Eskrima Broken Rhythm Attack

I would like to offer some fighting advice I think you will find valuable, regardless of style or method of fighting you do.

A young man who studies with my Kung Fu brother Sharif Talib has recently taken an interest in the Philippine martial arts. Although he is a beginner, he is Sharif’s top student, so when I see him again (he lives in Washington, DC) I decided to teach him Jow Ga’s Sern Bei Sao (Double Daggers) technique–which is normally reserved for advanced students. Upon telling Sharif my intentions, he asked me if I planned to teach him strictly the Chinese style of dagger fighting–or the Filipino. My answer was that I would teach him the Chinese system, with some FMA strategy behind it. I’m sure this goes against much of what I preach, but I have my reasons for doing so–as rare as I do these sort of things.

In Eskrima’s knife fighting, we have possibly half the number of techniques in the Chinese arts. What makes Eskrima’s knife fighting superior in my opinion is the fact that the FMA man has such a small number of options, including the a fewer number of weapons in his repertoire. This lack of options give him more time to specialize in the skills he has. I know how to use more than 20 weapons, but with four–the small blade, the hacking sword (regardless of style), the single stick, and the staff–I claim expertise, and am confident that I can beat almost all men I encounter with those weapons, shy of a firearm. (And given the right situation, I’ll murder a man with a gun lol)

Most of my articles concerning Eskrima on this blog deal with this stick, but this tiny piece will be on the knife, although like I said, the rule is universal.

Regardless of the style you do, envision your system’s bladed technique as you read this article. Also, put aside Jeet Kune Do’s definition of “broken rhythm attack” as well. I am not well versed on JKD, and I don’t want to pass this off as the same thing although they may be similar.

The Broken Rhythm Attack works this way:  1. You understand through practice and fighting how much time you have to block various attacks. 2. You understand how much time you have to deliver various attacks. 3. When your opponent reacts to your attack, you know how much time you have to deliver a follow up attack to the first you attempted. This goes for both combination attacks, as well as the traditional follow-up to a single, blocked attack. 4. When your opponent attacks, you should be able to recognize if it is a single attack or a combination attack, and 5. When the non-bladed hand touches you/you tie up both the opponent’s hands/one of you have grabbed the other, you know the speed that anything may come. This is known to Chinese martial artists as the skill called Chi Sao/Sticky Hands, but in the Filipino art we simply call it Sensitivity. It is the martial sixth sense. Not all martial artists believe in it, not all martial artists know it, but regardless–if you put together a fighter who knows it and a fighter who doesn’t, someone is going to get their behinds handed to them.

Now, if the above 5 keys are foreign to you–this article may not make sense. Feel free to comment or exchange with me, and I will help guide you to getting what I consider “knife fighting basics”. I do understand that most systems do not have well-developed knife fighting strategies. Or find an FMA man, regardless of style, he can probably explain the above.

You could probably use the above to restructure your system’s knife techniques to mirror this. Now on to the technique.

Once you understand how much time you have to react or execute your attacks and counters, you will then have to learn to break that rhythm in half and do something else. Let me illustrate with a favorite game of mine. Hot Hands. (Go ahead and click it, it’s a link) We are playing Hot Hands. You have your hands on top of mine, I go to slap your hands, you know it’s coming, so you snatch your hands away but I always seem to get you. Is it because I’m faster than you? Not always. Sometimes, I know how much time I have to slap your hand, as do you, but I don’t go all the way through with my slap. Why? Because if I miss, you will be allow to slap me back. Now imagine if we played hot hands, but the person is allowed to pull his hands away and slap me in my face when I go for his hands. Would that change the dynamic?

Of course it would. And this is the challenge of the knife fight. The way most people play the knife, you assume that if you cut, I will block it successfully. They assume that if I block the knife, the follow up cut or the counter will arrive with perfect timing for the prearranged counter to that counter. They assume that if I slap check your attacking elbow, your attacking hand will stop attacking. And in a real knife encounter, none of these things will happen. NONE. Instead of prearranged sequences, I treat knife fighting like I treat hot hands with the face slap, and so should you. Because if you miss a block, or you successfully apply a block but the opponent is more determined that your previous partners in those drills you’ve been doing–you’ll get a much more painful punishment that a slap in the face. You could die.

EDIT:  The main idea to this technique is that when the opponent expects your attack to be there, it shouldn’t. When the opponent expects a target to be at the end of his attack, it shouldn’t. Anything your opponent expects, that relies on timing and anticipation, you should condition yourself to disappoint him. That is the Broken Rhythm Attack, and this is the science of dueling with the knife–not prearranged sequences. Fighting is too frenzied to be rehearsed and predictable. Your training should reflect this philosophy.

