Martial Arts Category

Saturday, April 12, 2014

It's a warm summer evening. Your children have been begging you all day to take them to that new cartoon playing at the theater. It's a Saturday, and you don't have to be at church until noon the next morning. You give in to those little "pretty pleases" they've been charming you with all day. The movie is over around 11:00pm, and two tired but content children follow you out to your truck. There are very few people in the parking lot, and you are 15 feet from your vehicle when the hair on the back of your neck stands at attention. You've felt this before and know to listen to your senses, but it's too late. Suddenly you are slammed to the ground from behind. A large man sits on your chest, while delivering blow after blow to your head and face. The weight of your attacker forces the air out of you, and his strikes feel like someone is slamming you with an anvil. You can hear the screams of your children as another man drags them toward a van you hadn't even noticed parked by your truck. Now your fight has just begun. Are you ready?

I would guess the answer to my previous question is “no”. These days there are a lot of misconceptions about training for real violence. We sit in our recliners and watch our favorite action hero fight off assassin after assassin, and we think that this is how a real fight would play out. He sucks up more punishment than superman could endure, and right when he is about to be finished off he rises up and defeats his enemy. As entertaining as these films may be, this couldn't be further from reality. On the contrary, real violence is much less poetic. It is fast. It is ruthless, and it will never come when you are ready for it. So what do we do? How can we prepare for an attack that will be hidden until the last second? Let's begin with the human condition.

Every human is unique in their thoughts, experiences, beliefs, and abilities, all of which influence the way we will respond to a stressful life or death encounter. A large proportion of society walk through life thinking of violence as something they see only on the news or in the theater. It is not something they wish to address, and it is always something that happens to someone else, until it happens to them. If you count yourself among this group, then it is time to change your thought process. Violence is something that happens daily. According to the FBI website 1,203,564 violent crimes were committed in the U.S. in 2011! Your odds of being involved in a violent encounter are around one in 300. There are predators in this world that, if given the chance, will attack, beat, rape, or murder you and your loved ones without hesitation. If you are okay with rolling the dice, then stop reading here. Those of you reading this who want to develop the tools and the mindset of a survivor should continue reading.

I have been involved in martial arts for the past 16 year. I am also a Tactical Medic for our county SWAT team and have spent the past six years as a medic on a 911 ambulance and in a rural Emergency Room. I have studied many different arts, such as Tae Kwan Do, Muay Thai Kickboxing, Western Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Filipino Martial arts, and Jeet Kune Do concepts. After years of training, teaching, and application (not to mention years of providing medical treatment to victims of beatings, stabbing, and shootings), my ideas have shifted about training in hand-to-hand combat. I now prefer to teach less technique and instead help my students develop their attributes. It is our attributes that separate a warrior from a fighter, but for the sake of this article I will cover some basic techniques as well.

The Stance

A good fighting stance should be simple. Feet shoulder width apart with your lead foot, roughly a half step ahead of your rear foot. If you are too spread out your mobility is limited; if your feet are too close together you will be easily toppled. Adopt a solid stance, similar to your shooting stance but shifting your weight back and forth on the balls of your feet. Keep your hands up in front of your face with knuckles about the height of your eyebrows (but not in front of your eyes) and hands relaxed. Your body should be relaxed, not tense, or you will limit the speed and power you can deliver. Now practice moving in all directions. If you wish to move right then your right foot moves first, if you wish to move left then your left foot moves first. The same concept applies to moving forward, backward, and diagonal. Now that you look like a fighter, it's time to train like one.

The Range

There are five ranges that we teach in empty hand fighting. These ranges are: street fight, kicking, punching, trapping, and grappling. Street fight range is where you are safe; your attacker can't touch you with any body part or weapon. Kicking, punching, and grappling range are pretty straight forward, but trapping is something most people are unfamiliar with. Trapping range is between punching and grappling range. Most people have punched or wrestled before, so when they find themselves in trapping range they want to step back to punch or close the gap to grab you. They are unfamiliar with this range but this is where you can inflict the most punishment. Headbutts, knees, elbows, and thumbing the eyes are the tools for this range. Not that being on the ground is a range, but train to get off the ground fast. Being stuck on the ground is a death sentence. "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." -Sun Tzu

Practical Tools

Choose practical tools to put in your tool box.    Knees and elbows are strikes that bring maximum force with minimal risk to you.  The skull is what nature designed to protect your body's super computer. It is hard for a reason.  There are 27 small bones in the hand. Smashing a sack of fragile bones (a fist) into the skull is a great way to fracture a metacarpal, rendering you combat ineffective.  An eye gouge will work on anyone, no matter how tough they are. It's hard to fight when you've lost your sight. The same goes for a kick to the groin. Anyone can do it, and 99 times out of 100 it will yield better results than a spinning hook kick. To quote Bruce Lee, "It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum."

Hone Awareness

Being aware of what is going on around us is difficult these days. We seem to be in a constant rush, and we tune out things that are happening all around us. Awareness is what will keep us out of a deadly conflict; it's that awareness and our inner voice telling us that something feels wrong. Have you ever felt the hair stand up on the back of your neck and you dismissed it. Your senses were trying to tell you something that you weren't picking up on. Here is a simple drill you can do anywhere: Sit with your eyes closed and try to count how many sounds you hear. You'll be amazed at what you've been tuning out. Now, plug your ears and look all around at the things you ignore and the things behind those things. Get the idea? "Intuition is always right in at least two important ways, it is always in response to something and it always has your best interest at heart." - Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence


Commit to your training so that it is not a thought but a response.   I was 20 when I had my first "real" fight.  There were four of them and two of us.  I had just become an apprentice instructor in JKD/FMA************* and had trained five days a week to do so.  We were significantly inebriated, and these guys figured they'd have an easy fight on their hands.  Once the fight was over, they were packing each other away.  I don't remember the entire ordeal because once the adrenaline hit me, brought on by my body's natural stress response and a whole lot of liquor, I blacked out.  I do know that they threw the first punch and I threw the final elbow that put my attacker down hard.  I regained my conscious thought and vision instantly after, and we took off. (A fight is like an ambush; you fight hard and fast and then escape because you don't stick around for more of them to show up.)  My body and mind worked together without my conscious thought and carried me through what could have been a trip to the ER or the morgue. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman said it best, "You do not rise to the occasion, you fall to your highest level of training."  

Test and Revise

Best sure to test your training and constantly revise. The last place you want to find out that something doesn't work is in the heat of the moment.  This is why we train countless hours, honing our mind and body to a razors edge. We can afford to make mistakes in the gym but not in a real situation. "Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated." -Sun Tzu   

Train in Every Condition

This goes for physical condition as well as environmental.  Train sick. Train tired. Train hung over or intoxicated. Train angry; train sad; train happy. Train in the rain; train in the snow. Train on slopes and slippery surfaces.  Train for any type of condition– mental, physical, and geographic.  You will never be attacked when it is ideal for you. "It is not enough that we do our best, sometimes we must do what is required." -Winston Churchill  

Attributes, Attributes, Attributes!!!  

Attributes are the most important thing you can train, period. Attributes include speed, timing, endurance, reaction, strength, accuracy, explosiveness, flexibility, mental toughness, killer Instinct, combat breathing, and pain tolerance.  This is just a small list of critical attributes that can help you overcome a high stress critical incident.  Your skills will never be 100% without a superior mind and body.  What if you saw a loved one in immediate danger, and you had to sprint 300 yards to get to them. Would you have enough endurance to do that and then fight off three hardened street thugs with your bare hands?  It's said "The firstest with the mostest is the bestest" (a modified quote from Nathan Bedford Forrest).  Train your attributes.  

Take It To the Next Level  

In terms of a hand-to-hand combat high stress encounter, victory goes to the violent.  Understand that when your life or your loved one's is on the line, there is no such thing as excessive force.  In the real world, it's win or lose, live or die.  You must be able to go from a loving and compassionate soul to a merciless storm of controlled violence. This takes practice for most people. Throw a raw chuck roast into a t-shirt and set a timer for 10 seconds, have your training partner do the same. Close your eyes and think of the most calming, happy thoughts you can. Have your partner start the timer. Then, you tear into your roast using only your canines. (If you bite with all of your teeth it will only bruise, but the canines are designed to rip flesh. Hence the term biting off more than you can chew.) Race your partner to see who can chew their roast up faster.  This is a twofold exercise because you can practice a very aggressive defense– your bite– and you and your partner will know what it is like to chew into raw, bloody flesh. (Do not swallow; wash your mouth out thoroughly afterward with a disinfectant.) Disgusting right? Most people would laugh if you told them that this is how you train biting and develop killer instinct, but it will surprise you the mental edge you will develop. "You see things; and you say 'Why?' but I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'" - George Bernard Shaw. Think outside the box!  

Make Stress Part of Your Training

I used to teach kids martial arts classes, and two of my students happened to be the sons of our local *******LEO's K9 trainer.  I somehow found my way into a bite suit, which was an experience to say the least.  Having seven trained German Shepherds and Belgium Malinois waiting to take turns tearing your arm off is a great way to inoculate yourself with stress. Being afraid of something and trying to avoid it is normal for all living beings. Consciously make the decision to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, so that when your body is slammed with adrenaline in preparation for fight or flight, it is not foreign to you. It is just another feeling like hunger or thirst– uncomfortable but not uncommon. "It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it." -Hans Selye

The Punch Line

You can spend your life reading about a subject, but until you put the knowledge into action it will only be a thought. Take the tools and concepts above and incorporate them into your training. Remember, you have to train for your body type, age, gender, disability, strength, and so forth. What works for everyone else may have no use to you. Above all, right now, this very second, you must ask yourself how far am I willing to go? Make up your mind where your limitations lie. Determine what line will you absolutely not cross. There is no limit to what I will do to save my life or that of my loved ones, but you are not me, and I am not you. Regardless, the time to figure this out is now, because in the heat of the moment you will not have time to hash out your moral dilemmas.

Let us return to the beginning "Suddenly you are slammed to the ground from behind and a large man sits on your chest while delivering blow after blow to your head and face. The weight of your attacker forces the air out of you and his strikes feel like someone is slamming you with an anvil. You can hear the screams of your children as another man drags them toward a van you hadn't even noticed parked by your truck. For a split second the pain is unbearable, but then your training takes over. You thrust your hips up driving your attacker's chest toward your face. Grabbing him around his back, you pull him in tight and begin tearing pieces of flesh out of his chest as if someone were flicking a scalpel against his skin. He screams out in pain, and you roll him over, pinning his shoulders to the ground you smash his nose with a powerful headbutt and deliver three fast strikes to his groin. Before your mind can catch up to your body, you have smashed his face with a heal stomp. He is out of the fight. You're sprinting now, like a lion chasing a gazelle. The other man has no clue his friend is lying in a puddle of blood, motionless, and you are on him before he can open the sliding door of his van. He turns just in time to meet your elbow strike, which was intended for his spine, crushing his trachea. He folds at the waist gasping for air as you drive your knee into his jaw, like a 12-gauge slug. The would-be kidnapper crumples to the pavement, and the attack is over. Because of your dedication and resolve, you have turned a murder/kidnapping into a triumph over evil and possibly prevented this from happening to another family. Your children will go home safe tonight and live long happy lives. Well, what are you waiting for? Hit the gym. You're wasting time!

“Sweat saves blood.” -Erwin Rommel

Saturday, March 22, 2014

There are many that want to be the cool guy running in the hills with a rifle, taking out targets, conducting raids, and setting up ambushes. Several think that they can sit on a hill top with their rifle and take out any targets in sight. Just about everyone wants to do something tactical.

While learning, knowing, and practicing those skills is great, it is not practical to have everyone in the prepper community running and gunning. Everyone in this community needs to know how to run their rifles, pistols, and shotguns, but it is not necessary for everyone to run into the hills. Everyone needs to have their gear laid out and ready so that they can, if necessary. However, it DOES NOT need to be your first option, nor your second, third, or even fourth. For most, it SHOULD be your last resort.

To talk about gear for this last resort would invite a discussion that would literally fill up several blogs, mostly due to opinions of what's good/bad and even some real world usage. CPT Rawles goes into detail in Patriots about the gear his characters use– LC-1 and other ALICE gear. While many have this (from surplus and cheap resources), it is not always the ideal system. I personally prefer the ALICE ruck (with a new frame from Tactical Tailor), and everything else in MOLLE/PALS (still surplus and cheap, if you know where to look and have spray paint). If one does a little research, specifically in military circles and on, you will find that gear is usually layered in tiers.

Tier 1.0

This is the kit that you always carry with you. Whether it be on duty or off, at the airport, in the car, out in the woods, or someplace else. It is what's in your pockets and on your belt. For most of us, it is currently a wallet, lighter, keys, pen, paper, medical needs, pistol, magazines, and a knife, not to mention the clothing on our backs. It includes no food or water, but by using our first tier, we can survive (if you must). In this tier you have shelter (clothes on your back) and self defense. Using some of your other equipment, you can always find a way to survive.

Tier 2.0

This is your fighting load, which can be set up in many ways. For instance, I have a battle belt as my 2.1. On my battle belt I keep three M4 magazines, three pistol magazines, two quarts of water, an individual first aid kit (IFAK), my pistol, 550 cord, a stripped MRE, some pogey bait (non military issue rations), a compass, and a way to purify water. Using my battle belt, I can fairly easily stay alive for 24 hours and potentially push it out to 72 hours, if I am careful.

Tier 2.2 is my plate carrier– currently an old IBA I have that's been painted. The most I ever put on it is a couple of M4 magazines and some first aid equipment (tourniquets mostly). The reason for this is that this is my protection tier. It has one purpose– to help keep me from being ventilated. Some soldiers will attach all their kit to their vest. While this works out great for some, it doesn't work out for others.

Tier 2.3 is nothing more than my battle belt taken up to a combat-effective level. This usually has everything that my belt has minus the pistol. Tier 2.3 consists of a modified fighting load carrier (FLC) with six more M4 mags, another IFAK, maps, compass, whistle, and food. The FLC is supplemented by a small backpack– a Tactical Tailor Removable Operator Pack. This bag contains enough food for at least three days of operations, a three-liter water bladder, some more ammo, water purification stuff (iodine tablets), fire starting (lighter, tinder, ferro rod), and shelter (poncho and poncho liner).

At this point I am usually about 40 pounds heavier than normal, and that is dependent on what plates I am running and how many spares of things are in my bag. Needless to say, it takes some training to get used to. Thankfully this is about the same weight as my combat load out at work, which means that I do get the kind of PT in that I need for these two tiers.

Tier 3.0

I don't need to rehash what should go in here, because all this is supposed to be is a Bug Out Bag that has been packed for more than just three days of supplies. Mine is set up so that my little back pack actually attaches to my *rucksack to make it easier to grab and go.

Yes, there is redundancy built into this system, and, yes, there is a reason for it. At any given time, you should be able to dump any portion of your load and keep moving and fighting to your objective or disappear into the brush to fight another day.

The problem for most is the weight. My rucksack weighs about 45 pounds. That adds to create a total of 85 pounds that I have to carry, if I am going to be doing light infantry fighting in the woods, or anywhere for that matter. I am fit enough to move this load and then some for several hours, while moving at a rate of about three miles per hour in somewhat wooded terrain (over the hills, through the dale, and into the trees), so long as noise discipline isn't an issue. For the record, I am NOT a super soldier; I just do some good PT.

Even with good PT, it still “stinks” to do so. It is not easy, and it is not for everyone, especially if you have little ones to look out for. For me, bugging out, either in a vehicle or on foot, is an absolute last resort. For me to do so, my wife and I would both have to carry what I have listed above, plus a stroller, each filled to the brim for what our boys need, like formula, diapers, and such. This is assuming that everyone has had to get out of dodge.

What is our plan then? (Hint: Look at the title.) Our plan is to be part of the auxiliary. What is “the auxiliary”, you ask? Well, in traditional Army terms, it is everyone that is not combat arms. It's the cooks, the supply guys, the truck drivers, the ammo handlers, and the intelligence weenies (like myself). It is everyone who supports the warfighter, from the lowliest fueler all the way up to the General in charge of procurement. They are the force behind the fight.

