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Post  Guest on Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:43 am

INDEXING (Reach out and touch someone)

Part 1

What exactly is an 'index', and why exactly would I want to do it? What's the fuss all about?

I could hard-sell the 'index' as the next combative 'super concept' - after all, the name certainly sounds cool and mysterious doesn't it? I'd never get away with it, because the truth is simply that indexing is nothing new at all. I guarantee that everybody is already more than acquainted with the concept, maybe just not the name I stick on it - and combative humans have been indexing targets prior to striking them from the beginning. If we take this existing simple support skill, and 'tune it up' a little - something I am fond of doing - it just gets better, it's an enhancement - nothing more, but the more it improves the better it enhances.

Hitting something requires a fair degree of proficiency to get any tool right on target with actual stopping power - just consider all the ongoing calculations such as judging range to the target, gauging the orientation of the target to yourself, assessing your available 'reach' etc - and this is only for a static shot! Start moving the target, just in one plane, and these calculations become more involved - now move it erratically in every plane and it becomes near-impossible - no wonder people miss!

Firing off a punch to the head, for example, relies on a visual point of reference before any of these conscious/subconscious calculations can even be attempted, and plenty can happen before the punch lands, requiring constant re-evaluation and adjustment - even in the split-second time-frame involved. Often the difference between a knockout or not is down to the target's instinctive shift away from the incoming blow to the head, this can be minuscule - not even a true 'flinch' as such but enough to negate the desired effect. Sometimes the head movement is dramatic - people just don't want to get hit I reckon! - making landing solid, finishing, blows hard using just visual reference, and this is an understatement as anyone knows who has tried it.

Having the free hand in contact, somewhere, makes this so much more effective. Any form of contact with a person provides a tactile point of reference, and dramatically improves both target acquisition and accuracy. The closer you can position the hand to the target, the more direct and effective the 'index' effect, but any contact, no matter how indirect, will improve target acquisition somewhat, as you have more information input to assist and enhance your striking. This same minute 'drift' of the head is less of a problem, as being in contact updates the necessary information as required.

Basically if landing a punch on a thinking moving target is a lottery, and it is, indexing it first buys you a whole load more tickets!

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, everyone already does this, it's found in every martial art, from the deep-rooted traditional styles to the modern progressive systems so I'm certainly not pushing it out as a new idea, but it is definitely something to be considered more deliberately - not so incidentally or even just accidentally!

Indexing is a skill, and as such it's less tangible than a more specific striking tool for instance - and it's especially useful from a contact-management/line-up perspective where the emphasis is often upon explosive pre-emptive strikes to finish an attack a moment before it fully manifests. Most methods of situational control advocate using the hands to dynamically control any existing interval and proximity, creating obstructions to be negotiated prior to any assault and maintaining a reactionary gap to buffer any incursion into personal space.

The index comes into play during such scenarios perfectly, naturally even, as there is no need to worry too much about touching the target and escalating the situation - usually you'll be prising an aggressor off with a virtual crowbar, so touching is usually down to them as they try to position for a possible shot. With this in mind, the index will be in play constantly and your first shot hit-probability will increase dramatically should you need it, especially if you use it consciously to this end.

As stated previously, any contact is good - but some forms are better than others. Using a constant 'sticky' pressure with the hand, possibly adding the forearm if close, is probably the optimum balance between input, security and flexibility. Indexing isn't simply grabbing and hitting, as many mistake it for, but a grab can be a form of index - just not the best example. Grabbing works well and is instinctive - sometimes a little too instinctive, and under duress people can 'forget' to let go when necessary (previously I've had to prise an unconscious subject's hand from my clothing - still locked tight) so I prefer not to fully commit the grip involving the thumb, rather just using a 'meat hook' type of open grab/trap/push/pull for a limb or neck control, or simply to apply the optimum forward pressure to the upper body while the other hand/elbow blasts in with repeated strikes, or a multiple knee strike is employed, or headbutts etc depending on circumstances. All this is done with a constant physical point of reference, an 'index' to guide the shots on target.

So you've indexed and landed your shot, and - welcome to reality! - you didn't manage to put the bad guy away in one, so what do you do now? Simple - keep the same index and repeat the shot until it works! Simple? Yes, but a little too simple maybe? Not really, just bear with me a while. Fighting is undoubtedly no easy task, believe me I know this, but ultimately combat of any scale is actually fairly simple in concept, just made near-impossible in application by us 'clever' humans! Surely if we can simplify the concept even more - from a purely pragmatic point of view - we can simplify the application in turn?

This 'index and repeat' tactic may be a little basic, over simplistic, 'unsophisticated' even - but it doesn't half get the job done! With constant offensive pressure, a real 'go for it' committed attitude and a 'good-to-go' green light I'd rather land 4-5 shots bang on target, easily, with the same hand - being in control and maintaining optimum range without restrictive attachment, than 9-10 shots that barely hit home, each one a 'lottery' that disturbs and negatively affects the targeting of the next.

