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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

The Gaps

We've been working on 3-8-12, aka the "sumbrada", or shadow drill in class.

The family who plays sumbrada together, stays together

This is actually a drill I learned very, very early in my training, so I've played it a lot.

First, you learn the drill on a basic level. You memorize the 3-8-12 pattern and responses, and then you learn footwork, you learn range and targeting, and you get a lot of reps of attack/counter-attack and so on. Over time, you get good enough to flow and then refine all the basics that are present in the drill.

That's sort of the point when you first learn the drill - perfect all the basics there, and get into a good flow.

Watch GM Bruce Chiu teaching the basic level of this drill:

That's what you're aiming for, initially.

Once you master the foundation of the drill, that's when you can start spotting - and exploiting - the gaps. What is possible here that's different than what I've been programmed to do in the basic flow version of this drill? That's what I mean by a "gap" - the question, "What if I do something different - what is possible or likely based on where I am right now?"

When watching the video above, did you spot any of these gaps I'm talking about?

What about that first attack and counter attack sequence. That'd be the "3" strike (forehand to the elbow or ribs) and the defense (the block and check to the hand or stick), and the counter-attack on the low-line, the "8" strike (low backhand to the knee).

What if you defend against the "3" in a way where you chamber high for a "2" strike (high backhand to the head) versus the low "8" strike?

If you saw this very thing - why attack low when you can attack high - you've spotted one of the gaps in the drill. Congratulations!

The structure of the drill allows training partners to learn to look for, see, and then later exploit, the "gaps" in the drill. Because EVERY BEAT in the drill has gaps to explore and exploit.

When you do this, you "break" sumbrada. Flow goes out the window as you learn to spot - and then to execute - interrupts found in those gaps.

What happens if I chamber differently? What happens if I use a different block so I'm set up for a different counter attack Is there a disarm there? Is there a lock or take-down there? Can I interrupt in a way that makes it really hard for my partner to defend? Can I find a clear high line shot to the head before my partner can counter it? What happens if I step this way versus the basic way taught in the drill?

And can I do any of those things in the flow of the drill so my partner doesn't expect it and it's harder for them to stop or counter me?

Not only do you learn what you can do, but you learn what you can't do - or at least, what is much harder to do well based on where you are in the moment.

With weapons, this is one of the ways we get to train against some resistance in safety, with the framework of drills like the 3-8-12 Sumbrada.

Some folks make the mistake of thinking that the foundation drill is all there is. When playing with FMA "flow drills", look in the gaps - I promise you they are there - and see what you can find. There's more than just what you've been programmed to do for flow.

What are some of your favorite framework drills to work on inserting attacks? How do you learn to spot the gaps in training - that is, learning how to anticipate what is possible when attacking or defending a certain way, and then executing those options? Let us know in the comments!

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