So to utilize the Broken Rhythm Attack, you attack your opponent, and when he reacts with a counter or block that you most likely know yourself–break that rhythm and change your attack to a different target, a different attack altogether (like punch instead of stab), or change the speed of your attack. The inverse to this is when your opponent attacks–execute your block and instead of block-then-counter, how about block-and-counter simultaneously? Or double your attack (stab-retract-same stab again). Or check and slash at the same time, or stab slow and then cut the opponent’s attacking hand. Be creative.

Then take those possibilities and make a list. One list for counters. One list for attacks. One list for counters to attacks. And one list for follow ups to attacks. Then train each one 500 times. Then spar with them while varying the rhythm that they are executed and used.

If this article was confusing, please post your comments or questions, and I will do my best to explain. If you are in the Northern California area and would like to exchange or test this technique or anything else on this blog, please email me and I would be glad to oblige. Thank you for visiting my blog.

By the way, the holidays are coming, so make sure you check out my books! They make great stocking-stuffers!



Learning the Rhythm of Styles (Knife At a Gunfight)

I would like to introduce you to a concept that few fighters understand, but many great fighters use to their advantage.

There is a little-known characteristic of fighters that few fighters are conscious of, which is the rhythm of styles. A system’s rhythm owes itself to a variety of factors:

  • the culture of the system or the system’s founder (or teacher’s own culture)
  • the preferences of that system’s founder/school’s teacher
  • the physical attributes of that system’s founder/school’s teacher
  • the specialties utilized in that particular style or school

Notice that I did not discuss the system’s students or fighters. This is because I consider the rhythm of a system to be a separate characteristic of a particular fighter–although the one can affect the other or not be influenced by the other at all. This idea is very complex, so I will try my best to explain it as best I can in less than 1,000 words.

We all know that rhythm is almost synonymous with timing and speed, but there is something else that defines rhythm. It is a pattern that the mind thinks in that manifests itself in movement and reactive timing. One often finds this rythm in dance, but it also shows itself in speech; think of how a stereotypical New Yorker may speak faster than the southern drawl of a rural Virginia dweller or someone from Mississippi. While we may limit our understanding to simply speech, as a Filipino and as a martial artist I find there is also a varied level of patience and in other places such as culinary styles…. in the Southern American cooking, dishes are prepared with a slow simmer, stews, smoked meat, etc., where New England dishes are made quickly–like how they cook lobster, or a 20-minute pizza or 5 minute cheesesteak. This may seem like a stretch, but I also notice it affects the learning of its martial arts students (in the region) and their taste in styles and philosophies (such as one style schools vs schools offering many add-on styles).

In fighting, different styles move, think and react differently. In boxing, for example, fighters work in combination on quarter and third-beat burst. Yet in Wing Chun, fighters work with single strike attacks and react to attacks in a STOP-WAIT-TRAP/COUNTER. It is difficult to describe in writing, but imagine a block against a punch (stop), attacker follows up or defender counters, then the defender traps/checks and strikes simultaneously. These two rhythms make for different results and have their own advantages and disadvantages. The boxer can make himself difficult to block. However, he would miss more of his attacks–while the Wing Chun fighter is more accurate with his attacks. One is not superior to the other and in order to be used properly, the correct rhythm must be learned and applied for the techniques to be more effective.

The above example explains why many self defense experts speak about boxing not being effective for self defense, while the martial arts would be more appropriate. At the same time, many MMA fans would say that boxing is more effective because its rhythm is more applicable to the octagon than Wing Chun. In a self-defense situation, like upon entering a car, in a stairwell or elevator Wing Chun’s rhythm applies better–unlike a parking lot brawl versus a wrestler in mutual combat.

Likewise, when a Wing Chun man tries to box, he may not be using those techniques in the correct rhythm. Or if a Karateka attempts to box, his rhythm is off with exactly the same techniques. This is one of the mistakes that many cross training martial artists make. Too often we scrape the surface of an art with little regard to the true essence of that art, as if the only difference between styles are the techniques and prearranged sound bites so popular with cross trained artists. One needs to learn more than just moves and techniques and drills. Just as you cannot learn a foreign language by only memorizing phrases–the mistake martial artists make is to reduce an art down to a few catch phrases… a drill here, a defense there, a takedown or disarm over here. When you only know how to say “Hello”, “Goodbye” and “Where is the bathroom”, you cannot say that you speak that language–even if you know 50 such phrases. In the martial arts, we have men who have memorized these phrases, combos and drills–and it enhances neither their native tongue/art nor their knowledge of the new language/art. So in this light, a Wing Chun man still thinking like a Wing Chun fighter–throwing single punches and learning defenses from only jabs, crosses and one-two combos–will never capture the essence of boxing to put that knowledge to good use. And when he boxes, he fumbles around like a bodybuilder in a dance contest.

