Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dirty Fighting for Martial Artists

The argument has been around since UFC 1; most street fights go to the ground, BJJ rules on the ground, therefore BJJ is the best for street fighting. The “Street” exponents (RBMA, Combatives) argue that BJJ is learned under a codified rule system and that there are no rules on the street and a good eye gouge/throat shot will nullify any advantage that the BJJ guys have. Having spent most of my life studying a street oriented self-defense system as well as having a Purple Belt in BJJ and grappling for well over ten years now, my views on this subject have changed as my knowledge has increased.
Fifteen years ago, I was one of the “street-exponent” guys that decided that well placed strikes, presses, pulls, and breaks would take a BJJ player out of his environment and turn him into a reactive mass like anyone else that had a finger stuck in their eye or their trachea pinched. After several years in BJJ, I discovered that BJJ guys can do all that illegal stuff too and can do it better because they are well versed in using the ground to stabilize their targets. They are also very adept at hiding their own targets from probing hands. I have found the key to effective “dirty” fighting is to train regularly in all three areas, striking, groundwork, and illegal stuff. More and more striking schools are incorporating groundwork into their curriculum. Most BJJ schools offer MMA striking skills (boxing, Muay Thai, G&P) but again, these are taught in a sports environment. If you do not train to use the naughty stuff then odds are you will not use it when the balloon goes up. If you have never tried to gouge someone’s eye, how do you know you can do it let alone know how someone will react when his eye is being attacked? If you have never pulled a clavicle, how do you know how deep you have to dig for a grip or how hard you have to pull to separate it? I’ve gone after both; with the eye, he fought through the damage (and there was a lot of damage) and he still picked me up and carried me across the room to slammed me into some furniture. I’ve gone for clavicles twice (pre-BJJ) and have yet to get a solid grip and without that, forget about a separation. Breaking someone’s finger? Never slowed me down and there were no drugs or alcohol involved on my part.
In the early 90’s, I attended a seminar with Paul Vunak one of the early proponents of RBSD and still a respected name in the field. One of the areas he covered was Kino Mutay, biting and pinching. It was a delightfully painful experience that also included hair pulling and was almost a system in itself, not unlike Chin Na for the Chinese Systems. Whereas most of the pinching, pulling, and biting were distractants, several specific attacks inflicted a significant amount of damage. Prior to that seminar, I thought a bite was just a bite and a hair pull was just a hair pull. Afterwards, I realized they were special tools that helped you reach a specific goal and when used properly, were very effective to that end. The most important thing I learned was that you needed time to facilitate maximum effect. This meant the target had to be stabilized and controlled in order for the attack to garner the desired result. If a human being can cut off their own arm in order to survive, do you really think a poke in the eye, fishhook to the mouth, or a bite to the cheek is going to make someone just give up and quit? These attacks are just tools and as tools, they need to be used properly to maximize their function. Hair pulls are used to create disturbances in balance and cancel zones. Bites and pinches are used to create openings and/or space. In extreme situations, they tear, crush, and gouge. Rarely will the infliction of pain alone be the primary motivator in making a really bad person give up their desire to make you a resource. While these are considered horrific attacks that can cause incredible damage as well as kill, they are still very viable options when it comes to preserving your life. Are you prepared to use them?

