Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hidden in plain sight

Isn’t it strange how people will occasionally pick a single aspect of a phenomenon to interpret as its essence, and then mock or argue another person for doing the exact same thing, only with a different aspect? We have all seen (maybe even been part) of those endless arguments over minuscule details in martial arts – is the hand held horizontally or vertically when punching; is the front foot in this or that stance held at the angle of 35 or 38 degrees; the supporting leg carries 55% or 60% of the weight..? Some training approaches, such as those common in Russian martial arts universe, don’t get stuck so much with the technical details, being declaratively based on principles, and will see the above debates as childish and the waste of time.

However, some of those schools will embrace one (or a couple) of those principles and concepts as their staple, other schools another one or few, and lo and behold – the debates and bickering are raging again! For example, on one end of the spectrum one may find schools that are almost entirely devoted to the work on the psychological and emotional equilibrium, breathing, maintaining composure and so on, in hope of being able to take advantage of such mental state and come up with physical solutions on the spot, in case of an unfortunate situation when they may need them. The other far end holds the belief that if the practitioners have a firm grasp of the mechanical principles, steeped in scientific foundations, it will in turn instill the deep sense of confidence and calmness, hence the ability to deal with the same potential calamities with efficiency. There are, of course the schools and methods that find themselves somewhere along the middle portion of the continuum, in hope of getting the best of both worlds. Interestingly enough, all those training avenues share the same problems.

Admittedly, I had spent time in both camps, and got something useful from each. Still, there was a missing element, and unfortunately either approach tends to be condescending on the exact portion of the fighting world that may hold the answer. But, let us see the main challenge first.

In their (often earnest) quest for the sound combative effect, so many of those schools and their practitioners spend their entire time and effort working on themselves, i.e. how to improve their own perceived efficiency and effectiveness in combat. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with such goal, but it is just one side of the equation. Years ago, I learned about the training dichotomy used in certain JKD circles, and it presents two different, and at the same time complementary, vantage points – self preservation and self perfection.

If I have managed to get my point across with any success, it is clear that the problem of most RMA systems is the almost exclusive dedication to the latter part. Having that in mind, they work for the most part in the learning/discovery environment, with slow movement and drills, but rarely in the practicing and functionalization mode, with resisting partners who are actively looking to hinder the attempted actions. Even when working with some commitment and considerable energy, they usually lack the intention. The related aspects of this problem have been already discussed on this blog, so I will move the part that seeks the solution.

Again, if you read the description of the challenge in the previous paragraph, some sort of criteria for the “cure” starts emerging – resisting partners (NOTE: we are still talking training partners, not opponents or enemies), effort to hinder the action, in order to actually take over the advantageous position. I don’t know about you, but it sounds very much like sports to me. That said, it bears saying right here: I do not think it is necessary to compete and get involved with the entire dominance/hierarchical paradigm. Adding that segment of training methodology to your work is very much needed. Finding the right balance should enable the trainees to reap the benefits of such training, without getting bogged down with the injuries, frustration, overexertion and other maladies often associated with serious competitive training.
Be the fulcrum - hold balance
Why is sportive approach useful? Well, it puts you in touch with the fundamental part of any combative training – the other. And I mean it in more than a simple prop, something to deal with or an object for your techniques/action. The training partner is not just the helper (as important as that role is), but also the measure of your training, pushing you toward your goal, maybe even challenging and redefining that goal.

In the end, don’t be superficial on a different surface, but believe you are better than those who are unable to dig deeper on another. Look for the building blocks of any training methodology, past the visual, technical and/or ideological differences; avoid becoming entangled in the terminology and go for the substance… It can only help you grow in training.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Profiting from your training

Really, how do you profit from it? Well, I'm sorry to say, but the answer starts with "it depends"... First and foremost it depends on what do you want from being involved with this whole martial arts and fighting/combat thing. I have already discussed one's motivation elsewhere on this blog, and that is usually fine to begin with, but in order to stay with our training we also need some sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, right?

When there are no external "symbols" of progress (yeah, belts/grades and similar "carrots" to chase) it can be easy to lose sight of all the benefits practitioners may be reaping from the regular practice. Heck, when there ARE those extrinsic rewards, they will often distract you from seeing what truly matters.

