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PostSubject: 3rd International combatives seminar   Wed 11 Jul 2007, 14:35

THIRD INTERNATIONAL COMBATIVES SEMINAR
Merseyside, September 2005
Review by Nick Engelen

The seminar was held in the Prescot Leisure centre in Prescot Merseyside on 3rd-5th, September 2005. I travelled to Liverpool on Friday 2 August. Most of the attendees were in the Rainhill Travel Inn which is close to the venue. When I arrived at this hotel most of the attendees and Den were enjoying a meal and drink. During this evening I had a chat with some of the instructors and I had real trouble controlling my curiosity and not to ask about the program.
Next day after breakfast we all drove together to the venue. It’s surprising how smooth everybody worked together to get cabs arranged and the kit and people were divided over the cars and cabs. The air of friendship and being one group of brothers-in-arms was nice to experience. At the parking lot of the Leisure centre a bunch of fellow Combatives-practitioners were waiting. I saw a lot of familiar faces from previous courses and a few new ones. Kit was unloaded and everybody was giving everybody a hand. There were around 50 attendees and most were from England, one from Germany, a couple from Sweden, Wales another was from South Africa, we even had a few from Scotland, I came from Belgium and another was, to my surprise, from the Netherlands.
Inside the venue there was an air of excitement. Dennis had told us that the program would be different this year with some new presentations. I saw someone walking with a wooden broadsword and a wooden Katana which made me very curious.
After the necessary admin, the course started.
Den gave an intro to the course. The course was going to be mainly about WW2 combatives. There were researchers among the instructors that interviewed WW2 veterans and could uncover some interesting stuff about the way they trained.
Den explained that the way of fighting developed by Fairbairn and Sykes was very controversial in that time. Around that time fighting was done by rules, and Englishman was always a gentleman. Poking an eye out or biting someone’s nose of was not sportsmanship and against ‘the rules’. The wartime manual by Fairbairn was named All-in fighting referring to the syllabus.
This course was about all out fighting, referring to how this syllabus was applied.
RENNAISSANCE LINKS
First Mark Gittins was giving a wonderful presentation about historical comparisons between western martial arts and Combatives. Now I know what they needed the swords for. Following this he discussed the Biddle/Styers knife fighting style. This style was developed for the longer bayonets which in that time looked like sabres.

We had a nice knife duelling drill trying all this stuff. It’s hard to get out of a knife fight unscratched and we often ended up in a double-kill situation.


CLASSIC STRIKES of WW-2
Then we learned from Mika about the way the allies were trained in this stuff. It seems that the advice ‘take one technique and practice it until you are death sick of it’ isn’t that new.
Brian Lightbody [from the Liverpool Gutterfighters] took us through a light warm-up. I was glad we didn’t get the usual exhausting combative warm-up as I was still recovering from the flu.
Several people guided us trough the classic strikes of WW2.
All techniques were open-hand blows showed in books like ‘Get Though’ and ‘Kill or get killed’. The reason behind the open-hand blows are that it doesn’t damage your hand when the blow lands off-target and it’s easier to learn to people quickly. During WW2 the allies had to be trained in just a few days, and although Fairbairn knew the value of the fist he also knew that punching takes a lot more time to learn properly.
Recently I saw a Korean movie with a nice philosophical view on open hands versus fists.

'If you make a fist, you can't grasp anything.
Not friends, not earth nor sky.
But if you unclench your fist you can hold the whole world'
Fighter in the wind.
[The class photo]

COMBAT KARATE
This was presented by Greg Hall. It’s developed by Kimura sensei who researched the body dynamics involved in throwing ballistic objects. With this knowledge he developed a way of striking that enables you to strike with your entire bodyweight to deliver high impact. This is also called the ‘double hip’. I already learned about this from Peter Consterdine. Greg’s way was a bit different as Greg’s teacher Steve Powel studied with Kimura during another period. Interesting to see how things develop in time.

COUNTER-CLINCH MODULE
Thereafter the charismatic Lee Morrison showed us his way of working from the clinch. A clinch is a situation you get in when you close the distance and grab the opponent to make your opponents punches ineffective. You see this often in boxing matches.

KILLING POWER
Then the height of the day was a drill developed by Mika. It was about developing killing power. We hit dummies full power with a variety of strikes. After giving 100% my hands were bruised and painful.

