Does BlitzDefence do what it says?
This provocative question was put to a large number of EWTO school owners and instructors in the last print edition of WingTsun World. It is now four years since they started teaching the "new" programmes which Grandmaster Kernspecht introduced under the generic name of BlitzDefence in 2000. Here are a few further responses for which there was unfortunately no more room in WingTsun World No. 28.
"BlitzDefence" is a teaching method within the WingTsun system during which WT students are mentally and physically prepared for the most frequent forms of physical confrontation by means of appropriate WingTsun techniques. Grandmaster Kernspecht has researched the characteristics of "realistic street-fights" for decades, and has coined the term "ritual combat" on the basis of his accumulated experience. The BlitzDefence programmes supplement the WT teaching system in such a way that even beginners are able to cope well in such dangerous situations after only a short while.
The BlitzDefence programmes emphasise the following:
- Gradual defusing and reduction of a mutual threat situation
- Communication and interpersonal relationships
- Reliable recognition of all the opponents attack preparations
- Controlling ones own fear, verbal deception and distraction
- Uncompromising and determined seizure of the necessary initiative at the last
moment, in the form of a few rapidly learnable WT counter-attacks which leave the opponent with practically no chance.
What makes BlitzDefence so indispensable?
Firstly, without doubt the "trigger" principle. Certain gestures or sentences are practiced in combination with a blow or combination of blows until merely repeating the gesture or sentence will cause the trained technique to be performed by reflex action. This might be "How is your mother?" or "What are you doing this evening?", but possibly something unexpected such puckering up the lips to blow a kiss!
Using the trigger-word method to initiate certain actions is one of the most basic NLP techniques. An internal or external visual, auditory or movement stimulus is linked to a reaction or situation which can then be initiated regularly from then on. A trigger is a stimulus-reaction link which extends the classic Pavlovian conditioned reflex concept.
Another strength of BlitzDefence training is the repeated practice of the verbal phase. Here the student learns to use his/her voice, body language and spirit. For nothing is as important as "communication"! It is this that can already decide an encounter in advance. The aim is not to use some new form of rhetoric or to shout loudly, but to say the right thing at the right time to prevent a threat.
And finally the selected WT techniques are what breathes life into the BlitzDefence programmes. This collection of individually linked techniques is the framework for successful self-defence and self-assertion.
Programmes 1 to 3 contain pure "forward defence", programmes 4 to 8 deal with so-called "defensive tactics" and the "special programmes" are learned in the advanced programmes 9 to 12.
BlitzDefence contains a form of training which gives fear no chance to grow within us or, worse still, take control in the first place. The germ of fear is unable to ripen because we do not give it a chance to.
Symptoms of "fear" in a potentially dangerous situation:
- Rigidity and the urge to visit the toilet
- Trembling knees owing to an enormous release of adrenalin
- A dry mouth, causing the urge to clear the throat
- Mental blockage as areas of the brain are disabled by "stress"
- Heightened muscle tone
Fear can give rise to a fight or flight response. Fear is the result of not-knowing, or not being able to control. Not-knowing can be remedied by information, the inability to control by training.
What are the views of "users" who are confronted with this every day, either because they pas what they have learned on to students or because they need to use it themselves? Or more simply:
"Does BlitzDefence do what it says?"
Sie-Hon 1st TG WT school owner in Osnabrück and Georgsmarienhütte
I am familiar with all the BlitzDefence programmes. If I am not mistaken BlitzDefence only applies at the student grade level, i.e. there are twelve programmes or twelve topics. If one wants to integrate the BlitzDefence programmes into the usual training, it is necessary to increase the lesson time or slightly "condense" everything else to make room for them. What I find very difficult is to replace part of the previous training with BlitzDefence . After all, the previous Lat-Sao is to be left out or moved up a few student grades.
