Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To Gi or Not To Gi

Traditional vs Modern
There are many schools of thought on the debate of what to wear when training. There are good points for both traditional and more modern training apparel, so it really comes down to the purpose of the training. Traditional styles often still encourage a gi or kimono, while more modern styles or hybrids train in something closer to what they would compete in. Professionals like law enforcement agents, military personnel and security workers also train (or should) in clothing that resembles what they would wear on the clock. Techniques can vary, depending on what the person is wearing, so it's important to factor this into training.

Footwear is a hot topic among traditionalists. Most styles, historically, train barefoot and most modern martial art sports also compete without footwear. Many more modern schools now train with wrestling shoes and this is mostly for hygienic reasons. Protected feet can prevent the spread of things like staff infection and other foot conditions. In sports like boxing, sambo and wrestling, proper footwear is mandatory and provides traction. People with knee or ankle injuries, however, are often advised against this. The traction of a wrestling shoe can often aggravate knee injuries especially, so being barefoot is often the safer option. I've been advised after my knee injury to use sand paper on the soles of wrestling shoes if I decide to train that way. Sambo boots are the safest option for anyone with a bad knee like me because they are made of soft leather, which can protect from skin conditions without providing too much traction.

Rashguards and t-shirts are the most common tops to train in for those who aren't wearing a gi or training without a shirt. Lots of MMA fighters train without a shirt because that's how they compete and are more comfortable that way, but personally I prefer some kind of clothing for hygienic purposes. Grapplers tend to prefer long or short sleeve rashguards, which makes sense. It's the best way to keep your sweat to yourself when rolling with someone on the mats. Long sleeve for the most protection. For most, though, a t-shirt is usually enough.

Track pants is probably the most popular choice for practitioners who don't wear traditional attire. Track pants are practical and are made for athletic activities, so it only makes sense to wear them in training. The most comfortable, but less protective, are shorts. Most cases of staff infection in gyms are contracted through the legs, so it's important to keep that in mind when training. Shorts are less restricting and should mainly be worn when doing conditioning and switching to pants during sparring sessions for maximum protection.

Tactical Gear
For modern professionals in the world of security or law enforcement, it's best to train in something more similar to the uniform. A friend of mine is a police officer and he told me that he had practiced rolling and falling for years in the gym, but the first time it happened to him on the job his tactical belt knocked the wind out of him. It's important to wear the same gear in training in order to avoid getting caught by surprise like that. Often, when training for security, I prefer a simple t-shirt, tactical pants and wrestling shoes.

Gi or No Gi
This, of course, is the hot button that often separates traditionalists from sport fighters. Not always, of course, but often. Jujitsu is probably the best example of a martial art that has both kinds of followers. Even in sport, jujitsu is divided into gi and no gi competition and often enough they are quite different. With the gi there comes more leverage for throws and submissions, which can be more challenging to apply with someone is wearing a t-shirt or topless. The gi can provide adhesion, where sweat and bare skin can make it harder to complete techniques. The gi can also simulate heavy clothing like a sweatshirt or jacket, so that becomes more practical for self defense purposes. So the gi can serve for practical reasons while also honoring tradition, however more modern attire can be more comfortable and related to competition.

Basically it all comes down to purpose. It's important to know exactly what you're training for and to prepare accordingly. I like to train in all types of classes both traditional and modern. I train in security and sport fighting as well and always train in what makes sense to me. I do keep in mind hygiene, but no matter what you're training in make sure to wash before and after a workout and you should be fine. Protective gear will decrease your chances of catching anything nasty, but nothing is a replacement for a post-training shower. Also, no matter what the style is, protect your injuries. In the end, dress according to purpose. It can't hurt to try them all and take note of the variations in technique.

Jordan Bill
Fight or Die

This Week's Sponsor

Monday, November 21, 2011

Choke Artist

Topic of Controversy
The legal implications for choking techniques has always been the topic of much controversy. In law enforcement, for example, it was once a standard procedure during a difficult arrest and now isn't allowed. Choking also continues to be controversial in the world of sports and self defense, mostly because it is often poorly trained and causes more damage than it needs to. However, with the risk of death by use of tasers and distinction between "chokes" and "strangles" in training, choking is always being brought up as a safer alternative for restraint tactics and sport submissions. Personally, I believe that choking is the best option in any context. In sport, self defense and professional settings, a proper well-trained choke can offer the option of going from restraint to lethal force in very quickly. Choking should be responsibly trained, often practiced and applied out of necessity and with accountability.

In Sport 
The distinction between various types of choking are specifically defined both in the law and in sport regulation to ensure the safety of the practitioner. In competition, an acceptable choke will interrupt the blood flow of one or both the main veins in the neck leading to the brain. This is often referred to as a "sleeper" in grappling sports because it does just that, puts you to sleep. Prolonged pressure after the "chokee" loses consciousness can lead to severe consequences like brain damage, so there's always a referee and the option of tapping out to prevent that. Although this shouldn't be taken lightly, proper sport techniques are the safest way of choking someone. Despite that, they're still not completely safe. I can't stress that enough. Be responsible.

In Combat
In the context of security and law enforcement, choking is a great option for restraint. Most restraint and arrest tactics involve some variation of leverage and joint locks, with the option of breaks and tears if things escalate. In me experience, and anyone who's worked in the field of private security, enough booze and drugs in a person's system can make them oblivious to broken bones or torn ligaments. A choke, however, works no matter what state the aggressor is in. Often, just establishing some head control can encourage verbal negotiations. If things escalate in violence, option B will put them to sleep. The easiest way to handcuff someone is when they're asleep. Again, not to be taken lightly. Train intelligently.

Self Defense
Choking techniques, when trained properly, are also a very useful tool for self defense. Again, practice is key here. Chokes are relatively safe when they cut the blood flow temporarily, but can quickly become lethal when they cut the breath. The veins that bring blood to the brain are on the sides of the neck and the wind pipe is in the center. Any pressure across the front of the neck can result in crushing the wind pipe, which can kill someone. This is usually why teaching choking, in any context, is such a controversy. Often this isn't taught responsibly in self defense classes and can result in someone getting killed. Train responsibly, ask lots of questions and be careful.

With Great Choking Comes Great Responsibility
Chokes, like most things, can be both useful or reckless. It all comes down to responsibility. Choking, when done wrong, can be lethal. It is the responsibility of the instructor to teach the various techniques and it is the responsibility of the practitioner to practice often and ask questions on anything that is unclear. Theory and practical testing is required to drive a car, safety courses are required to shoot a gun and, to me, learning something like chokes is the same. Train and teach responsibly and hopefully we'll never experience what it's like to have to use a choke in a violent crisis. Or at least not again for some of us.

Jordan Bill
Fight or Die


This Week's Article Was Brought To You By
International Combat Systema Association

Monday, November 14, 2011

Strategies from the Bottom

It's About Context
Just about all fights, in almost any context, end up on the ground. It's natural to grab when overwhelmed and that often leads to the fight going to the floor, both in the street and in sport. The difference is, in sport we can train to work from our back and try to end the fight with a submission or wrestle for a dominant position. It's a sport so there are rules and we can afford to commit to getting tangled up down there or work a submission slowly and strategically. On the street, however, it's not quite the same. Outside of the controlled chaos of combat sports, going to the ground often means working with a hard surface, getting kicked in the head or mounted, the possibility of other attackers jumping in or getting trampled in a crowd. If you've ever seen any footage of real life violence it pretty much never ends well for the guy who goes to the ground early. It's not to say that all is lost, it just means that you've got some extra work to do. Both in sport and on the street, staying still on the bottom is tempting fate and a race against time. The person with the dominant position will inevitably solve the puzzle given enough time, so get moving. There are three alarms that should go off in your head when on the bottom: Submit, Sweep and/or Scramble. These are responses to the context, each with an arsenal of techniques that can be implemented. Staying goal-oriented on one or more of these three strategies can get you off your back and up on your feet before it's too late.

