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chrishanson68's picture
Introduction and Training Reflections

Hi All!

My name is Chris Hanson.  I live in Stouffville, Ontario, Canada.  A small town north of Toronto, Ontario in Canada.  I am 42 at the moment, and have been practicing Martial arts most of the time since I was 10 years old.  Life gets in the way sometimes and so training consistently is hard, however, lately, I am blessed with opportunity to train more regularly!

My core styles have been Shorin ryu Karate, Mantis Gung fu, and Dai Nisei Kempo Karate.  I have senior rankings in all of these systems.  Rank however, doesn not mean much to me at this point in my life, however, I haven't formally trained in a dojo in long time, and just recently I have joined up one to maintain my Kempo skill, and perhaps one day, I will obtain my 3rd dan in Kempo.  Lately, as in the last 10 years or so, I have undergone a transformation into more "alive" type training methodologies, and incorporated the following concepts from these styles: JKD Concepts, ISR Matrix (Luis Gueterrez), SBGi (Matt Thortnon), San Shou Kick Boxing, Muay Thai, BJJ, and Krav Maga. 

My current school that I train at is Stouffville Martial Arts Academy where I am fortunate to keep up my kempo skills, learn some BJJ, and practice my Kick Boxing and Self-defence.  My Instructor is an amazing guy, and has an open mind.

Anyway, I am glad to see that Iain and all the members here are passionate about the arts as much as I am. 

I want to thank you for this blog site, and also thank you for the opportunity to post up here and share. 

Being a school teacher, I respect any media tool involving respectful collaboration and sharing of ideas.  Having said that, I am attaching to this message some thoughts of mine on my interpretation of the arts that I have learned over the years.  It's funny, at some point in our Martial career, we're all "Bruce-Lee-Like" in our process of self discovery.  That is, we are introspective, reflective, and critical. 

I am by no means a master, nor claim to "Toot my horn" about anything.  I am simply passionate about what I do.  So if I come accross in my videos as being critical of others, my apologies, it's simply a statement of opinion and I respect everyone and all styles!

So, here it goes....

The following vid clips are of me demonstrating and thinking out loud some training ideas.  I plan to post much more.  I have trained for over 30 years, and I have so much to share and to learn.  Please excuse the video quality of some of them.  I am a "newbie" to shooting videos and am experimenting with lighting and camera angles etc.  However, I am simply just excited to share this stuff with you, so I hope you like it, and please pass on any constructive criticisms you have and/or share any ideas of yours with me.  I would truely appreciate that!  So enjoy the following....I will be posting more.

Intro to me






Side Kick



Warm up on BOB

Future videos:

- I plan to shoot more technical stuff along with concepts, ideas, book sharings, self defence considerations etc.

- I also would like to experiment with podcasting as well, as it gives me an outlet to voice out coherently my thoughts on this martial arts passion I have

So, once again, thanks for reading, and viewing.  Please let me know what you think.  If you have any suggestions for me, I'd also appreciate that.  It's always good from an introspective point of view to see where you stand in the Martial Arts world. 

Much Peace to all of you!

Chris Hanson.

VIC's picture

HI CHRIS good to see you are expanding and evolving .

miket's picture

Enjoyed the clips, Chris, thanks, particularly the slap boxing one at the end...  I teach a similar integration of (what I would call) 'boxing mechanics' with open hand (what I would call 'karate') weapons attached to those mechanics.  Curious, did your evolution grow out of Kempo or one of the other arts you study? Personally,  I find these not only 'safer' on the hand in head striking, they are also much more adapted 'contour wise' to the body.  So, my thinking is you are much more likely to be able to land a 'bonus' pressure point with an open hand than with a fist, plus:  wider weapon, more striking surface (or 'less' as the case may be due to the inherent pliability of the hand, as noted), and the added ability to immediately grab, attack the eyes, etc.

Good movement, I liked your emphasis on mechanics.

Funny, your comment about the sidekick not being perfect in real application, but sometimes ending 'toes up' and not in that textbook perfect toes down sidekick form...  I had a guy show me that application as a yellow belt in karate, and I promptly dismissed it because it was "wrong" compared to the orthodox way my instructor was showing me, toes down.  Wish I'd listened then, that had to have been 20 years ago....  Now I frequently teach the hi-line toes up because like you said in the vid, that preserves your forward fighting orientation, and with good mechanics, you can get just as much power. 

Live and learn. smiley

chrishanson68's picture

Hi Mike, thanks again for your kind words!

I was inspired to evolve simply by getting my ass kicked about 10 years ago by a JKD friend of mine.  We were sparring and I was fighting out of my original gung fu/karate/kempo like structure....fluid hand movements, but chin all open, utilized trapping techniques as my offensive/defensive reactions....but none of this was successful...it really pissed me off.  I came into his guard with traps, and hits, but then i would simply be bombarded with multiple hits at every attempt at crashing in....so I basically gave up and succumbed to revolutionizing my guard game, the way I hold my hands and the way i deliver my offence.  Bottom line, I adopted a boxer-like shell, and everything I've learned since has been delivered from a boxer like shell.  So, all the gung fu, karate etc., is now delivered from a boxer shell.  The idea of dynamically moving around etc., i.e., the dynamic footwork was something that i had to incorporate as well.  And physical conditioning is something right up on my to-do list back then too...so now, my cardio is up, and endurance in the legs to support the movement.

I appreciate your response about open hand techniques in terms of safety etc.  When you think about, open hand techniques have a "higher return on investment" so to speak.  The more time you spend on it, you reap in the rewards....for instance: yes, greater adaptability and according to you, more "contour" (glad you brought that up), more shock value on your adversary, leave behind less evidence of an altercation (i.e, your hands won't be all marked up after a scrap)., you can stay more fluid and adaptable to clinch or grappling.

As far as body mechanics go....if you follow the main concept behind every technique, it will translate into good attributes in all your movement.  Some teachers though, and I mean absolutely no disrespect here to anyone, are very particular to stringent body mechanics for every little minute detail! So much so, that certain students can even start their movement without second guessing themselves! They become candidates for OCD!! hahaha.....

Re: Side Kicks, for example, a kick is a kick.  As long as you drop in that heel or blade of the foot, and try to keep your structure/mechanics, you'll increase your chance of success.  The idea is increasing your odds under pressure.  If you follow good body mechanics of a kick say, and rep it out in practice solo-wise, then spar with it, and then pick up the intensity, chances are you will improve delivery.  I always preach that it doesn't have to look pretty, as long as it does the job!

Peace! Keep in touch man!

BTW, do you follow a style of training now or do you freestyle?


miket's picture

I like what you said about working out of a "boxing structure".  I wouldn't have articulated it that way specifiically, but that's effecdtviely how I teach as well.

I have an ongoing debate witha buddy of mine, because we frequently disagree when discussing some subject of martial arts, wrangle over the topic for a couple of hours and half a dozen beers, and find that we are both trying to occupy virtually the same space in the end...  So, I have taken to describing this phenomena as us "coming at the same problems from opposite ends of the same stick". 

The 'stick' is (on one end), learning to ***DO*** technique XYZ-- i.e. all the nuance and subtelty of perfecting the execution OF TECHNIQUE.  On the other end, the end of the stick I usually work from, is learning to ***APPLY*** technique XYZ in a live combative facsimile.  And, of course, you can't have one without the other (i.e. textbook learning without applied learning); at least you can't if you hope to achieve real effectiveness in fighting.

