The European Historical Combat Guild

Investigating Europe's Historical combative methods and behaviours

Monday, 19 April 2010

Stopping them before they stop you.

In much of the training and research in to historical martial arts, the emphasis is placed on landing a hit on the opponent, whether with a weapon or with some part of the body. After all this is where much of the skill lies, being able to hit them without them hitting you. What is generally not spoken about is what that hit would do to the opponent. Perhaps more importantly, when one is considering a life and death situation, is whether that “hit” would be enough to actually stop them, so that they could no longer pose a threat to you, or be able carry on and damage you. One could argue that detailed knowledge of this is not vital to the training of the skill. After all we are not training people to be killers. Equally are not training them to be killed. As such we do need to consider the realities of what they action could and could not do, if we are to be truthful to the true purposes that dictated how they were used in the past

When making an attack, whether with a weapon or not we should consider what that actually means. Fundamentally an attack is designed to incapacitate the opponent, so that they can no longer pose a threat to us. To do this we need not kill the opponent, but we do need to stop them. Stopping them means preventing them from being a threat to us and we need to do that quickly, for if it is not done quickly then they may be able to carry on and injure or kill us.

There are four main ways in which an opponent can be stopped. All four types are distinct but not necessarily isolated, so any one of these, or a combination of any or all of them can stop an opponent.
Of course the best way of stopping them is to stop them before the fight has begun so that there is no fight.

1 - Severe Damage to the attackers limbs.
If you stop the opponent’s ability to attack you stop the threat. Basically this means that you incapacitate the opponent’s arms and/or legs. In isolation we have to consider that an opponent can keep operating with broken arms and legs if they are highly aroused with adrenaline etc. so short of actually severing the limbs there is no guarantee that it will stop them from still trying to attack you. To optimise the chances of stopping the opponent the joints should be targeted. Of course if they are carrying a weapon, damaging the hands or arms should be enough to make them drop the weapon and there by reduce the threat they pose

1- Blood loss/restriction of oxygen
By preventing oxygen getting to the muscles, major organs and brain it will cause unconsciousness and eventually death. To cause such traumatic blood loss means hitting a major artery or the heart or by blocking or damaging the airway or the lungs. Again it will take time for the effects to be felt and is therefore no guarantee of stopping the opponent before they can carry on and damage you. Other ways include blocking the airway to stop oxygen or to apply some kind of sleeper hold that blocks the airway and/or blood supply to the brain.

3) Central Nervous System (CNS) trauma.
Causing major trauma to the central nervous system, spine, brain stem or parts of the brain will cause unconsciousness or death. This could be from a knock out to the jaw/body or by damage to the spinal cord or brain stem. Again not particularly easy to do and such not a guarantee to instantly stop the opponent.

4) Psychological reasons.
This is the most likely reason for someone to stop fighting or for someone to not start fighting at all.
Basically one has given the opponent a good enough reason to decide that it is not worth fighting or that to carry on fighting is counter productive. Their Will to fight or to continue fighting has been overridden by self-preservation, or at least the belief that avoiding the conflict will be more beneficial.

The effects will vary and depend very much on the state of mind of the individual. Pain is relative to the person experiencing it, so what stops someone in one situation may not stop them in another, or what doesn’t register on one person will be more than enough to get another to give up. Mind set affects how people respond to major trauma, people can keep running on smashed legs or bloody stumps. They can carry a severed arm several miles to call an ambulance. People have suffered major brain damage but have continued to fight or have done so having been stabbed through the heart.

If fighting more than one person then group responses come in to play, again this means that a group may decide to run even though they actually have the upper hand and will hold their ground when they really should be beaten, but by doing so they turn the tide.

This is also cultural element, and of course can be affected by body chemicals such as adrenaline and external chemicals such as alcohol and drugs.

We should consider the damage that the actions that we are doing could cause both to our opponents but also to ourselves. We also have to consider that there is not guarantee that what ever we do will actually stop the opponent. If damage is being delivered the more ways in which the opponent is affected the greater the chance that it will work through cumulative damage and the greater chance that they will loose the will to carry on. While of course the best way of stopping an opponent would to be to avoid/prevent the fight all together and before it starts

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