The Three Bridge Concept
SEAMOK Tactical Solutions
Amo Guro Michael Blackgrave, Founder of S.T.S.
Within every martial art form, there are underlying concepts that intend to make the art function. Some of these concepts work, others do not. First and foremost, it will innately depend on the teacher and his ability, or lack thereof, to simplify what can, often at times, be confusing.
A student will also have a role to play in the unlocking of concepts. It will depend on one action and one only, willingness. Willingness, in my opinion, is the key ingredient for anyone who pursues anything. It all starts and stops with having the will to begin, to take a first step. The student is not necessarily a beginner; he can also be a seasoned practitioner with years of experience, who is ready to take a leap into understanding the question of “Why?”
Many people who undertake martial arts are there from the neck down. They are going through a physical curriculum which is devised to program movement into them by repetition. They mimic an instructor’s movement without asking or analyzing pertinent questions of motion that could aid them along their journey. Often at times, you will find that mimicry of movement is all one truly understands within a martial arts school setting.
The vast majority of students who undertake a martial art are there for various reasons and of those reasons, the deep rooted understanding of concepts sits far down the list. They are not encouraged to find truth because truth is not understood by teachers. These ignorant teachers then pass down the mimicry mindset, rendering free thinking and understanding outside the martial box as a moot point.
When I undertook the mission of putting my own interpretation of martial motion into a systemized methodology, I knew it would be a daunting task. There would be skeptics and naysayers who believe that there is nothing new. Anything I put together would be scoffed at as a copycat or a hybrid mishmash of technique. I wholeheartedly agree with these naysayers. There is nothing new but what they fail to realize is that there is freshness of perspective to be found in the most classical of works. In said personal perspective may lie the keys to unlocking martial movement.
The three bridge concept came about in a very odd way. I had been involved in the arts for many years. I had earned teaching credentials in various systems and was quite content in my ways. I was big, strong and fast, three entities that sometimes aid one in keeping the blinders firmly in place.
On February 3, 2003, those three entities were severely hampered. I was rear ended in my vehicle by a massive work truck traveling at fifty-five miles per hour while stopped at a red light. The accident broke my right ankle, damaged my left shoulder, caused a concussion, and ruptured two discs in my lower back. I truly felt my martial journey had come to an abrupt halt.
For seven months, I undertook physical therapy to try and regain what I had lost. During that time, I started to realize that the way I once moved was going to have to be revamped or even discarded due to the severity of my back injuries. The bobbing and weaving motions I once coveted in kali were no longer practical for me. The snapping kicks of karate had to be retooled, as would the heavy ground work from Dumog and Silat. I simply could not move as I once did. This was the beginning of the three bridges and SEAMOK.
My initial exploration into the bridging concept came from my Wing Chun instructor, Sifu Scott Baker. Sifu Baker is a practical Wing Chun man. He takes his art out of the box and delves into its heart; there he finds the truth as it pertains to him. He encouraged me to do the same. I had been studying Wing Chun for some time with Sifu Baker and started to break down the nuances of Chi-Sao in both two handed and single hand variations. This methodology, infused with the hubud drills of the Philippine martial arts coupled with the Silat entries and spiraling takedowns, compiled my base components for the three bridges.
Bridge # 1 - Seeking
For a confrontation to be deemed physical, there must be a laying of hands upon another human being with intent of malice. This is the key to seeking the bridge. When an attacker attempts to do you bodily harm by either striking or grabbing, he has in fact given you the bridge, the way in. The other way for one to find the bridge is to build it yourself. This is where the hit hard, fast, and first mentality is needed.
In the discipline of SEAMOK, we train the first bridge with variations of non classical Chi-Sao, implementing energies from the various sources, which make the movements unique to each practitioner. We take Chi-Sao out of the box and flow. We implement Chi-Sao into pressure situations (against the wall, side grabs, rear grabs, grapples). We then introduce various elements from Eskrima, Silat and Boxing. Elements that flow in unison and compliment as opposed to countering one another. By doing this, you step away from the system mindset and into a simple motion methodology.
No two people move the same. From my view as an instructor, I look to guide my students to delve deep within themselves for their answers. By building the three bridge concept and mindset, the student now has an easily understandable blueprint to construct his own personal interpretation of the art. Isn’t that the whole idea?
Bridge # 2 - Crossing
The second bridge in the concept is crossing. The intent of the attacker will determine the lethality of your crossing. You may choose control options if the situation is warranted or you can cross with fury, delivering an onslaught of rapid fire shots intended to break your opponent’s will and aggression. When the hit first method is employed, one must be resolute in the action. The hit first method implies that you fell in dire straits and had no alternative other than attack. The Wing Chun blitzing attacks using chain punches coupled with smashing elbows is an excellent bridge crossing tool and fits well within any tool box.
