Black Belt


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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