Richard_Bustillo_sinawali_276pxby Raymond Horwitz
Photo by Robert Reiff – March 10, 2014

Stick-fighting expert Richard Bustillo demonstrates sinawali for Black Belt magazine.Richard Bustillo is a first-generation student of jeet kune do founder Bruce Lee. Inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as the 1989 Co-Instructor of the Year, Bustillo has devoted much of his life to preserving and propagating the teachings of his late master.

A longtime practitioner of boxing, Thai boxing, escrima, kajukenbo, wrestling, jujitsu, tai chi chuan and silat, Bustillo has evolved his own version of the Bruce Lee fighting style and jeet kune do techniques — as well as the other martial arts he has studied in-depth and continues to teach — at his IMB Academy in Torrance, California.

In this exclusive new footage shot at the Black Belt magazine photo studios, Bustillo demonstrates sinawali and how these stick-fighting techniques can translate into empty-hand fighting techniques!

A Stick-Fighting Master Demonstrates the Relationship Between Sinawali and Empty-Hand Fighting

“This is the Filipino art of sinawali — double sticks — which is going to be transposed to empty-hand [techniques],” the legendary stick-fighting master says. “You can defend with sticks and tie it up to end up in a throw. The weapons training is to coordinate the empty-hand [moves]. The weapons is just an extension of the limb.”

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GUIDE TO SWORD.inddby Raymond Horwitz
Photo by Robert Reiff – April 16, 2014 (2 days ago)

Samurai swordsmanship master Masayuki Shimabukuro photo by Robert Reiff published in Black Belt magazine. As Black Belt’s director of digital media, I have been privileged to meet, interview and work with some of the world’s greatest martial arts masters — men and women of great skill, poise, humility, humor and knowledge in their chosen style of practice.

In 2011, I had the distinct honor of hosting samurai weapons master and Black Belt Hall of Fame member Masayuki Shimabukuro at the Black Belt video studio to shoot the three-DVD set Advanced Samurai Swordsmanship.

It would be the second of two Masayuki Shimabukuro DVD sets for which I was privileged to serve as project supervisor.

Little did I know that the project would mark the last time I would see this samurai weapons master alive.

Masayuki Shimabukuro sadly passed away just over a year later, on September 7, 2012. (Read senior disciple Carl E. Long’s touching tribute.)

Fortunately, Mr. Shimabukuro’s teachings are preserved for posterity in samurai weapons books, DVDs and online videos. For this week’s video, I dug into the vault and brought back a brief look at the making of his final DVD set, Advanced Samurai Swordsmanship.
Behind-the-Scenes Footage of Samurai Weapons Master Master Masayuki Shimabukuro in Action

Watching this footage again brought back a lot of memories of three days spent in the presence of a master whose handling of the deadly samurai sword made the endeavor look deceptively easy.

We had fun shooting with Mr. Shimabukuro and his senior samurai weapons student, Carl E. Long, for three days here at Black Belt. The effort yielded one of our most beautiful and informative DVD sets to date.

And with that in mind, we proudly offer this brief glimpse behind the scenes of what turned out to be Masayuki Shimabukuro’s final video shoot with us before his passing.

We hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at a great samurai weapons master as much as I enjoyed the privilege of working with him.

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by Tim Larkin

Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the

Internet chat rooms are interesting arenas.

I received an email the other day from a client who
forwarded some comments made about the TFT Mastery
Program from one of these “chat” forums. TFT Mastery
is a program designed to educate and train clients who
desire to become TFT trainers.

The program has rigorous physical and academic
standards. It is designed as such to produce trainers
who can instruct the system physically and explain the
physical trauma accurately. The physical part of the
training occurs at the live seminars held throughout
the year. Training time is logged and candidates are
tested at every juncture to gauge their progress.

The academic portion is done online in between the
seminars and, again, lessons are given and knowledge
is tested. One of the tools I use is the “Anatomy
Coloring Book” which is a standard text most medical
schools use to quickly train students on the human
body and its components.

The method of color-coding different bones, joints,
and nerves has proved to be a time-tested method for
rapid assimilation of this information as well as
providing long-term ability to recall the information.

