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Wag that puppy

In my first post of this series I said I would talk about the depiction of personal combat in contemporary media. What I find most interesting here is the tendency to conflate stage-fighting with real fighting, and I am particularly impressed by the foolishness of movie-makers--who are themselves illusionists--when they are tricked by the illusionism of the martial arts into thinking they are showing something 'real' when in fact they are showing a martial art with only a tangential relationship to fighting

This is what I saw happening in Batman Begins with the use of Keysi, a modern Spanish system chosen for its claimed 'streetfighting effectiveness'. The style caught the filmmakers' attention because they needed something that looked convincingly combative but also that they could show being formally trained as a personal practice in Bat Gym. 

Nothing in any of the Keysi material online resembles a real fight to my eye. It is far too stylized. And I can't figure out what's so 'new' about it--the so-called signature enclosed-cover entry and elbows are nothing new, that's for sure. Nothing about these moves suggests they were born in the nightclubs of Spain; they're performed just like the techniques in Indonesian, Filipino, and Chinese martial arts with a sprinkling of Systema--none of which systems are centred around full-contact fighting in the modern day, though they would have historical roots in the fight.

But thanks to the Hollywood endorsement, Keysi received a rush of new students after that movie came out. If Batman does it, that shit must be good.

Here's a real fight with lots of guys against one man who happens to be a boxer. It ain't nothing fancy.

I'm going to leave old school movie kung fu alone. That'd just be shooting fish in a barrel. But look at this clip. I know a lot of people love this movie, but I find this scene incredibly annoying.

Here is Holmes doing some strange mash-up of Wing Chun and pugilism in a routinely silly way when suddenly he acquires the ability to rationalize and control combat like a boss! Apparently, if you are a genius and a lady is watching and someone spits on you, you can not only emotionally detach, but you can orchestrate several moves in advance as though solving an algebra problem. Who knew? The whole sequence plays as though born in the fevered imagination of a wannabe who has never been near a real fight. It may have huge nerd appeal but it's horse shit.

In a high-stress situation where a lot of sensory information is coming in very fast, the visual cortex can't keep up. The brain has to make a guess about what's going to happen next based on your opponent's position and the early 'cue' at the beginning of a movement. This guess is informed by your past fighting experience; the more fighting experience you have, the better the guess.  To my knowledge, the current understanding is that the myelination in cortical areas dealing with sensory information and motor response are only layered through specific experience, and there's science suggesting that with increased practice, visual tracking will still take place after the response is initiated, enabling an expert to deal with a late correction. This offers some explanation for how a great tennis player can return a seemingly impossible serve.

But the point is that all of these responses are happening below the level of conscious thought; in fact, conscious thought would interfere with the sensorimotor response. A fighter may have a general plan, and metacognitively they may be watching themselves in action--and they will surely be anticipating their opponent moment-by-moment based on what is known about how the other fighter has behaved so far. But fighters don't set up and run an extended series of moves like this any more than Federer looks at Nadal and says to himself, 'There can be no emotion. Place service so that opponent returns ball three inches from the line on left side of court. Be waiting there for return of serve.  Return opponent's forehand, run to net sticking racquet out at angle of 60 degrees to hit line shot into back left corner.  Dive across net to meet return and cunningly place ball six inches out of reach.' Just no.

Of course I'm exaggerating. A little. The thing is, this scene isn't just some fluff used in a movie for fun. It's representative of the way self-protection and martial arts are often taught, with a 'you do this, I do that' approach that centers on pulling the correct technique out of a hat in answer to an incoming technique, often in series. A fight is too holistic and it changes too dynamically to reduce it to a game of playing cards. The approach is misleading and movies like this only serve to reinforce the misinterpretation of what's going on in a fight.

I'm going to share with you a link to a video produced by the Eugene, Oregon police department. There are some things about this video that make me uncomfortable when it comes to the meaning of a snap decision in light of racial profiling, and I hesitate to post it in light of recent events in Ferguson. That is a huge subject and I really do not want to open up all that pain. With that said, I want to draw your attention to the opening minutes in which police behavioural consultant Alexis Artwohl says, of assessing what happened in officer-involved shootings,'We were expecting these events to defy the laws of physics. We were expecting officers to defy the limits of human performance, we often expect them to have a perfect memory and make perfect decisions when in fact research clearly shows that human beings are not capable of either one of those things...the training and judgement of police officers was frequently based on myths, assumptions, and personal opinions that necessarily may not be's a difficult thing trying to explain these events to the world at large who have been trained by Hollywood rather than what really happens.'

Some of the remarks made here strike me as a sober reminder that we live in a time and place where movie reality is wagging the puppy.  I sometimes feel like martial arts onscreen and on the page have become one big giant Philip K. Dick story. We are in a simulation of a reflection that games the idea of a trick inside a shadow under somebody's wishful thinking.

 On a lighter note,I don't know if this next clip is hilarious or just pathetic: here's  Steven Seagal giving 'lessons' to world class fighter Anderson Silva.

AYFKM? When this came out, people were taking this seriously. Guys were running around the martial arts forums saying that Seagal must be good if Silva was taking lessons from him--that's how much some people really believe in cinema warriors. The fact that Silva agreed to the whole charade says to me that as a culture we have lost the plot. I can't imagine what Silva was thinking but the idea that Steven Seagal has anything to teach him can only be a joke.

I will now take myself off somewhere to recover from the trauma of looking at that last one. In my next post I'll talk about fictional depictions of fighting that I can get behind, credibility-wise. Yes, they do exist!

But before I go I have to cleanse my palate. If you look at only one clip here, look at Ernesto Hoost. Here's what a real fighter does. See that towel fly into the ring.



I cannot imagine anyone over 15 taking the Sherlock Holmes movie seriously, especially that fight scene. Steve Seagal is considered a joke even among the poseur community of internet tough guys. And Batman is well Batman...Immature people are going to run out and adulate dumb things they see in movies, but these are not particularly interesting examples of the art. Two complete fantasy figures and a widely discredited actor. It would be more interesting to know what's wrong about say, The Raid movies, where I might be seriously confused as to whether those are "real" fighting styles.


For your edification, this is SK embu which is done for two reasons. First, it is the art performed at full speed with the correct techniques done correctly. Second, it is the only safe way of mixing soft and hard techniques at full speed. It is choreographed. This is a 3 man embu by Swedish kenski


Real fights between equally matched opponents are typically very scrappy. Think Olympic Judo. It looks like a fight in the junior school playground.


You shouldn't be confused. In the movies one movement leads to one technique and one counter and/or strike. In real fights (even boxing) there is lots of irrelevant movement, feints, wrong distancing, backing off, tripping, wrong footwork and general bad technique etc. Only a few boxers transcend this and they are the greats like Ali or Naseem who turn it into real art.


I liked the "mapping out of the fight scene" in Sherlock Holmes, but my knowledge base for these things is pitifully weak. What the scene was telling us was, for me, the important thing--reinforcing Holmes as a thinking man, a chessmaster. Also, many adaptations eschew the canonical fact that Holmes *was* a fighter. This adaptation did not, but given the director, not a surprise.

