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Scope. Broaden it.

People often "specialize" as to what they think they are good at. They described themselves as strikers or grapplers. Strikers further sub-specialize their skills into being a puncher or kicker or even more finely segregated than that. We want to be good at something, so we train our strengths, downplay our weaknesses, and develop a "specialization" not developed by choice but by necessity. While this may make you hard to beat, it doesn't allow you to grow as much as you could, and makes you unable to teach different but equal approaches to combat. It also makes you an easier problem to solve, as your "syllabus" of mayhem is smaller and more easily understood.

I'm an ambulatory combat platform, or at least I strive to be. I can punch, kick, knee, elbow, bite, head butt, slap, tear, grip, wrestle, throw, takedown, submit, ad nauseum. I may not do everything equally well but I strive to have the optimal technique for each skill and then attempt seamlessly weave them into a horrific and painful net of offense and defense. Yes I have an "A-game" that I use when the chips are down and I need to deliver, but that game has an underlying expansive evolution, taken from a pool of developing technique, tactics and strategies that are trained when immediate victory can be sacrificed for longterm development.

If we simply break down "punching" and "kicking" into attributes, I believe that each has an edge on the other depending on how we are evaluating it:

Speed, vX
Energy, 1/2 mv2X

We know that upper extremity striking is faster and more accurate than lower extremity striking, the upper limbs are lighter and designed for faster and more precise movement than our legs. However the speed difference is made up by more muscle and bone in our legs, which allows us to deliver kicks with more energy than punches (but also costs more energy to deliver). Kicks can be delivered from further away, but sacrifice mobility as we must stand on one foot transiently to deliver them. Kicks can deliver to more levels than punches, although theoretically either one of them can hit any level of target.

The drills from practice last night including, kicking shoulder tag (keep your hands up!), kicking knee tag (tap lightly to avoid knee tragedy!), and anything to the belly (lightly!).

For our first round we fed: lead kick - rear oblique kick to the shin pad - lead hook - cross AND cover - rear oblique kick to the shin pad - lead hook - cross - lead hook. Next we looked at head kick variations, including the tiip, of some traditional combinations. We worked the levels, while attempting to make the entrance movements look identical, for low, middle, and high thai kicks. Lastly we worked body hook/body cross - lead/rear uppercut - rear oblique kick - lead head kick - rear head kick.

Next we worked on throwing, specifically hip toss variations. The traditional hip toss (o-goshi) you must displace your opponents hips with your hip, either by rotating in front of your uke or by side clinching and then stepping in front to displace their hips. They fall forward and over your hip because you wrap their waist (a low underhook), classic undertook, or wrap their head (overhook variation) while grabbing their opposite arm, pulling them and lighten them as your hips displace theirs.

The variations we covered were the inside leg reap (uchimata) and outside leg reap (haraigoshi). The key to both these is to remember that they are still hip tosses. Thus for uchimata the hip strikes medial to their near hip but just lateral to their midline and the leg reaps straight back, lifting their leg not backwards but laterally. You are literally sweeping their stabilizing leg by lifting their other leg so high that the angle created with the ground is greater than the angle that they can split their legs. If they can lift their leg higher than you can reap, ankle pick with your free hand.

Haraigoshi your hip fulcrum will be medial to their far hip but lateral to their midline. As your hip strikes and you pull forward with your grip, you lighten them enough to sweep their leg by placing your thigh "high on the thigh for harai" (courtesy of Shonie Carter).

Lastly we discussed escaping bad position, particularly the side mount. I've covered this before, but I'll reiterate the keys: Baby steps and make small corrections, if your "incorrect" it is lot easier to fix a small mistake. Second, move where they are not, thus if you push into them, push in the direction that they do not have a base. If you move away from them, move where they cannot stop you.


