As usual, the week seemed to have flown by. I was much better this week at time management and creating more time for my practice. Balancing all of life’s elements continues to be a bit of a challenge, but I really feel like I’m sensing a light at the end of the tunnel. Things are looking up.
I was inspired by a video I saw this week that was created by an online personality I follow named Nutnfancy who expertly reviews tactical gear. Nutnfancy had an extensive career in the US Air Force where he started as a fighter pilot and went on to become a Commander. He now shares his expert tactical and outdoor knowledge with others through TNP (The Nutnfancy Project). The video he created this week is called “Tactically Squared Away,” (as you can see, my title for this post is similar). In his video, Nutnfancy touched upon the many gear areas that would be necessary in a without-rule-of-law self defense situation. I wanted to discuss the same topic but from a martial arts standpoint. Martial artists need to consider how tactically well rounded they are both as a martial artist and as a defensive asset.
The reader may have noticed that I tend to make up my own terms like “defensive asset.” In this post, I will use defensive asset to describe an individual’s ability to defend one’s self or others in an actual anything-goes combative situation. Obviously, this is an attribute of a martial artist; a good martial artist should be able to actually defend one’s self and others in a real combative situation. I am merely using the term defensive asset to highlight this attribute of a martial artist.
So how tactically covered are you as a martial artist? Can you handle any sort of defensive situation? Would you be a good defensive asset to others when the crap hits the fan? Be honest with yourself. Our training can sometimes blind us from some tough realities out there. Consider the following situations below.
Unarmed Striking Distance
This is perhaps the paradigm of martial arts combative situations. Martial arts films are riddled with scenes of martial arts guys and gals punching, kicking, and striking at each other. How quickly can you block? Are you used to defending against and countering a variety of techniques? If someone attempted to strike you in the face, knee, or back, would you be able to respond effectively? There are no tournament rules in bar brawls and other real world combative encounters. Any strike could be thrown at you and to any target on your body, and if you don’t block it you might need emergency attention, but your opponent might not stop there.
Preparing for this can be helped by practicing a variety of one steps against many different types of attacks. Practice defending against many different hand strikes, and practice defending against many types of kicks. Again, have your partner attempt to attack different targets on your body. One should even practice being attacked from different angles. It can get crazy out there, and one should be prepared for anything.
What if your opponent grabbed you and took you down to the ground? Would you be able to handle yourself or even get out of it? Having a working understanding of joint locks, throws, and ground maneuvers are essential for defending one’s self in this sort of situation. Considering that most real life self defense situations turn into a grappling tussle in less than thirty seconds, I’d say that grappling skills are just as important as striking skills for the unarmed martial artist.
Because of that statistic, I’ve even heard it argued that grappling is more important than striking. Grappling is certainly an essential element of unarmed self defense, but let’s not forget about that average of thirty seconds BEFORE a self defense situations turns into grappling. I have personally witnessed bar fights that lasted no more than 4 seconds due to a deftly dealt strike.
If you can’t strike, don’t count on your grappling to save you, and if you can’t grapple, don’t count on your striking to save you. You need both.
Master Pearson spoke about self-limiting practices in blackbelt class this week. He cautioned us to avoid becoming used to the paradigm of self defense practice in class verses what self defense would be like on the streets. In tournaments and practice, we have spoken and unspoken rules of engagement because we want to be nice to each other. Things like only striking above the belt, not grabbing fingers, throwing our partners in a way that WON’T break their neck, etc. In a real life self defense situation, one might not be so lucky. Street fights have eye gouging, biting, groin strikes, hidden blades, etc; you get the idea. As martial artists who want to be good defensive assets, we have to train with these sorts of things in mind and avoid becoming accustomed to the comforts of tournament rules or classroom etiquette.
Not only should your physical technique be ready for an anything goes combative situation, but your mind should also be ready. Ask any sane and stable person who has had to actually defend themselves in real life; it’s scary as heck and very mentally uncomfortable. As productive members of society, most of us are accustomed to not harming others, and it can be difficult both to actually harm another person and to swallow the fact that right now there’s someone else actually trying to harm you. Some people break down in these sorts of situations and are overcome with fear.
What if your opponent is wielding a weapon. Would that throw you off since no one in a tournament or class has ever sparred against you with one? Obviously, not all martial arts weapons will likely be found on the street. I would be pretty surprised if you found yourself in a back alley defending against a spear or a long sword. However, you better believe that street thugs are very familiar with how to effectively wield knives, sticks, and pole arms. Familiarize yourself with defenses against these sorts of weapons and develop reality-based strategies for how you would deal with them.
Yes, I know this is a type of weapon. Guns are in a category of their own, especially for a martial arts discussion. There’s definitely some controversy surrounding gun use in martial arts, and I dare say that it is an issue that few schools really address. Newsflash: gun defense techniques don’t work when the gun wielder is ten yards away from you. In a peaceful society in which most of us rarely encounter gun violence, it can be easy to ignore the tactical implications of what truly defending one’s self in a combative situation involving guns would entail. In war torn countries, or even areas of our own country like sections of Detroit that don’t have rule of law, you better believe that those people think about these things. Someone could come to your property to assault you with a gun, and there are no police to come help you. You can try calling them, but there are none to come. What would you do in this situation? Would you be a victim? What kind of a martial warrior are you anyway? Gun usage in defensive combative scenarios is a lengthy and complicated issue that is beyond the scope of this post. Nonetheless, a true martial artist who sees his or her self as a virtuous warrior would take this issue very seriously to heart.
So think it over. It can be a tough world out there and if anything can come your way, would you be able to handle it? As martial artists, we should all strive to be well rounded defensive assets for ourselves and for our communities. The strength of a community is dependent on the physical and moral strength of its members. As virtuous martial artists, we should be defensive assets to our communities and not liabilities and certainly not victims.