Sunday, 12 September 2010

Hard Contact Training

Lately I have been thinking about hard contact training, especially as I am on light training post op until I get the all clear.

I think ideally for my current training group, which is not a commercial class; our training should contain light and hard contact sparring/fighting as follows:

Boxing, Thai or Kick Boxing and MMA

Light boxing sparring (what we were doing).

Hard sparring (people get knocked out and cracked ribs etc).

Street Scenario fighting

What I rather dramatically call Street Scenario fighting.

Light from the fence (what we were doing).

Hard from the fence (Animal night/day, people get knocked out and cracked ribs etc).

Off Road Training (ORT)

What I call off road training, which is basically the above with weapons. I use a mixture, going from soft to hard contact.

Normally in our street training there is a clear winner and loser(s), because combatives is often a one way conversation. If someone does counter, it is normally in a very dramatic way i.e. someone blasts in and the other guy throws an off balance left hook, which hits chin and gets the knock out. I call these knock outs UKO's for un-explained knock outs, because you often as coach have to explain what happened to the guy who got left hooked.

Lately I have been thinking that hard boxing sparring is great in the short term (two years) but in the long term it is the path to long term illness. Long term hard contact in boxing or MMA sparring, will lead to brain dysfunction. Kind of like you will learn a lot of lessons from hard contact but then forget them later as Parkinson's comes on.

I have been playing with different percentages of hard verses light training for as long as I have been teaching (from around 1985). I never get it a hundred percent right but I know that some hard contact is a must; otherwise people get delusional about their abilities.

Right now I think one of the best training methods is to go hard in clinch and ground. Good hard rolling with take downs will clear a lot of the issues that come with light or no hard contact training. It will also stop people from being delusional...



Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Working with Warriors

I picked up this great book, the Saturday before last, intending to read it post operation last Friday. I made the mistake of starting to read it on the train, on the way back from the shops and finished it three days later.

The book deals with the combative life of three people, and covers Dennis Martin’s training in Karate, then Close-quarter Combatives, as well as working on nightclub doors with Terry O’Neill and Gary Spiers. All three are well known in the martial arts and combatives world, and this book is a must read for the beginner and experienced  martial artist.

The book is also of the life journey type and despite rumours that Denis types with one finger, it's a very good read. I can see this book also being very popular with the "holiday" or casual reader, as it's very enteraining.

Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, packed with interviews and with a lot of real world tips, from people who really do the job.
The chapter headings are detailed here:

My book of the year and a very refreshing read!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Biased towards pretty things?

When I was younger, I was mainly interested in boxing, great boxing looks so sweet and smooth and most people can not deal with an above average boxer. Don't believe me, go spar a round with a semi pro that is the same size as you.

When my granddad found out I was joining army, he showed me a little WW11 combatives he had picked up. The combatives worked well but for the most part it just looked so ugly. Amateur boxing in the 1980’s had some back and forth timing to its sparring. It was only later when I trained with some pro trainers that I realised that pro boxing was more staccato in its timing.

Someone (I think it was Kelly McCann once said that sport arts like boxing are something you do with someone, whilst combatives are something you do to someone. That’s certainly a great mindset to develop and train towards.

I think we all bring our own bias to the training field, I know for myself I have spent the last twenty years looking at martial arts a certain way, it’s probably why I was attracted to arts, such as boxing, Muay Thai and dog brothers stick fighting. All of which look smooth and sweet. Later I got in to Vale Tudo, which morphed into MMA overnight.

Along the way I picked up the Fence from Geoff Thompson and MUC from South Narc

Lately, being nearly forty five years of age, I have noticed a couple of things, the champions of sport arts are all young, the champion is not necessary the best you can be, just the best of the rest. None of this is an issue until you start talking about street self protection and you bring your sporting bias with you, because the fact is a street fight looks and is ugly. I have never been in a pretty street encounter and I don’t know anyone who has...

Most of the fights I have been in felt like slow motion car crashes.

If you read the various MMA forums around the net, you notice that anything that looks ugly is dismissed as being useless for street protection. It does not look right (read smooth) so better train sports delivery systems. There are huge advantages to training in sports delivery systems (see some of my other articles) however two crucial things change when you step out of the ring or cage: Distance and timing.

Normally the range closes to touching range very quickly and the timing beats accelerate as the fight goes on. So instead of the beat going one – two – three, it goes half - one – half – two etc. Fighting timing builds in speed and momentum. That’s why street fights are normally one way traffic. You have to overwhelm the others before they hurt you.

I currently teach old style boxing to my training partners for half the year and we then switch to combatives for the last six months. The feel and sounds of training are totally different. The combatives class just looks ugly and that’s how it should be. There’s another difference from the cage as well, there are no rules of engagement, so clinch range can suddenly become a weapons based environment when someone pulls a knife. There is nothing like introducing a blade to the training place to alter the range and timing of the conflicts.

There are no absolutes, so in the end it is up to you to make your own mind up, all I ask is that you don’t write off the traditional or ugly arts because they maybe just what you need. You may even consider mixing them like I do.

Very best of luck


Monday, 5 July 2010

Richard Sackville, arts to train 2010

Old style boxing, including standing grappling (Jan to June)

Combatives hybrid, mixed with MMA and WBE clinch (July to Dec)

Personal training – Silat (Jan to Dec)

Full contact stick fighting (on hold until 2011)

Vale Tudo - MMA (on hold, due to boredom)

Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Making of a Butterfly: Traditional Chinese Martial Arts as Taught by Master W.C. Chen

I brought this fine book by Phillip Starr on Friday, it’s now Sunday and apart from training and a bit of gardening, I have not been able to put it down.

It is quite simply one of the best books I have ever read and should be required reading for all martial art students.

This book is absolutely crammed full of little gems.