Reactive Agility

Some combo drills for refining footwork, defense reactions, and counters:

Partner A: Jab
Partner B: Slip - lead leg counter kick
Partner A: Cross
Partner B: High cover

Partner A: Jab
Partner B: Slip - lead leg counter kick
Partner A: Lead hook
Partner B: Side cover

Partner A: Jab
Partner B: Bob - body jab
Partner A: Overhand
Partner B: Weave

Partner A: Jab
Partner B: Bob - body jab
Partner A: Lead hook
Partner B: Side cover

Partner A: Jab
Partner B: Intercepting tiip
Partner A: Rear hand scoop - lead leg kick
Partner B: Leg evasion - rear leg kick

Partner A: Jab
Partner B: Evade
Partner A: Jab
Partner B: Parry
Partner A: Jab
Partner B: Through step - upper cut

Some drills for improved kicking footwork, both sides with thai pads and shin pads. Use the thighs or pads to simulate targets on the legs, body, or head using round or straight kicks.

Two kicks back and forth
Two kicks, evade counter kick, return counter(counter) kick
Partner A attempts to leg kick partner B, who evades and then holds a kick for partner A. Then partner B attempts the leg kick and the drill switches.


Jiu-jitsu is not science, not chess, but like sex in the dark

Today I attended a Brazilian jiu-jitsu seminar by Wellington "Megaton" Dias. I'm used to the ridiculous ability of my coach, Jack McVicker, but Megaton has yet another level of amazing technique and talent.

