After the summer half-term break I returned to Kingham Hill School to resume their self-defence course. Previous lessons had dealt with the fence, pre-emptive striking, referencing targets, incidental combinations, clearing obstructions, striking from restricted positions, striking in transition and covering/regaining the initiative. Today we began work on grappling and anti-grappling.
The underlying strategy and behaviour being taught throughout this course is to strike when you can and to keep going until the target is subdued or an exit can be accessed. Anti-grappling was going to be no different. We began one person going for a series of primal and instinctive grips on their partner whilst holding a focus mitt. The person being gripped responded to each time contact was made by hitting the focus mitt in the same fashion as they had done when practising all of the areas mentioned in the previous paragraph. The coaching partner increased resistance by breaking his partner’s balance and using grips as obstructions. This reinforces the broken record approach. Each situation ended with the trainee partner striking a head-height target repetitively.
My teaching methods are constantly evolving. One thing I have realised is that anti-grappling has to have some basis in positional control. There is wisdom in telling an inexperienced grappler to go for the eyes when someone is trying to grab them, but the window for this working is incredibly narrow and grappling situations are not known for their instantaneity. This is why I am generally adverse to the use of pressure points and especially pinching in such incidents. Pain compliance is not a very reliable strategy in a fight and should only be considered to be a bonus. Pinching people who put you in holds during compliant exercises, impromptu demonstrations or even friendly sparring are really on a par with childhood rough and tumble or roughhousing. They are not really a credible weapon when fighting a capable individual hell bent on causing you physical harm that is usually larger, stronger and with different moral values than you. Eye gouging does have a very mechanical and functional purpose, which I will cover later, but without a decent platform it is not very effective when your enemy has a stronger position.
With this in mind, we drilled some simple grappling positioning. This began with pummelling (over-hooking/under-hooking), this effective muscle memory exercise teaches tactile awareness when in the clinch range of fighting. It allows a defender to gain control over an enemy when at very close range and to move into a better position quickly. We addressed the basic wrestling stances and takedown defence positioning. Then we did a series of three pressure-testing/specific training games. This began with one person trying to make contact with an opponent’s hips or legs. The next exercise involved one partner donning a head cage and being instructed to attempt to clinch his opponent in any way whilst his opponent pushed the head away. This was then replicated on the ground with the “Crazy Baby” game, where one person was instructed to try to pin his opponent whilst remaining on all fours and the defending person moving in a seated position (butterfly guard) pushing back against his opponent’s head or shoulder.
The lesson finished with an introduction to eye gouging. Here one person clinched whilst the other moved into an effective grappling position, now heavily reinforced by the majority of grappling exercises taught today, and accessed the clincher’s head. The eye gouge was added onto the head grip and then combined with head-butts, elbow strikes and eventually straight hand strikes before accessing an exit. Next lesson we look into pressure testing and apply it to the focus mitts.