Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Movement, Range Control, and Positioning...

Wim Demeere brought this to my attention with his last blog posting. While he was actually talking about some of the "interesting" techniques some competition fighters sometimes use, what really struck me was the movement, range control, and timing of Saenchai Sor Kingstar. In this first video, he is just doing some light sparring with a group of students after giving a seminar---watch how he not only controls the movement, but controls the other person.

Amazing range control. Really. Watch it again, and watch how he is almost always within range for the technique he is going to use, and almost always not in range at the time the other person throws their technique. (You should also watch the Sakuraba video on Wim's blog post, simply because he is a fun, fun fighter to watch.)

Next up---fast forward through about the first half of the first video shown below (the fight WILL eventually start), then watch the rest of it, and then the second video. Now, I am not a Muay Thai fighter, nor a ring fighter, so bear in mind I'm not saying I could beat the Japanese guy or anything---but what person put those two people in the ring together?! Seriously. Saenchai controls the fight almost completely. And watch how he does it---when he wants to kick, he does. When he is tired of that, he punches. When he wants a break, he takes one. In the entire fight, there are very, very few choices that are made by his opponent.

Saenchai vs Takemura Part 1
Saenchai vs Takemura Part 2

This isn't meant to be any sort of criticism of Takemura, by the way. He is just outclassed, and really, really got lucky that Saenchai doesn't seem to be the type of fighter who needs to destroy his opponents to prove anything.

Why am I talking about pro Muay Thai fighters on a Hapkido/Self-defense blog? Watch Saenchai's movement, timing, and structure---he is almost always where he needs to be for the technique he wants to perform at the time at which he can apply it.

That kind of timing/range control is worth watching.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

NHA/NRA Introductory Pistol Course...

Instructors for the NHA held an Introduction to Firearms course over the past weekend, including the curriculum for the NRA Basic Pistol course. Of the seven students in the class, three were actually experienced pistol shooters who wanted to take the NRA class, and the rest were new to handguns in various ways.

The class started at 9am on Saturday, where the students were introduced to the principles of firearms safety, nomenclature and function of various pistols, rules of gun safety, information about cartridges, and laws of safe gun handling.

See a theme here? :)

Students handled revolvers, single-action semi-automatic pistols, double-action semi-automatic pistols, and and various safe-action and striker-fired guns. They practiced their grip, stance, and trigger control with AirSoft handguns, and at the end of the first day, used gas-powered AirSoft guns (with slides that recoiled) in small mock-ups of a few stages such as might be seen at a USPSA action pistol match.

On Sunday, students went to the range, and those new to firearms worked with .22LR pistols, shooting at various distances, then got a chance to shoot a range of firearms in .38spl, 9mm, and .45acp. Experienced shooters participated in a series of handgun skill-building drills, including strong- and weak-hand-only shooting, quick reloads.

Here are some pictures from the weekend...

Fine, time to shoot things. First, some pictures of a couple of our experienced shooters here and there:

Practicing strong-hand only (targets were 3 inch dots at 7 yards):
Weak-hand only (weak single hand recoil is different, if you have never done it before)...
Freestyle, and weak-hand only...
Some different types of reloading drills...
Not bad form for single-hand shooting at speed!

...and then some pictures of our new shooters.

Started with basic .22LR pistols fairly close up...

Shooting in relays, observing the other shooters, and moving back to longer distances over time...

and lastly, people got a chance to fire a range of weapons in different calibers.

Class was a success--no one got shot, everyone had fun, and people learned about firearms!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Women's Self-Defense information...

Looking around the Internet to see what kind of self-defense information is available to people, I came across the following, posted in February 2010 on The Survival Spot. My comments will be interspersed with the article.

Don’t Mess With Me: Self-Defense Tips and Tools:

By: Sage Romano

I used to bartend at a rough-and-tumble, punk-rock dive bar whose patrons specialized in energetic brawls and other combative physical exertions. While a bouncer was often on hand to manage these situations in a far more intimidating manner than the average girl bartender could, I still found it necessary to adopt an attitude that let the rowdiest customers know that the smallest divergence from good manners and basic human decency would result in an ass-kicking they wouldn’t forget. And in the event that said attitude proved an insufficient deterrent to bad, bawdy, or ill-mannered behavior, I made sure I had some bite to back up my bark.

My biggest showstopper was a simple punch to the face. I was learning how to box at the time, and I relished any opportunity to use my pugilistic skills on deserving drunken fools who stepped out of line. A simple right cross to the bridge of the nose had a wonderfully dramatic and effective fallout, what with the blood burgeoning out of nostrils, the yelp of pain from the offending party, and the thrall of the witnesses (none of whom would ever, ever again think of being less than sweetness and light personified to every bartender they should encounter). This move was guaranteed to shut down any untoward behavior and generally keep peace in the bar for the rest of the night. While not every woman is comfortable throwing punches, we should all develop at least a basic knowledge of preventive and aggressive self-defense tactics.