Maintaining a constant point of contact with the non-striking hand is more efficient and therefore preferable to any alternating or 'cycling' method where there is still a moment without contact and the free hand actually moves the target away, the 'index' remains in place and is often, but not always, teamed with some form of 'control' such as a grab, or better still a more straightforward temporary 'trap' of an obstructing limb to create and maintain offensive opportunities and to prevent and hinder any attempts of defence.

Again this 'indexing' of a target prior to hitting is as old as fighting itself - I keep saying this don't I? It's often observed in bar brawls as a prime example, it's an almost primal act to latch onto someone and strike repeatedly with one hand, or drag someone's head down and stick the boot or knee in over and over again. I'm definitely not advocating abandoning all your training and simply watching thugs brawl for inspiration, but just maybe take a hint or two regarding what is already effective - untrained attackers still put guys in hospital on an all too-regular basis - and look at what can be improved upon further with a little tactical/technical analysis and a whole load of intelligent and realistic training.

Indexing as a support skill isn't limited to fighting either - nurses 'index' before administering injections, surgeons do the same before making incisions and if you were to write something on a wall, no doubt you'd place your free hand near to where your pen wanted to be - try hammering a nail in without touching the piece of wood throughout the act! People want a point of reference for precise work, it increases confidence if nothing else, and 'indexing' is the term I use for this.

Last edited by Mick Coup on Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:52 am; edited 2 times in total


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Post  Guest on Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:43 am

Part 2

I actually borrowed the term 'indexing' from a pistol emergency-reload method. As will be familiar to any tactical shooter, the spare magazines on your belt are arranged in a pre-determined fashion and when you grasp one you do so with the index finger in line with the front edge of the magazine. This ensures that it can be quickly and accurately fitted into the empty pistol without looking, by simply guiding the index finger toward the base of the hand holding the pistol and straight into the waiting magazine-well, whilst constantly observing your surroundings - these tend to be rather 'interesting' during or immediately after a gunfight!

Also, as an aside, the concept can be likened to the index of a book - a point of reference that lets you know exactly where to easily and quickly find everything contained in therein.

Try this basic drill to explore the overall concept, to 'tune up' its already instinctive nature - take just one finger and place it on the chest region of your training partner, close your eyes and then, maintaining contact, see how easy it is to repeatedly locate his head with the free hand. Try it touching the arm also, getting your partner to reposition himself between 'shots' - even calling out locations for you to target, progress to using the whole hand and feel the further improvement as you get more tactile input from the increased surface-area.

Now try it with the index-hand firmly touching the side of a focus pad, or the arm of the holder with just enough 'sticky' pressure to maintain contact, and fire in some heavy shots with the pad moved each time. Keep your eyes closed throughout and notice how power doesn't suffer, often with the eyes open the 'human condition' sets in - that incredible ability to make a simple thing complicated! Bear in mind to avoid placing the hand behind the pad, as this would in fact support the head if the action were transferred to a real encounter - which it will end up being - and drastically reduce, if not negate a possible knock-out blow.

As a matter of interest, I often find guys hitting harder with their eyes shut - testimony to them having a negative visual fascination with the whole 'point of impact' thing where the line of application is mentally split into a pre and post impact phase. In effect many fixate on the surface of the target - visually - and 'zoom' up to it before applying force, therefore not utilising as much mass-momentum as possible. In truth the strike should travel to the limit of its application in one fluid movement, colliding with and travelling through the point of impact along the way - but that's another story!

Note, importantly, that the above is just a confidence drill, I heartily recommend an 'eyes wide open' approach to personal combat - anything else is just showing off!

That said, it has obvious vision-impaired tactical applications - if you've been CS/OC/ammonia sprayed, blinded by blood or gouged, maybe you're 'banged-in-the-head-dizzy' or all of the above, you'll certainly appreciate a little help with your aim! Being able to observe additional threats, using active scanning mid-fight, whilst getting shots 'down-range' accurately is handy too, preventing that target hypnotism that leaves you wide open to a third-party assault.

Continue the drill to the next level, open the eyes and get the pad-holder to 'flash' present the target, then drift the target around a little and retreat, like people do when you try to hit 'em, this forces you to dynamically acquire the index and encourages forward offensive movement of some form. You'll continue to hit it good and heavy almost every time - plus it's often far easier to reach out suddenly and locate with an index rather than commit yourself to a strike straight off, and the whole act should be near enough simultaneous anyway.

