Introduction to Combatives :
Why we choose Combatives and train the way we do
Before I can answer that question I have to pose another question. “Why is a 19 year old crack addict with a rusty screw driver and zero training far more likely to be successful at violence than a veteran martial artist?” This is the question that drove me out of the Tuesday night adult class I taught for my Kenpo instructor. It made me take a hard look at the time and energy I was putting into my training. It drove me into parks, backyards, garages, driveways, and finally to “after-hours” Crossfit gyms where a pseudo “fight club” was run by an 18 year old kid?
To answering that first question meant the comfort of the dojo was gone. Back in my Kenpo day’s, I would look at a group of brown and black belts and I would know (in the back of my mind) they would likely not be successful at protecting themselves against real violence. However, back then, the “why” eluded me. Why should they be unsuccessful if met with violence? They trained regularly in a known combat martial art; they hit pads, kicked heavy shields and struck BOB dummies. They made moderate contact and occasionally bruised each other up a bit. They collected belts and stripes and traded white gi’s for black ones signifying advanced ranks. So why did I know they would never cut it in a real fight? Because we taught them to dance, that’s why. They were conditioned dance partners who stuck their arms out with a rubber knife on the end and held it there so their partners can complete a series of complex motions. Sure, they looked cool as hell in a street demo but would never hold up under extreme stress, let alone against a 19 year old crack addict with a rusty screw driver and zero training.
The Hard Truth
So, I think I can answer that question now of “why the martial artist’s I used to train with would not hold their own in a real violent encounter?” It wasn’t the art, most martial arts are valid enough and give the practitioner martial attributes. Attributes like timing, speed, mental focus, correct body mechanics, power generation, balance, agility, flow, endurance and the list can go on. The problem was us, how we trained and how enamored we were with our own ranks that we never set our egos aside and asked the honest question, would this work? And more importantly, how can I make my art work against a sudden unrelenting, noncompliant attacker, in poor conditions (low light, on gravel, between two cars) and under extreme stress.
In combatives, not only do we realize the criminal is more equipped for violence than we are, we embrace it. We study him, why is he so effective? In theory we should be better, we train! He doesn’t! Or does he? Yes, every attack, every mugging is a live training session that far exceeds the dojo training we are comfortable with and accustom to. He hones a finite skill set always against noncompliant participants and always under extreme pressure. He never reacts to the victim, he dictates the terms. He selects his prey, stalks them and ambushes them at a moment when conditions are most advantageous for him and least advantageous for the victim. If he can’t ambush, he deceives. He doesn’t walk up to a potential victim and say, “I’d like to mug you if that’s ok, why don’t we spar and the one who gets three points first gets the other guys wallet.” No, he approaches all non- confrontational like and asks a question to draw you off guard. “Hey, you got the time; I think I missed my train?” As you’re glancing at your watch, he’s drawing his blade and it’s done. You had no shot because he explodes and continues forward pressure until you are a puddle.
Your martial arts training can stop this man but it must first address this modern type of threat. And few do.
So here are the things that make the criminal so good at violence:
- Finite skill set
- Explosive forward pressure without allowing an exchange
So we make his skill set, our skill set. We train under extreme stress in poor conditions. We set up scenarios that mimic real life criminal assaults. We reduce our strikes to gross motor motions only. We limit (on purpose) the number of strikes we train. We focus on situational awareness so we can use preemptive attacks against our attackers. And we never allow him the chance to become part of the exchange. It’s not sparring; it’s a violent counterattack that pushes him out of the predatory mindset and into the prey mindset.
“Because in the predators’ world the lion doesn’t fear the jackal”
Sport martial arts are fantastic and provide outstanding secondary attributes. But if you are preparing for sport you are not prepared for real violence. A baseball bat is designed to hit a ball, it can be used to hit you too, but that’s not it’s intended use. And the ball player trained to hit a ball is way out of his league trying to use his bat against, say, that 19 year crack addict with a rusty screw driver and zero training.
We don’t want to change your art, we want to change the way you train. We don’t want you to abandon your training partner, we want you to emphasize an honest approach to training. It’s not about what you’re doing, it’s about HOW you are doing it.
Stay safe out there.