Martial and Tactical Muse : Reality vs Perception, Combat Realities Talk

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Occasionally, I give in to the little voice in my head telling me to pick up the kitchen knives and start practicing.

Now for those who don’t know me, panic not. I’m an FMA (Philipino Martial Arts) practitioner and anybody who practices FMAs in their many styles, forms and systems know that blades are as much in our veins as the blood that courses through them. It becomes second nature to us and we look at blades almost like toys / tools for us to manipulate.

So please put the phone down. No need for the cops… ^_^”

I have had thoughts in regards to live combat situations these few days (actually, make that most of the time). But it was not until I practiced my angles, slashes and thrusts with the kitchen knives today that it got the ball running for me to type it out.

Having a live blade in hand (well two actually, I was practicing dual blades) I realised how slow I went. I realised how careful I became, how nervous I was. My hairs were on end. I kind of realised that kitchen knives are ginormous.

Care has to be observed while attempting blade manipulations, executing your perfect angels so as not to cut yourself while creating a hard-to-penetrate shield of cutty-cutty, slashy-slashy and thrusty-thrusty.


 

 

“When we train, we are not training with sticks. We are training with real blades in mind. The sticks represent machetes. That’s why your form and angles must be perfect.”

“We are training for blade fighting, not stick fighting. But we train with sticks because if we used live blades now when you are just starting you’ll be missing limbs and fingers by the end of the day.”

– my instructor –


 

 

As I went on practicing with live blades it got me thinking about the realities of combat in general.

I think for many who are uninitiated in the martial ways, one’s only base of reference for combat are online videos, video games and movies. It’s easy to see how people get amazed by the moves shown.

Mind you, online videos performed by martial artists may serve as references, but remember that there are nuances within the videos that those who don’t have training can’t see. And those small details of body mechanics, positioning, angles, techniques, footwork and such are the important things that a student must be able to catch. And that requires a dedicated teacher and mentor to guide them with and point out. So please attend your classes so that an instructor / master can teach you what you need to know most. 😀

In regards to movies, the characters with his / her flashy moves tells the untrained that when a real fight happens their moves work.

Well, there’s a basis for those moves. Yes, they were choreographed by martial artists. But one must know that these moves are made more flashy so that in camera language terms, they look more attractive on the cinema screen. More often than not, flashy moves serve very poorly in real-life combat. But people (those who aren’t trained) tend to actually take such moves as properly executed moves. And above all, the most dangerous of all, most of said people go into the mindset that they become invincible if they did those moves.

Reality is very different and it bites…really hard.

Human beings are the one of the most vulnerable designs in nature. We are such fragile bags of meat and bone. Many don’t know the magnitude of damage that can be inflicted upon the body.

I was approached by a friend who was curious about the system I practiced. And it shocked me at the level of ignorance she had to just how much damage can be inflicted to the human body, at how much danger is truly present in a real altercation.

I worry for women who aren’t trained, especially my sister. There’s a very real danger to the possibility of freezing when they are first struck or assaulted. The panic overwhelming renders them unable to think or react – an open window for the barrage of follow-up strikes.

The ability to not freeze is something that must be trained. Training in the martial way isn’t only about the physical but also the mental. Believe me, even I froze when I first started training and had my first sparring session.

The thing is, you’re only as good as your training is. The more realistic your training, the more you grasp the huge magnitude of the realities of combat.

I train in conditions where I wear no protective gear. Sticks and training knives flying around, all that keeps me from getting hit is footwork. I’ve got hit in many places when I first started. But the hurt is good. No I’m no sadist, but it’s a reminder of where my mistakes are in terms of displacing myself from harm, and of how much damage can be done. Take note that I get bruises from strikes going at 20-30% power from a rattan stick. That is damage right there.


 

 

“Before you learn to hurt others, you must learn to get hurt first. That way you will know restraint as you are aware just how much damage you can do.”

– famous martial arts saying –


 

 

I have been fortunate to not have sustained serious injuries during my training. Mainly because the mantra of the FMA system I practice is to employ footwork and avoid getting hit. The whole idea is that you want to be mobile, not a standing meat shield available to be struck, especially by a weapon. You may take hits from fists and kicks, but you sure as hell can’t take hits from blades.

I’ve also come across moments when someone talks about executing locks and chokes and the like. As in, just going into doing the locks alone. But really though, the reality on the other hand is different. Attempting to lock an arm or disarming an opponent who is actually resisting is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Let’s not even go to the territory where the opponent is skilled and trained.


 

 

“Imagine yourself at the ATM and suddenly someone attacks you. This lock is something you do when the situation is right. Or if by some chance, the stars are all aligned, and the hand is there for you to grab and execute. This is something that is good for you to know, but can only be done when the opening is there. More often than not you have to create that opening first.”

– a senior in my class, referring to a lock technique he showed me –


 

 

Locks are something that you add on to your arsenal. But you don’t train locks and execute them the way you do in drills and the step-by-step.

Oh no, it’s not to say that it’s impossible. But you have to add in several more tactical steps before that. The concept is called ‘resetting’.

