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All Warfare is Based on Deception

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All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

How do you deceive someone? You deceive them by making them assume you are doing one thing, and then you do another. Or wait for them to assume you’re going to deceive them and then don’t.

Throw a standard technique like a front kick and land it. Impact causes your opponent to pay attention. Then start a second front kick and when the opponent starts to respond to that technique, spin your hips and turn the front kick into a roundhouse kick. People can be trained to expect that front kick because they’re looking out for you initiating it and assume that’s what it’s going to be. The roundhouse kick lands because they’re not tracking that kick all the way through its flight path.

But I hope that’s not all you do. I see you weighted on your back leg, and now I’m assuming all you want to do is to use your legs. Okay, let’s go back to square one, and let’s train to throw kicks after you land a few hand strikes. You see, it’s hard to concentrate on someone’s kicks when that person is trying to knock your nose off. So you need to look like you’re going to punch your opponent – put the fear of pain in him. So when you train, you need to fire kicks from a position where you can hit someone with your fist. So put your weight on your front leg and keep your hands up. And that thing where you lean back and drop your hands during the kick? Stop doing that. Yes, do the kick with your hands are up. Maybe even do the kick while bobbing your head down. When you get to this point, you need to start looking at other targets aside from your opponent’s ribs and head. Why? Because everyone thinks you’re aiming for those areas, of course.

When you get your opponent to the point where he doesn’t know what’s coming? Punch him in the nose!

Leaving you with a video to watch. Enjoy.

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Self Defence and World Peace

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She’s a 4th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo and has a solid message to share.

Alright … the message isn’t about World Peace, in fact it’s not even about feminism, nor how gorgeous Miss Nevada/Miss USA 2014 Nia Sanchez is. When asked about victimisation of undergraduate women in college and the horrific epidemic of sexual assault, Miss USA 2014 replied that she believes one should be able “defend yourself” and that more women should be able to do the same.

While immediate reaction was positive, social media presented a different story. Instead of supporting the call for women self defence, there were calls for more education, more respect/understanding from boys, and greater self respect for girls.

As a self defence and martial art instructor and practitioner who’s been in this game for more than 30 years, let me tell you a little secret. The secret is that people who come for self defence classes aren’t really interested in self defence. You think self defence is easy? You think it can be learned quickly? Self defence is none of that. It’s not a magic bullet. You can’t wave your fingers and have your attacker disappear. Real self defence when someone is shouting at you, hitting on you, choking you out, or tearing your clothes off is difficult, messy and tough. And the secret is that almost all the people who want to learn self defence think that the self defence instructor is going to gift them some magic wand that’ll make their attacker go away.

How many times have I heard “I just want to learn a little self defence” or “I just want to do some self defence when someone attacks me.” This is the myth of ‘using your opponent’s energy against him’ taken to the extremes of wishful thinking. Sure there are soft style martial artists who are extremely adept and could probably make their own defence appear balletic. But I can promise you, when shit hits the fan most soft style practitioners who train in their contrived traditional environment will not have the wherewithal to do that ‘little self defence’ to save the day.

But if you think hard stylists might have it better – think again. Many schools which engage in flippity flippity sparring or even ‘full contact’ sparring are not fully preparing their student practitioners for the reality of facing down aggression.

It doesn’t come to a full blown grudge match. Just the fact your opponent outweighs you by 20 or 30 pounds, is intimidating, pressing down on you, shouting profanities is more than enough to produce a mental blank. Being dismayed and betrayed by a person you previously thought was friendly is a situation you never thought would occur. You become a deer caught in the headlights.

Urban Warriors Academy, which produced the above Youtube clip presents a great argument for empowerment and self defence, and is a must see for anyone interested in the issue of womens self defence and empowerment. As I said before nothing is a magic bullet against an attack. But there are those who practice and make ourselves stronger bit by bit, day by day against many different assailants. This changes a person. And such change may help a person – regardless of them being male or female – to make choices that influence the way a situation will unfold.

Do you think you’ve got what it takes to fight off a person? Is it mere wishful thinking? Well, prove it.

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I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want.

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I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want.

If you are looking for ranson, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you. I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you. I will find you, and I will kill you.