The rhythm of the various arts will control how you apply their attacks and counters. Some types of defense rely on a broken rhythm. For example, point Karate fighting has the same rhythm as a point boxer like Roy Jones Junior or Sugar Shane Mosely. These men rely on the broken rhythm–the split-second change of tempo, speed and direction–to land big, fight-ending attacks. They do not chop you down like a Muay Thai fighter, which I liken to the Klitchko brothers. The Muay Thai fighter also fights in spurts, but he does not rely on accurate, pinpoint punches. Instead, he hits whatever is present, like a chest or arm. Over time, the opponent slows from pain and fatigue and then the fighter moves in for the kill. The point fighter instead will move and force you to follow him, he will change direction or feed you fake attacks, he will sit further away and make you reach to hit him, and when you miss–or when your technique falls short–he flies at you faster than you can get away and he lands his attack before you know what hit you. It isn’t speed, it’s rhythm. The point fighter needs range and distance. The Muay Thai fighter needs to be close to you. At the distance a Klitchko fights, Roy Jones doesn’t have room to apply his weapons. At the distance and tempo Roy Jones fights from, the Klitchkos cannot use their weapons. In this example, you have two different rhythms of the same art, from two different styles (Slavic boxers, vs African American boxers…. who are unlike British fighters or Mexican fighters), and even then–all those boxers fight on a similar rhythm if you compare them to Karate fighters. This is why I call this The Rhythm of Styles. You must be able to sense, identify and adjust to rhythms, even when cross training.

Understanding this difference will help you apply new arts properly. As an Eskrimador, you cannot box like an Eskrimador until you have learned to box like a boxer. As a Tae Kwon Do fighter, you cannot kick like a Muay Thai fighter (or vice versa). My grandfather observed years ago of my own Kung Fu training, that one reason he liked my teacher was that we were not Kung Fu men who only knew how to fight Kung Fu people. If you look around at the traditional martial artist, you may notice that many of us treat combat as if everyone in the battlefield fights the way we do. And if they want to simulate other styles, they do so with the same rhythm we use for our own styles. Learn this small, but complex concept and a whole world of new skills and methods will be revealed to you. It cannot be learned simply by scraping the surface of arts in a seminar, or by copying skills learned through observation. Conversely, you cannot fully understand how to fight those stylists by merely observing or having one or two matches. This is a concept that is very deep and has an infinite number of lessons. One could cross train for 20 years and only skim the surface of many styles and really learn nothing, or one could study and train intensely and gain another world–or one could refuse to cross train altogether and learn to use his art to adapt to the various rhythms and come up with Eskrima vs boxing, Eskrima vs Muay Thai, Eskrima vs Kendo, Eskrima vs Judo, Eskrima vs a gun….

And this ^^^ concept is one of the secrets of the Masters. Simply put, write this down:

Learn to use your art against other arts.

Learning other arts is futile, unless you also learn how those arts are used.

It is more important to learn how you art must be adapted to fight other styles, than it is to actually LEARN other styles.

and finally–

To hell with “don’t take a knife to a gunfight”, learn to beat guns with your knife.**

Please go to Amazon and check out my books! (I’ve got three on Amazon) You won’t be disappointed!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

** If you dont think the knife can beat a gun, you have more to learn in Eskrima…

Tips for Developing Fighting Dominance

Considering that this is the last day of the year–and many of you guys will be making your New Year’s Resolutions–here’s a NYR you might want to add… Especially if you’re a martial artist:

This year, I will train for dominance.

I am floored that more martial artists do not aspire for this. They train, they study, they investigate and style-hop. They buy books, invest in DVDs, cruise Youtube clips, attend seminars, and rehearse scenarios and new skills in dojos, garages, and backyards all over the world. When they get old–if they are still active in the arts–they will want to be respected and revered, and called “MASTER So-n-So” rather than simple “Sifu/Sensei/Guro So-n-So”. They daydream about being unbeatable, until one day they are no longer able to realistically hope to kick someone’s ass ala Bruce Lee/Jet Li style, and settle for telling and teaching newer generations how to do it. What is missing from this equation is the statement “I am the best.”  For some reason, martial artists fear making this claim. They even have cliches and cool sayings to discourage other martial artists from aspiring to be the best (or just say they are the best):

  • Eternal student (and sayings alluding that one is a lifelong student)
  • Don’t brag
  • Just a martial artist searching for my own truth
  • I just train for the love of the art
  • Martial arts is not about fighting (lol)
  • This is just MY truth in the arts
  • Fighting really isn’t real, STREET fighting
  • There is always someone better, if you don’t act tough you will never meet him

But here’s one:  If you can’t be the best at it, why do it at all? Fighting is a different type of activity. When you train in the martial arts, the object is to outdo the next guy, period. It is not a casual activity. Even the masters who created the styles you are learning, did so because he wanted to find a better way to do it than the way HE learned. You got the “new and improved” style, yet you settle for being untested and average. Don’t lie to yourself. You know darn well that you and ever other martial artist out there wants to be the best. You probably don’t know where to start, don’t think you are the best, or you think you’re the best but afraid to say it out loud because, well–you know deep down that you aren’t.

