Recently my training has taken something of a slump. I haven’t been to karate since November or so, meaning the only martial art I’ve been doing for the past three months has been iaido. Iaido is great but it lacks the brutality, and in many ways the realistic unpredictability of a fight. It’s not often two swordsmen will meet in the street with their weapons on them- it’s more a spiritual art for me, and a philosophical one regarding life itself. For the most part anyway- it can be pretty damn amazing. But I digress: lately I’ve been missing the good old sparring that involves hitting each other as hard and fast as you can, and karate hasn’t really been providing that for me. So it was with great anticipation and gratitude that Fight Club Round 2 was held.
EDIT: I should say that brutality wasn’t the greatest choice of word, but I was exhausted. Fight Club isn’t about beating the hell out of your friends, it’s a way to see how your martial skill is going in as controlled an environment as manageable. It’s a way of testing what techniques work against what people/styles of fighting, as well as a method of teaching yourself and each other your strengths and weaknesses as a fighter and as a human being.
The first one was great, but we had a bit of a different mix of people this time. Andrew did kickboxing and had experience in krav maga. Manchoon did Kung Fu, capoeira and bits and pieces of grappling, knifework and kickboxing. Bert once again brought Ging Mo Kune Kung Fu and some iaido. Two Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guys brought a timer and markers to set up a ring- I don’t know either of their names, but they were both great blokes. The shorter one had been training for less than a year and was still a white belt, but he knew all the basics well and taught his friend a few new tricks. The bigger one was a behemoth of a man with biceps of iron, and I knew from the moment he wrapped his arm around my head that I was a dead man. He ranked second in the Pacific Islands BJJ tournament, and first in Australian Nationals (I think). They mostly played among themselves (if playing is the right word for BJJ), but they did stop to teach me a few holds (figure four, kimura, sweep and a headlock) and stances (north-south, neutral, mounted and side-stance), and to grapple with Andrew (who had done some BJJ as part of his kickboxing training).
Bert had planned it to be a little more structured this time with two-minute rounds and constant teams of fighters, but it sort of degraded quickly after the first warm-up spars, where whoever felt like sparring with whoever would just get up and go at it. It was really a great learning experience to get in some more realistic sparring and to see what really does work and what doesn’t. Some of the main lessons I learned today included:
- Sogo Bujutsu Ryu knife-stance is not great against eskrima. Maybe in a kenjutsu situation or against an unarmed person it would be more applicable, but it’s difficult to strike when your knife has so much distance to travel to reach its target. I should ask Kaneda how to get around such an issue. I will concede that it’s great for disabling your opponent’s weapon while still maintaining your own- there were some really great moments where I grabbed Manchoon’s knife-wrist and I realised that he was no longer a threat to me as long as I kept a grip on his arm. You do get cut pretty easily though, so it’s about taking the shallowest cuts you can (fingers, arm, light scratches to the torso or face) in exchange for landing the significant ones (cutting major arteries in the neck, wrist, forearm, elbow and armpit, cutting the eyes or stabbing the torso, especially many times). Hoping to leave a knife-fight unscathed is folly, or miraculous.
- Most people aren’t used to being swept. It can catch a person off guard and leave them open for a fraction of a second, but if they check it like a normal kick it leaves you vulnerable as well.
- Fists are so much faster than legs. Legs are slow, easy to avoid and block, but fists require dodging and blocking and counter attacking. EDIT: Maybe if the kicks were powerful enough to plough through guards, or fast enough to get around them it might be a different matter… Maybe I should go back to Taekwondo.
- DON’T SPINNING BACK FIST AGAINST SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY’RE DOING.
- If you get taken to the ground, or you get to the ground, do one of two things: Either find their neck and cut off their air somehow, or get on top of them and hit them in the face as many times as you can, moving their guard around to create the openings.
- You can kick a knife out of someone’s hand. It will probably hurt your foot, but it catches people by surprise.
- Throwing one super good punch will not stop someone. Hell, throwing ten super good punches might only slow them down. You need to rely on more than one definitive technique to win a fight.
- Tiger is brutally effective if you get someone by the throat. In fact, of all the styles I tried today it got me closest to winning against Andrew.
- I think if I spent more time doing aikido, actually practicing it several times a week, I might be able to use it in a fight. There were certainly moments where I saw a kick that I could have continued the energy of, but I wasn’t quite practiced-enough to catch it properly. I think experience is the main thing holding me back.
- The biggest problem in a fight is getting tired. When openings appear and you can see them but don’t have the energy or speed to take advantage of them, that’s when you get in trouble. Either build up your stamina, make the other guy more tired than you are, or end the fight quickly.
- Wear a groin guard. A kick to the groin is one of the simplest, most straightforward techniques in the repertoire of a martial artist, but it truly is one of the most effective. Once the blow has landed, you feel an ache that’s difficult to describe, but you know it’s going to get significantly worse within the next few seconds. That’s your window to either finish the fight before you have to lie down for a few minutes to recover.
- Knees in a clinch hurt like hell. Either avoid being caught in a clinch or take their mind off attacking you by attacking them first.
- EDIT: I think the biggest thing I learnt was that I’m no longer proficient in any one art specifically. I’m not a kicking specialist because I’m out of practice from my Taekwondo days, nor am I the world’s greatest boxer. I’m pretty good at many things, but I’m not excellent in any one area, and someone who has trained to be super in their field might best me. Once again I am reminded to find the art that is most effective for me and to stick with it.
That’s it for now. Probably updates to come as I reminisce on the day and photos/videos emerge. Mata.