You score a point and the action stops while judges decide who wins the point. Then the action resumes.
When you think about real self-defense on the street, how do you think that will go? Do you think you will just throw a punch or a kick and it will be over?
Do you think your opponent will be four or five feet away, in punching or kicking range?
Probably not. You might not even know he is going to attack until he is on top of you.
And that's why your mindset, and some of your training, needs to prepare yourself for "shock and awe."
Instead of looking at self-defense applications as this technique or that technique, part of your training really must focus on going a little crazy.
I do this on my Bob training dummy. I just start raining strikes on him, flowing as fast as I can from a punch to an elbow to a palm strike to a forearm strike to another punch.
It also helps when you get a live partner and pad up -- head gear, face masks, gloves, feet, chest protectors -- and go at it in a flowing but creative and UNORGANIZED way.
Don't stop striking. Flow around what your partner is throwing and strike him, over and over with every weapon at your disposal. Bump him. Defend and strike at the same time by taking advantage of the openings he creates when he tries to hit you.
Every time your opponent moves to strike you, he gives you an opportunity.
Too many of us think that one technique will do it, but we need to develop the mindset that our bodies will explode and rain fire and fury upon someone who intends to do us harm "on the street."
Now, I am going to be 67 years old in three weeks. I do not expect to be in a fight again in my lifetime. But it is not out of the realm of possibility. It could happen, or I could see someone being harmed and I could step in to stop it.
Make sure you don't just practice for a "one and done" situation. You should be prepared to use your art -- Taiji, Xingyi or Bagua -- in a controlled but "furious" way if the situation demands it.
But it starts with practicing the right way and having the right mindset for real self-defense.
-- by Ken Gullette
Check out my website - www.internalfightingarts.com -- and get 900 step-by-step video lessons for TWO WEEKS FREE!
Leonardo da Vinci was not a fighter, but he knew something that can help you if or when self-defense techniques are needed.
There is a well-known Chen-style Taiji instructor who put a video on YouTube recently showing some fighting applications.
The applications looked really cool, but something did not seem right, so I decided to test them with students at the next couple of practices.
I very quickly discovered what was wrong with the applications. They did not work if the opponent did not cooperate completely.
If my student gave me the slightest resistance, or continued to fight as he would in a real-life situation, the application fell apart instantly.
My students and I watched the video together. We were quickly disgusted at how the student in the videos was just standing there limply even when "locked" and then allowing himself to be thrown to the ground.
That is not the way a real-life fight happens.
No wonder the internal arts have such a bad reputation for real self-defense!
da Vinci Knew the Secret
How many Bagua videos have you seen where the instructor does flowery, circular movements and three or four techniques on an opponent who appears helpless?
I have seen FAR too many. But when you try those flowery sequences on an opponent who is not playing along, they simply don't work.
Leonardo da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
He could have been talking about martial arts.
If you watch the self-defense applications of movements and forms on my website or on my DVDs, you should notice one thing -- they can all be done against an opponent, even if he is not cooperating.
Discard What is Useless
Another important artist, Bruce Lee said "discard what is useless."
If an application is not realistic, I throw it out.
It is okay to practice a theory or a principle, or a technique. But if it does not work as advertised, if you pressure-test it and it falls apart, why continue to practice it?
Throw it away!
It takes a long time to learn the body mechanics and the smooth application of those mechanics in movement. But once you learn the mechanics, and learn to move with internal strength, the fighting applications are simple.
Anyone who has wrestled with a friend, or sparred with fellow students, or sparred in a tournament or other competition knows that many of your best techniques don't work when you want them to work. Your opponent has the same goals you have -- to do good techniques, to avoid your techniques and to win the match.
Pressure-Test Your Arts
No one is going to stand there while you wrap an arm around their neck, step behind them, hit them and then throw them.
Some applications work at just the right time, in the middle of a fight, when you find yourself with the right opportunity.
You would have to be in a position where you could easily snake your arm underneath and around an opponent's shoulder and be in the right position to put him on the ground. See how my right leg is blocking his right leg?
It might happen in a grappling, clinching situation, if you are also able to get him off-balance. But if you go into a fight thinking, "I am going to do Punch the Ground on him," you are doomed to favor.
In the photos shown here, my partner is not fighting me. Imagine how I would have to soften him up and distract him before I could pull this off! It can be done, but it would require the element of surprise.
