I saw this clip posted on Facebook (thanks Steve) and was intrigued because here’s the Army using cage fighting as a model to test the Combatives ability of their soldiers, both males and females. It’s interesting because there are many out there who suggest, in fact more than suggest, that cage fighting or MMA is hopeless for reality self-defence, street fighting or whatever you want to call it.
I’m not in that camp because I think there are enormous self-defence related benefits to MMA training. Of course, it is not directly transferable AND, of course, there are certain skills that should be avoided in a real street fight; shooting on an attacker with his mates watching would not be advisable. That’s pretty much accepted across the board.
The video is of the 2011 Combatives Championships for the US Army. The first thing to notice is that the people taking part are in great shape and are taking it all very seriously and they clearly need to go through a hell of a lot to win. The video illustrates the blood, sweat and tears required to compete.
Army Combatives Championship 2011
Of course, MMA training has applicable skills to real fighting and as mentioned others that are less applicable. But also, what it really has, that is completely transferable is the chaos of having someone coming at you wanting to cave your head in. It’s all in this video and in some ways seems more pertinent when it’s soldiers in the cage or on the mat.
Highly trained individuals, testing their skills in the relative safety of the cage. It’s clearly a good test of their skills, which admittedly do include some of the less applicable techniques. However, the army choose to use the cage environment to test these skills. It would seem that the army have faith in the cage environment as a useful testing environment. This would then suggest that the environment has something to offer in terms of preparation for real fighting. And of course it does.
It seems fairly obvious that experience of the chaos of the combatives competition depicted in the video, provides these soldiers with something of value that can be taken to the battlefield. Alternatively, for non-soldiers experience of the chaos of the cage can be transferred to a street fight. To underplay the importance of this experience in preparing someone for reality self defence is a bit daft, in my opinion.
I’ve just come across an excellent article which could serve as a great reference for self defence classes but the post reputes that MMA shares principles with self defence. On the whole, it is very good, but it suffers from a bias against MMA rampant in the self defence fraternity and it’s one that bugs me. Put simply self defence classes and MMA share more than people would like to give credit. Many think that MMA training is hopeless for self defence because the rules detract from the reality of the training or the suitability of the training to a real attack. I beg to differ but before I expand on that here’s why I liked the post in the main.
It discusses the three most important principles concerning self defence and is called The Truth About Violence by Sam Harris, an author I’m afraid I’ve not heard of before. These principles are nothing new but his descriptions and examples given are great to get the message across. These principles are
Avoid dangerous places and dangerous people
Do not defend your property
Respond immediately and escape
Avoidance and Awareness are covered nicely, not surprising given the reference reading material provided at the end of the article – Geoff Thompson and Rory Miller amongst others. He distils the main messages from these books nicely. The final principle concerns what to do when an attack is unavoidable and importantly an easy way to acknowledge when this is. He says that once your avoidance strategies are exhausted and the would be attacker is still at it this is when you should respond. As he says
the moment avoidance fails, attack explosively for the purposes of escape—not to mete out justice, or to teach a bully a lesson, or to apprehend a criminal. Your goal is to get away with minimum trauma (to you), while harming your attacker in any way that seems necessary to ensure your escape
This is exceptionally good advice in my book, particularly the caveats concerning justice, bullies and criminals. Blurring the lines here will land you in jail, if you move from self defence to apprehension of a criminal you could end up like Mr Hussain; locked up!
As a teenager and in my early twenties there were a lot of rumbles or the potential for rumbles and for me the hardest part was distinguishing when I should fight. Social niceties say we shouldn’t attack someone without good reason. Spending time and mental resources caught up in the social rights and wrongs when an attack is coming is counter productive and could get you hurt or worse. However, if you have really done everything in your power to avoid conflict you know that and it is time to attack explosively for the purposes of escape! I am in full agreement with this.
Effective Self Defence and MMA Share stuff!