A TFT trainer is not just physically able to show you
how to fight but must be able to accurately explain
the trauma inflicted to the other guy as you strike
these specific targets on the human body.

A certain “chat room black belt” was deriding any
program that used coloring books and wondered if
Crayola crayons were issued to TFT Mastery candidates.
Which just goes to show how one-dimensional most
combat sport and martial arts practitioners are when
it comes to trauma.

They just want to see a new “technique” rather than
understand how to systematically shut down the other
guy(s) by understanding how to effectively deliver
trauma to vulnerable areas of the human body.

To be able to deliver a strike is only one half of the
equation — to know where to deliver the strike for
maximum effect — EVERY TIME — is truly the acme of
skill in hand-to-hand combat.

So I’ll let the “internet warriors” have fun with my
coloring book requirements but they may be surprised
what you can learn with a box of crayons…

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Matt_Larsen_knife_attack_476pxby Matt Larsen – Yesterday

Modern Army Combatives founder Matt Larsen demonstrates knife defenses for Black Belt magazine.

Editor’s Note: In this exclusive close-quarters-combat video, Matt Larsen — Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) creator and author of the critically acclaimed book Modern Army Combatives: Battle-Proven Techniques and Training Methods — discusses and demonstrates training protocols for assessing and responding to opponents armed with edged weapons.

Modern Army Combatives Trains Soldiers to Efficiently Employ Self-Defense Moves For Any Situation

Knife fights don’t really start in the way that a lot of people train for. They don’t start, for example, with the knife in somebody’s hand. They start just like any other fight, only one of the people has a knife on their person. So the first thing is: How do you know if the person you’re fighting is armed with a knife or a gun — or anything? Most of the time you don’t, and so you have to fight everyone as if they’re armed.
Matt Larsen Shows You Self-Defense Moves Against a Knife Attack

The way we train that in the Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) is — after we’ve got a pretty good level of training — we introduce them to that concept and then we give them a 100,000-volt stun gun to grapple over. We can put it in somebody’s pocket, nobody in the class knows who [and] they fight. If the guy can get his knife out, somebody pays the piper.

Using Modern Army Combatives For Realistic Self-Defense Moves

At some point during the training, one guy will get [the knife] out, the other guy pushes away and then you have — which is a very realistic scenario — bad guy with the knife, good guy without [a] knife. Now how do you defend yourself from the person with the blade? The first thing is, you don’t want to be engaged. If he gets a hold of me with [his left] hand, then he’s just going to play ‘sewing machine’ and I’m going to have a hard time defending [against] it. So I want to stay as far away as possible.

What happens is he’s got to extend to get to me, which means [his knife] arm is open to attack. So using the principle that I want to stay as far away from him as possible, the first thing I’m going to do is strike him and try to get [the knife] out of his hand without becoming decisively engaged while it’s difficult for him to grab me.

Three Modern Army Combatives Alternatives

If [the knife smack] doesn’t work, I might get sucked in more. Techniques become more effective as they become more dangerous, so one technique I might use is to strike the back of his hand and strike the front of his blade which will hopefully bring the knife through the weakness in his grip.

If that doesn’t work, a technique which is slightly more committed is to strike his wrist and the back of his hand, which will bend his wrist and as the wrist maxes out, the fingers become weaker [and can’t] hold the grip.

Now if those things don’t work, another thing I can do is as he comes toward me, I can pull him toward me off his base. Once I’ve pulled him off his base, strangely, techniques that you see in various other martial arts that people — who don’t know much about the way a fight really happens — think aren’t going to be effective actually are effective a lot of the time because of how committed he is to the attack.

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Michael_Janich_2012_150px-OPT01Written By Raymond Horwitz – Today
Michael Janich H2HC Video: Self-Defense Moves Against a Knife Attack

With more than 30 years of martial arts and H2HC experience, Michael Janich is widely recognized as one of America’s top knife-fighting experts, authorities on edged-weapon design and instructors of self-defense moves. Michael Janich was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as the 2010 Weapons Instructor of the Year.

“One of the toughest things you’re going to run into is going empty-hand against a knife,” knife-fighting and H2HC expert Michael Janich says. “It’s one of the scariest situations you can possibly imagine. And of the different situations you could be in, one of the most committed attacks and one of the most common attacks is [an attacker] thrusting straight at [you].
H2HC Video

Michael Janich Shows You Self-Defense Moves to Counter a Knife Attack

“Typically, when this is done, a lot of times you’ll see martial arts people thrust and just kinda hang out there and wait for you to do a technique. When people do it for real, they’ll do what’s called ‘bulldogging.’ Or you’ll see ‘prison style,’ which is essentially getting [their] hands up into [your] eyes and just working the knife hard [in fast thrusts].”

Michael Janich’s H2HC Reality Check #1: You May Get Only One Shot at Using Self-Defense Moves Against a Knife Attack

In a prison-style “shanking,” military H2HC situation or a vicious street attack where the opponent’s goal is simply to kill you, you will have only one shot to block the initial knife thrust using self-defense moves.

“[You may] block it once if you get lucky,” H2HC instructor Michael Janich says. “The idea that you’ll [block] it more than once typically doesn’t work very well.”

Michael Janich’s H2HC Reality Check #2: The First of Your Self-Defense Moves Could Mean Life or Death

An attacker’s first thrust will either hit, miss or be avoided due to anticipation and countermeasures. The first two outcome options depend on the attacker’s accuracy. The third outcome option depends on your H2HC awareness and the speed of your self-defense moves.

“When he thrusts, I’ve got to stay alive through the first motion,” Michael Janich explains. “So [I hollow] out, [draw] my hips back and [drive] both arms forward, blocking the backs of both arms.

“My next motion is to immediately hook the back of his arm. Even if he tries to pull [away], I’ve got good control over his arm because I’ve limited his mobility to one joint.

“My next motion is to pull both arms into my chest. What we do is [get an armbar] and everything is locked up. Once I’ve gotten him to here, I’ve got good solid control.”

Michael Janich’s H2HC Reality Check #3: Follow-Through Is Essential

Once an attacker’s initial thrust has been handled through self-defense moves involving redirection and mobility restriction, there will be the question of what to do with the attacker. If you’re alone with him, Michael Janich suggests continued self-protection and follow-through using H2HC techniques.

“If I’m a civilian, I step back to protect my groin so I don’t get punched [there],” Michael Janich says. “If he posts [his non-weapon] hand, I step on the fingers and start driving my knee into his head.” (Watch the video for more follow-through options!)

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by Raymond Horwitz
Photo by Robert Reiff

n a previous video-blog entry, Shaolin monk Wang Bo recommended a series of “internal exercises” for development of one’s mind-body connection.

Most of these internal exercises from Shaolin kung fu involve a foundation of slow-motion breathing.

“As one of the internal practices, [slow-motion breathing] starts inside and moves outside,” Wang Bo says. “When you punch [during kung fu techniques], it’s a physical movement from outside to inside which is the opposite. Slow-motion breathing will make your organs work better and make you healthier. It looks very small, but it does a lot of work inside your body.”

Shaolin Monk Wang Bo Shows You How to Translate Internal Exercises Into the Hard-Hitting Double-Palm Strike

“The breathing exercise is one of the internal practices,” the young kung fu moves expert says. “Internal practices start from inside to the outside. As we all know, when you punch, it’s actually a physical movement. It’s from outside to inside. If you’re doing breathing exercises, it’s from inside to outside. For example, you do 10 moves externally and you do 10 moves internally, you [create] the same amount of energy — but internally, you’re working out more. Your [internal] exercises [work] your organs to make you healthier.”

The smallest kung fu moves on the outside seem insignificant on a physical level, he continues, but can translate to great movement of energy internally. What his years of practice and discipline have yieled is a channeling of this energy, primed by small practices externally that “rev up” internal energy for powerful outward motion, as he demonstrates in the above video — in slow-motion with explanations and at closer-to-full speed.

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CDT-276px-colorby Sara Fogan – Today

CDT self-defense moves by Tom Patire as featured in Black Belt magazine.It’s past midnight when you leave the party. The street is dark and quiet except for the muted sounds of laughter and rock music. You don’t see him as you cross the street, but the instant you reach your car, a man darts out from behind a van and grabs your arm. What do you do?