A lot of applications are successful only if the opponent is distracted, punch-drunk, in pain or off-balance. When any particular opportunity occurs, the "holy grail" of fighting skill is to be able to take advantage of that opportunity without thinking about it.
One of my students talked for 10 years about how, the first time he and I sparred, I handled everything he gave me just using Xingyi's Pi Chuan, "Splitting Palm." No matter what he threw, that is the technique I used.
Pi Chuan is simple, direct and effective against many different attacks. It is not flowery or complicated. The simplest techniques always are the most effective.
I urge you to practice some of your favorite moves from a form against a partner who will not cooperate. Try them in a sparring situation, too. It will give you an education.
Try a simple application, and then a more complex one, but tell your partner not to cooperate at all. See what happens and how you need to adjust the application or "soften" your opponent up before executing it.
Sometimes people ask me, "What would you use if you were attacked on the street?" They ask if I would use the Taiji "energies" and methods, or some flowery Bagua circular movement.
I disappoint them when I say, "I will probably try to drive their heads off their shoulders with Beng Chuan and get it over with."
If it were a clinch situation, at that point I might use the "energies," and hopefully they will be ingrained in my subconscious enough to do so, but I will be using those energies to set my opponent up for a simple technique that will bump him away, unbalance him, break him and put him to the ground.
All of this requires practicing with a partner who is not playing along. Any instructor of Xingyi, Bagua and Taiji should know this. When they put videos showing these unrealistic techniques on YouTube, some viewers may go "oooh" and "aaaah," but they will be impressed only long enough to try them on a partner who does not play along and protect the teacher's ego.
I love complex techniques. I love the flowery, circular movements. They are good concepts to practice. Just remember that self-delusion is very common in martial arts, and in real self-defense, simple is best, and simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Stop the Insanity of Thinking Martial Artists Have to Take On a Trained MMA Fighter to Be Ready for Self-Defense
"If you can't take on an MMA fighter, your martial art is useless."
Nobody trains all-out. Nobody trains realistically. It is mental masturbation to think that you do.
If you did train all-out, like a "real" fight, you and your partners would not train very long.
Unless you are in a full-contact fight with no rules at all, it is very difficult to defend the way you want to.
If a shooter comes in, I want to knee them in the face and strike down on the back of their neck with my elbow. If someone clinches, I want to bite a hole in their arm.
If anyone practiced realistically, in any martial art, we would all take turns going to the hospital.
We were practicing clinches last week, and we laughed at one point because one of the best defenses is to just reach over and gouge out your opponent's eyes. But we were working on techniques more fitting to our art and we were not hurting each other.
At one point, I asked my partner to put me in a choke hold. He did. I faked a bite to his arm to get the point across.
In a real fight, if someone got me on the ground and wrapped a leg around my throat, he would be screaming when I bit a hole in his thigh. You think you are tough enough to take that pain? Not likely.
You do not have to hurt anyone or be hurt, or defend yourself against a trained young MMA fighter. You can still be a good fighter and defend yourself or others when necessary.
I was in the Toughman Contest in 1991. I was 38 and my larger opponent was 25. I won my full-contact fight, but afterwards, there was a dull ache in the center of my brain from being punched that I had never experienced and could not pinpoint. The photos on this post show highlights. I am in the blue shirt.
It convinced me that full-contact fighting is for people who don't look very far down the road.
The macho guys who now say you have to fight a trained MMA fighter or you aren't a martial artist have my permission to damage their bodies and get all the concussions they want.
I'll watch and then go practice my skills without hurting anyone, and without hurting myself.
Can Tai Chi, Xingyi or Bagua be used against a grappler?
A lot of macho types say no, but that's because they do not understand the internal martial arts.
Tai Chi has been slandered, maligned and unfairly criticized during the past year or two because a couple of people who claimed to be Tai Chi "masters" (they are not masters) had the stupidity to take on a trained MMA fighter and they lost. Badly.
I had a Wing Chun guy come into my school once and he wanted to spar full-contact. I told him we didn't do that, but we would gladly spar with him and do light contact. We hit him in the face anytime we wanted. My top student and I both tried him out. It was pitiful, but I did not judge Wing Chun based on this guy.
