Please Note: The next 3 articles by Mick Coup were originally posted on our GT forum and will therefore be familiar to most of you already. It is with Mick’s permission that they will also be stored here for easy reference to all. Peace L.M
REAL COMBAT EXPERIENCE
The Nature of the Beast Part 1
By guest writer Mick Coup
What can really prepare you for these factors? Experience certainly can, but are you ready for this kind of experience? If you’ve never been there, don’t kid yourself, or others, that your ultra-system is going to do the business. Sorry, but until the risk is ‘real’ you’ll never know if your capabilities are. Fact. Nothing that hasn’t been stated before, but still it seems to me that plenty of people take too much for granted as far as real fighting is concerned. High stakes really put a new slant on personal performance, there is no room for failure – it’s not a rehearsal, second chances are never guaranteed. Surely I don’t have to remind anyone what real failure is all about, but I’m going to do so anyway.
Minor physical injuries, sustained during a real attack, can create deep and severe psychological wounds, these sometimes take the longest time to heal, if they ever do. While we're on the subject, let’s not fool ourselves with the ‘minor injuries’ concept – real attackers don’t hold with it. They are going to do whatever they can to take you out, and then some for good measure, and then some more purely out of spite. Minor injuries? Not likely. Too many people underestimate the sustained ferocity of real attacks, the lengths that attackers are more than willing to go to, and the lack of assistance likely to be available to them at the time. Very rarely will anyone these days put his or her neck on the line for a stranger, when things really get messy. I’m not trying to say that people won’t come to watch, but don’t count on them getting involved, at least not on your side anyway. Keep this unpleasant reality in mind, it is essential to train and mentally prepare for third-party attackers. Also, try to make sure that any witnesses are your witnesses, because should you prevail against the odds there may be an abundance of spectators keen to condemn your actions - you may have actually had to hurt someone! Such is the public’s ignorance regarding effective self-protection (minimum force tends to be interpreted as minimal force, and is still expected to work regardless!). Personally, I still prefer ‘judged by strangers’ over ‘carried by friends' however un-PC it may be. I must state in my defence that I’ve never actually been attacked or assaulted in a politically correct manner or in any way sanctioned by the European Court of Human Rights, to this date anyhow! I really wish that I could deal with gangs and multiple attackers like in the manuals and movies; de-escalate, evade, block, restrain and the like. Unfortunately, I live and work in the real world and when it ‘goes off’, I try to get stuck in and level all concerned, then exit stage left. Not each and every time I assure you, but I’ve seen the result, and been on the receiving end, of group attacks too many times to have any misconceptions regarding how much force really is ‘minimum’ during such incidents, and hanging around post-incident is too much like asking for an encore as far as I’m concerned.
It is always preferable to attempt avoidance or de-escalation of a potential situation, as prevention is always better than cure. Sometimes, no matter how hard you may try, a situation won’t avoid you. Likewise, you can only talk to those who are willing to listen to reason. Wasting time with rhetoric, however ‘Win - Win’ it may be, can get you hurt when the other ‘party’ just doesn’t care what you have to say. Strong words I know, but I’m sure plenty of you out there know the score. When the chips are down and your neck really is on the line, you quite simply cannot afford to f**k about! What I recommend, most emphatically, is that if you want to learn about real fighting ask those who really have been in life-threatening situations; real uncontrolled, unprepared and unlimited encounters – no safety net, the kind that nightmares are made of. Find someone who has been there, and who is honest enough to put his or her ego to one side just long enough to recount the real deal.
Watch their face, especially their eyes, when they tell you what you possibly don’t really want to know. Either as predator or prey, their experiences of real violence are certain to make you step back and take stock of your real training. However hard the training is, nothing is comparable to a sudden confrontation with some desperate addict who doesn’t care whether you give him your money or he takes it from your body, anything rather than endure an imminent heroin withdrawal. On the other hand, a group of young wannabe ‘faces’ who have nothing to lose but their reputations, their most important asset, will not hesitate to smash you up just for sport. You see for some people violence is a way of life, either as a sport or as a business, and to them you’re just a ball to kick or a walking ATM. Don’t believe me? Please give me the names of some estate agents in your area, or maybe consider getting some stronger prescription glasses!
