I come across this video below from a Facebook friend. It is from the woman’s self protection perspective. One of the main things that I liked about it is that it makes the point that self defence is a primal instinct, which we all have the capacity for.
When severely threatened we can all resort to the most primitive and basic animal instincts, which is savage, brutal and barbaric. Civilisation has taught us to control such instincts. In many cases it even teaches us to bury them completely. This is especially true of women, where they are encouraged to be feminine (which is considered exactly the opposite of getting down and dirty and in a fight).
Things have improved over the years. As a kid I remember that the role of a woman in an action film was to get into trouble, scream lots and be rescued by the male hero. Nowadays women are portrayed as far more capable and independent . . . . . . . and rightly so.
Women in martial arts used to be a tiny minority. They still are in the minority, but they make up a bigger percentage today then when I first started back in the late 70’s. Although perceptions have changed and many prejudices have been overcome (still more to go), many women still have this cultural conditioning which bury their primal instincts.
Some years ago, I helped a friend, Wayne Badbury (from Kamon Wing Chun) doing a self protection course for women. I was one of the stooges to be hit. I had a kind of crash helmet, cricket shin pads and body armour. It was like an early primitive version of the FAST Defence. I had to provoke the women into an emotional response and then be hit. I have to say that I was quite amazed at how hard some of these women hit when actually emotionally aroused (with fear). I would not have liked to be hit like that without the protection and most men would not have been able to withstand it for long.
I hope I don’t offend anybody here, but these women in the emotional state hit harder and were more scary than a lot of female martial artists that I’ve trained with. Most times that I’ve sparred with women, I’ve felt obliged to tone it down a bit (masculine cultural programming). I will say that this is not always the case. I remember once trying out a new club and being partnered to fight a female 3rd Dan. I thought “OK, take it easy”, but the second we started she jumped in and hit me reverse punch. “OK”, I thought, “I’ll go up a gear”.
Now some people may think that I’m sexist, but that same lady 3rd Dan later admitted that she too had to tone it down with most other women. Now don’t get me wrong, I not suggesting that the guys should be laying into the women and knocking them about, far from it. What I am suggesting is that if women can overlook some of their social conditioning, they’ll find they are much tougher then they think they are and are much more capable of physically fighting of an attacker then they think they are.
One of the most primal functions of a woman’s body is child birth. Most men could not take that level of pain, yet many women do it over and over again. Women have far more depths and capacity then most men give them credit for. For that matter, they have far more depth and capacity then most women give themselves credit for. Having the will to fight back (if necessary) does not detract from feminism (as some social conditioning may have women believe). In fact many men actually have more respect for and are more attracted to a strong willed & spirited woman.
Ironically, many women would without hesitation fight to the death to protect their child, but not for themselves. Don’t let social conditioning set you up to be a victim.
Louis Thompson is the son of martial arts pioneer, author and modern day legend, Geoff Thompson. As such he has had the unique opportunity to grow up practicing reality based martial arts with the very best instructors in the world from a very early age. As an adult, Louis has often assisted his father teaching at many seminars.
Now Louis is set to branch out and teach independently. Although still quite young, he has a wealth of knowledge and experience beyond his years as he has had a start in martial arts that most of us could only dream about.
I’ve been lucky enough to secure an interview with Louis and I believe that I am among the first to do so. Without any more ado, here is that interview below and I hope you find it as interesting as I have:
CW: Hi Louis and thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me. Obviously you have grown up with martial arts in your blood. Your father would have been a big influence (as he has influenced the whole martial arts world). However, apart from your father, who else were the main influences on your martial arts development and in which ways did they influence you?
LT: I try to take my influences from everywhere, not just martial arts. If I see someone who is highly successful in their field then I will take the same method that they used and apply it to my training. That is how my immersion training idea came about. I noticed that if people wanted to learn a language or skill quickly, if they completely immersed themselves then the gains were massive. I just make whatever I am doing a massive part of my life and that is how I get ahead of the game.
As for people who have influenced me there are many. Obviously my dad has had a huge effect on the way I view the world especially in martial arts. I feel like he has sifted through a lot of things arts and techniques and taken the essence and passed that onto me. Now it’s for me to go and find out of those things what works for me. I have been around Peter Consterdine since I was a child and I have massive respect for him. He has such a wealth of experience in so many different areas and he is someone I really would like to be around more. Obviously all of my dads students (Lea and Matty Evans, Tony Somers, Al Peasland, Justin Grey) have all played a massive part in my MA education. My first and probably favourite art is Judo. For me it is the missing link in this new MMA culture we have and I find that it is dismissed far too quickly. Within Judo people like Neil Adams and Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki are such amazing players and it would be an honor if I could ever get on the mat with them.
CW: Reality based training obviously involves a lot shouting and swearing at each other to de-sensitise yourself to that kind of raw aggression. When growing up, did it seem strange acting out these aggressive scenarios with your own father?
LT: I have been around the shouting and swearing so much that it is a very normal part of my training. I try to treat it like a drill. It is such a great tool that you have to include it in your training. In essence what you are doing is acting. You access the base energy in you and project that as pure aggression. For me doing this with my dad is no different to hitting the pads or practicing throws. It’s just a part of what we do.
CW: Do you practice traditional martial arts alongside your reality based training? If so, which ones?
