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Intelligent Self Protection Solutions: Combative Psychology and Street Applied Martial Arts
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 Larger Opponents Article

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Richard Grannon

Posts : 1825
Join date : 2008-02-18
Location : KL

PostSubject: Larger Opponents Article   Tue Dec 16, 2008 8:25 pm

Quote :
Nightmare Scenarios: Fighting Larger Opponents

People ask the most questions about the topics that scare them the most, naturally.
These “Nightmare Scenarios” (knives, multiples, larger opps. etc ) are the focal subject matter of most instructors of Street Combatives, as well they should be. These are the kinds of things we are supposed to be training people to deal with.
Here is my take on a well worn topic.

The Good News:

Just because a guy is “big” doesn’t make him necessarily a “nightmare”. Those of you that know me will be familiar with my rigorous (perhaps even pedantic) approach to linguistics. The language of these “Nightmare Scenarios” fascinates me, because hidden within the verbal code are the assumptions that outline the map of reality people have about these subjects.
In line with this I think it is of note that in the security industry in Liverpool to say someone is “big” is more likelyto be a reference to reputation, skill or the criminal back up of the individual as to their actual physical stature. Many people are already aware of the difference between just being physically large and actually presenting a “big problem”.

I know this because the people who ask me about Larger Opponents the most are almost exclusively males under the age of 21, still young enough to believe in the “playground rules” that the physically largest male is the biggest threat. With age and experience we learn that this can be as far from the truth as you can get.
In my experience physically large men tend to be more psychologically secure and therefore less quick to temper or inclined to cause trouble. They may also have gotten used to being able to simply intimidate their way out of most physical violence which may mean they are less experienced, less conditioned to pain and less capable of delivering it.

A further piece of good news is that when people say “Big” they often just mean tall and/or fat. That 6 foot 6 20 stone (270 lbs to our American/Canadian/Australian brethren) office worker may well have a phobia of verbal conflict, never mind actually getting in to a punch up, be shy of women/the dark/his own reflection and his sole experience of violence may only have come via “The World of Warcraft”.

I know this from experience, sometimes big guys can fold just as easily as little ones. There is a certain large (tall and fat), well known Liverpool DJ who I am happy to report was given a croaky voice for his morning radio show after being given a lovely choke by yours truly several years ago. Yes, I may have had to jump up to get his neck, but it only added momentum to the swinging take down which landed him into the choke so smoothly and satisfyingly.

“Naughty Monkey Swings from the Tree and Steals the Coconut” this move is called in my Drunken Monkey™ Syllabus. *

The Bad News:

Unfortunately a “Large Opponent” doesn’t necessarily mean a fat, unprepared, undetermined coward.

If your larger opponent is fit, strong, skilled, aggressive, determined then you do indeed have a Nightmare Scenario on your hands.
Everything that person does will be worse and more dangerous to you than when it is performed by someone of the same size. A clipping jab can now become a knockout punch, a grab and drag which would be an inconvenience in a normal sized opponent may now tear ligaments and break bones when performed by a person with sufficient size and strength.

Think about it. If he weighs a quarter as much as you do again... as the Americans say “do the math(s)”

Let me put it this way, imagine someone who is a head shorter than you and weighs a quarter less than you do again –(i.e. take your overall weight, split it into quarters, reduce it by one quarter.)
Take the time right now to vividly imagine it.

This is now someone shorter and considerably lighter than you.

Seriously, how threatened are you? Even if you know he has a rep or whatever, it just doesn’t have that same deep emotional impact.

Ok, now imagine he is a “insert martial art system of choice” master- with all the respect you have for that martial art isn’t there at least some part of you that STILL thinks “I could take him”?

Rightly or wrongly? Be honest!

This is only natural. And by that I mean it’s literally encoded in our genetics by Mother Nature.

If it were not so why would a cobra have evolved to have an expanding hood, a bear to raise up on its hind legs, a monkey to throw itself around aggressively, a cat to have hackles which raise, a scally to have a hotstep or a gangsta to wear massive clothes and adopt a ridiculous “large” gait (the capacity to hide weapons notwithstanding).

We “know” instinctively that in a scrap as a rule of thumb “Bigger is Better” – that doesn’t make it “true”, because at a counter intuitive, purely intellectual level we also can think of countless examples where this rule does NOT apply.
This is where the sense of unease comes in and what makes this Nightmare Scenario such a hotly debated topic. Essentially we all feel a bit conflicted about it.

Answer the following questions as fast as you can, go with the first thing that comes to your mind.

Here we go:

Chihuahua vs Rottweiler in a pit- where does your money go?

I’ll bet that got no delay- immediate response- “the Rottweiler... OB-vee-usly”

Ok, here is your next one:

One little old wrinkly Ninja vs 20 burly Samurai- where does your money go?

Um, more uncertainty... slightly longer delay to answer as brain does transderivational search and starts arguing with itself. It really does not compute very well, hence the delay.

What if told you the Ninja was the cook serving the Samurai poisoned Sushi?

AAAaaahhhhhh so grasshopper, the twisted human mind and the technology and strategies it has created have in effect actually changed the rules set out by nature.

The only answer that makes any reasonable sense when it comes to the human animal is: it depends.

The Ugly Truth


A Larger Opponent who has equal skill, courage, determination – all the combative attributes you could ask for- is a Nightmare...
In fact on paper we must face the painful, ugly reality : all things being equal?
He is theoretically unbeatable.
At least in a sterile experimental environment, that’s just the Maths and the Physics of it.

An even uglier, more confusing truth, but one that presents some light at the end of the tunnel for us is that fights don’t ever happen in purely sterile experimental environments. Ever.

