MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

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MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Guest on Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:02 am

Interview by Steve Rowe.

Part One.

Training appears to come in many forms but how different is it?

I personally don't see the great divide that many others seem to, from a context perspective anyway - you can have combative, sportive or creative applications for exactly the same material, or even a combination - which is often the case in actual fact.

I describe what I teach, physically, as ‘combatives’ as it is the most relevant adjective – nothing more, no historical link to anything, and I don’t try and make a noun out of the word like the less informed try to. As I haven’t adapted a martial art or combat sport for my combative usage it is simply combatives – but it could just as easily be combative Goju, or combative Tai Chi if I adapted either of those two arts for a purely fighting based application – or in turn either could be ‘sportive’ if that was my focus instead.

People will be attracted to different types of training to achieve different results, but do you see a common ethos there?

There is a huge area of common ground with all the various kinds of training available, there has to be due to the one absolute common denominator - the human body! In my experience the majority of the result-driven, effective practices out there are traditional in nature. In the history of our species we have figured out the best ways and means of learning and perfecting long-term skills, and it invariably revolves around repetitive training of the fundamentals, with a disproportionate amount of time and effort expended to this end compared with 'advanced' material - which are invariably merely the basics taken in a specialised direction anyway.

What do you think of the RBSD practiced today?

I'm not over keen on the term RBSD - I find it unnecessary to be honest, I mean what else is self-defence going to be based on but reality? It can become quite insular, and certainly amuses me when these 'RBSD' zealots look down their tactical noses at the martial arts for being unrealistic, then act exactly the same if not worse!

I feel that sometimes people are too generous with the 'reality' tag to be honest! Training in jeans and t-shirt does not automatically make you 'street' and carrying a small torch and folding knife, plus making a fuss about never sitting with your back to the door doesn’t make you tactical! Incidentally, I’m sure that if sitting with your back to the door was really that dangerous, it would be made illegal in these days of Health and Safety rulings...but that’s another story…

I’m all for modern progressive training, modified using the latest and most effective methodology, made relevant to the specifics of actual violence – in fact this is all that I do – but there is more to reality training than just doing all the exciting stuff. Certain types gravitate to ‘RBSD’ or ‘combatives’ due to dubious reasons and usually end up adversely influencing those that are there because they want a usable and realistic solution to potential violence - not because it’s an apparent shortcut that avoids the hard work required to develop real ability, or because they can live out some tactical fantasy and be the secret operative they never were – or will ever be.

As soon as all the weapons – improvised or otherwise – start appearing, with covert carry and related stress-access drills, I’m afraid my eyebrows go up and my interest goes down. In fact as soon as these tactical-tourists start insisting that everyone is in peril and should take drastic precautions, all the time, wherever they find themselves, I start edging out of the door – I’ve worked in real tactical environments, on real tactical operations, with rear tactical equipment, a real tactical threat and a tactical paycheck, so know the reality of this ‘tactical lifestyle’ intimately – but I struggle to imagine how these guys manage to sleep at night, or maybe they take it in turns and cover each other, because that’s what you do when you are really at risk – but they wouldn’t know that would they, and besides it’s a trifle inconvenient and they’re only playing at it anyway…

This is obviously in the extreme, most of the RBSD groups out there are not quite as ‘out there’ as this – but some are, trust me I’ve met them and read their ridiculously clichéd advice on various forums, and they tar the serious advocates of self-protection training with the same brush in exactly the same fashion as the stereotyped MMA detracts from the superb athletes that emerge from that discipline.

Scenario training is all well and good, aggressive and energetic role-play with padded-suit assailants may well be more interesting than repetitive skill training - but it's like comparing fast-food to a well balanced meal, immediately satisfying but usually devoid of substance and real nourishment. Jumping head-first into advanced training such as this without first having the necessary skills doesn't do such practices justice - a common sight is the ineffectual flailing individual, full of adrenaline but lacking in skill to the point that the aggressor barely even needs to wear armour at all! The practitioner may be consciously competent without stress - but this competence deteriorates dramatically under duress. Drilling a technique to an unconsciously competent level means that it is retained when your thought process is preoccupied and your concentration is seriously degraded - but this means lots of boring traditional training of the basics to achieve this...

Do you think self defence can be learned on a 6 week course?

It depends – but isn’t that always the case! Regarding the ‘hard’ physical skills, as opposed to the ‘soft’ awareness and avoidance skills, any short course is going to struggle to provide and develop real usable proficiency to be honest – sorry! If you first determine the difference between being ‘practice proficient’ and being ‘combat proficient’ then the former is certainly within the grasp of someone attending a short course of instruction, but rarely the latter unless the individual is already above average in terms of fighting ability. Instructors trying to sell the short courses often cite their reliance on extremely small skillsets comprising mainly gross-motor movements – even assuring that during WWII the material was taught within only eight hours or so to commandos and the like, in order to prove its worth. Taking this into consideration, those few hours were not testimony as to how effective the material was – only as to how low a priority it was considered, and that the students already knew how to fight!