General comments:
Don't be too smart
Megaton pointed out that the more he sees students analyze technique and overthink it, rather than just trying it, the more problems they have. He's not advocating not using your brain, just don't let your learning be bogged down with analysis and micro-details. Details come with time and practice.
All positions work and are easy, if done at the right time
You can only do a position if your partner feeds the right energy and is in the right spot. If it is not working you either need to adjust yourself or do something to adjust them.
Picking sides
Position needs to work on both sides, but you will find a side that works better. Use it but don't rely on it.
Foot-in-the-hip guard
Place one foot in the hip, provide enough tension to be able to bend them at the waist when you grab their sleeve but enough bend in your leg that it is not locked out. Use the opposite hand to control the sleeve at the wrist and the same hand to control the sleeve at the triceps. The free leg can engage your partner's free arm at the elbow or simply move in the air.
Hook sweep
Free foot hooks behind the same side knee, and the hand controlling the triceps grabs the same side ankle. Pull the foot as you push at the hip, while pulling with your hook. Sweep them and come up in control but inside the guard.
Oma plata
If your partner grips your lapel, lift at the elbow and transition to oma plata. If your partner's hand is free, lift elbow and push the wrist down, prior to kicking the leg up for the oma plata. As your partner is standing you will have to go higher than your "normal" oma plata, thus you will have to lift your posterior and legs higher to catch the arm.
Triangle choke
Pull their arm cross body as the free leg hooks over the neck. Release the foot from the hip and use this leg to cinch off the triangle.
Star sweep
Release the triceps grip and inside under hook the same side leg. Now use the free leg to pendulum 180° and elevate the hips to catch your partner's gripped side bicep at your groin and roll over the near shoulder. This should pull them backward with their gripped sleeve between your legs. Switch grips, and base with the now free hand. Spin 180° over your partner's face to the mounted position.
Feet in the hips
In this scenario, your partner stands to pass. They place their feet at your hips, i.e. they stand close to you. You are controlling their sleeves laterally at the elbows.
Sweep to mount
Rapidly open your guard and place both feet in their hips. Flare their elbows as you lift them, at the hips, in the air. Pull them forward and over one shoulder, flipping them on their back. After they land, roll backward and mount.
Lift to armbar
Again lift your partner at the hips, but now drop one leg wide. The removal of the support will cause them to drop and rotate, off the lifting foot. Control the arm and bring the "dropped" leg back and over their head into the arm bar.
Inside leg underhook sequence
Start by controlling both sleeves from the closed guard. Your opponent stands.
Bump to mount
Pass one sleeve to the cross grip. The free arm inside under hooks the same side leg. You can walk on your shoulders to get close enough to the leg. Pass the gripped sleeve to the under hook, freeing this hand. Place the free hand, palm on the floor behind your shoulder. Push up and back against the inside thigh of the trapped leg. After they fall, open your legs and mount. You will release the grip on the leg in order to obtain your mount.
Straight arm bar
Try to bump to mount as above. They resist by grabbing the lapel with the ungripped hand. Switch to arm bar by kicking the leg opposite the underhook side over the head.
Lateral sweep
Try to bump as above. Again they defend but the arm bar is not available, e.g, they step rather than locking out their arm. Place the knee inside the arm opposite the underhook side. Drive the knee laterally as you kick in the same direction against their latissimus dorsi.
Oma plata
You have been unsuccessful in armbarring or laterally sweeping. Use your opposite leg to pendulum 180°. Lift your hips to oma plata the under hook arm side.
Star sweep
You attempt oma plata but your partner defends by grabbing your belt/skirt and pulling up. This should provide you with momentum to roll backward next to their leg and star sweep as above.
Taking the back
If your opponent is your size or larger you can take the back. Again you have attempted to bump to mount. Open the close guard, and rotate sideways, with your head nearest the underhook side. Your legs should be pulled to your chest to decrease the chance of kneebar. Pull your free hand through their legs, place this arm next to the underhook and push the leg, pulling your head through. Your shins need to be in the back of their knees. Grab their belt and kick forward, placing them on their posterior, in front of you. Seatbelt grip and then place your hooks.
Koala guard sweeps
Outside leg underhook, cross sleeve grip sweep
Your partner can be standing or kneeling. Control the near heel with the same side hand, place your foot next to their leg or as a De La Riva hook. Control the sleeve at the wrist on the opposite side. Push the thigh backwards on this side and sit up. Pass the gripped sleeve to your opposite hand, under their leg (but not under yours). Grip their same side lapel with your newly freed hand (if they are standing) or the back of the kimono (if they are kneeling). Pull toward you with this hand and lift on the underhook side to sweep them.
Outside leg underhook, cross lapel sweep
Your opponent stands up and frees the sleeve grip. Free their kimono on this side and pass this lapel under their near leg to the crosshand. Pull it to their knee and pass it to the same hand, so that the kimono wraps behind the knee. Base your free hand and the leg opposite the trapped leg to the floor. Using the same side leg hook the trapped leg. Pull the hook and gi backward to sweep them to their back.
Take the back
Negative half-guard variation #1
Your partner is attempting to pass the koala guard and has landed in the negative half-guard. That is, they are in half-guard with their back to you, you have both arms behind their back. Free the kimono on the superior side and grip this lapel with the hand nearest their head. Your elbow should be perpendicular to their spine. Grab the top pant leg with your other hand. Bring your leg nearest their head over their bottom leg and unhook your other leg. Now pull them laterally across your body, toward their head. Pull the unhooked leg out and rehook in the rear mount.
Negative half-guard variation #2
In this variation you again control the lapel and leg hook as above but this time post to your elbow on the other side. Shift up and away, giving enough room to pull the unhooked leg through to take the back.
Banana split variation
In variation #1, you cannot reach the pant leg. They attempt to slide across your body to their back. Hug the free leg and help your partner do the splits.
Deep half guard transition
Your partner has you in deep half guard. Step over their head and free up the trapped knee. Your partner will triangle their leg to avoid the knee bar. Grab their foot with the hand furthest from them, grab so that the palm of your hand is on top of their foot with your fingers nearest their pinky toe. Try to lock the forearm down to prevent them from releasing the triangle. Now sit-up and roll forward as if you were trying to "kiss their ass". You should use your foot to lift their leg over, ending up behind them. This leg is the first hook of the rear mount. Rotate your body so that you can place the free leg as a hook, obtain seatbelt grip first and then the hook.


Team McVicker Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Fall Camp Day #2: Bringing the pain

Today's session was started by Brad Peplow. He discussed the woes of both being the best looking jiu-jitsu practitioner in the Midwest and being in his 40s while having to compete with younger folks of greater athletic talent. Pep explained his strategy of stifling opponents to eliminate their athletic edge, in particular using the trap and jam guard pass.
The set-up comes from the closed guard, controlling the kimono and clamping down your elbows on the thighs. Post up one leg off to an angle to the rear, controlling strongly with the same side hand — the trap. The other leg positions forward roughly 90° from the rear leg, driving forward while pushing the guard leg down — the jam. The jam knee pushes forward and rolls to the floor, pinning the leg. The arm on this side controls your opponents head while your other arm shields the trap leg. The trap leg either steps out inverting the hips briefly before reestablishing the side mount, or the trap leg can pin the leg already pinned the by the jam foot, completing the pass in a more subtle fashion.
If they attempt to open the guard preemptively and place the foot in the hip, reach your hand back and scoop the foot up setting it in the trap position. Use the other leg to set-up the jam. Using this idea we covered a drill for the trap and jam. Your partner attempts to set the foot in the hip and you pull the leg up and trap. Then switch sides allowing your partner to post in the opposite hip which you again trap and jam on this side.
Another variation came from the standing pass, with your feet on either side of their hips, pushing forward so that your opponent knees are pushed towards their face. Control their lapels and ride each time they try to bump you back, your legs flexing and bending in response to their attempts to push you backward. Then obtain cross collar grab and same side pant leg control. Drive their foot down and make them spin, drop your knee across their thigh, sliding through to pass.

