“But he was unarmed!” – Maybe so, but he could still kill you

It’s a widely held misconception that an “unarmed” person – someone with only their hands, without tools (gun, knife, baseball bat, hammer, 2×4, etc.) – is not dangerous, is not harmful.

Robert A. Margulies, MD, MPH, FACEP speaks with the ACLDN about blunt force trauma lethality.

A blow to the temple area where the skull is relatively thin can actually cause a fracture in that area and tear the underlying artery. This can produce permanent disability, and can cause death.

A blow to the back of the neck can dislocate the spine and cause paralysis or death. These are things that one does not really have to be a trained martial artist to do. Blows to the nose, to the back of the neck, to the throat are examples of “empty hands” that can produce disability or death.

Head and face trauma has an interesting aspect to it. It is not just that somebody has been hit in the face, but bleeding and swelling of tissues can also lead to airway blockages. Bleeding in the mouth can lead to swallowed blood, which is very irritating and can cause vomiting which puts somebody at a disadvantage, but also leads to the risk of aspiration. That is, the vomit is trying to come up and out, and you’re trying to breath in, and you suck some of this stuff down into your lungs. All of these things can become fatal, even though this was just a broken jaw and a little bleeding.

A blow to the ribs can cause injury to the liver or the spleen, both of which, in the vernacular, bleed like stink. Surgery is extremely difficult because the liver and the spleen are not like muscle where you can isolate a blood vessel and get control, they’re spongy and trying to suture is like trying to sew gelatin—it is difficult! It requires a highly trained team to be able to salvage somebody who has a shattered liver or spleen. Spleens can be removed and the patient can survive. Humans do not do well without a liver.

Dr. Margulies continues:

Unequivocally not. I consider hands and feet, knees, elbows and shoulders, to be deadly weapons. Once that first blow is delivered and once you go to the ground, the kick to the head, the knees in the chest, may produce permanent injuries and fatalities. I’m going to give you a reference to an article in the Journal of Head and Face Medicine, published in October 2005 (see http://www.head-face-med.com/content/1/1/7 – B10). One of the comments in it is that as of 2005, we in developed countries have a level of facial injuries caused by interpersonal violence exceeding those from motor vehicle crashes. This is not a new concept or a new problem.

I won’t question the fact that tools enable us to do things more efficiently, more effectively – that’s why we humans are tool creators and tool users. However, the lack of tools does not preclude a human from inflicting deadly harm upon another.

Please understand this.

AAR: Immediate Action Combatives, February 2017

Cecil Burch (left) at KR Training, demonstrating a technique for standing up.

Cecil Burch (left) at KR Training, demonstrating a technique for standing up.

If you step back and think about it for a moment, so much self-defense training starts from an ideal position. It doesn’t really matter the context, “ideal” is where a lot of training starts from. Gun classes are on the square range, sunny weather, solid ground, and we know what’s going to happen and what we need to do next. A lot of martial arts work starts with two people agreeing to square off in the air-conditioned dojo.

What’s worse? People work to deny they could find themselves starting from a shitty situation. That term, “situation awareness” and how it’s treated like this almighty god-ability that one must possess and emit constantly, always being in “condition yellow” with mah “head on a swivel”. That THEY never fail in their situational awareness, they are always aware of everything, and if anyone happens to show less than 110% ninja-fied situational awareness, they are looked down upon as a tactical failure and need to turn in their Operator’s Beard and Tatoos™. I’m sorry, but I sleep – I go into condition white. I have a job that often requires intense focus – so I’m condition white. I’m human and sometimes life distracts me – and I’m in condition white. I’m sure you’re better than me and this never happens to you, but then I’m thankful there are people like Cecil Burch who humbly acknowledge these things happen to us mere mortals and provide training to help us cope if we find ourselves starting from a shitty situation. If you are willing to acknowledge you are one who could find yourself in a bad situation, where your self-defense incident could possibly start from you in a deficit, and you want to know how you can work out of that hole, read on.

Cecil Burch

First, who is Cecil Burch?

You can read his full resumé on his Immediate Action Combatives website. But briefly:

  • Lifetime martial artist, including 23 years in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals in the BJJ Pan-Ams and American Nationals
  • Boxer
  • Firearms
  • A member of the Shivworks Collective

So… someone that might know a thing or two. Someone that may well be worth training with in this area. 🙂

But, what IS this area?

Immediate Action Combatives

The seminar work Cecil provides aims to contend with the “worst case scenario”: those times when you were caught off guard, or that old bastard Murphy laid down the law. Things like “the knockout game”, or maybe your self-defense incident started ideal, but then you slipped on some gravel and now you’re on the ground about to get boots to the head. What Cecil is aiming to do is provide you with a way to work to survive and overcome those situations so you can get back to a point where you can fight. As was constantly brought up over the weekend: Don’t lose — because if you aren’t losing, you still have a chance of winning; but if you lose, you can’t win.

There are actually two, 1-day seminars.

Immediate Action Pugilism was the first full-day seminar; this covered working from a standing position. Immediate Action Jiu-Jitsu was the second full-day seminar; this covered working from the ground. The way the seminars were presented and structured, you certainly could take only one day or the other. While both seminars had common threads, they were distinct and did not depend upon the other. However I believe you will get the most out of it if you can take both seminars, either back-to-back, or eventually (as time and money permits).

