Thursday, February 12, 2015

Addendum, Clarification and Expansion of Paul Vunak's Fighting Secrets by Badger Johnson

My friend Badger Johnson wrote up this essay after reading:

With Badger's kind permission, I'm posting his essay to my site. Truly hope this helps you in your Sojourn of Septillion Steps!

Good luck in your training!

"Addendum, Clarification and Expansion of Paul Vunak's Fighting Secrets"

Author’s Note: This is an essay designed to look constructively into Vu’s list of fighting secrets. It’s essentially a deconstruction and is not an attempt to be dismissive or disrespectful of his work.  If you print out his list and refer to it while reading this it will be clearer.

1. Stress Inoculation – “I used riding my bike wearing plastic/rubber lined rain gear in 95 degree weather for three years. Now that's some stress inoculation and it’s consistently and easily repeatable. The key though, is to do the right kind and to not go past the point where it is causing injury or creating excess cortisol. But it takes a long time (weeks of consistent practice) to get an effect.

2. SI stand up – “Learning to take a punch with your eyes open - not closing your eyes when about to be hit. This is done by using headgear and goggles and doing a slow progression to boxing gloves. In reality you shield your eyes so there's no 'eye contact' but that's not what you're doing. You're trying to remove the 'blink reflex'.”

3. Accordion drill – “I don't believe Vu and his students actually did this, or did it very infrequently, for various reasons. It's not based on 'aliveness' and it has artificiality about it. To learn ranges, you train that range, you train transitions. Also, you go to an expert and immerse yourself in his range. I.e. don't do 'anti-grappling' with a non-grappler. Keep in mind that complex drills are often counter-productive, being substituted for actual sparring.”

4. Takedown Defense - "This is also an example of 'mental defense' in that it is not something you can reliably practice, it is not a drill that you can find a partner to help you practice, either the groin kick or the biting. So it can't be functionalize. The real way to learn takedown defense - see the UFC - is to learn how wrestlers do it, learn to sprawl, learn to do BJJ with an actual instructor. Relying on extreme moves is fine until someone who is really skilled figures this out. They will have positional dominance on you and be much better at doing this. You must have positional dominance either from top control or bottom control (skill and leverage) before you can employ 'extreme measures'."

5. Favorite Takedown - "There are many ways to safely throw an unskilled opponent and if you do practice judo you will find it easy to do. Pulling guard is OK, if you have skills workable off your back. Otherwise it is not something I'd promote in a 'fight' with a stranger. Trips, sweeps, and just plain man-handling someone who is not aware of balance attacks works better. Again, he's trying to give out 'secrets that someone can 'read' about and use. This whole idea is dubious"

6. Straight Blast - "High attribute-based move. Can your 25 year old athletic daughter use this? Can your wife use it? Possibly, they might, given some training. In addition there's a hidden problem with doing a straight blast and that is most people are good with going forward with a shuffle, like a fencer, one side forward. It takes a fair amount of training to do that 'walking step' you see in KK (Krabi Krabong), where the left foot steps forward, unlike the sliding advance you see in boxing and fencing. It's not clear why people want to put that one side forward, and few of the SB guys will talk about the walking step, in fact in some of Vu's videos he uses it but his student's don't."

7. Pendulum - "Not a bad concept - hard to train with a partner, too easy to be lulled by cooperation. Not everyone can bring themselves to blind or neuter someone. By the time you realize the fight is to the death you've already forgotten technique. Same thing is true with biting. We have mental barriers to doing things like that. You're not going to be able to train your daughter or wife to bite off someone's nose and rip off a testicle. In fact many women have trouble giving themselves permission to hit someone. One thing to remember is that these tips have to work for people who really need them. Telling a 250lb 6'5 guy about how to groin kick or eye gouge is kind of silly. He can just about do anything and end most fights. It's the small, frail, female or elderly person, the child who we must imagine using SD ideas and at least try to adapt things for that kind of person. Yes training of some kind is required, but think 'can it be trained with a partner', can it be functionalized under stress and is it reasonable? If a person tries to grab your purse, you are not going to want to blind them (though some might)."