Think about a system with possibly the smallest skillset of all – boxing – that really does rely purely upon gross-motor movements as an example. Take a short course in boxing and see how far it gets you. Think you’ll be combat proficient? You need to have realistic achievable goals in order to make realistic and achievable progress. You might think that you’re making great progress with a shortcut, until the unexpected happens – usually involving trying your new skills out on someone who doesn’t much care for them, or you, and you realize that you’re back to square one and have actually wasted your time on what turned out to be a dead-end.

Being able to walk straight out of a lesson and use a new skill immediately in the car park is bordering upon pure fantasy unfortunately – I would love the reality to be different, but it isn’t. Unless only one simple skill was covered for the entirety of the lesson, in huge depth and the necessary repetitive workload required to install it didn’t leave you completely spent, which it probably would, or else you were already skilled in a similar technique, don’t believe those that would promise otherwise.

The more important soft skills can certainly be covered in great depth during short courses – and these are ultimately the bigger picture regarding self-protection, not the difficult fighting bit! After all, looking after yourself is a lifestyle adjustment, and should be regarded as steps that you adopt that enhance your quality of living – rather than restrict it, some lose sight of this and are constantly in a state of neurosis almost, always looking for the attack that could happen. It would be interesting to see how these individuals would fare if I took them along to places I’ve worked in the past, real hostile environments – but I wouldn’t stand too close, I’m certain that they’d spontaneously combust with the stress!

What are your thoughts on the short 'Instructor Qualification' courses being marketed at present?

Personally I think that they are a great way to earn money as an instructor, and for individuals to spend money! Other than that I feel that the majority are ridiculous in that they could not possibly produce what I would class as a credible instructor. Regardless of claims detailing entry requirements, or strict vetting, it is often the same person that is being sold the short training course that enrolls on the instructor course, and the instructor course sometimes isn’t even as long! All the reasons that make proficiency hard to acquire as a practitioner are far more evident for aspiring instructors – often earning their ‘ticket’ to teach before being able to perform the material to any real standard themselves.

Some of these courses are as short as 24-36 hours of direct instruction, spread over several months - but this in itself isn't the issue as far as I'm concerned, if the content was suitably small in scope this could easily be achievable, as real depth could be explored - but invariably these courses are cram-packed with every aspect and subject that could possibly be considered, almost as if they are scared of missing something! All this does is reduce the depth of each subject to a superficial level - creating perhaps a passable practitioner but certainly no instructor, with a full understanding of the whole package.

Understanding is what makes an instructor – without it you simply end up with a training partner just a few lessons ahead of the others, whatever his certificate happens to say! Most instructors can cover the ‘what’ aspects adequately; this is evident when you look at the technique-collections that pass themselves off as ‘systems’ too often. Some instructors can handle the ‘how’ parts satisfactorily and actually impart the necessary skills to their students – but very few can fully address the ‘why’ component that is the crucial element required to achieve complete understanding. Without this understanding, without knowing why, the training is two-dimensional at best and this isn’t enough in my opinion, to truly consider someone an instructor if they don’t have it.

Continued...


Last edited by Mick Coup on Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:04 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Guest on Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:03 am

Part Two.

Is it possible to learn from a DVD?

Of course it is, but it depends on what you are trying to learn and who you are. With experience of a subject, combined with awareness and understanding of its proper context, it is possible to glean a great deal of information from DVDs and the like, as there is invariably a great deal of commonality within basic gross-movement profiles leaving the details and subtle variations to stand out and be noted.

The problem is often when a novice tries to substitute learning from a DVD in place of from an actual instructor - the material is invariably lacking depth, it has to be due to the restrictions of the medium, and this can lead to a completely false understanding of a particular technique because it is only shown from a limited perspective. As a novice the bigger-picture is rarely considered, and every technique tends to be a separate insulated action in itself.

If not how frequently should a student take instruction?

Obviously as often as possible, but even more obviously it has to be good instruction, suited to the student and relevant to what the student requires towards achieving a determined goal. Time/budget/lifestyle factors will ultimately determine this - I train very few people in actual fact, but do a lot of teaching in order to arm and equip the individuals with enough material that they can train themselves with, which is regularly confirmed and ‘topped up’ progressively.

What kind of home training do you think should accompany that instruction?

Lots of intelligent repetition practice of the most basic techniques, done slowly at that. To secure the required neuromuscular connection that creates a conditioned response needs the exact same movement to be repeated and replicated, not something different performed each and every attempt. You build these neurological pathways with the same methodology as you build a road – wherever there is heavy traffic along a mud track, the path gets wider and faster, more set as a route, until eventually it’s a main road, but this won’t happen if instead you wander around – you have to follow the same footprints, not just lay new tracks, but they have to be in the correct direction and it is easier to do this slowly and be accurate.

