During class last night, we worked on a knife defense. Normally, we practice in the simplified format (beginner method) of right step forward and a right hand attack. As you noticed in class, even if they step in with the left foot — a more common form of attack — the technique works. You might say it works more effectively than the beginner method.
This brings up a point to remember when practicing your techniques. Attempt them with alternate forms of strikes and feet stepping in. I mentioned this before in previous articles but it bares repeating. We get stuck in our “dojo mindset”. A person can only attack in the authorized format. Counter attacks and combination techniques are orchestrated and pre-defined. That is not reality.
Take a lesson from “live” styles like Arnis. Practice blocking drills or any drills really with randomness. Let your partner through various attacks from various angles. Block them effectively and counter. These drills build up the ability to feed off your attacker to defend and deliver another attack. It is “live” by virtue of being undefined, flowing and moving. You don’t stand in static poses. You don’t move in predefined patterns. You are alive and move as you would normally. This develops a natural flow.
So that this lesson as a chance to try your techniques and see how they adapt to different targets than those presented in class. Go with the flow.
There are an infinite variety of attacks that can come to you, yet they all must travel along one of the 360 degrees that make up a circle. Of these 360 angles (or degrees), you can reduce the number further still to eight. Practice attacks along these eight primary angles and you can address an infinite number of attacks. In essence, you simplify attacks into zones and angles.
The Filipino art of Kali or Escrima does this very thing. Usually, they divide the angles into twelve segments with two or four attack angles being stabs – along the Z-axis. What this does is reduce the infinite attacks into a set of manageable tracks. Then you can practice and perfect defenses for any type of weapon coming along this track or angle. In a sense, you are simplifying your defense reactions. This also has the benefit of developing better muscle memory while reducing the decision making process out of the defense equation. This training method allows you to react to the attack and counters in fluid motions.
Not only can you defend from fists coming along those tracks, but also the techniques now translate well against armed assailants. Even with weapons, the attack profile is the same. Whether a stick, knife or cat, the attack must travel along one of the predefined angles. The benefits don’t stop there. Not only can you defend against this attack with your empty hands, you can defend while armed too.
Kali theory holds that the attacks follow along these tracks or angles. You only need to defend against the angle whether you or the assailant is armed. Both can be armed or unarmed. The net result is you are fast because you have distilled the combat encounter into digestible bits and refined your muscle memory to react successfully.
When the Black Belt Society of Kajukenbo included material from Kali (or Escrima as Grandmaster Emperado called it), they saw the wisdom of such work. Though obscured by the training techniques of the intervening masters, it is still prevalent in our art. It can be found at the higher levels of training even though students of all levels can benefit from this type of training.
Working angles also requires two partners to develop the flow and angle acuity. Nothing helps the brain process attack angles than a stick falling from an angle towards your head. You either defend against it or get a bump. Either way, your muscles and brain learns.
There’s no way to teach you how the next fight will play itself out. The sheer number of variables and attack types precludes that method of instruction. However, by reducing your attacks to these ten to twelve angles, you can save yourself a lot of headaches. Pun intended.