Hand to hand with Cecil Burch

Editor’s note: today’s guest post is by Cecil Burch, renowned martial artist and self-defense instructor. You’ll see his posts appearing here on Gun Nuts from time to time.

I have been training some form of Martial Art/H2H fighting method for almost thirty five years of constant work, always under the direct eye of a knowledgeable instructor. I have been shooting for even longer. For most of that time, it was really strange to have a foot in both camps.
Generally, I was the odd duck. If I mentioned firearms to most martial artists, I was treated as if I had just said “Heil Hitler”. And if I brought up H2H work to the typical gun enthusiast, I got to hear the refrain along the lines of “I carry a gun so I don’t need that ka-rotty stuff”.

Fortunately, over the past few years, there has been a nice change. Certainly in the Tactical Gun world, where it is much more accepted that there can be a good use for H2H skills, even in a weapons based environment. At least now, when I write something on social media or on a discussion forum, the bulk of the time is spent less on justification, and more on application. This is certainly a more productive use of time!
One of the side effects of all this is a number of trainers who now offer coursework that addresses this need. The flagship of course (and in my opinion, the one that did the most to make people realize the need for it) is Craig Douglas’ ECQC. When he started teaching open enrollment work in 2005, he helped set the groundwork for all that came after. He is still going strong, and has been joined by a number of people who bring their own experiences and ideas with them. While this is a positive thing, it brings with it some problems.

Just as the explosion in CCW permits and gun sales brought the opportunity for less than qualified instructors attempting to cash in, so does an increasing acceptance and search for H2H teaching open the way for poor or incomplete knowledge hitting the marketplace. In an area where this type of thing is new, how can we know if what we are getting is good to go? As someone who has been obsessed with what is fighting functional in the real world my entire martial life, I will bring up some things in this series of articles that I have found to help guide my own journey.

The number one, over riding thing a H2H instructor must bring to the table is pressure tested material; not what he likes, but what he has found what works in the heat of the crucible. The problem right now is that the term “pressure testing” is getting co-opted by instructors with an agenda, and is making the phrase meaningless by changing how it is derived. Like the Scientific Method, it must have defined and repeatable characteristics.
So what does constitute real pressure testing? Here is what I believe is the most proven way of defining it. This definition was a collaborative effort by a number of people on the discussion forum Total Protection Interactive. While I had a hand in it, there was a lot of input from incredibly experienced instructors. I t consists of four parts.

First, you must have a Physically Resisting Opponent. He must be an active barrier to what you are trying to accomplish.
Second, the opponent must have Opposing Will. It is not enough that he is going through the motions of resistance; he must have the will of doing so to fuel the physical action.

Thirdly, the opponent must have Malevolent Intent. Essentially this means he must want to not only stop you and your actions, but he must want you to lose and be put in a worse place than where you started. For example, if we are testing our technique of getting out of a wrist grab, not only does our partner have to try and stop us; he must also want to make us either get stuck in the grab or even end up on the ground totally under the attacker’s control.

And finally, there must be Freedom of Action by the opponent. This is where most martial artists and Combatives people fail. It is relatively easy to “win” if we know that our opponent can only do one thing. Again, as in the above example of countering a wrist grab, if all the attacker can do is hold on, it is not going to be that tough to escape. However, if we let the opponent also throw strikes, drag us around, and try to knock us to the ground, suddenly our problem becomes more complex. More importantly, it becomes more real.

Before we just accept that something has been pressure tested, we need to ensure that the pressure testing meets a logical, defined standard.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for adding this to the mix, Caleb. Carrying a gun is useless if you can’t fight your way to the gun. I was a boxer and martial artist when I was younger, but age and weight have taken their toll. The weakest link in my self defense skills is the ability to physically fend off an attacker, in order to get to my weapon, or extricate myself from the danger.

    Mr. Burch, I have followed your work, and I am looking forward to learning more from you.

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