A quick look at YouTube or even a walk around the town on a Saturday night will give you some insight in to violence and how it happens. One thing to notice is how it begins, it is fast , explosive and well…..violent. If you don’t have an answer for the first 2 seconds of a fight then you may not last long enough for you to use any of your fighting ability.
Very often in the martial arts we look at techniques from a point of view of being ‘ready’ in some cases even dropping back in to a ready stance waiting for the attack to commence. This practice is of course a little bit misleading as fights more often than not happen when we are not ready for them. Whether it be an ambush or an attack leading off from an argument we won’t have the time to assume a stance or even really move our feet at all.
Luckily our body has an inbuilt defense for things kicking off, simply put we flinch. We see something coming at our head and, no matter what our training has been, we throw our hands up to stop whatever it (usually a fist) is making contact. This is our most natural reaction so instead of trying to change it completely I think we should be using it and in fact building on it. We need to get use to applying techniques from the flinch position so that when we throw our hands up in defense we are still in familiar territory and still able to defend ourselves.
The key for this training lies in the patterns. The cross hand position that is often regarded as a preparation for a block or strike is in my opinion the block itself, with the following movement being the counter. If we look at most of the movements from this point of view we can see that they start to make more sense. We throw our hands up to protect ourselves from an attack , say a large haymaker swing, As the attack makes contact we can secure it with one hand and drag it down (the reaction hand goes to the hip) while the other hand can begin to counter.
Of course knowing the theory isn’t enough, we must train in a way to activate the flinch response. One way of doing this is by increasing the power and speed of the attacks. However, if we know what is coming, it is not a surprise and therefore won’t affect us in the same way. By adding to the variety of possible attacks (haymakers, kicks etc) including dialogue or anything to take the defenders mind off the coming attack we can better simulate a flinch and can better train our responses for an initial unexpected attack. From there you can start to employ your other fighting abilities