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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Viva La Resistance!

One criticism of many martial arts styles or training groups is the lack of "resistance"

Just so we're all using the same term, "resistance" means that a person is not helping you do your martial arts technique - in fact, he/she is trying to defeat it.

Resistance is a hallmark of the combative arts, as a matter of course.  It's also present in some styles of sparring in traditional martial arts, at varying degree of contact.  I do not consider no-contact sparring "resistance", personally, but even light sparring has aspects of resistance that are valuable in training.

Yeah, not so much this.

Training with resistance is especially difficult in the weapon arts, especially without special equipment (armor or lighter or padded weapons). The risk of injury is very high, even when you take all the precautions you can.

In the Filipino Martial Arts, we get resistance two ways - freestyle "play" (such as freestyle tapi-tapi) and with stick sparring (be it a point-based system or just an all-out fight Dog Brothers style).   We can debate the methods and the effectiveness until the cows come home, but it's still resistance.

I am a firm believer in training with resistance, but I also think it takes a lot of attribute building to get to the point where we can freestyle play or stick spar in my art with any degree of success.

You have to work very, very hard on a lot of fundamentals and control before you can allow this to happen. People will get hurt, they won't want to train any more, and none of us want that.

We build those fundamentals and control through the various drills we do. In Arnis, we spend a lot of time attribute building in various drills.  There are literally dozens and dozens of drills and sets and progressions we will train for hours and hours and hours.

Some folks see us doing this drilling and say, "What's the point of that? That's not how fights work!"

They're right. It isn't how fights work.

What we learn in these drills are the bits and pieces that do make fights work.

Take for example this drill, which is fundamental to Modern Arnis training:

This drill is taught in stages, typically.  You learn it versus our standard 12 angles of attack, then you do the same drill against random strikes, then you might learn how to interrupt single stick single sinawali to find the angle you want to work with off of Block Check Counter, then you learn how to get the angle you want in Block Check Counter, then you learn additional combinations off of the base drill, and so on.

All of this is attribute building - you learn timing, you learn how to close the distance, you learn how to spot incoming angles of attack, you learn range for counter attack options (and what those options might be based on where you are), you develop the vision to spot what's happening and react accordingly...

All of those things apply in a conflict, don't they?

But yeah, you can't just build attributes and expect that they'll work in a fight.

To truly understand how people fight... you have to, y'know, fight.

Soft stick sparring at our school in Texas. It was something we did on the regular on Friday nights.

We used to work a concept or drill set in regular classes (like that block check counter I mentioned above), and then we'd apply it to stick sparring drills. It was a way to test what we were doing, to see what happens when people don't allow it to happen.

Sure, it wasn't 100%, knock-down, drag-out stick fighting. But it was resistance.

So tell me about how you work your way up into resistance in YOUR training.  Is it early in the training?  Late?  Why?  Or do you not train with resistance at all - and why?  Let us know in the comments!

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