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Number of posts : 9139
Registration date : 2007-06-27



By SlackBladder

For me, the fear began on Saturday afternoon when I shut the door to my house and walked away. I had signed up for Dennis Martin’s “stress inoculation program” many weeks ago, and had remained free of the drip-feed adrenaline until that moment. For those who do not know, Dennis had rather ominously included the phrase:

“This is not an entry-level program, so we must restrict the course to those who already know the strikes and techniques of Close-quarter Combatives. You must be healthy, fit and able to endure the various stress aspects the day will provide.”

This phrase stuck in my memory somewhat. My combatives “training” consists of lots of strenuous book holding (“Get Tough”, “Cold Steel” and the assorted works of G.T.) and sitting down. However, I thought I could squeeze some training in before the seminar itself. How wrong I was. Training partners are rather thin on the ground in my social circle. One friend agreed to train with me, but grew tired after a mere twenty minutes and refused to play the game after that. Pah! So with the wealth of twenty minutes experience under my belt, it was no wonder that I was somewhat nervous as I made my way to a seminar where I knew that bullshit artists were not tolerated.

In hindsight, I should have realised what kind of weekend I had in store when I turned up at the train station just in time to watch the train I needed coast away from the platform. Not a huge problem as it was an hourly service, but the first straw had landed on this camels back and the impending haystack was yet to arrive. I settled down with a paperback novel (essential public transport survival equipment) and waited. I arived in Liverpool at roughly eight o’clock in the evening, hefted my bag onto my shoulder and set about the business of finding the YMCA in preparation for the next morning. It took scant minutes to find a map with the YMCA clearly labelled on it and even better still, it was only a five minute walk from the station. I stepped into the reception and asked for a room.


“Sorry mate, we’re full.”
“Do you know anywhere else where I can get a room?”
“Try over there *points outside*, down there *gestures up the road* and down there *waves downhill*.”
A little chizzed at the idea of having to pay premium rates for accomodation, I set about finding a B&B. The first one I tried was full. And the second. And the third. And the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. Et cetera, et cetera. Time was ticking on and I was still without a bed. In desperation, I tried asking for rooms in the larger, more expensive hotels. Alas, it was not to be. Liverpool were playing Celtic the next day and it seems that everybody north of Birmingham had turned out for the match. By eleven o’clock I was still touring the city with a huge bag on my hip and nowhere to put it down. I was haggling with hotel managers to give me a room for twenty-five quid if I came back at three in the morning and they had a room available. Most undignified, especially when some Saville Row-clad desk pilot stood behind you snaps up the last room in the hotel as soon as they hear the words “only one room left, sir.”
My bag was fast becoming a source of curiosity for the drunken masses. Heads would turn as I ploughed down crowded streets and catcalls would float over tarmac to greet me. Mercifully, I look like a right thug and wore a look of extreme irritation on my face, so no scallies tried their luck. By midnight, I just wanted to find somewhere warm to sit down and have a cup of tea. No such luck. The only café open at this time was the cabbies café and that was a “members only” job. I did get a cup of tea out of them, though. I think I should point out at this juncture that it was bitterly cold in Liverpool that night. I had to keep walking because it was the only way to keep warm, but I was knackered as well, so walking was beginning to become less and less appealing. Finally, at two in the morning I called it quits and elected to sleep rough. The only other option was to walk all night with a heavy bag on my shoulder and I’d already done that for six hours.
The Church of Christ The King (the huge church that looks like the Apollo 11 re-entry module) was my new home. You learn things very quickly when you’re frozen solid and I soon learned that protection from the wind was Priority #1 in the Urban Campers handbook. Recessed doorways are favourite, but recessed doorways seem to double as public toilets in the fair city of Liverpool, so that option was quickly exluded. You need a recessed area large enough to lie down in, but DOES NOT face into the wind. The Church of Christ The King has a number of grooves running vertically from the top of the building to the ground They offered protection from the wind but not rain. It is in one of these grooves that I made my home for the night. I sat down and huddled myself into the smallest shape I could devise to conserve heat. Every now and again the wind would blow my way and my legs would shake uncontrollably until the wind switched itself back to the direction nature intended. After two hours of being sat in the vertical foetal position I was numb and cold. To cap it all off, the hours of sitting on cold concrete meant that haemorrhoids were making a comeback. Funnily enough, I wasn’t bored. My mind just roamed and drifted; stoic when frozen with wind-chill and content when I wasn’t. In an effort to lessen the torture, I lay on my side and closed my eyes. After a while, I actually got comfortable. Or rather, I accepted that this was about as good as I could expect. My mind relaxed and I settled down to get some much-needed sleep. Just as I was drifting off, at five-thirty in the morning, it started to rain. I felt the first drop land on my right calf and immediately decamped to a nearby bus stop I knew had a ceiling. Just as I got there, the heavens opened and I stood waiting for the rain to stop. With less protection from the wind, I soon felt really, really cold. Frozen. Shaking like a Spaniard’s honeymoon mattress, I marched on the spot to warm myself up. I did that for two hours because being warm is better than being knackered. At eight o’ clock I set out to the YMCA to get some breakfast. I thought that maybe a few combatives students might be as thrifty as me and get a room or breakfast at the YMCA. As I ate my breakfast (a plateful of hot food at only 2 quid? Bargain!) I cast my eye about the canteen for kindred spirits. Judging by the jailhouse tattoos, the abundance of dressing-gowns as morning attire and self-harming scars on the forearms, it grew apparent that this was not my crowd. Obviously, the guys who attended the seminar were on better terms with their bank manager than I was with mine.

