In-Fight Micro Movement – Darren Friesen

People who’ve sparred a lot in combat sports or in their weapons training become good at things I call “micro-movements”, which are rarely taught and legitimately hard-to-teach. Why they’re not taught, predominantly, is because they’re different for every person and experience-driven. (Other contributing factors: the club doesn’t spar or spar often, and the instructor doesn’t know how to impart that particular info due to the previous sentence) Whatever the reason, they are instinctive and good fighters do them innately/experientially They’re things you figure out on your own (learned, not “taught”) that are subtle and minute but can change the outcome – instinctive and innate. They’re NOT skills like “evading”, “trapping”, or “countering” but the minutiae that facilitate those skillsets. For example – foot placement/replacement, subtle weight shifts, fades, angling, feinting/feigned body commitment or vulnerability, pulls/pushes, pivots, small barely-seen body movements, all the way to feinting and baiting.

They’re NOT techniques but things learned WHILE fighting, the small elements that we discover repeatedly over time during the honing of those “tools” during testing and application against active and dynamic resistance. People who just do relatively static TMA, I’ve found personally, don’t have these and often aren’t even aware of them. Boxers, grapplers, fencers, all have them as they seldom do anything other than pound fundamentals and train pressure, AND how to fine-tune those fundamentals under pressure. Small nuances that exceptional and experienced fighters do, is what sets them apart. (We see it repeatedly in combat sports with those who excel) And when something is innate and instinctive, it’s immediately more “recallable” and accessible.

There Is Nothing New Without The Old – Kevin O’Hagan

Between the ages of 16 and 22 years old I was fortunate in my Martial Arts journey to spend a great deal of time training under the direct tutelage of Japanese Sensei.

I learnt many lessons from these Masters. Some of these lessons were immediately apparent, others took years to suddenly make sense.

Here I am going to discuss one particularly valuable lesson I learnt as I progressed to my black belt and beyond.

I hope it will help and clarify some prominent issues for those on their own journeys.

The Japanese have a term in Martial Arts named SHU-HA-RI.

This term isn’t just exclusive to Martial Arts but generally how they learn any traditional art.


HA- Means to BREAK


Let’s look at these 3 points individually.

In Martial arts terms SHU (preserve) means when you first learn a technique you practice it exactly how your Instructor showed you. You don’t deviate from it in anyway.

The way it is initially shown might not be the only way, but it is a starting point that you adhere to until a time were another piece of the puzzle will be revealed to you.

As a ‘Gung Ho’ young man full of testosterone and a burning desire to prove myself I used to get frustrated when I was told to perform a technique repeatedly.

I wanted more. I was eager to run before I could walk. I didn’t want to wait.

I see now that physically I may have got the technique down well but mentally I wasn’t ready to move on.

Training back in those days under Japanese Sensei was 2- hour classes of repetitive training of maybe tops 3 or 4 techniques. That was it. Fuck telling them ‘I’ve got that, what’s next?’

No, you kept your mouth shut and kept on drilling unless you wanted a broken arm or leg.

SHU is the foundation of your art. It is the deep roots of the tree going way under the soil.

The tree and its various decorative branches is only as strong as its roots.

Many of us as Westerner’s cannot grasp these principles. We live in a society now that can’t wait for anything and need instant gratification.

I now firmly believe in the saying. ‘All good things come to those who wait.’

Ask any high ranking black belt of their art that trained under Japanese supervision how many front kicks, wristlocks, hip throws, sword cuts they have done over and over.

The widely touted theory, highlighted in a 1993 psychology paper and popularised by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, says that anyone can master a skill with 10,000 hours of practice.

Scientists, however, remain sceptical. They also say you can add intelligence, age, personality or maybe something else into the mix.

But let’s say it takes you 10,000 hours to learn a Martial Art.

How long would you need to train a day? Well to put it in perspective if you trained 90  minutes a day (which is the usual length of a training session) it would rough take 20 years to be on the ‘tipping point’ of greatness.

Train 8 hours a day that time will drop.

The question is how good to you want to get?

Also, what is the quality of the training you are doing?

We have the old example of the guy who says he trained for 3 hours in the gym today.

Reality says he trained an hour, scratched his balls and looked in the mirror for another hour and the final hour was taking up chatting to his mate and eyeing up the woman.

When you see an athletic at their peak winning gold, a football team winning the world cup a tennis player winning Wimbledon or a fighter winning a world title then you are beginning to understand what it takes to master your chosen art.