Should we be forced to live in a time where we must get rid of an unwanted presence, then the warfighter will need help. The warfighter will need an auxiliary. The auxiliary needn't be comprised by those who are unable to hack it in the woods. The auxiliary can be comprised of everyone, who for one reason or another, isn't doing light fighter stuff in the woods. The warfighter will need to have food brought to them, gear repaired or replaced, and wounds patched up (as well as medical supplies furnished). They will need ammo and intel.

In order to acquire all that, the warfighter will not have many options. It will be up to the auxiliary to support them. How? One could simply be a farmer that "accidentally" loses food to some local "predators". It could be the seamstress working on patching clothes and uniforms. It could be the Baker Street Irregulars playing around and listening in on conversations. If you want a really good look at how an auxiliary really could function, then look at the big drug operations, prohibition era gangsters, or the mob. Just substitute the bad guys with good guys. Drug peddlers become light fighters, mules become modes of transportation, and suppliers become you.

The nice thing about being part of the auxiliary is that whatever you are good at, you can contribute. Whether you are the local barkeep, who listens to everyone's issues; the local farmer, who grows his/her own food; or even the man/woman who makes everyone of the opposite gender feel special, there is a place for you. It is the engineers, machinists, and the mechanics. It's the baker, butcher, and candlestick maker. It's the postman, the truck drivers, the school teachers, and shop owners. It is everyone who makes the small town and big city run. Being part of the auxiliary isn't easy, though.

One must be able to keep OPSEC, as well as know when to stop. One must also be willing to put themselves out on a limb. One must be willing to act like the White Rose society from WWII Germany, the French Resistance, or the resistance during our American Revolution. Some must be willing to be CPT Nathan Hale, if necessary, and all must be willing to sacrifice what they have.

In many ways, being part of the auxiliary can be even more dangerous than being in the woods. Retribution from the unwanted presence can/will be swift and harsh. It may just be the person who gets caught, or it could be their family and friends as well. No matter the risk, the bottom line still remains the same. If the warfighter does not have an auxiliary, then that warfighter will more than likely have a really rough time in the woods, and the unwanted force will be even freer to operate than before.

There are many things for the auxiliary to consider, like how do we get compromised individuals "off of the X" and out of danger? Where do they go? How to we protect their/our families? How do we create double agents? All of this must be fleshed out (as much as possible) before the SHTF. Also, the auxiliary must always remember who they support and why.

If there is anything you get out of this article, I would like it to be three major things. First, and foremost, is the act of not just building your group but the act of building others. It is the act of networking and social interaction. Without those things, the warfighter will die. Without these acts, an auxiliary will never get formed. Through networking, you could (intentionally or not) set up a half a dozen different groups with each doing a specific job. The Army breaks it down like this in every Battalion: S-1 personnel, S-2 intelligence, S-3 operations and planning, S-4 supplies, and S6 communication. The funny thing is, it actually does make things run a little smoother for the warfighter. Through your networking you could set up something very similar to a Battalion. Just don't forget who and why.

The second thing is that one must constantly be learning many skills, not just what interests them. One must learn basic infantry tactics, survival skills, and so much more. Essentially everything that has been beat to death on this forum and others like it. There is one learning point that I don't see brought up often and that is to learn history. History of occupation, warfare, peacetime, revolutions (successful and failed), resistance movements, and anything else you can get your hands on. I love reading and learning about WWI and WWII. From those two wars you can learn everything from tactics and politics to resistance and auxiliary, and much, much more. NEVER stop learning.

The last thing I would like you to take away, is the simple fact that one is not required to be a super soldier to be effective. You don't have to be some Special Force/Ranger/Force Recon/SEAL/PJ/TACP to be an effective part of the resistance. All one needs is the ability to act, the willingness to support a cause, loyalty to those whom you work with, and “stick-to-it-ness”. If you want "better" ways to see it, read the Soldiers Creed, and the Creed Of Non-Commissioned Officers. Internalize those values, and live by them. However much I hate that the Army does some of its promo stuff, these are two things that I love and live by.


P.S. This article is nothing more than my opinion on this kinda thing. The following guys have made a professional living off of actually doing the exact things that I touched on in this article. I highly recommend you check them out. FAIR WARNING: Both are very plain spoken, and there is some foul language, BUT the knowledge will outweigh the language.

John Mosby's blog at

and Max Velocity's at

Both of them offer training opportunities as well as more links to other sites with a massive fountain of knowledge.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Thanks to Sheri for pointing out several fallacies regarding women fighting men who mean them harm, specifically, that a punch/knee/whatever to the groin will incapacitate the man. She's correct (or her male advisers are): It won't. Hollywood says it works, but in fact it has the opposite effect of enraging the male further. I am a male, and I know. I learned how to fight after being kicked in the crotch in junior high.

I am not a martial arts instructor, but I have taught several women how to defend themselves. I have been a bouncer at large bars for a total of four years. You can't do that without learning something about how men fight. Women: If you're attacked, bite your attacker. It may be distasteful. But men don't expect to be bitten. It works. And honestly, the instep or nose is a weaker point than the groin, unless you're using a blade or broken bottle to attack the femoral artery. In my current capacity I'm an EMT, which actually is very useful for self-defense training. If you know the places where a person can most readily be injured to the point of death (so that you can save them) you know where to attack a person when it is your life at stake.

One argument I've found typical in women I've taught self-defense is that most of them have boasted (to me) that they carry a pocketknife, box-cutter, or something similar. The last woman I gave brief instruction to was carrying a box-cutter with which she planned to stab any attacker. It was wintertime. The blade was 3/4 of an inch long, maybe an inch. Most people's coats are thicker than that, even in Mississippi, during November through February. Not much stabbing to be done in that situation. I told her that if she insisted on carrying that particular blade, she should attack the hands, face, throat, or other bare skin, or her blade would be worthless.

The nose, brow, throat, ears are all good targets because they typically bleed freely. A cut brow or forehead will bleed into the eyes, a broken nose or crushed windpipe can be highly demoralizing, and nothing much hurts worse than a broken eardrum. Learn to attack with an eye toward demoralization, which in many cases will end the fight. If you're going to use a knife, try to fillet (forearm, cheek, whatever) rather than stabbing. An avulsion (open flap of skin and/or muscle) bleeds profusely, is terrifying to the recipient, and needs immediate attention, whereas a stab wound is primarily effective if the organs are penetrated.

Anytime you fight to protect a life -- whether it's your own life or that of a child or another who cannot defend themselves -- you must pay no regard to any preconceived ideas as to what constitutes a fair fight. I firmly believe that the only unfair fight is one which is won by an unjust aggressor. If someone is actively threatening your person, and ultimately your life, then nothing you can do should be considered unfair. Your sole consideration should be to take the threat you have been given, and render it into a non-threat. Use common sense. Don't shoot someone just because he yells at you, and don't knife someone who bumps into you at the grocery store. But if your life or meaningful property is being actively threatened, defend it to the fullest extent you can muster. To do less than this would result in an unfair end to the fight.

And finally, practice. Practice with the tools you carry. If that's a small knife or a gun, practice with it. Become comfortable with what you carry daily. Know how to deploy your tools rapidly and effectively. If all you carry are your car keys, learn how to use them as claws. And if all you have are your hands, feet, and head, practice bringing your body into motion. - J.D.C. in Mississippi

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I wish that all women had some self-defense training.  But, most don't, even among preppers.  Worse yet, most women I know are too embarrassed to learn anything about fighting.  They don't know where to learn or maybe don't want to appear foolish.  And the misinformation out there about how a woman should defend herself is often worse than useless - it's actually harmful.  Most men teach what works for men and often, those techniques don't work very well for women.  This article is intended for those women who have little or no experience with self-defense.  I won't kid you, reading something to learn to defend yourself is not the way to learn.  I hope no woman ever has to defend herself.  But, if your man is down, or you're on your own, even if you aren't terrifically effective with these techniques, some of this information could make the difference even if all you do is read it.  I'm a woman and this is what I believe works for women.

So I want to recommend this exercise: sit with your butt on your heels, on the floor about two feet from your opponent, who is sitting the same way.  You should be facing each other.  Put a small cloth, like a bar towel or washcloth on the floor between you.  Here's the game; you are trying to grab the cloth and quickly roll away from your opponent before he (or she) can reach out and touch you anywhere he can reach.  Neither of you can touch the other unless one of you is holding the cloth.  Your opponent is trying to do the same thing, in which case you're trying to reach out and touch him before he can roll away with the cloth.  This exercise can really help you in several ways.  It teaches you what your reaction time is and what other people's reaction time is.  It teaches you to feint - fake a grab that you won't complete in order to keep your opponent off balance.  And, it teaches you to read your opponent's body language, and how your opponent "telegraphs" what they're about to do. 

The reason I recommend that exercise is that most women I've known don't have a lot of confidence in their ability to defend themselves.  And, for good reason - because most women are at a big disadvantage in a fight with a man.  But, most women have equal or better reaction time compared to most men.  Even if a male opponent has studied martial arts, women often can win at this exercise.  So, it's a confidence builder for women in an area they can excel.  And, when your life might be on the line, you need to know what your assets are, what you can do with a reasonable hope of success.  And what your opponent can do.  You can do the exercise with men, other women or kids.

The sad truth is that a woman's chances in a fight with a man aren't good.  For this reason, a woman has about seven seconds to take a guy out in a fight before the odds for your success start to decrease.  For that first seven seconds, your opponent probably doesn't see you as a lethal threat and you really do have a big advantage.  He probably thinks you won't be a big obstacle.  You have to be lethal in your seven second window of opportunity.  That fact narrows down your range of targets considerably.  There just aren't that many targets on a male opponent that will kill or disable him in a short time frame.  After that seven seconds, you can still win, it's just harder. 

Don't try to look tough.  In fact, try to look scared and totally useless.  By trying to look tough, you're just advertising to the guy that you intend to fight back.

Rule One: The best weapon is never your body.  Nearly anything you can grab or hold is less likely to break and therefore a better weapon than your fist is.  Anything hard or sharp that you can get a good grip on is a weapon.  If you have a choice between a four inch knife and a ten inch knife, go for the shorter knife - it's harder for your opponent to get away from you.  Never throw a weapon.  Keep your weapon and keep it in your control at all costs.  There are nearly always weapons around.  If you can get to a knife, slash at your opponent's hands, short circular slashes that can reach both of the guy's hands.  By circular slashes, I mean out and back towards your body, so that you're set up for another slash.  Don't try to get past his arms for a body stab.  Instead shred his hands.  Always stay aware of both of his hands.  Men are smart and competent, so if you are only paying attention to one hand, you can bet his other hand is about to take your knife away.

Take a few minutes to look around any room you're in and think about what could be used as a weapon and how it could be used to bludgeon your opponent's "soft" targets (like his nose) or to cut someone.  Anything you can reach that is not too light or too heavy can be used in one of those ways.   Be aware your opponent will try to get any weapon away from you.  As I mention later in talking about multiple strikes, if you don't meet his move to disarm you with additional strikes, he probably will disarm you.

Rule Two: Forget any kind of typical karate punch.  You'll break your wrist.  The bones in your hand and wrist are more fragile than almost anything you could hit.  And aside from a strike to someone's nose or throat, that type of blow won't incapacitate your opponent.

The difference between a male's upper body strength and a woman's is huge.  You can pound sand for a couple of years to work up to karate-style punching, if you want to.  But you have better weapons available: your knee, foot, elbow, side of fist, back of fist, head, teeth.  Those are your weapons if you can't get a better one.   Having said that, it's sensible to do 20 pushups a day (working up to it).  That little bit of muscle might save your life and will keep your tits from sagging as an additional bonus.

Karate is a power style and it suits men perfectly.  I don't think it works for women.  Oh, it can work!  But it still plays to men's strengths.  Wrestling is the.same deal.  If an assailant tried to wrestle with me, I'd try to bite his nose off.  Karate and wrestling are biased in favor of power and size.  If you want to take a martial art, try jiu jitsu (which uses leverage instead of power) or kickboxing - even boxing will teach you to duck and be light on your feet although it won't teach you how to successfully hit someone.  I'm sure there are women martial artists who will disagree with me on this issue.  But, in a fight between a reasonably fit guy with no martial arts training and a woman with a black belt in karate, my money would go on the guy.  I wasted years on karate before coming to that conclusion.  And it wasn't a conclusion I was happy to reach.

I used to think that martial arts was mostly a matter of learning to take a beating, ignore the pain and keep going.  There's a weird humor in that, and it's also true.  In a real fight, adrenaline will usually keep you from feeling the damage, for awhile.  Some people are really pain sensitive.  Other people are really afraid of pain and that's a much, much bigger problem.  But pain is always preferable to death or permanent damage.  Pain is temporary.  Don't let the prospect of pain wipe you out.  In a sense, martial arts teaches you that pain isn't the end of the world.  Like hunger, if you ignore pain, it fades away.  I've known people who were afraid of hunger as if it was a big, scary thing.  Hundreds of thousands of years have honed humans to function perfectly in spite of pain or hunger.  We're built to do that and succeed.  Even if someone shoots you, you can still function.

Get out of the mindset that you'll lose the fight.  Your biggest limitations are mental.  You can do a lot more than you think you can.  You won't lose if you're vicious and sneaky enough.  It takes 12 pounds of pressure to break an elbow - including the elbow of a six foot four inch tall, two hundred and fifty pound guy.  About four pounds of pressure will break his nose.  In either case you just have to know your targets.  Speed and accuracy are more important than power. 

In a true do-or-die fight, go for gouging out eyes, nose strikes or bites, windpipe hits (below the adam's apple), breaking knees or elbows.  Bite fingers off - don't just bite them, bite them off.  If you want to win, you have to be brutal.

I've been told by guys who should know what they're talking about, that kicking or kneeing a guy in the balls creates such a adrenaline surge that a guy doesn't always become incapacitated for several minutes afterwards - and for those few minutes you have an enraged, adrenaline-overloaded opponent to deal with.  I mention this for what it's worth.  That doesn't mean I wouldn't go for a guy's genitals as a target of opportunity.  I just wouldn't put all my faith in it.  Giving the impression that you're terrorized will give you an addition edge.  Terror is incapacitating.  If you allow terror to rule you, the other guy's job is already done for him.  You handed him your life on a platter.  But you can give the impression you are terrorized and it will lull your opponent into not expecting much retaliation.  Don't rush him, let him come to you, then move in at the last second when he's in arm's reach.  Read his body language for how he's going to attack or grab you.  What I'm trying to communicate is that, for a woman, there are a small number of targets and  a small number of ways of attacking those targets.  This should simplify your decisions.  Hence the next "rule."

Rule Three: You need to work continual strikes.  Do not kick someone and then back off to see if the guy is going to stop or run away.  It'll never work.  Use continuous strikes at your attacker - nose, knee, eyes, throat, temple, elbow, genitals and whatever else you can strike at.  The only exception to this rule is if you can either run away or get to a better weapon.  In that case, run or break away and/or go for the weapon.

Most people, in a fight, will try to stay back from their opponent.  That doesn't usually work for a woman, kid or smaller guy.  When you back away, you're playing to your opponent's strengths - his longer reach.  It's not instinctive, but a smaller fighter needs to get inside the reach of the bigger guy.  That way the bigger guys blows can't deliver with full power and you can actually reach your targets.  The danger is being close enough to get into a grapple with someone who weighs a lot more than you.  But any distance where you can reach your target is fine.  You don't want your opponent to be at the end of your reach, but within your reach. The big point here is that backing away isn't in your best interests.  Your fear tells you to back off.  Ignore that fear.  You have to be close enough to hit the guy.

You cannot use brutal techniques (with the possible exception of breaking an opponent's knee or elbow) on some drunk guy who grabs your ass or a school-yard bully.  If you do, you'll go to jail for a very long time.  Brutal techniques are for situations that are deadly to you. [JWR Adds: Any strikes at the neck or head are considered lethal force attacks, for good reason. Do not use them unless you are in a truly life threatening situation where you are legally justified to use lethal force.]

