First: A Word on "Street Sparring"
There are vital reasons why we don't spar. If we need to enter, we utilize John Perkins' version of WWII Combatives because it's faster, easier to learn and provides far better protection than Western Boxing and all other variants of sport fighting. Ironically, this is beneficial whether you have the physical advantage or not.
This is not the stage of Roman Gladiatorial games where two men battled in front of 1,000s of spectators for the honor and glory of winning. We only care about surviving.
Sparring is for sport and doesn't simulate a real time, violent attack. If you are circling around someone on the streets as they do in a 23' x 23' ring, while using eye-hand coordination to strike your attacker with kicks and punches, it means you have enough distance to run. If that's not a possibility and you carry a concealed weapon, you have enough space and distance to draw your weapon and shoot your attacker in the head.
It's ridiculous to fight someone in a sparring manner if they have superior strength and reach, which is the reason why they have weight classes during these sporting events. You could take the absolute best welterweight in existence and put him against an untrained man the size of an offensive lineman and he'll get completely destroyed if he tries the methods taught in sport fighting.
Someone will argue that no system would work…well, therein lies the misunderstanding. This is the reason why we train to literally disfigure and destroy people with deadly strikes while utilizing the principles of the system as it is really the only way to overcome size, speed and strength in close quarters combat. Please do not ever let anyone give you the mistaken impression that those physical factors are not vital in a fight. Fortunately however, at extremely high levels, you can achieve proficiency to the point that you don't have to permanently hurt people.
Now despite all of that, let me be clear about something else. The systems that advocate sparring usually have better athletes and better fighters than those who avoid physical contact or move from structured patterns. While KCD negates the physical advantages of the various sportive systems, those athletic individuals will most likely absorb the principles of KCD even faster than the non-athletic. That's just the reality.
It Takes 2 to Clinch
Because we don't spar, which we view as any fighting where you are at a range when eye-hand coordination is the predominant factor, we need to once again think in terms of our Sphere of Influence. To exert your influence, you either allow the attacker to enter your sphere or you move your sphere into his. Otherwise there is no fight. Even though we operate primarily in clinch range, the difference is that we rely on body unitized momentum and sensitivity to strike vital targets at any angle in relation to our sphere instead of relying on clamping strength to control.
The clinch range for Jiu Jitsu employs the same method of strategizing for positional dominance as ground grappling, but is performed while standing. The idea is to place the opponent into a position where his ability to defend strikes, takedowns, throws or submissions are greatly compromised.
Though this is not a comprehensive description of every possible clinch, the primary clinch and transition you see in MMA and even some street fighting is the over-under clinch in which both parties pummel to get to the double-under hooks position (chest to chest body lock). Over and under simply describes the position of their arms in relation to one another. For example, in the over-under, one of your arms would be over one of the opponent's arms. Your other arm would be under the opponent's other arm and around his back. Your head would be positioned on the same side as his over hooked arm.
The Fatal Flaw of Clinching
Most fighters, skilled or not, do not yield in this range. Very often, you'll see both parties attempting to strike each other from the clinching position, even if they don't have positional superiority. The strikes are usually weak and very ineffective because they sacrifice their dynamic balance and ability to maintain a fluid root by entangling themselves in one position and relying on their attacker's balance. They have no ability to create real space or movement, which is a necessity, especially if you lack short power. At the end of the day, a lot of times they are merely bumping into one another as they are trying to control and avoid by using attachment or pure strength.
In addition to leaving you entangled, clinching is highly inefficient as well as energy consuming because it involves sustained tension. Aside from that, it also leaves your eyes and throat completely exposed. You can't protect your head from a determined attacker by turning it sideways and placing it against the attacker's body either.
Cung Le, who I mentioned in the Attackproof FAQ, was the most dominant fighter in the history of San Shou. We recognized that he either developed a higher level of sensitivity through a keen understanding of internal training concepts or through extraordinary natural ability. In many of his fights, as he and his opponent would clinch, he'd simply utilize his sensitivity to feel the tension of his opponents, which he would immediately use as handles to throw or slam them to the ground. While this is the goal of San Shou Shuai Jiao, he is able to perform these movements in a much more effective manner than his opponents because of superior sensitivity.
Though we completely disagree with Cung Le's method of fighting since we oppose any form of entanglement for self defense purposes, it underscores an important point. Having just a little bit more sensitivity in any arena, whether it's competition or street, gives you a huge advantage over your opponent. In fact, grappling in and of itself develops a degree of sensitivity, however the responses that it programs are once again, inappropriate for self defense, though perfect for competition.
You Can't Grapple a Ghost
When entering clinching range, you want to be almost undetectable, as if you are a ghost; you want to be completely unavailable to the attacker's strikes and grapples, yet completely unavoidable as you use dropping energy to inflict damage. This is the reason why Ki Chuan Do translated means, "Way of the Spirit Fist" or why it is sometimes called "Ghostfist." Of course we are speaking figuratively, but that is the dichotomy that we are attempting to perfect when we train. Here's an elaboration on this method from newsletter #16 by KCD Master Lt. Col. Al Ridenhour USMC:
Ghost Entry– as described by Musashi– this is striking from the void in its truest form. Grand Master Perkins has in the past referred to this as "hitting people with your spirit" [this is wild!]. With the ghost entry you simply want to get an impression of the other person's body. As I enter, I launch myself trying to remain as graceful [unitized] as possible and with the "lightest" of contact or "perception" [spatial awareness] of where they are in relation to my body I quickly move to a kill strike dropping and penetrating on contact. If they adjust their position, no matter, I adjust. I imagine myself moving like the wind and striking like lightning. The lightness of my contact whether physical or mental is based just as much on my perception of contact as well as what I actually feel. While this is very esoteric this is a totally learnable skill but it requires much practice.