Next Ultimate Fighter 12 alumnus Kyle Watson covered passing from the same side underhook half guard. Kyle first showed an escape from the mount. Setting up an L-frame with a hip bump while switching out to the hip on that side. Use your top foot to drag the leg into the half guard while pushing down your partner's leg placing them in half guard. The bottom player posts up on their elbow to create pressure to attack from the half guard. This space allows the top player to feed their arm through and grip the gi pulling them flat to the mat while shooting the free leg out to stabilize. Thus setting up the same side underhook.
From here walk the trapped leg foot to your opponents rear, use the hand on this side to free your knee by controlling their pants. They may block your knee, so rather than trying to fight through it, roll your knee laterally and perpendicularly to their pressure, placing the knee on the mat. Under hook their blocking arm and walk your fingers superiorly in an arc to obtain high under hook control. There are now three ways to pass:
Free leg cross pass
Posting on your forearms and head, pike up and drive the knee of your free leg through to the opposite side. Bring this foot through the hole between your trapped leg and your opponent's body. Drive this leg all the way through, placing you in a hurdler stretch and creating a great deal of pressure on their chest. This pressure should allow you to free your trapped foot.
Trapped leg cross pass
In this case you again post as before, pike up and drive the knee of your trapped leg though to the opposite side. Post your free leg out, creating tripod, use this foot to free your trapped foot.
Straight to mount
Create a base with your under hooks and head, slide forward placing your chest on your opponent's face, creating space between their legs and your bottom. Your free foot loops inside, posting on their hip pulling them flat and freeing the trapped leg as you transition into mount.

Finally Jack McVicker showed some gi deviltry once again:
Rear ozeki
With your opponent in four points position and you hip-to-hip, shoot your cross hand under their arm to the far side of their neck. Step up and use this hand to grab inside of the sleeve of the opposite arm, which drapes across the back of their neck. Fall to your side to finish the choke.
Rear mount arm bar
From the same position as above, obtain the cross collar control under their arm. Step your same side leg next to their shoulder and step around their body placing the shin of your opposite leg next to their head. Sit and pull them into arm bar, allowing your knee to sag out and then pop over their head.
Rear inverted cross collar choke
Your opponent starts in four points, start in north-south position obtaining cross collar neck and under arm control. Spin 90° away from the hand controlling the neck, then sit back putting your leg over their head and the opposite leg over the posterior to provide counter pressure.
Arm defense counter offense
You have obtained arm bar from mount but your opponent defends by arm triangleling the threatened arm and tucking your free hand behind the superior knee. Cross your ankles to obtain control, grab the wrist of the unthreatened arm and control sleeve with your free hand. Open your legs and pull to your hip, placing their unthreatened elbow over their sternum. Pull your attacking arm out and pin it to their chest. Switch to the S-mount attacking the opposite side. Wrap the top pinned arm and set-up the arm bar on the opposite side. Of course if they defend you can consider returning to the original side and reattacking the original arm.


