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I just returned from Martial Blade Camp 2009, an annual martial arts training seminar hosted by MBC Founder and Head Instructor Michael Janich. The four day event is held in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado.

Day 1 – Check in started at 3:00pm. There were about fifty attendees from all across the U.S., one from Canada and a participate making his second trip from Japan to attend the camp.

The first training session started at 7:00pm and began with Michael Janich giving guidelines on training safety. The balance of the two hour session was devoted to an overview of the MBC system, angles of attack, zones of defense, the four basic defensive responses (pass, follow, meet and crossada), the MBC targeting system and demonstration of the cutting power of a knife (Pork Man).

That cutting power was further demonstrated via a video presentation of actual knife attacks and the gruesome damage that can be done with a small knife, pencil, scissors, box cut and other edged weapons. Another video was shown to demonstrate the most common types of edged weapons attacks (angles 1, 3 and 5).

Day 2 – An early breakfast and then meeting at the training site at 8:00am. Knife carry and deployment were demonstrated and discussed followed by a demonstration of the four basic defensive responses against the most common types of attacks (angles 1, 3 and 5). The ideal defensive response is one that positions you outside (away from the attacker’s free hand) rather then inside (between the arms of the attacker) while avoiding being slashed or stabbed. In the process of doing this counter slashes and/or stabs are inflicted to the attackers forearm, tricep, bicep and quadricep to diminish his ability to weld his weapon effective while compromising his mobility.

The techniques employed utilize gross motor skills and are called quick stops or speed stops. We explored the application of speed stops from all the primary angles of attack, highlighting the speed stops which best position you for follow-up cuts while avoiding the attacker’s free hand. Following the demonstration of the defensive responses we partnered up to practice them.

The outside/outside partner flow drill was demonstrated and discussed followed by practice of the drill. The concept of flow drills is to allow you to practice the mechanics of the defensive responses and counters without having to stop to reset after each attack. In this way you can get a lot of repetition in a short period of time.

After a break for lunch we returned to the training site at 1:00pm. Additional flow drills were demonstrated, discussed and practiced (six count, sumbrada and crossada). The additional flow drills allow practice of attacking and defending using the pass, meet and crossada depending on the angle of attack and the position of your knife and free hand at any particular instant in time.

Following a break for dinner Counter Blade Concepts (empty hand defense against a knife attack) was introduced. Actually the concepts and techniques can be used against any type of contact weapon with variations depending on the length of the weapon (it’s gets difficult to do a crossada as the weapon gets longer). A primary consideration in CBC is controlling and/or damaging the limb holding the weapon. This can be done through striking, pins, armbars and compression locks. The mechanics used in MBC (applying an edged weapon) in many cases are the same mechanics used in the CBC system of empty hand defense. Rather then learning a whole new set of empty hand skills an attempt is made to utilize the mechanics of the MBC edged weapons skills in an empty hand fashion to do damage to the attacker diminishing or eliminating his ability to continue the attack. Instead of cutting with the knife you would use the same basic mechanics to strike with hand/fist or elbow that is used when holding a knife and as practiced during the flow drills. A real effort is made to utilize the same mechanics (where if makes sense and is effective) whether defending with a knife or empty hand.

Day 3 – We started with a review of stand grip skills and drills as well as the fundamentals those of Counter Blade Concepts introduced the previous day. This was followed by a more in depth look at Damithurt Silat, a system of empty hand defensive skills that incorporate block, checking, striking (hands, elbows, knees and lowline kicks), joint and compression locks.

One of the primary considerations was “what do you do when your attempt to control an attacker begins to falls apart”. This led to the introduction of striking combinations and compression locks that utilize gross motor skills rather then techniques that require fine motor skills and finely tuned precision to implement. While practice is required these are skills that can be developed and are within reach of the average individual. It’s not a panacea, you’ve got to get up off the couch to practice, but they are not skills that require hundreds of hours to develop to a level where they are useful in defending against an attack. It’s about increasing your odds not a guarantee of an outcome (this is from someone that has spend thousands of hours and many years developing his skills).

After a lunch break reverse grip knife skills and drills were introduced and discussed including the advantages and disadvantages of reverse grip. At this point in the weekend everyone’s brain is pretty much saturated and you’re not going to jam in a lot more information so the reverse grip drills were limited to trap and roll (pick and roll) and six count in reverse grip. In addition empty hand Hubud was demonstrated and the practical applications discussed followed by a time of partnering up and practice.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the practical and oral testing of candidates seeking proficiency and instructor certification. All of those attending who hold proficiency and instructor certification participate in the testing. While those testing are my friends and brothers the attitude is “I earned mine, you’re going to have to earn yours”. We were tough on them and the 8,000 foot altitude made it especially grueling for those that came from the flatlands. The test ends with each of the candidates facing all of those in attendance holding proficiency and/or instructor certification (I believe there were ten of us) one at a time. As we approach we call out a drill and they have to perform it (with variations if the attacker incorporates them) as we press the attack doing the opposing side of the drill. This goes on for a few minutes with no time to rest between attackers. After the final attacker is done it’s Michael Janich’s turn to go at them, throwing all sorts of combinations and variations of attack against them, pressing them to see if they'll break. None did.

After the test there is a break for dinner. We then return to the training site for more practice and reinforcement of the skills taught earlier in the day. Later in the evening is certificate presentation for those that successfully tested for proficiency and/or instructor certification as well as a certificate for all of those that attended the camp.

Day 4 - The last day of the camp is a time of open exploration that is used to answer questions, reinforce skills introduced during the camp or delve into other areas including empty hand techniques, long bladed and other weapons. Speaking for myself at this point the bucket was full, the body worn out and I was happy I had scheduled a few days off from work after the camp to decompress and unwind.
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