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When we are awake and conscious, there is only one idea or physical feature we are intent upon or actively thinking about at any given moment.

Shadowboxing is one of the most under-appreciated means a student can use to improve their fighting skills. Most often it us used as part of a warm-up, and rightly so. Students can move at their own pace and choose any moves they want, simulating any movements needed in a fight or in the upcoming class. To get the most out of shadowboxing, try approaching with the idea that it can be much more than a warm-up, and can significantly improve your movement and fighting skills.

No one is telling you exactly what to do and you have no opponent. Managing yourself and your movements allows you to experiment and be honest with yourself. Don’t worry about looking awkward or hesitant, just mentally stay within yourself, and use imagination to experiment with various situations and sequences of movement. When you become comfortable with more movement sequences, the more smooth you become, and the more easily you can recall and rely on them in an actual fight.

Under stress, movement becomes restricted and tighter, and it is likely that the stress will interfere with the feedback loop between your mind and body. At these times it is most helpful to have good muscle memory, so that you can perform effectively even while stressed. It is also helpful to be able to remain focused on the task at hand; ie. survival, and continue to send commands to your body with the expectation that these commands will be fulfilled capably. Shadowboxing helps keep the mind focused and movements can be tried that over time become forged into new and improved muscle memory.

Here are some examples of how to use realistic movements in shadowboxing. There are several scenarios of movement you can expect to see play out in a fight. I’ve chosen 4 of them.

1: Circling and striking an opponent who is momentarily stationary.
2: Following and striking an opponent who is circling away.
3: Evading and striking an opponent that is charging in.
4: Evading attacks at an angle and turning back in to strike.

The only other one is following and striking an opponent who is going straight back, and you should work on this also but it is probably the easiest.

Using an “X” on the floor, you can set up and play out all of these scenarios of movement. Don’t forget to use a variety of evasive and defensive movements mixed together with combatives. Give yourself the freedom to be creative, use correct footwork and posture, and resolve sticking points in your capabilities. Focus on the task at hand. The more often you train like this, the more you can expect these results to carry over into your fighting ability.

You are always displaying some form of body language whether you are aware of it or not, like it or not.

stra·te·gic adj.

1. Of or relating to strategy.
2.
a. Important or essential in relation to a plan of action: a strategic withdrawal.
b. Essential to the effective conduct of war: strategic materials.
c. Highly important to an intended objective: The staff discussed strategic marketing factors.
3. Intended to destroy the military potential of an enemy: strategic bombing.

I think we can all agree that definitions 2a and 2c are the most relevant to all of us. Some of us are more inclined to be strategic thinkers than others, but it ought to be of some interest to anyone who is concerned about personal safety.

In order to avoid situations where your personal safety is threatened, or to get out of them as best you can, strategic thinking is a skill we all need to work on. It can be learned like anything else. Another factor that might motivate you is this: the people that are out to get us in some way or another, generally use some kind of strategic thinking to select their targets as well. Obviously this might exclude random un-premeditated attacks and sudden violent outbursts, but there are still some strategic elements to those types of scenarios as well.

An example of a basic criminal strategy could be this: an aggressive thief wants to rob people of wallets, and so he selects a part of town and begins looking for people who satisfy several of his strategic criterion: they must be alone, appear to have some money, it’s a plus if the potential victim isn’t paying attention somehow (on a cell phone, listening to headphones), and it’s usually going to be at night time to avoid detection.

We have to maintain a counter strategy to this risky scenario. So much of it is common sense, but even the most savvy urban citizens among us have probably found themselves in a tight spot before. We ought to know where we’re going, who we’re meeting and when, exactly how to get there, not walk home alone if we’re too inebriated, and all the other things we wouldn’t want our sons and daughters doing. However, it can easily get more complicated, as in the case of multiple attackers, or situations where you might be protecting a friend, a child or spouse.

You can use games to develop your strategic thinking ability. Probably the most prolific intellectual example is chess. Of course the are many others, and sports are included. A good activity will encourage you to plan several moves ahead, and be enjoyable.

There are plenty of books on the subject, such as ancient texts from feudal times like Musashi’s “Go Rin No Sho” (Book of 5 Rings) or “The Art of War”. Nowadays, doing a search on Amazon for “strategic thinking” nets over 9000 results, many of them about business but also some interesting titles like “Strategic Thinking in Criminal Intelligence” or “The Art of Thinking”.

