Monday, June 20, 2016

Risk Management

One fundamental principle of Modern Arnis, at least in the later levels once you move past the very basics - is the concept of countering techniques, and learning to counter those counters.

There is no 100% guaranteed winner technique. Everything has a flaw, and everything has a counter.

What you spend most of the rest of your life studying in Modern Arnis are the counters, and the counters to the counters, and the counters to the counters to the counters...

And so on, and so on, and so on...
It means that there is unending and incredible depth to the art, one in which we are encouraged to explore.  

It also means that you spend a lot of your time in mitigating and managing risk.

Sometimes you put yourself in a position where an opponent who's paying attention and sees the weakness can exploit it.  This could be intentional, as a bait or a feint of some sort.

Thus, you put yourself in that position - risky as it may be - because you will take advantage of his exploitation of that hole with some planned counter to HIS counter.

Maybe whatever the opponent is going to do is less of a problem for you than what you're planning to do to him.  For example, leaving open a hole on the low line - hips or knees - where I get an easy shot to the head. I'll take that trade any day of the week.

For example, let's take a foundation drill that teaches the basics of this concept: block-check-counter.

Here's a short video of Bruce Chiu of Arnis International explaining a ton of variations on block check counter - how your "counter" here can change based upon how and where you check the hand.  Note he is doing this with the stick in his left hand, but the core principles don't change if you're right on right, or right on left (it just changes your options for the "counter" part).

As you can see, he always checks that hand of the opponent in some way - either on the hand itself or on the stick.  This is the "check" portion of this drill (and the 2nd beat in the "alternating hands" principle using three beats that I wrote about here).

The basic rationale behind this is that it prevents the bad buy from using the butt end of his stick against you, typically as a punyo (butt end) punch or stroke.  Indeed, in later drills, including introductory tapi-tapi, this is exactly what the "driver" does as a planned entry (a punyo stroke to the head).  We do punyo entries all the time, so for us, it's a very real risk.

But what would happen if we don't check that hand or stick?

Well, that all depends.

Let's say I'm using a classical supported block instead of the block+check above.  This means my hand is on my stick to support my block vs. on the opponent's hand as a check (which is, after all, another form of a supported block).

Basic supported block in a back stance.
Yes, this an OLD pic of me.

Easy hole for dude to punyo strike me right in the face, right?

Yes.  But I know this.

So I can mitigate that risk by, say, good positioning and range, to make that attack slow enough so I can get behind it and pass it, maybe.  Or, perhaps I am setting him up so that strike comes so I can do something else.

In any case, I might go ahead and take the risk, and be prepared to mitigate it. Let's say I want to grab the opponent's stick by its tip, on the outside of my stick. I can't do that very quickly if my empty hand is checking.  So I accept the risk of the punyo strike, hoping I can get my technique done quickly enough before the bad guy realizes that I left that hand unchecked (and if I'm unlucky and the dude is really good and comes in, I have to be prepared to move and counter his counter).  That's the basic way to do this - there are lots of others, of course, many I myself haven't considered yet!

The point is, here are lots and lots of holes like this in our techniques.  Often the solution is a simple change in footwork, but even then, the hole is still there, and you have to be prepared to cope with it somehow.

And that's what I'm spending a lot of the rest of my life in Modern Arnis doing.

So tell me - how do you manage the risk of failures or counters to what you do in your art?  Tell us all about it!