Shove Off

It’s been a while since I’ve talked martial arts on here and it’s high time I try to be a bit more regular about it.

I recently got hold of a copy of Gershon Keren’s Krav Maga: Real World Solutions to Real World Violence and have been reading it when I’m not busy reading books for the Indie Author Review Group or writing my own stuff.  Amazingly, that still leaves plenty of time in the day to glance through and pick up a new idea or two here and there.  Now, I don’t know Krav Maga at all, but I find it a fascinating study in simplification and generally meeting fire with fire.  To the best of my knowledge no one in Albuquerque is teaching it so I’m picking up bits whereever I can and fusing them with Kenpo.  Both systems are pretty practical and all martial arts share a lot with each other, so the fusion isn’t too hard to accomplish.

Every Wednesday, or almost every Wednesday, I’ve been teaching the kid’s Kenpo class.  It’s been an eye opener for me because teaching something requires a much better understanding of it than just learning something.  It’s forced me to examine my assumptions about how and why things work and also let me branch out a bit.  I try to bring in something new every Wednesday, some small bit of arcane knowledge or a different way of looking at things.  For instance, we’ve done exercises where one student will close his or her eyes and another student holding a kicking shield will move around the first student.  When someone calls stop, the student with his or her eyes closed will open up, find the target and strike it.  It’s designed to teach them how to pick up a target when the opponent isn’t directly in front.  We’ve also scattered kicking shields all over the floor and done kata to show that your environment isn’t always as smooth the school floor.

So, back to Krav Maga.  Most of what the Krav Maga folks deal with is fairly practical stuff but things like knife and gun attacks aren’t things most of the kids are going to need to learn to deal with at this point.  At least I hope not.  There was one thing I pulled from Keren’s book, though, that was pretty appropriate for the kids: dealing with a shove.

Mess you up, sucka.
Mess you up, sucka.

The shove is a classic fight starter, it’s a way of pulling off the alpha dog thing and is usually accompanied with a pithy phrase like “I’ll fuck you up.”  Kenpo, like Krav Maga and most other fighting systems, has numerous ways of dealing with a shove and most of those end with the shover on the ground crying.  All of our techniques, though, are predicated on the assumption that the fight is already started and both parties are fully committed to the fight.  Stances are set and both people are primed and ready.

What happens, though, immediately after the shove is important and there are a few ways to go:

  • Shove ’em back
  • Back down and apologize
  • Fully commit and end the threat immediately

Most people choose to shove back, which is really the worst thing you can do in that situation.  Shoving comes down to that alpha dog mentality I was talking about earlier.  It’s a way to exert authority and dominance.  As humans we like to think we’re above all that but we pull that kind of nonsense all the time.  “Accidentally” bumping into someone, getting in someone’s space, pushing your way into an elevator before anyone can get off, yelling, and many other things are just attempts at dominance.  Shoving is just a more physical way of saying “I’m tough but not quite ready to commit to the fight.”

Grrr.  Bark.  Woof.
Grrr. Bark. Woof.

Just in case you think it’s a stupid guy thing, women do it, too.

Wait for the fight, kids.
Wait for the fight, kids.

So why is shoving back such a bad idea?  Two reasons: 1) it ups the ante, forcing the other person’s hand, and 2) it takes away an important tactical advantage.  When someone shoves you the best bet, depending on the situation, is to either walk away or decisively end the fight.  For the kid’s class I emphasized the idea of walking away.  In fact, for the most part, it’s best to just walk away from a fight whever possible, after all it’s always easier to avoid a fight than to win one.  Walking away, apologizing, whatever it takes to defuse the situation costs you nothing but some ego points.  The way I see it, I have a huge amount of ego already so losing some doesn’t really hurt me.

It's all good, bro-dog.  It's all good.
It’s all good, bro-dog. It’s all good.

Interestingly enough, even though picture is supposed to be just a one-off funny, Kramer has actually adopted a good defensive stance.  His hands are up, palms out.  He look innocuous and non threatening.  Look at the position of his hands, though; he’s actually in a position to intercept or block incoming strikes and counter strike if necessary.  This kind of stance is pretty prevalent in the martial arts.  The Krav Maga guys call it the interview stance, other systems have different names for it.  We don’t really have a name for it in Kenpo, we just call it being prepared and non-threatening, but ready if necessary.

Defensive can become offensive in the blink of an eye.  Or a finger in the eye.
Defensive can become offensive in the blink of an eye. Or a finger in the eye.

So, the lesson for Wednesday was basically this: if someone shoves you it’s best to let it go, but get into a position where you can defend yourself if absolutely necessary.  Hopefully the lesson stuck.  I’d hate to see some of the kids getting in trouble at school for fighting.  Although, my son has been hit before at school and hasn’t pummelled anyone into pulp (even though he loves sparring), so maybe the lessons are sinking in.

Next time you get shoved, rather than shoving back or putting on your Ninja face and going to town, you might want to consider just apologizing and walking away.

Ninja Mask!
Ninja Mask!
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