Saturday, 3 April 2010

A bad hunter chases and a good hunter waits

I was trained by Len Killick, simply one of the best hunters in the world. One of Len’s common comments during training was “a bad hunter chases and a good hunter waits”. Like most wise words, this has many meanings and levels.

Many years ago, my friend and I set off on a mission, along the way we came across a high priority target. We watched for a while, say half a day, suspecting a trap. It soon became clear that this was a wonderful chance to pass on some kama that was way over due i.e. a 7.62 bullet to the head. However this would be a shoot and scoot and it would be a foot race to get back over the border before we were caught by the chasing force. The hunters would become the hunted.

The shot was made and we bugged out, the enemy had lost a principle VIP and was soon on the follow up. The native trackers picked up our hasty trail.

We had two day run to win and as we came out of a valley we realised we were being cut off with a pincer movement.

We crossed a long plateau and set up on a small hill. For people who know about such things, the plateau started just out of 7.62 range away, from our hide. We now had an hour or so to prepare and we did the best we could, moving rocks around and covering our hide. Most of the waiting time I spent thinking about my life and also hoping I would go out like a man.

The enemies follow up party and their trackers reached the edge of the plateau. They were a seasoned team i.e. all the unlucky ones had been killed already. They know the terrain well, which was partly why they had caught up with us so quickly.

They had us!

There was no escape and they probably had a good idea as to our location. We had no back up and there was no cavalry coming over the hill. I could see the trackers pointing in the direction of our travel across the plateau. We were off to the right of our tracks, have looped around the hill and back tracked from its rear. This meant the follow up party would be in range for a long time before they figured where we were.

Even the birds had re settled on the plateau thanks to my South African team mate’s old hunting trick, which I will never show.

I would like to write that we fought like mad dogs and picked off the enemy but the truth is they stopped on the edge of the plateau and we slipped away.

I have thought about those four hot and intense days a lot over the years and I can only guess as to why they gave up the chase but I think that the wise old heads knew that a bad hunter chases and good hunter waits.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Content, context and consequence

Content, context and consequence

Copright Richard Sackville

I currently have two areas or separate disciplines I am studying and researching for my own personal training and that I work with my little group of training partners. The first area is self protection and I work all the usual modules that long term MAI readers will be familiar with: the fence, MMA for the street which includes stand up, clinch and ground, taking into account a weapon based environment and the fact that most often assaults are not fair fights and more often ambushes.

The second area is my research and training in Pentjack Silat systems, which in my case is currently at beginner level. I have quite a bit of experience of several silat styles but over the last few years I have been trying to get a real depth to my art. To me, depth means having an understanding of the many layers of the arts and also being able to use it. For example I may know a sweep and be able to demonstrate it but can I pull in off under pressure. Do I know and use the different timings and what makes it work. Silat can make for a fascinating if slow study.

A number of my sparing partners have noted that the two disciplines seem at odds with each other, on one hand we use the striped down world war two combatives, utilising the fence, mixed with my modified MMA system .This system is taught via the three I’s method that I got from the Straight Blast Gym (SBGi), in that there is a short introduction stage, followed by a longer isolation stage, which involves alive drilling and then an integration stage were the new skill is included in our overall sparring game. I can’t take credit for this teaching method as I “borrowed” it from Matt Thornton and other instructors at SBGi. All credit to them for a great way of teaching.

It’s not in the scope of this short article for me to explain how the Silat teaching system works in detail but Silat works from a traditional teaching method, the student learns a short form and his teacher draws solutions from that form, during problem solving sessions. A lot of the work is done solo, and there are pre arrange drills, where in the first instance there is a feeder and a receiver and the motions are performed out slowly in an almost tai chi like manner. Sparring and free fighting is utilised but it is normally after the student has gained a good feel for the system. It should be noted that from the beginning the teacher will bounce the student off the walls and floor etc, much like you see in the Chinese internal arts.

So on one hand we have a stripped down modern approach and on other we have what most would label as a traditional approach and they appear to the complete opposites of each other.

My feeling is that whilst the two teaching methods are different, they can add to each other. One of the things I have learned from my traditional training is the following formula and I have applied it to my martial arts research and my MMA expression. Here are some of the basic headings which you will hopefully find useful.


What elements does the art have, does it deal with stand up, clinch and ground and more importantly does it miss anything out. Boxing is one of my favourite pass times but it does not deal with weapons such as the knife. The reason is that most boxing styles prioritise protecting the head and leave the elbows and level changes to block body blows. To stand any chance of defending against a knife, you must cover the high and low lines, which would normally mean you would have one arm covering high and one arm covering low. The rules of the game will change the content of the art.


Where has the art developed from and what was the context for its development, was it a life system, designed to teach the student life skills or was it a stripped down emergency solution to an immediate need, like world war two combatives was.

The context can also include physical environment, was it design for wet jungles or medieval battlefields etc and the political environment, perhaps the art hidden in a dance as martial practice was banned. The context the art was formed in can have huge bearing on an art, as can how you intend to put it to use. A delivery system that was designed to train a student to control a knife in the clinch range may be of use to train the control and disarming of a fire arm within the same range. Ground grappling changes a lot in a weapons base environment. Check out this great video from Southnarc, one of the true leaders in the field of modern urban combat and who understands context:


One of my first silat instructors, slaughtered German officers on the trams in Holland during the second would war. He could show how to ambush people in confined space with a knife and kill them very quickly. Being able to gut someone is an interesting skill but the consequences to me and my family for my quick two seconds work, if I was not in a similar war situation would be a long term Jail sentence and bankruptcy.

Once the student understands content, and context, it makes sense to consider the consequence. One you understand the above headings, you will be able to look at any art and use the formula to research it.

Happy researching!

Richard Sackville

Sunday, 3 January 2010