It’s Time to Get Writing Again

Elbow Strike Neon - LogoIt’s been a fair while since I actively wrote much on here. In fact, for quite some time all I’ve used this blog for is to let everyone know when a session here or there has had to be cancelled. That’s just not right at all.

It’s time for that to change.

Many of our posts have proved to be (sometimes surprisingly!) popular, gaining local interest as well as praise from instructors here in the UK and overseas. Early writing such as our reviews of Cutting Edge’s “Systema Basics” series and “The Pavement Arena” by the British Combat Association’s Geoff Thompson and Peter Consterdine were well-received and continue to be read often today. Writeups from training sessions, notably ones covering topics such as fighting on the ground, dealing with multiple attackers, striking from positions of disadvantage and just getting knackered with gruelling drills did well to attract attention from the world, and many readers found them interesting and informative. Posts such as this one from Red Nose Day last year did especially well to attract readers due to their technical information and poorly-scribbled diagrams!

However, as we’ve spent more and more time training I’ve spent less and less time writing. Like I said, it’s time for that to change. When wondering what I wanted to write, I realised that I wasn’t asking the right question, which is:

What do you want to read?

There are a few ideas brewing for getting back into the swing of things with our various online presences (some of which you’ve seen nothing of yet at all!) but more than anything I want to hear what you think. What do you want me to write about? What questions do you have that have gone unanswered? What have you been searching for but never really found anything covering the topic to your satisfaction? Let us know whichever way you like.

The next move is yours.

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Training Notes – 29.05.2015

Alec and Tim“Ground and pound” – that was the focus of this session. The rather unpleasant position you see the floored gentleman in was what we took some time to focus on: you’re on the ground and somebody decides to take that as an opportunity to do some serious damage to you by enlisting the help of gravity in order to make his strikes (which are unfortunately directed towards you) very powerful indeed.

Getting Knackered: Pads, Pushups and 4 Points.

After loosening off, stretching and warming up with some ground mobility, we played a fun game for cardio: Striker stands in the middle of the hall with a Padholder presenting focus mitts on either side of him. Striker hits one (pads are presented randomly so the choice of strike is freely made). If it was a good enough strike, the padholder takes a step back. If not, the strike has to be repeated. Once the padholder steps back, Striker turns to the other padholder and does the same. This is repeated and as the drill progresses the two padholders are a longer and longer run apart from each other, until the striker has to run the whole length of the hall in order to deliver those strikes!

We also played with some intervals of pushup variations: standard (fists under shoulders), alternating with one hand in front of the other, downward-dog shoulder ones and pushup jacks (down = feet apart, up = feet together). The emphasis was, as always, on posture and breathwork and – within those criteria – getting very tired very fast!

Following from this, we did an interesting ground mobility drill. Person A holds a very high quadrupedal position: hands and feet make a square on the floor, face down and bum up. Person B crawls and rolls around those four points, being restricted in movement by the torso of their partner. This is something that sounds easy but isn’t! It’s also great fun and serves to trim down superfluous movements.

A Spot of Breathwork:

We looked at the four levels of breathwork: places to ‘breathe from’ (an analogy to shift focus – of course scientifically you breathe from your lungs regardless of anything you do!) and also places which we can affect a person’s breathing with. We partnered up and explored different ways of affecting and even fully preventing a person’s breath, and the benefits of certain levels of tension and relaxation depending on what was being affected and how in terms of retaining the ability to breathe when someone tries to stop us from doing so.

Me and TimSupport in Groundfighting:

We did a few drills involving taking away an attacker’s support when they’re (intending to start) raining blows down upon us when we’re on the floor. As we’ve covered already (and here), climbing up your attacker is a great strategy which keeps you relatively safe as you get up onto your feet. However, if you’re being pinned down to the floor you of course have to remove that obstacle before you can start climbing. We started off looking at disrupting posture, removing stability and control with various pins, starting with simple pressure applied with the hand and moving onto things like knees and grabs. This evolved into partners actively trying to pin each other, passing the pins and gaining positions of dominance in free flow.