While you could use any number of martial arts techniques to extricate yourself, you need to be careful because in today’s litigious society, even a punch delivered in defense can land you in the middle of a legal quagmire — if not in jail. A safe bet for liability-free self-defense would be a response drawn from a system that doesn’t rely on bone-crushing blows to achieve its goals yet is more than capable of dealing with a bigger, stronger attacker. One such system is Thomas J. Patire’s Compliance-Direction-Takedown method, also known as CDT.
The Roots of CDT’s Self-Defense Moves

Patire is no stranger to the martial arts. He has taught defensive tactics to federal agents since 1982. He holds a seventh-degree black belt in hom-do, a rare military martial art taught in the Philippines. He also has a black belt in aikido and has trained extensively in jujutsu and hwa rang do. Despite the plethora of lethal moves he has mastered, CDT follows an approach that is fundamentally opposite of the typical death-dealing mentality of the armchair warrior.

Patire based his program on research he conducted while teaching for the United States government in 1989. He discovered that in numerous cases across the country, law-enforcement officers and private citizens who defended themselves with overzealous self-defense techniques could not defend their actions in court. “The reason for this is that approximately 97 percent of all altercations are low-level force and non-deadly,” he says. “The problem of many so-called self-defense systems is that we are taught to finish the person even when he is down and out. That is where the law goes against us.”
Microsoft Word - CDT-TQ01.docx

Patire then realized that the people who were employed at his State of the Art Security executive-protection company also needed to learn the new defensive skills to avoid a similar legal nightmare. One wrong move could leave them out of the security profession for life and land company officials in court, he feared. With the federal government’s approval, Patire and his instructors began teaching CDT techniques first to his employees and then to security specialists, law-enforcement officers, flight attendants and business executives. After tracking more than 25,000 of them for several years, he discovered that not only did his material work in real situations, but it also led to no arrests or lawsuits.

In 1992 Patire officially introduced the innovative program to several other groups, including the FBI, CIA, DEA, Federal Protective Services and military police. In 1997 he went public. “I designed CDT to keep my guys out of trouble, only to realize that over 900 police and security agencies and in excess of 1,000 martial arts schools would later get involved in learning and teaching it,” he says. “It became a business within a business, which was not my intent — although like anything else, good things have a way of spreading.”

To be continued…

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Tony-Jaa-The-Protector-1by Antonio Graceffo
Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Editor’s Note: In Searching for Tony Jaa: The Hottest Martial Arts Movie Star Since Jackie Chan and Jet Li (Part 3), international correspondent Antonio Graceffo talked and trained with Tony Jaa’s first martial arts teacher, Sak Chai, covering topics such as muay Thai boran’s striking techniques and knee strikes, as well as delving into a comparison of modern muay Thai vs. boxing. In Part 4, the author of Warrior Odyssey: The Travels of a Martial Artist Through Asia continues that conversation with an exploration of muay Thai boran’s grappling techniques.

Delving into the seldom-seen dimensions of muay Thai boran, Sak Chai teaches me some grappling. He demonstrates a number of techniques in which he catches my leg and throws me. In some cases, he scoops or pushes my base leg. In other instances, he uses my kicking leg for leverage and tosses me to the ground. Sometimes he pushes with his shoulder and sends me tumbling. In one very cool technique, he ducks under my kick and comes up just as it passes overhead. He stands, trapping the leg on his shoulder. When he rises, the power and strength of his body are pitted against my extended leg, and I have no choice but to fall.

Most muay Thai grappling consists of seizing at the neck and head, but Sak Chai also grapples from the waist. When I try to grab his head, he ducks under my arms and wraps his arms around my midsection. He’s careful to set his head off to the side, with his face against my hip, where it’s out of range of knee strikes. In an impressive display of flexibility, he lifts his knee over his head and smashes me in the face. A variation involves first bending at the waste and grabbing the back of the opponent’s leg, then raising his knee over his head and striking the enemy in the face.