The Nature of the Beast Part 2
By guest writer Mick Coup
Many experienced individuals have become complacent and underestimated the potency of ‘low-tech’ methods. Have you ever heard that old saying, “Professionals are predictable, unfortunately the world is full of amateurs.” How true, how many ‘experts’ have been hurt and humiliated by untrained, unpredictable, fighters? I certainly have, I admit it. Not often, but I’ve been taken by surprise, I’ve displayed bad judgment, and I’ve been plain careless in the past. For these mistakes and lapses, I’ve paid a bloody price indeed, though thankfully not as high as some men I have had the honor of knowing. Costly, most definitely, but isn’t good experience always expensive? Sadly, we can often learn the most from those who have paid the highest price; but we must never allow ourselves to follow their path through our own ignorance.
Under the acute pressure of combat, the effects of the fear/adrenal reaction are well researched and documented, and progressive exposure to stress during actual encounters and very realistic training can certainly help to prepare you for some of the massively detrimental effects on your performance. The necessity of hard realistic training is without question, but remember realistic is not real. Sorry to sound so negative, but it actually enhances combative training to recognize and remember all its limitations. However close to the bone you can make your training and sparring drills, they’re still blank-firing exercises (if you pardon the expression) and safety is always paramount. Just because you are prohibited from applying certain extremely effective practices during training, they must still be forefront in your mind, so if you are required to ‘do the business’ you don’t keep using blanks out of habit, when you really need the live ammunition!
I sometimes get the disturbing impression that some of the ‘real combat systems’ on offer these days are far too academic to be of use in real combat situations. By this, I mean that it appears that almost every so-called ‘simple effective system of self-protection’ is evolving into some kind of martial algebra, when all that is actually required is something more akin to simple addition (done on the fingers at that!). Some systems just do not seem to have the feel for the dynamics of real fighting. They do have a wealth of techniques for supposedly tearing attackers limb from limb, and counters to every possible form of assault from weapon wielding gangs, and more. Maybe I’m not seeing enough, but it seems that I’m seeing too much. One technique that will work in a thousand situations is worth a thousand that might work in only one, a bit of a golden rule in my book. A good right hand, quick head butt and occasional low kick are about the limit of most real street fighters, but combined with high doses of surprise, aggression and unpredictability they become truly effective. Contemplate these following quotations, old favorites of mine that I swear by: “The Essence of War is Violence.” No Plan Survives First Contact with the Enemy.” These gems are to be found at the front of Pamphlet 45 – Infantry Tactics. This is the manual used by British Armed Forces Infantry Section Commanders when training and preparing for combat. The first is superbly succinct; it simply underlines that no matter how it is dressed up with technology and the like, conflict is no more than the application of extreme force. The second quote reminds us not to obsess too much with fine details, as introducing the human factor usually negates any too-careful preparation! Consider taking a leaf out of the military book concerning combat tactics, after all, they’re the market leaders! Whether it is on a personal or strategic scale; combat is combat, the theories behind such tactics are the same regardless. Being ambushed is the same wherever it happens, regardless of who is involved. In a pub wearing jeans or in a jungle clothed in camouflage, it’s the same thing. All the basic tactical principles hold true - avoiding potential ambush sites, reacting quickly to the initial onslaught, escaping the killing zone and fighting through the ambush, etc. Whatever the specifics, the basics still apply.
Combat tactics in the military are always fundamental and generic, not specific to each encounter with the enemy. They are basic enough to be easily learned and easily taught – an important consideration. Everything can rapidly become second nature and it’s all highly adaptable. What’s more, it’s all been proven to work consistently. Unit commanders and individual soldiers are trained exhaustively in general principles of closing with, and destroying, the enemy; these basic concepts can be applied to an unlimited number of situations. The key to this process is simplicity and flexibility, not micro-managed specifics that are doomed to fail. Proven and dependable core skills are the essentials in real combat, they must be capable of instinctive application - if you are thinking, and you’re not doing. When the stakes are high, if you’re not doing, you may be dying. Seriously consider reducing your personal arsenal of techniques and tactics to a solid core of generic tools that can be applied against generic attacks, whatever the situation or environment.