[Steve from the Liverpool Gutterfighters, during the power drill]

Most of the attendees drove to the Chung Ku Chinese restaurant on the docks where we had a few drinks, laughs and dinner.

SUNDAY PROGRAM
The second day began with the same air of excitement. Everyone was fired up for another great day. Although some of us seemed as having had a tough night.

EQUIPMENT FACTORS
Day two of the seminar started with "Clothing & Equipment Factors in Self-protection" by Den. We discussed the reason of clothing both daily and tactical and the influence of fashion which is often not very positive. From Clothing we moved on to equipment. Den quoted Lofty Wiseman from 22nd SAS ‘It’s better to have and don’t need than to need and don’t have’. Den advised us to choose equipment that can be used for various tasks. Den discussed illumination, pro and contra of Surefire flashlights, medical kit, communication, etc…

ARDUOUS DRILLS
After the warm up, Tony Da Costa and the Liverpool Gutterfighters presented ‘Vasbyte Drills’ Vasbyte is South African, in Dutch we have the saying ‘je ergens in vastbijten’ which translates as ‘hanging on into something’ or ‘going for something’ or ‘not giving up until the goal is reached’. The drills were exhausting; the encouragement was great from participants and directing staff. Nobody let himself down. I think the mental attitude we develop in this kind of drills is useful not only in self-protection but in all walks of life.

ERIC ANTHONY SYKES
Next came Phil ‘Bristol Bloke’ Matthews with a great presentation about ‘E.A. Sykes- The forgotten hero of Combatives’. Although there is virtually nothing known about this mystery man Phil managed to dig up a lot of information.

After this very informative presentation Den took us through a Sykes training routine known as the ‘Crowd drill’ where you simulated a multiple assailant situation. The drill was short but very intense. The perception of time slowed down. My techniques felt sloppy and slow. It seems this is a normal reaction to adrenal stress.

WINNING ON THE GROUND
‘Ground Fighting’ was next with Si Squires giving a progressive series of drills. These climaxed in a highly charged, ‘boot party’.

FORWARD DRIVE
The topic of ‘Forward Drive’ was addressed in detail. Firstly, Alan Beckett discussed the requisite attitude and mentality in a great presentation. I was impressed by his way of bringing the information. It was very informative and brought with passion.
Then Den showed the tactics and techniques. Finally Al showed a mean streak with a series of arduous pad drills. These drills were to speak about intensity, equal to the ‘Vasbyte drills’.

STRESS SCENARIO
This all culminated in a scenario drill… For many among us this was the cherry on the cake of this wonderful weekend.
Giles led the Potential Instructors group in creating and running the scenario, while Si donned the padded suit to act as aggressor, and take on most of the fighting action. After about twenty bouts he took a break while Giles took over, then Si took over for the remainder.
This drill started with a beasting, where after I had to fight Si. To add a stressor we weren’t allowed to use a fence which was funny to see as people were really constraining themselves not too. Personally I didn’t have the time. I was pushed in a corner and whacked in the head. I just had my black belt in Aikido over a month and I wanted to use some of it in the scenario drill, planning to make Si airborne for a couple of feet after a thundering kiai. As we all know most plans don’t survive first contact. So I ended up with Musashi’s advice of start hitting and keep hitting until all is over.
After this drill many had to go home to take up their daily tasks for the week coming.
The remaining attendees drove to the Chung Ku Chinese restaurant on the docks.
During diner we spoke about lots of things but most about our day and we all came to the same conclusion; it was a magnificent seminar. The food was great; the waitresses very nice and the company very enjoyable.
The learning experience didn’t end after the last drill. People talked about their experiences in the hotel bar and Mika told us a lot about knives and Shanghai police use of the daggers. One attendee nicknamed Slacky showed us a part of his collection which again was reviewed by Mika.
This ended a second great day.

[The instructors]
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PostSubject: Re: 3rd International combatives seminar   Wed 11 Jul 2007, 14:36

MONDAY BONUS SESSION
That Monday we ‘the last few’ had a light session for the guys that stayed in Liverpool to catch a plane later that day.
The first thing we did was a combative style warm-up which was all but light. Then we progressively went trough the ‘all in drill’. This drill started with the basic hand blows then various people added things like ‘the fend’, ‘counter clinch’, ‘counter take-downs’, etc…
It seemed this day’s training wasn’t as light as promise!



