Earlier today, I was chatting with a friend of mine. He had bought the Combat Bundle I provided one of my books for (the deal ends today so you better hurry if you want to get it) and was having some trouble downloading the files. We were talking and he mentioned one of the problems he faces is getting off his butt and actually train. He thought this would be hard for me (as a personal trainer) to understand. We talked some more and this (along with my first training session in a month) got me thinking.
This post is the result.
As I explained previously, I had surgery one month ago. Today is the first time I worked out since then. I took it slow and easy, was careful not to rip open the wounds, paid special attention to everything the physical therapist had told me, etc. As I was warming up, I thought about the two ways I could view this first session:
- The negative. I was bound to suck. After such a long time off and having to be careful to avoid additional injuries, there is no way I would be able to train hard.
- The positive. I would get to move again! After such a long time of inactivity, I could train again. That is awesome!
I chose to focus on the latter. Sure, it was nowhere the intensity I normally like to train, but it was the first step towards that goal. I know there will be many more steps along the way, but that’s OK. I know where I’m going and I’m going to enjoy the journey getting there. I lost years of training time because they couldn’t diagnose me correctly. I won’t get those years back, along with the skill and conditioning I lost in the mean time and that sucks. But the one good thing to come out of this whole ordeal is that I am a lot more grateful for every good day I have. I no longer take my training for granted, because I now know how quickly it can be taken away from me when my body refuses to let me.
So I focus on the positive, on what I can do. Even if it isn’t what I used to be able to do. Even if the goal I’m training for is still a long way off. I don’t care. I’m going to enjoy each training session. Right now, that’s what keeps me motivated.
But it isn’t always like that.
Motivation in martial arts training
I’ve been training in the martial arts for about thirty years now and finding the motivation to keep going has been an ongoing process. Sometimes it was easy, other times not so much. I am fortunate that I can teach professionally, which means I am training every day at least a little bit with clients, but that’s not the same as making sure I have my own progress in the arts. Which brings us to the question I think is key to have long-term motivation to continue in the martial arts: Read More→
Last week, I received an email from somebody who follows my Youtube Channel. He asked why I wasn’t regularly uploading videos like I used to in the past. That’s a good question and it deserves an answer:
I don’t like making crappy videos in which my performance sucks.
The next question would then be: why would my performance suck?
The answer to that one is something I debated if I would explain it or not. On the one hand, my personal life and health is nobody’s business but my own. I also don’t feel like sharing everything that goes on in my life with the entire world. I believe I already give more than enough access to my thoughts and life experiences. Finally, I don’t like people who whine each time they get a little bit injured and would rather not be seen as one of those.
On the other hand, I very much hate the macho-attitude that is rampant in martial arts and combat sports. You know what I mean; the guys who pretend like they can take everything that comes their way, they’re never hurt, they cannot be beaten, etc. I loathe that kind of immature showboating because it is both stupid and pointless. Fighting hurts. If you train to fight and/or fight a lot, you’ll get hurt regularly. If you’re unlucky, you’ll get injured and if you really push it, you’ll get chronic injuries. Pretending that this doesn’t happen is one of the biggest lies macho martial artists perpetrate.
A second aspect is the years I lived with pain and had no cure for it. If by sharing my story I can spare just one person going through that same ordeal, then it’ll be worth it.
A bit over two years ago, I felt like crap. I was tired, weak and always in pain, in particular in my back and legs. Then all of a sudden the symptoms got worse and it felt like I had aged ten years in a month. So I went to my MD and he did a basic examination. Not much to be found except that I scored zero on the patellar reflex test. Meaning, he hit me with the hammer and nothing happened. My legs didn’t even twitch. Then started a long downward spiral that lasted until a few weeks ago… Read More→
If you spend some time training with boxers, you know the power of a good lead hook. It’s a devastating blow when delivered properly. But not only in the ring, it works well on the street too.
Take a look at this street fight here:
Some quick thoughts:
- I wasn’t there. I have no idea why these men are fighting, what happened before or what came after. So I won’t comment on that part. It looks like there was plenty of opportunity for both of them to walk away, but I wasn’t there so who knows?