Monday, March 21, 2011


I have had the opportunity to train in JKD, MCMAP, MAC, PFS, and KMW Krav Maga. I also had the privilege to have been exposed to SCARS/SAFTA/CQD, SBS Combatives (Jap-Slapping), and Systema. I enjoyed every minute of the training and learning experiences and would gladly participate in more opportunities to work with any one of the instructors or groups again. With that said, the question arises; are Combatives/Reality Based Martial Arts (RBMA) better than learning Traditional Martial Arts (TMA)? Like most of life’s questions, it depends on personal experience and goals. Let’s take a 10-cent history tour of the martial arts in general. Structured hand-to-hand combat pre-dates the Old Egyptian Empire with the primary emphasis being to kill or disable an enemy if a weapon was lost in battle. Adult sports came about as a means to test military related prowess and skill. Cultural and geographic differences took H2H in many different directions but the one common thread besides making their skills as effective as possible was the requirement of self-discipline, which included mental toughness. Those that had the aforementioned requisites that fought and won, got to pass their knowledge and experience on. For hundreds of years, these skills were pretty much isolated to the military class. As time passed, former military types would teach to their families, relatives, and friends. Most know the story of Bodhidharma, an Indian monk who taught Buddhism at the Shaolin Temple in China. The monks were lacking the physical and mental strength required for the hours of meditation, so they were taught an Indian martial art based exercise to toughen them up. This combined with the indigenous martial arts eventually became the base for many Chinese and Japanese systems. Europe had it’s own roots in Egyptian wrestling and Greek Pankration. While not as structured or formal as the Asian arts, they were still very effective in their own right. As the need for personal fighting skills faded, the styles and methods became the property of those few that had the desire, attitude, and discipline to learn, improve, and test them. They pretty much remained family, ethnic, or professional military taught skills up until the late 1800’s when the need for carrying personal weapons diminished and the public, especially law enforcement, began to see the need for an edge. William E. Fairbairn is generally recognized as the Father of Modern Combatives. He studied and tested various Chinese and Japanese martial arts while working as a Shanghai cop in the early 1900’s eventually developing his own system called Defendu. Not much in the way of fluff or formality, but for its time, it did what it was designed to do which was to give the masses a quick and dirty way to break things on another human being. At that time, the masses were military and law enforcement types who again, had the requisite discipline and attitude to jump into the fray because it was fun.
Cut to today where almost everybody knows of, or trains in the martial arts. The Asians had turned many of their arts into personal development vehicles and with national sponsorship, sent martial emissaries through out the world. Most westerners live in relative security so the need for a personal self-defense system is minimal at best. In other words, we have become soft. With the commercialism of the martial arts in the 70’s and 80’s, the modern karateka is more apt to be some eight year-old Black Belt swinging a pair of glowing nunchuku while doing aerial kicks. The softening of the martial arts in general has been going on since instructors realized they could make a living teaching “karohtee”. These days it’s self-improvement, fitness, sports, and in fewer cases, self-defense. So where does that leave those of us who truly desire to learn real self-defense and fighting skills. For many today, it’s Combatives, military or street oriented systems that rely heavily on contact and attitude vice uniforms and bowing. Simplistic, gross-motor skill based striking taught in high energy, high stress environments. With the right mindset, they work very well. Watching two SEAL’s or SBS Operators work CQ material is like watching a single purpose driven machine accomplish its design. These types of professionals are trained to go into dark places of the mind reaching levels of controlled violence that most people will never comprehend, let alone experience. Even at the induction levels of their training, they are broken down and rebuilt as mission driven warriors whose use of violence is just another tool in their kit. They use what works and don’t give a crap about being pretty or formal. Take that same material and give it to a civilian who hasn’t developed the “kill or be killed, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” mindset, and the efficacy changes. This is where the divide comes into play. In a past Blog, you read the Sheep, Sheepdog, Wolf concept. I believe there is a large group of people out there who will never be able to effectively deal with violence. Whether it be social conditioning or “I was born this way”, some people just go to crap when faced with somebody trying to hurt them or worse. They will probably never accept violence as an answer unless they experience some life-changing event. Others want to take charge of their own security but don’t have the physical skill set to do so. They just have lousy motor-skills and all the training in the world won’t improve them. Another smaller group has the desire and the skill set but not the mind-set and this is where either good martial arts or combatives training can come into play. For years, martial art training was very militaristic and brutal. Lots of pain, fatigue, blood, and broken bones where the norm in any dojo, kwoon, or studio. Like the military, old school training required intense discipline and obedience to your instructor. Failure to obey or not put forth the required effort resulted in punishment. It was in this environment that the “warrior” mindset was created. Those that survived, reached higher levels of skill and those that couldn’t hack it, went back to being sheep. Combatives try to recreate that military regimen with lots of yelling, movement, full power striking, mini-scenario drills, and functional fitness training. Combatives also lean heavily on massive amounts of firepower or repetitive striking using gross motor skills. While simplistic and functional, it’s not always the best way to get the job done. Some schools of thought look at Combatives akin to having a sledgehammer as the only tool in your toolbox. 
Since they both work, why choose one over the other? Well, the answer can be summed up with one simple question; what is your end-goal? If your end-goal is basic self-defense in a short period of time, go with Combatives. On the other had, if you truly want to dig deep into a system as well as find out what you are made of, look into the more combative systems of the martial arts. These will vary with system and instructor but some of the more recognized “violent” martial arts are the Aki-Jiu-Jitsu or Samurai Systems, the Hawaiian Systems (Kenpo/Kempo, KajukenBo Family), Archipelago Systems (Kuntao, Silat, Kali), and one of the new kids on the block, Kyokushin. These Systems will teach mindset; complete anatomical weapons development, body conditioning in order to take punishment, and hardcore fighting skills. Again, some people will not have pre-requisite complex motor skills for higher biophysical usage as required by many martial arts. That’s okay, look for a system that complements your abilities as well as your end-goal.
Over the years I have come to the belief that the style or system you choose to learn isn’t quite as important as how it is taught and what are your expected results. I train Mills Kenpo because I like the speed, power, and violence of it as well as the logic and science that makes up its driving force. I train in Combatives because I enjoy the randomness of the interaction. Any training where the real risk of injury or danger is present will develop mindset. To paraphrase Frank Mir when asked to compare TMA with Combatives (specifically Krav Maga), his statement was along the lines of  “when going to a gunfight, do you bring along the guy that shoots two nights a week in his free time or do you bring along the guy who has made a lifetime journey out of combat shooting”. I know who I want covering my six.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tactical and Performance Imagery

