Out of curiosity I recently ran an informal poll on this blog asking folks what they thought was most important of the four:
I didn’t have a ton of responses so I didn’t have a large sample size but of the people who did respond, the last place answer was power. I don’t know if there’s a universal “right answer” but based on my training I would tend to agree with that. The interesting thing about this answer is that most people who do not train in martial arts would probably rank power as top of the list. I imagine this is because people envision trained fighters ending matches with one well-timed killer blow. WHAM-O! Knockout! In reality, fights are hardly ever that decisive or clean. They are brutal, fast, no-holds-barred affairs with no finesse. If I were to rank the factors in order I would think it might be:
I recognize that they are all important and one without some of the others is probably a recipe for failure. What’s aggression without power? What’s technique without aggression? They are all intertwined. But there is a critical balance that needs to be achieved to be successful.
Students come to the school all the time who go through the drills with over-the-top power, at least for their current fitness and skill level. They pay attention to the techniques they are taught and try to hit as hard as they can while applying these techniques in drills. Eventually they believe that, as they progress and get better, speed will naturally follow. This was me too.
One of our top senseis tells us all the time that aggression is king. He’ll ask if we’ve ever seen a brawl in high school where a brawny football player faces off with a highly trained Black Belt in the school halls. The Black Belt squares off and starts to get in form as the football player charges in like a rabid rhino and beats the surprised, overwhelmed Black Belt into a pulp. The lesson is that aggression wins out. The tiny dog can savage the slower, bigger dog with the same principle. Overwhelm the attacker.
When I first started, not too long ago, I was having difficulty trying to figure out what I should be emphasizing. I was in the “Power Camp” and thought all my strikes should be knockouts, regardless of speed. This left me exhausted 30 seconds in on a 3-minute drill, wiped out and often with strained muscles. The instructor would be yelling, “Faster! Faster! More aggressive! Like you mean it!” I thought this meant I just needed to condition more and all would be better. This turned out to be only partly true. While in this phase, I was also wondering how speed fit in. Surely if I got my power up with my better conditioning I could just do it faster. But then, what about technique — where did that fit in? Do they all equal each other. Oh, my head.
This notion of power was put to bed quite effectively when we were enlightened with a simple example. If you have your opponent in a clinch and have the opportunity to land a driving knee to their head, leg cocked back and ready to strike, would you be better served to pull your leg back several more inches to deliver a crushing sledgehammer of a blow or launch your flurry of lightning fast attacks at that moment? The answer was the latter. The thinking here is that the split second of additional time necessary to cock the leg back gives the opponent that much more time to recover — and in many fights that can make a big difference. Knee! Knee! Switch step! Knee!
We should attack like a hive of VERY pissed off bees. The opponent should not know where the next hit is coming from this enraged, psychotic dynamo who, only seconds ago, was the victim. No longer the case, the victim is now the attacker, doling out pain in a barrage of quick, painful blows from seemingly every direction as the former attacker either collapses in a bloody and bruised heap on the ground or runs for their life.
Aggression! Roaring, adrenaline-soaked, raging, furious, break-the-chair-over-the-guy’s-head aggression.
This doesn’t mean that technique is out the window. Of course not. Otherwise we’d just show up at the dojo and flail violently at each other like psychotic patients in the mental ward. It also doesn’t mean that power is out the window. With proper form and execution the power will be there. We certainly learned this with 180 kicks when first starting out. Kicking our tombstone pads, our tendency was to power into the kicks — RRRRAAAHHH! Whop! turned into driving a nearly deadened leg around using mostly our core muscles — RRRRRAAAAAAAHHH! WHAP!!!!!!!! Huge difference. And strangely, a lot less straining to perform.
To some degree or another I struggle every class to find the right balance. I don’t think there’s a universal formula that works for all people or even the same person across all circumstances. I haven’t gotten this all figured out. What I do believe though is that I have to keep these attributes in mind and be aware of how I am applying them.
And in Krav Maga, I’ll try to never forget that to overwhelm any attacker, Aggression is King.