Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blindfold Training - Taking Training to the Next Level

Training blindfolded is always an interesting experience.  And it’s quite telling.  If you want to know where you’re smooth and where you’re sloppy, throw on a blindfold and train.

You’ll find out which techniques are truly ingrained and which ones you need to work on. 

To simplify, there are 3 broad levels when assessing your skill level:
Level I 

These are the techniques you know really well.  Even blindfolded, you execute them smoothly with little or no hesitation.  There’s a reason for the saying “I know it so well I could do it blindfolded”.  You are smooth, quick and near instinctual.

Level II 

These are the techniques you know quite well but haven’t quite burned into your ‘auto-response’ center.  These are the ones where you hesitate before applying.  Your mind's eye takes a bit of time to ‘see’ your attacker before responding.  This stage is often also marked by bigger or sloppier movements.  A strike may land off target slightly, a lock might miss the joint by a little bit, or the person you’re throwing may get dragged over and unceremoniously dumped onto the ground instead of right at your feet.

Level III 

These are the ones that are really messy.  You pause, try to figure out what attack you’re receiving, where you attacker is and what to do.  Often people freeze a bit, miss techniques or get all caught up or trip over themselves or their opponent.

Obviously, we should all strive for level I or better. 

Working backwards, you may be able to do the techniques from level III quite well when you can see.  Your response, however, is controlled mainly by your one sense, sight.  These are the techniques you need to examine to identify the feel, balance etc. 

Level II techniques are interesting.  Your brain has accepted them and knows them quite well, but you haven’t given all the non-sight based elements enough study.  It’s time to examine those elements more deeply, in practice and also through mental rehersal.  Low light training can be a valuable method for bridging the gap between being pretty good and truly ingraining the techniques.  If you have access to lights that can dim, even better.  As you progress, you can turn down the lights more and more.

Level I – keep doing what you’re doing.  Keep improving till your response is truly instinctual and instant.


Training blindfolded can be very challenging, for you and for your training partner.  Some attacks are easier to respond to, such as a grab, headlock or bear hug. Obviously, it is more difficult to defend against strikes, especially if there’s no pre-emptive grab.  It can be done, but it takes a high level of skill and a long time. 

For training purposes, start with techniques such as grabs, chokes, headlocks and bearhugs and progress to ‘grab and hit’ attacks.  This is where you start to feel where your opponent is, detect when they shift their balance, feel the tensing of their muscles etc.

So how can you train to deal with the ‘non grab and hit’ attacks?

This is where the low light training can be especially valuable.  In fact, the proper use of low light training can drastically increase your chances of surviving real world unanticipated attacks.

In my next post, I'll explain why this is so and how to go about doing it.

Train well.


  1. one eye covered is a good method, too, as it changes depth and peripheral abilities; one side of your vision could easily be disrupted in real life situations.

  2. Great post Journeyman, a very interesting concept and method for testing yourself out. I've never tried it but I can see the merits of doing so. Good for learning to fight in the dark too! Definitely food for thought here, thanks :-)

  3. this is indeed a good way to train. i've been rolling with my eyes closed vs. less skilled opponents and found out (if strikes weren't involved), i could do fine without looking, because you can feel the movements and adapt to it.

    when grappling, it might even be more beneficial to rely on feeling than on your sight since imo feeling comes faster than seeing.

  4. I haven't tried blindfolded training, but when I was maybe 13 or 14 I tried to spar a friend with my arms tied behind me (saw it in a movie and the hero kicked everyone's ass - how hard could it be?).

    That was the day I learned that movies were fiction....

  5. JC,

    Great point. Another great way to mix things up.


    I recommend you try it. Very enlightening. Nice to hear from you.


    Great idea to incorporate it into ground grappling. I should have mentioned it. Thanks for mentioning it. Sight is often compromised on the ground.


    Thanks for the laugh, you caught me off guard with that one.

    To All,

    Stay tuned to my next piece on low-light training and thanks to all for taking the time to comment.