Let’s make this upcoming year the year you take the first steps towards actually accomplishing this goal. Keep coming to this blog, and I will show you how.

First, I cannot emphasize enough that you must get a copy of my book. Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months. It’s an easy read, it’s small, and is the blue print to becoming the best, or at least among the best.

The first thing you must do is actually WANT to be the best. You must be willing to do all it takes to becoming the best. You must change your lifestyle to simply, the life of a martial artist. If you want to be the best fighter, and you know a fight can come at any time (remember, we are preparing for true combat, not just the ring)–you must be prepared at all times for that fight. You must live like a street fighter. Believe it or not, true streetfighters don’t drink or use drugs. Why? Because trouble happens when people drink, and if I encounter trouble in a place where everyone is drunk–including ME–I won’t be at my best will I? If I hang out where trouble tends to be, I increase the chances that I will end up fighting so the least I can do is keep myself ready and 100%. Not to mention, the long term damage that drinking alcohol inflicts on the body. Why do you think singers take care of their voice and health, boxers tape their hands, cops clean their guns? If you say you want to be a dominant fighter, a champion, or the best at what you do–not living a life that facilitates that happening is just plain old stupid. This is why you don’t find Muslims hanging out at Honeybaked Ham, why Christians generally don’t do Halloween, why that future CEO who is still in college isn’t at the frat party–he’s in his room studying… It’s because what you do now determines your future. It’s that simple. Make it a goal, and do all you can to ensuring that goal is met.

You cannot go into the gym and go halfway on anything. You must work hard and you must give 100%. That means when you do your bagwork, you fire on all pistons. Speed, power, focus and explosiveness. When you stretch, you STRETCH. As a point fighter, I noticed that all the best fighters have full flexibility. It’s a by-product of training for dominance. You don’t point fight if you just fight “for love of the art”. You compete because you want to beat the next guy, you want to be faster and more accurate than than him, and likewise when you stretch you don’t halfass on that either. So when you stretch with intent, you will be completely flexible. Not every fighter will be able to pop out a full split, but I tell you what:  Almost all the champions can.

If you have not subscribed to this blog, make sure you follow us. I will return to this subject throughout the year, and hopefully guide you–my reader–to that place where your martial arts training will pay off. It is the place that very few martial artist will ever see:  Where you walk into the room and you know without a doubt that you can lick any man in the place.

For you FMA types, it is a part of your style’s DNA. The Filipino tradition is one of survival, and average fighters cannot survive. You must beat the next guy to survive. You must have more courage, be stronger, faster, more aggressive, smarter, have better timing, be more mobile, and have more pain tolerance than the enemy. Stop being a pussy and live up to your art’s core philosophy.

Make sure you stop by Amazon and pick up a copy of my book, and come back to hear me out. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Reaching In Eskrima

I’d like to offer some practical, universal advice about the practice and application of martial arts. Any stylist can benefit from this because, like I said, this is a universal principle. It is also a principle–as practical as it is–is violated by much of the martial arts community, even masters and grandmasters.

One of my students who teaches now was giving me a run down of a tournament he had attended, and how the fighters who seemed tough did not do well. We’ve all seen them. They warm up in their warm-up gear, looking very intimidating and powerful and aggressive. Then when they step out on the floor, they must rely on breaking the rules, extra-aggressive behavior, and hitting harder than necessary to win their fight (or not).

You may also see them in the ring, pounding the hell out of a punching bag or landing explosive shots on focus mitts. They are fit, they are muscular, they are quick. But not effective.

I can tell by the way a man throws a punch or wields his stick if he was raised on a diet of fighting and fight-training, or drills and hitting targets. There is a huge difference, folks.

When practicing, we often stand too close to our partners (and we look at them as partners rather than opponents–but a topic for another article) or the punching bag when we are firing. If we are hitting focus mitts and shields, we will stand too close to the target and focus too much on power. Opponents, however, do not stand still. They will not allow you to stand close to them either. And they hit back. When you train, you ignore those facts or you are simply unaware of them. We all know that opponents move and hit back. But unless you are undergoing stress and attack while training, you will forget that fact and believe that fighting is just like this. Your footwork becomes too flat-footed and sure;  fighters all know that fighting an opponent who is equally skilled will ensure that your footwork is always unstable. Your guard will weaken, and you will strike out of memory or plan–instead of target and movement-triggered attacks, as a fight would be.

