By Leigh Simms, 10-Feb-2013 23:11:00
Before I begin this article, I would like to state that I am a huge fan of training and watching Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). This article is not designed to criticise MMA, it is designed to explain when MMA training is useful and when it is not.
Mixed Martial Arts MMA is not the best way of training for Self-Defence. If you're reading this as a practical martial artist then the statement above seems quite obvious, however there are many people out there that do not understand the difference between MMA, Fighting and Self-Defence, or that there is even a difference to begin with. If you go to YouTube and look at the comments on a huge amount of Martial Art videos, you see the same kind of comments again and again. Comments like “MMA is the best, Tae Kwon Do sucks, “Karate doesn't work in the cage” etc... are widespread on the internet.
The main problem with these comments is that the user commenting does not fully understand why “Karate doesn't work in the cage.” For example, if you changed MMA to golf and Karate for Chess then the sentence “ Golf doesn't work on the chessboard” is laughable and no serious debate can occur from such a nonsensical statement. The comment should read Karate training doesn't work in MMA bouts because the rules of the bouts are MMA rules”. I am not saying Karate does not work ever in any environment, I am just pointing out that Karate has its own speciality, and MMA bouts is generally not it.
The second common misconception that I come across is that people who understand “MMA training is the best at training for MMA bouts”, sometimes don't understand that MMA bouts are not the same or similar to real life self-defence and fighting scenarios. I will discuss the difference between Self-Defence and MMA first.
Being good at Self-Defence and being good at MMA are two separate entities. Good Self-Defence is primarily about avoiding danger rather than fighting it. This means that skills such as threat awareness, threat assessment and threat avoidance are essential. This means being able to spot potential dangers and to avoid them before they can create a danger is a great Self-Defence tactic. If a confrontation between two people did occur, skills of conflict resolution and understanding how the body works under stress are vital to understanding how to keep confrontation non-violent. Running away is a great Self-Defence tool as you can avoid harm without fighting! If you did have to fight then knowing how your legal rights is also essential as there is no point in defending yourself against an attacker and not being able to justify your actions in a court of law.
Most those great Self-Defence skills are not needed at all in Mixed Martial Arts. To be a world class MMA competitor, there is no need for you to have knowledge of the law nor the skills of threat awareness and avoidance nor the majority of the essential elements that make up Self-Defence classes.
In comparison, MMA training is mainly concerned with training physical fitness and fighting techniques to a high class level. Whilst these things are essential for any MMA competitor, having elite level fitness and high class fighting techniques are redundant for the Average Joe who wants to learn Self-Defence. Therefore, the training needed for MMA is not the same training needed for Self-Defence.
MMA and Fighting are also two different things (just as Self-Defence is different to both of them). If we look at the training needed for MMA in a bit more detail, below is a list of the environment in which MMA training is geared towards the following rules of enagagement:
- one-on-one bout
- starts from outside kicking range
- can win via Knock-Out, Submission or Judges Decision
- usual 3 or 5 timed rounds
- referee can decide to stand competitors up if he thinks fit
- no hitting the groin
- no small joint manipulations
- no hitting the back of the head
- no weapons
- the ground is clean, flat and cushioned
- well light arena
If we compare this with a violent confrontation which has the following rules of engagement
- not always one-on-one (In the UK it is more probable to be a gang attack)
- usually starts from conversation range
- win by avoiding serious harm (no judges)
- no rounds
- no referee
- groin hits are allowed
- hitting the back of the head is allowed
- small joint manipulations are allowed
- weapons area allowed
- the ground can be dirty, dangerous, uneven,
- can be well light or in the darkness
Just by looking at the two lists above we can see that there is a clear difference between an MMA bout and Fighting. It would make no sense to think that MMA training alone could work in both scenarios. For example, take any form of ground-grappling, in an MMA bout using a triangle choke is a great technique that can be used to make your submit. However in a real fight using a triangle choke is very dangerous!