LT: As I said Judo was probably my first real ‘art’. I love it and think it is massively underrated. I have also trained in western boxing as well as various forms of wrestling. My main focus is reality based self defence and taking from the arts the techniques I can apply to that. I am constantly looking for new things to learn and new techniques to drill.
CW: Having a famous father has some obvious advantages in getting started in the martial arts field, but do you sometimes feel that it is a double edged sword? Do you feel that you have a lot to live up to and that people will always judge you as “Geoff Thompson’s son” rather than as your own person?
LT: My dad has set the bar high but for me that is great. It gives me something to work towards. Hopefully I can prove myself in my own right and people will respect what I do as an individual. Ultimately I am teaching what my dad has taught and it means a massive amount to me what he thinks of what I am doing. I think the only person I have to prove anything to is him. As long as he is happy with how I am teaching then what the rest of the world says is irrelevant. There will be lots of people out there who have and will continue to criticize what my dad has done and I have seen small pockets of that. People who feel that way will no doubt always view me as Geoff Thompson’s son but it is a label I am grateful to have.
CW: What do you feel are your own unique strengths and talents to offer which are specific to you as a martial artist?
LT: I can only really offer people my experiences. I can’t claim to have been in hundreds of fights or worked the door for 10 years but I can certainly say I have had world class instruction for my whole life. When people go to train with anyone they go to get their experiences. I am the only person in the world that can offer my experience and deliver it in my style. When it comes to the Real Combat System or The fence and pre-emption I have lived and breathed that for 20 years. I know how it should be taught and I know the theory behind it and if I am ever unsure I have the creator at the end of the phone. I am in a unique position and I am very excited about teaching people everything I can and learning lots in the process.
CW: I see that you are running special courses. Can you tell us a bit about those courses? Is this the only way that you teach or do you run a club as well?
LT: My 6 week course focuses on all aspects of self defence right from becoming more aware to being able to hit very hard. My favourite way to teach is through immersion training. 4 hours of intense tuition focusing on whatever area the student wants. I have been doing a lot of this recently and the gains people get are tremendous. I don’t have a class as yet but it is something I am organising very soon.
CW: What kind of response have you had? Have your courses been filled up?
LT: I have had a great response so far and people seem to be getting lots from it. I tend to keep the groups small so I can make sure that the progress is good and identify and address specific needs with people.
CW: On your website you mention that you strive to improve your skills in all areas, both physically and spiritually. Can you tell us what your spiritual beliefs are and how they affect both your training and you daily life?
LT: I am a great believer in the fact that I create my own reality. I have created amazing things and also watched them crash down all because of the way I think. Meditation is something I am trying to do more and more. For me it is far more difficult than any physical training. My mind is incredibly active and I find it really difficult to keep it centred. Ultimately I am looking to be congruent which is really difficult at times.
CW: Do you believe (as I do) that developing some kind of spirituality is important to all developing martial artists?
LT: I think developing some kind of spirituality is important to all aspects of life although I am not sure that spirituality is the right word. It seems to scare people. The masses hear spirituality and assume religion but it’s not really the case. At a basic level they are all the same thing. I think it’s important to develop integrity and congruence because if you don’t have that then things will come crashing down at some point.
CW: Having learnt directly from some of the Worlds very best martial arts instructors, do you feel that their message is properly understood by the wider martial arts community, or does that message get a bit diluted and confused along the way?
LT: If you are looking at what my dad has developed then I would say it is massively distorted by the wider MA community. You only have to type the fence in to YouTube to see people doing it wrong. I think people take it away and try to make it work within the realms of their own art and that really isn’t possible. I have seen people using the fence and then teaching blocks and counters of trapping from the fence but when you start doing that you destroy the main message which is pre-emption. People misunderstand and then pass that on to their students and the wrong message starts to spread.
CW: What advice would you give to traditional martial artists who realise that their training has become either sport orientated or stylized, to make their training more effective for the street?
LT: I would say look at what is available to you in a real situation and when I say that I mean what is very easily available. What will guarantee you results. Look at the range you have. It’s is real difficult to let go of your art and see that all you really need is one really good punch and the ability to strike first and you will be leagues ahead of anyone. The key to effective self defence is always pre-emption. The only way to really remove a true threat is by KO. Use the fence to maintain the distance. If they try to close the distance and you feel there is a genuine threat then strike the jaw which will cause a KO.
CW: Sometimes traditional martial artist feel that they only want to train in their own system and don’t want to “confuse” themselves training outside their style. I personally find that training outside my style often helps me to understand elements of my main style better. However, as most of the readers of my website are traditional martial artists (mainly Karate, Teakwondo, Kung Fu); what do you feel your courses have to offer to a die-hard traditional martial artist?
LT: I think people who feel that training outside their art will confuse them don’t really understand their art. When you look at all the different arts they all have very similar elements that are styled in different ways. All I can offer people is the opportunity to get excited about educating themselves with new and interesting techniques and show them that by making all the techniques from all the arts interchangeable you can make something that is overall stringer and more durable.
CW: On your website shop you recommend/sell a number of DVD’s and books. Do you plan to produce any such products yourself in the future?
LT: I am building up slowly but surely and although I have no plans to create my own products yet I am sure it is something that will come up at some point. When you want to get your message out to a wider audience it is a necessity.