Dabbling isn’t going to cut it. A once a week 90-minute class isn’t even going to get you to average.

Japanese Sensei didn’t want average. They demanded greatest. Most students didn’t cut it. Many fell by the wayside when the going got tough.

Now don’t get me wrong after 40 years of training I am still looking for greatness, but the difference is I am still on the mats trying.

The lesson to be learnt here is a good instructor at the top of his game and his intentions honourable and not for self-gain will know when it is time for you to grade, move on or learn something new. Not you.


This means at this level the student can now start to take apart technique and examine the material. Now with solid roots in place they are ready to play around with things and determine the principles and reasoning behind them.

Their technique now is not just a bunch of ‘tricks’ they are delving deeper into their origin, inner core and meaning.

You may have learnt a technique in a certain manner up to this point, but it doesn’t mean that is the only way to do it. Also, you will begin to understand why that technique has been taught that way up to now and why you are going to see it in a different light.

Again, many don’t stay around for this level and have given up with a half assed idea of what that Martial Art is all about.

My base art of Japanese Combat Jujutsu originates from the Katana (sword). How many people out there training or teaching jujutsu know this let alone be-able to show the links between sword and unarmed?

I know this because this is what my Japanese Sensei showed me at HA level. Why? Because I stuck around and came through the SHU level.

Ri means to separate.

At this point in your training you are now expected to take those core principles and techniques and add your own expressions to them. To have the knowledge and ability to come up with new or different interpretations.

You should have gone through the rough, scrappy training phase and now developed a smoothness and flow to your technique. You will have been through your ‘proving stage’ and you will be now working towards a higher level of mastery.

This really outlines your journey from white to black belt.

Higher mastery goes with you through further Dan grades and how far you wish to go in your chosen art.

I recall as a young man hell bent on achieving my black belt and Japanese Sensei telling me that you will have only then learnt the basics. Once you have reached your goal of black belt that is when you really start learning.

Now I know they were right.

In this rapidly evolving world of Martial arts we must always be working to move forward after all we are only as good as the last time we stepped on the mats, but we must never forget the lessons learned from those who went before us. Those lessons are surprisingly still relevant today.

But as Winston Churchill once said, ‘Wise men stumble upon the truth and get up and walk away.’

Now For Something Completely Different – David Brown

So this is a draft for the new advert I’m going for next…

Fancy a black belt? Wanna be the talk of your friendship group when you tell ’em: ‘hey look, I can now kick arse?’

Of course you do …

Want to train in complete safety and never get hurt? Then great. We offer no contact martial arts classes … train for that black belt now, without ever getting blood on your uniform.

What about discipline? You need it right?

Come to us, your parents are shit at providing it, let us do their job.

Friends? You need friends? Well come to us, meet new people and, of course, our no contact classes mean that your potential soul mate ain’t gonna get punched in the face!

Nervous? Apprehensive? New people make you uncomfortable? Don’t worry, with our patented ‘SNOWFLAKE-ARAMA’ technology glasses you’ll be able to take part in our classes from the comfort of your own home merely by plugging into your computer.

What about fitness? You wanna get fit right? Okay, well we’ll get you fit. Our 45 minute class comprises 10 mins, bowing to a flag belonging to a country beginning with the same letter as Korea (you see what I did there) good for stretching the back. Followed by 15 mins on the spot warm up routines. Another 10 minutes free sparring, by free we mean you’re free to actually not make contact with anyone… you know what, just come along to our classes – you’ll love ’em.

Stranger danger concern you? Well me too. Mind you Uncle Fred in the corner, there’s a few stories circulating about him. And he’s no stranger – am I being too subtle?

Okay then, in celebration of this subtlety we’d offering every new student who signs with us, a free uniform, free insurance, a bag, a ball, shares in Aston Martin, a star named after you, false aspirations, delusional targets and an afternoon with Uncle Fred.

Confidence low, self esteem deflated? Let us help. Doesn’t matter that your dad’s standing there repeatedly telling you that you’re not very confident. We’ll give you what he is failing to provide!

Got a 3 year old champing at the bit? Constantly jumping in their ball pool making chop-soky, kung fu movie sounds. well bring ’em down! In fact our young-buck-ninja-samurai-future-black-belt-kindergarden-plan is just what he needs. His lack of fine motor skills are well suited to our non contact school and by the time he’s five, he’ll have a shiny new black belt!

Plus! Launching this February our new: feotal-jitsu! That’s right, the moment your imminent offspring starts kicking in the womb, we’ll teach it how to kick with purpose, focus and discipline.

