How to Make the First Strike Your Last
By Bob Kasper, ©1996

A few years back I wrote an article which focused on the basic principles of close quarters combat. In that article I gave a brief overview of SCOPE which is an acronym for Simplicity, Control, Offense, Power, and Effectiveness. Each of these principles is as equally important as the other. Take one away and you'll have a hole in your combative skills.
One principle which I feel needs to be emphasized is Power. No matter how fast or aggressive you are if you do not possess power in your execution of technique, you're going to fail in stopping your assailant. Executing simplistic, effective techniques will all be in vain unless there is a substantial amount of juice behind those techniques. Peter Robins said the first thing to do in a violent encounter is to "take away the intention." Hit them hard enough, and they'll completely forget why they were even there. The following are my five principles of power that I developed based on my decades of study in the martial arts. I use these whenever I teach a technique. Follow these and make your first strike the last.
A while back my Instructors had the assignment to come up with an acronym for these five principles of power development. John Watson came up with SWAMP.
S - stay relaxed
W - weapon first
A - acceleration
M - move in the direction of the strike
P - plunge your body weight into the technique.
Stay relaxed. Of all of the power principles this is probably the hardest to develop. I'm not advocating to stay relaxed when someone is all over you trying to end your breathing habits. It is learning to use your body at maximum proficiency. Staying relaxed is essential for your body to move swiftly and economically. Explosive movement doesn't come from stiff, tense muscles. You need to stay loose. The key word here is concentration. Concentrate on being relaxed before you explode into the technique. You'll find your movements to be much more dynamic.
Weapon first. This is another one of those hard to develop techniques. We want to throw the weapon first so to not telegraph our intentions. Let him feel the technique before he sees it. This is most important when executing a pre-emptive strike, which should be 100% of the time if possible. Although follow up strikes do tend to be a little more difficult when moving the weapon first, this is no reason not to try. Following this principle as often as possible will make your technique delivery much faster and more powerful.
Acceleration. Acceleration is simply speed. Once you move do so as fast as your body can and don't stop until it's over. This is most important on that initial strike. Here we go back to the first principle of staying relaxed. Tense muscles move slower. Stay relaxed and throw that strike as fast as possible and the results will speak for themselves. When you throw a technique, throw it fast. Accelerate, and keep accelerating until it's over.
Move in the direction of the strike. During a GHCA Assault I observed our AIs teaching the unarmed section of our combatives training. I stopped the class several times to point out the fact that their bodies were moving in the same direction as the strike. Bodies were turning into axe-hands as well as moving upward with chin-jabs. You can't move mass into a blow when that same mass is moving in a different direction.
Plunge your body weight into the technique. In order to do this you must be applying two other principles: Moving the weapon first and moving in the direction of the strike. If you're not moving the weapon first your body is going to move and set before the strike lands and results in your weight settling before the weapon strikes. No mass, no power. If you're not moving in the direction of the strike there is no mass there to plunge. Plunging means throwing all of your body weight directly into the strike before your mass settles.
Each of these principles supports the other. Take one away and you'll have a dramatic loss in explosive power. This is especially important in non-telegraphing, pre-emptive strikes. Students have a tendency to want to wind a technique up to get as much power as possible. That's good! But if you're telegraphing your initial strike, all the power in the world isn't going to help when you're on your back in a daze. The key in pre-emptive is delivering explosive power when they're not expecting it. And the only way to do that is to follow the SWAMP principles.
As instructors we want to repeat these principles prior to each power development session. Let them sink in so the student can police his own training. We then want to watch for missing principles. Is the student's weight landing after the strike hits, or is it landing before the strike? Is he turning his body into the strike, or is he still, or is he moving away? Are both of his legs moving with his body, or is he leaving his leg lagging behind? Is he loose and moving smoothly, or is he tense and choppy? Is his weapon moving first, or is his hip, leg, arm, torso, etc. moving first? Make sure you show him what he was doing wrong before you show him how to do it right. Unless he sees his mistake, he will think he is doing it right. Watch, detect, analyze, and correct. Hit 'em first, hit 'em fast, hit 'em hard.
Note: I'd like to thank John Watson for coming up with this great acronym. It fits perfectly. Webster defines swamp as "overwhelm." This is exactly what we want to do. SWAMP their ass.