Martial Arts Mastery

The mastery of your own art depends on how well you apply the principles you learn. Here are some very useful hand to hand combat lessons from a switched on author with some very sound advice.

"He or she who turns and gets the heck out of there, will live to get the heck out of there again and again and again."

So, if you can avoid conflict by leaving the 'situation,' then that's a great course of action.

But if you can't escape trouble ... if conflict would follow you right out the door ... if the only way to stay safe is to deal with the situation, then ... do whatever it takes! Hand to Hand Combat mastery, Lesson #1

Mastery Lesson #1 -- Don't Play The Other Person's Game!

Bruce Lee was the first to popularize this sound piece of advice.

It makes sense.

Imagine you're in a bar, on a school yard, or at the park. A big, hulking giant starts to harass you. He is blocking your escape.

He takes a boxer's stance. His hands clench into fists.

If you're in a bar, you look over at the boxing trophy on the wall. Above the trophy you see a photo -- a younger version of the brute in front of you.

I hope at this point you are not thinking,

'Well, I have had a FEW boxing lessons. I might as well see what this giant can do.'

If you have a boxer in front of you, don't box.

If you see a guy start to circle you with open hands, looking to grab your legs and take you to the ground, you might have a wrestler.

If so, don't wrestle a wrestler.

So, how do you tell what you're up against?

In a future lesson, I'll give you specific instructions for gleaning a lot of information about your attacker, even before there is any contact.

For now, just try to avoid playing your attacker's game:

* If your attacker wants to grab you, be slippery beyond belief.

* If your attacker tries to take you to the ground, you stay out of range, and on your feet.

* If your attacker starts to high kick, you force the distance by working short techniques in close.

And what do you do, if a boxer tries to box you?

Answer: Kick him in the shin or knee!

But that's not fair!


Hand to Hand Combat mastery, Lesson #2

There's No Such Thing As a Fair Fight: Several Dirty Tactics

"You wouldn't really kick someone in the groin, would you?"

I am occasionally asked that question by some of my novice students. I think that they feel it would be dishonorable to use "unfair" tactics and techniques in a fight.

First, let me emphasize, there is a difference between sparring and an actual self-defense situation. In a classroom session, you may have to set up guidelines or rules, in order to keep everyone safe. On the street, you are defending yourself, to stay alive.

Don't treat the two situations as though they were the same "animal."

They aren't.

Many of the best martial artists are honorable people. Some even have a gentle nature about them, as a result of gaining confidence, while disciplining the mind.

This gentle nature develops with years of constant training. The "best" of these gentle folk would still do what it takes to survive in a real encounter.

So, what kinds of techniques would be considered unfair? Before we get down to specifics, let me give you some general advice:

* Any move that is illegal in competition, should be considered fair game on the street. Maybe the reason it was made illegal is just what you need to really defend yourself.

* Anything that could be labeled as a "cheap shot." Taking advantage of your opponent's weakness, injury, or disability is considered a cheap shot. So is catching your opponent off guard. And "faking" or feinting is definitely cheap. USE THEM ALL!

* Taking advantage of your environment is both cheap and 'unfair.' That's why 'I' wouldn't hesitate to use anything available to stay safe. Dirt or gravel in the face sounds effective. Sticks, canes, and even umbrellas can be used as bludgeons to pound on an attacker. Get the idea?

Recently, I examined some of the tactics and techniques I use that might be considered unfair.

There were too many to name.

I realized that a fair bit of my system is based on taking advantage of the immediate situation any way I can.

"Any way I can" translates to a lot of unfair tactics. A few of the tactics that I consider basic, yet super essential are:

*Obviously, go for the groin. Just think how awesome you'd be if your goal were to plaster the crotch, no matter what else happened in the fight. You might get tagged, but you would reach your goal-- and probably defend yourself in the long run.

*I would head for the eyes with an almost equal intensity as I would to the groin. Eye jabs are great. You extend your distance a bit. They are fast. If you actually succeeded with an eye jab against a serious assailant, would you have anything more to worry about (except being sued by the criminal or put in jail for excessive violence)?

*I step on feet. If I have my foot firmly planted on the lead foot of my opponent, I know that at least the front foot won't be kicking at me. Enough said.

You do realize that whenever you go into "unfair mode," you are probably increasing the potential legal damage.