This is because I have been teaching the old programmes for years and find it a pity if we dispense with them (e.g. the fast backfist techniques from the old 2nd SG programme). There is also the argument that nowadays there are almost only ritual fights, with the emphasis on "almost only". Who is to tell me there are no longer any duels nowadays? Especially me as a school owner? After all, I have to be prepared for challenges from other styles. :-)
Ok, in my view the BlitzDefence programmes not only represent a milestone in the history of WT, but perhaps even in the martial arts world. The psychological phase simulated and practiced by role-playing teaches verbal dexterity and fear control, although I have to say that training fear control is very difficult. It is very hard to create fear under training conditions, unless you have a really good actor who can realistically play the play of a violent thug. A useful hint: occasionally scream loudly at a student for no reason in the middle of a class, this sometimes works quite well....:-)
As I have said, I squeeze the BlitzDefence programmes into my classes, i.e. the students do BlitzDefence for approx. 15 to 20 minutes of a 90-minute lesson. Either role-playing or focus-mitt training. In the lower student grades (1 to 4) I have now arrived at a certain teaching routine (as there are more students). In the higher programmes I could do with a refresher course in the form of seminars myself. This shows that while BlitzDefence has been successfully introduced, it is by no means firmly established yet :-) So far everybody agrees that BlitzDefence is logical. First an orthodox opponent, then a southpaw, then a frontal attacker. High, midway and low attacks by wrestlers. Everything is very systematically ordered. According to feedback from a student who has often been involved in fights, the frontal approach should be moved to the first student grade because this happens most frequently in real situations. Women have a little difficulty with role-playing, e.g. they sometimes have to overcome inhibitions about e.g. screaming loudly ("Leave me alone!") at first.
Better to learn to overcome this during training than to have problems with it in a real encounter. Focus-mitt training not only helps to improve punching power, speed and precision, but also to overcome any reluctance to strike. Some who have never been in a fight seem to gain slightly more self-confidence as a result.
Conclusion: I think BlitzDefence considerably increases the probability of winning a physical confrontation. If the instructions given during training are followed closely, BlitzDefence gives us very good chances, though naturally more actual reports must be evaluated to assess this in more detail. My favourite is the 4th programme: preempting an opponents attack by precise positioning and location of the arms at punching range is ingenious. Another important benefit is the pre-fight period with its psychological phases (verbal, expression and gestures), and the new strategy of taking control of the situation and deescalating it from the start if possible. After all, a fight avoided is a fight won. WingTsun has become an even more comprehensive self-defence system as a result. My only criticism: there is a lack of suggested preventive measures. If I am e.g. clothed inconspicuously I am unlikely to attract unwanted attention, and I can also e.g. take a detour to avoid a badly lit road. All of them measures which minimise the risk even further. As it is, every student must develop his/her own strategy where this is concerned.
Oliver C. Pfannenstiel, 3rd TG Owner of the WT school in Strausberg Instructor team of Sifu Hayo Zuber in Berlin-Kreuzberg
So far the term "BlitzDefence" means very little to people in Strausberg. Numerous advertising campaigns have had very little impact. On the other hand, many people know about the "WingTsun school". Perhaps more "exotic" names like WingTsun have a greater impact?
I estimate that 30 percent of my students started WT with me because they were looking for precisely what BlitzDefence promises: BlitzDefence emphasises the importance of the pre-fight situation, as well as the role of oneself and others. It trains awareness, handling fear and self-assertion in conflict situations; it is legally unimpeachable and specific to men and women.
Perhaps 70 percent have various motives for learning WT: the effectiveness of WT, movement, classical WT exercises, our teaching atmosphere, WT philosophies, age groups ranging from 13 to 70, the soft martial art, etc. Owing to the versatility of WT, it has something for everyone.
BlitzDefence is a fixed part of my classes. Roughly one third of a two-hour session is spent on the respective BlitzDefence programmes. The remaining time is used for classical WT exercises, Chi-Sao, Lat-Sao and sparring. At seminars I sometimes include theoretical sections about legal self-defence, handling fear, deescalation and self-assertion. Women learn to assert themselves differently from men. BlitzDefence is good preparation for the real world outside the WT school.
Looking the bad guy in the face
Violence and criminal behaviour are (unfortunately) daily occurrences. The aim is to heighten ones awareness of them and learn to handle them sensibly. In his new book, GM Kernspecht writes: “Only if you know the tricks and deception tactics of thugs and street-fighters are you able to defend yourself against them“. Not all WT instructors are personally familiar with the situations on which BlitzDefence , and particularly the role-playing scenarios, is based. This can be a disadvantage. We should try to become familiar with the bad guys to work with this knowledge in class. As the instructor, it is I who have to play the role of the big bad guy. I must make an “authentic“ impression, otherwise it looks ridiculous and is not a good preparation for real life.
According to Karl Koch, GM Kernspecht used to sit in dimly-lit bars and study human behaviour by taking notes as a silent observer. In the same interests, one could for example prepare for ones role by going undercover and visiting places where trouble tends to occur, but of course without wanting to get involved. This requires good powers of observation and a certain inner detachment in unpleasant situations. This can be begun in gradual stages, and has nothing to do with getting a kick from criminal or violent behaviour.
