Using fight logic in the monkey-dance

In my forthcoming book Fight Logic, I am examining the phenomenon of human combat and explain the concept, principles and techniques of WingTsun (WT) as we interpret and use them in the European WingTsun Organisation (EWTO).

I present my WT as a suitable means of practical self-defence, and solve a social problem that usually receives little attention among traditional styles: the problem of how to protect oneself as well as possible against the dangers of degenerate ritualised combat or territorial conflict within the group consisting of male members of our species.
In a similar way to his animal relatives, the “human ape” or “third chimpanzee” – as biologists often call him – defends his “territory”. This not only includes his seat in the pub or bar, his office desk and his marital bed, but also his social position, his ego or his self-image.
As is the case when members of other species come into conflict, this form of combat (which is presciently referred to as a “monkey-dance”) is not a real fight, but rather a form of conflict management on the part of nature: a show intended to maintain the status quo and preserve life (or genes).
The competitor, the other male of the species, is to be driven from the territory by the threat of violence. Accordingly the animal world tends to fight “with its gloves on”: poisonous snakes have recourse to wrestling, and bears shove the competitor off their patch. The humiliated loser shuffles off and is allowed to live elsewhere.

Five Phases of Ritualised Combat

(Degenerate) ritualised combat between men has been conducted in five phases for the last 30 years or so.

  1. Eye-contact
  2. Voice
  3. (a) Jabbing a finger at the other party
    (b) Shoving
  4. A wild roundhouse punch (haymaker) curving downwards to the head with the dominant hand
  5. Frequently, fatal kicks to the head of the downed opponent (degeneration!)

Anybody who wants to prepare his students for this must familiarise them with these five escalation phases and the effects of the stress hormones. These hormones are sometimes known as “fight or flight” hormones, though there is a third adrenal hormone effect that is far more dangerous: paralysis and an inability to defend oneself (denial).
Almost all report stress effects such as a dry mouth, moist hands, an accelerated heart rate, hyperventilation and muscle tremor. These symptoms are perfectly normal, and a fighter must not see them as a sign of cowardice. Nonetheless they should tell the fighter that he may no longer be operating within his optimal heart rate range.
As soon as this exceeds 175 to 200 beats per minute, the following happens in the view of prominent American researchers:

  • Fine-motor and complex movements, as well as peripheral vision, become difficult.
  • Making decisions between several options requires a life-threatening amount of time.

The only methods suitable for self-defence purposes are therefore those that make low demands in terms of fine motor movements and hand/eye coordination, and relieve the fighter from decision-making. These two problems are best solved by methods that employ tactile/kinaesthetic responses, and forego decision-making in favour of the tactile sense.

Although most martial arts advertise themselves as a suitable means of self-defence, they do not concern themselves at all with the needs of ritualised combat and correct behaviour in the five phases:

Things That are Seldom Practiced

  1. They do not practice the use of breathing techniques and visualisation to lower the heart rate.
  2. They do not practice whether, how and for how long one can or must hold the gaze of the other party.
  3. They do not practice responses to questions such as: “What the hell are you looking at? Are you looking for trouble?”
  4. They do not practice the correct responses when a finger is pointed, or to a shove with one or two arms.
  5. Hardly any martial arts style is able to counter a wild roundhouse punch from close range.
  6. And how many self-defence styles teach students how to survive deadly kicks to the head if they have gone to the ground?

Shortcomings of Styles

  • Instead of preparing the student to respond with the appropriate behaviour in each of the five phases, the problem posed by eye-contact is not even recognised. In fact there is no ritualised combat that has not been preceded by eye-contact between the two parties.
  • Instead of practicing the right, self-assured or deescalating answer to the aggressive question, there is no use of speech in the usual martial arts training.
  • Instead of practicing tactics against “finger-jabbing”, shoving and the roundhouse punch, students learn and practice senseless or ineffective, "lifeless" techniques. Senseless is the right word for them, as they are defences against attacks that do not occur in reality, but only in the imaginings of martial arts teachers who have usually never been faced with such a situation. In short, the student only learns to defend against attacks by his own style.
  • Most also ignore the fact that a fight rarely lasts more than 3 seconds, and does not take place at long range, but at very close quarters.
  • They also ignore the fact that under the influence of adrenalin, attacks always follow a curved path and are never linear techniques.
  • Also ignored is the fact that attacks do not consist of clean, clearly identifiable techniques, but rather a wild sequence or fusillade of attacks.

Ineffective Blocks

If at all, typical Asian blocking defences (familiar from Japanese Karate, Chinese Shaolin Gung Fu or Korean Taekwon-Do) only have a chance against attacks if the attacker still needs to take a full or at least half-step to get into striking range.
Moreover, this only applies in the case of linear attacks. Typical Asian blocking defences and parries almost invariably fail against curving attacks—the very ones that are to be expected for evolutionary/genetic reasons in ritualised combat.

Stress Hormones Make Us Freeze

In addition there is the sudden release of stress hormones, which causes the unaccustomed victim to “freeze” into inaction, so that he usually allows the first punch and the subsequent hail of attacks to happen without any attempt to defend himself. It does not even come to a fight in the sense of two opponents exchanging blows.

No Learning Techniques by Heart

Assiduously practising and refining “techniques”, and memorising “stored behaviour” (Heinrich Jacoby), as is usual in the Asian martial arts, only creates hundreds or thousands of senseless, sterile techniques that vainly await a suitable attack. Vainly because every attack is different, and prescribed answers never quite fit. It seems to me that the main concern of most martial arts is to find and learn by rote answers to questions that nobody outside their own style ever asks, and certainly not in the street.
Specific, complex techniques requiring fine motor movements and a specific form of attack that never happens are of no use, but instead put the fighter under dangerous time stress because they confront him with unnecessary decisions.

What Imiproves Our Chances

However, non-specific training in general, basic capabilities such as consciousness, flexibility, balance, physical unity, sensual perception (especially tactile), timing, sense of distance and most particularly the development of fighting spirit and familiarisation with the effects of adrenalin is of great importance for the development of a self-defence capability.

Sparring Does Not Solve the Problem

Sparring, at least with full contact, would certainly be an improvement, however this too takes no account whatsoever of the actual sequence of events in ritualised combat, as everything happens within the first second and one almost never sees a real exchange of blows. Moreover, sparring is pretty counterproductive when it comes to developing body unity and timing.

No Groundfight in Ritualised Combat

Groundfighting is a hype that is not one of the rituals in ritualised combat. It is very rare for both protagonists to go to ground and continue to fight on concrete, broken glass or dog-droppings using classic wrestling techniques, until some companion or other decides to get involved and kicks in the head of his friend’s opponent.
Groundfight training is the answer to a question that is rarely posed outside in the real world. Groundfight training is the answer to a question which the Gracies posed in the Ultimate Fighting Championships (a certain way of carrying out a competition). As we are not concerned with sporting competition, it is more important for us to learn to maintain our balance, so that we do not go to the ground, can get up again quickly if it happens and can protect our head and ribs from kicks while we are down. To state this is not really mainstream, but I say this as somebody whose first martial art was wrestling, and who once worked part-time as a pro-wrestler in the late 1960s.

By Prof. Dr. Keith R. Kernspecht