Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Turn.

Recently I read a fairly intuitive piece written by a friend of mine that states:

"In training, we often practice a form of 'my turn - your turn'."

We do this in one steps, exchanging techniques with one another, back and forth.  We do it with our Ho Sin Sul (grappling/releasing self-defense) as well.  To a lesser degree, we even do this in free sparring, often allowing each other a free exchange of various techniques.  My author friend tells us that the one place we really don't see this is in the authentic practice of hyung (forms). He says:

"In hyung training, the objective is 'my turn - my turn - my turn again.' "

I honestly believe that we need to, as serious martial artists, begin to cultivate this attitude more in our training.  This isn't to say that there is no validity in our traditional practice of taking turns.  Obviously, both partners need to be given equal time to train and work on developing their skills.  However, it does seem that this form of training can, all too often, foster a sense of complacency and overconfidence.  This, in turn, leads to ineffective practice at best, and dangerous practice at worst.

I was once part of a weapons self-defense class in which a senior master informed us that we really shouldn't be handing the weapon back to our partner immediately after practicing disarms.  Traditionally, we do this simply because it is now our partner's "turn" to have the weapon.  This creates a serious problem, though, when we apply this practice to real self-defense against a weapon.  For one, it fosters the wrong attitude.  In self-defense against a weapon, the attitude of "MY TURN"  must equate to "MY WEAPON".  By passively handing the weapon back to our partner, we are once again allowing complacency to take hold.  Secondly, we will, when confronted with the need to use our skills, do as we train.  Successfully disarming a knife or gun-wielding attacker is difficult at best.  If you actually suceeded in doing so, would you want to hand that weapon right back to your attacker?  Of course not.  Yet there are abundant tales of trained martial artists and law enforcement professionals doing exactly that in real confrontations.  We definitely need to encourage the "my turn" mentality more in our self-defense training.

There are plenty of great reasons to give another person their chance, their "turn", if you will.  None of these reasons apply in physical altercations, though.  If you have made the choice to attack me, or someone I care about, and I am unable to avoid the physical confrontation, then you don't get a turn.  It's my turn now.  And still my turn.  And my turn again, until you stop or I stop you.  It's really that simple.  Or is it?

Let's say it's a good first step.  In the end, though, if we really want to practice effective self-defense, then we need to instill this same "my turn" attitude in the student playing the part of the attacker.  A real assailant doesn't wait to give you your turn.  If I attack you, and your attempted defense doesn't work, guess what?  It's my turn, and I'll attack you again.  You will have to show the attacker it's your turn, or he'll take it from you.

All of this can be done in a training environment, and it can be done safely.  It's up to us as instructors to determine the best methods for doing so in our own individual studios.  Think about it.  If we never cultivate this attitude in our students, we are actually doing them a disservice, by making them overconfident in a skill set that will not be effective without the right attitude to go with it.

So, in the end, yes, I encourage you to take your turn.  Then take it again.  And maybe one more time.

Kick. Punch.  Easy Stuff.