"A fight is too holistic and it changes too dynamically to reduce it to a game of playing cards. The approach is misleading and movies like this only serve to reinforce the misinterpretation of what's going on in a fight."

True. I think this also stems from humans trying to make narrative out of everything, even things that really can't be accurately streamlined that way.


The key to understanding Sherlock Holmes is that he is both fictional and a supergenius the like of which the world has seldom seen. He is, literally, superhuman.
At least that's the modern interpretation.


Fascinating series of posts, thus far. I'm looking forward to hearing about the good examples of fighting in fiction.

Tricia, have you read any of Lee Child's novels? His protagonist, Reacher, is described doing a lot of hand-to-hand combat and I've always wondered about the authenticity of the descriptions.


Very good points. Sherlock annoyed me for much the same reasons.
'bullet time' has given audiences too much time to think, and hollywood stories work out well in the end. To the extent, that someone panicking and shooting out of fear - or even accidentally - is assumed to have thought about the consequences and made a measured reasonable decision, considering all the options? Real life is far messier.

However, I have to say something in Mr. Segal's defence - he's actually quite good at Aikido, and is pretty respected in that field - he's a bit old and fat nowadays, but the skills are still there. His films are poor mainly because of the acting, the martial arts are actually reasonable - given the cinematic constraints. Teaching a MMA fighter, who is happy to learn from anyone, is actually pretty reasonable.

Real fights follow different rules. The bigger the guy, the harder they are to fall. 10 on one leads to a good kicking. luck and chance have a huge part. YMMV.


Fighting in fiction is often more realistic than fighting in movies. A movie must entertain.
Benny Urquidez v Jackie Chan is quite good


Regarding your point about "returning a seemingly impossible serve"...

I mentioned in the other thread that performance psychology fascinated me. One part of this was the "flow state" (what I suspect is meant when the Japanese start talking about "no-mind").

I'd suggest that most experienced drivers have in fact experienced this; that moment when you've been concentrating on the road without distractions, and suddenly realise that you can't remember the past few miles? You drove them safely, it's just rather hazy? Another example would be if you're trying to steer a car through a narrow gap; when you try to do it slowly and carefully, you end up stopping/reversing far more often that when you go "stuff it, the car should fit" and just do it.

Some research that was presented to our training squad indicated that the brainwaves of athletes in a flow state more closely resembled sleep than full wakefulness; the team at Manchester Metropolitan had been wiring up GB Archers, and the team at Edinburgh wanted to wire up some elite-level shooting athletes (the static nature of the sports reduced "noise" from control over gross muscle movement, and because it's difficult to drag an EEG and associated gear all the way around the running track) Somewhere, my wife and I still have the study results for us as individuals.

Of course, the delight of all of this sports research is that it's great when it works, but it's not always appropriate. The basic sports psych tools (visualisation, self talk) are great if you're a sprinter that has an hour or to of preparation to run fast for ten seconds. They aren't so much use for a combative sport, nor when you have to repeat an action correctly, several times, and rapidly. Even a flow state is unhelpful if the conditions change - it can take you time to "wake up" to the new situation, by which time you've done something inappropriate.

Regarding competition, I once asked a GB judoka whether she went into fights "hot" or "cold". She replied that these days it was "cold", and that watching the younger women working themselves up prior to the bout was quite amusing. She won a gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer - walked on to the mat calmly, fought calmly, right up until the point where she banged in an explosive throw for ippon. Even in the final match.

Regarding individuals, they vary. I knew fellow athletes who needed hours to get "mentally ready" for a match - at least, that's what they believed. You'd see them isolating themselves in an attempt to control their environment and thus the situation. Great when it worked, but awful when something unexpected happened. By contrast, I found that I needed about ten seconds to switch from "wandering around, happily chatting to people" to "on the firing point, ready to compete".

The debate between an Apollonian versus a Dionysian training approach goes on...


In a real fight, wouldn't someone just shoot Ernesto Hoost or patiently wait for him to be ripped apart by a airplane propeller?

I think these discussions tend to fall into a similar trap/trope as "Futurama Does Not Endorse the Cool, Cool Crime of Robbery." Every attempt to show war "as it really happens" just tends to glorify it more. Every attempt to show real, gritty crime tends to attract new, more "with it" fetishists. And every attempt to talk about what real fighting is like tends to come off as the same kind of schoolyard braggadacio that it is supposedly opposed to.

Real fighting: some people look stupid flailing at each other, someone might lose some teeth or an eye, someone might fall and hit their head, someone might spend 12 years in jail for getting drunk and being stupid for a minute, someone might kick a guy and then run to get the fuck away from a mess that could ruin their life one way or another.

Now to commit the sin I preached against: my story of "real" fighting. An idiot I never met before pulled a knife on me in the street in broad daylight. I, who did not know a damn thing about formal fighting, instinctively kicked the knife out of his hand where it fell into the sewer. I proceeded to walk slowly away and never noticed this person again. Real non-fighting: a guy I never met before and a bunch of his friends cornered me and asked me a lot of nonsensical questions, then punched me really hard under the sternum until I started giving nonsensical answers back to them. They walked away and after I got my breath, I went back to school. I never knew exactly what they wanted or if they were just looking to beat on someone.


I am particularly impressed by the foolishness of movie-makers--who are themselves illusionists--when they are tricked

In Hollywood, I get the impression that everybody's faking it all the time, everybody knows it, and calling somebody's bluff is considered rude.


Since Holmes all but fails to solve any cases using actual detective work in the film, they did need some scenes to convince us he's smart. A fight scene is as good as any.


I mentioned in the other thread that performance psychology fascinated me. One part of this was the "flow state" (what I suspect is meant when the Japanese start talking about "no-mind").

I'd suggest that most experienced drivers have in fact experienced this; that moment when you've been concentrating on the road without distractions, and suddenly realise that you can't remember the past few miles? You drove them safely, it's just rather hazy?

Anyone who actually believes this to be "good driving" is dangerous. It may be good car control, but it's also a total failure to observe properly. A good driver is one who can't remember the steering abd braking bits of that trip, but who does remember seeing a pink Skyline R33 just before that cheatingly tight bend.


@erhebung I'm sorry, I haven't read Lee Childs so can't comment.

@Martin have you seen this work?


Related, but not directly on point:

Things are at least as bad with personal-weapon combat as depicted, well, anywhere... except, perhaps, [i]The Princess Bride[/i]. No, not the epic confrontation between Westley and Inigo when they first meet; that's a wonderful parody, even if it accurately represents H'wood/theatrical/all-too-often-every-other-form-of-fictional presentations. Instead, the four seconds during which Inigo takes down Count Rugen's bodyguards during the chase in the castle. And even that was slowed down a little bit for the camera.

I thoroughly approve of kicking dust/debris into an opponent's face, BTW... or even just feinting that to draw either attention or an attempted block.


So, to reiterate:

  • You fail to your level of training. So practice.
  • You don't have time to think in a fight - its all post hoc rationalization.
  • Cinema is generally shit in portraying combat emphasizing drama over reality.

Did I miss anything?

Anyway, I fence. Yes, I know. Not realistic at all (and I never forgot its origins as a dueling art - it changes how you practice), but fun and it reinforces some of your points. I could never, ever plan a bout. All I could do was use every last second of training and conditioning to try to win.