It's all relative 
Remember why you first came to that club or training group? Was it for conditioning, fun, self-defense, discipline, sport? Well, did you get any of that, and if so, did it make you feel good? If yes, then you have already got something very valuable from training. 

Still, there may be, and probably is, more, but you ought to take a deeper look into the overall situation. Let me tell you my take on it.

I have been recently asked what is the most precious thing I got from close to three decades of doing martial arts. It got me thinking, and to my surprise, the answer came to me rather quickly and with firm certainty - meeting so many great people along the way and becoming friends with some of them! Had someone asked me back then about my expectations, I certainly would not have even dreamed of getting to know so many people, located from Australia, China, Philippines, through Russia and most European countries, all the way to USA and Canada, and even from South Africa to Siberia. 

Just thinking of all the great and mind-growing conversations and interactions wit hall of them makes my heart warm and my face smile, not to mention all the brilliant training I had along the way. Even in this day and age of technological means that allow us to be anywhere at any time, it is still my years of martial training that "guides" me in choosing those places and times. 

And let me tell you - it was all worth it, so I'm looking forward to the decades of training to come!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Walk the talk - review of Rodney King's book

Today I’m writing about a strange book…or better said, reading it was a strange experience for me. See, I have been familiar with the name and work of Rodney King (just in case – we’re talking the renowned martial art/fighting instructor from South Africa) and his no-nonsense approach and clear presentation of his creative kickboxing and clinch material, developed as Crazy Monkey Defense program, was very appealing to me. Rodney has all the traits of an excellent instructor: he knows his material and curriculum inside-out; has good eye for seeing what needs to be worked on with his students; knows how to bring a point across efficiently and succinctly; his students demonstrate those qualities in their own performance. For a few years in mid-2000’s he was among my Top10 video instructors out there.

And then, something happened. At some point, King changed his “game”. He started using the term clients instead of fighters/students, and stuff like life performance instead of functional skill etc. In short, the entire paradigm turned a bit too corporate sounding for my taste. Yet, his training material remained top notch, so I kept my eye on what he has to say. This year, he published a book titled Full Contact Living. Preparing You for the Martial Arts of Every Day Life. 

book cover
Uh-oh…so now it started sounding new-agey, too. Life coaching and things of that sort. Still, Rodney was teaching good and practical, hands-on fighting stuff all the time, so I read the book. At first I was confused – there was plenty of excellent info, albeit packed in a language that is not particularly inviting to me. The focus of the book is on the mental training and preparation, be it fighting or other situations that require performance under stress, and that is fine, I did not expect the book on how to punch and kick in the first place. No, it was the writing style that threw me off. Where was the “good ole’ high-speed low-drag” Rodney King?

And then it dawned on me! I read through his preface again, as well as other articles, interviews and blogs on the web to see what is going on. Admittedly, I had usually concentrated on the man’s technical and tactical material, while neglecting his background and philosophy (yes, shame on me). Once giving his story a bit of thought, it became obvious why he wanted to do away with a lot of his earlier ways of doing things. OK, but how did Rodney end up where he is now? Illumination no.2 – not being in any of those “action” professions, such as military, law enforcement etc., he is actually much more in line with his martial teaching than the majority of us.

You see, the phrase “martial arts as the way of life” is a much (ab)used and thrown around, with glaring inconsistencies between one’s training and daily practices. In that regard, King has actually taken the steps to really put his fight training experience in this daily life, and being that he lives in a modern social-economic paradigm, like most of us, this new approach actually makes a lot of sense. The vocabulary in use is adequate for the book’s intended targeted reading public, so even if you (like me) do not necessarily perceive yourself as a member of that public, there is still a lot of good stuff to be gained, but just understand that the literary style may not suit you. Then again, Rodney has put out a manual, not a novel.

Finally, to the contents of the book. After presenting the readers with his background (which gives the man substantial authority on the subject), Rodney divides his presentation into seven components – six principles and one meta-principle, given in a logical and pertinent order, even if they all work together.
1.      The wabi-sabi of peak performance is about what to strive for and how to keep sight on the objective and act on it, without getting lost in what could be distracting details.
2.      Buddha mind, warrior body deals with the ever important topics of focus and presence of mind, the crucial aspects of trying to achieve anything.
3.      Body attitude maters shows the often neglected interrelationship between body and mind in a fairly practical fashion, with some very good advice on how to improve in that domain, and this may be of special interest for the people actively competing in combat sports.
4.      Surf the edge of chaos could be my favorite chapter, as it pertains to the widely misunderstood way of dealing with change and thriving in the environment that may otherwise be intimidating to many.
5.      Exhale-take charge of your breath gives you the deceptively simple tools to facilitate the changes we are trying to accomplish, particularly in all sorts of performance under duress.
6.      Roll with the punches underlines that we all have to deal with setbacks and less than ideal circumstances, occasional failures and hiccups in our quest for whatever it may be, and how to deal with it.