8. Secret of Interception - "As I said in a recent post the secret of broken rhythm is not 'you' breaking your rhythm it's you picking up and breaking your opponent's rhythm. Here Vu talks about how BL (Bruce Lee) would entice someone to move forward then suddenly intercept. However that aside, WHERE are these videos of BL sparring and doing this. WHY hasn't Vu put them on CD or DVD and become an instant millionaire? Nobody I know or have read about has ever suggested there are any videos or tapes or anything where BL is sparring and he doesn't use this 'piking' or shrimping movement sparring with Dan at the Internationals. I'm not saying Vu is making this up, because it makes sense. I'm just wondering where this footage is"

9. Defanging – “Angle #2 is a backhand strike. Though it might subtend a favorable angle it will undoubtedly be a slower strike, depending on the tool used. Of course the 'flick' using the rotation of the wrist can be a very fast strike. I do remember my 'ah-ha' moment when I realized that using the concept of range it was easier to hit the hand (distance wise) than to hit the opponent's head or body But at the same time, the hand is moving around. In DB fights you see people swipe at the hand and miss. So the key here is how to make the opponent put their hand in range and keep it there for you to hit. The answer is by ABD (Attack by Drawing). You lure their hand into range moving slowly and then defang. So though Vu talks about 'what' he doesn't mention the 'how'."

10. Isometrics the Secret to the Guard - "Localized muscular endurance. This is one of about four types of energy that you learn to train and can train by doing your sport. In addition the secret to maintaining guard and bottom control is not constant muscular tension, it's learning efficient control while being relaxed. I guarantee you Rickson (or any good blue belt in BJJ) is not grabbing on and holding on for dear life when he traps and controls you from guard."

11. One inch punch – “Vu talks about his 'demo punch' but that is different than his fighting 'one inch punch'. See where James DeMile talks about this. In addition the cultivation of 'short power' is worth doing. I've talked about it and it emanates from the waist and the wrist. Find ways to train 'short power' from everywhere and do them all. From breaking to punching to hitting a makiwara to hitting paper and punching at candle flames and punching coffee cans across a picnic table and finger spearing watermelons. Over time all your lead punches and your hooks will have added power. Primarily, though what you need to train is your forearm, your grip and your finger strength. It goes along with BL's idea to train to make things that are weak even in strong people strong. His bridge arm and his forearms."

12. Super Coordination ! - "I don't buy this as a way to make trapping or other complex high attribute things work. We know from the videos that Roy Harris does that there are ways to functionalize trapping and they are technical. Once again Vu is saying 'spar a lot with a guy who will do this with you and finding a guy who can do that - good luck'. I think high level, high attribute stuff happens, partly because the person has a knack. Not everyone is going to have this coordination and some things you just can't teach. I've had students who I knew were never going to be coordinated and I know myself there are some things I am never going to be super good at, given the time at hand. For example a professional style tennis serve or a college level high dive twisting somersault is going to be out of most people’s reach. Keep it real."

13. Flashlight principle “This sounds good. Quite frequently, if you give someone
a special perspective in sparring they can end up beating  their opponent. It doesn't have to be limited to 'flashlighting' their weapons hand. So take this principle and broaden it.

14. Mother of All Drills - "While I would agree with the three criteria, realistic, alive and mode, I don't believe he actually does this. I think it's one of those imaginary ideas. You can simulate all this stuff in the studio, mats, training blades, eye protection because as Jigoro Kano said the method of training trumps dangerous moves. Should you seek to employ things like distractions, noise, darkness, and obstacles. Sure, but I'd do them one at a time. Too much chaos and we don't learn."

15. The U drill - "This is a corollary to my thesis that the best and only way to train with the knife is to use 'alive' methods. That is to start out with double wrist control and top control (then later bottom control with full guard and double wrist control. Once you have done this and learned how to deal you can move on. The idea of learning fighting or grappling with the blade from the non-contact range is ludicrous. It just doesn't happen. Now you might be able to move from the contract range, learning contact reflexes like Vu says to the 'gap range' but not de novo."