BTW, Tricia, have you read Peter Watts' Blindsight? Some of it touches on your points about things taking place below the conscious level.


I think kung fu films are perhaps the most honest about what they are - I'm reminded of the difference between John Woo's Hong Kong and his later Hollywood work, or wuxia as an analogue of superhero works (where Batman is always the awkward 'not actually super' exception).

Now the community's mature enough to talk about the things people find in the games properly, I guess I also wonder what you make of specifically 2D fighting games ala Street Fighter as a thoroughly knowing abstraction - much as fireballs are obvious stylisation and they're obviously intended as sport, the existence of something like the Sonic Hurricane Footsies Handbook sure feels significant. Good Morning Mister Masters is a perfect snarky tribute to people who think the genre's all about special moves[1].

Come to think of it, I suspect the reason I don't enjoy most online play in the genre is that it's a bit too much like a series of random encounters - when I'm playing I like more time to get into people's heads and vice versa. So far I've been lucky - no actual fights as an adult, just "pre-fights" that didn't cross the boundary into people actively hurting each other.

[1] "It'll win footsies with priority" is the Street Fighter equivalent of "my reverse punch is so awesome I'll win any fight in one punch!", with the "argh, my arm!" left out.


In reference to both this post and your last one, this is something I thought about a lot while I was training Taekwondo. We did medium-but-not-full sparring with restricted techniques (I got a cracked rib from a kick one time, through the padding I was wearing.) I supplemented by playing around with some friends who did boxing, and then switched into a travel heavy career that I haven't figured out how to train martial arts at all by doing.

Obviously, taekwondo is a somewhat impractical martial art for fighting equally skilled and prepared opponents, but here's a video of a lot of it being used for real:

Taekwondo dudes occasionally try to go fight Muay Thai dudes as well, with sometimes at least half-decent results--my understanding is that we're better at headkicks and less good at lowkicks and as such get our legs destroyed unless we've done insane conditioning that our martial art doesn't really think about.

It's interesting because Taekwondo was created as a military art, and supposedly used in combat by Koreans in Vietnam--the dude who in whose dojang I trained is the younger brother of a dude who was one of the instruction team the semi-mythical founder general of Taekwondo trained, and he definitely had some real fight experience.


Modeling real fighting.... Many years ago, my late wife and I were working on a scene where our party has just come out of a bar, and is attacked by someone on a very serious bad drug (the kind of stuff the Pentagon has wet dreams of), and armed. To model it, I pulled out my D&D God Kit (DM equipment), and ran it in std. old-style D&D melee rounds. People we didnt' expect to be in the fight got hurt, people who were in the fight, some did get hurt, and others not - it's all what you do in those seconds, and the chances of what happens. The whole scene lasted, I dunno, 3-4 melee rounds (not half a minute - *maybe* a minute till it was all over).

The readers of the APA were unanimously amazed and congratulatory on the realism. I'll put my method up against Hollywood any day.



What!?! Movie fights aren't real?
Noooooo.....shit Sherlock.
Sorry. But obviously most movie fighting is about MachoBS™ and making the star look good.

Seriously though,
There's a reason I avoid getting in a fight, I'd probably get hurt and I don't want that. I'd like to think I could "take care of myself", but I really don't want to find out.

I have come close a couple times though. Once, a little more than 20 years ago, I was with a group of friends (five of us) walking down the otherwise empty street late night. A pickup goes by, the passenger side window had an arm sticking out, and S slaps the guy's hand. The truck pulls into a parking spot half a block down and two guys get out and start walking toward us. We recognize them as a couple "Stoner" kids we went to school with, they don't recognize us. One them comes up to S and the other comes up to the rest of us. B is near enough that the guy swings an arm and knocks B's glasses off. I stepped forward so he could pick up his glasses and the guy says "You want something?" I turned around and walked away, expecting a punch to the back of the head. While that was going on, S and the first guy had exchanged a couple punches, S placed one in the guys face taking him down, and then, as I was stepping away had come up and punched the other one in the side of the head knocking him down (I had turned in time to see this). We got out of there while they were still on the ground, on the next block we pass a police car, who may or may not have seen the whole thing, but didn't stop us.
This all took maybe two minutes. B had done Tae Kwon Do for several years, but none of it came to mind in that short a time.


There's a famous anecdote about the driver Stirling Moss at a party the evening after a track race, speaking to a pretty girl who told him she had been watching the race.

"Yes, I know, I saw you. You were at such-and-such a corner wearing such-and-such a dress."


"Holmes doing some strange
mash-up of Wing Chun and pugilism..."

A piece of Sherlock Holmes martial arts trivia: in "The Adventure of the Empty
House" (published in 1901) Holmes credits his surviving the desperate fight to the death with Moriarty at the Reichenbach falls to his practice in 'Baritsu'...

...This is a real art: it's the 'Bartitsu' developed from Ju-Jitsu and other arts by Edward William Barton-Wright:

Barton-Wright studied Ju-Jitsu in Japan, and corresponded for many years with Jigeru Kano, who sent instructors to Barton-Wright's dojo.

One of them, Yukio Tani, was among the founders and first teachers of the London Budokwai.


I mentioned in the other thread that performance psychology fascinated me. One part of this was the "flow state" (what I suspect is meant when the Japanese start talking about "no-mind").

I'd suggest that most experienced drivers have in fact experienced this; that moment when you've been concentrating on the road without distractions, and suddenly realise that you can't remember the past few miles? You drove them safely, it's just rather hazy?

I don't think that what you describe is "no-mind". It sounds more like a "sleep state" to me, when the task at hand seems so simple that the mind just wanders off. It's difficult to describe, but the few times I experienced something like "no-mind" (usually driving an ambulance through heavy traffic) it was completely different. It was not concentrating without distraction, it was more like absolute focus despite all the distractions. It was more like being aware of all your surroundings, automatically/subconciously checking everything whether and where it moves, if there's a danger and finding a safe way. And there is nothing hazy about, you remember it clearly. You are right about the experience you need. Without the experience you are just overwhelmed by the situation.


Quick note on further thought; my first two lines weren't meant to be offensive to anyone, just what popped into my head since the Holmes movie was mentioned. Apologies if any was taken.


To me, it depends on whether the art form is actively pretending to be something it is not. When I watch action movies or swashbucklers I'm doing it for the escapism. Hero is beautiful to watch and I know it's not real.

The films I don't like are the ones which wallow in gritty realism but are no more realistic than the escapist ones.

The analogy with martial arts is clear. If they just claim to be a sport, then fine. If they claim they will make you win a fight against a real fighter, that is fraudulent.

One film where the violence particularly jarred was Watchmen. In the comic, the "superheroes" are just costumed vigilanters. In the film, the fights were as if they were real superheroes. Someone's head was smashed against a washbasin and it was the washbasin that broke while the person was unhurt. That was particularly bad in fictional terms because it broke the premise of the story.


My driving example wasn't very well described, was it...

I've achieved a flow state in competition a few times; the best way of describing that feeling was that every shot was "just released", each one in perfect focus. But after the shot was gone, and the follow-through over, it was unimportant - only the next shot matters.