Taking the fight to the ground has many problems, the ground is probably not going to be clean and it will probably have no give to it. Once you are grappling with somebody, if they have a weapon in their pockets it is very easy for them to attack with it. Whether its a pen, a key or a knife, all three of these are dangerous if used violently. Triangle Choking the attacker on the ground would be an horrendous tactic to use if this was a gang attack as it would leave you completely vulnerable to being stomped on by the other attackers. Even if it wasn't a gang attack, you run the high risk of somebody interfering on the attackers behalf and stomping you anyway!
To take the gang attack as a further example, actively engaging in a fight with one of the gang will leave you completely open to be attacked by his friends. Instead different tactics are needed when dealing with multiple opponents. The idea of hitting as many attackers as possible and then running at the first opportune moment seems far more logical than trying to wrestle one of them to the ground in order to apply a submission hold.
Let me be clear, I am not saying that the fighting techniques in MMA are not useful, I am saying that it is the way they are used that needs to be altered. A good hook punch or a roundhouse kick are fantastic techniques to use when you are in the correct environment and at the same time they are equally as bad to use when the environment is not right.
Below I have a three Scenarios which, for the purposes of this article, can be answered with the following choices:
Option A: Conflict-management to de-escalate the situation in case it becomes aggressive
Option B: A Right Hook Punch
Option C: A Head Height Round House Kick
Read each of the scenarios and answer them accordingly.
Opponent has approached me and had began to talk with the Target at conversation range and is asking for money. I should use...
I am in a boxing match, I have noticed than when I throw a left jab to my opponents body he is open for a right hook punch. I throw a left jab to my opponents body, now I should use.....
I am in an MMA bout, I can see my opponent is tiring and his guard has fallen down leaving his head exposed. Although I am to far away to punch I know I am a good enough kicker to reach from here, I should use...
Clearly the answer to scenario 1 is option A, scenario 2 is option B and scenario 3 is option C. However, if you chose any of the other options in each scenario, this would create very bad effects (ie knocking out a man who asked for money would create a whole host of legal issues, kicking in a boxing match would cause disqualifications and trying to de-escalate an MMA bout would be very strange, waste time and put you no further to winning the match).
This scenario exercise illustrates that skills learned in martial arts can only be classed as good or bad depending on the environment in which the skill is being used. Saying that “MMA is the best” is often said by fans of MMA who don't understand that the environment of an MMA bout is different to that of a self-defence scenario or that of real life fight. Once we understand there is a difference in environments it becomes plain to see that there is no one “master of all martial art”.
In this article I have attempted to explain the differences between MMA, fighting and self-defence in order to challenge the view that MMA is seen as some kind of super martial art that somehow is the best at MMA, Self-Defence and Fighting, when those three require different training methods as they are set in different environments with different rules of engagement.
Leigh Simms © 2013
By Leigh Simms, 05-Mar-2012 09:59:00
Blocking and Self-Protection - Part 1
The Role of Blocking in a Self-Protection Scenario
Good self-protection involves strong awareness to avoid danger at all costs. If danger becomes unavoidable then conflict management skills come into play in order to defuse the situation and escape before it escalates into a physical altercation. If the situation is progressing towards violence, then escape is again the main priority, if that is not an option then and only then should we take initiative and use a pre-emptive attack in order to give us the vital seconds to flee to safety. If that fails then we should continue to attack until we reach a point we can safely escape.
Even if our initial self-protection skills fail, then we still don't need to use blocks as our mindset should always be pro-active. However if our awareness is not what it should be to begin with, then there is a good chance we will end up being hit or about to be hit before we realise. This is when blocking techniques become of use.
Why we need different blocking skills for different environments
This article is purely concerned with the blocking techniques from a self-protection view. Whilst there are many martial arts that use blocks for sporting competitions, this is not what this article is about. There is too much of a difference between the two environments for the technique of blocking to overlap completely. In a self-protection environment the distance will be a lot closer than the standard competitive bout. This means that there is less reaction time for the blocks that work in the street (self-protection environment) compared to those that work in “the ring” or on “the mat” (sporting contests)
Other differences include the illegality of certain techniques and scoring systems. An example would be Sport Karate. In Sport Karate a very high percentage of techniques are delivered to the body. This has caused the ability to block attacks to the body to be more important than blocking techniques to the face. Hence a low and relaxed guard is often seen.