- Lead hooks can be fast. Look at the speed of both blows. Straight line punches are considered faster by default because of the shorter distance they travel from starting point to impact. But that doesn’t mean hooks are slow. Ignore that speed at your own risk…
- Lead hooks can be deceptive. The boxer sets up his second shot well. He moves his hands a bit and dips down once to test the other guy’s reaction. Then he does it again as he shuffles into range, hiding the hook with that motion. If you haven’t experienced this before, have a boxer do this to you in sparring and you’ll see just how deceptive and powerful such a lead hook can be from a good set up.
Western boxing can be a devastating system for self-defense, the power of the lead hooks this boxer throws is testament to it. If you haven’t done so already, go train at a boxing gym for at least a couple months. You’ll get a whole new perspective on striking techniques.
Earlier today, I saw this Krav Maga knife defense technique and had to watch it a few times to check if I saw everything right. I always try to go out of my way to avoid criticizing other arts as I don’t practice them, but this one seems to go beyond Krav Maga knife defense as I know it.
I’ll comment more on that below, but first, watch the video.
Krav Maga Knife Defense
Some thoughts on this video.
- My first thought was “What the flying monkey fuck?” My second thought was “This looks nothing like any Krav Maga knife defense I know.” Which doesn’t mean much because my direct training in it was very limited and a long time ago when an Israeli soldier showed it to me. But what he showed looked nothing like this here. Looking at this video, I guess I must have misunderstood him back then….
- Knife attacks suck. Let’s get that out of the way first. There are no easy solutions. I’ve yet to see a comprehensive system that is easy to learn and applies to all possible ways a knife can be used against you. Which is a key factor as you won’t know how the guy will use it on you until he does. Not all attacks are a prison yard rush or a FMA weed whacker from hell. There’s lots of ground between both these extremes and if you train for one instead of the other, don’t assume your techniques will work out of the box. The differences are just as important as the similarities. Which is why I don’t believe there is a one stop shop for knife defense. On a technical level, there are several things I find disturbing and I’ll cover some of them now.
- She turns into the knife as she grabs it. It may just be me but I’d prefer turning the other way instead of cutting my own throat. My name is Demeere, not Dibbler…
- She spins her back into her attacker. His left arm will not magically disappear as she performs her technique. Look closely at the video and you’ll see there is nothing stopping him from beating the crap out of her with it or using it to stop her from spinning in the opposite direction. When that happens she cannot disarm him (as she needs that spin for the disarm) and she’ll just get her throat cut from behind instead of from the front. Not a big improvement…
- Her control is limited. Her hands are both on the blade and on her own wrist. The only real control of his arm she has is between her arm and her armpit, which is far from a solid control. If he yanks his arm back or forward, she is unlikely to be able to stop him from doing so. When that happens, it will all go downhill from there…
- The lead knee sucks for power. She has to knee him in the groin with lead knee as her back is half turned. This is one of the weakest positions to knee an opponent from, because her hips cannot power the knee strike. To use her hips for the knee, she’d have to face him more, forcing her to loosen or even release her grip on his arm. I doubt she can do any significant damage to him as is right now.
- The spin seems doubtful. As she’s giving him a free hand to stop her from spinning away from him, I doubt very much she’ll manage to do so effectively. Even more, he’s basically in an underhook, which is an extremely strong position for his arm if he can brace and lock it down. Which is something most people do instinctively as soon as you try to grab their arm, knife or no. I don’t see her getting that to work if he actively resists, especially given the weight and strength difference between them.
- “The padded part of the hand can take some strain.” Really? I have heard this over and over but have yet to find somebody willing to put his money where his mouth is and try it against a non-compliant partner. I wonder why… I would also love to see somebody try this on a knife with a serrated edge. Furthermore, I would like to see them try it against a resisting opponent who outweighs him significantly, just like the instructor in the video does this woman. Any takers to prove that Rob Roy actually does Krav Maga knife defense too?
