The elbow flies toward your head as you feel yourself being pulled into a web. Then suddenly, like an elevator dropping your body goes limp, your eyes glaze back and all you feel is the floor. What happened? It’s to late for that question, you’re either dead or severely injured. The truth of the matter is; you played a game in unfamiliar waters and you sank. Now, If you were so lucky as to survive this, whether in training or in battle you would have to take a step back and question everything you did that led up to that moment.
The first question you might ask yourself is this; did I prepare myself to be there? If your answer is no then you have taken the first step to recovery, as recovery means to repair. By acknowledging that you have a flaw, you can now take a measured step in fixing the leak.
Within all combat martial arts there is a notion of range (long, medium and close). Within the Filipino arts we call this Largo, Medio, Corto. Some systems will covet one over others while other schools of thought believe that being effective in all is the only way. I for one believe in the latter and make no bones about it. While we must be thorough in all ranges we must be extremely capable in the corto (close) range. The reason being is while the other ranges can and will cause damage they do not necessarily mean death as it takes a highly skilled practitioner with exact precision and timing to deal such a feat, depending on weaponry used. However, in the corto game it takes little to no skill to exact tremendous damage or death due to proximity.
In a conflict it rarely if ever starts at close range; there has to be a bridging of sorts for one to gain access to your under belly. This is why we must have the ability to play all three ranges with equal vigor. If we are capable of picking out a possible threat at the largo range we can take preemptive action and simply defuse it or move away from it, thus keeping the largo continuum. If, for some stroke of bad luck, our nemesis finds his way into the medium range he can also be dispatched and pushed back to a largo range or taken out of his assault entirely by your knowledge and ability to counter and take him into the corto game. Few unskilled people like it there as it now turns into a pain game, where he is not the only one dishing out the dirt. The final element is the in your face dilemma. This is where the ambush happens unbeknownst to you. In this vein all other ranges now become a moot point as the action is in your face from the beginning,
until the finish; hopefully theirs. Here is where the mastery of corto becomes crucial.
Through my years and experiences in the private security field as well as the club security field I have found that there are two kinds of assailants. The first is the bravado bad boy; he for the most part will talk you to death before making any kind of move, hoping for an opening to wreak havoc. He is usually apt to have his dirty work done for him by his hanger-on friends who deem him as pack leader. He is not to be underestimated as his influence and want often times comes at the hands of someone else. This type of individual is the easiest to deal with as you will know what’s happening and when it’s coming due to his antics. The largo continuum fits this individual well. He can be swayed in his decision making process by your ability to out maneuver him and also by your use of de-escalation techniques. A stern voice with a steely resolve works wonders on blow-hards with beer muscles. This individual may jump, but if you are prepared and have kept your training tap hot he will be easily defused. Most of these types would rather puff their chest and pop their chops as opposed to truly going for broke. Often times alcohol, dope and women may be at the seat of his rage. Do not underestimate him as he is an opportunist and will pounce if he feels all the spades are in his hand.
The second type of assailant is the killer. He is coming no matter what and will give little to no warning at his intentions. This is where the corto game jumps off straight from the get go. You may be walking down a street, sitting at the bar minding your business, or even using a public restroom facility. These types of people stalk and look for openings in people they deem as victim. His motive may be nothing more than robbery, to fix what ails him, and in some cases straight up murder to fix his rage, fix his habit and leave no witnesses. This individual rarely has a skill set outside of his rage and sickness, which makes him extremely dangerous. He most likely will be armed with something and not afraid to use it due to his desperation. He may ambush you to scare you into giving him what he wants (hope this is true) but he may also ambush you to take you completely out or into his custody. If the latter happens you must do everything in your power
to prevent him from getting you to the second location.
So what do you do? How do you prevent this from happening to you? You train, that’s how. No matter your system of study you must embrace the brutal training of corto, with empty hand, and weaponry. It is not an easy training regime but it is necessary and one that should be as diverse as you can make it.
In Eskrima there are training drills that encompass a variety of techniques that can help you along your way in the corto range. These drills are solid but they are not enough, they are a starting point. The key to corto competence lies in the ability to place yourself in potentially dangerous scenarios where holding back is not a given. You must be able to duplicate multiple scenarios in which you may find yourself. What can be done with a compliant partner often times falls short of effective when pressure and intent are entered into the equation.
One drill that is utilized in SEAMOK is the wall drill. The wall drill is nothing more than forcefully jamming someone on the wall and having him or her utilize the skill sets learned to not only get off the wall but to put you on the wall. This scenario training with rough and tumble work pays huge dividends as the student now must work with force, speed and timing coupled with intent. The ability of retreat footwork is now impossible so that equation is a moot point. In using the wall one will see that two man compliant drills are now useless. However, all knowledge learned from the give and take starting points can easily fit here and must be worked. You will never know what you are capable of or how your skills sets play out unless you place yourself as close to harm as humanly possible within the training circle.
Another SEAMOK corto game is the shell. This is a simple way for individuals to place into effect their footwork, coupled with the defensive shell of western boxing using their ability to explode with three punch combinations, entries and crushing collapses. The shell is nothing more than the tactical covering of the head with the hands and forearms creating a resistant barrier that an attacker must penetrate to do maximum damage. The key to the shell is the marrying of offense and defense in time with stepping and explosive mechanics. An attacker may see this as weak or defensive but in reality it is the spider dancing on the web bringing his prey closer and closer. When proper body mechanics are implemented the shell is pure offense based on the mindset of enganyo (the bait). To train the shell is simple. The trainer uses boxing mitts and opens up a barrage upon the intended victim, said victim goes into his shell, uses his footwork to maneuver thus pulling the attacker in. Once the attacker is within striking range the victim opens up with blitzing three punch combinations driving the attacker back, followed by entries from the strike positions and gaining the upper hand preparing to deposit the bad guy on the back of his head. The shell game, like the wall must be trained with precision, focus and full power shots. Build the scenario from various angles and also with multiples. These are two very simple ways of getting the good work in, all you need is a few willing bodies and a few sets of punch mitts and of course, Heart!
The corto game must also be addressed with weaponry usage. I have a firm belief that likeness of motion is the key to success. What you do with the blade, the stick, the empty hand must be the same. What changes and what must be honed is the distance and timing. The successful usage of a tool will depend on the ability to marry both distance and timing into one formidable package. A number 1 angle strike is still a number 1 angled strike no matter the tool; the key to its success is your ability to adapt your motion to the given range. The afore mentioned scenario training is also crucial and drills like the wall and the shell can be played with both stick and knife if one has the ability to adapt and implement the work.
Honesty is always the best policy, so my father preached, and nothing is more true when it comes to dealing with violence. People must be honest with themselves and understand that being competent in all ranges is the key to longevity in violence, but none more crucial than the corto range for the obvious reasons. A good teacher, trainer, coach should be able to devise and scheme various scenarios that will bring out your true nature when it gets up close and personal. Remember in violence there is no wrong or right, it just is and with that mindset coupled with your corto abilities that you have trained time and time again, under pressure, you will posses ugly, workable, simple skill sets to put any attacker down and out. It’s up to you to put in the time and effort. In the end it will pay off in spades.
Always remember, your martial tap must run hot. It’s up to you to do the good work.