The internal arts have principles and body mechanics that work if you follow them, just like any art. Sometimes, you simply have to fight. That includes punching. But sometimes, you use body mechanics to take advantage of your opponent's force or to break his structure.
This past Wednesday night at practice, three students -- Justin Snow, Colin Frye and Chris Andrews -- worked with me as I demonstrated how to escape from a clinch. We had a good time playing with this.
Justin and Chris are both around 300 pounds. They are strong guys, around 30 years old. They have experience fighting. Real fighting.
I am 65 with one lung, heart issues, and I lost a lot of muscle mass when I got sick 9 years ago.
They still can't hold me in a clinch if I use internal principles. And I can't hold them, either.
We had fun playing with this. Enjoy the video and I hope you learn from it. And remember, 850 video lessons and pdf downloads are available 24/7 on my membership website at www.internalfightingarts.com. Check it out.
The Holy Grail of Tai Chi self-defense -- in my opinion -- is when you can "feel" an opponent's energy when you are in a clinch and you can break his structure and use Tai Chi "energies" to take him down.
On Saturday, about a dozen martial artists of different styles gathered at Morrow's Academy of Martial Arts in Moline, Illinois and we practiced some of the basic concepts and energies. We recorded the workshop and the video is already going up on my website -- www.internalfightingarts.com -- and I am putting it together for a DVD.
Anyone can use muscular force to pick someone up and throw them to the ground.
But can you use Tai Chi energies to unbalance, uproot, and control your opponent's center so you can take them down?
You have to be able to do a few things:
** Determine how your opponent's center is turning
** Break his structure to unbalance him
** Have your hands and legs in place to help his center turn
** Then turn his center and take it where it wants to go.
The term "energies" has been misinterpreted. Peng, Lu, Ji, An and the other energies are actually "methods" of dealing with an opponent's force. When force comes in, you can roll it back and then press him to unbalance him. That is one example of how energies are used.
You learn to maintain your balance as your opponent loses his, and then you counter.
You can't learn all this in a three-hour workshop, but it is fun to see people from other styles of tai chi and martial arts as their faces light up and they realize they are experiencing something really different.
It is also refreshing to meet people who put aside their "style" for an afternoon, empty their cups and try something else. One of the reasons I do it this way is to educate others on the internal arts, show them that these arts are not as "soft" as the popular image would have them believe, and to add training partners to the videos.
Push hands starts with the basic patterns, working on form and sensitivity. Gradually, you work into applications, then moving, freestyle, and in the end, learning to take your opponent to the ground while using the various energies of Tai Chi to do it. Chen push hands is the bridge between form and fighting.
I have been working on these principles for a long time. To my knowledge, no other Tai Chi instructor has actually put this information on video in a step-by-step way. It is not really an "ancient Chinese secret," but it is a place that few Tai Chi students get to on their journey.
This is my mission for the rest of 2017.
There are seven main fighting strategies in my curriculum. I have begun shooting instruction on these strategies for my website (internalfightingarts.com). I also worked on a pdf document for members of the website to download -- a companion to the video lessons.
The Seven Strategies are:
- Receive and Return
- Lateral Return
- Mutual Striking
- Yield and Overcome
- Control the Center
- Join and Unite
- Instant Resolution
The first one, Receive and Return, is especially useful when I work on sparring with Xingyiquan. It is like pushing on a tree branch. The branch will bend as you push, but when you let go, it will whip you when it springs back.
With Receive and Return, you maintain your distance when your opponent attacks. You move back, load the rear leg, then you spring back when his technique misses its target. You can also spring back between his techniques.
Here are two short clips from tournaments showing me using Receive and Return. In the first clip, a young MMA fighter who had also studied Taekwondo and some kickboxing came to a tournament for the sparring competition.
In both clips, I move back, load the leg, then spring forward with a punch to the head. Check out the website for a lot more detail and instruction.
It happened to one of my website members recently and he called to tell me what happened.
John was standing in a business and talking to someone when a drunk guy walked in and wanted to fight. The drunk was larger than John, and it was clear that he could do some damage.
Like most guys, John's first reaction was to think about fighting techniques. And as the drunk got more agitated, it seemed that violence was about to happen.
Suddenly, John remembered the recent Internal Fighting Arts podcast with my guest, Dan Djurdjevic. In the interview, Dan talked about "flipping the script," and how it got him out of some potentially violent encounters.
