Whatever combatives or martial arts program you choose to practice, hopefully it balances training between technique development, fighting attribute development and stress inoculation (which is nothing more than varying pre-determined levels of physical and mental adversity or “suck” while having to perform a task to a certain level of proficiency).
While the art or program you train in may be different from mine, if you and I are good fighters, we share some common fighting attributes. Our ability to “bring the hurt” is more dependent on these under lying fighting attributes than the perfection of the technique employed (although fighting attributes and technique perfection do complement each other).
Let’s take a look at what makes us similar as fighters; or, more specifically, our common attributes:
- Cover – Allows the Self-Defense Fighter (SDF) defend against or minimize the enemy strike. Having your “guard up” instinctively the moment an attack is realized will cover vulnerable areas on your body. This attribute is practiced through proper fighting stance drills to say the least. Eventually through practice, the moment your body senses trouble, you will enter a defensive posture, whether against an initial attack or punch 452 in the midst of a knock down drag out.
- Footwork – Has has everything to do with setting up the angle on an opponent for your strike and subsequent follow through combinations. Much emphasis should be placed on developing this fighting attribute. When boxers are seen in ring moving back and forth, side to side, without throwing a punch, you’re seeing a constant check and counter between the fighters. One fighter tries to set up an angle to strike while the other counters this setup and in turn tries to setup the angle on his opponent. As important at footwork is to the successful fighter, it is surprising to see all of the You-tube videos out there that demonstrate how little time and effort is spent explaining proper footwork. It’s been said that footwork drills are not flashy and don’t help recruit students.
- Command of Range – This is simply controlling the overall survival situation of a street fight. You probably won’t have time to employ sophisticated footwork and wait for the best opening. After all, a street fighting survival situation is NOT a boxing match. If we are forced to fight, the goal is to attack the attacker the moment he steps into range* (over the “trigger line”). *Here’s a tip: An opponent steps into range a lot further out than many like to think. Proper command of range drills allow the SDF to pre-empt the attacker who is moving in on him. It’s also another reason while we love the BJJ art, we also believe that you’d better have a good stand up game to handle multiple opponents (fights are rarely fair, and thugs will not fight you one at a time).
- Combinations – Combinations not only punish an opponent but are also used to set up an angle to finish the opponent off and end the fight. Combination drills must be effective and used with violence of action to drive the opponent back, giving the SDF the momentum to end the fight.
- Movement – Movement’s purpose is to disallow your opponent the ability to set for an attack or counter attack. Movement also minimizes the effectiveness of an attack when a blow is landed on the SDF. We train SDFs to not stay static. It isn’t just about keeping your feet moving. Notice when you watch two boxers, they constantly keep their head and shoulders moving so that it’s hard for their opponent to line up a shot.
- Follow Through – Follow through combines the fighting attributes of proper combinations and movement so that the SDF becomes more effective in his attack.Correctly executed follow through increases the power and speed of an attack, whether the SDF is entering, driving the opponent back with combinations, or finishing the fight with a devastating elbow to the temple.
- Awareness – The recognition of attacks before they happen as well as reading telegraphed strikes defines fighting awareness. Sometimes an opponent will drop their chin, sometimes they will twitch funny or look to the area they are going to strike. This attribute is developed with experience in drilling and sparring.
- Speed – Is the overall reaction of the SDF in general. This attribute is developed over time, with experience in training through muscle memory and reacting to recognition of the telegraphed attacks that a training partner launches. When speed is built over time through much practice, you might feel slow, but you won’t realize how fast you actually have become when the adrenaline is pumping, until someone says, “Oh my G-d, you looked like you just performed a magic trick”. In reality, the brain will have performed self-defense reactions in training so many times, that you are fighting on a subconscious level opposed to a conscious level.
So the next time the conversation begins . . . “my kung-fu is better than the other guy’s king-fu”, we can sit back knowing those guys are missing the boat. Yeah, some fighting styles have strengths in certain areas over others, but it’s the fighting attributes, developed by a proper instructor that makes a fighter, just as much as it is the technique properly employed.
“Overcoming Style – A man doesn’t excel because of his style. It’s only when a man can go outside the bounds set by his system that he excels. If a martial artist can practice a style without being bound and limited to his particular school, then and only then can he be liberated to fit in with any type of opponent. A great majority of instructors, however, blind their practitioners and brainwash them into believing only their school of training is best.”
—Dan Inosanto, 1972
Look for a combatives handbook to be released by DTG toward the new year . . .