GETTING YOUR MIND RIGHT, PART III
By Lt Col Al Ridenhour
"First a Warrior or all else is Folly"
--Master John McSweeney
One area that I still think is a point of confusion for many practitioners within Ki Chuan Do is knowing how and when to apply the skills when initially entering the fight. Many students state that they understand how to get loose and how to flow and adapt once in the fight due to the Contact Flow exercises, however where they often find themselves at a loss is within the no-mans land between the distance from themselves and a potential attacker and the point of making initial contact. I think I understand their confusion because after all, in a real fight, no one is going to walk up to you and place their hands in front of you to either flow or spar. Fair enough.
In this newsletter (Part III) I will attempt to explain basic awareness techniques and Mind-setting. In Part IV I will focus on the concept of attacking the attacker and how to make it work for you; I believe there is still some confusion on this. This newsletter picks up where Parts I and II (written by Ari Kandel, 1st Degree KCD) left off and liberally borrows from the two previous newsletters. In summary, Ari correctly deduces that aside from practicing entry moves, "Mindset" is perhaps the most important determinant of your success in a life-or-death violent situation, and in order to develop for yourself a strong mindset, you should:
- Eliminate erroneous beliefs, and learn and accept the realities of violence.
- Engrave into your mind the solutions to critical decisions that must be made in the first split-second of a violent assault.
- Mentally rehearse likely self-defense situations, visualizing yourself applying the correct principles to survive and escape.
- Identify and cultivate your motivation, so that it may push you to survive against all odds
- The Blind Leading the Blind...
One fallacy that seriously needs to be put to rest (because this is really getting ridiculous) is teaching that sportive fighting techniques work for real combat. I've discussed this ad nauseum in a number of newsletters so you already know my feelings on this sort of thing. This is truly nothing more than the blind leading the blind and is why the pioneers of WWII combative arts taught that sportive techniques are useless against an enraged determined attacker. However since there are still those who just don't "get it" I'm going to let these pioneers speak for themselves.
WHAT THE ORIGIN OF CLOSE QUARTERS COMBAT MEANS FOR YOUR LIFE
In the 1920's, Shanghai, China was arguably the most dangerous city on earth the city was over run by gangs and a corrupt government and the most notorious of these gangs was the "Green Circle Gang" run by the notorious Du Yat Sen (aka. Big Eared Tu), a ruthless thug who was believed to be the real power behind Chang Ki Shek at the time the city was sectioned off and occupied by both British and American forces whose duty was to maintain law and order. Among the most infamous were British officers Lt. Col. William Fairbairn and Major Earl Sykes. Both were highly proficient in Jujitsu along with other arts. During their time in Shanghai, they along with their men, were involved in approximately 666 violent armed and unarmed encounters in which they sent people into the hereafter. [see Shooting to Live, Paladin Press, 1990]
They would go on to teach our own OSS (Office of Strategic Services), Marine Raiders, and the British MID Commandos the dark art of death. Through trial and error (mostly error) they discovered that the most effective martial arts techniques were explosive open-handed strikes or "Atemi" to the neck, throat and eyes coupled with low powerful kicks especially utilizing the heel. Fairbairn and Sykes found through their experiences that grappling or controlling techniques in life and death conflicts were totally useless, moreover they were adamant about not going to the ground with an opponent. Fairbairn would state:
"If for some reason you find yourself on the ground, you must do everything possible to get to your feet as quickly as possible. The longer you stay on the ground the more opportunity you give your opponent to stab you, or for his comrade to kick you in the head. Additionally, if your opponent attempts to take you to the ground you should not go with him."
