Have a Plan B (and C, and D, etc.)

Originally published 01JUL2011 for Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

During martial practice of any type, an instructor gives a demonstration on the technique to be performed, and the students do their best to perfect this technique. Whether a percussionist doing a kick and punch routine, a grappler doing an elbow lock, or a weapon student doing an engagement or kata, the class structure is usually fairly consistent.

What is not necessarily consistent is how the students act and react to the maneuvers. The attacker may come at the defender with a slightly different punch, grab at a different angle, or cut their weapon with a different trajectory. The defender may block at the wrong time, step in too deeply or shallowly to effect a control, or even not be able to defend against a weapon swing in the prescribed way.

It is an understood part of the learning process to make mistakes and correct them as part of the learning process. Learning each technique thoroughly builds a technique library in a student’s mind, and is an important part of having the martial tools necessary for the practice of the art. For beginning and mid-level students, building this library is paramount, so that in any given situation the student will have applicable techniques to draw upon.

But we all make mistakes! We need a plan B, a plan C, and so on.

How a student reacts to those mistakes is a very important part of martial development. The “mistake” simply means the positioning or technique inadvertently being done is not the one that the instructor is currently teaching. It doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong, it simply means that a new “technique window” has opened up.

For higher ranking students, once the technique being taught is well understood, consider looking at the potential mistake points that could be made. A reaction to a punch where going to the attacker’s outside is prescribed, but the student accidentally goes to the inside. What new techniques are applicable? A grapple that started with the right hand was accidentally initiated with the attacker’s left hand. Of course the technique can be done in regards to opposite handedness, but are there techniques or openings that might allow the same type of control or take-down from this new position?

If you are a higher ranking student in your school, consider seeking your instructor’s permission to explore these new “technique windows”. This is akin to learning an algebra or calculus function in a chapter in the book, and then knowing where to apply it in the real world. Being able to practice grabbing a technique from your “martial toolbox” in the moment of an attack is a fundamental ability to practicing a martial art.

Practice on what techniques in your library are applicable at any given moment in an engagement.


Complete martial systems

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

Originally published 26NOV2010 for Examiner.com

The instructor performs a kata (martial arts pattern featuring many techniques) nearly perfectly. In his class, his students look on with attention. They will be practicing and testing on this pattern and this is their first time viewing it. The various strikes in the kata are emphasized with a kiai (focused yell), that both add energy to the performance and force to the attacks.

What each student sees depends on his level, but also his background. At one point in the kata, the instructor does a double punch, striking simultaneously to head and chest level.

The karate practitioner sees the punch, and knows it to be a good, solid technique, virtually guaranteed to hit one of the two targets being aimed for. It has drawbacks, of course, in that both hands are striking so there are no defenses available. Still, in the kata, it might represent a finishing blow. The fact that the instructor pivots away and low-blocks represents that the target is finished an a new assailant is being dealt with.

The grappler in the audience sees a throw. The two fisted punch is really a grab, pulling the target in. The pivot afterward represents the throw, followed by a low block protecting himself from an opponent on the ground or is in actuality a strike to finish off the assailant.

The weapons expert in the group sees a weapon technique, a block with a staff or chain, causing the opponents thrust to sail by him. The pivot and turn afterward represent follow-up attacks while the opponent is off balance.

After conferring with their classmates about their different perceptions, they ask “Which one is right? We all saw it a different way.” The instructor smiles and says “You are all correct.”

Economy of movement is one of the best indicators of legitimate martial arts. Not only should all techniques be free of unneeded movement, but the movements themselves should be applicable to multiple actions. If the martial art is a complete fighting system, every action can and does have multiple applications.

Self defense through location knowledge

Originally published 02FEB2011 on Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

There is an old adage in the martial arts world: Wherever there is a fight, the true martial arts master is not there. While this statement seems contradictory, a true martial arts master is utterly aware of his surroundings, sees the altercation beginning to foment, and leaves the vicinity. Others are left to get into trouble and clean up the mess. A master takes the safest route and evades. While many martial artists train to evade an attack, deliver a counterattack, and hold their own in a fight, it is worth studying about situational awareness and evading a situation altogether.

Look for warning signs (like the old Westerns when the bad guy walks in to the saloon and everything, including the piano man, stops). If a crowd all seems to focus on the same thing or same person, or certain people seem to command a wide berth from passerby’s and they don’t look too happy, there’s a chance that some type of trouble is brewing. An anxious yet hushed ambiance is a tell tale sign of impending trouble. The time to leave is now.

Unfortunately, people don’t always get to be proactive about changing their environment. Things can transform from normalcy to danger in a moment’s notice. The Virginia Tech and Columbine tragedies are stark examples of how a normal day at class can turn into a nightmare scenario instantly. In times like these, the best option can be to evade. To leave the area of danger, and put as much cover and concealment between you and the aggressor as possible in the least amount of time while doing so.

Most people spend their days in very common and known areas. Their house, dormitory, school, workplace, etc. They learn these areas and their way around. That knowledge can be a life saver if the environment turns dangerous. Having multiple escape routes out multiple exits can help to evade an attacker. Having well established barricade rooms can help a person hole up until help arrives. Knowing where things are that can be used as improvised weapons may be useful. Knowing places to hide may be a last resort.

At home, know what areas provide cover from other areas. Know which second floor windows lead to a ledge to get out of the house instead of a 15 foot drop. Know what defense items are where, and know how to get from anywhere to anywhere else while avoiding a third point.

When in locations such as the workplace, look around. Observe what hallways lead to where. Note which rooms have other exits, and what hallways they deploy into. Know the little access halls, maintenance areas, and what is in these places. If at a workplace, volunteer for the facility’s Safety Team. Get access to floor plans and become familiar with layouts. If this is possible, know which walls are flimsy drywall and which are more permanent.

Carry some Everyday Carried Items that can be useful for defense and are permissible in these environments. Lastly, know where the tornado shelters, fire alarms, and extinguishers are, as well as how to use them. Danger does not always come on two feet. Location knowledge includes emergency tools.

Evasion may occur via automobile. For routes to common destinations, know side roads, back ways, parking lots that can be cut through, and dead ends to avoid. In dangerous situations, think about dropping the “safe driving” paradigm. Can a yard be cut through to get to the next street? How fast can  an off ramp be taken at the last second to avoid a tailgater?

Successful evasion involves stealth, cover, concealment, and/or distance. Learn to use them all, and where to get to to use them, to avoid danger.