I was sitting at a Denny's Restaurant a few days ago enjoying a cup of coffee and free wi-fi. As usual, I was seated close to an alternative EXIT and facing the door. I noticed a young man in his mid-twenties enter who appeared to be acting nervously. I could see that he was scanning the restaurant and something about his actions got my spidey-sense tingling. His eyes locked on to a man and a woman sitting at one of the booths and his demeanor changed instantly. His eyes focused, he visibly tensed, then walked over to the couple, pulled out a handgun and promptly shot both of them. As soon as I saw the pistol, I yelled "GUN!" and immediately low-ran to my exit and made it out the door as shots were still coming from inside the restaurant. The scenario ended as I was reaching for my cell phone to dial 911. I went back to my coffee and finished closing service tickets on my laptop.
Mental Imagery or Performance Imagery (PI) has been a part of my training since first introduced to it by the late Professor Wally Jay in the mid 70's. His presentation of visualization was used to explain how he could make students perform what appeared to be superhuman skills. He went on to say that visualization was a key ingredient to ALL physical performance whether it is athletic, combative, or life. Tactical Performance Imagery (TPI) is used by the military and LE as means for action preparation and after action analysis. Mental rehearsal can create the proper mindset prior to an engagement and mental review allows subjective analyzation of events following the action. For the martialist, it allows the mind to create experiences that can be used in the decision making process. When training, most martial artists normally learn from “ideal” situations. The “dummy” makes the perfect attack, holds position, and allows the defender to develop his skill set. As training progresses, the attacks become faster, more sudden, and more powerful. Given the fact that no training will ever replicate a real assault though, we must use every available method to build experiences into our decision tree. Any school serious about developing real self-defense skills will incorporate all of the following:

                        Working full-speed techniques in the air to target
                                   (develops flow and speed)
                        Working slow-motion techniques with contact to target
                                   (re-enforces target acquisition and weapons development
                                    and “felt” penetration)
                        Working full-speed techniques with controlled power to the body
                                   (develops flow with contact, creates “I’m going to hurt you”
                                    mindset, allows analyzation of striking potential,
                                    acclimatizes “dummy” to contact/pain)
                        Working full-speed and full-power techniques to target on an
                                    armored body
(develops flow with contact, re-enforces target acquisition
and weapons development, creates “I’m going to hurt you”
mindset, allows for variables, brings “alive” techniques
                        Stress Training Drills and Scenarios
                        Visualizing techniques that destroy an opponent as well “what ifs”

