Training the Use-of-Arms Professional: Effect - Not Display
Part One of Two - Performance Characteristics
Hunter B. Armstrong

Combat is an ancient human and even pre-human practice, and is certainly among the oldest of human social endeavors. That's correct, social. The two basic types of combative behavior-affective and pseudo-predatory-have very primary social aims: establishing position within the group hierarchy for the former, and protecting the group (and self) from enemies in the case of the latter. Today, in polite society, affective combative behavior is, of course, frowned upon as being socially dysfunctional, while pseudo-predatory combative behavior is generally not even acknowledged by anyone other than the professionals who deal with it. However, the pseudo-predatory combative behavior of the professional is the only appropriate form of combative behavior for law enforcement and the military.

In spite of combat's negative political correctness, its audience appeal obviously continues unabated from well before the era of gladiatorial combat in the arenas of the Roman Empire. Combat as entertainment has been found in most cultures throughout history. Its exciting visual appeal is universally conspicuous, and apparently inherent in man.

People are most aroused and impressed by the emotional excitement and the flash and action of a wild fight. Flamboyant fighting skills and moves catch the eye and the imagination, and indeed the great majority of popular action movies and television productions are at least partly based on the intrinsic human appreciation of fighting capabilities that are beyond the norm. The media representation of fighting skills emphasizes the extremes of conspicuous capability. In all aspects of combative presentation, we see the flamboyant. In movie and tv gunfights, handgun rounds have the impossible capability of knocking people off their feet and through windows; shooters can make incredible hits while leaping through the air; everyone who throws a knife can not only strike point first with every throw, but hit a vital point that will instantly disable the adversary; martial arts experts are able to defeat multiple assailants with spinning back kicks, somehow never tripping over obstacles, slipping on rugs or sliding on uncertain ground. Likewise, they can withstand horrendous punishment ranging from kicks to the head to iron pipe blows to the ribs with little or no apparent injury. Not only are we impressed by these superhero antics, but they have come to be incorporated in a large number of modern concepts of the fighting arts and their associated belief systems. The great majority of fighting arts styles and schools in the world today have become overwhelmingly display oriented, not only in their physical practice, but in their public presentation as well. In everything from actual physical techniques to training wear, to internet web discussions, the trend is more and more towards display. From the original KISS-principle oriented fighting techniques of classical systems, popular " fighting arts" have "evolved" to the use of extravagant, large movement, weapons blows, leaping-spinning-back kicks, impressive if combatively meaningless engagement postures and stances. Training wear have become billboards advertising personal rank (supposedly one's capability) and associations ("I belong to these organizations, so I must be good"). The internet has allowed the rise of a whole new category of expertise with an accompanying realm of experts. Faceless communicators with little or no real experience have become worthy discussants upon subjects about which their knowledge is at best only spider web superficial. In spite of their lack of realistic usefulness, these attributes-inculcated as part of fighting arts belief systems-are a comfort to their followers, for, by, and of whom they have evolved.

They are not, however, for combat.

Close combat can be and generally is an extremely physical activity. It is natural, then, to assume that an individual's success in combat will be dependent upon the individual's physical capability. However, while the obviously physical side of combat is indeed vital, more important in effect and function are the behavioral elements. Yet, it is exactly these elements that are most often overlooked in modern training and application. It is precisely because combatively functional behavior traits are relatively invisible that they have become neglected in so many of the modern fighting arts.

Interestingly, almost all traditional martial (military as versus civilian) systems are imbued with behavioral attributes that are virtually diametrically opposed to the display orientation mentioned above. Importantly, these behavioral aspects are closely integrated within the physical components of most traditional combative systems in their combat applications. It is also important to understand that, historically, these behavioral aspects include components that are considered necessary character attributes-ethics, integrity, morality-that must be conditioned into the individual fighter, and become the basis by which he conducts his life during times of peace or conflict.

These two areas of combative behavioral attributes of the warrior can be analytically divided into Performance Characteristics and Comportment Characteristics. In part one of this article I'll delve into the Performance Characteristics.

Performance Characteristics
The performance characteristics are those behavioral traits from man's pseudo-predatory capabilities that enhance his capability to survive and dominate in combat. While closely integrated with physical skill, they are not so much technical skills themselves, but are integral within those skills. Many of them are intrinsically tied to specific types of movement, posture, and visual activity. Identifying this activity then is vital in order to effectively train for the most efficient use of the performance characteristics.

One of the most important aspects is something commonly called "mindset."

