someone’s squaring off and invading your personal space.
    • Fear and how it can lead us towards mis-management of that space. Backing off continually isn’t always the best option.
    • Keep your hands neutral and relaxed, but ready. They’re there if you need them, that’s all.
  • Footwork and relaxed movement when pushed around a bit.
    • (Progression: the same when punched.)
    • Keeping control: proximity and ‘sticking’ to the aggressor to limit their options. Again, it’s all about positioning and posture.
  • Striking from the Fence:
    • Hammer Fist
      • Relaxed arm drill: just feeling the weight of your arm.
    • Palm Strike
      • Relaxed striking: still feeling the weight of your arm, encouraging a whiplike acceleration.

When I’m asked what our methods are based on, I often discuss things like Systema, Wing Chun, Krav Maga, Jujutsu, etc. However, when it comes down to it, it’s all just physics, biology and psychology/sociology.

The most important thing to remember in striking: simple physics.

FORCE = MASS x ACCELERATION

Through our relaxed movement, we accelerate as fast as we can in any given space because we don’t have unnecessary tension working against that movement.

Through posture and refined (trained) movement, we get as much of our body mass behind that strike as we can.

The above helps us generate as much force as we possibly can. We further refine this with beneficial positioning and striking methods to apply that force as efficiently as we can: to get maximum effect from minimum required effort. This is what we call economy of motion.

We also looked at:

  • Dealing with someone striking us with a stick: working with a useful movement we developed last week (and the week before).
    • Once you decide you need to deploy force, and you find the right moment in which to do so, you must act immediately, efficiently and decisively.
    • Close distance and use your elbows to your advantage
    • Get control and make sure it’s a strong grip you have. Anything less than your strongest is not good enough.
      • An easy way to test this grip is have your partner violently shake their arm to see if they can wrench it free with brute force. Gripping with just your hands likely won’t be enough but keeping it close and against you, gripping efficiently and using positioning and posture to your advantage (and their disadvantage) will.

All in all, we’ve worked on a lot of things here. Something that’s worth bearing in mind was expressed well by Sonny Puzikas in a great video we recently shared on Facebook: these punches, kicks and swinging weapons are just movements. They only become a strike when they make contact with their intended target. Until then, they’re just movements.

Don’t fear a movement: train to work with it. Train intelligently and you work efficiently.

Once again, many thanks to all who came and see you next week! It was a pleasure and a privilege to train with such truly excellent people.

All the details of this class are on the Public Classes page up at the top. Your first session is FREE and all are welcome to come along and take part. Every session is beginner-friendly.

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