Rory Miller, Corrections Officer, Martialist, and author promotes the idea that ALL self-defense training is theoretical. Until the student applies it AND it works, he is just learning what might work based on his instructor’s experience or lack thereof. My goal as in instructor is to build into my student’s decision-making tree as many realistic experiences as possible. When the balloon goes up, humans will sink to the level of their training. If there is no experience to draw from when involved in an assault or action, heart rate goes up, lizard brain takes over, and all kinds of not good things can happen. Good imagery will manifest itself with physical changes, heart rate goes, breathing gets shallow, face flushes, ear’s redden, etc… Thirty years later, I can still jack my heart rate to over 100bpm when I visualize a gang assault experience. We are all bad-asses in our mind but reality has a way of stomping on our bad-assness. Proper imagery training also involves “what ifs”. What if you don’t get the expected result of your strikes, what if you’re in a toilet stall, what if you go down, what if you make a tactical room entry and face a child pointing a pistol at you, what if…..
 Today I use PI regularly as a means to stay aware and to improve my skill set. Whether it's visualizing myself performing a technique or running a scenario through my head while standing in line at a Post Office, imagery is a must for those who plan on using there martial skills should the need arise. Then again, I could be a good sheeple and not worry thinking that bad things will only happen to other people.  

Monday, February 28, 2011

Myth of The Slap Art

Not sure when it began but I have heard people talk about it as far back as the 60’s. Watch the average kenpoist work his stuff and you hear and maybe even see quite a bit of slapping. Now, I’ve been backhanded as well as forehand slapped and have yet to be put on my butt let alone put in the hospital. So, what’s with all the slapping, on your body as well as your opponents? Well, let me tell you what I’ve heard first and then we’ll go into a few theories of mine. Anybody that knows American Kenpo will tell you that it’s predominately a hand system and that the hands move at a VERY high rate of speed. One of the ways kenpoists maintain and even increase their velocity when striking is to rebound their weapons off their own body. In the AKKI, this principle is called elastic recoil. For example, my strike goes out on a straight line, makes contact with the target, and after the desired penetration, the weapon rounds off and comes back. At this point, I’ve decided to hit another target with the same arm so instead of recovering my weapon to position, I maintain velocity, neutralize my weapon by relaxing my hand and opening it up, bounce it of my own body and launch a new weapon on the same/different trajectory to the same/different target. Below is a short clip of one method of Elastic Recoil. Here, I strike Carlos with a backfist to the liver, rebound off my own body and ridgehand to the throat (in this case, his upper chest).

Quick side note here, while training under an unnamed kenpo senior in the early 90’s, he always stressed travel being necessary in order to develop power. In other words, the more time and distance your weapon had to travel, the more power it had when it got to the target. Logically, this is true, but it is only one method available to ensure max power on contact. Increasing time and distance while striking isn’t normally the best course of action. (think John Wayne). On the other hand, striking using the elastic recoil principle still gives us that big chunk of travel but now it’s part of an ellipse with no stopping and re-starting. On the other side of the slap is a basic method called slap checking. Here, your open hand acts as a check to your opponent’s weapons or body. They are very momentary unlike positional or pressing checks hence the slapping sound created when applied.
So far we have a whole lot o’ slapping going on but nobody’s been hurt yet. Now here is where we get to the part that I feel has led to the “Slap Art” moniker. I’ve been in my fair share of dust ups and on one particular occasion, I tried a speed shot to the jaw of a young shirtless Scorpions fan in the RFK Stadium parking lot. He flinched at the last second and I clipped him in the temple. He was out but I fractured the metacarpal of my little finger in two places and I still had two more guys to fight. With that said, I’m not a big fan of punching people in the head but I am a big fan of dropping an open hand on a jaw, maxillary sinus, or temple. Note, a palm-heel to the jaw can offer VERY impressive results with no tweakage to the small bones of the hand. Unless your training partner is armored up though, hitting with power to the face does not usually encourage a second practice shot. What you end up seeing in many kenpo schools is using open hand shots to the body vice the head/face. This allows the weapons to build in the muscle memory of hitting uninterruptedly. Now before you beat me up for training to miss the target, it is only one method kenpoists use to train. When it comes to demos or show and tell though, it is the more visually impressive method of demonstrating the speed and power of American Kenpo. Please understand that there are many methods of training that will get you to the top of the pyramid. Working the body is one, as are pulling the strike before it hits the target, slow motion training with attitude and effect, and full power training on armored up partners. They all have their weaknesses and strengths and with that mindset, I incorporate all of them into our training paradigm. Actual training methods will be discussed in future blogs but for now let’s get back to slapping. 
I watched a 235lb Black Belt drop to his back from a Paul Mills chest slap. I have been dropped to my knees and have dropped students to their knees with chest slaps. Now imagine taking that slap and raising it up 8-12 inches and striking a 12 lb.object on a flexible support. The last time I did it to someone was five years ago in a bar in Kansas City and it was the only strike I threw. Technically, it wasn’t quite a slap but it was an open hand to the jaw and it did enter on an arc. Last bit of FYI. Ed Parker's "slap" was affectionally known as "The Parker Paw". I've only seen pictures of the aftermath of a Parker Paw so take my impression with  grain of salt but OMG (I have kids), it left one hell of a mark. Please, before you pick on our slapping, find a qualified instructor and stand in front of him as he or she touches you. It will leave a mark and I am very confident you will have a much greater appreciation of the power of the slap.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Aren't We Tough Anymore?