If someone grabs you (including chokes), always break the hold towards the guys thumb.  The thumb is the weak part of any hold.  If someone grabs you by the wrist or arm: swing or twist and pull your arm in a direction that puts force against the guy's thumb, bending it towards his wrist.  Be fast.  If you can get the guy's arm straight while you're trying to break the hold, bring up your other hand and use the heel of that hand to smash into the back of the guys elbow or his nose.  If he pulls his head back, go for his knee or groin.  And continuously go for any other target of opportunity.  Back of neck, temple, ear, etc.  Any move you make will cause your opponent to change his position to protect what he thinks you mean to attack, and his motion, in turn, will bring a different target into reach.  If you try to pull out of his grasp, he'll brace his knees beautifully for you, so you can break them.

If someone is choking you from the front reach up and try to grab the guys thumbs  and pry them away. Thumbs move in more or less three directions with some kind of mobility, but not in the fourth direction, directly back towards his wrist.  That's the direction you use to pry his thumbs away from whatever they have a grip on.  If you can get your fingers around his thumb you can break the choke by twisting the thumbs back fairly easily.  You can also try to bring both your forearms up between his forearms and explosively push your arms out against his arms - but this probably won't work for an untrained woman against a powerful man.  Better to gouge his eyes or strike his throat with the side or back of your fist or your elbow.  If you can reach his eyes, go for them - that'll almost always break his choke hold.  Or grab his private parts in your fist and twist hard.  The guy will let go of your throat.

Sometimes trying to pry out of someone's grip isn't using your best resources.  Better to break his knee, which is usually conveniently close (more on this later).  The great thing about knee attacks is that even if you don't strike accurately enough to break it the guy will probably be limping and you can outrun him and you can almost always reach his knees with some kind of kick.  If someone has you from behind, usually your hands and feet (and possibly your elbows) are free.  Head butting (smashing back) into the guys nose is a great technique, but often the guy is so much taller that you can't reach his nose with the back of your head.  Same deal for using your forehead to bash someone's nose.  You can often reach back with your hands and grab, squeeze, wrench or tear the guy's groin.  You can drop all your weight completely, which will sometimes get you free (to roll fast and get up).  Although women have much less upper body strength than men, a woman's leg strength is almost as great as a man's leg strength.  If you have shoes on, you can rake the guys shin with your heel, smash his foot (aim for the top of the arch) or better yet, kick back with one or both feet, repeatedly, to try to hit the front of his knees with the heels of your feet.  Most guys, holding you from behind, if you're trying to hit his knees with your heels, will bend forward (to try to distance his knees from your feet) - this brings his head conveniently close so now you can smash the back of your head into his nose.  And, while you're doing this, be thinking about a weapon you can grab if you get free.  Also, scream your rage loudly.  Get in touch with your inner berserker.  Sometimes rage and relentlessness are more important that power.  If you can't reach his nose with the back of your head, hit anything on his face - except his teeth.  Other than teeth, every single part of his face is more susceptible to damage than the back of your head, or your elbow or the back or side of your fist, for that matter.  If you do all this, fast enough and continuously enough, you probably will get loose, at least briefly.

Before we get off the topic of an assailant grabbing you.  I just want to mention the tactic of faking blows (feints) to set up your opponent for a different blow.  We all telegraph our attacks, more or less, and you can use this to set someone up.  As I mentioned earlier, if someone has hold of you by the arm or wrist and you tense as if you're about to break or wrench away, he'll instantly brace for it.  That brace sets him up perfectly to break his knee - he's got the knee all nice and braced for you.  Braced, it takes more time for him to get his knee out of the way or turn his knee to direct your blow at a less vulnerable part of him.  Every kind of attack sets up your opponent for another attack.  Every time your opponent moves or braces, he's setting himself up for a different strike.  You need to think about that a little.  Every time you move, he'll brace, move or try to compensate.  Every attack sets your opponent up for the next attack.  The point in feinting is that it helps avoid telegraphing your real attack. 

For any of the kicks, imagine the target is about six inches past where it actually is.  Really believe that - that you're trying to strike something behind the true target.  Don't worry too much about power because trying to put all your power into it will slow you down and make pulling your foot back after the strike harder, plus you'll telegraph the coming strike to your opponent a lot more.  Aim for a point behind your target and pull back instantly after striking, all in one motion.  That's how you want your kicks to work.

There are three basic kinds of kicks.  Front kicks, side-kicks and back kicks.  Front kicks involve hitting with the ball of your foot at something in front of you (unless you have hard shoes on, in which case use any part of your foot).  Keep your toes bent up if you're barefoot - you'll strike with the ball of your feet.  Think about running in place, how your foot comes down and hits the ground and recoils back to your torso.  Like running, your toes aren't pointed towards the ground as your foot comes down, they're angled up, out of the way, so that you'll hit the ground with the bottom of your foot. Now try to translate that kind of motion except instead of hitting the ground you're hitting a target.  Hit and pull back like a spring.  If you have heavy shoes on, you can kick the way a guy kicks a football without hurting your toes.  Any attacker, if you try to kick anything above his knee or leave your leg or foot out where he can grab it, will grab your foot and lift it (keeping hold of it), putting you down on the ground and completely in his control.  You need to pull it back in to prevent that from happening and also to support yourself for your next strike.

Side-kicks involve hitting with the outside edge of your foot at something sideways to you.  Side-kicks are both powerful and fast.  I wouldn't hesitate to side-kick to the front by turning slightly while I'm kicking. It's a stronger blow that front kicks and faster pulling back.  Watch a martial arts movie to see some side-kicks, but ignore the fancy high strikes.  Nothing above the knee.  Imagine you're running up to a boulder, then raising your foot to push off the boulder and reverse your running direction - and since you're moving fast you're pulling that leg back and down fast to hit the ground and continue running.  That's not a perfect analogy, but for someone who has never tried this, it's better than nothing. 
Back kicks usually mean using your heel or back edge of your heel as a weapon to hit something behind you.  Again, don't worry about power,  worry about speed, accuracy, not telegraphing the motion and getting your foot back under you fast.
Elbow strikes mean using your elbow as a weapon.  Practically any place you can hit is a good target.  But, preferentially, throats, or noses, solar plexus, ribs, kidneys, anywhere on the face or throat is less ideal but good targets. 

As I mentioned before, if you need to use your hands, use the bottom or the back of your closed fist or the heel of your hand rather than your knuckles.  The reason is that these blows don't compress your wrist as much.  By the bottom of your fist, I mean the area on the same side as your little finger - hammer-wise, the way you would pound on a table.  Back of  your fist is similar to 'backhanding' your opponent, except with your fingers closed in a fist.

A lot of women have long fingernails.  Another reason for using the bottom or back of your fist is that these blows can be used without a really tight fist so they will work even if you have long nails.  If you have any nails, a normal karate or boxing-style fist strike (like you see in the movies) will compress your nails into your palms.  But, back of fist or bottom of fist strikes can be done  with a loosely made fist, just fine.  Regardless, any kind of fist is your very last choice as a weapon.  And if you do have to use fists, put your heart into it.  Targets are nose, throat, temples but hit anything you can reach if you have no other option.  Don't pound on a guy's chest or upper arms, they're useless as targets.  Worse than useless.

Striking with the heel of your hand is very effective for nose strikes.  The area around someone's nose and upper lip has more nerve endings than (almost) any other place on their body.  A hit to someone's nose is one of the most painful blows you can give someone.  It makes your targets eyes water copiously, so your assailant can't see too well.  It bleeds a bunch.  The biggest danger in this strike is that your miss the nose and hit your opponent's teeth.  His teeth will really mess up your hand.  A lot of people think you can drive someone's nasal bones up into their brain, killing them, with this kind of blow.  I've been told it's an urban legend. The heel of your hand is also effective against the back of someone's elbow.  Use a hard sharp blow at the exact back of the elbow, pushing the elbow in the direction it doesn't bend while holding the guys wrist or forearm with your other hand.  If you don't have your other hand on his wrist, but he's holding you, that works too.  It has to be fast because your opponent only has to slightly turn his elbow so that the elbow can bend with the blow, if he sees it coming.  But even if he turns his elbow, it'll hurt. 

Another way to break an elbow, if the guy isn't too much taller than you, is to step under his arm (turning so your back is to him) and bring his arm down on your shoulder so that his elbow is just ahead of your shoulder, pull it down hard to break his elbow.  If the guy's too tall, you can't get the leverage you need to break his elbow this way - your shoulder needs to be almost as high as his. 

As an example of continuous strikes: Let's say the guy throws a punch at you.  You quickly bring up your forearm to block his punch, then slide your arm and grab his wrist and start to swing under his raised arm.  As you swing into the turn, you build momentum to swing your other elbow around into his solar plexus (just below the breast bone) which brings his head down, bending him over a little and that puts you and him in position to swing you fist up for a back fist strike to his nose.  Which swings his upper torso back and away so he's set up for you to bring his upper arm down on your shoulder to break his elbow (his elbow is facing down).  See what I mean about each strike, even if it doesn't land, setting him up for your next strike?

A few words about blocking: the most common way to block an incoming blow is to use your forearm against his forearm.  It's a pretty decent move but only slightly diffuses the direction and force of his blow, so you also need to be moving to the side so his target (you) isn't where it was.  

To gouge someone's eyes: punch your thumbs into the very inside corners of your attackers eyes (the side where his tear ducts are). Once your thumb is in behind the eyeball, bend your thumbs in and push towards the outside corners of his eyes and then back out.  You're reaching in behind his eyeballs and then pushing them out in one smooth move.
If you're down on the ground, on your back, and your opponent is standing anywhere near your feet, you can hook one foot behind his ankle and with the bottom of your other foot, push hard on the front of his shin, just below his knee.  That will put your opponent on their butt if you do it fast enough and it doesn't even take much strength.  Roll fast and get a foot under you to get up and away fast.  The reason you always roll to your feet is that it's faster than any other way to get to your feet.  It uses your momentum to help you get up.  You have to practice.

The classic way to fall when you go down onto your back, is with your arms out from your body about thirty degrees, slap your forearm and hand on the ground hard, just as your back hits but before your head hits.  That slap will defuse the force of the fall to prevent your head from hitting.  Don't get your elbow under you, keep your arm out nearly straight at that 30 degree angle out from your torso.

Often a man will grab a woman by her hair to try to control her.  If a man has a handful of your hair, use your hand to try to press his fist against your head while using your other hand or feet to attack him.  If you can keep his fist against your head, it keeps his hold on your hair from hurting you.  If you can't do that, attack with everything you have and ignore the pain. 

You can practice kicks on a tree trunk or stacked bales of hay, if you don't have a heavy punching bag.  Everything else, you can practice with a brother, boyfriend or friend, except use soft slaps or taps instead of blows - practice ducking, blocking blows and feinting (faking moves).  Practice with your kids or women friends.  This alone won't make you a good fighter but it's a lot better than nothing and might save your life or your family.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

While watching season two of Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Channel I noticed the “consumer prepper.” These are people who think of a problem and quickly try to throw money at the situation instead of trying to find the best solution to their issue. In one episode a wealthy older man was fearful of a major earth quake in California. He bought thousands of dollars of freeze dried food, the most expensive firearms, and even a helicopter to fly him out if things were really bad. With all of his money he made a poor choice of putting his daughter into a Tae Kwon Do school. I’m not going to bad mouth here about the down sides of Tae Kwon Do, I myself started out in Tae Kwon Do as a teenager. What disappointed me was he had his daughter learning a sport, not a self defense system. Most Tae Kwon Do schools have their emphasis on scoring points, nothing more. In the five years I studied the art I didn’t know how to throw a decent punch.

I started out, as I said, in Tae Kwon Do at the age of thirteen. After my first three month contract was up I switched schools and spent the next five years at a better school that focused on skill and technique as opposed to contracts and money. After that I learned American boxing and even became runner up for a local Tough Man contest when this event was still boxing instead of the MMA (mixed martial arts) of today. Through boxing I quickly learned that its better to fight smarter and not harder. I suffered from constant headaches while sparring and after some research found that boxers have many negative repercussions from repeated strikes to the head. Regardless of head gear and gloves the brain rattles around in the skull and can cause severe side effects down the road. Mohammed Ali would be the prime example of this.

After a short break from martial arts due to getting married and having a different life I was back studying at a school that offered several styles. The point of the school was to find something that suited you. I studied Judo, Jujitsu (Japanese), Aikido, Muay Thai, and some Chen style Tai Chi.

So what should a prepper look for in a martial art? One would think that any martial art would due looking at the name. A better translation would be military art. While they all have their roots to some form of combat fighting most have become sports over many decades of peace. There are some that kept to their roots and are still the most useful fighting styles in the world.

For a SHTF situation you want an art that has several qualities.

  • Striking (kicking and punching)
  • Grappling
  • Throwing
  • Pins and locks
  • Weapons training (disarm and using)
  • Multiple attackers situation
To sign up for anything less than this would be a waste of your time unless nothing else is available.

So what are the arts that cover a majority if not all of these skills?

First I’ll describe some standing arts and why they are useful. Tae Kwon Do is handy for its footwork and speed, quickly learning the distance between yourself and a attacker. Boxing gives a person similar distancing and foots skills with the added benefit of speed, power and accuracy with punches. Muay Thai combines these two arts with the added use of elbows and knees.

The ground arts have their benefits as well. Judo, while it is a sport over a self defense style is very aggressive and teaches how to throw, wrestle, pin or joint lock an attacker.

Aikido has grown a reputation for being a very effective fighting style. Using wrist locks and hip throws similar to Judo and Jujitsu the art teaches how to turn a attackers energy against them. After years of experience a person will learn how to effectively defend themselves against a untrained attacker. The downside is that after watching Aikido students sparring with students from other styles at the dojo annual potluck the skills are difficult to use on highly skilled attackers of other arts. The upside was learning how to disarm a person with a knife and using a Japanese sword (ken). A person may think that skills in Kenjitsu are impractical, I would have to argue that it becomes handy when a stick is your only weapon and the techniques translate well. The famous swordsman Musashi killed one of his opponents with a wooden ore he took from the boat he traveled on. Sometimes the technique and not the weapon is what matters.

Japanese Jujitsu would have to be one of the most well-rounded arts that are still around today. This is not to be confused with Brazilian Jujitsu that is popular on the UFC fighting circuit. After World War two the American military quickly learned that this hand to hand fighting style would be beneficial to troops in the field. Army hand to hand combat manuals and much of the marine corp. fighting system is based on Japanese Jujitsu. I was fortunate enough to study a Okinawa style of Jujitsu at the school I attended. The instructor favored knife techniques and encouraged his students to carry legal folding knives for self defense. In the state of Michigan a concealed knife has to be a folded blade and under two and a half to three inches, I always get different numbers depending on the police officer I ask. Along with knife work we also learned to work against multiple attackers, working as a team or group, never ending up on the ground, always expect attacker number two even if it looks like there is only one guy.

Jujitsu has a wide variety of tools that you learn from wrist locks and throws to striking and pressure points. As a prepper, Jujitsu was the only art that I found to be the best suited for my self defense needs. While this is the only style I studied that had these characteristics I know of others that have similar techniques and a combat mindset.

Ninjitsu uses many of the striking and grappling techniques that are used in Jujitsu. Also a Japanese style of fighting, ninjitsu incorporates different weapons to their school such as chains, throwing stars and various bladed weapons. My former meditation instructor and several Jujitsu students I trained with trained in this art form. While comparing techniques after class we found that many things were similar what came to be the biggest difference was the teaching of the “bush doctrine” and their school of Ninjitsu, attack first and destroy your enemy if you think they are going to attack you. I found this puzzling as a follower of the Gray Man theory, don’t be noticed and only attack when needed.

Krav Maga, from the books and videos that I have studied due to a lack of schools in my area, this maybe the one school better suited than jujitsu to satisfy a prepper’s needs. A collage of easy to learn techniques geared toward a modern combat setting, this style is the present day equivalent of what Jujitsu was a hundred years ago. Created after World WarII by Jews that were tired of being victims, Krav Maga combines what they deem to be the most useful techniques from various arts and throw them together as a new combat style. Because the art is used in real combat settings like the middle east, techniques change over time when it is found something does not work for what ever reason. This is something new to martial arts as many arts will still teach an obsolete technique for the sake of tradition as opposed to practicality. I did train with one man that had studied Krav Maga for years. When he moved to my home town he decided to study MMA instead but found jujitsu to be very close to his former school of training.

