Self-Defence Dirty Fighting (diary entry)

eye gouge standing


I write this diary entry an entire week since I took my annual holiday and in something of haze. Delayed flights meant that I haven’t had much sleep in the past 24 hours and I drove back in at just shy of 7 a.m. Therefore, you will have to forgive the somewhat delirium that is creeping into this post. I also have a lot of projects I want get started on and continuing now I am back, which are in my current thoughts. Nevertheless, the holiday experience was good, as hoped, and quite a few things came to mind regarding training on vacation that I wanted to put down on here sometime soon.

Being a fan of sensationalist fiction at heart, the thought of writing up a lesson that took place on Friday 13th (the month of my birthday no less!) brings a smile to my face. Listeners of my podcast will know that my critical thinking and scepticism is compartmentalised from my fascination with mythology and superstition, from where I like to draw metaphors with unashamed indulgence. Anyway, this wasn’t an unlucky training session and no one donned a hockey mask. However, we did don gi jackets and head cages for specific training exercises in addition to Boxing and Muay gear for the final instalment of our Dirty Boxing/Stand-up Mixed Martial Arts course.

We began with revisions on the pawing jab. This was used to set up Western Boxing combinations and then Muay Thai combinations before it was brought back to the self-defence line. Here we looked at the essence of the fence, which uses its lead hand as a type of sensory tentacle to gauge when to throw a pre-emptive strike. Just as the likes of Thomas Hearns have used the pawing jab to place combinations they also use this leading hand to obstruct vision. Many experienced professionals in security, such as John Anderson, have used their negotiating fence hand to do just the same when they are lining up their pre-emptive punch. Also akin to the pawing jab is the referencing hand, which is a tactile method for confirming a target in-fight. In this and previous lessons we extending the principle of the pawing jab to techniques outside of the actual jabbing punch. For example, the forearm is has been effectively used by the like Vasyl Lomenchenko to reference a target and hinder a guard at mid-range.

The slap-down parry is another Lomenchenko favourite, but it was also used by George Foreman to good effect. Its relevance in self-defence tactics cannot be understated. The move can be found across traditional disciplines and is a primal hand-to-hand fighting tactic for removing obstacles.

We then revised the clinching methods of Jim Corbett, Jack Johnson, Joe Frazier and Roberto Duran. Here we used circling jabs, uppercut/under-hooking, over-hooking/arm-wrapping, tying up and combining all of this with shovel hooks and overhand punching. Interestingly these techniques are both the most superficially similar to the dirty business of self-defence fighting and yet should be viewed within a narrow context. Seeking grappling range is not often the most efficient method for an individual who wishes to finish a violent assault situation as quickly as possible. It hinders disengagement and can prolong the incident, which can escalate the inherent risks of fighting. When using it as attribute training grapple-striking is excellent to condition the individual for the gruelling up-close nature of brawling.

The grapple-striking range of the old-school boxing clinch clearly has huge benefits for MMA fighting whether it is being used defensively or offensively. We revised the various wrestle-based clinch positions used to drill punching combinations.

All training was coached in a series of overlapping exercises (much in line with Iain Abernethy’s “Training Matrix”), including pad-work, drilling and progressively resistance-based pressure tests. We then used the gi jackets to work on adaptations with clothing. This is a great way to expose weaknesses and create new opportunities that might be presented in a self-defence grapple-striking situation. Judo/BJJ grip fighting was introduced to set up take-downs, throws, breaking holds, creating/clearing new obstructions and to introduce a cross-collar choke. Striking was then layered over the top. Next we used the head-cages so that more realistic close-range fighting could be applied under pressure. The head cages are especially good for training head-butts as well as elbow and knee strikes at clinch range. Additional benefits include eye-gouging tactics, where the edges of the head cage may be use to simulate eye sockets. Many fighters complain the the head cages limit vision. However, from a self-defence pressure test perspective this is a good thing, as it better simulates the tunnel vision and blind fury of inside fighting

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