Just think; soldiers do not learn a hundred ways of holding and firing a rifle, just one is sufficient - so long as it’s backed by rock-solid principles of marksmanship that can be applied whether standing, kneeling or lying prone, whatever the circumstances, situation or environment Personally, I’m a little jaded hearing from ‘experts’ who look and act like they wouldn’t know a real fight if it punched them in the face. Not to say that such exponents are not indeed experts of their chosen arts, I’m only addressing some rather questionable methods of applying various techniques for real. This appears quite evident when observing some brands of ‘no-nonsense street fighting,’ ‘ultimate self-defence’ and ‘real combat’ training (self-protection does appear to be more fashionable than ever before). It seems to me that the dynamics, the brutality and the chaos of actual conflict are often appallingly absent, overlooked or glossed over. This is a frighteningly dangerous practice when purporting to train, and teach, for combat, as ultimately it is the basic raw violence of conflict that poses the greatest threat to individual survival, not the so-specific attack formats that seem so technically researched and rehearsed. Self-protection luminaries such as Peter Consterdine and Geoff Thompson, and so many others, are most certainly not included in any of the above criticisms; they have the hard experience, the inside knowledge, and the honesty, to tell it just as it really is. The telling factor in combat is often experience, not expertise; a hundred training sessions are ultimately still a hundred training sessions, not real fights. Many individuals choose to work ‘On the Door’ as a means of acquiring first hand knowledge of violent encounters – very effective if done in a professional manner; the threats, the hostility and the confrontations are certainly real, plus you get an excellent, whilst disturbing, overview of the current culture of violence. Not for the faint hearted though, and doing such a responsible and dangerous job just to research conflict is rather questionable in itself. Even so, it must be said that 'door work' addresses quite limited forms of personal conflict - by virtue of the pertaining environmental and situational factors, and this must be realized and understood accordingly.
Recently I read an article in a fitness magazine about a 'practical' system currently doing the international rounds, it was boasting about its instructor-training course, where a group of system examiners would pounce upon a prospective instructor at an unspecified time and place. If the would-be instructor successfully resisted and defended, he or she passed muster. Quite innovative I agree, but it still isn’t a real fight! Eyes won’t be gouged, throats won’t be struck, there will be no biting, and no one is going to get their head stamped on. It’s just another role-playing drill dressed up to look like it is the last word in street survival. I cite this as an example to highlight how the point is being missed – in this case, for example, if you can be surprised in such a fashion, surely your awareness is dubious and you have failed.
The emphasis of true self-protection has always got to be the early prediction and assessment of potential violence, and the necessary means of avoiding it. If you are teaching someone to cross the road, you do not focus on practicing being hit by a car! Personally, given the choice, I will always choose to find a spot where the cars are few and far between, as I am well aware of my inability to withstand vehicular impact. It seems to me that there is far too much emphasis on dynamic last-resort techniques, and far too little consideration is given to boring first-resort techniques. Good security of any description is usually pleasantly tedious – bad security can often be unpleasantly exciting!
REAL COMBAT EXPERIENCE
The Nature of the Beast Part 3
By guest writer Mick Coup
Ever heard the term "know your enemy"? Does any effective law enforcement team ever raid a suspect’s location without information concerning occupants who might present threats to their safety? No, because casualties teach hard lessons. How much do you know about the modus operandi of your personal potential threats? I class a real threat as being one that has three key elements present, namely Capability, Opportunity and Intent. To constitute a threat all three elements must be evident. Effective threat management revolves around greatly reducing or removing one or more of these elements, usually opportunity (as this is the element that the threatened party usually has the most control over). Of the three, the element that scares me every time is intent.
Where real intent to harm is present, capability and opportunity can usually be found nearby. Actually facing a man, or woman, who has a fully determined and highly committed intention to harm you, is unlike anything that can be accurately expressed in words. Some of you know what I’m referring to and I salute you, for you too have been in the wrong place at the wrong time! Do you study and compare relevant incidents of violence? No? Why not? How do you know what to train for? It’s important to do your homework; never just assume to know the real deal about the nature of this particularly ugly beast. Compare the sterile conditions demonstrated by countless book / magazine / video sequences, to available footage showing incidents of football thug violence and CCTV scenes of petrol station robberies and so on. Ask yourself, and others, if your system, style or method would stand up to be counted upon in these circumstances. More importantly ask yourself the most damning question, regardless of your expertise, would you stand up personally under these same conditions?
