The Best Training Tool Pt. 2

The previous article was me talking about how great Shadowboxing is and how useful it can be. This one will be a bit more specific.

The beauty of shadowboxing is that there literally are no limits to what you can work. Unlike methods that rely on particular equipment, or the need for a number of training partners, with shadowboxing, whatever you can imagine, then you can do it.

However, that is also where it can become useless as well. If we don’t treat whatever scenario/situation in our head as real as possible, then it can be nothing more than a poor and mindless dance, and an utter waste of time. It is extremely important to use your imagination the way we used to as kids when we played cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers. That is, we have to live in it in the moment. For example, if my scenario is two attackers coming at me from different angles, then all my actions must stay true to that vision. I can’t “drop out of it” until I am done for that round, whether it is 30 seconds or 5 minutes. If I do that, then the better I visualize and the more I commit, the closer I come to actually experiencing it, and getting the full benefit of doing so.

A key component is to ALWAYS, ALWAYS use the best body mechanics as possible. There can be no slacking here. Each movement, whether footwork, offensive attacks, or defensive actions, needs to be conducted with absolute fidelity to the idea that every motion should be perfect. Remember the cliché: Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice does.

Another critical detail is moving through space. A huge flaw I see too often is that people shadowboxing tend to stay in a very small area. If the space I have to work in is small (like a hotel room), then so be it. But if I am in my empty three car garage, why should I stay in tiny area? I should at various times move everywhere, because in a fight there is now way to know where you should or could go, and you better have the ability to move when needed. So, MOVE! Have the idea that if you start in a certain spot, you should end up as far away as possible.

Fourth, you need to vary the speed. There is a time and place to go slow and relaxed, but there is also a time to go with the energy and intensity of a real fight. Feel free to mix them, but the better you get at full power and speed, the more likely it will translate directly to an actual fight.

Next time I will talk about how to make shadowboxing even more productive. Meanwhile, here is an excellent video showing everything we just covered:

The Best Training Tool PT. 1

Anyone in the self-defense/fighting/tactical community with even the slightest sense of critical thinking will know that you have to practice. Regardless of how simple or efficient a fighting movement is, you cannot learn it, perform a few repetitions, and assume you have the ability to functionally apply it against a resisting opponent while in an initiative deficit. That just makes no sense (of course, that does not prevent unscrupulous instructors from selling their material as exactly that – “5 easy moves to defeat any attacker” type garbage. But I will save that rant for another post).

There is a vast amount of equipment and methods out there to help us practice. For now, I will focus on those things that are applicable to H2H, since are a metric-ton of places to get advice on how to shoot better.

I like and have used almost all the pieces of typical equipment that is out there: heavy bags, double-end bags, focus mitts, grappling dummies, speed bags, Thai pads, etc. They are all valid and at times incredibly useful. However, the single best thing you can do is also free – Shadowboxing.
Not only is shadowboxing fee, it does not require a partner, or much of anything except perhaps a bit of space. That is it! So what can we do with it, and how can it help us?

What we can do with it is literally almost anything. The only real limitation is your own imagination, and how much effort you put into it. How it can help us is in whatever way we choose to work through any possible physical situation that can arise – from a sudden ambush, to multiple opponents, to opponents with weapons, etc.

In the next article, I will go into more detail and advice on how to use this great tool. In the meantime, watch the video carefully of Tyson at this peak shadowboxing, and see if there are any lessons that jump out at you in how he performs.

Absence of Evidence

There is an interesting hypothesis that a number of people in the self-defense community likes to refer to quite often. While it generally comes from those who are focused on firearms, it also pops up in those who advocate knife carry, or even the carry of “disguised” or improvised weapons (such as the Comtech Stinger). That hypothesis is essentially how it is foolish to not carry a large tool like a full size pistol or a bigger bladed knife because with proper clothing almost anything can be hidden on a regular basis. And for proof, these lecturers will pull out the “I carried X weapon at (some crowded event or location) and no one made me”. I am not sure they are accurate.

Everyone who trots out that line needs to understand the scientific concept of “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. What does this mean exactly? It means that just because there is no apparent evidence in front of you, it does not mean that you see everything. The classic way of illustrating this is with this:

If Alice bakes a pie, then she places the pie on her window-sill.
She did not place a pie on her window-sill.
Therefore, Alice did not bake a pie

Just because the pie is not on the window sill is not evidence. Perhaps she has just removed the pie from the sill to cut a piece, or that it is still in the oven, or that she is just putting the ingredients together as she bakes.

And just as the pie not being on the window-sill means little, so does not hearing someone say “Oh, you have a gun” mean that you carrying is a beautifully concealed secret.

Here is a personal experience that demonstrates exactly what I mean. A few months ago, I was at a local Mexican restaurant on my lunch hour. As I walked to my table after ordering, I noticed an older gentleman at a corner table. What made him stand out was the fact that he wore an IDPA style vest. Now, Arizona is as pro-gun a state as exists, and I can count on one hand the number of times outside of a gun-oriented event that I have seen that style of vest. So he already stood out. I took a longer look and after about a minute I noticed the tell tale outline of a full size pistol over his right hip. Did I jump up and point at him and scream “gun!”? No. Did I call the police and report a man with a gun? No. Did I go to the person behind the counter and demand they remove Mr. Gun? Of course not. I chuckled to myself, and waited for my food.

