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


  1. that person in the Brazil top is surely a true champion

  2. actually the context idea is very good, es specially.