Not sure where I read or heard it but I use the previous statement quite often to students and those I mentor. It is very much along the lines of a Friedrich Nietzsche quote "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger" used as a training mantra in the U.S. Navy's BUD/S Special Warfare Training School. Up until the last few hundred years, life was tough for most. 20,000 years ago, it was a struggle to find food, shelter, survive the elements, and to keep from being eaten. Once communities began to form and a roof was a sure bet, there was less fear from tooth and claw, but now man had to deal with "I want what you have". In other words, the strong took from the weak. Pretty much up to the industrial age and the Rule of Law, the majority of humans had to work hard as individuals and as communities to fulfill their basic needs. Work was very physical for both men and women and the image of the rugged individual persisted well into the 20th Century. With the widespread use of electricity and all of its wonderful progeny, leisure time became a significant part of our lifestyle and the concepts of adversity and struggle became a distant memory for most western societies. These days, adversity is finding a lost remote or getting to work on time. A struggle involves making a choice between eating at Outback or Chili's. Psychologists say that humans are basically lazy and that is why we have the modern wonders we have. Humans are always looking for an easier/better way to do things; especially those that help is exert less effort. Greater productivity in less time gives more time for leisure activities and for most; those activities usually don’t require great physical expenditure or risk. We have become soft and spoiled and we like it. Today in the U.S., “Manifest Destiny” has been replaced by “shop ‘till you drop” and “can I super-size that?” The vast majority can spend their whole lives without ever having to deal with the threat of somebody trying to take their stuff and/or killing them. Most of my students have never been in a fight let alone a violent physical assault. As the “softening” of our society continues, the weaker we become both as individuals and as a nation. Lucky for us though, the United States is known for its individualism, its rich history of overcoming great odds, and when push comes to shove, woe be to yea who try picking on us. Lt. Col. (Ret.) David Grossman introduced me to the concept of Sheep, Sheepdogs, and Wolves in his groundbreaking book “On Combat”. The premise being the vast majority of people are sheep, and that’s okay. Sheep keep society humming along on an even keel. Sheep are nice, adverse to violence, pay their taxes, and wave at you on country roads. They have found their station in life and are happy or at least excepting of it. Wolves on the other hand, are not nice, are willing to use any means including violence to get what they want, may or may not pay taxes, and usually see sheep as resources. Sheepdogs in turn look a lot like the wolf, have the same tools and are not hesitant to use violence but only for the common good. They keep the sheep safe and insulated form the big bad wolf. At one time, sheepdogs wore shinning armor or white. These days, they wear the camouflage of our services or the blue of law enforcement officers. Sheepdogs also come in a subtler form, those that recognize violence is a possibility and take steps to ensure they are prepared to meet it even if it includes using violence on their part. The common thread to all sheepdogs is ADVERSITY. Sheepdogs constantly challenge themselves by voluntarily taking on tasks that are difficult. Whether it’s the mental and physical challenges of the military, the dangers of working in law enforcement, the blood and bruises of training in the martial arts, even the effort of going to the gym or shooting range regularly, sheepdogs always take the hard road. Unfortunately, choosing the challenge has become the exception while taking the easy way has become the norm.
I wish I knew the secret to wanting to make things difficult for myself vice sitting in front of the tube for hours. I don’t always want to train, eat in moderation, or workout, but I do because I know I’ll feel better about my choice afterwards. If your informative years have been easy with no expectations other than getting good grades and staying out of trouble, odds are you’re going to want to continue that thought process as an adult. Simple efforts lead to simple rewards. Rewards lead to expectations and expectations lead to entitlements. Pretty soon, everybody is getting, and nobody is giving. Those that have struggled tend to appreciate what they have a lot more than those who have had things given to them. Hard work brings great rewards even if it is only the satisfaction of having done a good job. When I mentor youth, my message is one of effort, service, and choice/consequence. I believe the key is to get the word out to our kids through leadership programs such as Explorers, Scouts, JrROTC, and martial art classes. Even organized athletics offer many opportunities to teach kids the value of effort and challenge. As long as we keep having enough young people volunteer for the military, enroll in a Police Academy, or take responsibility for their own health and protection, we can keep the wolf at bay. Otherwise a nation of sheep with no one to protect it will soon become someone else’s flock or worse.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Experiences Part 1