CW: What are your plans to for the future and how do you plan to continue developing as a martial artist?
LT: I am taking each day as it comes. I have achieved a lot of goals in a short space of time so I think this is a great time to make sure that they can all sustain themselves. I want to keep growing Louis Thompson SD as a brand and a company and try to get my message on a global level. I have my own SD/MA studio which is a lovely space and I am getting more and more students as time goes on. To develop as a martial artist I just look at training privately with as many great people as possible. I will continue to train and teach with my dad and just continue to push myself as an individual and hopefully that will translate in what I teach.
CW: Louis, thank you for doing this interview for BunkaiJutsu.com. On behalf of myself and the readers, I would like to wish you every success in your career and we hope that we’ll all be hearing more from you in the future.
I found this video on Steve Rowe’s Facebook page. It’s by Pragmatic Martial Arts and I think its really good how it uses humour to make some very good points. So I thought I’d share it with you.
Russell Stutely is recognised as Europe’s number one expert in pressure points and famous throughout the world for his innovative teachings, which have moved the boundaries of the martial arts and added new dimensions for all of us. His system can be applied to any martial art, so you don’t need to change style to incorporate his teachings. He has studied very deeply how to use pressure point fighting in high pressure scenarios, so that they will work when we really need them.
Russell has kindly agreed to do an interview with me which you’ll find below. But before you go on to the interview, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Russell Stutely for taking the time to answer my questions and share some if his insights with us.
But first, here’s a little clip of Russell in action:
CW: Russell, can you tell us a bit about your early background in martial arts, what inspired you to start and what style(s) did you practice in your early days?
RS: Like many people, I started Karate because my older Brother went to Class.. he stopped and I carried on. I started in Shukokai… stopped for a while and then started again in Shotokan
CW: When you decided that you wanted to develop beyond the usual traditional martial arts (as taught in the West), who did you seek you seek out to teach and take you to the next level?
RS: It was after watching “way of the warrior” that I knew there was more out there. I tried to study with all the experts and masters… but it was only when I met Rick Moneymaker and Tom Muncy that it all started to make sense
CW: You obviously have an in-depth knowledge of all the pressure point (or some might say acupuncture points). Do you also have a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine (or something similar)? If so, to what extent has this helped you in your martial arts studies?
RS: No background.. just learnt it as I went along
CW: I’m a great believer that whilst you should learn as much as you can from others, experienced martial artists should also be able to work out a lot of applications for themselves rather than waiting for others to teach them every single aspect of their art. To what extent have you taken the knowledge that you have and worked out the rest for yourself?
RS: I have no idea to what extent that has been done… Only when you begin to understand what you are doing, do you “sometimes” realise how much you don’t know!
As regards working out stuff.. we do that every day…as for applications.. I have no idea how many I know as the only limit is your imagination and the depth of knowledge that you have.
I sometimes can give a whole seminar on one move from one Kata and show a different application every 5-10 mins for hours on end. It depends on how deep you want to go
CW: Although you are primarily known as a pressure point expert, you include a number of other aspects which you refer to as “players in the game”. Can you please explain what these are?
RS: Technique enhancers.. the underlying principles upon which a technique is based.
CW: There are other big names in the pressure point business (like Rick Clark, George Dillman and others). Can you explain how your approach is different from the way the other experts teach?
RS: I am more interested in making the Points work when the proverbial hits the fan. That means that PP’s are the last 5% of any given technique… some people find that a hard concept to grasp for some reason.
CW: I’ve always believed that the ideal time to use pressure point strikes is during the pre fight build up, when you know that things are about to take off and you decided that your best option is a pre-emptive strike. If the guy is “peacocking” rather than taking up a fighting stance he leaves himself more open and vulnerable. Would you agree with this?
RS: Only hit if you have to.. but yes of course.. a pre-emptive strike has to be the preferred option if there is no other way out.
CW: Many people argue that pressure point fighting is not really viable in an all out fight as a high degree of accuracy is required to hit a small target when it is moving and you are under great pressure too. How would you answer this?
RS: They are doing it wrong are mis-informed about how and why Points work or have no real experience of Points other than with the wrong teacher.
Accuracy is VERY IMPORTANT and it is one area that many so called Self Defense “experts” purport to not need in a fight or is impossible to use… absolute rubbish. THEY may not use it.. aim small miss small. Accuracy is what you build up in training. Hit what you are aiming at and the rest kinda falls into place.
CW: Have you had much feedback from people who have actually had to use what you’ve taught them in a real live situation?
RS: Yes.. every day nearly from Cops / Security etc all over the World
CW: I’ve read a comment by you ages ago that some people, having experienced the “waveform” and felt how much more power they can generate; then go back to their own clubs and just go back to the way they were doing it before. How easy is it to absorb your teachings (players) into a traditional martial art?
(The reason I ask is that if somebody returning from one of your courses tries to do it in their own club and it is obviously different from what their regular instructor is teaching, they may be told not to do it that way).
RS: The reasons they went back to what they were doing previously are
Instructor said do it my way or leave
They were embarrassed to tell their students that they need to change
They were embarrassed at the fact they had been training 20 years and hit at X Power.. then in 60 Mins we got them to 2X Power… bit difficult for some people to take!