When looking for a school it is important to look for a few things. Keep in mind that these places are businesses and they make their money from having students. First talk to the instructor and learn if he is going to teach you what you are looking to learn. Second, avoid schools that trying to pressure you into signing a contract. A real instructor will want you to want to be there and not spend your time trying to get your money. Look around and see if the focus of the school is on sports or self defense, trophies on the walls or medals are a good indication of sports emphasis.

Sometimes a good indication of a practical school is if local law enforcement study at this school. In my Aikido class we had several sheriff deputies that attended and some of them had police techniques that were added to the school curriculum. If law enforcement is studying something that they are betting to save their lives it maybe exactly what you’re looking for.

Weapons of opportunity is a skill that a good school will teach. While we had sticks called yawarbo, in Jujitsu, that we used for locks and pins we were constantly told that anything from a pen to a magazine could work the same way. When you learn to use a knife it is important to realize that the same techniques can be used with a stick or a pipe. There is always something in the immediate area that can be used for a quick advantage, even a rock. Learning to be flexible in a combat situation can be a valuable tool. Find a teacher that will teach you how to think and not just react.

Many preppers spend hours at the gun range learning techniques through muscle memory. The same principle applies to martial arts. Most of what you will learn is reactionary muscle memory just like with a gun. If a prepper spends hours learning how to use a gun and researching what the best gun is, dishing out hundreds of dollars for the right gun to suit their needs, wouldn’t you do the same thing when learning hand to hand combat? Time is precious, to spend it learning things that won’t work and will get you killed in a real life SHTF situation would be a tragedy.

Do your research, find a good school. If you can’t find a school, find books demonstrating the techniques. Practice on a dummy or even a tree. It may sound crude but this is how martial artist practiced for centuries. These days I spend my spare time training on a heavy bag, repeating the same moves dozens of times and moving to the next one. I spend more time in my basement on my bag than I do at the gun range. For low budget preppers this is a cost effective way to learn self defense and stay in shape. When needed, the first time you throw a punch in self defense will be a shock. Afterward you may not remember doing and ask what happened. This is the muscle memory reacting to the situation and not “you.” This is the type of training you want to have. Its better to throw a punch when your gun jams than give up and wait to get shot or beaten.

I don’t live in the best neighborhood in the world. With a high crime rate and a low average income I’m in one of those places not recommended for a prepper to live. I’m fortunate enough to have never been in a fight in the last eight years of living here and only pulling my gun out to prevent an attack on my property. So far things have been about as good as they can be around here. I attribute that to my martial arts training and paying attention to my surroundings. There have been occasions that I have witnessed beatings, stabbings, and shootings and so far I have come through unscathed. Being a prepper that doesn’t have the option of bugging out I have come to realize that hand to hand combat is a very real reality in a urban environment. Bullets do run out. How many can you carry? What are you left with when a gun jams? A positive mind set is a real asset to a prepper and hand to hand training adds to that.

To close this article I’m going to share a story I read in Black Belt magazine years ago. A Judo student was in Las Vegas for a tournament. While walking to his car he was approached by two men that tried to mug him. The first man was unarmed and threw a punch. The Judo student threw his attacker like he learned in class. The attacker hit his head on the car during the throw and was knocked out. The second man was armed with a knife and came at the Judo student. This time the student placed this man in an arm bar. The attacked smacked his hand against his legs in pain. The sound of the smacking reminded the Judo student of “tapping out.” When a attacker in a grappling school like Judo “taps out”, a light pat on the floor or the person pinning, it signals that the hold works or the attacker is in pain, usually both. As you may have guessed the Judo student let his armed attacker go and was stabbed several times afterwards because of how he was taught. It is very important to look into how you will learn. A style that teaches you to fight with rules translates to a style where you think there are rules in the street. During SHTF this is a matter of life and death and learning how to defend yourself should be take just as seriously.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I have read a lot of articles on preparedness and agree full heartedly that any thinking man or woman should be fully prepared for the worst. However in most of the blogs I read I have not seen to much about reality self defense. I feel that all preppers should enlist a hand to hand self defense program into their lives. I am not promoting any certain form. Nor am I saying that people should blow a bunch of money on things that do not work.

In my honest opinion, WWII combative styles and other quick to learn and employ techniques trained on home built practice dummies are the way to go. I do not suggest that anyone should truly practice on another person due to the inherent way that you teach yourself to pull the strikes, which would not be useful in a real life or death situation.

As far as how to gather the equipment a quick internet search would show you links to videos and plans to build a dummy to fit you’re needs as you see fit. Also a quick search will give you ample books and videos to buy, or free videos out there to teach you the basics of most styles. The basics are really what one needs to build off of, you would be surprised how many arts are formed of the base that another built.

Basics are the foundation that you will always come back to. Much like a house in sand without it you sink. Boxing fundamentals are great to know. You learn a good stance for defense and you learn a great deal about delivering a blow without projecting to you’re opponent you’re intentions. The same applies to Thai Boxing.

Some suggested forms to look into from my humble opinion would be Thai Boxing, American Boxing, and WWII Combatives. Thai Boxing is a martial art that is much like American Boxing however you incorporate your  feet, kicking, fists, punching, knees, and elbows. What I think is best about both Thai and American Boxing is the great footwork and blocks you learn as well as the simple strikes. The reason I feel this is important is because the fancy locks and throws and ground fighting techniques that are hard to learn and even harder to remember in an adrenaline fed moment are non existent. Both of these styles become instinctive responses.

Now for WWII Combatives, this is a gray area to say the least. Many people feel that this form of fighting is very brutal and should be left to military forces and police units. However in my opinion this is the form of fighting that any survivalist is best to learn. Prepping and learning survival techniques are all wonderful to learn but not useful if some thug or bandit has beaten you to death or disarmed you and has taken all of you’re gear.

Amongst the obvious reasons I see for wanting to train in this form of survival I also feel that people learn a need for being fit. I am not talking about washboard abs or that nonsense, but a good cardiovascular health and functional strength you gain from this kind of training is extremely useful when you are all you got to do the work that needs doing. Also you learn the value of self, bullets can only be fired while they are there and arrows and other projectiles must be either built or stored. Eventually you will only have you’re hands and what you have time to come up with to defend yourself.

For me, I practice at home and buy or search the information that seems most useful and learn it on my own time. I am currently working on my own homemade dummies for training, and stock up on what ever knowledge I can to become more self reliant and self sufficient. WWII Combatives are a huge portion of what I try to learn, as well as boxing principles and Thai striking. I also try to learn what I can from Krav Maga because of the way the style chains strikes and blocks to efficiently subdue an opponent.

My warning on learning WWII Combatives is simply that it is not for the meek. The strikes and targets are highly lethal, this was after all where the most recorded kills in WWII came from. So as I have said this is a warning as well as a heads up that this is a very efficient way to defend yourself. If you find a few styles that are giving you the things you need I suggest reading up on the physics of fighting and the scientific side so you can better learn what works and learn to put it together so it is your own way of life.

There are so many forms out there and if you have time or the will to learn do as much as you can in as many as you can. For my needs though I will keep it simple efficient and dirty. I do not presume to call myself a saint nor would I ever want to be considered one so my choices have no bearing on my conscious because consciously I know I want to survive for myself and my family. That said some of my suggestions maybe be a little more inhumane for some of the populace but you are ultimately left to chose your own path and what you feel comfortable with doing in the event that a blade, gun, or any other object is coming at you.

To me the reasons of why are vast, but for you it might be a news report or a policy on the job that prevents you from having a weapon for self defense. No matter what I feel all people should take a look back at their roots and learn that much like animals we need our claws and fangs ready to strike at a moments notice. Other people are prepared and they are not always on you’re side. Muggings and home invasions are a part of day to day life not just TEOTWAWKI. I refuse to be a victim and you and you’re families should too. 

Each day all over the world people are pushed into a life they do not want for whatever reasons. With proper training and maybe a bit of luck this might not happen. I wont get into the politics but, in the event of martial law or any other sort of take over those of us that can use our hands and improvised weapons still have a fighting chance at survival and life as we want it. So take on a “Don’t Tread on Me” attitude and learn what you can to be a true survivalist.

A bit of a side note on improvised weapons, if you can do it with a knife or so forth you can do it with you’re hands and feet. This I learned while practicing Indonesian Styles as well as Filipino Martial Arts. The amount of objects at a persons disposal to pick up on a street to hurt someone is incredible and makes me wonder why gun laws are even a political concern.

I will not list titles or sites that I use but someone with the need will find what he wants. When you decide to take this kind of lifestyle up please remember that safety is the cornerstone that you build all your survival skills from, so do this and all endeavors with safety in mind. Push where you feel you can and block where you need to block. Most important though strike hard and fast when the opportunity presents an opening.

A reckoning is coming and I do not care what color of horse a man is coming on but I hope you will be as ready as I to fight until the fight is done and hold fast to you’re loved ones and have them also ready to carry the torch in to the darkest corners of life to prevail where many fall. Self defense and preparedness are a hand in hand subject and we all should be aware that any one is capable of atrocities and be prepared to do what must be done to preserve our own rights.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Since I am Jewish, I read with interest "A Prepper's Holiday" by C.E.B. (posted March 7th), in which the author described what he has learned by observing the Old Testament holidays of Passover and Sukkot.

It occurred to me that Jewish history and culture - being largely a five-thousand year track record of survival against all odds - actually has quite a few lessons that would be relevant to SurvivalBlog readers of all faiths. Here are a few.


In 1941, Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. At the time, my grandmother and her family were living in a small town in the Ukraine, not terribly far from the Soviet border. The Stalinist propaganda machine, of course, assured the populace that the German army would be crushed with ease. However, one of my grandmother's uncles was a senior member in the local Communist Party, and had a clearer view of reality. He gathered the family together one evening and told them that it was very likely that the Nazis would reach their town, with devastating consequences to the inhabitants. He spread out a map of the USSR, and pointed to a small province much farther east: the Uzebek SSR (now called Uzbekistan). "You have to go there," he said. "Hitler will never get that far."

Having suffered through generations of persecution and "pogroms" (anti-Jewish riots, often conducted with the approval of police and political authorities), they had every reason to believe him. So, they quietly packed up and moved to Uzbekistan, where they waited out World War II far removed from the death camps and other atrocities of the Third Reich and the Stalin regime.

Fast-forward to today: while the mass media assures us that the recession will be over any day now, folks like SurvivalBlog's Captain Rawles are busy telling anyone who will listen that heading for the hills would be a very smart idea.

If you wait until you hear the sound of jackboots on cobblestones, it will be too late. The time to get out of town is now. As American poet Robinson Jeffers wrote, "When the cities lie at the feet of the beast, the mountains will remain."


Even well-meaning politicians can easily be influenced to implement terrible policies. This is illustrated perfectly by the Book of Esther, which is commemorated by the Jewish holiday of Purim.

To make a long story short, a beautiful Jewish girl named Esther is selected to be the wife of King Ahasuerus. Aware of anti-Jewish sentiment in the King's court, she keeps her heritage a secret. Esther is an orphan, and her guardian is her older cousin Mordechai. While visiting Esther at the palace, Mordechai offends Haman, the king's chief adviser, by refusing to bow to him. Mordechai explains that he will prostrate himself before God, but not to a man - even the King.

Enraged, Haman tells the king that the Jews do not follow the law of the land (which states that everyone must bow to the king), and suggests that they be executed. The king, being a typical politician, agrees.

Haman gleefully makes plans for soldiers to go out and exterminate the entire Jewish population of the kingdom in a few days. For Mordechai, against whom he has a special grudge, Haman sets up an impaling pole.

Queen Esther finds out what's happening, and decides to risk her own life for the sake of her people. Through some high drama involving a banquet and a secret plot against the king (which Mordechai exposes), the king winds up offering Esther anything she desires. She asks him to spare her life, and the lives of her people. Outraged that someone would threaten his queen, the king quickly discovers what Haman has been up to, gives Esther the authority to overturn Haman's orders, has Haman impaled on his own pole, and gives Haman's estate to Mordechai.

With that story in mind, consider the fact that West Point's "Combating Terrorism Center" recently released a report entitled "Challengers from the Sidelines," which classifies "the 'Militia' or 'Patriot' movement" as part of the American "violent far-right," describing its members as dangerous extremists who promote "anti-taxation, gun rights, survivalist practices, and libertarian ideas," and who "support civil activisms, individual freedoms, and self-government." Of course, this describes perfectly the interests and ideals of all of America's founding fathers, but that irony is apparently lost on the scholars at West Point.

A variety of other quasi-governmental reports have made similar allegations. In other words, just as Haman (and, of course, Adolf Hitler) twisted the facts to classify Jews as enemies of the state, these so-called "think tanks" are twisting the facts to classify the typical, security-and-freedom-loving SurvivalBlog reader as a terrorist-in-waiting. Since our politicians are engaged in a never-ending War on Terror, it's a very small step to you or me finding ourselves being treated to the indefinite detention, torture and summary execution that the US government has established as being appropriate for terrorists.


The traditional narrative of the Holocaust is that the Jews went meekly to the death camps, like lambs to the slaughter. In reality, many Jews fought, guerilla-style, against Nazi troops in the streets and alleys of Europe.

One of the most remarkable of these Jewish guerillas was a young man named Imi Lichtenfeld, who was a champion boxer, wrestler and gymnast in his native Slovakia. As the tide of anti-Semitism began to sweep Europe in the 1930s, Lichtenfeld and his fellow Jewish athletes banded together to defend their communities from the increasingly violent attacks of Jew-hating gangs. Lichtenfeld quickly discovered the difference between combat sports and life-or-death brawling, and developed his own fighting system, which he taught to his compatriots.

Seeing the writing on the wall in 1940, he left Slovakia and served with distinction in the Free Czech legion in North Africa. He spent the remainder of his long life in the newly-established State of Israel, teaching his system - Krav Maga - to the Israeli Defense Forces.

The moral of this story is not only that Krav Maga is one of the most practical and combat-proven self-defense systems in the world, but that having the WILL to fight is just as important as having the ABILITY to fight. In the Jewish tradition, life is viewed as a gift from God. Therefore, to allow your life or the life of another to be taken, if it is in your power to prevent it, is actually disrespectful to God. My understanding is that, with the exception of certain pacifist denominations, most Christians agree with that rationale. Therefore, we must be ready to act, without hesitation, to defend ourselves and our loved ones, and must do so in the certainty that self-defense is not only a moral right, it is a moral obligation.


In medieval Spain, there was a period - from about the eighth to the eleventh centuries - called "La Convivencia" - "the coexistence." During this time, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together in relative peace and prosperity, freely associating with each other and openly exchanging knowledge of medicine, philosophy and commerce. As you might expect, the members of all three communities benefited from this interaction. Although there were certain social barriers in place, in principle everyone was protected by the law.

That pleasant situation gradually deteriorated, and many Jews and Muslims converted to Christianity to protect themselves. Unfortunately, the powers-that-be had serious doubts about the sincerity of these conversions, and in 1481, the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition was formed to root out and punish "heresy." Overnight, the law went from protector to persecutor. Anyone with a grudge against a neighbor could accuse that person of being a "crypto-Jew," and report them to the Inquisition. Thousands of innocent people - many of whom weren't Jews at all - were imprisoned, tortured, and then hanged or burned at the stake.

Christians today face similar persecution in many middle-Eastern countries, where being openly a non-Muslim is seen as a crime, and sometimes a capital offense (witness the murders of Copts in Egypt, for example). In fact, the only middle-Eastern country where Christians can worship openly and in safety is in Israel - the Jewish state. But leaving aside religion for a moment, consider the bigger picture: anything can become a crime, just because the government says so. Remember, it wasn't too long ago that a black person who drank from a "whites-only" water fountain was a criminal in this country. It is because "law" does not necessarily mean "justice" that Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, "One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

When the Department of Homeland Security stockpiles hundreds of millions of rounds of ammunition (according to one report enough to keep our troops in Iraq supplied for 20 years) one is forced to wonder exactly whom our "representatives" expect to become criminals - or, to put it another way, whom they plan to CALL criminals. We all love law and order, but - God forbid - if the day ever comes that the law of the land is no longer our friend, we must be prepared to do the RIGHT thing, even if it is not the LAWFUL thing.


Being part of a community means looking out for each other. It is this trait - more than any other (with the exception of Divine intervention) - that explains why the Jews have outlived the Ancient Egyptians, Philistines, Persians, Phoenicians, Romans, and every other culture that tried to stamp them out.

From the 40 years of wandering in the desert, after escaping from slavery in Egypt, to the Diaspora, when Jews were forced out of almost every country in Europe, to the Holocaust, to today, if a Jew needs a hand, other Jews will help him. And Jews are not alone in this: you see the same thing, for example, in the Latino community: if a Mexican immigrant opens a restaurant, other Mexicans will go there to eat. Or consider the informal fraternity of military veterans: if a newly-retired Marine applies for a job, and the business owner is also a retired Marine, odds are the younger Devil Dog has a good chance of getting the position. Historically, church congregations have also helped their less-fortunate members in times of illness, unemployment and hardship.

This may sound like simple human nature, but in some neighborhoods, the opposite is true: if a person opens a laundromat, his neighbors will break his windows and vandalize his machines. And, from an outside perspective, community solidarity is often criticized as conspiracy or clannishness. The folks at the Aryan Nation meetings certainly aren't thrilled to see Jews and Mexicans supporting their own communities. They recognize - in their own twisted way - that Malcolm X was exactly right in his assertion that, "when you spend your dollar out of the community in which you live, the community in which you spend your money becomes richer and richer, [and] the community out of which you take your money becomes poorer and poorer."

The job that went to a Marine, the meal bought from a Mexican immigrant, the suit bought from a Jewish clothier, or the housing given to a frail parishioner, represents dollars that did NOT leave the communities in which those people live. Is it wrong to give preferential treatment to members of your community? To "your own kind"? By the politically-correct, non-judgmental, morally ambivalent logic of modern thinking, yes it is.

According to the voice of history, experience, and common sense, no, it absolutely is not! If we do not support our own communities - however that term is meaningful to ourselves - we are in fact harming them. If you, retired USMC Captain, don't give that young Sergeant a chance, who will? If you, Juan, buy lunch at McDonald's instead of at the neighborhood Taqueria, whom are you helping? As Malcolm X explained, "And then what happens? The community in which you live becomes a slum. It becomes a ghetto. The conditions become rundown. And then you have the audacity to complain about poor housing in a rundown community, while you're running down yourselves when you take your dollar out."

Rabbi Hillel, a famous Jewish scholar who was a contemporary of Jesus, famously asked, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" Those questions have been food for thought for 2,000 years, and they are as pertinent today as ever. If you don't look out for yourself, who will? But if you only look out for yourself, and ignore your community, your society or the Earth, what kind of person does that make you? If you put off meaningful action, how will you know when to act? All of us - regardless of race, creed, color, or background - must be willing to answer those questions honestly. We must be willing to protect ourselves, to support our communities, to recognize the dangers in our society, and to respond accordingly. And if we have not yet begun, we must do so now.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
I just read the excellent article you posted by Tony C. The only thing I would add (and you can't always cover everything, so this is not derogatory towards Tony C. in any way) is this:

If you do want to educate yourself in any martial art, please do as much research of the facility that you want to take it from as you do in research for your firearms. This does not mean go around and ask the people that take it there if they like it. Their only experience may be of that one place. I am a 2nd degree black belt in 4 different martial arts (and very close to my 3rd) while everyone in my family is at least a black belt level or higher. I teach women's self defense 6 times a week. My entire family has taught at several different dojo's (due to moving). No two dojos are alike. It pains me to say this but many of them will gladly take your money and tie a belt around your waist and show you fluff and frill. And even sadder to me is the fact that many people are happy in the fact that they don't have to work very hard to achieve a (what used to be venerated) black belt. With all that said, there are still Master's that have remained true to their art and the quality thereof.

A case in point with Tae Kwon Do. There is Dojo X that advertises a great way to shape up and get your black belt. We visited this dojo only to find out they are not affiliated with the Kukkiwon (the official governing body of Tae Kwon Do) and we immediately recognized on observation that the techniques the black belts had were horrible and if applied in a real life situation would most likely get you beaten up bad or killed. We left Dojo X in a hurry. The next Dojo Y promised if we gave them x amount of dollars that we could get our black belt in record time. We got up and left in a hurry too.

So what do you want in a facility?

1) You want to check them out. Are they affiliated with a higher governing official body? (There are some dojo's out there where the "master" "created" his own Kung Dum Ku and awarded himself a 9th dan in that martial art) 

2) Is the master really interested in your money? Let's face it, they do have to pay the rent. But some don't teach much of anything and take your hard earned dough and slap a belt around your waist. We call these McDojos. Empty of everything good.

3) Observe several classes. Take note of the instructor's and how they run the class. You don't want one that has no hold on the class while the students run around. Conversely, you don't want one so strict that the student's can't do anything right. You want an instructor that is confident and knowledgeable that can command a good class and has the respect of his students and it will be obvious.

Let's face it, in a TEOTWAWKI situation, you don't want fluff and frill. You want to be confident in the fact that you trained with professionals. It doesn't matter what color belt is around your waist, what matters is this; Is what you learned real and be used in real life situations?

Thanks, - Jessica B.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Many people today are preparing for TEOTWAWKI in various ways. Much discussion and planning for a host of apocalyptic scenarios is underway and justifiably so as many factors converge to seemingly plunge the world into a looming sense of impending doom. We all hope for the best but must prepare for the worst in hopes of survival for ourselves and our families.
Self defense is a cornerstone of prepping for the seemingly inevitable collapse of our modern societies. The procurement and use of firearms is the obvious and most effective means of protecting ourselves and our emergency supplies which we have prudently stashed away for survival purposes. I fully endorse and encourage this approach; however, circumstances may arise precluding our ability to fully depend upon firearms in all situations. There may be a time when ammunition is depleted. Governments may confiscate all weapons. Your weapons could be lost or stolen in some situations. You may be herded to a FEMA Camp or other such environment where the ownership of firearms is prohibited. A host of reasons exist that may impede your access to firearms. One thing is for certain though; violence will increase in an apocalyptic crisis and the need to protect yourself and others will be a prevalent and urgent necessity in order to survive.

If, in the unfortunate circumstance, you were to find yourself unarmed at some point in a TEOTWAWKI situation you must be prepared to deal with the pressing need of self preservation as it relates to self defense. The first building block of unarmed combat is physical fitness. I think that this is often overlooked as people have become more reliant on the gadgetry of modern society to protect them. Any style of unarmed combat is dependent on the physical ability of the user. Many styles of martial arts say that the technique itself is superior to physical strength. While many techniques rely on leverage and knowledge of human anatomy as it relates to target areas and pressure points, the physical strength, dexterity and ability of the individual also play a large part in the success of employing those techniques. How many full contact fighters do you see with bulging bellies and pencil thin arms? It goes without saying that we cannot all devote ourselves to the strenuous and time consuming work outs of the professional athlete, but we can all do what we can to keep ourselves in some decent level of physical fitness. If our body is the machine to be used in the defense of our lives, then it would behoove us to maintain that machinery in the best possible condition. Just as you carefully clean and oil your weapons to ensure peak performance when TSHTF, so should you prepare your body to do its job when called upon in a post-apocalyptic free for all! A good physical regimen should include cardio, strength, and flexibility training.

To adequately prepare for a violent physical confrontation, one should seek qualified instruction in self defense. Fighting is a science after all. The science of fighting has been studied since the dawn of time. Many styles of fighting have evolved and continue to evolve. A person could submit to a lifetime of study and still not harness all of the styles and techniques that have been formulated over the centuries. Since TEOTWAWKI waits for no man, we need to shorten the learning curve in the interest of being prepared. The human body is fearfully and wonderfully made and yet extremely fragile at times. Knowledge of the human body’s weaknesses is essential to winning a violent attack. Volumes could be and have been written espousing different combat theories. The bottom line is that unless you have a lot of time and energy, you need a shortcut to unarmed self defense. No style is superior. All, or at least most, have something of value to offer.

To assemble your own arsenal of looter repelling techniques, look at yourself honestly and see what fits you individually. Not everyone is graced with the flexibility of a ballerina or the strength of a bull. A large, heavy set male would probably not be expected to perform exotic spinning kicks, while a small female would not be expected to execute double leg takedowns of larger opponents. The larger less nimble male might include techniques favoring his bulk such as grappling techniques and hand strikes. The smaller female could include kicking techniques and eye gouges. (Unarmed conflicts are extremely violent and graphic.) When your life is in peril, you do what you have to do to survive.

Avoid the hype of modern televised mixed martial arts (MMA) type maneuvers for life saving self defense training. Remember, you are preparing to fight for your life, not for a championship belt. Proponents of grappling styles say that 85% of fights end up on the ground. Let me remind you that nearly 100% of fights begin on your feet! Grappling techniques are great at times and sometimes you may find yourself in that situation, but do you really want to go to the ground when the assailant may have accomplices aiding him or he may be armed with knives or improvised weapons? If you find yourself on the ground in a deadly struggle then it would bode well for you to be versed in the grappling arts. Grappling is good but not the cure all for self defense. It is one component of a total system. Learning how to strike and where to strike is equally important. Looking for the soft spots in the human anatomy is the key. The major points to attack are the eyes, throat, groin and knees.

The eyes are very fragile. Think of getting a single grain of sand in your eye at the beach. Now imagine getting a finger in the eye buried up to the first joint! Even if your attempt to strike the eyes is thwarted, the bad guy will instinctively close his eyes for at least a fraction of a second giving you opportunity to continue your assault or break and run. (Survival, not winning the fight is your goal.) Injury to one or both eyes can end an assault instantly. Temporary or permanent blindness can result as well as sending the victim into shock. If a person cannot see, they cannot fight, at least not very effectively!

The throat is another vital target. It is estimated that 40 p.s.i. will crush the trachea of the average human. Without an emergency tracheotomy death will soon follow. Even a child can generate that much force in a strike. The throat is naturally protected by the jaw line and sternum to some extent. Open handed strikes such as a knife hand or ridge hand strikes work well to penetrate these defenses. Finger or bent finger strikes work well also. The sides of the neck are susceptible to forearm strikes or back hand strikes and will produce unconsciousness in the victim. (These techniques are known as brachial stuns.

The groin is the next target of opportunity as we go down the human body. It should be noted that female subjects are vulnerable to this area as well. While many self defense experts discount this target citing that the average male spends a lifetime of instinctual protection of this target, it is most definitely a show stopper when successfully engaged. If you can punt a football or soccer ball then you have the basics down for this one. If using a kicking motion to acquire this target remember to go deep. In other words, kick behind the target and in the event that your foot overshoots the area, your shin bone will be there to bring the pain. When kicking between the legs of an adversary, be sure to extend the foot or flatten the foot by pointing the toes, thereby making a flat striking surface. This will also bring the shin bone to the surface of the lower leg for improved striking should the shin be the point of impact. Hand strikes and grabs as well as knee strikes are very effective to this target. When using grabs be sure to secure the target and twist violently to achieve the maximum desired result.

Lastly the knees are there for the taking. When the knee of an opponent is locked (straight) then it is easily broken. With a minimum pressure of 5 p.s.i. the knee will break from a side blow. At slightly more pressure (40 p.s.i.) the knee will break from a frontal blow. Even if breakage does not occur for whatever reason, hyperextension can result which is extremely painful. If an opponent cannot stand it will be difficult for him to continue the fight even if he can somehow endure the pain. He will certainly not be able to beat you in a foot race as you depart the scene if you opt to tactically retreat at this time. The best techniques for this target are low kicks. The common side kick striking with the blade (outside edge) of the foot or simple front kicks striking with the ball of the foot work well. The added traction gained by wearing sneakers or boots will ensure a solid connection to facilitate a devastating injury. The sides of the knees are also susceptible to shin kicks often used in today’s MMA and Muay Thai Kickboxing events. These blows are generally designed to impact the common peroneal nerve that runs up the outer thigh. A solid blow here will result in buckling of the affected leg and, in the untrained fighter, the buckling of the unaffected leg through a process known as sympathetic response.

Now we come to the ground game. The very real possibility exists that in a physical struggle you may end up on the ground. Remember again, that you are fighting for your very life. A good knowledge of how to establish a base or how to function in the guard position is helpful. These terms are common knowledge in the grappling world but may not make sense to a non- grappler. These positions are difficult to explain in a short article and are most easily learned from hands on training. To offer lifesaving alternatives that are more easily understood, let’s refer back to the first three of our standing targets: the eyes, throat and groin. Whether you are in the top position or find yourself pinned on the bottom these targets are still your best options for quick results.  Attacking the eyes by means of scratching or gouging will bring instant pain and disorientation to the bad guy thereby creating an opportunity to disengage and escape or to finish the matter for good. From a top position, bearing down with the thumbs into the eye sockets will bring instant and devastating results. Attack from the inside corners of the eyes and press down into the eye socket and continue with a scooping motion to dislodge the eyeballs. (This may seem extreme but remember your life is at stake.) From the bottom position, the same results can be achieved by pulling the opponent’s head down towards you with one arm while attacking an eye with your free hand.

By the same token, the throat is available for strikes or choking techniques. The wind pipe can be collapsed by grasping the front of the throat. What you will try to accomplish is grasping the windpipe and closing your fingers around it to crush the wind pipe. Asphyxiation will result. Many variations of chokes are applicable to this scenario from the frontal and back positions. Most techniques rely on compressing the carotid arteries located on either side of the neck to suppress the flow of blood into the brain. Oxygen is carried in the blood and restriction of this process results in unconsciousness rather quickly and death will follow unconsciousness if the pressure is not relieved. A broken neck may occur also in a violent struggle employing theses techniques. Neck snatches and breaks are another type of last ditch techniques for survival but require some training to master.
As when fighting from your feet, the groin is a prime target. From the ground, knee strikes and hand grabs are extremely effective.

The main priority when fighting from the ground is to inflict as much damage as possible in the shortest amount of time possible to either end the encounter or to regain your footing which multiplies your options tremendously to include the option of tactical retreat. By recognizing and focusing on certain identifiable high yield targets, you can remain confident in your plan of action whether on your feet or on the ground.

In any unarmed conflict, it goes without saying that you should always be aware of your environment and arm yourself with improvised weapons of opportunity when possible. When your life is in imminent danger and you are forced to defend yourself unarmed, it is important to develop an animal instinct that you can turn on when needed. Nothing is off limits, to include hair pulling and even biting. Fighting to stay alive means fighting dirty. Fighting fair and defending your life are two different things.

In closing, to be the ultimate prepper, do not neglect the often overlooked prep of unarmed self defense. There may be a time when you have to depend on yourself. Train your body to be strong and seek the self defense techniques that fit you personally.  Consistent training is required to ingrain these techniques into your mind and to promote muscle memory. Keep it simple and you will be surprised at the new level of confidence and proficiency that you will achieve.

JWR Adds: Like this one, the many articles on martial arts that have been posted over the years have nearly all underscored the same basic wisdom: 1.) Don't fight unarmed if you can instead fight armed. 2.) Any fight against multiple opponents is most likely a losing proposition. 3.) Avoid going to the ground, if possible. Even an expert will lose if he grapples on the ground with an opponent and then one of the bad guy's friend's shows up and starts kicking.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jessica B wrote a good article entitled "Self Defense and Stress" and to add to what she wrote about the lack of articles on "...that moment that you find yourself in a stressful, self-defense situation and how to overcome it," Col. Cooper's "Four Conditions" immediately came to mind. That great man not only gave use the "Four Rules" for firearms, but the "Four Conditions" for mental preparedness for self-defense, both of which are as perfect as simplifying the complex can be. I assume they have been discussed before, but are worth repeating. From Father Frog's web site, a good place for all thing Jeff Cooper, The Color Code:

White - Relaxed, unaware, and unprepared.  If attacked in this state the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy and ineptitude of your attacker.  When confronted by something nasty your reaction will probably be, "Oh my God!  This can't be happening to me."

Yellow - Relaxed alertness.  No specific threat situation.  Your mindset is that "today could be the day I may have to defend myself."  There is no specific threat but you are aware that the world is an unfriendly place and that you are prepared to do something if necessary.  You use your eyes and ears, and your carriage says "I am alert."   You don't have to be armed in this state but if you are armed you must be in yellow.  When confronted by something nasty your reaction will probably be, "I thought this might happen some day."  You can live in this state indefinitely.

