My second Tuesday night client reviewed their martial arts teacher CPD training and I also introduced some layering to certain concepts. We are focusing on developing a supplementary self-defence programme for children and teenagers. A key area covered was tactical escaping.
Escape is the priority in a self-defence situation. From the earliest stage of training and throughout a course, students need to be look towards ending their story with escape. This is particularly true with children who are highly unlikely to be executing a citizen’s arrest. Therefore, we not only need to explain this at the beginning of a lesson but we also need to incorporate it into the first physical exercise a student does: the warm-up.
Just by having students walk and take in their actual surroundings, where they must recognise exit points and obstacles, as well as visualise areas they will walk in their everyday life is a great way to introduce the concept in an active way. Then begin to get them to think of body mechanics and how they will throw a strike from a natural walking posture. The next stage is to get them to jog and raise their arms in a defensive manner. From here they can begin striking, switching directions, covering and sprawling. At this stage the teacher can make sudden calls to access real exits is a good way to get them to train tactical movements that are realistic. Agility ladders and cones can be used to increase speed and develop intelligent evasive footwork. Such exercises can be progressed into obstacle games with a chasing element and students can be encouraged to head to different areas in a split second, keeping in mind that they should have their backs to walls and be facing near exit/entrance points. Whilst moving around the students will also develop awareness of not running into each other, maintaining good spatial awareness.
For convenience below is the order of progression I advise to teach hard skills self-defence:
Pre-Fight & Pre-Emption
Soft Skills/Personal Security – Target hardening, attitude, situational awareness, controlling fear and the legal side.
Fence – Conflict management, preserving personal space, options for fight de-escalation, spotting pre-incident indicators and setting up pre-emptive striking (target familiarisation leading into focus mitt overlap)
Pre-emptive Striking – Uninterrupted flow of strikes to a target on the move. An underlying attitude principle: keep going/do not give in.
Hunting – This training method is particularly flexible. It can be introduced in various different places during the pre-emptive strike phase and can also serve as a means for developing anti-grappling skills. The idea is to strike whilst being kept at a distance by the coach’s non-pad-holding hand. This reinforces the drive to keep on going.
Referencing – Once the first strike makes contact the non-striking hand is used to help set the datum for the follow strikes.
Fence Variations – In addition to teaching students to adopt a very natural way to set barriers to protect their personal space and to sense a physical assault, the fence can also be an effective means for re-establishing distance and as a framing device. The aggressive fence uses a shove when a person’s personal space is breached. It can be used as a type of pre-emptive cover, responding to a single threat in front.
Incidental Combinations – Following the flow of strikes, the student needs to adapt their counter-attacking tools. These can include overhand strikes, downward hammer-fists and spear knee strikes.
Removing Obstructions/Trapping – The primary objective here is to remove obstructions from the target with the non-striking hand. The important thing to remember is to give the obstructing hand back to the coach and not to grapple.
Regaining the Initiative
Cover – The temporary method used to recover when already in the midst of a fight situation. This type of training is usually introduced using the code white drill – eyes closed and given a physical prompt to react. The idea is to move forward, taking the strikes on the arms whilst breaking out with one’s own strikes. The coach needs to overlap the two sets of strikes and must not pause to allow the student to regain the initiative.
Basic Stand-up Grappling – Teaching an element of stand-up grappling is important to understand how a coach will need to act in order for the student to employ anti-grappling tactics. This should include simple grips, under/over-hooking, head control, waist-locks, lowline takedowns and sprawling.
Hunting – Repeat the hunting exercise. This time we are training the coaches to begin manipulating the student in a safe way, breaking their posture and making access to the target more awkward.
Gripping – The student gets used to being pushed, pulled and gripped. They simply keep trying to move and retain their balance whilst the coach moves them around using grappling holds.
Gripping and Striking – Now the hunting style striking is combined with the coach using grappling holds with their free hand. The objective here is for the student to safely strike whilst having their posture broken and dealing with being gripped; prompting and promoting constant striking rather than getting wound up in grappling.
Anti-Grappling Methods – Eye gouges to attain head-buts and elbow strikes before moving back to the default of straight striking.
Postures – Student is taught how to be combat ready in a kneeling posture, seated posture and lying on their back. There are four functional postures: fence, combat base, butterfly (chair alternative) and guard/back defence.
Transitions – Student is taught to move from one posture to the next and eventually to chain all postures together. There are three transitions – kneeling to standing, seated to kneeling and back to seated.
Restrictive Striking – The straight strike is taught with the students back to the ball, from a kneeling position, from a seated position and a lying down position
Transitional Striking – The student strikes from all the above positions in transition. They start from each position, adding on more each time until they are striking from their back to standing.
Combat Callisthenics/Conditioning – Agility ladder and agility cone drills, bear crawls and snaking, sprawling burpees, press-up striking to reinforce the straight strike and the deck squat.
Next: Hook strikes, offline strikes, combat kicking, ground defence and multiple enemies