CW: You must have seen very many people progress and take great leaps forward due to your teachings. Is there anybody who you are especially proud of for the progress that they have made?
RS: All of our OCFM Coaches.. and lots of people who have trained with us over the years. Especially the Cops in MA and the DT Trainers there.. outstanding people with outstanding ability
CW: Putting fighting applications aside for a moment, how do you feel that your training/teaching has helped you to develop as a person (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, intellectually)?
RS: You have to develop in those areas when you study and teach
CW: Do you feel that anybody (as long as they train hard) can develop their personal characteristics (in the way that you have) as well?
RS: I don’t know if anyone wants to develop my personal characteristics 🙂 But anyone can develop to whatever their potential if they work hard enough. That is what we try to help them to do.
CW: Many people teach martial arts as their main source of income (or even just to pay a few bills). As you have been very successful, do you have any advice to give to help people build up their martial arts business?
RS: Just follow sound business practice. Don’t take that stupid attitude of “I teach for nothing” and the holier than thou attitude of the “knockers” out there. The MOMENT you accept money you are in business. You MUST treat your students like CUSTOMERS. Give them the BEST POSSIBLE service at a good price.
That is what we do with our OCFM Schools.. we do all the marketing etc for our owners.. they just teach.. and give the best class ever each and every class.
There is so much to running a School.. but we have the answers if people want them
CW: Finally, for anybody new to your teachings/philosophy and who may not be able to make a seminar, you have a lot of DVD’s/Downloads for them to chose from. However, it could be a bit confusing (especially with the different players). Which of your products would you recommend to somebody looking at your products for the very first time and getting confused as to where to start?
RS: Start at the recommended order listing at my store.. follow it in sequence for the quickest and best results. www.russellstutely.com/ashop
CW: Russell, on behalf of myself and my readers, thank very much for giving us the benefit of your insights.
A little while ago I posted about a recent kata course hosted by my own Sensei, Paul Mitchell, 4th Dan. Well they’ve had a re-organisation of their Youtube channel and the Youtube link in that posting is now showing as “this video has been removed by user”. However, they’ve put some more up which are well worth watching, so here they are below.
They are all bunkai taken from the kata Gojushiho Sho.
If anybody is interested in attending a future kata course with Sensei Paul Mitchell (highly recommended), then you can either visit his website from time to time and check the “courses” page on that website.
I will also promote these courses, so you can either join my newsletter to be notified or go to the BunkaiJutsu Facebook page and “like” it to receive updates via Facebook.
I am a big admirer of Geoff Thompson. He has done a lot to promote the cause of reality training and is very much into keeping it real. His training methods are often as much about how to avoid getting into a fight (not taught in many martial arts) as has how to actually conduct the fight itself. Traditional martial arts generally teach you how to win in a fair fight. But that’s the problem, most fights aren’t fair. Sometimes you could be outnumbered, your assailant(s) could have a weapon and they often start from right up in your face without warning (rather than bowing first from a safe distance before gradually moving in).
So assuming that you’ve done all the avoidance techniques and the guy is still coming in and it is clear that the conflict is going to become physical, what is universally the best tactic to use?
Note, I said tactic, not technique.
In the words of Geoff Thompson himself:
“And if an encounter does by necessity become physical I teach and I preach the pre-emptive strike (attacking first). It is the only thing that works consistently. All the other stuff that you see, that you are taught or that you imagine might work ‘out there’ probably will not”.
“If your choice is a physical response, my advice is to be pre-emptive and strike first – very hard – preferably on the jaw (it’s a direct link to the brain”.
In the Karate world in particular, people used to quote Funakoshi when he famously said:
“In Karate, there is no first strike”.
This has been taken to mean that we have to actually wait for an attacker to throw the first strike and then try and block and counter it. This is a dangerous game to play. Geoff is spot when he describes this as:
“not only unsound it is dangerous and extremely naive”.
It’s not so bad when you are in a competition and your opponent is just out of range, then suddenly tries to attack (usually whilst still maintaining full leg or arm range). But in a street where somebody may be right up in your face, nose to nose, screaming obscenities at you, its not so good. Also, in a street fight an attacker is likely to grab you and pull you around or off balance (a tactic that is banned in Karate, TKD, Kickboxing and some others sport fighting systems).
So why would Funakoshi give advice that would leave his students in a vulnerable position? Well it is widely accepted by many now that something has been lost in the translation and what Funakoshi really meant was, that you don’t instigate or look for the fight. However, when in a situation when physical threat is unavoidable and you cannot get away, Funakoshi wrote in his book, Karate Do Kyohan:
“When there are no avenues of escape or one is caught even before any attempt to escape can be made, then for the first time the use of self-defense techniques should be considered. Even at times like these, do not show any intention of attacking, but first let the attacker become careless. At that time attack him concentrating one’s whole strength in one blow to a vital point and in the moment of surprise, escape, seek shelter, and seek help.”
Funikoshi is clearly talking about a pre-emptive strike. He recommends that you strike a “vital point” which is not so different from Geoff Thompson recommending that you strike the jaw as it has a direct link to the brain. He was trained for reality, not competition. This is the part that has been overlooked in the way that so many people have trained for a number of decades. I believe that this is largely because Karate has been dumbed down (see my 5 part video course if you haven’t already) and the fact that for such a long time Karate has been interpreted through the eyes of competition fighters.