Padwork from the Ground:

Similarly to earlier this month when we spent some time looking at striking from a disadvantaged position, we worked our striking from the ground while being pinned by our partner. This brought together all of the breathwork, grappling skills and striking work we’d looked at:

  • With the breathwork (and awareness of tension and relaxation) we don’t ‘gas out’ and lose energy easily.
  • With relaxed movement we generate adequate striking power even when we have only a short distance to accelerate the strike in.
  • With the grappling skills of removing an attacker’s support and preventing them from pinning us, we turn the tables and gain a position of dominance from which to effect our escape.

Bonus Feature – Soft Tissue Manipulation:

Made famous by Richard Dimitri of Senshido, ‘The Shredder’ or soft tissue manipulation through clawing is an excellent methodology to gain control of an attacker with. Essentially, by digging the fingertips into soft tissues that can move over bones (for example the cheeks over the teeth and cheekbones) a significant amount of pain can be caused without significant injury, and as such this can be used as a low-force option (thinking about the force continuum, as always). It’s also very distracting and unpleasant when used on the face, as the face can be turned away (disrupting posture) and eyes can be covered, made to close by reflex, etc. However, it’s a versatile methodology in that it can be used as a higher-force option too – eyes can be damaged, skin (ears, nostrils, etc) can be torn, hair pulled, etc. It is an excellent setup for close-in striking such as quick, close-range elbow strikes, using those controlling hands as a reference point.

Here’s a short video demonstrating ‘The Shredder’ and explaining how it feels:

As you can see, it’s excellent stuff.

The Appendices – Relaxation, breathwork and striking:

To finish, we just loosened off with some relaxed movement and breathwork: one person stands in-between two others being pushed around, and using relaxed movement retains good posture and avoids being overbalanced by avoiding direct confrontation with the force presented. Depending on levels of comfort and experience, we worked up to strikes instead of pushes too. Having two people providing this stimulus is a great progression with this kind of work, as you may have conflicting directions to deal with (one person shoving you into someone else’s shove)!

As always, it was a pleasure training with you all. Many thanks to everyone who came and I hope you’ve all had a great weekend. 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.

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 – 08.05.2015

Armour Close UpThis week’s session was the stuff of legend.

We began with just walking around. Whenever a participant met another, they gave them a friendly shove to test their ability to relax and maintain posture and balance.

Then we continued, but with our knees bent at about a 135° angle, with our backs maintaining good posture. This presented a bit of a challenge!

Quads aching a bit, then we bent lower to about 90° and continued.

Then we crouched fully down and continued, before coming up halfway to the 90° point and then the 135° again before walking normally. We referred to this one as the ‘Walking Around Like We’d Sh…’ umm, never mind what we called it!

Following that, the usual madness ensued for ten minutes or so: some plyometrics, some running –> going prone –> running again, some pushups while clapping with a partner, some partnered asymmetrical high plank work…

A Look at Backwards Fall Absorption:

Nice and simple, we just looked at surviving being pushed over using the backwards fall absorption method.

Then we worked from someone picking up one of our legs and pushing us over that way. Nice and slow, and lots of fun. A great way to loosen off and for beginners a good way to get used to partner contact as well as floor contact.

Shoulder Mobility and Relaxed Striking:

This was a very enjoyable section working with the waveform striking methodology that many proponents of Russian martial arts favour, as do we. A simple exercise for enhancing relaxed shoulder mobility:

Hold a high plank position as though you’ve just done a pushup and, while keeping your arms straight, rotate your shoulders slowly and gently. Work on increasing the rotation you can comfortably manage. This can be done against a wall if that’s too difficult.

This ability to rotate the shoulders adds a lot of acceleration to a strike, and can be used for a close-in strike itself from a clinched position. We worked on this with the pads, using pushing and then striking movements.

Oblique Kicks: Sneaky Sneaky…

One of the quickest, easiest and most useful kicks in your arsenal is the Oblique Kick: a short, sharp stamp into the shin, knee or ankle with whichever leg is closest. I believe it’s Chris Roberts from SAFE International who’ve coined the phrase ‘closest weapon to closest target’ (at least that’s where I heard it first!) and it’s a good principle to bear in mind.