Fairbairn also discusses the difference between sport fighting versus real fighting as highlighted below during a training session when teaching British Commandos during WWII: [see The Close-Combat Files of Colonel Rex Applegate, Col Rex Applegate, Maj Chuck Melson, Paladin Press, 1998]
"At some time or another most of you have been taught at least the rudiments of boxing under the "Queensberry Rules" that training was useful because it taught you to think and move quickly and how to hit hard. However this is "WAR" and not sport, your aim is to kill your enemy as quickly as possible... Since this course of instruction is designed to teach you to kill it will be plain to you that its methods are dangerous. Your object here is to learn, not to damage, and you will get no credit if you break your training partner's neck. This system of combat is designed for when you have lost your firearm, which is something, you should not do, or when the use of firearms is undesirable for rear of raising alarm."
INSTRUCTORS LIVING IN A DREAMWORLD
CREATE NIGHTMARES FOR THE REST OF US
Col. Rex Applegate author of "Kill or Get Killed" and former ranking member of the International Combat Martial Arts Federation relates a story below which sums up the prevailing mentality even amongst many of today's close quarter battle and unarmed combat instructors highlighting the disconnect between understanding real gun fights or fighting versus competitive shooting:
"Over the past few years I began to notice some disturbing trends. My concerns were substantiated three years ago when I attended a lecture at a law enforcement conference on advanced handgun shooting. The young instructor said you put your foot forward here, and you put your other foot back here, control your trigger finger this way, always shoot with two hand, and use the sights for all types of close quarter shooting."
He certainly was not doing much thinking about the kind of shooting the cop encounters almost everyday on the street and in dark alleys. Anyway at the end of the class a SWAT team member of the audience got up and asked. "Young man, why do you think this is the best way to shoot at close quarters in a gun fight or for training policemen on the street?" The instructor said, "Because 50 of the world's greatest combat competition shooters shoot this way." [My emphasis]
The true essence of the martial arts is rooted in taking people out in the most efficient manner, not in breaking boards, doing splits, winning tournaments or rolling around on the ground trying to control people like fools. This concept is non-negotiable because a real fight is nothing less than an assassination attempt on your life. In real martial arts the goal is the survival of your self and the ultimate destruction of your enemy, so being a warrior has less to do with the physical something that sport fighting prides itself on and is a more a matter of mind and spirit. There should be absolutely no ambiguity about this. Anything in between is evil.
AWARENESS IS THE KEY
As grand Master Perkins states in Newsletter # 25 "REAL ATTACKS VS. DUELING:"
"A real life and death attack can occur almost anywhere and anytime. You will not be the one who gets to choose the conditions of the attack. A serious prison trained monster or psychopath will attack when you least expect it. He is not worried about his macho status he just wants you dead. He will always try to get you by surprise and he will usually have a weapon and one or more friends helping. These would-be assassins depend on trickery to get you into range. You could have the best competitive fighting ability and end up as lunch for a determined killer. NO ONE IS IMMUNE!!!! The only weapon that you have for this type of animal is highly developed awareness."
You see, once you develop your body through the principles of the art you must also be aware that there is a strategy to fighting. Now you can't obviously be prepared for everything so what you must focus on is developing a Warrior Mindset. Since you truly don't know what a person may do, by accepting certain truths about fighting and developing what I call good warrior habits, you begin to anticipate trouble and hopefully avoid it. The warrior habits must be rooted in principles and must be consistent with the adaptive nature of combat. The first level of this is Awareness.
Understand it doesn't matter what you know including KCD, if the enemy gets the drop on you you're done. Real attacks happen lighting fast and come from everywhere and out of nowhere, which is why awareness is your first line of defense. Awareness is a skill that everyone has but is often overlooked in martial arts training, mostly because people don't understand it. Awareness is being in tune with your surroundings; developing a more outward focus on what is going on rather than an inward one. It is the exact same skill one uses when driving a car in which your focus is on the "big picture" looking outward, observing everything that's going on in order to anticipate danger. In the same manner you must develop this same subconscious skill to become tuned in to your surroundings, and like driving, the more you do it the easier it gets, until after a while it becomes second nature.
