Fewer Options, Please

Kimbo Slice

The Kuntawman is back after a recent hiatus with an interesting article about Kimbo Slice. In his opinion Kimbo excelled as a street fighter because he was doing what he was g0od at. Once he started training in MMA, he began doing techniques he didn’t excel at, and instead of relying on a few well-executed techniques, he had a buffet table full of options, some (many?) of which were unfamiliar.

Bruce Lee’s theory was that the untrained man had no technique, but he had a natural fluidity that is an asset. Perhaps it was the naturalness of what Kimbo was doing that made him successful as a street fighter.

We also know that when people are confronted with too many options, that decision making breaks down. Perhaps Kimbo’s problem was one of too many choices.

I think this is a valuable lesson: having hundreds of techniques is not a strength of a system, but a weakness. I have thought that one of the reasons for the success of boxers versus karateka is that boxers have fewer weapons, and fewer choices, so that there is no moment of paralysis when the guy who has hundreds of techniques thinks, “Okay, there’s a punch hurtling toward my face, do I sidestep, crossblock, parry, goose neck block, cross step, front kick, side kick, knife hand….” POW!

Many FMA could benefit from simplification, by stripping down to the bare essentials. That way, the student under attack is not trying to decide which part of the curriculum, that includes everything from staff to bow and arrow, he should do next.

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6 Responses to “Fewer Options, Please”

  1. Excellent post, as usual. Interesting that you chose Kimbo as an example. Probably you’re correct in your assessment of his situation. Interestingly, I have been saying the same thing for years regarding quantity vs. quality in martial arts. I even wrote an article about it here: http://www.rossboxing.com/thegym/thegym3.htm
    where I talk about simplicity, intensity, and aliveness in training. The thing is, a tough “street fighter” who only has a few well polished moves will almost always defeat a martial artist that knows 10 different ways to block and counter the same strike. There are too many options to choose from and a person can’t process those complex thoughts in the heat of battle. Things must be drilled in a fashion that encourages action/reaction without conscious thought, it must be ingrained, hard-wired. The only way to do that is to practice a few effective techniques that cover a broad range of contingencies and train them under stress against a resistive opponent. State dependent learning is a reality. Having a sound structure that provides cover, a stable yet mobile base, and one fast, non-telegraphic lead strike, coupled with 1-2 “heavy artillery” follow-ups will take you a long ways toward not getting your ass kicked on the street. This goes for empty hand, knife, or impact weapons. Find what works best for YOU, train the hell out of it, and play your strengths. Far more important, IMHO, to drill those things ad nauseum and develop quickness, timing, and power in order to be able to execute effectively no matter what goes down. Lastly, you MUST have the will to do whatever it takes to win, no retreat, no surrender, no hesitation. BOOM! and you blast through your opponent like a bomb went off. In order to do this you must train with high impact and high intensity. **Individual results may vary, of course, this is just my take on this game.**

  2. When we started our Celtic Marital Art Society our main problem was not finding enough things to teach, it was finding the few techniques we wanted to teach in a 2 year program. How do you take 10+ years of jujutsu/FMA/shoot wrestling, etc. and distill it down to just 2 years?

    Our block and check from FMA is just like our 2-hand shield block from jujutsu, our stick punches are the same as our empty hand punches, stick joint locks same as empty hand joint locks. We didn’t want to teach the students one set of skills for the stick and another for empty hand.

    Just tonight I was reading an article by Jim Wagner how learning a technique takes a short amount of time, he said most of your time should be spent in scenarios where you use those techniques under stress.

  3. I forgot to add: There was an article about gun disarms by an instructor with Canada’s RCMP. He taught one disarm and saw that they picked it up well so he moved on to show them another technique which they also picked up; however when it came to near the end of the class the officers were told to use either technique and the instructor found the officers slow to respond as they now had to decide between technique 1 or 2.

    This is just 2 techniques with the same end in mind, how much slower are we when we have 30 joint locks or 5 ways to punch (not talking jab or cross, I’m talking first 2 knuckles or last 3 knuckles, vertical fist, or horizontal fist, etc).

  4. Old Dave Says:

    Yes, indeed, lots of good information on this blog! Here’s a heads up on a “Fast Stick Game” that has some parallels to Big Stick Combat…it’s the NCAA Lacrosse tournament on ESPNU the next two weekends. Darrin, you should be pleased to know that this is a genuine all American game. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lacrosse
    “Lacrosse is a very physically demanding sport that requires not only fitness but also good stick work.”

    The ball, or anyone with it, draws a crowd in a hurry…stick and body checking is legal to separate the ball from whomever has possession. I’ve seen the stick knocked out of the grip of an opponent with a hard strike, and I’ve seen a player whacked and body checked to the ground roll over and come up running still controlling the ball. The power of the stick is mostly demonstrated by the velocity of the shots taken on goal. Often it is difficult to see the ball except on the replays. And there is lots of control and accuracy on both the shots and passes.

    And as the pictures show, the techniques are woven into the flow of movement…not much happens that isn’t generated by quick running, even sprinting, and lots of turning and twisting to gain a open shot on goal. The sticks range in length from 42 to 72 inches. Sometimes a defenseman get a chance to wind up with his long stick, but mostly the shots are taken by attackers with the shorter sticks and little indication (other than he’s in a decent position).

    Pictures:
    http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/HUz4p4xoxxM/NCAA+Lacrosse+Semifinals+Johns+Hopkins+v+Duke/97qozQ-wOUi/Dan+Loftus


  5. Speaking of fewer options, my old man, Big Tom, only had one technique! I saw him use it to great effect on more than one occasion. He would give you a little shove or poke in the chest with his left hand. This did two things: It off-balanced a guy a little bit and it was his range finder. Immediately behind that came a big overhand straight right to the grill. He also employed a little drop-step with that punch. Closed fist, to the button. Yes, he cut his knuckles once on some skel’s teeth and got a nasty infection, no he never broke his hand, and he knocked everyone down he ever hit with that punch. It was his “bread and butter” move and he could pull it off no matter what. Once after clocking a would-be car thief, the guy went to his knees, not completely out, and reached into his waist band (later revealed that he was going for a knife) my dad’s follow up was a simple “penalty shot” (field goal for you Yanks) into the guy’s face with a steel-toed brogan. Game over mate, no discussion. My dad didn’t know jack fuck all about martial arts, and thought “them sissies in their pajamas” looked silly (referring to Karate and Judo practitioners). He was of the old school of hard knocks and truth be told, he had it figured out when it came to taking care of business on the street-one money technique, developed to near perfection. I’ll save my stories of him teaching me to “go to the body” of a pudgy bully that used to pick on me, and to use a baseball bat to great effect for another occasion, but suffice to say that he was an original Big Stick Combat practitioner!

  6. Tommy,

    Thanks for sharing your story about your dad. It’s amazing how often the simplest of techniques (techniques many martial artists look down their noses at) are devastatingly effective.

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