Regardless of which seminar, they both have the same goal: to provide attendees who have limited training time and resources with solid survival and escape fundamentals geared toward the increasingly violent weapon based environments they may live, work and/or travel within. 

Think about that.

Limited time. I suspect most of us fall into that category.

Limited resources. I suspect most of us also fall into that category.

Increasingly violent and weapons based environments. You watch the news.

And for sure, the techniques are solid and survival-based. This is not going to make you into the next UFC star. You won’t become a great boxer, you won’t become a black-belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). But you will come out with a solid set of skills that will allow you to contend with “the suck”, survive, and improve your position such that you can then deploy whatever your preferred skillset might be (martial arts, knives, guns, running away, whatever). This coursework aims to address the realities almost one else in any area of the “self-defense industry” addresses.

I admit the classes weren’t quite what I expected, but I’m quite happy I took them as while they maybe weren’t what I wanted,  for sure they were what I needed.

My Experience

Immediate Action Jiu-Jitsu class at KR Training, Feb. 2017. I'm on far left, ground.

Immediate Action Jiu-Jitsu class at KR Training, Feb. 2017. I’m on far left, ground.

The classes were held February 18 (Pugilism) and 19 (Jiu-Jitsu) 2017 at my home-range of KR Training. This is the first time Cecil has come to our facility, and honestly I’m disappointed the classes were not sold out. Mainly because I think skills like this are so important for people to possess. But I’m still glad Cecil came down, and honestly on a selfish note, the smaller class was a benefit to me because there was certainly more personal time and attention given, and the class was able to move at a faster pace. That said, I’d rather see sold-out classes in the future – so be sure you attend next time he’s here. 🙂

What was my motivation for taking this class?

In early 2016, my 2017 training goals were to further my gun skills. I’ve made USPSA “B” class, and I want to get to “A” class (still do). And some other things along those lines. But then, in Fall 2017 I took a new job that has potential for me to travel – and those travels could take me to places where I can’t carry a gun, or knives, or pepper spray, or anything other than my hands and my wits. I knew I needed to change my training goals. It’s been many years since I did any serious empty-hand martial arts work, and the moment I saw Karl was bringing in Cecil Burch I signed up for the class. I knew of Cecil and knew training with him should not be missed.

That’s the notable thing: I wanted to take these classes because I wanted an opportunity to train with Cecil Burch. It didn’t really matter what he was teaching, I wanted to learn from him. Oh sure, I read the class description and it seemed in line with my goals; if the class was about needlepoint, I wouldn’t have signed up (even if it was Cecil). But I admit what I expected from the classes compared to what I got from the classes was different.

For example, I expected the standing class to be about “fighting from a standing position”. So I expected we’d cover more about strikes, punching, elbows, some footwork, defense – basically a balance of offense and defense. But as well – and I can only articulate it this way post-mortem – that it would all start from that ideal self-defense situation. I did not expect the class would be about starting from the worst-case scenario, and how to survive and dig out of that hole.

But I’ll tell you straight up, I’m deeply appreciative of what the class did provide me with. I’d actually say it’s more important, because most of us likely get enough of the other stuff, and not enough of what Cecil provides.

Overview of the days

Classes ran from about 9 AM to about 5 PM. We worked the standing seminar outside because the weather was nice and working outside gave us a lot of room to work. We did the ground seminar inside on mats because of rain.

Class size was modest, and the students ran a decent cross-section. We had young, old, and middle-aged. We had some people quite fit, and others not so much. All male (ladies, don’t be afraid – it’d be arguable that you’d benefit even more from such training, especially the ground seminar). Some had a depth of martial arts experience, others were n00bs. Cecil’s curriculum allows you to come at whatever level and fitness you might be, and work at the level you are able. Oh sure, you will be pushed – if you aren’t, how will you get better? But you are always in control and able to keep things at a manageable pace.

Cecil would start each seminar with a small lecture to explain where he was coming from, to frame the work. Then we would pair up and begin to work. He took an incremental approach to the material. Introduce a small concept, work it for a few reps. Then another concept, work it for a few reps. Then another, and a few reps. Then go back and work again, this time incorporating all that we’ve learned so far. Then let’s do it all again, but this time we’ll up the pressure a little bit. Then take a break. Then lather, rinse, repeat. It wasn’t that robotic, but it was methodical and incremental. I appreciated this because it made the material easier to digest, plus by the end of the day you got a LOT of reps on the initial material, which winds up being much of the core/foundations. That is, if there’s anything worth remembering, it’s what you get at the beginning and that gets (re)iterated throughout.

Cecil is more metal than you. 🤘

Cecil is more metal than you. 🤘

Cecil is an excellent teacher. It’s easy to find good teachers, it’s easy to find people that know material, but it’s rare to find someone that’s both a good teacher and knows  the material AND that can convey the material well. It’s evident he’s put a lot of thought, study, and refinement into the material and presentation of these seminars. It’s difficult to find a simple set of skills that people can pick up on quickly and then retain with minimal practice (vs. someone that studies a martial art exclusively, going to the dojo 3+ times a week). Then to be able to convey it in a manner where you can pick up on the concept, retain it, apply it, build upon it – yet accept that there will be a lot of information by the nature of the program so you have to keep everything as tight and controlled as possible to avoid information overload? That’s tough! I think Cecil did a fine job, and it’s a tough job too. For sure by the end of the day your knowledge cup is at the brim and just starting to overflow. I felt Cecil was able to read the class/students well and know when to move forward and when to pull back.

