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 – 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.

Free Open Snow Day Training Workshop! (Friday, 30th January, 2015)

Due to the chaos caused by a bit of snow last night, we’ve decided to do things a little differently and have ourselves an Open Snow Day Training Workshop!

Anyone and everyone is welcome to drop in any time between 17:00 and 19:00 today, and anyone who does brave the blizzards and storm the snowdrifts to get to us can have a cuppa on us too.

If it’s your first time training with us, you’re welcome to come and have your first session for free!

We’ll be covering a variety of topics, including:

  • threat awareness
  • threat evaluation
  • threat avoidance
  • management of (and awareness of) personal space and positioning
  • preparations for taking action
  • upper-body and lower-body striking
  • power generation and impact management
  • ground mobility
  • escapes
  • parrying, jamming and blocking
  • throws, takedowns and breaking posture
  • problem-solving in combative situations
  • dealing with armed assault: surviving attacks with blunt and edged weapons

We train at The Wesley Methodist Church hall, Leek New Road, Stockton Brook, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST9 9NX and usually our training session is 17:45-18:45 every Friday.

All welcome as are your questions! Don’t forget – this is all free if it’s your first time so feel free to drop in, have a cuppa and learn something about what we do.

You can reach me at 01782502684 (landline) or 07981175878 (mobile but I’ll have negligible signal until about 16:00 or so), or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/EvolutionarySelfProtection .

I made an event on Facebook for it: http://www.facebook.com/events/1531366307150866
And one on Streetlife! http://www.streetlife.com/conversation/d95jspv6e2el/

See you later!

-Josh Nixon

Review: Smak Sak

IMAG1693Review: Smak Sak:
by Josh Nixon, ESP

It’s not often that a new product comes out in the self-protection and martial arts industry that is genuinely innovative. While most products I’ve seen have been marketed as ‘innovative’ and as essential for training to be taken to some next level or other as imagined (conveniently) by the designer, almost without fail they have been near-pointless gimmicks that detract from training more than they add. I’ve always been of the opinion that, in general, simplicity is the key to good training. Good pads, a training knife and a stick will pretty much set you up for most of your training to my mind.

That said, every now and again somebody has an idea that genuinely is a good and innovative one. These are generally simple both in concept and execution. The Smak Sak is a good example of this.

The premise is simple:

‘In repetitious training, students can get lethargic with technique, even to the point of injury. Also, beginners throw punches inefficiently and ineffectively. A revolutionary new solution to these problems is the Smak Sak: a simple training tool that will help you clean up your punches and train at full speed without the risk of injury.’

‘Beginners often throw punches poorly. The Smak Sak forces the thrower to perform a proper straight punch.’

Here’s a short video introducing the Smak Sak and showing its usage:

‘The Smak Sak’, uploaded to YouTube by knightsun84010 on 01.05.2013.

 

Following my email discourse with Fraser Anderson of Krav Maga Scotland, he sent out two for me to test and review. The day after they arrived in the post, I took them along to a local martial arts class I teach at to test them out. The results were good! As I said, a good idea for a training tool is generally simple and these fit that parameter (it’s essentially a nice bean-bag on a cord with a wrist loop), but with a pleasing build quality that makes them truly worth considering for your training. They also look nice, which is a bonus!

IMAG1697What I found when using them was that they allowed beginners to throw faster, more direct punches by making it safe to do so. In addition, they were enjoyable and engaging to use for something that can at times be fairly repetitive. All in all, it was a most welcome change that everyone present at the class enjoyed! It helped some to ensure their ‘strike’ was biomechanically sound, with the shoulder, elbow and wrist aligned. As with all training tools, it isn’t absolutely perfect and you shouldn’t become dependent on it for your training but it is definitely an inexpensive and enjoyable way to mix things up a little, and the novelty of doing the same thing in a different way went down very well with beginners and children when we tried it out. I enjoyed using them myself with my brother, and the instructor of the class enjoyed using them too.

All the information can be found at http://www.smaksak.co.uk/ and you can email Fraser at enquiries@smaksak.co.uk.

Review: ‘Ultimate Self-Defence Seminar’ by Peter Consterdine and Geoff Thompson

Consterdine, Peter and Thompson, Geoff. Ultimate Self-Defence Seminar. Protection Publications. 2005.

Review: Ultimate Self-Defence Seminar:
by Josh Nixon, ESP

This video is one of those well-known ones, considered essential by many, that you often hear about as an instructor. There’s good reason for that.

‘Action beats reaction’ – this is the key understanding that makes Geoff and Peter’s approach so much better than most when it comes to self-protection. Peter makes this point with a little demonstration of blocking’s uselessness in a reactive manner after a simple warmup of exercises chiefly concerned with coordination. He goes on to give what I consider the best explanation of the double-hip method of striking I’ve ever seen. There’s similarities between this and Systema’s waveform striking, which is definitely worth looking into as well if you like this method of power generation. I definitely do. It works very nicely for me, especially for body shots.

Following from this, Peter goes on to discuss and demonstrate sections on: speed and the flinch response, pre-emptive striking, UK self-defence law, adrenaline and the physiological biochemical responses of stress, pre-planning for violence, the effects of mind-altering chemicals, effective punchbag training, dialogue training, palm striking, the issues around striking with the knuckles to the face, lining up an aggressor, the biomechanics of efficient striking, zanshin, footwork, distance’s effect on striking opportunities, and the effects of surprise and shock on striking efficacy.

‘There’s no growth in comfort.’ I’ve got that up in the garage with my punchbag. For the second half, Geoff Thompson takes over and begins with hook punching on the pads, then a drill of striking with restricted movement. Afterwards, Geoff goes on to discuss and demonstrate sections on: fear and discomfort, double-hip striking towards the face, verbal distraction and deception with pre-emptive striking, usage of ‘the fence’ and shows of aggression, dynamic biomechanics in kicking (with Peter Consterdine), bodyweight grappling drills, foot tripping and trapping drills, striking from positions of biomechanical disadvantage, throwing and groundfighting, the importance of reading and learning, and attitudinal changes that are beneficial to training and to combat.

This really is a gem of a video. I personally find it quite motivational to listen to aside from the training ideas it offers. I highly recommend this one in particular as a worthy addition to any instructor’s shelf. Moreover, I would recommend this to students and prospective students too – if your instructor or prospective instructor doesn’t discuss any the kinds of things shown in this video (or especially if they’re ignorant of the concepts) then chances are they’re not worth your time. That’s a strong thing to say, I realise, but I feel that the quality of the basic information and sentiment behind this video’s content is substantial enough to warrant such a statement. The bottom line: watch this.

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://peterconsterdine.com/ultimatesd.htm.

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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