How do we desensitize our students to contact?

Thesemindz

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Ok, we've discussed this in the past in parts, but how do we take adults who aren't used to any contact at all in their lives, and get them used to hugging and punching and rolling around with other adults?

One of the biggest challenges many students face, especially at the beginner level, is making physical contact with another adult, especially in a violent context. Many adults go through their daily lives without touching other people. In fact, many go out of their way to avoid any kind of physical contact what so ever, except possibly with their loved ones, and beginning students are often uncomfortable touching or being touched by another adult. I think the process of desensitization should begin in a students very first lesson.

Several steps are helpful in desensitizing students to contact. First and foremost is professionalism. The instructor must make sure that everyone understands that all contact is done purely for the purpose of training. The best way to convey this message is for the instructor to simply be professional in his dealings with the students. Even when in compromising positions which could be misconstrued, even when working with children, if the instructor is focused and professional and conveying honest useful information, everyone focuses on that and pays attention.

Secondly using focus shields with students is a good way to help to get them used to feeling incoming force without frightening them unduly. Using the focus shield allows the student to feel differing degrees of force through an intermediary. This allows the student to adjust to force, and practice resisting the force, and see another student throwing blows at them, without actually hitting them, yet.

Thirdly techniques should be practiced on the body with increasing degrees of force. The students are taught to practice their techniques at touch and light contact, and contact is increased over time as the students move into more advanced classes. Beginner students are repeatedly reminded to use control and touch their targets. Intermediate students are taught to use heavier contact while still using control. This process continues in more advanced classes. At all levels students are practicing on shields, heavy bags, and other punching targets with heavier contact so that they can continue to develop power with their techniques.

Additionally doing regular drills in classes where students grab or push each other to work defenses against those attacks, both in the context of techniques and in unscripted motion based drills helps to familiarize the student to spontaneous contact. This helps to break down the barrier that the students have put up against contact. This process continues into all categories of attack with greater contact at more advanced levels.

These are just some of the basic steps involved. There are many other drills and training techniques which can be used, such as sparring and sensitivity drills, but the real key is to begin the process early. If the instructor waits until the brown or black belt level to hit someone, several problems arise.

  • The student has already adjusted to and accepted the degree of contact inherent in his training. To drastically increase that, especially after so much time, without ramping it up slowly, would certainly intimidate the student.
  • Students who were naturally predisposed to heavier contact, or looking specifically for it in their self defense training have probably already left the school, leaving no one who can role model toughness and fortitude for the weaker students to emulate.
  • It seems hard to except that a student could learn effective self defense and acquire street applicable skills without engaging in some level of contact with a resisting opponent.
Especially at the beginning levels, it is important to pair up students with similar attributes, physically, mentally, emotionally, even experientially. Not every time, but more often than not. Certainly it is important to pair up students of different sizes and strengths so that they can learn to effectively execute technique against a variety of bigger, stronger, or faster attackers, but that can be emphasized to a greater degree later in their training. If too much stress is put on a beginning student, that student will leave, and then they cant be helped at all.

The most important aspect is to care about the students and be conscious of their unique challenges, while also pushing them to reach outside their comfort zone. That is what a good instructor does. It is important to listen to the students and be concerned with helping them grow as martial artists. The instructor knows what they need to achieve, but he must listen to his students to know how best to lead them to that goal. All students learn and process information differently and being sensitive to each student's needs helps to motivate them properly.

What's funny to me, is that my wife is a cosmetologist, and she experiences the same thing in her line of work. Think about it. How often does a pretty young woman spend five to ten minutes massaging oils and shampoos into your skin? She gets weird reactions from men and women both, because they just aren't accustomed to that degree of intimate contact.

So how do you do it? What drills do you use? What's your philosophy? Your approach?


-Rob
 

Blindside

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We do it mostly through a sparring context. We start light, essentially point fighting with beginners and then ramp it up as they get used to it. Usually by purple (the third belt, about a year into it) most people are used to at least medium contact. By green and brown they can go pretty hard contact. My instructors philosophy was that no one will hit you harder than he will.

