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The link below is a must-read for instructors of any fighting art or sport. Simply replace “soccer” with karate/Judo/MMA etc. and be leave your assumptions at the keyboard.  Of particular interest are “Myths 1-5,” which seem to be standard in the so-called traditional martial arts, yet are not shown to actually improve a learner’s ability to learn a skill and to parameterize (adapt to new/changing conditions) it as needed in relation to performance environments and action outcomes. In fact, common practices such as endless, detailed feedback, blocked repetition and authoritarian instructional styles actually degrade skill learning.

The floor is open for discussion…

Practice Instruction and Skill Acquisition in Soccer: Challenging Traditions

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A point that has been made in many of our posts is that the skills of competitive fighters are task-specific. Highly skilled competitive and professional fighters are not necessarily more prepared for violence outside of matches and duel setups. As I noted in a previous post,

A competitive fighter knows when and where his or her next “fight” will occur, and by virtue of the rules of a competition, has the advantage of knowing exactly what techniques and methods an opponent may use, and which ones they will not use. The student seeking to survive a violent assault does not know any of this until it is happening.

In the video below (thanks to tgace), Dana White and several UFC fighters visit a Marine Corps training location and experience first hand how different engagements with weapons and multiple adversaries are from pre-arranged, rule bound professional fighting. MMA has it’s place but as we can see, training for one environment does not transfer to other environments.

The practice of martial arts has come to be diverse in terms of the wide range of  arts and schools available and in terms of the population that is involved. Physical fitness and talent may only be required to a small degree, or they may be paramount to success. Students may be dedicated about conditioning, or they may be “weekend-warriors” whose primary physical activity is a class.  An instructor may be qualified in a technical realm but not be a good source of information in others, such as the nature of violence. The need for Evidence Based Practice (EBP) is just as high as in any other vigorous physical activity, yet appeals to tradition, history and authority and “experts” often lead students and practitioners to accept dubious information or ignore new information, which can have consequences on a number of levels. For this discussion, the practice of the various martial arts can be divided into two realms: recreational (i.e., oriented at self defense, fitness, cultural, etc.) and competitive (amateur or professional competition). Most of this discussion will focus on the recreational realm.

An extreme example of a lack of critical thinking and evidence-based practice can be found in  the cult of personality that has developed around Ueshiba Morihei, founder of the Japanese art of Aikido.

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  • Move the bag where you want it to go, don’t stay flat-footed or let it move you
  • Hit it as it approaches and as it moves away
  • Karate etc. folks: forget the stances and think about mobility, forget the pull back unless there is something to actually grab
  • Work the bag at different ranges and heights. Think about 3-5 strike combinations that move up and down the bag at face and torso heights
  • Explore close range hooks, uppercuts, elbows and knees. Your vocabulary can include more than straight punches or swings
  • Avoid throwing swings- get close enough for hooks to stay tight, or be far enough that you can extend the arm 3/4 before impact
  • Explore hitting the bag at non-optimal ranges and angles to simulate non-optimal conditions
  • After each strike return to a guard that allows you to protect your face. Be watchful of the tendency to drop the hands after strikes
  • Strike ballistically. Let the shoulders move faster than the hips. Motivate the strike from the shoulder, don’t tie it to the slower movement of the torso
  • When going for impact, a higher-pitched ‘smack’ is a good sign, dull thuds are a sign of lower velocity
  • Follow through is important, but do not adopt the habit of pushing into the bag
  • A good round kick should fold the bag, not just bump into it
  • Front kicks may land with more force if you use the heel instead of the ball of the foot
  • If you train with a group that questions the need to ever hit things, spend some time hitting the bag and see how you do. All the air-punching in the world doesn’t do much for teaching one how to hit hard. Somewhere along the way this became a controversial idea in some circles
  • If you train on the bag hard and heavy quite frequently, consider giving your arms and shoulders a break by incorporating 1-2 week recovery periods and investing time into regular stretching for the pectorals, biceps, triceps, lats, trapezius, rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles

Related posts and info:

Getting More Out of Your Heavy Bag

Power Hitting Training Tips

Rotator Cuff Injury Prevention Tips

When martial artists refer to “timing”, they are usually discussing anticipatory skills. Anticipation is the ability to predict outcomes of an action (largely external, for our purposes), plan an appropriate response, and initiate it with the correct timing relative to the external action. Numerous studies have shown that superior anticipation timing is indeed what sets expert practitioners apart from novice practitioners in a given activity. The person who can successfully anticipate the outcome of an opponent’s actions before they are completed, and then formulate and initiate a plan of their own response with the appropriate timing will be able to effectively counter an attack. But the important distinction in quoting this information is the context in which it is applicable. Two people facing each other for a match or duel-type fight have the following advantages:

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In Random Training Note #6 , I noted that:

Evasion is: Perception + Agility.

