The ability to escape or avoid a situation is critical to the studies of Tensoku Ryu. This is a core conceptual element of our art. It is an integral part of what we refer to as the ETD Model.
The word “Escape” can generally be defined as to get away, avoid capture, slip away, elude, fail to comprehend, or to suggest a means of extraction. All of these contexts (and several more) are integral to how Tensoku Ryu utilizes this simple word. This means we view escaping as having multiple layers, facets, and perspectives resulting in a diverse set of movements, patterns, and strategies for utilizing this concept.
When people first think of escaping they think about getting away from danger. This is the basis for our Escape Stepping Patterns. By knowing both how and when to move you can use these simple patterns to slip away from aggressive action. This is an extremely practical, useful, and elegant utilization of the Escape concept.
But the concept embodies much more than the simple “get-away” strategies. A more important element of the Escape concept comes into play when you consider the “avoidance” connotation of the word. Ultimately, the best way to avoid injury is to not be present at a time or location where it might occur. This can be done, of course, by using stepping patterns, but more importantly, it means not being in a dark alley downtown at 2 AM. It means considering the possible risks associated with your actions before you engage in them. It means not losing control of your mental faculties due to alcohol, drugs, fear, frustration, or anger. It means, ultimately, remaining in control of yourself and your environment. This is the fundamental basis for both Escaping and Self-Preservation.
Another related aspect of Escaping is the willingness to run away. This is extremely important for children and women who have less chance of overcoming an attacker. But it is equally important for men to be willing and capable of running away. Running away is difficult for some men due to ego. They would rather fight and be injured than be considered “a coward.” But in truth, running away is the best possible outcome because if you escape nobody is injured. This is the true essence of escaping – doing whatever is necessary to ensure that no harm comes to anyone involved.
The Escape concept involves much more, however. As you train you will be introduced to different ways to view the escaping process that will include using psychology to escape, blocking, garnering the assistance of others, masking and initiating movements before an attack has begun (prepositioning), precluding the possibility of an attack, compromising an opponent’s structural integrity, and even encouraging an opponent to strike you. All of these are essential parts of the escape process and will be studied over time.
An entirely different utilization of the concept of Escape is how one physically extricates oneself from a physical grab. What strengths or weaknesses of the human anatomy can be used to overcome a grab or hold? What mental or psychological impediments can we utilize to help gain a release? How can we use natural bipedal movement as an aid to gaining our freedom?
You will begin to study these latter issues within the curriculum studied to achieve the rank of Nanakyu (Orange Belt). You will study how easy it is to escape from common holds such as wrist grabs and various shoulder grabs. You will also study how to defend yourself against kicking attacks from an opponent. These are all essential martial arts skills and should be studied diligently. You should try a variety of escapes from different related attacks. Should you find yourself using the same escaping pattern repeatedly then slow down and find a different escape mechanism. Variety in movement, intensity, and orientation should be incorporated into this training at every opportunity. For nearly any grab there are dozens of possible escape methods (a few grabs have far fewer options). Your task is to discover as many of these as possible.
Learning to escape like this is a truly valuable and useful skill that every martial artist should master. These skills will ultimately allow you to extricate yourself from almost any hold or situation. But you should realize that each time you use these skills you are reacting to failure. In truth, you should have escaped before you were forced to use these skills.
This leads us to another layer of the escaping process that we should discuss (you will explore many others in future material). When confronted with an aggressive act from an opponent you may employ any manner of escape, including prepositioning, stepping or running away, extricating yourself from their grip, or blocking their attack. All are different escape mechanisms. No one mechanism needs to be used in isolation. You can block and then run away. You can preposition as you force them to release their grip. You can do any combination of these various escape strategies to ensure that nobody is harmed as a result of the confrontation.
You will also find, as you gain experience, that escaping can be used offensively. This may, like many things in Tensoku Ryu, sound counter-intuitive. Here are two simple examples (among a great many) that suggest how this might be employed.
For our first example assume someone is coming toward you aggressively. You move back and to the side to avoid the attack. You are escaping. But we are not done yet. In all likelihood, the attacker will now turn and come at you again. This time you move off to the side again, but this time you also move closer. You are escaping again. In reality, you have induced (using Inducement) the opponent to come after you and then you escaped a second time. Only this time we will strike as we move.
Another somewhat more advanced utilization of the escaping concept might be used if you and an opponent are in close contact with one another. You might pull or manipulate the opponent so that they are in a constricted posture. Now you release the opponent so that they can escape. Why would we do that? Because immediately after the escape is granted the opponent will move. As they move they are weightless. We can take advantage of that. A moment later the opponent will root themselves in a new orientation. We can take advantage of that. So we can employ several different offensive skills at our discretion simply by allowing an opponent to think he or she has escaped.
The best use of escaping skills still involves the most fundamental applications of the concept. We want to not be in harm’s way in the first place. If we find ourselves in a hostile environment then we want to get away as quickly as possible. If we are suddenly under attack then we want to move and then run away. It is only when those approaches fail that we require more complex and advanced escaping strategies and methods.