There are also lower body options when crossing the bridge. Using this way, we now employ the angle stepping from Eskrima, stepping to forty-five degree angles while intercepting the attack, establishing a bridge. This tight angling allows us to step off the initial line of attack, opening gates of opportunity to soft targets such as the knee, groin, and in-step. By stepping off the center, we have taken our body to a position which affords us the opportunity of space to implement low line destructions and debilitating kicks and knees intent on breaking down the support mechanism of an attacker. If a man can’t stand, he becomes less of a physical threat to you.
The method you choose to cross the bridge will come from you. It will be determined by you in an action/reaction form or by action only depending on the circumstances at the time. How you choose to cross is a personal decision. The technique used should be based on simple motion driven by necessary intent. One should seek out quality instruction to help discover the simplicity in their motion as it relates to crossing the bridge with keen focus.
Bridge # 3 - Destroying
When a solid structure such as a bridge falls, the demolition begins from the base up. Charges are placed and detonated strategically, bringing the support system into a compromised and weakened state, allowing the weight of the structure to cause a massive collapse. This same premise holds true in a physical altercation. By establishing our bridge, through decisive interception and crossing while inflicting severe damage, it grants us control of the situation. The destruction portion of our concept finds us in a highly advantageous position, having found the under belly of our attacker who is damaged, confused, and a split second away from meeting further concrete with a devastating collapse.
The takedowns in SEAMOK come from two sources, Silat and Dumog. In my opinion, these are twin tigers with slightly different stripes. Both Silat and Dumog covet the closing ability and collapsing energy that makes them highly formidable in the right hands. The difference I see is miniscule and usually comes down to a matter of preference. They flow in unison, creating a vicious smashing truth when applied in the demolition and the falling of the structure, in this case, an attacker.
What we now have is the implementation of three undertakings; seeking, crossing, and destroying are all rolled into one simple concept. What happens next is determined by the severity of threat. Is he a lone attacker? Are you a police officer who is sworn to apprehend? Is he armed? Do I follow him down and control him via a lock or hold or do I ground him and then follow up with knee drops and stomps? These questions can only be answered by the individual in the battle. Every situation will be different. The three bridge concept allows for either control or complete destruction. Choose wisely, overkill can be a hard sell to an overzealous prosecutor. On the other hand, if one doesn’t use enough fire power, he may find himself in a precarious position where well being can quickly be put in peril. It is a fine line!
Now that we have established the concept of the three bridges and the responsibilities that encompass this methodology, let us take a look at finishes. In SEAMOK, our intent is for the destruction of the bridge to be the finisher. We realize that the attacker may be incapacitated by the bridge crossing itself. If he is not and is only slightly damaged, we will then continue our attack by going into the demolition phase. The takedown is constructed in such a manner where we introduce ground to body in a fast and crunching manner. There is no time for an attacker to prepare himself for a grounding of this magnitude. He will be stunned, confused and wondering why he is looking at the sky. The spiraling collapses of Silat now come into play. Upon our entry to the takedown, we will continue our assault by ripping at our enemies’ vitals (eyes, throat, neck), keeping him occupied while we access his flank. Controlling the head and cutting the legs will end my enemy in a fashion he is not accustomed to. His next feeling will be one of pain and fear. The ground will arrive to meet his head or back in a split second. From this advantageous position, we can now go in for a coup de grace. My personal signature is to drop my knees down upon the fallen body, working from the point of drop to the head. This method allows me to survey my surroundings and not over commit to the ground where bad things can happen, especially if he has partners in crime or is digging for a weapon.
We do follow the martial mantra that our enemy is bigger, stronger, faster, more skilled, armed,and on something. By keeping to these beliefs, we keep the over confidant monkey from crawling onto our back and sabotaging our work. There is nothing worse than a man with hubris gone array in a violent confrontation. One can find himself in a world of hurt quickly!
Violence, as I understand it (lessons learned from a tumultuous past), is a simple equation, a question of violent motion asked, answered by superior motion and resolute intent. When this simple equation is introduced to the practitioner along with solid training in the three bridge concept, they will be able to deal with violence from a business perspective. The ramifications of allowing emotion to take control of the situation can be deadly. Learning, ingraining and working, this concept will equip the practitioner with a decisive trump card to be played in the event of a violent encounter.
So in closing, let me say “This article is intended to guide others to examine their reasons of why they train in martial arts. In hopes of aiding the readers with a fresh perspective and to give them a simple blue print of motion from which they can develop their personal concepts and build their own martial home, that works for them when needed most”.