ARTICLE - SURVIVAL OF THE STRONGEST

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ARTICLE - SURVIVAL OF THE STRONGEST

Post  Guest on Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:29 am

SURVIVAL OF THE STRONGEST (Build A Better Machine)

2001

How many times do we hear, regarding the effectiveness of some system, various statements such as ‘technique not strength’, ‘no matter the opponents size’ etc? Strange how the people usually hard-selling such notions are often not in ‘prime’ condition themselves, or their target market are the vulnerable persons wanting a ‘magic-wand’ system of evening the odds already stacked against them. Time to wake up ladies and gentlemen. Combat is an intense physical affair. It stands to reason that the more physically capable you are, the better off you’re likely to be should you decide, or be forced, to indulge.

Technique is extremely important, yes, but so is the physical ability required to pull it off against fully resisting opponents. Is it any coincidence that every army, through history, has promoted some form of physical training? No coincidence either that the more elite and likely to encounter force that a combatant is, the better the physical condition they will be found in. It has long been recognised that the better shape you’re in before combat, the better shape you’ll be in during combat.

Take a close look at the specialist police and military teams, the ones doing the business on a regular basis. Do they undergo gruelling physical training for fun? No, of course not, they, and their decision makers, know the score. Most of these units weed out unsuitable applicants during the initial stages of selection and training using some form of hard physical testing, as it is accepted as being one of the most important basic attributes.

Excellent physical condition is of vital importance for all combatants in the forces. As has already been stated, combat is a supremely strenuous affair. Not only does it provide a strong machine for the tools needed by the job, but also fitter individuals are more resistant to injuries and can retain more mental concentration through periods of stress-induced fatigue, and subsequent fatigue-induced stress.

Getting back to the point, is your ‘machine’ powerful enough for your chosen ‘tools’? Techniques, the tools, are vital, but I would argue that they are not enough on their own; you need a machine that is up to the job.

My advice is to get down to the gym and do whatever you can to improve your physical condition – strength, muscular endurance and cardiovascular training, everything. It all counts. I place particular emphasis on strength for combat, as my personal style of fighting is based upon heavy explosive impact tools, with muscular endurance coming a close second in order to sustain this high-energy output, if required. Cardiovascular training is the foundation activity; CV fitness has so many benefits, not least the ability to reduce the resting heart rate, which in turn helps to keep you in the ’performance zone’ under duress.

I used to be dead against weight training, before I tried it in earnest, probably for the very same reasons that most of its detractors use. I thought it would slow me down, and as I use velocity extensively to produce high impact, I wasn’t keen on that happening. I thought my push-ups, pull-ups and all the other exercises would suffice. The one area where I really felt the pinch was when bodyweight was being directly applied, during grappling and general manhandling of adversaries. I was at times struggling to control stronger and heavier opponents, often getting properly mauled in the process, which I always compensated for using impact, which in turn wasn’t always ideal for the circumstances. I decided to increase my usable body mass (i.e. muscle not fat) and strength as direct result of this failing, as I was involved in an increasing number of tasks requiring the application of force, both in a military and private capacity.

When I first started resistance training, I was still serving in the forces and it was, and still is, a hugely popular activity. Luckily, I learnt from some master craftsmen, seriously dedicated types, and eventually I progressed to qualifying as a NABBA certified weight-training instructor. Since then, I’ve met and trained with some truly phenomenal examples of muscular development, and I’ve been able to learn much more. I make resistance training my number-one combative support system, and I’ve developed a whole range of specific exercises for nearly all my fighting requirements.

Strength is vital to all physical activities; even Formula One drivers have extensive physical training programs. Just technique? No, not enough I’m afraid. Teaching control and restraint methods to colossal doormen and the like puts you straight – the best hold in the world can be overpowered by some lunatic who has 150% of your body weight, and maybe 200% of your strength, and that’s without adding any chemical factors. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never advocated any use of ‘cold’ grappling, instead I always prescribe large doses of anaesthetic impact before such risky operations. If you have never trained with such individuals, and you train for the real thing, then you need to find some – look under ‘Big Nasty B******s Ltd’ in the yellow pages! You need to be strong and have good technique, no question about it. Try to remember the following adage - “Quantity can have a nasty quality all of its own.”