To train this excellent method from Wing Chun Kung Fu, we put on the riot gear and simply worked on stopping an approach with it to appreciate its effectiveness.

Padwork with an Attacking Partner:

Instead of merely presenting pads to strike, our friendly padholder would start hitting you with the pads this time whenever they liked. As they were wearing a riot gear chestplate, however, you could lay into them with strikes to the torso as much as you liked while maintaining your cover with a high guard, gaining control and managing that distance.

A Look at Tension and Relaxation when Dealing with Strikes to the Torso:

Nice and simple, but fun and useful. To begin, we looked at tensing our abdominal muscles to deal with strikes to the torso. Beginning with ridiculously soft and gentle hits, our partner would slowly increase the power sent at us. We would maintain that tension as a core conditioning exercise, and then whenever it started to push our limits too far, we merely used breathwork, relaxation and movement to absorb the strike and not oppose it.

Friday Finished with Fun and Ferocity on the Floor:

To finish, we just had four good, old-fashioned rounds of back-to-back with a change of partners halfway through. Simple rules:

  • Sit back-to-back (bet you never saw that coming!) on the floor with your partner.
  • On command, turn around and grapple. Get to a position of dominance and stop them from doing the same!
  • You’re not allowed to come up any higher than kneeling height though.

Of course, we never want to go to the floor on purpose, and if we end up there we don’t want to stick around either. That said: it’s extremely good fun, it’s incredibly dynamic resistance and cardio exercise and it’s a great opportunity to practise the biomechanical manipulation skills you need to get to a better position from which you can do what you need to and get back up to escape against a resisting partner.

To add to things, we had our friendly neighbourhood Samurai Alec with us who is an accomplished, highly skilled Ju-Jitsu practitioner.

An awesome session as always – many thanks to all who came and have a great weekend!

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 – 01.05.2015

Elbow Strike Neon - Logo

This week was a great opportunity to focus in on some core skills that are central to our approach: striking and biomechanical manipulation from the closed high guard (think Pensador type thing) and striking from disadvantaged positions.

Striking from the Closed High Guard:

From a closed high guard, we looked at sending out hook punches, hammer fists and elbow strikes. The focus, as well as being on good striking and footwork, was on snapping back to the guard quickly this time to protect those knockout areas of the neck, jaw and temples as best as we can, while driving into the attacker in a form that makes us awkward and difficult to attack.

Of course, this position also lends itself to devastating and relatively easy elbow striking.

Following this, we used jab kicks to create distance and break posture, and controlled the head of an attacker to create our own striking opportunities rather than passively waiting for them to arise. We used this to discuss the devastating effect of a good elbow strike and how the drop-step can add a lot of power. When utilising uppercuts, we discussed kinetic linking: how to generate massive amounts of power by using more of your body in a more efficient way than just boffing your fist up with the power of your arm alone.

Again: breathwork, posture and movement.

Striking from Disadvantaged Positions:

Not a nice place to be, lying on the floor getting kicked and stamped on. But that’s where we started off this drill! As a simple exercise in distance management, we gained control of the attacker’s legs with a quick movement towards the nearest calf. We explored how to generate striking power from this position even as we moved in, by planting a foot into the floor and pushing with it as we used the torso to add in a measure of rotational power generation, thus recruiting as many muscles as we can from that position into the strike.

Immediately as the strike lands, we closed in and gained (and tested!) the control we needed. Now that the attacker was unable to kick us or stamp on us so easily, we could climb our way up or take the opponent to the floor as we get up from a much safer position.

Being Threatened with an Edged Weapon:

A nasty position again, but one that’s worth looking at! Being held up with an edged weapon to your throat. Of course, as always we say the same thing: I’ll give away whatever it is that’s asked of me to be honest if a knife’s on my throat! However, it’s possible you might feel that that might not be enough. You might have that horrible gut feeling that he’s going to fillet you regardless afterwards, or the attacker might not want your money at all: he might just be enjoying the look in your eyes as you realise he’s going to kill you. Thus, it’s worth exploring how to act.

