Getting Real About Unarmed Combat, by R.G.

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Before I get to my take on unarmed combat, I want to make a few points:

First, if you are totally unarmed at any time before it hits the fan, and especially after, you are not taking survival, or life seriously; and you are probably already screwed because your enemies will not be unarmed.

Second, the last I checked this isn’t “the middle weight champion of the world blog”, it is “SurvivalBlog” which should be a real clue as to what you look for in an unarmed combat skill set.

Third, I readily admit I have never killed a person in unarmed combat and welcome input from anyone who has concerning flaws in my reasoning or conclusions; preferably someone who has killed more than one person so his comments are drawn from actual experiences.  Anyone can get lucky once.

Fourth, I am using terminology to accurately describe what I am trying to communicate, i.e. unarmed combat instead of martial arts, for reasons which will be made clear.
I have been a disciple of unarmed combat for over 30 years and have developed a number of principles and rules which I believe are important to develop in your training, and practice in any situation which could be dangerous at any time before a major disruption of civilization, and vital to survival after a disruption.  Some of them I learned from other sources and I have attempted to credit the author when I can remember where I learned it.

  1. “When two tigers fight, one of them is badly injured and the other one dies.”  This is the mindset you must have at all times.  One of Gichin Funakoshi’s axioms is “A true karateka is never easily drawn into a fight.”  Any confrontation can escalate to a life or death, survival, situation.  Bluntly, if it is not worth dying for, it is not worth fighting for.  As a consequence you must develop an attitude meant to defuse any situation which could escalate to a physical altercation, knowing the possible outcome could be death for someone.  Conversely, if it is worth fighting for be willing to die because your enemy may have already made that decision and you will have to kill him to survive.  Before TEOTWAWKI there will be some legal authority to which you will be forced to give justification for your actions even if death is not the result.  Remember this when someone is not sufficiently apologetic when he bumps into you.  If you begin the escalation and he ends up dying you will probably be charged with at least manslaughter; and probably convicted.  After TEOTWAWKI, there will be many more instances where the situation is a matter of living or dying, but the principle is the same.  And, the consequences if you suffer physical injury can be dire if proper medical treatment is delayed or not available. 
  2. If no one dies it is not fighting.  This should be self-evident and self-explanatory.   I don’t care what it is called and how brutal it may appear, it is not fighting.  You fight to survive and your training-physical, mental, psychological, and your techniques-must reflect that.  If you are not ready in all ways to fight and accept the consequences, and you can, run like hell.  You have to be alive to be embarrassed.  
  3. If it has any rules it is not fighting.  This includes belts, weight classes, points, trophies, rounds, protective equipment, referees, and especially forbidden techniques or targets.  See rule 2.
  4. There is no such thing as a fair fight.  If you survive it was fair.  Victors right history.  And, give testimony to the authorities.  If you don’t survive the question of fairness is irrelevant.
  5. Your enemy, not your opponent in a match, will be bigger, stronger, and meaner than you; and there will probably be more than one of them.  You shake hands with an opponent when the altercation is over, you don’t shake hands with a corpse; and an enemy wants to kill you.  If not, they wouldn’t attack you unless extremely desperate, which will be covered later.  You will not have any idea of what his true intentions are.  Your main advantage is that very few of them are willing to die for what they want.  If you are, and willing and able to use techniques capable of inflicting major damage or death quickly your odds of survival greatly improve.  Remember this when three strangers in hoodies and gang clothes appear out of the shadows and walk purposefully toward you in a dark deserted parking lot.  While you are rendering one unconscious with a choke hold another could be carving up you or your wife and children.
  6. If a fight lasts longer than 30 seconds you will lose.  The time limit is not hard and fast, but the goal is to end it as quickly as possible.  The reasons are in rule 5.  Your goal is not to control your enemy as with an arm bar, but to destroy his ability to do you harm as with an upward heel palm to the nose.  There are exceptional people, such as the Gracies, who may be able to defeat someone, or a group, in a long bout; but I am not one of them and 99% of preppers are like me.  Training must be geared toward the weaker members of your group having the skills to defeat a stronger enemy intent on killing.  What may work for an MMA contestant aged 25 and in great shape against someone else with the same characteristics is about useless for the average woman against a man, or someone like me on the downward side of 60.  I wouldn’t stand much of a chance in a ring against him, but know that I don’t have to lose in a fight.
  7. Kata is essential.  Before anyone blows up let me explain.  The literal definition of kata is form.  Unless you have an unlimited number of prisoners you can sacrifice while learning your skills, you can not learn effective techniques without them.  Bruce Lee had an expression that you must train the way you intend to fight.  Any motion has to be repeated correctly until it is intuitive; then practiced at full speed and force to be effective when needed.  That is kata.  A boxer or MMA contestant practicing a jab-cross-hook combination on a heavy bag is performing a kata.  To be intuitive it must be capable of being executed without conscious, analytical, thought.  If you have to think about it it’s too late.
  8. Sparring, anything not meeting the definition of fighting, has one main purpose, to teach you not to freeze when confronted or attacked so you will respond intuitively and correctly according to the rules of the bout.  Any sparring match will have forbidden targets and techniques.  Unfortunately those forbidden things are the very things best for keeping you alive in a fight.  All the good stuff is illegal.  Another weakness in many traditional martial arts sparring is what I call pulling your punches.  You train to tag your opponent, not destroy your enemy.  This is why few of the traditional martial arts did any sparring until late in the 20th century.  Sparring is essential for developing skills, but bears little in common with fighting.  And the more violent of the styles are useless for people of advanced age.  We don’t heal nearly as quickly as we did.  It is also why very few can compete after the age of 35. 
  9. Psycho trumps everything.  If it has hit the fan many, if not most, people will be quickly psychologically reduced to an animal state of mind.  Most animals have very little if any left brain, or rational thought process capabilities.  They operate solely on right brain, intuitive or emotional, processes.  Japanese has a word, mushin, which is loosely translated “no mind.”  This means you don’t think about it, you do it.  This is the right brain, and sometimes when it is in control you will feel you are looking at what you are doing as if someone else was in control of your body.  Bruce Lee talked about “it” doing the things he did because he didn’t have to think about doing them, they were just done.  The left brain imposes limits-morals, fear of injury, fear of punishment, fear of failure-on you, the right brain has no limits.  The right brain in control allows little old ladies to lift a car off a grandchild.  After it hits the fan many people will not be thinking rationally; and they will be the most dangerous.  And they won’t be mutant zombie biker gangs.  Most will be ordinary looking humans for whom the new reality is too much to take.  They will be unbelievably desperate, and if they want something they will try to take it even if it means attacking a larger person or group.  They can’t be controlled without physical harm to you if you try, and any injury you suffer during this period could prove to be fatal.
  10. Pain is a very unreliable ally.  What is debilitating to one person may be tolerable to another, a minor annoyance to a third, and not recognized as existing to someone in a rage or on drugs.  How much pressure to apply to a hold to create control without injury is a serious problem for law enforcement officers.  This is why there is almost always more than one officer assisting the primary officer in any situation.  The lone citizen doesn’t have the same type of excessive force restraint in a life threatening situation; or the luxury of help from armed trained personnel.  An attacker with a separated shoulder or dislocated elbow can’t use that arm whether he feels the pain or not. 