Orange - Specific alert.  Something not quite right has gotten your attention and you shift your primary focus to that thing.  Something is "wrong" with a person or object.  Something may happen.  Your mindset is that "I may have to shoot that person."  Your pistol is usually holstered in this state.  You can maintain this state for several hours with ease, or a day or so with effort.

Red - Fight trigger.  This is your mental trigger.  "If that person does "x" I will shoot them."  Your pistol may, but not necessarily, be in your hand.

Col. Cooper described himself as always in Condition Yellow - plus- as long as he was awake. I need to zone out, i.e. Condition White every day if possible so I can "smell the roses," so fences, hardened barriers, dogs, lights, alarms, a loaded gun within reach,etc, all help in this regard.
God Bless and thanks for all your hard work in this worthy cause. - John M.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I have seen many articles on Self-Defense. What I have not seen is topics regarding that moment that you find yourself in a stressful, self-defense situation and how to overcome it. I have taught my children from age 4 that you are your own last line of defense. This realization in itself can be pretty stressful. What most people don’t realize is that when attacked you only have ½ a second to react. This may not seem like a lot of time, but I assure you, your life can be ended by what happens in that initial ½ second.

People that have not prepared themselves for this have an initial reaction of holding their breath.  Any ground they could have won by defending their self from a hand to hand attack is lost as the attacker gets a better and tighter hold on their victim. Go ahead, take a moment right now to hold your breath. You just lost your ½ second of reaction time.  In that moment, the heart starts beating faster, the blood begins to flow and by holding your breath, you have begun to starve your body of the life giving oxygen needed in order to react faster, and think clearer. You have created extra stress on the body at a time when your body needs to be at its quickest.  When you suck in that one breath, your body contours even change, giving your attacker the edge in which to squeeze you tighter. How do you defend against your body’s natural reaction? You have to train. In order for this to be overcome, you have to employ the “no mind” technique of the ancient warriors.

Mushin no shin is the technique of having a “mind with no mind”. Highly trained martial artists enter combat in a state of “no mind”. I am a 2nd Degree black belt in Small Circle Jujitsu, Ryu Kyu Kempo and Tae Kwon Do. I am also a 1st degree black belt in Modern Arnis or Escrima (stick fighting). I also teach self-defense classes to ladies. What I try to teach them is that you don’t have to be a highly trained warrior in several different martial arts. You just have to overcome the initial reaction and trust your instincts and training in a survival situation. In every single self-defense class, 99% of women stiffen up and immediately hold their breath when attacked. They begin to doubt themselves, second guess themselves and make excuses. How do I teach them to overcome this? I make them work through the same technique over and over. When they believe they have got a certain technique, I have them go over it some more. Then, when they are ready, I randomly attack them. If they defend without holding their breath or pausing within the technique, they can move on to the next technique. What happens during this training period? Have I magically imparted a secret knowledge to them? No, the truth is, they begin to become comfortable in their own bodies. As they become comfortable in their own bodies, they begin to trust themselves. When they learn they can trust themselves, they can react without the halting fear that freezes a victim.

When fear freezes someone, the breath is shallow and unnatural. This sends all sorts of signals to the brain. Some people that have physically been attacked have told me that they felt like a deer caught in headlights. They were unable to move let alone breathe regularly. This sometimes led to disastrous consequences. This is when I work with them on a few martial arts techniques. After they become comfortable with them, I begin to coach them about their breath. Most people breathe shallowly, from the chest. This results in never providing the brain, organs or muscles with enough oxygen. Therefore, most people walk around stressed and oxygen deprived without even realizing it.

There is a simple technique to training yourself to breathe deeper. The martial arts master’s that employed the “no mind” technique were keenly aware of how important breath is to the body. In order to achieve deeper breathing, sit down in a comfortable quiet spot and close your eyes. Take one inhalation. Ask yourself what rose, the chest or the stomach? If your answer was the chest, then there is a strong possibility that you are a shallow breather. Take another breath. This time focusing your mind on the chest rising and then the belly button pressing away from the spine. You will have more oxygen intake if you do this. The next step is to take an inhale and use a counting method. Try to inhale for 5-7 counts. Then try to exhale just as slowly, pressing the navel into the stomach and rolling the exhalation upwards. This breathing exercise fills your body with much needed oxygen, reducing stress and enhancing focus. It is the focus that works our brains just like a muscle, allowing us to push out all random thoughts and allow the mind to become focused and unwavering. When unconscious deep breathing is achieved, it is easier to defend yourself.

This technique of “no mind” can be applied not only to martial arts, but to operating a firearm, bow or any weapon. If you are stressed while operating any weapon, you will not handle it well. In order to move past this, you must know your weapon. Your weapon should be viewed as an extension of yourself. Whether you are training with escrima sticks, bo staff, or the sword, your weapon is simply an extension of your arm. You can’t just drop your arm when you get scared. You can’t forget how your fingers work. It’s your arm and they’re your fingers. The idea of you forgetting how they work is comical. They are yours! This view does not just pertain to ancient weaponry; the same thought should be extended to your pistol, shotgun, rifle or bow.  Know them and use them until they feel as if they are a part of you, just as your fingers and toes are a part of you.

When I received my first compound bow, I carried it around the house with me. Everywhere I went, my bow was there. I examined every part of it. I practiced with it day after day. I wanted to know it. What I knew was I was a horrible shot. That’s when I realized, every time I released my arrow, I was holding my breath. I was thinking about what if I lost my arrow again, what if I hit the target here instead of there. What if, what if, what if ran through my mind. I had lost my “no mind” mentality. When I became aware of this flaw, I removed it from my mind.  When I began to shed the extraneous thoughts and trusted myself and breathed, I became a better shot.

When we practice or train in self-defense, the mind can become cluttered. We want to be able to perform like we think we should. We have a preconceived notion of how things should turn out. We have to release those thoughts. If the mind is that crowded, we will never perform the way we want to. These simple techniques will serve to help anyone that wants to employ the “no mind” sentiment and take their self-defense skills to the next level.

  1. Trust yourself. You are the only you that you have! There’s no other, better you that’s out there waiting. Just as a 4 year old can be their own last line of defense, recognize the fact that you are your own last line of defense. You are going to have to rescue yourself.
  2. Clear the mind. It’s just you and your clear mind allowing you to focus and react. If you wait and ponder things, you could be dead in just a second. Remember, you may only have ½ a second to react.
  3. Breathe! Breath is life. If you hold your breath, then your muscles are immediately starved for oxygen and your reactions are slower. You grow tired quickly.
  4. Practice. And then practice some more. When you think you have practiced enough, you are just beginning to learn that you should practice even more. Without practice, all the weapons and martial arts in the world aren’t going to help you.

We are not born knowing how to walk. We had to crawl first. Did our finite minds vacillate back and forth about if we could crawl and therefore walk? No! We practiced, and therefore learned a skill that we do not even think about when we use it today. We are not born knowing how to execute the perfect kick to blow out a knee, or how to hit a bulls eye from 100 yards. We practiced. We began to trust ourselves. We began to feel comfortable in our abilities. This is how the experts excel at what they do. They have employed the “no mind” technique. They have learned how to “crawl” with their weapon and now can “walk” with them unconsciously, perfectly.

When you have practiced in your chosen self-defense so much that you feel comfortable and trust yourself, you begin to eliminate doubt and fear and replace it with confidence and a higher level of skill. This is the beginning of “no mind”. You have begun to eliminate hesitation. You have eliminated any excuses. You have grown and therefore begun to attain the ranks of the ancient warriors that entered combat with “no mind”. You can perform without conscious thought. Your actions to an outsider would seem spontaneous, but they are only the actions of someone that has removed the stress factor out of the equation and replaced it with action.

When you are practicing your chosen self-defense, be aware of your surroundings. Recognizing a threat before it presents itself helps to eliminate hesitation with your course of action. One of the ladies that I train was at a gas station. I decided to see how close I could get to her before she realized I was there. I got three feet from her. She turned around with eyes wide, focused and poised. When she realized it was me, she was relieved. I asked her what her initial reaction was. She said her first thought was, “How did I let someone get so close to me?” Her second thought was, “I’m going to target the knee, blow it out with a side kick. Then I’m going to palm strike the nose upwards.” While she was down on herself for her first reaction, I congratulated her. She assessed the situation and was fully prepared in a split second to react with force to save her person.

If you do find yourself in hand to hand combat and react accordingly, you then deal out a measure of surprise. This is not normal behavior for a victim. Remember, the attacker also has an expectation of your reaction as well. For example, if they grab your arm and pull you, the normal reaction is pull away from the impending danger. If, however, you were to step into the attacker’s personal space and execute a hand to hand self-defense, you have just reacted in an abnormal way to the attacker. You have then taken the power away and now they are the ones that have to react to the “surprise”. This could give you vital extra time to save your life.

If we want to fully prepare for our lives and world to change as we know it, we must be well rounded. Our focus and determination can only carry us so far without practice in real life applications. Clearing our minds through breath can lead us to be focused enough to react quickly to save our life or one of our loved ones with no hesitation.  We can further reduce stress in our lives by meditating on scriptures as they contain much wisdom. After all, the first Master of martial arts was God as he taught David’s hands to war in Psalms 18:34. We must rely on our determination, focus and dedication to teach our hands to war in the correct way as well.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A local surveillance camera [in Albuquerque, New Mexico] caught this stabbing incident.  There are lots of lessons here, but I'd point out three: 1--the attack was quick, with no warning and no known reason, and 2--the victim fought back as best as he could, probably saving his life as the attacker was trying to stab him again and 3--"smoke shops" should be avoided. - Scott B.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I think it is best to start with a simple disclaimer: you really can not learn any kind of hand to hand fighting skill from an article... especially one without pictures. If you really want to learn martial skills (I think "martial arts" is a terrible translation) then you need to seek out competent instruction and apply yourself to your lessons. There are a million pieces of advice on the Internet, even on this site, concerning how to pick a style or school but the simple fact is that you are limited to what is affordably offered in your area. Visit the available schools (and instructors) to find one where you feel physically, psychologically and financially comfortable. Even if "Fist X" is demonstrably the greatest fighting style ever it will not help you if the nearest school is 750 miles away or the fees are more than you make! Nor will "Fist X" help you if can attend classes but do not put in the effort necessary... receipts for karate lessons may get you a black belt but they will not win a fight!

All that being said, I know there are many people looking for something to give them an edge in hand to hand combat who do not have the time, resources or interest necessary to undertake a serious study of martial skills. There are literally catalogs full of self defense items aimed at this group and many of them are highly effective (but many of them are cheap pieces of garbage, too). The problem is that more and more places bar you from carrying any of these items. Sporting events, casinos and concert venues, for example, regularly run all attendees through metal detectors. They won't let you bring in your lucky penknife with it's dull 1.5 inch blade, much less your canister of tear gas, collapsible baton, pressure point keychain, TASER and double-edged boot knife! Yet we have all read stories of fans being beaten at games, robberies in parking lots and more. Therefore a self defense item needs to be not only effective and fairly easy to use but permissible to carry at all times. Instead of turning to the latest high-tech self defense gizmo I recommend returning to one of the oldest: the cane.

The cane and its cousin the walking stick have been used as weapons by almost every culture at one time or another. From the Blackthorn shillelaghs of the Irish clans and the Japanese jo staff, our ancestors saw the advantage of carrying a nice, stout club... whether or not you actually needed the assistance walking. Around the turn of the last century when urbanization saw an increase in crime coupled with a decrease in the legality of carrying weapons, several manuals and gyms appeared touting the cane or umbrella as a convenient, legal weapon. In fact, Sherlock Holmes was even supposed to be a student of Bartitsu, the hybrid Asian-European fighting system that included fencing with walking sticks. Canes and walking sticks are still readily available and readily accepted because they are still needed by so many people. What about umbrellas? Most are just too flimsy to effectively use, although in a pinch they can be treated as a hook handled cane.

Canes are not viewed as weapons and as such can be carried almost anywhere. I have used one on and off since high school and I have never had anyone question my need to carry a cane. It sometimes even gets me moved up in lines! It is important, of course, that you actually walk with your cane, even if you are not supporting your weight with it. If you are questioned remember that many people do not constantly need walking assistance and carry a cane for use on stairs or hills, when they begin to tire or just in case their knee suddenly "goes out." The cane's ability to hide in plain sight makes it the ultimate concealed self defense device but it comes with a possible drawback. Given the predatory nature of criminals and thugs, it is quite possible that your walking stick will make you look like the weak member of the herd. It is quite possible that walking with a cane will actually draw trouble to you. I have personally never had this happen but it is definitely worth considering before you decide to carry a cane.

In this article we will only be able to touch upon the most basic fighting technique and for our purposes there is little practical difference between a walking stick and a cane. You will be striking with the "head" of either so walking sticks are a bit easier to use because you never have to worry about the angle of the head while striking. When using a cane there is a specific spot you will want to use to make contact (where the handle, whether curved or straight, meets the shaft of the cane, but more on that later). Both canes and walking sticks are easy to find and available for any budget. For advanced fighters, the cane offers the ability to hook your opponent with the handle and walking sticks allow smoother transitions between various grips but these are not things you should try without some serious training.

Canes have the advantage of being very, very cheap and easy to find. Almost every drugstore, discount mart and grocery store will have inexpensive aluminum canes for sale. Last time I took a shopping trip with my wife I saw them at five stores, including a large gas station! These cheap models are actually a great option for self defense; just avoid the ones that fold up completely to store in purses and the ones with a four-pronged foot at the base. Select a straight-shafted cane with a single point of adjustment; it does not matter if it has a curved or straight handle. These canes are typically less than $20 new (and often closer to $10) but they are almost always available at thrift shops for a dollar or two. Even if you want to buy something a bit nicer, I suggest picking up one of the cheap canes as a practice piece and to help you determine the appropriate length of cane or walking stick for your body. They also are easy to store in your car or truck so they make a great back up to a more expensive cane.

If you prefer a non-adjustable cane many wood and synthetic options are available. Several fighting systems teach cane techniques so there are "fighting canes" available. They are often made of rattan or hardwood and almost always come with a curved handle (or hasp). These can get expensive, but they are typically solid and dependable. I would suggest, however, avoiding anything that is marked as a fighting cane or carries "martial arts" symbols. The advantage of the cane as a self defense device is that it does not look like a weapon; advertising that it is a weapon is literally a potential liability! Also be sure to avoid anything with a knife or sword hidden in the cane. They are concealed weapons so they open up a world of potential legal trouble. Worse yet, in my 20+ years of cane fighting I have yet to see one that is not a poorly-constructed piece of garbage.

If a walking stick is more appealing to you then you will probably need to resort to Internet shopping. There may be stores that offer walking sticks in your area (my favorite cigar shop always has a few on hand and I am sure that Irish-theme gift shops will have some expensive options, too) but there probably is not a section in your local Yellow Pages listing them! If you are able to shop in the real world for a walking stick, look for a solid stick that will not flex and if it has a metal or decorative headpiece, make sure it is attached well. After all, that is going to be your point of impact. If you are handy then you can always make your own; sometimes woodworking shops even have kits available. When shopping online a good place to start your search is Cold Steel (the knife company). They have a few options and a range of prices. I myself regularly use their African Walking Stick, a durable, synthetic piece fashioned after the fighting sticks used by the Zulu. They also make a synthetic shillelagh and traditional straight walking sticks.

Some canes and walking sticks have wrist straps attached. When you are walking with your stick never, ever use the wrist strap! You may want to cut them off but I usually keep them intact. I sometimes put a small metal bead on the wrist strap. Even though that bead does not pack much of a punch it gives me a few extra inches by acting as a little whip. Honestly, I find the real advantage of the wrist strap comes when pulling my cane off the floor or out from under the car seat. If you choose to use one of those cheap metal canes you may find that the handle has a plastic plug (usually where the wrist strap attaches) which constantly falls out. You can just throw it away if you do not want the wrist strap or you can glue the plug into the handle. Before you do that, however, you may want to shoot some glue and marbles, sand or metal shot into the handle and position the cane so the mixture settles in the striking point (I'll explain where that is in a minute) for a little extra weight. Be warned, though: some municipalities may still have laws on the books prohibiting weighted canes that date back to the turn of the last century.