Geoff Thompson and the other modern reality based martial arts teachers are not the first ones to train this way. Clearly the old Okinawan masters did too. However, after decades of being dumbed down for social and political reasons, Geoff and the other masters of reality based training have helped to bring the “lost” elements to help us make our training more complete.
Some people will (quite reasonably) have a concerns about the legalities of using a pre-emptive strike. Firstly, as you can never be sure how far an attacker will go, it is best to make that you are still around to deal with the legalities. No point being killed for the sake of worrying about going to court.
Secondly, in the UK at least (and I suspect most other countries), if you feel that you are in a real danger of being harmed by a would-be attacker, you are legally entitled to use a pre-emptive strike. I don’t know about other countries, but this is a defence that will stand in a British court. However, you will have to give good reason why you thought that you were in very real and very imminent danger. Somebody giving you a dodgy look will not be accepted.
Kevin O’Hagan is an internationally renowned martial artist who I’ve mentioned several times before and have a lot of respect for. He will be hosting a Seminar on “how to develop short range knockout power” in Bristol on Sunday March 20th 2011, 11.00am to 3.00pm. Any course by Kevin is to be highly recommended.
Full details are below in his own words (cut and pasted from his promotional poster):-
Bristol dojo, 74/78 Avon St. St .Philipps.Bristol.bs20 opx
• Understand controlling aggression range
• Line ups and fence
• Dealing with verbal aggression.
• Functioning against ‘In your face violence’
• Targeting, impact development
• Ko shots, fight finishers
• Choke outs
• Dealing with single and multiple attackers
COST; Seminar £25.00p or seminar package with DVD Kevin O’Hagan’s ‘One shot system’.(60mins to compliment seminar content for reference) £40.00p.
CONTACT;Jake at jakeohagan@ymail .com or 07789865284 to book your place and also be on your mailing list.
Charlie kindly asked me to contribute to this site after our Stav demonstration in the Martial Arts Festival which was held in Bath in May 2010. After a gap of a few months I am very pleased to do so. Members of Ice and Fire Stav were honoured to take part in the Festival and since Stav is a relatively unknown training system it gave us a valuable opportunity to showcase our practice. I am also grateful for the opportunity here to explain more about Stav and shed more light on its unusual origins.
Stav was brought to the UK by Ivar Hafskjold see in the early 1990s. Ivar grew up in postwar Norway where he learned the family tradition of body, mind and spirit training from his Grandfather and elder uncles. Stav had been passed down through the family for many generations but was being lost simply because the post war generation were
finding better things to do such as studying at university etc. There is a similar trend in the orient today where Japanese and Chinese young people would frequently rather play baseball than learn traditional Bushido or Taoist arts. Ivar however had a serious interest and learned as much as he could from his uncles and Grandfather but there was a limit to what his elderly mentors could teach him on the practical side of things. So in his early 30s he went to Japan where he remained for 14 years and during that time made an intensive study of Japanese martial arts.
Stav literally means “knowledge of the rune staves” and these 16 symbols are the basis for the system. They are used most directly as posture, breath and meditation exercises which we call the stances. When performed in their basic form the stances look very much like a simple Tai chi form. The more advanced versions use chants to enhance breath and raise energy levels and these are comparable to Chi gung forms. If you daily practice Stav then your Stav practice is to do one version or another of the Stances every day and these are a sort of Kata. The runes have all kinds of uses beyond the relevance of this article but one of their purposes is to reveal the Web of Orlog. This simply means the underlying reality of a situation. The web is made up of lines. These may be lines of a structure, or lines of effort and energy, or simply lines of intent. In a combat situation there are lines which connect you to the opponent and vice versa. There are lines that matter and
those that don’t. When attacked we need to be aware of the lines of force which can hurt us, so avoid or divert them. Also the lines which are of no importance and simply ignore them. When countering we are looking for the line or lines which will collapse the attacker’s web and neutralise them. This means more than just hitting someone on a vulnerable spot, although that can be pretty effective. We are aiming to take the line through the body and thus disrupt their balance and take them down.
In order to develop an awareness of the lines repeated cutting practice is used.
Actually cutting wood with an axe or sax (Scandinavian equivalent of a machete,
Anglosaxon; Seax) was probably the traditional way of doing it and this is a very effective way of learning to take a clean line very accurately. But we also do the kind of cutting training that comes from Ken jutsu or the striking exercises which come from Jo jutsu. These Ivar learned during his 14 years in Japan where he attained 4th dan in both these arts. We now use the axe and full length staff rather than boken and jo but the principle is still the same. This weapon practice teaches us to work with the lines outside the body while the stances teach us to use them internally.
The third element of Stav training is practising drills which teach the five principles of Stav. Ivar teaches five simple exercises with the staff defending against attacks with sword or axe which he learned from his grandfather. These are our traditional Kata and it is the application of their lessons which makes Stav effective. I’ll briefly outline the five principles: The first one is called the Trel or slave principle and this one teaches you to back off from a situation where you have no real interest in getting involved. The second is the Karl or freeman principle which is about keeping people out of your space. The third is the Herse or warrior principle which is about enforcing your will on an opponent and taking them under control. The fourth is the Jarl or priest principle which is where you deal with the attacker by disassociation. The fifth the Konge or king principle which is where you take them down simply because you can, or take the consequences. Over the past 20 years we have developed a number of two person drills with different weapons and unarmed which teach the five principles. These are effectively short kata with very direct applications. In all
training we are looking to work with the web and this very often means using one
stance or another, or combinations of them to provide techniques and to interpret the technique according to the principles we are working on.