WW-2 KNIFE TRAINING
The second part of this day was about knives. Lot’s of knives were brought and all got a review by Mika. Most of these knives were of the double-edged dagger variety. Mika explained that these knives were designed for stabbing. The Romans said ‘slashes wound, stabs kill’. A stab will penetrate the vital organs whereas a slash or cut doesn’t.

Thereafter Mika showed us some drills he uncovered after talking to veterans of world war two.
It was simple but effective.

After this session we all said goodbye and then ground transport was arranged. Si Squires and John Mon took the lads to Manchester, while Larry Blundell handled the Liverpool airport run. I’m sure all the travellers were grateful to Si, John and Larry for their generosity..
At the airport I had a good chat with a beer with the famous John Brawn and Stephan, a German brother in Arms. A Belgian, a German and an Irishman were sitting in a bar… looks like the start of a joke.
That night I had my flight back home. During the flight I was reflecting on the past few days…
It was a great weekend worth remembering. We had a great teacher, some fantastic guest-instructors and kind people to share it with. I would highly recommend this course to anyone; you won’t be disappointed.

Review by Nick Engelen.
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PostSubject: Re: 3rd International combatives seminar   Wed 11 Jul 2007, 14:36

Review by Rob Campbell


First up -- a quick apology to Den for my taking so long to write this review. It's been simmering in my head for nearly a year, now:

The 3rd Combatives International event took place over the first weekend of September (3rd & 4th), 2005.

It seems to have become a theme of my life that most of my interests (medieval re-enactment, Filipino martial arts, sport fencing, combatives) hurt. By the end of the International weekend, both my arms were black and blue from fending off assorted attacks and smashing through others' fends. Every muscle in my body ached from the Vasbyte training and indeed most of the other drills too.

My upper left cheek had a great lumpen bruise which started out during one of the "give some poor bastard a kicking" drills (about the best simulation of a pub kicking you can manage while still staying friends with all concerned – pre-fatigue the unfortunate subject of the drill, then throw him on the floor and six to eight of you hit him with pads, feet, whatever, & make him fight to his feet again). It didn’t happen when I was on the floor myself; rather, when a few of us were trying to batter the poor "victim" one of the blokes on my own "side" elbowed me in the face as he drew his fists back for another attack. Then during the final drill of the second day, a very tough scenario-based setup using a Bulletman-style padded suit among other things, I slipped on the sweat-soaked floor during a sprint, landed hard on the same part of my cheek on the tiled floor, and put a bruise on the bruise. There followed a number of smacks to the head from the Bulletman's boxing gloves, many of which seemed to aggravate my poor throbbing cheek again....

Anyway. I’m getting ahead of myself in my eagerness to remind you all how much “Doing the Work” hurts. It’s a learning kind of pain, though. Back to what we actually did.

Dennis Martin introduced the Combatives International, welcoming visitors from around the UK and beyond. The subtitle of this year’s International was to be “All-In Fighting.” We had a brief discussion as to what this meant:
• Not fighting fair; not restricting any strikes, targets, or techniques on the grounds of “fairness.”
• Deliberately examining techniques that are fouls in other sports, so as to incorporate them into our own curriculum if effective.
• All-in fighting refers to the syllabus; all-out fighting is how you apply it, with 100% commitment, intent, and aggression.

The first presentation was from the excellent Mark Gittins, who examined the relationship between Western Martial Arts and Combatives with a presentation entitled “Renaissance Fighting and the links to WWII Combatives.” This began with a reasonably detailed introduction to the WMA, including busting some Hollywood myths of lumbering knights just hacking away at each other randomly. Next, Mark focused in on the specific similarities between some of the WMA blade techniques and the roots of WWII combatives – half-swording and bayonet fighting, and the fencing-derived combative knife techniques taught by Styers and Biddle. He showed us a brief WWII-era knife & stick fighting instructional film from the USA, then had us try out a knife sparring drill. As might be expected, Mark made it clear that this drill was not intended to replicate any kind of self-defence situation we might realistically find ourselves in, but more to show just how deadly knife-on-knife combat is, and give us a bit of a warm-up before the rest of the day’s activities. We rapidly became aware of just how hard it is to defend against a knife, even if you have one yourself, based on the sheer number of “double kills” we experienced.