One of my former students who lives wayyy too far away to train has asked about my experiences with violence as to seek insight on what, why, how, and to include the “after action” report. I’m always a little antsy on discussing my “fights” on a public forum for several reasons. First, while I don’t want to advocate violence as your first option, sometimes it’s your only option. As noted Combatives Instructor Tim Larkin says, “When violence is the answer, it’s the ONLY answer”. Second, the written word is notorious for being taken out of context and I’d rather not spend the rest of my life defending my statements so please just take it for what it is, MY experience. Lastly, I don’t want to come off sounding like my “fighting skills” rock and that “Bruce Lee don’t have nuthin’ on me”. With that said, I’ll share three experiences that left a lasting impression, changed my martial art outlook, and show that they ALL could have been avoided. This first one still invades my dreams and taught me some very life changing lessons so I’ll describe it first. I’ll relate the other two in future blogs.

1980 San Diego 20 years old
I had attended a friends birthday party in Imperial Beach and was returning home when I had a burning desire for some Jack in the Box onion rings. I pulled off I-5 and went to the nearest JaBo which was located in the Shelltown (Mistake #1) area of National City. It was almost 11:00pm and instead of going through the drive through, I went in to order (Mistake #2) as well as use the rest room. When I entered, I noticed four vatos in Pendletons and pressed white t-shirts (Ignored Warning #1) sitting at one of the tables. I ALMOST (Mistake #3) turned around and left but I had to use the head and I wanted those onion rings. While making my order, the server gave me a strange look, (Ignored Warning #2) which I disregarded. She told me that they were in the process of closing and that they would have to make my onion rings which would take a few minutes. While waiting, I went to use the rest room. When I returned, the place was empty other than the two servers (Ignored Warning #3). I collected my food and went outside to my truck. I immediately started digging into my onion rings (Mistake #4). I sensed/heard someone running up behind me (Ignored Warning #4) and as I started to turn, I felt the shock of the hit as well as seeing a flash bulb go off in front of my eyes. Onion rings went everywhere as I staggered back against my truck and I started throwing blind punches. My vision was fuzzy and I could only see the guy directly in front of me but I knew that there were at least two more because I could feel them hitting and grabbing at me. One of them kept yelling something about “East Side” but other than that, at was all noise. I managed to drive my thumb into an eye (Good Move #1) of they guy in front of me. He screamed and that’s when I went down to the ground. I immediately went to my back (Good Move #2) and started kicking anything and everything that I could reach. They in turn started playing soccer on my torso. I had kept the truck to my back (Good Move #3) and when I had been put down it was now to my right. It took several seconds (hours?) to realize that I was taking some serious damage to my ribs. After one nasty barrage, I found I couldn’t breath and scared s$#*tless, I rolled under my truck (Good Move #4). Thank goodness for lift kits and off-road tires. They would not go under after me so they slung rocks, concrete, bottles and insults at me for about a minute (or it could have been another hour). I heard a siren come on close by and I could see them take off. An SDPD patrol car pulled up about 30 seconds later. After paramedics and paperwork, I drove myself to the hospital. Total damage, one broken rib, three cracked ribs, multiple contusions, cuts, and abrasions, a split lip, and a concussion. All and all, for making a bunch of stupid mistakes, I came out okay. I did find out during the interview why I was jumped. One of the hoods was the server’s boyfriend and she had noticed my affiliation tattoo on my wrist. They were Shelltown Cholos and in my teens, I had run with East Side and still wore the tag. They hated each other with a passion then and five years later, they still hated each other.

