Martial Arts (18)

Cobra Kai, the now-infamous Karate school from the Karate Kid movie franchise and the recent Netflix reboot (which is excellent, by the way) were seen as the bad guys.
Johnny, the villain in the first Karate Kid movie, was egged on by his sensei to fight dirty and do whatever it takes to win. Daniel, the hero of the movie who taught by Mr Miyagi
agy, was taught that honour and discipline is what matters.

Funnily enough, in all of the recent takes on the movies we now realise that – much like in life – there’s a little bit of black and a little bit of white, with a ton of grey in the middle.
Daniel is now often portrayed as the bully, the instigator of the now famous rivalry.

Despite the fact that Johnny was often the one to throw the first punch, he understood the lessons of Cobra Kai and how they apply to real self-defence.

Cobra Kai’s infamous motto is ‘strike first, strike hard, no mercy’. While it sounds violent, it actually has a lot of wisdom in it.

So, what is it that Cobra Kai understood so well about self-defence, and why is it that a large portion of today’s martial arts and self defence community don’t get it?

Sunday, 12 April 2015 17:29

How do You Know You Know?!

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In my last article I talked about how different people learn, and also about how both instructors and students should be aware of this to further improve their performance.

Often, the style we prefer to learn is determined by the preferred learning style we have. Nice tongue twister. But what does it mean?

Sunday, 15 March 2015 00:00

As Real as it Gets

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The infamous phrase ‘reality-based training’ once again returns to feature in an article…

Saturday, 14 March 2015 00:00

Should I take my child to Martial Arts?

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Martial Arts can be an incredible force in the life of a young person. It can provide focus, structure, culture, problem solving capabilities and solid strategies to deal with bullying and other various challenges that life will throw at them. But it's not for everyone, and for some kids it's important to consider the type of training they may need before throwing them into a martial arts programme.

Will Martial Arts help my child's behaviour problem?

In the last article I discussed the ‘Dojo Syndrome’.
I had received some very positive feedback about it, with many instructors saying ‘this is exactly what often happens!’ and had a few requests to post some more tips. Thanks for the support, and I hope you enjoy this!

We often refer to something called the 'Dojo syndrome' in training. This is especially relevant when training for self-defence.

Friday, 19 December 2014 00:00

Holiday Safety Tips

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The festive season is a time of joy and celebration of family, friends, presents and much-deserved holidays and rest.

Unfortunately, many researchers show that there is a relationship between holidays and increases in crime rate, including home crime and domestic abuse. The 2014 new year celebrations in Sydney were marred by the death of a Sydney partygoer who was 'king hit' from behind and later died, and unfortunately the statistics show that with increased consumption of alcohol and other party favours, violence also tends to increase.

So, here are some quick handy tips to help you keep your jolly season jolly, rather than silly!

1. Don't leave all of your presents piled up under the tree by your front window, where anyone can see them, smash a window, grab what they can and make a run.
2. If you are going away, make sure that your house still looks occupied. Ask a trusted neighbour to collect your mail. If you have a timer or automated system for lights, use it. Don't leave the front lights on 24 hours a day. Alternatively, you can ask someone you trust to come in and turn some lights on and others off once a day.
3. Don't post your holiday dates, destinations, etc., on social media, especially if you are one of those people who randomly add people on Facebook.
#awayonholiday = #breakintomyhouse
4. Everyone loves gifts! But don't leave the boxes of all of your new electronics on the street or by your bin, as you will be advertising what can be found inside your house!
5. We all know that the spare key is under the bin, in the post box, in the pot plant, etc. Don't leave it there!

If you are going to party, please make sure that you:

1. Nominate a designated driver

2. Plan your route home and make sure someone know where you are at all times.

3. Don't wander the streets late at night by yourself, stick to well-lit areas and make sure you are aware of your surroundings – don't be distracted by your phone or walk with your headphones in.

Here's to a happy, restful, safe festive season, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati, Yule, Hogswatch, Festivus or whatever you may be celebrating!

Sunday, 26 October 2014 00:00

Turning Your Attackers On. And off.

