18 February 2009

Real Combat is Raw

Image provided courtesy of Jan Sochor (copyright)

Real combat on the streets and inside the homes today is quite Raw. It is very real, there are very serious consequences and it often involves at least one party who just doesn't care about the other person at all.

The Streets and the Battlefield

Real combat on the streets today is different from combat on the battlefields of yesterday, as has been discussed in my post What is Low Tech Combat? Combat on the battlefields of today involves 'high tech' weaponry and equipment.

'High Tech' combat on the modern battlefield is mostly (although not always) conducted at a distance where two opposing combatants are away from each other. There is space between them. They are not touching each other in any way. Sure, there may be grenades being thrown at the extreme but there is no contact. Again, not always, but mostly. By far.

Combat on the Streets is Extremely Close Range

Real Combat on the streets and inside homes happens at VERY close range. The two combatants will be touching each other, even forcibly applying forward pressure eye ball to eye ball.
Eye balls will likely be wide open, almost on their stalks. These eye balls may even be gauged.

Finger nails may be used. Screaming may emanate from one or more people. Strength may play a large part in the outcome of the engagement. And of course, large doses of adrenaline will be surging through the veins.

Some Typical Scenes from Extreme Close Combat

For information, much of what is discussed in this post stems from my studies of On Killing, On Combat and Training at the Speed of Life, Vol. 1 (Amazon links) and various other related books. There are typically some very real signs, symptoms and effects of being involved in such Raw, Low Tech Combat. Some of these are:

  1. Slow motion time
  2. Tunnel vision
  3. Abstract thoughts (I wonder if John will still be coming around to watch the football on the weekend)
  4. Auditory exclusion (You don't hear any noises at all during the encounter)
  5. Extremely high heart rate ( Above 200 beats per minute...)
  6. The body may receive severe trauma from an edged weapon
  7. Profuse sweating
  8. Loss of fine motor control
  9. There may be memory loss of portions of the encounter (Or even most or all of it)
  10. Trained moves will not be used, only instinctive reflex responses
Acceptance is Step 1

It sounds quite dramatic doesn't it. Many people refuse to acknowledge that these things will be experienced or felt by them. They feel that because they have done some training for a few years they are above all of this non-sense. This list is not exhaustive.

Unfortunately, all their training has done is get them comfortable with their training environment. As I have discussed previously, there are many many things which are vastly different between training and the real thing.

Replicate These in Your Training

It is vital to at least try to replicate some of these very real feelings in the gym, where your safety is ensured. By looking at some of the areas covered above we can begin to determine what we need to put ourselves through, in order to better prepare for very real, very raw, low tech combat.

  1. We need to feel and experience real pressure. You will definitely feel real pressure in the real thing. It is best to experience this in training first and understand how real pressure effects everything you do and how things such as Adrenaline Dump, Tunnel Vision and Loss of Fine Motor Control begins to creep in.

  2. We need to ensure we train at a high intensity. The encounter will likely be short. It may last up to 1 minute or so. Maybe more, maybe less. It will place great demands on the body. It will be all out max strength, max power, whatever you have.

    You WILL be using everything you have in your arsenal to survive and emerge the victor. So we must train that way. Anaerobic is the rule. High heart rates and max efforts. Leave the aerobic stuff to the triathletes.

  3. We need to ensure we go through new, unknown or foreign scenarios. Often, training can become routine. We turn up, get dressed, do a warm up, go through some techniques and then maybe spar or wrestle or whatever. This is not challenging stuff mentally. There is no new information that needs to be assimilated RAPIDLY. This will happen in the real thing.

    Rather quickly, decisions will have to be made such as, 'Should I leave?' 'How many of them are there really?' 'Who is the main threat?' 'What should I say?' 'Where is my main escape route and my alternate?' 'Can I or should I run right now?' You need to involve yourself in training in new drills or scenarios. Doing a good RBSD course is just one option.

  4. We need to only ever use gross motor movements. Simple really. Fine motor control won't be there when you need it. You can try this stuff under stress but it won't work or it has a very low likelihood of it working. Stay with the high percentages. Use only gross motor movements.

  5. We need only simple techniques that work. Nothing else. You want to react. You WILL react. Most likely that reaction will be sub conscious. You do not want a whole host of options to go through.

    Ensure that you only use moves that are the most simple you can find and model what is likely to happen during the startle-flinch response. The old masters and the new masters all say the same thing. Master the basics. Simplify simplify simplify!
Your Training Regime

Implementing these things into your training regime will be challenging. No doubt. But guess what? The real thing will be challenging too. We can not ignore the very raw, very real nature of Low Tech Combat.