When you flip the script, you say something bizarre to the attacker to throw him off-script; to confuse him.
So just as it seemed that a punch was going to be thrown, John said to the drunk, "Did you see the game last night?"
The drunk looked confused. "What game?" he asked.
"My daughter's baseball game," John replied. "She made her very first out at second base."
The drunk guy didn't know what to do with that information.
"Oh, that's great," he said. "Congratulations."
With that, the encounter moved in an entirely new direction. The drunk guy calmed down. No violence happened. Nobody was hurt, nobody was arrested, nobody went to the hospital, lost his job or got sued.
Bruce Lee once said he practiced "the art of fighting without fighting." Flipping the script is one of the coolest self-defense tactics I've ever heard, and it is something you will want to remember. Imagine a thug's reaction if he wanted to fight and you said something like, "I love homemade pickles. My Aunt Jane used to make great pickles."
When I was growing up, I wasn't the toughest kid, but I beat up a lot of bullies because I was smarter than they were. As an adult, I have not been in a fight because I have been able to avoid them.
As adults, avoiding violence is the ultimate self-defense skill, and we do that when we use our brains, our awareness, and our ability to remain calm. John was able to do that by remembering a lesson he learned on my podcast, and I am very happy to have been a small part of this story.
Every boy learns to recognize this question. It's one of the first things a bully will say when he chooses you for a target.
It doesn't matter how you answer.
You might say, "I'm not looking at anything."
"What? Are you saying I'm nothing?" the bully will reply.
And then he walks closer. He is ready to fight.
As adults, these types of encounters are not as common, but they do happen. Often, the bully is replaced by someone with more sinister motives -- someone who wants to do us harm.
Dan Djurdjevic is a martial artist from Perth, Australia who has developed the concept of "flipping the script" on someone who is verbally setting up an assault.
You can "flip the script" when you reply to a leading question with something that the potential attacker is not expecting.
For example, he might say, "What are you looking at?"
He is expecting you to be afraid and reply, "Nothing." Then he can continue with his script.
But what if you give him something he isn't expecting, for example, "Oh, I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention, I just found out my wife has cancer."
He would be completely thrown off his script. He would not know how to react, and the threat might be over quickly.
Or, you could smile and reply, "Hey, how are you? I haven't seen you in a while."
He might stop in his tracks and wonder what the hell is going on. You could say, "Oh, sorry, you look like a good friend of mine that I haven't seen in years. You look just like him."
In the latest Internal Fighting Arts podcast, Dan Djurdjevic gives two or three great examples of how he flipped the script on a stranger who appeared at his door one night with a knife held behind his back, a robber who was looking to take his money at the train station, and he describes a funny story of how a friend disarmed a potential attacker by saying something that made no sense at all.
It's an interview that will give you some great ideas, but it's also great self-defense. If you can avoid a fight, that demonstrates that you have the ultimate self-defense skill.
Here is a link to the Dan Djurdjevic interview on Audello (listen online or download the podcast).
Here is a link to the podcast on iTunes.
Here is a link to the podcast on Stitcher.
Make sure you subscribe to the Internal Fighting Arts podcast and hear interviews with top internal martial artists around the world.
We all have an image in our minds of the guy who gets attacked and we take out the attacker with a few cool techniques.
It is more likely that you will be in a bar where someone gives you some crap, you'll both do the Monkey Dance, and he will tell you he's going to kick your butt. You punch him out and he crumples like an empty suit.
In reality, that could land you in jail.
Here are some guidelines that can help you decide if the law is on your side in a case of self-defense.
Is there an imminent threat of violence?
Do you fear for your physical safety?
If someone shouts at you from across the room that they are going to beat you up, that is not justification for you to strike. If someone insults you or calls you or your girlfriend rude names, that is not justification to hit them. You can go to jail if you strike when you are not in imminent danger of physical harm.
If someone is throwing a punch, there is no longer a question of whether you are in danger.
Is the threat of physical harm over?
Someone hits you and hurts their hand. He doubles up in pain and staggers away, clutching his hand. You walk over, punch him in the face, and he falls and strikes his head on the floor, causing serious head trauma.
Be ready to go to prison for a while. The threat of physical danger was over and you took a violent action that injured someone.
