Breaking writers block with the bob and weave.

It has been over three weeks since I have done any writing on this blog and it is high time I get back to it. I have plenty of excuses but I don’t want to bore you. The good news is that my training has not suffered and I hope you can say the same. As I have written many times before, blogging does not make me a better martial artist; practicing martial arts makes me a better martial artist.

I came across a YouTube video last week that I want to share. What struck me is how the outcome of a fight can hinge on a single skill. In this case, the skill is head movement and, although different from how I might approach it, this guy (Trav) seems to prove its effectiveness. Take a look:

An instructor of mine liked to repeat a mantra that I now share with my students. “What is the first rule of karate?” he would ask. The answer, “Don’t get hit.” The above video demonstrates that even well-practiced avoidance can improve you chances of following this simple rule. Certainly a good fighting strategy requires more than just a head bob, and Trav is quick to say the same thing. His understanding of distance and timing are excellent but clearly, in a real fight, he would want to engage other skills too. There is no guarantee that one skill, one punch, one anything will ever be enough, in all circumstances, to insure safety.

But, having said that,the whole idea got me thinking about how, in traditional martial arts training, we do tend to break things down first for the purposes of learning. Once the skills are adequate, we put them together with others. Footwork, strikes, kicks, grappling; they are all first learned in isolation and then combined. And, no matter how long you have been training, there is still value in practicing parts by themselves.

But, rather than assuming that you will need to combine skills to be effective, what if you practiced each move as if it was all you had to use? Can you keep someone at bay with just low kicks to the ankles? With just footwork and body movement? With just punches or elbows, or knees? With just blocks? This last one is probably the most misunderstood since many people train blocks simply as tools for avoidance. I have seen karateka debilitate attackers by using “blocks” to strike pressure points on the arm. Having benefited from receiving those “blocks” myself, I certainly think they deserve plenty of practice.

In the end, you may find that limiting your options while training creates an intensity and focus that was missing before. Once you have practiced each technique with a “live or die” type of commitment, the next challenge is maintaining that focus when putting the techniques together. A simple example might be a standard jab/cross combination. Often the jab is thrown light and quick and the cross carries all the real power. Try throwing the jab with the same level of knock-out power and see how the whole combination changes.

You never know which skills are going to be the ones you need. Taking each one on its own, as if it is the only one you have, can be a great way to open your mind to the possibilities that they all have to offer.

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