Finally, the meta-principle of becoming an IGAMER fuses all the previous ones and discusses how in this case the whole may be greater than the simple sum of its parts. This is the section that glues all the pieces of your model together.

Again, I assume quite a few of my readers might be less than happy about the writing style in the Full Contact Living, but if you understand it as the packaging, you may still end up liking the contents and substance it has to offer. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


While we all, more or less, strive to train year round, it is a widespread practice that when you train in a club/group, there is usually the divide between season and off-season. In competitive sports the difference is quite clear, but in all other activities, martial arts included, it mostly means that a "vacation" is taken during summer, and then the regular training regimen resumed in September.

As instructors, we are then faced by a repeating question - where do I (re)start this time? Over the years, I have tried various approaches, with varying degrees of success. For a while I settled on emphasizing the conditioning aspect to some degree, as it achieved several things: most trainees (especially the recreational ones) tend to neglect that portion of their training when left to their own devices, plus, people seem to value training sessions more when they sweat; if there are new people to the group (especially beginners) it allows them to fit in easier and feel less awkward or behind the group; prepares the body to better cope with the demands of technical work.

according to Laurent Vidal

However, for the last couple of seasons, I have been opting for another avenue. Namely, when on vacation, even if doing some solo training, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, i.e. what we are training to achieve through our practice. Therefore, in my training group we spend the grand majority of time in the first few sessions doing various kinds of scenarios, drills and games without too much prior instruction in the technical domain. I will often just describe the task for each of the involved parties and let them come up with the best means of accomplishing it. There will be some hints and coaching during and between the rounds of activity, but it is kept to minimum in order to maintain the pace and the overall mood.

Such an approach offers some rather useful insights for the instructor(s) and trainees. For the instructor it diagnoses at the same time the fitness level and the degree of maintained technical skill among the practitioners/students, thus enabling better planning for the weeks and months to follow. The trainees are put into the activity on a more holistic level, which helps them understand the context of their technical training that will ensue, as well as appreciation for the needed physical attributes and the work it takes to develop them.

For those exact reasons, similar blocks of training sessions ought to be repeated at least a couple of times throughout the season, hopefully with increased intensity and resemblance to the "real thing", whatever it may be, depending on the training goals and motivations.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Challenges in training - congruency

Do you ever ruminate on how many various aspects have impact on the way you train, and down the road, possibly, on how effective your training is? Obviously, certain approaches to training dictate the manner of doing it, but how far/deep do we really ponder on those things?

Let me explain MY meaning behind the term congruency as used here. It would be - training in the way that most closely resemble the circumstances of the performance that the training process is meant to prepare us for. May sound obvious, but is it really? Let's see how far I can take it...

But of course...

For the purposes of this writeup, I will focus on the "functional" motivation for training in combative/martial activities (be it competition or self-protection), thus leaving out those driven by the aesthetic urges. What I will be saying here may also apply to the primarily traditional and historical students of martial ARTS, albeit in a slightly different manner.

So, for the above declared purpose of functional training, things could look fairly simple on the first sight - make sure to train with partners that resist enough to present the adequate challenge, while adhering to the governing rules of the event we are preparing for (where applicable). In sports...well, is there anything more to it that needs being mentioned? Let me put it this way - I remember reading an account of Royler Gracie training his students at the academy for an upcoming competition. Namely, the students were complaining about having to train with air-conditioning turned off and windows on the gym closed, in the heat of the Brazilian summer.  Royler's response was something along the lines of: "You will understand once we get to the venue - a stuffy, crowded arena without AC"! See, it makes sense, right? It is now easy to understand that all the people who trained in those nice, ventilated and cooled gyms would have more things to deal with.

By the same token, still in terms of sport-related activities, do you always train in the same conditions, simply because that is how things are in your training place? What if the competition hall will have much brighter or dimmer lights? Different mats maybe? Will you take it for granted and try to "go with the flow" or maybe try to somehow emulate those differences in training?