All in all, I would never teach this technique to the woman in this video. There are too many issues with it on too many levels. To each his own and if you can make it work, more power to you. But for me, it reeks too much of the “Expect to get cut” zombie-meme and then turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve seen other Krav Maga knife defense techniques I found a lot more convincing than this one.
One of those recurring arguments in martial arts and self-defense revolves around open hand versus closed fist striking and which is best. There is a lot of dogma there and I’ve seen too many people parrot those theories without giving them some closer consideration. It won’t surprise you that I believe things are more nuanced than these black/white statements. I came across such a statement by accident not that long ago, which triggered this article.
Hard weapon to soft target, soft weapon to hard target.
If you ask anybody with a bit of training about which is better: open hand or closed fist striking, this is the standard response they give you. If you use a fist to strike, hit a soft target like the stomach instead of the face to avoid breaking your knuckles on the hard bones of the skull. If you want to hit a hard surface, they insist you use a softer weapon, like an open hand strike.
This is by no means bad advice, but it isn’t written in stone. As a rule of thumb, for the average person and in particular for the person not interested in spending lots of time training, this works just fine. Hell, it works fine if you’ve been training for decades. So you won’t hear me argue against this rule.
What I will argue against is the implied assumptions that come with it and the dogma that surrounds it. There are several assumptions that people (subconsciously) adhere to when they see this rule as absolute:
- As if every single closed fist punch to a hard target results in a broken hand.
- As if it is impossible to punch a hard target with a closed fist without injury to your fist.
- As if every open hand strike ever thrown has a 100% no-injury track record.
- As if you cannot injure your open hand striking a hard target.
Like I said, this is not necessarily stated openly, but it is all too often implied in their reasoning and they train accordingly. Here’s the thing: I know form personal experience all these statements are complete bullshit. But it’s a lot easier to disregard thus reality and focus on the “hard to soft, soft to hard” rule as if it’s a universal truth without exceptions or limits. In this article, I want to explore a couple of the factors that are typically overlooked in this discussion, but are nonetheless extremely important in determining the outcome.
Five types of impact
I learned about the five types of impact in an old Bushido manual some 25 years ago. It changed the way I trained forever. I wrote about this in detail in my Hardcore Heavy Bag Training book and demonstrate the concepts in my Combat Sanshou: Striking video. If you want more details and information, I suggest you get those as I will only cover them briefly here to avoid inflating the article. Here they are:
- Penetrating: The kind you use to break boards or kick in a door. It travels through the target as if to break it. This is the kind most practitioners think of when they speak about striking power.
- Shockwave: The weapon lands and sticks. It is fired much like in penetrating impact, but it doesn’t try to go as deep. When it lands, it imparts the kinetic energy in a relatively large area.
- Bouncing: The weapon hits and uses the impact to recoil quickly along the path it came. Think of it as throwing a ball at a wall to make it bounce back to you.
- Ricochet: Similar to bouncing impact but instead of reversing the direction 180°, the weapon shoots off at a different angle, for instance 90°
- Ripping: Picture it like slashing through a target with a sword. The weapon lands at an oblique angle, strikes the target and is then dragged across to come out the other end.
These categories are also not set in stone as there will be overlap between all of them depending on how you strike, the kind of weapon used, etc. But they’re practical to use for training purposes and determining how and why you use certain techniques.
The reason why this matters is that the type of impact used will determine the potential for damage to your hand when you use an open hand or closed fist. It also determines the kinds of results you get when the strike lands. Two examples: Read More→
Did a lot of that kind of training when I was younger. Still paying the price for it…
Another friend replied to that as follows:
Wim, can I ask you to elaborate? I hear a lot of people talk about old wounds, etc., but are you talking muscle damage from a medicine ball to the gut? Carpal tunnel from whacking a log with your forearms like this dude? I don’t hear many people mention the specifics types/methods of training that have consequences like this.
Check out the video first and then read on after the break:
Here’s what I said in response, with some additions left and right: