Last summer at the TKRI/Seijinkai VA Gasshuku, we ran a live sparring drill that involved assigned responses within a free exchange. To summarize, two partners are involved in some light randori (standing free wrestling), basically jockeying for position and control in the body-to-body grappling/clinch range. Each partner is assigned a skill set- A: grappling/restraints or B: striking.  At a randomly given command, both partners immediately attempt to apply their skill set to their partner to some clear finish such as a pin or flurry of strikes that make further action difficult or impossible. The training benefit is in forcing both partners to use their skill set both offensively and defensively while under attack. Suddenly the activity goes from trying to control your partner and stay on your feet to very aggressive takedowns, tackles and throws against close range knees, elbows, fists etc. The drill was an attempt to simulate the randomness and aggression of a real fight, but to also provide enough limitation that each partners was forced to deal with a specific set of attacks while intentionally using a specific set of responses- this really highlights the strengths and weaknesses of both skill sets at close range against resistance.

But that just wasn’t enough fun by itself- we at TKRI believe in a dumping all the Lego’s onto the floor, as it were, and seeing what we can put together. So round two followed the same parameters, except now one partner in each group had a wooden dowel cut to the size of a 7-9″ hunting knife. This was to be stashed anywhere that the user felt they might hide it on their body- tucked in the belt line, socks, inside shirt, etc.  The drill started as described above, but after the command, the person with the “knife” was free to attempt to pull it and use it on their partner. Suffice to say, many surprises were had by all involved. Most defenders were “stabbed” and “cut” numerous times before any sort of control was established, and it was very clear that serious injury or death would have resulted.  Some found that the draw happened so fast they were never aware of it before it hit them. A lucky few were able to stuff the draw, or force the attacker to drop the weapon- after which the fight continued to see who could regain control over the weapon and use it on their partner.

Seeing as this all happened in the context of rugged shoving, tripping, tackling and hitting, I felt that the drill was a pretty good approximation of the dangers inherent in close range fighting with a person who may or may not be carrying a weapon. All too often we assume that a weapon will be drawn and obvious before the attack, and that the weapon is the main (or sole) attack. This drill effectively dissolves that particular illusion. Due to the nature of the exercise, and the fact that we are responsible for the safety of our training partners, there are limitations to this sort of thing- I can’t elbow smash someone in the temple as they tackle, or twist a shoulder completely out of socket. Despite our honesty and attention to where the weapon was hitting us, there wasn’t any visceral, undeniable feedback.  It’s one thing to cognitively grasp that a training knife has touched you in a specific location in such a way that injury would occur with a real knife- but the shock of actual pain is something else altogether, and carries with it emotional and physiological responses that are not controllable and leave you exposed to the attacker (there goes “Mushin” and the other “Samurai composure” tripe).

So when I came across this little gem (below) today, I immediately recognized a solution to a few of these limitations. The clip shows some US Army CQC training along the same lines, but the weapon in this case is a low-voltage taser.  Someone in the training group hides this taser on their person, and no one knows who has it- until it comes out during a roll on the floor. A struggle for dominance of the opponent might suddenly turn into a fight to control a weapon that is inches away. And as you will see, being hit with the taser produces a very immediate and reflexive response that makes the outcome woefully clear. Leave it to the Army to drive the point home! (note: somehow, this turned from a simple link with a comment to a few paragraphs of rambling, but putting it in a karate training context is useful). Enjoy!

View the clip Here