Team McVicker Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Fall Camp Day #1: Atama-torisarimasu-jitsu

Atama-torisarimasu-jitsu is my bastardization of Japanese for "head removal technique". This refers both to the subject matter's content as well as its depth. Our session started with Jeff Serafin who demonstrated variations of the clock choke. The set-up starts hip-to-hip, your near knee posted while your far leg is sprawled out. Your control arm is draped over their belt and the hand attempts to control the lapel, reaching under your opponent's arm:
Digital Clock
Made famous by Andre Galvao the digital clock is set-up by your control hand grabbing cross collar and your choke hand reaching under their chin to again grab cross collar. The actual choke is performed by diving across the opposite shoulder of your opponent, forming a tripod between your head and feet. Try to get the knot of your belt on the back of the head . Then you transition your foot nearest their rear through to a new tripod position with the foot ahead of them. Begin pulling the gi collar up across the neck as you remove slack by pulling inferiorly with the other hand.
One Armed Clock
In the scenario when your opponent protects their far side, preventing the control hand from grasping the collar, instead place the elbow of this arm instead on your side of the opponent's face. Pull with the choke hand as you push your elbow backward, in other words abducting both arms.
Counter Clock
If your opponent blocks your choking hand, reverse your grips. Use your control hand to reach across their far side to achieve cross collar neck control. Your other hand achieves cross collar under arm control, not jump to the opposite side, setting up the position to go for Digital Clock.
Bench Clock
Obtain cross collar neck control, control their belt and step/jump both legs to the opposite side. Fall to your back, pull with your cross collar grip as you push with your leg.

I presented a philosophical approach to using combination or "flows" in jiu-jitsu training. I showed positional flows such as the segment which allows each person to perform part of a "match":
Kimura from guard, partner straightens arm
Inverted straight arm bar, partner drives arm across body
Arm bar from guard, partner pulls arm out
Triangle, partner bends arm backwards
Oma plata, partner rolls

Another variation is the infinite loop, where one side keeps repeating the same series:
Cross collar choke from mount, partner pushes up
Straight arm bar from mount, partner defends
Thread inferior leg between head and arm, partner sits up
Triangle, partner bends arm backwards
Oma plata, partner rolls into guard
Hip bump to mount, restart

We also discussed single position multi-submission flows such as from cross side position
Side mount Americana
Figure four cross body straight arm bar
Side mount kimura
Side mount cross collar choke
Inverted straight arm bar from side mount

I also covered the Octopus.

Our last presentation was by Jack McVicker who showed us how to use the gi wrap to set up a number of different chokes. The set-up started by framing from the guard and going to open guard. Your right foot goes inside the gi and kicks as you pull in. This should release the kimono so that you can grab it and wrap up your opponent by passing their left kimono to your left hand over their right shoulder, next to their neck. Set-up a cross collar grip with your right hand using the lapel wrap.
Cross wrap choke
Drop your left foot and your right leg across their body, placing you on the diagonal. Grab either their kimono fold, wrapped gi lapel, or the skirt from the wrapped gi.
Wrap drag
Your opponent defends by blocking the choke on the wrapped side. Use the wrap to drag your opponent forward, looking to take the back or dragging them to a supine rear mount, by grabbing the far lat or gi under the axilla.
Arm choke
Your opponent defends with their opposite hand, reach across and grab the elbow, pulling their arm across their neck. Now choke using the wrapped lapel and their crossed arm by hugging with the free hand or bring your leg over the shoulder.
Ozeki choke variation #1
Take the wrapped lapel in your left hand with that arm behind their head. Loop it under your right forearm and place the blade of your hand in their throat.
Ozeki choke variation #2
Your opponent pushes your hand over their head. Wrap the lapel around the front of their neck with your left hand, reach behind their neck with your right and grab the lapel. Cross gi grab with the left and choke.


Caring without caring, with no apologies to Bruce Lee

We generally pursue things because we enjoy them. We take classes that interest us, eventually seeking training in an area that interests us, creating some sort of satisfaction or joy. This hopefully leads to a career that we love, or at least enjoy. Whether we love or loath our classes or jobs, we will also seek enjoyment elsewhere. Seeking the company of others, of the same or opposite gender, is because they have features, mental or physical that we like, cherish, or stimulate us. The same occurs when we seek recreation, if so trivial a word can be used to describe the pursuit of martial arts. We did this because it looked interesting or appeared to be a fun way to spend time.

Then why is it that most of us who train have the haunted look of someone who just took a bite of something foul, the distraught face of the first inklings of a brewing gastrointestinal calamity, or the pained expression of a patient with a thick-fingered and ill-tempered proctologist. How can a fun activity create grimaces only replicated in a horror film? Novice students have no beatific expression let alone a smile, no phenotypic representation of fun. If you're not having fun, you cannot relax and achieve the state of using less muscle.