1. Submission
Submissions are great in sport fighting and translate well into restraint and breaking techniques on the street, but not necessarily from the bottom. It's hard enough winning this way in a sport context when your opponent has both gravity and leverage on their side, but could be deadly on the street. Submissions from the bottom are some of the harder ones to achieve in competition and the least effective response in a self defense scenario. Not impossible, of course, just more difficult. It is important to be trained in this, should the opportunity present itself, but I wouldn't be too quick to volunteer for this approach in either context. In training I do enjoy fighting from the guard position, but I'd prefer to sweep or get back up from the bottom instead of committing too much time and energy seeking a submission.

2. Scramble
Getting out from underneath is a major priority for many competitors and anyone who goes down in a bar fight or riot. That's often referred to as "scrambling", mostly because of the frantic haste that comes with getting out of the bottom position. A lot of sport fighters who are more adept to striking often just train in grappling enough to know how to get the fight back to where they're comfortable. For anyone training in self defense or combatives it's important to know enough to get back to a standing position where it's easier for the defender to restrain, escape or just be more aware of their surroundings. There are many techniques to getting out from the bottom that require training and pressure testing. They require the bottom person to create distance between the two bodies to thread the legs free and get back on their feet. This involves quite a bit of practice and is, quite literally, an uphill battle.

3. Sweep
A sweep is a reversal of positions. Using leverage, the person on the bottom can sweep the dominant person onto their back, reversing their positions. In some positions, this is more difficult than in others, of course, but when sweeping is a realistic option I tend to prefer it because it gives me more options. By reversing positions, I can choose to get back to my feet or stay on top. In either case, being able to switch positions allows the defender to take back control of the situation.

Just Be Familiar
No matter what the context, training from the bottom will increase familiarity in the appropriate responses. Depending on the position of the bottom and dominant person, different reactions will be more or less realistic. Only training and practice can accommodate someone on which of the three main responses make sense. In any position where someone can choose two or more, they have regained control. It is one of the more frustrating and tiring aspects of training, but if you can get back to your feet when  someone has mounted you for a ground and pound, a lot of things will seem much easier. Stay busy down there, never stop moving and get the hell out of there. Good luck!

Jordan Bill
Fight or Die


Monday, November 7, 2011

Defending Against Cybercrime

Secret Identity
Cybercrime is a new and very dangerous way for malicious people to attack you. Your online presence might be giving away more information than you realize and there is no abundance of people out there who will take advantage of this. Hackers, stalkers, scammers and fake Nigerian princes can either use information that you thought was harmless for malicious purposes or financial gain. The most common crimes will fall into one of two categories: some form of identity theft or real life crime. In either case, this can end with your financial and personal security being compromised. The following are some simple habits to protect yourself from the most common of these crimes.

1. Passwords
Passwords to web sites with personal information is your main line of defense against hackers and stalkers. Sadly, most people have painfully obvious passwords. This is mostly a question of what kind of habits you have online. For example, a surprising amount of people have the same password for every site that protects their information and identity. So, if someone was able to hack one of your accounts, you've pretty much handed them everything. Avoid obvious passwords like your birth date, zodiac sign, a relative's name, a month, a street name or a city. This might seem simple, but anything about you personally can be discovered by anyone who knows you or can stalk you online long enough to know where to guess. The number of characters is also important. The simplest software can be downloaded for free and probably guess your password if it's four characters or less. Make sure you use at least five characters, alternate between lower and upper case letters and include at least one digit from 1 to 9. Simply increasing your password from five to ten characters with the addition of upper and lower case and using those digits increases your chances by approximately one hundred times!