If you choose a walking stick then your striking point, that is the part you want to land on your target, is simply the head of the stick. Simply put: the part you hit with is the part you hold. Canes are a bit more complicated but not much. There are two common styles of cane handles in the cheap adjustable models, the inverted J and the 7, and each has its own striking point. For the inverted J (a cane with a rounded handle like grampa used) the striking point is where the handle meets the shaft. I know that this may seem like the exact opposite of where you should hit but it isn't. Striking with the point where the handle meets the shaft allows you to take advantage of the weight of the handle, virtually eliminates the possibility of cracking the handle with a blow and minimizes the chance of getting tangled up with your target. If your cane has the 7 style handle then your striking point is where the hand grip meets the short length of the cane that is at a 45 degree angle. Some canes have an L shaped handle, usually with enough handgrip on one side of the shaft for just one finger to grip. In these cases the striking point is the edge of the handgrip on that short side. I have seen a few, very few, metal canes that have a triangular handle with a hand grip parallel to the floor (kind of like a spade handle) and 45 degree angles on each side that meet the shaft. If you have one of those then you can hit with either side of the hand grip.

If you actually need a cane's assistance to walk, use it in the hand your doctor has instructed. Otherwise, I suggest using your cane or walking stick with your inferior hand. That is, if you are right handed, use your left hand to walk with your cane. This keeps your dominant hand free to use keys, write, drink beer or whatever it is you do when out and about. It also allows you to smoothly (and very quickly) transfer your cane to a fighting stance. You will find that by twisting your wrist you can move your palm from facing down (on the handle of the cane or head of the walking stick) to facing your other hand. This will lift the bottom of your stick up to your dominate hand. Grasp the stick about one hand's length from the bottom and then let go with your inferior hand. You are now ready to wield your cane. If you have to use your dominant hand to grip your cane while walking you can transfer it into a fighting position by making a sharp upward motion with your hand while letting go of the cane. Basically, you are just tossing it straight up! The key is to catch the bottom end of the cane (again, about one hand's length from the bottom) while it is in the air. This takes a bit of work to get the timing down right, so if you have to walk with the cane in your dominant hand be sure to practice (and well away from your television, spouse or anything else fragile and valuable).

As I have already said, you really can not learn fighting skills from an article. Therefore, I am only going to cover one very basic strike with canes and sticks. Yes; we'll cover only one easy to explain and understand basic strike, but it can be delivered a few ways (so you can think of it as two or three different strikes if it makes you feel better). Simply put, think of your cane as a giant hammer. Swinging it as you would a hammer you can deliver powerful downward vertical strikes, horizontal strikes that move from your inferior side towards your dominant side and angled strikes at about 45 degrees. The blows should be delivered firmly and retracted quickly. This is a critical concept: hit fast but bring your weapon back into your ready position even faster. Do not let your cane linger after strikes... you really do not want to get into a tug of war over your stick with an opponent. For maximum power, your elbow and shoulder should both move as you strike but your wrist should remain rigid. If you have an old punching bag you can practice striking it.

I like having students beat on an old tire raised up to chest level or a 2/3 full 2 liter bottle hanging from a tree to get used to striking with a cane. If you don't have any experience with melee weapons you are probably going to be shocked at how much you feel the strikes in your palm and forearm so it is important to build up a tolerance to striking with the cane. You do not want to experience the shock of striking something with your cane for the first time when you actually have to use it for defense. As a general rule you want to keep from overextending your arm. When your arm is extended it is in a weaker position (and slower to react). This leaves you vulnerable to having your weapon tangled or taken. Try to avoid raising your hand above your head or lowering it below your belt to keep from overextending. Also do not "reach" to try to land a blow. I always teach: "If no one is close enough to hit, don't hit no one!" If you absolutely must hit at opponent who may be out of range then step towards them and strike, do not extend your arm or lean forward to bridge the gap. Finally, never fully straighten your elbow (that is just asking for trouble of the broken arm variety).

In the movies, when someone wields a cane or walking stick they are usually fencing with it. That is awesome if you know how to fence... but if you don't then stick with the hammer/club approach. When those movie heroes do use their canes like a club, as I suggest, they are always blasting people in the hands with pinpoint accuracy to make opponents drop their weapons. Don't do that either! Seriously, if you had a gun would you try to shoot weapons out of your enemy's hand, Lone Ranger style? Of course not! You aim for the biggest part of the target that is in your line of sight. We'll do the same thing with the cane, except we will aim for the biggest target in the path of the cane's swing.

Picture someone standing in front of you or look at yourself in the mirror. As mentioned above there are three basic angles to make hammer strikes: horizontal, vertical and 45 degree. All three of these angles find a target in the area between your opponent's head and shoulder making this area your prime target zone. Conveniently, as a shoulder is found on either side of the head you can reach this target zone no matter which hand you use. As you picture your opponent, imagine how the blows neatly fall into place. Horizontal blows go to the temple, vertical blows hammer into the collarbone while the 45 degree angled blows should be aimed where the neck meets a shoulder. If your aim is off with these strikes chances are you will still land a blow, which is a real advantage! If a shot aimed at the collarbone slams into the top of your opponent's head or that temple shot cranks them in the jaw or ear, it's probably close enough! You will find that it is fairly easy to one of the angles to another.... straight down, retract back to your ready position, straight across, retract, 45 degree angle, retract and so forth.

In a perfect world we wouldn't have to worry about our personal self defense. In a slightly less perfect world we would all have the time, inclination, opportunity and physical ability to learn a solid hand to hand fighting system. In the world we live in, I'd argue that it makes good sense to carry some type of self defense aid that will not keep you from going about your daily business. For me, I believe the best aid to be a club that masks itself as a medical necessity: the cane or walking stick. I hope that this article has been informative, but once again I would like to urge all readers to try to find some formal training with a qualified instructor. I hope that you have learned something that will help keep you safe even if I haven't inspired you to seek instruction, but I pray that you are never in a position to need self defense skills.

Friday, September 21, 2012

When preparing for TEOTWAWKI, or any lesser natural or "man made" disaster, it can be mind numbing with all the list, needs, "to do's", training, purchases, and planning it really takes to become self sufficient. As you prepare it becomes very apparent how complicated modern life is and exactly how vulnerable our sophisticated society has become. Most Preppers actively research via the internet, routinely learn new self sufficiency skills, train, buy supplies, and are most likely to be ardent supporters of the 2nd Amendment. But there is one area of training that must be considered by Preppers and can be summarized in one question:  Have you mentally prepared to kill another human being?

This question is not as easy as you might think to answer. At your next social gathering try discussing the  killing of another a human being with friends or family. How quickly would that conversation sour and you then find yourself alone in a room full of people? I have learned in my 17 years of law enforcement to not discuss the daily killing and violence of the streets outside of my fellow police officers. Even with my wife as the subject is a taboo that makes most people uncomfortable and is awkward to even bring up. As new preppers, my wife has cautioned me to not discuss why we prep with friends and family as some people do not want to see the possibilities of societal collapse or other disasters, let alone violent confrontation and use of deadly force. How many people do you know that hate to even talk about hunting or butchering farm animals for food? Just the mere talk of killing is a near taboo subject let alone the actual action of killing.

Most preppers believe, or assume, they have the guts, the will, required to kill another human being. The ability, not desire, to kill is perhaps the most important preparation you can make before TSHTF. All the time, effort, and money you spent stock piling food, building, planning for your escape, prepping for your family's survival can be all for naught when the first looter with a gun shows up to rob you of your supplies. If you can not kill, or hesitate to kill, you may lose all of your supplies, your G.O.O.D. vehicle at best or your life at the worst. The decision to take another's life is a difficult decision, but civil society is not infallible and criminals do not set appointments with their victims and they may force the issue upon you.

I'm not a philosopher, psychologist, or sociologist so I'm not going to give technical or scientific reasoning why people kill. However, from my seventeen years of patrol I believe that most people do not like confrontation. Confrontation always has its risks, no matter the scale of the conflict, from name calling to murder, and most people are wise to avoid it when necessary. Death can occur from what started out as a minor conflict. This is where criminals step in and take advantage of civil people. The criminal has learned how to exploit the fear of confrontation. Criminals know that when they say "boo" the average civil person does not want confrontation and will back down. They know how to read another's body language for weakness and pounce when they see it. Criminals are always testing each other for weaknesses to determine who will be the top dog. The average gang member lives like a piranha, always looking for a weak person to pounce on, even if it's one of their own.  The average criminal spends most of his day thinking how to gain an advantage over a weaker opponent, including you! All but a very small minority of criminals know their actions are illegal as they run from the police or others who resist their actions. Murder is the most heinous price of conflict between people. Murderers have forsaken societal norms for what ever reason and have lost their inhibitions of killing. After a disaster, man made or not, the criminal will have an advantage as his standards of respecting life and other's property is already lower than that of civil people.

But life is precious for the civil person. We teach our children killing is wrong as well as other anti-social activity. Our schools, churches, social groups, friends and families all set examples for us as we grew up how to act civilly, what is and is not inappropriate behavior, and that most confrontation is frowned upon. Many schools have adopted a ridiculous policy of zero tolerance in which both the child aggressor and victim involved in a school yard fight are suspended. What a disservice to our children as this horrible mentality teaches and enforces the idea that the child can not defend themselves and that they must rely on help from a government representative (teacher or staff) to protect them. Self defense starts with the individual and ends many long minutes later when law enforcement finally arrives. There are too many examples of good people standing by doing nothing while another is attacked by a criminal. At best, the the police maybe called for you during a confrontation with a criminal.

In a Judeo-Christian context it is a major sin to murder. Search "murder" in a digital version of the Bible and look at the dozen after dozen of references against murder. The following are a few that I quickly found:

  1. Cain paid a heavy price for killing his brother. (Genesis 4:8-14)
  2. God warned Noah, "Who so sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man."(Genesis 9:6).
  3. The tenth commandment, "Thou shall not kill."
  4. Exodus 21:12, "He that smiteth a man, so that he dieth, shall surely be put to death." (Exodus 21:12 ASV). No wondering what god's intent for murderers is after reading the bible.

Though there are plenty of biblical references that do refer to killing such as David slaying Goliath, it happens to be that Judeo-Christian followers do not want to kill. We would rather help a hurting person than kill, ergo the good samaritan. The proof of Americans good will and desire to help others is more than evident by the amount of charity Americans donate every year to mitigate an overseas disaster or help others we will never meet. More than any other country we give and help till it hurts. We know the power of goodwill and giving. As a society we loath murderers so much so that we see fit to incarcerate them for life time sentences or death, all at great expense to the tax payers. And without such a disdain for murder, a civil society would never exist. But we preppers are not preparing for a civil society and thus your killer mind set, your resolve, must be established before TSHTF.

After WWII, the Marshall study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the US forces. It found that a surprising small number, approx. 15%, of soldiers actually fired their weapons in combat. The military trained these soldiers to fight, but not necessarily to kill. Col. David Grossman, a personal favorite author of mine, has pointed out in his books and public speeches is that roughly 4% of the population have the ability to kill. That means the vast majority of people(sheep)are peaceful non-confrontational people. Half of those who are more inclined to kill are criminals with the other half hopefully serving as soldiers, police officers and CCW gun permit holders (sheep dogs). The stigma of killing is very strong, as it should be for a civil society, and must not be over looked before TSHTF.

As a kid growing up in central Nebraska I had my share of hunting deer, pheasants, and quail as well as  butchering farm animals. After high school, I first enlisted in the US Army, entered the Green to Gold program, and eventually became a commissioned officer in a combat arms unit. In the Army I had hundreds hours of firearms instruction from the M1 tank, to rifles, grenades, rockets, missiles, machine guns, and pistols. There was also a lot of maneuver training, and large company sized live fire exercises. The Army did its best to prepare me for the stress of combat and like many a young combat arms officers, I dreamt of winning glory in battle. But marriage, kids, and a shrinking Army after Desert Storm ended my dreams of battlefield glory. I then jumped into law enforcement as a way to chase glory and honor. As a new police officer I was again regularly trained to shoot by experienced officers who knew the dangers of the streets and the importance of being able to rapidly draw ones pistol and put accurate fire onto a threat. With this background you could easily assume that I had been fully prepared for the possibility of killing another human being.

Unfortunately I wasn't. Early in my rookie year I was on patrol at about 10:00 PM on a summer night. I came across a car in a closed city park. Next to the car were four young males and since the park was closed I drove up to send them on their way. As I drove up, all four subjects walked quickly to their car and did not appear to want my attention. When I exited my patrol car the subject at the left rear of the suspect car quickly spun on me revealing his hand holding a gun tucked into his waist band. My years of training kicked in as I do not remember pulling my duty pistol from its holster and found it pointed center mass on the armed suspect. The suspect drew his pistol from his waist band and started to bring it up at me. Then I failed. I yelled at him several times to drop his gun when I should have shot him several times in the chest instead. After what seemed like minutes, but was only milliseconds, the suspect dropped his gun. Though no one was hurt, I actually lost this battle. I was presented with an armed suspect who was pulling a gun on me and I had near fatal reservations about shooting another human being. All four suspects were armed and in possession of ski masks preparing for an armed robbery. I was extremely lucky that their will to kill was less than mine as I was outnumbered four to one. Though I had been trained to how to fight and shoot I had not adequately prepared myself for the actual moment I needed to kill. The stigma of killing another person was so strong that I did not want to shoot. I do not blame anyone else or any or the training that I received as I consider most of training and instructors as capable and very knowledgeable with decades of street experience among them. They had given me the instruction, their knowledge, their experiences to their fullest extent to prepare me for a lethal encounter. I had just not yet committed myself mentally, to being able to shoot and kill another human being. So the lesson learned is that this is your decision to make and it needs to be made before "that moment."

Nor am I the only officer who has flinched at the wrong moment. I now believe it is far more common than one would think. I have seen several fellow police officers fail to protect themselves when presented with a deadly threat. I watched in horror as one partner let a suspected drug dealer turn on him holding a gun. My partner, who was between the drug dealer and I, failed to draw his service weapon and could only muster a weak and scared, "what are you doing, put the gun down." Why the prolific drug dealer dropped  his weapon and did not shoot i'll never know. Another officer in my department failed to shoot a known robbery suspect who had just fled another armed robbery. When the officer cornered the suspect, the suspect told the officer he had a gun and that she would have to shoot him. The suspect held his hands at his waist line and and feinted drawing it on the officer. The officer failed to use her side arm and elected to use a Taser twice on the suspect which had little effect on the suspect. A gun was later found in the suspect's car and this officer was reprimanded for failing to adequately protect herself when presented with a deadly threat.  Another partner let the male half of a domestic violence incident go to his bedroom and pick up a shotgun laying on the floor stating that he was going to shoot the officer and then himself. Upon hearing this I ran to the room and found my partner had not yet drawn their weapon! Instead the officer said, "oh you don't want to do that."  Again the officer relied on luck and not resolve to survive the incident. There are several more fail to fire incidents that I witnessed and luckily none of them resulted in injury to the officers. The point is that you do not want to rely on luck or the benevolence of a robber, rapist, or TEOTWAWKI looter.

Several years ago a street cam caught an incident in which two rookie officers and a veteran officer attempted to arrest a suspect in Chicago. A fight broke out as the suspect resisted arrest. As the group was rolling on the ground the suspect pulled a hand gun. The two rookie officers reacted by running away and leaving the lone veteran officer to fight the suspect by himself! Instead of shooting the suspect to prevent their own or fellow officer's possible death or injury, the rookie officers ran away, ouch. The discussion that must have taken place in that locker room at the end of the night's shift!

A very painful example of the lack of resolve to kill can be found by doing a web search on: "Trooper Randy Vetter of the Texas Department of Public Safety". Watching this video makes me physically ill as I see myself and my own failure to shoot incident and I realize how lucky I was to have survived. Trooper Vetter made a car stop in which a elderly male subject immediately exits his car holding a rifle.  The dash cam catches the whole incident that only takes seconds to transpire. The suspect advances on the trooper, aims his rifle at the trooper, and eventually shoots Trooper Vetter, mortally wounding him. Every time I watch this video I scream inside, "shoot!" as the suspect walks towards the trooper's car. It is a hard video to watch and it is a nightmare scenario come true for a majority of police officers. But I suggest watching it and learning from it so you can learn from his sacrifice. No one will every know why Trooper Vetter didn't shoot when needed. But he had the reason, a deadly threat,  and time to do so. Trooper Vetter is heard several times telling the murderer to drop his weapon. I contend that Vetter's desire to not kill over rode his need to kill. Vetter showed to a fault that he valued life, including the life of a man pointing a rifle at him. I am in no way making any type of statement about the other officers bravery or dedication. The fact that they so willingly run towards danger night after night, shift after shift, when others run from trouble, is proof enough of their bravery. Our police officers and soldiers are products of our civil society and its not in most of their DNA to easily kill another human being . My point is if failing to kill when needed can happen to well trained and experienced police officers and soldiers, it can happen you.

