The second of my two workshops taught Sunday 17th March 2019 for Keiryu Practical Karate in Maldon, Essex: “Vagabond Warriors” – Martial Arts Cross Training. As with my children’s workshop session, Lee Mullan, who heads Keiryu, has done a great job in garnering support from other forward thinking traditional karate clubs. The attendance for this course included teachers from Shinkyu Martial Arts, Do He Dai Shotokan Karate and Forest Schools of Karate amongst others. Lee and his Keiryu outfit are doing a great job to break down barriers and bringing martial artists together in the pursuit of knowledge. I was extremely honoured to be in their company and to have been booked by Lee, a true man of martial arts integrity.
Vagabond Warriors is the rather hyperbolic title I give to my cross training approach to teaching. In short, because of my isolated location and travelling cultural heritage, much of my best martial arts lessons occurred far from my home and under quite a mixed bag of teachers. I have been an eclectic martial arts student for a long time now. Through these experiences and my realisation that I am not a naturally gifted fighter or athlete, I put my enthusiasm to the task of learning how to observe, adapt and apply seemingly disparate techniques from very different styles and teachers. The core reasoning of my approach is centred on Clarification, Scepticism and Individuality. I want intelligent and active coaching, designed to keep students and teachers constantly working to progress and test their learning.
Clarification and Relevant Training
Going to the root of combative practice I discussed the importance of relevant, purposeful training. Warm-ups should contain as many combative muscle memory exercises as possible. If you can walk, jog or run then you can train footwork or tactical escapes. Time is precious and should be managed productively. However, scepticism should also be applied when deciding on certain exercises, as it is easy to fall down the rabbit hole of functional fitness, neglecting fundamental auxiliary training methods. For the purposes of this workshop, we began with sparring from cold. They way this is handled is by working with trusted fellow students. Begin by going at a very give-and-take pace. Park your egos at the door and agree that you are going very light. This can then be gradually built up. We used stand-up grip fighting as an example, but virtually any area can be used.
Transitioning, Restrictive Training and Postures
We then incorporated training from different postures – standing, kneeling, sitting and from the back. These were then transitioned through fluidly to promote better movement from a compromised position and also moved within to promote better movement whilst in a compromised position. We then layered on attack and defence. Both sporting and simple self-defence striking was training on the focus mitts from these positions and through these positions.
Scepticism and Pressure Testing
Pressure testing is a good way to apply the scientific method to training. I make a distinction between real pressure tests and pressure ordeals. The former test whether something works (either in general or for you specifically) in a certain context. The latter is more a fortitude development exercise. Arguably the entire three hour workshop is a pressure ordeal. However, within it participants take part in symmetrical (match fight) sparring and asymmetrical pressure tests.
We used two types of pressure test: one representing symmetrical fighting and the other representing a counter-assault (self-defence situation). The former was trained using Mixed Martial Arts rules and the latter pitted striking against striking/anti-grappling. The former was for 2-3 minutes (could be extended to a 5 minute MMA round) and the latter from 30 seconds to a minute.
Individuality and Feedback Loop Training
Coaching promotes individuality. Neither the person being coached nor the coach should switch off. Training is a constant process for improvement and, if required, modification. FLT is a system of coaching that isolates certain areas like attack and defence, before combining them into effective training exercises making both coach and fighter become more active and adaptive. Using focus mitt flash-pad drills, combinations are no longer called out. The fighter responds to the targets and the physical feedback. Likewise, the coach actively looks for openings. These can be stripped down into any rule-set or fight dynamic. It becomes a loop when sparring is introduced. The participants spar after they have worked within the coach/fighter context and then they work within this context again, actively feeding back information taken from the sparring.
The Switch changes things again. This time a distinction is made between the match fight dynamic and the counter-assault/self-defence dynamic. This distinction is the difference between symmetrical and asymmetrical fighting. This can be applied to coach/fighter training, where participants switch between the two dynamics the moment the word “switch” is called out. This type of training tests attention, concentration and, most importantly, the ability to adapt swiftly. Within the self-defence dynamic it also tested a fighter’s ability to stop when their target was neutralised – preventing excessive force – and also maintained training the tactical escape.
This was another very inspiring day, working with enthusiastic, intelligent and dedicated martial artists. The contributions and feedback from the group made everything about the day thoroughly enjoyable. I look forward to seeing these guys sometime again in the near future.
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