5 Ways to Ruin Your Self-Defense Training

The 5 Levels of Cooperation: A Prescription for Failure

This is the first of a 5 part series of articles analyzing popular training paradigms which inhibit the ability to be creative via non-choreographed movements in high speed/high adrenaline fights. The five levels are, “The Set Up”, “Structuring the Fight”, “Wearing Protective Equipment”, “Disregarding Vital Targets” and “Providing Structure”.

99% of sport fighting, traditional martial arts and self defense systems fail at training the body’s subconscious reactions for real fighting because their primary focus is improperly based upon techniques instead of enhancement of the body’s natural delivery system. In addition, they teach you how to develop combative tools but fail at teaching how to utilize them in an uncooperative environment. Worst of all, they propagate techniques filtered through the prism of competitive fighting which is a natural out growth of the limitations imposed upon the fighters. They fail to understand that these techniques were developed as a work-around due to the prohibition of using potentially or completely lethal skills for competitive bouts. While practical in competition, these techniques have no basis in life and death combat.

Sport Fighting is Great–But Not for Saving Your Life!

This is not a hit against sport fighting. On the contrary, we recognize that it takes a tremendous amount of skill and physical talent in order to make techniques work in competition, indicating why so few people can fight effectively at its highest levels. However, there are some fundamental differences between the goals of self defense and competitive fighting that need to be addressed.

Throughout this series of articles, I will quote liberally from various sources including email correspondence I have had with Guided Chaos Master Lt. Col. Al Ridenhour USMC who sums up the differences below:

When discussing true combative skills or techniques, we are not discussing merely choking people out, submission holds or boxing people into submission. We are talking about crushing wind pipes, blinding people, snapping necks if possible, stomping skulls and the use of weapons, any of which can result in death or permanent disability. This is not something that we openly discuss for a number of reasons that I won’t get into in this email, but suffice to say, these folks who think that real life and death combat is about sparring, forms or making people say “Uncle”, as Master Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate would say, “are fooling around in the leaves and branches of a great tree without any conception of its trunk…” I will also add that those who fall into this category have no concept of the forensic reality of the type of violence that visits people everyday on our streets, and I’m sorry but what they are talking about and what we are talking about are not the same thing Lt. Col. Al continues:

Lethal techniques are not only effective but most importantly, so simple to use that proficiency in some of these skills can be measured in training hours as opposed to months or years as demonstrated in WW II. This acknowledged fact is why such techniques are specifically banned from competitive fighting and why training in such skills can also be problematic. There are those who will say “well anyone can strike to the eyes or other vital areas, etc”. This is true; however the distinct difference I am discussing here is whether you can deliver the strikes to the vital areas with power before your opponent can. Also, can you make it work when you need to make it work. Moreover, are the skills being taught in concert with the true dynamics of the utter and brutal chaos of a real fight? Training in even one of 5 different types of cooperation not only ignores this fact but completely suffocates “aliveness” as it applies to self defense. In this series of articles, I will use John Perkins’ system of Guided Chaos (Ki Chuan Do) as a benchmark to compare these differences and explain how you can enhance your fighting system’s potential for realistic self defense purposes.

Level 1: The Set Up Grappling As a Self-defense Strategy

Moving spontaneously is a purely subconscious kinesthetic skill. Anyone can develop it, since it relies on mastering looseness, body unity, and balance, not mechanical techniques. The only thing you need to learn is how to develop and use your spontaneous movement so it’s unified and powerful for mortal combat.”– from the book Attack Proof: The Ultimate Guide to Personal Protection Grappling is a questionable self-defense strategy. In his book Jiu Jitsu Unleashed, Eddie Bravo makes profound arguments about training solely without a gi for MMA tournaments and the streets. His rationale is that it is best to learn without a gi so that you won’t have to unlearn bad habits when you want to use Jiu Jitsu in the ring or on the streets, where no one wears a gi. He speaks about being opposed by many in the Jiu Jitsu community with an almost religious zeal. That being said, while I admire his evolutionary spirit, I completely disagree with Eddie in regard to his belief that the ground grappling aspect of Jiu Jitsu is a viable self defense system that can prepare you for non-competitive situations.

Jiu Jitsu will be my primary example for this section. However, this also applies to any fighting system whose practitioners have to set up in a stance as a platform to get their techniques off. My argument here is that learning to grapple as a form of non competitive self defense is unnecessary as it presents a dynamic that simply doesn’t exist outside of the arena of competition, primarily because the set up process makes it entirely too slow and methodical to be effective in the often brutal and chaotic environment of life and death combat.

Contemporary Jiu Jitsu has evolved into a method of fighting whose strength lies in its practitioners taking their opponents to the ground where they strategize to establish and maintain some sort of superior positional dominance (control) from which the opposition is allegedly offered less opportunity to counter. From here the practitioner can apply a break, leverage, choke hold or sometimes punches to end the fight. The more advanced practitioners leave less room for movement of their opponent in between transitional points as they maneuver for superior position.