This is the technique Tony Jaa used to defeat the huge bare-knuckle fighter in the dirty basement in Bangkok at the beginning of Ong-Bak. Sak Chai asks me to punch him. When I oblige, he uses his elbow to push the punch down so it doesn’t hit him. Then he rotates his elbow across my forearm, gains control of my arm and pushes me to the ground. It’s similar to a hapkido technique, but it’s all done using the elbow for leverage, instead of grabbing the wrist or forearm. Certain martial arts espouse a theory that when you grab a man’s wrist, you commit yourself and tie up one of your hands. By using the elbow to gain control, but not grab, you’re still free to fight with both hands.

Muay Thai Boran Training

The next day, we talk about defense. A brilliant defense against a kick is to step off at a 45-degree angle and kick the base leg, sweeping the man to the ground, Sak Chai says. In a muay Thai boran fight, you’d strike the side of the knee, which is illegal in sport muay Thai. You could also step off at the same 45-degree angle and punch the man in the blind side of his head. Or you could wait until a punch comes, then step in with your forearm close to your face, guarding your head. Once inside, you could attack the man’s deltoid with an elbow strike. Make sure you strike with the point, not the flat of the elbow, he warns.

The children arrive for their training, portaging the mats Tony Jaa donated all the way from Sak Chai’s house to the practice field. While they’re lined up at the edge of the mat, Sak Chai and his assistant stretch the kids one by one. They twist them in every direction, tying them up like pretzels. They capture a boy by the head and feet, then lift him into the air and pull him as if he’s on a medieval rack. It must work because the flexibility of all the kids is incredible. A 14-year-old shows how he can put one leg behind his head and hop around on the other.

“When Tony was training with me, we didn’t have any mats or safety [equipment],” Sak Chai says. “That’s one reason he’s so good and so strong today — because he trained on the hard ground.”

Sak Chai says the kids need to use acrobatics for exciting film fights, so he has them practice backbends, walkovers and handsprings. Then they line up, and one by one Sak Chai “kicks” them in the chin with a fake technique that’s designed to look deadly from the right angle. The kids flip into the air and land on their backs as if dead.

Back at Sak Chai’s house, the mats are set out under a concrete wall. The kids scale the wall and jump off it, executing a flip on the way down. “This is one of the first things you have to learn to be a stuntman,” he explains. I find watching kids as young as 8 dive off a high wall a bit frightening, which makes Sak Chai add, “The children decide what they want to do; I don’t push them.”

It’s time for me to become the next Tony Jaa. I’m about to learn how to do a movie fight with weapons. The only weapon I’ve used is arnis sticks, so picking up one of Sak Chai’s longer versions feels foreign.

He teaches me some techniques from krabi krabong, the Thai art of sword and stick fighting. To demonstrate, he attacks a tire that’s mounted on a pole. The long stick is similar to the staff used in other arts, but it’s heavy and inflexible. Sak Chai snatches one by the end and swings it like a baseball bat.

Even the short sticks are heavier and longer than arnis sticks. The important thing to remember, he says, is that they aren’t sticks at all; they’re supposed to be swords. He shows me a basic sequence in which I strike the left shoulder, right shoulder and top of the head. When you swing a sword in krabi krabong, you have to start with a windup, twisting your body and reaching far behind you. Then you let it fly, and the weapon cuts your opponent in half.

After doing the basic three-strike combo on the tire, I’m permitted to practice with a live partner. I attack, stepping forward with each strike. He defends, stepping back at a 45-degree angle and blocking as he goes. Then he attacks, and I retreat and block. We practice again and again until we can do the pattern at full speed.

To rehearse for the movie fight, we do the same basic pattern. On film, however, you use a lot more energy and add some shouting and snarling. It looks really mean — like two guys are beating the crap out of each other.