In today's society, throwing "any sort" of kick or punch will probably attract some sort of legal repercussion, let alone an "unfair" technique.

Just keep in mind that a lot of times you can't plead minimal force in the eyes of the court ... if you do something that seems unjust. I am not the first to notice that justice in the courts can easily be skewed by perception.

Be careful.

Bonus Unfair Tactic:

*Use a control maneuver in between two series of damaging blows. Huh?

Here's what I mean: Usually, a wrist lock or an arm bar would be thought of as a controlling move to bring a sequence to a controlled close.

Instead, I continue wailing on my opponent "after" I gain control.

I have my initial strikes -- after all, I wouldn't try to respond to my opponent's attack with a lock before I countered with strikes of my own.

After doing some initial damage to my attacker, I am ready to try some sort of joint lock. OK, I lock my attacker. Am I done? Not a chance.

Now that I have some more control, I can really start to defend myself. I don't even pause between the lock and when I start to pound,in theory....(Get more details on Devastating Wrist Locks) ***Caution***

Yep, this is an unfair move. And you might be in real trouble with the law.

You went beyond minimum force, and not only that, but the attack might have been considered over, if you stopped after you got control, and then started a "new attack," (in the eyes of the law).

Figure out your own limits. Know how far you could be pushed, before you'd "do whatever it takes to survive."

Avoid conflict at "almost" all costs. Take responsibility for your actions. Be ethical. Be moral. Yet survive.

And have a nice day :-)


In the original ezine, I felt the need to print the following quotes, with a bit of explanation about sneaky maneuvers:


Martial Arts mastery Quote of the Week:

I don't want you to get the wrong idea from the above article.

I am not advocating that you give up martial arts practice and just rely on "sneaky" maneuvers for self defense. Even my unfair tactics require a lot of practice,

It takes precision to be able to trap my opponent's foot with my own foot. It also takes precise timing to be able to execute a successful boxer's feint.

And wrist locks aren't easy to put on someone, unless you own my book ;-)

Unfair moves without practice, are nothing more than poor choreography for a cheesy martial arts movie.

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido said:

"Progress comes to those who train and train. Reliance on secret techniques will get one nowhere."

FYI -- I found a quote from the 1600s. I thought it relevant:

"When acting in a time of order, one should act with propriety. When acting in a time of confusion, one should adapt to circumstances."

--Hung Ying-ming

One tactic I might use would be to throw something at my attacker(s). Sure, I might go for whatever loose change I found in my pocket, but I might also be inclined to pick up an object from close by.

And throwing is the subject of mastery lesson #3.

Why throw?

* You might be able to end the fight before the attacker ever reaches you. [Beware legal ramifications]

* You might disarm the attacker, if he's wielding a weapon.

* You could gain some necessary escape time.

* Making an attacker pause to deal with a thrown weapon, might give you the needed instant to attack successfully.

So, how do you practice throwing an object, when you have no clue what objects might be available in your time of need?

Break your possibilities into categories. Maybe you could consider "Frisbees, balls, and javelins." In other words, you could practice throwing flat objects like a small picture frame or compact discs, by spinning them like a Frisbee.

Then, you could practice your throwing accuracy with tennis balls.

Just aim for a spot on a wall. In a pinch, you'd be ready to throw anything from a battery (C or D cell??) to a rock the size of a golf ball.

By javelin throwing, I mean a spear technique. Use it if you had to hurl a long, narrow object.

Are there other categories you could consider?


Bonus Throwing Tip #1

Tip: Have You Lost Your Marbles?

Quinn, my daughter, was just under three years old, when I wrote this article....

She loves to play, and she is even learning the idea of cleaning up after herself when she's done.

Unfortunately, she isn't the best with her marbles. My feet seem to find them in the middle of the night.

When I walk around the house in the middle of the night, I rarely turn on a light. I am very accustomed to negotiating my way through the dark house without tripping or bumping.

But I don't inch along long like a ninja feeling every pebble beneath my feet. Instead, I stride confidently down the hall, until I step on a *&%$#$% marble!!

So, what does this have to do with martial arts?

Glad you asked. I pick her marbles up and put them in my pocket.

Yesterday, I was working on our garage. While I was taking a break, I got this sudden urge to "throw" the pen that I always carry in my pocket.