This has created a very satisfying martial training system to work with and it provides a very practical selfdefence training system too. This works because we learn how to act in a conflict situation before we need to worry about what we should actually do. Supposing the classic: “Who the **** do you think you are looking at?” scenario starts to develop? If it is none of your business and there is nothing to prove then you adopt the Trel mindset which is solely concerned with avoiding getting hurt, this means being firm and confident but strongly communicating the message that you are not going to fight and simply removing yourself from the situation. If grabbed or punched your response would simply be to put sufficient distance between you and the attacker to render any further attack pointless. Once your tormentor has proved his point that
he is “the man” and you are “not worth it” then hopefully he will cease.
If the scenario is someone trying to force their way into your home or other space for which you are responsible then you need to operate on the Karl level. This basically ensures that an intruder doesn’t get past you. Again you hope that confidently communicating the message that they are not going to be allowed to come in will do the trick and most of the time it will. If they do try to force their way in then shifting your body so that you can block their head and lead foot simultaneously will prevent their entering, once momentum is checked then pushing them outside and shutting the door or calling for help should be possible.
If you do have some responsibility for keeping order, such as being a policeman or a doorman then you are in the Herse role. In this case the key is to make sure that an opponent knows that you have the authority to order them to leave or detain them. If you can communicate this effectively then you will probably manage the situation just fine. But if you do have to get physical then the person should be taken off balance and controlled as decisively as possible. You should of course also have some way of summoning back up as soon as possible.
In the case of dealing with multiple opponents or you have greater concern than the fact you are being attacked, dealing with a casualty for example, then you are probably in a Jarl role. This means you are allowing your sub conscious mind to deal with the attack while your conscious mind focuses on more significant matters. This can be very effective but does require a well trained mind set.
Back to the idiot who was bothering you in the first example. He doesn’t back off when you made it clear you didn’t want to fight him, his mates are blocking your escape , no one around is likely to help you so what have you spent 20 years studying martial arts for anyway? The Konge attitude is: “ a minute from now he is going to be very sorry he picked on me, or I will realise that I might as well have being doing embroidery rather than sweating in a dojo.”
It should also be clear that it is your responsibility to be honest with yourself as to which principle you can realistically get away with any given situation and switch principles when necessary. They are essentially options for choices, you make the choice, you live or die with the one you make.
It should also be clear that although the concepts can be explained in a few hundred words it takes years of correct training and regular practice to get to the point where “seeing” the lines and using them instinctively becomes second nature. I will look at some of the ways we train for this in subsequent articles.
Following on from Part 1, many people will tell you that fighting is more mental than physical and that is especially true of the pre-fight build-up as discussed in Part 1. The aggressor shouts, swears and threatens to intimidate you and take away your will to fight. At the same time, he is building himself up and preparing himself for his assault. It is at this stage that fights are very often won or lost, before any blows are exchanged. This is why (as previously mentioned) I think it a good idea for people to do some kind of scenario/adrenalin training fairly early in their martial arts training. At the bottom of this post are some links where you can go to find some of this type of training. It is by no means exhaustive, so if you know of any other resources where people can get this kind of training to supplement their martial art, then please feel free to add more links in the comments section below.
Traditional martial arts do however have some built in factors to deal with the effects adrenalin, albeit a much longer route. One method is the emphasis on perfecting techniques. The continual repetition of technique builds up a strong neural pathway in the brain. When under pressure, we know that our technique will not be 100% perfect, but the stronger that neural pathway is, the better that technique will be and it will fire under pressure without having to think about it. The worst thing under pressure is for you to have to stop to think, “how” do I punch/kick/strike/strangle/whatever. You want to be able to just think “punch”, the neural pathway fires and body just does it. You don’t want to be thinking, “I should twist my fist at the end of the punch” or “I mustn’t pull my hand back before I punch”, or any other such detail of the technique. By the time you’ve thought it, its too late. Training good basics over a long period of time will ensure a reflex responses which could be vital at that split second when you most need it.
Also, as mentioned in Part 1, an effect of adrenalin is that blood goes to the major muscle groups when threatened. Well in the main, our basic techniques primarily utilise the major muscle groups, so they are designed to work under these pressures.
The pre-arranged sparring is also useful, especially as you get onto the higher level exercises. Now people will criticize these exercises as unrealistic, and to a certain extent they are. Thugs do not step back into a stance, announce their attack from safely out of range, then attack you with a nice clean cut martial arts technique. They are more likely to be up in your face, shouting and swearing, posturing (pea-cocking) rather going into a formal stance or guard, then launch a surprise attack.