Through awareness you begin to develop almost a "sixth sense" for avoiding trouble since you generally observe potential problems before they arise, allowing for time to counter a potential threat. You never know what another person is going to do from one moment to the next in a real fight. As stated in my newsletter on Balance you want to surround yourself with an invisible zone or what is referred to as your "Sphere of Influence."
Wherever you move, your sphere moves with you and anything which enters your sphere gets destroyed. By focusing outward and controlling your sphere, it allows you time to avoid an attacker's initial onrush, preventing his strikes from penetrating your body, or neutralizing his attack "before" he is able to get his stuff off. One of the visualizations I always like to use is to imagine yourself standing on a street corner in New York City and someone goes to grab your shoulder. Just at the last moment you catch a glimpse of them out of the corner of your eye. You instinctively yield or "answer the phone" (a KCD maneuver bringing your hand up by your face) causing them to fall into the street. Just at that moment a bus runs them over. Guess what? You win! It really is that simple.
AWARENESS CONCEPTS: AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION...
Now I'm going to break down this concept to hopefully clarify how this works. As always, this is just a basic concept and is in no way limited to what I am showing here but is a starting point from which to work. You see in Figure 1 above the familiar Sphere of Influence which has been discussed at length in previous newsletters. However this is only part of the story, in Figure 2 you can see that I have drawn an arch which covers 180° degrees and represents your field of vision to include your peripheral vision. Both of these rely on what is called your sub-cortical vision or as we like to say Spatial Awareness. Spatial Awareness is nothing more than the ability to judge spatial relationships in time and space relative to your location. Your field of vision is a part of your spatial awareness and is what allows you to react to what you see in relation to your body "before" a person is able to enter your Sphere of Influence.
Below in Figure 3 you can see that I have combined the diagrams. This is because they both work together. Spatial Awareness or sub-cortical vision extends as far as your field of vision permits. This is your first line of defense before they enter your Sphere of Influence. Now stay with me here, focusing outward creates an invisible zone around you like radar which allows you to become more aware of what is going on "before" a person has a chance to get close enough to affect you. Anyone that enters this zone is fair game and just by merely changing your body position or stepping off line you can thwart their initial attack angle. Because you have already observed them, in order for them to get their stuff off they will either have to suddenly move toward you or use some form of subterfuge in order to get the drop on you. Now you understand why criminals use the "Interview" technique. It allows them to get close to you without setting off warning signs, such as a sudden acceleration toward you indicating they are about to attack in some fashion. Point being, if your mind is focused outward, it's just not that easy to walk up and attack someone.
Figure 4 above shows how this works in a real setting. The yellow line represents your field of vision looking outward "getting the big picture," while the red line represents your Sphere of Influence. My red "Borg-like" figures represent potential attackers. Remember that distance equals time and the sooner you can observe their actions, and the greater the distance they have to cover, the more time it allows you to react to or pre-empt their actions. Though this is an oversimplification of this concept you get the idea.
Think of it like this: in bar room brawls, if you can avoid the initial onrush of an attacker (especially a sucker punch haymaker where the attacker almost always over commits), you survive. However if the attacker connects with that sucker punch haymaker he almost always wins.
By using awareness to scope things out and observe what people are doing, you buy time for yourself to react. Even if it's only a second; in a real fight, this is like an eternity. This concept works the same way as keeping a safe distance when following a car as opposed to tailgating. The closer you are and the faster the speed the less time you have to react. It's just simply action / reaction.
WARRIOR MIND SETTING
It's been shown that those who train for survival as opposed to trophies and merit badges are more able to deal with both the psychological and physical aspects of close combat, even if injured, which happens even when victorious in "real" confrontations. Many people have stated that because they were both physically and psychologically prepared to deal with the reality of violence, including the possibility of being seriously injured, they were able to control their fear, and rather than become paralyzed by it, became empowered into action through it.