When you train with a man who learned and trained as you did, he will not challenge you. Instead, he will simply hold the target so that you can hit it. He may resist a little so that your strikes will “stick”, but he will not make things difficult for you. And when you spar, you will both stand at a similar distance from each other, and give each other false confidence about what an opponent will do.

In Eskrima, teachers overemphasize drilling, and this fact alone leads to this kind of movement (or lack thereof) and the poor translation of classroom-to sparring-to street. The result is a martial artist who has just as much difficulty finding his opponent as well as escaping one.

When you train your Eskrima, you must reach your strikes to find an opponent (or target) who is more often than not, not there. Walking in a circle while tapping the Sinawali out will not suffice. You must chase, you must seek, and you must destroy–all while keeping your head, your forearms and your legs out of range of the opponents’ attack. You must be able to find his head, neck, hand, collarbones and shins while guarding your own. And I am speaking about both drills and sparring.

Let me say something about the drill, as well.

I know I dump on drills often, but I am not fully opposed to them. However, the drill is far too simplified or far too overcomplicated to be of any use to a serious fighter, the way 99% of you do them. Drills must have several things (among them, “reaching”) to be effective tools in training in the gym:

  • the participants should be “opponents”, not “partners”. fighting is win/lose, not a cooperative activity. opponents help their “partners” learn by giving them a lost or win, and the lesson that comes with each. your drill should result in a victor as well as a loser
  • strikes should not meet between the opponents. if the sticks meet halfway between you and the partner, it was a waste. there is an exception–if one moves away and blocks the strike from the new position, the sticks will meet between the opponents
  • instead of meeting between the opponents, the sticks should meet at one of the opponents. meaning, you cannot have both men striking. one is striking, one is blocking. <—- and that is why the sticks meet, not because you both struck the same dead space between you. or worse–because you were aiming for each other’s stick
  • the drill should ensure that one man’s stick is stopping the other’s stick from hitting him. anything less, and you are wasting valuable training time
  • if you have a set of drills that are memorized choreography (which I honestly dislike), the set of drills is not complete unless you have a stage where the partners have no idea which drill he will end up doing. fighters don’t say to each other “Hey Mike, let’s do XYZ drill.” You should start off with XYZ drill and switch to EFG drill without cueing Mike
  • back to where the sticks should meet, they should meet right next to a place on the participant that will break or bleed if the block is missed. Eskrima with no element of danger is like practicing shooting with water guns
  • speaking of water guns, those of you who teach defense against firearms should consider training against a water gun, and make the student take at least one step to reach it. if you can get the gun without getting your shirt wet, you may have a chance avoiding a bullet
  • in the drill, the goal of the defender should be to escape the strike with his feet and head as well as by utilizing a block. make your opponent catch you

I am going to end it here. When you train your Eskrima or whatever art you do, make sure you have the element of reaching to hit targets rather than striking easy-to-reach target. You will find your fighting skill improve greatly in a short amount of time. And as always, if any man reading this blog happens to be in Sacramento and would like to get a demonstration, try out my theories or test them, or learn more about what I’ve presented here–please send me an email (and bring $35, half the amount of a private lesson), and I will gladly show/prove this theory in person.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Improving Your Master’s Eskrima (Exceed, pt V)

So, I said all of that to say this…

And this will be the shortest article of the series. Today, we will commit the so-called FMA blasphemy that so many people think is impossible. I am going to introduce to you five things you can do, that you must do, to get you started on improving your Master’s FMA. If you take these things and you cannot come up with an improvement, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

Those of you who live near Sacramento who may be unconvinced that your system cannot be improved, come see me in person and I will show you myself how you can improve your Eskrima. It won’t be free; I work for my living and I do these blogs to advertise my services. But pay for one hour of private lessons with me and I’ll show you myself what I mean in this article. Provided, of course, that you’re really looking for truth. But as I’ve said many times, if you are looking for truth you’ll find it with me. If you’re looking to disprove me, you’ll find a “debate”. Think before you talk. There are only five things, and if you do these five things and test the theories yourself, you will be able to overhaul your Eskrima and indeed, improve your Master’s art–or dare I say it–exceed him.

