written by Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny
What follows is a reworking of something that was originally posted on the Eskrima Digest on the subject of trapping. It began with a good question, a slightly edited version of which follows:
“, , , , In short, Burt Richardson (and some others I know) seem to doubt the usefulness of the Jun Fan/Wing Chun type trapping (or at least how they’re trained — and I think this might be more the issue).
, , , As you can identify, all those cool FMA things we learn like, sumbrada, punyo sumbrada, hubad, 1001 disarms, tend not to come out in high intensity confrontations like fights at the Gathering. This it not necessarily to say that such training is useless, but time in vs. results in fighting is less than that as compared to working power or evasion skills. In Burt’s eyes, this sort of thing sort of applies to trapping, it doesn’t happen often, at least not in the same way that the training is done, i.e. you punch, he blocks, this gives you a high outside reference point, you can pak sao, etc… Paraphrased by my understanding, Burt’s big thing right now is to only train stuff that works w/high percentage of success and very similar to how it should be one (and thereby dropping the other stuff) ,and since few folks pull of the fleeting trapping range (since now that grappling is big, guys tend to crash right through to grappling).
I know you used to work a lot with Paul Vunak, who I still gather that his camp is still very strongly trapping range oriented. I understand Paul to be very much in the vein of “has to work/be verified” himself, so I figure he wouldn’t keep stuff that he didn’t feel to have actual combat value.
I figure you’re in the somewhat unique case of being able to appreciate both sides well, so here’s the question. What do you think is the value of trapping, both JF/WC and Kali for real fighting? “
I saw Burt’s tapes with “Matt Thorton’s Straight Blast Gym” and I agree that this is a question that should be raised. We’ve heard the claims– where the hell is it in the NHB fighting that we see?
JKD says “my technique is a result of your technique”. Well, people fight differently now than they did when Bruce Lee was around. In those days I was a hippie and not into martial arts, but it is my understanding that, the karate tended to attract the “real fighters”– guys who liked to spar, and the kung fu guys were not oriented that way. A stereotype, but on the whole, perhaps not without validity. Karate people block and in the right hands (and of course that is always the issue) JF/WC can do pretty well. But, for example, the low block of karate that sets up pin choy- guah choy simply is not a part of present day trained fighters’ responses. And the speediness of the pendulum structure of Jun Fan that works well against a more rooted footwork game does not always work so well against the bio-mechanics of someone well versed in the Muay Thai kick stance– the sideways alignment of the pendulum does not allow for as quick an initiation of the rear leg power kicks and the instant when the feet come together may leave one vulnerable to both legs being swept out with one kick. The high hand position of Muay Thai also presents problems for classical Jun Fan/WC type trapping. This is not to say that I personally can always make Muay Thai happen against Jun Fan, but that other things being equal (that’s Latin for “ceterus parabus”) it can be difficult for the Jun Fan Kickboxing structure to succeed in its mission of entering well into trapping range against Muay Thai. Against a BJJ/Vale Tudo grappler type the challenge can be even more discouraging.
I trained extensively with Paul Vunak from 1983-86, but I have not been in touch since then except for a conversation wherein he told me that he had been working a lot on leg locks to counter the BJJ guard (not a bad idea by the way)– so I am not in any position to evaluate what he has been up to in the last 12 years. When I did train with him I liked very much the way he freely blended the FMA that he knew with the Jun Fan structure and to me it made sense to say as he did, and I paraphrase, that JKD was more than the “BL style” and was something that had to evolve. The FMA can be extremely JKD in their mindset. In the book “Masters of Arnis, Kali, and Eskrima” by Edgar Sulite (highly recommended by the way) one can clearly see this in the interviews with the various grandmasters. It made sense to me that the FMA could and should play an important role in the evolution of JKD. The technical structure of the FMA has a lot of “common thread” with Jun Fan-i.e. the two have structures which integrate well. The tendency to strong side forward common to both is but one example of many and the advanced trapping skills of both is another.
However, while Guro Inosanto toiled for decades on behalf of Bruce Lee legacy, a nucleus of JKD people most of whom had sat on their , , , laurels since Bruce Lee died would yap and yowl that JKD was what Bruce Lee did and nothing else. In my opinion Guro Inosanto chose the term “JKD Concepts” in an effort to avoid conflict with the Classical JKD crowd–instead of saying the plain truth that JKD by definition must evolve. Even this compromise on his part did not suffice and now some in this group seek to rewrite the history of JKD by dropping Guro Inosanto’s name down some Orwellian “memory hole”. But this a matter of words and, as such, of not much importance.
What is important? First, lets not overstate things. We need to remember that in the current environment that a lot of this stuff continues to work. When I was in Brazil in June 1992 I showed Renzo Gracie Vunak’s “Headbutt, Elbow, Knees” tape. I have the amateur ringside video of his next vale tudo fight in which he drills some guy he gets in the corner with this structure. It is also important to remember that MANY situations that one might be in are quite different from a NHB octagon. How many people would be want on concrete to close against a guy with good fast savate feet in cowboy boots? Yeah, it can be done, but some of you are going to get seriously zipped in the bladder. A straight blast might get you through a barroom ruckus to the door better than a single leg takedown/side control/arm bar. Many bouncers and others with lots of experience swear by trapping. So in my opinion we should not get carried away with the “Where-is-the-trapping?” stuff.
