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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Training Notes – Endon – 13.03.2015

Red Noses Focal B&WYesterday was, of course, Red Nose Day! At the time of writing this post, their website says £78,082,988! Incredible.

We couldn’t let this day go by without some form of recognition and so, while I was sitting at work thoughtfully squidging my friend Snortel the red nose, I had an idea for a rather enjoyable drill we could mark the occasion with: Red Nose matches!

So, after a few shuttle runs, shoving each other around and shoulder mobility exercise, we got to it: in pairs, everyone has a red nose on. As a test of your parrying and blocking, you have to knock each other’s red nose off! No point-keeping or anything; just a bit of fun to warm up with.

We used this however to make a very useful point.

If you keep your attacker at range 3 (about an arm’s length away) and you’re trying to control them like that, good luck. I say that because it’s incredibly difficult to protect yourself successfully while you’re there, as you usually get into a kind of standoff where you’re reacting to their strikes, throwing some of your own, and you’re too easily overwhelmable. You have to be extremely skilled to manage to parry and/or block an unrelenting attack keeping someone at that distance.

However, as we were saying the week before last, fear (or inefficient training) can lead to mis-management of this distance between yourself and the person trying to assault you. As we found with this lighthearted drill, it was much more efficient to move in to range 1-2 and control the limbs of the attacker much more closely, restricting their movement and ‘jamming’ their attempts to strike.

Takedowns! …posturepostureposture…

Yet again, you’re going to be sick of me going on about this, but posture is everything in takedowns too! We looked at a couple of concepts: spine alignment and the position of our Centre of Mass (COM).

IMG_20150314_192001IMG_20150314_192013As we saw with our partners, applying a downward force to a straight spine doesn’t really do much to their posture. A straight, neutral stance is of course very stable as your COM’s reference point (marked X on my scribbles) is right between your feet along your centre line. (Wing Chun people are nodding sagely…)

However, if the spine is misaligned, things are different. Whether it’s a sideways bend (as the right-hand scribble on an old diary’s page attempts to portray) or a move forwards or backwards, this misalignment shifts the COM away from that centre line.

IMG_20150314_200559As the point on the floor directly below a person’s COM (reference point marked x on the above scribblings) is moved in any direction away from the centre, the posture of the person is weakened and their ability to withstand downwards pressure without falling to the floor is compromised. The person’s balance is off, and you can use that to your advantage! Think of it as moving that x towards one of the compass points to the right.

Prevent their feet from taking the natural step they’ll want to take to recover from this and lo and behold: a takedown just happened!

  1. Misalign the spine.
  2. Prevent recovery.
  3. Downwards force.

Of course there’s more to it than just this, and plenty that can be done besides, but this is a basic look at takedowns. This post was going to be just brief bullet points, but then I found I was in a typing-something-up mood!

The Aftermath: Justification and Explanation

After violence occurs, you have to be able to explain what happened and justify why it did. We took a simple drill – Person A attacks Person B however they like, and Person B responds – such as you’d find in any self-protection or martial arts class. What we did then, however, marks out quality mindful self-protection training from those who pay lip-service to the Force Continuum and to justifying your Force Deployment after violence takes place.

Person A then asks questions.

‘What did you do?’

‘Well why did you do that?’

‘Did you really have to? I mean, did you have to use that much force?’

‘Why didn’t you just walk away?’

‘Was he even of sound mind? For all you know he could have been vulnerable and you just slapped him!’

‘Couldn’t you have used less force? It seemed a bit excessive.’

‘I bet that really annoyed you. I’d have been furious. I bet you really wanted to give him some then, didn’t you?’

Person B has to justify what they did – honestly, openly and mindfully. When we talk about justification, it’s important to remember that you’re not just justifying yourself legally. Socially, you might have to justify yourself to the people around you (family, friends, colleagues) who could see you as ‘violent’, or as someone who’s ‘been in a fight’. It’s now up to you to explain to them that it wasn’t a fight: you protected yourself and had to. Personally, you will likely have to justify it to yourself as well. Doubts could spring up about what you did and whether it was the right decision, whether you could have de-escalated better, etc. After the violence has ended, there can be a lot of mess to clear up before it’s all over!

This underpins everything that we learn in an Evolutionary Self-Protection session. Never forget that you have to justify and understand what you’re doing. There’s a lot more to it than chucking your partner around and bashing the pads.