A concept with which you may be familiar is "mind setting." This is a concept which Sanford Strong, author of the excellent book "Strong on Defense," discusses in depth. Mind setting is exactly that, setting in you mind before hand what you are going to do in the event of a possible assault on your life. By mind setting, when you practice the striking techniques or the KCD RHEM exercise (see our book Attack Proof) you begin to develop a realistic approach to dealing with violence.
When teaching this concept, one point I always like to stress is that, if you are not mentally prepared to deal with an attack on your life, or the reality of what really happens during a violent confrontation (including the possibility of being seriously injured) you are done. Therefore whether armed or unarmed, you must develop the mind-set to "think" and "strike" like an assassin, attacking the attacker. An assassin does not want a protracted fight: they want to get in, "finish it," and get out. By thinking and training in this fashion you will be able develop the ability to strike with lethal force to pre-empt a potential enemy attack.
You want to start with the skills and exercises such as the basic KCD Close Combat striking exercises, which do not require you to have a partner. You should practice striking first against a heavy-bag, then move on to working with a partner (but slowly to avoid injury). The key here is to focus on developing the proper body unity / body mechanics when striking while also emphasizing natural body movement. In other words there should be an emphasis on realistic body movements and not the esoteric flashy moves which are common in many popular forms of martial arts but lack any true effectiveness. As Ari Kandel states in "GETTING YOUR MIND RIGHT, Part 2":
"...Memorize, drill into your mind and constantly remind yourself of these Three Pillars of Survival Fighting:
I. Attack the attackers ASAP!!! - Crime statistics show that attacking with all you've got is vastly preferable to letting a violent criminal have his way with you. The more time you take to react to an attack, the more time you give the attackers to bring you under control, both physically and mentally
II. Escape NOW!!! - Get out of the situation as quickly as you can. Do not stand and fight or wait for the police, or hang around for any other reason.
III. Never, Ever Give Up!!! - People have escaped and survived dangerous situations after being riddled with bullets, after falling several stories, after being burned, blinded, etc. No matter what happens, so long as you don't give up, YOU CAN SURVIVE.
Having these principles echoing in your brain during a violent situation will go a long way toward eliminating hesitation-inducing indecisiveness under stress."
READING MORE LITERATURE ON DEVELOPING THE WARRIOR MINDSET
IS IMPORTANT BUT REMEMBER: DON'T BE THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE!
Before I move on think I would be remiss if I didn't provide a list of important readings to further the development of your mind beyond what is normally available through our newsletters and other writings.
There are a number of books on the market that offer all sorts of advice such as how to avoid the sucker puncher in a bar etc... these books cover the gamut: from the bar room brawler to the guy who wants to isolate you and roll you for money. Here's the deal: I've been doing martial arts for over 20 years, I grew up in the housing projects in a working class community and like a lot of folks, I've been in a lot of fights and seen more than my fair share of beat-downs. I've been to war twice and have been to some of the most dangerous places in the world. Moreover I'm related to many of the types of people that we tell folks to avoid because they are like, no kidding, "the wrong crowd" if you will, and are pure evil. I could go on but you get the point.
Yet in spite of all of my experiences, I don't hang out in testosterone-laden, alcohol-fueled, drug-infested bars or establishments. I don't go into bad neighborhoods unless there is a legitimate reason for me to be there. Now this is not to say that if I'm at a restaurant and there happens to be a bar there that I get up and leave but we all know the kinds of places that I'm talking about. If the place has a bad reputation, unless you work there as a bouncer or you own the place, then in my view you're just taking an unnecessary chance by hanging out there. If you hang out in clubs known to have a lot of fights, eventually you're going to get into a fight. It really is that simple. I hate to preach but it needs to be said because a big part of awareness is not placing yourself in a compromising position in the first place. I can't even tell you how many times people tell us that right before they were assaulted they just knew something wasn't right or something didn't feel right. It's just like when people ask me how do I counter this or counter that, the answer is always the same: at least to the best of your abilities you don't let it happen in the first place. If the bad guy gets the drop on you, game over...