This is the crux of many a real fight. When the heat is on full, do you melt, or do you set? Incidentally if you really are serious about training in self-protection it is well worth setting your VCR to record as many Crime watch/Cops type programs as possible, even better if you can edit the relevant footage onto one tape for easier analysis. Such material is invaluable to get a feel for what you might have to face worst case. Know your enemies and their capabilities, before they get to know you and yours. Never overestimate your chances of survival in someone else’s world, especially if they happen to be further up the food chain than you! Sounds bleak? It is. Real fighting is not a game, there’s no winners or losers, that’s for sports. In real combat you have only those that live to tell the tale and those that do not. Know your limitations and work with them, they in turn will highlight and guide your strengths. Certain factors will always assist survival in combat; surprise, aggression and commitment are to name but a few. Again, combat is combat, it is a simple horrible affair in essence. Look for training that has its roots in combat, not art or sport. Real contemporary combat that is; not ancient warfare, competition, or creative expression (no matter how 'martial' it may be). I can sense the scorn pouring forth from the outraged martial artists, but art is art and war is war – martial arts are no longer the military skills they used to be or the term wouldn’t have changed would it? Bear with me on this point; I am only referring to combative methods, not martial arts. I have absolutely no criticism of any classical system in its pure form; my only concern is with those that advertise ‘street self defence’ or the like, in an attempt to hop on the ‘realistic’ bandwagon. All classical and sporting styles can be made to work for real, but this is often down to the individual, not the style. During my time in the military, I was heavily involved in the teaching of restraint and arrest techniques, and various close combat tactics.
These I taught to select personnel within the UK and US armed forces, and a variety of non-military individuals and groups, ranging from nursing staff to police officers. Too many times, I observed guest instructors attempting to ‘teach’ experienced operational personnel seemingly amazing methods of unarmed and armed deadliness. Such lunacy was often jokingly referred to as ‘Nocandu’ as a direct derogatory reference to its impracticality! More often than not, the ‘students’ had forgotten far more about the subject of combat than the guest instructor would ever know. Generally they were actively involved in regular live encounters, whereas the ‘expert’ probably never left the safety of his or her own students and syllabus. True military close combat training isn’t simply 'khaki karate'. It’s another base military skill, like shooting, navigation or first-aid, and this is how it should be developed and taught. The same can be said about the 'blue kung fu' that used to be promoted by some ‘self-appointed’ police instructors, though thankfully this practice seems to have ceased with the implementation of modern defensive tactics training. It is worth mentioning, however, that close combat training is still not widely conducted within the military, contrary to common perceptions.
Arguably, the busiest ‘users of force’ these days are the various personnel involved in law enforcement, true front-line troops. The current defensive techniques and tactics taught to, and utilized by, such individuals and specialist teams, though limited (usually by political restrictions) are very good. Why? Simply, because the stakes are so high, they have to be. If a technique or tactic doesn’t work for real - guess what? Nobody uses it and nobody teaches it. This is true reality-based training, nothing is presumed, and everything is either proven operationally or discarded. Can you say the same about the methods that you train in? My closing advice? Keep training realistically, keep cross training in all the essentials of close combat, and constantly drill your techniques to become razor-sharp conditioned responses. Learn to fight from the ground and the driving seat, and more than one aggressor. Apply everything using weapons and against weapons, hone your instincts, heighten your awareness - do everything possible to train as completely as possible. Nevertheless, during all of this intense and complex training, you must never lose sight of the real issue. The true nature of combat is the brutal simplicity of thought and action. If you really are training for the protection of self, or others, you cannot afford to overlook this, or the training becomes worthless, without real purpose, and worse still, likely to fail when most needed. And that really wouldn’t do, would it? Mick
SURVIVAL OF THE STRONGEST (Build A Better Machine)
By guest writer Mick Coup
