View Full Version : Dealing with the inherent repugnance of street fighting
02-05-2001, 06:47 AM
Originally posted by Sensei Andy on the 'Thoughts About Coed Training' thread
A thin and gentle man that doesn't want to fight, but only wants a good workout will be taught with a different emphasis than an athletic guy with dreams of competition. From personal experience I've found that nice girls are repulsed by eye gouging and other moves that fall into the brutal category.
I wanted to start a thread talking about the difficulty in introducing people to the 'real world' of fighting.
When people join a class, many of them won't have thought very hard about what they're learning. Many will have come for self-defence, but probably won't have thought about what that entails. They'll have an understanding of the martial arts that are composed of movie images and advertising; all beautiful, balletic motions and deadly grace. People innocently equate the movie style martial arts with effectiveness.
Some techniques, such as eye gouges, throat strikes, biting, etc, will be seen as brutality, and the teachers therefore seen as brutes. They are, however, often very effective - more so than some of the pretty techniques.
From the other side of the equation, people aren't going to be used to the aggression and danger they'll see on the streets.
If you want your students to be able to defend themselves (which is probably one of the things you promise) then how do you introduce people to this brutal side of fighting?
How do people balance the demands of not frightening students away with providing real training for dealing with a brutal situation?
Maybe split the class at some point into traditional forms / self-defence, and give people the chance to choose what they learn?
02-06-2001, 02:40 PM
The first Kyu rank in our flavor of Kenpo is largely defense against grabs and a choke. The response is fairly tame and involves minimal striking. Each Kyu level above introduces more violent responses to given attack scenario. Living in this peace-loving country :p most all my students are well aware of the violence that surrounds them. The memory of a murdered (+) 9 year old girl locally, keeps me from treading lightly on the subject of extreme measures in defense.
I am faced with an additional challenge, as I teach in a church-sponsored program. Occasionally, I get the "turn the other cheek" lecture from some well-meaning (perhaps) parishoner. I usually ask the folk to please go back and read the whole chapter, then refer them to Luke 17:1-2.
I think we do a great injustice to our students if we do not prepare them for realistic self-defense. And no, I wouldn't give them the chance to simply "dance".
Steve and Kev,
I generally find that the key to teaching effective self defence is teaching effective attacks !! Let me take a second to expand.
I teach in a University setting and most of the people that start at my club are probably looking to learn how to defend themselves, there's no sport element to my art and few people begin with an appreciation of some of the wider benefits of Budo which pretty much only leaves self defence or my good looks as their reasons for beginning.
Generally in the first year they are learning to defend themselves against relatively slow and 'formal' types of punches, although we don't have the cambered fists.. In fact for the first few weeks they mostly learn wrist releases etc, they show all the principles of Jiu Jitsu with imparting any false confidence.
As their ability to move and deal with attacks increases over time I move the speed and types of attacks up so that we're looking at boxing jabs, hooks, also weapons defences move from the tradional knife launched forward and left there to slashes, stabs etc..
What I have found is that as people face more and more realistic attacks they are better physically and emotionally equiped to deal with the realities of defense.
In particular when people start learning defences from being grabbed from behind and lifted off the floor etc I find that they lose their inhibitions about using stuff that really works !
Some people do leave at that point which is sad but what they're looking for is not what I'm offering. An advantage though is that the people who do come looking how to 'kick ass' have usually got bored and left so I'm left with what I really want. People who really really want to learn how to apply powerful and dangerous techniques in defence of their live and who desperately hope to never ever have to use them..
I'm very interested to read other peoples thoughts on this.
It is a hard balance to strike though because, as mentioned, people begin training for a variety of reasons and so its hard in such a group to please everyone. Peripheral training with the more hardcore students who don't mind taking a few heavy tumbles/knocks can be productive but I guess this is widely practised anyway.
Is the problem trying to get the less, erm, gritty students to achieve realism? This is presumably a consequence of open recruitment which is a must in cases where overheads have to be met etc..
Is there a solution which doesn't preclude anyone but takes everyone to the same 'street-level competence'?
If there is then clearly different people within the group will achieve this at different rates, for whatever reason, hence finding the middle line and hoping that the 'grittier' ones wont get bored and the more timid ones dont feel left behind is the key.
How to do that I guess comes from experience, but it would make an interesting study if it was at all possible to reliably collate attendence data from a bunch of different dojos which were experimenting with bringing more 'street-realism' into the standard curriculum.
02-11-2001, 01:55 PM
I teach Bujinkan Budo and as it is more traditional than the "rough and tumble", students sometimes never get to feel the downside of a hard punch to the head.
However, for the ones who seem interested I invite them around to my house and we basically beat the crap out of each other. This can involve normal full contact sparring or trying a particular technique whilst the other guy has boxing gloves on and tries to hit you full force.
The adrenaline cuts in and changes everything. Because these students are invited it changes the atmosphere and we accept getting hurt more. However, I am cautious about who to train this way with as you can go too far and risk really hurting someone.
