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Progression : Moving from the Complex to the Simple?

Updated on April 11, 2015

What is Progression in the Martial Arts?

I have been training in martial arts and combat sports for over twenty-five years. I was first motivated to start a martial art because I wanted to learn a few self-defense techniques.

I began with a Korean martial art, which emphasized joint-locks and throws. Later, I moved into Filipino martial arts, learning to work with sticks and daggers (wooden or rubber!), before beginning with European combat sports. Now, with a portfolio of complex skills under my (black) belt(s), I look to the martial arts for fun, for pleasure, for fitness, and for sport. Not only that, but I have grown a preference for uncomplicated physical skills and the elegance of an encounter.

We are all individuals. We have different tastes, we make different choices, and want different things out of life. We also change...

Ollie corrects a position
Ollie corrects a position

Complexity of Technique

Are you a fan of joint-locks? Can you tie someone in knots?

I know someone who can actually tie someone to a post using just their own arms and legs! You can see him in this photo instructing some students in the art of joint-locking.

Yes, I agree locking techniques, lock flows and counters are interesting. They are also useful if you are prepared to put in the practice time to perfect them. I particularly like the notion of the lock flow, moving from one position to another in response to your partner's movement. I'm not big, and I'm not strong, so fighting another person's strength doesn't work for me. Sensitivity to their movement, and using their strength against them is much more appealing.

I do teach a few locking and escape techniques in my self-defence courses, but this is in addition to the good, old, reliable basics of simple strikes to vulnerable targets. A beginner, taking a short course, needs simple skills that are easy to remember.

See more photos on our website

Lock Flow Expert, Ollie Batts in Action

As Ollie often says "it's not always appropriate to strike someone... however much you feel like doing so. Lock flows (or 'chaining' of locks together) is an important part of learning how to use an opponent's energy/power against them..."

Size and Strength

If you are young, strong and male, your perspective may be different from mine...

I've often heard it said that it is better to learn joint-locking from a small teacher. Why? Because they have to use correct actions and skill to make a lock work. They can't so easily rely on strength.

If you like the idea of using your opponent's strength and force, there are many exercises you can learn to develop "sensitivity". To build sensitivity, it is important to relax, and to feel the movement or the pressure your opponent gives. That way, you can learn to deflect a movement, rather than resist it.

In Wing Chun, you can learn the principles of chi sao, or sticking hands. The basic idea is to maintain contact with your opponent's forearms to developed the ability to sense changes in pressure, movement and body mechanics, so to develop sensitivity and 'feel'.

The Filipino martial arts, like escrima, have their own form of sensitivity training. This is known as hubbud (sometimes spelt differently). Like chi sao, it is a method of training sensitivity and dynamic entries into locks, throws and strikes.

Design by sunmouse
Design by sunmouse

Attitude is so important!

There is a big difference between kindness and weakness. And, in fact, the strongest people can be very kind - they have nothing to prove! sunmouse has designed some cool t-shirts, featuring a tiger and cub, as a great reminder. Visit sunmouse to see mugs, mouse mats and other gifts with this design.

What's Your Preference?

Do you train for strikes, locks, throws, weaponry..?

See results


How to hit without being hit

This is a key principle in Savate, otherwise know as boxe française or French boxing. The word 'Savate' translates to 'old slipper' or 'old shoe'. This should give you the clue that French boxing is more about kicking, less about punching. So, how do I hit without being hit?

You need a good understanding of tactics and strategy to achieve this aim. Study your opponent's movements and skills. Be unpredictable. Vary your combinations (of punches and kicks). Look for openings in your opponent's defence, and then exploit them. Use feints, with your body and limbs, and with your gaze. Think like a master chess player, and decide what you can do to leave your opponent open to attack.

Savate, as a combat sport, uses uncomplicated techniques. There are no fancy locking skills on display in the boxing ring. What you'll see here, with the top fighters, is elegance of movement and sophisticated strategy.

Martial Arts Equipment

If you would like to get into martial arts, it's easy to get some good equipment. Here's a selection of kit that you can order online, for delivery direct to your home.

What works for me?

the fundamental question

Bruce Lee said : "Absorb what is useful; Disregard that which is useless".

But, importantly, we have to discover what is useful for ourselves. We have to discover what works for us. Collecting hundreds of techniques, lots of equipment, and a series of coloured and black belts might do it for you. But, every now and then, have a spring clean. Donate some of that unused equipment to your club. Think about your skills and decide "that works for me" and keep it. If it doesn't work for you, follow Lee's advice, disregard it.

Great tips and techniques

Bruce Lee's Fighting Method:  The Complete Edition
Bruce Lee's Fighting Method: The Complete Edition

If you are interested in Bruce Lee and/or his martial art, you will find this video useful and interesting. It features two of his students, Richard Bustillo and Ted Wong and Richard Bustillo, who will demonstrate the techniques of Bruce Lee's Fighting Method.

Savate My Champion Techniques-D
Savate My Champion Techniques-D

French Boxing Champion, Kamel Chouaref, shows his training methods and effective fighting combinations.


An Introduction to Canne de Combat on YouTube

This video introduces one of my favourite combat sports. Filmed at my club.

Any thoughts or feedback?

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    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      4 years ago from New Jersey

      Good info. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm glad you gave the option to choose meditate on the quiz! Interesting info.

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 

      6 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      I agree with you and Lee. We should find what works for us. Unfortunately this can take a lot of time and discipline. But it pays in the end!


    • microfarmproject profile image


      6 years ago

      I will show this to my girls...they will love it! Thanks for the info.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Cool video. I practiced JKD for a few months and got to level 2. It was fun and i'm planning on making time to go back!!!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      It was really interesting to be introduced to some new martial arts here. I practiced Tae Kwon Do for a few years and enjoyed learning the locks and more.

    • virtualboy profile image


      6 years ago

      Have you ever watched Steven Segal? He will throw people into each other and knock them out cold


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