Now, we move on to the "real world, self defense" side of  the tracks. Obviously, the sheer number of all imaginable situations is impossible to be replicated in training, but there are some common denominators that are very important. For starters, do you even train always in the same place? If so, does it dictate the kind of clothes you will wear during the sessions, or even more importantly, the footwear? Let's say there are no such "house rules"...but let's say it is an indoor location. So, do you always work out in the clothes that are most comfortable for you? You know, the sport shoes, sweatsuit, shorts, t-shit... But what if you spend most of your days wearing jeans, boots, maybe a vest and a helmet? Yeah, construction worker of sorts! Would it make a difference"?

How about stepping out and actually trying a change in the training environment itself? I have already written elsewhere about uneven surfaces, disproportionate force etc. But there is more to it. If we address the issue of fighting with and against weapons, mixing it up with different "tools" is not the only concern... How do you choose your training weapons/facsimiles? Is it simply the matter of availability/price, or do you actually try to make it as close in looks and feel to the one you carry on you daily? Do you even carry? If not, you probably hope for using what happens to be at hand in the case of "may you never need it" going down the drain. But then, are you diversified enough? Maybe somebody may think that if you spend some time with a good FMA group it would cover quite a wide scope of options - after all once you are handy with an eskrima/arnis stick and knife, it is easy to adapt. Hm, not to burst anybody's bubble, but from experience I can tell you that a lead pipe or a baseball bat behave differently, and require some time spent on getting acquainted with. But moreover, could you use a brick or a rock with some effectiveness? Flexible implements like chains and belts? Hey, let's go back to our construction worker! Can you handle a hammer combatively?

With all that off my chest, I hope to get a bit more coherent now. The point of this article was not have you lose focus in training or "spread you thin", depending on the available time for working on your fighting ability. Obviously, we need to look at things from the possible vs. probable perspective and in line with Pareto's law find out what techniques and methods will give the most bang for the buck...especially for a beginner or someone on the early stages of training.

No, my message was - DON'T get complacent and stuck in a rut! If nothing else, there are some ides here to entertain and play with during the summer vacation ;-)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Teaching vs. coaching

The title reflects the subject I've been pondering lately, but to get something right right now - I do not think the two processes/roles are actually conflicting or in some sort of opposition. As it often is, most phenomena happen in some kind of continuum but for one reason or another, a lot of people will only see the polar extremes of that continuum. And that, of course, offers a distorted view of how things are 99% of the time.

So, let us begin with what the differences are between a teacher and a my own view and for the purposes of this article.

The essential role of the teacher is to present a subject of choice in such a way that the students will understand the matter and become able to approach the practice (hopefully), with the goal of mastering/internalizing/functionalizing that knowledge. The coach, on the other hand, is concerned more with the latter part, i.e. the practice and its results. In other words, in the more specific physical training context, the teacher works on the technical material/curriculum, while the coach works on the practitioner/athlete.

I have already written about teaching and what makes a good teacher, so this time I'd rather turn toward the other side, i.e. coaching.

For the visual types, and not my own design

In the world of martial arts and general combative training, I do not see enough coaches, in comparison with the percentage of teachers. Especially so in the so-called traditional or classical styles, where the heavy emphasis in training is on learning the curriculum, which means making sure that some "sacred knowledge" is not lost or deteriorated in some way. In those circles, the focus of performance is on whether something looks adequately or seems proper. The principal criterion here is often visual, so the student may be told that something is done "like this, not like that", but when asked "why", the teacher typically answers that it is the right way of doing it. That, of course, is not an explanation at all.

To the coach, the main issue is not whether whether any technical element is done this or that way, but - does it work! And the work part means in the circumstances it is meant to be used in. That is why in most fighting sports we only discuss the individual styles of a fighter, not so much in the term of "lineage". Take a look at boxing...there are definitely styles in it (peek-a-boo, Texas slip 'n' slide etc.) but the bottom line is whether a boxer can hold his or her own in the ring. And that is also why you see different types of fighters coming from the same gym - the coaches work on each one's personal strengths and weaknesses to optimize their performance.

