Fighting is Chaos, Learning Shouldn’t Be – Jeff Burger

Maybe I’m a little O.C.D. but I find it very frustrating to see classes or video instruction where the material is just all over the place in topic and or skill level.
My favorite teachers are the ones who organize the material into a logical progression and I strive to do that in my own teaching and training.

There is a temptation for the student to want to learn advanced techniques, the flashy stuff, something recently pulled off in a MMA match or maybe just something new to break the boredom.

Instructors can be tempted too, maybe to show off, prove they are better than the school across town. In some cases, they think it helps with retention.
You shouldn’t worry about Berimbolo Rolls and Flying Armbars when you can’t escape basic positions.
You shouldn’t be worried about spin kicks, trapping and long combinations until your basics are solid.
Can these techniques work? Sure, but they are low opportunity, high risk techniques.

“Don’t fear the man who practices 10,000 techniques, fear the man who practices one technique 10,000 times.”

It irks me to see people drill something just a few times and stop as if they know it enough.

Never be satisfied with how good your basics are, I’m happy to just work my jab for an hour.
There are four levels of competency.

1. Unconscious incompetence – you don’t know even it exist.
2. Conscious incompetence – you know of it but can not do it.
3. Conscious competence – you can do it but have to think about it.
4. Unconscious competence – the skill is hardwired into you.

“You got to know your ABCs to spell SMASH.” CJB

How to organize learning and teaching.

  • Follow the data and statistics of the given arena. Is it street, a weapon, combat sport (boxing, wrestling, BJJ, Muay Thai … ) ?
  • What are the most common attacks ? What are the easiest, effective, multi-purpose tools ?
  • Organize those individual techniques into topics and prioritize them. (hand attacks, hand defense, leg attack, leg defense, clinch, takedowns, takedown defense …)

For example, in our Ju Jitsu program first thing we teach is something I call “Ju Jitsu Houdini” escapes from positions.

There is a standing holds version (bear hugs, head locks, full nelson … ) and a ground holds version (mount, side control, rear mount….).

My belief is first priority in the ground game is survival, to escape the positions, to free yourself to run, fight, get back on your feet or launch your own ground attack.

Being a good escape artist helps your offense because if the attack fails you are confident you can get out of trouble. Then build your offense armbars, armlocks, chokes, leg locks.

Next, learn to escape those attacks, then to counter their defense, each skill learned is the next priority to learn how to counter.

Climbing out of Hell
Another way I prioritize the material is by starting from the worst case scenario.
When I teach clinch defense for example I start from the opponent has double neck tie, your posture is broken and the knee hits you.
If that didn’t finish you off, learn how to use it for your own counter offense.
Take that theory and apply it to punches, kicks ….
Few things are better for your confidence and your safety then being able to survive worst case scenarios.

Here is a video clip of “Climbing out of Hell (clinch )”.

Kung Fu Math – Jeff Burger

Talking with Sifu Lam about the importance of skill and strength and skill vs strength and how to prioritize my training and he gave me this. 
I call it “Lam’s Equation”
10 skills = 1 strength
10 strengths = 1 will

I understood the 10 skills = 1 strength piece. You simply need a skill advantage to beat a larger stronger opponent. If you don’t think size and strength are factors then you are living a dangerous misconception.

I was confused on will, I took it as meaning heart. 
A fighter who has heart just keeps going, tired, hurt, losing … he presses on, but that’s not what he meant by will.
He said it meant having a real reason to fight.

I was teaching a women’s self defense seminar when one woman walked away from the practice and just sat down.

I asked her if she was OK, she said ” I’m fine, I just don’t know why I’m here. I’m never going to be able to beat a man, they’re just stronger.”
I said “What if he is trying to rape of kill you?”
She replied “Read the papers, women get raped and killed everyday.”
The group had heard this and I could feel the moral drop.
I knew this woman personally and knew she had two daughters ( 8 & 10 ) so i asked her “What would you do if someone was trying to rape and kill one of your kids?”
She pretty much snapped, her posture went from defeated and hopeless to something unstoppable and crazy, scary and said “I’d ****ing kill them.”

OK, so what happened to change things? Why is it what she couldn’t possibly do for herself was something unquestionable for her kids? Not to sound cheesy but the answer is unconditional love for her kids, she had a real reason to fight.

So I told her “Think about what would happen to your kids if someone killed you. How would your death effect them ? Who would raise them ? You need to tell yourself I’m going to be there for my kids, I’m going to watch them grow up and be there for birthday parties, Christmas present, graduations, get married and I’m going to hold my grand kids and nobody is going to take that away from me.”

I took a few things away from that experience.

1. Don’t fight unless you have a real reason, if only for the fact that you wont fight your best ( not to mention legalities ).

2. Why couldn’t she tap into that for herself ? My thought is she ( we ) don’t love ourselves unconditionally. 

Why? I don’t know. Maybe because we know all our short comings, even the stuff we’d probably never tell anyone, so maybe we feel unworthy of it.  As for your children, well they can have all kinds of faults and we still love them unconditionally.

3. How could she ( we ) tap into that strength? You tell yourself this person has no right to take you away from your family.

Love or Fear 

Confessions of a Martial Arts Instructor – Jeff Burger

I hate teaching self-defense.

I love the martial arts, all of them. I spent about thirty-five years running around the world trying to learn everything that I could from anybody willing to teach.

It all started with wanting to learn to defend myself.  Now, I have been teaching over twenty-five years and love it. I love the science, the mechanics, the physical and mental challenges, the artfulness, the cultures, and being a part of other people’s growth….

But I have to admit, I hate teaching self-defense.


It is just too vast of a topic.

Ambushes, sucker punches, verbal Judo/de-escalation, dealing with fear and pain, awareness, freezing,  punching, kicking, escape from holds, ground work, difference in weight, size, strength, multiple opponents, weapons … and so much more, and that is not even getting into the legal stuff that changes from state to state, country to country.

Think of how much we still don’t know about our own planet. Now imagine that every martial art is its own planet.  As vast as that is, the Boxing planet has a beginning and end, the Judo planet has a beginning and end, and so on, and so on.

Self-defense is a universe.

Depending on your art, you may spend decades trying to master one or more of those self-defense topics and never reach perfection.

The icing on this giant cake of endless work towards an unachievable goal, is that people will expect you to teach them how to defend themselves in any situation in a short period of training time (maybe even one seminar) by just showing them some “moves”.

However as a martial arts instructor, I feel obligated to teach self-defense.

How do I approach it? Well, I start by making people sad. I am honest and break the bad news about how much there is to learn.  Even if they did learn it all (which I haven’t in thirty-five years) their safety is still not guaranteed.

If they haven’t walked out and still want to hear what I have to offer, I start by prioritizing topics. I skim the cream and grab the most essential information from the most important categories.

From there, we go forever deeper.