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The Tactical Freeze

It is always interesting how life presents little lessons in the most unexpected way.  These small lessons can have huge impact however in larger applications!  Take the reaction of someone trained versus someone untrained to a violent encounter.  They can be very different reactions with life affecting consequences!

Yesterday, while going to a local pharmacy to pick up medications for my wife, one of these little lessons happened with my 11 year old daughter and myself.  We were walking to our vehicle when vehicles on either side of us simultaneously started to back out of their parking spaces with us between the two.  My untrained daughter froze.  I, on the other hand, almost ran over her trying to get out of the way and take her with me.  Two opposite reactions to the same dangerous stimuli.  It reminded me of what I have seen spending years doing combatives arts and working in Law Enforcement.

When encountered with violent situations, sometimes those new to the profession will freeze momentarily.  This is part of the OODA Loop where their brain is processing the situation and trying to Orient and get to the step of taking action.  We call this an O-O Loop where their brain ping-pongs between Observation and Orientation while seemingly taking forever to get to Decision and then Action.  Not everyone does this, however.  Some seem to spring into Action very fast.  I suspect their O-O Loop is just really small and thus extremely fast.

I have seen this freezing be very serious and pose risk for fellow officers.  We have seen people freeze for 20 or 30 seconds or more while a fight was taking place.  Sadly, the outcome is often having to encourage the individuals to seek employment elsewhere as the risk to themselves and others is too high.  This long of freeze without rendering help to a partner could easily lead to serious injury or death.

I have also seen this in training.  When doing firearms Simunitions training with marker rounds, we have seen people entering a room in a building search, encounter a threat, and freeze and stop in the doorway, processing the OODA Loop.  This has been catastrophic!  Not only does the one officer "die" in such circumstances, but the rest of the team is unable to clear the door and provide support.  This is why the "Point Man" on an entry team cannot be the "greenest" team member.  It is also best if that not be the most critical team member either as they are often "bullet magnets."  No one wants to be the rookie but seniority does not always come with its privileges!

Movement is your friend.  Moving targets are harder to engage but it also does a lot more.  By forcing the brain to stay in Action mode, you limit the likelihood of the freezing.  Inaction leads quickly to freezing due to inertia.  We try to train people to keep moving when they encounter threats.  That is one reason we train shooting while moving so much.  If your firearms training is only ever done stationary, people will instinctively stop moving to engage threats.  You cannot do this!  You have train to where moving is reflexive and threats are hit while in motion.  The major exception to this rule is of course if you are behind cover or concealment.  In those cases, it may be best to stay put.  Out in the open, however, you should most often be moving.

Does this apply to Martial Arts?  Sure!  When we are attacked with a punch, kick, choke, grab, etc., we need to learn to move.  That can be our feet or hands or both.  The freeze gets us hit!  I generally prefer to see someone take a less than optimal response than to see them take no action at all and freeze.  We should never forget the word "Martial" in Martial Arts.  We need to study and apply the experience of real world fighters and operators to our Martial Arts training.

I had a retired real world military and security operator ask me an interesting question once.  He said the answer to the question reveals a lot about a person's operational experience.  "You can learn that from one question?" I thought.  He was right.  The disparity between training and real world is a huge gap.  He posed the following scenario and then asked his simple question.  "If you are entering a room with five threats spread out within the room and your job is to kill everyone in the room, who do you shoot first?"  Now, this extends beyond a Law Enforcement rules of engagement but does provide an interesting military ROE.  My firearms training dictated engaging threats based upon their relative distance from me and ease of engagement.  That is how we do it in shooting competitions and are graded upon such.  He chuckled and said "Yeah, that is what they teach you on the range.  In the real world however, that could get you killed!"

So, what is the right answer?  We would love to hear how you would answer that question in the comments.  And yes, he did give me the right answer, which makes perfect sense.  Instead of giving the answer right away, we want to engage your brain; you will get more out of having to think about it than just getting a quick answer.  Maybe someone reading this will have the right answer.  It was obvious to me that he had "been there and done that."  Let us know what you think...

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Criticism of Kyusho: Teaching is Too Static

One of the criticisms we hear often is that Kyusho is taught with static techniques and is not dynamic enough. There is some merit to the claim but it is not entirely accurate either.

When teaching amy new skill, it should be practiced in a safe and static manner. The fundamentals must be taught and practiced until they become second nature. Speeding up too soon will cause bad form and risks injury to the uke, or receiver.

Even after the proper form is learned, it can still be risky to speed up. Consider a joint lock, for example. Having someone resisting as hard as they can and putting the practitioner in a position of having to manage the amount of force applied and the amount of travel in the technique would be extremely dangerous. Likewise, strikes done at full speed can hit with tremendous force if the distance closes faster than anticipated. Of course the challenge here is that this is done without gloves and is targeted at weak points on the human body to add insult to injury.

Yet, if you never train at speed and with resistance, you will never know if it works some will say. Does one need to be shot with a firearm to know it works? Or cut with a blade? Of course not! So, what can we do to close the gap? How about working your training as you do now, but separating the technique into phases.

