Technology in combatives….

Posted on Posted in On Combatives

When I think about my first exposure to military style combatives, I have to smile. The simplicity of Cestari is amazing. It is truly American in a lot of it’s nature (which I know will anger many) with Charles Nelson was teaching in 1946 this amazing style of martial art. Simple, effective, hard hitting, straight to the point. I think of one my teachers, Avery, who was trained by Moses Powell and the hard form of combatives used.

What many call, ‘Old school.’

While teaching this weekend in Cleveland I was lucky enough to train a great new addition to the Pramek team. 8 years in, he spent most of his time on deployment, and in the end came into the Guard having completed multiple tours in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s the quintessential American infantry man.

Smart, determined, proficient, intelligent – it’s what sets the American soldier apart from many military’s around the world. We create some of the best infantry in the world, rising through the ranks of Ranger into the more specialized units. But, he said something to me that shocked me,
‘If I had known just some of what you’re teaching, I would have been much better prepared for combat.’ Getting more in a two day seminar than he recieved in 8 years of serving in the 101st…I was struck with the fact that something might be wrong, especially when I get this a lot.

Martial art is truly anthropological in nature. Arts are still teaching weapons that were used by the warriors of antiquity to the warriors and civilians of today. I see arts that have such cultural roots that it amazes me in their lineage, we look at these for their breadth of martial and combat knowledge in hand to hand combat, honed over millennium of use and development.

But, I look at martial art and combatives like I look at any technology. As I told the class, ‘We don’t use muskets today, we use precision rifles – but technologically, we are still using the equivalent of muskets in hand to hand combat throughout the world.’

As Charles Nelson once said, ”I was with the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal and do you know what? None of us ever saw any Ninjas.”

Which is why we teach Pramek differently.

We use a progressive educational system in our seminars…when participants ask, ‘Well what about this’ I am often heard saying, ‘Don’t worry about that yet, we will get there. Think about the now and what we are covering.’

Because we get there – through science.

Pramek takes the great contribution of some of the Russian styles, and systems, their use of technology – and combines it with the devastatingly a/effective methods of tried and true combatives. We do this to take the mystery of martial art and combat out of mind of the student – and put it into their hands through the use of explaining it through science, making difficult advanced methods basic through scientific understanding.

Combatives has a great rule – 1 tool for 10 jobs, instead of 10 tools for one job. But, usually this refers to a certain method or technique.
Pramek takes it to another level. We employ technology and make the science of Equilibrium, or a Wedge, or a Lever…1 tool for 10 jobs.

Many people say, ‘yea, but Matt, doesn’t that make learning more difficult as the student looks at concepts instead of technique and motor repetition.’

I will not argue with this – at first, yes, as a student wraps their mind around the concept of something like a lever instead of a technique it is difficult – as it was for me. But, then, we begin to apply that lever everywhere – against grabs, chokes, bear hugs – and soon weapons. This removes the technique and the student begins to use our axiom:

Theory + Movement = Application.

Biomechanics, physics, mechanics, physiology, psychology, etc.

The theory of mechanics, the lever translated through movement into the application the student teaches.

Soon, the lever is employed as a defensive and offensive weapon against all forms of attacks – leading to a faster response time. Many times in martial art and combatives classes, the student is given a technique and told to run with it. If he does A, you do B.

Far too often – that technique doesn’t work for the student, so they are stuck with a chink in their armor until such time that they learn a technique that they can use. Or, they force themselves and exhaust themselves making that one technique work. But, they don’t get the reward for their work, and soon bore of it and don’t use it. They don’t use the motor repetition to neurologically embed it – so they are still left without an answer when B comes.

The theory allows them to begin to create their own (yes, we give examples), but I find most of the time the students either create a few of their own, or they take something they have learned that didn’t work – and suddenly, mechanically, it does work.

What does this all mean? It means that if we have moved from musket to gas operated weapons…which took technology to develop…then we should obviously look to science to expand out ‘technique’ and create something better. Be given fish, or learn to fish. If one learned the lever properly they don’t need to learn a lot of releases from grabs and chokes, they simply need to learn how to use a lever against both and stop looking at technique.

We test it under tension – we test it under pressure – we test it to failure – we use our learning system to give the student the tools to survive.

We get to that technology using the simplicity and effectiveness of something Charles Nelson or Cestari would have taught…Wedge becomes a chop to the neck, the heel of the palm to the face gets us to equilibrium. Our symbol is the Helix and a Gear because we blend the science with the mechanical hardness of combatives.

Is it perfect – no. Does it work – yes, as we keep proving in seminar after seminar. It’s why I stopped teaching publicly for 3 years just to make sure we had it right. It is universal, which is what we strive for in our UOS. Every art has a different method, and if you study one art you will learn a technique different than another…but they are all levers. To move beyond technique A and B, and look at what they mechanically are and simply understand them – then use them as we will…that should be our goal, and I think we have found that middle ground between technology and it’s application in modern combatives.

As Charles Nelson once said, ”I was with the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal and do you know what? None of us ever saw any Ninjas.”

So why train to fight them?

Charles Nelson
RIP Charles Nelson, thank you for your work and simplicity.

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