Are you training the transition? If not, the expression "change or die" may have a more real and immediate meaning to you. What I mean by transition, is the transition from one technique or tactic to another. Though a curriculum may contain many great techniques, it may not include a training approach that specifically prepares the student to switch to another technique when one fails or is inaccessible because of position, injury or environmental conditions.
When I started teaching law enforcement personnel in the mid 90's with Erwin Ballarta, I saw a huge disconnect between empty hands and firearms training. This was actually true in law enforcement as well as in the firearms community of private citizens. Though there has been some improvement over the years, it is still an issue. The people who carry firearms often never consider what it will really take to survive a spontaneous attack and get the gun in their hands. They assume they will have it in their hands instantly. Maybe they work on their weapon presentation, but they neglect to see how much more is involved than just drawing the gun. How will they fight off the attacker and create an opportunity to access their weapon?
The reverse is also true. The martial artist who trains primarily empty hands skills often does not also train even the most basic firearms skills. They just imagine that they know everything needed thanks to their experience with the toy plastic gun they use for practicing disarms. What if the gun is out of battery? What if the safety in on? What if it malfunctions? Anyway, these examples reveal not only a gap in transition training, but also a gap in training disciplines. In fact, it was this realization that got me focused on firearms training after several years of martial arts.
If I am fighting a fight that needs a weapon, I want to be able to transition from empty hands to a weapon without a gap in knowledge or training that would make me freeze. This would include transitioning to any common weapon and especially those that I regularly carry!
The rebirth of martial arts and self-defense in recent years has been great in that it has motivated people to research new options for training and address situations that their previous training may not have included. However, it is unfortunate that there is a widespread mentality that you can just collect techniques and use them whenever needed. Often, not much thought is put into organizing them in a systematic and interrelated way to improve the likelihood of successful application.
There are many factors that contribute to your ability to adapt and transition under pressure. These factors range from your mental preparation, your understanding of the strategies, tactics and techniques you use, as well as your approach to your physical training and the tools you use for developing your skills.
Thanks to the generosity, patience and insight of my instructors, I have a few tools to address these issues and include them in the delivery of my curriculums. When I teach, I actually address this issue on many levels.
An example of this would include my approach to teaching using coordination and function drills (a.k.a. flow drills). This includes training with impact weapons, edged weapons and empty hands. This method can be used for traditional martial arts, self defense or defensive tactics. The approach is the same regardless of the content.
I follow a simple formula that has 3 main phases: Coordination, Function, and Application
In the coordination phase, I teach the body mechanics and movements needed for the techniques that will be taught later in the function and application stages of training. To do this, I don't simply throw a few things together and kill everyone with repetition. I carefully select the method of presentation and the movements that will allow both versatility as well as specificity. I teach the movements in a way that allows them to best fit with multiple versions of the related techniques and with combinations and variations that may precede or follow the primary technique.
Once the movements are coordinated properly, I move into the function phase. This phase may include; training a sequence of movements that exercise, attacks, counters, and re-counters, rehearsing a change in movement patterns or tricky transition. It may also serve as a more sophisticated approach to coordination. The drills may be linear or cyclical in nature.
When I teach the function drills, I select a particular order for presenting the material that will optimize learning and retention as well as prepare the student to adapt as the drills and techniques progress. I construct the drills with particular habit conditioning and learning objectives in mind. Depending on the content of the lesson or lessons, I may use multiple overlapping function drills to construct others that include several techniques. Each one of the drills will address transitions from one technique to another from various positions. By using specific sequences and series I can also cover several transitions into and out of a particular technique.
Once the function drills have conditioned the right mechanics in the student, I then focus on the application of technique. The coordination and function drills develop the attributes needed to apply the techniques. The function drills have given the student the habit of continuous motion and remove any unnecessary pauses. By the time the student trains the individual technique, he is already prepared to continue with another movement should the technique need to be changed on the fly.
This is just one example of teaching methods that can be used to develop the ability to transition. The ability to transition is not cultivated just by memorizing techniques that connect the primary techniques, it is conditioning movement patterns, positive habits and a mindset that supports it. There are other tools and other considerations as well as a lot more going on behind the scenes of the methods mentioned above. This is just a few ideas for you consider that might help you improve your training. Transition or die.