The first thing that occurs to me is that she is lucky that she had backup in the form of bouncers nearby, and that she obviously worked in a pretty well-controlled bar. (Her description of “rough-and-tumble, punk-rock dive bar” notwithstanding.)

1) If you throw a punch at someone, you had better make sure you are able to follow it up. In this case, she seems to be saying that one simple punch in the nose not only stopped everything, but also kept the “peace in the bar for the rest of the night” which means that most people really weren't interested in fighting. The person that she punched apparently wasn’t, (merely being obnoxious) nor was anyone else—including the guy’s friends. She never had to follow up at all. The idea that this in any way actually relates to women’s self-defense is laughable, at best.

2) “I relished any opportunity to use my pugilistic skills on deserving drunken fools “ is a real indicator of someone who knows they can act with impunity, and without repercussions. This sort of attitude is extremely BAD in terms of self-defense, and her comment about how all women should develop at least a basic knowledge of preventive and aggressive self-defense tactics, while true, make it seem like her actions are a part of that—and they aren’t.

3) Her comment about how her attitude and manner told customers not to step out of line, or it would “result in an ass-kicking they wouldn’t forget” is either bad writing (due to overly flamboyant hyperbole) or really, really bad self-defense tactics. According to her our words, her best showstopper was merely a single punch to the face---which doesn’t correspond to any definition of “ass-kicking” I know of, unless it is on an elementary school playground. Most people actually engaged in a serious self-defense situation find that a simple punch to the nose might buy them a couple fractions of a second (and because of that, it can be a very effective SD technique) but it certainly doesn’t equate to escaping the situation safely.

Overall, just in the first several paragraphs she demonstrates that she doesn’t actually understand what self-defense is about—both in terms of tactics, and techniques.

The First Line
Prevention is the best and most effective self-defense tool; there are loads of simple, commonsense actions you can take to minimize the chance that you will be on the receiving end of a harassing or violent attack. The short version: do not look like a victim. What does a victim look like? Let’s try a little role-playing. Pretend you’re a mugger or rapist or pervert of some kind and you’re trolling for your next mark. Who is going to look more appealing to you? Note the self-assured woman striding down the sidewalk with a look of cool, determined confidence, holding her handbag snugly under her arm and her head high, her eyes actively observing the surrounding environs and taking stock of possible pitfalls and problems, such as you—the skeevy lowlife waiting to pounce. Now note your other victim option: she’s drunk, teetering on her stilettos, her purse dangling from her wrist as she staggers down the sidewalk, chatting on her cell phone about the ungodly number of Cosmopolitans she just consumed. Who’s the easy target here?

Don’t be stupid. Take note of your surroundings and behave accordingly. Avoid strangers offering help and favors. Keep your personal possessions close and untantalizing. Don’t distract yourself with phone calls or texts if you’re making your way through a less-than-fabulous part of town. Steer clear of anyone or anything that gives you the heebie-jeebies. Don’t try to navigate city streets (or any streets) alone when your faculties are compromised by any chemical concoctions. Let yourself be a little paranoid, trust your instincts, and remember that it’s always best to wear shoes you can actually move in. Not to say you have to trade in your Marc Jacobs pumps for a good pair of running shoes, but think of this next time you’re cruising Zappos.com.

Some good stuff here. The writing style is highly annoying to me, given the large amount of overly emotional descriptiveness going on (this person was an English or Philosophy major in college, wasn’t she?) but the basic information is good. Maybe the writing style works better on other people.

Be Ready for Anything
Okay, so you’ve got your big-girl, don’t-mess-with-this attitude on, you know where you’re going, and you know what you’re doing—you’re not being stupid. Sadly, this does not necessarily preclude the stupidity of others, and anyone who’s got a criminal yen for your purse or your person is a sandwich or two short of a picnic, meaning that sometimes you can’t avoid confrontations, despite your best efforts. In the unlikely and unfortunate event that you find yourself compromised, be ready with an arsenal of moves and/or tools to fend off your attacker and hopefully do some damage in the process.

[sigh] “Don’t-mess-with-this-attitude” --why do many people confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness? As a comment, many types of predators, particularly ones who focus on females, often take aggressive behavior as a challenge, one that they will focus on even more strongly. (And more violently.) Assertive behavior, on the other hand, does not set up a challenge, but tends to literally cause you be to dismissed by many attackers, who think either “not worth it” or “not a challenge to me.”

