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.

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Review: ‘The Pavement Arena Part 3’ by Peter Consterdine and Geoff Thompson

Consterdine, Peter and Thompson, Geoff. The Pavement Arena Part Three: ‘Grappling – The Last Resort’. Legend Video Productions. 1994.

Review: The Pavement Arena Part 3: ‘Grappling – The Last Resort’:
by Josh Nixon, ESP

This review is part of a series. Part one can be found here, part two can be found here, this is part three, part four can be found here and part five (sort of – it follows on from part four but isn’t part of the Pavement Arena series) can be found here.

This third instalment in the popular ‘Pavement Arena’ series is, again, often eye-opening to its viewers. Many do not consider grappling in enough depth for its real combative applications, and many court it too much which can lead to problems of its own. With grappling in particular, a balance must be struck between training it enough to be competent and thus to (hopefully) survive the horrible situation of finding yourself grappling with an assailant, and training it to the exclusion of other things, such as punching. In addition, we must be very careful with how we train grappling, as it can be easy to fall into a sporting paradigm when learning grappling from arts such as Judo. While Judo is excellent and is one of the activities I personally intend to enjoy much more in the near future (as I feel I can learn a lot from it, it will be very enjoyable and will be great for my fitness and strength), we must remember that it is a sport and that certain aspects of sports-based training must be kept strictly separate from self-protection training, just as the premise of this series is that traditional martial arts training and self-protection training are not the same and thus the differences must be appreciated for self-protection training to be efficient.

This video begins with this essential discussion of the realities of grappling in real combative situations, which (as with the others of the series) sets the tone immediately of a solid and well-thought-out presentation. There are some ground mobility drills involving breakfalls near the beginning which, of course, are only to be used on mats. Rolling can work fine on a hard surface, but slapping breakfalls are good only for soft, level surfaces. Never attempt on a hard or uneven surface! They’re essential in grappling training on a matted surface though, in order for partners to fall more realistically for each other without injury and thus to allow the necessary full-force, realistic throwing. The required safety aspects of training in grappling are emphasised in the video, such as the Tap-Out safety system and the necessity of having an onlooker while grappling.

Where this video stands out from the crowd, however, is its treatment of what to do while grappling; specifically of striking from a close range. Many neglect striking at close ranges but this is not an effective way to train or teach for self-protection. The reality is that striking is absolutely necessary at this range as it is at any other, and effective power generation and targeting is essential. Geoff Thompson does a nice section on effective headbutting too, which is an often-overlooked area of combat, followed by some information on blood and air choking.

Making throws work for real combat is another module of essential knowledge that this video introduces you to. What is more interesting however is the section on bag work for grappling training, which I haven’t (yet) seen in any other video. The way they demonstrate the movements done on the bag with cuts to a live partner clip is very effective to help understand what you’re doing with this kind of work too.

I’ll finish with one quote that really stands out for me from this video: ‘the scruffy stuff works’. The concept of progressive sparring, perhaps new to many, is very much worth incorporating into any serious training. This video is well-worth adding to anyone’s collection and if grappling is a mystery to you then it is a certainly a very valuable introduction.

This video is available on DVD or for digital download (much cheaper, understandably) from http://www.peterconsterdine.com/store.htm. Further information and a download link can also be found at http://www.peterconsterdine.com/arena3.htm.

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