The problem is that if you’re not cooperating, it is extraordinarily difficult for them to get to the stage where they can get positional dominance. Just as important, they absolutely can’t do these things without exposing their eyes and throat, which I’ll discuss later in this article. In later sections and especially the 5th and final article, Providing Structure, I’ll talk about the psychology behind why this hasn’t been exploited and also about the breakdown of mobility on the ground.

Mixed Martial Art fighters who prefer the Jiu Jitsu method often throw a fake, kicks or punches in order to set the opponent up to defend himself or move backwards, giving the Jiu Jitsu player an opening to go in for a clinch or takedown where they proceed to take the fight to the ground. Sometimes, they’ll simply shoot in during the middle of an exchange of strikes between the two, especially if there is overextension, which happens almost as a rule for fighters who don’t understand Guided Chaos Dropping Energy, as they need to fully extend their arms to generate any amount of appreciable power.

During the ’90s, Mixed Martial Art competition began to flourish throughout North America and Japan. The primary observation was simple. Traditional Martial Arts had been watered down so severely that the product had little ability to defend against a take down or fight within the clinching range. It became obvious that many traditional standup practitioners had such little control of their own equilibrium that simple football tackles and clinching body locks from grapplers easily slammed them into the ground, thus negating their techniques.

In a desperate rage they would lock up, powerlessly flail their arms, or reach up to push the grappler away. In all cases their tension would be giving their attacker handles to easily manipulate them and apply breaks, leverages or chokeholds. Unfortunately and most important of all, they had no idea how to deal with a fight that didn’t fit their idealized structures despite the fact that many of them were actually strong and also well conditioned.

This same phenomenon is seen on the “Gracie Challenge” video and basically every other clip floating on the web where a grappler fights a traditional stylist. This has given rise to the prevailing train of thought that you have to learn some type of grappling to be a complete fighter and this belief has only strengthened with time.

You can’t expect a 110 lb woman to adopt a self-defense strategy of grappling or putting a submission hold on a 200lb attacker…even for a second. Nor can you have a grappling strategy against one attacker…while his friend kicks your head in. And grappling against a knife is the most foolish of all. Guided Chaos groundfighting involves evasion and attack without entanglement. More on this later.

The Sphere of Influence: The Proper Method of Thought

In Guided Chaos (KCD), you enhance your sub cortical vision and sensitivity by doing various esoteric free-form balance drills, one of the primary being Polishing the Sphere. This serves two purposes. It enhances your proprioceptivity, which from a physiological standpoint is the interactivity of the nerve receptors in the skin, muscles and joints. This gives your objective mind the ability to observe the actions and location of your body’s weapons in relation to your attacker from a third person’s perspective. In other words, it allows you to operate without conscious thought as that process would be far too slow in an adrenaline raging conflict.

It also enhances your interoceptivity, which is awareness of the subjective senses which provide feedback in a largely subjective manner such as seeing, hearing, etc. Of course, this process occurs from a largely first person’s perspective. The end result is that your mind should be able to handle operating from a largely proprioceptive state while fighting, but also have the ability to rapidly process subjective senses as well. To all of you people who think you can “out think” your opponent or pull off that “cool” technique in a high speed fight, you are mistaken because we fight in a primarily subconscious state, especially when moving at warp speed. I’ll discuss this more in the next article in this series, Structuring the Fight.

The other thing it allows you to do is master your body’s ability to counterbalance and maintain equilibrium around your root without overextending which an cause you to lose balance and power. Dropping Energy (an instantaneous, non-chambering method of delivering power explained in the book Attack Proof) utilizes the body’s myotic stretch reflex in combination with perfect skeletal alignment so that you should be able to strike with power at any time, from any angle, and from any position.

Guided Chaos Slam-Bag training is one of several methods designed to enhance your tendon strength, timing and hand striking ability so you can tear, gouge and shred with tremendous power. This is John Perkins’ Dynamic “Iron Palm Training” which trains you to hit with the weight and power of your entire body from the floor to your weapon. This obviates the need for excessive movement and maximizes Dropping Energy which is your “short power”, or what Internal stylists refer to as “Fa Jing”.

Instead of thinking in terms of ranges, you should think of fighting in relation to your own Sphere of Influence, which is the maximum extension of your weapons where you can still strike with power without losing control of your equilibrium. Since you only train to fight within your own sphere of influence, this training gives you the ability to “attack the attacker” from all angles with extraordinary power, while not leaving you susceptible to fakes. You constantly move your sphere ever so slightly offline so that you remain unavailable– yet unavoidable.

Nevertheless, despite all of this, going to the ground is still a possibility. However, moving your sphere to the ground is not a problem and I’ll be going into detail on this throughout these articles.

To be continued… next level: Structuring the Fight.