How many times do we hear, regarding the effectiveness of some system, various statements such as ‘technique not strength’, ‘no matter the opponents size’ etc? Strange how the people usually hard-selling such notions are often not in ‘prime’ condition themselves, or their target market are the vulnerable persons wanting a ‘magic-wand’ system of evening the odds already stacked against them. Time to wake up ladies and gentlemen. Combat is an intense physical affair, if it isn't then it's not combat! It stands to reason that the more physically capable you are, the better off you’re likely to be should you decide, or be forced, to indulge. Technique is extremely important, yes, but so is the physical ability required to pull it off against fully resisting opponents. Is it any coincidence that every army, through history, has promoted some form of physical training? No coincidence either that the more elite and likely to encounter force that a combatant is, the better the physical condition they will be found in. It has long been recognized that the better shape you’re in before combat, the better shape you’ll be in during combat. Take a close look at the specialist police and military teams, the ones doing the business on a regular basis. Do they undergo grueling physical training for fun? No, of course not, they, and their decision makers, know the score. Most of these units weed out unsuitable applicants during the initial stages of selection and training using some form of hard physical testing, as it is accepted as being one of the most important basic attributes. Excellent physical condition is of vital importance for all combatants in the forces. As has already been stated, combat is a supremely strenuous affair. Not only does physical conditioning provide a strong machine for the tools needed by the job, but also fitter individuals are more resistant to injuries and can retain more mental concentration through periods of stress-induced fatigue, and subsequent fatigue-induced stress. Getting back to the point, is your ‘machine’ powerful enough for your chosen ‘tools’? Techniques, the tools, are vital, but I would argue that they are not enough on their own; you need a machine that is up to the job. My advice? Get down to the gym and do whatever you can to improve your physical condition – strength, muscular endurance and cardiovascular training, everything. It all counts. I place particular emphasis on strength for combat, as my personal style of fighting is based upon heavy explosive impact tools, with muscular endurance coming a close second in order to sustain this high-energy output, if required. Cardiovascular training is the foundation activity; CV fitness has so many benefits, not least the ability to reduce the resting heart rate, which in turn helps to keep you in the ’performance zone’ under duress. I used to be dead against weight training, before I tried it in earnest, probably for the very same reasons that most of its detractors use. I thought it would slow me down, and as I use velocity and acceleration extensively to produce high impact, I wasn’t keen on that happening. I thought my push-ups; pull-ups and all the other exercises would suffice.
The one area where I really felt the pinch was when bodyweight was being directly applied, during grappling and general manhandling of adversaries. I was at times struggling to control stronger and heavier opponents, often getting properly mauled in the process, which I always compensated for using impact, which in turn wasn’t always ideal for the circumstances. I decided to increase my usable body mass (i.e. muscle not fat) and strength as direct result of this failing, as I was involved in an increasing number of tasks requiring the application of force, both in a military and private capacity. When I first started resistance training, I was still serving in the forces and it was, and still is, a hugely popular activity. Luckily, I learnt from some master craftsmen, seriously dedicated types, and eventually I progressed to qualifying as a NABBA certified weight-training instructor. Since then, I’ve met and trained with some truly phenomenal examples of muscular development, and I’ve been able to learn much more. I make resistance training my number-one combative support system, and I’ve developed a whole range of specific exercises for nearly all my fighting requirements. Strength is vital to all physical activities; even Formula One drivers have extensive physical training programs. Just technique? No, not enough I’m afraid. Teaching control and restraint methods to colossal doormen and the like puts you straight – the best hold in the world can be overpowered by some lunatic who has 150% of your body weight, and maybe 200% of your strength, and that’s without adding any chemical factors. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never advocated any use of ‘cold’ grappling, instead I always prescribe large doses of anesthetic impact before such risky operations. If you have never trained with such individuals, and you train for the real thing, then you need to find some – look under ‘Big Nasty B******s Ltd’ in the yellow pages! You need to be strong and have good technique, no question about it. Try to remember the following adage - “Quantity can have a nasty quality all of its own.” If you do know any huge meathead types (don’t tell ‘em I used this term) try your arm/leg/neck holds on them, with and without resistance. I’ve trained with, and taught, men who have virtually zero flexibility, and so much bulk that it’s almost impossible to secure any effective holds – even with compliance in some cases, and you sometimes get the impression that if they flinch, something of yours may snap! Try putting a real strangle on a man with a 22” neck. Scary isn’t it? If you don’t agree, I strongly suggest that you stick to activities that have weight categories, for your own safety. Thankfully, heavy impact that targets the central nervous system still works in these extreme cases, but even then – strength is an important factor. Impact is highly influenced by simple ballistics, and a basic premise is that if you want to make a bigger bullet go further and faster, you put a bigger bang behind it.
