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Saturday, December 15, 2007

The New Combat Conditioning DVD...

Just received the Combat Conditioning DVD. I've watched it straight through once, followed by lots of skipping around to different sections and exercises, the way it's intended to be used.

The DVD is just what it promises: Tons of solo exercises, each demonstrated for a long enough time that you can work out along with it, interspersed with some brief but interesting examples of the combat applications of the drills. The DVD actually contains several interesting drills I'd never seen before, which is an accomplishment after over three years of in-person training! I must admit that upon my first couch-bound viewing of the DVD, I didn't quite "get" the Native American soundtrack. A lot of it sounded hokey to my bland Top 20 ear. However, once I started actually moving along with the DVD (y'know, the way you're SUPPOSED to), I "felt" the music immediately. It really does enhance the workout by helping you get into the relaxed yet vibrant mushin state with your movement. I actually hope John starts playing Native American music in class again. (Allegedly he did this back in the day.)

"Be Careful, It Could Get Addictive..."

Here's the real crux of the matter: Since getting the DVD, I've gotten in some very productive Guided Chaos solo training every day. This has not always been the case. In fact, lately, with work being very busy and tons of other excuses popping up, my solo Guided Chaos workouts had fallen to maybe once per week, if that. Not good. The DVD provided the motivation, inspiration, freshness, whatever to get me going again. Be careful, it could get addictive: One night, I suddenly realized while working out with the DVD that it was after 1 a.m., and I had to wake up in less than six hours! The DVD should contain a warning: Use In Moderation. (It actually does contain lots of warnings, but I FF'd them.)

Sometimes I do some exercises along with the DVD, and sometimes I start with one exercise and branch off from there, letting the Native American rhythms carry my body into whatever it wants to do, experimenting with different drills and movement. It just makes you want to move.

Obviously I have an advantage in such training over raw beginners, as I already know most of the drills and have at least a basic understanding of what they're supposed to accomplish (although I'm deepening that understanding all the time, and have very far to go). (Sidebar: I realized while watching the DVD for the first time that I currently have an understanding of some of the exercises I demonstrate on the DVD different from what I had when the DVD was actually filmed! It still looks okay though--the differences are mostly internal, concerning feelings and perceptions. Go figure--internal martial arts!) It's suggested that beginners get the Companion DVDs along with the Combat Conditioning DVD for the explanations and teaching of the exercises that the Companion DVDs contain. While this would be optimal, I believe that a motivated student could get very far by using this DVD in conjunction with the book Attack Proof. The book contains the most critical explanations of most of the exercises, and you can read the book while watching the demonstrations on the Combat Conditioning DVD before giving it a whirl yourself.

Another valuable source of knowledge is the Combat Conditioning E-book you get free when you purchase the DVD. This E-book is worth WAY more than you pay for it! In it, Lt. Col. Al (with a sprinkling of Matt Kovsky) goes over the entire contents of the DVD, giving tips and advice about each drill and variations beyond those on the DVD, as well as broader instruction regarding topics like footwork, combat-applicable strength, upper and lower body development, use of equipment and pliability development. Lots of great information.

Use the Combat Conditioning DVD however you like. Follow along with it directly, use it as a starting point for experimentation, use it as motivation to get moving at all, or just use the sound track to enhance your movement. However you use the DVD, if it gets you moving and feeling your own body in action (i.e. improving your proprioception), it's enhancing your Guided Chaos, which is its purpose. For anyone interested in Guided Chaos or combat in general, it will accomplish this.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #34

The Guided Chaos Combat Handgun seminar was this past Saturday.

This is just a quick summary. A more thorough review will be available soon. . . .

This was a unique seminar for a variety of reasons.

John went into the seminar hoping to impart a few key ideas, rather than teaching a variety of skills that would be forgotten or lost without much additional practice.