Much of the rest of the day was devoted to the “Classic Strikes of WWII,” with each strike presented by a different instructor: Tiger's Claw by Giles Lane, Stab-kick by Lee Morrison, Chinjab by Mika Soderman, and Axe Hand by Dennis Martin. Den did a short introductory talk to begin with, predominantly covering the way in which the strikes were taught during WWII. Each instructor covered his strike in great detail, with multiple demonstrations. This was a superb part of the International – real back-to-basics stuff, emphasizing just how easy most of these strikes are to learn and deliver, but with each instructor offering little hints and tips as to maximizing the power of the strikes using drop steps and other body mechanics, and using the strikes from different angles. We drilled every strike in a variety of ways with partners and pads, finishing up by putting them all together.

Lee Morrison did his second presentation of the day, “Working from the Clinch.” This is an essential range for any combatives practitioner to be capable of working from, and Lee is a master of said range. Every movement was dynamic, ballistic, and damaging to the opponent; lots of incidental strikes, en route to the fight-finishers. The intent is always to damage the opponent with every movement – a grab isn’t just a grab, it’s a crush, or pinch, or rip.

Next up was “Combat Karate” presented by Greg Hall. Greg is clearly a very talented karateka, and I think that the core of his “Combat Karate” – the double hip, to enhance punching power – clearly works very well. Unfortunately I found it somewhat baffling, much as I’ve always found karate. Looking at Greg’s punching power, and knowing that he’s a former doorman with proven street effectiveness, I half-wished I’d spend the time in my youth to find someone teaching a seriously self-defence oriented variation of one of the martial arts, and train, train, train. I’m not sure I’m dedicated enough. What draws me to combatives is the simplicity & immediacy of it. I suspect that people with more skill & dedication than me could have got a lot out of Greg’s presentation, though, particularly if they had a karate or other strong punching background, and it makes perfect sense to include a more advanced module like this one in the International.

Den’s seminars and training days always seem to climax with some kind of pressure test or very fatiguing drill which puts together much of what has been learnt during the day. It seems to seal in the new knowledge, somehow. So today we had the ever-impressive Mika Soderman presenting “Developing Killing Power,” a drill based on one of the WWII training methods. Four targets were set up (Spar-Pros and similar), each one a station that we had to go to in turn & deliver a different set of strikes to (knees in the clinch, forehand & backhand slaps, tiger’s claws & chinjabs, and axe-hands). At each station we had 15 seconds of half-power strikes against the target, then 15 seconds of full-power strikes, with the intention being to deliver maximum impact and “Killing Power.” 30 seconds doesn’t sound like a lot, but the intensity we had to deliver meant that even the first 30 seconds was fatiguing; doing the same again, three more times, with a different set of strikes, was even more so. Throughout the process the instructors and other trainees were yelling encouragement to ensure we delivered maximum power. It was clear to me that 15 seconds of being hit with full-power attacks of any of these types would be enough to ruin anyone’s day….

Many of us adjourned to the course hotel bar for a swift pint before the course dinner, at the Chung-Ku restaurant overlooking the River Mersey. The evening was spent with good company, good food, and good beer. It’s always great to find just what a friendly & welcoming bunch combatives enthusiasts are. Special thanks to Slackbladder for giving me loads of lifts around town in the infamous Slackmobile Mark III.

I'll cover Day 2 in a separate post, due to the character limit.

Day 2

Dennis started today’s section of the International with a talk on “Clothing & Equipment Factors in Self-protection.” Anyone who has taken a look at the “Kit” thread on Dennis’s forum will be aware of just how extensive his knowledge of this aspect of self-protection is. He’s clearly given it an enormous amount of thought, and this talk gave us a huge amount of information on everything from protective clothing, to communications equipment, flashlights, first aid kits, and selecting the right pair of boots. He also covered weapons carry, including a brief note on the optimum solution for situations in which dedicated weapons are illegal to carry – which is to train to use improvised weaponry.