Let’s get right to business:

  1. Practice fighting footwork. I ain’t talking about no damned triangles neither. I mean, how would you move your feet when you are attacking or evading your opponent? Try every possible attack, and how the feet must move in order to deliver you to the strike zone (in pursuit of a fleeing opponent, I must add) or deliver you to safety.
  2. Practice methods of attack. Take your stick, take your opponent, and kick his ass. Don’t ask him to “feed” you anything. Attack him. Oh, I’m sorry, your Master must not have taught you that, huh? It’s okay, most people doing Classical Eskrima don’t know how to attack someone. Find out the best methods to do it, and then practice and master them.
  3. Counter a combination. Your countering methods suck. Basically, your opponent throws out a strike that’s not really meant to hit or hurt you. Then he stands there while you beat him into simulated submission. He could have attacked you while you were blindfolded, and if he attacked you correctly–he would have had no chance of hitting you. All them bruised knuckles you’ve received in training you like to post Facebook statuses about? They were accidents from poorly choreographed practice–not combat. Now, send your “feeder” to rule #2 ^^^ and then have him attack you with it. Find a way to counter it. Here’s a hint:  He must throw at least two hits in his combination. Your master’s Eskrima doesn’t exactly have an answer for that, does it?
  4. Practice power striking. Take this test. Go get your stick and take your basic strike to the left temple if you’re right-handed, right temple if you’re left handed. Throw this strike 500 times. If you can’t do it and you have the title “Guro” behind your name, you’ve got some training to do. If you have the title “Master/Grandmaster/etc” behind it, come to Sac, you can stay with me until you can. This is not a test of how much power you have, but if you have the ability to develop power. Too much Eskrima has been practiced without the presence of stress, and power is secondary. But I have news for you; this is a blunt-force weapon, not a cheerleading baton. No one gives a damn about them twirls except folks in the kids’ class. Learn how to use it to break bones, period.
  5. How do you stop a disarm? If you are a self-respecting Eskrimador, I’m positive you have a bunch of weapons hidden throughout your life:  your car, your home, in your briefcase. I don’t know why knifers are always learning so many damned disarms. The most likely person who will be disarmed is YOU. Attacker jumps out from the bushes to grab your wallet. You pull out your collapsible baton and commence to whipping his ass. What do you think he will do? Punch you? No! He is going for your weapon to stop the whuppin’! How much practice have you had stopping a man from taking your weapon?

No commentary today. Just cold, hard truth. I have seen hundreds of Eskrima styles, and most of them are lacking in these five departments. No matter what title your master has–whether he is a Supreme Bajo Taco Grandmaster or not–chances are I am introducing something you are mostly unfamiliar with if you have thought about them at all. I can almost guarantee this–You most likely have done none of the above in the last 4 weeks of Eskrima practice.

Get to work.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Learn to Fight by Fighting *Back*

A week ago I was talking to a gentleman who is returning to martial arts training after about 20 years of a layoff. From what he tells me, the school he belonged to in the early 90s was a good one. While still commercial (I believe the teacher’s name was Jack Corey/Curry, cannot recall the man’s name I had met), his teacher had a healthy balance of children and adults–fluffy as well as killer training.

Let me break to give you some advice. We teachers encounter former martial artists and self-claiming experts all the time. I have a technique I use when talking to someone which helps me gauge who I am speaking to. Some of you call it the “BS detector”. My BS detector has 2 catalysts:  Lineage and Technique. When having a conversation, you can quickly find out the caliber of martial artist you are in front of (or gain a sense of what kind of art he was learning) by asking about his lineage, and then engaging him in a conversation about technique. Without spending too much time on it, what your fellow discursist says will give you the scoop on whether this guy is just flapping his lips or whether or not he knows what he knows. Saves time.

So he began in Korean martial arts, and in that school he gained plenty of sparring experience. In addition, and most importantly, he learned from his teacher the importance of drilling and training. Not “drilling” like many of you might think:  as a younger man, he would execute hundreds of repetitions of strikes, punches, kicks, blocks and combinations per session. He is now in one of those “fluffy” hybrid schools, but he still retained the hard-work ethic of his teacher 20 years ago. I like this guy.

In his former school, he fought against others with backgrounds in Karate and Tae Kwon Do, who punched like Karate and TKD people. In his new school, his classmates use semi-boxing techniques and Wing Chun. I can imagine this would be a very frustrating adjustment. We talked about working with punch combinations, spending more time sparring to develop the sixth sense for close-range/in-fighting, and other tips. But he mentioned that his specialty years ago was in counter-fighting, and how it simply doesn’t work against these guys.

I disagree.

First, I’d like to say that any fighting style can work against any style. Fighting is not an exact science, where boxing beats grappling, and kickers beat boxers, etc. While some techniques may be better suited to counter other techniques, there are so many variables to determine what will work vs what won’t work that it would be impossible to make such a judgment without actually slugging it out. And even when you resolve an argument that way, it only proved that fighter A can beat fighter B with that technique. Someone else using the same technique may have more or less success, depending on his attributes and abilities.

So, I gave the gentleman some basic, generic advice, and I hope you can draw some benefit out of the same tips. I will only list a few.

