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What's the Foundation of Your Fighting System?

You can’t learn to swim on dry land, but you can’t learn to swim in a tsunami either.  Progression is the most efficient vehicle for you to foster skill.  No matter which way you look at it, skill development is the key that unlocks the basic fundamentals that allows you to begin to grow and prosper within your chosen art or discipline.  Too many disregard these building blocks and use “reality” as a scapegoat, but the real truth is that your development should represent more of a spiral matrix than a ladder that you climb.  Disregarding this and jumping straight into full speed scenarios and/or sparring will simply result in a bunch of assholes and elbows and guess the news?  Nobody is progressing anymore!

Allow me to take a moment to clarify this.  In most martial systems, the grading structure follows a “climbing the ladder” approach from white belt to black belt.  In fact, many systems will, at certain stages of development, tell you that what you learned at level x, you can now forget because you have finally progressed to level y.  With the spiral matrix approach, you are maintaining all of the concepts that you have learned at each level, but you are adapting the previous level’s skill capability with the new or higher level’s expectations.  This way, everything you learn has scope for improvement and growth, and more importantly it allows you to inculcate the material so that you can express it at will and under pressure.  In other words, when the shit hits the fan you’ll be ready to rock!  This is what it is about: constant filtering, constant evolvement and constant improvement.  Some may misunderstand this to mean that I am prescribing learning a plethora of techniques, but in fact techniques as they are directly translated are the least important element here.

Let’s take a moment to muse over this visualization.  Describing the system that you train in, visualize the system metaphorically as a tree.  The roots of the tree symbolize the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual attributes that every fighter needs to possess to be complete.  Without these attributes honed and polished, few are successful in pulling off life saving moves when it comes to the crunch time.  Of course there is a hierarchy of needs with these attributes and most people start with the physical part.  In both your personal development and instruction to others, you’ll find that dealing with the physical attributes not only keeps you honest, but it helps to keep you non-hypocritical as well. 

A brief list of physical attributes to pay attention to are: body mechanics, sensitivity, explosiveness, footwork, strength, timing, power, flow, speed and ambidexterity.  Progressing from there we add the mental element.  It is here that you are ready to develop your awareness, combat mindset, killer instinct, perception, will to survive and hunter/prey psychological warfare.  There are many drills that can bring out these attributes and help you to understand and embrace the sudden violence that could be directed at you when you least expect it.  Anything could be coming at you: fists, heads, knives, bottles or even the threat of a gun.  Whatever course you choose, your overall mental attitude will enable you to do something fast.  To hesitate can easily become fatal. 

The next element is the emotional aspect.  Don’t worry, we aren’t getting all touchy feely here; this deals exclusively with fear, anger and combat stress.  Stress is a result of you being out of your depth and untrained, or succinctly put, unprepared.  Undue stress transmutes into fear.  Interpreting fear and allowing it to consume you negatively triggers anger.  As all these components are emotions that are felt in the body, the mind quickly takes part convincing you that you are doomed escalating the thinking process.  This process can then quickly cycle between the mind and body eventually resulting, in some cases, into a complete paralysis causing you to freeze where you could easily wind up being beaten up, taken into captivity or even killed. Many people are abducted in broad daylight in busy town or city centers, especially women and children, as a result of that freezing response.  What you do at that precise crystal moment will make all the difference for your future.  Learning to control stress, fear and anger will allow you to become dispassionate about your assailant and enable you to focus on trouble shooting the situation, ultimately achieving control, allowing you to make a decision to act.

After that, the roots of the tree finish up with the spiritual component.  It is here where we take a look at your belief system, ego management and self discovery.  It is at this stage that you can foster the qualities of real courage, confidence, humility and high morale.  This is what establishes a sense of purpose in your life, contribution and giving something back.  Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues is a good example of the qualities that would influence your personal growth, self discovery and foster a bullet proof belief system for your survival.   

Strategy determines doctrine.  The actual implementation of that strategy to achieve the desired objectives is called tactics and that begins with physical contact.  The methodologies are the various ways to inculcate the tactics of the system and allow you to operate at your maximum level; in other words, this is how you get good!  The techniques are the particular ways to manipulate the body’s natural weapons in order to come up with a variety of ways to carry out the task at hand.  At the point of contact, unpredictable equations could very easily start to become part of the scenario.  This is where adaptation comes in to address those volatile engagements where we could end up on the ground, facing multiple attackers and/or having to deal with weapons.  The best tactical school to test all of this is operational experience.  It is here where we can absorb what is useful and reject what is useless.  Through many years of “battlefield tested” operational experience, the doctrine of a system starts to take shape and in our metaphor, the system’s doctrine represents the trunk of the tree.

A sound doctrine would involve assessing the threat, delaying the threat, defending against the threat, neutralizing the threat, escaping the threat and finally above all other costs, surviving the threat.  Within the scope of the aforementioned formula would include, in no particular order, disengaging from the threat.  Comprising of strategy, tactical, situational and positional training, all training is more easily acclimated by organizing the material into bite size training modules.  These training modules hold the key to unlocking the training methodologies which are responsible for learning the basics of executing the tactics, countering the tactics, skill development drills of the tactics and then pressure testing the tactics standing, kneeling and grounded with and/or against empty hand, knife, stick and/or gun.  These training methodologies represent the branches of the tree.  Cross training in various styles gives us a snapshot of how this works in relation to refining a tactic.  Training methods from different systems can be employed to accelerate the learning process and transmute that into a pressure testing structure fairly rapidly. 

Last and least important are the leaves of the tree.  This illustrates what the techniques stand for.  For some reason, so many martial artists hold on to bags full of leaves, carrying them around wherever they go like precious deities.  We don’t need to know 142 ways to choke someone out, or a 56 deep counter for counter series for countering a wrist grab.  The stability lays in the foundation of the tree- the attributes; continues with the importance of a sound doctrine; the methods for skill acquisition and a few variables of the body’s natural weapons.  There are always a hundred ways to perform a technique; let’s just concentrate on a few of the best and most efficient ways for you to survive sudden violence.  If you don’t believe me, the next time you are walking in the park and a big ol’gust of wind comes along, look to see what the first things are to go from the tree- that’s right, the leaves.  So the next time you go to a seminar take a good look around you and don’t be surprised if you suddenly see most of the attendees carrying around trash bags full of leaves (techniques) like fool’s gold.


Joe Hubbard’s professional background is represented by a collective body of experience that spans over more than two decades of operational security know-how, close protection operations and close quarter combatives training. He is a highly sought out personal protection specialist who has authored five instructional DVDs and has written articles in international martial arts magazines such as Martial Arts Illustrated, Combat, Black Belt UK and Budo International. As a respected self-defence instructor, Joe has proven experience teaching many elite operatives that include former Special Forces operators, U.S. Marines, UK law enforcement, private corporations and responsible private citizens. As a licensed close protection operative, he has been trained in force protection tactics, counter-terrorism, tactical first aid, counter-surveillance, IED awareness and personal protection. Joe also holds many accredited instructor certifications and multiple black belts in martial arts systems comprised of unarmed combatives, ground fighting, knife/counter knife, stick fighting and fire arms.





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