Lab Rat Martial Arts

"Does it work?"

The digital home of Lab Rat Martial Arts


Who are you people? The existing group are males and females, ages 18-54. The mean age is probably 34. We started as training partners, but have all become friends as well. Lots of nice, smart people, not an ego in the bunch. Some of us do martial arts and self-defense related things for a living in one way or another (law enforcement, executive protection, martial arts instructors, doormen/bouncers . . . ), but there’s also a chef, a librarian (or two), a therapist (or three), service folk, teachers, scientists (lots of those, being near Caltech) and more. There’s about 15-25ish of us (including a couple of people that live far away, but come as they can), usually 10-15ish of us show up most weeks, at this point. Members come from as far as Pomona and El Segundo, with occasional visits from NYC, Boston, Arizona, and Central California.

More specifically, who is right for this group? Starting from people that want to practice/share/learn “self-defense”/MMA… folk who are over 18, can train safe, don’t have egos. Social skills. Definitely, people with social skills. Preferably, people who are dedicated, and want to exercise. Level of experience doesn’t matter- we have new folk, and people who… have forgotten a lot of stuff (translation: people that’ve done so much for so long, they’ve let go of a lot of information). We have moderately fit people, and really fit people. Males and females. You don’t have to be tough… it might help, but isn’t necessary. You might get a little tougher doing this. 🙂 It’s appropriate for men’s and women’s self defense, sport and “non-sport” interests.

What “style” do you do? This is more complicated than it might seem at first. We don’t really believe in “styles”. There’s no such thing as an “Aikido fight” or “boxing fight”, etc. In terms of who can actually teach/coach stuff, there’s Muay Thai, boxing, Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee’s philosophy), Kali (Filipino styles), Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, judo, Crazy Monkey Defense (not as “Kung Fu Theatre” as it sounds- it’s an organized non-traditional system based in part on Muay Thai), military and law enforcement combatives, western wrestling and more. At least 10 of us are essentially lifelong learners of different martial arts. Some partners do ECQC (military/law enforcement extreme close quarters concepts work), some do competitive sport martial arts (BJJ, MMA, Muay Thai, boxing), some even do “The Gathering”- the Dog Brothers “Gathering of the Pack”, which is a full-contact, no rules, pressure-testing of skills with different kinds of weapons.

That’s a terrible description! How am I supposed to know what it “looks like”? Of course the best answer is to come check it out. But, picture the UFC/MMA/cage fighting as a base. Take away the weight classes, the rules, and occasionally give everyone sticks and training knives. It kinda looks like that. We are training practical combatives for incidents against non-cooperative/fully resisting opponents, in uncontrolled environments, with and without tools (weapons).

That sounds too intense/scary. I wanna learn self-defense and exercise, but… Couple things about that. First, in the 19 years we’ve been running this group, there’s never been anyone that needed to see a doctor, though we train 1-4 times a week. If we don’t train safe, we can’t keep training partners! Most of us do full-contact, non-cooperative stuff, with fairly high intensity. However, we’re really good about working with people’s comfort level, and always agree on what kind/how much contact. We all sweat and work hard, sometimes get bumps and bruises, but everyone can go at their own pace and intensity. People work as they like, rest as they like, at the level of intensity and resistance they like.

Then, what good can it be? We use a method that might be described as “progressive resistance”. We believe strongly in pressure-testing and “aliveness” (hence the name “Lab Rats”)… that’s the name for what we do to make sure it’s useful, against non-cooperative, resisting “opponents”. However, we agree on levels of contact, and pay really close attention to levels of intensity, as not to overwhelm someone… unless we specifically ask for that sort of resistance. 🙂

So, what’ll I learn? We’re mostly looking for training partners, and to build community. As such, we don’t really “teach”, and certainly don’t charge a fee for that. We do charge for private and semi-private training, seminar style training. However, all of us are willing to share/coach what we’ve been taught, from the ground up so to speak, in exchange for training partners/building community. That means you’ll pick up how to fight standing, at “clinch” range, on the ground, with and without weapons. You’ll also pick up “pre-fight” material- how to avoid fights, situational awareness, “managing unknown contacts” (people you don’t know), “tells” (indicators of assault), and more. We do operate from an organized, progressive, body of material, that works from what’s most likely to happen, down to what’s less likely.

Who isn’t good for this group? Folk with egos. People that’ve trained traditional martial arts, who have trouble letting go of some of those ideas. People that want to say they’ve done martial arts or self-defense simply for a resume’ of some sort. Someone that is looking for a kickboxing class, ala what one gets in the kind of place they do aerobics and the like. 

OK, I’m curious about it, and it’s free! What now? It gets a little sticky here. Because of the nature of what we do, we “vet” everyone for the group. We want people that are nice, without egos, and can train safely. Social skills. Definitely social skills. Sadly, that’s a little exclusive, but we intend on maintaining a level of safety, and community. So, what we do is a brief phone discussion to see if we fit for what you are looking for.

