Friday, November 22, 2013

Robert Humphries' Warrior Creed

The Warrior's Creed

Wherever I walk, 
everyone is a little safer because I am there.

Wherever I am,
anyone in need has a friend. 

Whenever I return home,
everyone is happy I am there.

Sometimes, I feel the need to remind myself of this.  Jack Hoban's account about how this creed came about is worth reading -- and I identify with it all too much and all too often.

For those of us who choose professions or lifestyles where we deal with violence honestly and realistically -- we have a responsibility not to inflict that on those around us.  If we're not careful, it's very easy for us to justify being complete assholes -- to become a cancer to those around us.  That may mean staying away long to decompress.  It may mean simply manning up, and handling our business -- and keeping it to ourselves.  

Along a related line, I'm due to reread Kevin Gilmartin's book, Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement.  While a lot if it is aimed at cops -- there's definitely value in it for a lot of people in stressful professions and places in their lives. Dr. Gilmartin is a psychologist and a (retired) cop.  He knows what he's talking about.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Blocking is useless...

This is going to be a bit of a rant. 

People will tell say that blocking is useless, that blocks don't work...

OK.  Then why the hell have all of these combative systems continued to include them, for anything ranging from hundreds of years to thousands of years?  Bando's roots trace back thousands of years, but the modern version was gathered by U Ba Than and many others in the 1940s.  They were all combat veterans, and ruthlessly insisted on techniques that worked.  Dr. Gyi has shared the story of how someone brought a beautiful stick system, and claimed it could defeat 10 men at once.  They put it to the test, and it failed.  Now, we don't know what it looked like.  But blocks stayed in the system. 

Joe Manley has consistently taught, for at least 25 years, with a huge emphasis on defense.  On using blocks and parries.  So has Lloyd Davis.  Both were feared fighters, whose skill today is often (I think) underestimated and misunderstood.  They trained champions who trained champions. 

Look at other systems, and you'll find they all have blocks.  Blocks, therefore, must have the potential to work.  So why can't people make them work properly?

Here are a few of my thoughts on it.  Take 'em for what they're worth.

First, let's look at the term: block.  In Japanese, I know, the actual term is really closer to "receiving."  Lots of people try to make a block work by staying there, and flinging their arm at the incoming attack.  Well, you've already got one problem, there; you're behind the curve.  Action beats reaction.  So now your arm has to be faster than their punch.  It might work, if you're fast enough.  But are blocks really meant to be a stationary technique, simply accepting the hammering of the block?

Not the way I was taught.  The start of the block is EVASION!  Moving the target to assure that you're safe, then insuring your safety with the block.  Letting the block punish the attacker for intruding on your space, because you're already safe. 

That lets me segue into the next thing:  timing.  Too many people try to block the attack by waiting for the it to come, then deciding what to do.  Let me bring a new term in: OODA Loop.  In short, Colonel Boyd realized that for us to respond to something, we must first Observe it, Orient on what it is, Decide what to do about it, and finally put into Action.  In practice, in fighting, if we spend too much time trying to figure out what's coming, by the time we can recognize it and decide what to do, we've been hit.  The fix is easy to say -- Movement is movement, and when you see movement, MOVE!.  After that, from a safe place, you can take your time to catch up.  (Yeah, easy to say.  Hard to do!  And it takes a lot of painful practice to achieve for most people.)  Blocking takes place, ideally, when you're already safe.

Finally...  I think there's an issue about committing to actually developing the skill.  It's easy to try something once or twice, then jump on the "It doesn't work" bandwagon.  Developing skillful blocking is hard, and you will get hit sometimes as you work on it.  Lots of people don't want to get hit, they don't want to submit their ego to the learning process.  It's not fun!  But the results are worth the pain. 

So... to summarize... Why the hell did all of these combative systems maintain blocking and defensive techniques if they don't work?  Or, maybe, are they not working because we aren't doing them right?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Special Seminar Announcement

It's been a while since either Jim or I have posted on this blog, but I wanted to make sure you were aware of a special seminar that we'll be hosting with Grandmaster Dr. Maung Gyi, the chief instructor of the American Bando Association (ABA).

This is a one-day seminar on the Wizard system, focusing on empty-hand techniques.    The Wizard system of Bando focuses on a high level of flexibility, mobility, and dexterity, building on the principles of deception to defend against multiple attackers.

On March 23rd, Dr. Gyi will be teaching an open seminar on this topic; the cost is $75 (or only $50 if you are an ABA member).