The term "mindset" is perhaps more talked about than it is clearly understood, trained, and put into practice. By mindset, we are talking about the cool, calm, collected mindset of the predator stalking and dominating its prey. Picture an Indian tiger stalking through the bush after prey, perhaps a deer. The big cat's mind is calm as it calculates its movement towards the selected animal. The tiger is not emotionally aroused; it is not angry nor fearful. It does not hate the prey. While stalking, the tiger moves slowly, using sight, smell, hearing, even touch to be totally aware of the environment through which he is moving. The tiger isn't snarling or growling; there is no noise to warn off the deer. The tiger's posture is one that allows it to remain unnoticed while moving, yet ready for an explosive attack. When the timing is right, the tiger moves with explosive power that quickly and efficiently finishes the prey. And after the attack, there is no dance of celebration, no sense of "I kicked that guy's ass." It was not a victory over an enemy, but dominance over prey. As quickly as the tiger moved to attack, it shifts back to the quiet activity of devouring its prey. This is the combative "mindset." Mindset can be looked at as a combination of a number of important, combatively efficient behavioral characteristics:

No emotional arousal, no anger, no hate; just a cool-minded determination to dominate the situation. Non-personal relationship to the adversary - the adversary is viewed cooly and impersonally; he is not someone to be punished, nor is he someone who arouses anger; he is an adversary to be dominated, and, if necessary, defeated.

Dominating Awareness
The combative mind is not only aware of the situation and environment, but is aware of it in a manner that allows the use-of-arms professional a tactical awareness (the combative nature) of the situation and environment, and the means of dominating it. Mere awareness is not preparation for combat, dominating awareness is.

Combative Intent
The concentrated determination to initiate and follow through in combative function; combative intent is the driving force that allows the completion of the combative task.

The neura-muscular coordination and volitional effort to move explosively through the immediate combative task. Combat's aim is not extended bouts of sparring, fencing, exchanging blows, or wrestling, but to explosively dominate as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Another important aspect of combative behavior is communication, or in the case of the professional, lack of communication with the adversary. In combat, the only purpose of communication with an adversary is to mislead or to lure. There should be minimal to no verbal communication with adversary. Verbal (or any) communication that acts to engage the professional should be carefully avoided. In combat, there is generally no need to establish a personal connection with the adversary through talking.

Such communication leads to an emotional connection, which, no matter what the content-fear, anger, ego arousal-can only act to disrupt combative awareness and intent.

Another form of communication is eye contact, which should also be avoided.

The eyes are for watching - gathering information. Eye contact with an adversary tends to lead to a cycle of emotional arousal on both sides, and further tends to lock one's attention onto the opponent, thus lowering awareness of the surroundings.

Physical Manifestation of the Combat Mindset Along with mindset, but even more misunderstood-especially in the display oriented arts-is "bodyset" - posture, stance, and movement. As with the behavioral traits of the combative mindset, we also need to be aware of the all important physical manifestations of combative mindset.

Combative postures should be used only to prepare for action. Any posture that overtly signals intent or capability only acts to provide more information to an adversary than he should be allowed.

The most common and natural combative posture in humans is the "stalking posture." [see illustrations]

Stalking Posture
The posture should be one that allows easy movement and readiness for immediate explosive action, much the same as with the hunting tiger. In the stalking posture, the individual is crouched with knees bent, leaning slightly forward. This is a ready position that allows both easy movement forward, and quick changes in direction. It is a balanced stance and posture that allows spontaneous change from slow cautious stalking to an explosive attack. In hunting peoples, we see the same posture utilized with spear, bow, or firearm. All these weapons have been naturally adapted and evolved to fit the stalking posture.

The behavioral aspect of the stalking posture is particularly important. This posture is inseparably tied to the aspects of the combative mindset:

efficiency of movement
no arousal
no display
minimal communication to subject

Movement & Mechanics
Hips/Pelvic Region
The hip and pelvic region is the core for all combative movement. It is the foundation for both upper body as well as leg-and-foot movement, and it is the link that ties upper and lower body together. This area is too complex to cover in this short article, but suffice it to say that it should be the core area for all movement training and strength conditioning.

The legs and feet are key to movement and stability. Typically, little attention is paid to the feet, but they are the primary implementers of directional control in all action. In movement, as much as possible, the feet should be pointed either straight towards the direction of movement or slightly outward. This is important not only for controlling direction, but is essential in allowing full play of the hip/pelvic region. At no time should the feet be allowed to turn inward-pigeon-toed.
The knees should always be slightly flexed (particularly important during load bearing), and generally pointed in the same direction as the feet. During combat action/movement, the knees should be kept well flexed, keeping the hips low. The almost overwhelming tendency to straighten up in a toe-to-toe fight should be avoided.

Short stepping allows quick changes in direction and quick recovery when traveling over uncertain ground. Steps should generally be kept very short - approximately one foot-length in distance. The feet should be kept close to the ground during the stepping, and the body movement should be kept as level as possible. Again, the knees must be kept well bent, and the primary leg movement comes mainly from the knees and not the hips. This type of stepping is very similar to the "Groucho" used by many SWAT teams. Long, leaping steps are fine for covering large amounts of territory, but are generally inappropriate for the immediate action in dealing with an adversary.

Short of the actual physical techniques of weapons use or fighting, these are the primary physical-and-behavioral aspects of combat performance.

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Hunter B. Armstrong, Director ~ The International Hoplology Society
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