Archive for the ‘Technique’ Category

Aggression Before Technique?

Posted: November 12, 2011 in Attitude, Older, Technique

Out of curiosity I recently ran an informal poll on this blog asking folks what they thought was most important of the four:

  • Speed
  • Technique
  • Power
  • Aggression

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:

  1. Aggression
  2. Speed
  3. Technique
  4. Power

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.

Searching for My Grunt

Posted: October 29, 2011 in Class, Technique

No matter how nutty, outgoing, or enthusiastic we are, we all have seem to have a hard time when it comes to coming up with and delivering our kiai — our yell, grunt, or shout we make during a strike (kick, punch, knee, etc.). Hiiiiiiiiiyaahhhhh! You’ve heard that if you’ve watched an old time martial arts movie. That’s a kiai. Here’s a good post on how to kiai, if you need more details. What I am wondering about isn’t so much how to kiai but why so few of us in the beginner classes refuse to do it!

Of course, the simple answer is that it’s….well… embarrassing. Nearly everyone starts out at first making not a sound. Complete and utter silence. In fact, a lot of people just starting out don’t even breathe as they should. Eventually most people in class, myself included, will hiss, that is push air out through a partially open mouth. It’s pretty quiet but appears to get at least part of the job of a kiai done — expelling air out forcefully with the strike as it tightens the stomach muscles to enable you to take a blow to the midsection more safely. It also punctuates the move being performed for added effect.

What it doesn’t do, at least in a real combat situation, is scare the shit out of, startle, or confuse the opponent. Not really necessary in the dojo, most of the time, to be sure but this is the place to find your kiai.

What the hell is THAT noise!?

I think there are a lot of kiais to choose from as long as you follow what appears to be the general rules of avoiding hard consonants and minimizing use of the vocal chords as much as possible. There’s a lot of creativity, it seems, that one can bring to the proceedings if they choose. Hell, make it a weekend project! Try to keep the windows closed and, if you are in an apartment, mind the neighbors. Once coming up with something that feels comfortable the next step is introducing it to the training, especially around the other students that you have been training alongside with for several months and never heard you do more than hiss.

As with everything to do with martial arts — go for it! There’s no holding back, especially with Krav Maga, so why should your kiai be an exception? If you’re going to go all out let everyone hear you mean business is my stance.

Oh, and you should hear mine. I’m not proud.

Swearing in a New Language

Posted: October 22, 2011 in Attitude, Technique

American males, of which I am a card-carrying member, are brought up in a culture where we are given Army men as kids, play cops and robbers with toy guns, play fight with one another, and are pretty obsessed with video games, which are oftentimes rife with death and first person shooter smackdowns. Turning on the TV, going to the movies, or going on the Internet, we are further exposed to loads of violence. Testosterone coursing through  our veins and possessing the ability to recite lines from ‘Pulp Fiction’ from memory, we are lulled into a sense that we truly understand violence and can take care of ourselves in a fight. “How hard is it to throw a punch?” we scoff. “I’ve seen ‘Enter the Dragon’ 14 times and listen to Rap music. I’m a BADASS!”

Every human being is capable of fighting.  But one only has to watch an average school fight or two to see that this is not the case.  Street brawls and schoolyard tussles tend to be brief, violent, but also comically frenetic. Face it, we don’t know how to fight (or fight well) and our punches, learned mostly by watching Clint Eastwood or Jason Statham, well….suck. We can pose and practice in the mirror, strut down dark alleyways like we mean business, but do most of us truly know how to handle ourselves in a throwdown? Probably not.

Many of us turn to martial arts. Broadly, I think it’s fair to categorize them, at least for this blog post, as traditional and reality-based self-defense styles. Styles like Karate, Kenpo, Tae Kwon Do, and Judo are in the former category while styles such as Krav Maga and Haganah fall into the latter category. Both are fine ways to go and neither category is inherently better than the other, let me make that perfectly and abundantly clear. It’s all good. [See “My Style Can Beat Up Your Style!” for more on this subject]. What I have been thinking about a lot lately, though, is how quickly any technique can be made part of one’s natural behavior when one finds themselves in a confrontation.

Let’s take learning a foreign language as an example to illustrate my point. It takes a long time to learn a new language. We fumble around with new words and phrases but ultimately become serviceable if we stick to it long enough and give it a lot of practice. Let’s say we move to France and become fully immersed in the culture — we’re surrounded by people speaking French 24 x 7. We go down to the bowling alley with our French friends and during the last frame drop a bowling ball on our big toe, crushing it to a pulp. In this case, as an American who’s been brought up speaking English, what do we say? “SHIT!!!” not “MERDE!!!!”  English is natural and comes easily to us. Our brain is wired this way because that’s how, from birth, we have learned to communicate verbally with others. In this example at the French bowling alley, this immediate need to express our intense dissatisfaction with our toe being crushed by the ball we don’t even have to think about how to curse. The English version of the expletive comes to mind automatically without a conscious thought.

Same is true of self-defense in the martial arts. In my brief exposure to Uechi-ryu some 20 years ago, and seeing my daughter and her fellow students’ experience in Kenpo class, traditional martial arts take a while to feel natural. For the first several months it feels awkward and unnatural for most and in most styles. I remember feeling this way in particular with the stances in Uechi-ryu. A fine, fine style and I mean no disrespect but I really had a hard time imagining falling naturally into the fighting stance if I entered into a confrontation. It just felt weird to me. Still kind of does. If I were to be attacked within the first several months of training I strongly suspected I’d fall back on my “natural” fighting instincts (i.e., flailing around with wild, ineffective punches) rather than the fighting techniques I had recently been exposed to.

What I like so much about Krav Maga is how natural it feels. I have only been training for 4.5 months, 3 – 4 times a week but — even in that short time — I feel like I would feel completely natural employing these techniques in the real world. They make sense and don’t feel awkward to me.

Again, I am not rating one type of style over another style. That’s not my point. Over time, any style will feel natural to the student and would be extremely effective in any combat situation. What I’m saying is that Krav Maga just seems to make that connection so much quicker. By design, it’s meant to be assimilated easily, rapidly, and takes advantage of your natural reactions. Sure, it takes a lot of work, sweat, and time to be truly great at it but the basics ought to come naturally; a student shouldn’t have to think about falling into particular stances and the order of a particular kata flows.

No sane person wishes a confrontation but if I ever find myself in that unfortunate situation I am positive that I’ll be swearing in French.

I wanted to share a fantastic demo that was filmed at the 2010 USMAF. It features the amazing Sensei Roy Elghanayan who is representing the Krav Maga style. Sensei Elghanayan is the awe-inspiring and deadly Krav Maga instructor you probably have seen on the Internet in a wildly popular video, throwing people around like rag dolls to a pretty annoying soundtrack (hint, turn your speakers down).

I liked this video below even more as it was much better footage but also showed the techniques more clearly and from multiple angles.

Thanks for the link, @kravlady