Even a silly bit of fun – knocking red noses off each other – in a room full of laughter is a valuable learning and training experience with obvious progression and subtle nuances for beginners and experienced participants alike.

Train mindfully. Train efficiently. Train evolution…arily? Yep, that’ll do!

Have an awesome weekend everyone – see you next week!

-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.

Training Notes – Endon – 06.03.2015

IMG_20150306_174443

This week’s session was our first to be held at Endon Village Hall now that we’ve moved there from our old venue in Stockton Brook. We’ll all miss the old place – it was the focal point of the local community in many ways, and many of us have trained there for years – but we were all looking forward to training in Endon.

The new venue is excellent: a bigger hall, convenient location and overall a really great place to train.

As always, it was a pleasure to see you all again and the quality of the training was truly excellent. The skill, progress and raw natural ability I see every week is truly incredible. Very well done to everyone. Awesome effort and fantastic atmosphere.

Last week, we worked on ‘the fence’ and used it as a framework to explore footwork, positioning and posture, as well as distance management, communicative strategies, striking and surviving an armed assault.

This week, we progressed from the basic skills we looked at last time and used them in some interesting and effective ways.

  • Warmup and exercise: most of this week’s exercise was focussed on quadrupedal movement – various methods of crawling, etc on the floor – and using those movements as incredibly useful (and fun!) exercises. We looked at Kong bounds and sideways Chimpanzee crawls in particular, as well as some rolling.
  • Fence – but what then?
    • That was the focus this time: once we’ve managed the distance, what then?
    • We looked at two basic skills and two ways in which they can be used:
      • Parrying: redirecting a movement without directly opposing its force.
        • Using our hands and forearms to parry straight punches to the face.
      • Blocking: directly opposing a movement forcefully, preventing it from continuing.
        • Using our forearms and elbows to block hook punches, slaps, etc to the side of the head.
        • Finding beneficial targets and ‘attacking the attack’: stepping into the movement, intercepting it and applying an elbow to the pectoral (or shoulder) and a forearm to the bicep.
    • Economy of motion: using the fence as a starting point, the hands don’t have to move very far in order to successfully intercept an attack.
  • We looked at using the drop-step as a short, explosive movement that is useful both in intercepting an attack and in getting more mass behind a strike.
    • We also looked at pre-emptive striking (and the legality of it) and discussed some issues of the force continuum that must be considered.
  • Striking with the Knuckles:
    • Jab (your lead hand), cross (your rear hand) and hook punches.
    • Power generation:
      • The drop step
      • The preceding drop step (elastic recoil)
      • Rotational movements (incorporating elastic recoil)
      • Maintaining relaxation and mobility in the shoulders while striking
    • A progressive intensity striking drill to ensure straight, strong wrists.
  • Padwork with a ‘live’ partner:
    • Person A does pushups while Person B (wearing focus mitts) inconveniences them!
      • Distracting and annoying slaps, kicks, added resistance by pressing on Person A’s back, etc.
    • On command, Person A aggressively climbs their way up Person B while Person B tries to tread on them and kick them! This is more fun and less dangerous than it sounds, trust me…
    • Person A, standing, maintains control of Person B and moves Person B into position and strikes the pads that Person B presents at random timings and angles.
    • The pushups resume, and the drill continues…
    • This is a very enjoyable and yet exhausting drill where we accomplish a lot of things: we get very tired very quickly and do so in a situation of resistance: our partner is trying to make it difficult for us emotionally as well as physically so we learn to keep our focus on what we’re doing and avoid distractions. We learn how to get up from the floor in a dangerous situation safely and efficiently, we learn how to maintain control of an aggressive partner and we practice our striking too. We learn how to go from doing something else (in a position of disadvantage – lying down on the floor) to quickly and decisively acting on a stimulus beyond our control: the instructor shouting ‘GO!’ and our partner suddenly trying to tread on us and kick us while we get up.
  • We also looked at some of the methods employed last week and the week before against an assault with a stick, and finished off with some percussive massage – Russian style. More than just being very relaxing and beneficial for stretching out and loosening off any tension we’ve built up in training, we learn a lot about striking someone and dealing with incoming strikes too, as well as breathwork and awareness of tension and relaxation. Very useful work.

