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The Killer Intent
Crackpot Mailbox: The Swinder and the Savage Talk on Coaching Big Men
© 2020 James LaFond
The Killer Intent
Adam Swinder
Thu, Feb 13, 1:30 AM (3 days ago)
O’ Sultan of Savagery, heed my call, for I invoke your wisdom once again.
I have a student now that rates very high on the size and strength scale (6’3” 300lbs) who’s problem is twofold. First he is left-handed with his right foot being a club foot, and so his footwork is slow and choppy, without any real ability to press off the back foot and cover distance and use his size properly.
But the real problem is that he is far too passive and empathetic in sparring. Twice we have gone with knives and he never once threatened my head or hands, and has a real problem following through and landing hits with any weapon I put in his hand. As a result I am tearing him up in training and I feel that I am failing him. I deeply suspect that due to his size and introversion, that he has had to hurt others in the past to protect himself and now hates himself for it. His mentality has proven to be a tough not to crack and I need your help.
Best regards, and I hope you are well.
1. How do I teach proper footwork to a large uncoordinated man with a clubfoot?
2. How to I instill the killer’s instinct into him and show him that it is okay to hit someone with weapons without fear of actually hurting them?

Okay, Killer Instinct, this is the rough part.
If you just beat his ass he will wilt or turn into a poorly controlled fighter.
I suggest coaching him while he spars someone else, which breaks down one inhibition against hurting his coach.
Secondly, train more stick and less knife and do it in slow motion to address his mechanics and bypass his head problem.
He needs to get his mind right and he might not be able to.
Have him practice aggression on a bag or post so you can coach the mechanics. Even if he never develops the killer instinct you can keep him as a training partner and a bio-mechanic puzzle to hone your coaching craft.
You need to find him another sparring partner, preferable a tall one.
Mechanically, you might recall that I was once pretty hard to deal with with the knife. But, when I was left-handed I was just screwed because I cannot drive or lunge hard off my right foot due to an achilles rupture kickboxing when I was 17.
We have a smaller man about 200 pounds in Pictom—its king actually—who has a dead foot and he has become a tough customer with the stick and boxing and still struggles with the knife more because of the foot problem. You can see him and I with machetes in the Man Weekend video. He is no longer an easy dude to fight primarily because he took up peek-a-boo boxing as his base and moves side to side more than back and forth, looking to take advantage of his foe's drive. This is basic counter fighting and the best practitioner of it was Ken Norton, who literally dragged his rear foot around the ring on his way to a world title.
Your man should practice stalking and then countering the stop stroke. This will work with his passive disposition, not teaching him to lead.
Being big he stands to get shanked in an attack, so teach him to deal with the knife from his right hand lead, not his left, and have him shift step forward with his left foot behind a check into a judo hip control position.
Try safety pivoting on the heel of the dead lead foot with weapons and while boxing southpaw.
I will hopefully do a video on this with Dennis Dale soon.
Step back from the knife and concentrate on stick and boxing and judo—you threw me and arm-barred me a few times. Do pummeling drills with him to help develop a mechanical style of aggression, which will be mentally safer for him grappling than striking.
As for the stick, and weapon fighting in general, leading with the left does bring angle advantages but puts the heart up front for a shanking.
Concentrate on reverse, female triangles. They will lack ballistic quality as he will have to be trained to move from a triangle base occupied by both feet rather than switching them out on the balls of his feet. Train him the same way on both sides, working from the heel of both feet, so as not to confuse him when he switches leads. Imagine Ken Norton stick fighting, that is what you want.
Do the forward and reverse shift drill, the march, countermarch with him.
Triangular stepping and shifting will permit him to cover more ground with a careful step. His height will help him as he learns how to shift and triangle. Do not neglect the diamond drill and make sure half of his training time is on footwork.
The more he can pick up the mechanics of aggression in drills and equipment striking, the better your chances of getting him comfortable with sparring contact. Speaking of this, stepping back from the knife and going mostly stick, with supplemental boxing and judo, will permit light tap sparring where his fear of hurting people will be mollified.
He's probably not going to develop a killer instinct. But, if he can learn good body mechanics he should still be able to defend himself just by being big and being hard to get rid of. Remember, the guys that get knocked out the easiest are those trying to deliver their own knockout. Be certain to do punch-rolling drills as part of the boxing.
I'd suggest a session built like this:
The sections should have a simple focus and not be too comprehensive, like just doing step-and-drag and making sure to have him work from both leads equally.
-1. boxing foot work
-2. boxing bag work or mitts
-3. light contact boxing drill
-4. stick footwork without the stick
-5. shadow stick drill
-6. hitting the bag or post with the stick with movement
-7. tap and slide stick sparring
-8. knife sparring for just 5 kills
-9. grappling
-10. shadowboxing
Check out Erique's videos. He has flat feet and can't drive ballistically and was a teddy bear who didn't want to hit anybody. He beat my ass in a stick fight this past July. We got enough killer into him to make him very hard to defeat.
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Adam Swinder     Feb 16, 2020

Thank you very much for this wonderful article, James. Now I've got a clear gameplan in order to get just enough aggression into him that he'll be a good sparring partner for years on end.

We just had a breakthrough tonight while sparring sword and shield, with me sparring with sidesword and shortsword (my best weapon set). He was actually able to land a cut and a thrust on my head in two different bouts. The hits were of a low quality but it means he's actually going for my head now, which is a huge step forward.

I will use the drills here to make him a much more well-rounded fighter and more comfortable with throwing out his techniques. Thank you again.
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