Complexity is the Killer of Execution

Complexity is the Killer of Execution“Complexity is the killer of execution.”  This statement was recently communicated to me by one of my friends from Northern Red Training (I can’t recommend this company highly enough).  As soon as I heard it, I knew it would forever be part of my vocabulary, because it summarizes the focus of Comprehensive Fighting Systems.

Comprehensive Fighting Systems is an amalgamation of core principles, concepts, mechanics, and strategies of the combative arts and sciences of East Asia, Southeast Asia, Western Europe, North America, and South America.  I use the term “amalgamation” because is a metallurgy term that describes the process of blending and fusing various metals into a new, strong and stable form.  Rather than collecting techniques from various systems and trying to make them fit together like Frankenstein’s monster (followed by the relentless pursuit to bring life to the body), we strive for cohesiveness through commonality.  The human body can only move so many ways; therefore, we analyze the core concepts and mechanics that are universal to every fighting art.

The more complex (i.e. having many varied interrelated parts, patterns, or elements and consequently hard to understand) something is, the more likely it will result in a failed execution, especially under stress.  This applies equally to mission/response plans, tactics, and physical skills.  Despite what most people’s inflated egos would tell them, humans are horrible multitaskers.  The brain can only focus on one thing at a time, although it can switch between focal points extremely quickly, which is what leads us to believe we are actually capable of multitasking.  In addition, research has shown that the working memory of the average human brain is limited to three or four items, which is why we chunk things like phone and credit card numbers into groups of three or four, and why we are taught sequences like Stop-Drop-Roll, Tap-Rack-Reassess, etc. that can be remembered under stress.

Simplicity equals repetition; repetition equals permanence.  For martial skills to become permanently ingrained through the development of neuromotor pathways, they must be practiced repeatedly.  They must be done the same way every time for hundreds of repetitions.  It is the mastery of the basics that leads to advanced applications.

Bear in mind, simplicity is not the same as minimalistic.  A minimalistic approach to close combat strives to make due with a minimal number of techniques to reduce the time required to learn a system (not a bad thing depending on the audience).  A simplistic approach, at least the way I view it, is about distilling movement down to its purest form.  By doing so, we can develop simple skills that have endless applications.

When it comes to the martial arts, much of this boils down to mindset.  We often complicate the simple by failing to recognize its simplicity.  When I began my martial arts training in Tae Kwon Do, I remember progressing through the belt ranks and learning new techniques with each promotion.  As a Yellow Belt, I learned the knife-hand strike.  At Orange Belt, I was introduced to hammer-fist strike.  After receiving my Green Belt, I was taught the back-fist strike.  Three different strikes that would each be trained multiple repetitions every night, but what I was never taught was that, mechanically, they were all the same strike.  The only difference was the weapon that was making contact.  Complexity is seeing three different strikes.  Simplicity is seeing one strike that could be applied with three different weapons (just to scratch the surface).

Keep your training simple and master the basics.  Strive to identify commonality of movement within your fighting repertoire.  By doing so, you will increase the effectiveness of your training and ensure that you will be able to execute what you have trained under stress.

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Chad McBroom
Chad McBroom is the owner and founder of Comprehensive Fighting Systems, and specializes in practical empty-hand, blade, stick, and firearms applications. Chad is a regular contributor to RECOIL, ITS Tactical, Black Sheep Warrior,, and other tactical publications. He is the author, coauthor, and contributing author of several books on blade combat and the martial arts. Chad is also a blade designer and knifemaker, who uses his extensive knowledge of edged weapon tactics to design and create some of the most versatile bladed weapons on the market.

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