To elaborate further, perception is cognitive processing of sensory input, and is crucial to both attack and defensive skills. Fast and accurate perception depends upon having a large vocabulary of relevant experiences for cognitive processes to compare to incoming sensory input. This perceptive processing may be consciously directed or below conscious thought. We have multiple systems of sensory input, yet much of martial arts training relies on only the visual realm. This may be fine for the optimal, controlled conditions of the average dojo/club etc. However, surprise attacks, or those involving multiple people will likely present other types of sensory input, such as tactile contact or acting on “bad feelings” about a situation or person. Visual perception will not help against threats that cannot be seen or on conditions that prevent clear sight. Learning to perceive and act upon these is a critical skill for fighting and self-defense.

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The New York Daily News brings us the account of the guy who took out a knife wielding sociopath in NYC.

First off, my hat is off to Joseph Lozito for having the awareness to notice an unstable individual and act before others were hurt, and for having will power to face him down. Training or none, he did what martial artists talk about doing but often lose sight of when  discussing how they think it ought to be done.

Some take away points:

  • ‘Thanks to his many hours of watching mixed martial arts on television, Lozito says he “took him down” with a single leg sweep.”I wouldn’t win any style points for taking him down, but it did the job,” he said.’ (emphasis mine)

 

  • “Gelman reached under his jacket, pulled out an 8-inch Wusthof chef’s knife and began slashing. “I was trying to get control of his wrist. I didn’t really feel anything...” (emphasis mine)
  • “He was rushed to Bellevue Hospital, where doctors closed a 4-inch gash on the back of his head, an 8-inch wound behind his right ear, two 3-inch slashes on his left arm, a cut under his eye and two deep cuts to his thumb.’


The fact that he decided on what to do based on watching MMA on tv is fascinating. The fact that he is 6-foot-2, 270 and responded proactively definitely worked to his advantage. While I do not think that this situation is telling us that watching MMA on TV is a good substitute for actual training, it is highly useful for us to consider whether or not training is more important than the will to act as a threat is perceived.

 

Find a psychology text book and look up the phrase “confirmation bias.” Be on the lookout for this tendency in every aspect of your training, especially if you think it can’t possibly relate to you or some enshrined martial art.

The FSRI Virginia club will once again be hosting the annual FSRI Summer Training Camp in Ferrum, Virginia. Camp will run from June 24th-26th (Friday-Sunday). As always, all comers are welcome, regardless of what they practice.

The rough theme for the weekend will be “Train Smarter to Fight Harder.” Instruction will feature:

Robert MillerNASM Corrective Exercise Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness for Fighting Arts Certified Trainer

David Campbell– chief instructor of the TKRI Virginia club

Randy Simpson– NASM CPT, Fitness for Fighting Arts Certified Trainer. Simpson’s classes will explore Gentile’s taxonomy of motor skills as a method for planning instruction and analyzing the complexity of fighting skills, and present partner drills to foster development of game skills for close range fighting in a variety of environmental conditions and action goals.

This year’s camp will reflect the transition that TKRI has been making away from “traditional” karate and towards a broader approach to the elements of training for fighting skills and self defense. We invite boxers, wrestlers, judoka, MMA students and competitors and other martial artists who have an open mind and the desire to explore methods of pursuing the goals common to all fighting arts. The skill-based training sessions will focus on practical, intuitive responses to violence, rather than historical or theoretical conjecture.

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The VA club has spent the last couple of weekends cleaning out the dojo space to make more room and get rid of  damaged equipment. Among the debris was a cheap old chest protector that had seen better days.  Fraying straps  rendered it a poor fit for some members of the group and the compressed padding really didn’t take anything off of impacts anymore.  But this thing has been around since my college days (a friend broke some of my ribs through it with a well-placed back kick, so there is a sentimental attachment), so I decided to see what some heavy luggage straps,  a sliced up cheap foam mat, a little patience, and plenty of duct tape could do for it:

$7.95 later and…viola. Refurbished chest protector. One of the advantages of the upgrade is that the slide-adjustable straps make it  a tighter fit. Each segment of added padding consists of a strip of heavy 1/2″ foam running in the direction of the musculature and ribs of the front and sides of the torso. There is a quarter inch of space between each strip so that they can move and flex to better distribute impact while retaining a firm shape. Cross-hatched reinforcements protect more of the upper chest area. I’m curious to see whether or not the orientation and structure of the padding makes a significant difference over the original,  a synthetic fluff.

It’s slightly more rigid than before, but does a much better job of dispersing blunt impact forces and keeping smaller weapons (point of the elbow, fists) from compressing single ribs. The side panels are now wide enough to actually cover the kidneys and a wider, heavier belt (visible) helps to keep this protection from shifting around during movement.

 

 


"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin

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