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The Fight
January 18, 2021
Fights are not static. Things move. People move. Bear-hugs and headlocks and all that stuff happen sometimes in a fight, but they are transitional actions. You do not get bear-hugged just to be held (except by bouncers). A Threat wraps his big arms around you from behind either to pick you up and shake you (disorienting and intended as an intimidating show of strength) or to drive you into a wall. Maybe to throw you over a balcony. If you practice technique-based defense, will they work if the Threat refuses to stand there? If he is using that headlock to slam you from wall to wall?
The Lowest Level of Force
December 7, 2020
The Records area at Rusafa Prison Complex in Baghdad is enclosed by a chain-link fence and was almost always crowded. It’s a stressful place, with inmates being processed in and out, Iraqi military, police, corrections, advocates, politicos, and sometimes families of the convicts are present and a small handful of American advisors.
Simple Drills Worth Knowing
January 30, 2017
The following are important things, some little, some major, that lend themselves well to simple drills or exercises. Backing up is almost never the answer. Unless you are excellent at reading and remembering tactical terrain, you might not know what or who is behind you.
Evaluating Drills—Part 2
October 31, 2016
I get especially annoyed with weapons. Unarmed defense against a weapon sucks. Never, ever, ever practice dying and do not train to be killed. The stakes are too high to blindly imprint a habit, even a habit as simple as handing a weapon back once you have disarmed someone.
Evaluating Drills—Part 1
October 24, 2016
I'm not a big fan of most drills. There is a fine line, but conditioned reflexes are crucial in a fight and habits will get you killed. Conditioned reflexes are things you do without thinking about it. They are essentially trained flinch responses. If something suddenly comes at your eyes you WILL do something: block, move your head or, at the very minimum, blink.
DRILL: The One-Step - September 26, 2016
The one-step arose as a useful accident. Many years ago I was reading George Mattson's The Way of Karate and I completely misunderstood his description of ippon kumite.
Not Parlor Tricks - September 12, 2016
The following aren't actually tricks. They are exercises that you demonstrate once to show a deeper truth. Most will not work on people a second time. Some will learn to game it.
DRILL: The One-Step - August 29, 2016
The one-step arose as a useful accident. Many years ago I was reading George Mattson's The Way of Karate and I completely misunderstood his description of ippon kumite. I thought, "That's brilliant—unscripted but safe, just looking at this whole thing as a meat geometry problem…"
Training for Sudden Violence - August 15, 2016
I teach about violence. As I left “the life” I discovered that my niche wasn’t so much teaching cops as I had expected, or even teaching civilian self-defense. The material seemed to resonate most with experienced martial artists who were coming to discover how little they really knew about violence.
Self-Defense: A Unique Teaching Challenge - June 27, 2016
There are six very important distinctions that make self-defense different from almost every other subject we teach. Rarity. Emergencies are extremely rare, complex, and varied. Rarity means there is very limited experience available on how to deal with such an event.
Hooks in Violent and Non Violent Encounters - January 12, 2016
Dealing with people who routinely used violence to get what they want, they often sought a "hook." A hook is an excuse to act out or a rationalization that will allow them to excuse their actions later.
Boundary Setting—Society's Rules - August 3, 2015
One of the advantages of living in society with a set of rules and mores is that the boundaries are supposed to be set for you. In a homogenous society everyone has similar ideas of right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate. The rules say who you can and can't touch and how, what you can and can't say and to whom.
Don’t Take It Personally - June 15, 2015
What does that even mean? In Conflict Communications the meaning is very specific. It takes history to hate a person. There must be a history of wrongs or perceived wrongs in order to get a deep and personal emotional bond, positive or negative.
The Why and Wherefore of Conflict Communication - June 9, 2015
How often have you found yourself in an argument with your wife, husband, or significant other and thought, "Here we go again"? Have you ever found the answer to a real problem and had it ignored while the person you are trying to help wastes time and energy picking at you, trying to create a personal problem from a good thing?
The Players in Self-Defense - February 2, 2015
No matter what levels of force you need, the players stay the same. It is critical to be able to read the players. The threat dictates the situation. You must understand the problem before you can choose a solution. A charm predator is one thing. A drunk wanting to show off for a girl is an entirely different problem. You must learn to read threats and threat dynamics.
Avoiding Workplace Violence - January 26, 2015
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 18,000 people a week are victimized by some sort of workplace violence in the United States. In fact, although industrial accidents abound, homicide is actually the leading cause of death among female workers and the second leading cause of death for men.
The Practical Problem of Teaching Self-Defense - January 19, 2015
Self-defense is unlike anything else humans train for. Unlike engineering or architecture, you can't have any idea of the problem you need to solve. An engineer knows if he will be building a bridge or a tunnel. A self-defense student will never know if they might someday face a rape attempt, a kidnapping, a drive-by shooting, or a simple assault.
I.M.O.P. Principle—Intent, Means, Opportunity and Preclusion - October 6, 2014
How do you know when it is legal to get physical with an adversary? Learn the I.M.O.P. (Intent, Means, Opportunity, and Preclusion) principle. All four of these criteria must be met before you have a good case for taking action. If one or more of these conditions are absent, you are on shaky legal ground.
Account for Adrenaline - September 1, 2014
When I took a defensive handgun course several years ago, I was taught to train for handling the survival-stress reaction commonly associated with actual combat. To simulate the reaction, we had to do as many pushups as we could as fast as we could for one minute.
Common Sources of Knowledge About Violence - March 31, 2014
We are, all of us, both teachers and students. As teachers, we give our students information. As students, we learn from our teachers. The teachers give us knowledge. This knowledge came from somewhere, from one of four sources.
The Victim Interview - February 17, 2014
I was parked alongside a major street in downtown Seattle. My hands were full of boxes and the mid-afternoon sun was glaring in my face, making it hard to see despite my polarized glasses, so it took a couple tries to get my key into the lock. I awkwardly dragged the door open, nearly dropping some of my packages, and began shoving my purchases in to the car.
Teaching Joint Locks - February 3, 2014
About 2003, the training unit at my old agency got some pretty disturbing numbers. Assaults against staff and hospitalizations had increased dramatically. The programs taught at the academy and approved by our agency weren't cutting it. The Training Unit tasked a few of us to redesign the Defensive Tactics program from the ground up.
Understanding Learning Style Differences - June 24, 2013
I realized fairly early in life that different people learn and process information in different ways. When teaching and learning styles misalign, students progress slowly, if at all. As a child, I had the opportunity to take judo instruction from a former national champion who was the highest-ranking black belt in the United States at that time.
Karate - A Fighting Art: Use Technology - February 18, 2013
I began training in the martial arts in the summer of 1965. Months earlier, I had broken my lower back in a weightlifting contest and the doctor told me to stop lifting weights and to try something less violent on the body. Therefore, I began karate training.
Lethal Force: Firearms - Part 2 - February 1, 2013
Don’t over-romanticize guns. A handgun  is a nifty machine that throws a hunk of metal in a straight line. No more, no less. A .45 caliber bullet, unless it hits bone and sends fragments spinning, does just as much damage as driving a blunt 45/100 of an inch-diameter stick into the body.