Not convinced? No problem, try the above again but with the lights off, now it becomes less of an option and more of a necessity you'll find - even better get someone to ruin your pupil dilation with direct strong white light while you're hitting and really see the value, cover one of your eyes with a patch to spoil depth perception, wear safety goggles smeared with grease - are you getting the idea now? Draw obvious parallels with lowlight and snap shooting practices utilising tactical flashlights and lasers, the concept of enhancing the aim with additional external means is the same as it happens.

As soon as stress goes up, accuracy goes down - any enhancement might be crucial because as we all know, during combat the clock is ticking and you have to put people away fast before others want in. Missing means throwing more shots, which means taking more time and getting more stressed, and so the downward spiral goes until you possibly take one in the back of the head.

For solo training on a heavy bag, or similar piece of equipment, use one hand/forearm and keep it in constant fluid contact with the bag - applying and maintaining that 'sticky' pressure - keeping the bag away and at optimum range for whatever repeated hand/elbow/head blow works best at that point in time. Flow from one side to the other, switching index and strike as necessary, and for best results look through to the background during such exchanges, or even close your eyes for real tactile-only target acquisition.

Integrate this into to 'normal' bag work, in between more regular bilateral combinations, then move around and re-manipulate the bag using 'controlling' - the cousin support skill to indexing - making sure to put the bag where you want it, not the other way around. Add actual target 'dots' to the bag and engage only them, don't just hit wherever you desire - real targets simply are not so accommodating. Finally, and definitely, inject a little life into the drill with vivid visualisation to get the absolute most out of it.

The index can be and should be transitioned from one hand/arm to the other as/if required, depending upon how and where the offensive opportunities present themselves. It can be combined with various forms of controlling as previously stated and must be considered just a flexible and fluid support skill, not some 'super-system' use it with hand strikes, elbows, headbutts and knees, or index the ear with the fingers to gouge the eye using the thumb. It works with pre-emptive strikes and simple repeated 'unilateral' hitting only - anything else and you're on your own!

Is that it? I'm afraid so - were you waiting for the 'secret' stuff perhaps? Only if you have your decoder ring handy…….

One closing point - If you don't like it, don't use it……but I'm betting that you already do!


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Post  Charles on Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:08 pm

I really enjoyed these two posts on indexing. While I was reading, I couldn't help but think of the technique that hockey enforcers typically use when they are squaring off with each other - grabbing the other guy's jersey with the non-dominant lead hand and firing power shots in rapid succession with the other. Oddly enough, the typical hockey fight seems to bear a stronger resemblance to real-world altercations than most combat sports events. These affairs are usually relatively short and intense, and the participants seem to operate with a genuine sense of urgency and desire to inflict as much damage as possible as quickly as possible. The practice of "indexing" by the fighters really seems to enhance the percentage of shots landed.

Mick, you also raised an excellent point about the utiltiy of indexing in scenarios where vision could be compromised (i.e. low light enviroment, chemical irritants like O.C. spray being present in the air). I had never given it a great deal of thought prior to reading the indexing posts, but I don't think I like the odds of landing the kind of jabbing, crossing, and hooking combinations that are drilled so devotedly in most combat sports gyms in a scenario where I couldn't clearly see my adversary.

Thanks for providing such a great post - wonderful food for thought!


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Post  BeerBelly on Wed May 19, 2010 2:07 am

Hi Mick,

Well done and would like to say Nail on Head - I am relatively untrained, but agree with all you said.

How many times have you seen a MMA fight and the commentator says "hes looks really relaxed...staying calm..." That is because he is conditioned, rehershed this situation hundreds of times, knows ref would stop any real damage being done and ambulance is in attendance, I am not saying some times there are not moments of a fight within a fight - you can really 'feel' the venom in some of those exchanges.. In a real situation it is the complete opposite of calm, relaxed!

Don't get me wriong, I LOVE watching combat arts/sports and sparring myself. but that is just what they are sport (could argue help to imrpove some techniques as and fitness as well) - it's like a game of chess, use of strategy, planning, technique to find an opening to strike. But, not best receipe for protection in real world?

Also agree on saying martial artists in a real fight vs untrained brawler.

Its like poker (bear with me), if you have studied poker and have all these fancy plays, bets, knows pot odds - playing against another skilled player you can do some creative stuff, get paid off, bluff certain bets. Play against a basic player and they will not read these bets..etc and just play the cards a lot of the times - the skilled poker poker would have to adjust their game to a more basic level or risk losing some hands to the chance because because basic, raw player does not fit into the game they have learnt to play.

Think it compares to thug vs martial artist you've mentioned to a degree - martial artist may be expecting x stance means y is coming, but thug doesn;t play that game and can be more brutal and relentless than the gentl'mans sport that one has learnt.

Anyway, not an arse-kissing post, just thought I would say I agree what you said and I have been thinking for quite a while.

I am a BIG martial arts fan, but also a realist!


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