Effective Movement – Marc MacYoung


Upon hearing the idea of any physical conflict being over in three moves people have different reactions.

Cops and correctional officers — who’ve had their share of defensive tactics go wrong — usually look skeptical at who said it. Some martial artists believe that their devastating Ancient fighting style would be capable of doing just that — if they ever did it full power. Still others start pontificating about how Bruce Lee invented the idea(1). Combat ‘whatever’ stylists start telling you that’s what they’re trained to do. Reality Based Self-Defense followers claim they don’t need that many moves, their systems pet move will cripple an opponent in one. Mixed Martial Artists often start talking about the need to dominate an opponent.

While those who have actually survived hand-to-hand combat, just quietly sip their coffee and say very little.

It is the reaction of the last group that you should pay attention to. Because they know — first hand — that when someone is trying to kill you, the threat needs to be ended PDQ. And if you want to be the one walking through the door that night, you can’t wait for cumulative damage to first slow, then stop an attack. They know from the moment you touch him, you need to neutralize his ability to attack you.

What we have done is to take this important concept and apply it, not only to life and death situations, but also to self-defense and defensive tactics. It doesn’t matter if you’re facing a knife wielding meth addict in a dark parking lot, trying to control Drunken Uncle Albert at a family reunion, putting down a resisting suspect or confronting a tantrum throwing inmate … it needs to be over in three moves or less.

For everyone’s safety.

Running The Table
Have you ever played pool with a really good pool player? Did you ever get a shot? Against a good player the answer would be “no.”

To understand effective movement all you have to do is look at what every shot a good pool player takes creates. Not only will he sink a ball (that gives him another shot), but every time he does that, he sets up his next shot. The cue ball will roll to a position where his next shot will be simple. Because it is simple, he can focus on setting up the shot after that. And so on and so on. If he can’t sink a ball, then he positions the cue ball so you don’t have a shot. After you miss, control of the table returns to him. Meeting these standards is how a pool shark “runs the table.”

Effective movement allows you to run the table in a physical conflict. Like the pool shark, every move is oriented on you retaining the control of the situation.

Here is a standard of effective offense, every move you do needs to meet three fundamental standards. These are:
1) It secures your perimeter (keeps you covered)
2) Disrupts his ability to attack you (stuns him, unbalances him,
changes his orientation, undermines what he needs in order to
attack you
3) Sets up your next move.

By the way, did we mention that happens with EVERY move you make? Not every technique, but every move within that technique? There is no, “Ohboy!Ohboy!Ohboy!Ohboy! When this technique lands you’re going to be in trouble!”

From the second you touch him it starts to go wrong … and it only gets worse. Once you gain the advantage, you not only don’t let him get it back, you take away his ability to resist(2).

If your moves do not meet these standards, you are not being effective. And by not being effective, you are not removing either his Ability or Will to attack/resist. For every second that you do not meet these standards, he will be able to attack you. And that means the situation is going to become a fight, there will be more pain and work — and while you’re going to get hurt anyway, the chances of severe injury go up every second it lasts.

That’s why it’s so important to end the conflict part in three moves or less The problem with this is that most people have no idea how to do this. Despite their claims sports based martial arts are not capable of achieving this end — and this includes Mixed Martial Arts. Unfortunately a whole lot of what is being passed off as combatives and self-defense is also sports based. It has lost those elements that make it capable of ending a physical conflict in under five seconds.

In this manner you create a very specific set of circumstances. That being:It’s never his turn. Not even where he attacks you, that too is a trap. Once he comes into your airspace it’s going to start going wrong for him.

This is how you run the table in a physical conflict

Effectiveness and the Will To Fight
If you decided to attack someone and found yourself effortlessly picked up, whirled around, slammed into the ground, then told — in no uncertain terms — if you do that again, it will really hurt, how likely are you to try to do that again? Around that time it begins to seep into your stunned mind that the speaker has you in a position that he can start hurting you long before you could even get into position to start hurting him. Knowing that the only thing between you and great pain is the self-control of the person who just whirled you around like a pizza dough, most people decide that maybe now isn’t the time to resist. We start this section by examining a person’s Will to fight when he lacks the ability to hurt you.

Effective vs. Lethal
When people hear ‘over in three,’ they tend to assume that after three bone crushing moves the opponent will be laying at their feet dying. Not to ruin anybody’s Anime/Manga fantasies, but effective offense doesn’t necessarily mean lethal. In fact, you don’t even have to break anything. Most violence, although very scary, isn’t lethal or damaging. The simple fact is, Drunken Uncle Albert, a quarrelsome drunk friend, an out of control teenager or a tantrum throwing idiot make up the bulk of violence you’ll face in your life. Still, the same principles that will keep you alive in a deadly force encounter, can be applied to ending a non-lethal scuffle with minimum damage to everyone involved.

Understanding Effective Movement (Strategy)
Before you can begin to tactically apply this kind of movement, you need to understand the theory of effective movement. It isn’t just punching someone over and over until they fall down. It’s a continuous flow of ever changing changing offense … and just when he thinks he’s got one figured out (and maybe what to do with it) another one pounces on him. He never gets the chance to catch up, much less counter.

The Application of Effective Movement
We don’t expect you to drop everything and come rushing to us for training. So what we’ll do here is to give you examples of how to become more effective in your tactics so you can begin to apply the concepts to what you already know.


1) Although this is often attributed to Bruce Lee, he got it from DiSifu Ark Wong Yuey. Who he studied under for a short time in Los Angeles — before leaving Ark’s school, or being asked to leave (the story varies according to who is telling it). Marc’s sifu, Alex Holub ‘beat’ into his head the idea “a fight should be over in three moves … otherwise get back and see what you are doing wrong.” Alex stated that is what Ark Wong had taught him. When Marc asked DiSifu about this philosophy, the old man confirmed it.

 2) For the record, when we say the ‘fight’ is over in three, that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to have to ‘sit on him’ until he calms down or your co-workers arrive with restraints or handcuffs. When we say he can’t fight you anymore, we’re talking that he’s down on the deck and you’ve got him wrapped up. Unfortunately, restraint and control techniques are designed to not damage the resisting person. And that means you occasionally get to wait out a tantrum on top of someone. What you can do, however, is put him down quickly and easily so you safely and effectively gain control of him in the most effective (and least painful for you) method possible.

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