There are many ‘reset’ tactics, which I won’t go into detail. Basically resetting involves moves that take the mind and focus of the opponent off their point of focus and redirect it somewhere else.

So to execute an arm lock to a arm that is resisting, ask why is there resistance?

It’s because the person resisting has focus on the arm to stop you from having your way with it. So redirect that focus elsewhere via a reset. A simple example is striking the head. The pain or state of being stun from the strike resets the focus. If it doesn’t work, do it a couple more times.

Or…you could execute locks to a resistant target using other tactics as well like riding the energy instead of resisting it. There are also feints and baiting / feeding.

Regardless of the method used, the basic concept lies that in reality, a person will be resisting your advances. It’s not so easy and straight forward as movies or video games tend to depict it.

Reality is very different from an untrained / inexperienced perception.

I’m not saying that I’m highly skilled. Far from it. I’m still a grasshopper in this path of metamorphosis to a skilled master. But training conditions and sparring that is as realistic a simulation as possible helps me realise just how reality is.

And that is good. It helps my skill as a practitioner and warrior improve but more than anything, above everything else…

It’s a humbling experience…

It proves just how real is one’s mortality. And how easy it is to lose your life in the fray of chaos that happens during combat. A weapon’s presence is no joke. Even empty hands employed correctly is lethal.

There’s another example of false perception – that a weapon is something not to be taken seriously. Movies portray a weapon not being something serious. That the hero / heroine can take a hit or so from a bullet or strike from an edged / impact weapon with very little damage. Or that it is easy to actually take the weapon from the wielder.

I was hearing a story the other day from a fellow martial artist who has an uncle in law enforcement. Thus the uncle has a firearm with him. During the time of this story told, this martial artist was a wee young kid, about 8 years of age.

The uncle had placed the firearm on the table for a short while to go to the kitchen. At that time, martial art kid came in and saw the firearm, and out of ignorance held it and was pointing it around. When the uncle came back, he saw the kid with firearm and within a split second had the kid’s arm pinned on his back, held down and disarmed. The kid was so shocked. It happened so fast he didn’t even know what had happened.

That’s just how serious the situation was, the risk involved could mean life or death. So trained are these enforcers that upon sight of any weapon they go into auto mode and instinctively go into control and disarming techniques without even stopping to think.

One can’t fathom enough just how much thought goes into the training for law enforcers especially in urban areas. Not only do they have to disarm the weapon and disable it with techniques that ensure their safety, but they also have to do so as effectively to reduce collateral damage. A stray bullet does not discriminate between age or gender. Anybody can get hit by a stray bullet. Imagine then, being a cop, having to protect your own life and others. You got to hand it to the men and women out there in the field who put their lives to protect us.

A weapon is like a calling card that has “I want your life” printed on it. After all, the human body can only inflict so much damage. The weapon acts as a force multiplier. The increase in damage potential and reach is nothing to be taken lightly or for granted.

With the realities of combat being so gritty, I could never really understand the bravado and egos flying around people who learn the martial ways and think they are invincible and great. That having said knowledge allows them to step over others who aren’t educated as them.

I think more than anything, and paradoxically enough, learning these techniques taught me to value life even more. I know how much power I have in my hands with such knowledge and with it, the responsibility to use it appropriately and only when needed. I learn the ways to improve my health, protect my life and those around me whom I care and love.

Although frankly speaking, and this is reality being a bitch again, if I were walking with someone untrained and we were suddenly accosted by a group of people, I would be at a disadvantage. Because now not only do I have to worry about my safety, but I have to employ my knowledge to protect another who has no knowledge or training. I suddenly have extra baggage to worry about.

How do I solve this problem then? There are two ways to go about it. One easy and one hard.

The hard way is to execute preemptive strikes and tactics. Quick first strikes. Jabs. Make-shift body shields using the opponent created by positioning. Some very crafty footwork definitely. Any weapon at hand to even out the playing field will be used.

It isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Try sparring in 3-on-1 situations and you’ll just see how hard it gets. It’s hard enough if you’re unarmed against multiple unarmed opponents. It gets worse if they are armed and you’re not. A weapon makes a very big difference. Basically, you’re in for a rough time.

And what about the easy way?

Oh simple.

RUN! Run like there’s no tomorrow! (well there won’t be a tomorrow if the worst case scenario happens right? >_<)


 

 

“Sifu. I would like to ask you, how do you fight against 10 people?”

“Fight against 10 people? Simple! You run!”

– Ip Man answering a student’s question in one of the movies depicting him –


 

 

 

“What happens if you’re sitting in the park on a bench, and suddenly you see a person approaching you with a machete. How do you protect yourself against him when you have no weapons?”

“If you’re sitting on a bench and you see a person coming towards you with a machete, then you deserve to die.”

– an FMA instructor –

P.S. :
For those who don’t get this one, the basic message is that if you can see the threat approaching, you shouldn’t be there at all.


 

 

 

Understanding reality is key. Avoid terrible situations knowing that consequences are nasty if one takes them lightly.

Train em’ legs! Learn to run! 😀
Fight only if you have to. There’s no prize for winning a fight that involves your life and the life of those you love. Stay safe everyone.

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