Plus, he’s a really nice guy, humble, friendly, focused. 🙂

One thing I appreciated about Cecil? Minimal “war stories”. There are some instructors that love to tell stories. While it’s always entertaining, it often causes class to drag and sometimes you wonder if the instructor is here to teach or brag/reminisce. I think it was Greg Hamilton from Insights Training that made a sound point: that stories are good and really should only be used if they contribute to the curriculum and will help the students learn and retain the information. Cecil told only a few stories (within formal class time), and when he did those stories were relevant and worked well to reinforce the lesson. I appreciated that; it goes back to my comment about Cecil’s focus.

Another aside about Cecil. One of the students/helpers in class was a gentleman who is an excellent shooter. After Saturday’s class Cecil asked me if they could go out and shoot for a bit, because he said that even 15 minutes of instruction from this guy would be a boon. This spoke volumes to me. That despite being a top instructor himself, he was still seeking ways to continue to improve himself. He may be the teacher, but he’s still a student. I dig people like that.

Back to class…

We would work and build, work and build, work and build. Everyone was able to work at their pace, and all students were good training partners helping each other to learn and not pushing just to push hard. By the end of the day, we were going at a pretty decent clip and pressure-level, putting it all together. Yes, pressure-testing is important.

I liked something Cecil did to add “pressure”. Let’s say you’re playing the “good guy” and your partner is “the bad guy”. Your partner is to ask you open-ended questions, or at least questions that make you think. For example, “do you like ice cream?” isn’t a good question. But something like “what are your 3 least favorite flavors of ice cream?” is a good one. Something that makes you have to think a little bit, to put a little cognitive load and distraction upon you. Then your partner should see the moment the wheels start turning and attack, and now you have to defend. Is this really all that much pressure? Of course not. But you’d be amazed at how it adds more than enough load and really messes with your ability to perform. I thought it was a fantastic teaching aid.

While the stand-up class didn’t have a “graduation” exercise, the ground class did. Basically you and your partner, middle of the mat, in front of everyone. Your partner could use any approach to attack you (ground work, punches, weapons), and it was your job to survive, defend, escape, and get at least to a neutral position. It brought everything together and was a great way to cap off the weekend.

My Experience

First, I’ll be straight with you: training like this isn’t always the most fun. I found myself a little anxious, a little nervous, a little intimidated. I have an ego, just like you, and I don’t relish getting my ass handed to me all weekend long. But that’s part of why I do things like this. I have weaknesses, and they will never become strengths unless I work on them. It’s not always fun to address your weaknesses, let alone admit you have them, but it’s important to be honest with yourself and work to improve. It’s important to put the ego in the backseat and make yourself better. Think about it: when do you want to address your weaknesses? In a seminar with a kind and knowledgable instructor like Cecil Burch, where you will make many mistakes but you will learn and be able to not repeat those mistakes? Or when you get jumped in a parking lot, and that gang member shows you no quarter for all the mistakes you make?

I’d rather get my ass handed to me and my ego destroyed in an environment where I can learn and become better, stronger.


I think my wife summed it up pretty well. You see, I came home pretty bruised and banged up, but that stands to reason for something like this. So her reaction?

Looks like Cecil Burch took you to school then wrote a lifetime of lesson plans all over you. Come to think of it, I don’t know that you’ve ever come home looking quite so educated

I LOL’d. 🙂

And that’s compared to my prior martial arts days, and even a round with Southnarc.

The thing that I fear in writing that is it’s going to scare people off from taking the class.  I’m mixed on that.

Part of me is fine with it, because it’s a bit of a filter so that the people who will come to the class will take the class seriously, know what to expect, willing to work hard.

But part of me wants to put it this way: yes, it’s hard. Yes it was physical (tho in part, that’s because I was willing to work at a very physical level; again, Cecil structures the seminars to allow you to work at your level). But I look at it this way: do you really think that someone intent on beating your head in is going to be an easy situation? Use the pressure today to learn how to work under pressure, so your first time isn’t when your life is on the line, y’know? It allows you to learn how to work under pressure, so you can have grace under pressure. It serves as inoculation.

Some of the course material wasn’t new to me because of my prior study with Southnarc. But it was like Craig presents you a few things but then has to move along because there’s so much more he has to teach. Whereas it felt like Cecil’s classes took those few things and really expanded upon them: an in-depth exploration and study of a few concepts. I came out understanding them better, and having more skill in applying them. One student said that Cecil’s classes are a good pairing with ECQC, basically if you have Cecil’s skills you’ll likely do better in ECQC. That’s what we call a clue.

I did find the amount of information good and well-presented by Cecil, but for sure by the end of each day I was at my limit. In fact, around 2-3 PM on Sunday I was totally brain fried. Cecil would demonstrate something new, then I’d get down in position to try it and totally have no idea what I was supposed to do: I couldn’t brain any more. This is my own fault. The reduced calorie diet was not conducive to the weekend. My diet works for my general level of activity, but the 2 days of more intensive physical work was of course a much greater level of activity. I was hoping to keep at my normal diet level, but alas I could tell on Sunday it wasn’t working. I had a couple foot cramps, and then my abdominal muscles started to cramp right after I did my turn in the graduation exercise (and continued to cramp on and off until I went to bed). I gassed out a couple times Sunday afternoon. So this is pretty simple: nourish yourself well, and well in advance of class. If you’re on a restricted calorie diet, unless there’s medical reasons (and if there are, you should take that into consideration in terms of participating in the classes), then I’d say break the diet a couple of days beforehand, get your glycogen stores topped off, eat well throughout the classes (fast carbs, water, electrolytes). You can resume the diet after class.