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Knowing how to turn your attackers on, or off, is actually pretty important! So let's start with the back story...

The effects of adrenaline in self-defence situations are well documented.
What most of us know is this:
As soon as we detect danger, we experience the 'fight, flight or freeze' response. Adrenaline floods into our system, we become stronger, faster and feel less pain. We also tend to experience tunnel vision, loss of spacial awareness, time warps, auditory exclusion, etc., etc. A big part of self defence training focuses on getting oneself used to that experience, functioning effectively through it and managing it, to the extent that this can be safely done in a training environment. Still, we know that the adrenal response can be a huge disadvantage in many cases and severely limits the way we think and fight.

One thing is often left unsaid though. The person who is attacking you, or is about to attack you... Do they experience this? If so, how can you use it to your advantage? If he/she is not experiencing adrenal dump, how can you trigger it in them in order to tip the conflict in your favour?

Geoff Thompson, in his excellent book 'Dead or Alive' (which I believe everyone should read), offers some tips and tricks to identify and trigger adrenal response in the opposition.

Before we discuss this though, let us discuss something else. Is adrenaline always a bad thing? The answer is no. Miller (2008), in his book 'Meditations on Violence', identifies several levels of adrenaline response in the body, as follows:
1. Normal – this refers to your every-day mind and body, when one is often unprepared for an intense violent encounter. When we get hit with a sudden rush of adrenaline in this state, the response is often to freeze, while the mind tries to cope with what is happening and decide on a course of action. Unfortunately this takes precious time, especially if the attack has already begun and you are taking damage.
2. Optimal – this is when we are alert, engaged and physically ready for an altercation. A good example of this is when you prepare yourself to spar in training. You are alert, and this will usually provide the best reaction time, as well as the ability to plan and make tactical decisions as options present themselves.
3. Past optimal – in this case we have gone past the optimal state, and will often result in similar symptoms as previously mentioned, with serious impairment to physical and mental skills.
4. Pessimal – absolute loss of control, both physically and mentally, which often results in total freezing, and even loss of bladder and bowel control.

An interesting anecdote that Miller (2008) points out, is that untrained people often fight better than they normally would under adrenal response, while trained people often fight worse. This relates to trained martial artists often trying to apply fine motor-skill and complicated techniques in situations where making them work is very hard. It also relates to the fact that when you have many techniques and options to choose from, it will take more time to decide on a course of action. Ask yourself now - do I block, evade, cover, counter, kick, punch, elbow, knee, head butt, throw, lock, grapple, choke, etc.? just reading that sentence took you a few seconds, and making a decision and executing it will take a few more! Unfortunately, time in those situations, is often not on your side. This indicates that if your 'autopilot' is not properly programmed – in other words if the correct responses are not rehearsed to an instinctive level – then your chances of survival in sub-optimal adrenal response conditions are drastically reduced.

So how does one identify, or even trigger these in an attacker?
Let's look at what we already know in terms of the visual signs that someone is being affected by adrenaline. These include sweating, shaking, posturing, clenched fists, closing distance, flaying of arms, pale skin, difficulties in verbalising thoughts, etc. An indication that an attack is imminent is often that the attacker will stop using whole sentences and will revert to single words and/or syllables. Being aware of these signals will give you a handy clue that something may be about to happen. 

Now is the time to make another decision. Do you want to turn the attacker on? Or maybe you prefer to turn them off?

We have two options here in order to control the opponent's adrenaline response:
1. To lower the adrenal response (turn them off)– by being submissive, the opponent's adrenaline flow may reduce as the perceived danger is lowered. This may allow you to get them to lower their guard in order to escape or strike first. This is best done when you have no other alternative but to fight.
2. To increase the adrenal response (turn them on) – Thompson (1997) identifies two ways of doing this. One is by becoming overly loud and aggressive, the other is by acting cool and uncaring as if you have been in this situation a thousand times before. The idea in both cases is to create hesitation and fear in the other party, by making them believe that they are likely to get hurt if they attack. This will often send their adrenaline past the optimal level, and may bring about a flight or a freeze response.