The reason for this is that when you get down to the 'application' end of the stick, technical nuance and subtlety becomes just ***ONE*** of several factors that determine success.  You may be able to physically 'nail' your perfect motions, but if you can't flow between your stirkes, flows, clinches and escapes thoughtlessly, you will 'seize up' making the mental transitions in response to realistic SPONTANEOUS stimulus.  You may have a cross that will rock someone's world, but if you never get a chance to use it, it's worth just that much.  Or, you may not have developed the mental fortitude to prevail under pressure or pain, or the emotional fortitude to manage your fear appropriately, both of which are EQUALLY important to having good physical skills.  Or, you will not have the ability to SPONTANEOUSLY recognize (i.e. to 'discriminate') when you are knocked off balance and technique X no longer works, but where the window for technique Y has suddenly been openned-- for a tenth of a second.  (we might call that a lack of tactile or energy 'sensitivity').

All of these latter lessons to me are examples of 'applied learning' and they have nothing to do with learninng to 'properly' execute or 'FORM' (i.e. 'successfully make') combative mechanics.  Instead, these lessons in ADAPTATION are learned on the randori/ sparring/ live scenario or 'live execution' side of training.

However,  like I said previously, my belief is THAT end of the 'stick' (technical learning ) is JUST AS important as the 'application end'... by having 'good' technique on the learning / development end of the stick, we increase our chances when we get to the applied learning end.   But too many martial artists out there I believe end up spending a lop-sided amount of their time developing 'perfect' technique and attributes, at the cost that they don't spend enough time on the application end of learning to DEPLOY those perfected motions...  I once described this 'stick' analogy to a student as a pair of scales that you have to keep roughly balanced.  Too many martial arts programs focus on only one side at the exclsuion of the other to a greater or lesser extent.

In answer to your question, my background was, like yours, Shorin Ryu (Chibana line for me) for about 20 years.  Actually relevant to this discussion, what caused my eventual split from karate (more 'self-ownership of my own training direction', really, as I am still in touch with my seniors) was that I got tired of dedicating hours upon hours to unapplied motion training (read unapplied 'kata') ; and of getting 'answers' to questions I had that just didn't hold up on the applied side of training.  Actually, it was my search for answers that  was one of the things that brought me to Iain's first forum.  I think Iain offers one of the best approaches to karate kata training I have encountered.

However, for myself, I have since gone on to abandon most of ***MY*** clasiscal karate training (which I emphasize was 'mine' because I recognize that my experience may have been totally different than someone elses), replacing it with a lot more 'alive' oriented training (caught that word in one of your vids, too).

Now, (as just one example) I still use 'forms' training, but I teach them totally and comepletly differently way than I learned in karate, using an approach that is much more consistent with what I have experienced in judo and kail where the form represents a NON-INTERPETIVE 'idealized' alphabet of mechanics, simply for the purpose of facilitating REMEMBRANCE of a specific part of the curriculum;  but where 'real' learning occurs by taking the 'letters' ***OUT*** of the form and drilling and connecting them.

This approach is a lot like you might have a 'form' (i.e. 'starter pattern') that physically ILLLUSTRATES the 'standard punches of boxing', but then train them in the 'normally' (applied) way usually associated with boxing.  The only advantage offered by the form is that it simply serves as a BEGINNING point of illustration, such that the instructor and student both 'know' that the student has, upon 'mastery' of the form, which in our case means only 'technically successful regurgitation',  that the student has 1) received the 'full download' of a specific curricular section-- in this case, the punches of boxing, and 2) has at least one illustration of the possible permutations of that mechanic. 

Think about it for a second. How many possible 'ways' or angles are there to throw a jab?  How many tactics by the opponent can you throw a jab as a counter to?   And yet, the underlying MECHANICS of the jab are relatively the same every time.  And yet, you know as well as I do that a person can have a great jab, but not necessarily be able to HIT many of these variations when they encounter them, because they have associated the jab with a specific TECHNIQUE (in other words, with a specific position, specific target, specific line of action, and specific strategic objective), instead of having a more 'conceptual' undersanding of jabs as a 'kind of' punching that works against multiple targets from multiple angles.   Under the latter frmae of reference,  the 'variation' experienced in jabbing is not from a variance inherent IN the jabbing mechanic per se; it is instead the ADAPTATION of the jabbing mechnanic to fit a unique circumstance... i.e. it results from variation in any of the four control variables mentioned above (position, target, line of action or objective.)... i.e. 'jabbing' the guy in the kidney after you have tripped him off balance... not a 'tactic' of orthodox BOXING training which does not allow eiher clinching or tripping, but effective all the same. 

But in fact, THE ACTION OF  'jabbing' (as a mechanical concept) employs relatively the same foot hip, and shoulder mechanics each time (at least on the learning end of the stick).  So, FOR A BEGINNER, the 'idealized' mechanics can therefore be 'slowed down' and illustrated in a 'perfect' idealized manner, such that the student gets an idealized BODY PICTURE of ONE possible permutation of that mechanic's expression.  With a form, you have a simple teaching structure (so simple and 'easy' and 'beginner level' you can delegate it to a whitebelt who 'knows' it to 'teach it' to a new student).  The form contains all of the technical "Quality Control" points of each mechanic, such that they can be emphasized, and 'checked' for inclusion, either by the student himself, by a partner, or by a coach-- i.e. chin down, shoulder to chin, fist rotation, hip  extension, stance width and depth, body lowered, ball ofthe feet etc.--  In this way, the student learns the 'checklist' of points of 'what makes a good technique'.

Could you work one on one to develop those points in a student?   Sure.  The form is just a vehicle that is better suited for INITIAL group learning.  And in our case, it is entirely MEANT to be outgrown and 'thrown away' once a student reaches a certain point of understanding, i.e. one where they have HABITUATED the quality control points illustarted by the form and gone on to achieve both more conceptual and more applied understandings.

But in terms of punching something and actually hitting it with power (in other words, in terms of ACTUALIZING the otherwise IDEAL), my view is that this PHYSICAL SKILL can ONLY ever be learned through the doing.  Because o fthis, all of our forms are 'performed' 'without power', i.e. at what most would consider to be an easy, realxed 'half speed' (e.g. with energy equivalent to painting or to 'spreading peanut butter on bread' as one of my kali buddies puts it), because the attribute of 'power transferrance' is NOT learned HERE, in the form, its learned on a bag, on the mitts, on another moving, resisting body.

That i just one way in which my training now deviates form the orthodox way of working I learned in karate, and yet incorporates elements of that learning-- in this case use of formal patterns.  So, in response to your question, you could say that I have gone on to 'make up my own system', but I hate the apparent arrogance of that label.  I just teach what I teach, which, in the end boils down to a big 'smooshing together' of karate, suikendo, boxing/ thai boxing, judo, jiujitsu kali and silat-- however, all taught form a 'conceptual'/ principle-centric standpoint that emphasizes an understanding of human physiology-- how to use yours to break down his.  I certainly don't teach orthodox 'karate' any more, at least not the way  I learned it, any more than I teach orthodox versions of any ofthose arts.   I don't ever claim to have 'mastered' any of those arts, including karate.  I even go so far as to tell students that they will get beat if they try to use the small amount of judo I teach to fight a judoka, or  the small  amount of boxing I teach to fight a boxer, etc, etc.  What I teach is hopefully enough that my guys have the skills to COUNTER those games when they encounter them, and take the other guy OUT of his element.