I didn’t choose that quote to big up myself. Of course, I’m not Liam Neeson, nor do I fantasize about starring in the movie Taken. I’d be hard pressed to come up with that retort even if I were in that situation – with or without Liam Neeson’s fictional character’s “particular set” of ex-CIA skills.

But similar to the movie’s hero I do have a long career, not of course in Hollywood’s make-believe CIA but as a martial art practitioner. I don’t speak of the ramifications of my chosen ‘hobby’ often, but the training does affect and influence me above all of my other experiences. Recently I was reminded of this when I was having a drink with a mentor from when I was a young black belt. This older black belt noticed me glancing at the door each time a new patron walked in, and pointed out that I shouldn’t worry – that he had my back. He then said something about my experiencing some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now, I know don’t have PTSD; I don’t suffer the effects of PTSD’s “intense fear, horror, or powerlessness.”

What I believe he was referring to is the effects of self defence and combative training that could result in hypervigilance. Wikipedia talks about this being an “enhanced state of sensory sensitivity” which could “also be accompanied by a state of increased anxiety.” Apparently, according to the definition, the hypervigilant person is constantly “scanning the environment” which was what I was doing unconsciously – though frequent enough to alert my friend.

I can’t pinpoint how this hypervigilance started, though I know it’s been with me for a very long time. What I do know is that I don’t believe it’s a real issue … I’m not in any danger of alienating my family with bizarre psychotic behaviour or am I putting them off with “obsessive behaviour patterns.” It’s at a comfortable point where I’m managing the byproduct of my training, and I’m using it to keep my family and myself safe.

Do you experience hypervigilance? Do you experience hyperarousal to threat stimuli? Or do you experience PTSD? Do you suffer negative effects? Do you have your symptoms under control? Would you like to share your experience wherever you are with it? If you do, please feel free to go to the FaceBook post on this topic.

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Which Came First – The Kombat or the Kata

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I’m setting the scene, so bear with me.

I’ve got real martial art genius. I’ve fought, subdued and destroyed innumerable opponents. There’s no one left who’s willing to stand up to me. No one left who knows better than I do. I’m King of the Hill, and Top of the Heap. And for whatever reason – I now need to train personnel up into an elite fighting force ASAP.

See a selfie of my steely stare – I’m holding back from shouting at the whole lot of my whinging students.

I’m now left scratching my head. My opponents to date have been experts, and many in fact have had similar training to myself. But I beat them just because I’ve applied a special set of skills or knowledge to out gun and out move each and every one of them. To train up personnel into an elite fighting force, I’ve got to teach them the same yet different. Meaning, get all of them up to scratch and then make them more effective as fighters.

Day One

My group of trainees are a bunch of stunned mullets. Some of them have got some fairly decent skills. Then again some are absolute losers. I tried to talk to them about some higher level skills they would need and they had this blank look in their eyes. In the end, I decided to go with some of the regular kata and body conditioning. No need to rock the boat at this stage.

Day Two

I’ve split the group into several smaller training sections. Some of the more cluey trainees can do more, and specialise faster. I’ve also made sure to train the dumber fighters in some of the basics – you know, how to strike, how to block, how to tie their loin cloths. Then I’m letting some of the more advanced trainees help these dumbos figure out how to increase their striking power.

Day Three

Thank goodness for these advanced students. If not for them, I’d be murdering the whole lot of these whingers. During my class with the advanced students, I’ve tossed pattern work for more dynamic drills between two or more partners. This allows me to talk about what is important during an encounter, rather than focus on Idiots 101.

Day Four

Some of my assistant instructors are trying to teach the beginners too many things. This particular move can strike. It can take down. It can escape. The beginners are on the verge of a topknot meltdown. No, no, no. I need them to show fast improvement … so they need to be able to simple attack smoothly, cover against opponent’s strikes, take control of the opponent, destroy, and takedown. Attack, Control, Destroy, and Takedown. I like that.

Day Five

Some of the beginners are wanting to work more on forms. Are they kidding me? They’re just starting to get a grip on how they should be progressing – and I don’t need to stop their progress to talk about forms.

