Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Life" Insurance

“Life” Insurance

What would you be willing to pay to ensure a long, healthy, and safe life? I’m sure most will say just about anything. Then you ask “what are you doing to ensure the above?” Then the answers slow down and thoughtful looks appear. I could now go on about exercise, eating healthy, regular doctor’s checkups, staying away from “hey watch this!” moments, and obeying traffic laws. I’d like to think that most of that “stuff” is just common sense but in reality, it’s not. All I can do is try to influence people in my small circle of friends, acquaintances, and people that care to listen to me. What I would like to propose though is the study of a martial art also being “life” insurance.
Human nature is imperfect, always has and always will be. While not specifically stated, Cain’s murder of Abel is generally accepted as being born of jealousy, and so it began. Fast forward several thousand years and guess what! It’s still happening today but on a slightly larger scale. Humans will always want and while most will actualize those wants in a socially accepted manner, enough won’t and in turn, will impose their will on others. I’ve talked about the origins of structured fighting systems in another blog so I’m going to jump ahead to now. Why learn a martial art when we have cops, guns, the rule of law, and statistically speaking, very low crime rates. At this point, I’d like to interject a personal story. My wife Tina, has been a martial artist for over seventeen years. She has learned a modern system that is very self-defense oriented to include heavy physical contact, assault drills, ambush prevention, “street” weapons, awareness skills, and the legal ramifications of violence. During that whole period, she hasn’t gotten into one fight! This has put her in the predicament of asking her-self, was it all worth it?  She voluntarily chose to make a huge investment of money, pain, time, effort, and challenge but as of yet, has not had one opportunity to smoke a bad-guy. Now, she is afraid to use her knowledge for fear of getting into trouble with the law and/or being sued. I on the other hand feel that she has accomplished every goal of her studies and continues to maintain that skill set. She is extremely fit, knowledgeable, continues to live the life-style of awareness, and when asked what she would do if confronted by REAL violence, is confident in her ability to survive and overcome. I like to think I’m a realist and plan accordingly. I do all the above mentioned “stuff” along with a bunch of “other stuff”. I keep an emergency bag with trauma kit in my vehicle, a trauma kit on my modular belt, I stay up on first aid knowledge, I keep enough money in savings to get by for several months of un-employment. I ensure my vehicle is properly maintained. I own firearms and maintain proficiency in their use with regular NRA and privately sponsored training courses. I READ THE NEWS, all of it. Local, national, world, right, left, and internet all have information that one can use in making informed decisions. In other words, I’m trying really hard not to be caught by surprise, and that in a nutshell is why I train in a martial art. The idea of learning self-defense is to use it when you need it but as the saying goes “It sucks to need and not have”. Do you really need to fight over a parking spot, a Cabbage Patch doll, or some real or imagined slight? I don’t think so and if awareness, avoidance, and verbal/physical diffusion skills are not part of your curriculum, then you are not learning self-defense/protection. Most won’t get this for the simple reason that it takes effort above and beyond what they HAVE to do. Tina wants to be around to have fun with her grandkids. Her martial arts training has been one investment to ensure she reaches that goal.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Back-Fist to the Head

A student asked a question concerning a particular technique. I couldn't come up with a short answer so I came up with this. "Wanna' hear it? Here it goes."

Are there multiple targets to the head with the back fist?

Let’s talk about back-fists, also known as back-knuckle. Today, back-fists to the head are VERY common and taught in most systems. Unfortunately, a lot of the weapons taught today, came from men that actually fought with their hands, sometimes for their life. When your life is on the line, you are very motivated to train in the hardest schools in order to turn your body into a weapon. This includes the lengthy and painful conditioning exercises we see old school Karateka and Hard-Stylists use. I have come to the conclusion that very few of today’s martial artists have thrown a back-fist to someone's head with intention. Traditionally, the back-fist was trained on the makiwara or other conditioning aid. The training itself was almost meta-physical.Very few train to that degree anymore but the weapon is still being taught as though you can pop someone in the temple or skull and get a knock-out without damaging your hand. Aiming for the jaw or cheek in a fight with a whipping attack AND COUNTING on it is risky. I tried a short chopping punch to a guy’s jaw in a parking lot a long time ago in a far away galaxy. His flinch was faster than my punch. I caught him in the temple and knocked him out BUT broke my hand in the process. I still had to save my friend from the two on him, but now I’m damaged and I know it. With that said, I’m a big believer in soft on hard, hard on soft. I still teach the system as taught because it’s not for me to water it down and my experiences are just that, mine. When I teach a student a traditional weapon and its use, I do have a tendency to teach options in relation to the person being taught. I consider size, relative physical and mental strength, aptitude, and yes, I consider gender. Face it, a 98lb, trained; diligent female using a back-fist to the temple is NOT going to have the same result as a 220lb untrained male using the same weapon/target. This brings us back to mechanics. Proper structure and mechanics are universal but mass is not. For some targets, you just need a big bullet and big bullets with proper mechanics work on ALL targets. Visualize a .22 to the arm then picture a .50 to the same spot on said arm. If you are unfamiliar with imparted kinetic energy, YouTube it to get a better idea. One of my first introductions to AKKI women demonstrating their brand of weapons, targets, and kinetic energy was at the 1st AKKI Las Vegas International Camp in 1998. The technique taught was Thundering Hammer modified for women. Instead of the forearm to the mid-section, it was a palm-heel to the groin. Instead of a hammer-fist to the cervical, it was a palm to the OP. My over-eager training partner for that seminar was my wife who promptly smoked my testicles and knocked me out. I’ve been teaching options ever since.
I am not poo-pooing traditional empty-hand weapons. In 1977, I watched Tak Kubota casually back-fist a makiwara bolted to the floor at a San Diego karate studio. He broke two of those supporting bolts and bent the other two. At the time I thought it was pretty cool; now when I think about it, I’m amazed. How many practitioners train the way he does though? Again, look him up. He is the epitomy of tradtional hard style training. I for one do not nor do I have the inclination. Bottom line; know your weapons, their capabilities, and your ability to use them. More importantly, learn the correct mechanics that drive ALL of your weapons because when the fat lady sings, it will come down to attitude, target, weapon, moment, and the mechanics that bring it all together.