For the unarmed film fight, Sak Chai shows me how to use the deadliest kicks without injuring the other guy. First, the opponent swings, and Sak Chai ducks the punch and comes up behind the man, after which he kicks him in the back. The trick lies in hitting him with the entire bottom of the foot instead of the heel or ball. And in lieu of slamming the foot into the spine, which could be lethal, he plants his across the man’s shoulder blades, missing the vital areas but making an impressive sound. When attacking from the front, he explains, he must hit the man across the chest rather than the solar plexus.
Meditating on Muay Thai’s Philosophy

Practice over, Sak Chai takes me back to his house. At the top of the stairs that lead to his prayer room stands a massive shrine decorated with magical objects and photos of deceased monks. He opens a canister and shows me its content. “These are bones from a dead monk,” he says. “They were very small when I first got them, but I have been praying every day and they grew bigger.

“After training, I bring all the children up here to pray and meditate so they don’t get hooked on drugs or drink alcohol. My teachers taught me that the martial arts are only one part of the process. Most important is purifying the mind. Tony Jaa meditates and prays regularly. That’s why he’s a good martial artist. He always shows gratitude to the spirits, teachers and parents. Every holiday, he comes to the temple to make offerings. Training the body is only one step. We have to train the spirit, and all the parts will become strong.”

Just as I’m leaving, I notice that one of the amulets Sak Chai is wearing bears an image of King Jayvaraman VII, the ruler of the Cambodian empire of Angkor and the patron saint of bokator, the Khmer martial art. I ask him if he believes that the Cambodian fighting arts could have been the origin of the Thai arts.

“There were a lot of styles in the past,” he says. “Some have similarities because they all originated from nature, but we developed these styles from their natural base until they became unique and beautiful arts. The transformation occurred according to our imaginations and the culture of the country which created them. In judo in Japan, they have wrestling and throwing. We also have wrestling and throwing, but we do it differently. Muay Thai has kicking and karate has kicking, but they are different.”

Sak Chai leaves me with a single phrase that sums up my six-year quest in Asia: “If we want to know about a culture, we can go learn their martial arts. And that will tell us who the people are and what they’re about.”

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by Jon Sattler
Photo courtesy of Bruce Lee Enterprises LLC* – Yesterday

Side-Kick-Combo-BruceLee-e1313175010997Bruce Lee demonstrates jeet kune do side kick techniques.When you study violent encounters, one fact tends to stand out time and again: The prepared fighter almost always wins. But being prepared requires more than just training.

Long before self-defense experts and military analysts adopted the phrase “situational awareness,” Bruce Lee taught us that we must always be aware of our surroundings. Or as Lee would say, “The best surprise against a surprise attack is not to be surprised.”

To help us develop our alertness, Lee provided us with four surprise-attacker counters in the book Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method: The Complete Edition. Today, the Little Dragon will teach us how to counter an ambush with a side kick combo.

Bruce Lee’s Side Kick Combo
Walking down the street, Lee notices someone standing at the corner, as in photo 1. Instead of walking near him, Lee leaves enough room to defend against an ambush, as in photo 2. As the assailant attacks, as in photo 3, Lee counters with a quick and powerful side kick to the forward knee, as in photo 4. The kick is followed through completely so it causes the assailant to reel backward, as in photos 5. Lee counterattacks with multiple hooks and straight punches to the face, as in photo 6, keeping the assailant off-balance.

Note: You have to constantly practice the side kick on a heavy bag — preferably about 70 pounds — to develop good power. Notice that Lee delivers his kick while keeping his body away from the assailant.

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Nunchaku_glow-150px-OPTby Larry A. Ytuarte
Nunchaku photo by Raymond Horwitz – Today

You’re reading a book or an article on nunchaku techniques. You read that a person is confronted by a knife-wielding assailant and the defender slips his nunchaku around the waist of his attacker, gives a twist and sends the brute flipping onto his back.

Or the defender parries a knife thrust, adroitly steps inside and gets the attacker in a nunchaku chokehold.

Or the defender knocks the knife from the person’s hand with a nunchaku technique, lunges forward and down, wraps the nunchaku around the assailant’s ankles and sweeps him off his feet.

How do you feel when you read something like that? Do you buy it? Do you honestly think these types of nunchaku techniques would really work?

The Realities of Nunchaku Training

Imagine yourself in the role of the defender in a real-life situation. You’re walking down a street — alone. Suddenly, someone approaches. This someone is holding a knife. By his words and actions, you have no doubt that he intends to use the knife on you.