Later, in the notes, Harris expounds that MMA fans know that BJJ is the best for ground-fighting in MMA but is unsuitable for self defence and that most Martial Arts don’t cut it in terms of effective self defence classes. He has a valid point, there are differences but effective self defence and MMA share a lot and certainly have more in common than the differences. Put it this way would an MMA fighter have the skills and attitude to attack explosively for the purposes of escape? I’d say yes. An MMA fighter and other combat sport martial artist who has fought in the ring or even just trained to will have picked up many skills and principles which are adaptable and a quality that effective self defence and MMA share.
Self Defence classes and MMA Share Pre-emptive Striking
It is a misnomer that just self defence classes teach the pre-emptive strike. To strike first is the goal in Combat Sports and’ while a moot point’ the principle of no first attack in karate (karate-do ni sente nashi) doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wait to be hit before fighting. For the pre-emptive strike to land first it is essential to time it right and not make it obvious, as a bxoing saying goes the ones that knock you out are the ones you don’t see coming. Anderson Silva is adept at getting non-telegraphed strikes to land with his timing and distance skills.
Apologies for the stupid video but the KO demonstrates the MMA equivalent of the pre-emptive strike something else that self defence classes and MMA share. Sure it needs a little adaption but the principle is there.
And Explosive Attacking
There are numerous examples in MMA and the UFC of fighters’ explosive attacking. To say that you need to cultivate explosive attacking and then to discount MMA is plain daft, effective self defence classes and MMA share this too. Furthermore, there is plenty of explosive attacking in other combat sports too, like boxing and K1 and Muay Thai boxing to name a few from fighters such as Wanderlei Silva, Fedor, Jose Aldo, Pacman, Smoking Joe, Baukaw et al. But for me the personification explosive attack is Tyson and this video still gets me high…
I know it is Tyson but the explosive flat out attacking is not exclusive to him or to the few fighters mentioned above, there are many more I could add. My beef is that MMA in particular, but boxing and other combat sports too, are all too easily dismissed by self defence experts. The ferocity of Tyson and his ilk is something that will get you through many an encounter outside of your self defence classes. I’ve written previously on how I’ve been shown to get a handle on the explosive attacking of Tyson.
This post has dragged on a little but my point is that self defence classes and combat sports like MMA share more than certain techniques. There is a lot to be taken from these sports which can be used effectively in self defence classes, and explosive attacking is one of these. The Harris post is good but is spoiled by the implicit assumption that self defence and MMA share nothing!
In the last post about rape defence I spoke about the need to ensure that the training of defence techniques involved a ‘live’ element. This is absolutely key and can be forgotten in these classes. Often the emphasis is on getting the hang of some kind of wrist lock or something else relatively easy but which misses the point. The point being that it might just no work in the real world!
Womens Self Defence
A good few years ago a now ex-girlfriend started attending some women’s self defence classes held by a Muay Thai instructor. The class invovled a few techniques which were practised but also had a rather interesting ‘live’ section at the end. This involved the instructor getting dressed up in armour and letting them beat him up. Excellent stuff. She said it was great fun and he didn’t get hurt.
From my experience of women only classes there does tend to be a bit of ‘messing around’. That’s not to say that all women are hopeless at martial arts, far from it, I have some excellent ladies in my club and have met many others elsewhere. Rather in the setting of a ladies only martial arts class there can be a fair amount of daftness. I’m ok with this so long as there is some good training going on.
I myself have allowed women at these classes to go flat out at me with boxing gloves on, the trouble being that it can be difficult for people to get over the hurdle of hurting someone. Or more precisely, potentially hurting someone. I like to think that I could manage to cover most of the blows from attendees of these classes but if I had full armour on they would probably have been more comfortable in trying to hit me properly. As an aside the women in my classes tend to quite enjoy hitting me!
In terms of effective rape defence and any general self defence for women, or men for that matter, the ‘live’ part has to be included. Dressing up in armour and letting the beginner kick the sh*t out of you is a reasonable way to overcome the social barrier of hitting someone. Of course, this is only a starting point but at least it is a starting point.
My ex-girlfriend was actually able to use some of the techniques she had learned when being affronted in a lift (elevator) by her boss. He was a particularly slimey toad and she was able to get him off her and provide him with the benefit of kneeing him in the genitals. She said he was quite shocked!