If you do know any huge meathead types (don’t tell ‘em I used this term) try your arm / leg / neck holds on them, with and without resistance. I’ve trained with, and taught, men who have virtually zero flexibility, and so much bulk that it’s almost impossible to secure any effective holds – even with compliance in some cases, and you sometimes get the impression that if they flinch, something of yours may snap! Try putting a real strangle on a man with a 22” neck. Scary isn’t it? If you don’t agree, I strongly suggest that you stick to activities that have weight categories, for your own safety. Thankfully, heavy impact that targets the central nervous system still works in these extreme cases, but even then – strength is an important factor. Impact is highly influenced by simple ballistics, and a basic premise is that if you want to make a bigger bullet go further and faster, you put a bigger bang behind it.

I’ve honestly never had too many reservations about tackling the highly trained types -sorry to sound so arrogant - during the course of any work that I’ve been doing. The people, and I use that term lightly, that make me wonder if I’m in the wrong place, are the monsters, the ogres, the raging bulls – you know, the ones who you know are going to be nigh-on indestructible, and those you know will throw your team around like rag-dolls.

I could give so many examples of such freaks of nature, as I’m sure many of you could, but none are so vivid in my memory as a giant Dutch soldier that I, and three others, once had the ‘pleasure’ of meeting. During a NATO Escape and Evasion exercise, we captured said soldier and proceeded to attempt to restrain him while transport arrived to whisk him off for some very unpleasant interrogation. Was he coming quietly? Not likely. It soon became a bit of a concern if he was coming at all! Ever see anyone burst Nylon Plasticuffs? We hadn’t either. Ever see four big men savaged and thrown around by one, much bigger, man? Think of a ‘World’s Strongest Man’ competitor here. All the technique in the world wasn’t getting us very far that day, and I can hear you saying “No matter how big he was, my eye strike / groin kick / sleeper hold would have sorted him out.” Yes, we tried all of that, in turn, with three men trying to hold him down, and it seemed to make things worse. In the end he gave up before the transport arrived, he was “Only messing” with us after all! This was only a training exercise. For real? It would’ve been done with bullets, without a shadow of a doubt. We all wished we’d been a lot stronger that day I can assure you, just as you would if ever you found yourself in the same situation, and someone decides not to play by the rules of nature.

Tell the UFC / NHB / Vale Tudo fighters, or any boxer or Judoka, not to bother with strength training because technique is all they need. Imagine the response you’ll get, and these are all sports – however hard they are, real combat is in a league all of its own.

Generally, and hopefully, the average street thug, if there is such an animal, hasn’t got the kind of devastating power that a sport combat champion has, but is your training geared toward general, fingers-crossed, assumptions? If it is, good luck to you, but I’m playing it safe and training worst-case every time. There are very few surprises this way, take it from me, and anyone else who gets his or her hands dirty on occasion will agree. I can always tone it down if maximum force isn’t required, but what if it is and I’ve never really trained for it? Multiple attackers, weapons, and combinations of both, are situations where the sudden application of maximum force is possibly your only chance of survival – and the stronger you are the more this chance improves.

Back to strength training, I’m not going to delve into specifics here – I intend to cover these in future articles – but I can’t recommend it enough. Don’t ever think that as soon as you start lifting weights over your head you’ll experience massive, instant, muscular growth. This seems to be one of the most popular misconceptions. It isn’t as easy as all that, if you can prove me wrong on this, we stand to make a lot of money together, partner! Another mistaken belief is you’ll become ‘muscle bound’ and lose suppleness. Not the case, check out an American bodybuilder called Tom Platz, he’s now no spring chicken and still has some of the biggest legs in the business, yet his flexibility is amazing. Also, take look at gymnasts, especially the men; they have outstanding muscular development giving astonishing power, control and agility. As long as you train your muscles with a full range of motion, they will develop with a full range of motion, and as long as you maintain your flexibility, you’ll retain your flexibility. It’s as simple as that. The clumsy awkward types that you encounter are the result of clumsy awkward training – remember, the very first ‘muscle’ you should always train is the big grey one between your ears, learn from a real expert if you can find one.

You need strength. In close combat - strength counts. If you’re taking a door off with a ram during a room entry – strength counts. If you’re levering two lunatic drunks apart in a bar – strength counts. If you’re carrying a wounded client or colleague to safety – strength counts. If you’re getting bounced around a dark deserted car park by thugs – strength counts. Get the picture? Do I have to say it again? Yes – strength counts.

To sum all this up, I view the technique as the tool, and the body as the machine, as I’ve tried to make clear. If the tool isn’t sharp enough, or not suited for the job, then the results won’t be great. If the machine hasn’t enough power to make the tool work properly, then once again the results won’t be great. Carefully select and hone your tools, and put together a powerful machine – then check how great your results are!

