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By Tuhon Bill McGrath
From the spring 2002 Pekiti-Tirsia International newsletter.
copyright 2002 William McGrath

Basic symmetrical sparring, with two evenly matched opponents, is a great way to introduce students to the skills they need for combat. They can stay there their whole martial arts careers if all they are going to fight in are tournaments. Things are different in a real fight though. Success is defined not by scoring more points, or even knocking your opponent out, but by your coming out of the altercation in as close to the same physical condition as you went into it as possible.

Unless you are a law enforcement officer, on the street your mind should be focused on the word "Escape" rather than on "Win." One concept you must understand is that real street attacks are rarely as symmetrical as a regular sparring match.

Seldom on the street are you attacked by someone your size, your age and armed with the exact same weapon as you are carrying. Usually street attacks are more asymmetrical. The opponent (or opponents) is larger or stronger, has superior numbers or is better armed than the person he is attacking. If they didn't think the odds were in their favor, they wouldn't attack you in the first place. Therefore, to prepare for the real world we need to make our sparring reflect this asymmetrical aspect. The following drills should help.

Note: Keep each "round" of fighting to 5 to 10 seconds since it is in this timeframe that most real fights are won or lost. Students should fight no more than four rounds in a row both as a safety factor and to add realism, since most real fights are of short duration. I like these drills for advanced students who have already gotten their basics down.

GRAB BAG SPARRING. Take a variety of practice weapons and paint numbers on them. Have practice versions of knives, sticks, pipes (I wrap a rattan stick with gray tape to signify a heavy pipe) a machete' (here I use red tape), a rolled up newspaper, a length of rope with a rubber ball at the end to signify a belt with a heavy buckle, a leather jacket, etc. Let's say you come up with 10 different weapons. Line these up on the floor. Now take 11 slips of paper and write a number (1 to 11) on each slip. Put the slips in a hat and let the students pick a number. Whatever they come up with, that is what they will fight with. As you probably have already guessed, if they draw an 11, they fight without a weapon. Stage 2 is to let the students pick two slips of paper each and fight with what ever comes out of the hat in doble' or espada y daga style. Note: If you see a great disparity of force (i.e. large student with a "machete" vs. small student with a "knife") try to even things out by going two on one and giving the smaller student a partner.

STREET WALK 1. Two opponents start to walk towards each other from opposite sides of the school on opposing parallel lines (like you would when two people walk down the street towards each other). Teacher gives the "go" signal to fight at any time, either approaching or when the students have passed each other.
STREET WALK 2. One student plays bad guy and chooses distance to attack (or whether to attack at all).
STREET WALK 3. Three or more "bad guys" walk towards the "good guy". Only one of the bad guys will attack, but when and who is unknown to the good guy.
STREET WALK 4. Similar to 3 except 1, 2 or 3 students can attack. Good guy student's job is to escape through a door or to a "safe" zone marked on floor. He can't attack someone unless they first attack him.

BODYGUARD1. You and a "non-combatant" (such as a child or elderly person), are attacked and you must get the non-combatant to safety. What are the differences in strategy when protecting an adult who can run vs. protecting a young child who cannot?
BODYGUARD 2. Full combatant partnered with semi-combatant. My Penchak instructor called this "husband and wife training." In a standoff; wife can guide husband backwards towards safety while he keep an eye on the bad guys. During an altercation, wife watches husband's back and gets in a hit when needed.

HOME INVASION 1. Put a line of tape on the floor to make a "doorway". Student 1 stands before the door. Student 2 faces him. It is student 2's job to get through the door and it is student 1's job to prevent him. (sometimes I tell student 1 to think that his family is behind the door and student 2 is a home invader. Next, I tell student 2 that student 1 is an invader who has broke into his home and that a second invader is in the room with his wife and kids. Therefore each student in his own mind gets a chance playing the "good guy".)
HOME INVASION 2. This is best done in a real doorway, (choose one without glass in it or near it). Student is answering his front door. Three opponents are outside of the home. When door opens bad guys try to push their way in. Good guy defends with hands, knife, stick, machete, handgun or long gun. Space and time limitations come into play (how fast can they enter vs. how fast can you put them all down) as well as the use of the door itself as a shield or a weapon.

BASIC PRACTICE: You can work principals you will need for combat into your everyday practice.
THREE PARTNERS 1: When partnering up to practice a technique, partner up by threes instead of by twos. Student 1 does the technique one time on student 2 then one time on student 3. Then student 2 becomes the "good guy" and does the technique on student 1 then student 3. Next student 3 becomes the good guy and practices on students 2 and 1. Practicing this way helps prevent the tunnel vision that can lead you to focus too much on opponent 1 while opponent 2 is stabbing you in the back.
THREE PARTNERS 2. LikeTP1 except on the instructor's signal, one student from each group will leave and go to another group.
THE CATERPILLAR. Students form two lines. The students in Line 1 are the attackers and they hold their positions during the drill. Line 2 are the defenders and they will move during the drill. The signal is given and each student in Line 1 attacks the student in front of him in Line 2. Students in Line 2 defend using a specific technique. On a signal from the instructor, each student in Line 2 moves one place to his right coming before a new opponent. The student at the end of Line 2 runs off the line and circles to the beginning of the line. Once Line 2 has made a complete circuit, the lines change tasks and Line 2 becomes the attackers and Line 1 the defenders. Keep this drill simple at first. Use one specific attack and one specific counter until everyone has had a chance to both attack and defend. Then you can compare different defenses. Have a round of "Attack 1 vs. Defense 1" then a round of "Attack 1 vs. Defense 2". This drill helps the students become familiar with working with different body types and skill levels. It also helps them analyze the technique and understand its strengths and weaknesses (i.e. "Defense 1" might be better against a left jab from an opponent who is taller than you, but "Defense 2" might be better against a left jab if the opponent is shorter than you).

Add some variety to your drills and remember to keep your ultimate goal, the survival of your students, in mind.

Tuhon Bill McGrath

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Really good training!

These are good training tools basically krav magga only with real train gift the partners. I will go you one better have one student or instructor play principal assailant and act drunk or crazy take the whole concept of one ipmanship out of the prcocess let the feeder be aggressor and try. To kill nothing else.
Awesome ideas I'll be sure and utilize. I would expect nothing less from Tuhon Mcgrath, though.

This type of training is very important.  You need to mix things up so you can learn to adapt to any given situation.  In addition training should take place on different types of terrain and in different lighting and weather conditions.  My classes will train inside with half lights on, outside on the asphault, in the grass in the rain, snow, blistering heat and cold.  This type of training gets forgotten about with all these sweet gyms arounds.  There's so much more you can add into this.  Be creative and have fun with it.  It's all about being able to stay focused through any distractions.  Great read!

Excellent post and very good training suggestions, that aim right at one of my pet peeves - the necessity of emulating reality in training. Have applied similar thoughts in training, both these are great suggestions that I'll include in future training. Thanks for sharing!

Tuhon Bill McGrath,

      Thank you, for sharing your ideas.

Yours truly,



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