Training using these above principles and incorporating them into our own way of conducting training can bridge that gap between the sterile training environment and the raw realities of real combat on today's streets and inside our homes.

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  1. Adam Dean, despite your martial arts training and academic military studies (or perhaps because of it) your understanding of combat is on par with a 15-year-old Call of Duty videogamer.

    A person trained along the methods outlined above would not be training in martial arts, but instead conditioned like an attack dog to repond to a very narrow set of stimuli - i.e. the ulta-violent attack. Such a practitioner would fight everyone the same way --- the skinny teenage mugger, the drunken bully relative, the guy with attitude in line at Wal-Mart, and yes, the psychopath killer with a hockey mask looking for his next victim.

    The problem with this approach to training is that these RBSD techniques only work if the person doing them is larger and/or stronger than the attacker.

    Only through superior training of the mind and body can you free yourself of panic and fear. A mind clear of these things moves freely and reacts efficiently. It is then that true martial arts technique, technique which is designed to overcome superior strengh and size, can be applied. The samurai did not train to be adrenaline-fuelled berzerkers, they trained be free of the fear of death, to not to cling to life, and then entered battle with an clear mind.

    Today's combat soldiers train to fight with the same clarity. To be calm, professional, and to put mission and the unit above the self.

    The kind of training you describe in your blog above would send soldiers screaming and shooting wildly in all directions according to the dictates of their panic-ridden reflexes.

    This blog is ridiculous.

  2. Despite your heated language you do actually offer a couple of interesting points Anonymous which I would like to clarify.

    It is not my intention to imply that we should all fight full on, 100%, in all encounters of conflict. That would be a foolish thing to do. Your examples of the skinny teenage mugger, the bully relative, the guy at Wal-Mart and the psychopath are good examples of the different levels of threat out there. Definitely, we should not unload against a guy in Wal-Mart. This is clearly not a survival situation. We should not even get into arguments with people in lines to begin with but I digress...

    The point of this post was to highlight the realities of real 100% combat. I am isolating that one aspect of Low Tech Combat in this post. There are many other aspects which can be found in my post, the Full Spectrum.

    This post is not about dealing with a heated argument and chest puffing. It is about the real physiological and psychological effects of being in the middle of the worst case scenario, you are engaged in a real fight for your life.

    Most people will never end up here. But it is what is known as the 'worst case scenario' in martial arts and self protection circles and needs to be explored in all its realities, which I hope to have done a little of here.

    "Only through superior training of the mind and body can you free yourself of panic and fear."

    That is very true. I am not sure of what training methods you are referring to here. "Superior training", to me, is training which closely resembles the real thing.

    This is training which will put you under stress, in unfamiliar and unknown ways and forces you to make quick decisions. This is training the mind and body and this is superior training.

    We dont do this everyday but rather, this can be viewed as pressure testing or proofing what we have been doing over say, the last 2 months or week or 6 months or whatever. It is training we need to do every now and then to stay on the right path.

    How this training frees you from panic and fear is because you get used to this pressure and this uncertainty. It is no longer foreign to you. You have experienced it before and have learnt invaluable lessons during the process. This is the only way to progress and become calm under pressure.

    Being calm, when calm, is easy. Being calm under real pressure is another thing altogether. Indeed, the samurai DID train to be calm and free the mind, but they did NOT strive to achieve this state of mind sitting at the mouth of a cave, they aimed to achieve this state when in real combat, where there was very real pressure and uncertainty with very real consequences.

    Unfortunately, Anonymous, you have missed the whole point of this post. Perhaps it was due to my writing being unclear and poorly structured, I am not sure, but thank you for prompting me to expand here for the benefit of others who may be misled by my post as to its intent.

    The goal is NOT to be full of adrenaline, reacting purely out of reflexes and screaming at the top of our lungs. The goal is to remain calm when facing this very thing. And the only way we can realistically expect to be able to do this is by undertaking training which puts us under as much realistic pressure and stress in training as we can, safely.

    It is only through this training can we experience this stress. At first, we WILL feel adrenaline dump and tunnel vision and some or all of those type of things. But with further training, these effects will lessen, until eventually, they will be negligible. That is the goal. In a way, we become inoculated against it. Under real stress, we remain calm and can think clearly.

    It is far better to experience stress and pressure in training than it is to feel it for the very first time in a potential survival situation.

  3. Interesting - I took this post as injecting a little realism into fighting. Most people that have only gotten into fights in grade school do not really understand for a couple of minutes - anything goes. All conventions of normal society are on hold and your own response to the aggressor is what is important.

    If it takes biting, scratching and yes screaming to distract - do it. I've always ended up fighting when I was injured, drunk, or sick so being able to regroup and win is the most important. It would be nice if fighting could be planned and one could pick the probable opponents but this is not the case.

