Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Being a Realistic Bad Guy in Training

One of the most overlooked and crucial components of training in martial arts for self defense is realistic behaviour and responses from "the bad guy". In most traditional based systems the bad guy executes his assault (usually in a traditional and formal way that you will never see in a street assault) and then stands perfectly still while the defender executes a barrage of skillfully executed techniques. While this allows the student to perform endless repetitions of a technique in a safe training mode, it is little better than doing the technique alone in the air.

Realistic training requires two things from the bad guy: realistic assaults and realistic behaviour.


Street thugs, robbers, rapists, and other scum of the earth don't use the cool karate moves they practiced at their local community centre to get what want from you. They don't step back with their right foot bringing their hands to a well crafted fighting position and then wait for you to signal them with a nod of your head before they launch into well balance and perfect reverse punch or step-through punch in a front stance or walking stance. Their strikes come from anywhere, they are looser and less predictable, and they will often wait until you are distracted before they strike.

Add these variables to your drills to increase your ability to read and respond to assaults more effectively in real situations:
  • Relax your body and allow your strikes to be wider and come at different angles: hooks, overhead strikes, hay makers, quick jabs, and sucker punches
  • Change your body position: switch your feet, vary the angle of attack (not everyone is going to be standing direction in front of your when they strike)
  • Change your distance: up-close and personal, charging distance, hand-shaking distance
  • Randomize your strikes (lefts, rights, high, low, fast, slow)
  • Add distractions: yelling and strike, turning as if to walk away and then strike, drop your hands and strike, push and strike, grab and strike, etc...
  • Strike at your partner: force a response by striking realistically and close enough you can actually make contact if he fails to defend. Punching in the air to the side of the face doesn't allow the same muscle memory programming to occur or the same fear to be experienced. You shouldn't feel safe while being attacked, there needs to be some risk.
  • Train with protective equipment from time to time so you can practise full force drills. Get some of Tony Blauer's High Gear if you are really serious about realistic force on force training.
By adding these components your training will be more realistic and you'll find out what techniques work best for you. It also allows you opportunities to experience doubt, fear and the effects of the adrenaline dump that are very real factors in a real life assault.
Believe it or not, when your hit someone for real, they will move. The bad guy isn't going to stand there and wait for you to hit him five more times and then let you take him to the ground. Every time you strike your assailant he (or she) will respond physically in a fairly predictable manner. The degree of this response may vary as will the recovery time (how long it takes for him to respond to your strike or counter-strike and launch another attack or flee). They also don't bow before the assault, release you when you tap-out or shake hands and hug when they've finished destroying you. They aren't polite. They will hurt you. They don't care.
Try adding some of these components to elevate the realism of your training:
  • Use good "pain reaction": if you get punched in the side of the head or face spin your head, shoulders and body away from the strike, groin strike - bend over, torso - cave into the strike, etc... If you aren't sure how to react, put on some protective equipment and let someone hit you.
  • Vary your degree of response: you won't always land the perfect strike with maximal power. Fights are dynamic and your target may move, you may be off balance etc... Sometimes respond a little, sometimes over exaggerate your response. It is important that you can adapt to these changes in real-time.
  • Don't always cooperate: it is important that if you take a good shot act like it. A hard hit will take some of the fight out of you, it may even stun you, knock you down or finish you. Likewise, a lighter hit or slightly off target may not slow you down. In that case, strike again, resist and even grapple.
  • Use fakes, misdirection, distractions and random assaults: even tell the defender you are going to do one thing and then do something else at the last moment.
  • Engage your body language: pushes, shoves, posturing, bumping, hand gestures, facial gestures and erratic behaviour are all realistic elements.
  • Use appropriate language: I mean SWEAR. Use every profanity you can think of and use it in a demeaning and aggressive tone. Again, street thugs are not going to be polite. They want to intimidate and victimize you. If you have never been cussed at and called horrible things with someone so close to your face you can smell what they ate yesterday, you need to.
  • Wear street clothes: It's not likely that you will be assaulted by someone wearing his white gi and green belt. Nor will you be wearing yours! You and your training partner should train in clothing that more closely resembles what you would wear when you leave your house. Jeans, dress shoes, jackets, skirts, heavy coats, business attire, a purse, and back-pack or gym back, brief case, sunglasses, etc... are all appropriate for realistic training. Use props, and your imagination. Add a piece of clothing that will help your training partner see you as a bad guy (just remember, not all criminals wear bandannas and leather, they may have a business suit, or appear professional).
  • Don't always attack: it is just as important to practice de-escalation tactics as it is to drill your defensive (and offensive) techniques. The first lines of defense are awareness and avoidance. If you can successfully talk down your aggressor you may be able to avoid getting physical altogether. Some people just want to be heard, some want a reaction from you. If they don't get the response they are expecting they may just move on.
By acting out the role of the bad guy more realistically, your partner will benefit both physically and psychologically. Failures will help identify areas where more focused training is required and successes will increase self-confidence and help control fear and adrenaline.
If you train in a traditional school talk to your instructor about adding some of these element to your training regime. Many will resist changing their "centuries old traditions", but you may find out your instructor has the same concerns about the training as you do. For some schools, maybe this kind of training is suited for a special class once a week or once a month for those who are serious and have the maturity to handle the training. You may have to get together with some friends and train on your own time.
Or, find a reality based self defense school that embodies some or all of these training principals. To find a Bojuka Self Defense School near you please visit http://www.bojuka.ca/ or http://www.bojuka.com/.