As to the specific style of unarmed combat I leave that up to each individual.  In spite of the claims there is no one-size fits all program.  Whatever works for you mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically is what is best for you.  However, there are some important considerations to be addressed without regard to which path you choose.

1.    More than half of all proficiency in unarmed combat is mental, or psychological. Beginning training is primarily physical, but the further you advance the mental portion
becomes paramount.  There are only so many ways to punch, and after a few thousand repetitions maintaining the discipline to perform each one properly can be a problem.No matter which system you are studying if it doesn’t discipline your mind, emotions, and spirit, half or more of your training is missing.  Being ready to die or kill is even more important than the movement you perform.  A well trained person is a dangerous weapon.  Without the mental training to understand this and the responsibility inherent in it you are no better than a wild animal, and a danger to society, not an asset.  Personally I have found most of the traditional Japanese schools are excellent at including this aspect of your training, but I am certain that they aren’t the only ones.  Any system which doesn’t, or touts how much of a bad*ss they can make you will probably get you in trouble with the authorities before it hits the fan, if it doesn’t get you dead.  Remember, there is always someone bigger, stronger, faster, and knows more no matter how good you may be.  And he may be armed.

2.    Sparring, anything not actual fighting, is a necessary but minor portion of any training. Systems which spend most of the time teaching sparring techniques and limitations will teach habits which won’t be as efficacious during a fight, especially if your enemy does not submit himself to those same limitations.  “Ikken Hisatsu” is a phrase emphasized in Shotokan karate.  It can be translated as to “kill with one blow.”  It has spiritual, psychological, and mental aspects as well as the obvious physical meaning to attack with the intent to destroy your enemy with each and every strike.  You may only get one. Sparring can only go so far in teaching this.

3.    An unfortunate fact of life is that we all get old, if we are fortunate.  Our physical strength and endurance decline as we age no matter how much we may try to maintain it.  We are not all 6’-2” well muscled 190 lb. 20-to-30 year old well-coordinated males.  Any system which puts an inordinate premium on physical strength and conditioning as the MMAs do is not suitable for anyone else.  As noted, your enemy will likely be larger and stronger than you are and your unarmed combat skills must be developed to negate these advantages.  It must also be skills which can be effective at almost any age.  Most of the early founders of martial arts disciplines were active well into their 80s.  The techniques I know do not require great physical strength to be effective.  Another Shotokan adage is “One can not know karate until after the age of 40.”  This is when physical strength begins to decline in most people.  The proper motions, correctly executed, applied to specific targets, with sufficient speed can be devastating to even the strongest individual.  This does not mean any 90 lb. granny could defeat Shaq, but this is not about contests, it is about getting real about survival.  
I know this will offend many people, but let’s get real about what we are all interested in, survival.  We spend many days determining what is vital to not only our own, but every member of our family or group’s survival. How many pounds of beans, how many bullets, which tools, what skills we need to ensure our best odds for survival.  We can easily be in a life or death situation nearly every day of our lives.  Being ready and trained for it will not only give us the best chance of survival if it occurs, but will hopefully keep us aware enough to avoid those situations when possible, best defense no be there; or prevent the normal vicissitudes, the jerk who cuts you off, from becoming one.  Another Shotokan adage is “To be victorious in 100 fights is not the ultimate goal; not fighting is the outcome to be desired.”  Real fighting, killing, is the last resort for survival and should never be contemplated as in any other way.  I’ll close with another adage I think I learned from Jeff Cooper, “You don’t shoot to kill, you shoot to survive.”

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Rawles published on August 30, 2012 3:54 AM.

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