The seemingly slow pace you set yourself this way is anything but – it pays tremendous dividends once you have created the skill, and installed it without corruption – then you can work on the speed and the power, but here’s the surprise – when you take your time getting the movement perfect, understanding the dynamic alignment of the body as a whole mutually supportive entity, you never have to look very far for speed and power. When on the other hand you set out to find these more ‘exciting’ attributes straight off as your priority, they are surprisingly elusive… Advanced techniques are more often than not just basics with a more specific focus - being better at the core basic movement, to the point of it being an unconsciously competent action, is everything – being fast and powerful often isn’t enough, especially when you remove the speed and power through fatigue, which can be progressive in occurrence through long drawn-out engagements or near instantaneous as a result of extreme duress or injury.

Training alone at home should focus on that which is hard to corrupt. Basic movement patterns done slowly to enable self-correction – don’t be seduced by making heavy-bags go bang too soon, don’t work at a pace that is too fast to enable accurate self-diagnosis.

How much do you think being in the military helped you?

Being in the military adds to your character, rather than replaces it – I’ve heard various either/or arguments regarding military and civilian issues within the self-protection field, but you have to remember that the Hollywood ‘military’ stereotypes are way off the mark, and many use them to either sell their new ‘super-system’ as proof incarnate that it must be good, or to debunk the same – making soldiers out to be excluded from civilian reality perspectives and unthinking automatons with no relevant experience for civilian issues! Truth is, the attributes that I developed from the military have proven to be invaluable – not so much from a direct operational experience sense, but from that abstract angle that keeps the focus of the matter at hand extremely objective in nature, and this focus is always result – not process – based.

How much do you think weight training has helped your progress?

Resistance training is very helpful from many angles - if done properly from both a physical and mental standpoint one of the greatest attributes that any form of hard training builds is tenacity, and this really cannot be underplayed regarding its importance in combat. Tenacity is more often than not the deciding factor when the chips are down- many a skilled exponent has been beaten through not having it in the same abundance as his opponent. Like everything ‘psychological’ it can be very hard to develop due to its intangible nature – hard training where you test your physical limits also tests your mental ones, and strengthens both.

Weight training especially can create acute body-awareness, at least how I employ it anyway – this self-diagnostic awareness is superbly beneficial when it comes to learning how your body operates at it’s most, and least, efficient. You can start to see core movements develop that increase effectiveness through shared body mechanics; obviously not everything has direct immediate relevance, but the way you shift a heavy load through a similar plane as performing a particular technique can point at and highlight a great deal of clues to improve effect.

The side effect to this is that you become much stronger, faster – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise - and almost armour plated to a degree, if any of these attributes are a bad thing to have in a combative scenario then I must be getting by on luck alone perhaps – but I doubt it. The only people that I know would rather be weaker, slower and less durable in fighting are those that reckon that technique and technique alone is sufficient, and those that cannot be bothered to train hard.

Many instructors seem to be into NLP, what are your thoughts on that?

I'm not really in position to comment with any authority regarding actual NLP - it is a branded entity after all. My personal feelings are that it has a lot to offer at the higher levels but is seemingly sought out as being some kind of 'magic pill' by those expecting too much - that instead should be drilling and perfecting the basics.

All good instructors use elements of neuro-linguistic conditioning whether they realize this or not, the concept isn't that new at all though NLP has certainly quantified and expanded the practice substantially. Personally I see the value as adding the final edge on an already developed blade, but this first has to be shaped and tempered before any edge is applied at all. Some would argue that various NLP-based approaches should be introduced from the first instance, to help shape and temper the individual more efficiently – and I wouldn’t argue with that at all. Like I said, I have no direct experience with the NLP brand, as such, but do use many aspects of enhanced and accelerated training methodology throughout what I teach, but I can’t help but be convinced that it is sought as some kind of training ‘potion’ that can replace rather than augment hard work by certain people.

Do you think it's wise to mix philosophy or religion with training?

I don't. I think it perpetuates the stereotypical 'peaceful warrior' nonsense that some types aspire to be – nice hobby I suppose but stay away from me please! Remember that I look at everything through a particular filter that is purely pragmatic and related to one function - surviving actual combat of various descriptions, nothing much more. Philosophy and religion have no place in this whatsoever as far as I am concerned – your mileage may vary, but I’m not new to the game of inter-human unpleasantness and have more angles on the subject than many. Being at one with the universe, or accepting your fate – whatever – doesn’t cut it when you are getting your head stamped on. In my book, faith counts for very little – proof counts for everything, and in combat I would most definitely side with proof. If you are not training for this eventuality, as many don’t, then fair play to you – who am I to make any comment at all, pro or con? If you are using this training as a vehicle for self-improvement and enlightenment then I wish you well and will defend your right to do as you please – but if you think that any amount of spirituality will help you out at that bleak and desperate moment then I’ve got news for you and you might feel the need to listen…

What's the best advice you can give to someone thinking of taking up some sort of training regime?