Or you could say I teach  a 'mixed' martial art, because I do, blending in concepts form that wide variety of sources.  But I'm not teaching sporting MMA for the cage.  You could say I'm teaching 'conceptual JKD', the way Bruce Lee intended it,  (i.e. taking what works for me, not stylistic Jun Fan), but... I don't really like that label either.   Atcually, I don't like any of those labels.  More than half the time, I still call what I teach "karate" personally in conversations, and here I am hanging around what has been historically primarily a karate forum.   I tell my students I teach "mixed martial arts for self-protection" because that is the emphasis of our program and the ultimate 'fight context' I am preparing students to face.   So you could also just say that I teach 'self-defense'. 

The reality of it, is no matter what you call it, in the end, I just teach a fusion of what I have picked up over the years... some boxing head movement, some karate hands, some judo throws, etc., etc., but I have tried my damndest to organize this into a logical and purposeful curriculum where the drills we use have a cohesive and DELIBERATE reason for being used in the way they are, in the place they are in our curriculum, to achieve a specific outcome.   About two years ago I started calling it "Unified Martial Arts", because I HAVE tried to unify the underlying conecpts, but that even sticks in my craw sometimes. 

"Freestyle", I hadn't ever thought to call it that, but that actually fits it too.  There is freestyle wrestling, why not freestyle MA? 

Probably more than you wanted to know.smiley

chrishanson68's picture

WOW! A lot to digest...amazing shit! I'm off to train in my basement....BUT, i will DEFINITELY respond later ok! I really appreciate your response...wish you lived nearby man....there are so many amazing people out there in this world who are passionate about the MA's.....anyway....got lots ot respond to.....chat later....the sun is up and the weather is good here...hope you have a good day my friend.....later.


miket's picture

Yeah, you'll find I tend to do that...  wink   It helps me think.

chrishanson68's picture

Hi there.

Ok, so here's my response to your well thought out post earlier.  First off, what is your full name? It makes for a more personal response rather than just "miket".

Common Ground:

So first off I see that we have some common ground on teaching styles.  You're basically a Karate-guy with an open mind to other methodologies.  Don't mean any disrespect there! I'm very much like that, that is: a Shorin ryu guy who is now questioning everything.  To me the evolution of our training methods is a given in order to reach new ground.  If your training last year is the same as this year, I'd seriously suggest that you rethink things through, and it certainly seems that this is NOT the case, so good stuff!

Your "Stick" Approach:

I like your "stick" analogy.  That is 2 sides of teaching and learning martial arts: the technical or formal vs. the application side.  These 2, as you alluded to is a struggle for some, to keep in balance.  I think, more often now, than before, teachers and students are realizing the application side of things.  However, often, some confuse the technical side as application.  They are completely different!  I appreciated your comment "technique applied in a combative facsimile".  I am an elementary school teacher (teach grade 5 at the moment), and I teach my kids based on reality.  Not martial arts per se, but general curriculum.  I teach them concepts, drill them, then I pose real situations to them and they have to solve it using the concepts they've learned.  I guide them in basic problem solvingn strategies, but eventually, they figure it out for themselves....THIS IS THE KEY IN LEARNING and building your own method....the whole self-discovery and trial and error process.  It holds for the Martial arts too.

Aliveness Concept -

I first heard of this concept through my JKD friends.  My JKD instructor referred me to the works of Matt Thornton (a modern JKD guy).   Matt, way back in the day used to mix things up via striking, grappling, etc., long before UFC.  His approach is realistic and very sensible.  His underlying principal behind his teaching is "aliveness".  This is what Bruce Lee basically referred to as "the Classical mess"; a big problem for most traditional martial arts....that is....great foundational basics, but they lack the "aliveness" in application.  Below is some clips that illustrate my point:

 (my favorite, an "oldie, but a goodie")

I find that over 60% of my karate techniques I've learned in the past are useless because it lacked aliveness.  Working the techniques against a resisting opponent! This is so important.  When you do any self defence, it must be taught textbook first, then you have to play with it and adapt.  Which leads to my next response to your response.


You mentioned adaptation of a technique taught in it's purest form (a stand alone technique or a technique in kata) to a circumstantial adaptation of a technique to a particular situation.  This training exercise is key! Most karate systems back in the day are flawed by this method.  In fact, most traditional systems are flawed by lack of aliveness.  It's a huge bold statement, but I hate to say it, the truth hurts! angry I am not even close in mastering aliveness.  I don't think anyone really can.  It's conceptually possible, because that would imply that you have memorized and worked every single mathematical permutation and combination of how things can go wrong in a technique.  Good luck with that! LOL. 

In my training now, when I have the opportunity to train with a partner, I work this method.  It's engrained in my being and thinking style now.  To me, being "alive" means to break free from pattern based technique and flow with an idea or objective.  How you get there, depends on the techniques you've been taught etc., but your success is not directly proportional to the amount of technique, but rather, the amount of times you've practiced adapting to situations when things mess up using the techniques you currently know.  Which brings me to your next point...form is non-interpretative idealized alphabet of mechanics.

Form = Non-interpretive Idealized Alphabet of mechanics

Love the way you put it! Word!

So kata or any stand alone technique (a punch-kick-block-throw-self defence -combo) is like a letter of the alphabet.  You take these letters to form your own words and sentences that have meaning to you! This is a very old concept, but makes sense.  It's been written in many old karate books, for instance, that there really is no underlying bunkai behind kata.  Bottom line it's subject to interpretation.  We are left basically with stand alone techniques and a catalogue of techniques (kata) that is now up to us to interpret.  It was like this because the masters kept things in secrecy and passed things down by word of mouth, and yes, meaning got lost.  So anyway, we have the alphabet, and we must learn it well, and then make words and sentences.

Your Interpretation of the Martial arts

I enjoyed reading your "struggle" in explaining what you actually practice.  I smiled, because i get this all the time..."So Chris, what style do you pracitce?" "Chris, what  belt do you have"? "How long have you practiced Tae Kwon Do? indecision After training so long, it's just  "Martial Arts" to me.  I have no style.  It's just an awareness and interpretation and/or expression of my prior knowledge along with any evolution that comes out of it from research and training with friends...and of course...life experience! At the end of the day, all martial arts are the same...using your limbs to exercise, medidate,  and self-preserve....PERIOD! smiley

Have a good weekend.


Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Mike & Chris,

Love those posts above! Really superb and I appreciate you both taking the time expand your thinking and make it clear. There is loads above for people to take away and ponder over. I thoroughly enjoyed then over this mornings coffee :-)

Chrishanson68 wrote:
I find that over 60% of my karate techniques I've learned in the past are useless because it lacked aliveness.  Working the techniques against a resisting opponent! This is so important.  When you do any self defence, it must be taught textbook first, then you have to play with it and adapt.

Totally agree! Without live practise it’s all theoretical and the attributes required to make techniques work in the ever-changing world of combat are never developed.

Coincidentally I recorded this month’s podcast on Friday and it’s called “What Traditional Martial Artists Can Lean from MMA”. My second point is that MMA people test everything; whereas, I think it would be fair to say, the majority of “traditionalists” don’t. This is why impractical training methods (i.e. classical one-step sparring, etc) exist in the traditional arts. However, if people tested, it would become immediately apparent that these methods would not survive the testing and hence would be dropped. Testing would strip away “the fat” that traditional arts have picked up over the last 70 years or so. I also think that live testing (of a type that resembles civilian self-protection) would have traditionalists value kata more and understand it better as it’s relevance to that environment also becomes apparent.

Anyhow, this is quite a nice piece of serendipity as this is a point I cover in the podcast … which, all going well, I’ll have live by the end of the week. However, as a little preview, here is part of that section:

MMA tests everything! I know plenty of traditional martial artists who do too, but I still think it would be fair to say there are many who do not test what they do.