I like the idea of carrying a ball-point pen for self-defense purposes. I can jab it into a muscle or an eyeball. I can even get one to stick in the wall from about six to eight feet.

I suddenly had the urge for a little pen-throwing practice. After all, I was all alone.

Well, this was the wrong kind of pen, but I wanted to try anyway. I knew, yet I threw.

It penetrated the wood siding. It held for a second ... and then it dropped to the floor of the garage. I told you it was the wrong kind of pen.

Then I reached in my pocket and I found marbles. I grabbed a few, and I threw them quickly, one right after the other. Of course, a marble wouldn't stick in wood (leave it to Steve Golden to prove me wrong, some day). But I was able to dent the paneling.

What a great weapon. No wonder hunters use marbles in their slingshots. Marbles are just the right size, perfectly round. Again; what a great weapon!

So, do you carry something in your pocket that you could throw at an attacker? A pen? A pocketful of change? Some marbles?

And just think, you could always pull a few marbles out to show your friends and family. Why?

You take them out of your pocket and say....

"See. I haven't lost all of my marbles."Ý



Tip for Knife Throwing

In my ezine, "Martial Arts Mastery: A Tell-All of Tips, Tactics, and Techniques," I sometimes mention sticking a pen in the wall [see the above bonus tip].

Whenever I mention throwing and sticking a pen, a few people write in complaining that they can't even stick a knife in the wall.

Just in case you haven't perfected throwing a knife, here are a few tips to get you started.

1) Start with a 'throwing' knife. Good balance in the beginning makes it much easier.

2) Only try for a 1/2 rotation (holding it by the end of the handle), or a full, single rotation, holding it by the tip of the blade.

3) Get consistent. You are a martial artist. You are used to practicing for precision. Figure out the distance for one full rotation, to get the knife to stick in some soft wood (like a piece of pine). Then practice for consistency. Once you get the exact same rotation each time, then you will always be able to stick the knife from that particular distance.

4) Learn exactly where that single-rotation distance is, before you move on to a new distance.

The key to sticking a knife is to be able to do the exact same rotation, from the exact same distance every time.

5) Even though I have talked about throwing without any rotation, for now, rotation adds stability to the knife. It's easier to start this way.

6) Only after you perfect a single rotation, should you move on to 1 and a 1/2 and double rotations.

Practice for precision!

End note: Don't practice on a tree. It's alive. It deserves respect. Get a chunk of board instead, OK?

Are you ready to learn to gain useful information about your attacker, even before he is in striking range?

Obtaining a little advanced information could be the difference between success and failure -- life and death.

Note: Today, you'll find a bonus lesson towards the end of this issue. You'll learn some important awareness tips for focusing on your opponent.

Tips for 'Cold Reading' Your Opponent

You are still at a fairly safe distance from your attacker, at least for a second or so. What do you look for while you are scanning?

In the art of magic, a lot of the fake mind readers engage in a practice known as Cold Reading. They feel that they can amaze their audience by telling the individuals personal details that they could only know by mind reading.

Actually, they are looking for some instant clues. They want to make impromptu guesses.

Can you use this principle in your own defense?

* Look to see if a pocket of a coat is heavier than the other, as if it were carrying a concealed weapon.

* Scan the fingers of the hands. Especially look at the thumb -- is it relaxed or tense? Could they be concealing a knife or other weapon?

* See if they pull up a pant leg on their lead leg. This is one of the biggest telegraphs that someone is about to kick. What a bad habit!

* Do they take a specific martial arts stance? Does this reveal their background, or lack thereof? I have found that wannabe martial artists seem to posture the same idiotic TV Kung Fu stance.

And my best piece of Cold-Reading advice -- don't get faked out by any of these clues.

In other words -- don't just focus on the heavier coat pocket. Don't assume that a tense hand is holding a weapon; it could be a fake.

Don't let someone pull up a pant leg and then get you with a punch. And don't assume that just because they take a stance from one style, that your opponents are limited to just that style.

Where you look, and how you use your eyes in a fight can be more important than you think. A lot of beginners don't realize the importance of using their eyes.

Do you know the difference between rods and cones in your eyes? Well, you don't have to -- just remember that you see motion out of the corners of your eyes first.

