Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Don’t Artificially Limit Your Options On the Street

When you are fighting on the street, you can’t always say always and you can never say never.

Keep that in mind when training under instructors who are dogmatic in their tactics and techniques. Weird things happen during real encounters that can’t be anticipated nor planned for.

Prompting this thread of thought was an interesting situation I had last Thursday.

I was on a team that was to take down two separate subjects that were involved in a theft ring stealing and selling large amounts of clothing and janitorial supplies. I was designated point and would be responsible for the actual take down of each subject.

Our first arrest was going to be in a public parking lot where our undercover agent was to make the buy of the stolen property. He would give us a certain sign signaling that the goods were transferred to his truck and the marked bills were handed to the subject.

The signal was given and my partner and I (in plain clothes) approached the UC agent and the subject as they sat on the tailgate of the agent’s truck. The subject started to react to our approach and prepared to run. My partner dropped his sunglasses in the parking lot and made a big and noisy display of displeasure over the glasses which briefly distracted the subject and gave me a second to quickly close the remaining five yards.

I grasped the subject’s neck and closest arm and dragged him forward off the truck’s tailgate. Since he was sitting on the tailgate, I could really only approach him from the front. I pulled him forward, wanting to put him on his stomach.

Naturally, he resisted, putting on the brakes by straightening his legs. I countered his counter by stepping into him aggressively and performed a bastardized version of an inner thigh throw that I might be temped to call uchimata if it was cleaner. As the subject’s balance was broken and he was traveling forward again over my thigh, I pushed his upper body forward so that he landed chest down on the pavement and I landed on top of him with my chest to his back.

The sudden stop at the end of the throw and the fortuitous rebounding of his mouth off the asphalt stunned the subject. I established a mount on his back, secured one arm in a half-nelson and my partner had secured the other arm. He tried to get to his knees to resist, but I put one foot on his knee and pushed it down to keep the subject straight and unable to move. We calmly and smoothly cuffed and searched. (Not surprisingly, the subject was armed with a knife).

Team members at the debrief -- to a man -- said the actual take down was very smooth and completely controlled.

OK, so what you ask? What’s the problem?

I really don't like that throw!

I haven’t practiced it recently and I don’t teach it to students. For one reason, I don’t like turning my back toward my opponent during the throw and, for another reason, I don’t like presenting my duty weapon hip toward the opponent either.

Yet, it was in my catalog of techniques and it came to the forefront without conscious thought when I needed it to counter his resistance. If I had trained this throw in the past with the presupposition that I don’t like the technique and, therefore, I would never use the technique, I would have artificially limited my options. But, I know other martial artists that really like that throw and I have drilled it over and over enough that I “know” it when I have to “show” it.

I’ve heard that Olympic-caliber Judo players know something like 250 individual techniques, yet they routinely rely on about 5 of their favorite techniques for competition. If you read that statement one way, you might interpret it to mean that 245 of those techniques are of secondary or little importance to the player. Why not just concentrate on the top 5 techniques and save yourself the time and effort of learning and practicing hundreds of techniques that you never use? This goes along the lines of the “one technique mastered is superior to one hundred techniques sampled” argument.

If you read it another way, you see that they have a huge catalog of techniques available to them, even though they obviously have a strong preference for a handful. This allows them to adapt to different opponents and different styles when an opponent’s strengths negate their “favorite” techniques. This might be compared to the “one hundred techniques mastered are definitely better than only one technique mastered” argument.

I’m also going to push the discussion from the “technique”-based arena to the “concept” and “principle”-based arena.

If you approach your studies with an eye towards finding the concept or principle inherent in each technique, it allows you to cluster them or group them in your memory bank for better recall than just collecting a series of techniques.

When an instructor dishes out a technique, do it. And do it again and again. Try to absorb it and the principle it contains. You may find that after working it a realistic number of times that it is complete crap. But, if you prejudge its usefulness or effectiveness and flush it without giving it a chance, you’ve artificially limited your options in the street.


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