At the time I was a Green Belt in Chinese Kenpo. We were a fight school and the techniques were more for belt progression than actual use. We were not taught any awareness or avoidance skills but we were taught how to take a punch and keep fighting. Skipping the very obvious mistakes I made prior to taking the first punch, I learned the following lessons about the attack itself:

Always step off when covering. I did not learn COVER until I began my American Kenpo training in 1988. Turning in place just gives your assailant a different part of his intended target to hit (think OODA).

Don’t try to kick in a mass attack. The violence of action on my part combined with the pushing, pulling, and striking from my attackers forced me to lower my base. Even lowered, I still felt unstable and attempting a kick/knee would have put me on the ground a lot sooner.

They don’t come at you one at a time like the movies. In fact their exuberance probably kept my damage to a minimum because they kept getting in each other’s way.

Maneuvering to the outside in class is relatively easy. When the attack is real, it’s a hell of a lot more difficult to maneuver anywhere let alone maneuver with a plan.

Use your environment. Vehicles, buildings, fixed objects, clothing, anything lying around that might make a weapon or a defensive tool.

When tunnel vision kicks in, go after the guy you can see and inflict as much damage as possible up to and including maiming and lethal force. One of my students is a Federal Corrections Officer and two weeks ago, he handled his first inmate killing. An inmate was beaten and stomped to death by five other inmates. He had the unpleasant task of trying to keep the inmate alive until medical help arrived but ended up watching him die before help got there. Even if no weapons are involved, a mass attack is a deadly force assault. Treat it as such and do whatever it takes with the eyes and throat being the primary targets.

Tattoos can get you killed but peroxide and table salt will get rid of them.