We worked on engaging the attacker with verbal skills – deception and distraction – and acting at an appropriate moment. Acting efficiently, we looked at getting the blade to an initial position of relative safety – away from your throat – and either controlling directly or if that was impossible just placing a barrier between the blade and your throat. We looked at which directions were viable for escape, and which were not, and how best to move in those directions to stay as safe as we could and hopefully not die.

I must as always reiterate – this is the seriousness of any edged weapon work. What you’re doing here is hopefully not dying. That’s about as good as anyone can give you in this area. You’re not necessarily coming away unscathed, or taking the knife and heroically removing some scum from the streets to further your vigilante career, but you’re just trying to survive. Anything better than that is a bonus.

As always, incredible effort by all and a wonderful session. See you all 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 – 24.04.2015

Fence Logo 3This week we worked with some gruelling stuff – a real challenge to condition ourselves with. Heart rates and spirits were high, and the atmosphere was – as always – incredible.

To begin, a simple warmup of butt kicks, star jumps, high knees and switching feet to get us moving, then repeated at maximum intensity in intervals.

A nice stretch followed, before we got to the good stuff…

Partner Work – Skills Focus:

Some simple stuff: using the high guard to deal with straight and hooked punches. Emphasis on footwork and distance management.

Partner Work – Resistance Focus:

Tiring stuff. To begin with, you lie on the floor and a partner lies on you as a dead weight. By simply moving (wedge shapes, etc), you remove them. Simple and not difficult.

Then three people lie on you and you do the same.

Then a partner lies on you and you have to remove them while they’re grabbing at you and trying to hold on.

It started off nice and easy, then become somewhat less so!

OOOFFF! You’ve put some weight on! -Tim

Following that, we did the Push & Pads drill that we enjoyed last week, with a focus on hook punches and hammer fists, moving our partner for the length of the hall before we got a break. There’ll be a progression from this next week…

To finish this section, we had a couple of rounds of advancing with relentless striking: think of it as though you’re swimming through your attacker, only your ‘attacker’ is an unforgiving partner with a kickshield, and your ‘swimming’ involves smashing that pad with everything you’ve got, in whatever way you like. If you haven’t hit it hard enough, your partner doesn’t move, and you’ve got to make it all the way down the hall. And back. A couple of times.

Hit and Run Drills:

This was when things stepped up a notch. We returned to the Hit & Run drill that we all enjoyed so much last week but this time with a difference:

  • Baddie stands facing Goodie, posturing aggressively and getting in their personal space. Baddie, whenever they like, has to touch Goodie’s face. This is a full-speed (but safe) ‘attack’ that can easily be used for these kinds of drills.
  • Goodie has to prevent that – either with a good fence and distance management, movement and footwork, parrying and blocking… the method is up to them. Whether they prevent it or not, they have to get past Baddie and run away.
  • Baddie runs after Goodie as fast as possible and tags them.
    • If you escape, well done!
    • If you don’t:
      • Drop to the floor – 10 pushups and hold the last one
      • Baddie pushes you over onto your back – absorb that by being relaxed and then do 20 crunches
      • Climb aggressively your way up the Baddie, maintaining control at every moment, so you can’t get kicked or stamped on so easily as you get to your feet.
    • Repeat for 2 minutes and 59 seconds. I was feeling nice, and 3 minutes seemed a long time.

Then we returned to the same one we did last week, which works with a pre-emptive strike instead of dealing with one you didn’t manage to prevent:

  • Baddie stands facing Goodie with focus mitts on. Whenever they like, Baddie presents a pad.
  • Goodie hits it, immediately, as effectively as they possibly can. They then run away.
  • Baddie runs after Goodie as fast as possible and tags them.
    • If you escape, well done!
    • If you don’t:
      • Drop to the floor – 10 pushups and hold the last one
      • Baddie pushes you over onto your back – absorb that by being relaxed and then crunch up and hold. Baddie will present pads which you have to hit 20 times from that position.
      • Climb up as before, rinse and repeat. 2m59s again!

To finish, a quote to sum up our approach:

Don’t make it something you do.

Make it something you are.

Training with you all, as always, was wonderful. 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.

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