So, if you are trying to detect motion, you probably shouldn't look straight on at your attacker. Have you noticed that the best martial artists seem to fight with this 'sideways glance'?

So, if you are going to look out of the corners, where do you look?

My answer depends on the context of the fight. I have two theories -- use whichever you need at a specific time.

THEORY ONE Focus on the trunk of your opponent's body. You use your peripheral vision to catch the motion of the limbs. By focusing on the abdomen-to-chest area, you won't get faked out by a feint with the punch ... hopefully.

You see more if you start with your opponent's center and then let your focus expand outward from there.


Focus on the hands and the feet. Some of you were taught to scan the perimeter, when you enter a new situation ... like a restaurant, or a party. You make a scan of the outer edges.

This theory is exactly that. You scan your opponents' hands and feet. Are they concealing anything?

You check out their weapons, so to speak. They will probably attack with hand or foot, so put those weapons under the microscope.


You can actually blend the two 'tactics for visual analysis.' Examine the hands and feet at a greater distance. Use it as sort of a pre, cursory examination.

Then, when it's time effect your martial arts stance -- you don't reveal that you are a martial artist too soon, by snapping into a formal pose ... I mean stance -- you look out of the corner of your eyes.

To sum all of this up, you scan their weapons first, reveal your stance when you have to, then let an sideways glance at the trunk take over.

Now, the real question is what are you looking for?

[Did you read the lesson on Cold Reading?]

It's time to get in to the midst of the attack.

For whatever reason, a giant grabs you, or starts to punch you. Maybe this huge, 'ninja wannabe' even tries to kick you.

What do you do?

You respond with quick, efficient techniques -- designed to end the attack. And that's what this lesson covers.

Note: In this lesson, the attacker is already in hitting range. It's beyond the scope of these lessons to cover timing, distance and ranges.

Make Your Defense Counters 300% More Effective

Are you familiar with the term Atemi Waza? I first read about it, in a magazine article from a couple of years ago.

Atemi Waza is the tactic of attacking the vital organs.

So what?

I thought it was a given that everyone knew to attack the vulnerable areas. One of the first rules that you learned back in Lesson #2 is that there is no such thing as a 'fair fight' (unless you hit somebody with your caramel apple or cotton candy as you get off one of the rides -- OK, pardon the bad pun).

But are you using this tactic enough? Most folks aren't.

From a quick round of TV 'research,' I would guess that most martial artists only make about one hit in four a strike to a vital area.

Sure, they kick and hit to the body, but often their targets aren't vulnerable spots.

Here's a practical application, so you can make more use of those shots to delicate areas:

A Practical Lesson

Your opponent has your arm pinned. You are standing slightly behind your opponent, and somehow he/she has your arm. It is stuck between your attacker's arm and body -- it extends forward. Usually, your elbow is pointed down.

There are many ways to get to this point. We won't discuss them here.

There are several techniques where your opponent ends up with your arm locked in this manner.

One is a straight arm bar, where your attacker applies pressure to your elbow, which is in front of his body, as the rest of your body is still to the rear.

He/She applies pressure by pushing down on your wrist and up on your elbow at the same time.

Another move is the lock found in my book "Wrist Locks: From Protecting Yourself to Becoming an Expert." It is the third lock in the second pattern. You are still standing slightly to the rear. Your elbow is wedged against your attacker's chest. He/she has your fingers bent inward toward your wrist.

OK, either way, you're locked. And the pain is about to get so unbearable, that you won't be able to counter or reverse the lock. In "Wrist Locks:," I call this the "Point of No Return."

You only have a short amount of time to react. So why is it that many martial artists try to grapple with their foe, at this point?

I have seen attempts at variations on Nelsons, also grabbing the legs try to lift their opponents in the air.

I have also seen grabbing the attacker's hair from behind (not a bad idea), but then the victim pulls the attacker in, so the victim ends up going to the ground with the attacker anyway....

It just doesn't make sense.

Especially if you are small and your opponent is large.

Pay attention: Don't grapple with a big, hairy, smelly-breath, macho attacker -- if you yourself aren't a big brute, used to grappling!!!

Instead ...

Think Atemi Waza! You have a few choices. Just don't take very long making them. In fact, maybe a little practice in the dojo would be useful.

If your attacker had ahold of your arm, as in one of the aforementioned locks, you could:

* strike to the back of the neck. This is the traditional move that I found in the article.