It’s a narrow, dead-end street. Consequently, your best defense — escape — is not possible.

But you do have your nunchaku with you. You grab hold of the sticks and face your attacker. ln that precious fraction of a second, you have to decide what you are going to do and which of your nunchaku techniques you’re going to use.

How to Use Nunchaku Techniques in a Dangerous Situation

Ask yourself these questions:

Do you really want to get close enough to attempt slipping the nunchaku around his wrist? (There’s a hand at the end of that wrist, and there’s a knife in that hand.)
Do you really want to try to parry a knife thrust? (Remember, this is for real.)
Are you really sure that, under such circumstances, you could be accurate enough with your nunchaku techniques to knock a knife out of someone’s hand? (Hands are pretty small and very mobile targets.)

If your answers to the preceding questions are “No,” well then, what do you do?

Something practical. Something realistic. A nunchaku technique that has a very good chance of working.

You may only get one chance.

Choosing Nunchaku Techniques

Whatever nunchaku technique you choose should meet the following criteria:

It is fast.
It is unexpected.
It does not require unrealistic accuracy or power.
It leaves you in a good position to strike again or withdraw in the event your attacker is not neutralized.

With these criteria in mind, the following two variations of a practical nunchaku technique against a knife attack are proposed. Both variations share the same general outline:

a feint (to draw the attacker’s attention away from the direction of the actual strike)
the strike itself
good final position (ending in a stance that is neither awkward nor defenseless)

One variation of the nunchaku technique uses a forehand swing of the weapon to the attacker’s head, the other a backhand swing. Let’s analyze the steps in each variation.

Nunchaku Technique #1: The Forehand Variation

In this nunchaku technique for self-defense, the defender squares off against the knife-wielding attacker and leads with his left side. The nunchaku is held in a ready position over the right shoulder. The defender leaves a fairly large distance between himself and the attacker (always a good idea when up against someone with a knife).

The defender then throws a low (about knee-high) front kick with the rear leg (his right leg). This serves three purposes:

It draws the attacker’s attention down and away from the nunchaku, putting the assailant, at least for a moment, on the defensive.
It closes the gap between the two combatants while the attacker is on the defensive, putting him in range of a nunchaku strike.
It pivots the defender, turning him in the same direction as the upcoming strikes, thereby adding power to the swing of the nunchaku.

The feint-kick is not meant to connect with the attacker’s leg; it is meant to divert attention downward. (Glancing down at the attacker’s knee just before throwing the kick can help draw his attention downward.) The kick should look forceful enough to put the attacker on the defensive, but it is not necessary to make contact. This allows the defender to maintain a safer distance because the striking range of nunchaku is considerably greater than that of a kick or a knife.

The real strike is a full-swinging nunchaku forehand to the attacker’s head. The strike should begin when the feint-kick has reached full extension. Don’t lose the momentary advantage over your attacker by taking time to plant your foot after the kick and then begin your strike. It will be too late. Strike while you are retracting your kicking foot. The pivoting motion of your swing and your own forward momentum will bring you to the final position.

After the nunchaku strike, the defender is balanced and mobile, ready to skip back from the attacker, if needed. The nunchaku is in excellent position for an immediate follow-up backhand strike if the attacker has not been neutralized.

Nunchaku Technique #2: The Backhand Variation

In the backhand nunchaku technique, the defender leads with his right side. For reasons that will be explained, the nunchaku sticks are held 90 degrees apart, and the right hand grips the stick in a palm-up position. Again, the defender keeps a good distance between himself and the attacker. The defender then executes a low side kick — again a feint — to draw the attacker’s guard down. This kick can be preceded by a skip to help close the gap, if needed.

The nunchaku strike is delivered in a backhand type of motion to the right side of the attacker’s head. It is hard to generate as much power with the backhand swing as can be generated in the forehand strike described earlier, but holding the sticks 90 degrees apart helps. This gives the striking stick a greater arc to swing through, increasing its speed and therefore producing a more forceful blow than would be the case if the sticks were held in a straight line with respect to each other.