Phil Matthews (aka “The Bristol Bloke”) is a dedicated researcher into WWII combatives, and presented a superb lecture on “E.A. Sykes- The forgotten hero of Combatives.” Sykes was considerably more secretive than Fairbairn, which is perhaps one of the reasons the latter is better-known, but Sykes was a renowned expert in close-quarter combat (armed and unarmed), point shooting, and silent killing. Den followed the lecture by taking us through a drill based on one of Sykes’s original training methods, the “Crowd Drill.” In groups of five, we took turns to be in the centre of the other four training partners, who fed us pads. The idea was that we had to repeatedly attack all four pads, constantly “checking six,” moving evasively, and delivering maximum power. I was lucky to be in a superb group here, which included Scots combatives instructor Al Beckett and Ireland’s premier self-defence instructor John Brawn, whose punches very nearly knocked me on the floor even through the pads. This was typical of the International – we were all encouraged to swap around our training partners, so as to stay out of the comfort zone, and the more experienced guys were always eager to help out relative newcomers such as myself.

Physical fitness is very strongly emphasised by the UK combatives community, partly because of the aforementioned illegality of weaponry. If you know that the only armament you can absolutely rely on having with you is your body’s natural weaponry, you NEED to be able to rely absolutely on your body. (This is still the case even if you can carry weaponry legally, but even more so when you can’t.) So, it was no surprise when the next part of the International was devoted to physical fitness. We did a brief warmup, then Tony Da Costa and the Liverpool Gutterfighters ran us through a series of “Vasbyte Drills.” These are hard, anaerobic workouts, similar in some respects to circuit training but dedicated to working specific muscle groups. In this case, the Vasbyte Drills had been specifically adapted to combatives fitness requirements, with each drill pre-exhausting a specific muscle group then finishing with a series of strikes against a pad using the same muscle group – crunches followed by side-kicks, pushups followed by tiger claws, etc.

Next up was “Ground Fighting” presented by Si Squires. This is an area that I had barely looked at prior to the International, so it was especially educational to me. The main focus, of course, has to be getting back on your feet as rapidly as possible. We learnt several ways to do this, even from very disadvantaged positions, the most extreme being the aforementioned “pub kicking” – where you’re on the ground being repeatedly booted from all sides. Any method that works is valid here – mostly, getting up from such an extremely disadvantaged position required mindset and a willingness to treat one’s assailants as furniture to claw and climb up, like a demented & threatened alleycat.

The final subject for Day 2 was “Forward Drive.” Al Beckett gave a great presentation on the mindset of forward drive, applied both to the “hard skills” of self-protection and to the soft skills of avoidance & body language. Next Den covered the specific techniques used for forward drive – taking and occupying the assailant’s space, giving him the problem of defending himself, seizing the initiative. The climax of both the Forward Drive modules and the day’s activities was the High-Stress Scenario. I won’t go into the specifics of this, since much of the effectiveness of this type of scenario training is in the unexpectedness, but a variety of pre-stressing, pre-fatiguing methods were used, finishing with a full-force attack by a padded assailant who started out from a position of advantage. Si & Giles acted as our padded attackers for the day, steaming in with great gusto, maximum aggression, and committed verbal “woofing” style roleplay.

Overall this was an absolutely exhilarating experience. Highlight for me was, while absolutely drained from sprinting, "milling", and 30 seconds of full-force smashing a Spar-Pro, being immediately crowded in by the Bulletman and managing to take his initial attacks (despite a reeling head from his big haymakers), get in close to reduce the effectiveness of his blows, get him on the floor, mount him, and hammerfist him repeatedly till the call of "check check check"... I’m still not quite sure how I did it, which again emphasises the importance of mindset, particularly to someone like me who is still relatively new to combatives – I did use some of the specific unarmed combatives techniques we’d drilled over the weekend, but I don’t know which ones, other than intent and forward drive.

I came away from the weekend with massively increased confidence in my empty-hand capabilities. I mentioned the medieval re-enactment, the FMA, and the sport fencing before, all predominantly weapon arts, and most of the combatives training I’d done before the International was also weapon-oriented. So, it was excellent to get such intensive, all-round training in empty hand techniques, particularly from such a superb array of instructors. Dennis’s abilities not just as a combatives instructor, but as the focal point for some of the finest combatives instructors in the world, meant that the weekend was an unrivalled opportunity to learn from some true greats.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the bonus Monday morning final session of the International, which I believe featured Den and Mika presenting WWII knife combatives techniques.

I would encourage anyone with a serious interest in self-protection to try to get along to this year's International, in a couple of weeks' time.
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