MMA practitioners test everything they do. I don’t know a single MMA person who does not pressure test and drill live. Through live drilling the MMA practitioner has actual live experience. They know what a fight is like and they know what works and what does not. More importantly, the live experience helps them to learn why what works, works! They get things on a conceptual level and sound combative principles get ingrained.

Things that are inherently flawed don’t survive the testing process and hence they get dropped by the way side. They are beholden to nothing. Because of the rapid evolution of MMA, what worked 10 years ago does not work well today. They don’t hold onto the outdated material but instead concentrate on what is known to work well in the here and now.

Have you ever seen anything that resembles standard ippon kumite in a real fight? No, me neither. If you were to try to use such methods in live practise, you would realise they simply don’t work. The reason they persist in some areas of the traditional martial arts world is that those same areas don’t test things. Allow a partner – ideally not another karateka – to do whatever they wish, as they can in a real fight, and try to use the methods of ippon kumite and see where it gets you.

Testing would strip away all the unnecessary baggage some traditional martial arts have acquired over the years. The trouble is though that too many traditional martial artists don’t test.

Testing would also help bring to the surface all the good material that traditional martial arts contain. One of the reasons kata is so badly understood is a lack of testing. If we test what methods work best in the close and chaotic world of close range conflict we would start to see how relevant the motions of kata are to that environment. However, because testing is nowhere near as prevalent as it should be impractical “explanations” of kata persist. These inaccurate and impractical “applications” would not survive testing and would hence disappear overnight. Karate as a whole can only benefit from that.” (More in the podcast coming soon!)

All the best,


BRITON55's picture

Hi all Stephen Nash here loving Iains site it tears martial arts a new a spynctre with its questions and more questions...love it because sometimes traditionalists can become too engrossed in dogma of the past.... no offence meant to anyone just an observation...I like the zen saying "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of men of old; seek what they sought".

Here we have brave people laying on the line thier thoughts practices and for all to see ....and thier flaws, very brave and commendable.

MMA as Iain states is the arena of successes and failures for all to see...competitors martial histories are announced beforehand and laid bare in the cage or ring. Do we denounce styles as flawed when we lose or admire what worked for a short time before we lose or win. Each style is as good as its practitioner or as our opponent allows it to be with his or her skills.

Ive spent more years than I care to remember in combat..now at 56 with never a year out since 12 years old of a martial art of one kind or another and some years hardly a day off from it ; I am pleased to see the medium of computers videos and brave souls analysing that which was unquestioned many moons ago. There are now probably more Martial Arts practitioners in the world than ever before so it seems logical it should come under the microscope as more observations and opinions are expressed.

One opinion and observation I feel is worth exploring is the "FLINCH" reaction. Do we as Martial Artists have one? or are we so adept we can pre-empt an attack as if we are on Geoffe Thompson and Peter Consterdines Orange alert Pyramid system. Having been involved in MMA competitions you have less "FLINCH" responses during competition...on red alert... than when out socialising in a relaxed environment, to be caught out by a playful friend or stranger with an attitude. I would love to hear how others have explored how "FLINCH" transforms into technique.

Keep up the good work Chris and Iain as always I look forward to your views I find your work refreshing and inspirational, and a big thank you to all on this site for expanding my knowledge and observing flaws in my statements....love it cool

Yours in Budo


BRITON55's picture

Hi Steve here I like the post..... ALERTIVE....very informative and forward thinking...I tend to use this methodology after I have grounded my learners in DEAD training methods so as to give them the cognitive skills to start ALERTIVENESS training in safety...I say safety because if I start from day one with ALERTIVENESS students look lost, fearful of each other and egos' tend to be tested as a "you won't get the better of me" approach and the more aggressive learner tends to overpower the more layback learner giving each a false sense of learning.

I find it takes considerable skill to do ALERTIVE sparring and send everyone home the way they came in...so in that aspect I feel a good grounding and confidence level needs to be established in learners before embarking on ALERTIVE training. Its like asking a baby to walk before it can crawl...the majority crawl first...I think traditional MA knew this aspect of human nature and therefore approached teaching in this safety first mode....eventually it rarely moved on to ALERTIVE training as numbers of learners increased and Teachers reputations rose along with thier wallets...they even invented diluted ALERTIVE training in competitions with point scoring; semi, & non-contact competitions....now with the more combative competitions in vogue ALERTIVE training is becoming more acceptable and expected from teachers and learners alike.

To enjoy ALERTIVE training you need trust with your partner, teacher and techniques being taught.....I strongly encourage ALERTIVE practice in my classes but only when I feel an individual is technically and mentally ready for the challenge. [I might add we teach each learner in bite size chunks for them to explore and not overwhelm them with a myriad of techniques]

Yours in Budo


shutokia's picture

Hi Chris

         Some good videos here,but I still have to say that its still leans more on the side of competeing than it does with self defense,I been in 37 different situations and 4 of them had to do with them pulling a gun and once a knife and none of them ever began with two guys it a fighting stance like two gladiators in a ring,not saying it does not help to know some of the stuff in the videos in case it goes beyond taking them out within the first or second hit. I been doing this since I was 16 and am 51 now and have seen alot in my time.I remember when I went to a seminar back in the 80's and seen Seiyu Oyata take out this big guy about  6' 4" tall and about 300 lbs ,as he grabbed Oyata by his gi and  Oyata layed him out like cutting down an oak tree,that is one of the reasons I stayed in the Martial Arts cause we use to go in this room and we would bang it out till you walked out of there bleeding ,gimping or just hurting in some way. So when Oyata showed what the true meaning of kata was made it much more interesting cause I know I would of quit cause the body would not take the abuse that I put it under back than. One thing That made me think was why did we not know about this stuff before was that after we bombed Okinawa during the war did we really expect them to teach what they really knew,like saying you owned the only gun in town you wouldn't sell it to your neighbor.

JWT's picture

Hi Chris

Thanks for sharing.  Takes guts to publish your ideas - especially in video form.

Steve raises a very important point.  If you are startled/ambushed - you will flinch.  You thus need to practice your combative techniques off the base of a flinch response.  The good news for you as a Shorin based guy is that many Karate sequences have stylised flinches preceding the core techniques, so it's not a huge leap in one sense.

One observation from my point of view.  I have a few students who when they prepare to kick tend to do a little hop/skip step.  It's become an ingrained ritual for them and they are having trouble shifting it.  They have created a behaviour pattern groove.  I notice that before you strike (and especially kick) you do the same thing with your hands.  Are you aware you are doing it?  It looks like a distraction pattern appropriate for sparring but probably inappropriate for self defence as it telegraphs that an attack is incoming.  If you don't intend to do it I'd focus on moving directly from a natural posture.

Keep up the good work.


miket's picture

Thanks for the lengthy reply Chris, I can see we are looking at a lot of the same stuff.  I was also introduced to Thornton via a JKD friend and I love his definition of "Timing".  Some interesting ideas there.

Reference the flinch-- my view is that it is absolutely critical to effectiveness that we start 'with the body'--- both his, and ours.  PRACTICING what will happen under stress, how he is really LIKELY to attack (bologically, which in a high percentage of cases we know will NOT BE with a complex 'learned' response like a flying arm-bar), and how our body realistically will react to aggression, fear, and physical ambush (bringing us finally to the physical and the startle flinch).