16. How To Double Your speed !  - "Though I tend to agree with his description we now know there are other ways to train the nervous system to improve speed. I would agree that there are many types of speed and he covers that part well. Initiation speed, speed of combinations, reaction speed and performance speed are among the many types. There's also 'speed of thought' (fast eyes) and timing speed (speed of change or flow). I would often use elastic bands or springs rather than weights. And I would train the whole body, not just an arm or leg. You can improve your running speed, (leg turnover) by running a slight downhill. You can improve your movement speed by training under water (just your body). You can improve your 'eye speed' by understanding complex moves. For example I did not understand nor could I follow soccer until I played it a little and knew the rules. By being able to structure the sport I improved my 'eye speed' mostly by knowing where to look and what to look for."

17. Kettlebell – “I completely agree with this one, but will expand on it. The kettlebell overhead snatch is working what I call the posterior chain muscles. Those are the glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors. These muscles are used in jumping, long jumping and high jumping. The exercise cited can also be done with a dumbbell, and is called 'the goblet squat', which is a little less intense and can be used as a precursor. Many people who tout the squat as the king of exercises do it in such a way as to almost eliminate the posterior chain and focus instead on the quads maybe upper back and calves. By putting the bar behind the neck the vector is shifted away from the posterior chain. Thus front squats, goblet squats and the OH squat are superior athletically. You can do overhead squats just using a wooden dowel about 1" thick normally used to hang clothes in a closet. The resistance or weight is inconsequential while you develop form. Later you can move to just an Olympic bar (45lbs) and then much later start adding weight, but again even advanced players don't need a lot of weight."

18. What Makes Us Different? - "Totally agree here, and the only way to expand is to recite the tenets of 'Alive' training. Finishing moves are useless if you don't know the flow, the method of training and the positional dominance. Thus Gene Lebell's book on finishing moves is totally worthless as a training manual since it doesn’t show sequence or training methods, while Eddie Bravo's book showing the tree behind the moves (JuJitsu UnleashedMastering the Rubber Guard, etc) do have the footwork, the timing and the progression. It's actually more than the drills but the development of 'the flow' in various areas. There's striking flow, grappling flow and takedown flow."

19. The Power of the Fork - “Agree with this but the concept needs to be broadened. I call it attack on multilple fronts. One uses the fork not just for human enemies but for internal and external problems of all kinds. Attack on multiple fronts and don't meet the enemy (ideological or physical) force-on-force and a weaker force can defeat a stronger but un-united force.”

20. The Double Progressive Indirect attack - "Here the question should be, 'why can't people who know how to punch in combination, or how to do PIA pull it off in a fight'. That's the key to this and it all comes down to broken rhythm. This is timing or perceiving your opponents rhythm and then breaking it. The other question is 'how do effectively do a fake'. It's not easy, because too broad a fake and the opponent is not fooled. The fake must be subtle and indistinguishable from a real technique. We fake with the hip, the shoulder and the head primarily. So to make this key concept work, we have to understand more about how hard it is to punch in combination and how to fake effectively."

21. Locking the Art of Joint Reversals - "Here, Vu gets it right in a sense, but there is more to it. One can get a lock out of a 'catch' a scoop, a parry and a 'stop' (shooting your hand to the shoulder of the opponent and stopping his punch before it gains speed.) But you must also pay attention to unbalancing your opponent and some angulation footwork. Too often you see RBSD (Reality-Based Self-Defense) guys doing moves against a single arm or punch or something but they are doing it statically, not dynamically. That means they are not disrupting the opponent's balance they are not driving forward or using forward pressure. Now, I know Vu knows this he just failed to elucidate it here. Destructions are one type of 'stop' but to be clear you can't just throw a destruction - it has to 'stop' the punch first. Otherwise the punch may still connect even if it causes less damage. Catch the punch and simultaneously bring down the elbow to the back of the hand, or stab the bicep. Here you've stopped it and at the same time applied the destruction which weakens the technique. You can use stops and destructions in other areas, leg, takedown defense etc. You can also use this in the mental game. You can interrupt and stop and destruct the opponent's will to fight. Much better than a physical joint lock. Now in addition a joint lock is a means to an end. You must neutralize the opponent also which usually means taking them to the ground. Don't just 'joint lock' and stand there. Maintain the body contact ahd take to the ground to finish the move."