Something that we did at home was for me to try to take her jeans off while she fought me. This was a great little drill and really got her to ‘fight for her life’. While not suitable for your average dojo the essence of the drill could be adopted, perhaps the goal could be to remove the victims belt or something while fighting the attacker off and geting to her feet. Something like that would add a little meat to the bones of a womens self defence class.
While actually learning some self defence techniques is useful ensuring that there is some training time dedicated to developing the ‘fight for your life’ temperament is essential testing skills ‘live’ is key to this. For rape defence tactics and techniques to have a chance of being applied to a real situation ‘live’ should be included and is essential for both female self defence and regular martial arts training.
The first freeze-fight-flight post described the physiological events triggered when threat or danger is perceived by humans. This post continues with the theme that the response is an essential part of evolutionary survival. We can think of the stress response as being responsible for surviving external threat, while the immune system counters internal threat.
All charges against Omari Roberts dropped
In both cases the objective is to protect the system from threat by rearranging resources as appropriate. While an internal threat may trigger a withdrawal response when not feeling well, the external threat of a predator spied in the distance may evoke a freeze response, as movement is easier to detect in peripheral vision. Whatever, the desired outcome is survival of the system.
In terms of self-defence the stress response plays a key role. If attacked it renders us better prepared to respond as intended by evolution, with enhanced strength, speed or power. Undoubtedly, for Omari Roberts, returning home for lunch only to find burglars in his mums house, the stress response kicked in, he fought for his life and managed to survive. He went with nature.
In society there can be a mismatch between the drive for survival and the Law, which only allows the rather ambiguous reasonable force. If Roberts had worried about the consequences of overstepping reasonable force he may not have survived the attack. As it was one of the bad guys died in the struggle and eventually, Roberts was arrested and charged with murder and assault. The case was withdrawn before the trial commenced.
Ground and Pound
In another recent case Munir Hussein and his brother ended up chasing and beating a burglar who had held the family hostage while ransacking their house. Clearly, evolution does not account for reasonable force, just survival. In anyone’s book the severe beating the brothers gave the burglar was NOT self-defence, nor simply survival for that matter. In this instance going with nature led to prison for Hussein as he went too primitive for societies liking, well the Judiciary ‘s liking anyway.
It seems that the whole thing can fall apart when a situation does not work out quite in line with evolution. If a person finds him/herself in a threatening situation it may not be appropriate to fight in the first instance, there are occasions whereby doing so would land the person in court, see above. Flight, although not always possible, would hopefully result in survival. This option might well achieve survival at the expense of the ego which is a small price to pay. The consequences of an inappropriate freeze response could be much worse. There’s an almost limitless list of situations that could trigger an suboptimal freeze, fight or flight response, not least faulty appraisal of a dangerous or threatening situation or tactics from an experienced, ruthless attacker to name two.
Previous experience of surviving situations that cause the stress response to kick in is to the external survival system what surviving illness is to the internal survival (immune) system. For example, an experienced police officer is more likely to successfully deal with a violent confrontation than a receptionist, while a fireman is likely to deal with a fire disaster better than a librarian. If similar useful life experience has not been gleaned it is essential for a martial artist to build the equivalent into their training. Otherwise years of training could be rendered useless by the incompatibility of evolutions survival system with the foibles of modern society. The consequences of this could be dire.
I can clearly remember the outrage around the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, in 1993, and subsequent attempts to bring the perpetrators to justice. Today I heard the testimony of Stephen’s friend Duwayne Brooks on radio five live. It was read out by the court reporter as yet another trial has just begun this week. The wikipedia account of the death of Stephen Lawrence gives a clear synopsis of events surrounding the case to date. It’s a terrible state of affairs that the case has taken so mnay years to get to the stage where evidence from eye witnesses has been heard by the jury, but that is not the point of the post.