I’ve honestly never had too many reservations about tackling the highly trained types - sorry to sound so arrogant - during the course of any work that I’ve been doing. The people, and I use that term lightly, that make me wonder if I’m in the wrong place, are the monsters, the ogres, the raging bulls – you know, the ones who you know are going to be nigh-on indestructible, and those you know will throw your team around like rag-dolls. I could give so many examples of such freaks of nature, as I’m sure many of you could, but none are so vivid in my memory as a giant Dutch soldier that I, and three others, once had the ‘pleasure’ of meeting. During a NATO Escape and Evasion exercise, we captured said soldier and proceeded to attempt to restrain him while transport arrived to whisk him off for some very unpleasant interrogation. Was he coming quietly? Not likely. It soon became a bit of a concern if he was coming at all! Ever see anyone burst Nylon Plasticuffs? We hadn’t either. Ever see four big men savaged and thrown around by one, much bigger, man? Think of a ‘World’s Strongest Man’ competitor here, but bigger! All the technique in the world wasn’t getting us very far that day, and I can hear you saying, “No matter how big he was, my eye strike/groin kick/sleeper hold would have sorted him out.”
Yes, we tried all of that, in turn, with three men trying to hold him down, and it seemed to make things worse. In the end he gave up before the transport arrived, he was “Only messing” with us after all! This was only a training exercise. For real? It would’ve been done with bullets, without a shadow of a doubt. We all wished we’d been a lot stronger that day I can assure you, just as you would if ever you found yourself in the same situation, and someone decides not to play by the rules of nature. Tell the UFC/NHB/Vale Tudo fighters, or any boxer or Judoka, not to bother with strength training because technique is all they need. Imagine the response you’ll get, and these are all sports – however hard they are, real combat is in a league all of its own. Generally, and hopefully, the average street thug, if there is such an animal, hasn’t got the kind of devastating power that a sport combat champion has, but is your training geared toward general, fingers-crossed, assumptions? If it is, good luck to you, but I’m playing it safe and training worst-case every time. There are very few surprises this way, take it from me, and anyone else who gets his or her hands dirty on occasion will agree. I can always tone it down if maximum force isn’t required, but what if it is and I’ve never really trained for it? Multiple attackers, weapons, and combinations of both, are situations where the sudden application of maximum force is possibly your only chance of survival – and the stronger you are the more this chance improves. Back to strength training, I’m not going to delve into specifics here – I intend to cover these in future articles – but I can’t recommend it enough. Don’t ever think that as soon as you start lifting weights over your head you’ll experience massive, instant, muscular growth. This seems to be one of the most popular misconceptions.
It isn’t as easy as all that, if you can prove me wrong on this, we stand to make a lot of money together, partner! Another mistaken belief is you’ll become ‘muscle bound’ and lose suppleness. Not the case, check out an American bodybuilder called Tom Platz, he’s now no spring chicken and still has some of the biggest legs in the business, yet his flexibility is amazing. Also, take look at gymnasts, especially the men; they have outstanding muscular development giving astonishing power, control and agility. As long as you train your muscles with a full range of motion, they will develop with a full range of motion, and as long as you maintain your flexibility, you’ll retain your flexibility. It’s as simple as that. The clumsy awkward types that you encounter are the result of clumsy awkward training – remember, the very first ‘muscle’ you should always train is the big grey one between your ears, learn from a real expert if you can find one.
You need strength. In close combat - strength counts. If you’re taking a door off with a ram during a room entry – strength counts. If you’re levering two lunatic drunks apart in a bar – strength counts. If you’re carrying a wounded client or colleague to safety – strength counts. If you’re getting bounced around a dark deserted car park by thugs – strength counts. Get the picture? Do I have to say it again? Yes – strength counts. To sum all this up, I view the technique as the tool, and the body as the machine, as I’ve tried to make clear. If the tool isn’t sharp enough, or not suited for the job, then the results won’t be great. If the machine hasn’t enough power to make the tool work properly, then once again the results won’t be great. Carefully select and hone your tools, and put together a powerful machine – then check how great your results are! Mick