For people in the UK, Geoff Thompson's tapes are good for giving you an idea, I think it is his Animal Day one.
As for people not liking eye gouges and such I usually find these types are sometimes the ones who really go for it when the gloves are on. I have read somewhere that it isn't the techniques that beats the other person but your spirit and feel this to be true. You train hundreds of techniques to use one, but cannot even use one if you have not got the spirit to fight back. Hard training forges the spirit.
I would be interested to learn other people's methods too.
All the best,
02-12-2001, 02:08 AM
You can't please everyone and splitting classes along these lines are just not "cost" effective. You develope as a teacher and teach your way, not the way the students want. Once that happens, the student, who wants you to be particularly stressful in teaching one way or the other, will leave. If the point can be made that you will be teaching this or that as time goes on, and then the student stays, you are doing your job. You are doing it if they leave, too.
I get them from both sides, but going in they have an idea of the time it will take to do either. Once in a while you do get a special or natural student who needs special assistence, but here too, you must balance the class. A good way is to have a senior student who can teach. While some are working on a particular technique, those who either know it, or are much more advanced, may be organized into an intra squad tournament with the "trophy" being overall improvement in this area, including maai, wa, rei, and all those little things and words they need to know.
Self-defense should never be promised. It takes too long in martial arts to teach effectively, and if you have been doing a MA for ten, twenty, or more years, you know this, so unless you organize a class expressly for the purpose of teaching an intense, but short course in eye-gouging, running around with sharp objects, and don't mind being the attacker (with a lot of superpadding), it won't happen, at least in the short run. This actually can work as a special class in which the dates are announced in advance, exactly what kind of SD you will be teaching, and what they need to bring, etc. These usually last from six weeks to two and one-half months, depending on the time you have.
All MA have self-defense techniques, kata expressly for this, and/or randori. Since students come and go, you never really know what it is they want until they have been there a while. Sensei Ueshiba Morihei said he knew the serious student by how long s/he stayed with it, with those who are still there after six months. This is a very big generalization, but you must relax and center on the lesson of the day.
Be it a student with many years of training, or a beginner, there is no such thing as practicing a technique too much, or too hard. Stick with your style, don't worry about a student who wants something particular, if you make yourself available to all over a period of time, no one will complain. Or they will, and you must stand your ground, but be gentle, and don't spend class time on it, or at least, take a few minutes at the end or beginning of class for questions, information, grade improvemnts, etc.
As to adrelaline rushes, that is what randori is for.:D
02-12-2001, 06:49 AM
I wouldn't say a person without "fighting" experience cannot learn to defend themselves, but without the personal experience aspect it's like teaching someone how to swim without ever actually entering the pool. Very difficult indeed. Until they get in the water, you don't really know if they will sink or swim.
This is not to say I advocate students "proving themselves" by initating situations eihter. Quite the opposite. All you can really do as an instructor is provide the individual with the tools they need to construct their own self defense. You can practice technique very slowly and steadily increase the speed and intensity as the student progresses. Technique can then be done at more "realistic" speeds, however, this is still no substitute for actual "fighting" experience.
You can't teach experience. It isn't practical to try either as each "encounter" varies greatly in structure. Provide people with the tools and a place to internalize them. Then pray they never get into a situation where they have to use them.
Just my view,
Dan P. - Mongo
02-13-2001, 03:16 AM
You're right Mongo. I was just pointing out the folly of trying to teach self-defense in a martial art environment. Most aren't set that way, and if they are, then one is meant for ancient encounters, and the others manifests in tournmament randori/shiai. Neither is realistic.
But if you set a plan in motion in which a person or group of people, can feel what it is like, to the closest degree there is, without the "testing" some advise, then SD courses can be set up, and kicking a man, even though padded well, in the "big boxes (cajones)," it is much closer than any MA classes, no matter how many years as that is what it takes at a minimum investment.
Even then, you only have a sleight advantage, but too many begin to get a little cocky, and soon s/he has drawn a crowd.
02-13-2001, 08:00 AM
Firstly, students have to be taught tolerance and respect for each other's well being. Too much emphasis is placed on who can beat up who. The emphasis always seems to be on winning or being better than somebody else. There's no room in civil self defence for teaching someone to be brutal or overly aggresive. Even the most severe techniques must be applied with control and consideration for the consequences.
So how do you teach effective self defence? Good martial arts require control over one's fighting spirit, technique, and body. You must teach the right spirit before teaching the technique. Start by teaching consideration, tolerance and good behaviour. Then...
Teach at the student's level. Give them techniques they can perform within their own physical limits of control. Dangerous techniques can taught safely, providing that the technique suits the students ability and understanding, and that students are told the consequences of the technique, are closely supervised, and are made to start slowly so that they can maintain control over their movements.
Now for the fighting side. First, teach students to defend themselves. Then teach technique.