Steve, in response to your question (e.g. do we as martial artists have a specific flinch reflex), my opinion, if I understood your question correctly is 'no', unfortunately we do not have a specialized flinch reflex as a result of our martial arts training.  If we are truly 'surprised' and caught 'unawares' (Note that word:  UN-aware), we will react as badly as the next guy.  It is what we do in the split seconds that follow (Blauer: IFand when 'primal' reaction finally switches over to 'tactical' reaction) that we POTENTIALLY (but not necessarily 'automatically' by virtue of training alone) separate ourselves.   Rather, we need to specifically work from drills that incorporate REAL flinch reflexes into what we do.

An example of how I use this:  I have a drill I just call 'haymaker'.   I set the students up doing a three or  four count combination:  say:  jab, cross, front hook, rear leg kick-- basic basic.  (This drill can be done with pretty much any structured combination.)  We do a round or two on the mitts and everybody gets 'comfy' with the mechanics.  So, effectively, they get into the rhythm of working a PATTERN, which is important.  Also important is the idea that at this point, the exercise is FULLY 'structured' or choreographed-- each side knows exactly what the other will do with full predictability.  The inevitable phenomena of 'anticiaption' therefore starts to set in, with the strikers moving to hit the mitt they 'know' will be there before its even fully presented.  People feel good and are experienced people are showing 'good' crisp TECHNICAL hits for the most part.

Next, I integrate a semi-predicatable stimulus:  the right rear haymaker.  So, at the end of the combo, the student 'knows' there will be a punch coming, and they are ready to react.  Again-- anticipating.  I ask the holder to try to break the rhythm on the punch, i.e. sometimes feeding it in as part of the combo, and sometimes holding it for a split second so that the hitter really has to perceive the stimulus and can't just react through anticipation, but its still pretty easy for guys to 'get'.  Most perform at about 90% effectiveness or higher, even.  ('effectiveness being measured as: 1) reacting spontaneously and not getting hit, and 2) translating the flinch/ spontaneous defensive reaction to some sort of forward pressure)

Next round, we introduce the left hand.  So now, the 'hitter' has to discriminate the first real variable--- direction.  So, here they start to 'get' the importance of watching the guys shoulders, and dealing primarily with the torso and upper arm lever to 'stop' the attack.  Effectiveness, measured the same way as above, drops noticeably.  Maybe 80%.   Again, they 'know' the punch is going to be at the 'back' of the combo, so they are ready.  Also, 'integrity' of striking motion is still being maintained here, with the techncial 'quality' of the punching still strong.

Third round, we sometimes put the R/L punch on the front of the combo.  So it mentally becomes 'defense! Convert to immediate offense!' instead of the other way around.) 

Fourth round, we go front or back.  So now the holder can throw right or left, either at the start of the hitter's combo or the end.  Both effectiveness of the defensive reaction and integrity of the striking degrade visibly here... maybe 60 to 70% for experienced people with committed mitt hodlers 'really trying' to hit them.  Note, we don't even allow stutters or feints, the holder is required to make a clear 'feed' with a big 'John Wayne' from either side.

Fifth round, we go 'full' free... which isn't 100% free.  Basically, the holder can counter strike at any point in the combo AFTER a hit, so long as they haven't presented the next target (this is simply to prevent holder's from showing a target, then 'pulling it' to counter strike, risking the hitter flashing their joints.)  So, as a holder, I can feed the counter strike after the 1, the 2, the 3 or the 4.  And no matter what point I am in the combination, the 'hitter' then needs to finish the combo from that point.  So if I throw a big left hook on the 2, then the hitter still needs to finish with the 3-4 as soon as mentally possible after reacting defensively.

Around here both effectiveness and integrity go to hell in a handbasket.  People get hit at least 50% of the time.  Their striking becomes 'shallow' unpronounced, and otherwise sloppy.  'Control' of power gets both delievering effective power and not delievring toomuch become much more difficult to maintain.  People start to get frustarted with themselves.  And that's whil allowing only ONE spontaneous variable to be introduced, and while limiting the hitters to ONE well-rehearsed (in terms of prepatory reps) physical response.  Start asking them to discriminate between combo 'A' and combo 'B' and you really start to see degradation... unless you just 'free them' up to finish with any two motions they deem appropriate, whcih is the most 'advanced' iteration of the drill, where they start to prefix and suffix in their own motions.  Because, like Chris noted in his reply with his elementary students, this is a critcial step in personal 'ownership' of learning-- the student HAS TO start to make 'their own' connections.  

So, my guys get hit a lot doing this drill.  I get hit a good part of the time doing this drill, and I am the sacred O-Poohbah of the group.  BUT...my guys can all 'block' spontaneously in response to a sudden attack a good percentage of the time, and I have watche4d this ability steadily improve over time since ebginning to introdcue drills like these.     The don't 'not get hit'  ALL the time, not by a long shot.  But once they have 'reacted' (even badly), they generally know to seize the fight initiative by CREATING forward pressure on the threat, either by striking or by gripping and off balancing.  Not becasue we have talked about it.  Because we have drilled DOING eactly that as a 'bridge' (Blauer) to applying  those 'perfected' learned responses.

A second way we use flinches is to start some of those forms I mentioned using with a VARIABLE flinch trigger.  So, for instance, with our first form, which we simply call 'OCC' for 'offensive core combvatives' we open it with a flinch.  The flinch is purposefully SUPPOSED to be an Illustration of 'the WRONG thing'.  i.e. I tell students that it is what their body LIKELY WILL DO and it's 'bad'.  It is the physical 'trigger' that is supposed to 'fire' the bullet of the learned response.  Further, to avoid the student habituatiing a SPECIFIC flinch, I have them VARY the flinch at the start of the form.  So each person's 'trigger' to start the form looks different, each time they do it.  And then, like I said above, I emphasize the importance of the form as simply being ILLUSTRATIVE.  So to learn how to flinch and respond in  live action state, the student needs to practice DOING exactly that.  And kudos to where it belongs, most of my ideas in this capacity come from BTS-- those guys have reallly revolutionized martial arts training by systematizing what a lot of people only taught colloquially before, or worse, thought they were teaching.  Blauer's work has really changed the way I approach my MA in general.

Iain, those are great comments about testing.  I for one would be curious to hear what people do to test 'real' street combatives... i.e. elbows, headbutts, knee strikes, eye gouges and the like.  I have let people go about 50% on me with the Paul Vunak motorcyle helmet drill and about gotten knocked out on several occassions.  The approach we tend to take is the one set down by Rory Miller in his upcoming book where the 'flaw' we put in the drill is to slow the speed waaaaaaaaaaaaaay down such that 'real' motions can be used on their real targets.  I know armor is a possibility but I have a tough time talking a new guy just surveying my class into buying a $1500 High Gear suit, or even  into making one with cast-off parts "so that he can take an elbow to the head."  surprise  Thoughts on what other folks are doing? How do YOU incorporate 'aliveness' and realistic testing into your program?    I would really like to hear... not just generally, I mean specific drills and things you are doing that incorpoarte dynamism into training.

Good thread!

chrishanson68's picture

Yeah baby! That's what i'm talking about....getting the creative juices flowing.

@Shuto Kia....you're absolutely right....my focus was showing that most of what we do now is "sport" or "competition" techniques....and the distinction between "sport" and "self defence" must be made clear.