Several different tactics could have a mitigating effect on the situation. Good old-fashioned dirty-fighting maneuvers, such as eye gouging and hair pulling, can be wonderfully useful, but it never hurts to have some practiced moves on hand as well. A wide range of resources both on the Internet and in real life can guide you in your quest for these skills. Your community will certainly boast a martial-arts school of some kind; from tae kwon do to karate to judo, you don’t have to earn a black belt to have the kind of know-how it would take to stop an attacker from doing any real damage to you. In several states, there are Fear Adrenaline Stress Training (FAST) courses that condition you to respond confidently and deftly in such a situation. One such course, Model Mugging, offered in twenty-six states, hones these skills through role-playing.

The idea that Model Mugging would simply be described as “role-playing” is telling. Both FAST courses and Model Mugging use adrenaline-based scenario training to help students learn how to deal with emotionally-charged situations, and allow them to understand how their techniques actually work. Saying this is merely "role-playing" completely undervalues the effectiveness of the training.

There is also a BIG difference between this sort of thing and your neighborhood TKD school. Don’t get me wrong—you can certainly learn self-defense from a martial arts class, provided it is taught correctly. However, FAST and Model Mugging classes are focused on one thing, and one thing only---and they are very good at it. The self-defense training you can get from either of them will strongly overmatch any gotten from a similar amount of time in a martial arts class. (And this is from someone who teaches martial arts.)

The most obvious criminal-deterrent options, of course, are weapons. Nonlethal tools like Mace or pepper spray and Tasers can be effectual, but they’re best used in close quarters and you will run the risk of having your weapon turned on you. A firearm, while wholly intimidating, will almost always cause more problems than it solves; most self-defense authorities advise strongly against carrying a gun. A Kubotan key chain is a handy tool; otherwise known as the “instrument of attitude adjustment” by the LAPD, it’s a cylindrical, high-impact plastic rod with grooves for grip and a tapered end for hitting nerve-filled, bony places like the knuckles or solar plexus, or softer pressure points like the groin or neck. Its versatility can be daunting, though, so have a clear idea of how you’d use the Kubotan if you had to.

This entire section is just—wrong. Mace or pepper spray shouldn’t be used at close quarters, Tasers (as opposed to stun guns) are distance weapons also.

“You will run the risk of having your weapon turned on you.” Possible, yes, but according to statistics, highly unlikely. Even more unlikely if you have actually trained with your self-defense tools. I have yet to ever see any good statistics supporting that people’s weapons were “turned on” them, and yet many people keep parroting the same old thing.

“A firearm, while wholly intimidating, will almost always cause more problems than it solves; most self-defense authorities advise strongly against carrying a gun. “ And this says that the author has not researched her topic at all, and doesn’t understand the use of self-defense tools. Statistics have consistently and continually shown that people who defended themselves with firearms have a much higher success rate than people who did not. I agree that a gun is not useful much of the time—a firearm is a self-defense tool that is applicable and useful in a very narrow range of situations. That being said, in those situations it is by far the best tool currently available.

“Self-defense authorities advise” ---what SD authorities would this be? Because every single one I know, that actually knows about self-defense, has paid attention to the statistics on self-defense, and has experience with self-defense situations, says that given a committed, resolved person who took the time to train with it, a firearm is by far the most effective self-defense tool they could have for serious situations.

As for the Kubaton—either you are holding a stick in your hand when you hit someone (and a roll of quarters works just as well) or you have taken the time to train in other applications of said stick—and if you have that kind of time, why not train with something that extends your reach?

The simplest self-defense tool is the personal alarm, a device that can be carried on a keychain or a lanyard and that, when activated, emits a head-splitting, 120-decibel screech. The last thing any criminal wants is having attention called to his unsavory actions, and nothing gets people’s ears to perk up faster than an electronic scream that you could hear over the loudest speed-metal band. Though the personal alarm is passive and nonlethal, it’s a good means of distracting your villain, allowing you a chance to run away or bring someone to your rescue.

This is almost complete nonsense. How many people pay attention to car alarms anymore? When you hear a loud obnoxious noise outside, do you go find out what is going on? What is more likely to get your attention, screaming or yet another alarm? I also find that anything marketed as a self-defense tool that can be disabled by throwing it on the ground is ridiculous. In addition, how does “a really loud noise” stop an attacker?

Does the author have any statistics showing that a personal alarm is useful in stopping attackers? I confess I’ve never even heard of one situation in which it helped. (I suppose that means I’ll get emails with anecdotes from people who “heard from a friend” or something. [sigh])

A loud noise is not a defense system. Matter of fact, in many places, it will just annoy people more.

I have lived in San Francisco for almost eighteen years. I have walked the length and breadth of the city at all hours of the night, have ridden buses full of nefarious-looking folk, and lived alone in the Tenderloin for eight years. Touch wood, I haven’t once had any sort of violent encounter while navigating my life in the city. But I do not forget myself and my surroundings. I am aware at all times, with my headphones on or not, in three-inch heels or sneakers, on well-lit busy streets or in musty dark alleys. And I still know how to throw a mean right hook.