One method of imparting good fighting spirit is to get students to complete the whole technique once they start it, even if they get it wrong (providing they can do it safely!). This trains them to keep on fighting. Otherwise, they get into the habit of stopping if the technique doesn't feel quite right. They should only stop to think about the technique AFTER they've defended themselves.
Don't correct their technique until they've started to develop some kind of flow. Then you can start correcting their technique, one point at a time.
Hope this helps,
02-16-2001, 02:37 AM
This is a very good topic! I as many people started out in the Martial Arts with the traditional "Hard Styles". TKD, TSD and Combat Hapkido. Although I started young (5 yrs. old) I always felt as though something was missing! By the time I was 13 I had started exploring other Martial Arts that were "more fluid". I found an Aikido/Iaido Instructor that was willing to work with me on incorporating Aikido/Iaido into my TKD,TSD,Hapkido styles. from there I started training in Ninjutsu and Jujitsu. When I was 18, with a 5th dan black belt in TKD & TSD, a 3rd in Combat Hapkido and a 1st ryu in Aikido/Iaido I set forth to open a school of my own. When I advertised "Warrior Combat Training" I got no responses. It didn't make sense? The community I had opened in had an increased rate of rapes, molestations and kidnappings. Why wasn't anyone coming to study? Well I attended a city council meeting the next month to find out why! Many people believed that I would be teaching the criminals themselves and increasing the danger. Well I changed that by doing little local demonstrations and I even did some TV spots for our local city TV station. that really changed things. Also go to the schools get permission to give demos., They work great!
02-16-2001, 07:26 AM
(This might be getting off-topic, but it's prompted by the discussion so far, and some things I've been thinking about recently. Also, the language I'm using is fairly karate-focussed, but I hope the principles apply universally.)
The need to pull disjointed things together
When people start, they haven't got any techniques to deal with. But as people progress and their technical skill increases, (as they kick higher, move faster, punch harder,) they have to start working this into a practical method of self-defence.
People have to feel comfortable with their own skills, putting together every technique and combination they learn and build it up into a strategy for fighting. Call it what you want - knowing your options, maybe, or assembling a toolbox of skills
Learning through structured sparring
Karate teachers seem to help people develop these skills through through structured sparring - typically 1, 3 and 5-step kumite - where pre-arranged attacks are launched and defended against.
I wonder how much of this stays in people's heads? I've recently come back to karate after about a decade sitting on my big fat behind. Now, the kicks, strikes and blocks are ingrained in my nervous system, but the tactical parts are very much degraded.
I think this is maybe because I never really got a chance to work things from one final angle - having been presented with several options from my teacher, I didn't get the chance to learn to instinctively defend against attacks.
Learning for yourself
Maybe this last stage - judging the best option for a particular situation - is best led, not by the teacher, but by the student experimenting and finding his own way. Different people need different reactions. I'm heavy and strong, but slow. My techniques are different to a smaller, lighter girl who is differently able and probably going to face a different set of attacks.
So - maybe the solution to this is to arrange segments in a lesson where the students pair up or arrange in larger groups, with some mixing between the grades, and people try to make instinctive the things the teacher is teaching. You can reject things that don't work for you, improve your own weaknesses, and practice fluid fighting.
Because people are being asked to motivate themselves, they can push their own abilities - including aggression/effectiveness - to wherever they feel comfortable. You're not likely to alienate people who don't want to be overly aggressive. You also aren't asking people to follow your (brutal) lead - they can adopt the more effective tecniques because they've made a choice to do it.
I'm thinking it might be similar to the way that karate was originally taught in Okinawa - with small groups of students, one master, and a lot of interaction.
02-25-2001, 07:40 PM
Hello all, great topic and one that is ignored by a lot of people.
My wife and I taught a self-defense course for three years at Washington State University. It was based psychologically on Matt Thomas' Model Mugging program.
Our thrust was the psychological end of self-defense: dealing with the trash mouth attacker, judging intentions, understanding physical clues of danger, teaching men not to get sucked into the peacock dance, and teaching women not to ignore their instincts.
We conducted full contact tests in simulated attacks, trash mouth and all. Several black belts from our club came to watch, most thought before hand what we were teaching was a waste of time. Most of them were very afraid by the end of the test! "What are you giving these people?!!!" Permission to defend themselves when they know they are in danger.
In my classical karate classes I introduce these more violent lessons early on in training. I have found it is not the what, but the when, where, and why that people need in order to give themselves the where-with-all to defend themselves.
We had one woman, that we know of, defend herself on campus. At least we think she was our student. Her story was reported anonymously through the paper. Her description of her response to the attacker, who tried to grab her, was right out of our class. She dropped him in two moves.
No hard fast answers here, but I would suggest Matt Thomas' book for ideas, as well as Gavin DeBecker's book "The Gift of Fear."
Thanks, I look forward to hearing more.
Glenn R. Manry
02-26-2001, 11:48 AM
I'll second the recommendation of Gavin DeBecker's book "The Gift of Fear" as well as his other "Protecting the Gift". They are brilliantly conceived on the subject of violence and behavior.
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