THE individual who follows a course of training in a classical/traditional martial art has no need of any training counsel save that of “Do what your instructor requires. Master the established moves in the established manner, and constantly strive to master the established doctrine as is required.”

The competitor requires a bit more flexibility, but that flexibility is expressed in adopting and applying skills that enable him to win in the sporting arena in which he competes. The techniques, tactics, and mindset demanded by pursuit of his activity are best garnered from the study of match winners, champions, and serious competitive fighters.

The student of close combat and self-defense has requirements unique to his undertaking. And for our visitors who train either under the direction of a teacher, or who self-teach, with the sole objective of obtaining and maintaining combative abilities, we offer the following “Suggestions For Training”. We hope  that some if not all of these suggestions help to enable you to train with increasing effectiveness.

These tips and suggestions are presented informally, and are in no particular order. They are simply ideas that our half-century-plus immersion in the arts of close combat, self-defense, and physical training have taught us make excellent sense. We have seen these ideas bring success to ourself and to others.

1. Specialize on a monthly basis

No one needs encyclopedic knowledge or mastery of an endless number of techniques and skills in order to be effective in self-defense and hand-to-hand combat. However, a sufficiently extensive repertoire is required so that, for those with limited time, not too many of the core skills can be drilled and practiced in a single training session. Therefore, we suggest breaking up your repertoire of techniques and cycling through them over the course of a year, by specializing on certain techniques each month. One month focus on a specific set of five blows, five attacks, and perhaps a dozen or fifteen counterattacking (“self-defense”) actions. Drill them hard, long, and intensively, and concentrate for the duration of that month on absolutely perfecting those specific skills. Next month, take a similar number of other techniques and work them.

Remember we are emphasizing hard work on you best techniques; we are not suggesting that this schedule ought to be followed in order to enable you to acquire more and more additional techniques, per se. Concentrate on that which fits you, and upon that which you do best and take to most readily.

Complete beginners will have too few techniques to make this practice necessary. But after a student has been seriously at this study for eight to twelve months, it is probable that he will have acquired a repertoire that is sufficiently extensive to prohibit giving adequate focus and work to all of that which he has acquired in any one training or practice session.

2. Practice in street clothes and — whenever possible — in a “real world” environment

Attacks do not take place on cleared,  polished wooden floors, or on mats. Lighting is not always good, and the surrounding area may be such that it hinders (or possibly helps) the application of certain skills and tactics. And no one goes about daily in a training uniform.

Obviously, formal classes and extensive, regular drill sessions will be conducted wearing comfortably suitable practice attire. Most of the time training and practice will be in a training setting — safely cleared of hazardous debris, well lit, and so on. The caution that we stress is this: NEVER PRACTICE TECHNIQUES THAT REQUIRE SPECIFIC APPAREL OR A SPECIAL TRAINING ENVIRONMENT IN ORDER TO BE EFFECTIVELY EXECUTED. However, once that is understood, we suggest that occasional training and practice be conducted in a real world environment. You need to be careful about this, certainly. But there are quite likely times and places when and where you can take advantage of indoor offices, residences, and outdoor urban and suburban areas for training. Wear normal clothing when you practice in these environments, and get a real, solid feel for what it may be like when — God forbid — an emergency makes it necessary for you to “do it for real”!

3. Train in the dark

Poor lighting — never complete darkness — is often the reality in an actual street attack. Lowering the lights in the training hall can accomplish the necessary setting to enable this reality to be experienced. Or, practice may be done outside, at night or in the evening.

Note that pitch blackness is not a problem, since street lights, vehicle headlights, and moonlight will always provide some degree of visibility. And — if it is so completely dark that you cannot see your hand in front of you, no one will have the requisite ability to attack you, anyway. Be sensible.

4. Train when it is raining or snowing

Attacks do occur in such inclement weather, and you would be surprised how being clad in a heavy outer coat or raincoat and boots can affect that which you are able to do efficiently in a hand-to-hand encounter!