My most recent encounter with the dichotomy of teaching and coaching (which peaked the inspiration for this article) happened during the seminar with guro Roger Agbulos of the Astig Lameco school, a couple of weeks back. Namely, his approach to conducting a seminar is different to most other instructors I have met, being that he will keep harping on the same technique or principle for longer than the majority of other. On top of that, guro Roger will usually spar a lot of participants of the seminar, and then also have them spar among themselves, while offering tips from the side.

When asked about it, he said he would rather spend three hours on a couple of techniques than go over a lot, because it enables him to coach the practitioner in real time. More specifically, it gives enough time to see what are the problems/mistakes that the individual trainee will exhibit, and then work on correcting them. It also means the coach will tweak and adapt the material to suit the particular trainee, not the other way around. Ultimately, to a committed coach, what counts is the result, not the amount of technical knowledge or the size of the arsenal.

The author being coached by Roger Agbulos
Naturally, in order for the process of coaching to take place, it entails certain prerequisites. There has to be continuity in working with one coach/trainee; fairly high level of mutual trust is needed, too; both sides have to be aware of their roles and responsibilities in the process, and so on. Of course, when an instructor only does occasional seminars in particular places, and with a group(s) of people who do not show up repeatedly, the above conditions are absent. In that case it is very difficult to be a coach. Add to the equation that some folks are naturally more inclined to one role or the other, and consequently you have two broad categories that could be described as a "seminar instructor" and a "club instructor". 

And yet, these aspect do not necessarily exclude each other. Remember, most things happens are somewhere on the continuum line, hence consisting of various degrees of both extreme polarized values. 
As my friend Mladen Jovanovic rightly preaches, the best results are usually accomplished through the complementary approach, where you choose the right tool for the task at hand, instead of upholding a dogmatic attitude of things are done. 

In conclusion - know your goals; know your tools; know your trainees... An then mix and match the ingredients in a deliberate and attentive way for the best results.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Learning the decision making

It's been a while since I last wrote a review. Fortunately, Luis Preto (check our my earlier posts about him) delivered an awesome product again, so here is my take on it.

This time what we have is a DVD titled "COMBAT TACTICS: Decision making in weapon based martial arts", and it really delivers an excellent presentation on the subject. I gotta say first, the choice of the subject itself is quite brilliant. The marked is flooded with all kinds of technique/form/combination etc. teaching media, but very few people addressed the much needed topic of teaching and learning the "cement:, i.e. what holds all the techniques together in performance.

This is it!
Luis covers all the bases in this one, tackling the defense, attack, counter attack, combinations, but by far most importantly he pays attention to how the typical combative encounter unfolds, how to manage that process, and then even offers the strategic approach (yes, strategic - as in the overarching view that helps you choose the right tactics) in the form of decision pyramid, to help the viewer maximize the efficiency of their training.

In conclusion, forgive me for quoting my own review on the Amazon site, but I stand behind the words:
In other words, this is a pretty unique product in the field at the moment, so you really should treat yourself and obtain it. If you are an instructor in combat with impact weapons of any sort, as well as with any bladed weapon that does rely entirely on stabbing, then this should be mandatory watching.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Shortcut fallacy

We all know there are no shortcuts to becoming good in gaining any skill, especially if it also entails the aspect of making split-second decisions about which skill to use and how. And still, we see people incessantly seeking the way to "get there faster". What's up with that?

Well, it is a natural striving - wishing to achieve more results with less effort. As the mater of fact, that would be some kind of definition of  efficiency, right? So, what is the problem then? The problem is that, for some reason, the field of martial arts/combatives is plagued by the mystical notions of "secret techniques", various "super powers and supernatural abilities". They funny thing about those is not that they are essentially snake oil related product, but even more so that fact that those looking for something along those lines end up taking the longer and rather winding road, just to get nowhere in the end. Unless the point is exactly in taking the road, i.e. the quest itself. In that case, more power to them.

However, if you are searching for the efficiency, then you better set your sights on the best training methods, instead of any particular techniques and/or tools. We have seen time and time again that some schools end up having better performing students that others, even if using more or less the same tools and under similar circumstances (rules, belief systems etc). Moreover, I have seen how the same individual could change for better or for worse when going from one training methodology to another.

So, how do you know what is the right training approach for you? Well, it starts with defining as clear an understanding of what are you training for; how much are you ready to sacrifice; does your idea(l) fit your physical and psychological profile etc. I have already addressed some of those subjects in this blog, so go back and dig around a little.

