The complete approach

September 17, 2006

Real street self-defense is not fun. It is not like in the sterile classroom where everything is just right and your partner tries not injure you. On the street, your opponent will do whatever he can to injure you. This is why we strive to avoid self-defense situations before we get drawn into a horrible scenario. This is also why I encourage all of you to train realistically (against a non-cooperative partner) in all the ranges of combat. You never know where a fight might start or where it will go. You may be a great striker, but if you get tackled from behind you are now in a ground fight. I believe that we all, regardless of style, need to be able to fight well in kickboxing range, in the clinch, and on the ground. Thankfully, more and more martial arts instructors are incorporating ground fighting into their classes. This is a very intelligent and humble act. Let’s face it. Nobody knows everything, but we do our students and ourselves a big favor by offering a complete approach. I still see quite a few martial artists who try to take the easy way out. Instead of putting the ego aside and getting down on the mat with a qualified instructor, they fall back on this philosophy: ?If I ended up on the ground, I would just eye gouge and bite.? If only it were that easy! If it was so simple, we should skip the kickboxing altogether as well. Why kick and punch when you can just step in, grab the assailant, and eye gouge or bite? The truth is that biting and gouging do not always work. Here is a true story that brings the point home. Three of my friends, all Brazilian, are experts in Brazilian jiu jitsu. One is a black belt; the other two are brown belts. As usual, there is a rival school of BJJ . One of the instructors in the rival school, also Brazilian, is known for having a very bad attitude. He gets into a lot of trouble. One night my friends were out on the town and went into a nightclub. Sitting there at the bar was the rival instructor. It didn’t take long for an argument to ensue. One of the brown belts had enough and challenged the rival to a fight. The rival refused, claiming that he had been drinking too much. Before it went any farther, my friends wisely left the nightclub. What they did next was not so wise.Instead of going elsewhere, they stayed across the street to pass time talking about the event that just transpired. A few minutes later, out of the club came the rival instructor along with two very large Polynesian men. All three were very angry as they strode across the street intent on violence. The rival went straight for the brown belt while my other two friends took care of the big guys. A quick clinch, a few knees, and the large bullies decided against continuing. Meanwhile, my friend had thrown the rival to the ground and maneuvered for a submission. He caught the arm, swung his legs into position, and applied the arm lock. He heard the elbow crack as he lifted his hips. Instinctively, he let go, assuming that the fight was over. Bad assumption. The rival rolled up, gouging at my friend eyes. He pulled my friend close and bit him repeatedly on the face. My friend immediately started gouging to the eyes in return. He was able to get on top of the rival and was inflicting serious damage when my other friends pulled them apart. They left quickly before any further problems arose. What should we learn from this lesson? First, don’t be in a place where trouble is eminent. Second, what happens when you eye-gouge a grappler? He starts eye-gouging back. The eye gouges did not stop the fight and the bites did not stop the fight. They only made my friend fight harder. My friend suffered from bite marks all over his face along with swollen, blood shot eyes. I saw him the next day and his face was an awful mess. But as bad as the bites and gouges were, they did not stop him from regaining a dominant position on his opponent. The adrenaline of the fight kept him from feeling the pain. The moral of the story is that we should never solely rely on eye gouges and biting to get us out of a bad situation. We may use them to make a little space to help with an escape, but if we aren’t well versed on the ground we can’t expect to survive on the ground. Another lesson is to always go for the choke instead of relying on arm locks. If the opponent can take the pain of the lock, he will keep going. A well-placed choke will stop him cold, regardless of what kind of drugs he may be on. If you are thinking about supplementing your training with grappling, please do so. I have been training in BJJ for many years (currently a brown belt) and I love it. It has made a great difference for my students and me. If you are a grappler, be sure to train in the standing striking arts. The best approach is the complete approach.

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