22. Footwork - "Few people really understand footwork and how to do it. I don't think it's something you set out to learn by itself, but you learn it as a way to keep moving and doing what you do. We do learn some 'footwork' in tennis, but what really teaches us is following and trying to return the ball. We do learn footwork in basketball, but really, talented players come up with their own footwork to make that basket and run circles around the other player. Watch a playground basketball game. Do you really think any of those guys studied basketball footwork? The only footwork worth studying independently is the fencing lunge and the KK walking step. All the other stuff is to be learned on the fly. I might make a further exception and say certain footwork involved in learning to bob and weave in boxing should be learned, because they've worked out a pretty good system for it. But as Vu said, if you learn it by dancing, you will learn by imitation because you 'want to move like that' to follow the beat. It's more instinctive and instructive when music is involved and I've always said if a MA is not a good dancer he will not be a good MA."

23. The Nut Cracker - "This is, again, what I think is an 'imaginary drill' (which doesn’t make it bad) and people do not practice this regularly because it is high chaos and low learning. One must realize that nobody can adequately train to defend against an ambush, unless that person is being ambushed every day. For example someone who is a street cop is constantly being ambushed. By that I mean hit from all sides with surprises. They learn street smarts and gain experience so that in time, if they survive it is hard to 'ambush' them. Note that I'm not limiting it to a fighting drill or even physical confrontation. It's more a mental thing, dealing with surprise. Though there are hundreds of grappling moves, in the end the accomplished grappler doesn't have to learn an individual response to each of them (though they might to a degree). They learn to improvise and flow and feel or sense what's about to happen. So while it's good to show that a 'takedown' can occur from any direction, nobody is going to be any better at surviving it by doing this 'imaginary' but creative drill than they will by doing football or tackles or normal wrestling. And most people since they are not doing this drill every day will continue to be surprised and be taken down badly from an ambush. It's a fact of life that in general, if you're ambushed (particularly with a weapon) you lose. The key here is to learn how not to be surprised by 'not being there'."

24. The Missile – “I would agree that this might be a fun drill. I'm not convinced that they actually practiced this either but the key here is learning how stereoscopic vision and depth perception works. When a fencer or boxer or bowie knife fighter throws their jab, they want it to be straight at the opponent's eyes so that the opponent can't use depth perception. It has to look like it's coming right out from the shoulder as a two-dimensional thing. This prevents timing it or seeing the build up so it's hard to avoid. James Keating talks about this for Bowie on Legacy of Steel. Though again, I think this drill shows good imagination and is clever in the way it would potentially make the straight line strikes be non-telegraphic I don't believe any boxers really do this type of training, and it would probably be easy to side step and counter."

25. Contemporary JKD’s Progression - "All I will say here is that the straight blast is a function of the footwork. Watch Vitor Belfort's feet. Then watch Benjamin Rittiner do the KK footwork. They both do it the same way. The key is in the walking step or bringing that left foot forward and not using a fencer's or a boxers, same side foot forward shuffle. This walking step provides the needed forward pressure and unbalancing to allow the Straight blast to work. Paul probably knows this since he's presumable studied KK, but he sort of failed to mention it. His students don’t do it and he does it inconsistently, mostly using the shuffle. The shuffle does not provide the necessary forward pressure."