Tips for Counter Fighting

  • First, counter fighting as a strategy is not necessarily “waiting for an attack”. I find this misconception to be the norm for FMA fighters, as many of our styles teach the counter as the primary form of learning to fight. Think about it. When you ask an Eskrimador to show you something, what is the first thing he says? “Feed me a number X”. Basically, he has not learned to attack, so in order to apply his art, he needs you to attack him first. That’s why–
  • Counter-fighting is also called Counter-attacking. I prefer to use the term “counter-attack” over “defense”. We are not just trying to stop an opponent–we want to BEAT him. You can’t beat a man with blocks, and you can’t beat him moving defensively. Therefore
  • Rather than sit and wait, throw attacks at your opponent to get him to block, move and most importantly—> Attack. You get your opponent to attack by attacking him. Then, when he attacks you on your command (remember you knew he would attack because he’s actually attacking you back), counter that. Where I come from, this is called
  • “Controlling the fight”. If you don’t feel like fighting, move around. When you’re ready to attack, stop moving and counter him as he chases you, or attack him to get him to attack you back. This really is a “chicken-before-the-egg” strategy. Who is actually countering whom? Good questions. Here’s the answer:  Whom cares? Really!
  • The idea is that opponents are most vulnerable when attacking, and the counter attacker is actually determining when the two combatants will engage. He seizes the opportunity to attack by doing it while the opponent is busy attacking. It is very hard to throw a block while punching or kicking when you didn’t know an attack would be coming.
  • I consider blocking and evasive movements performed without an accompanying counter to be a waste of time. Basically, your “shuffle-back, catch, return jab” could have ended the fight simply by changing it to “shuffle-forward, catch AND return jab” all in one motion. Don’t miss the opportunity to end the fight simply because you were selfishly trying to protect that pretty face of yours. Take the punch on your forehead and make him eat a fist before his jab/cross/kick has had an opportunity to retract.
  • Remember this very important rule of thumb, if nothing else. Matter of fact, I’ll highlight it:

There are three best times to hit an opponent:

1. While he is punching

2. At the moment he completes the punch

3. Immediately after the completion of the punch (while retracting)

Each of these points has a set of techniques that fits the point. And the timing must be perfect. So in countering, you don’t want to learn timing, you want to learn perfect timing. A fraction of a second off from that moment, and you will miss your mark.

Back to the man I had met, we will have to meet in person for me to show him how to improve his success in sparring with those guys. But the above advice will help him utilize his preference to counter attacks instead of initiating them.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

FMA and the Art of Body Punching

I have been looking at a note for me to respond to Kris Williams, who lives in Bakersfield, CA, and practices Muay Thai, Eskrima (DP? I forgot), Kenpo and some other styles. We met in a Starbuck’s, and ended up playing Eskrima in the parking lot, before moving to discussing my articles and empty hand. He is a reader, by the way.

While talking about his views on the FMA, he admits that he has not dedicated as much time as he’d like to the Filipino arts. He says it’s a time issue, but I suggested that perhaps he just doesn’t have access to full-time, non-mainstream teachers–as is the case with most FMA people. One of his main interests are the Filipino empty handed art. Somehow, Kris believes that Filipino empty hand must begin with a “gunting”, mimic the knife, and involve the take down, limb destruction and drills. Like I said, he needs access to non-mainstream FMA, as 99% of the FMA here in this country is made up of the same stuff.

(“Same stuff” = mainstream.)

He mentions, as most FMA people I’ve met, that he does not practice body-punching because it is not “street-worthy”. My opinion of techniques being considered street “unworthy” are most likely the fault of the one teaching and training the art… not due to the merits of the technique itself. Martial artists will often discount something that they cannot do well as “not practical” because they can’t make it work. I’ll give you an example. Do you believe that a spinning hook kick to the jaw will knock someone unconscious? Do you believe that the spin hook kick can be delivered fast enough that an opponent can’t stop it? Do you believe that the spin kick–in the hands (or feet) of an expert–can be delivered fast enough that a grappler can’t stop it?

Stop the presses! I think I just heard the sounds of doubt. And I can guarantee you that 100% of those who feel this way have never fought an Olympic-style Tae Kwon Do fighter. The only time a martial artist speaks in absolutes (“this won’t work, that won’t work”) without prefacing it with a reference to personal experience I know for a fact that this person is not speaking from experience. Stuff you did as a 16 year old McDojo student (or when you were 22 living in the dorms) are irrelevant. If you’re an expert, only your experience with other experts matters.

