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“It’s your baby”

-Guro Mike Cardenas

Many years ago, when we used to train out of Master Jorge’s school off of Fremont Street in Stockton, GM Art had been teaching us a variety of defenses against mugging scenarios. On this particular evening we started the lesson in a very controlled manner with a single attacker, yielding a knife. We would react with a series of quick and deliberate movements to escape the situation, over the first hour my confidence grew as I quickly flowed through several options that were taught to me, after about an hour and a half I felt like a real bad ass. As soon as my confidence reached its pinnacle GM Art decided to change things up, he now had us defend against two attackers, with one attacker grabbing your arm and shoulder while the other one yielded a knife against your throat. I expected him to provide me with a solution prior to conducting an escape technique, instead he said, “do something”! I stood there paralyzed and initially thought to myself, wait you haven’t taught me what I am supposed to do. GM Art sat in a chair off to the side of me watching patiently, as the seconds ticked by I could feel my throat tightening up and my neck getting hot out of my frustration of not being able to think things through and resolve my dilemma. Noticing my frustration he told me to calm down, “calmate Mikie, you have all the tools at your disposal”. I took a deep breath and started to think about the primary threat, the knife, the weapons and my disposal, and body positioning of myself and my attackers. It didn’t help that while I was doing this my buddy Jorge was in front of me holding the knife in his large callused hand with a devilish grin on his face saying, “what you gonna do fool” which added to the theatrics of the drill.
As I moved my neck back at a 45 degree angle out of the way of the blade I sent a right upper cut to his knife yielding hand underneath and hit the inside of his bicep while at the same time pushing his arm into the other attacker which combined with the upper cut caused the knife to drop from his hand. The rapid movement also helped break free the grip that was being applied to my right arm from the other attacker which hit him in the throat. I followed my upper cut with a right handed back hand slap to Jorge’s face and for good measure I ended up kicking him and at some point after the kick I ended up falling down, but both attackers had been temporarily incapacitated. Side Note to my story: be afraid of a guy who laughs after you punch, slap and kick him. I quickly got to my feet as to run and looked at GM Art to see if he was pleased with my handy work. GM Art was laughing and so was Jorge, then GM Art said “It’s ugly but it’s your baby”, meaning that what I came up with wasn’t very pretty but it worked. Thinking about this story recently made me think about how often things don’t always go as planned, as martial artists we do our best to try and plan for the unexpected and sometimes they just happen by accident and not as we plan for them, a new student may show up an deliver a number-1 angled stick strike in a fashion that we are not accustomed, or someone may throw a right punch by accident when a drill called for a left, these or those special moments when we can be nimble and adapt. I have found over the years that I now truly enjoy the what if scenarios and use it from time to time on my more experienced students to see what they come up with. It is this type of training that can be extremely beneficial to solidifying a students learning and make them appreciate the basics they have in their tool box. Life is not scripted and while we do our best to simulate actual attacks as they might occur in real life and a majority of the time things don’t go as planned, the best we can do is consistently train in a way that best mimics real life in order to be able to react in manner that gets you out of a dangerous situation and keep you topside of the grass to live and love another day. So next time you are on the Dojo floor, try experimenting with the “what if principle” and develop your own solutions/babies to resolve the problem. Stay alert and stay safe my brothers!

Views: 163

Comment by Ben Cerasi on April 1, 2014 at 10:55pm

I love teachers who are secure enough to let their students explore.

Comment by MIchael Clark on April 2, 2014 at 1:38pm


Great training memory, thanks for sharing. I am in full agreement. Realistically the worst performance you have in the gym will probably be better than your best response in the field. After all, you don't have a self defense situation on your hands unless you were unaware of the attack and offered no consent to it happening. When you add awareness of the other persons intent, and your consent to it (Oh, yeah, well meet me outside, buddy!) , then you have a fight or a duel , but not a self-defense encounter.

Crossfit founder, Greg Glassman uses the term "unknown and unknowable" when discussing a persons response to stress. That's why Crossfit training is supposed to be "broad, general and varied".

That's the approach I use as often as possible during martial arts practice. Any time someone brings up a relevant "what if" scenario we set it up and try to work it out. I also think it is important to have drills where we look at what the attacker would do next, after I make an attempt to defend myself.

Bruce Frantzis is quoted with a saying  something like this: "It isn't pretty, but it works!" The quote is actually in Chinese in relation to internal style martial arts training. Can't recall the Chinese, but the essence is still there. As a self-defense theorists (I have no scars!), I search for effective methods, not necessarily perfect form. It is my baby, but man, is he ugly!



Comment by Michael Cardenas on April 2, 2014 at 8:56pm

Thanks for the onsite Michael, looking at scenarios is good stuff and when done as a surprise can be a good shack up to normal training. I love getting my students to think outside the box so long as the responses are effective and can be initiated when attempting to utilizes gross motor skills. Ben, I consider myself lucky to have an instructor and trained with others who have a similar mindset. I have also been in Dojo's that consider it sacrilegious to do anything outside of traditional training and curriculum. 


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