The first time it happened, I equalled the old British record (someone had just raised it two weeks before). I could tell you at the end of the match exactly what I'd scored, where my group had been forming - but the best way to describe coming out of the flow state with three scoring shots to go, was to describe it as "waking up". Going from utterly focussed to the exclusion of all else, to not. Unfortunately. Because suddenly, all of the distractions crowded in (the noise behind you, the pain in your wrist, the colour of the mat you're lying on, the fact that you haven't dropped a point in fifty shots), and my heart rate went through the roof. Not-calm...

The next day, I got a chance to talk to Malcolm Cooper (consecutive Olympic gold medals, but retired from competition by then) about how he approached the mental side of competition. Interestingly, he didn't hold to the then-fashionable approach of "autogenics", and attempting to control your emotional state to a flat calm. He reckoned that an Olympic Final was rather unique, and impossible to replicate in training; and that he'd seen the Eastern Europeans and Germans come unstuck when they found that they couldn't calm down. Instead, he recommended welcoming the adrenalin that came from the psychological arousal involved - viewing it as sharpening your reactions, awareness, balance - then letting go, and trusting all of the training you'd done to release the shot. Use the Force, Luke - it works.

Entering a flow state on demand - tricky, wish I could. One piece of advice I read (Pullum and Hahnenkrat, revised edition) was to avoid triggering the speech centres of the brain, but to focus on the visual. That appeared to give the best chances of repeating it, so the "self talk" got binned from my shot routine. It also chimed with coding; I put in the earphones to switch off the office around me, but avoid any music with lyrics I can understand, so it's classical, or Celtic.


"Insane conditioning"...

I remember reading Robert Twigger's "Angry White Pyjamas" about a year spent as a full-time aikido student on the course used by the Tokyo riot police. Fascinating book.

Part of the syllabus involved stimulating calcification of their bones, through impact; shin on shin, forearm on forearm. No pads. Massive bruising, severe pain, but denser bone structure as a result.

As for film, I'm sure that we've discussed the gun battle in "Heat" before now; choreographed by a former soldier with operational experience, and much copied since...


Ho, hum...I'm Very ambivalent about joining in this discussion. I was uneasy at the sight of the previous thread...

" 105:
Higher levels of Aikido practice feel useful for a real fight IMHO - one defender is pitted against multiple attackers who are encouraged to attack with random timing (including multiple at the same time) and full penetrating attacks (to give the defender enough aggressive force to use in redirections) to which the defender can react with very serious twists and throws because he knows that his fighting partners are well versed in proper falls and rolls."

Oh the temptation to say NO! NO! NO! This is a game for children! Real fights don’t work that way! And also I'm 65 venerable years old and I practiced ... Shotokan (松濤館, Shōtōkan) is a style of karate, developed from various martial arts by Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957) and his son Gigo (Yoshitaka) Funakoshi ... style of karate and a few other disciplines back in the 1960s/1970s of the last century - no I Don't have a wispy beard and don’t call people 'Grasshopper ' - this before an eminent neurologist gave me the Gypsies warning of what would happen to my arthritic spine turned out that I had/have, ' Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a long-term (chronic) condition in which the spine and other areas of the body become inflamed.

The symptoms of AS can vary but usually involve: back pain and stiffness that improves with exercise and isn't relieved by rest pain and swelling in other parts of the body, such as the hips, knees and ribs '

Blah blah blah and so forth. So no 'violent games ' as he called them, for me.

I hate the term 'arts' in the context of combat and prefer ' disciplines ' but, wot the hell the media insists on arts and who am I to say them nay?

Anyway I did explain to my Ever So Eminent Doctor - who refused to allow me a few moments converstion with his American assistant - that martial disciplines are a good deal less dangerous than, say, rugby football ... Hereafter an illustration ..and this was so not my fault!

At school in 1964 I was moved from an English Secondary Modern to a New Comprehensive school that had playing fields and everything and, unfortunately ... if he had asked for the ball nicely I’d have given the horrible muddy thing to him instead of hitting him on the nose with it...I just wanted to be in my nice warm library – it took me about two months from joining the new Comprehensive school to become school librarian - with my female library assistants..I would have been prepared to consider taking on male assistants but after the rugby ball thing I wasn’t all that popular with the sporting ball game fraternity.

But anyway, given my Neurologist Sensei’s Standard Lecture to Young Men, and a year spent in diagnosis I gave up Martial Disiplines...believe me you do not forget being on the receiving end of seven failed attempts at a lumber puncture by a male American visiting neurologist who claimed - this to his audience of medical students - to be an expert in this procedure and for various reasons it was all my spines fault. The following month the procedure was repeated by a female doctor with one female nurse assisting and - guess what! - She succeeded first time. I am rather biased in favour of female doctors and expect that my Influenza immunisation in a couple of weeks time won’t really require a gag and a bottle of N.H.S. rum...not that I’ll turn down the bottle of full strength naval rum which is expected of one and I’d hate to let them down.

On that area of mysterious un-wellness I do Recommend Lord Brains 'Diseases of The Central Nervous System ' seriously it is a really well written exposition of a very complex subject...And talking of complex subjects?

Hand to hand combat and its many close combat battle variations is a hugely complex area of study and it is rendered even more complex by the immense variation of human physiology and its adaption to non-explosive weapon hardware at any given period and, and ...wish full thinking in fiction. Frankly a great many of the factual books specialising in training in various styles of armed and un-armed combat are pure fiction.

Fact does become an idealised fiction and fiction is warped into fact to suit political reality at both organisational and national level.

Put it another way...people believe what they want to believe and at various times people have wanted quite desperately to believe in me and my ability to deal with Trouble with a capital T.

In the mean time, and given fiction legend and reality?

Have a look at these links...

" jackie-chans-major-injuries-a-catalogue-of-pain "

And also, here is a link to quite a famous incident from the news media of my youth ...tugs whispy beard in a meditive sort of way...

" Muhammad Ali loses to a wrestler "


On the driving example, you don't remember the details, but does that just mean they didn't seem important enough to remember in the long term memory?

I'm not sure, from the check I did on that idea, whether it's good science any more, but my own experience suggests that he recall process might be odd. You can't recall the route, but as you drive along it you see reminders of what is coming up.

All that seems to come from that absence of memory is that nothing happened to trouble you.


Here's a fascinating set of clips...

A 98kg Czech judoka became a Sumo wrestler, competed as Takanoyama. Watching him compete and win against the 180kg types through being faster, and better balanced is... Amusing.


A nice fight scene from "Angel of Death" with Zoe Bell

As for "flow", here's a heads up to where the next (undetectable) sports "enhancement" is coming from:


@erebung I've read them. They can be fun but nope, not even remotely realistic fighting. In my opinion.


But ... fencing (any form) is a CONTACT sport.
The object is to wound (or kill) your supposedly un-padded/armoured opponent.
The only reason you do not is said protective clothing.

Real fencing moves, even with a simple cane, against an unexpected aggressor can really work - at least long enough to enable you to then run away, as fast as you can.


