Moving out to Colorado from Pennsylvania has been an exciting mixture of stress, responsibility, and opportunity. One aspect of my life most effected has been my martial arts training.
Back in PA I had a very steady schedule of both teaching and learning at my instructor’s school. Of course, when you move across the country that week-to-week exposure is somewhat compromised. As a result, I had to be very proactive in not letting my training slip into a state of dormancy. I felt I had two good options for keeping myself engaged:
1. Find some students and start up an Okinawa Kenpo program.
2. Find opportunities to expand my experience.
In time I knew I could potentially do both, but trying to take on too much right away would have been an overwhelming mistake. After some careful consideration I decided on option #2. While exploring potential schools in my new area I stumbled across something very interesting. My county was advertising an auxiliary program connected to the Sheriff’s office known as the Community Safety Volunteers. Unlike a typical neighborhood watch, these “CSVs” were a much more integrated part of the law enforcement process and actively helped deputies out on patrol. I was intrigued, to say the least.
Motivation for Joining the CSVs
I’ve been an instructor of martial arts for 12 years (student for 18) and have always taught on a volunteer basis. Helping people grow and keep themselves safe is a potent reward in it’s own right. However, I’ve never been a soldier or policeman or bodyguard, jobs that empower a person to take an active role in populace protection. This CSV opportunity seemed like an ideal fit for someone like myself who operates a business outside of martial arts but still wants to contribute.
After reviewing the training and responsibilities for CSVs I knew it would be a great way for me to learn, grow, and give back.
The CSV Curriculum
Training for the CSV program is more intensive than I initially expected. Since my county is putting volunteers in marked cars and in uniform they must provide training to match that level of visibility. Of course, since CSVs are not full fledged officers they cannot carry deadly weapons and do not receive training with them. However, they do provide over 11 weeks (multiple days a week) of hands-on learning with officers regarding law enforcement, self defense, community safety practices, patrol, and more.
It’s important to distinguish that we as volunteers will not be kicking down any doors or busting any drug rings. In fact, “Dirty Harry” antics are one of the Sheriff’s biggest fears with the program, and why the selection process for CSV recruits took over a month. Our job is just as the program name suggests – help improve law enforcement visibility and do our best to enhance the well being of the community.
As of right now I am only about 1/4 of the way through the academy. However, we’ve already had some interesting classes on ethics, history, etc. Two of the most notable classes for me as a martial artist were verbal judo and basic law enforcement self defense. Verbal Judo sounds a little tongue-in-cheek but they actually provided some interesting concepts for argument deflection, deescalation, and compliance. The self defense portion involved techniques that would be very familiar to most martial artists, except they put a high emphasis on verbal commands in addition to physical technique. Powerful verbal commands really aid in compliance and, should anyone be filming the situation, clearly indicate the intentions of the officer or citizen who is attempting to defend themselves (remember, onlookers may not really know who the victim is and who the perpetrator is).
More to Come
In the midst of all my new learning I am making sure not to lose too much momentum in my Okinawa Kenpo Karate and Kobudo or my kenjutsu. However, I am thankful for the chance to expand my personal experience and grow as a martial artist.
Any valuable lessons I learn will be posted here on the blog, so please stay tuned and ride along with me!
If you study a traditional art you’ve inevitably heard a speech regarding control. Control (as most responsible Sensei will tell you) is absolutely vital to safe and effective practice. But that begs the question, what exactly is control?
Let’s lay down a baseline definition of what control is in the context of martial training:
Control Rule #1: Execute techniques accurately to the intended target with proper form.
Control Rule #2: Execute techniques while preserving the safety of your partner via force temperance.
Rule #1 explains that your technique must express the intended concept as being taught. As such you must be able to strike to the correct anatomical parts of the opponent or execute joint locks and throws while using proper fundamentals (like kuzushi).
Rule #2 suggests that in order to preserve the safety of your partner you must be able to strike, joint lock, or throw with appropriate distance and power. That means if you can do nothing but full power or wild techniques you lack the needed control to train at a high level. You can’t be trusted with effective techniques.
That’s it! Well…that’s it if you want to understand the basic, foundational aspects of control. Of course, as training and experience piles up practitioners can begin to explore deeper implications of how to use their body to maximum effect. To demonstrate these more advanced ideas, I think showing as well as telling would be appropriate.
Watch the following video for a higher level discussion of control in martial arts training:
(If desired, click the small gear in the lower right corner to select 720p, high quality video. If choppy, let it load all the way)
As the video explains, sharp techniques that are fast and well placed do not automatically qualify as “well controlled”. Once a practitioner gets passed the basics they need to learn how to execute techniques that are completely capable of doing damage, but by the choice of the practitioner, are withheld.
“The choice of the practitioner” – that’s a key thought. As you might imagine, certain training wheels and precautions have been put on classical styles of martial arts over the years so as to avoid placing extremely effective techniques in the wrong hands. When a practitioner learns to be more deadly it is only their character and mental control that stays their hand and guides them.