Just understand on thing - once you embark on the chosen road, you still have to go over it in shortcuts.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Take it slow

It isn’t really a novelty by any means that the need to do some training at real time speed and with increased pressure has becoming emphasized more and more over the past few years, in the martial art circles. As the matter of fact, yours truly had already written about it. Yet, in the Russian Martial Art circles, particularly various Systema styles and schools, this approach is relatively fresh, and some practitioners have even suddenly started dismissing the slow paced training altogether. Well, to fix something it does not simply suffice doing the opposite thing.

Of course there is a time and place for the slow training! When one tries to figure out which approach to training is better, it can only be done in relation to the function and the desired outcome of the training session(s). That said, let us make an important distinction here…

Just like many other activities that entail performance of a complex set of motor actions (not to mention the tactical aspect), the training process essentially boils down to two segments:
1.     Learning
2.     Practicing

The former category is impossible without the heavy engagement of the cognitive apparatus, i.e. the process is highly analytical, hence requiring time to be done properly. If at issue is a completely new skill, unrelated to the previously acquired ones, in this phase the practitioner may end up a training session without even breaking sweat, but feeling certain mental saturation instead. 

As we all know, learning a skill properly from the get go is important because the mistakes are much harder to correct if already “ingrained”, which only reiterates the necessity for the slow and methodical approach at the learning stage.

However, I feel it is very important to not dwell in the slow stage for too long. Namely, a number of people may enjoy staying there longer because it enables the sense of accomplishment to really sink in, but down the line it just delays the frustration that only seems to escalate once you try to things in the “real time” and under pressure – all of a sudden the skill you thought you had mastered seems inadequate again. It is only natural and requires simply practicing it now, under these new conditions, but no… Quite a lot of practitioners (and sadly, their coaches/instructors) will resort back to the slow practice, believing that it will somehow magically “translate” into performance under in different circumstances. I am sorry to break it to you, but it does not work that way.
Duke it out!
In the Filipino martial arts there is a saying that “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” but the later part is only true if actually done fast. The bottom line is, both slow and fast approaches have their place in training, ideally, in a way that would enable them to complement each other and thus improve the overall results.

Naturally, there is a process in bringing things up to speed, including the methods of reducing the number of factors to deal with in training, many kinds of drills, gradual increase in resistance and speed etc, and this is the time to sweat it out. Those, nevertheless, are not the subject of this post, and some have been touched upon already in this blog, some others will be in the future. Just make sure to keep the goal in mind while enjoying the process.

Monday, March 16, 2015

On your own

This is by no means the first or the least treatise on the subject of solo training in martial arts, combatives etc, nor is it an attempt to be the ultimate take on it. Like always, it is a personal standpoint, but based on some experience, both as a trainee/student and the trainer/instructor.

Let me get out the obvious right at the start – yes, the solo training has its place (and an important one) in one’s study of fighting system(s). As an instructor I am always surprised when a student asks: “What can I do on my own, at home, to be able and improve faster”? Of course, then they get surprised by my answer – work on your physical fitness. While it may not be completely obvious to some people, especially beginners, there are certainly reasons for such a response. Now, how to approach it can be done one way or another, but that is probably not even the main concern.

I may be in the minority of people who see things this way, but as a student, it always bothers me when a large chunk of a training session is devoted to calistenics, running and other kinds of conditioning. See, if I am paying for martial art instruction, then I’d rather have that time to work on the technical material – first, because you don’t have the willing training partner  on every corner outside the club/group; second because I would rather have an instructor watching over and correcting my technical mistakes in combative performance than regarding my pushups or pullups. Naturally, some technical elements in certain systems are a good physical workout on their own when repeated, and that is completely fine with me.

The other side of the coin would be my being baffled, as an instructor, on how a lot of trainees almost exclusively believe a training session was “awesome” only of they had sweated profusely in it. I guess that most of them just see it as another way of recreational activity…and that is completely fine, but that is not the kind of “clientele” I look for.

As stated above, the main concern is not why and how here, but rather will. Many a person I know simply lack the willpower and self-discipline to train on their own, especially when it means doing something “uninteresting” and tough as conditioning. Yet, I have seen it time and time aging – a little strength, flexibility and stamina will have terrific impact on a person’s technical performance as well. But then again, it requires being passionate about one’s chosen activity.

