Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Running in circles, and getting somewhere

There are varying, and sometimes colliding, attitudes towards the role of cyclical, give-and-take drills done in martial arts. A typical example of those would be the familiar approach to them in Filipino martial arts, commonly known as hubud drills. Some proponents believe these are essential for the development of certain attributes, others that they are complete waste of time. Admittedly, I have been on both sides of the rift at some point, so now I hope to provide some insight into how to do such drills in order to bridge the gap in perceptions on their value.

For starters, let's take a look at a typical example of the kind of drills we are talking about.

The supporters of such training will claim that its main goals are line familiarization, developing the flow, learning about proper mechanical structure of the techniques etc. On the other hand, the
skeptics about the value of circular drills, mostly coming from the MMA or BJJ (sports) background, underline that they are static and lack energy/resistance, thus failing to prepare the practitioners for any realistic application whatsoever.

Now, there are certain shortsighted misconceptions in both camps. In so many instances, when the students lose sight of the end goal and keep doing the drill for the sake of just doing it, i.e. when the means is mistaken for the goal, they stay at this beginning stage and then all those objections from the critics then apply in full.

Interestingly, though, the sport crowd fails to see that there are training methods of that ilk are widespread in their domain as well. One such example would be the following positional drill in BJJ:

As it seems, the aim of this exercise is the familiarization with typical positions of the discipline (line familiarization?) and getting used to go from one to another seamlessly (developing flow?). Take notice of how the training partner is utterly static and not providing any resistance. Naturally, the response is that at issue is just the beginning phase of training and that at some point the person on the bottom will start offering resistance and actively attempting to hinder the top person's movements.

Another point might be that it is not even the cyclical drill of the give-and-take type as utilized in the FMA circles. OK, then how about the next one:

In this pummeling drill we clearly see the static phase and predetermined moves, along with little to no resistance. However, the training does not end there! Towards the end of the video, the trainees start adding footwork and moving with energy. And this is where those more "traditional" schools of Asian martial arts should look for some effective tweaks to their own training.

Still, in all fairness, some of those schools have been doing it fine all along. From a personal experience, after having learned some basic hubud drills I did them for a short while simply because they were fun and flashy when dome at speed (great for demos). But then, I completely abandoned them because they did not transfer well into sparring. Later, nevertheless, under the tutelage of guro Roger Agbulos, it became clear that when trained properly, these drills can offer some tangible value in terms of transfer to other, more alive and energetic modes of training. Here is an example of him coaching some intricacies of this work.

From here on, it is easy to also introduce timing variations, feints etc, ultimately using the basic drill as a springboard for further exploration and growth. Personally, my take is that all drills, being what they are - drills, are the means to isolate and better understand particular segments of the whole picture that is combat. Consequently, they should be treated as such - use them for what they're for and either move on or expand/adapt once they have served their purpose. Still, let's not not throw the baby out with the bathwater and miss on worth aspects of any training method because it is useless or harmful when implemented improperly. 

No comments: