Yesterday we had a really good training session at Abbeydale Ju Jitsu Club, just the four of us, Bill, Pete, Jayne and myself, where are you all. Saturday morning is set aside for fun, hard work, sweat and occasionally some pain, that is our fun. I think we all took some knocks yesterday, quite a few to the groin where despite the groin guard if a contact is accurate, even though it is controlled, there is still an effect. The words of Master Ken, “Destroy the Groin”, rang in our ears once or twice. We use body armour and groin guards for protection and shin and instep protectors where necessary, but once the rough stuff starts to happen then the odd stray shot will connect, it is all part and parcel of making the drill more realistic and pressure testing one another, all part of the fun.

There is no set routine on a Saturday, just a light warm up then into the drills and scenarios. Sometimes we train barefoot on the mat, sometimes off mat wearing trainers, sometimes we train one on one, sometimes against multiple opponents, occasionally we use a tight corridor to fight in a restricted space, sometimes with added obstacles. We mix and match, Yesterday we came up with some variants to previous drills, short of knocking lumps off one another we try to make it as realistic as training allows and as a certain Rory Miller will point out there is always a flaw built into the drill, otherwise we would be regular visitors to the casualty department. As long as you are aware of the flaw then the drill can still help you to condition your response to the stimuli, it is when you do not see the flaw that unreality becomes a problem.

We use body armour, pads and shields so that we can strike full force to our tormentors and I really like this. As opposed to our usual training where the emphasis is on learning techniques and their application, the Saturday session allows us to free the beast within. I love Saturdays, I get to express myself. I like letting the beast out, it is damn fun, I keep using that word because those three little letters combined are the most appropriate. Yesterday we did some great three attacker drills starting with one minute of being jostled from all sides and using any strike to the targets presented. This is great training, the opposite of what you get in sports orientated martial arts, you are outnumbered and being mobbed, closed down all the time, you are in a target rich environment and one minute seems a very long time. At one point I was convinced Bill had not pressed the start button on the timer.

We were trying to not use our fists at all but concentrate on striking open-handed, not easy after years of conditioning to punch, but we have kicks, knees, elbows depending on the target and the range and all get used, it is fast, furious and seriously knackering. Padding is not much of a rest either as you get knocked around quite a bit and we use all the space, fights are rarely stationary, neither are our drills. We then revised the drill by starting laid on our backs, kicking, kneeing and punching to get to our feet then fill out the minute as before. In its third incarnation we lost the pads, now with shin and instep protectors on the three standing attackers gave whoever was on the floor a ‘light’ kicking, as Pete’s ribs. Again the objective was to fight your way up, interesting how strikes to the groin became very popular here, once up finish the person in the body armour, I love to grab head and pull someone onto the knee, nice and hard, stealing their power and giving some of mine.

On the fourth run two people knelt either side of you, and punched you ‘lightly’ to body and face whilst the other kicked you in the head in a nice way, once this starts it is go, go, go, it is strike, strike, strike to create a chance to get up. Yes I know it is not everybody’s idea of a good Saturday morning but it is mine, I have not had so much fun for ages, there is that word again, well for at least a week.

Last weekend we were training with Rory Miller and much of it was close in stuff, we practiced in the toilets, showers and changing rooms using his one step method, the funny bit was when guys were pressed up against the wall in the showers and triggered the button for a nice cold shower, see here:

OK I did not get the cold shower shots but trust me they were funny, I even copped it myself as I stepped back to get a still shot, nice. Anyway, this is just another example of safe forms of training for reality, going slow allows you to see the gaps, the holes and not to fixate on one target, this is evidence when we were drilling yesterday and you realise that you are now covering up and striking at the same time, especially on the floor drills. If you train like this often enough you will condition a response to a stimuli be that an attack or an inner command, the first depends on an attacker moving first the latter on you giving yourself permission to use force first, within the law of course.

Rory is an infighter, it is his ‘happy place’ I prefer this too. Most attacks, in my experience start close up, I practice for this a lot and teach effective striking from close quarters, most criminals, bullies and thugs are not sportsmen, they do not offer you a square go. One of my preferred strikes is with the elbow, like this.

However, as a certain Hoch Hochheim says ” Nothing works all the time, everything works sometime”. So back to our training, I am lucky to be part of a club that encourages us to train this way. Sometimes it hurts a little bit, like now¬† on both sides of my ribs, the right thanks to Pete’s knee and the left thanks to Jayne’s fist, neither were intentional, I think but they got round the body armour somehow. Am I bothered? Hell no, it is the price we pay for adding a dash of chaos into our training instead of following a well rehearsed recipe. Everybody who trains for reality rather than points will feel some discomfort, as my pal Tony Preston’s sweatshirt declared last weekend that there is no growth in comfort, there was no comfort in rolling around on a hardwood floor but you get so absorbed in the grappling you only feel the lumps and bumps afterwards.

I remember seeing the multiple bruises on people’s arms, some very large indeed, including my own daughter, after our seminar with Itay Gil last October, they were worn like badges of honour. I do not train to get injured and hurt but accept that this is inevitable if we train hard, as the saying goes work hard, play hard, training is my playtime, as I said earlier it is where I best express myself, a place where it is OK to free the beast, the thing inside us that we often need to keep on a tight leash. In training the beast is exercised under control, it is conditioned and made ready for when it may be needed, because when the brown stuff hits the rotating thingy on the ceiling all hell is often let loose, and that is when operant conditioning kicks in and training under stress, ignoring discomfort and embracing a little pain pays off. So do you free your beast occasionally? Do you problem solve against different attacks indifferent conditions and environments? Because the clip that follows, includes swearing turn sound of if that offends, is how that meat head will attack you out in the world.