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OhioMike
OhioMike's picture
Teaching clinching skills to smaller students

An interesting problem posed to me by my daughter a couple of weeks ago.

I was teaching covering and crashing in to counter a hook strike and to locate the head, and she made the comment that she could not imagine doing that given that she weights 50 kilo less than most adult males. I then showed her the "two dragons play in the water" style of cover out of Chinte followed by the anvil strikes and throw out of that same kata and commented that was generally more appropate for a smaller individual to use against a larger one, but I realized that other than Chinte and a little bit out of Pidan Sandan I do not have very many clinching techniques for smaller individuals against a larger persons grab (other than normal grip stripping) does anyone in the group have some good female vs male clinching techniques?

Thanks,

Mike

Wastelander
Wastelander's picture

The trouble is that technique only overcomes a physicality gap of a certain amount. Smaller, weaker people are naturally at a disadvantage when trying to clinch with larger people, and have to work harder and train to a higher level to overcome the disadvantage than an average sized or stronger person would. This isn't a perfect analogy, but let's game-ify it as a sort of visual aid--for my nerds out there, this would essentially be an opposed Ability/Skill check in Dungeons and Dragons:

Imagine that every time you are attacked, you and the attacker are rolling a 20-sided die (d20) to determine the outcome, and whomever has the highest number wins.

Then, imagine that you get bonus points to add to the number on the die for your physicality--speed, strength, size, fitness, etc.

Then, imagine that you get bonus points for being proficient in martial arts, depending on your level of training

Then, imagine that you get a bonus point for having a background in high level competition or a history of violence

You will still be rolling the dice in any combative encounter, because anything can happen, but these bonuses help even the odds a bit. If you only have +4 based on your physicality, proficiency, and background, while your attacker ends up at +6, things don't look good for you unless you manage to do something to catch them by surprise, or other people intervene, or something in the environment gives you an advantage, etc.

With all of that in mind, you can tailor her training to methods that don't require her to be tall, heavy, or strong, but she is still going to have to work to increase her strength, and you are going to have to build up her knowledge of leverage and how to use the bodyweight and strength she has as efficiently as possible, and that takes times and experience. There isn't a quick fix to that. If you want some good material on how a smaller woman can dominate people with clinching, you can find nothing better than what Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu has published on her website (https://8limbsus.com/) and her YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgFe05f-DrPpaunE4Gaz3cQ). She has hours and hours of videos, and pages and pages of articles. It still comes down to a lot of hard work and in-depth study, but it can give you ideas on what to focus on. Once she has a good understanding of that type of skill, adapting it to a self defense context isn't too hard, especially when you're drilling those methods as well in her training.

OhioMike
OhioMike's picture

Thanks for the heads up on Sylvie, a lot of great material there. The D&D reference was excellent as well, I have played since long before it was cool. 

Thanks,

Mike

Neil Babbage
Neil Babbage's picture

Maybe look at the problem from a different angle. Rather than looking for clinching and grappling techniques that are effective with a large weight disparity, look for other responses to the initial problem of a hook to the head from a taller and / or heavier opponent. If one is particularly small, then perhaps the first choice to an unanticipated attack should not be crash in, but move out - e.g., use Iain's first bunkai from Heian Yondan rather than his first drill from Tekki Shodan (links available on request!)

deltabluesman
deltabluesman's picture

In case it's helpful, here's a link to an older thread on this topic:  https://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/clinch-fighting-training-women

That thread covered similar topics.  I personally am a big advocate of the "flinch & clinch" or "cover & crash" method, and I use it a lot, but it does break down when you have a significant size disparity.  Of course, a lot of techniques break down when you have a significant size disparity.  I do not teach self-protection and I am not well-versed in the specifics of women's self-protection, so I will keep my comments brief and will only throw out a few ideas.  All of this should be taken with a grain of salt:

For clinch fighting, it is essential to break the enemy's grip on you immediately.  This can be very challenging if someone has a strong grip, and it's even more difficult if someone has hold of clothing or a purse.  

Even though it is challenging, it is important for women and smaller students to have experience with clinch fighting.  Only diligent, consistent training will give them the unconscious reflexes necessary to overcome the challenge of clinching with stronger enemies.  

Eye gouges and groin strikes/grabs can be used in self-protection scenarios to set up escapes.  (Fingerlocks can sometimes be used but also require some time investment to perfect.  I consider them a backup technique.)  Depending on the circumstances, these Unsu eye pokes are brutally effective options to include in the close-range fighting toolkit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJpHE8_OUH8.  Might not be available though if you have too much of a height difference.  