26. Body Mechanics - "Here we see the finishing move but we hear very little about what the body mechanics are. You could give a bunch of FMA guys bladed weapons and they wouldn't hit on the right method of training body mechanics. John LaCoste did have that ability to fight inside with that twisting, bending of the knees and sliding. But we can't just watch him and try to duplicate that. There is probably a method to developing that but Vu is not telling us, if he knows. Many people have tried to duplicate LaCoste's moves and failed. The other thing about training with blades is that there is a specific progression, which even the best FMA knife guys don't seem to know. So go through this progression, incorporate 'pressure' and learn through this how to fight inside. Is it possible to learn? I don't know, especially against another person who is armed."

27. Secret to Keeping Students - "I will remind the reader what the combination of factors were, which resulted in the most intense training of my life. That was downhill skiing with headphones on. It incorporated exhaustion, music and danger. I literally risked my life driving through several blizzards and epic snowfalls to get to the slopes to repeat this experience and after it was over it stuck with me for the rest of the day as pure joy. So if you can do downhill skiing on at least intermediate slopes on 180 cm skis, then drop all training and do that instead, in season. It will give your training new meaning. We don’t always know what will keep students involved, but at some point, the evolving student will need to move on.”

28. Quieting the Mind - "I will have to admit that the practice of doing thousands of these two exercises, of which I am familiar, and being a fan of the Great Gama, I did not know they were a type of moving meditation. It’s a worthy experiment. I will also submit that long distance swimming, cycling and running will accomplish a similar thing, though with these bodyweight exercises, these is no overhead for equipment. I suppose it is a matter of temperament as to whether you can get into this type of thing, but I will agree that Vu's friend is speaking truth. For me, though it took a while and required some skill the most trance-like state I encountered was when swimming a mile in a lap pool. I think it's something like 52 lengths in a 25-meter Olympic pool and I remember how hypnotic it was to see the droplets of water sparkling in the sun, when I turned my head to breathe. In addition to the repetitive nature, swimming requires a certain amount of breath control and we know from yoga and meditation practices that breath control is a key factor. With swimming it happens and is not a result of consciously breathing a certain way. You breath to live and keep swimming in other words."

29. The Great Eight - “This is interesting and I can see the validity here. But one must be sure to keep 'forward pressure' in all of these drills. All too often you see people doing them and kind of drifting off and standing completely still. This will not work or be effective. You must be moving around (eventually, at least, once you learn the static drill combinations and get the flow down) and begin creating resistance and flow not only in the limbs, but in the body and footwork.”

30. First Minute of the Fight - "Here Vu talks about 'structuring the opponent' which is a concept I came up with in 1979 and refined in 1983. If, you can sense what type of fighter someone is you can structure them and apply your strongest range against his weakest. It's more about using range though than using a particular technique (jab and kick). The hardest opponent to do this to is one where his range is in very close. It's almost impossible to keep a determined opponent at distance using strikes. Your best bet if you see the wrestling stance and the cauliflowered ears is to offer to buy him a beer."

36. Rickson - "Vu has detailed four of the things that Rickson Gracie can do but he's missed one of the greatest. I believe that Rickson is what we call dyslexic in the physical sense. IOW, he can see in three dimensions in his head. Dyslexics are able to rotate letters and words in their mind such that it works against them to a degree when trying to read. Well consider a person who can rotate their body and their opponent's body instantaneously in real time in their head. They can 'make up' on the fly various grappling moves, submissions and flow accordingly. They can anticipate, bait and intercept the opponent's next move and because of this appear to slow down time. That's why Rickson can move slowly. He is unlikely to be caught in something. He does not need to study the various side chokes, anaconda, darce, peruvian necktie, reverse triangle, he can see them and do them on the fly. Of course this ability might be a fluke, because I don't know how you train it. By 'base' Vu means positional dominance and balance. It's very hard if not impossible to sweep Rickson if he doesn't want to be swept. (reversed)."

Thanks for reading. I have not covered the last 13 items because I don’t see an opportunity to add anything. Hope this is helpful to your training. It’s always important to deconstruct what we’re taught and to seek better methods when possible. The unexamined dogma is a missed opportunity. Seek your own truths.

BAJ - 2015

Please check out Badger Johnson's other essays:

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Stickgrappler's Sojourn of Septillion Steps