Friday, January 11, 2008

Grappler Baki- Part I


Grappler Baki is quite possibly the most brutal martial arts anime ever and that is awesome. The story follows Hanma Baki, son of Hanma Yujiro (the Most Powerful Creature in the World), as he quests to become even more powerful than his father. Along the way, he encounters some of the most skilled martial arts practitioners this world has to offer and pushes himself to every extreme imaginable to become stronger. There is a treasure trove of training ideas within Grappler Baki and a vast measure of combat arts to analyze. So, let’s begin.


The first few moments of the Grappler Baki anime feature 100 thugs waiting for someone to show up so they can kick the crap out of him. (Seems a little unfair, no?) A few minutes later, they get their wish.

“I Only See Four”

Baki wastes no time in dispatching as many thugs as he can. He doesn’t worry about beating one guy into a pulp (although the first guy he gets to is pretty well thrashed), but splits his attention in four directions: Front, back, and to his sides. Using this tactic, Baki shows that, due to the nature of crowd combat, the most people that will be able to fight against him at close range will be four. He continues to move throughout the entire fight, never staying in one place too long, never focusing on one opponent longer than just one or two shots. Eventually, Baki’s back is against a fence, limiting both his movement and the space his opponent’s have to attack him. However, being a really, really good fighter only takes you so far against 100 men. Another aspect of crowd combat is that a single combatant has to constantly divide his attention among a variety of opponents whose sole purpose is to beat him senseless. Eventually, the thugs get the better of our 13-year old fighter and pound him into the concrete until the police interrupt. So, what can we take away from this?

1. If you can avoid it, don’t fight a group alone.
2. If you must fight a group alone, keep moving and deal with enemies as they get to you.
3. Try to drop or disable your opponents in as few moves as possible: Break knees, poke eyes, go for the throat, groin, whatever!
4. At your earliest convenience, RUN LIKE HELL!

Now here’s the other question. How can we train for a scenario like this? Here’s some methods I like:

1. Multiple opponent technique drilling: At first, it may be best to do pre-arranged drills with two or three attackers in order to just generally work on reaction time. What this means is that you know beforehand what your training partners are throwing. Jack’s throwing a roundhouse kick, John’s throwing a punch, and Andy’s going for a Double Leg Takedown. How we make it a little more difficult is you don’t know which order they’ll be doing these things in. Andy might go for the Double Leg first, then John punches, and Jack kicks. Also, it would help for your reaction that any strikes thrown have no pre-determined target. They may be aimed at the head, legs, mid-section or whatever. You know what the attacks are and who is doing them, but you don’t know when they’ll be thrown or where they’re aimed at. So, even though they are pre-arranged, there’s an element of surprise to it. Not to mention, your attackers should really be trying to hit you. You can either dodge the attacks, block, block and counter, or intercept. It’s up to you. Eventually, you stop predetermining which person throws which technique (although you know which techniques are going to be used). Even further beyond that, you stop predetermining the techniques at all, but still just have the attackers throw one attack. Lastly, you can add extra opponents. In terms of numbers, I’d say start with just two opponents. This is what I would call the first stage of multiple opponent training.
EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Gloves and Mouthpiece, at least, for all participants.

2. Multiple opponent sparring: This is the second stage of multiple opponent training and it is much, much tougher, especially if you’re training with guys who are anywhere near your skill level or above. Be very careful, because this can get out of hand faster than you can blink. At first, some people might want to try light or no contact just to help build some reflexes and then work their way up to harder and harder sparring. The key here is to start with two opponents. You’ll notice that the dynamics of fighting two instead of one are much different. The attackers can attack one after another or both at the same time. They can both come from the same direction or from different directions. Take a lesson from Baki and don’t stay in one place or on one opponent for too long. You might flick a jab out to one opponent with your left hand and follow up with a backfist at the other with your right hand immediately after. Most fighters have a dominant side that they fight on, but you’ll quickly discover that this leaves you at a horrible disadvantage is multi-opponent combat. The ability to switch in the swing of things will be very helpful in defending against your opponents’ attacks. Ease into this. For the love of God, ease into it.
At some point you may want to add one or two more opponents, in order to better understand crowd combat, but rest assured, if you are training with skilled people, especially the ones you always train group combat with, this will probably never get easy, but it might just become manageable. And let’s face it: it’s the only way you’ll ever be able to prepare for group combat short picking a fight with a gang or street thugs (which, if you do, you will probably die). Be safe, and enjoy!

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