The opponent will generally be untrained when it comes to defending yourself in the street. In sporting contests, there is usually a skill level between to trained fighters. This means that the attacks used will be refined and generally include a wide range of techniques that are particular to the style or system that fighter has trained in. In the street, the attacks will be much different. The average thug will probably not pull out a spinning back kick or a pretty straight punch to the face. Different attacks means different blocks.
Another key point would be the difference in protective equipment worn by the fighters. For example; in a boxing match, the competitors will be using gloves that are very large compared to the size of the fighters hands. This changes the strategy (i.e. hiding behind the gloves as they give greater protection compared to using the hands only).
In a Self-Protection environment, the role of blocking may not be against a single attacker, there maybe a group of attackers that need to be dealt with. In most, if not all, sporting matches, the matches are one on one. Again techniques that work well against one person during time rounds will not be the same as those that are needed against multiple opponents in a very short amount of time.
This is not to say that any of the blocking techniques and strategies used by the above mentioned examples are ineffective and wrong, in fact they work great for the environment they were designed for, it is to say that the self-protection environment is too different to just “copy and paste“ the skills used. This means that it needs its own specialized system of blocking, just like the other environments also do.
Principles of Blocking in Self-Protection
The first principle is that blocks must be instinctive. Blocking should work with our inbuilt flinch responses, rather than trying to create new ones. Blocking should use natural body motions that will work under pressure with little need for the brain or body to work out what to do.
The second principle is that the a block must gain an advantageous position for the defender. Blocks that fail to stop the attack serve no purpose, but to delay the eventual hit that will occur. In order for a block to work it must create an opportunity for the defender to run away to a place of safety safely, or it must put the defender an a position where they can attack the attacker in such a way that allows a safe escape.
The final principle is that the defender must have a dominating mindset. This closely relates to the above principle of gaining and advantageous principle. Any blocks which lack any form of intent to get back into the fight will fail. The block must be done with full intention to gain that much needed advantageous position.
This part looked at the background and theory behind blocking, in Part 2 we will look at some blocking techniques found in Karate Kata and how they can be applied and trained effectively.
Leigh Simms 2011 ©
By Leigh Simms, 17-Jan-2012 13:59:00
Beginners Guide to Decoding Karate Kata
Beginning to look at the applications of kata can often look like a big mountain to climb. This article is intended to start off karate practitioners with a logical procedure to begin understanding kata bunkai. The first 5 steps layout broad principles to think about before looking at any technique. 6 – 10 then looks at how to decode the techniques.
1) Ignore the standard names of karate techniques. Karate moves can be many different things and to give them one definition (such as; high block or reverse punch) will severely limited your study. Secondly the techniques weren't given their names until long after the kata were created anyway.
2) Good bunkai will put in you in a position where escape is highly certain. This can be either by having the opponent unconscious or in a position where the defender can easily finish the fight.
3) Techniques start from a realistic combat scenario. This means that it will be generally from a close range and involve common attacks found on the street and not generally those found inside a dojo. For example it is more common to be grabbed on the lapel from a few inches away than being attacked with a Jodan Oi Zuki from a few feet away.
4) Bunkai can be offensive as well as defensive. Remember to practise techniques that start from us having an advantage and the attacker is trying to cover up. Or practise from positions of a stalemate. For example from a standing clinch which no person has an advantageous grip.
5) Keep it Short and Simple. If the technique takes longer than 3 seconds at speed it is to complicated and runs the risk of failing or a third party entering the equation. Avoid these risks by keeping them short and simple.