Once again as with many of the techniques I've described I know there are going to be those who will remain skeptical about this sort of thing, for those who have felt this you know exactly what I'm talking about! This movement when applied against you has an eerie feel to it because you think you know where the other person is coming from however you truly do not see the strike coming even when looking right at the person, and if dropping energy is applied to it, "fa-gedda-bout-it", it is the Ghost Fist in its purest essence…
At the chaos levels we are engaging in, the only way you can achieve this level of combativeness is by mastering the 5 Principles of Combat (Balance, Body Unity, Looseness, Sensitivity and Freedom of Action) with a special emphasis on the 5th. If you are deficient in even one of the 5 Primary Principles, you can never utilize any of them in high speed, high adrenaline motion in an effective manner.
Actually Working the Principles, Not Just Talking About Them
There are practically no other schools that teach these principles in a systematic and proper manner so that almost any dedicated student can absorb them without spending half of their lives (30+ years) in training. In fact, we don't know of any. However and just so I'm clear, many schools speak the same language as us and we recognize that the majority of them will properly train 2 or even 3 of the principles.
The problem is that they often fail even with those because they'll train their minds for patterned movement or some other stylistic nonsense (i.e., static, pigeon toed footwork or even body hardening) to preserve lineage at the expense of effectiveness. Very often, they'll discover one or two principles and go on to stylize their entire system around these principles at the expense of others. To be clear on what I mean, I'll give several examples.
There are those who may have the ability to display a high degree of speed or looseness in demos, but then won't have the sensitivity and freedom of action in their delivery systems to utilize it in a dynamic, non-choreographed environment where they have to use it while simultaneously attacking an actively resisting opponent.
Looseness as a separate component is useless when applied without the other principles to combative motion. It is the manifestation of all the principles working together at once that makes your body pliable, yet and still extremely powerful.
Or perhaps, they have some Iron Palm training and have developed some degree of dropping energy, but they are unable to utilize it in a real fight from any angle because they haven't developed the looseness.
There are systems that will advocate the principles, but then will completely undermine them all by doing some absolutely ridiculous techniques that only the most athletic and coordinated could pull off if they get lucky.
Devotion to Style Limits Freedom of Action
More than likely however, they simply have no method of developing the principles, even though they may be consciously aware of them. So often you can go into a school and only the instructor/s can actually fight, while the students have no combat proficiency whatsoever. The goal of Guided Chaos is to take you to the level of mastery of these principles which will automatically give you the ability to filter out incorrect methods and evaluate your own training, regardless of system, style or body type.
Here's another take from Lt. Col Al on this matter:
As for the internal arts, in truth they are by far superior in every way as far as body development in comparison to external arts. However, where people go wrong in many internal systems such as Tai Chi, Wing Chun and Ba Gua is that they forget about fighting and focus on flowing or the developed pattern movements as in Wing Chun, which restricts their freedom of action. I believe you need both and here is where KCD has an advantage over the internal systems. Many of their practitioners may develop good body unity and sensitivity but they never learn how to apply it in a real fight because they don't know how to transpose the skills into their fighting arsenal.
The Grease That Makes All Your Other Training Work Better
In these articles, aside from a reference or two, I purposely avoided the discussion of weapons or multiple attackers for two reasons.
1. Grappling/Clinching intrinsically sets one up to fail in these situations. However, the majority of their practitioners are aware of this. The wise among them will simply adapt KCD style movements for street defense and save the grappling for the ring. One is not better than the other; they simply serve two different purposes.
2. Even at best, regardless of what your skill level or training, these variables introduce elements that may not be survivable even under the best conditions. Period! However, because KCD is built upon the principles of Freedom of Action and avoiding Entanglement, it automatically gives you your best chances for survival.
As stated before, to varying degrees the internal principles of Guided Chaos can be utilized to enhance the movement of any system, even sport fighting and it already has. The difference lies in the fact that the tools we utilize are from WWII Combatives and end the fight as soon as possible because our focus is self defense. This also where most Tai Chi training falls short (except in certain select schools) because there isn't the relentless focus on destroying the enemy using the internal energy that is so conscientiously developed.
Always Keep an Open Mind
Even in KCD, we are very careful (at least most of us are) about the assumptions that we make because it would be very easy for us to fall into the same trap as so many other schools. That is why we adhere to principles as opposed to "this" technique or "that" technique because while techniques come and go, the principles apply to every style of fighting regardless of who you are. I try to emphasize that we are never satisfied with what we know and are constantly seeking new experiences in order to expand our knowledge base.
This is why we still give folks the time of day even if we disagree with what they are doing if for no other reason than to know what "doesn't" work. As Thomas Edison once said, "…90% of genius is knowing what doesn't work." What he (Edison) doesn't tell you unless you study his numerous experiments is that for his most successful inventions, he failed thousands of experiments before developing the light bulb. When asked why he required so many experiments he replied something along the lines of "…well now I know 1,000 things that don't work…"
Like Edison, we feel it is just as important to know the logical reasoning of why something does or doesn't work. However, we try to focus our energies on developing good purposeful habits which are rooted in the principles of combat. This is based on what actually happens and not what we would like to happen. This same attitude is something that I also believe truly separates KCD from other arts and is one of the reasons why we still continue to improve with time. We are not afraid to fail in class and challenge the validity of what we know and teach because we know there are no second chances on the street. The point is if we knew it all (and we don't), we wouldn't need to train, because we would already have all the answers but the truth is that even in KCD we are only scratching the surface and have much to discover.