It is anecdotally obvious that increasing performance anxiety decreases the chance of success. If the tense jerky movements of the beginner were purely neurological in etiology then mechanical practice alone would increase performance. Yes correct practice does breed efficiency by maximizing the results from minimal muscular exertion. However the collected gym veteran, who is polished and fluid with their training companions, can easily underperform in competition or in demonstration before an unfamiliar audience. They haven't instantaneously lost any of the neurological framework of their technique and skills, but they have been burdened by the interference of psychological noise from anxiety, doubt, and fear. Fluid tactics are replaced with jerky flailing, both dangerous but only one deliberately so. The relaxed, dare we say happy, fighter has better endurance and more speed which equals more power.

Like all martial artists we seek guidance from the animal kingdom. Aside from genus felis, no animal suffers from embarrassment, they have no self-conscious psychological baggage when it comes to behavior. Animals don't care who sees them hunt, kill, scratch, or mate. Why do humans? As babes we have no compunctions about any behavior, we learn it through societal conditioning, through the ridicule of others, through praise for desired behavior. We do that which others say they enjoy, not what brings ourselves joy. While adopting all the impulses of the id is not the answer to surviving let alone succeeding in life, not caring what others think might make you happier. Yes we can learn from others, yes we can implement behaviors suggested, and yes we can grow through feedback from experts. But no we should not suffer the negativity of others, biased criticality, or discrimination based on who we are. The challenge is finding what someone says that will make you better despite your pride and what is simply hurtful prattling by negative people.

Care intensely about doing well, doing for others, and doing it to win. But don't care if you fail, they don't appreciate it, or if you lose.


Stability Ball Goes 0-4

Drilling with a stability ball has been done before, as demonstrated above. Today I took this style of training in a new direction with the following drills:

  • We used the drill above to warm-up to get the feel of sprawling on the stability ball. You can make this drill hard by getting closer and closer together, to simulate the actual range from which someone might shoot. You can also vary the speed or bounce the ball to simulate faster or higher level shots.

  • Sprawl to Ground-n-Pound: Holding the Thai pads with the stability ball pinched between your lower legs, call a combination. Then force your partner to sprawl by kicking or slapping the ball to your partner. If you want, have them scramble on the ball by walking around them before holding a ground-n-pound combination.

  • Stability Ball Dirty Boxing to Sprawl: Holding the top of the ball, you and your partner trap the stability ball between you. Call combinations, such as "hook", "shovel", or "knee". Suddenly jerk the stability ball down, having you partner sprawl on it.

  • Sprawl Sensitivity: Have your partner close their eyes. Using a Thai pad, hold the stability ball against your partner, then without warning slap it down. They should react by sprawling on the ball. Then feed ground-n-pound combinations. This should force them to react to the change in pressure in their hands, arms, and chest.

We finished this series by using the throw dummies. The dummy is thrown at your partner's feet, they sprawl, assume an advantageous position and deliver strikes. Then as their partner reset the dummy, a second training partner attempts to take them down. Thus they get to work the offense ofter defense as well as the variable response to the take down.

A variation of stability ball exercises that I've seen in my Jeet Kune Do class is to use a stability ball between two partners. They knee and wrestle the ball trying to pull it away from their partner.

A training philosophy point: simulate as realistically but as safely as possible. Thus heavy striking should be done on pads and is of more benefit than simulated and shortened strikes during a drill with no contact, if it did have contact it would be called sparring. Training to fight involves hitting people, why train to miss? Also if you suddenly add striking chains or new technique to an established drill, you increase the chance of accident as what happens does not meet the prior expectations. If you throw short in training you will throw short in a fight, but your training partners will not appreciate you if keep bloodying them senselessly.