@JWT - thanks for the kind words

@Miket - Wicked stuff...again...i gotta digest it all to post back!



chrishanson68's picture

Steve, awesome response! And thanks for the "sugar" / positve comment on your reply.  I enjoy posting here, I feel it's home smiley I am absolutely excited to continue to share my discoveries and training reflections with you all.  I'm not about money, and I have a full time job to pay bills, this is simply a hobby of mine that keeps me healthy and now...with this blog, I find a spiritual and intellectual release.  I am planning to, though in the future, to compose actual podcasts (inspired by Iain! Thanks man!...and write a book as well...it's in the works!) Doing this...that is....responding, blogging, putting out my material out there on cyber-space is my way of giving thanks to my masters/mentors.  I am a school teacher, and I am big on integrity.  To me, this is a way to show it to all of those who have inspired me.


BRITON55 wrote:

 Do we as Martial Artists have one? ("Flinch Reaction")..... I would love to hear how others have explored how "FLINCH" transforms into technique.

Steve, I simply HAD TO RESPOND TO THIS ONE!!  Thanks for posting that! Sparked a shit load of a response, but I will keep it short and sweet.  I will respond to it in subtitles topics:

The Flinch Reaction

First off, in order for me to respond to you in a way that makes sense, I guess we must come to agreement on the term "Flinch Reaction".  So, from my experience with the arts, this simply means a natural reaction to a physical stimulus in an aggressive and confrontational context.  Now the flinch reaction is determined by who's flinching!  If an untrained person is flinching, then you'll get a pure and natural flinch response.  If a trained person is flinching, then you'll get an artificial trained response that will be skewed with the following factors: adrenaline dump, skewed motor skills, and basically the basic Freeze up!  So, in a nutshell, everyone flinches! We're human! It's natural to flinch.  So, yes, even us, "Ballsy" Martial artists, being human, will flinch! LOL!smiley

What's important in my opinion is the systematic approach we must follow in determining what exactly this flinch is in various contexts and scenario based training.  This type of analysis lies in the methodology of the RBSD Systems out there (i.e., Reality Based Self Defence). 

How to determine what your flinch response is?

From the exposure I got to reality based self defence, and trust me, what I don't know, can fill a friggin warehouse....here's my take on this paradigm:

1) Figure out what kind of threats there are out there, i.e., figure out the stimulus.  Once you have the stimulus, then you can invoke the response ...the flinch response.  So, as Iain alluded to earlier, it boils down to testing your reactions to these stimuli, noting them, and then figuring out an action plan to countering it, dealing with it, or difusing it.  So, how to do this?

- take an inventory of the kinds of confrontational crimes there are out there...stabbing, mugs, hit and runs, gun point, etc. Talk to friends who are police officers or involved in security etc. (bouncers, doorman, and the like).  Look online and do key word searches based on the common type of assaults in your city.  Investigate the type of crimes that happen out there.  This way, you'll build an awareness to your surroundings.  The next step is to artificially re-create the type of emotions and reactions that are involved.

2) Start playing! As part of any effective self defence training, you have to be an actor really.  Professional actors do it all the time...it's called getting into your role!  So after doing all of your research, pick a crime or a confrontation that involves physical violence.  Pick your roles....victim or predator, and start playing.  You have to get very irrate and really play it up.  If you want to see some really good examples of this, I urge you to look up Mr. Richard Dimitri (he's the founder of Senshido International, one of the leading reality based self defence schools in the world!), he's also a personal virtual friend of mine.  See below of some of his clips that elucidate my point. ***Warning Viewer Descretion is advised! Profanity is included...but that's how Rich roles...he's an accomplished dude, and the world is starting to phase shift due to his work...that includes me! I asked his permission to share, so here it is....


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHeMrHOvZnI&feature=related (prison attack drills)


Now, this is totally non-traditional.  This stuff will TEST (as Iain alluded to earlier) any of your games out there! Trust me on this when I tell you this.  It is this type of material that literally shocked the fuck out of me, and got me into this whole reality based stuff. 

So, as per above, you figure out what type of stimuli you will have, and then work it in a scenario.  Your partners must agree to a certain level of contact...we all have to work and we all have families....but the agression, the emotion, the insults, the dialogue, must all be intense and you have to copy what actually happens out there in the real world...and this comes with plain old scholarly RESEARCH!! This is key. 

So, Steve, I hope this kind of touched on your question.  I've only begun to stress test my game over the last 10 years.  Like told you guys, I literally had to shred over 60% of my Karate, and Gung fu game to keep things tight!  Bottom line Steve, and yes, as you can see...sometimes  I have trouble getting to that bottom line! LOL...rambling on.....your flinch reaction will be determined by repetitive drilling of various researched real-life confrontational and intense scenarios....so 2 words....SCENARIO TRAINING!! Don't neglect it!You will figure out what your flinch reaction

Nothing is Wasted

Like energy in the universe, it is neither created nor destroyed.  I like to think that all of the years we have spent on traditional training has it's merit.  From my experience, it surely has.  Now, please don't get me wrong here, I am not "tooting my horn" a.k.a "showing off", but over 30 years of experience has taught me how to throw a friggin punch, kick, and block....now it's matter of making music baby!...music with these skills that is.  I find that I am in a systematic process of revisting everything I've ever learned...and I mean EVERYTHING....the Karate, the Mantis, the Kempo, the Choy li fut, the Wing chun, the thai, the savate...the katas and all the drills or pre-sequenced stuff.....looking at it all, and simply extracting, the essence.  So, I hung out with Shorin ryu for over 12 years, then cross trained after...this cross training opened up my eyes to similarities in various systems.  The JKD, krav maga, and MMA that I am working with currently has caused me to be more alive in my methodology and soul search so to speak..."cut the fat" as Iain put it.  So now, even the "fat" as I see it has merits.  However, I would not realize these merits if i didn't cross train.  Because what cross training does is give you exposure and then you make connections to everything.  You begin to see that frig man, as long as we're going to have human limbs, we will have martial arts that all look the same eventually.

So now, I pull out my old gung fu books, the old karate manuals(Nagamine's Shorin Ryu book, my favorite) etc., and basically extract the essence out of the formal movements and use my professional judgement to figure out what the hell are they trying to do...and trust me....if you've cross trained...it's quite easy to spot the gist behind the technique.

Then you train the shit out of it....scenario training...shit talk each other...kee it alive training...put on the equipment....and bang away...keeping in mind we all have to work tommorow....and you'll have fun.....us boys need to play man!!

Much peace to you all!


PS.  I am planning to come out with podcasts too soon....my fiance will help me with it...so I hope you listen and all your feedback is much appreciated


chrishanson68's picture

Thanks again for your reply.

Those vids you saw were a small start to what i really want to express and that is realistic self defence.  I tried to get across the idea that most of what we know in a dojo is a sport like structure....the basic boxer guard.  Some players think that this is enough to train a street like response.  My arguement is that it builds attributes, and sure, learning to fight from there will increase the odds in a fight, but it's not as close as training and simulating realistic reactions....fighting from a seat, from the floor, on one leg, with one arm compromised, one leg compromised, impaired vision, training under the influence of alcohol, etc.  I have only recently (as in the last 10 years) been brewing these ideas in my head.

You are so fortunate to have trained the way you have! I envy you!

Man, it would be so amazing if we could arrange a meet up of all you guys in one room....man would I love to do that!

Anyway, peace!


chrishanson68's picture

Nice, nice, and nice! What can I say....Mike...i cut and pasted your stuff into a training file I have, and I am going to work it!

Thanks my friend.

In a nutshell, it seams you work self defence with variables that keep changing.  And these variables are realistic enough to get some alive reactions!  You invoke "call out" drills....nice.

Keep it coming! Great work!

If I could only travel to see all you guys! But life gets in the way sometimes!


chrishanson68's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

MMA tests everything! I know plenty of traditional martial artists who do too, but I still think it would be fair to say there are many who do not test what they do.