As for my performance. You win some, you learn some. Heck, I learned many. 🙂 Cecil said I did a good job in class, so I’ll leave it at that.

I will say that the class reinforced some things about “being big and strong”. Namely, it’s a pretty nice advantage. I’m in good shape. My resting heart rate is in the low 50’s. And while I don’t consider myself all that strong, I’m certainly stronger than many. And I’m heavy – which one fellow student explicitly said was an interesting situation for him because with me and my weight fully on his chest restricting his breathing, that was tough and a bit of a panic for him. He said he was thankful for it tho, because he was able to learn about that now, in the safe confines of schooling, than letting the first time be “for reals”. Nevertheless, it’s evident being bigger/strong(er) remains an advantage. There were guys in class who were way more technically sound, and what helped me work against them was being bigger and stronger. Of course, they were able to whup me pretty good in the end, because they had greater skill. There’s much to consider here.

For sure, I still have a ways to go. If I have another opportunity to take these classes, I certainly will. The repetition and reinforcement will be good, and I’m certain I’ll get more out of it the second time around.

One bit of feedback for Cecil: be a little clearer on equipment requirements. Clothing was listed as “loose, comfortable, but durable”. I’d like that to be expanded to address coverings. For example, on both days I wore my typical gym clothing of a no-sleeve shirt and gym shorts. Very comfortable, loose, durable. While it worked well for the stand-up work (apart from me being stupid and forgetting sunscreen), it was terrible for the ground work. I lost a bunch of skin off my knees, and they became pretty raw and tender. Knee pads might have helped, but I suspect they would have just rode down my legs. Just having longer pants probably would have been a help. I’m not sure how to phrase it, especially since I’m sure it varies based upon facility amenities. But that’s the one thing that I wish I had done differently as it would have saved me a little pain.

But hey, it’s just a little pain. Shake it off.


It was a long and tiring weekend, but I learned a great deal. I am thankful that Cecil teaches these classes. I am thankful he came down to my home turf to teach them. I am thankful for the solid group of students in class, who were all there to learn and help each other learn. I am thankful for the cooperative weather, and for Snow’s BBQ lunch. 🙂 I am thankful for my generally good health and fitness, so it enables me to learn and participate at the level I desire. And I’m thankful to have gotten to know Cecil. He’s a great guy, and I truly look forward to seeing him again. I hope he’s able to come back again, and I hope to see you there.

Why aren’t you training with Cecil Burch?

This coming weekend (Feb. 18-19, 2017), KR Training is hosting Cecil Burch for 2 1-day courses:

Cecil Burch will offer two 1-day classes in his Immediate Action Ju-Jitsu program. Day 1 will teach skills relevant to standing up conflicts. Day 2 will teach skills relevant to ground fighting. Students can attend either or both days. Completion of Day 1 is not required to attend Day 2.

The objective is to provide attendees who have limited training time and resources with solid ground survival and escape fundamentals geared toward the increasingly violent weapon based environments they may live, work and/or travel within. And all techniques/concepts are from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and are combat proven over the past 80 years by thousands of practitioners, including the U.S. Army.

The Immediate Action Jiu-Jitsu course is designed to give the layman a realistic and functional set of concepts, techniques, methodologies, training drills and experiences that will prepare them for a worst case “ground-fight” scenario. All techniques and concepts are high percentile applications which span a wide spectrum of confrontations. Training consists of presentation, drilling and Force-On-Force evolutions providing attendees with immediate feedback regarding the efficacy of the skills learned.

If you don’t know who Cecil Burch is, click through to read his lengthy resumé.

Due to some life changes back in Fall 2016, I made it one of my 2017 goals to get more training in “other” areas. It’s been some time since I did any formal empty-hand study, and when I saw Cecil on the guest instructor list for 2017 I couldn’t pass up the chance to train with him.

Why aren’t you signed up for the class?

If it’s because you’re out of shape, do you think your need for these skills is going to wait until you are in shape?

Karl’s also offering some sign-up deals on the class. And note that it’s 2 1-day classes: you can come for one or the other.

Sign up now!

And see you this weekend.

Austin women, and self-defense

Local TV station KEYE did a good report in response to a couple sexual assaults that happened on the south side of town.

In the report, they interviewed Tina Maldonado, part of A Girl and A Gun woman’s shooting league, and graduate of numerous KR Training courses (disclosure: I’m an instructor at KR Training)

“We’re all responsible for our own self-defense,” said Maldonado. AGAG Club helps teach women safe and accurate shooting but also support, self-reliance and friendship. You can find a local chapter or learn more at www.agirlandagun.org.

Maldonado says they may be ready to use a gun, but are taught to stay alert and avoid danger first. “You’re your best protection,” said Maldonado.