Be patient! Take the extra time putting a real foundation in place, and this takes longer than more people seem to expect - but you will never build anything of substance without it. Imagine if soldiers didn't have to undergo basic training, and just got let loose on operations - it would be a shambles! Don't just think about what you want to be taught, remember that you play the biggest part - if you are not ready, able and willing to learn, and take active steps to do just that, then no instructor can teach you anything!

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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Gappy on Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:14 am

A very good read, and, an interesting insight -you should be writing something to publish.

Personally, I laughed my socks off (I'm rapidly running out of socks) at the philosophy and religion paragraph - Ironic that the interviewee was S. Rowe.
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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Jeff Menapace on Tue Jan 06, 2009 12:07 pm

-you should be writing something to publish.

Yup. It's long overdue. Hell, we could just collect all his posts on here and put one together. Laughing
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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Portals on Tue Jan 06, 2009 12:37 pm

Its a very good interview.

Is the slow work done in the air or against equipment?How many repetions are required before the stage of unconscious competence is reached? I presume this varies from person to person but is there an average?How is the mind used during this slow work?

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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Nick Hughes on Tue Jan 06, 2009 2:04 pm

My learned colleague...I must take umbrage...

I'm not over keen on the term RBSD - I find it unnecessary to be honest, I mean what else is self-defence going to be based on but reality?

Perhaps you could ask Kaaarl, or the chaps at Systema, or the people at the no touch knockout schools who all purport to teach self defense...or are you saying their stuff is based in reality?

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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Guest on Tue Jan 06, 2009 3:34 pm

Actually they purport to teach Reality Based Self Defence.... So maybe Mick does have a good point after all.

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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Nick Hughes on Tue Jan 06, 2009 3:40 pm

Sure they do, but is it?

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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Guest on Tue Jan 06, 2009 3:43 pm

No. Not at all. The whole purpose of the term was to differentiate effective self defence from the wrist twistin' high kickin' chi ball throwin' nonsense out there..... But guys with equally poor systems made a claim to the name, so it has become meaningless.

Self Defence will do for the most part. It is a term that will allow interested people to research further. The RBSD tag is silly and confusing - and worthless.

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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Nick Hughes on Tue Jan 06, 2009 6:39 pm

To you perhaps oh confused one. Very Happy For me it's a chance to explain the difference so potential customers don't go to one of the nonsense schools.

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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Guest on Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:23 am

Nick,

To explain it in terms that you might be able to comprehend - Bollocks!

I'm with your mate Hock on this issue, the 'reality-based' addition to self-defence is pleonastic in effect - unnessary and redundant.

The term 'reality-based martial arts' could work, and be an accurate means of distinguishing purpose, but why add the prefix to something that is by definition already supposed to be based in reality? It's a fairly useless reinforcement in my opinion, though I know that you have your own and am happy to agree to disagree....so long as you accept that I'm right and you're wrong!

There are a whole host of styles and systems, and collections of 'dirty tricks' etc, that utilise the RBSD tag anyway, so what are you achieving with your attempt to rise above them by using the same term? Should you use 'Really Reality-Based' until everyone starts using that term? Where does it end?

I don't think that you can sum up what is taught in a couple of words to be honest, look at the confusion over what 'combatives' is supposed to be, and seeing as how everyone has pre-concieved ideas anyway, I don't bother really and let my material describe itself for the most part - my main gripe is more from a grammatical point of view, pedantic bastard that I am!

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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Nick Hughes on Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:46 am

Mick

my main gripe is more from a grammatical point of view, pedantic bastard that I am!

Perish the thought about being pedantic mate...bastard will do just fine. Very Happy

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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  Guest on Wed Jan 07, 2009 8:03 am

Damn...my cover is blown!

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Re: MARTIAL ARTS STANDARD MAGAZINE - FEATURED INTERVIEW

Post  UncloudedFall on Wed Sep 09, 2009 2:33 pm

Thank you for the article. It has confirmed what I have been experiencing in my training of late, in regards to taking additional time (of my own) to execute the basic movements slowly. For looking at my progress to date, and there has certainly been a lot (with a hell of a lot more to go), I can see that had I taken this time to train the strikes slowly too, I would have progressed even faster still. The desire to expose myself to that which was most daunting though, that being as full on contact as safety would allow, took precedence. And it has given me a lot itself. Certainly in terms of desensitization. Yet, your point on the value of repeatedly, and correctly, treading down the same path again and again is well taken.

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