Idpa vest

I have absolutely no doubt that guy went home that day satisfied that he walked around all day with a concealed pistol and no one knew. And he was completely wrong. I can assure you that was not an isolated incident. People carrying concealed are “made” everyday. Most likely, they are made by another gun guy, and no harm. But it does not mean they were not made. And people should be absolutely sure that they are not before making sure a bold statement.

New Online Article

I recently became a contributor to Gun Nuts Media and will regularly write online articles for them. The first one in up and you can read it here:

Random Thoughts

I have lots of weird thoughts go through my head at times. Sometimes, a certain thought justifies an in depth look. And in many of those instances, it gives me a good blog post. Other times, the thought is only worthwhile as a passing fancy. So, when I have a number of those built up, I will just get them out there as sort of a catch-all anthology post!

Thought #1 – Why do people care so much about what other people do? I was reading a recent article on the concept of “press checks” (where you check the status of your weapon by making sure it is loaded) and the vitriol on either side is crazy. Why does someone care so much that they have to say ugly things about another person who press checks? It makes no sense. It does not affect the first person at all, so just go your own way.

Thought #2 – I have absolutely no problem with a blue belt teaching jiu-jitsu. That may be the best level of instruction available. If you are in an isolated area like a smaller town, or have a weird schedule (for instance, you work night shifts and cannot get to the standard class and your only option is a class run by a blue belt), then it is certainly better than nothing. HOWEVER, if you live in an area where there are legitimate higher belts actively teaching, and you instead opt to get online training so you can stroke your own ego and be the big man, than you are a toolbag. If you run a BJJ “school” as such an instructor, and there is within 10 miles a black belt teaching and you refuse to train at that place, you are being deceitful to yourself and to your paying students. Stop letting your own ego guide you and be willing to be humbled through real pressure. Stop fooling yourself that you have anything more than the tiniest bit of a superficial understanding of the material. If you can’t even teach a fundamental technique like a straight armbar, then you have absolutely no business teaching jiu-jitsu.

Thought #3 – As an adjunct to the previous thought, if you are that kind of blue belt who thinks online video training puts you on the same level as those who train in a legit gym on a continuing basis with high level of partners and instructors, than you are the absolute worst kind of martial artist. Your ego is out of control, and you really need to stop fooling yourself that you are on some enlightened journey. The Hero’s Journey is always based on the Hero overcoming authentic obstacles and challenges. Training in your own garage with a handful of people, none of whom have even your level of experience, is not an authentic obstacle. You are entitled to your opinions, but that does not mean your opinions are valid and have to be accepted as valid. You can have the opinion that the world is flat. That is your right. However, it is my right then to publicly point out that you are wrong, especially when I can empirically prove you are wrong. And don’t get butthurt when that happens.

Thought #4 – It may seem on a first glance, superficial level that thought #1 conflicts with thoughts #2 & #3. It actually does not, at all. If something someone does, does not affect you, then there is no reason to get upset about it. However, in the case of the situation of 2 & 3, those things affect me deeply, because it is a deep wound to the art that I love and have devoted over 21 years of my life to. When lunatics, egomaniacs, liars, and narcissists jump in and try to steal something that does not belong to them, I get angry, and I will speak out. If only so others don’t fall into their web of deceit and waste time and energy.

Racecars and Eye Gouges

Iowa Corn INDY 250

What the heck do racecars and eye gouges have to do with one another? Stay with me for a minute and I will explain.

One of my pet peeves when it comes to self-defense is whenever an “expert” will denigrate combat sports such as Brazilian Jiu-jitsu or boxing, or any kind of competition like Practical Pistol shooting by saying if you engage in any of those things, you are building reactions that will cause you pain, suffering, and death on the street in a real life altercation.

They insist that doing even one competition or practicing with any idea of a sport context with rules will instill training scars that are impossible to overcome. Any hint or suggestion that there is anything that limits what reactions you can have will be apocalyptic in results.

Here is the problem with that idea – they do the same thing in their own training courses! Whether it is a firearms course or a combatives/H2H class, there are rules and procedures that are just as limiting as any competitive rule set. Don’t believe me? Well, answer me this. When was the last time a one-dimensional flat piece of paper attacked anyone? So if we practice shooting against that target, and never against a real 3-D person, why won’t we go into shutdown mode when confronted with the real thing?

Another example – When was the last time a self-defense situation was initiated by someone shouting “Up”, or “Bust ‘em”, or “Threat!”? Of course the answer is never, but those are all typical firing commands in street oriented/tactical/non-competition shooting classes. And yet the exact same people, who will say that going off a buzzer in an IDPA match will get you killed, will then have the equivalent stimulus! It is just so hypocritical.

If competition/sport oriented rules ingrain habits that will dominate your subconscious and cannot be overcome in high stress situations, then why do we not see literally thousands of automobile accidents take place every year where professional race car drivers are driving in normal traffic? After all, professional drivers (NASCAR, Indy racing, sprint cars, etc) spend hours a day, practically every day, on a track with no oncoming traffic, no traffic signals, and they are only turning left. If competition ruins you, then every self-defense oriented shooter should be vocally and loudly demanding that all professional racecar drivers should be banned from normal driving.

And yet, they don’t, because it would be ludicrous and stupid! Too bad that does not stop them from applying the same poor logic to self-defense and their magical fight stoppers like eye gouging (See? I told you I would tie it all together!) that somehow will be accessible even if you never actually apply them in real time against a resisting opponent. If driving on a circular track for far more hours than any person ever spends shooting does not warp your real world reactions, then shooting IDPA/USPSA or competing in a judo tournament won’t either. Period.