Another good snippet from the article:

Moy Yat Kung Fu Academy teaches free self-defense. It is different than martial arts. It is a class based on intelligent movement and intelligent choices. “Once you have to attack, once you feel you have to attack, there are no good options. You have to attack with as much aggression as you can in order to survive,” said Vyvial.

Indeed. People view the word “aggression” as a bad thing, but when you’re in a fight for your life (and sexual assault is just that), you want as much aggression as possible.

APD also shares these tips on protecting yourself:

  • Carry items that you can use if you need to call attention to your situation (examples: whistles and personal alarms)
  • Consider taking a self-defense class.
  • If someone tries to assault you, scream loudly or blow a whistle.
  • If you are walking or jogging, stay out of secluded or isolated areas. Arrange to do the activity with at least one other friend, rather than alone. It is best to do these kinds of activities during daylight hours.
  • Do not cover both of your ears with music headphones.
  • Avoid getting isolated with people you do not know or do not trust.
  • Be aware of where you are and what is around you.
  • Keep your cell phone charged and with you.
  • Stay away from deserted areas.
  • Try to appear strong, confident, aware and secure in your surroundings.

A good list of personal protection tips, for women and men. But I’d change a few things about it.

Don’t consider taking a self-defense class. Take one. “Considering” isn’t going to do you any good; you have to actually take classes and get knowledge, training, and skill.

Don’t try to appear strong, confident, aware, and secure, be strong, confident, aware, and secure. If you lack these, work on improving yourself and acquiring strength, confidence, awareness, and security. If you’re not sure where to start, drop me a line, or check out groups like A Girl and A Gun. This is your life; it’s not a time to “feel-good” and lie to yourself, it’s a time to take action and “be good”.


Detect, Defuse, Defend – do we need more emphasis on the first two?

Tony Blauer asks the question: “What would it cost you if you didn’t fight back?

I’m referring to the emotional/psychological taxes. Most people never consider violence’s deeper impact. The noxious effects that create PTSD, the memories that stain our mind’s-eye and silently agitate our nervous system.

When bad shit happens close-up, everything can change.

So what would you pay to avoid some of this? What would you pay to feel safer?

His answer?

Pay attention.

Some days ago, a man on a San Francisco Muni train pulled out a gun and flashed it around. A lot. There was nothing covert, hidden, or non-obvious about what he was doing – he was quite obvious and blatant. However, everyone around him was oblivious, noses buried in their phones and tablets. No one saw what was going on until the guy shot someone.  Apparently it was a random encounter, thus anyone on that train could have been the victim, and they never would have known… they never would have had a chance to do anything.

Now, everyone is quick to blame mobile devices. We have to remember that books and newspapers and Walkman’s existed long ago, and people found themselves just as engrossed and oblivious with those. However, I cannot deny that we’ve changed and find ourselves with our noses buried on the glass screen a lot more these days. In fact, people tend to consider that device of primary importance, more so than driving or walking. I admit, I’ve watched people walking around with their eyes on their phone and not on where they were going, and I’ve been tempted to step in front of them or simply insert my hand between their eyes and their phone. It’d be to make a point that perhaps they should pay more attention to the world around them, alas, I’d just be seen as an asshole and no lesson would be learned. *sigh*

Mr. Blauer talks about the 3 D’s:

1) DETECT (to avoid)

2) DEFUSE (to de-escalate)

3) DEFEND (to protect).

Two-thirds of your personal safety takes place before you even step on the “X” (The “X” being symbolic for the time & place of an ambush).

The Three D’s is the basis of your ‘ Personal Defense OS’.

Two-thirds of confrontation management relies on awareness, mental toughness and fear management strategies before any contact is made. Avoiding danger should be the primary directive.

Col. Jeff Cooper has his color codes of awareness. Insights Training has their street & vehicle tactics courseSouthNarc teaches about Managing Unknown Contacts (MUC). Karl Rehn has done much to further the utility and use of force-on-force training. Any good trainer in this area is going to stress the importance of such things. Granted, it’s #3 that sells the most because we all like to shoot guns, or practice kata and joint locks, or whatever. There’s not a lot of sexy appeal in #1 and #2, but it’s precisely those that will do the most to keep us alive and out of trouble.

Yes, this is where “force-on-force” training pays off. The thought of “FoF” scares a lot of people because it makes it sound like it’s going to be a UFC battle. Yes, there’s FoF classes (like SouthNarc’s ECQC) that are about going to some physical extremes. But a lot of FoF training is just scenarios, role playing, with little physicality (and a lot of people finding their inner thespian). What it does give you is a lot of understanding of how Detect and Defuse play a big role in your own personal safety. If the only training you’ve had is to “draw your gun” or “palm strike to the nose”, you only know how to do #3, and that’s not always going to be the right answer.

This sort of training helps you make a mental shift. It sinks in a lot of reality, and should enable you to give yourself permission to listen to yourself more. Blauer continues:

This strategically brings us into the next step in enhancing your personal safety: decide right now to respect and embrace your body’s survival signals. If an alarm goes off, respond to it. Got a bad feeling? Address it. Something nagging at you? Stop and look into it. Don’t ignore these signals. Don’t rationalize and mentally correct them. Don’t dismiss them without assessing them. Your body is built for survival and one of its hard-wired systems is designed to alert you to danger.