 I think Two Dragons Play in the Water can be very effective for women and smaller men, even against a stronger opponent, but it has to be done with full commitment and with extreme aggression.  It also needs to be a flash, transitory movement that you follow-up on immediately.  Of course, this one also won't work if you have too much of a height difference.

For self-protection, the goal isn't to outwrestle or outfight the enemy in the clinch.  Instead, if the situation ends up in the clinch, the goal is to be surprisingly good at clinch work.  To be able to surprise the enemy with your aggression and your movement, giving you an opportunity to attempt an escape.

Ultimately, it's best for women and smaller individuals to stay out of the clinch and away from clinch range.  Clinching with a larger, stronger enemy will make it harder for them to escape.

Unless they are very, very skilled, I would recommend that most women and smaller individuals avoid relying on throws or standing joint locks when they are clinching with larger, stronger enemies in a self-protection scenario. 

Lastly, I'll throw out one other cautionary bit of advice.  When introducing smaller people to clinch work, be cautious of too much tugging on the neck/head.  Sometimes people can get really sore from that (a soreness that lasts for a while).  It takes time for some people to get used to that.  Best to ease in gradually.

Those are my initial thoughts.  I suspect a lot of it is material you already know, but I figured I'd mention it nonetheless.   

Heath White
Heath White's picture

My view would be that the advantage of size and weight increases as the range shortens.  In other words, if I have to fight a stronger, heavier person, I would prefer to be at the longest range possible.  I would least like to be rolling on the ground with them.  I believe women should generally avoid clinching and instead figure out ways to escape from that range.  Eye/throat/groin strikes to distract and cause pain, and then run away.

(Caveat: the advantage of reach is greatest at longer ranges, so if I have to fight a longer opponent, I might close.  But the point here is that if you are at long range already, you can generally choose to escape.)  

Knut Erik Landgraff
Knut Erik Landgraff's picture

Cover and crash is outdated anyway. That's my humble opionion. It was probably working well in classic male on male barroom brawls of the past, but these days that sucker punching fist on the streets or Europe is more and more often hiding a knife - and we good guys & ladies won't know it until afterwards when our neck and head is pierced and we're flat on the pavement gasping for air and bleeding out. We need to come up with better solutions than the old trusty cover and crash, no matter our personal size, reach, sex, strength and weight. The evil knife thug has come to stay, that's the dark reality. I don't have any answers though, no legal quick fix.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Knut,

Knut Erik Landgraff wrote:
Cover and crash is outdated anyway.

That’s not something I would agree with. It’s one of the few things that works when the initiative has been lost. Specific reactions to specific attacks rarely work and it need to be remembered that the “crash” is done in an attacking way. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone of note / experience that does not recommend defaulting in this way. Avoidance, de-escalation, escape, pre-emption and proactive action are all preferable, but when initiative is lost, you have to do something. Cover and crash has a higher chance of success than anything else.

Knut Erik Landgraff wrote:
… but these days that sucker punching fist on the streets or Europe is more and more often hiding a knife …

The crime statistics would not bear that out. Empty handed attacks are still way more prevalent than knife attack. However, even in the enemy is unknowing armed, we still have the issues of action beating reaction. Re-establishing the advantage and taking away the initiative are still necessary. How is that to be done if not through a default action?

Knut Erik Landgraff wrote:
- and we good guys & ladies won't know it until afterwards when our neck and head is pierced and we're flat on the pavement gasping for air and bleeding out.

A good cover will protect the head and neck. There are no “good” solutions to knife attack, but we have to do the “least worst” thing. Specific reactions to specific actions won’t work. Doing nothing isn’t an option either. Cover and crash to regain the initiative, gain control and better facilitate escape is the way to go.

Knut Erik Landgraff wrote:
-We need to come up with better solutions than the old trusty cover and crash …

Like what? What is a better method of last resort? Was is more "trusty" at close-range when the initiative has been lost?

Knut Erik Landgraff wrote:
I don't have any answers though …

I do, albeit imperfect ones. “Do nothing and die” is not an acceptable answer. We have to do something when the initiative has been lost. The best something is to violently crash in, while protecting the head and neck, in such a way to regain the initiative, do damage and then get out of there. It’s not guaranteed to work, and it is not fool proof (nothing in combat is), but it is the option that works most consistently.