So what are you waiting for we have everything you could possibly want from your martial arts journey and what our bank balance needs …

… and if you’re not too scared I’m happy for you to share the bejeebers out of this:)

Vive La Difference – Garry Smith

We were training in Ju Jitsu pretty much as normal one Saturday recently when one of our senior instructors and fellow director of CRGI Jayne called me across the mat. She was helping one of our 1st dan black belts Sam with one of his 2nd dan techniques, (Jayne is a 3rd dan for the record). She asked me to demonstrate the technique,

So after a few seconds thinking back I did, just like that, and that is where the fun started. Jayne then demonstrated on me how she did it, there were a couple of differences and we started discussing them. As we did our other senior instructor Bill came over and joined in, he is a 6th dan and has studied and trained Ju Jitsu longer than Jayne and I combined, his knowledge is encyclopedic.

Bill demonstrated the technique, it was different to either of ours, so now we have Sam watching 3 different versions of the same technique. The technique in question is irrelevant, the point is you have 3 senior instructors all showing how to do it differently. So off we go into a huddle to discuss how and why we do that technique the way we do.

To be fair there are a number of techniques where we teach a couple of variations and we are happy to differ. So once again we discuss, try each others way and agree that what works best for each of us is cool as the core technique works however we manipulate it to suit us. The differences are usually influenced by both psychological and physiological factors. Jayne is 5’2½” tall and slight and needs to make her techniques work mostly on a much bigger male opponent and she trains to hurt them a lot, Bill is about 5’10” and a skilled technician in the art and he trains to hurt them skillfully whilst I am 5’9” and a bit of a thug, I am not much concerned about the art I just want the job done.

After our discussion I went to explain to Sam our differences and why we have them and asked if it looked a bit amateurish. Sam is the clinical director of a hospice and we all have great respect for him, his reply was not what I expected, he explained how many skilled medical practitioners do just what we did but not in front of the public. He described how after some examinations of a patient they go off to a private space and share their different prognosises. He regarded what we did as a very positive thing.

The philosophy we all share is that the tecnique needs to fit the student not the student the tecnique. Both instructors and students come in a variety of shapes and sizes and one size does not fit all. I have seen really bad practise where a student is made to repeat again and again a technique in a particular way when it just does not work for them, a slight change of position of one leg might make it work but that is not allowed because it has to be done this way and this way only because it always has been. If it does not work for you then that is because you are the problem.

That stinks but the attitude that underpins it is seen as a virtue by many in the martial arts and self defence industries. It is at its worst in those systems that exhibit cult like practises and behaviour. Too many people slavishly follow the how it has always been done approach for my liking, I love my Ju Jitsu a lot, it is fun and works for me. Last week one of our black belts who has not trained JU Jitsu for years because he went off training and fighting Muay Thai came back for a session and took me down with a leg sweep they use. The good news is he will be training with us and instructing regularly in the new year and will teach us the said leg sweep plus some other cool stuff, also there was one of our black belts who does BYY and he often teaches us stuff not in our sylabus.

Its abou having an open mind and recognising there is not just one way to do things and that having conversations about it and if necessary agreeing to disagree is a very good thing indeed.

Training ‘Tools’: Does What You’re Using Make Sense? – Tim Boehlert

In a recent post of an Active Shooting seminar, I’d seen an image where one attendee was role-playing and holding a ‘typical’ yellow rubber Beretta 92F style Martial Arts-style training pistol.

One person had asked what it was and I pointed out what I thought I knew about that specific model. I mentioned a few other more realistic options that I’ve used in different training seminars and explained that it depended on the goal of the class as to how effective this prop would be.

What really struck me though was another comment that some of the attendees “might be concerned if there was a more realistic prop.”

After pondering this response, it got me to thinking – is this really a useful seminar or are we actually watering down the seriousness of the subject matter by introducing standard Martial Arts training tools – rubber guns or knives. Are we trying too hard to whitewash violence here? Is it responsible to train others in this serious subject matter without being as realistic as possible?

It came to me that maybe this prop wasn’t the ‘proper’ tool for the job, at least not nowadays and maybe specifically for this class. I am assuming that this was an Active Shooter Scenario in a class of the same meant for a group that would likely encounter an active killer. In the ‘industry’, the term Active Shooter is going away – slowly – but it’s going away and being replaced with Active Killer, at lest by Law Enforcement or in LE circles. A good start to get away from the whitewash, feel-good, limit-our-liability practices that I’m seeing around active killer events and the requisite follow-up training that is hastily thrown together for a buck.