I know what some of you are thinking, “What if I mistake a feeling, body language, a gesture or movement and react to it.” And? What’s the downside? No one [important in your life] is going to be upset with you for facing fear. Don’t be shy or embarrassed about this. Accept that the human body will generally err on the side of survival. And so should you. There is no downside to being safe or safer. But there is a massive down side to ignoring these survival signals.

And don’t let peer pressure; socialization, fear of fear or other distractions mess with your survival instincts. We are physiological survival organisms, designed to adapt & survive. (FYI, in my courses I’ve re-named us #humanweapons, because that’s the mindset you need when the shit hits the fan, right? I’d rather remind myself “I’m a human-weapon”, and charge forward than scream, “I’m a Survival organism!” self-talk is key. Also, I can use the # on Twitter).

So make a contract with yourself right now that the moment your instincts & intuition raise an alarm that you will take steps to move to safety as soon as possible. Got a bad feeling? Address it now. Get off the “X” ASAP. Start moving when time and space are allies and options.

What’s the cost of learning the most the most important and practical part of self-defense? Zip. Just pay attention. Getting off the “X” is FREE.

Realities: F=ma

There’s just some realities of the world that political correctness and good intentions cannot overcome. “F = ma” is one of them.

John “Hsoi” Daub

In response to my “Little woman vs. big man“, Chuck Rives commented “Good stuff. There’s a reason why even UFC adopted weight classes.”. The above was my response to him, and I think the notion is one that too many people forget.

Little woman vs. big man

A common sales pitch of martial arts is that learning my deadly art will allow a 100# woman to fight off a 300# gorilla.

As well, one common refrain about the use of tools in self defense, is that the tool becomes a way to overcome the force disparity that a 300# gorilla poses to a 100# woman. If you can have a baseball bat, pepper spray, gun, it “levels the playing field”.

So which is right? Or are both right? Or are both wrong? Or is there something else?

Rick Randolph writes that there’s actually something else that matters more:

While it may be unrealistic to think we can teach any 110 pound person to knock out a 220 pound attacker … or use pressure points or joint locks, that is not what self-defense is. See “fights” in a self-defense sense aren’t won with techniques, they are won with what Coach calls indignation.

Bad guys aren’t looking for a fight. They are looking for a victim. Give them a fight, even an unskilled one, and often times they will go look for a “better” victim


Lets face it: it wasn’t their physical skills that saved them. None of the stories tell of fancy techniques. Simply that they chose to fight. And that is the reality of self-defense. It is less about how you fight but more simply about the fact that you fight.

Make the decision you will fight now. You don’t want to wait until you have to.

Self-defense classes shouldn’t be so much about teaching people how to fight, and more about empowering them to fight and fight with everything they have.

And that’s what it is: mindset. You must have the mindset to fight. I’ve heard some say that you should become angry, or Rick above says to be indignant, which is probably a more accurate term. Use that. Let it drive you to drive them off.

Yes, I think there is great merit to using tools. That’s one of the things humans have that other animals don’t. We are gloriously mediocre in our senses and our skills, not really good at any one thing, but decently good enough at a lot of things. And one of those things we’re decently good at is using our brains to create stuff, stuff that helps us overcome our shortcomings and mediocrity. We can’t move fast, so we invent cars and planes. We can’t see well, so we invent telescopes and night vision goggles. And our fangs and claws aren’t much, so we have knives and guns. Tools are useful things and we should use them.

But the tool doesn’t matter if you’re unwilling to use it. If you buy a gun, shove it in a drawer, that does you no good. If you practice with that gun but merely plink or slow target shoot with it, that does you no good. Might you want to take classes to learn about good defensive handgun skills so you can use the tool well under pressure? Or how about taking Force-on-Force classes so you can be put into realistic scenarios and see how you’d react. Maybe see how you might be able to channel some indignation. When you read news articles, put yourself into the story and figure out how you would react to being mugged, beat up, raped, or otherwise left for dead. What would you do? Because if you play out these scenarios in your head, basically a visualization technique, and your response in them is to choose to fight, to choose to be indignant, you’re setting yourself up for success.

I don’t want people to become bitter or negative about the world and live their life in some ugly way. I do want people to acknowledge tho that the world does have ugly elements that are willing to infringe upon your life and turn it into something you could never imagine in your worst horrors. Hopefully it will never happen, but if it does, I hope you will have prepared beforehand. Whether it’s acquiring the tools, the skills, or more importantly the mindset and mentality to fight. That is what will enable a 100# woman to overcome a 300# attacker.

Point, Counterpoint, but a good points

I’m sure the CrossFit world is in a tizzy over Mark Rippetoe’s latest:

For casual exercisers, CrossFit-types and the like, the calculation is a bit different. The vomit I see on the internet – complete lumbar flexion, everything pressed out, everything intentionally rebounded from the floor, all done under the watchful eye of some moron saying “Nice!” – makes me of two minds.

Part of me hopes the fools hurt themselves badly (after all, orthopedic surgeons gotta eat too), and part of me hopes their incompetent, stupid-ass coaches all die in a great Job-like mass of infection (boils, abscessed hemorrhoids, lungs full of fluid, etc.).

It’s both an embarrassment to watch and a testament to the fact that apparently tens of thousands of people don’t know what the fuck they are doing, and have no apparent desire to learn.

But before you get too upset, consider Paul Carter’s recent comments. I don’t know if these are directly in response to Rip’s statements, but the timing was good:

Ok, I can’t stand the crossfit hate. I can’t. I’m so tired of seeing people bitch about it.