If you are wearing headphones and they are playing something, you are not aware. If you are walking in musty dark alleys, you are not making good choices. If you are walking “the length and breadth of the city at all hours of the night” you apparently are oblivious, or actively searching out trouble.

The fact that you “haven’t once had any sort of violent encounter” means nothing other than the odds never caught up with you. When they do, your “mean right hook” merely means the guy is going to be angrier when he hits you repeatedly.

People who are looking for self-defense information: Please, PLEASE make sure you look around and find self-defense instructors who know what they are talking about, who won’t give you wrong information, who will train you in the right tactics to keep yourself safe.

Nonsense like this---is just wrong. And it’ll get people hurt, who attempt to follow its advice.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Self-Defense Tactics...

“Martial art” is not the same as “self-defense.”

There seems to be a common belief among martial artists that martial arts training makes you “know self-defense.” And on the other side, many non-martial artists who specialize in other tools seem to think that you can learn effective self-defense without learning any bare-hand technique used in martial arts classes.

It is amazing how wrong both of these people are.

Awhile ago, the NHA held a Close Quarters Tactics – Firearms (CQT) course at the dojang, working on defensive tactics at close quarters with an emphasis on the use of a firearm as a self-defense tool.

Students worked under assumptions of lethal force situations, distances of 5 feet or less (in many cases, from the clinch), and often versus weapons at these close ranges. Partner drills included passive and active resistance techniques, and the class ended with force-on-force training with AirSoft weapons. (First time you get shot 3 times in the torso and twice in the face mask of your helmet wakes you right up, particularly since the torso shots hurt.)

As students progressed, they quickly learned that many CQT situations aren’t “gun-solvable”---quite the contrary. Under these close quarters, immediately going for a weapon consequently immediately gets you killed. Throughout, the concept was taught that self-defense for this case means giving yourself space to access a better self-defense tool safely—which for this meant causing your attacker to either give you space in distance, or space in time, so you could access your firearm and apply it without getting killed in the meantime. Mostly, this means that CQT tactics often start with a serious amount of bare-hand technique, because you must create that space to work in.

For most people, it takes easily over one second to access and engage a target with a firearm from concealment. If you are 3 feet from an attacker who is actively engaging you, one second is about 0.8 seconds too long. Trying it means that your attacker (or attackers) gets in their first several attacks relatively unopposed—and if this is a lethal force situation, that means you are dead.

At these close quarters, it is necessary for the defender to stop/stun/off-balance/turn/jam/move their opponent in some way. Either creating enough space through distance (so the attacker can’t reach you before you access your firearm) or creating enough space in time (you have stunned/turned your attacker, and are currently jamming their weapon hand so they are temporarily unable to attack you) gives you the ability to access a better tool for lethal-force levels of self-defense.

Trying to access it without that space—gets you killed.

So how does this all relate to the beginning of this post?

I was discussing my CQT class with a fellow shooter after a competition one day, and it was interesting. When I first mentioned to fellow shooters that I was going to teach a CQT class, a number of people volunteered to help teach it—and I wondered what experience made them qualified to help teach?

This fellow shooter was one of them, and when we discussed what had actually occurred in the class, he stopped then said, “Oh, well, I didn’t think it was going to be a martial arts class, I thought it was going to be a shooting class.”

I had no idea what to say.

The entire point of the course was defensive tactics at close quarters—and while we assumed that we would have access to a concealed firearm, that was merely one of the tools that we had available to use. The entire point was to learn how to stay alive in close quarters lethal force situations—and thus knowing when the gun wasn’t the right initial choice was important.

It wasn’t a “martial arts class,” nor was it a “shooting class” – because describing it in that fashion loses the point completely!

Self-defense means doing what is necessary to keep yourself safe. Having tools to better enable you to do this is handy—but you have to be careful that you don’t turn every situation into a “this is a hammer, so everything is a nail” reaction. Thinking that a self-defense class is a martial arts class OR a shooting class means that the student isn’t thinking about realistic self-defense tactics, they are thinking about drills for specific tools. There isn’t anything wrong with this, UNLESS thinking in this fashion makes you practice drills that are unrealistic. At close quarters, if you don’t stop the attacker and create space, you will get killed. In most cases you can’t do that by starting off with drawing the gun.

Our CQT class is about tactics to keep you alive in lethal force situations. You will learn plenty of drills to help you access your firearm quickly, and engage targets accurately. But that certainly isn’t what the class is about, and if you ignore the parts of training that keep you alive until you can access your firearm—then it doesn’t matter how much you drill the “shooting part”.