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Psychology Of Combat Training With IZVOR

Our third day of training the Russian Martial Art IZVOR was to take place on the beautiful beach of Jurmula just up the coast from Riga.  Rob and some of his students picked us up in the club mini bus and we made our way to the beach on a gloriously sunny morning.


Michael Grudev was ready to take us all through our paces.  The first observation he made was that warm ups need to be performed fast and only last a short duration the time. The reason for the speed in movements is because if we intend to be able to move fast we need to condition our bodies so that they can move that way.  The duration of a class given over to a warm up in his opinion needs to be short because you do not have that luxury in a fight.  


This echoes some of the way our group already trains.  Instead of large warm ups I prefer students to work drills in a softer or slower way and build up resistance and speed as their bodies get warmed up.


We then moved onto studying IZVOR wrestling drills.  These had us stood in small circles drawn in the sand.  In these drills the student on the outside had to wrestle the student on the inside out of the circle.  Michael then came around each student as they worked and made different recommendations depending on what they were doing.  


Michael Grudevshowing what he describes as wrestling


By the end of the wrestling session the work was smooth and can only be described as Systema, the difference though was that the attackers were genuinely trying to wrestle you outside of the circle.


Next came work on striking.  This was definitely the more challenging area for me.  Though I have worked striking in various formats including the Systema Ryabko punching method I wouldn’t really consider myself a striker.  


The drills Michael taught really emphasized the psychological aspect of fighting.  In one drill we walked towards our partner knowing we were going to attack him and we were going to be attacked too.  Both of us had gloves and the contact and speed quickly built up as we became familiar with this kind of work.


As we neared our partners they launched a punch.  The idea was to try to hit you and they were not to telegraph the strike.  Avoiding the punch by slipping and using one of your arms to plane around it.  At the same time a simultaneous punch of our own was used and followed up with a barrage of punches, elbows, kicks and knees.  As we did this our training partners covered up and backed up so that we had to stick to them and follow them.  


Working strikes as my partner backed up


One thing I found really useful during this drill was if my first strike rotated them in the horizontal plane instead of simply pushing them back away from me.  This made it easier for subsequent strikes to come from other angles instead of simply being straight punches because this is the easiest way to hit a fleeing target. By hitting at different planes or to 45 degrees the could be taken to the floor by using strikes alone.


This drill above all others had some fantastic learning moments.  Some were technical in nature, but the more important ones related to how I reacted to the psychological pressure of the situation.  One thing I did was stop my forward movement as the opponent punched or even skipped a little.  Once pointed out by Michael it was easy to remove these reactions and this kind of conditioning was of great value.


The reason I say this is if a real punch with a gloved fist causes me to stop coming forward how can I expect to enter against a real attack to a range where takedowns and counter striking are possible?


Once we finished working this drill against a punch we added a knife attack before heading into the sea for more punching practice.  This had us throwing a variety of boxing punches and kicks against the resistance of water.  If you ever get the chance to do this in your own training make the most of it.  The water not only provides resistance that ultimately strengthens the muscles used in punching it also encourages correct alignment of the fist and forearm too. 


Time to start punching practice


At the end of a fantastic days training we headed to the now familiar Lido restaurant to eat and discuss the psychology of fighting with Michael.  It quickly became clear that his knowledge of the topic was more than academic.  He quickly answered a number of questions about different scenarios and the way we should train for them.


Having finished our meal and accompanying lesson we headed back to the hotel to write up our notes and talk about all the different things we learnt.  Both Sunny and I agreed that the biggest things we had learnt were psychological, not physical techniques and this was more valuable than having new tricks to use on our return to our Combat Lab Systema group in the UK.


End of a days training in the sun




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