Crossfit has tons and tons and eons of women that ended up with hot asses from it. That alone means it has value. Lots of value. An overwhelming amount of value. Value for days. DAT VALUE!

Ok, that’s all. I think this Monster kicked in.


Frankly, they’re both right. And I think it’s worth looking deeper at Rip’s commentary before getting too upset about it.

But the real question here is this: what do you hope to accomplish by doing high-rep snatches, done either correctly or incorrectly? And in either case, is there a better alternative, and why?

His point is one of “why are you doing what you are doing”? What are you hoping to accomplish?

If you are just trying to exercise, fine. For most people, that’s enough. Part of the reason I quit studying Kuk Sool was because it was not taking me towards what I wanted to accomplish (self-defense). But I cannot deny the camaraderie/family was wonderful, nor that it helped me really get in good shape; my physical conditioning was the best it ever was. If you want social aspects, if you want just general better health, sure this is great stuff and thus good for a number of people. But if you want to know better self-defense, try something else.

So it really comes down to what do you want. Why are you doing what you are doing.

If you want a hot ass, then by all means keep CrossFitting. 🙂

If you want to get strong, if you want to get conditioned, Rip’s point is there are better means to accomplish that end.

I follow a Facebook page called “Awkward Gym Moments“. There’s often video posted of people performing activities at the gym that just make you wonder what they are doing. Some of these people are great, because they know what they are doing and don’t care what you think. But certainly there are enough activities going on that do make you scratch your head and wonder what’s going on. It makes you wonder, what are you trying to accomplish? What is your goal, and how is this going to get you there? It doesn’t have to be obvious to the dude surreptitiously videoing you, just so long as you are actually doing something positive towards accomplishing your goals.

This isn’t to put anything nor anyone down. This is about ensuring you have a goal and are working to meet it.

Some data about knockouts

Analyst James LaFond studied 1,675 acts of violence that took place between June 1996 and May 2000. At the request of the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, he then analyzed the incidents in his study that led to a knockout.

And here’s a summary of that data. (h/t Shaun Heyes)

Here’s a link to more of the data, from the original study author.

What gets me the most is how easy one can get knocked out. Sucker-punches are pretty typical, and tend to lead to bad things for the recipient.

Empty hands can be ugly things. Weapons (don’t limit yourself to guns and knives) can be uglier. Do your best to avoid the fight in the first place.

AAR – Defensive Knife Workshop with Chuck Rives

On May 19, 2013 I attended a 7-hour Defensive Knife Workshop with Chuck Rives hosted by KR Training.

About Chuck:

Chuck Rives is an Affiliate Instructor, for Mike Janich’s Martial Blade Concepts. Chuck has been a martial artist for about 30 years. Chuck lives in Amarillo, Texas and is an Emergency Manager for a Federal Government Agency. Chuck teaches knife, and defensive tactics regularly to peace officers and corrections officers.

So, Chuck knows his stuff. Chuck’s been coming to KR Training for a while to host shorter classes, and I’ve wanted to check out his classes for some time but just haven’t been able to for one reason or another. But this class I didn’t want to miss because 1. it was a full day, 2. it was also going to have Allen Elishewitz. Alas, Allen was unable to make the class, but that really didn’t detract much because Chuck ran a great class with much to teach. You may know who Michael Janich is, as he’s been a part of the TV show The Best Defense for some time now. While I’m not a huge fan of a lot of the “training” TV shows out there, I am a fan of Michael’s and what he teaches is solid. What Chuck teaches isn’t pure MBC curriculum, Chuck is an Affiliate Instructor of MBC and is highly recommended by Janich.

The knife work is founded in Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) style and concepts. Consequently, it’s logical, simple, and effective. What Chuck has put together for this 1-day workshop provides a basic foundation of simple concepts and techniques that almost anyone can use to defend themselves with a knife.

The workshop started out with a discussion of self-defense, what defensive knife work is (this isn’t dueling, it’s not Westside Story). Some talk about knives themselves in terms of construction and blades. Then a live demonstration of various knives via “Pork Man”. Watch this video:

That’s Michael Janich, and the first 3 minutes or so give his background, followed by some useful footage of actual knife attacks (close, swift, aggressive, brutal), and finally the “Pork Man” demo. What you can see is that knife attacks can be ugly, even with small/short blades. One thing that Chuck’s demo showed that the YouTube video doesn’t, is how blade shape/construction matters. Chuck had a knife that looks evil and threatening — it’s big, black, looks “tactical” and “scary”. But actual cutting ability? It was pretty poor due to blade and edge shape. Then some smaller, less threatening looking knives did far worse damage, but again it was due to superior shape and edge. There’s a lot one can glean from such a demonstration.

After Pork Man, we had discussions of targeting, stance, deployment, grip, and then angles of attack. Again, if you’re familiar with FMA, these angles of attack are familiar. I won’t give away all that Chuck teaches — you’ll do better to learn from the teacher. But if you’re a student of Kali or Arnis or Escrima, you probably already know what’s going on here. Basic blocks and attacks, all based upon the same/similar concepts. At first, it seems like you’re learning a lot, then you realize as the day goes on that you’re learning the same thing and it doesn’t seem like much, and that’s the great thing about it — it’s simple, it’s less to learn, but yet it’s effective regardless. This means when the flag flies you have less of inventory to hunt through for a response, which means a faster response. Good thing.

