Counter Blade Tactics in RVA with Guro Jerome Teague

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Richmond Balintawak was proud to host Guro Jerome Teague for an intensive two day seminar covering portions of his Counter Blade Tactics curriculum on Saturday March 4th and Sunday March 5th, 2017. In addition to some great training we also took the opportunity to grow the bonds of brotherhood with some great food (Dumplings, Pho, Tacos, Pad Thai, and Pie... It was a good weekend for our taste buds)! As those of you who are familiar with Balintawak know, we emphasize the use of the stick not just as a weapon but as a training method for developing body mechanics. This is what it is really about, the ability to move efficiently regardless of what is in your hand, if anything. As a general rule, in our system we typically do not train with blades until after the student has reached Level 6 and "Completed the Art", that is to say they have a functional understanding of the curriculum and how to move. Once this foundation is in place we begin to examine the nuances of various delivery methods such as the blade, though the stick will always be our primary tool. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the Counter Blade Tactics curriculum, it is a reality based system composed of three parts: 1. Blade on Blade, 2. Empty Hand versus Blade, and 3. Blade vs Empty Hand, taught in that order. The general idea being that it is important to understand the tool you are defending against, then learn to defend against it, and then refine your own use of that tool. There are a few things that I really appreciate about this curriculum:

  1. It is designed to get people to a functional level in the shortest amount of time possible. It's concise and fundamental in the best use of the terms. The information and methodologies assembled here are stripped down to the bare essentials. There is no embellishment to distract or hide behind. Always a plus.
  2. The curriculum is designed for use with small blades, around 4", like the folder that you probably have in your pocket right now. This perspective informs everything from targeting and the damage that a small blade can do, to concepts and tactics involving distancing, deployment, retention, disarms, and everything in between.
  3. Conceptually, it is rooted in the primary assumptions and goals of Balintawak. Primarily it is defensively oriented and emphasizes "defense and counter" over simply defense. It is also interested in ending things quickly by "turning off the brain", though blood loss in this case. The curriculum also builds on the scaffolding of Balintawak with many of its core movements, embracing the notion that we have one fundamental set of body mechanics and responses that work regardless of the situation. It allows you to just act when action is what is required instead of thinking about what to do. With his background in Balintawak, Guro Teague incorporates the drilling and sparring methods that many of us are already familiar with to get in a high number of reps and safely work movements with increasing levels of pressure and resistance. Drawing on his experience with arts that primarily emphasize the blade he integrates other drills and training methods, always giving credit where it is due to the arts and masters that he is referencing. As Grand Master Taboada says,
"Every art has something to offer. Be a student, take what it has to teach you and make it your own.".

While this curriculum draws many lessons from the fundamentals that appear in many FMA systems I personally see it as an exploration of the blade through the lens of Balintawak and highly recommend it as a way to investigate the nuances of the blade, specifically the one you already have in your pocket. 

The focus of Saturday's 8 hour session was on the basics through the lens of "Blade versus Blade". Guro Teague makes it clear that this will NEVER happen in reality but, as a training method it allows you and your partner to get in a high number of reps and work on line and position familiarity at the same time. We began with a conversation about "Self Preservation" versus "Crisis Management". Guro Teague quoted a friend of his who uses the rule of the "4 S's":

Don't go to STUPID places with STUPID people at STUPID times to do STUPID things.

While this is not particularly fun to drill, it will in fact dramatically increase your chances of not being attacked with a knife. However, Jerome didn't come all the way from Nashville to tell us that, so he showed us the stuff that is fun to drill. The stuff you use when you messed up the "Self Preservation" part, or when your job is to ignore the "Self Preservation" part: "Crisis Management". We began our drilling with footwork and in Balintawak fashion continued building reps of this vital skill as we slowly layered motions on top until, by the end of the day, our legs were very tired but we were moving relatively well. We worked a number of drills to enhance line recognition and distancing which were supplemented with very detailed explanations of human anatomy, how this informed our targeting, and the anticipated damage from an attack to these targets. If nothing else it was a compelling talk on why you don't want to get stabbed or cut. It really reinforces why you want to work so hard on your defense.  

Continuing to layer onto our line recognition we worked a number of drills that honed our defense and counter reactions, ultimately culminating in a couple of concise termination sequences that can be accessed from multiple locations. Less to remember means quicker to action.

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We reconvened Sunday morning to build on the material from the day before, focusing on Empty Hand defense against the Blade.  Footwork was again key as we were now the delivery system and the delivery. Control is key in the CBT curriculum and this means the ability to control distance and your opponent's weapon when the time comes. We began with the explicit acknowledgement that "Empty Hand versus a Blade" means you are going to get cut but to a large degree "how badly" and "where" are up to us. Following the notion of a concise number of motions that chain together to build your defense and counters we spent the next 7 hours working a series of control positions that lead to an interrelated series of take downs, limb destructions, weapon strips, and returns which could, again, be employed from multiple entry points.

We covered A LOT of information and we have A LOT of good material to keep us busy for a really long time. I look forward to working on this material and incorporating it into our regular training. I would like to extend a special thank you to Guro Jerome Teague for making the trip out to share this with us and to everyone who came out and train. 

If you would like more information about Guro Jerome Teague or his Counter Blade Tactics you check out the interview from our "12 Basics..." series with him or visit his website.