What piqued my interest was the thought that maybe we ought NOT coddle our audiences. It’s akin to teaching Martial Arts as self-defense — one is about sport, the other is about survival. If we’re teaching others how to survive during an active killer event, wouldn’t we be doing our audiences more harm by being ‘polite’ than by showing them the realities of such an event in a realistic manner, or as realistically as we can in a classroom? Sometimes you just need to take off the kid gloves and put on your big boy pants.

Should we consider using at least more realistic training tools – like Airsoft handguns and long guns, and maybe aluminum knife trainers vs. their counterparts, the rubber feel-good ‘polite’ solution tools?

I’m suggesting that both tools do not hold equal value in this educational arena. In fact, I feel that using the more realistic replicas has MORE value than playing to the ‘polite’ notion of ‘not offending’ participants. Violence is ugly, and no one really likes to talk about it. An active killer event is likely the worst anyone will ever experience, and yet we’re afraid to offend someone that is attending a class to learn how to survive this type of event, really?

We are training these attendees how to survive a deadly encounter – gun or knife, and yet we’re refusing to look at the realities of what that encompasses. Why not at least expose them to something that is at least a bit more realistic. Remove the fear and misunderstanding, and try to use it as a teaching moment. Imagine being able to show attendees HOW to disarm a pistol by demonstrating how to remove the magazine from the pistol! Many of these alternate modern training weapons are designed to demonstrate many functionalities of their real-life counterparts. Semi-automatic pisol slides that move, safeties that actually work, removable magazines, moving triggers and even working takedown mechanisms.

In classes and seminars that I have attended, we’ve used both. It wasn’t an issue, and for those not intimidated by a gun specifically, they proved to be more valuable teaching and learning tools – they’re so realistic that they LOOK like real guns (if you ignore the BRIGHT RED muzzle) and often function nearly identical to the real thing. They are also made of metal and plastic, and some can even fire 6mm pellets. In fact, in some Police Academies they use Simmunition – about as realistic as it can get and still be mostly safe for the participants. Yes, they use an extra layer of safety measures, including special body covering, goggles, gloves, etc…

I think it’s time to address the watered-down A.S. classes and step-up up our game. If we’re going to teach about violence in this manner, it should be as realistic as we can safely make it. If we don’t, we fail our students. It should be responsible – we’re not selling fear, and should not be. It’s not and should not be about purchasing the advanced class(es).

I can share that I was on an Active Shooter committee for a large regional facility. I asked the hard questions. My goal was that whatever we wanted to put out there to my fellow employees had to be as complete and realistic as possible, but it also had to be responsible. As an example the facility chose to run with the new FEMA offering – Run, Hide , Fight. Bullshit. Still is. That’s not just my opinion, it’s what we were told at some other government-funded training that I had attended on my own dime. Think about that feel-good slogan being provided to our citizens. Sure, it might work, but if you don’t show people HOW/WHERE/WHEN and give them the TOOLS, you’re blowing smoke up their asses. And that is being irresponsible.

If you want to flesh it out, you need to provide the proper tools – posted maps: trained and drilled – where to run. It’s different for everyone, so be responsible and demonstrate, discuss, drill those routes and avenues of escape if  escape is possible as your first or only option.

Hide – where? What is an effective hiding spot, and how effective is it? Show them how to barricade-in-place. Show them how to improvise and barricade.

Fight – really? Okay, HOW? What will be effective? So many options once again. And remember, there are all kinds of people without my skills or your skills perhaps, so how do we train them and what do we train them that will work for them?

There is no single solution, and thus a slogan is nothing more than empty, feel-good bullshit marketing. See it for what it is. The only reason they put shit like this on your training sign-off is for their liability. “Look, he signed it right here and attended our seminar…” Don’t be stupid. That is ALL it is – a sign-off for liability reasons. CYA at the insitutiona level.

So next we were told by the chairman of our commitee that “it will likely never happen here. The chances are better of you getting hit by lighting more than once today.” O.K. More bullshit. In my opinion, he’s dead wrong and should have known better, and been more responsible for thise he was responsible to protect and I’m just not that stupid to think otherwise.

Next they wanted to sell us plastic covering for the windows. Oh, that’s awesome! You have found a bullet proof glass solution for those of us at the front doors? Well, no, it won’t stop bullets, in fact they will pass right through, but the glass wont go everywhere, so when the HEROES come rushing in, they won’t slip and fall on it or get cut by it. Basically, I’ll still be dead, but I guess that’s considered acceptable. Not by me it’s not, and boy is my family going to be pissed when they find this out!