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Re: ARTICLE - SURVIVAL OF THE STRONGEST

Post  ciappa_r on Sun Apr 27, 2008 10:12 am

Hey Mick,
Came accross your site during the course of last week and man am I glad that I did. Although I haven't managed to read all your articles, I really enjoyed this one very much - Put some things into good perspective for me. Thank you very much Very Happy

I noted that you mention CV training as a foundation activity, which makes good sense ... A couple of things that I need to ask if you don't mind Mick:
- How often do you engage in CV training?
- Do you seperate your CV training from your strength workouts?
- What would you say the optimum number or strength workouts should be per week?

Thanks once again for a great article ... I am looking forward to going through the rest of your site Smile

Chat soon

Kind regards,
Robert Ciapparelli
www.freewebs.com/jkdhpsf

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Re: ARTICLE - SURVIVAL OF THE STRONGEST

Post  MarkHotson on Wed Jun 17, 2009 4:07 pm

I agree with the article but a quick look at 'the enemy' is worth a mention. There's a fair few beer swilling, smoking, thugs out there that don't appear to train too much yet, they're still dangerous to the majority of us. Hell yeah, strength counts and for that matter size too but what defines most of the worst cases of dangerous hooligans I've seen is aggression and as you've mentioned in other articles tenacity more than strength.

As far as the physical condition of soldiers then yes they do need that conditioning but isn't that more because their job involves it? You don't see the same build on club doorman a lot of the time though, they certainly are generally big guys. For people coming at this from a purely self defense perspective they are not looking at controlling a larger opponent by grappling (manhandling) as a professional doorman or taking a career as a soldier, just looking to survive a possible violent encounter. Having more is always good but pressed for time my tendency would be to prioritize the impact side of things, endurance and leave strength for a time when I am happy with these basics.

For me it's at least in part about using the physical training to develop a level of tenacity which isn't a native part of my psychological make up. Some people it seems have that naturally.

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Re: ARTICLE - SURVIVAL OF THE STRONGEST

Post  Guest on Thu Jun 18, 2009 5:59 am

Good points Mark,

With regard to strength being so high up on my list, obviously I've been in a great many roles that require me to physically control subjects, and this might not be the remit of most - but look at it from the other point of view, I'd put money on those that I used to manhandle and 'rag doll' wishing they were stronger to prevent me!

I try to look at what has caused me problems to date, and from being (un)lucky enough to have a fair few incidents to draw upon, certain commonalities become apparent. Fighting those with a huge degree of endurance has never figured highly on the list of things to get better at - as it has never been an issue in any of the incidents I've experienced. Individuals possessed of great strength, be it natural, trained or 'otherwise' acquired, has always posed the most problems for me from a base physical attribute point of view. As I've said before, I teach what I fear - not what I favour.

Obviously, just being strong doesn't make someone dangerous, though it can make them harder to beat, from an injury/KO resistance perspective. Being powerful is another story - strong and quick is a potent combination, one that I personally aspire to.

Strength/power high-output training builds tenacity admirably in my opinion - as much as lower-output endurance-style work, if not more. I actually combine both as much as possible, or at least alternate between the two. Tenacity really develops from any activity that is difficult, uncomfortable and has an easy opt-out that you choose to ignore - my training covers these bases very effectively, as anyone is welcome to find out for themselves if you fancy it!

Due to the lower/longer output of most common endurance training methods, it takes a long time to get to this high level of discomfort, using a higher/longer method, with various resistance training means, the discomfort hits much sooner and can be made more relevant regarding physical movement profiles. A bonus is that strength, power and muscular - as opposed to CV - endurance is promoted also.

Mick

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Re: ARTICLE - SURVIVAL OF THE STRONGEST

Post  Sven on Thu Jun 18, 2009 7:28 am

Great posts, as usual, Mick!
I I may, would like to add one overlapping side note: being powerful to deliver maximum impact is of great importance, but at the same time, one can not always expect to be on delivering end, and as the head hunt goes, one better have strong neck muscles to soften recieved shots as well, the thing often overlooked. The thicker the neck muscles, the lesser the risk of being KO-ed (or choked, tried that once on a Olympic class weightlifter... well, he just stood there and there was nothing I could do with all my technique... size and strenght do matter).
One may never face the worst, but one can never be TOO ready to face it.
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Re: ARTICLE - SURVIVAL OF THE STRONGEST

Post  MarkHotson on Thu Jun 18, 2009 7:34 am

Well made points and I certainly would benefit from the strength/power high output training.

Look forward to training with you in July.

Mark.

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