Other "martial" Hollywood tropes...
Sparky bullets, cars that stop bullets, bombs with color coded wires, enemies who always set their weapons to auto and shoot at the hero's feet, shootouts in car parks where nobody thinks of lying down and shooting out the legs of the enemy, shootouts in confined spaces with no hearing damage...


"flow" state
I do hope this isn't anything like Berseker ...
Not nice at all - been there done that.
Yes, the total arseholes who come for you get seriously damaged (assuming that they have no weapons either) but ... the drop-off-&-crash from the endorphin "high" that enables the berserker-state is really horrible.
Don't ever want to go there again, I can tell you.

If I have got this round my neck, someone please correct & enlighten me?


Flow is nothing like that. It is just mindless, effortless perfection


Right. Shotguns that pack the power of Tiger tanks. Or that pick off people from hundreds of feet away (my favorite is Lee Marvin blasting a several yards distant bad guy with a shotgun in the movie "Prime Cut", which also features a car-eating combine). Silencers that are whisper quiet. Dropped guns that go off....


To my thinking, the Ernesto Hoost fights are part of the spectrum of theatrical combat as well. They're artificially generated conflicts between single opponents of very similar talents. Somewhere offscreen, both fighters have agreed beforehand to fight on a stage at a particular time according to strict rules. Neither of them even tried to have the other one assassinated beforehand. They've agreed not to bring weapons. The audience has agreed not to intervene. The stage is strictly defined and bare of environmental obstacles or objects that can be used as improvised weapons. In all cases, injuries appear to have been minimal enough that both fighters went on to do other acts at later dates. The fights resulted in neither criminal charges nor civil litigation.

How often does a scenario like that occur in the wild?


@Bravo Lima Poppa 3
Sorry to say I have not read Blindsight, although it's one of those books that has been on my list of 'really should get to this one' for much too long.

@Philippa I haven't played them so can't comment personally. I'm fascinated by the possibilities offered by simulation for training, but of course with contact fighting we aren't anywhere near being there yet. My kid plays some kind of video boxing which is very abstract and the skills involve don't cross over at all to what you need to deliver a shot.

@Ariella Absolutely so! It is theatre. But it isn't ONLY theatre. There's a lot of substance there, too, within the set restrictions.


@Arnold you said "believe me you do not forget being on the receiving end of seven failed attempts at a lumber puncture by a male American visiting neurologist who claimed - this to his audience of medical students - to be an expert in this procedure and for various reasons it was all my spines fault."

I have had a whole bunch of lumbar punctures and the most excruciating was performed by an eminent neurologist. But the funniest medical experience was when a doctor could not find my cervix. If I hadn't already had 3 kids by then I'd have worried it didn't exist.
(from the Department of Bumbling Not Seen In Hollywood)


"he's actually quite good at Aikido"...
Yep. Segal, even if he's a terrible actor is a 7th dan Blackbelt in Aikido. At this level of practice, Tricia, he knows more about stance, strength and body mechanics and where to break it and to hurt than any MMA fighter. He may lose every fight against any MMA fighter if he were to fight in a cage because he's fat and old, but you can't play fun with what he knows and what he did in his young days.


the best way to describe coming out of the flow state with three scoring shots to go, was to describe it as "waking up". Going from utterly focussed to the exclusion of all else, to not.

You'll probably be unsurprised to learn that this is often a daily routine for me ... during continous writing bursts. It doesn't happen every book or every redraft; it's not really happening right now on the final draft polishing of "The Annihilation Score". But it was a daily event for 18 consecutive days while I was writing the first draft, at an average of around 6000 words/day.

Oh, and the background music thing? That novel got written on a loop of "Nouvelle Vague" and wallpaper music.


@Gerard When Aikido is shown to work in a fight I'll buy that. Until then I'll have to disagree.


I have one anecdote about Akido in a fight. My friend Dave in Chicago in the 1990s. I think he was a brown belt, maybe shodan. Back alley in Rogers park, a friend of his (female) gets into an altercation with three thugs over her purse. Joining the fray, they spent about three seconds trying to punch Dave, who evades and blocks (never gets as far as a lock/throw) at which point they discover they can't lay a hand on him, panic, and run.

Clearly a total success in his terms of reference: no bloodshed, purse restored, skills proven effective. I think that's quite a good story of Akido's effectiveness on all levels, within their terms of reference.

I don't think I could have gotten out of that situation without escalating it, and at three-to-one odds, I'd likely have lost even against untrained opponents. There's a lesson in that for me too.


PS: There are a couple of Akido vs. MMA ring videos on youtube which are informative: they at least hold their own, although they've probably invested much longer in training than their opponents. There are no Ki-fighter style beatdowns.


"Sorry to say I have not read Blindsight"
I read it free online and then because it was so good I sent Peter Watts some PayPal money. Obviously not many people do, because he remembered me...


"...enemies who always set their weapons to auto and shoot at the hero's feet"

For those of you who might not have picked up what Dick is saying here, the hero does *not* survive that.

Aiming a short burst of fire at someone's feet is a pretty effective tactic for a shooter with limited training: a spot on the ground is a pretty good aiming point - better than a moving target, humans aren't very good at that - and most submachine guns kick upward on auto.

An assault rifle might handle differently - if it's held properly, so that the recoil is transmitted accurately along the axis to the rifle butt and the shoulder - but you don't see much of that in the movies.

I'd like a firearms expert to give a definitive oponion on that, though: I'm just an armchair expert here.

Of course, an attacker who puts in the time on the range would control the weapon: but would they do that shoot-at-the-feet trick? People who put in a lot of practice with a firearm (or any weapon) are very, very careful: either they train in an environment where the instructors are serious about safety and they pick up the culture, or they've trained long enough to get the serious waking-up-in-the-night kind of fear that comes of seeing a fatal or near-fatal accident up-close and personal.

And, right there, we have an unpleasant question about Hollywood stunt co-ordinators, who choreograph these 'fights': are they actually any good at the weapons and techniques that they portray? What kind of 'expert' shrugs off the advice of the on-set consultant they're paying to advise on adding realism - a combat veteran, or a long-serving law enforcement officer - when the advice is: "No, that's not okay. And I know it's not about 'realism', it's a performance. But that's dangerous and stupid and people will see this crap and they won't know any better and the'll get maimed when they try it".


This is the thing about Dan grades; it would be lazy to suggest that the Confucian respect for elders thing was in action here, but... You don't ever go down a grade. Get old, slow, fat - no matter, you're still a 7th Dan.

By contrast, my skills as a shooter are dropping. I can still compete against the bright young things, but the fact that I'm not training 20 to 30 hours a week (and age-related eyesight issues) mean that skill fade is truly in evidence. If I went to a competition, my average would probably put me in B class, not A class (I'd still enter A class, that's pride for you). You'd see white-haired former Scotland competitors grafting in C or D class against the school kids.

There's a 10th Dan Judoka in Edinburgh - nice guy called George Kerr, credited in part with making Edinburgh a Judo centre of excellence, certainly within the UK (it's the reason why so many English-borrn Judoka are naturalised Scots for Commonwealth Games purposes; they've made their life here now). The grading was apparently notable, because he achieved it before he was 80 (he was 79) - the UK honours system awarded him the CBE, as an equivalent to the Japanese honour awarded with the grading.