Cover and crash is not something used from “sparring distance”. We are taking about self-protection here. It is close and frantic. It’s what we do when the enemy is rapidly attacking us i.e. we are already in arm’s length. Violently, moving forward that 18” / 45cm in order to damage the enemy is the way to go. If we have distance, then we use it and escape. If we don’t have it, then we need to create it … and to do that the enemy needs to be damaged / disoriented / discouraged. Backing off won’t work. Reacting won’t work. Crashing in and doing damage stands a much better chance of working.

All the best,

Iain

Knut Erik Landgraff
Knut Erik Landgraff's picture

Hi, thanks for crashing onto my provocation, treating it seriously and scoring some good and essential points, Iain! I was expecting and hoping for responses. After all we're here to exchange and challenge ideas, get inspiration and learn.

Please don't get me wrong, I'm all for shaping training according to statistics and frequency, but also to severity and consequenses. Times are changing, and violence is changing with it. It's all in the news. My rather pointed angle is: We can take a beating, but not a knife. The trauma team at the nearest hospital will be our final saviour when the knife talks.

Huff da, all my comments seem edgy and depressing. Must be the covid x november!

Take care all,

Knut

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Knut,

Knut Erik Landgraff wrote:
After all we're here to exchange and challenge ideas, get inspiration and learn.

Absolutely. It’s the back and forth discussions that lead to things getting thoroughly analysed and that make for the most interesting reads.

Knut Erik Landgraff wrote:
Times are changing, and violence is changing with it. It's all in the news.

The “news” is not a good source. Cold hard facts get spun by politicians to make points, and sensationalism / the desire to entertain lead to things getting misrepresented. There have been numerous times when surveys show the fear of crime is increasing when crime itself is actually falling. The misplaced fear of crime can be harmful in itself. Sensible and appropriate precautions? Yes. Paranoia? No. We need to look at the actual statistics and not how they have been spun. We also need to avoid spinning them ourselves.

Here in the UK violent crime has reduced significantly since its 1990s peak, and is close to a 40-year low. Nevertheless, there was 1.2 million incidents of violence in the last statistical year … and just 20,333 of them were attacks with a knife (around 1.7%).

It’s harder to get a Europe wide picture – due to different countries recording their crime statistics differently – but we do know there has been a Europe wide 6.2% drop in assault over the last 10 years (looking just at the nations in the EU, who provided the statistics). Europe as a whole was low crime rates when compared to other parts of the world.

The UK would seem to be pretty typical of its neighbours too. For exmaple, Germany and the UK have comparable levels of crime overall, but the UK has higher rates of violent crime and murder. Norway's last set of stats showed crime at a 24 year low. I can’t find specific knife crime stats for Norway, but their super low murder rate of 0.53 per 100,000 population (23 murders in total in last statistical year), would suggest it is also very low. The UK's rate is 11.2 per 100,000 population. The point is the statistics do not show things getting worse (things are getting better!). They also don’t show a very high prevalence of assaults with a knife. Certainly, nowhere near enough to support the statement:  

“It was probably working well in classic male on male barroom brawls of the past, but these days that sucker punching fist on the streets or Europe is more and more often hiding a knife”

It’s not true. All of this is somewhat beside the point though when it comes to the efficacy of cover and crash. It’s not outdated for the reason you suggest but – even if knife crime was skyrocketing to the point where it was statistically more likely than getting struck with fist (and it’s not even close) – cover and crash still applies for the reasons stated in the above post.

Knut Erik Landgraff wrote:
We can take a beating, but not a knife.

We don’t look to take either. It’s not “cover and stand there to take whatever is dished out”, but “cover and crash”. In the event of initiative being lost, and we find ourselves on the wrong end of the flow of violence, then we have to do something. We momentarily default to cover the most vulnerable areas while AT THE SAME TIME crashing in cause harm, regain the initiative / control, and ultimately escape.

Doing nothing will not work. Seeking specific reactions to specific actions will not work. We are already being struck / stabbed so the time avoid / de-escalate / pre-empt has passed. Accepting that nothing is perfect, what do you feel would work better?

All the best,

Iain

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

In my opinion your daughter has a point.

Clinch stuff is of limited utility when at a big disadvantage of size and strength. I teach smaller and weaker people to use shuto-uke like motions to disengage or to control the centerline and "clinch capabilities" of the opponent as a setup for more striking. You can have them use the hand, fingers etc/ into the face instead of the neck for similar purposes, especially if the reach disadvantage is big. Something like a head an arm clinch though, and even moreso and actual plum clinch  could be pretty dangerous for a smaller person as a go to tactic.