6) Use your stance.
a) Stances show which way our weight should move. 1 purpose of stances is to put weight into our techniques. For example a Forward Stance puts our weight forward, a Back Stance puts our weight backwards, Horse Stance drops our weight downwards.
b) Stances can also disrupt the attackers body. For example Hour Glass Stance (Sanchin Dachi) can be used to attack the side of the attackers knee.
7) Use both hands when applying a technique. Often called mother and father hands, make sure both hands are being used. The most obvious example is hiki-te (pulling hand). If we take a straight punch. The striking hand is hitting the attackers head whilst the non-striking hand is pulling the attacker onto the punch via a grab either to the lapel or wrist etc...
8) Don't kick above the waist. Keeping in mind the closeness of the attack it would be hard to navigate into a position for a mid range kick anyway, besides originally kata never had kicks that high.
9) Look for turns (mawatte) in the kata. These can represent either the end of one sequence. Alternatively these can also be disguising a throw or takedown.
10) Pressure test it. Start by increasing resistance against the technique and see how well it works under pressure. No technique is perfect and being able to vary it is a skill that needs practising.
Leigh Simms © 2012
By Leigh Simms, 15-Dec-2011 21:20:00
Karate's Hidden Weapon
Using the voice as a weapon is a very primitive and effective tool. The voice can be used either before a physical fight has occurred, during the fight and then after the fight.
Once a confrontation has begun, the first weapon that should be used is the voice. Talking to the opponent in order to defuse the situation is one of the best ways to avoid physical violence. If defusing the situation no longer becomes an option then the voice can be used to ask a question to the attacker. This is known as using a “trigger”. By asking the opponent a question, it subconsciously takes his attention away from his intended attack and puts the attention on the question being asked. This process happens whether the attacker intends on answering the question or not. At that moment the attacker is “switched off” and we can use a pre-emptive strike to facilitate an escape.
The voice should also play a big part when we attack the opponent. In karate there is the traditional kiai. This is can be translated simply as a “spirit shout”. Whilst there are many views on the origin of the kiai, one of the key reasons to shout is to intimidate the opponent. By shouting and directing as much aggression to the opponent as possible we increase the chance of an escape being available. Another reason why the kiai is important in combat is that it is a way of channelling fear through our body. Soldiers scream and shout when they run at the other side, the kiai in karate is basically the same thing.
The kiai is not just shouting, it should be an internal feeling. The kiai is a release of fear and aggression directed towards an opponent, if done properly the opponent should be overwhelmed by our attack. The feeling of true domination is kiai.
The voice can be used after the fight in two ways. Most obviously it van be used to shout for help once the fight is over, this can be in order to find safety or to call the police or security officers.
Secondly it can be used as an extension of a kiai. After total domination of one attacker, the voice can be used to confront and scare away friends of the attacker. Remember it is best to be pro-active in all situations, multiple opponents will be dealt later in this book, but for now it is important to understand that the voice can be used to give more of an advantage over a group.
3 Kiai in Kata?
Most Shotokan and Wado Ryu kata appear to have 2 kiai. One usually half way through the kata and the other at the end. In addition to these two kiai it is common practice to announce the name of the kata, that is about to be performed, at the start.
What is happening is that the kata is recording the use of the voice at three different stages. Firstly at the start, then in the middle and finally at the end. I know that the correlation between them and my Pre-Fight, In-Fight and Post-Fight is purely coincidental, but what an opportunity to always have a constant reminder that there is three times when the voice can be used as a weapon.
Leigh Simms © 2011
By Leigh Simms, 05-Oct-2011 20:37:00
Are kubotans illegal to carry in a public place?
The subject kubotans and whether they are legal to carry in the UK (England & Wales) is much discussed subject. All over the internet there are people promoting and selling kubotans who tell us they are legal to carry. At the same time there are many others telling us that they are illegal to carry.
If you are teaching any form of self-defence then I think it is vital that you give correct and up to date information to your students. What good is a self-defence instructor who tells his students to go carry kubotans and then one of those students ends up in a prison cell for carrying an illegal weapon? On the other side, there could be the self-defence instructor who has told his students not carry kubotans, when in fact they are perfectly legal, therefore removing a perfectly legal item from they key chain, that could help protect that student in the future. It is because of these two reasons that I have decided to investigate this question.