As I heard it described, after about 5th Dan, the grading isn't about your technical skills - it's about what you give to the sport. Your ability to instruct and coach, and to teach others to instruct and coach. Your ability to organise and lead and grow the sport.

The pride thing plays it's part. That black, or red, or red and white belt, is a visual signifier - the equivalent in my sport is the people who have a GB badge somewhere on their jacket, or who turn up wearing a team track suit or sweatshirt (the term "track suit hunter" probably has a martial arts equivalent). I tried to avoid this - plain jumpers, nothing on the jacket but my name ;)


The advice on several courses, from those who had been there and done that, was to aim low. With any weapon. Whether on automatic or not.

I suspect that the reason is that adrenalin and poor follow-through (i.e. managing the quarter-second between "deciding to fire" and "muscles in the trigger finger get the nerve signals to contract") can lead to the firer starting to worry about the next target, or moving, before they've actually finished firing the current shot. Worst case, if you hit the ground in front of your target, the ricochets will wound them.

Bursts of automatic fire, unless coming from a bipod or tripod, isn't going to hit after the first round beyond ten or twenty meters. Tried it on a field firing range; even with a solid position and hold, my bursts of two to three rounds at a target 100m away might as well have been single shot. Even with a machine-gun, it's tricky; given a choice, the best light-role MG gunners in the army will fire very rapid single shots if they want to hit a single target beyond a hundred meters or so. Again, tried it (there are some advantages to running the battalion shooting team).

The result is that automatic fire is only used in certain situations; either inside a building, or to create an instant weight of fire at close range, e.g. on triggering an ambush; so you can push your enemy down into cover; or to break contact and run away, sorry withdraw in good order. After that, anyone blazing away is an amateur.

As for Hollywood, there is one fight choreographer who is ex-SAS; he did "Heat", and obviously Michael Mann listened to him... It wasn't just the weapons and effects, it was the weapon skills (what, taking cover to reload? Unheard of!), and the use of team fire and movement.

What was interesting was watching marksmanship under stress. Our reserve unit had a chance to use the shoot/ don't shoot ranges designed for Northern Ireland pre-deployment training. It was interesting to see how capable, sensible, and trained soldiers could make mistakes and shoot at an unarmed target; e.g. gunman ducks round corner, passer-by appears in their place. That's why units spent weeks on that kind of range, not hours...


Totally, Martin, that's why I used past when I wrote "what he did in his young days.".
And I guess your 10th Dan Judo Black Belt could not fight anymore but probably was able to teach even good grapplers one thing or two...
(actually, I reacted because Tricia thinks Segal teaching a MMA fighter is stupid or a play... Segal fighting now in a MMA cage would be stupid or a play. But Segal teaching, well, it's what he did for several years...)

Now, as for Aikido or any martial arts being useful in a fight, Tricia, as any martial art teacher will tell you, first you run (or do anything to avoid fighting), then you fight, and if you fight you don't do (insert martial art of choice), you fight.


That fire-at-the-feet pattern is a side effect of the special effects technology. If you want to make it clear they are being shot at, and there's nothing else close to the performer, the pyrotechnics go into the ground. You maybe have a stunt double instead of an expensive actor, and they are very careful about where they stand.

If the audience doesn't see the misses apparently hitting something, they won't believe any shooting happened.

I can think of one variation of this, a strafing run by a plane. You see a row of strikes on the ground, missing the target, and then you see him go down with the bullets hitting. That does make sense, and it does make clear to the audience that a lot of bullets were flying.


One a similar theme, anyone here sneering a General Colin Powell on the grounds that any well trained 19 year old squaddie could kick the shit out of him? You know, the military are the REAL martial arts


[T]hey spent about three seconds trying to punch Dave, who evades and blocks (never gets as far as a lock/throw) at which point they discover they can't lay a hand on him, panic, and run.

I did some aikido years ago, and this is about my experience in the one scary situation I got into at the time.

There was this one guy who got angry at me walking down the street, over a zebra crossing, got out of his car and started to come at me. I was a young man then, and never a good runner, so running didn't even enter my mind when I saw this big guy walking towards me and raising his arms. I don't know if this is rationalization afterwards or what I really did think then, but my first reaction was not to hit him or even try to hurt him. I saw that he was smoking a cigarette and I had the idea of grabbing the cigarette out of his mouth. I went under his arms, didn't grab the cigarette, and didn't even touch him, but I did get my open hand very close to his face.

He turned around, got into his car, fast, and drove away. After my pulse had reached normal levels I realized that this was basically what my aikido teachers had talked about when they talked about atemi. Also, that things could have gone very bad very fast there, and I was glad they didn't.

After that I've never been in a such a situation, and I'm very happy about it. I also think that aikido is a usable art even in the real life situations, but it's more useful in trying to avoid or defuse the violence situations.

Nowadays, if I'd prioritize my time to include martial arts training, I would either find a good aikido group, or go to Guy Windsor's salle again. He teaches swords from a historian's point of view, and explains a good bit about the motivation in his new book The Medieval Longsword.


Fighter Ronda Rousey on Steven Seagal in MMA:


Steven Seagal, Where's he now?
Oh yeah: there.
unfortunately doesn't include him saying "Oookkhraine".


MMA fighters talking smack about other styles, what a surprise - honestly I prefer the WWF at least they have the integrity to admit they're about money and entertainment - a quick look at the rules shows the MMA lot don't really practice pretty much anything you'd expect to see in a real fight:

personal favorite:
"Engaging in any unsportsmanlike conduct that causes injury to an opponent" is a foul.

If you're trained not to do or deal with any of that you won't in a situation where you don't have time to think. Its particularly egregious with the emphasis on going to ground, works great when you've got a referee to watch your back but its pretty obvious that just about every other style (wrestling excepted, can't think of another) and the historical experience in general demonstrates that you really don't want to be on the ground in a fight. IMO people really learned the wrong lesson from the advent of MMA, its not that one style is superior, its the rules and the assumptions about those rules you've incorporated in training that will determine who wins. And the MMA fighters are also training to rules.


This piece of highschool violence illustrates the point rather clearly

You can see than once he's thrown her, he's 100% tied up and the action's still going on. Fortunately the people who arrive seem friendly.


Anyway... I don't watch movies for fight scenes so realistic they might have been filmed in the local school playground. I watch them for entertaining artists like JeeJa Yanin in Chocolate


I love your series on marial arts so far, but two things:

-your philosophy sounds mighty close to Guided Chaos taught in New York (books and website is Attackproof), yet you don't mention it at all. Do you not know about it? If not, check it out and comment, if you will.

-By pure coincidence (a neighbor's recommendation) I just last night saw Warrior. Featuring the type of fighting you featured in your Hoost video. Since this is a Hollywood film, can you comment on this particular film? Do you see it as realistic? Do you see it as cleansing as the Hoost footage?


A couple comments on previous comments:
Re: WWF 'integrity'. The only reason the WWF admits that it is entertainment is because the athletic commissioner of New Jersey figured that if those were actual athletic contests, his office needed to be involved. The WWF didn't like that, for obvious reasons.