Some people may not realize this, but for all of John's hand-to-hand and hand-to-weapon expertise, his combative skill and knowledge with firearms is perhaps even more exceptional. What stands out most is his understanding that the most operative part of the word "gunfight" is FIGHT. Many trainers today teach gunfighting as merely an extension of the "shooting" one might do on a target range. In most cases, unfortunately, reality does not conform to these trainers' assumptions.

The seminar began with work on the problem of someone holding you at gunpoint.

The students practiced drills that emphasized the wide variety of possibilities a hold-up could involve. Even when moving slower than full speed, the students quickly learned the importance of
using dropping energy in offlining movements to avoid being shot. They also discovered that countering a gunman was not always as simple as some self-defense programs and magazine articles would have you believe! You never know how someone will hold the gun on you or how he'll move once the action begins. Of course, the probability of multiple armed attackers complicates the situation exponentially. . . .

After a break, the seminar transitioned to using your own handgun to defend yourself.

According to John, one of the biggest missing links in most armed citizens' and police officers' preparations is the ability to access, present and use the carry gun while under attack. It seems that many students and even trainers assume that they'll see any attack coming from far away, or perhaps that the violent criminal will announce his intentions from a distant stationary position, allowing time for the victim to execute his practiced stationary draw from concealment into a perfect shooting stance and obtain perfect sight alignment. Reality, unfortunately, often doesn't happen that way!

The drill used to illustrate this was fairly simple. The student was given an electric airsoft pistol and waistband concealment holster. Lt. Col. Al, in a role that must have been lots of fun for him, was given a face mask (to protect against the Airsoft pellets) and a rubber training knife, later to be replaced by a padded stick simulating a baseball bat. Al stood 20+ feet away from the student. Beginning from Al's first movement towards him, the student's task was simply to draw and shoot Al without being stabbed/whacked. It quickly became clear that just trying to draw while standing in place was a recipe for disaster. No one was able to shoot Al using this method before getting stabbed up. The only method that offered a good chance of success was to immediately run (not side-step or shuffle or anything formal, but "move like the wind") offline with speed and balance while drawing and point shooting simultaneously.

Next, another possible response to this situation was explored: going to the ground. This could apply if the student simply tripped and fell while trying to get offline of the charge, or in situations where there is no space to get offline. Again, accessing the concealed gun while moving (in this case, while falling or while moving on the ground) proved essential, as all those who attempted to draw before moving got "killed" long before they could manage to shoot Al. It also became clear that just as balance and the ability to move swiftly and nimbly on the feet were the most critical components of the previous drill, Guided Chaos falling and groundfighting skill was the most critical factor in this drill.

(By the way, before you ask: Everyone wore eye protection during the parts of the seminar that utilized Airsoft. Those pellets bounce everywhere and can do real damage if they hit the eye.)

The next drill allowed the students to apply their new ground-gun-fighting skills in a more dynamic way. Joe M. (Guided Chaos instructor with a school in Kingston, NY) had rigged up a pulley system that allowed him to dynamically raise and lower a Paulie dummy above a floor mat. The student began the drill lying under the hanging dummy, gun holstered. A big guy (Rich, in this case) controlled the dummy from behind, swinging it and making it kick, strike and circle the student as Joe made it rise and fall via the pulley. On John's cue, the student had to fight off the attacking dummy and keep it away via explosive kicking and movement. After a few seconds of this, John shouted "DRAW!" and the student had to access his handgun and shoot the dummy while keeping the dummy away and protecting the gun from getting struck.

The last series of drills gave the students the opportunity to experiment with point shooting vs. sighted shooting against a dynamically moving human target.

Overall, a great seminar, where much was learned! Everyone learned the differences between mere shooting vs. gunfighting, and the different requirements to succeed in each. A firm foundation in the Guided Chaos principles of balance, looseness, sensitivity, body unity and freedom of action is as critical as ever when firearms are involved, no matter which side of the gun you're on. I hope to explore these ideas further in my future training, as well as getting some live-fire practice in using these principles.