Before I get into the main points of this article, I will briefly describe what a kubotan is. For those who don't know, they are usually described as Self-Defence weapons that attach to your keys. They are, on average, 14cm long with a 1.5cm diameter. A picture is attached for clarity near the bottom of the page.
I want to turn your attention to the criminal offence that would occur if kubotans are illegal. In The Prevention of Crime Act (1953), section 1 states that; “Any person who without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, ....... has with him in any public place any offensive weapon shall be guilty of an offence.....”.
What constitutes an offensive weapon was set out in a case called Re v Simpson 1983. In this case it was decided that there are three categories of weapons. The first category is “weapons made for use for causing injury to the person.” Obvious examples would be guns, bayonets, grenades etc...
The second category is “any weapon adapted for such a purpose.” An example of one of these could be a bottle that has been deliberately broken so that that the jagged end may be inserted into the face of the victim.
Finally the third category relates to “an object not so made or adapted but one which the person carrying intends to use for the purpose of causing injury to the person.” A baseball bat would be an example of a weapon that fits in this category.
Kubotans are likely to fall into category 1 as their prime selling point is it's ability to be used as a weapon. Although they are labelled as “self-defence” weapons, you can see by the three categories above there is no category for “self-defence” weapons. The whole purpose of the kubotan is to “cause injury to another person”, albeit in self-defence, but that does not matter as we are dealing with carrying the weapon and not necessarily using it.
The defenders of kubotans usually disagree with this categorisation and claim that the kubotan is actually a keyring first and foremost. This is a weak argument as there are even books on how to use the kubotan to injure people (in self-defence) by the creator of the kubotan
Even if we accept the notion that the kubotan is also a keyring, even then the law will class it is an offensive weapon. In the case of R v Vasili 2011, the courts explained that even if the offensive weapon has a dual purpose, it does not mean that the non offensive purpose removes the offensive purpose. In our example of the kubotan, even though it is also a key ring, because it is a key ring does not in anyway negate it being a weapon. Therefore it is still classed as an offensive weapon.
I must now make it clear that I have applied the law in question, but there has never been a case in the UK (England & Wales) courts that has come across a kubotan. If a case ever arose where the defendant pleaded that the kubotan is not an offensive weapon, it would be up to the jury to decide if it is offensive or not. This was decided in the case of Re V Williamson 1978.
Because of this rule, until a case comes up or the government produce legislation stating that kubotans are illegal, there will always be a small element of doubt on whether or not they are illegal or not. Section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act lists a range of offensive weapons from shuriken (death stars) to “spiked kubotans”. It does not mention the standard kubotan.
I find this strange odd due to the fact that kubotans are known to the courts as they recognised them by outlawing “spiked kubotans”. But this element of uncertainty has, in my view, been removed with a recent case involving a British celebrity; Darren Day. He was found guilty of carrying an offensive weapon. The weapon in question was in fact a kubotan.
The Darren Day incident happened in Edinburgh, so it was heard by a Scottish Court and therefore has no binding rule on the rest of the UK (England & Wales). However these cases can be, and usually are, highly influential when deciding cases in the UK in the future.
In conclusion, whilst there is no 100% certain decision on the legality of kubotans, after researching the current law from the UK and Scotland, it seems very likely kubotans are offensive weapons. As a result of this, I would not risk carrying one myself or encourage others to carry them.
Cases & Legislation
Criminal Jistice Act 1998 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/33/section/141
Prevention of Crime Act 1953 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/1-2/14
Re Simpson  1 W.L.R. 1494
R v Vasili  EWCA Crim 61
R v Williamson (1978) 67 Cr. App. R. 35
“Kubotan Keychain: Instrument of Attitude Adjustment” by Takayuki Kubota (Inventor of the Kubaton) -
Darren Day – BBC news report - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/8606969.stm
Leigh Simms 2011 ©
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