Putting aside the outrage of the murder and the killers still not being taken to account there are two issues concerning this case that are pertinent to self defence. Firstly, if ever there is a case for awareness and avoidance being an essential part of self defence this was it, I’m not certain Stephen Lawrence and Duwayne Brooks could have avoided the trouble that night but it remains a possibility if they had a greater knowledge of these aspects of self defence training. Secondly, I found the testimony of Brooks as recounted on the radio extremely upsetting and noticed a number of emotions raging through me, ranging from disgust, despair, sympathy to revenge and hate toward the perpetrators. This is pretty natural but reminded me that the job of the Judiciary is to keep to the letter of the Law and to not be swayed by emotive responses. This is critical but far from perfect. Continue reading →
This is the first of two posts that describe the wonders of the human response to stress. Many people in martial arts refer to the stress response (or freeze, fight or flight) in a pretty negative manner. ‘Adrenaline dump’ is a term used to highlight a detrimental natural phenomenon that needs to be overcome during a self-defence situation. In fact, the stress response involves a complex integration of the body’s systems involving a powerful mix of neural and hormonal factors, preparing the system for survival.
Originally coined by Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon “fight-or-flight” response, later extended to include freeze, describes the body’s automatic response to perceived threat or danger. A product of evolution this in-built safety mechanism is designed to protect not harm us. For the caveman, threats were best dealt with by freezing, when movement could alert the threat to his presence, by fighting if the odds were in his favour, but if not by fleeing.
For instance, when a caveman’s BBQ bison was on the go and a nearby monolithic bear smelt it, wanted it and came charging into the party uninvited, it’s a fair assumption that running away was the best option. If your survival mechanism wasn’t up to scratch you were bear food. Survival of the fittest ensured the stress response evolved to the marvel that it is. Unfortunately, in today’s society where bear threat is low, social stress and the freeze, fight or flight response are not compatible. Chronic social stress is a killer but acute stress in the form of danger from a potential attacker or impending disaster is not only valid but also highly valuable.
The stress response gives us the strength, power and speed to avoid physical harm to ourselves or significant others when we perceive danger. The sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (the part responsible for subconscious body maintenance) initiates the fight-or-flight response, while the parasympathetic branch returns the body to homeostasis, calming us down and bringing everything back to normal in both emotional and physiological terms.
We perceive threat or danger, real or imagined and the sympathetic nervous system sets off a flood of emotional and physiological activity which enables us to increase power, speed and strength as required. The amygdala ‘sounds the alarm’ and the hypothalamus notifies all the other systems in the body via the nervous system, while instructing the endocrine system to begin the secretion of powerful hormones, mainly adrenaline and cortisol. These flood into the bloodstream and activate cells to aid the preparation to freeze, fight or flight.
This internal activity results in many complex changes with the purpose to divert resources from unnecessary functions to systems vital in the process of increasing speed, power and strength. These changes include increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, brain activity and blood flow being redirected to the muscles (vascular shunt) while digestion, the immune system and the reproductive system for example are switched off. We are hardwired to resist threat and be able to protect ourselves from danger. This system is poetry in motion, the stress response is a powerful, useful process which kicks in as reliably as flicking a switch once danger is perceived.
On Facebook, (again!) this great example of one man overcoming several in a real life incident was found (thanks Steve). Although the actual incident seems to be a little dodgy, the bloke attacked may very well have been in the wrong, it is a great example of getting out of a potentially difficult situation intact.
Give the video player a chance it is a little slow to buffer and the sound is way too loud!
Self Defence Moves for Multiple Attackers
The bloke attacked here is able to demonstrate that a mixture of throws, punches and kicks are all valid self defence moves, particularly if coupled to great movement. It looks a bit grim for him when he is taken from the car, however, he manages to gain space and fight on the move. In the Fighting Multiple Opponents post I explained the use of Darren Laur’s SCAR principle – screening, cracking and redirecting – all of which this victim manages to employ to find space and range to strike and throw, on the move.
The victim clearly has some martial arts experience and blends the striking and throwing very well. The throws are set up or applied as the situation dictates in a very fluid manner and he is never tempted to follow the attacker to the floor. He doesn’t want to end up on the floor with one attacker thereby allowing the others to kick his head in.
MMA and ground fighting for self defence?
That’s obvious of course but sometimes there is the assumption that throwers or ground-fighters ALWAYS want to go to ground. This is something I disagree with in the video, as can be in the cage, fluid transition between strikes and throws is successful. The experience of fighting in the cage provides more useful experience than not, so long as the difference between the cage and a real street fight is realised. This is particularly important when fighting multiple attackers.