Many thanks to all who came, it was a pleasure as always, and see you all 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.

10 Questions with Douglas Graham (50/50 Fitness)

doug 50 50 logo1) Tell us a bit about yourself and 50/50 Fitness – what’s 50/50 Fitness all about and how did it come to be?

50/50 came with my evolution in teaching. It’s the old saying that ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. I can help you but you need to meet me half way. Otherwise you will always falter in your journey. Without that mentality, it is tough to commit to the way. With that said, I like to think I can show anybody that the mentality is there at their core. People are just bogged down by, or hide behind, the modern way of life.

2) How does self-protection fit into what you do?

I mentioned the way in my last answer. People can call me cryptic or old fashioned if they like but the fact is that everyone is searching for it. Self-protection, Self-defence, martial arts – call it what you like – it fits perfectly into what I do as the art of learning these disciplines can and should be a journey of self-discovery. Much as health & fitness has become in the modern age. Indeed, I found my way to being a Personal Trainer through my study and teaching of Martial Art. And lets be clear, there is only Martial Art for me when it comes to Self-Protection. This led to a love for understanding body mechanics. Naturally this led to a deeper study of the human body and ways to improve performance. Initially in certain areas and movements, but that gave way to a deeper understanding and approach as time marched.

3) What motivates you in your training? How do you get yourself going when you’re not in the mood or you have other things to do?

First off. I am rarely in this magical mood I hear of that people seem to be in. I motivate myself every time. It’s about balance. It’s not about going to the gym/dojo/hall and ‘smashing it’. Not for the average person. Too much emphasis is placed on the kick-ass mentality or the killer workout. Its tough for people to continually motivate themselves for something they just don’t want to do. My self-defence class is not one that seeks out new folks to train; I have never really been that way inclined unless it could do with another body or two to help with training. But if somebody seeks out the class, well then you pretty much have that 50 I am looking for. Motivation is often relative to the task at hand and comes in different forms. Do you motivate yourself to go to a job you hate every day? You may have more than you already know ;-)

4) What would you say is your greatest skill or attribute as a teacher?

Probably best to ask someone that trains with me to be honest. I am sure it varies from person to person.

5) What would you say is the most important aspect of your training, skill you develop or attribute you cultivate in 50/50 Fitness?

Tough question for me. I have a very blurred line between these two. People define it but I still can’t, not really. In general though, I stick my hand up for attributes. Because I don’t specifically define, I won’t say more than this.

6) What is your favourite exercise, training method or drill?

In exercise HIT style workouts have been without doubt my favourite for years now. It’s a style that can fit you at any level or age. The name ‘High Intensity Training’ tends to scare many. That is unless you brand it ;-) Interval Training is an umbrella term but fits fine for me in this case. For my SD training it is also without doubt, free-form multiple attacker drills in full gear. They can be very serious and testing like nothing else. Also very fun and amusing. You very quickly learn where you make potentially fatal errors. It shows up differences between say, perceived speed and real speed, power, accuracy etc, etc.

7) What do you like to do aside from 50/50 Fitness? What interests you?

Outside of MA and Fitness I enjoy growing herbs and spices. I like reading although in the past couple of years I have read only research. It’s something I need to address and enjoy reading for reading again.

8) What advice do you have for the students out there reading this?

Be wary of YouTube. Seek out good teachers, they can be anywhere.

9) What advice do you have for the instructors out there reading this?

Be wary of YouTube. But in a different way. Be thankful for good students, they are your greatest teachers.

10) What is your ultimate goal with 50/50 Fitness? Where do you want it to lead?

Corny as it sounds, wherever it takes me. My goal is to help people improve themselves and understand that ‘perfect’ is a saying, not a finish line. In my eyes there are not many out there on a big scale that are truly achieving this. If I can reach that type of scale, with my approach, it will be an accomplishment indeed. But even on the small scale I am happy if I can pass on knowledge to a few, that will pass through the individual and on to another few. Money is a burden we all share. I like to bear it as simply as possible. The goals and philosophy of 50/50 are an embodiment of myself and the legacy I leave for my children. If it reaches only them, I die a very happy man.

You can get in touch with Douglas Graham about 50/50 Fitness on his Facebook page here or you can email him at fiftyfiftyfitness@hotmail.co.uk by clicking here.

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