* scrape down with your instep on the back of your attacker's leg

* even go for a groin shot from the rear

I am not sure I would try a kidney shot. It may be impractical if, for example, your attacker had your right arm locked through the left side of the body. It really depends on how securely you are being held. Experiment.

After you take your first shot, make sure your follow-ups also go for vulnerable shots.

This is how to make your counters 300% more effective. If you are only going for a vulnerable shot one out of every four shots, then trying to make every move thereafter a shot to a "soft spot" would mean instant improvement, don't you think?

The downside to making all of your follow-ups 'efficient' is ...

(To Find Out, Read The Following Quote Section)


Quotes: When Your Hands and Feet Become Deadly Weapons

You train in martial arts and self defense, so that you are prepared in case you ever have to defend against someone attacking you with force. The problem is ... someday, you may have to respond ... with force.

And as someone trained in the martial arts, you could be considered a deadly weapon.

In Dr. John La Tourrette's book "Secrets of Speed Fighting," (American Sports Training Institute, 1992) he gives a bit more insight of what exactly defines a deadly weapon:

"Legal Fact #3: Learn the legal definition of a DEADLY WEAPON, and 'never become one' in the eyes of the law.

Items of a Deadly Weapon:

a. Repeated and continuous blows ...

b. To vital and DELICATE parts of the body, i.e., kicks to the head or face

c. To a defenseless and unresisting victim."

(pages 57 -58)

So, if you are planning on hitting your attacker in a vulnerable area, and this stops him, anything beyond that (and even that initial hit, depending on the circumstances), could be considered more-than-necessary (excessive force).

I'm not a lawyer, nor am I a law officer, so take all of this with a grain of salt. But if your one hit stops the attacker, then the next hit could be considered an attack on an "unresisting victim."

If you follow my advice and make your counter 300% more effective by always hitting vulnerable areas, then unfortunately you have satisfied all three criteria for attacking with a deadly weapon.

For some, this is a dilemma: Do you defend yourself thoroughly and risk the consequences both legally and morally (your conscience) that may follow? Do you instead play it safe, and risk your life and possibly the life of your loved ones?

I know how I'd respond, how about you?


In Lesson #6, you'll learn what it means to be unstoppable. This tactic may be all you need to survive. Seriously!

Do you have the drive to survive?

Lesson #6: This Is Serious -- Goal!

The attacker is on you! He is big. He is mean. And he's not playing games!

This is serious!

Yesterday, we talked about Atemi Waza. So, hopefully you are thinking about vulnerable areas more.

Now, I want you to think about two in particular:

* The eyes

* The groin

That's it. Just think eyes and groin.

Think of yourself as a goal oriented person. I am.

I write about goal-setting in almost all of my books -- "Wrist Locks: From Protecting Yourself to Becoming an Expert," "Secrets of Teaching Martial Arts More Effectively" -- and you even learn about punching goals in "The Punch Papers."

If the fight is as serious as it could be, you may need to focus on your goals to survive.

So, think eyes and groin.

Eyes and Groin!

No matter what happens, you are going to either poke the eyes with an eye jab, or you are going to grab your attacker's 'family jewels.'

Note: If you are facing a woman attacker, you may have to think 'eyes and knees,' or maybe even 'eyes and shins.'

If poking the eyes or wrenching the penis and testicles were your only goals, don't you think you could succeed?

No matter what hits came in that you tried to block, no matter what kind of hold your attacker started to put on you, if your only goals were eyes and groin ... wouldn't you be able to succeed?

Do you have that determination? To survive?

Here's a practical exercise to get you started:

Grab a partner ... or rather have a partner grab you.

Start slow and easy. You can have your partner grab you more aggressively as you get used to finding a lock.

As your partner grabs you, try to find his or her hand with your own.

Put your hand right on top of your partner's and feel around for a finger.

Now, slowly (you don't want to sprain or break your partner's finger) grab the finger and start to bend it backwards. You peel it off you.

Actually, you can peel in any direction, as long as you understand what causes pain to the finger. You can even cause pain by bending the finger in on itself -- if you know how.

You should be able to apply pressure and pain ever so slowly.

Quick pain = losing your practice partner

Once you have some semblance of technique, have your partner try different grabs. Each time, you go into a finger lock.