You get the point? There are still professionals out there selling products and services based on fear and income-boost based on that fear. It’s NOT responsible by any measure. And it’s not alright by me.

Look deeper. Educate yourself.

Re-Thinking Resistance Part III – Rory Miller

Real Life Levels of Resistance

Professionals and people who train professionals must understand the levels of resistance thoroughly. The level of danger and the dynamics of the force situation determine what is appropriate. Using too little force will get one hurt, using too much force gets one sued.

For civilian self-defense instructors as well, it is imperative to understand how different the body mechanics and psychology of different real-life attacks can be from any sport, training, or simulation experience. Overcoming a high level of resistance is very different than overcoming a low level of resistance.

Cooperative, compliant (and undecided.)

Cooperative and compliant are not really levels of resistance. I list them to remind professionals that there are levels that require no force. If you say, “Sorry, folks, but this street is closed off. We have a situation.”

And the person says, “Oh. Thank you officer,” and takes another route, that person is cooperative. If the person grumbles, “Dammit, now I’m gonna be late,” and takes another route, the person is still compliant. These are the good guys. The citizens you are sworn to protect. They are not targets for force or shows of authority. Never bully your allies.

The undecided threat should rarely, if ever, go to force. As a rule, if you address an undecided threat and it goes to force, you fucked it up. You shifted it from undecided to resisting.

An undecided threat can present in a number of different ways and can be triggered in different ways.

The two most common versions of undecided threat that a professional will face are the coward and the indignant.

The coward will become a physical threat if and only if he thinks he can get away with it. An officer who maintains good presence, awareness, and control of space leaves the coward with no opening. Without an opening, most cowards will comply and many will shift to cooperative, sucking up. Don’t lower your guard,

The indignant will fight if they can find an excuse— if they see something in your demeanor or hear something in your words that lets them blame you. A “hook” is an excuse to blame the victim that triggers and rationalizes an act of violence. That’s not just for undecided against a professional. Many violent people like to have a justification, to be able to say, “The bitch was askin’ for it.”

The solution for professionals is to be professional. Doing a job impartially and fairly leaves no hooks. Understand, however, that this applies only to the undecided. People who have already decided to be violent will find, manufacture, or imagine hooks to justify their violence. Look at any riot.

That said, if you’re a dick you can set off an undecided. If you’re a big enough dick, you can shift a compliant or even cooperative person through undecided and into full-on resistance. You might do the paperwork and file the charges, but don’t fool yourself. Shifting a good person to a bad person with your attitude is entirely on you.

Passive Resistance.

You politely tell the patron to leave the bar. He says, “No” and turns away. The protesters sit down and refuse to move. Your two-year-old won’t eat his peas.

In passive resistance, the threat’s not a danger to anyone, is not threatening you and is not even using muscle power. It’s a level of resistance rarely addressed in training and it often has complex ramifications. When is making your child eat peas abuse? What level of force will play well on TV when used on people who are not a physical threat but clearly breaking the law?

This level of resistance rarely comes up in self-defense. There’s no need to defend yourself from a non-attack. But for people who have a duty to act this is a common problem.

Active Resistance.

You politely tell the patron to leave the bar. He says, “No. You can’t make me” and wraps his arms around a pillar. The protesters sit down and lock arms. Your two-year-old won’t eat his peas and covers his mouth with both hands.

In active resistance, the threat is still not a threat, still not a danger. The only difference is that the threat is now using muscle power to resist, but not using that power on you. This is the bad guy who runs away, not the bad guy who attacks.

The questions and problems are similar— when and if you have a duty to act, what is the appropriate level of force to overcome very real but not dangerous physical resistance?

Assaultive Resistance.

This is the level of resistance that inspired my initial rant on the Myth of the Fully-Resisting Opponent. This is the other side of the coin from training’s full resistance. This is someone trying to take you out. The threat has chosen time, place and victim. Has stacked everything in his favor—size, numbers, weapons, surprise— and will attack with absolute ruthlessness, speed and power. He gives no thought to defense because he fully expects that his onslaught will prevent you from doing anything he might have to defend against.

Assaults happen faster, harder, closer and with more speed than most practitioners can imagine. Until you have experienced it these words will have no meaning, but your hardest training for the most intense mixed martial art competition is as relevant for an assault as non-contact point sparring is for MMA. Or to put it another way, kickboxing helps with rape defense about as much as being raped will help with your kickboxing.