    I for one like the fact that you are trying to make people realize that they just might have to come out of their comfort zone if then end up having to defend themselves or family.

    Keep up the good posts!

  4. Adam,
    I think Anon needs a snack; his blood sugars appear to be getting a little low.
    I concur training should start with the worst case scenario and expand from there--to include nonviolently avoiding a confrontation with an agitated musclehead in the Wal Mart parking lot.
    In my professional community we start with the LINES training (Linear Infighting Neuro-muscular-overload Engagement System; basically applying as much blunt force as possible in the shortest time possible to the most efficacious locations of the target's body) and then grow from there. I'd posit that the more tactics and techniques with which one becomes proficient and the more nuance and finesse one can apply to a given situation, the further one slides on the scale from "martial" to "artist."
    I would submit, though, that your descriptors of the modern battlefield apply to a very narrow dimension of armed conflict, and that the modern battlefield we actually find on the ground is a lot less antiseptic than you--and, unfortunately, a great number of operational planners--seem to think. Both theaters of war are rife with examples of soldiers and marines involved in close, personal combat employing their firearms (as clubs), edged weapons, and field expedient bludgeoning devices.
    Enough of this has happened that, while it probably cannot be described as common, it is statistically significant. Enough so that the US Army has revitalized its hand-to-hand training manual and programs. Of particular interest, these situations have validated the need for groundfighting. Of course, groundfighting on a broken/paved surface in full "battle rattle" is a little different than putting on a gi and rolling on a mat. And, too, I have issues with the Army's training program, which is best described as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu meets the Ranger Regiment. Still, a lot of missions require a dirty, dumb grunt to do the job, rather than a pristine, smart bomb.

  5. John- For sure, that old 'comfort zone' is difficult to get out of for some but it is so important that we do. After all, there is nothing comfortable about a real life encounter so we should rarely be comfortable in our training except during skills training.

    Boss Mongo- The worst case scenario is definitely what the post was all about. Like you say, from there we can water things down as required.

    Its an interesting remark you make about sliding down the scale from 'martial' to 'artist' as we learn more and more techniques and tactics. Its of course a generalisation and I for one generally agree with it.

    Also, I fully acknowledge that there have been, and still are, a lot of very close range, dirty, in your face hand to hand combat taking place around the world today by soldiers in all corners of the globe.

    Not taking anything away from that at all, I just wanted to emphasise that modern war takes place, generally, at a distance where as personal survival or self defence situations generally ALWAYS happen at the extreme close range.

    Thanks for your comments very much John and Boss Mongo. Always a good read.

  6. I like this post. Especially the part about where you lose fine motor control when in a real threat situation. I'm supposed to give a kyokushin-based 'aliveness'-training to a group of martial artists who practice only fine motor control trickery (it's actually not aikido, something else), and this gives me more of an idea as to what I want them to take away from my lesson. Practice and use simple, gross motor techniques that you're sure will take someone out. Thanks!

  7. Hi Polethecon, thanks for the nice comment. I am glad I could help. If you would like any ideas for this training and some training drills for them or if you would like to discuss the topic more, please do not hesitate to use the CONTACT form at the top of this page. I would be more than happy to help in any way I can. Cheers.

  8. "Only through superior training of the mind and body can you free yourself of panic and fear. A mind clear of these things moves freely and reacts efficiently." - Anon

    I would be astonished to find ANYONE without some degree of fear in conditions of extreme physical stress and personal risk. For sure the brave men and women of the armed forces serving around the world today are trained to better deal with that stress than any of us civvies would be under the same circumstances. However, I think you'll find that there is fear, and some degree of perception distortion and all the rest of the natural physiological responses to "fear".
    The real message here what we can teach to ordinary folks out there - the mum's, dad's, brother's and sisters - in a short length of time that will make them safer. This post nicely outlines the effects of fear and realistic training methods that real people can use to make a real difference to their ability to fight off an attacker.

    1. Exactly Craig, You can never free your mind of panic and fear. It will always be there in some degree. The aim is to minimise it.

  9. Too many people ignore the fact that real life encounters tend to be non-consensual events usually involving unequal initiative or armament. In their training they put two guys next to each other, let them both know they are going to fight, and put them on equal ground. Seems like a perfect formula for building up someone's confidence unrealistically.

    1. Very true Nick. That is fine at the early learning stages, but once proficiency has been gained in the basic techniques with co-operating partners, drills need to be introduced and developed which go more and more into the realistic stages and less and less in the comfortable stages.

      Saying that though, we should not be constantly training high stress drills and scenarios. This would be a good way to burn out. And likely lead to injuries as well. We should be always trying to improve our technique and refine what we do. Train smarter and smarter.



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