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Developing Two and Three Step Weapon Drills
Integrating Strokes and Footwork for Combat
Recently I was attending an FMA gathering that featured hours of stick drills, both solo and two-person. The mirror-image two-person FMA sets have always seemed impractical to me and I have an easy time with most fighters who come from that background. The FMA fighters who are really tough to deal with are the ones who hit bags; in other words, the ones that train like boxers and MMA fighters, not like martial artists.
At the end of this day of training some of the fitter fighters went at it with light sticks and heavy gear. There was no real distinction between the performance of the fighters based on belt rank, whereas there had been marked differences in drill execution. In fact the highest rank was the only fighter to lose his stick while fighting, and did so repeatedly. This was indicative of a lack of sparring and gear acclimatization. But there was something else, something that I and my training partners have suffered from: the inability to transfer solo and two-person sets into fighting. The style that was being taught that day was big on legs slashes and sweeping beats. None were present in sparring. The style was practiced mostly at long range and mid range. However, 80% of the fighting was done at close range.
I know part of the answer is in the bag or post work. Most contact weapons people essentially go from solo drills [which equate to shadow boxing] and two-person sets [which equate to mitt drills] right to fighting. Imagine training a boxer, kickboxer or MMA fighter like that, with no bag work?
Having isolated the training gap how do we plug it?
I practice the Doce Paras 12 count, three Bais Tres Manos counts [a 13 and two 8s], and the Modern Agonistics 20 count. But, to equate fighting to writing, this is like reading a dictionary and then using that as a basis for writing a story.
How about all of those extensive drill counts? The problem with these typical 4-stroke mirror image sets is that combat does not unfold that way. Combat is antagonistic, not sympathetic, and is therefore opposite in most ways to such drills. The counts are too sympathetic and amount to tapping sticks to develop coordination. These counts are essentially marketing devices for permitting non-combatants to feel as though they are practicing a combat art.
The best fighter, coach and bag-worker that I have known is Aaron Seligson. When he gave me privates he stressed bag work, most importantly developing quick aggressive stroke combinations with footwork.
Taking our cue from Aaron’s example, Charles, Brett and I are all currently working, in Modern Agonistics fashion, on breaking down those combinations we have successfully employed in fights. We are working exclusively on two step and three step combinations. The strokes chosen vary depending on the immediate energy given by the opponent and your relative position. The concept is that one step is usually not enough to engage or disengage, and that four steps is a bit optimistic. If you can get four steps in on a guy, why not just make it a chain of two steps? By drilling two steps at a time, with three-steps representing exploitation combinations, I think we are at least constructing the component parts of winning combinations.
As we break these sets down and coach each other through the nuances of solo drilling them on a bag, we will publish them here. Instead of numbering them we will letter and name them. Individual specific numbered strokes will be discussed as options. The combination will simply be built around synchronizing forehands and backhands with steps that are preexisting in FMA, fencing and boxing.
We have published this introduction to this phase of our weaponry evolution here so that, if you wish, you may join in the process. I expect to publish the ‘Two Step’ and ‘Three Step’ drills here one at a time over the course of the next year or so. We will be limiting this evolution to single stick techniques. Notes on competitive stick-fighting, self-defense, and blade adaptations will be made.
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