By separating the technique into phases you can practice each component separately and train for the transitions. Let me illustrate with an example. Consider a punch to your face where you plan to parry the right hand strike with your left hand and then counter with a right hand strike to the LV-14 region of the ribs. The interaction could begin with both people wearing appropriate protective gear and be done with speed. Padding could be worn to protect the ribs and the parry and strike could be done fast but with open hands and the strike done with minimal power. This would be Phase One which focuses on improving reaction time and developing hand speed and some accuracy for the parry and strikes.

Phase Two of the technique would involve striking a heavy bag to get the power development and practice the strike. A Bob bag by Century would be perfect for this so there are anatomical markers.

Phase Three would be working with a partner and practicing as you do now with static and controlled strikes to practice the nuances of the technique, angle of strike, knuckle placement, etc.

Remember that properly executed in real applications, Kyusho is done full power. So, even if you miss the pressure point, you should have what non-Kyusho practitioners have - blunt trauma. This is the fail safe of Kyusho training. If the energetics of the technique fail, you still have a hard strike. And if you remember from our post on the Martial Onion, you can attack the organs, nerves, and other systems of the body if you miss the pressure point.

Joint Locks could be broken down much the same way. Phase 1 is the dynamic interaction leading to the grip for the lock. You just need to stop short of applying the lock and using force. Just go for the attachment. Phase Two would be slow static training to work the technique with minimal force. Phase Three would be working any strikes with a similar approach to the above. Phase Four would be developing skills to deal with counters and failed techniques.

Anyway, you get the idea. Feel free to work the phases differently or add additional components. All of the above is a more dynamic way to do the training without risking the health of your partner, which should always be your primary concern.

Do you train in a similar manner? Or do you have other ideas? Let us know in the comments.

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The Five Levels of Martial Arts Skill Development

The DSI generally categorizes each of the components of Martial Arts skill development into one of the five following areas:

  1. Karate Do
  2. Karate Jutsu
  3. Tuite
  4. Life Protection
  5. Life Taking

The majority of practitioners never make it beyond the first level of Karate Do. Most Martial Artists stay in this level for their entire career.  This level focuses upon the development of life skills such as discipline, honor, self-discipline, and such.  These are fine attributes to develop and in no implies that anyone focused upon developing Karate Do skills is any less of a Martial Artist.

The next level we have defined is Karate Jutsu.  Techniques of Karate Jutsu are characterized by being more disabling to the opponent.  Knockouts are common along with targeting the sensitive pressure points of the body to gain compliance or render the opponent incapable of continuing the fight.

Tuite involves the application of joint locking techniques.  These can be applied either for simple compliance or for destruction of the joints.  Submission/compliance techniques are not how tuite was intended; it is much more of a modern development.  Tuite is designed to set the opponent up for a disabling strike but causing the person to commit more weight and limit their mobility.

Life Protection is regarded as a higher level of skill development as it is designed to stop an attacker while preserving the lives of both the attacker and the defender.  It takes a tremendous amount of skill to balance both aspects.

The final area of skill development we teach is Life Taking.  It is, of course, the most extreme of the levels and requires a very specific skill set.  These skills are not common knowledge and are often kept secret amongst the most skilled of experts.

There is no right or wrong answer as there are all levels of skill development available in Martial Arts development.  So, what is your specialty and are of focus?  Let us know in the comments.

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The Martial Onion: Attacking Multiple Systems of the Body

Have you ever wondered about how to attack the various systems of the body?  Many times, Martial Artists attack a single level of the body depending upon their specialties or field of expertise.  I find it interesting that few attack multiple systems in parallel.  If they did, their success would go up exponentially!

Consider how prevalent the idea is by looking at how segmented the skills are for firearms enthusiasts, combatives proponents, survivalists, medics, etc.  All study their trade for self protection but rarely cross-train in other areas to become a more complete package.  Few crossover into other disciplines sadly.  Many guys will carry extra gun magazines but not a med kit; others will train with guns but learn no hand-to-hand skills.  Hopefully you see my point.

Same happens with a lot of Martial Artists.  Many polarize their training to different arts or ranges of combat such as grappling, striking, etc.  One thing MMA did particularly well is show the need to be skilled in all ranges and methods.

So, how does this apply to the Kyusho arts?  Notice that you have those who polarize between techniques being either based upon Western or Eastern science.  It is as if they believe there is only one explanation for how things work.  The reality is that it is not an “…either…or…” but rather that “…it is both!”  Both points of view are neither inclusive or exclusive but they are in parallel.

The body can be attacked upon multiple levels at a time.  It can be attacked neurologically and energetically and both can be attacked – at the same time!  But, that is not the only systems that can be attacked.  There are a lot more.  Consider the below systems:

  1. Neurological
  2. Energetic / Meridians / Pressure Points
  3. Skeletal / Bones
  4. Muscular
  5. Sinews / Tendons / Ligaments
  6. Vascular / Circulatory
  7. Respiratory
  8. Limbic
  9. Myofascial
  10. Psychological

When you perform techniques, how do you attack the various systems?  Do different attacks focus on different systems?  Have I missed any systems?  Let us know in the comments.

Want to learn more about this?  Join us in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina from May 4 to May 6, 2018 for the DSI Spring Convention where I will go through examples and teach this concept which will greatly expand your art!


The 2018 DSI Spring Convention

Train with industry-leading experts in Martial Science, Pressure Points / Kyusho Jutsu, and more!