It’s usually no more than planning ahead, but it’s worth considering how strategic thinking could be used by you to avoid situations that could put you or your loved ones at risk. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and as M used to say to James Bond: “Always have an escape plan.”

APA: strategic. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved October 01, 2006, from Dictionary.com web site: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/strategic

“Until you know what you do, you cannot choose to do otherwise.” Moshe Feldenkrais.

“Change in behavior of a person or group in response to new or modified surroundings.”*

Adaptation is the defining feature of the human species. In anthropological terms, it is a slow, many centuries long process of genetic modification leading to new and improved capability to survive and control our environment. On a day to day basis, and on a moment by moment basis, adaptation can be the key to becoming a victim or a violent crime or surviving or avoiding this fate altogether.

Here we are not concerned with the genetic modification process. We are not going to grow wings to fly away from muggers or develop eyes in the back of our heads in time, or any time soon I would bet. What we humans have made good use of to adapt to situations is our minds, our ability to project future events out of current events, using our memory and imagination together to predict what might happen to us if a particular course of action is taken.

In order to successfully adapt in time to a rapidly changing situation, it is essential to develop a sense of awareness, preparedness, and openness. Too often we get tunnel vision, a sort of narrow focus on what we are pre-occupied with, whether it is something that is bothering us at home or work, or just being focussed on getting somewhere within a certain amount of time. These are states of mind that can close off our ability to perceive threats or potential threats. It’s easy to lose context, like “Why is this man approaching me while I’m walking down the street talking on my cell phone, I’m busy right now!” This is the sort of self-absorbed activity that can make you profiled as a victim by an opportunistic criminal.

Krav Maga gives you the skills to be prepared, but all the physical skills in the world won’t help you when you get surprised. Most of the time we get surprised because we are not paying attention, and not thinking ahead in ways that will help us adapt to problems. The combination of developing physical skills, and developing an adaptable mind gives you the best chance of survival when you are confronted with threatening situations.

* The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

“Consider yourself as a dead body, thus becoming one with the way…”

This is one of the tenets of the Bushido code, a code of conduct that guided the warrior class of Japan for centuries. This concept of the “ideal warrior” can be found as far back as 797 AD. Like the Greeks, the Japanese held that the fully realized man was a warrior-poet type, combining physical prowess with artistry and sound moral behavior. Honor codes are still used today in gangs. They are also used in many professional organizations as manifestos, company vision statements or in human resources documents on work place behavior.

A good samurai was admonished to choose death over life and consider himself a walking dead man. “If you keep your spirit correct, from morning to night… accustomed to the idea of death, and consider yourself as a dead body, thus becoming one with the way…” There are some merits in this line of thinking: it bespeaks mindfulness towards the fragility of life, and the benefits of maintaining one’s awareness. However, this was also the era of lords and retainers; the antiquated idea of “abandoning body and soul for the sake of their lord” meant life was cheap sometimes. There are numerous stories from the era relating how samurai willingly threw their lives down for their masters, or committed suicide for mistakes or social slights we now deem far less dramatic. Sometimes, it came from a greatly exaggerated sense of loyalty – in itself a wonderful thing – but of course the object of loyalty must be deserving.

The idea that we must accept our mortality is a profound one. We become more acutely aware that we have a limited amount of time here in this form, within the current framework that we identify as our selves and our lives. The consequences of our decisions become more meaningful, particularly in one basic overarching area: how do we wish to expend our time? This makes time – and life – more precious, and it means we must do what we can to act as if it is so. There is also much we don’t have control over; when it is our time to go, we will go, and acceptance will make it easier. Being confronted with our mortality can sharpen our senses and appreciation of every day experience. Nature, relationships, and activities that we enjoy take on a new meaning.

With any archaic wisdom, context is critical. Images of outdated social norms that gave women fewer rights than men, or put a much higher price on the life of a lord over the serfs can be discarded. The kernels that remain can be carried forward. For example, the Hagakure discusses how anyone, of any talent level or natural ability, can develop themselves through some basic moral constructs. “When your thinking rises above concern for your own welfare, wisdom that is independent of thought appears. Get beyond love and grief, exist for the good of man.”