Here’s my point. A fighter who develops a skill to the point that it hurts–it injures, in fact–can pull anything off, given that he understands what he is doing and if he knows how to use what he knows against what the other man knows. That said, body punching is very relevant to modern self-defense as well as traditional in the real FMA empty hands. And I’m speaking as one who does the FMA you can’t find in a mainstream art, seminar, or video. The truth about body punching is that it hurts, even when punching without a glove, it can injure, and if the fighter knows what he is doing–no amount of conditioning will protect you from it. Like the MMA guy who say Olympic style TKD is useless–you reveal yourself to not know what you’re talking about.

RMA guys (realistic martial arts) and SSDBMA (Street self defense based martial arts) guys included. I challenge any man claiming that body punching is useless on the street to a match, I will have you on the floor within minutes. That’s just silly and too much theory. Sounds good on blogs and in articles only.

There is a place for body punishment, and I’m not referring to the ring. Not every fist fight has to be life or death. And you don’t always have to give your opponent a bone-crushing injury. Why, just last week I was picking up a friend who was moving when his cousin came out to argue with him over a television we had packed away. Before I knew it, these two were squared off in the middle of the street, ready to slug it out. It doesn’t matter who swung first–this is his cousin, a little marijuana and alcohol was involved, some testosterone (i.e., women) face injuries and broken bones are not an option. Perfect place for a body punch. (Instead, they got a lesson in conflict resolution from yours truly) My friend clearly did not want to fight. But his cousin was the aggressor and he needed to defend himself. They made up a day later, but might not have if my friend put him in the hospital.

That said, I would like to share some tips on the art of body punching. I hope you try them the next time you train and spar.

  • Know what to hit. Do I simply hit the belly? Should I aim for the liver or spleen? Or the bladder? What type of punch should I use to get the kind of injury I want?
  • Understand power mechanics. There is a little more to it than simply punching harder. If you weren’t formally trained in power mechanics, find someone who can teach it to you. Or take $45 and spend an hour with me at my gym.
  • Use all your punches for your body-punching arsenal. I mean it:  Your jab, your cross, your straight punch, your hook, your uppercut. They all have a place, and they are all necessary to set up another attack.
  • Your feet must be wide at impact.  Don’t forget to bend your knees. Open your feet wide as you hit, lower your center of gravity and balance, and most of all–your base. You do NOT want to be caught leaning over to hit a low target.
  • Speaking of which ^^^, protect your head.  Another reason to lower your stance. When you are upright and you attack low, your high targets are exposed–leaving you vulnerable to attack. Lower yourself so your weapons can be close to your head to protect you.
  • Protect your head, part II.  By stepping offline. It is best to find your head outside of your opponent’s front shoulder when attacking low, than to be to the inside. When you go inside, you must deal with his back hand. When you are on the outside, you control the action; your opponent must follow you. This makes it harder to find your head.
  • Use a zig-zag motion. One of the biggest mistakes FMA fighters make is to practice only back and forth and triangle motion. You must step left and right, and be good enough to change directions without losing balance. As in the last rule, your opponent will follow you if you lead. If you take two or three steps in the same direction, he knows how to find you. If you alternate directions at random, your opponent will throw his attacks away, giving you plenty of opportunity to attack. So when he punches left, you have already gone back to his right, leaving all those ribs and goodies exposed. Like a kid in a candy store!
  • When you throw, start from Texas. Bodies don’t move as quickly as the head. The natural reaction for a streetfighter when you initiate a punch is to turn the head and blink (trust me). Just that little motion alone will make you miss a head punch. You can’t move a chest that easily. Yet it takes more power to cause damage when you hit the body. Take advantage of the extra time–and need for more destruction–by torquing your body all the way when you throw that body shot. Treat him like a beef carcass when you attack those ribs. Make hamburger inside his shirt. He won’t want to fight much longer, believe me.
  • Watch out for elbows. Should be self-explanatory. But punching an elbow is a painful mistake. You can, however, take advantage of a fighter looking to block with his elbows by doubling up and attacking high. It only takes a fraction of a second to stay there long enough to go upstairs.
  • Don’t forget to “combinate”. Body punches need not be single attacks. Throw two, three or more, and really punish your guy. As the kids would say: Ouch, that sucks. One of Mike Tyson’s most devastating attacks was a double hook to the body, and when the opponent drops his arm to either wince or block–come up the middle with an uppercut or a left straight down the middle.

There is a lot more to this story, but I want you to work on this and we’ll discuss it again. Let me offer this training tip. Have a partner stand before you with a rib protector and a pair of gloves (or a kicking shield). The partner should attack you at will, and you step offline, blocking or simply slipping. Before his hand returns from the attack, you should have landed at least two blows to the body. Now make sure your partner really attacks you or you’ll be wasting your time. The goal is to learn to use the body punch counter-offensively. Now do it 500 times. Then we’ll move on to the next skill.

If you like my articles, I’d like to invite you to purchase my book, “Build a Dominant Fighter“, on Amazon. Thanks for visiting my blog!