You know you've got a convert when someone takes a good shot and comes up grinning. :D

Lamont
 

Skpotamus

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We start our students off with focus mitt drills, which we run give and take style. EX: attacker throws a jab cross combo, defender parries the jab, slips the cross and fires back a combo to the attacker. During the course of this, we have them padded up, headgear, mouthpieces, usually we have them use gloves instead of focus mitts. This gets them used to contact on both ends while providing padding when someone mis-times, etc.

Probably the best drill we've found though is a basic blocking drill. Put the blocker with their back to a wall so they cannot move away from the incoming strikes. Have the attacker throw two uppercuts to the body, and two hooks to the head (we typically start off with hooks to the shoulder though). The defender has to block, which has an element of absorbtion in it and gets them used to contact. Start off light, and build up the contact as they get used to it. Have instructors watching the blocker like a hawk, if they start to look too uncomfortable, have the attacker back off on the power.

Thirdly, we don't let our students spar until their yellow belt test (3-4 months experience). We've found that it gives them time to get comfortable with their techniques,and get some confidence in them, as well as getting them used to some contact through pad drills.
 

Cirdan

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Actually physical contact has never been a problem at any of the places I train, people seem to want to grapple as much as possible. I even remember my Katori Shinto Ryu instructor commenting that in Kenjutsu students don`t have the chanse to show how much they "love" each other like JJ and Karate guys and that this makes the training different.

As for getting ppl used to someone throwing punches at them, use warmup routines with light to no contact, pad work and light contact sparring with light protective gear. And watch the yellow belts.. at that level they are starting to get the hang of a good strike but lack control.
 

KempoGuy06

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We do it mostly through a sparring context. We start light, essentially point fighting with beginners and then ramp it up as they get used to it. Usually by purple (the third belt, about a year into it) most people are used to at least medium contact. By green and brown they can go pretty hard contact. My instructors philosophy was that no one will hit you harder than he will.

You know you've got a convert when someone takes a good shot and comes up grinning. :D

Lamont

For the most part thats how it is at our school as well.

White belts generally dont make contact with each other out of fear or what not. As a blue belt (and a big one) I generally will pair up with lower ranks who are smaller in size and encourage them to hit me. I always tell them that Im a sparring fanatic :D and they are not going to hit me as hard as ive been hit in sparring if they concentrate on control. This usually helps them out.

As for them taking the punch, I generally tell them, if we are doing SD drills for example, that if they dont move fast enough i will hit them (only for white and yellow belts, after that i try to hit them all the time since they are two belts in at orange), this lets them know that there is a possibility that they are going to get hit. "Knowing is half the battle" It gives them warning and lets them prepare for and helps them to concentrate more on the SD tech they are working on.

Like Blindside though, i agree that sparring is the best tool. In sparring you know you are going to get hit and that hitting other people is key as well.

B
 

terryl965

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We tend to help alot build confidence though training and allowing them to get going at there pace, the last thing anybody should do is push a student into physical sparring until they are ready.
 

searcher

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My students have their contact rtaining start with blocking drills. Once they start, they get to having a little bit of pain and bruising. As time goes on, the contact in the drills get heavier and they start to get used to it and they don't mind very much. During this time we are also having them spar with upper rank students in a lighter contact style of sparring. I let all students know that what they give to the upper students, they will get in return and that the upper ranks are not going to hurt them. The upper students work on a chest pretector(I start them with one, but they lose it shortly) and slowly build the level of power. They also start with "touching" the head, which then gets heavier over the couse of a few weeks.

One thing that helps with the younger guys is playing on their ego. I place them in the ring with a smaller female of fairly high rank. I let the female go pretty hard on them. They never seem to back down, no matter how hard they get hit.

Be patient with the students, they will come around or they will leave. Help the ones that can be helped and don't worry about the ones that leave. Some people are just not cut out for MA training.
 

Aikikitty

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Great thread and post Thesemindz!