Where/when, and what do I need? Where: Pasadena. More details when we email/talk. Depending on weather and other factors, we train in a park, sometimes go “old school” and train in a garage. When: Doing individual/small group as we can arrange, mid-afternoon/early evenings, a couple/few times (which we can arrange by phone or email based on what works for us both) until you have a body of material, and know how to train/train safely. Initially, this happens on Sundays from 10a-noonish (at the time of this writing). What: At the beginning? Sweats or shorts and a water bottle. If you wanna really be ready, boxing or MMA gloves and a mouthpiece. Social skills. Definitely social skills. More stuff later.

I can really steal all this stuff from you guys, for free? Do you really know anything? Is this for real?: Unusual, right? Yes to all. Just nice, sane people, sharing what we do for free, in exchange for training partners and community. Imagine that.


More Detailed Information

Here is some other relevant info. Will maybe build it over time. Some of these are serious, some not so, but we hope that it’ll be found useful. It’s just intended for further reading, and woefully incomplete. It’s also important that we give credit where credit is due – most of this material is lifted in one way or another, from the people/organizations on this page, and we hope that you will support them by training with them, and buying their stuff.

BJJ, AKA Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, AKA (for fun)… Basically Just Judo: The last of that is not really true. BJJ is largely (but not exclusively) a style of grappling on the ground or standing, popularized by Brazilians, but surely lifted much from the Japanese. At “clinch” (range where opponents can touch one another without footwork) or ground fighting, BJJ is a fantastic system. The focus is on survival based on technique to overcome strength and size, as well as to “submit” an opponent (getting them to “tap”, some say it’s like saying “uncle!” in a fight), or actually disabling one or more body parts. This is accomplished with locks or chokes. While a detailed discussion is beyond a note here, will point to a link with a bunch of great video and text resources that give suggestions about how to begin grappling: Beginner BJJ Home Training Guide

Default cover: The default cover is essentially an “Oh shit!” response. The most thorough info easily available is here: http://www.urbancomba…. It is a default response to being surprised, overwhelmed, seeing an attack “late”. Doesn’t matter if the attack is a straight or hooking line, with or without a tool- it’s only used to keep from getting knocked out, or keep from getting knocked down. Preferably used after “The Fence”, a video of which can be found here.

Destructions: Sometimes referred to as “sikos” in Filipino terms (and arguably organized by them), this is the use of elbows (and knees) as a means of “destroying” an offending limb/incoming attack (kicks, punches, more). The hows and whys of this idea are too long for a FAQ, and better shown anyway.

Drills: The isolation of an attribute and/or skill, intended to provide an environment for developing them.

Five ways of attack: Usually attributed to Jeet Kune Do, these are ideas that help achieve a hit, or “scoring” (see below). These are SAA or SDA (single angular or single direct attack), ABC (attack by combination), ABD (attack by drawing), HIA (hand immobilization attack), PIA (progressive indirect attack). Without direct instruction, not only are these hard to imagine, they’re often misleading and poorly defined. A simpler and arguably better way to think about these is three ways of attack- force, pace, and fraud. These are simpler ways to consider how to actually make it possible to “score”.

Fighting Measure: AKA “brim of fire”. Simplifying, this is the minimum distance we want to keep an “opponent”, in most circumstances. That is, specifically, that they’d have to take a step in order to touch you with whatever they’re using- feet, hands. An exception for us is with tools- in that case, the “opponent” should have to take a step to touch your hand, not your body, with their stick or knife or whatever. From “Murphy’s Laws of Combat”: if the enemy is in range, so are you. ;-p

Foul tactics or fouling: All the ideas that might be used in a fight, that are considered not OK in a sport context. Cheating. Techniques that are simply used to buy time or distance or distraction or some other similar idea to help achieve another goal like a more relevant intervention, escape, tool access, etc.

Generalship: One’s ability and skills used to manage where a conflict is occurring, the speed, range, timing, use of the environment (including where other “opponents” are).

Jeet Kune Do (also “JKD”): A “style” (more on this in a second) created and popularized by Bruce Lee, carried on at his request by Dan Inosanto (who trained one of our instructors). Mistakenly described as a “style” or “system” (in our view), JKD is better described as a “filter” to determine combative relevance. It is a set of principles put out in Bruce’s “book” (actually a collection of his notes) that sets out ideas, principles, concepts that help us figure out what ideas are useful for fighting, and why. In the ensuing years, two “camps” have shown up: the “concepts” and “original” JKD camps. Again, depending on who you talk to, the more “philosophy” based camp (who also tends to take on more ideas from different styles and systems) is the concepts camp, and the original, who arguably focuses on what Bruce was doing the last year of his life. All of this is subject to interpretation, and has perpetuated some “political in-fighting” as to who does what, what it means, and etc. As one of my instructors might say (when hitting someone), “It’s all the same as far as his jaw is concerned.” Some JKD players do tend to look alike though, in part (I’d argue) because humans only have two arms and legs, and there’s a limited number of ideas that are fundamentally important when fighting. This is sometimes a critique of JKD players, but arguably means that someone doesn’t really understand what “JKD” is. *shrugs*