So how do you train something like this?
I think this depends a lot on the environment in which you train, but the best way for me has been by simply trying this out on unsuspecting training partners! They prepare to attack me during a routine drill, but instead of doing the technique I will simply try to distract, talk them into doing something else, or yell at them at the top of my voice... But another option is by using scenario training, where you don't know what the final outcome is. In other words, the people who are the 'bag guys' in the scenario may decide to attack you, or they may not, depending on how you react. This teaches both training parties how to manage their adrenaline and gives different ways of solving the problem before actually getting to the physical stage. 

Stay tuned, stay safe.

Sunday, 19 October 2014 00:00

Why you should love training what you hate

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Every martial artist has the thing they enjoy the most. Some enjoy striking while some enjoy grappling, some enjoy doing kata while some enjoy sparring, some enjoy learning complicated, fancy techniques while some prefer to stick to what works. And all are absolutely valid and relevant.

It is also true that most martial artists, once they have a bit of experience, try to experiment with a variety of different styles to add to their repertoire, and eventually find the things that work or don't work for them, and this is a great thing.

Many systems put emphasis on the need to have a well-rounded skill set, and this is becoming more and more evident in sports like MMA. It is common to see the same people compete in a BJJ competition, a kickboxing competition and an MMA competition. When comparing the sport to what it was 20 years ago, it's also easy to see that just being good at one thing is hardly enough to be competitive at a high level today.

This also spills over to self-defence. Some people are natural strikers, while some people are natural grappler; and with the growing popularity of MMA the chances of facing attackers who have at least some training in fighting arts increases. Furthermore, we know that adrenal response will neutralise most skills that have to be actively though about. In other words, if you have to think through a process, you are highly unlikely to pull it off under stressful conditions. This means that if you find yourself in a position you have never been before, you are unlikely to react in an effective way under adrenal stress.
An example of this that has come up in recent conversations I've had was the whether or not studying BJJ is useful for Krav Maga students, as one of the first lessons in self defence is to avoid getting to the ground, and if you do get there to get back to your feet as quickly as possible. But the reality is, that if you have no experience on the ground, and do not understand transitions, positions and submissions, then if the first time you find yourself on the ground is during a street fight, you will not be able to pull off most of the moves you think you know. Again, does it mean you want to get the attacker to tap out? No. But it does mean that you should have enough of an understanding of it so that wherever you end up, it's nothing new.

Does this mean that in order to be a complete martial artist you must be a champion boxer, BJJ black belt and an Olympic wrestler?

Not at all!

But it does mean that you should probably get some exposure to all of these, with the idea that you know enough about how each style or discipline functions so that you can adapt your own style to match it and focus on what you're good at.

So what is the area that you are weakest at?

This question is the most hated one to ask ourselves, and yet the easiest to answer.

The answer is simple - whatever it is you hate doing the most, is probably the area you need the most work on.
And why do we hate asking ourselves this question? Because often it means shifting our training to the things that we are not good at, or don't enjoy as much. Especially for those who are already experienced in one area, going back to being a complete novice in another can be frustrating.

It is also good to remember that part of one's development in martial arts is to overcome adversity, build character and address problems with an open mind.
Working on those areas that we don't feel comfortable at or know need improvement is an important element of developing and growing as a martial artist and as a person.

Using my personal experience as an example, I found that when I spent time becoming more proficient at the things I didn't like doing, I noticed two things that happened; Firstly, I have become considerably less scared or anxious about doing them. In fact, some of those things have become quite enjoyable! Secondly, once I removed the negativity from my mind I was able to improve much more quickly.
I have found this to be the same with regards to certain elements in my career as well – instead of leaving those tasks I dreaded for the end of the day, or tomorrow, they are now the first things I do when I get into the office in the morning. As a result my productivity has almost doubled, and my stress levels have reduced!

Again, it doesn't mean doing those ALL the time FOREVER. But it does mean to you should do those things that you know you don't like doing from time to time.
And when you go back to doing what it is you're good at, you'll enjoy it more and be able to apply new ideas to it.

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