Kelly McCann on How Limiting Your Arsenal of Self-Defense Moves Can Actually Improve Your H2HC Skill

by Kelly McCann  

Kelly McCann on How Limiting Your Arsenal of Self-Defense Moves Can Actually Improve Your H2HC SkillI was recently fortunate to train, have dinner with and catch up with two friends who recently returned from Afghanistan. They’re members of a special-mission unit composed of some of the nation’s best warriors; they are to warfare what Olympic athletes are to sports. One is a serious martial artist and MMA practitioner, the other a combatives junkie who seeks exposure to virtually anything he believes will hone his self-defense moves, including kali, jeet kune do and more esoteric systems. Both practice hand-to-hand combat (H2HC) techniques and straight combatives regularly. Both have closed with enemy forces scores of times over the past eight years. Their unit has the intensity, funding and diligence to approach training and fitness in the most scientific and sophisticated ways. They’re able to take advantage of any training course the Command agrees is useful.

Their fighting program encompasses boxing, jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, MMA and various forms of straight combatives. They believe the aforementioned combat sports promote conditioning and athleticism and foster a fighting mentality, while combatives leverages each of those skill sets and provides a streamlined, functional battle-space approach.

Why Less Can Be More in the World of Self-Defense Moves

Our conversation got around to martial arts, combatives, personal preferences, H2HC, organizational needs and training. Interestingly, despite being exposed to a wide variety of self-defense moves, both agreed that isolating and mastering fewer H2HC techniques that are, or become, personally intuitive — no matter where they originate — is critical to prevailing in individual combat.

In other words, truly mastering the fundamentals of some self-defense moves results in a higher probability of achieving success than does having a passing familiarity with significantly more H2HC techniques — many of which might easily fit into the nice-to-know category.

They pointed out, for example, that of the many submission techniques that exist, fewer than 10 account for the majority of wins in MMA. Among them were the arm triangle, leg triangle, rear-naked choke, kimura, Americana, heel hook, armbar and guillotine. Similarly, any boxer who can get in and out cleanly, use angles, fire jabs and crosses like rifle shots, intuitively counterpunch, implement a bomb-proof guard and move well solidifies himself as an opponent worthy of respect.

In both examples, they’re pretty fundamental techniques, yet that’s what normally wins in combat sports. My friends’ point was that their H2HC experiences proved the same. Relatively few fundamental self-defense moves answer the mail over and over again.

How Many Self-Defense Moves Should You Learn for Optimal H2HC Capability?

There’s a simple, truthful elegance to answering the question, “But how many self-defense moves should I learn?” with one word: “Enough.” The trouble is, finite curricula sometimes leave people feeling doubtful, as if they don’t have enough tools or H2HC techniques in their toolboxes. I suggest they worry whether they have the right tools in their toolboxes and whether they’re reliable.

Concern about the sheer volume of self-defense moves is usually the result of resisting the grind that living a combative or martial life is. It’s the result of accepting one’s skill level with any given technique instead of improving the execution of those self-defense moves; adding more when a person hasn’t mastered what he’s got is futile. Is another H2HC technique really necessary, or does the person just lack the skill to adapt and apply the fundamental in a broader set of situations?

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