Conditioning Work-out

I've been working with Jason, an athletic trainer at Carle Sports Medicine, to help rehabilitate and finally strengthen my defective genu. Today he presented a new whole body horror, that I thought I would share:

Set #1

  • Lunge twist with medicine ball

  • Abdominal pass (passing a physio-ball from feet to hands)

  • Single arm row

Set #2

  • Medicine ball squat and jump throw

  • Medicine ball slam

  • Medicine ball twist throw

Set #3

  • Sled (with 240#), push and pull

  • Twist with feet up using medicine ball

  • Physio-ball push-up

Set #4

  • Lateral box jump

  • Davies (essentially lateral box jumps using your hands)

  • Straight leg curl

Infinite Vectors

"All right now, remember. A war is mostly run. We run whether we are defending or attacking. If you can’t run in a war then it’s already over."—Shichiroji, Seven Samurai

Movement, from an idyllic stroll in the park to a sparring match in a ring, can be described by a series of vectors. A vector is a variable quantity that can be resolved into components, it has both magnitude and direction, each movement described by a distance covered in a given time at a specific angle. A rapid advance may be described as a single long vector, while an evasive half turn is described by a series of short vectors of increasing or decreasing angle.

How does understanding a theoretical mathematical construct make you a better fighter? It doesn't. However conceptualizing movement in vectors may help you understand how to vary and texture movement, a valuable skill in setting up offense and optimizing defense. The more uniform your motion, i.e. the more identical your vectors, the more predictable your movement. The greater the variability in vectors, changing magnitude and direction, the more chaotic movement will be and the more difficult it will be to predict your next position.

Let's start with magnitude, the speed of movement, which already allows you two variables to vary. The distance covered and the speed it takes can be varied to set-up both offense and defense. The Starfish would be an example of changing magnitude toward and away from your opponent using essentially the same angle. Another example, would be drawing your opponent on defense, by shortening the distance you withdraw each time to pull them closer for countering.

The other component of the movement vector is direction, that is varying the angle your moving at. Traditionally, martial artist divide the compass of movement into 45° units, which is a convenient if artificial discretization. We have to remember that movement is three dimensional, we're moving both in the horizontal but also vertical planes, thus you are changing angles within the horizontal plane but also above and below that plane. The Corkscrew uses an increasing angle to set-up varied movement. Switching from a left retreat to a right one, is another example of varying angle without changing magnitude.

Thus when we use drills to enhance movement, work on timing, or spar we should incorporate an understanding of movement to enhance our ability to randomize our movement and maximize our offensive and defensive arsenal.



In fighting we describe the activity provoked by an opponent's offense as "reaction". For example in muay thai after we defend an opponent's combination and return a cross-hook-cross we have performed a reaction. In jiu-jitsu when an opponent tries to break and pass the guard, the change in hand position and posture that sets up an arm bar or triangle, could also be considered reaction. Reaction is typically trained as the "turn" we take after an opponent presents an offense. This has a very specific advantage in being low risk: defend first and once your opponent is punched out with their hands out of position initiate an offense of your own. Unfortunately it also has disadvantages, particularly how long the reaction takes (i.e. the time the neurological impulse travels from where it lands to your brain), the training of "taking turns", and letting your opponent to get off first. A good reaction should teach your opponent that, if you survive their onslaught, that they will be punished.

Thus it might be better to avoid their onslaught, by controlling the range and by evading, and then counter. That is, punishing them without them punishing you. This has the advantage of not getting hit and letting your strikes land in prime targets with greater impact but it takes more speed and experience to read an opponent. Using this strategy still allows your opponent to throw leather, but forces them to expend more energy throwing misses and allowing you to hit openings created by your opponent's offense.

The "good offense is the best defense" strategy of reaction is presumably the level above the evade and counter. As soon as your opponent encroaches into your territory with the intent of offense, start yours. You need to retain the ability to cover and react while using the ability to read the path of evasion to set up a pre-action. You become a motion detector, that alarms violently.

These strategies each demand more and more skill as well as time in conflict (i.e. timing and sparring). They also develop increasing strategic complexity. In the classic, simplest style of reaction there is little more strategy than absorbing and administering kinetic energy. As one develops the timing of fighting one could consider the second, evasion strategy, as a "pulling" technique, luring an opponent in offense and typically giving ground to set up counters. The pre-reaction is a "pushing" style, aggressively attacking the attack before it is fully conceived. In all these strategies are not exclusive, the simplest cover return will form a back bone upon which "pulling" and "pushing" strategies can be implemented.