A ques­tion that in­vari­ably comes up in combatives train­ing is‚ “How hard should I bang?” My hon­est an­swer is‚ “As hard as you can stand,” fol­lowed by, “but use some com­mon sense.”


Black Belt Hall of Famer Kelly McCann an­swers the combatives ques­tion‚ How hard should I hit in train­ing? His re­ply is char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally con­cise — ´as hard as you can stand” — but, thank­fully, he goes on to pro­vide plenty of de­tails.

When you and a part­ner are im­pact train­ing on each other, how hard you strike de­pends on the tech­nique, the sce­nario, the se­quence, the weapon, whether you’re wear­ing pro­tec­tive equip­ment and, most im­por­tant, you and your part­ner’s ap­petites for in­ten­sity. In all cases, you need to re­ally think about how to blast safely.

The good news is that fol­low­ing a few pre­cau­tions and ad­her­ing to some sim­ple guid­ance will keep your train­ing as safe as combatives train­ing can be.


if you’re work­ing on drills for un­armed de­fenses against edged weapons, the at­tacker should wear pro­tec­tive equip­ment spe­cific to those drills, but he also should slash and thrust at you with full power and speed. Only by train­ing at this level of speed, power and in­ten­sity will you de­velop a true ap­pre­ci­a­tion for what it takes — for real — to de­fend against an at­tacker who’s slash­ing and stab­bing at you on the street.

The same is true for pis­tol de­fense. Although some pis­tol-dis­arm­ing tech­niques look like they work, they of­ten fail to en­sure the most im­por­tant thing: that you move your­self off the line of fire first. The bad guy may squeeze one off be­cause of poor weapons han­dling, be­cause of sym­pa­thetic mus­cle tight­en­ing that ac­com­pa­nies a star­tle or be­cause of the other vari­ables present in the sit­u­a­tion. You’ve got to be sure you don’t catch it in your face, chest or ab­domen. You’re very likely to be shot if you use a tech­nique de­vel­oped by peo­ple who aren’t ex­pe­ri­enced with firearms and have no first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence with closerange firearm at­tacks.

SIDE NOTE: Train­ing as hard as you’re able is the acid test that’s lack­ing in a lot of dis­arms peo­ple be­lieve are street­wor­thy. I’ve seen hun­dreds of tech­niques for dis­arm­ing over the years. Some look great un­til you at­tempt them un­der more re­al­is­tic con­di­tions. That’s when they fall apart. For ex­am­ple, you may learn pretty quickly that you’re likely to break your fin­gers if you try to catch your train­ing part­ner’s knife-hand wrist or that you just can’t catch it.


us­ing as much force as I’m sug­gest­ing gets a bit com­pli­cated when you’re work­ing se­quences with two or three in­di­vid­ual tech­niques linked to­gether. Here’s why: Dif­fer­ent types of strikes are go­ing to hit dif­fer­ent anatom­i­cal points on your part­ner’s body. This means that dur­ing one se­quence, you may have to reg­u­late your force sev­eral dif­fer-

ent ways yet still main­tain over­all fe­roc­ity and in­ten­sity.

For ex­am­ple, let’s say the se­quence you’re work­ing on is a right-leg shin kick, fol­lowed by a right slash­ing el­bow and fin­ished with an an­kle stomp. Suit your part­ner up in a base­ball catcher’s shin­guard to ab­sorb the im­pact of your kick and maybe a cer­vi­cal col­lar to pro­tect his neck (if he doesn’t have a solid guard po­si­tion). Make sure he keeps his leg slightly bent so the force of the kick doesn’t hy­per­ex­tend his knee. When you’re ready to cook off, blast the shin kick, then fire your el­bow as you tar­get the base of his skull. How­ever, as it lands, pull sig­nif­i­cant power — but not speed — from the strike be­cause the base of his skull is very vul­ner­a­ble. Crank off your full-power an­kle stomp and land it to the side — near but not on — his an­kle.


starts to in­ten­sify, you and your part­ner will get re­ally amped. The ac­tion will get more dy­namic and harder to con­trol, and the po­ten­tial for in­jury will in­crease sig­nif­i­cantly. Be care­ful. You can’t af­ford to ac­ci­den­tally plant a fullpower strike on any­one you don’t in­tend to hurt badly. Big-boy rules ap­ply when you train ag­gres­sively in combatives. It’s im­por­tant for ev­ery­one to un­der­stand the very real risk of se­ri­ous in­jury — not just split lips and bloody noses — and for ev­ery­one to work to­gether to cre­ate the safest, most re­al­is­tic and most hard­core train­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Who­ever is play­ing the at­tacker in the drill should be an­i­mated, forc­ing the part­ner to de­velop his skill in per­ceiv­ing threats and ex­ploit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties as quickly as they oc­cur. At the same time, who­ever’s play­ing the vic­tim has to ex­e­cute his tech­niques hard enough to ac­tu­ally take con­trol of the at­tacker. “Hard enough” re­sults in the at­tacker be­com­ing less an­i­mated in the drill be­cause the con­fronta­tional dy­namic has been re­versed, just like it would on the street.

FI­NAL ANAL­Y­SIS: Your goal is to repli­cate what ac­tu­ally hap­pens on the street in the same amount of time and with the same in­ten­sity — but with­out the same con­se­quences. If you’ve never trained this way, it’s dif­fi­cult at first. But in my opin­ion, the closer your train­ing is to full speed, full power and full in­ten­sity, the sooner you’ll de­velop truly use­ful combatives skills. For in­for­ma­tion about Kelly McCann’s combatives courses, which can be streamed any­time, any­where to your dig­i­tal de­vice, visit aim­fit­ness­net­work .com/black­belt.

The closer your train­ing is to full speed, full power and full in­ten­sity, the sooner you’ll de­velop truly use­ful combatives skills.

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