To understand control fully, the methods of the body cannot be separated from that of the mind and heart. Mental control allows a person to maintain perspective even in times of high stress, choosing the right level of force for the occasion. Emotional control prevents anger, resentment, and fear from overtaking better judgment.
A good classical art will build all of these things over time.
Author Lori O’Connell has released a new book entitled “When the Fight Goes to the Ground“, exploring how jujitsu methods can be used for real self defense encounters. Notably, this book comes packaged with a DVD filled with technique examples and training drills. I had a chance to review both the book and DVD and would like to share some of my impressions.
When the Fight Goes to the Ground
First, I’d like to explain how I approached this work. My primary background is in karate and kobudo, which means the ground is not my preferred fighting range. Luckily I’ve had a chance to train with some good jujitsu and aikijujitsu people over the years so I’ve graduated just slightly beyond “floundering fish” when taken down. Additionally, I’ve never been keen on sport competition; while I believe it can ingrain a strong fighting spirit and high level of performance I also believe it can instill bad muscle memory habits that the body will fall back on during moments of stress. When this book came to my attention I was particularly interested since it filled a tactical weakness of mine (ground game) while staying focused on real self defense (not sport fighting).
As you read the rest of my review, keep this perspective in mind and use it to inform your own opinion regarding what value this book might bring to you.
What You Get in the Book
They say never judge a book by it’s cover, but how else are you going to get a first impression? When I initially picked up “When the Fight Goes to the Ground” I was quite taken by the sheer quality of construction. The paper is very thick stock and features photo gloss finish which makes each page feel substantial and allows the images to pop with clarity. This may seem like a trivial matter, but when trying to understand techniques from a few action pictures every detail counts.
Once I was done ooh-ing and ahh-ing over paper quality I actually cracked into the content. There are 18 chapters in total, but they can be broken down into two major sections:
* Section 1: Information. Ms. O’Connell explores statistics about ground fighting, good and bad ideas when grappling, and overarching strategic objectives for her self defense methods.
*Section 2: Techniques. After laying down the groundwork (pun?) Ms. O’Connell provides detailed examples for some of the most common methods of getting attacked and makes recommendations for fighting back as well as escaping.
My Thoughts on the Book
Long time readers know I rarely slam books that I don’t like, but I’m also not afraid to make a critique now and then. That being said, I really liked this work. Right from the get-go Ms. O’Connell addressed almost every nagging concern I had stemming from previous “ground game” books I’ve read. For example, if an instructor starts a book or seminar by saying “80-90% of fights go to the ground” I am immediately suspicious of their ability to do basic research. Ms. O’Connell, despite being a ground game enthusiast, makes no such unsubstantiated claims. In fact she provides some of the real research on how many fights actually do go to the ground, and the context in which those studies were conducted (ie: law enforcement).
Her candid nature continues as she explains that going to the ground and staying their isn’t necessarily the best choice when it comes to self defense. Variables like dangerous environment, multiple assailants, and more play into her self defense methods. She is also keen on striking vital points whenever possible (which warms my karate heart).
One issue I did have while reading the book is that I couldn’t grasp the intricacies of some of the techniques being demonstrated. While the pictures were high quality they couldn’t quite capture how Ms. O’Connell was shifting her weight, manipulating the opponent, and sequencing her strikes. As a non-jujitsu-ace I felt informed, but not to the point where I could put her tactics into practice for myself.
Luckily for me there were visual aids, which takes us to the second component of the review…
What You Get in the DVD
The companion DVD is a step-by-step re-creation of the tactics described in the book. Ms. O’Connell provides a brief introductory explanation and then launches directly into body movements, methods, and scenarios.
Much like in the book, the topics discussed include:
*Defense Against Standing Opponents
*Defense Against Mounted Opponents
*Applying Joint Locks
*Defense Against Joint Locks
*Defense Against Multiple Attackers
Here are a few words from the author on why she decided to create “When the Fight Goes to the Ground” and some clips from the DVD:
My Thoughts on the DVD
Making videos isn’t easy but I think Ms. O’Connell and her assistants did an admirable job. First and foremost, I was happy to see the techniques put into action. Jujitsu can be very subtle at times and requires acute control of body weight, balance, and momentum…all of which can be tough to capture via static images alone. I also enjoyed Ms. O’Connell’s presentation and execution. Many self defense DVD’s feature 200 pound ripped ex-marines whom I have a hard time identifying with. Ms. O’Connell is very fit and very capable but also the size of a normal person (like myself), so I got a lot more out of seeing her execute techniques than I would…say…a pro-level UFC fighter.
One subtle thing I liked about the DVD was the use of one tall and lanky attacker and one stockier attacker. Ms. O’Connell discusses the importance of body type in the book and then carries that concept through to the video. Watching the different challenges presented by both attackers was valuable.
“When the Fight Goes to the Ground” gets my endorsement. This is a work I intend to visit again in order to integrate some ideas and methods into my own training and teaching. If you’re looking for practical, repeatable self defense tactics for ground fighting that don’t require high level acrobatics then this might be the book for you too. When taking into consideration the extremely reasonable price point it’s tough to pass up.
When the Fight Goes to the Ground