Your Training

How do you train?

How do you train your students?

For many years I trained my students the way most martial arts studios conduct training. We would start off with basics, standing in place working on blocks, strikes, and kicks. Then we would continue on to moving basics where we would do the same types of things while moving in stances. After that I would give them a short break and go on to kata (forms), kumite (sparring), self-defense drills or whatever I had planned for that class.

One of my Senior Students brought up a good point one evening. She didn’t feel like punching air was doing any good for her. She realized that she was more or less working on technique but something just felt off about it.

I took some time and thought over what she had said. In a lot of ways she was right. Standing, or moving, and punching, kicking, blocking air does little good to gauge what kind of real power you have in your techniques. I incorporated the use of pads, kicking paddles, and heavy bags. We are fortunate enough to have the full-sized “BOB” bag and the smaller, green, “Bully BOB” bag. They are very realistic and give you the sense of actually punching or kicking an opponent.

I went a step further and made some changes in our self-defense drills as well. Realistically, no one is going to face you, bow, step back into a solid front stance, step forward and deliver a straight punch to your solar plexus. To train for that is to train for being defeated. I began having students throw “hay makers” instead. They did so more from a boxer’s stance and aimed for the head instead of the solar plexus. We live in a “Boxer Society”. Most of us have learned to punch to the head. Despite the fact that you are taking twenty-something of the smallest weakest bones in your body and hitting one of the hardest bones in the body, we all want to be Rocky Balboa and hit our opponent with that one “knock out” punch. By doing this my students realized that defending against that sort of attack was entirely different than defending from a straight – on attack to the solar plexus. They had to move their bodies differently. They had to block differently. It also opened up a whole new venue of counters they could use on the attacker depending on how they, as the defender, moved in response of the attack.

Seito Shito-Ryu utilizes Tenshin Happo. This exercise was created by Master Mabuni and teaches the student there are eight different directions one can move to defend themselves. Of course, if you look at it logically, there are 360 plus directions one can move to defend themselves. In Oriental thinking “eight” is the number of completion, If a person can do something eight different ways, the possibilities are endless for how many other ways it can be done. I began to have my students, especially my mid -level and advanced students, focus more on this philosophy.

I added even more realistic probabilities and drills. Getting pushed from behind. Being grabbed from behind. Every once in a while I will introduce a knife (rubber) defense technique into the training. The knife will come from nowhere and be a total surprise to the student.

I basically wanted to “stir the pot” and make my students think. I wanted to make them react to things that might actually occur. One amusing thing is watching a student try to dial 911 on a cell phone (turned off of course, I don’t need the local police busting down my front door just because we’re training). It seems to be working well. Just go grab one of my 6 year olds and TRY to drag / carry them off. I think you will get the surprise of your life…not to mention a couple of very sensitive areas of your body being painfully uncomfortable for a while.

To be perfectly clear, I don’t go “full bore” in training. But it does get rough and there is contact. I know guys who have “no contact” sparring in their dojos. If it works for you, fine. In my opinion (and it’s JUST my opinion) it’s pretty pansy and all you are doing is setting up your students to get hurt in a real situation. You will react the way you practice. There is an old saying “Sweat in the dojo, no blood on the street”. In other words: train the way you are going to fight. Don’t lose the philosophy behind your art. Never for get that you are practicing a martial art to forge a gentle heart and a kind spirit. But train in all seriousness.

  1. February 8, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    YES! This is GOOD! I beat up BOB once! Century Bob? I love bob… I wooped his behind at the chiropractor’s office once upon a time. I want to save up and get one of him at home. I thought I did really well too, until I thought… gee, if he had arms… LOL 🙂 heh… whut?

    I’m of the mind people need to know how to defend themselves. Period, amen. Not just to fight either. Ya… I guess I have to find a good place to go myself. Soon as I get back to work I’ll have to see about that.

  2. February 8, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Yes, Century BOB is a great training aid. I was lucky enough that when my partner who teaches Tang Soo Do moved in he had one. I had been using Bully BOB for years. Great target but made for children.

    • February 8, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      Oh how cute! Billy bob! LOL 🙂 Oh… sorry, “bully” bob. hahaha! that’s so cute! You know what I mean. My daughter, have I said this already? When she was 11 could knock over one of those red thingys, the tall cylinder sparing thing with a front kick. She’s a very powerful young lady. I want her to go again and get more training. The kind you’re talking about … none of the bowing and fluff. I would like to get into it myself… definitely.

      It’s, to me, such a healthy thing to learn in the right environment and for the right reasons. They have BOB’s on ebay for like 250.00 if you need other ones! 🙂 I have to save for him because I have this other dummy here and he’s more for training with lights (broken but good for hitting) and he’s too hard on my hands (even with gloves) I end up with bruised knuckles. Primarily because I don’t hit him right and my pinky in between it and my ring finger gets like I guess a popped blood vessel in it. He’s too hard … I need BOB!!!! LOL 🙂

      It’s great stress relief too… 🙂 That’s what my chiropractor recommended and she does it as well as martial arts classes. Which is oober kewl.

  3. February 9, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Gentleness and kindness that is armoured in effective self-defense PREVENTS the spread of non-gentleness and mean-spiritedness and FOSTERS the realization of how much the attacker truly would have a better life practicing gentleness and kindness also. Enabling someone to physical injure oneself badly does no favors for oneself OR the attacker, in the final analysis. I really appreciate finding your blog and your dojo’s methods and philosophy.

  4. February 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    And I appreciate your post granbe. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  5. February 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I rmember spending half the class time, doing exercises. I really got upset because I can exercise at home… but it truely made me stronger. The punching air was to refine the stance and technique, it also taught speed. I have a bag and used all sorts of bags when teaching. but if you do not align the fist properly a sprang hand is the result. I like your idea of pads and paddles. all are great tools in training. I am small framed and relish the way I was taught for speed is my asset. I used balloons too, the kids loved it, it moves and percision was the key, allowing it to float high and the object was to keep it in the air with only kicks.

    Your right, it is a contact situation you’re planning for so contact is the greatest lesson, we used one step and two step sparring to keep injury to a minimal. Yet they learn interaction and how to utilize echniques. My instructor always said, “if you can’t take the heat, don’t go in the kitchen.”

    wonderful and thought provoking post (~_~)

    • February 10, 2012 at 7:31 am

      Hi Zen. Thank you. And speaking of 1 step and 2 step sparring, if you haven’t already, you might like taking a look at the Advanced Ippon Kumite under the Videos section here on the blog. This is what I have went over to with my students who are a little more advanced.

  6. Drew
    February 13, 2012 at 2:02 am

    Ahh the ol’ 911 gross motor skill drlll.

    That is about the only way to truly convince someone that six of the numbers on a cell phone should be 911 speed dial that works when held down. Its bad enough that risk behavior increases when somone has a cellphone (look it up at the National Crime Prevention Council website) but when your adrenaline and seratonin kick in… kiss that precise dialing behavior goodbye.

    Another good drill is taking a car ignition out of a vehicle and having someone insert and turn the key immediately after stimulating the fight/flight response. Make it harder by adding more than one vehicle key to the ring.

    The rewarding part for me is seeing more advanced students being able to control the Anxiety Triangle as a result of traditional training. They can dial, turn and generally do more articulate movements under stress than beginners. Yet another advantage to good consistent martial training.

    • February 13, 2012 at 7:37 am

      Hi Sensei Drew.
      I like your idea of actually using a vehicle and working escapes and getting into (or out of) a real vehicle. I plan to do some things like that when it warms up a little.

      And by the way, we all really enjoyed the training this weekend. It’s great to share ideas with other instructors.

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