Day Six

My advanced students are doing great. They’re coming on board with the new objectives, and they’re keeping it together. Some of them are still confused between the many techniques and the existing skills they have. Just the other day one of them wanted to prove to his mates how he could pull this cart with his 金玉 (Jap. kinyoku read ‘testicles’)! Crickey. So I’m focusing them bit-by-bit on the new skills I want them to hone and improve. Their other skills can be worked on in their private time, but the ones I want them to have as their top-of-mind are the ones I want to train and pressure test them on.

Day Seven

I’ve told my assistant instructors to use the patterns to help them figure out how to manage the grunts. We’ve started to talk about specific training issues associated with sections or phrases in the forms. The pattern sets as a mnemonic device are working fine for the entire training program – so I’m really happy with this direction.

 

I don’t have martial genius. I’ve not fought with a multitude of 17th century martial arts exponents or samurai. And like my friend Dan Djurdevic, my “forays” into pattern design and creation have been “conservative.”

What I do believe however is that people have gotten pattern interpretation ass backwards. For instance, here is a technique and here are 75 possible variations we can do with that one technique. Mind you, don’t forget I was an expert before I came up with this book. Meaning, I could have broken your face *before* I sat back to dream about all other ways I could rearrange your looks. So if you’re attempting to learn martial arts like the way I plan to teach you, you might not turn out exactly the same way. In fact, when I started training, I was mercilessly drilled on a few techniques over and over again in an oppressive, closed mouth, and authoritarian regime.

In martial arts as in life, less is more. Streamline what you want to achieve and gain expertise in that first. Then apply that expertise to all other aspects so you’ll learn as an advanced student – not trying to pick up each individual skill as a clueless overwhelmed beginner.

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… martial arts is nothing at all special …

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To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is. Bruce Lee

At what point does Bruce Lee’s expertise relate to your own?

Bruce Lee was an actor, scholar, instructor and an absolute brilliant practitioner of the martial arts. At a time when the world of martial arts was overly concerned with form, history, lineage, reputation, and style, Bruce Lee was about being ‘objective oriented.’ He wanted to simplify, to filter away fluff so that he’d have only those core skills that would make him a better fighter. He wasn’t being ‘simplistic’ when he says that “the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity.” The ‘simplicity’ he was referring to was for him to keep what was of worth in his system, and to chuck out what he thought had no place in his kit bag.

Miyamoto Musashi, a famed 16th century samurai said that when you are in front of an opponent, all you should be thinking of is ‘cutting.’ No extraneous thoughts should distract you from your purpose, which is to vanquish the opponent. Musashi was not diminishing the vast amount of skills he had, or the strategy he used to best 60 over experts in duels, he was merely talking about what is fundamentally important when two parties oppose each other.

Similarly, Bruce Lee wasn’t about being sloppy. He was an extremely gifted athlete. Highly coordinated. Extensively trained. His quote isn’t about dumbing down training. It is about streamlining the training you get so you can become a better opponent, it is about the mental focus you then adopt once you are well trained, and it is about being real about the difficulties in facing down an opponent.

Keep training well, folks.

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Gaebaek Out Back

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Gaebaek. What You See is What You Get communicated that I was getting the Taekwondo pattern Gaebaek recorded ‘as is’ without too much practice and not having visited the pattern in a long while. That first video also prompted me to get a progression of how I’m travelling with the form, and in this video I’m showing the difficulties I’ve encountered whilst performing the pattern in street clothes in my backyard.

Now, if I’m experiencing challenges doing a rather straightforward exercise in street clothes, what implications does that have for general martial art skills, and then of course for your own self defence? Granted, self defence looks nothing like performing a pattern, but the restrictions placed on you by attire, the environment, and certainly the scenario are worth considering within the relative safety of the dojo. It is there where you should be pressure testing yourself so that when the time comes, you’ll be better placed to use your skills more effectively.

Well, if that lovely thought of the day was fueled by the pattern itself, then I guess I just discovered one more useful thing from re-acquainting myself with Gaebaek, and with pattern practice in general.

Keep training!🙂

Related Links:
Scenario Sparring Program

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Spinning Reverse Roundhouse Kick

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The Reverse Roundhouse Kick is one of my favourites to use in sparring. In a nice safe training environment, this kick allows me to use flexibility, explosive speed, and precision to pull off an attack which seems impossible for someone of a shorter stature. The kick can exploit what I think of as ‘blindspots’ in a person’s vision, so that it seems to appear just over the person’s shoulder and of course hit them before they can react to it.

