ELEMENTS OF A TYPICAL SELF DEFENSE SESSION
by Steve Spano
If you are currently practicing self defense and want to review the exercises at home, this article provides the order usually followed. It may also be useful for any potential students who want to know what to expect in one of my sessions. Listed below in the sequence usually practiced are all the elements of a typical session, together with an explanation of their purposes and a brief description.
Remember that true self defense practice begins with free fighting. All other exercises listed are only for preparatory conditioning. Some sessions may not include every exercise shown on the list due to time restraints or to the skill level of the participants. Again, a group of advanced practitioners may want to start off with Free Fighting.
The names of the exercises are listed below for a quick reference. You can follow the link to the explanation and description. I am working on adding illustrations of each exercise, so do please check back later.
Internal Warm Up and Stretch.
YinYang Hands, solo.
YinYang Hands, with partner.
The Walk, solo.
The Walk, with partner (Lines).
Timing with Weapons.
Free Fighting with Weapons.
Internal Warm Up and Stretch. This exercise provides comprehensive stretching of the tissues. It generates internal heat and moves that heat throughout the body. Most importantly, it familiarizes the practitioner with the process of sinking internal energy. This sinking should become habitual under stress.
Begin with shaking legs and arms, stretch neck. Turn and tap abdomen to kindle internal fire. Move fire first to legs, spine, arms. Loosen wrists. One leg stretch each side. Finish with sinking internal energy.
YinYang Hands, solo. Reforms the connective tissue to provide a stable and permanent structure connecting the hands with the floor. This means that the hands have the leverage of the floor behind them, which lends power to counter attack and evasion. Teaches correct breathing patterns for stress response.
Move feet heel, toe, heel to assume a triangular position. Adjust alignment. Float hands and arms. Move first yin then yang hand, alternating arms. On inhale relax all tissues except for lower abdomen while changing arms. On exhale constrict lower abdomen and sphincters, stretch the seven points. You will sense when heat is generated, usually there will be perspiration beginning in armpits and face.
YinYang Hands, with partner. Conditions the body and mind to withstand strikes without fear. Provides a foundation for locking and grappling. Sinks energy for generating powerful attacks and deflection. Enhances evasive turning.
Stand face to face with partner in the same position used in the solo version. Adjust distance. Partners alternate palm strikes, attempting to knock each other over while avoiding face and groin. A lock may be executed at any time by either partner. Feet can pivot but not lift up or move to another spot on the floor. Exercise pauses when one partner loses balance. Shake out tension and begin again.
Bag Work. Conditions striking surfaces of your body, i.e., hands, feet, elbows. Develops penetrating power in strikes. Involves the use of the total body energy in striking. Provides opportunity to perfect angles of attack.
When practicing alone, your main concern should be that you feel your strikes originate in the soles of your feet. Don't be overly concerned with tensing as you strike, as delivered power is more a function of focus, speed and angle. Any tension should be released just before contact. When working with a partner, an additional goal is that you knock your partner out of the square with one strike. If your partner spins instead of being thrown straight back, your angle is off.
The Walk, solo. Develops the ability to move the stable structure built with yinyang hands. Builds explosive power centered in the groin and thighs. Develops synchronization of arm and leg movement.
Sink, correct alignment, then proceed. The sequence is attack, retreat, cut flank, flank. Alternate leading foot.
The Walk, with partner, also called Lines. Conditions practitioner to attacking and being attacked . Habitualizes the responses of advance, retreat, flank and cut in reference to a real attacker. Develops sense of distance and improves angle.
Repeat each of the four responses separately. Check your stability. Feel free to slow down on points that are challenging to you.
Timing. Warm up for free fighting. Expands synchronization of arms and legs. Provides opportunity for random response development, fast angle and alignment adjustment, and sense of space using the square. Expands breath control.
I recommend beginning with the tap/strike/cover pattern, then proceeding to more random practice. Remember that speed is not an issue in this exercise. It is the sign of a novice to rush here. Take your time to build the responses you will use in free fighting. Use your partner's body for target practice, not for penetration practice. Bag work is the proper method of improving penetration. Do not stop when hit. Rather, roll with and continue the flow of movement.
Free Fighting. This is actual self defense practice, as close as it gets to a real self defense situation without injury occurring. This is where you test your spontaneous self defense responses. You know immediately what does and doesn't work, and can adjust and modify with immediacy as well. If you want to go over a passage again, feel free to ask you partner to repeat. Remember that you are both there to help each other.
Due to the speed and inherent danger of this exercise, I urge you to practice it only with the utmost care and respect and only with those you trust. Remember that it is not your job, in third wave training, to get seriously injured.
Timing with Weapons. All the same objectives as empty hand timing, with the addition of weapons. My usual choice is blades, either knives or machetes. In my home town of San Francisco in 2007 there were over 200 reported blades attacks, two of them in my neighborhood alone. There is no way to know the number of unreported assaults.
Free Fighting with Weapons. All the same objectives as empty hand free fighting, with the addition of weapons. Again, blades are usually my choice.
For my current training schedule go here.