However, our formal sparring exercises do serve several functions. They help us to learn a sense of timing and distancing. After you have bowed and taken up your position, you should have an expression of deadly seriousness. No smiles or nods to your training partner because he’s your friend. This is where you learn to apply psychological pressure to each other. You learn to project it and to receive it. This is not quite the same as the scenario based training mentioned above but it does have some similarities. When somebody steps back into his stance, looks you straight in the eye with a deadly serious expression, even though you may know his attack in advance, you also know that it will be fast and powerful and if you don’t block or evade it, you’ll get hit with it. This is a form of pressure training. If you are used to doing this exercise in a “friendly” manner with your training partner, then you are missing the point!
What about Kata (forms/patterns)? When practising, you should put your full intent into your movements. This is a mental exercise as well as a physical one. In an earlier posting, Kata: Training Beyond Technique, (which I recommend you read if you haven’t already) I described an old basketball experiment involving 3 groups of volunteers. Each group shot balls at the hoop. One group practiced, one group did nothing and the third group just visualised shooting balls through the hoop. I’m not sure of the exact results, but it was something like this:
The group that practiced improved by about 24%.
The group that did not practice made no noticeable difference.
The group that merely visualised (but did not actually practice) made about 23% improvement.
You see, the subconscious brain does not does not recognise the difference between what is real and what is imagined. If you watch a scary movie, you find your heartbeat increase . . . . yet your conscious mind knows that you are safe and sound snuggled up on your sofa.
The subconscious mind however, reacts to the fantasy of the film and your body responds accordingly. When practicing your kata, you should not just practice to perfect the movements (though that is important too), but you should visualise yourself fighting real opponents. Visualise with as much intensity as you can, actual combat as you practice your moves.
In the words of Gichin Funikoshi (who introduced Karate from Okinawa to Japan and founder of Shotokan):
“Since karate is a martial art, you must practice with uttermost seriousness from the very beginning. This means going beyond diligent or sincere training. In every step, in every movement of your hand, you must imagine yourself facing an opponent with a drawn sword. Each and every punch must be made with the power of your entire body behind it, with the feeling of destroying your opponent with a single blow. You must believe that if this punch fails, you will forfeit your own life. Thinking this, your mind and energy will be concentrated, and your spirit will express itself to the fullest.
No matter how much time you devote to practice, no matter how many months and years pass, if your practice consists of no more than moving your arms and legs, you might as well be studying a dance. You will never come to know the true meaning karate”.
The old Okinawan masters understood the power of visualisation and training the mind. Today, we often focus too much on the form of the technique rather than the function. This does not train our mind (and I’m guilty of this too). If we train as Funikoshi says, we introduce on-going scenario/adrenalin training into every aspect of our martial art.
An arguement sometimes put forward is that the finer applications requiring fine motor skills and co-ordination will not work well in an adrenalized state as the blood goes to the major muscle groups and away from our brain and smaller muscles. However, I partially disagree. Note . . . I said, “partially”.
If you train as Funikoshi says, will utmost seriousness, imagining that you face a man with a sword (or bottle/knife), then you train these fine skills under the regular effect of a small amount of adrenalin. If you only train for form, or if you only train with a very “friendly” training partner who does not put you under pressure, then yes, I agree that your fine motor skill will not work under the influence of an adrenalin dump. The power of your mind and imagination is a very important tool for making your martial art much more functional as it was designed to be.
In the words of Albert Einstein:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
Here are links I mentioned at the beginning where you can go to find scenario/adrenalin based training (please feel free to add more in the comments section below) : –
More and more these days, people are talking about the effects of adrenalin during a fight and/or fight build up and a number of training programs have been built up around it. But should traditional martial arts alone be enough to prepare us for the effects of adrenalin and what did the masters of old do about it?
For the sake of this article, I will focus on an average thug, trying to pick a fight with you, rather than a professional mugger/rapist, whose tactics may be a bit more slick. From the moment that somebody starts to pick a fight with you, and enquiries of you with great verbal eloquence and dexterity, “who the f*** you looking at”, what are the effects of adrenalin that you can expect to experience? Well this will vary from person to person, especially if you compare somebody who is an experienced street fighter against somebody who is not.
Quite a lot has been written about this in recent years, but if you are new to this subject then please let me recap for you. One of the main effects of adrenalin is that blood flows to major muscle groups in preparation for fight or flight. Side effects of this are:
limbs shake (especially legs).
the brain does not function so well and you can’t always think straight (less blood).
fine motor skills deteriorate (accuracy) as gross motor skills improve (stronger, faster).
Other possible effects of adrenalin include:
sight becomes tunnel vision, focusing on your antagonist (making you vulnerable to surprise attacks from other directions).
you may feel the need to empty your bowels (this is the body trying to make itself lighter for fight or flight).
voice may become higher.
It is important though to note that these effects will vary from person to person. The street predators or an experienced street fighter may not seem to show these effects quite as much as they are used to “training” in the adrenalin zone. Probably the worst side effect of all is that you may “freeze”. People often talk about “fight or flight”, but they forget about the “freeze”.
First of all, why do we freeze?
Well its an out of date defence mechanism that goes back to caveman times. If Mr Ugg gets up in the morning, walks out of his cave on his own, without his spear for a quick stretch and yawn and spots a sabre tooth tiger, he has no way of out-fighting the beast and is unlikely to out-run him either. If he freezes, the beast may possibly not notice him and move on (many wild animals do this). Of course this is no longer an appropriate defence mechanism when we are dealing with human predators who want to mug, rape or beat us up, as opposed to a large furry or scaly predator who wants to eat us. It is however, a mechanism that plays straight into the hand of the human predator.
