In the various training and application venues that I have had the opportunity to be a part of be it in the martial arts, military, and/or law enforcement special operations, I have regularly heard the terms ‘techniques’ and ‘tactics’ used interchangeably by many instructors, students, and leaders. At the Midwest Academy, which is based in Seizan Ryu (“West Mountain School”) training and teaching methodology, ‘techniques’ and ‘tactics’ are related, but not synonymous terms.
For simplicity of this discussion, we can use the following definitions:
• Techniques – are how one does something;
• Tactics – are why one does something.
Both techniques and tactics have a base ‘mechanical’ component to their study; at a basic level, the technical mechanics of empty handed combatives are focused in kinesiology. For example, some base mechanics of a proper forefist strike include making a fist, centering one’s weight, applying the power of the rotation of the body to drive the power of the strike, etc.
The base level of tactical mechanics is rooted in knowing the “rules of one’s game”; for example, exponents who train for grappling centric venues may develop tactics focused on keeping one’s center of gravity rearward (see Picture 1). Both these grappling players are more difficult to “take down” due to their low centers of gravity, but extremely vulnerable to being struck or flanked by multiple aggressors. Their tactics have the extreme vulnerability to being struck because in the rules of their ‘game’, striking is not allowed; and multiple aggressors do not exist in most gaming venues. Different ‘games’ have different assumptions to them; these assumptions drive the different mechanics that leverage the ‘rules of the game’. The result is the ‘tactics’ of that game.
Understanding that, the importance of knowing what “game” one is preparing for as a student of combatives becomes obvious. Seizan Ryu teaching philosophy states that purpose (the ‘Why’) of one’s training dictates the process (the ‘How’) of one’s training; defining the ‘why’ one trains is critical for increasing the probability of success in application. As a Seizan Ryu practitioner and teacher, the “game” that the system’s tactics are focused on is the “application environment”. The “application environment” in the Seizan Ryu system means any venue devoid of ‘game based rules’. The term “application environment” is used since any ‘non-game application’ occurs in this environment. The “application environment” is devoid of assumptions such as a single unarmed opponent, for example, and its unpredictability eliminates the ability to ‘peak’ one’s training to a specific date. As a result, the tactics have to be applicable across spectrums (environments such as open areas, buildings, homes, etc) and platforms (practitioner’s use of empty hand, edged/impact weapons, firearms, etc) with little to no deviation in mechanics. “Game” training can be used to hone a specific subset of one’s skills or develop a specific type of conditioning; these are force multipliers when combined with sound tactics, however, they are not substitutes for sound tactics. Sound tactics are a result of vetting one’s training in the “application environment”.
The Seizan Ryu Tactically Applied Basics module was developed to expand the awareness of martial arts practitioners regardless of their discipline and provide them with a base level of knowledge with which to vet their current training practices. Most training methods, be it martial arts, defensive tactics, or even firearms courses, have some basic inherent assumptions that allow students to improve technically; however, when not removed, these assumptions prevent growth tactically. This module was the result of attempting to bridge the gap between training methods that focus exclusively on techniques and to provide a format to address students’ needs to becoming tacticians. Bridging this gap is the only reliable method to increase the probability of success in the “application environment”.
As an example for this discussion, I have chosen to address one of the most basic assumptions in most training methods. In order to facilitate repetitive training (ultimately the most efficient way to develop one’s technical skill), the practitioner is pre-positioned in a manner that allows for efficient contact/execution of the technique being taught (see Picture 2). This position, however, is generally not “held” in the “application environment”.
• In the chaos associated with the fluid dynamics of the “application environment”, the ‘position of familiar execution’ (the relationship that most techniques are initiated from with the threat and defender directly facing each other – Picture 2) is rarely ‘held’ and requires the practitioner to have the ability to recognize or create it. The tactics of recognizing or creating this relationship require the mastery of their own fundamental mechanics.
• Since the urban environment is largely made up of structures, the application environment necessitates that one understand the geometric angles created by structures and the effect of those angles on threat identification, contact, and break-contact tactics. The science of geometric angles is most highly perfected by special operations personnel in the study of CQB (Close Quarter Battle); the extrapolated principles require an understanding of effective range of weapons (be they projectile, edged/impact, or hands/feet), action/reaction related to the OODA loop, and distance-time-angle relationships.
• Strategic advantage is gained through flanking an adversary; few combatives train initiation via flanking since the majority of training consists of defensive maneuvers against straight line attacks (see Picture 2). The result is that most practitioners tend to be less familiar with tactics related to establishing a flanked position initially since they do not get repetitions on the tactic.
• “I found the verbal instruction combined with the demonstrations helpful for someone like myself (completely new to jujutsu) and I did not feel like a complete buffoon in the class.”
• “The concept of repositioning prior to striking and aligning the strike prior to letting the weapon leave the workspace is very powerful. I have extrapolated this into drills I use every day.”
• “It was useful to see how the skills we are learning are applied to a tactical environment. This gives me a better picture of what I can be working towards and with better picture of who this works…it was useful to see how the OODA loop applies.”
• “I enjoyed the 5% offset for the strikes and realize that there is a need to train on it. It is not something I’ve trained on extensively and I think it’s absolutely necessary to master.”
• “The constant attention to ‘aligning’ on the target was most useful. The phrase ‘address the attacker, address the weapon’ was a concise mantra for the training…from a teaching standpoint, reading about the OODA loop was helpful, but seeing it applied throughout the training brought more clarity. As an instructor, it helped me see the shortcomings of in how I teach.”
November 2012 Tactically Applied Basics Flyer