Enough of that, below are what I believe are the minimum required readings one should undertake in order to gain a full appreciation for the proper mindset for effective fighting skills. While there are other great books out there, I feel this list of books provides the clearest and most concise understanding of the proper mindset needed to develop for an effective self defense posture. I call this the "Canon of Warrior Mindset Development."
Attack Proof: The Ultimate Guide to Personal Protection, Perkins, et. al., Human Kinetics, (2000)
Are you kidding, of course I was going to put this in here, "Attack Proof" lays the foundation as to how to go about developing the proper mindset for combat along with the skills necessary to deal with wanton violence. I believe at this stage of the game, without "Attack Proof," many of the other books would lack the proper context when read because while they all have strengths, their weaknesses are that they do not tie the concepts together for a holistic approach to combat since they are all narrowly focused on one subject or another. Some are strong on strategy, forensics or philosophy but are lacking in combative principles or techniques, some are almost all technique but lack the proper modality of training that can get you from here to there. Attack Proof in my view bridges those gaps. Where Attack Proof only grazes the surface on some of these topics, these books takes you down a path where, at the conclusion, you will understand why Grand Master Perkins "had to" create the art of Ki Chuan Do.
Strong on Defense: Survival Rules to Protect you and your Family from Crime, Sanford Strong, Atria (1996)
Arguably the scariest book on this list, this is the type of book that Grand Master Perkins himself has stated he wishes he had written. This book is a collection of horrific violent acts perpetrated on ordinary people collected and assembled into a book. This book, while essential, is not for the faint of heart. It is graphic and pulls no punches.
The Gift or Fear, Gavin de Becker, Dell, (1999)
As with "Strong on Defense," this is another book I place in the Canon of books that are required reading in order to begin to develop the proper mindset for the type of violence that really happens to people and not the fiction found in most martial arts schools. The Gift of Fear also delves into the mind of the criminal as well and offers insight into their warped psyche, again not for the faint of heart.
Kill or Get Killed, Col Rex Applegate, Paladin Press, (1976)
This is an excellent book which explores not only the development of WWII combative skills but offers a variety of techniques which focus on taking bag guys out quickly. Do not be put off by some of the techniques which pertain to controlling or grappling type moves, remember this book was also written for riot control and policing as a part of the US occupation forces in Japan and Europe after WWII.
The Close-Combat Files of Colonel Rex Applegate, Col Rex Applegate, Maj Chuck Melson, Paladin Press, (1998)
This is the story of how Col. Rex Applegate, William Fairbairn, Eric Sykes and Wild Bill Donovan trained and employed OSS and MID commandos during WWII. Many of these organizations were the forerunners of MI6, MI5, the SAS and the CIA. This book provides great historical context as to the development of some of the most effective fighting systems ever created. The simplicity of what they taught and the minimum training required for proficiency will shock you as to its effectiveness.
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Dave Grossman, Back Bay Books (1996)
Excellent book on the psychology of killing from an analytical perspective. While I don't agree with all of the author's conclusions it is an informative read none the less.
Go Rin No Sho (The Book of Five Rings) Miyamoto Musashi, Shambhala; New Ed edition (2005)
Shinmen Musashi No Kami Fujiwara No Genshin, or as he is commonly known Miyamoto Musashi, was arguably the greatest swordsman to live during his time. It is recorded that he slew a man in single combat when he was just thirteen. He was the victor in over 60 duels and fought in six wars, until he finally settled down at the age of fifty. The Book of Five Rings is a classic and a primer for developing the proper Mushin Warrior mindset.
Sun Tzu The Art of War, Ralph Sawyer, Westview Press; New Ed edition (1994) Probably one of the best books on military strategy and philosophy. These timeless principles are just as applicable today as when they were written over 2,000 years ago. Ralph Sawyer does a masterful job of providing the historical context to which the Art of War was written. When you read it (as with The Book of Five Rings) you will see the KCD mindset principles throughout. This is the book that I wish "I" had written.
That's it for now, stand by for Part IV.