So true!

In addition, if we open up our attention to other sports and/or games.....basketball, soccer, hockey, cricket, boxing, wrestling, and even bored games...like chess....ALL OF THEM FUNCTION OUT OF THE ALIVE PRINCIPAL Take basket ball for instance.  A live game consists of players executing a whole unplanned series of reactionary responses to plays from the opposition team.  Two players simply don't practice presequenced movements withought resistance.  Rather they play thousands and thousands of scrimage games "alive" and only that way they can get better.  Improvement comes from both the coach and the player realizing the weakness in the offence and defence and brain storming strategies and plays that will remedy the situation....again even this is conceptual, but needs to be tested in live scrimage and live game play.  This goes for many other  sports and games not just in MMA.

So what i'm trying to say is simple...MMA is only one source to learn from.  If you look around us, in history, we have been surrounded by this whole "alive" process....playing and competing against live situations. 

Here's another situation...my job.  I am a school teacher.  When I went to teacher's college and earned my Bachelor's of Education, they taught  us theoretical techniques in teaching kids, their develomental learning cycle, .how to develop lesson plans and manage a classroom.  But when I took that knowledge and applied it for real in a real classroom, under real conditions...that is...no supervisor watching, no teacher telling what to do and saving you from issues.....things fell apart and I was tested big time.  I learned quickly that I had to adapt and sometimes trash out the fatty theory and cut to the chase, take calculated short cuts to fulfill an educational objective for my classroom children.  It doesn't look pretty, but it gets the job done.  It's funny, in my school, i am known as the unorthodox teacher! Yet kids enjoy being in my class LOL, go figure!  They don't teach you this in teacher's college let me tell you!! LOL. 

Or yet again...another example...learning how to drive.  We go through pain staking sessions with our parents teaching us how to drive while yelling at us in the car....sharp turn here, oh, that parking job was terrible etc...then go to a driving school, get yelled at less, but watch dinky outdated videos of people driving, and sitting in classrooms learning boring theory...take the driving test, pass, and to realize later, that we can drive effectively with one arm and not 2! LOL...and take sharp corners or wide intersection turns safely; and get out of tight spots that were not taught in driving school...so we learned from experience with live situations...getting into accidents and minor "fendor benders"!

My arguement can be held for practically any theoretical endeavor.  The whole theory vs. practice paradigmn needs to be at the forefront of any Martial artists game.  I tell everyone I teach...both in my classroom and in the dojo's I work with...NEVER TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED! We should always respectfully be critical of what comes our way.  This critical mind will cause us to test and challenge our beliefs under various conditions.  It only makes for a better person on so many levels...spiritually, morally, physically, mentally etc.



chrishanson68's picture

Some Aliveness drills I use and plan to use more:

There tonnes of stuff...but here's one that you can take the shell of it and add/change/delete any part of it you like...


1) An Isolation drill (done with 30-40% Intensity)  say both partners have on a cup, shins, Boxing gloves, mouth guard, head gear....the feeder (the one who's going to feed you the attack) will square off with you...approach you in any way...shit talk your head off, then suddenly throw some pre-emptive strikes at you, shove you around etc., you put up your hands in a "fence like posture" and look like a victim....say words like "look man, sorry dude, i don't wanna fight you etc., then you eat a few shots, but your reaction must be to shrimp up, crash the line (i.e., crash into his space), break center line, and establish clinch of some sort.  The clinch you work is varied...

- one round can be thai clinch, another can be a body clinch, another can be head and arm, underhook and pike, whatever...any clinch variation you like.  Check this clip out...i have trained this material a lot with my training partners, and it serves as a great template for other clinch options from that range...enjoy this:

The Classic Underhook and Pike (A greco roman idea with a twist)



- Next round can be going for a take down from clinch

- another round can be covering up, hit and run tactic or simply covering up and run

Anyway...the ISR Matrix curriculum is another of my favorite go-to places...just in those 3 vids alone, you can practice so many permutations of the same idea.



chrishanson68's picture

Oh...one more thing....once you have the technique down pat, you up the intenisty...so the feeder throws harder and provides more resistance...you have to adapt and still work for that clinch and takedown or strike back options....it gets real tough and dicey sometimes.....it's real taxing on your conditioning, but it's so worth it man....it's not pretty, but you're working and testing what works, you're developing your natural flinch reactions to pressure, and learning to adapt under pressure.....

You can't get this from doing dead patterns all day! It's like reciting the alphabet withought writing words, sentences, and paragraphs!!


JWT's picture

Hi Chris

Interesting (and good) stuff.

I disagree with you on the flinch.  You see the flinch is not a response to an 'aggressive' stimuli.  It is an autonomic (ie out of our conscious control) protective reaction caused by the amygdala receiving messages directly from optical nerves (optical nerves go directly to the amygdala in addition to the cerebrum) or other sensory centres indicating that there is an imminent threat of injury.  We will flinch from spotting a tennis ball too late, feeling a shockwave blast etc... not just from a punch we didn't expect.  As an autonomic reaction the flinch cannot be trained and it will kick in whenever you are startled so much that the response is required.

Now through training we can learn to spot telegraphs of techniques.  Just as we learn to catch or step to the side to avoid being hit by a ball, we can learn trained responses that we will do reflexively.  To carry the metaphor further you learn to catch well, and without conscious thought, but if I give you too little warning and you are caught off guard - because the stimuli is too fast,  instead of catching that ball you will duck and cover - you will flinch.  It's a failsafe, an over-ride.  Now catching is an effective (most of the time) trained reflexive reaction - but it is not a flinch response.

You don't see flinches so often in the sparring of experienced practitioners because they have trained long enough to spot the telegraphs of the incoming techniques and can thus access trained responses.  However there are a number of 'trained' movements that I see in Karate and boxing that mirror flinches and people do them (and do flinch rather than do them) because it is the most effective response to that stimuli.  Various head shielding movements, parries, and extended arm covers are all based on the flinch and often when we see them, we are really seeing a flinch, not a trained movement.

The way forward is simple.  If you are training predominantly for self defence you need to train predominantly against HAOV.  You need to observe and recognise flinch responses and include them in your repertoire by learning to move from them.

Obviously you've started doing scenario training and you recognise it is a game changer. If you go to my facebook group (see links below) you'll see three vids of low level one dimensional scenario training:




Other than the last one (which is a demo by me) these are 'first time' scenarios for visiting instructors from a TKD club on a stress inoculation day.   It's literally just one step up from a static drill in that it is one on one with the attacker given a very narrow briefing.  It is a step in the right direction.  I now often do scenarios involving 5 -6 people where every person has an individual briefing and sometimes I set it up so only I know who the attacker is going to be!  I'd like to add a few more vids directly there but for some reason facebook think I've breached copywrite so I'm in a dispute with them.  I hope to get some more vids on utube and then cross link on the wall there - so add it to your likes if you like it!


Some things that might interest you.  I'd recommend Murray's Training at the Speed of Life if you don't already have it.  There's also good stuff in Asken's Warrior Mindset which is applicable to building scenario training. I've got quite a little library listed on my practical karate site - so please take a look:


Hope that's of interest and of use.


chrishanson68's picture

JT, thanks for all of that!

My concept of the flinch I guess is quite limited.  You obviously have a deeper understanding of this.  I see that learning basic neuro-science is important in what we do.  It makes for a thorough approach in our martial arts delivery and learning.  Thanks again for the correction.  So, basically it's an automated response? However, can we untrain this automated response? It seems that a flinch response is a good thing, and from what i gather from you, we simply need to incorporate it into our training...that is simply deal with what happens naturally? If you can clarify this that would be great.  I am always willing to learn and correct my ways.