I made my way to the seminar hall at half past nine, and found it to be brimming with guys. I dumped my kit, got my training gear on and made idle chit-chat with TheBristolBloke, FatAl and a few others. Dennis arrived and there was a bit of “show and tell” with knives such as a first pattern F&S dagger and a V42 stiletto. I have GOT to start saving some cash for new toys.
Proceedings were kicked off with Den giving a brief introduction of the course in general and the names of the guest instructors (Note: I didn’t always have my pen and pad handy to note the names of the guys who were teaching. I cannot remember all your names and my notes are far from exhaustive. Many apologies for this folly. I mean no disrespect). They then gave a presentation on the survival pyramid (from the base up: Mindset, Tactics, Skills and Kit) and how it applies to combatives. He stepped aside and the course began with Mike giving a history of the combatives system, the names, places and dates that were important. He explained the progression of Fairbairn’s system from the creation of SMP Defendu to the SOE silent killing curriculum. He also showed us some literature and advised us on what books we should be reading and where we can get them from. Mike is a VERY knowledgeable guy who should post far more frequently than he does. *hint*

The next section was given by Steve on fitness and the importance of physical training to the field of self-protection. I learned some interesting stuff from this, especially on the importance of stretching to any training programme.

Next on the agenda was “Lesser known strikes of WWII” hosted by Lee Morrison. Lee had previously posted a thread on the same topic some months ago, so it was good to see how the strikes were performed because actions really do speak louder than words. The method of ‘first knuckle, second knuckle’ was shown to us and then the various methods by which it could be deployed: The rising strike to the jaw with follow up to the throat, concentric temple strikes, rising backhand strike to the groin and backhand to the face.
I found them interesting, but my knuckles are still really sore from hitting the pads in this fashion, so I’ll be sticking to axe hands, hammerfists and chin jabs for now.

Next was the Fatigue Drill. This is not nice, nor even is it nasty. Dennis must have an evil genius for physical drills. I was already weary from the warm up, so this was the icing on particularly ghastly cake. The drill goes thus: You do five reps of a given exercise, then ten strikes on a pad. Then you move down the line to a different pad-man, do five reps of a different exercise and ten different strikes. And so on. After a long, long time (about 5 minutes?) you finish your given exercise and are told to do ten strikes AS HARD AS YOU CAN. The pad-man will only count those he judges powerful enough to knock a man down. I was lucky that I had chin jabs on this drill because my kicks and knees wouldn’t have knocked a child over. This drill was hellish, but good fun.

FIRST COMBATIVES EXPERIENCE Aggression%20training-1_zpse8gjqdek

The next section was about kicks and knees. Patrick, our instructor, seemed able to kick dents in the fabric of space and time. Knees were first on the agenda. The stabbing knee and the roundhouse knee both presented problems. I’m not a kicker. I was always last to be picked for football because of this very simple fact. Even the chubby kids could hoof the ball if it came their way. So generating power from the hips was a problem for me at first. BUT at the end of the section my knees were impacting with far more power than they had been at the beginning. I was just beginning to get the knack of that when we switched to kicks. C’est la vie. The kicks shown were: The stamp, the forward thrust kick and the roundhouse destruction. Again, my competency improved by leaps and bounds. At the start I could not kick, at the end, I was getting the swing of it and impacting with real power with every other shot or so. I’m well chuffed with that kind of progress in such a short time, so many thanks to Patrick for that.

