By Richard Grimaldo
I often hear people discuss techniques and boast how many techniques they know and how deep it is with regards to the art. I openly hear what they have to say but rarely do I ever say anything against it even though I consider it secondary to actual combat skills. I believe that techniques emphasize the art in “Martial Art” and I consider this not only a necessity but our responsibility as a martial ‘artist’. The way I see it, techniques are nice but as I was told countless times by various teachers and various anecdotes it is the basics that wins the fights. And through sparring I find techniques secondary to three other aspect of combat that is often overlooked and understated. The way I see it combat revolves on several principles: Range, Timing, Mindset, and Techniques.
If an enemy cant reach you, you will not be defeated, if you cannot reach the enemy you will not win.
First and foremost is range. If one is to throw an effective punch, kick or any strike, the proper range has to be observed. You can throw all the punch, kick, elbow or what not and still miss the target completely. For example, an upper cut to the jaw cannot be executed from long range, a spinning back kick cant be effectively thrown at close quarters, a clinch and knee cant be executed if not within close quarters and a jammed punch will lose its power. If an enemy cant reach you, the enemy cant hit you, and if you cant hit or touch the enemy odds are you wont win either. It is in this aspect that foot work comes in to play. Foot work can increase your range for defense or execute long range techniques or decrease the range to go in to the full offensive. One can therefore say that techniques are dependent on which range they are to be executed from. And I am only talking about the offensive aspect of combat. Range plays an even bigger role in defense. This aspect of combat can be emphasized all the more with the use and application of weapons.
Various weapons have been developed to capitalize and give the fighter the advantage of range. Spears, halberds, and pikes have been developed and were a mainstay of many armies in countless wars. Bows, crossbows, rifles, and sniper rifles have been created in order to capitalize the range even more.
Needless to say, getting the range right determines half of your chances of hitting. Now moving on to the other half which is timing.
Even if you are physically and numerically faster, if my timing is right I’m still faster.
First half of determining whether you will land a hit or not is range and the other is timing. You can throw all the strikes you can and still miss the target completely if your timing is off. It is the aspect of combat where in based on the motion of the target you are to generate an assumption where the target will be at a given time in order for one to land a blow. Range together with timing is the quintessential aspect of combat. Timing is the speed equalizer between two combatants for it will enable a slower combatant to hit an otherwise faster enemy.
Needless to say Timing is dependent on range. Timing simply means shorter travel time will allow a strike to hit it’s target faster compared to a strike which is faster but will come from a much greater distance. It is with this regard that economy of movement is employed, quick tight movements, reduction of telegraphic movements and the reason why the centerline principle is developed.
To further expound on the concept of timing you can use the concept of beats. Every motion has a timing and can be assigned a beat. A jab or a fake can be counted as a half beat (or what we call fraccion in Abenir Kalis), a straight punch, a knife thrust or a bolo slash can be counted as one beat. Any technique or movement which exceeds 1 beat will have a great difficulty of succeeding as combat is ruled by multiple half or 1-beat movements and finding the gap in between the beats will enable one to land a blow or execute a technique.
Technique is a movement or series of movements developed to capitalize the weakness of an enemy or to compensate for the weakness of the executor. Its development and execution is the culmination of the combatant’s knowledge of range and timing. It is meant to maximize the effect of a strike for a weak strike delivered properly to a critical target will have a greater effect compared to a strong strike delivered to an unsuitable target. As good as it sounds, techniques alone however will not guarantee victory. In the heat of the battle, it is but the basics which will count and half or single beat strikes that will win fights. Techniques are therefore incidental, meaning its successful execution is greatly dependent on the situation.
But one can throw all the techniques one can and land a blow but without the proper mindset the effectiveness and strength of the strike/technique will be greatly affected by the intent of the strike or the mindset of the executor.
It’s no surprise when a well trained martial artist foils a robbery or beats up a group of thugs, in fact it is expected. However it too is common news to hear many well trained martial artists fall victim to these petty criminals. Why? These well trained martial artists with years of experience of hard sparring in the dojo with an arsenal of punches, kicks and various techniques are falling prey to petty criminals with little or no training whatsoever so what gives? What do these thugs have that a trained martial artist doesn’t? My guess is the mindset that makes the difference. While there are many other factors that may constitute to the defeat of a trained individual versus the common thug, the mindset or the intent of an individual will overall affect the outcome of any encounter.
An individual intent on hurting someone intent on protecting himself will almost always lose. Once the attacker fully commits to the goal, the attacker will stop at nothing, utilize every exploitable element possible like, terrain advantage, shadows, sand to throw at one’s eye, a broken shard of glass or anything that the attacker can get his hands on until the goal is achieved