Even a boxing ring or a cage with all the weight divisions, rules and everything else is not truly sterile.
Simple things that affect the outcome could range from something dramatic like being told to throw the fight or your wife gets it by a man with a trilby and a Tommy gun, or something tawdry like having an off day in the toilet department.

Humans are not Dogs, we bring too many complex factors to the table.

So, what is it our responsibility as Self Protection Practitioners to do about this scenario?

Simply put the only thing we can do: face the facts good, bad and ugly and deal with them.
Even if it means throwing out some of our favourite comforting assumptions, one of mine from my Aikido days was the dogma “If the technique is perfect, size is irrelevant”. I certainly would like to believe that even now. But I simply don’t, as seductive a notion as it may be.

To distil my attitude to the “Fighting Larger Opponents” question allow me to paraphrase a misquote: “Don’t stand in front of a Mack truck”.
In the very beginning of the Beta 8 Syllabus when outlining the Combative Priorities I said we have a choice in a fight to either:
1. Fight the opponent
2. Fight for space

As a simple example if you were sat in a chair and someone hit you, you could either hit him immediately or try and get up and get to a better position and then hit him. In MMA they talk about fighters who prefer to go for position over submission.

When facing a larger opponent we should still be focussing our efforts with maximum tenacious resolve, aggression and determination but perhaps we should be focussed on fighting to escape, fighting to reach a weapon or just fighting to get to a better position to fight this larger opponent, maybe on a footstool or a grassy knoll.

Rather than duking it out like the good Chinese hero in a 70’s kung fu flick with honour and fairness , we need to think more in terms of “survival” than “fighting”. That one linguistic shift in vocabulary can make all the difference to how you approach this and any other Nightmare Scenario.
Respect and fear the larger opponent, the group attack, the knife, the psycho, the gangster, the ambush attack ONLY for the threat it actually represents without mental projection or “story telling”, these things are at the root of unjustified or “neurotic” fears of conflict and violence.
Don’t take anything for granted or take any situation lightly or as a “low risk” scenario. Assume any situation has the potential to be life threatening and prepare and act accordingly. I may have fallen here into dramatic and cheesy clichés, but nevertheless the conservative approach is best when the safety of you and yours is being gambled.

“Dont take me lightly” screams Mr. Kray into his victims face as he plunges a bayonet through the hand of the unfortunate gent over a pool table in the eponymously titled film “The Krays”.

As an NLP tool that short clip plays in my head as a warning whenever I sense myself becoming blasé about any kind of violence or conflict. It’s the old rule: never underestimate your opponent .

A paradigm shift is needed when facing a Nightmare Scenario. As ever, it’s not about physical techniques, they will usually present themselves as pretty obvious in the moment (provided you do actually train, physically).

The psychological strategy and attitudinal approach is absolutely key to your survival of a Nightmare Scenario.

* No such syllabus exists. Sadly.

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Posts : 261
Join date : 2008-02-19
Age : 45
Location : east midlands UK

PostSubject: Re: Larger Opponents Article   Tue Dec 16, 2008 8:42 pm

* it should

good article
spent my whole martial arts life fighting much bigger guys and I've learned not to be intimidated by the size but to be realistic about my chances.
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Join date : 2008-11-08

PostSubject: Re: Larger Opponents Article   Wed Dec 17, 2008 2:06 am

I absolutely agree with all you say. I'm 5' 6", about 150lb and have been for my whole training life. I KNOW through empirical study that unless you have the advantage of timing, range and angle are at a HUGE disadvantage against someone bigger, with the same level of skill.
I also know it is very hard to throw or knock over a large, resisting, rooted opponent, even when they are NOT trying to take your head off.
Toe to toe? No thanks.
One of the reasons I was so drawn to Sonny Umpad, my eskrima teacher was that I outweighed him for sure, and it is debatable whether I was also taller than him .... he seemed to be able to grow tall and short at different times, so the jury is still out on that one .... but enough to say he did not have a great height advantage.
He came from a weapons background - sticks (of varying lengths) and blades (short and long). Weapons can start to level the playing field, not SO much with sticks if both people know how to play, but blades for sure, and I found that fighting with blades makes strategy so much more important, and even if you don't want to play with edged weapons, the training itself gives a great space for exploring the psychology of drawing, baiting, freezing, flashing/posturing etc etc. Some material does not transfer to empty hand, but a great deal does. Because accuracy matters so much more, your perceptions get sharper and so does your movement, all handy for the smaller/lighter person IMHO.
It also matters more for evasion. As Richie pointed out, a glancing blow from a much stronger/larger person can have a much more devastating effect on a lighter person as opposed to someone the same size, so evasion becomes more important.
Accuracy, motion and deception along with intent and full body power at the appropriate moment. That's what I train.
As Sonny would say, "You are all too honest! Learn how to lie"!!!
So true, so true.
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Join date : 2008-10-04
Location : Boston

PostSubject: Re: Larger Opponents Article   Fri Dec 19, 2008 4:56 pm

I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion around Richie's outstanding article on the psychology of facing larger opponents or, I suppose, anyone who might tend to intimidate you.

I get the impression that many on this board have had quite a bit of training. Given that you've got a decent toolbox of fighting principles and techniques already, would you agree that working on your psychological deficits with regard to combat represents the greatest opportunity for improvement? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Personally, I had very low expectations of the value of "No Doubt, No Fear" but it was a watershed in my own training. And I've been studying Richie's work on the mental side of the game ever since. He's making one heck of a contribution, I think.

Happy holidays to all.

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Join date : 2008-11-08

PostSubject: Re: Larger Opponents Article   Fri Dec 19, 2008 5:23 pm

4444 -
..." working on your psychological deficits with regard to combat represents the greatest opportunity for improvement? "
Yep, that's why I'm here.
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