A bully pushes you and swings at you. In self-defense, you punch him in the solar plexus and he falls to the ground, the wind knocked out of him. At this point, he is no longer a threat to you. Any further action you take can land you in trouble.
Is your response proportional?
A tough guy in a bar picks up a pool stick and takes a swing at you. Reaching into your pocket, you pull out a knife and stab him.
You could be going away for a while, because it could be successfully argued that your response was deadly force, when you were not on the receiving end of deadly force.
There are a lot of scenarios that you can imagine if you are one of the people who takes advantage of concealed carry laws.
Would a reasonable person be afraid for their safety?
This is a question often asked in a court case. If a "reasonable person" were in your place, would that person have been afraid to the point of violence?
If you weigh a muscular 250 pounds, and a person weighing 140 pounds is threatening you, a jury could consider how serious a threat the smaller person presented to you in reality.
An insult or a challenge would not necessarily cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety.
Do you have the opportunity to retreat instead of using deadly force?
In many states, you have a "duty to retreat" if you can leave without harm and without using deadly force.
Self-defense laws can change from one state to another, so it is a good idea to do a little research for the state where you live or the states you visit.
Another Important Point
Okay, perhaps you hurt somebody badly in a self-defense situation, you are charged with a crime but you are found not guilty.
That is not the end of your troubles. A civil lawsuit is always possible by the person you hurt or their family.
This is yet another reason to think very carefully before rushing into violence.
Remaining Centered Is Great Self-Defense
I was at a James Taylor concert around 1999 or 2000, with great second row tickets. Three guys were behind me, and one of them was drunk and singing off-key at the top of his lungs, drowning out James Taylor. People around us were seething with frustration, but everyone was afraid to speak up, except me.
I finally turned to the guys, who appeared to be around 30 years old, and I said, "Hey guys, I paid good money for these tickets and I would really like to hear James Taylor sing instead of you."
One of the sober ones, a mean-looking guy, gave me the Evil Eye and said, "The three of us can take you on."
I turned to my wife and we both laughed. Actually, they probably couldn't have taken me on. But as I sat there with others in the area thanking me for speaking up, and the three guys making occasional taunts at me, I realized that the situation could potentially escalate to violence.
At that point, I realized that there was no good outcome. I could get my butt kicked by three guys, or I could hurt one or two or all of them, or we could all be arrested in mid-fight by security.
I had a vision of spending the night in jail, of a story landing in the newspaper, of losing my job and possibly being sued if I injured one of the idiots who were sitting behind me.
I decided to center myself and not react to their taunts. They stopped singing loudly and we enjoyed the concert, despite the layer of tension that existed because I didn't know what would happen when it was over. But when the concert ended, they went in one direction and my wife and I went in the other direction.
No one was injured and nobody lost their jobs.
A friend of mine was in a bar one night and a guy came charging at him. My friend punched him in the face -- hard -- and his attacker hit the floor, out like a light.
Stories like that scare me. Punching an adult in the face is serious business. Breaking their limbs is a serious act of violence. The most serious injuries don't happen when the punch is thrown -- it happens when the person falls and hits their head. What began as a simple bar fight could now be manslaughter....or worse. You could become a felon in about five seconds.
If you are seriously in danger of harm, or you see another person who is in danger of harm, self-defense is the reasonable thing to do. But it is a wise person who studies the law and understands when self-defense is justified or when it could turn your life into a living hell.
I encourage you to find your state's laws on self-defense and learn them. If you are a martial arts teacher, your students should know the law, too.
And remember, no one is ever hurt when at least one of the parties keeps his cool and defuses the situation instead of escalating it. That could be the best self-defense advice of all, and the best lesson you can teach your students.
Do Martial Arts Prepare Students for Real-World Violence? The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Rory Miller
Miller is a former corrections officer who worked in "booking," where criminals are brought to be checked into the jail or prison when they are angry, still on drugs, and not always searched as well as the booking officer would want. Officers who work in booking are unarmed, and if they work at a county jail, for example, they end up getting in more fights than the entire police force combined.
As a martial artist, Miller soon realized that there is a big difference between real-world violence and what is taught as self-defense in traditional martial arts classes.
I have wanted to interview Rory Miller since I began my Internal Fighting Arts podcast. He is the guest in the latest episode.
He talks about the difference between "social" violence and predatory violence, and how you can prepare yourself for both.