Kali: Sometimes referred to as “arnis” or “escrima”, this is an unsubstantiated but frequently used name for some Filipino martial arts. For us, it’s mostly a way to simply describe where some ideas came from. One note- definitely not just an “art” that is all about stick and knife. Filipinos have ideas from all ranges of combat, with and without tools. Most of the ideas are based on solid principles.

Managing Unknown Contacts: Arguably part of the “pre-fight” material noted below, also known as “MUC”, this is the term used for handling circumstances with unknown persons that approach us in a self-defense context/situation. It addresses situational awareness, verbal interventions, physical ones, and more.

Non-cooperation and resisting opponents: AKA “aliveness”. By way of video, a great instructor, Matt Thornton shows and describes the concepts:… . Non-cooperation, resistance, the principles of aliveness, also “progressive resistance”, are some of the watchwords and principles for determining combative relevance. If the training methods and ideas are not filtered through these principles, the ideas used, and/or the skills learned from them will not improve performance and make us better fighters. Non-cooperation means that our training partners will not simply follow along with our energy. They will resist our efforts to accomplish goals in a combative context. If we do drills, spar, etc with timing, energy, and motion, and we use “progressive resistance” (increasing speed and power in addition to the other ideas above), we will have to work to improve our skills.

Pre-Fight Material: Ideas and information about what happens before physical intervention actually happens. Pre-assault cues, situational awareness, generalship, legal considerations, being prepared, all of this and more is part of this material.

Range: These are terms that help us put the distance that a conflict is currently in, in context. Different “systems” have different names. Ours (oversimplifying) are: free movement, where the combatants are more than one step from being able to make contact, long range, where the opponent has to take one step in order to make contact, clinch (standing grappling range, where one can simply reach out and touch the opponent with a hand or foot), and ground fighting. There is an exception here with weapons- we’re not discussing projectile weapons (guns), and sticks/knives have the same measure, but instead of the distance in reference to the body, the distance is in reference to the nearest hand.

Scoring: Achieving a hit (kick, elbow, etc). Not the same nomenclature as used in point fighting, which we don’t really pay much attention to.

Sectoring or “Time Hitting”: Terms are used interchangeably, depending on who you talk to. It’s origin also depends on who you talk to. There is an organized set of tools though that are used in Filipino systems, arguably popularized by Dan Inosanto from the Inosanto/Lacoste system. Simplifying, it is a set of hand-related tools that are simultaneous defense and counterattacks. Again, depending on who you talk to, there’s basically six of them: split, inside parry and hit, outside parry and hit, cut, guide and hit, and pak (which actually comes from a Wing Chun and JKD term).

Sparring: Some type of non-cooperative, resisting, alive physical conflict, intended as a training method for fully non-cooperative “opponents” in uncontrolled environments. This can be done with and without tools (see below), and in different contexts. This is something “south” of fighting.

Structure: There’s essentially two contexts for this term. One is stability- whether or not one’s structure makes it possible to have the attributes necessary to perform a specific task- a good “base” to not get swept in ground fighting, or to keep from getting pushed over when standing up, for example. Sometimes structure refers to one’s fighting stance or “home base”. For example, the way a boxer stands when ready for a fight- hands up, shoulders high, back slightly curved, knees and nose over toes, feet about shoulder width apart, elbows in, chin down.

Style: Really a misnomer. We think more in terms of “systems”, organized bodies of material. “Style” is usually the terms to group names of fighting systems. “Five Animal Kung Fu” (aside from being largely irrelevant for fighting) is a “style”. So is Muay Thai. So is boxing. Jeet Kune Do (the system developed by Bruce Lee), much to some people’s chagrin, is not a style, or even a system, arguably. It’s principles to guide and determine combative relevance. What we do is stolen from JKD, Kali (Filipino systems, sometimes referred to as “Arnis” and/or “Escrima”), BJJ (Basically Just Judo… just kidding… is actually Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), Muay Thai, judo, wrestling, military/law enforcement combatives, and more.

Tools: This refers to weapons. Most are categorized as impact tools (sticks, kubotans, Asps, batons, etc), exsanguination tools (bladed tools like knives), and projectile weapons (guns, etc).

Unequal armament, unequal initiative: Two terms that describe someone having a “tool” when another doesn’t, and/or when someone “has the drop” on another. Meaning, the other is either surprised or in some other way inhibited from prevention or a timely response.

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