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Post  Guest on Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:31 am

THE LIST (What’s Breaking Your Back?)


Back in the early 90’s, I put the finishing touches to a highly technical close combat method, which I had developed primarily for military personnel (I was serving at the time). I taught this method to all manner of military and civilian personnel for many years, even elements of the USAF Security Police and the Metropolitan Police. The whole syllabus is in black and white, 80-odd pages of every strike, counter and takedown, and every combination to boot, including offensive anatomy, weapon applications and environmental adaptations etc. I still have the original in my possession (complete with typo’s) if anyone would like to see it. I keep it as a reminder, specifically of how not to develop a usable combative system.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good few year’s work and I was extremely pleased with myself getting it finished and running. I had all the angles covered, it was synergistic, progressive, and modular in construction, I even got the terminology just right (no mean feat for someone as fussy as me). I thought it was the mutt’s nuts to be blunt. I was wrong, to be even more blunt, all I had done is create yet another over-evolved system / method / style, albeit a designer one, crammed with many features and techniques that were all essentially the same.

You’d have thought that I would have known better – at the time I was very active regarding real-time use of force. The writing was on the wall and I should have seen it. I was using maybe 10%, maximum, of my ‘super-method’ – and this was on a regular basis for real; unarmed, armed, against weapons and multiple opponents – so why was I still teaching and practising the other 90%? I should have committed the extra time and energy toward improving the stuff that I used and needed the most, the 10%.

What I should have done is follow some advice that was given to me years before, when I was a young brand-new serviceman. I remember an older, much more experienced soldier noticing how much kit I had in my bergen during a field exercise – admittedly, I had the lot, all the latest gadgets for everything – no way was I going to be uncomfortable (it all cost me a bloody fortune!). My bergen was the size of a small house, far too heavy and cumbersome, and it took me forever to find my precious kit when I needed it. This old-sweat, laughing at my discomfort, gave me some of the best advice I probably had during my 12-year stint. Basically, I should make a list of every bit of kit that I had with me, bergen, webbing, even stuff in my pockets, then each time I used an item I should put a tick next to it on the list. After several field exercises and operations, I was to bin any item that didn’t have at least a couple of ticks next to it, as it obviously didn’t deserve to waste a place on my person – all space and weight really is at an absolute premium when operating in the field.

What a lesson I learned! I was now carrying around about half the weight. I could get over barbed-wire fences properly, my back only thought it was half-broken during long slogs and I could find my gear quickly and easily. Sorted. Even better, I learnt to improvise with my kit when I had to, much more useful than having too many tools for not enough jobs.

The point to all this? You will have guessed by now I’m certain. Just another variation on the old less-is-more-when-the-chips-are-down premise, and the avoid-the-logjam-of-surplus-techniques theme etc. As trite as it may be, I wish I’d applied this same advice to my combative training and development long ago.

I now use this method now all the time, for all kinds of occasions and situations, ranging from what I have in the boot of the car, to what I take on security jobs, to what exercises I do in the gym and I’m even working on getting my girlfriend to use it with her handbag! The close combat method I currently practice and teach still has the tools of the old ‘designer-system’, but I now concentrate much more heavily on developing the generic skills, not just the never-ending variations. These skills are the 10%, the core that can be improvised to cover 99.99% of situations. Incidentally, the remaining 0.01% is covered by chance, but in my experience, the more you train the luckier you seem to get.

Try ‘The List’ with your combative syllabus if you feel inclined. Look hard at the tools and tactics you train with, try to group similar techniques together and find the core skill that they stem from – this is the one you want to carry ‘on your back,’ and then train it to death! I know a great deal of you out there already use similar ideas and concepts, and I know that you do so because it works – so to you I’m stating the obvious. That’s OK, because this article wasn’t written with you in mind. Hope you enjoyed it anyway!


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Post  Jay on Thu Oct 30, 2008 11:19 am

Hi there Mick,

just wanted to say 'thank you' for this article!

I have been training for twenty years and teaching for quite a few but I have always found that I teach what I was taught - even if I didn't agree with it - simply because it was on the syllabus and because it was 'expected' of me.

Recently - over the last five or six months - I have actually done what you have written here. I have taken a long, hard look at my syllabus - combined with stuff I have been taught elsewhere - and rationalised what works, what is used often and which doesn't fall into either category. That has left me with a 'new' syllabus that is roughly one third of the 'traditional' one.

I am not going to abandon the old syllabus - it is not just mine to do that, after all - but will be trying the new style in the new year to see if it can stand alone and work as a martial art/self-defense style. It is concise, it is practical and - hopefully - it works.

... now if only I had read this article before today I wouldn't have thought that I was alone/mad for doing this!!!!! Very Happy

Thanks again.

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