Simplicity And Destructiveness

(Two Acid Tests Of A Technique’s Practicality And
Reliability In Real Close Combat And

WHEN it comes to evaluating the merits of any technique, whether offensive or defensive for practical application in a self-defense emergency, we cannot do better than to use the Applegate Standard ––– first published in Col. Rex Applegate’s wartime classic Kill Or Get Killed in 1942, and formulated by him:

“Will this work so that I can use it instinctively in vital
combat against an opponent who is determined to prevent
me from doing so, and who is striving to eliminate me by
fair means or foul?”

If you want an acid test for any martial arts technique, there you have it; as valuable and true in 2017 as it was in 1942.

Many of the skills taught in the classical/traditional martial arts are of questionable practical value for use in hand-to-hand combat because they are way too complicated. They can take months to learn, and will work reliably only in a training or demonstration setting when the “attacker” or “adversary” is an essentially cooperative partner. Often ––– in training or in a demonstration ––– the technique in question is applied full speed (using control not to maim the opponent) by both “defender” and “attacker”. So it appears that the technique will obviously work, since the observer sees it performed in real time. However it must be kept in mind that in the setting in which the technique is being seen ––– and applied ––– both the defender and the attacker know exactly what each is going to do, and the technique has been well rehearsed so that positioning and timing have been drilled into both parties. Essentially what is being observed is choreography.
We do not say this to diminish in the slightest the considerable skill and work that is required to perform skills in this manner. The repetitious, cooperative practice necessary demands discipline, patience, hard work, and serious trust between partners. Our point is only that as far as practical application of any technique is concerned against an unpredictable, determined, resisting enemy whom one has never seen before in one’s life, and who comes at one in a moment of surprise, when one has his mind on something aside from performing a technique, it is doubtful that many of the impressive-appearing skills could be relied upon. After all, an attacker who is real might come at you indicating that he intends one action, then switch suddenly to another!

There is an assumption too in many impressive looking “martial arts” skills that one’s series of, say, six or eight pre-planned sequential movements will actually work, and that the adversary will react in a specific way, insuring the uninterrupted, smooth completion of one’s technical moves. One must attack an enemy in a barrage and never rely upon a single action to succeed . . . but all too often the popularly practiced moves are not fierce and destructive enough, and under combat conditions it is not likely that they will usually do what one anticipates that they will do. Sequential blocking, for example; or maneuvering the adversary into position for a throw or blow; catching the attacker’s hand and wrist just right, so that he will succumb to the force of what is in actual combat a highly questionable, if impressive appearing technique.

Factors such as weather, terrain, attire, space, level or irregular ground, presence of more than one attacker, etc. etc. are not considered in passing on some (admittedly beautiful looking) skills in the dojo.

So here’s the bottom line:

When we analyze the Applegate Standard for selection and acceptance of techniques for combat we can be confident that we’ve got a winning technique if it proves to be simple and destructive.

Simple techniques are easily learned, easily retained, widely adoptable to an almost unlimited variety of circumstances and situations, and are the least likely to be effectively interfered with or countered by the enemy. (For example: We always advocate carrying a small handful of gravel ––– not sand or dirt, which can blow back ––– and flinging it into an adversary’s face. This requires only a gross body movement, will take anyone by surprise, and can be a prelude to escaping the scene, using unarmed or armed action against the adversary. Simple. Foolproof. Adoptable to all environments and situations.)

Simple techniques are gross body movements, requiring only that the user make use of the inevitable, natural, involuntary reaction of his system to danger, which we know entails the loss of the ability to render fine motor articulations. There’s no “fighting against nature” here; just going with the flow and doing the most natural actions.

Destructiveness is critical in any close combat or self-defense technique. What is at stake is life and limb ––– your or your loved one’s life and limb! ––– and you cannot possibly read the mind or determine the capabilities of any attacker or hand-to-hand adversary ahead of time.

It is well to remind readers that, under combat conditions, human beings can be shockingly difficult to stop. Little women, normally weak men, even elderly people, can explode with a resolve and tenacity under great survival stress that makes them five to ten times stronger and more resilient than they normally would be. And that refers to normally decent, everyday people from all normal walks of life. When you consider violent criminal offenders whose very lifestyles revolve around violent combat, or military adversaries, who may be battle-hardened and ––– to use a popular term ––– “tough as nails”, you can imagine how much might be needed to shut them down in an all-out encounter.

Techniques lacking destructive capability should be discarded. They may be suitable for competition, when done with proper control and according to the rules, but they are not to be called upon to save human life. Some of these techniques (i.e. control grips, restraining and come along type holds do have a definite place in the training of security people and law enforcers . . . but restraining and/or arresting troublemakers is not the responsibility of the private citizen or military person who must deal with a dangerous opponent. His responsibility is to stop his enemy and save himself or other innocent persons from being knocked out, maimed, killed, or kidnapped, etc.

We hope that this presentation assists those who are students of the more classical martial arts who wish to set up a repertoire of doable skills in case they are ever confronted by danger outside their traditional training and practice environment. Select a handful of techniques (and all of the classical systems have some) that are simple and destructive. Work on them intensively and regularly. Keep them in reserve for what both of us hope never comes to you. Enjoy whatever you like in the dojo, amongst your training partners and friends; but when and if the worst ever happens, use those skills that have met the Applegate Standard ––– and use them with every ounce of strength, speed, and determination you can generate!