Re: Modern fencing as anything actually approaching combat. Yes, fencing has its roots in killing the other guy. And every art that does sparring has rules, otherwise people get hurt. And I'll even go so far as to say that the moves would work. What does not work is the current mindset, which is to just hit the guy before he hits you. Some research into the 16th century indicates that 75% of rapier duel participants died. It's not good enough to hit the other guy first. You must also not get hit.

Re: 'no-mind'. One thing people tend to be ignorant of is that no-mind (mushin) is not a fighting state, but used as a transition to 'ready-mind' (zanshin). The ability to enter into zanshin at will is one of the goals of many martial arts, particularly Japanese ones. 'Mastery of one is mastery of all' and all that.

Re: 'good' driving. A good driver sees far enough ahead to not be there when the accident happens.

Re: Planning out a fight in advance. This can work, especially in a setting where you know your opponent and what they're likely to do. That's why the pros scout their opponents.

Really, it's not the art, it's the person wielding the art. And so far no one has mentioned John Boyd or his influence on modern fighting, even though his specialty was aerial aircraft combat. Look up the 'Boyd loop' or 'OODA loop' and see where it fits into your perceptions.

As for my own history, I did savate at 12, wrestled and fenced epee through high school. Lived at a TKD school for a couple years. Did kendo in college. Done this and that since then, including some of the modern interpretation of Fiore. Once you're into it, you tend to pick things up from everywhere.

Living at the TKD school in the early 80's was a trip. The savate/wrestling/fencing experience definitely had me sparring above my grade, even with point rules. The couple times I was able to talk guys into allowing grappling it became clear that they didn't have a clue about that. And that school also had the only boxing ring in town at the time, so all the full-contact (mostly PKA) guys trained there. One of my few regrets is that I didn't take a pro fight. The promoters liked that when the rules dais 8 kicks in a round, I'd usually be doing something like 30 (savate is like that).

I also did a stint as a bouncer while in college. Sure, beating up drunks isn't fighting so much, but I very rarely had to hit someone. My job was to take their attention from the customer they wanted to beat up, keep everyone (including the aggressor) safe, and get them out of there. Rarely did it come down to blows.

But when it's not my job, I stay away from that sort of conflict, because winning is not fighting at all. And a large part of not fighting at all is to look ahead.


A good driver sees far enough ahead to not be there when the accident happens.

That was part of my point I think; certainly a good driver is aware of their environment at distances that appear precognisent to a poor one.


@#60 I'm sorry, I haven't seen the movie you reference.

With respect to Guided Chaos, I hadn't heard of it but I've gone and had a look. From what I can see, this is just another self-defence system based on drilling. I can't see any evidence that they fight.

These kinds of systems used to appeal to the military and police and maybe they are still clinging to respectability in some quarters. However, since MMA came around it's possible to train people in fighting context. Drilling is really only useful as a support to fighting. It can't replace fighting. So I am very suspicious of anything that doesn't have fighting as a central part of the training.

This is the direction that the military is now moving in for unarmed one-on-one training:

There are a bunch of things on the Guided Chaos site that ring my alarm bells. It's very typical of the self-protection industry: here's an easy way to deal with terrible violence that you can quickly master. No. This is in my opinion a very dodgy industry--police and celebrity links notwithstanding. I've seen some of the police instructors in the UK, too. Some of them are not worth the time of day imho.


@raito John Boyd! My partner Steve is a HUGE fan. I can't comment myself to any depth, but yes. Great stuff.


Strong like on the Boyd Loop comments (the OODA cycle is a big thing on the Army's Staff Course). I found myself trying to explain it to my twelve-year-old after he had a hard time at a Judo competition; he was repeating the same attack, or not attempting attacks at a high enough frequency, such that his opponents were operating inside his decision cycle. He found himself reactive, not proactive...

I then found myself explaining it to his (Scotland and GB representative) coach; who hadn't heard of it before. But got it immediately, because it chimed with his experience; he just hadn't heard it described in those terms.

As for the security industry - there are indeed some charlatans out there, for example selling expensive bodyguard training courses, while proclaiming themselves to have experience and knowledge beyond their fantasies of adequacy. Mindful of OGH, I will only suggest that one such individual (who proclaims himself to have been awarded decorations from strange organisations) has entered legendary status on the Army Rumour Service forum... his particular association of bodyguards is not particularly well regarded, however international a franchise it may be, and however qualified he is in Jujitsu.

I was training on the ranges at Bisley when he turned up with a bunch of teenagers, and proceeded with some pre-booked range time. It didn't take us long to figure out that this wasn't a qualified coach introducing some developing target rifle shooters to the 50m outdoor range...

By the end of the day, and after several of us had offered to help what appeared to be an out-of-his-depth coach with said total beginners, we put together various snippets of conversation to realise that these had been paying individuals doing what he had claimed to be "counter-sniper training". Given that the range officer was ex-Royalty Protection Squad, one of us ex-infantry, and one of us a Met Armed Policeman, we were well qualified to say that this was nothing of the sort. IIRC, he was immediately barred from the facility...

AIUI he was selling overpriced training to gullible individuals, implying that this would get them entry to the lucrative "circuit", and a jet-set life guarding rock stars, when in fact they'd be lucky to get a job on a nightclub door.


For those of you who are curious, Hugh Laurie in the Gun Seller had the best explanation of the Boyd/OODA Loop:

"Boyd's theory was based on the utterly facile observation that when A did something, B reacted, A did something else, B reacted again etc, forming a loop of action and reaction. The Boyd Loop. Nice work if you can get it, you may be thinking. But Boyd's Eureka moment, which to this day causes his name to be bandied about military academies the world over, came when he hit on the notion that if B could do two things in the space of time it normally took him to do one, he would get 'inside the loop' and the forces of right would thereby prevail.

Lang's Theory, which amounts to much the same thing and a fraction of the cost, is that you punch the other chap's face before he has a chance to get it out of the way."


Militaries do not actually put much emphasis on unarmed combat. They certainly train nowhere near as much as even the casual amateur. The reason is simple: the only reason you would be grappling or punching etc is because you don't have a working gun (neither rifle nor pistol) nor do you have a knife, nor any improvised weapon such as a stick. Nor do you have your fellow soldiers nearby who do have those things. That is a very unusual situation, and if you are in it you are probably fucked in any case.


I think I know of whom you speak.

This is a bit off to one side of martial arts, but similar.

You remember the London Olympics and the Royal Jubilee? Does anyone remember that busload of unemployed people, on an officially endorsed training course, who were dumped under a bridge in London, and supposed to be Stewards for the Water Pageant?

And then there was the collapse of the plan for the Olympics, which let to the military providing the organised manpower for bouncer-level security. Stewarding is apparently the technical term. The stories I heard from visitors were of them doing a good job.

The relevant point to all this is that this work is a regulated business. You need to complete a training course and get a certificate before you can be lawfully employed as a bouncer. And, while there were suspiciously well-connected companies involved in training unemployed people (who had to do the training or lose benefits), the Regulator never seemed to have noticed them. A trainee can work under the direct supervision of a certified steward, but these big companies, which failed to deliver for the Olympics, never seemed to have the resources to deliver the training and get the trainees through the process of certification.