5. Train by permitting yourself only the use of one arm

Any combatives student must train to be ambidextrous, so we will not allude to your “strong” arm; but we do urge that you experience what it may be like if you must do battle with one arm disabled. A situation could easily arise where your awareness that you are under attack comes as a result of one arm being injured or otherwise rendered useless for the time being.

6. Train on occasion allowing yourself to only utilize kicking, or only utilize hand strikes and actions

Anything from injuries to physical disabilities to terrain situations could force a person to rely upon only “hand techniques” or only “leg techniques”. By forcing yourself into a training situation where you get to experience how this feels and what it compels you to do, you increase your readiness to deal with such a predicament.

7. Work the “Which one will attack?” drill

Stand relaxed with three or four training partners lined up with their backs to you. Without your knowing which, one of the three or four will suddenly turn to attack you and you will need to react. Warning: This is an advanced drill, and great caution must be taken not to cause injuries!

An alternate to this is to have a group surround you, and then have one attack you without knowing ahead of time which one it will be. Same warning and caution as above.

8. If you are in the military train in battle dress. The most ridiculous nonsense today is the so-called “hand-to-hand combat” instruction that is given to soldiers (and police officers) in which they don comfortable training attire and get on a mat and grapple. Duty gear does not permit this — so don’t do it in training!

One of the many reasons why striking and kicking — and limited throwing — is what real combat in the military and in law enforcement requires, is the nature of the encumbrances that every soldier, marine, patrol officer, security person, protection specialist, etc. must wear when on the job.

If you’re a soldier, marine, SWAT officer, or other professional in the military or police occupations, put your full duty dress and gear on, and then see what physical skills make the most sense!

9. Get to know the human body

Do some serious studying of anatomy. This will give you confidence in your knowledge of even the most powerful man’s weaknesses. Don’t merely look at charts of “vital points”. Get hold of some real texts on anatomy and explore the human organism’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Among the many things this will teach you, for example, is how even the largest and strongest man’s neck can be easily broken, once his neck muscles have been relaxed, and their focus diverted — because of the extreme weakness, fragility, and susceptibility to breakage of the vertebra in the neck. This is the kind of knowledge that leads to the cultivation not only of workable techniques, but of the confidence to use them if you ever must, in a life or death emergency.

10. Train with weights

The idiotic idea that “strength isn’t necessary” must be forever abandoned. More: The realization that you want and need all of the strength that you can develop must come to you.

Nothing beats regular, systematic, sensible weight training. Forget about extreme stretching (it is actually more likely to be harmful than beneficial). Strength throughout the body and physical hardihood — all cultivated via sensible weight training — is the key to combat fitness. An another excellent conditioner is . . .

11. Breakfalling, to “harden” the body

Classical/traditional ukemi (breakfalling) is not adaptable to hand-to-hand combat, except perhaps to enable throws to be practiced with some realism. One does not employ breakfalls in hand-to-hand battle. However, repeated and regular practice of the breakfalls taught in judo or ju-jutsu will definitely condition and harden the body to a large degree. We therefore recommend not that combatives students train for judo or ju-jutsu per se, but that they consider the use of breakfall drill as a supplementary toughening exercise in their physical training endeavors.

12. Study accounts of actual warfare and hand-to-hand combat, and make it a habit to scrutinize every news report of any violent crime

Go to the real world for real knowledge. You are wasting your time reading “martial arts magazines” — especially today. The emphasis on competitive skills and the match fighting environment is fine for those for whom this holds an appeal. However, those concerned about real world violence, self-defense, hand-to-hand combat, modern weapons encounters, etc. must look to combat encounters (in peacetime and in war, in urban and in suburban settings) in order to gain a realistic perspective on what this is all about.

We sincerely hope that the preceding has given you some helpful leads regarding how you can train — and, if you are a teacher, train others — for realistic, effective, all-round self-defense and close combat readiness.

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