2. Backups
Some virus or hackers can actually change information in your hard drive. For this reason, backup everything. As an insurance, copy any and all files that are work related or have sensitive information that you can't afford to lose onto a USB stick or external hard drive, so that it's not connected to the internet. I recommend this for anything with sentimental value as well, such as photos and videos of family and/or friends. Again, might seem like a simple step, but is often neglected. I only started getting into this habit after my computer hard drive crashed a few years ago because of a virus. I now have an online virtual backup drive where I stored my entire website. I had lost all those files and would have had to start from scratch but I simply retrieved the files from a secured server. That saved me countless hours of frustrating work.

3. Malware
Malware is basically any kind of software or program that will attack your computer. Viruses, worms and trojans can automate what hackers can do, therefore attacking more systems faster and spreading more damage. These programs can retrieve, change and corrupt information on your hard drive or online. There was a time when Malware was more for bragging rights among hackers to see how far they could spread their malicious software, but now they've evolved into specific programs to crash networks and systems or to retrieve personal information for financial gain. Always make sure that your system's up to date on anti-virus software. Be careful though: Malware often comes in the form of a pop-up adds promising to update your anti-virus. Do some homework on what the best software for your system is and make sure when you see generic named "updates" that you don't fall for it. Stick to your program and only update when you're sure that it's yours.

4. Social Media
Social media is fun and great for business, but people don't always realize just how much information they're putting out there. What might seem harmless is often more than enough for anyone paying attention to use for malicious purposes. Again, like all behavior, it becomes a question of habits. What could be a reckless habit for you can become a pattern for a stalker to exploit. For example: pictures. Social media is great for sharing pictures to keep your friends and family up to date on new things in your life, but can often reveal too much. If you're going on vacation, don't post those pictures until you're back. Otherwise, you're broadcasting to everyone that your home might be unattended. Also, pay attention to what's in your pictures (other than you). Be careful with revealing the layout of your home, where you keep papers and keys, what your children look like or any valuables that could be worth taking. Avoid location apps also. Stating online every time you're at work can quickly put you into a pattern of when your home is empty. Updating people every time your out with friends also tells people where you are at all times and where they can find you. This is where cybercrimes become real crimes and can put you in actual physical danger. Think carefully about what you're putting out there and keep your privacy settings on high. A good piece of advice I once received also was to only interact with people like you would if you met them in real life.

5. Cyberstalking and Bullying
For those who don't think this is a real epidemic, teen suicide rates are at an all time high this year and studies have linked this directly to cyber stalking. It's not to say that people being bullied before the days of the internet had it easy, but when they went home from school they could escape it for a time. Now, people are tormented at work or school and have to continue to live the nightmare at home online. Going on the internet to communicate with friends or family should be a safe and pleasant experience, but for thousands out there it isn't. For personal use on the internet, many people create disposable identities to remain anonymous. Not a great option for businesses, but great for people to escape harassment. Just make sure that people you care about and can trust know about your alias and no one else. Also, aggressors can gauge what kind of a reaction they'll get if they're thinking of physically engaging you. Stand your ground both on and offline.

6. The Wireless Age
Wireless routers and networks are extremely effective and convenient. Unfortunately, this comes at the price of being vulnerable. Wireless internet connections are great, but not the hardest thing to hack into. Any personal information can be literally plucked out of thin air. A third party can easily steal information without you even knowing it. Make sure all connections are password protected and encrypted at all times and avoid revealing delicate information in public places or networks. If you're using someone's free wifi, keep it simple and avoid doing anything regarding finances or delicate information. An often neglected security precaution is wireless networks to computer accessories. Printers, for example, use radio frequencies so that several computers can be connected at once. Often, we print up important information with no means of protecting the information from being intercepted. Avoid keeping computers, printers and modems from walls and windows in particular. Whether you're in your home or office, keep all these machines in the center of the room as much as possible for maximum protection.

I hope these tips were helpful and that you consider implementing them into your own life. I knew about less than half of these before doing some reading on the subject and these have quickly become 6 habits that I practice regularly. In the Age of Information, we are all a little more vulnerable, but not helpless. Almost all forms of cybercrimes are some form of identity theft, which is one of the most personal assaults possible. Protect what's yours, both tangible and virtual.

Jordan Bill
Fight or Die