The eye detects movement much more quickly than it detects shapes. Before you can identify a shape, you often “catch something out of the corner of your eye”. I have read that the British SAS (special forces) when working in a jungle will walk for 10 minutes, then stay still for 20 minutes; walk 10, still 20, etc. With so many different shapes and colors in a jungle, this ensures that they see the enemy before the enemy sees them. It can be difficult to make out a human form in all that foliage, but you will see the movement. Hence even our special forces intentionally “freeze” for 20 minutes out of every 30.
If we train regular martial arts, should we be concerned about this. Well, even trained martial artists have been known to freeze when confronted with the raw aggression of a street predator. I have attended a FAST (Fear, Adrenalin, Stress Training) Defense Course, where part of the training is to subject people to this type of aggression in a controlled environment to teach them to deal with it without freezing. One lady on the course who was an experienced Tae Kwon Do exponent started to cry when the instructor yelled at her that she was a “f***ing bitch”.
Now for many of us who train in a Dojo/Dojangs where swearing is not allowed, it may seem very strange that an instructor should use this type of language, but that is the language of the street predator or abuser. The lady’s TKD experience had not prepared her for this kind of verbal abuse and had that happened on the street, it could all be too late at that point! In fairness to this particular lady, she recovered her composure, stood her ground and completed the course. She probably took a much larger step forward that day then anybody else on the course, so I have full respect for her.
But it goes to show that traditional martial arts training often does not prepare you for this type of raw aggression. It does not always prepare you for the pre-fight build up ritual. And it usually is a ritual, as the aggressor builds themselves up whilst psyching you down at the same time.
In his book, Dead Or Alive, pioneering author Geoff Thompson describes how the dialogue can almost show a countdown. The sentences get shorter and shorter until they are just one syllable, then they strike. It start with something like; “You looking at me, you want a piece of me”, to “come on then”, to simply “yeah”! Geoff emphasises that it will not go like this every time, but if it does then you are listening to a countdown, so be ready. Better still, strike first.
People who have experience as a street fighter (as many experienced martial artists have in younger days) sometimes have trouble relating to how this is a problem for those that have not had much real life experience. They see dealing with aggression as common sense. But as the old saying goes, “common sense is not very common”.
What do you actually do when you hear those dreaded words, “who you looking at”? If you act passively, you fuel their confidence. If you jump into your fighting stance and say “come on then, I do Karate”; sometimes you may face them down, but sometimes it will be taken as a challenge so you end up in a fight you didn’t want anyway. Not only that, but you’ve just tipped him off on how you are likely to fight so he will be a bit more cautious.
Even if you match your aggressor with shouting, threats and abuse so that he feels fear and he actually wants to back down, he may not back down if his mates are watching. Sometimes they will risk taking a beating rather than loosing face. And even if you win, that’s your night ruined as most normal people do not enjoy fighting.
If you are confident that you can hit hard and you believe that if you are able to land a good clean shot that you can finish the fight (or at least knock them down long enough for you to escape) then another tactic is to act passively and scared to lull them into a false sense of security. You let them confidently puff themselves up, so that they don’t feel the need to put up a guard, then when they get close enough and you have a good target, you hit it as hard as you can and then get out of there.
Now these tactics sound quite straight forward. However, as mentioned above, when you have just had an adrenalin dump, blood goes to major muscles and goes away from your brain. You are therefore not able to think as well or as quickly as you would in the dojo/dojang. Under these circumstances, because the brain is a bit impaired it will tend to resort to it last experience in a similar scenario. If the last experience in this kind of scenario is cower, that is what you are likely to do again (not always, but in most cases).
Traditional martial arts usually train us for when the punches start flying, but we often do not train for the pre-fight ritual. When we’re not even allowed to swear or yell at each other in the dojo/dojang, how can it prepare us?
For people who have little or no real life experience at street fighting, some kind of adrenalin training is very important. If nothing else, when the adrenalin hits the blood stream and the brain does not function at full capacity, then the last experience is one of action, not one of cowering, so that should be the experience that the person falls back on. Adrenalin training is scenario based, whereas traditional martial art training is technique based.
By scenario based, I mean that the participants actually act out a scenario with one person playing the role of aggressor, shouting abuse and swearing whilst the defender learns to feel the adrenalin, operate under its influence and become de-sensitized to the abuse and threats. Scenario based training can give you very quick results in a short space of time, the main result being that it will help to overcome the “freeze” reflex. Technique based training will take very much longer to achieve this.
To summarize, scenario based training will give limited results, but gives results very very quickly. It won’t make you a fighter, but it may help you to diffuse a possible fight so that you don’t have to fight at all. Technique based training can take you to very high levels of speed, power, accuracy and co-ordination; but it takes a long time to learn. It can also take some many many years for a timid person to overcome that timidity in the face of raw aggression. That’s a lot years that a timid person stays vulnerable, however good his/her technique may be.
I personally believe that the two go hand in glove with each other and that every martial artist should at some point do some scenario training, preferably at the beginning of their martial art careers. It is often said that fighting is more mental than physical and a brilliant technique in the dojo/dojang is completely useless if it freezes on the street.