                                                            For example...

If you insist on working on your “discipline specific” contents during your solo sessions, it can be done, too. But be warned – that kind of think only makes sense after some time spent within the training system of choice, and for a couple of reasons. First, at the early stages you really need some immediate feedback, either from the instructor or the training partner, and my friend Luis Preto harped on the issue quite eloquently. The second is, making that kind of training really pertinent will often require some kind of equipment, and that in turn will require some investment and probably a degree ingenuity to come up with your own design. And if you are not one of those DIY enthusiasts, it means, again, you need to be passionate about it. But if you are, it could take you a long way.

Ingenuity at work
 Ultimately, in order to extract maximum from your solo training efforts, you ought to be willing to push yourself beyond the comfort zone, and to do it in an intelligent manner… No big deal, right?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Random attributes - adaptability

Let me say right away, the term "random" in the title simply means that I will be randomly addressing the subject of some attributes in the development of one's fighting prowess. Obviously, some of them will be physical, some mental etc, and while I have no intention of ranking them by any particular criteria, it seems fitting to start off with adaptability, as that one (as I see it) seems to be the "central governor" and really is the key of whether other attributes you have will serve you right.

The funny thing is that although it may seem at the first glance that having a high degree of adaptability makes somebody able to operate well in most situations, I believe it is more specific than a lot of people would think. Namely, although some underlying psychological mechanisms and physiological processes are certainly same over a wide span of situations, the very fact that it is possible to train in order to develop one's adaptability indicates it will be improved over the range of trained stimuli and encountered environments/situations. For example, being easily adaptable to temperature changes does not necessarily entail having no problems adapting to a ground fight if you are only trained in some sort of kick-boxing system, or adapting to the new working environment.

That said, let's get to the main point. Really, the bottom line is that if you want to improve you adaptability in fighting, you simply have to expose yourself to as many related challenges as possible. Now, simple does not mean it is easy, right? In seeking to be functional in various phases and ranges of combat, you need to address all of their pertinent challenges and problems, and there are different ways to do it. First, while it is easy to fall into the trap of "ultimate universal fighter" and thing you need to train everything (or dismiss the point of training altogether as you will never have enough time to do it all), it is more rational to ponder on the specific demands of your specific situation. You know, the commando underwater scuba fighting may sound cool, what is the probability of you ever ending up in that kind of situation? So, do not miss the tree for the wood, and focus on what is most likely for you...if time and energy permits, you can then expand the proverbial "toolbox". After all, having a laser cutter is nice, but you won't need it as a carpenter or a shoemaker, or a mason. A hammer on the other hand...

Can you even fit it all into your box?
Having many tools may also be counter-productive. See, sometimes they cannot all be squeezed into the toolbox you have, i.e. if you do not train properly in the utilization, some "gear" will just clutter and eat up your valuable space. So again, be very about what you take and where do you put it.

OK, so you have identified your needs. How do you choose proper tools for those tasks? Now, there may be (again) more than one way to address this issue, but here's my take. Everybody will have some sort of preference when it comes to how we tend to fight (if able to choose in the first place). see what it is, and by that I mean train and REALLY strive to be objective about what your natural good attributes are, and then build on those. Do not base your decision on how you would like to look like in a fight. Also, yes - I am all for  working on your weaknesses, yet... Neglecting your "holes" is risky, but disregarding your strengths is plain stupid.

The way I see it, set up a nice, strong "game" based on your natural preferences, and then work to "plug the holes", so the water keeps flowing where you want it. To be less metaphorical - develop some strong combative aspects and then seek to find the way to tackle the weaknesses in such a way to support your strong aspects. For example, if you are really good in the standup striking range, your main grappling focus should be on defending the takedown, escaping the ground holds and getting back up on your feet, not hunting for the submission of some sort. Vice versa, if you forte is clinch, then you really need to develop good distance bridging approach, not working on your high kicks.

If you do it right, all your tools come together to form a sturdy structure, instead of just being a heap of unrelated pieces of material. In other words, if you have a right training methodology (engineering), it will be easier to find out which peaces fit together and how to make them into formation (building).


Once you have some kind of structure in place, you will need occasional work on it - cleaning, renovations, redesigning etc. However, the main thing about the adaptability is that once you have your "residence" you just need to modify it depending on the situation, not change it altogether.