The nature of assault starts with a bigger, stronger opponent, who has a tool (and you don’t) from behind or the flank and with you psychologically off-guard. It is nothing like sparring at any level.

Lethal Resistance.

Lethal resistance has all of the elements of assaultive resistance but with one other factor: the goal is not to beat you into submission, but to kill you. Sometimes it will start as an assault but with the intent to kick your head into mush afterwards. Other times it is a cold-blooded assassination. Just a knife in your back, quick and clean, with the perpetrator walking away as if nothing happened.

Whether the intent is assaultive or lethal, the bad guy has made the decision to take no chances. That means he has done everything in his power to give you no chance.

Asymmetrical Resistance.

Asymmetrical resistance is probably the most common level of resistance and the least discussed or trained. Violence and exploitation happen in the real world, and the real world is immensely complex. There are many ways to victimize a person and many ways to punish a target for attempts to stand up.

Asymmetrical resistance can take many forms, from exerting psychological control to prevent you from physically resisting to invoking third party intervention against you.

“My brother’s upstairs with your kids. One peep out of you and he shoots them. Do what I say and don’t make a sound.”

“You can’t hit me back.  I have AIDS!”

“Hello, Joan, I’m the director of human resources and we’ve had a complaint. Did you tell Frank that he was standing too close to you and making you feel uncomfortable? You did? Well, he’s filed a hostile workplace complaint…”

In real life, whoever plays the game the most broadly has the advantage. Seeing self-defense as either physical skills or reactive skills (see the article “Self Defense Failure Zone” Conflict Manager  May 2016 is inherently limiting. Your goal is to use and see the situation more broadly than any would-be predator.

Mixed Martial Artists Wouldn’t Last a Second – Randy King

The reality-based self-defense world and all of the people teaching self-defense and commando kill style, all keep saying, keep harping on the fact that mixed martial arts fighters wouldn’t last a second in a street fight. You see it on all the forums, all the Facebook pages, everyone’s always ranting, “oh my ninja style would destroy you”, “my Krav Maga would destroy you in this situation”. This is so ridiculous to me, I can’t stand it. The point of the rants is for me to vent on stupid shit mostly that I see on the internet and this is definitely one of them.

Mixed martial artists are athletes. They are professional athletes that fight with the best in the world all the time. Are all of their skills transferable? No. Are some of the skills transferable?  Yes!  If I am in better shape, can hit harder, last longer, kick harder and take more damage than you, am I going to win the fight?  Yes!

People who train twice a week who think that they can go out there, after whatever their instructor tells them and thinks they can take on the biggest meanest neck tattoo-iest mixed martial artists, are insane!  These people are conditioned athletes who put a lot of time into this, this is their career for most of them. They cut weight, they train hard, they train for, some of them will train, in one day, longer than a lot of reality-based self-defense people will train in a week to two weeks. And they train longer than a lot of police forces require their cops to train for a whole year. They get that in a week. They prep for fights, they’re always in constant camps, they’re always constantly watching what they do, improving their technique and their fighting, the best people around them.

In a fight, reality-based self-defense people had better be using the plan A for reality based self-defense which is get the hell out of there. If he’s bigger and stronger than you, as I’ve mentioned in multiple rants, he’s going to have a distinct advantage. Now take a high level of training, you’re in trouble. Even if they are training in the worst MMA gym in the world. There’s a whole bunch of good ones, but even if they are training in a crappy one, with a fake instructor with fake credentials, who has glamour-ed them and talked to them about how awesome they are, if you’re putting in three hours a day sometimes in any system, you are going to be good. You’re going to be able to take a hit, you’re going to be able to move, you’re going to be able to take the fight to the place you want it. They’re able to transition faster than most people, they can stand up, they can take down, they can put the fight where they want, which gives you a huge advantage in the street.

Yes, probably if there’s a weapon involved they’re going to get hurt. Are they going to lose because of their training? No!  If I knock you unconscious because I have a wicked right hand then there’s no way that person’s knife’s going to be able to stab me as they’re unconscious.

Stop using this sport combat thing like it’s not real. It is real, there are rules, yes, to protect the fighters, so they can fight again, and gain more experience. I’m not saying run out and join an MMA club, I’m not saying stop teaching what you’re teaching, I’m saying stop saying stupid stuff to your students to make them feel invincible against people that literally get punched in the face all of the time.