I also used an innovative kicking combination in sparring which had me do an instep kick, and a jumping roundhouse – so I could raise both legs in the air at the same time. When opponents started wising up, I turned the elevated roundhouse into a reverse roundhouse kick to come around the other way. It was a dangerous daring stunt even for me but I guess someone had to do it. I must say it was one of the more impressive sparring tactics you could pull to wow an audience … or your opponent.

If you can’t manage the head high kick or attempt the angles in which I mentioned, you might decide to go for a more traditional execution and fire the reverse roundhouse kick at groin height – striking the opponent in the groin with the snap back of the heel. There is no dishonour in levying a hip high kick at the opponent, and certainly this can be done safely and effectively … and could even be used in a self defence situation.

The spinning reverse roundhouse is another kettle of fish altogether. With the standing reverse roundhouse, you’re able to visually sight and calibrate the kick very accurately, and despite it being a gimmicky kick … if you can execute it smoothly, the chances are the opponent won’t be able to judge what you are doing. The spinning version however, adds an increase element of risk because of the nature of the spin taking your eyes off the opponent. I have used this kick multiple times in sparring, and I can’t say I would recommend it to most practitioners, on the assumption that most people don’t have a high degree of kicking skill.

One element of the spin I would like to bring up is that once you launch the kick, it is hard to stop. I remember fighting against a training partner, seeing him lunge forward at me with a punching attack, and I popped into the air for this spinning technique. The next thing after the pop off the ground is then seeing my foot connecting with the side of his head, me locking eyes with him as he fell like a tree to the mat. If ever I felt dread, fear, worry, and guilt all at the same time during sparring – that was it (see Being Good at Sparring Means You’re Only Good at Sparring). The problem was you couldn’t stop the power of the spin in the air mid flight. You can’t reduce power because of the nature of the spin. The result of this ‘blind’ technique is that it hits with 100% power and that is not the wisest thing to do in sparring.

In the above video, I’ve slowed down the demo of the reverse roundhouse kick, or the ‘hook’ kick … and also the spinning reverse roundhouse. Yes, the video also does a slo mo rendering of the kick. Notice that the kick should hit the target in a brief aperture – typically shoulder width, to make use of the full turn of the body. Meaning the kick is not effective for the full 360 degree turn.

Hopefully, I will be able to show you a video of me performing a variation of the kick where I go ‘all at once’ to reduce the telegraphing of the move.

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The Art of War

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The Art of War is of vital importance to the State.

Sun Tzu believed in the need to be proficient in war. Carl von Clausewitz believed that war is an extension of policy. What this means for self defence is this – that the defender must start verbal self defence but be ready and must quickly engage in physical self defence if verbal tactics looks like they’re not working.

Related Links

Scenario Sparring Program

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Has your regular one-on-one sparring drills reach a point of diminishing returns? Have you lost interest in sparring? Perhaps you need to make your sparring training a little more objective oriented and match real world needs? The following are ideas I’ve come up with for a scenario sparring program which forces defender to think on his feet whilst dealing with a dynamic environment. This post was inspired by recent post How to Improve Your Taekwondo.