Where:   The New Baltimore Firehouse Hall
               5303 Lee Hwy
               Warrenton, VA  20187

When:  Saturday, March 23rd, 10:00am - 4:00pm

You can register on-line  by clicking on the following URL -  

Debby Kirkman

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Timing of Responses

Something we've been practicing lately...

Defensive responses are required at different times during a fight, whether it's sparring or "for real".

If you've got lots of time, and are at long ranges, you can do all sorts of things.  Some of them are pretty fancy, some are fairly simple.  But the common trend at that point is that you have all sorts of time.  Maybe you just plain leave; maybe you do some sort of evasion and counter attack.  Maybe you just punch the other guy in the face while he's trying to cover the ground to hit you...

More typically, we fight at middle ranges.  Not quite able to hit the other guy unless you take a step or otherwise close the gap.  At that range, we've still got a lot of options.  It's the heart of where our club trains.  As soon as they move, we move and counter.  There's time here to block & counter, using patterns we practice.

Sometimes, we miss the signs.  Maybe we've let the other guy steal a bit of distance.  Maybe we've just missed it.  But we suddenly see the attack, and we still have a moment to respond before we get hit.  That's where our emergency techniques come in.  We pull back and kick, or cover and strike.  But we've still got that beat of time before we take damage.

And sometimes -- we're taking damage before we know something has happened.  We've practiced a drop-step technique.  The idea there is simple: damage is happening, we don't have time or maybe even faculties to do an evasion and counter-attack.  So, we cover as best we can, simultaneously strike-blocking, aiming to disrupt that attack and buy some space and time to recollect and shape a better response.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Day the World Changed

Ten years ago, the world changed.

Ten years ago, terror came into our homes, and things that had been the realm of subject matter experts and news reports became real.

Ten years ago, we learned how vulnerable we could be -- and just how much people can step up to meet a challenge.  Police officers, fire fighters, security personnel all did their jobs under conditions no one could have envisioned, in New York City, and at the Pentagon.  "Ordinary" people -- office workers, travelers, people who had been minding their own business on the streets -- also rose to the challenge, in NYC, in Arlington, VA, and in the air over Pennsylvania.

Remember them, remember their courage, and remain vigilant so that those who strike at the most vulnerable from hidden locations never again succeed.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Stance:  the positioning of the body for combat.

Steps are transitions between stances; stances are where you end up after steps.  Confusing, huh?  In Bando, we have two categories of stances, formal and combat.  Formal stances are rather strictly defined postures used to learn and categorize weight shifts, directions, and body alignment.  They provide the structure to support techniques.  Dr. Gyi  would say "You cannot fire a cannon off a bamboo platform."  In Bando, we have three main formal stances, each with three variants.

Combat stances are less formal and more fluid.  Again, there are two main types of combative stances.  The first is your personal fighting stance.  This is your "ready position" for fighting.  I often describe it to students as an "idling car at a red light."  The engine is running, the car will go -- just as soon as the light changes.  I teach my students certain key elements that must be present in the fighting stance principles of hand position, which hand leads, and so on.  The second form of combative stance is the functional application of the formal stances.  They're not quite as technically perfect as the formal stances, but they should be recognizably related to them.

Ian Abernathy wrote a very good article about the principles and development of stances in training.  I encourage you to read it.  Ian Abernathy: My Stance on Stances  One of the key ideas in it is to understand the role of stance and stance training, and how it relates to functional fighting.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What happens when two AREN'T tangoing...

There's no one sort of violent attack; violence occurs a spectrum.   However, it's important to distinguish violence from what Rory Miller calls a "monkey dance."  A monkey dance is about status, not really hurting someone.  There are unwritten rules in a monkey dance, and you violate those rules at the risk of social sanction.  The college jock who beats the stereotypical nerd senseless doesn't gain status; he's laughed at.  Here are two examples of monkey dances getting stopped short...  There may be inappropriate language in either; view at your own risk or turn your speakers off.

In both cases -- you see the Monkey Dance building, and then one of the people stops playing.  I'm not justifying or defending the actions of anyone involved; I don't know enough of the circumstances.  But in both, you see one person escalating, putting on a show.  Then the other person has enough -- and stops the whole dance.

If you remain calm, and recognize when a Monkey Dance is starting, you have opportunities to stop it.  You can escalate to more force, quicker, and end the dance that way.  It's sometimes the right thing to do.  But... you're not limited to pulling out the big guns, either.  You may be able to disengage or defuse the situation without force, too.  And it's important to at least make the effort -- when it is safe to do so.