I will check the vids out too.  Have to run to work soon....all the best! So you think the scenario I do is ok?


chrishanson68's picture

JT...btw, I can't view your vids....FB has removed them??


miket's picture

Thanks for the links, Chris, I was previously unaware of both Dmitri/ Senshido and the  Gutierrez/ ISR.  I especially liked the ISR focus on principles/ outcomes.  The Senshido "shredding" I am not so sure about for non-lethal civillian use of force situations (?!?) but I did appreciate the 'woofing' in training. 

You might also be interested in BIll Kip's Fast Defense program (on outgrowth of 'the' original RBSD program, Model Mugging), if you  haven't been exposed to it... the guys with the big-headed 'Bulletman' suits.  One of my instructors is certified under him and I have been through some of that training, it is pretty good stuff, although it tends to focus on very (very, very) simple tactics for the untrained (which is it's entire point).  That said, my opinion is that many of the training paradigms it eschews can be successfully applied to more 'highly trained' combatives and can go a long way toward making them 'real'.  Like anything, there are limitations and prohibitions that come with the gear... for instance, you can't do a lot of 'head manipulations' due to the force that manipulating that big gob puts on the woofer's neck-- basically it acts like a lever and amplifys any twisting or torquing.  So as with anything, 'some adaptation is required', or you need to go to a smaller, Century-type helmet which disallows the hard striking... there is always a flaw.  :-)   The suits are good and you can really blast them if you have a trained woofer who knows how to take a hit.


PS:  John, we cross-posted, sorry-- I would tend to agree with you, the flinch isn't trainable, or it wouldn't be a 'startle' flinch.  It's biologically hard wired, like FEELING fear or adrenalin.  So, our job becomes one of BETTER managing (but never fully 'controlling') our response to those biological reactions.

PPS I think the link access is due to privacy settings.  We use F[ree] Book for our club, too, and I have had trouble directing people to our site unless they have already 'liked' our group.

chrishanson68's picture

Awesome, thanks for sharing.  I'm adding to my training file Mike.  Is this your name by the way?

As far as what's legal or not, you have to find out about the law in your country and city around justifyable violence and self-defence.  I'd even talk to a lawyer and take advantage of their free initial consultation.  Something we need to equip ourselves with and our students.


Ps.  I am guilty of not fully knowing the law in Canada...i simply go with the conservative approach of running away, avoiding, and not fighting....if i do, it's clinch, and open hand strikes, and "officer, not sure what happened, i feared for my life, I tried to run away as much as i could, i was cornered, I paniked (spelling?...and i'm a school teacher! lol) and reacted to protect myself.  My cop friends told me these are basic guidelines in Toronto Canada.

chrishanson68's picture

JWT wrote:

 I notice that before you strike (and especially kick) you do the same thing with your hands.  Are you aware you are doing it?  It looks like a distraction pattern appropriate for sparring but probably inappropriate for self defence as it telegraphs that an attack is incoming.  If you don't intend to do it I'd focus on moving directly from a natural posture.

Thanks for the tip John.  However, if you don't mind, could you give me a more descriptive or visual response, so I can work it in my dojo downstairs? So, when I kick, say the side kick, I know that my hand drops a bit and then snaps back up.  How should i differ that?  Let me know, and thanks again!  BTW, where are you based in? The UK?


JWT's picture

Hi Chris

Reference the side kick, the movement in question is side kick vid 2 09-11 and 50-55.  To me the first looks like a sparring distraction technique - good in sparring, not so good if you are being pre-emptive.  With regard to the second your hand movement precedes the kick and telegraphs your intent - you tend to jerk it back towards you (cock it) and then extend fractionally ahead of the kick.  It's a very minor thing, and I catch myself doing similar things from time to time.  The best ways to get rid of it in my opinion are a combination of very slow training of the movement, mirror training, and training with a partner who shouts or moves every time you telegraph.  Something you may wish to consider is whether you see this technique in your repertoire as a start, mid or end game technique.  Personally I find it easy to use kicks once I'm already 'in action' , but very hard to do as a pre-emptive technique under pressure, because even the simplest kick is far more complicated than hand techniques.

I'm in the UK.

I'm not sure what is going on with the vids.   The videos are on the wall if you can't actually get to the video page.  The privacy settings are set to 'viewable by anyone' so I'm unsure as to why they are hidden.  They work for me if I log out of facebook and put in the url below, but the urls above also work for me:


Reference the flinch - you cannot untrain an automated response.  However as MikeT suggests what we can do is get better trained at managing adrenaline.  In addition to that by learning to recognise attack telegraphs and training flinch related responses (ie gross motor defensive responses)  to those telegraphs, we can reduce how often we flinch.

Miket - no problem with cross posting! smiley

Hope that's of interest - keep on thinking!  

Andrew Carr-Locke
Andrew Carr-Locke's picture

In reference to a 'flinch' reaction, I've delevoped a program that forms the basis of our stand-up defence using  the body's natural reaction. I call it Duck & Cover. It is basically a variation on a boxing guard, with the attempt to harness the inital reaction of covering your face/head and ducking slightly. I found that this was my reaction to unknown objects-- the idea that you are unaware of what's happening (walking down the street, etc) and you suddenly  hear "think fast" or " Four!", my natural flinch reation was ducking anyways. So I believe you can train a flinch reaction, not by training to initate it, but by training to harness the reaction as it occurs. The end result is however, I now flinch at more things than I used to, but also end up in a protected shell from which I can work.

As far as the Law and self-defence in Canada goes, I think if you can answer your way through these 5 questions, you'll be in a pretty good position to explain why you did -what you did, in the moment. The idea is that your hand was forced into using force, and that you tried to aviod use of force as much as was safe for you to do so. Once you did use  force, that you only used as much as was necessary. 

- Is it Legal?

- Is it Justified? 

- Is it Necessary?

- Is it a Tactically sound thing for me to do?

- Is it medically reasonable/responsible?

And as the whole cocking the limb before initiation goes, it is a hard thing to get rid of. Mostly because when you do it, it feels good. Yeah, I hit hard that time (training on the heavy bag), in kind of encourages it to happen more. The only way I found to train out of it, was a short round in front of a mirror (or record yourself) so you can see what it is that is happening. Then in sparring, watch out for it all the time. Be hyper aware of it for a long time, even after it has stopped. go back to the mirror or recording from time to time (like weeks or months later) and reajust the motion as you need to. Still, the overall best training I had was to partner up with a great counter-puncher, and everytime I telegraphed my Jab, I got hit. I tended to learn a bit quicker that way. lol.  

chrishanson68's picture

Great post man....I started the interaction of geniuses!! ....Thanks Andrew! Ya, learning the law and getting out clean are important.  And as far as hand cocking reactions etc., ....this along with other quirks are part of our human existance.....we're quirky individuals....our brain does funny things....bottom line though, is if we can incorporate those quirks into our game in safe and/or defensive manner, we're good.  By "quirk" I include a flinch reaction.  And I take it, that by you doing the duck-and-cover....it's a neat "add-on" to what our body naturally does anyway.....kinda like the MMA/Boxer guard, with our head covered...elbows up, and duck a bit....if this is what i think it is, then it's pretty good because it does a few things: 1. makes your targets smaller 2. ducking alleviates a bit of pressure from oncomming traffic of shots 3. It calms you a bit and you can counter and crash it easier.....