Friday, March 4, 2011

Adhesion: The Foundation of Tactical Control

We're very happy to have Trevor Wilcox of Intercept International make another appearance as guest blogger for Spartan Training Gear this week.

This week's article is called 'Adhesion: The Foundation of Tactical Control'  

An underhook while pushing the head down and away sets up a knee strike to the head.
The Tactical Advantage of Adhesion
Adhesion, or “Stickiness”, is one of the core combative performance principles taught in Intercept’s iCombatives program – yet it is nothing new. It is a core principle in many martial arts from Pencak Silat to Wing Chun’s famous “sticky hands” drill and a very real part of all grappling systems. Away from the esoterics, adhesion is a simple concept to grasp: simply stick to your opponent. By doing so, you gain two clear advantages. Firstly, it enhances your ability to read your opponent’s intent, commonly referred to as tactile sensitivity, and thereby negate his attack practically before he launches it. Not only is the hand quicker than the eye, your sense of touch is more responsive and therefore faster than any reaction based on a visual stimulus.
Secondly, adhesion also enhances target acquisition. By establishing one or more points of contact with your opponent, whether by checking, trapping, holding, locking, etc., it becomes much more difficult to miss him with a strike. The calculations of timing relative to distance that a boxer might need to make, for example, are largely negated when you are sticking to your opponent. Similar to a fighter pilot getting ‘radar lock’ before firing his weapons, you know exactly where he is. Tactile sensitivity and target acquisition work hand in hand such that you:

·      will be able to feel and predict more accurately which way the bad guy might move
·      force him to be more telegraphic than he otherwise might be and make mistakes
·      can further monitor his actions through the tactile sense, follow him and continue your ‘protective offense’ relentlessly.

Furthermore, in the context of street self-defense particularly, you will often not know you are in a fight until you are actually in one. Duelling, as honorable as that may have once been, has long since died. Predators nowadays resort to “ambushing” their would-be prey using what Geoff Thompson calls the Four D’s: Dialogue, Deception and Distraction leading to Destruction. In such a surprised mindset particularly, instinct controls your movement until you are able to establish an element of control of your opponent, which in turn allows you to get yourself together. This can be most easily achieved by reaching out and touching him, i.e. establishing some type of adhesion to your opponent.

A figure-4 arm lock with throat control immobilizes the arm completely, imbalances the attacker leaving him few options and therefore very predictable.
Tactical Adhesion Applied
There are two basic types of adhesion, what I’ll simply call Contact Adhesion and Grabbing Adhesion. Whenever you are simply touching your opponent but without necessarily anchoring yourself to him, this is “contact adhesion”. This can be done with any of your natural tools, however, the principle of Adhesion also needs to dovetail into another principle, Center Line Control. In that sense, the hands and arms provide the primary means of controlling centerline and maintaining adhesion. Adhesion with any other tool in conjunction with the hands/arms provides supplemental tactile information on which you can act. Contact Adhesion provides momentary control and tactile information, but typically does not fully control your opponent. Sticking a palm in your opponent’s face, placing a hand on his chest while trying to talk him down, or simply touching his shoulder as a gauge of distance while you shin kick him are all examples of Contact Adhesion that apply regardless of whether the fight is in a verbal stage or in active fight phase.

Grabbing Adhesion, on the other hand, is when you anchor yourself to your opponent, snaring and securing his limbs, hooking on to his neck in a clinch, holding him in a joint lock, etc. providing you with a greater element of control, while at the same time providing the full benefits of heightened tactile sensitivity and target acquisition. While much of this certainly can be gross motor movement, it can also be more technical, making them more of a complex motor skill and therefore not as instinctive. More instinctive does not always mean more effective however, and one should not shun complex motor skill development in favor of instinctive gross motor skills only. There needs to be a balance of both, and certainly complex motor skills can be trained to a degree where they become gross motor in nature due to the biomechanical habits you have developed through training. Grabbing Adhesion is certainly not new to anyone educated in MMA, and most will simply associate it with “the clinch”, e.g. the Thai clinch is a great example that allows for the delivery of some very heavy knee and elbow shots. Grabbing Adhesion is more encompassing than the clinch however. As already mentioned above, anchoring yourself to the opponent by either clinching, snaring and securing his limbs, or even joint locking him are all examples of this type of adhesion. In the context of a street ground fight, wrapping the guy’s ankle while stomping on his groin is another good example of Grabbing Adhesion.

In a close-quarter fight, the hand is quicker than the eye. You can’t see everything coming, but your tactile sense can give you advance warning. Establish contact with your opponent in order to feel his energy/force and intercept it that much earlier and enhance the delivery of your own arsenal.