It's nothing fancy, it's often not even at the bouncer level, and, once you had the certificate, and could have said you'd done the job at the Olympic Park, there's all sorts of these jobs. Look at your local newspaper, and see all those crowded fund-raising events. It doesn't look half as bogus as those so-called protection courses.

There's some extra ugliness in all this from the involvement with the unemployed, from the public funding, and from the total failure to deliver. Those not-very-useful martial arts do deliver something, even if they're useless at self-defence. But we do seem to be willing to be conned, and I wonder why.

(There seem to be two distinct con-games running here. One is the general martial arts con over training to fight for real, which extends into things like "protection" training from bogus whatsits. The other is the con-game of government contracts for something useless, what used to be "Tony's Cronies", often arising from the privatisation of government "services".)

(I can see why the Scots can feel so annoyed with Westminster.)


All of this unfortunately fails to address the actual fighting styles needed when one will encounter the commonest fight situation nowadays: the aggressive drunk.

Commonly this is a teenage or young adult male who has drunk way more than his mind can cope with, has utterly failed to pull anything that night and is pissed, slighly hung over and is raging at the unfairness of life, the universe and everything. He's been booted out of a nightclub by the practiced hands of the bouncers, and he's looking for trouble; you look like a good punchbag for him.

Now then, what fighting style do you fancy employing?


a) Running
b) A basic punch in the face and/or low kick - both delivered straight - no fancy hooks or roundhouse kicks (except to thigh)

In short, about half a dozen techniques will win 95% of fights you are ever likely to get into - if you do them right. How many do boxers need?


You're quite right about it for conventional war, although it is changing slightly with counter-insurgency. I suspect most of the US Army response is about developing self-confidence and an aggressive response in the presence of a threat; there were some worries in the US Army that their traditionally rear-area troops in Iraq hadn't trained for or expected to be in a fight, because that was what infantry and armour were for.

...the British response is generally "fix bayonets". Useful, because even the daftest and least situationally aware soldier realises that this signals a significant change in expectations. As a trigger, it is psychologically very powerful. Watching a female conduct a properly-run bayonet range was enlightening.

The Israeli response is apparently intended to give a young soldier the confidence to try to defend themselves against the situation where they turn a corner and are cut off by a weapon stoppage, a few yards, and enough seconds from the rest of their section.

The US example I heard was one in which the local Taliban decided that they would snatch hostages from a meeting with village elders, because mob handed at close range against unarmed Westerners? Those soft types who can't fight without their air support? To the discovery that five or six scrawny 5-foot-eight types came off second-best against severely motivated six-foot-plus, well-fed, well-trained, muscled from carrying a 40kg+ load everywhere for six months, trio of soldiers, and then the sidearms came into play...


Well, if you do turn a corner and find yourself face to face with the enemy, and you gun has jammed, you do not throw away that steel club and slug it out MMA style.
Overall though, you are correct about it being good training. Anyone who is too scared to dive in and take a punch in the face should not be on a real battlefield with real bullets flying.


The Israeli response is apparently intended to give a young soldier the confidence to try to defend themselves...

From what (admittedly little) I've seen of IDF Krav Maga training the focus is on situations where a soldier is rushed by a group of people and needs to get out of it as quickly as possible. That often requires using whatever is available as a weapon; that jammed rifle will be held in both hands and used as a barrier and club and the soldier will attempt to do what it takes to get away.


Bayonets and rifles aren't what they were. The combination a British soldier was carrying, a hundred years ago, was considerably more dangerous to an enemy. The rifle was 44-inches long, extended with a 17-inch bayonet blade. The current L85 is only 31-inches long.

I don't know the current drill, but in the Lee-Enfield era, and earlier, it made use of the bayonet and butt. Kipling mentions that in one of his poems.

Ho! My!
Don't yer come anigh,
When Tommy is a playin' with the baynit an' the butt.

Whatever the limits of the current rifle, and it's a dangerous tactic in modern warfare, Mr Tommy Atkins can sometimes still match Mr Kipling. And would you want to stick around?


My Grandfather survived the entire Great War after having joined the Durham Light Infantry in the first wave of enthusiasm...Join Up LADS or You'll Miss IT!! - And - despite his qualifying for a small non indexed linked pension for gas injury he was recruited to guard railway stations with his trusty SMLE during WW2.

Don’t know about Bayonets but he believed in keeping the enemy at a distance and he told me of This Technique...

" Published on 14 Feb 2014

This short video shows how to charger-load a Lee-Enfield and how to cycle the bolt rapidly while maintaining reasonably aimed fire. I keep the bolt between my thumb and the ball of my hand while pulling the trigger with my forefinger. For the purposes of this demonstration I'm using my own reloads of 23 gr IMR 4759 behind a Sierra 150 gr .311 spitzer bullet, giving about 1900 fps. It's a reasonably powerful load for practicing the technique before moving on to full-strength military loads. The rifle is a No 1 Mk III* made in 1943 at Ishapore in India, with lots of dings in the wood that indicate field use; there was sand in the butt-plate when I .."

Apparently a really practiced soldier of the Great War could do even better, though some of my Grandfathers comrades believed in the efficacy of short barrelled shot guns as a back up.

It seems to me to be sensible to keep the bloke with the big sharp pointy thing as far away as possible from your delicate tummy as you kill him.

Oh, and my next door neighbour is a former professional soldier and he was trained to be a sniper in the 1950s ..with a varient on the good old SMLE that was still in service back then.

Since its Bobs birthday real soon now I looked up this for his wife ...

She didn't ask me to do the research but, well ..he bought her a box set of Catherine Cookson D.V.Ds for her birthday and it too much to ask for?


I know about the Mad Minute.

The minimum standard for a British Army infantryman in August 1914 was 15 hits in 1 minute on a 12-inch target at 300 yards. The record, set by Sjt Alfred Snoxall, is 38 hits.

The basic methods were still being taught to soldiers at the end of the Second World War, but the standards of the 1914 professional soldier were black-belt level.

My own grandfather said a few rude things about the American units he was attached to in 1918. Too many of them, he said, would get themselves shot. The British Army learned how to defeat the Germans. And then they had to do at all over again.

What is it about pustulant posturing politicians who want to start wars?


I wouldn't characterize the Boyd loop as simply as 'hit the other guy first' or 'make 2 moves to his 1'. Nor would I discount the fact that the Boyd loop was originally intended to be applied to dogfights in which both physics and the capabilities of particular aircraft cannot be exceeded.

I think a better characterization would be:

You and your opponent are both running OODA loops. If you can run yours faster, for any reason, then at some point your opponent is using old information, at which point what you are currently doing looks like magic to him, and is not predictable.

And it doesn't matter how yours runs faster. Those old masters? They might not be so quick on the 'act' part of the loop any more. But because they have vast experience, they can execute the 'observe', 'orient', and 'decide' so much faster it doesn't matter how quick your fist is.

The entire climax fight of The Musashi Flex is predicated on this very point.


Great post!

Sam Harris wrote a couple of blog articles about self-defense which were also very insightful.



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This page contains a single entry by Tricia Sullivan published on September 12, 2014 10:44 AM.

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