After the strike, the defender is balanced and mobile, his footing remaining virtually unchanged during the technique. The nunchaku has been caught in an across-the-back position with the left hand, making it very easy to execute a powerful follow-up forehand strike. It is for this reason — to be able to swing the nunchaku all the way around and across the back — that the stick is held palm-up in the right hand. Holding it palm-down would greatly restrict the arc of the swing.

Nunchaku Training Question #1: Which Nunchaku-Technique Variation Is Better?

Neither of the variations is the better of the two. Like all nunchaku techniques, both have their good points and their bad points. For most people, the forehand variation will deliver the stronger blow. This is a serious consideration.

However, the backhand variation has the advantage in that, during the course of this nunchaku technique, the defender only presents his side to the attacker — while in the forehand version, the defender pivots and, if only for a fraction of a second, gives the attacker a potential frontal target. Your best bet is to practice both of these nunchaku techniques and see which of the two you feel more comfortable with.

Nunchaku Training Question #2: Does Handedness Matter for Nunchaku Techniques?

In the preceding nunchaku techniques, the defender was right-handed. If you, as the defender, are left-handed, simply reverse your stance.

In other words, in the forehand variation, you would square off leading with your right side and the nunchaku over your left shoulder. You would throw the low front kick with your left leg (the rear leg), pivot and swing the nunchaku with your left hand.

In the backhand variation, you would square off leading with your left side, and the low side kick would be thrown with the left foot. You would swing the nunchaku with your left hand, bring it around your left shoulder, down across your back, and catch it in your right hand.

The attacker in the preceding scenarios was also right-handed. What if you are confronted by a left-handed attacker? Does it matter? Do your nunchaku techniques change?

Not very much, for the reason that this is a long-range nunchaku technique aimed at your attacker’s head. Whether he holds the knife in his left or right hand will have little bearing on how successfully your nunchaku techniques are executed — especially if your feint-kick is convincing and draws his guard down from the head-level strike.

Nunchaku Training Question #3: What’s the Best Nunchaku Strike Against a Knife-Wielding Attacker?

It could be argued that the best strike would be one in which the nunchaku swings toward the side of the attacker on which he holds the knife. In other words, against a right-handed attacker, a right-handed defender might want to use the backhand variation, while a left-handed defender might want to use the forehand version. (The stances are reversed against a left-handed attacker.)

The reason for this is that, under these conditions, the attacker’s free hand and arm are rendered almost useless. If he attempts to block the nunchaku strike, it will most likely be with the arm and hand holding the knife.

Forcing him to block with this arm has two advantages: It momentarily renders the knife useless, and if the strike is blocked, the blow to the arm may leave the assailant unable or unwilling to continue the attack.

Nunchaku Training Drills: The Importance of Practice to Develop Nunchaku Techniques

Learning nunchaku techniques is very much like learning to juggle. You can read an article on how to juggle 10 times, but you won’t be able to juggle until you put the article down, pick up three objects and start doing it. Juggling involves thought, intuition and quick reflexes. It requires practice.

The same sort of thing can be said about nunchaku techniques for self-defense. Reading about nunchaku techniques is not enough. Timing, distance, accuracy and power will not come from reading about nunchaku techniques. These are developed through practice.

If you have a friend who shares your interest, practice together. Take turns in the roles of defender and attacker. Use a rubber knife and hollow plastic or foam-rubber nunchaku. Wear headgear and eye protection. (If you don’t have these things, do not practice with someone.)

Practice these nunchaku techniques until your timing is right. Vary your distances from each other when you square off. Have the assailant vary the aggressiveness of his attack. Get comfortable with both variations. When you feel comfortable, include the follow-up strikes.

Practice these nunchaku techniques and others by yourself with real nunchaku against a target. If you don’t have a training bag, a stack of five or six cardboard cartons makes an excellent target. Arrange things so that the topmost carton is about head size and at about head height. Aim only for the topmost carton, drilling the nunchaku techniques to increase your power and accuracy.

Big-Picture Considerations for Your Nunchaku Training

In a self-defense situation, it is the fastest and least expected technique that has the highest chance of success. Drill for speed. Make the feint-kick convincing. Reach a point at which your nunchaku techniques become more of a reflex action than a conscious, premeditated act. Practice.

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