The next item on the menu of violence was Aggression. Den introduced us to his aggression drill, guaranteed to turn the mildest mannered accountant into a creature of slavering bloodlust. I’m not sure if I should detail this online, so I’ll leave it to Den to elaborate if he thinks it is prudent. Needless to say, it was pretty cool and certainly got my juices flowing.

FIRST COMBATIVES EXPERIENCE Slacky%20stress%20edit_zps7shhpjgw

Next was Pain drill. This is designed to condition the action of striking whilst enduring pain. Den gave out kubotans and gave an explanation of how to create a painful experience by placing the kubotan across the wrist and squeezing. The guys I was training with found this rather painful, but I was never really uncomfortable in that lock. Maybe if the drill was modified so somebody beats you with a flexible weapon (e.g. sjambok) while you throw strikes it would be guaranteed painful and thus condition the reaction far deeper than kubotan training. The scars would be difficult to explain to the wife though.

Next was the presentation on artifice, or as it is known today: deception. This is a source of interest to Romulus and it shows. It was shown to us that we train to use strikes with our hands starting in various positions, so it would make sense to adopt these positions using natural actions. Thus, the strike is chambered without the target knowing. Actions like cupping a hand to an ear, picking your nose, scratching your arse/bollocks all lend themselves extremely well to certain strikes. Also covered was the use of disgust to gain distance and therefore time. Forcibly evacuating a nostril onto the floor will cause anyone standing on that bit of floor to step back, as will spitting and pissing (for those awkward moments in the gents toilet). It was also noted that conversation stops when the listener yawns, coughs or sneezes. The use of the mobile phone as both a fistload (a la Fairbairn’s matchbox) and a tool of distraction (“Is this yours, mate?”) The handout given with this presentation is the best article on “deception & disgust” I have seen. It is a shame, Romulus that you neglected to put your name on it so people know who to thank. *hint*

Next was the ‘fend’. This is the classic ‘arms around the head’ position which will prevent an opponent from hitting your head with punches such as the jab, cross or hook. The uppercut will get through (sorry FatAl) but that is a small weakness that the opponent will not have time to realise before he is knocked into oblivion. This is absolutely essential for anyone who trains for ambush style attacks.

FIRST COMBATIVES EXPERIENCE Class%20fend%20training_zpseuyzuvin

Next was ‘basic ground escapes’. This started with the opponent mounted on your chest and intent on punching your head into something resembling a pizza. You assume the fend position and select a time to deliver hammerfist punches as fast and as hard as you can into the face/chest/genitals/stomach of the opponent. Acting on his surprise, you buck him, catch an arm and roll. Follow up with any strike you like. I was pretty nervous about this because my groundwork is appalling. I make upturned turtles look like judoka masters. It worked out okay and nobody pointed and laughed, so I guess I got away with it. This is the good thing about combatives, if you screw up but carry on with as much vigour as possible, things work out in your favour.

Finally, we encounter the bulletman. Or rather, three bulletmen. The drill went something like this: You walk toward BM#1 and he woofs at you. You’re NOT allowed to fence up, but you are allowed to control distance with shoves. When BM finally pops a few at your head, you’re meant to fend his punches, close distance to spoil his style and then clamp his head down while Mr. Knee introduces himself. Lots of whistle blows and shouts of “CHECK!” tell you when BM#1 is judged to have had enough. Then you lie down and BM#2 assumes the mount. You put up the fend and he pops a few at your head. You then do the hammerfist, buck, roll, strike combo until somebody tells you to stop. After this you do ten press up, then a shuttle run up and down the gym a couple of times. Then you spend twenty seconds on the punch bag and face BM#3 utterly knackered. The same rules apply: no fence, no pre-emptive. He woofs and postures and your job is to survive him. I did my best to deescalate and loophole, but he wasn’t having any of it. He threw a punch; I fended and charged him into the ground. The helmet came off and I was denied the opportunity to go caveman on his head. Another day, perhaps.

And that was that. The course ends, the guest instructors are all certified instructors by Den and people make their way home. Thirteen of us headed to Den’s favourite Chinese restaurant (damn good food it was, too) and discussed the days events, the variables of modern bodyguarding and the sad truth that Den does not keep an Atomic Kitten in the boot of his car for special occasions. Dennis closed the dinner with a request for any questions/comments on the course. I didn’t have one then, but I do now:

Can the next course be held when Liverpool are playing AWAY!

Check Six,
Dennis Martin
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