I guess it depends on the type of hook punch you are working against, but to me something like a mountain block cover, with the forward had either going straight for the face or the neck is a better choice, insofar as isolated techniques go.

Not saying it has no use for smaller folks, but you can test it yourself and see that willingly going into a clinch with a larger person usually has bad outcomes, best avoided when possible. If it cannot then I feel like using shuto uke as "wedge" and centerline control is sane way to approach it.

As Heath said earlier:

"My view would be that the advantage of size and weight increases as the range shortens"

This is a trusim really, and there is no "techniqueing" one's way out of it, there are some tactics that seem to work decently for smaller people, but clniching (as it is typically meant at least) is not one of them, in my opinion. I guess the one caveat is that sometimes you have to close distance and clinch in order to avoid getting hit. There is a world of difference between doing that because you have no other option, and adopting as a go to strategy.

I might be in the minority here but I don't think clinching as a go to strategy is a great idea, it is simply something I do if I must, not something I seek out. Your mileage may vary.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

I think the distinction between “I have options” and “I have no option but …” possibly needs to be more clearly marked in this thread. Personally, I would never recommend anyone – big or small – taking a grip as a choice. It limits escape options and makes you very vulnerable to third parties. However, if you are already within arm’s length and are on the wrong end of a beating, the “cover and crash” (NOT “cover and clinch”, so that distinction also needs made) is the pretty much the only thing that stands a chance of working. As soon as we crash (a strong forward movement of 2 feet or less), we seek to regain the initiative (strike violently and explosively) and then immediately escape. Inconvenient reality means getting griped during the initial beating or the crash is a possibility … but, as bad as that is, it remains better that getting repeatedly struck in the head. We therefore need clinching skills because things can go wrong. Even monkeys can fall out of trees and all that. We never choose to grapple, but we don’t always get to choose exactly how any confrontation will play out and therefore we have sometimes have no other option than to go down the “least worst” path, or deal with a bad situation as best we can.

All the best,

Iain

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
I think the distinction between “I have options” and “I have no option but …” possibly needs to be more clearly marked in this thread. Personally, I would never recommend anyone – big or small – taking a grip as a choice ... {/Snip}

This comes down to strategy vs. tactics I think. As a tactic, we need to know how to clinch, whereas as an overall strategy it is not a great first choice for self-defense. Similarly, it's vital to understand groundfighting from a sef defense standpoint in order to manuever and/or strike on the ground with the goal of regaining our feet, but we would not seek it out strategically.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Zach,

Zach Zinn wrote:
As a tactic, we need to know how to clinch, whereas as an overall strategy it is not a great first choice for self-defense …

I’d fully agree with that.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Personally, I would never recommend anyone – big or small – taking a grip as a choice.

Geoff Thompson used joke that, “Grappling is like Morecambe: it’s a resort … but it’s the last resort.”

The joke may be lost on anyone not from the UK, but the point is a valid one. We don’t choose to grapple / clinch, but, as you say, it can be forced upon us and hence it’s something we need to be able to do.

For clarity in the thread – because there are two intertwined topics under discussion – I’d re-underline the difference between “crashing” and “clinching”; and emphasise we would only be covering and crashing when the alternative is getting repeatedly hit at close-range. We crash with a view to doing damage and then creating meaningful space to facilitate escape (common method found toward the start of many kata). However, if that fails, and we end up entangled, then that’s when clinching skills are needed so we can create openings for strikes and can hopefully escape from that clinch we’ve found ourselves in.

Whilst some talk of “anti-grappling” skills in this context, I don’t find that a meaningful or useful term because it can infer something that is “not grappling”; as opposed to grappling with a view to disengaging.

Grappling to “win” is a methodology for consensual violence. Grappling with a view to escape from the grapple (and facilitate strikes for the same purpose) is the methodology for non-consensual violence. Not something we would ever choose if we have other options, but something we need when we don’t.

All the best,

Iain

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

I think "crashing" is built into Karate, for a good reason. One of the drills I used to run in class that  is pretty close to simulated violence is "windmilling", basically having someone just lob punches at you continously. Crashing in with your buttons covered is about the only way to deal with this, other strategies (backing away, manipulating a limb in the middle of a barrage etc.) require you to already have a serious advantage...which you don't, just by virtue of being in that position.

My "Karate flowchart" if broken down starts with pre emptive striking, or striking where we have the initiative, then moves to crash and strike if we don't, with other methods following should this fail. So at least for me, there is nothing controversial about "crashing", and the effectiveness of it is testable.