Martial Arts research: Combatives, part 1
A few weeks back I flew down to Dallas for training with Grand Tuhon Leo Tortal Gaje - an opportunity I try not to miss. However, with work and funds, it may be a while before I can connect with my brothers in the art again - that and Grand Tuhon may be running for governor of Negros in the Philippine in 2009 and not available for a while. I'm following that development with close interest.
So what am I doing these days, stuck up here where everybody's idea of martial arts is Tae Kwon Do for kids?
Nothing against TKD, and in fact I may be enrolling my son in it for the exercise and social activity. At age seven, I can't teach him what I do. But the fact is, it's very rarely taught as a serious martial, as in warlike, art these days.
TKD is interesting in that respect. Though it was founded within the memory of living men, its combat effectiveness has degraded unusually quickly in historical terms.
A generalization of course. There are still TKD teachers who take fighting seriously, if you know where to find them. But for Korean teachers who take real combat seriously, you might look up Tukong Moosul.
That's a problem all martial arts face when they get away from an emphasis on function and start to stress sport or purely spiritual development. They modify technique and training for safety purposes, or preserve ancient forms simply because they're ancient, with little understanding of the function behind the form. The oriental tradition of apprenticeship, where knowledge was given out in drips and drabs over a long period of time doesn't help either.
There's a saying about the students of Yip Man, the Wing Chun master who taught young Bruce Lee, among other martial arts luminaries.
They say the first generation of Yip Man's students were great fighters, the second generation were great technicians, and the third generation lived off the reputation of the first and second generations.
That's an uncomfortable thought for me. I'm a fourth generation student in the Yip Man line, or third in the Bruce Lee line, and I'm afraid it shows...
So, what am I doing to keep and improve my level of skill and readiness?
One thing I'm doing is creating an exercise program that incorporates martial moves into the fitness routine: sit-ups combined with punching with with hand loads or striking with Kali sticks, bag work, and striking the hanging tire with the sticks. (More later.)
Another thing I'm doing is research, particularly research on combatives.
There has never been a better time for research. Amazon.com has the used book option for purchasing a lot of classics on military combatives, and a fair number of cheap new or used DVDs are available and military manuals can be found online
Combatives is a term for what might be called a subset of martial arts training originally designed for the military, though there is now significant development in police and civilian combatives.
The idea of combatives is, to give a military or police recruit useful hand-to-hand and personal weapon skills in as short a period of time as possible.
Military training is overwhelmingly occupied with weapons training and lots of other stuff. The time they have to devote to close-combat skills amounts to hours in Basic, and not a lot more in advanced training.
This is of increasing concern to the military. It turns out that lo and behold, in the modern age close combat has become increasingly more likely, not less, with operations moving more and more to urban areas.
Police and corrections officers constantly face the necessity of closing with resisting suspects to restrain and control them - law and public opinion doesn't allow them to say, "Screw 'em, just shoot the bastard."
And civilians increasingly want courses that teach them quick and dirty, without a life-long commitment to training.
So they want effective stuff that's easy to learn in a short time by people who aren't martial artists or athletes.
Want some super powers while you're at it? If there were such a thing, the serious martial artists would be teaching it to their students too.
These needs require some thoughtful and tough-minded planning. For example, when I tell women concerned about self-defense, that the best and quickest option for them may be to learn to use a knife and carry one, a great many react with what can only be described as horror.
With apologies to liberated women everywhere, the physical limitations of women versus men mean that a woman will have to train a hell of a lot harder and longer than any man to have any chance at all of prevailing in a physical, unarmed encounter.
The good news is, that one need not necessarily prevail, in order to escape.
And here we come to the difference in emphasis between military, police and civilian needs in combatives.
A soldier needs to train to quickly kill, or completely disable, an opponent in the comparatively rare situation where firearms are not in play. Keeping in mind that almost always, a combatant has a knife as backup, or an empty or malfunctioning rifle as a club-like weapon.
Police or corrections officers face unarmed struggle when subduing suspects or prisoners on a regular basis, but are obligated to use sub-lethal force whenever possible, and may face a world of trouble if they kill or seriously damage the opponent.
This actually requires a higher level of skill than a soldier may need. The good news is, law enforcement officers may have the opportunity to train over the course of their careers, and often have the luxury of piling on to a suspect/prisoner in numbers. If they don't have the numbers, the restrictions on using firearms, tasers, etc are less.
For civilians, the good news is that what they need to do in a hot situation is escape, not kill or restrain. The bad news is, civilians are generally not in anything like the physical shape military personnel and police maintain.
Next: history and review.