My sensei explained on the first day that this is an "up close and smell 'em" type of art and I'd have to get used to it. Just explaining to me what I was in for helped me tolerate the closeness probably sooner than usual.

Also, when I started, I felt very uncomfortable having all these big guys so close and touching me. Nothing was inappropriate, of course, but I was worried that something "might" happen. I tried to partner up with the one or two other females in the class because it didn't feel as weird. However, all the guys were very friendly and it didn't take too long before I realized I could trust them and that they would never try to feel me up. Even then, at the time I trusted the 'married with kids' guys before I trusted the single guys close to my age. lol I trust the guys completely and I'm so used to the physical closeness now, that I don't even think of it.

Robyn :)
 

Drac

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Purchase a couple of RedMan training suits and do some self defense drills...That's what we do in the academy...
 

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Drac

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jeff5

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We probably don't have any stage in our art where there is not contact. Our art is rough by its very nature, which probably alienates a lot of people. The contact does ramp up over time though.

We start by doing basic foot trapping and sensitivy drills. Then all of our applications have some form of bodily contact. It can start light but gets harder. We also feed each other pretty realistically. If it's someone new we'll go easy, but with other guys of my level we throw pretty hard at one another.

At the more advanced stages partners give varying levels of resistence where we go counter for counter. We'll go from full stand up, to the ground, and back up. This can go from light play, to extremely hard almost full out.

Our art isn't very structured, but that's usually how it flows.
 

KELLYG

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We started self defense early in my training, high white-yellow. The first couple of times I did self defense, especially from the prone position, it felt kind of weird and unnatural. The Master instructor did an excellent job explaining what we were doing, why we were doing it. That coupled with getting to know the people that I was working with the self- consciousness that I felt went away.

As far as force of contact we started off early with drills with pads, Shields, hogu's and we are instructed that give what you want but expect it back as well. We are usually match up with like rank and size and that makes a big difference as well. Some folks I am not interested in working with because they work full blast even if you ask them to back off. I think that it is all in what you get used to.
 

runnerninja

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I had a sensei who believed in 'showing the love'! He always said that you wernt doing yourself or your partner any favours by not trying to hit properly(in a controlled way).

I am no training with a group who dont allow anything other than light contact. Its no fun and I han see hugh disadvantages in training this way.
 

bowser666

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I am all about contact during training and you need to know what it feels liek to get hit. However, I think it is stupid and moronic to take the Tough guy , no pain no gain approach. Remember, you are there for TRAINING, not INJURY !! That is why you shoudl excercise good control and not exhibit full force contact. Personally i woudl feel liek crap if I injured someone and made them unable to train anymore. That to me is a total disregard for the other persons safety. Train safe first and foremost. It shouldn't be about a macho testosterone fest. Just my $0.02
 

Gordon Nore

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We have a very basic karate drill we do that works for all ranks on any given day. Two partners in Kiba-dachi, facing opposite direction clasp their lead hands lightly together and alternate lead roundhouse kicks to the abdomen or solar plexus. Steady pace, lots of eye contact. Each partner signals to the other that he or she can take a little more contact or needs the other to back off -- kinda' like managing your own pain. You can mix the ranks. A beginning student doesn't have to worry too much at first about hurting. Presumably, I'm gonna show some control and help my partner determine his or her threshold.

On the ground, very basic drills manoevering from guard to mount and back. The Gracie stuff can wait. People need to get used to these rather up-close-and-personal positions. Let everyone start with their preferred partner -- likely, but not always, same gender. When I have a new beginner in my mounted position, I'm matter of fact about the business at hand. I try to keep eye contact with my partner and discuss what we're doing -- hopefully to alleviate the stress of having a big hairy frigger like me sitting on you.
 

just2kicku

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Let's face it, in a self defence situation you are not always going to hit first. We stress that you need to be able to take a hit also. How you react to taking a hit could mean your survival also.

They get to orange belt and it time to pound on each other in class. I don't think there's any other way except just to get hit.
 
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