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Re-Thinking Resistance Part II – Rory Miller

Sports Resistance.

Sports resistance is what you will get in competition. It isn’t full resistance, no matter what you tell yourself. In any competition, there is a balance between trying to win and trying not to lose. The desire to win requires taking some risks and those risks create vulnerabilities.

Full Resistance.

Full resistance is an unbalanced version of sports resistance. This is when a competitor focuses entirely on defense, putting all of his or her energy into denying your technique with no offensive attempts at all. It can be frustrating to face, and sometimes it’s a trap, cf Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope” strategy.

Specific Resistance.

The resistance levels in this essay are arranged in order of difficulty, not in order of applicability. The last seven levels have mirrored a progression from training to sport. But this last, hardest level goes back to training and specifically to bad training.

Specific resistance only occurs when a specific technique is expected. It is always an egotistic power play. Any technique— throw, strike, lock, stab, combo, whatever— can always be made to fail if the practitioner knows what is coming and chooses to directly resist. When a beginners is learning the basics of a lock, anyone can disrupt his or her process. Even when an expert is demonstrating a technique, the technique can be disrupted. A boxer demonstrating a response to a jab will almost always get nailed if his partner feints the jab and throws a hook.

Specific resistance is extremely unrealistic. Outside of training you will never have both foreknowledge and an agreement not to adapt. It is a pure training artifact, but it is very easy to laugh off, “Are you saying I attacked you wrong?”

There are two advanced versions of specific resistance that can ruin a lesson or even harm an entire system.

The first is Gaming the Drill.

People are naturally competitive. Often an egotistic partner, instructor, or role player will not let a solution work. A role player might simply choose to never let de-escalation succeed. A partner who sneaks a weapon into a grappling drill. A scenario facilitator who punishes a student for the safe, easy and tactically superior option of simply leaving a dangerous situation. It is imperative that partners understand how to play a proper bad guy.

The second advanced version of specific resistance is Inbreeding.

It follows this pattern:

  1. There is a tactical or self-defense problem that actually exists e.g. pushed up against a wall with a knife at the throat.
  2. You have a workable solution to the problem.
  3. The person playing the threat comes up with another way to present the same problem such that the solution no longer works.
  4. You come up with a workable solution to the new presentation.
  5. Repeat steps 3&4. Possibly forever.

Within one or at most two repetitions, you will have a solution to a problem that never has and will never exist in the real world but is required for rank testing. It creates an excessive complexity that can make an entire system unworkable.

To be continued.


Training and the Joy of Cake – Peter Jones

I attend seminars, lots of seminars. The first year of full time work, post-university, I estimate that I spent the equivalent of a month’s wage on seminars. I recent years I’ve become much more discerning over what seminars I attend. Seminars have to have value.

Value in terms of information learned, techniques practiced, principles absorbed, bruises earned. But there’s more to it than that. There’s the social aspect, friendships forged, laughs shared, stories swapped and deals made. And then there is cake.

Until recently I have found no pleasure in cooking, it was just a necessary chore. However, I love food, my abdomen gives evidence of that despite how much I train. I have great respect for those with the ability to create dishes that tempt the senses and pleasure the palate. I suppose I’ve just never had the time or inclination to get good at cooking and I was terminally uninspired by food preparation in school and at home. The food I create is bland and simple, but functional. I am a true product of university where beer is more important than nutrition and cutlery should not be necessary as we eat with one hand and scribble annotations to lecture notes with the other.

As an aside, and there is a link here, I’m also a Star Wars fan, I love Star Wars. The wise words of Master Yoda frequently feature into my dojo teachings and I’ve read too many of the novels to recount. So my best friend bought me the Star Wars Cookbook for my birthday one year. Yes, there’s a Star Wars Cookbook, two of them actually. Well being the man of manners that I am, if I am going to be bought such a thing then I am going to appreciate it. So, with trepidation I had a try of Wookiee Cookies. Like a kata, I copied the recipe precisely initially. Over time I’ve experimented. These cookies seem to have become a trademark of sorts. In the not-too-distant past my club held a first aid update day to which I brought some of these cookies. I recall vividly our teacher talking us through anaphylaxis whilst chomping on yet another cookie! I have to say I started to take pride and pleasure in my cookies and so my adventurousness began.