Still, there is a legitimate question in all this. Little of what we see today is the way it is taught in many Jun Fan or Wing Chun classes and Burt is right that it is important to honestly look at this. So let me see if I can answer your question by way of example: In engineering, different types of strength are distinguished: compressive, tensile, shear, fatigue, etc. Engineering people please forgive my technical sloppiness, but compressive strength is the ability to bear weight. For example, you can put a lot of weight on concrete and it won’t crumble. Tensile strength is the ability to withstand a pull. Think of the metal cables of a suspension bridge. Why aren’t they made of concrete? Because concrete has lousy tensile strength and would snap.
Against the fighting structures used in the 60s and early 70s JF/WC trapping structures worked. As Muay Thai came in this was less so. And as BJJ came in even less so. It is as if the BJJ question tested the tensile strength of concrete. Concrete is strong, but not in that way. The challenge, as I see it, is the equivalent of learning to put “rebar” (those metal rods that are laid out and tied together in a gridlike pattern) in concrete; something is need to provide tensile strength.
Burt, Vunak and I are all students of Guro Inosanto, yet it should surprise no one that each of our approaches differ. Speaking only for myself, I feel that trapping continues to have a lot of validity, its just that what is required to bring it into play, the “rebar’ if you will, has changed. Change is always the case. Personally, much more of my trapping comes from Filipino Arts than JF; I find it easier to function by attacking the limb. I find the use of the elbows and forearms and the ways of using the hand of the FMA more suited to me.
Moving on to the next point, I do disagree with your assertion that “As you can identify, all those cool FMA things we learn like, sumbrada, punyo sumbrada, hubad, 1001 disarms, tend not to come out in high intensity confrontations like fights at the Gathering.” Why? Because these are TRAINING METHODS, not techniques, and the proof of their validity is in the functional results of the people who train with them.
If you look at the four “first tier” fighters of the Dog Brothers for example you will see that all have serious high level training. Top Dog moves pretty damn well in my opinion-and it doesn’t matter if its doing a carenza or during a fight. After starting with Tom Bisio, he was a student of Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje of the Pekiti Tirsia system. Salty Dog has, in addition to his FMA training here in the US (certified in the Derobio system for example) has trained extensively in Thailand in Krabi Krabong at the Buddaiswan Institute and is certifed by them. Sled Dog also was trained by GT Gaje and is a Mataas Na Guro in Pekiti Tirsia, as well as a high ranking instructor in Kajukenbo and other arts as well. In my case, I am a student of and certified by Guro Dan Inosanto, and the late Punong Guro Edgar Sulite as well. I recently also became a student of GT Gaje.
When watching a fight at a Gathering people should realize when they see a strike coming smoothly out of a roof block that it may be seeing the result of sombrada training? There is no doubt in my mind that my first staff fight went as it did (Not to overstate it–there is much to work on!) in important part because of my time working staff sombrada in Guro Inosanto’s class. Personally, at the moment I tend not to get as much out of “punyo sombrada” (a.k.a. “thrust on tapping”) but maybe someone else does, or maybe some day that will change for me. Ditto disarms. I feel I get a lot out of hubud, but then I go about it differently than most people lacking fighting experience. It will vary from fighter to fighter which training methods work best, so a good teacher will not be limited to his personal preferences, instead he will have different offerings for his students.
But most of all, we need to remember that THESE TRAINING METHODS WERE DEVELOPED BY WARRIORS IN THE PHILIPPINES TO TRAIN WELL AND SAFELY. HERE IN THE UNITED STATES WE TRY TO USE THEM TO DEVELOP WARRIORS, WHICH IS AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT TASK, AND BLAME THE METHODS INSTEAD OF OURSELVES WHEN WE STILL CAN’T FIGHT. This is just my opinion.
Speaking frankly, I am aware that in some circles Guro Inosanto takes a rap for teaching “show and not go”. However in my opinion this misses the important point that Guro I. makes about there being short, middle and long term training. For immediate result, you train one way, for result over the middle term you train anther way, and for the long term you train yet other ways.
Most of you may know that the FMA of Dog Brothers Martial Arts is based around Inosanto Blend, Pekiti Tirsia, and Lameco. Yet when I fight in stickgrappling, I use principally Inosanto Blend (with some Bando Python) blended with Machado BJJ. It is my belief that the only reason that I can continue to fight effectively at 46 is because of the mid and long term training, called “show” by so many, that Guro I. makes his students do. I would have been too much of an opinionated idiot to have realized this on my own. To be a good stickgrappler requires both a good Kali and good grappling (BJJ in my case) base before coming to the stickgrappling. In other words, years of preparation. All those “show” combinations of Guro I. I now see differently– they are not literal, they are kinesthetic/neurological maps to what is available where. Because of this training while fighting I see possibilities that I probably would not otherwise and my game can become more spontaneous– whatever arises I am more likely to have a solution. BUT, if I never worked on my fighting understanding, then this portion of my training would not serve me in a fighting context. This is a vital point.
Also a vital point is that certainly one does not get to this point if one can’t hit hard while moving one’s feet, etc. This was one of the main points of the first Dog Brothers video series. There is no avoiding building the foundation, but if those of you who put up the walls before thinking about putting in the wiring, when the sun of youth goes down you may find yourself in the dark. Conversely, those of you who put in the wiring without building the walls and roof will get wet from a rain of blows.
One of the things that most profoundly drew me to the FMA, was their consistent ability to produce men of awareness who were functional well into later in life. I know of no other martial art tradition with as much success in this regard. I see a life in martial arts as having three stages. I still struggle with good names for them. At the moment I call them the young male, the father/teacher, and , , , well, I don’t have a name for the third one but it is the goal, so lets call it , , ,the Goal! For me they are represented by Bruce Lee, Dan Inosanto, and John LaCoste.