An instructor who talks to victims, doormen, streetworkers, womens hostels and police officers, or takes a job in the social services/catering sector even for a short time, can only widen his/her horizons.
The many levels in womens self-defence are very realistically taught in highly informative seminars by Sabine Mackrodt and Emmanuel Keller. One of the emphases is on role-playing.
Playacting and reality
During classes this means playacting. A good actor studies his part as realistically as possible and can act it out at any time. As WT instructors we must be similar where BlitzDefence role-playing is concerned. We prepare our street-savvy and not so savvy male and female students for dangerous situations by playacting, and show them possible solutions. This means that we have a certain responsibility towards them. The personal mood on the day should decide how the role-playing progresses. As a WT instructor, handling the role of the big bad guy responsibly requires a certain sensitivity, and the same applies to the students as they practice.
Not every student likes to be loudly abused and pushed around during every lesson. It should only be done in measured doses and according to mutual agreement. All those involved must learn to recognise non-verbal stop signals in good time.
There are sometimes students who find BlitzDefence role-playing uncomfortable. In this case I play very loud music in the background to remove inhibitions about communicating loudly and clearly. I have found that this removes any remaining reluctance to playact within the group, and it loosens up the atmosphere. After all, many see WT as a recreational activity which should be fun in addition to the self-defence aspect. To ensure that the fun factor is not lost, students must be able to bow out of the role-playing exercise at any time.
Even though I have written about it at length, role-playing never occupies more than 10 minutes of my classes (exercise time, not explanations).
Sometimes I leave it out completely or only deal with certain aspects: general body language, eyes, distraction techniques, victim posture, awareness, communication techniques, monitoring, etc.
Unfortunately I get little but always positive feedback about whether BlitzDefence actually does what it says in practice. One example was as follows: a WT student was insulted and threatened by a group of youths, but not physically attacked. He felt humiliated and was subsequently angry because he had not defended himself more aggressively. But what is worse: insults or fighting several attackers with an uncertain outcome?
Nonetheless, I see it as a success that he was not attacked despite the numerical superiority of the opponents. An exercise in not taking insults personally. Which brings us back to playacting: we should see the role of the humiliated one as merely a role which we can cast off, though this is certainly not easy.
Perhaps it is a sign of self-confident behaviour if WT people do not easily allow themselves to become involved in fights. In the first WT student programme they are taught that the real victories are the fights avoided, not those that end in a knockout. I hope the proportion of cases that never come to our notice is very high for our students.
Perhaps no feedback is good feedback?
Ruckhaber, 1st TG
School owner in Borna and Markkleeberg
How do we train in BlitzDefence?
We use role-playing to train in BlitzDefence. In my experience beginners find the verbal phase easier than the physical phase. I find that the more advanced students have little problem in using the various techniques, though they often have trouble with talking, calming and speaking with their hands. Usually these students have been with us for a while and are still primed to advance with chain-punches. It is often difficult for beginners to adopt the role of the aggressor, and advanced students have to help out. I very often use focus-mitts in training to improve punching power and coordination.
How often do we train in BlitzDefence?
BlitzDefence is trained regularly in my two schools. For the lower student grades I include BlitzDefence in almost every session for 30 – 45 minutes. The higher student grades train BlitzDefence for approx. 15 minutes per session (one session = 1.5 h)
What about practical application?
One of my students often tells me he has used BlitzDefence to good effect. He works as a doorman in various nightclubs, where he is often able to defuse situations with BlitzDefence.
So far I have had no students who came to me expressly for BlitzDefence. Beginners are also unaware of the books published by Wu Shu Verlag. Most of them obtain information from the Internet. Perhaps we should post book extracts in the Internet.
I think the BlitzDefence method is an excellent way to react appropriately in dangerous situations. The concept is clear and simple, and can be explained particularly well and convincingly to beginners.
The fact that we try to talk to opponents and calm them down in BlitzDefence is a major advantage over our competitors, and it can distinguish us from the mass. My students have a lot of fun practicing BlitzDefence. There is a great deal of laughter during role-playing, especially if the attacker has played his part really well. Another advantage of BlitzDefence is that the student can apply what he/she has learned at once. With many other exercises the student only realises later what their purpose was.
Most of the students also appreciate the fact that they can act within the the law with BlitzDefence.