Spare me another plain vanilla sparring session

Spare me another plain vanilla sparring session

  1. Taking It for the Team: Defender covers and blocks and takes it, while opponent is free to engage
  2. Brother-in-Law: Defender cannot engage with opponent, but needs to safely stop the opponent from engaging with him
  3. Gassed: Defender does burpees until exhaustion, wears strikes from heavy gloves and kick shields for one minute, and then engages with opponent.
  4. Elevator: Defender and opponent in a tight space, defender needs to light up all elevators buttons while engaging with opponent. (Needs prop to represent buttons)
  5. Carjacker: Defender in driver’s seat, opponent comes in with knife. Defender needs to exit car.
  6. Panicked Friend: Defender engages opponent but has friend who is distracting (touching/shouting) and standing still. Move friend to exit whilst engaging with opponent.
  7. Rescuer: Defender faces off opponent who has taken a hostage and using hostage as shield, rescue the shield and engage the opponent
  8. Wet and Wild: Defender faces off opponent in a swimming pool and needs to exit.
  9. In a Plane: Defender sits down and is engaged by opponent, both can only engage up and down a narrow corridor.
  10. Photobomb: Defender is standing in front of neutral party, can only see reflection behind him through large mirror, and must answer questions neutral party is posing. Opponent from a random line up engages defender.
  11. In the John: Defender is standing face to a wall and has to engage opponent approaching from diagonal back, returns to starting point after initial engagement.
  12. Lights Out: Defender is blindfolded and has to engage with opponent by touch. (Needs blindfold)
  13. Getting out of the Car: Defender exits the car while preventing door from slamming into him before he gets clear, and engages opponent.
  14. Bringing Nothing to a Knife Fight: Defender engages opponent. Opponent draws a weapon (knife or gun). Defender must stop attack, take weapon and exit.
    1. Mediator between Love Birds: Defender interposes between two opponents. Opponent A is ‘Taking It for the Team’ while Opponent B is attacking. Once Defender engages with Opponent B, Opponent A also engages Defender.
    2. Mediator between Lost Love: Defender interposes between two opponents. Opponent A is ‘Taking It for the Team’ while Opponent B is attacking. Once Defender engages with Opponent B, Opponent A also engages Opponent B. Defender must take down Opponent B, and then take down Opponent A.
    1. Multiple person circle: Defender is surrounded by 4 opponents, engages two simultaneously, and puts on ‘helmet’ to get out of the circle
    2. Multiple person face off: Defender faces off 2 opponents and seeks to engage with each one at a time
    3. Multiple person scrum: Defender is on the floor and has to get up and retreat whilst opponents are trying to hold him down

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Trolled by Anonymous Weekend Warrior

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Trolled by Anonymous Weekend Warrior

Trolled by Anonymous Weekend Warrior

My other blog Traditional Taekwondo Techniques has been around for years, and I must say I’m fortunate to have only received one or two trolls. A closer inspection might tell me I’m not creating enough dissension or providing opportunities for lively debates. Or perhaps my belief that I have a highly regarded Traditional Taekwondo ‘information repository’ has been grossly inflated. Maybe most of the traffic I receive come in sympathy? Poor me. LOL.

Nonetheless, let me highlight one of the few trolls I received from the other blog. I received it from ‘Anonymous,’ who includes enough information that I can see he prides his own practical fighting prowess.

The words are caustic and were posted as a response to a drill we use for beginners to help them learn to block repeated straight line attacks using their elbows and forearms. To be fair to Anonymous, he includes criticism of the drill in no uncertain terms. Yes, the drill is contrived. No, no one will punch straight line repeatedly like that. Yes, our students are not expected to use this drill exactly the way we do it when faced with a threat.

This current rehash on the topic is not a defence of our training method, but a reflection of how our class unfolds our entire syllabus, and perhaps in lesser part about what makes it to the blog. In truth, the lot of a hard style traditional instructor is a difficult one. I have a ‘traditional’ pattern-based syllabus that is relied upon to teach skills in combat, sport-based sparring, self defence, pattern performance, and sometimes even a range of gimmicky techniques that will never see the light of day outside a martial art demo. Seriously.

I don’t blame him for criticizing the video. In itself it shows very little. In fact, from a rarefied perspective, the blog mostly talks about power generation of basic techniques, how we integrate some other skills to round out the striking fundamentals of Taekwondo, and instances where parts of the forms hint at grappling and takedown possibilities. The blog however doesn’t adequately mention our frequent cross-training jaunts with other multi-style schools, the great variety used in our sparring program, nor does it give an accurate ability of our students in comparison to other fighters. It’s not that kind of a blog.

And I am not that kind of instructor who needs to justify every little thing we do. We have a pattern set that we use as a framework for our training, but we constantly address training methodology – modifying it so our students become more competent. Yes, we use the word ‘tradition,’ but only to distinguish it from a sport-based or competition-driven practice, rather than to communicate an obsession with fixating ourselves with historical symbols, artifacts from a bygone era or past glory.

Has my Anonymous Weekend Warrior missed the point? I think so. Martial art brothers should come together and test ourselves in a safe and nurturing environment. There are threats out there, and our practice makes practitioners more difficult targets. We challenge ourselves so that when we face aggression, we may use what we have to protect our family and loved ones. I’m sure I mention that somewhere amongst my 500+ posts.