My current love is making cheesecake, chocolate orange cheesecake, Aero mint cheesecake, crème egg cheesecake. I’ve never had one fail, and I starting taking my cookies or my cheesecake to seminars. The third Bunkai Bash saw a bake-off of sorts and I would like to believe our respective deserts were the highlight of the visit for Kris Wilder from West Seatle Karate Academy.

or me, the social aspect is every bit as important as the training aspect of classes, seminars, camps and residential weekends. I have formed what I would like to believe is an extended family through different organisations and through meeting and training with fellow martial artists over an almost thirty-year plus period. Everybody brings something to the table, be it humour, experience, wisdom, knowledge, philosophy. Me, I bring cheesecake.

Creating these dishes is actually therapeutic, I enjoy doing them. I take pleasure in friends taking pleasure from them. I’m humbled at being asked specifically to bring my cakes to seminar. I’m gratified that they’re seen as part of the event. And after a day of training, sitting down and taking in guilt-free and gorgeous-tasting calories is therapeutic too.

Training should be a joy. Cake is a joy. Make cake part of your training!


Re-Thinking Resistance Part I- Rory Miller

Years ago I wrote an article, The Myth of the Fully Resisting Opponent ( In that article, I was ranting. Largely because the force I dealt with working the jail was so unrelated to what I saw or felt in sport. The most extreme full-contact combat sport was as close to a violent assault as non-contact sport sparring was to the most extreme full-contact combat sport. The article was a rant, and while it was pertinent and accurate, it wasn’t actually very useful.

In this article, I want to explore resistance, both in training and real life.

Any time you apply force, whether in practice or in danger, that force must overcome some level of resistance.

In training, those levels can be described as:

  • Cooperative
  • Compliant
  • Situational
  • Scaled
  • Directed
  • Sport
  • Specific

In real life, the resistance levels are:

  • Cooperative
  • Compliant
  • Undecided
  • Passive
  • Active
  • Assaultive
  • Lethal
  • Asymmetrical

Training Levels of Resistance

In training, the goal is to build skills. The level of resistance should be geared toward maximizing the learning process but can easily be perverted to manufacturing an illusory level of competence.

Cooperative Resistance.

The cooperative level isn’t a level of resistance at all. Almost the opposite. This is the student who throws himself. Or who stumbles back before the demo punch has even landed. This is the student who responds to the “no-touch knockout.”

I’m going to try hard not to talk about systems, styles or instructors here. Kicking over a tribal hornet’s nest is fun, but rarely (if ever) makes for good communication. I’ve seen an instructor teach his students that, “Your body knows that two pieces of matter cannot occupy the same space, and so when I thrust my palm toward your face, your body has no choice but to fall.” His students would actually throw themselves onto their backs if faced with anything that looked like a palm heel strike. That technique worked on nobody except his own students.

I’ve seen students so damaged by previous instruction that they fell down before I had actually touched them.

Either the students are faking, or they are not. If the students are faking, it’s pretty dark stuff. The student has been taught that in order to get along, he or she must victimize themselves. The instructor applies the technique and the student responds though there is no reason. This prepares the student for failure and it allows the person who applies the technique as well as any observers to have a completely unfounded faith in the technique and the system.

If the student is not faking, it may be worse. It implies an extreme level of brainwashing. Brainwashing can be quick. The students who want “secrets” and “magic” are especially vulnerable and can be conditioned to fall in a matter of minutes.

This is an abomination. There is no learning advantage to this level of “resistance.”

Compliant Resistance.

Compliant resistance is simply going along with the technique. It has two good training purposes.

When a student is first learning a skill or technique, excessive resistance can convince them that a good technique doesn’t work. A good BJJ or judo partner must let a beginner get the armbar at first so that the beginner learns the flow of the technique. Same goes for a rookie officer learning a handcuffing technique.

This is appropriate at a very specific, early time in training. Once the technique is understood, resistance has to increase so that the rookie learns how to overcome resistance.

Compliant resistance becomes toxic when it spreads throughout the system. Let’s face it an instructor can look really good if he or she only works with compliant partners. Some instructors, consciously or not, start rewarding compliance and punishing resistance. Compliance can then quickly spread through a class or even an entire system. The system quickly becomes useless outside of that particular system.

Compliance is also appropriate when it becomes too late to resist safely. Resisting a throw after you are in the air and hurtling to the ground can result in serious injury (writes the man who dislocated his own shoulder to deny an opponent a point). This mostly applies to well-executed locks and throws and especially throws from locks.

It’s a safety rule and a good one. It doesn’t become toxic unless the students are told that all locks and throws are equally dangerous regardless of quality and they start practicing going along with even poor technique.

To be continued.