In this instance the victim comfortably managed to deal with all three opponents and despite clearly having a lot of throwing experience was able to resist the urge to go to ground and once successful left the scene sharpish. Fair play!
There are several more posts on how to fight multiple attackers on Epic Martial Arts Blog take a look at these by clicking here.
This post builds on the recent multiple attackers series of posts with further real life and training video’s. Not all of these examples are as good as those in th original series, although lessons can be taken from these, both good and bad.
The skill level of the protagonists in this video are much more comparable than in the Turkish video in the first multiple attackers post. The attackers in this incident manage to jump on the victim while he is on the floor, although they fail to cause him much damage. Once again the single victim is constantly moving, faces his opponents and strikes on the move. He gets in trouble when they catch him after a stumble but he manages to escape.
As in the Turkish video the skill level of the single fighter is beyond that of his attackers. The single fighter is a skater who really takes the fight to the opponents with good use of aggression, moves well and switches between his opponents, enabling many one-on-one instances.
In all of the video examples (including the Turkish clip) there is plenty of space for movement, the out-numbered fighter generally has a higher skill level which helps him ‘win’ (survive) by using the indicated tactics. In confined areas the tactics would have to change.
The best video example of multiple attacker training I have found is that which I used in the third multiple attackers post, which highlights excellent footwork combined with deflections and striking at a pretty useful level.
Sub-optimal Multiples Training
There now follow two substandard examples of supposed multiple opponent training; these are pretty typical of two major errors.
This video shows someone performing regular knee strikes on two people holding kick shields. There is no attempt to simulate the movement required or attacking or defending movement required in a real situation. Sure the drill is physically demanding but it is not representative of any of the skills on show in the real life video’s.
This video is demonstration style multiple attacker re-enactment. This has very little value with absolutelty no attempt by the attackers to attack except in turn. Choreographed rubbish with inappropriate strikes from the lone fighter. Very limited value other than as an example of a lot of what is available but useless. Avoiding useless training methods is recommended!
WARNING – Using the recommended training tips in this and the multiple opponent series will NOT make you invincible in a multiple attackers situation. These are only intended as a starting point. It is strongly recommended that you avoid confrontations in general but especially so against multiple opponents.
One gritty reality of self defence for women is to avoid being sexually assaulted or raped. Rape related stats paint a pretty horrible picture, although it is not easy to get accurate figures. While rape is something that no woman should ever have to endure at least some knowledge of rape defence should, unfortunately, be learned.
Awareness and Avoidance
The area’s of self defence, for women and men, dedicated to awareness and avoidance are crucial in rape prevention. Avoiding the short cut home through a potentially dangerous area is an obvious better choice. Another contemporary issue concerns the use of Ipod and similar devices. These render you ‘deaf’ to the approach of a potential attacker. The moment or two advantage hearing an approach could provide may be critical to survival. Taking the measure to simply avoid listening to music while walking home is easily adopted and could save your life, you be less of an easy target.
Rape defence techniques
Awareness and avoidance aside, the issue of training against attack has many pitfalls not least training in a manner somewhat resembling what might actually happen. There are the mechanics of the response to learn and then the practising of these responses in a realistic manner. The following video presents a reasonable response to a situation but is little more than a perfunctory description of the mechanics of the techniques.
We could discuss the ins and outs of the technique employed, there are some issues, but the teacher provides some reasonable tactics to help the victim escape. Stop punches coming in, brutally attack vulnerable areas, improve the position, attack and escape. While he suggests practising the response there is no provision or indication of a need to practise this in a ‘live’ manner. Anyone with any training experience knows that learning the mechanics is one thing but applying them in a ‘live’ exchange is quite another.
Far too often the assumption that responses or techniques will transfer directly to a real situation is made. There is no consideration of how the reality will affect the person involved. There now follows a video from a French film called Irreversible, this is the rape scene. It is extremely harrowing but highlights several important issues concerning the reality of rape.
This video is not for anyone easily offended, if that is you DO NOT watch. The scene shows a woman being raped, it is DISTURBING, HARROWING and REALISTIC
Horrible, but has merit in that it illustrates the following
making noise may not work
you cannot rely on passers by to intervene
half-hearted defence is insufficient
The overriding point for me though is the psychological dominance of the attacker, particularly once the knife is out he easily bullies her into almost complete submission. Any self-defence training must address the fact that you, as victim, may feel dominated. Practising ‘live’ can help to alleviate this problem, although it does depend on how ‘live’ is trained. More on that in a later post.
There are moral and philosophical issues concerning this subject which I will not cover here, suffice to say that if the worst does come to the worst rape defence should be covered in any self defence for women classes which simply HAS to include some method of training going way beyond the simple mechanics of a response.
A critical quality of a true champion is the ability to keep fighting when the going gets tough. This never say die attitude will get the champion out of seemingly impossible situations to claim the win. There’s nothing more exciting to watch than a dramatic comeback from the (apparently) dead. If a comeback happens quickly then it is all the more dramatic and all the more exciting. On the other hand a comeback at the end of a long hard beating is pretty hard to beat.
Never Give Up In The Boxing Ring
In boxing there are numerous examples but one that stands out for me is the tragic, brutal fight between Nigel Benn and Gerald McLellan that I have written about before (see the video here). In 1995, Benn was underdog with McLellan widely tipped to be too much for the older fighter. It was nearly over in the first round, with Benn knocked down in the first minute and suffering a broken jaw. He went on to win in the tenth on the back of a mighty beating. It was never one way, Benn returned many vicious punches but spent a lot of time hanging on. He never gave up and eventually came from behind to win, the drama of the fight is brilliantly captured in this archived write up of the fight in the guardian. Of course there are others, if you have a favourite why not mention it in the comments?
Never Say Die In MMA
There have been plenty of comebacks in MMA, the format of competition is conducive of these. There are just so many ways to win, with submissions and ground and pound adding so much more finishing potential. The old Pride format was more brutal than the current UFC version of MMA and who can forget Fedor overcoming the Japanese fighter Fujita while doing his chicken dance or surviving the vicious suplex from Randleman before winning both by submission.
In the UK there was a great fight at BAMMA 7 in Birmingham, when a pummelled Jack Marshman was able to dig deep and beat the fatigued Carl Noon. It was a great fight and really showed the fighting spirit of the youngster. Of course the ref has to be senisble enough to keep a fight going, often in the UFC fights seem to be stopped early. An early stoppage prevents comebacks and, for me, is why Big Nog has not made the impact he might have in the UFC, certainly early on. Dan Miragliotta must have come close to stopping the fight between Cheick Kongo and Pat Barry in a recent UFC Live event. Kongo was almost knicked out twice but managed to rally and KO his opponent in the first round. Over-cautious reffing would have denied us and Kongo of his spectacular comeback.
These are all good but for me the way Anderson Silva managed to pull out a triangle submission against Chael Sonnen after being completely dominated for five rounds was fantastic. A true Champion and great fighter, Silva usually wins fairly comfortably and sometimes is accused of taking it all too easy. Against Sonnen he was put on his back and dominated, this time it wasn’t easy but he found a way to win when it did not look likely, in the slightest.
Never Give Up in BJJ
I don’t watch BJJ matches much but this is another arena where never giving up is critical. The video below was put up on Facebook (thanks Soph) and is a great example of fighting spirit. White is dominated throughout by Blue but manages to wriggle out of submission attempts one after another, she is clearly losing on points. But while she survives there’s hope and eventually she gets to submit her opponent. It’s a brilliant comeback and deserved
Fall Seven times, stand up Eight
Of course, returning better equipped after defeat is another admirable quality that great champions have and is a form of never giving up. The great Ali completely reinvented his style and managed to avenge three of his five losses, the final losses were at the very end of his career. Others have managed similar feats but for me the greatest return from defeat, certainly in UFC history belongs to GSP. Not only did he get revenge for his surprise loss to Matt Sera, it was a comfortable revenge too, but since then he has not looked back. He often says the loss motivated him to prepare fully for fights.