Are you getting good at wrenching the finger yet?

Now, still being very aware of your partner, it's time to pick up speed a bit.

You don't have to speed through the motion. You just have to be fast enough to successfully remove the hand before your opponent can yank it away.

Of course, in my book I do teach specific wrist locks, instead of finger locks.

And I also teach you to hit as you are locking your opponent.

Come to think of it ... what are you doing with your other hand?

While one hand is peeling back the finger, is your other hand striking?

Are you scraping the shins with some good solid kicks while you are hitting and finger locking?


By now, you should be gaining a little more confidence in your combat abilities.

You have some tactics and techniques, right?

But what would you do, if your attacker was really carrying a weapon?

How would you defend yourself against a knife attack?

Knife Fighting -- A Few Frequently Asked Questions

** If you don't have a knife what primary target should you consider when facing someone with a knife? **

I'll answer that with a few questions of my own:

What can you reach? What can you reach that your attacker doesn't think you can reach, or what can you reach that your attacker isn't paying attention to?

Look to the knee. It's not an 'always' target. Always look and see what's closest to what. Analyze.

But do consider kicking your attacker's knee.


** What is something that is often overlooked in a knife fight? **

Since the knife is being held above waist level, many folks fight in this 'upper gate.' They forget that they have feet. And they forget that they have targets below the waist -- like the knees ;-)


** Aren't you afraid of the attacker taking a giant lunge at you with his or her knife? **

Actually, I am more bothered by a knife fighter who fights with short flicks of the knife.

A single lunge made by an attacker shows commitment. I can deal with a committed action. That's what we train for.

I can pass a big motion, while counter-striking.

I can interrupt a big motion with an attack of my own

I can use their own energy of the big motion against them


** What's the single safest way to deal with a knife attacker? **

Throw a pocketful of change in the attacker's face. Stay out of range. Stay WAY out of range. Use a projectile -- in other words, throw something.

And don't be predictable about it. You throw your one weapon. Your attacker moves his head slightly to one side. Your weapon wooshes on by.

Poof. That's it. Your counter attack is over.

Catch your attacker by surprise.

Or use the shotgun approach -- back to that handful of change in the face. One of those coins is bound to hit some vulnerable part of the face -- you hope.


** Is it OK to wrist lock as a response to a knife attack? **

Probably not as your first contact. You need to soften up your attacker with some hits first. Don't try to force a joint lock, or you'll get cut.

If, after you have scored with some nice hits, and your arm and hand just happen to be naturally heading to a convenient position for a wrist lock, then maybe ... just possibly ... you might want to see if a wrist lock slips into place easily. Note: A skilled artist could successfully wrist lock, if the initial knife thrust were a single, direct attack (SDA). The thrust would have to be a large and committed motion.


** If you had a choice, when would you strike against someone who was holding a knife on you? **

Strike when they are least expecting it. I know this sounds like a 'too convenient' answer, but it's true.

Your attacker can't pay attention to you all the time. Use a slight lull in attention to your advantage. Everyone has to relax his or her senses at some time, even if it's just for an instant.

Can you find this 'breath' between heavy points of concentrated attention?

And don't be obvious. If subtle is not your middle name, then this tactic may not be for you. You need to practice your acting skills.

Bonus Lesson: Emergency Knives

They are all around you. What can you use in place of a knife?

Someone pulls a knife on you, and you are empty handed -- or are you?

A credit card provides a nice sharp edge. I can definitely slice skin with it. The question is can you get it out in time? What if it is buried in the folds of a wallet?

I always carry a ball point pen. While it's not great for slicing, it is wonderful for poking -- into muscles, eyes, and other vulnerable areas.

Do you have a comb? The tines could definitely rip the skin around the wrist. And they might hurt if raked across a villain's face too.

What else to you have?

A compact disc? A small make-up mirror?

Note: I am often concerned that I am posting advice for all to read, even the bad guys. What if terrorists are reading this post?

I worry a little less about this set of tips.

A terrorist holding up a plane with a man's hair comb would probably be ridiculed. It's just not a menacing weapon.

On the other hand, decent folks have an automatic hidden weapon that doesn't have to menace to be effective. It can still cut.

More details of all the above techniques and much more can be found at: Martial Arts Mastery