Maintaining your self-defense skills is important at all times, and it’s critical during the current Stay-At-Home Order situation. Police departments have advised that they are limiting services and avoiding non-essential public contact, so you are truly on your own.
Training without a partner can be just as effective as training with a partner.
When we are talking about physical unarmed defense skills, muscle memory is the most important thing, and that can be maintained with solo training.
What are the best solo training drills? I don’t claim to be THE authority, but let’s use history as our guide. For thousands of years, martial arts students have used forms training to learn unarmed defense skills.
But, what is forms training? Is it only practicing traditional forms? In his classic book “Knife Fighting For Combat”, Hwa Rang Do Master Michael D Echanis said that a form is any preset or pre-planned movement. Using this definition, every combination or self-defense technique can be considered a form. Yes, using a partner develops timing, but the actual mechanics and muscle memory can be developed by “free-form” solo training.
Let me present a couple of techniques to illustrate this:
1. Leg Sweep Takedown (Osoto-Gari)
- This technique is generally taught as a defense against a punch, so the first step in solo training is stepping inside of the attack and blocking (either a high block or in to out block).
- Simulate seizing the attacking wrist and opposite shoulder.
- Simulate pulling the seized wrist and pushing the opposite shoulder as you simulate sweeping the leg – but exaggerate the leg lifting behind you after the sweep, to ensure that in actual combat you remove the attackers foot from the ground.
2. One Step Sparring – defense against a single punch
- All One-Steps lend themselves easily to free form training, and that is generally the first step in learning them.
- Begin with the defense – In this example, stepping outside with the left foot, while executing an in to out open hand block with the right hand.
- Simulate grabbing the attacking wrist while executing a right leg roundhouse kick to the solar plexus.
- Simulate an open hand forearm attack with the left hand to the attackers elbow joint.
- End with a reverse elbow across strike with the right elbow to the attackers face.
As you can see, both are very practical self defense combinations that can be trained without a partner very effectively.
The examples also show that you can take any martial arts technique and break it down into it’s component parts, and practice them as “free forms”, allowing you to maintain your skills.
The next issue is repetition. Most people in self-defense training do far too FEW repetitions. Some who knows 75 techniques, but only does 5 repetitions of each once a week, won’t be able to use any of them in real life. Modern McDojo schools encourage this by trying to fit too many different techniques into a single 45-60 minute class, hoping not to lose the classes attention. Every time you train on any technique, 25 repetitions should be the bare minimum. For instructors, imagine how much better your students would be at leg sweeps or a one-step technique (Il Soo Sik) if you spent an entire class period on just one technique, rather than teaching four. For a technique to become instinctive, you need over 1000 repetitions… doing them 5 at a time, you’ll never get there.
Visualization is an essential skill. Visualizing every free form combination as a defense against an actual attacker will indeed develop the skills for you. In Korean Martial Arts, visualization is referred to as Che Myun Sul and involves visualizing every repetition as an actual attack. Your mind is an amazing tool and it will treat these solo repetitions as with a partner.
I’m not advocating replacing partner training, just the opposite. The two compliment each other, not contradict. Solo training is not a substitute for training with a partner, but it is a way to maintain your skills and some fitness during these times of “social distancing”.
Since many have become used to my tying tactical training to the Bible, let’s remember Psalm 144:1:
Praise be to the Lord my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.
Train. Your opposition is.