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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Concepts vs. Techniques

So we're working on what we call Defensive Response #1, which is a same side block (i.e., if the attack is coming in to your left, you block with the left) and counter-attack of some sort.

Like this:

Mr. Chick feeds my teacher as he demonstrates Defensive Response #1, at MAPA 1.

We initially learn this as a double-stick drill. There's a feeding pattern that's learned too, so both sides of the drill are working on something (that's the thing about the FMA's, folks... the efficiency! Love it!).

There's a lot of little details to unpack here. The method of unsupported blocking, what the counter attack could be, working different angles and footwork. As you can see in the gif above, my teacher shows a counter attack to the head, and then a counter-attack to the body. There's WAY more options than just those two, of course.

For new folks, this is is a very early drill that they learn, and at first, it's taught as a double-stick technique.

After they've got that down, then we unveil the fact that same-side-block-and-strike isn't an isolated technique. It's a concept, that applies to a variety of things and situations.

Empty hand, it looks like this:

I bet that looks really familiar to a lot of you, as that's a pretty commonly taught self defense technique.

Now imagine the same "technique" with tonfa or sai.

Now imagine the technique with a knife in one hand and nothing in the other.

Those could be considered individual techniques that make up the CONCEPT of blocking or intercepting an incoming attack on the side it's coming in from, and counter-attacking with the other hand.

Once you understand the concept, it doesn't matter what you have in your hands (if anything). It's all the same.

Now, I said, "same side block and strike". Can the "strike" be a punch? Yes. An elbow? Yes. Can I target the head? Sure. The body? You betcha, you can. Can I kick instead of using my hand to strike? Yuuuup. What about throws and takedowns? Go for it!

The "strike" is whatever makes sense to you in the moment that you can execute. It can be anything you've ever learned. If you're a kicker, use that if you're really good at it. If you're a great striker? Go for it. Really good at take-downs? Do it!

Another concept that we learn... thanks, Professor!

This isn't the only concept we teach, of course, but it's a nice fundamental idea we like to teach early to our students, as it's really handy and not hard to learn and execute.

For me, then, a concept is a framework that you learn via a set of techniques. We introduce the concept through isolated techniques, but over time, you connect all techniques into an overall framework that the student can then use to come up with her own variations on the idea.

Sure, I want our students to demonstrate Defensive Response #1 with double sticks in the way I teach that specific techniques on their first belt test. But over time, as they grow and learn, I'll ask them to demonstrate the concept in a variety of ways, maybe even in ways we did not specifically discuss in class.

It's the concept that I want them to learn.

What concepts are important to you that you teach as techniques? Is my definition of concepts and techniques totally wrong? Let me know what you think!

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