What Chuck taught was simple and effective, but there’s no question you cannot just take the class then forget about it. You are going to need to practice these things to get them smooth and reflexive. When practicing these, I found myself a few times with brain fade and reverting to techniques I already knew from past martial arts experience. What was soberingly evident? Chuck’s techniques strive to get you on the outside of your attacker, which is generally a safer place to be, especially when a knife is involved. So much of what I learned in the past? Works to get you inside your attacker and keep you there. Really, there’s no one right place because inside and outside can have advantages and disadvantages, reasons to want to be there and reasons to not want to be there. It was just an interesting contrast to have Chuck’s material presented, which focused on getting outside, and finding myself at times reverting to old habits which want to keep me inside.

Was there anything bad about the day? Well, it was hot, sunny, windy, which really took a lot out of you. In the later afternoon we probably should have taken it back inside, cleared the room, and continued working in there. But Chuck was good about taking breaks, cooling off, getting water. It’s good when instructors aren’t just attentive to material, but also these other realities and necessities of teaching. I do wish there was more way to apply the techniques, like some FoF scenarios. But I’m not sure logically how that could be worked out. I know in past martial arts study we’ve done things like get a red magic marker and white t-shirts, so it doesn’t hurt too much but it also shows the damage done. But that’s also probably too much material for one day (2 day course? Maybe a “Level 2” workshop that starts with a review of this material, adds a few more things, then spends the afternoon in FoF?).

One thing I kept thinking about was my past defensive folding knife training with Insights Training. I thought Insights’ work and Chuck’s work went well together. It’s cool when you have different people with different backgrounds and different courses that wind up in essentially the same place. I don’t think one replaces the other, but they do complement. For example, both came down on about the same side of knife selection (Chuck with a Spyderco Endura, Insights with Spyderco Delica). I still like Insights’ approach of two knives, one in each pocket. I thought Insights did more to cover drawing and getting the knife into play, and discussion of that importance. But it’s interesting how Insights tended to focus more on being in the fight then getting your knife; Chuck spoke a lot about how you can get the knife ready before the fight is on. Insights seemed to have a bit of “gun as your primary” tendency, whereas Chuck acknowledged the knife may have to be your primary and how to treat it in the face of that or NPE’s. Insights focused on a few simple but different techniques. Chuck focused on a few simple but similar techniques. However, application was different. For example, Chuck addressed distance, getting outside, and getting away. Insights had a solution for the clinch and being caught in close. Both focused on targeting to disable your attacker so you can get the fight to stop and/or escape. Insights had a stance where your knife-side was back (thus your “empty hand” was forward). Chuck put your knife forward, so your empty hand wasn’t just a target. On this last point, I think Chuck’s position is more sound, either when attacking with or defending against a knife (so long as you have one too); but that’s going to be very hard for gun folk to learn since so much gun technique is about keeping your gun side away from the attacker. Anyways, I don’t think either group has a monopoly on knowledge and technique. Both present sound solutions, and I think they do far more to complement and augment each other.

Not only did I pick up on direct course material, but I took home some other things. First, I still feel good about choice of Spyderco Delica. They are fast to deploy, solid, and you just don’t have the fumble factor that other folders suffer from (e.g. due to pins; the big hole really helps with thumb deployment). They have good design, and aren’t too expensive such that if you have to lose or ditch the knife, life goes on. Still, a folder isn’t as good as a fixed-blade, and Chuck had a technique that was so simple towards carrying and deploying a folder that I’m going to experiment with it for my own carry. I also picked up on some things for my own teaching (“Tony Chin”). I liked Chuck’s style: very personable and friendly, very passionate about this material, and you can tell he really wants to take the time and care to ensure people learn and grow.

If you care about personal defense, you should care about the knife. If you choose to carry one, you ought to know how to use it. To know how to cut veggies in the kitchen is one thing, but to know how to defend yourself with it is another. But even if you don’t carry one, you’d do well to get some training in how to defend yourself against a knife. Yes, a gun can be an effective defensive tool, but you first need to get your gun out. Being able to perform a few simple movements (again, the FMA-based techniques can work for you if you have a knife in your hand, a club in your hand, or empty hands) to stave the initial attack, get to the outside, and buy you the time to get your gun out… well, there’s much to be said for such knowledge and ability.

I look forward to training with Chuck again.

On one final note, I’d like to give some love to my friend, Shawn Hatcher of Hatcher Knives. Shawn came out and was my training partner for the day. He was kind enough to fashion a trainer version of the REH out of some G10. We spent the afternoon beating each other up, overthinking together, and having a grand time. I must say, Chuck’s techniques are more directly suited for a forward-type grip, so I did use my Delica Trainers for much of the class. But I did use the REH trainer when I could to see how it would convey. Because the REH is designed with a reverse edge and also to typically be held in a reverse-grip, I found myself thinking WAY too much about technique application. But on the same token, most of Chuck’s techniques became even more ugly due to the hooking motion. Yes, some techniques wound up just striking the blunt back-edge of the REH, but as you followed through with the technique… yeah, fun stuff. Shawn took the REH home with him — going to add some “version 1.2” refinements. The joys of custom knives! Shawn’s really evolving as a knife-maker, and if you’re in the market, you should give him a try.