Last, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. I believe there is nothing mystical or psychic about a “bad feeling”. It is your mind’s unconscious ability to pick up on ‘triggers” that the conscious mind is too preoccupied to process. Good awareness skills are the conscious mind’s answer to why these triggers are important. Awareness is a skill and like any other skill, must be developed and practiced. Future blogs will discuss some of the methods I use to teach awareness. Fighting is ugly and it’s even uglier when you’re getting your ass kicked. Hopefully, you might learn a little from my mistakes that will keep from having your ass handed to you with bag of onion rings.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Fighting/Self-Defense is the epitome of Interval Training combining cardiovascular endurance as well as anaerobic endurance. When coupled with the added psychological stress and associated adrenal dump of an unprovoked and unexpected attack, fighting is one of the most physically demanding venues the human body might be forced to endure.
Conditioning specificity for self-defense is a must for your overall martial art training. In the past, traditional martial arts used traditional training methods to strengthen and develop the body. Many of these practices while functional left a lot to be desired when it came to time involved and the return on that time investment. Today's methods incorporate modern science and equipment that allow the student to strengthen specific attributes in the limited time that students allot to training while still holding down a job, raising a family, etc.... Swimmers train to swim, runners train to run, and fighters train to fight. There will always be crossover skills when it comes to conditioning just as there are crossover skills when training in various martial activities. but being a good tournament fighter or forms competitor will not guarantee success in an ally. You must train and develop the specific skill sets required to specifically deal with violence.
A street fight or assault for the average person uses a significant amount of physical strength in a very short period of time. One-punch knockouts are rare, even for trained practitioners. Whether you choose to fight or run, your overall conditioning has a high probability of being the determining factor of whether you win or get away. You do not necessarily have to be stronger than your opponent but you should be able to last longer than he does.
Your ability to take damage and survive is also relative to your fitness level. Most people when faced with violence tend to "give up" or go defensive once they start taking damage. Physical conditioning goes hand and hand with mental toughness. A strong, trained body usually equates to a strong mind and a strong mind does not give up no matter how much pain or damage has been inflicted.
There are no rounds or time-outs in a violent encounter. You must be able to exert high-intensity effort for as long as it takes to survive or end the assault. You must also have enough physical strength to push, pull, and strike with damaging force.  Last, you must have the *Mental Toughness* to never quit.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I wrote this in 1988 when I first began teaching. A little simplistic but it shows my mindset at the time.
The goal of any true self-defense system is ensuring personal protection. There are many ways to accomplish this goal with some of them being physical and others being non-physical. The best way not to get hurt is to avoid any situation where danger or a confrontation might be possible. Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world and violence can happen anywhere and at anytime. When avoidance and awareness fail, self-defense is your next recourse, but you still don't necessarily have to bring it to a physical level. Self-defense is also about psychology; can you talk your way out of it? Can you bluff your way out of it? Do you have your running shoes on if talking doesn't work? Remember, we live in a violent world where a simple argument can lead to a deadly encounter. Weapons are readily available and those combined with drugs, alcohol and a "I don't give a f#%k" attitude can make for a potentially deadly situation. Why take a chance to escalate a situation if the only things being exchanged are words? If you can walk away, walk away. If you can't walk away, talking hasn't worked, and you realize the situation is escalating to the physical level, it's time to act. You don't necessarily have to wait for your opponent to throw the first punch or make the first move but you do have to consider the results of your actions. In a court of law, anyone that reasonably believes that their person is in danger of physical harm has the right to defend them self, EVEN IF YOU HAVEN'T BEEN PHYSICALLY TOUCHED. Respond according to the situation. If it's a drunk, control him; if the assailant has a weapon and you believe he is trying to kill or maim you, you can respond with deadly force.
Now, what happens when you attempt your self-defense and it doesn't work? You miss with your pre-emptive strike, your timing is off, your strikes don't get the expected response, who knows? Anything is possible, self defense is not a 100% art and you have to be prepared for the unexpected. The situation has now gone from a self-defense scenario to a fighting scenario. In self-defense, skill, speed and surprise rule the outcome, but in fighting, size and strength are now more of a determining factor. In the fighting scenario, you and your opponent have squared off and you are both looking for openings and opportunities that either of you can take advantage of. This is the situation we, as KENPO practitioners, want to avoid for the simple reason that we no longer have full control of the situation. In self-defense, we control everything because we have the element of surprise and confidence in the knowledge of our skills. Once fighting has begun, we have to maneuver into a position where we can attempt to gain control back and apply self-defense techniques once again, but our opponent is now aware that we are a danger and will be much more wary of our actions.
Self-defense and fighting, two different worlds but still very related and either can turn into the other. While the KENPO practitioner does train to fight, both standing and on the ground, we acknowledge that our strength and the safest course of action lies in self-defense and that is the area we seek to perfect.

Welcome to My Blog

Am I paranoid if I identify Emergency Exits or sit facing the entrance in public places? Am I paranoid for locking my doors and turning on outside lights at night? Am I paranoid because I carry a utility knife and keep a handgun within arm’s reach of my bed? Just what is “paranoid” these days?
I am a martial artist who learned many years ago that self-defense training is more than two or three nights a week at the local karate studio. True self-defense, like fitness, is a lifestyle. I don’t diet but I do make healthy choices because those are the foods I want to eat. I exercise not to “get in shape” but to maintain a strong body and mind that can meet any demand placed on it. I have studied American Kenpo for over 30 years and researched modern self-preservation methods because the only one responsible for my safety and security is myself. The police do a great job of catching bad guys but more often than not, they end up investigating the crime scene. Stretched thin, over-worked, and under-paid, their ability to prevent crimes is limited at best. As an American raised on John Wayne and Louis L’Amour, the ultimate responsibility to ensure that I live a long, healthy, and productive life, is mine alone. In my youth, I played the man-dance and survived several violent encounters that should have left me dead. I believe in the basic “goodness” of people but have seen the worst of what one human being can do to another. In all likelihood, I will spend the rest of my life without ever getting into another fight or being shot or cut again. As the saying goes though, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. We can never choose what bad things will happen to us but we can strive to be prepared when they do.

My name is Rick Brumby; I am a career martial artist, a student of history, modern combatives, combat conditioning, and a survivor. I make no claims to be a “Master” or an expert on anything but to paraphrase my teacher, Paul Mills, how can you teach swimming if you’ve never been in the water. I’ve been in the water and hope that my experiences can offer a little insight and a few ideas on how to stay safe and healthy. Welcome to my Blog.