Friday, January 14, 2011

More Than One at a Time

Martial arts, however effective a particular one might be, are designed to teach one how to deal with situations martial, dumb as that sounds, and "martial" means "war-like," from Mars, who was, well, the god of war.

Arts of war. 

I suspect that when most people think of martial arts, they think of those that are primarily close-quarters and generally either bare-handed or involving non-projectile weapons like sticks, knives, swords, or the like. Karate, kung-fu, boxing, wrestling, and so on.

What an army recruit learns in basic training is a martial art; it just tends to focus on other weapons that will more likely be used on the field of battle, and in this context, of course, the battlefield  has changed since the days of hand-to-hand with edged weapons or clubs. 

Most martial arts you see listed in the Yellow Pages are aimed at civilians, who are probably less likely to be carrying an M4 or a grenade launcher.

I'm not here to argue the efficacy of this system versus that one, but to speak about the notion of what to do if there are multiple attackers trying to thump you real good. 

Some arts don't spend much time on this. Boxing is one-on-one. Most wrestling is you- against-him. But anything that claims to be remotely useful on the street has to at least consider the notion of what to do if the guy trying to smash your nose has a buddy who is jockeying to get behind you. That changes the dynamic, when you go from one to more than one. You might not have time to take one guy down, then leisurely turn around to deal with the next one.

Musashi said when fighting the ten thousand, you fight them one at a time. But you have to be really quick about it ...

Yeah, yeah, run away is near the top of your to-do list, if you can. Don't be there in the first place is even better. But once engaged, then what?

One of the first things that has to be considered is that you have to consider the idea of more than one. Smarter to start with that assumption. There's more than one, and I better check my blind spot to see.

And since we are limited in our range of vision, the need arises of how to deal with the blind spots that will allow some ne'er-do-well miscreant to scurry in and whack us over the head from behind.  

If you don't see or hear him coming, that's not ideal. 

One of the exercises we do is called Djuru Sepok. It's a longer form, works one's legs real good, and teaches level changes, assorted kicks, and now and then, looking to see if somebody is creeping or leaping from behind, and dealing with that as you deal with the guy in front of you.

In our version of silat, we think being behind somebody in their blind spot is a good idea -- if it is us who is there and not them

Looking away from somebody coming in at speed to smash your nose might not be the best idea, but once you have dealt with that and closed so that you should have enough sensitivity to feel what s/he is gonna do, you have time to sneak a peek behind you. And either handle with that using a long-range tool, if you have time, or blocking the attacker's path using the guy you just whacked, or turning to face the threat -- depending on things like how close the second guy is, and if they maybe have a third buddy, and which way you want to clear a path to exit. 

Handling one guy is tough enough. Dealing with two, three, or four -- four is the worst number, 'cause fewer you might be able to dodge and more will tend to get in each other's way -- is way harder. Your odds of victory aren't good. Clearing a path to elsewhere is probably better than standing and delivering, by, I dunno, maybe a factor of fourteen. 

Because three guys coming at speed -- unless they are kung-fu movie fans and politely wait their turns like the attackers in those flicks always do -- doesn't leave you much time to screw around with any one guy. Those six-move combinations to drive the attacker into the ground? You won't have time. Halfway through the first guy, the second one is gonna to be on your back.

Um. Anyway, we have been practicing a modified version of this exercise of late. The reason for the modification is that we are in Cotten's garage, and the full-length version takes more room than we have.

It's very interesting, and it does wonders for your focus and attention. 


  1. "Works one's legs real good" is an understatement. I still can't feel my legs...

    But I have to admit it has been pretty fun to learn.

  2. What Guru says is that your silat is only as good as your legs. And it's tough on knees, so care has to be taken, too. (He's had the same surgery I had, and we aren't the only ones who've had our knees whittled upon ...)

    Not that your legs have to support much weight, scrawny as you are ...

  3. It's interesting because djuru sepok is tough on my legs in a different way than I am use to. It isn't that rough on my knees (except for last class, but that was my fault for not stretching properly), but it is tough on muscles that I never had to develop before. So results in extra amounts of pain...

    And I'm not sure if being called scrawny is a good thing or not...