Having survived my incident and observing several others failures was irreplaceable experience and training. I swore to never fail to protect myself again as my failure has caused me literal nightmares to this day. Every day as I drive to work I relive my incident, and others, in my head to recall where I made my mistake by hesitating and when I should have shot the suspect to protect myself. I recalled what past instructors had taught was to always watch the hands, as the hands are what kill you. Dirty looks have never killed anyone! I take my department range training very serious and spend time at a local range regularly to keep my skills fresh. I listen and learn from other officer's use of force incidents. I also seek out and attend firearms training on my own time and dime to keep myself mentally prepared.

Thirteen years later my mental preparation, experience, training, and resolve saved the lives of several other officers and nearby civilians. Being the first to arrive for a shots fired call I was startled when I heard the suspect fire two shot gun blast only two houses away. With in minutes numerous other officers arrived and set up a perimeter around the house and numerous civilians removed from the residential street. While waiting for assisting officers to assemble an arrest team and make a call inside the house, a lone male walked out of the house and walked towards a parked car. My partners then left the relative safety of cover and concealment to arrest this male. I continued to cover my partners and thought, "Great this will be over quickly,  where should I go for lunch." It wasn't over and again, the desire to not shoot came out. Seconds later, an extremely drunk suspect walked slowly out of the house and onto the front porch holding a shot gun. The look on his face and his actions scared me and I said to myself, "oh sh**, this is going to happen." After being told to drop the weapon several times, the drunk suspect pointed the shot gun at my exposed partners instead. Myself and another officer shot the suspect numerous times but it took several seconds and numerous hits before the suspect fell to the ground mortally wounded. The whole incident lasted approximately 5-7 seconds from when the subject walked out onto the porch till the last round was fired. I would have been extremely relieved, proud, and satisfied having reached retirement with out ever having used my weapon in the line of duty. It wasn't fun or pleasant and I'll live the rest of my days wishing it had not happened. Had there been any other option than to shoot I would have been relieved, thankful for such an option, but there wasn't. I was however, very relieved that I had not hesitated to shoot, that my aim was accurate under stress, and that I had been able to save my own life as well as others.

Short of enlisting in the Army or Marines and getting a combat tour in Afghanistan what can you do to prepare yourself for "that moment" when the use deadly force is needed?

Regularly Attend Combat Firearms Courses:
First and foremost get top notch firearms training several times a year if possible. The weapon is almost useless with out training as your mindset and skills are the actual mechanism of killing. Training put on by former/current military personnel and police officers with an emphasis on stress situations is preferable. This isn't target practice you are seeking. Not that non-military/ police trainers are incapable instructors, but the soldier or cop has a different mindset from years of combat training and experience in dealing with deadly situations and are more capable of inducing stress into the shoot/don't shoot scenarios. You are looking for stressed based training that police and military service members get routinely. Seek out training that uses soap bullet simulators (simunitions) that allow you to shoot at and be shot by others using real, but modified, firearms. This is perhaps the closest to a real shoot out you can attend with out actually using real bullets. Become so familiar with your firearm that its use is second nature. The more familiar and comfortable you are with your weapon the more effective you become with it. At the moment of need, you will be able to draw your weapon out of unconscious muscle memory rather than deliberate thought and defeat the deadly threat before you.

Seek Out and Interview Combat Winners:
Read about, talk to, and ask questions of those who have been in lethal situations. This can require extreme tact as those who have won a deadly encounter may not be ready to talk about their incident. Be very nonjudgmental and let the winner know that you want to learn from their experience as a means to protect yourself and loved ones. You will learn a lot about the mindset of the winner, which is vastly different from that of a survivor. Survivors did not necessarily participate in their survival and may have been the recipient of incredible luck.  You will learn that you, like the winner, can defeat a threat to your life. Most gun fight winners do not see themselves as special, but lucky. Ask them about the prior training they had, their mindset before the combat started, their initial thoughts and you will discover that they won the battle long before the actual fight took place. Be sure to thank them for their time and service if they are law enforcement or military. Read both fiction and non-fiction books related to the need for deadly force such as Mr. Rawles,"Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse". Reading such books will give you a mental reference, or picture, of when, why, how, as well as a greater resolve to use deadly force when needed. My personal non-fiction favorite books on the subject are written by LTC. David Grossman such as, On Combat, On Killing, and Warrior Mindset.

Video Games:
I know that this may seem ridiculous or silly, but games do help set the mindset. Video games are used through out the military to train its fighters into killers. Pilots, both military and commercial, routinely get mandatory flight simulator time. My police department uses an interactive video game to train for shoot and don't shoot situations. Play one of the current and popular first person shooter war games such as Modern Warfare which are getting more realistic each year. In the game you will see your weapon pointed at a threat target and if you fail to kill your character will get killed instead, most likely by some teenage kid. But when you repeatedly see yourself pulling the trigger and dropping your target you start to mentally over come the taboo of killing. Sad as it is, I do believe these games have contributed to the violence in today's civil society as it does reduce the stigma of killing. And that speaks volumes to their efficacy. When training at my departments use of force simulator, I have to explain to the instructor why I used force on any threat. I must justify my actions as does anyone else who uses force to stop a threat. But the simulator is training me mentally how, when, and why I might need to use deadly force. If I fail to engage the video game target, the target can "kill" me. Short of gaining access to a military or law enforcement simulator, realistic war video games are a training tool.

Review / Watch YouTube Combat Videos:
What a great resource to have to prepare for combat. A search of YouTube will produce hundreds, if not thousands, of police and military combat videos. These videos are excellent tools that show actual combat in action. There is no guessing what combat looks like as the combat is taking place right before the camera. The speed, the violence, the sounds, the action, and the shock are all captured on police dash cams and soldiers video cameras for the viewer to digest. I suggest the police videos best demonstrate how fast, up close, and violent combat can be. Most of the police shooting videos are captured via patrol car video cams capturing the up close combat. While watching these videos you can mentally prepare for future possible scenarios that you may encounter. I watch these videos regularly to dissect what the officer did right, or what they could have done better to protect themselves. Learn from the good, the bad, and the ugly the videos offer. Learn from the failures and success of others.

Obtain A CCW Permit And Use It Regularly:
An armed, civil person thinks differently and acts differently than those who choose not to be armed. Obtaining and using a CCW requires discipline and extra responsibility that the general pubic doesn't, but should understand.  When carrying a gun in public the CCW permit holder has extra responsibilities to carry the weapon, to safe guard it, and most importantly when to deploy it. Knowing your state's CCW requirements fully and knowing when, where, and how your state authorizes deadly force is your responsibility. But it is those responsibilities that force the permit holder to actively think about what they are doing while carrying the weapon and to actively look for threats. It is always best to avoid a fight in the first place and when actively looking for a threat you are more likely to avoid trouble. But more importantly the mind set of the CCW permit holder is vastly different. The confident CCW permit holder knows they have a much better chance of defeating a thief, robber, rapist, child molester, or any other criminal threat. You become the sheep dog and not the sheep. Not only do you have the ability to protect yourself but your loved ones, strangers, and those incapable of defending themselves. The CCW holder is thinking what will they do to the criminal long before a criminal threat appears. Effectively they war game what can happen and how they would react. I practice this every time I go on a call or out with my off duty weapon. I scan the area and mentally war game a scenario and how I'd defeat a threat. I go into every situation determined to win and go home no matter what. The day I don't think I'll win is the day I need to retire. What a difference one or two CCW permit holders could have had at any of the mass murder incidents that have rocked this country over the past decades. Just one armed person could save dozens of lives. Utilizing a CCW will allow to you to be more at ease by routinely carrying a firearm and put your mind set into a shoot, don't shoot mind set.

Become a Reserve Police Officer/Deputy Sheriff:
Experience is training and there is no training like real experience. Becoming a reserve officer is a huge  commitment but the experience is unparalleled. Law enforcement officers run to trouble and wrestle order from chaos nightly. As an officer you are responsible for gaining and maintaining control of a chaotic situation and place your own mortality at risk. As such, officers become very keen on minimizing the risks while maximizing the order. As a reserve officer you learn to take charge of deadly situations and learn when deadly force is necessary. Imagine how much safer and civil our communities would be if more of its citizens engaged part time in keeping the peace, enforcing the law and participating in the safety of their neighbors! Criminals would be wonderfully suppressed and scared to act! Becoming a reserve officer is a big commitment of time and energy, but again the experience is priceless.

Join A Political Action Group:
Join a group/organization that supports constitutional law, personal liberties, gold backed currency, a small federal government, and strong support of the 2nd Amendment. This may seem completely unrelated, but I strongly believe in and advocate avoiding a fight if possible. I'd rather talk a suspect to death to get them into handcuffs, than harm them. Why? If you need to shoot someone your life is at risk as well! Bullets work in both directions! I'd rather slowly push this country back peacefully to constitutional law than to have societal collapse and subject my children to the dangers that collapse anarchy would bring.

Pray for the strength to do what you don't want to do if needed. Pray for the bravery of David as he faced Goliath. Pray for those who have used deadly force to defend themselves or others from criminals or foreign combatants. Having used deadly force myself I can testify to the stress a deadly situation can dump on the cop or soldier. PTSD is no joke. The chemicals that dump into the brain during deadly encounters etch into the brain unbelievable details of the incident that don't go away easily, if at all. Forgive police officers and soldiers that may lose control after years of built up stress and are dragged through the gauntlet of public scrutiny. I'm not excusing bad police behavior in any form. There are bad police officers no doubt. I had to work with one before he was finally terminated. The vast majority of police officers  and soldiers however, are honest, hard working brave men and women. Please remember that they see death and destruction daily and face their own mortality every time they put on their uniforms. The stress builds up on all officers with a high percentage of officers suffering Ill effects. Our brave troops returning from war in Afghanistan or Iraq are no different than those who returned home from Vietnam, Korea, WWII, or any other war and all suffer PTSD to varying degrees. Combat is never pretty or fun and is always ugly. Thank police officers and soldiers when ever you can, it will make their day and remind them that there are more good people in this world than bad. And also pray for the soul of the defeated criminal that they get the peace that eluded their life.

Training for the mental ability, not desire, to kill is one of the most important preps a person can make to safeguard themselves from a criminal confrontation or TEOTWAWKI. Preppers appreciate the fact that dangers do occur and actively take steps to minimize that danger. If disaster comes the unprepared will have no choice but to violently take from those who who have prepared. Thus to protect yourself and your loved ones you may be required to kill those who would hurt, kill, rape, and steal from your life saving preparations. So ask yourself, "Can I kill another human being?", and take action to fight for your life.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The title of this essay could be either a call to action, or a toast to weapons.  Either way, the purpose is to discuss the decision of whether or not, and to what extent, a person should be armed.  The author is biased in favor of being as heavily armed as is legal under any given circumstances, and has a hard time coming up with reasons for not being armed.

The Right of Self Defense
I would bet that nearly all of those that regularly visit SurvivalBlog will agree that a person has a natural right, independent of and senior to any legal system, to defend his life and property.  This audience would also tend to agree that this right extends to defending others who are under an attack that could result in their loss of life or sustaining great bodily injury. 

The perversion by government of the self-defense right, and the attempt by governments to create a monopoly on the use of force, is at the root of our problems with government.  There are many governments, such as that of New Zealand, that do not recognize a right of self defense.  The United Nations also has trouble with that concept. The assertion by governments of a monopoly on use of force and denying it to individuals, and the use of that force to coerce obedience, to seize property, and to take lives, is perhaps the greatest of all evils.

Denying that individuals have the right of self-defense is an amazing thing, but you hear “civilized” people make that argument all the time.  Once you have been conditioned to think that the right to self defense is even debatable, you might find yourself also debating whether or not you should even consider arming yourself to do so.  If you are worrying about whether or not you should or can arm yourself, then this essay is aimed at you.

Humans have big brains, and are bipedal, so that they can maximize the use of “tools.”  A review of the scientific literature makes it clear that “tools” is a PC alternative to the word “weapons.”  Humans are hard-wired to use weapons, and being interested in perfecting that ability does not make you uncivilized, it makes you more human.  Being disarmed makes you a slave rather than a citizen, a human beast of burden, who differs from a plow-horse only in that a human slave is also a “tax-payer.”

Many people have an innate abhorrence of weapons, and regard any act consistent with owning or using a weapon to be inexcusable.  Weapons guru Jeff Cooper coined the term “hoplophobic” to describe them.  The views of such people are ignored in this paper, because such irrational sentiments are of no interest to evolved humans who believe in individual freedom and personal responsibility.  (Note: I am often seized by a perverse desire to see the onset of a TEOTWAWKI event because hoplophobes and their progeny will be among the first to succumb, greatly benefiting the species.)

To defend your life and property you have to be willing to fight, and fighting involves weapons.  The array of weapons ranges from the natural weapons of the human body that martial artists seek to develop, to the group-served weapons and machines fielded by modern armies.  It would be nice to live on a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and use it for your personal protection, or to have a fleet of armed drones at your disposal to eliminate your enemies, but that would mean enslaving millions of tax-payers and forcing them to pay for it.  Let’s take a look at what is possible and effective for the individual to use for his own defense and those of his family or tribe.

Threat Assessment
A professional security assessment, whether involving the geopolitical strategy of a superpower or the defense of a small antimony mine in the ungoverned regions of Honduras, is built around the definition and analysis of a threat.  As in all strategic exercises, we begin not with what we think we know, but with the right questions, which in this context would include:

  • What/who is the threat, and its objectives, means, weapons, and capabilities?
  • What is the realistic probability of attack, and can you change that by deterrence/avoidance?
  • If there is an attack, what is the most effective response/defense? and,
  • How will the threat evolve if and when you successfully deal with an attack?

Security assessments for major commercial facilities in dangerous environments are often substantial documents requiring hundreds of man-hours from a diverse group of experts to compile.  For our purposes, the model can be condensed into a shorthand form that, with practice, can be effectively applied to any situation.  Let’s look at a few situations:

Wild Animal Attack – This can include mountain biking in Orange County, where lions have attempted to feast on bikers, or the backpacker entering grizzly country in Yellowstone, or the older couple taking their grandchildren to the local park where a pair of pit bulls is running amok (don’t freak – I like pit bulls, grizzlies and cougars!).  The probability of such an attack is normally small, but indeterminate; an attack might be avoided or deterred depending on the circumstances (aggressively resisting a mildly hungry cougar) or avoided with timely local intel (avoiding a recent grizzly kill noted on a map for you by a ranger).  If you can’t rely on avoidance/deterrence, then I prefer a large-caliber rifle (my 500 A-Square works great on cape buffalo), but that isn’t usually convenient and might not be legal, so a large-caliber pistol is the most practical defense most of the time.  Evolution of the threat isn’t a consideration - you aren’t likely to shoot a grizzly to death one day and find another one wearing Kevlar the next.

Muggers – The most commonly portrayed self-defense situation is that of a person innocently going about their business in public and being robbed, assaulted, or jacked.  Again, you might be targeted or randomly selected, and although avoidance/deterrence is possible, it can’t be depended upon.  The self-defense handgun you train with most regularly is the right weapon to carry here, but if it is illegal to carry a pistol, and you chose to refrain from doing so, then by all means equip yourself with the appropriate number of knives and a sturdy walking stick. Threat evolution is a factor - muggers learn to avoid people who might be carrying, and might also focus on gun-free zones.

Home Invasion, Burglary – When you are sitting at home, or lying in bed, you probably feel pretty safe, and you might be, particularly if you have a good security system, which should include dogs and guns. On the other hand, if it were possible to determine all of the independent variables, you could decide that you are more likely to suffer an attack at home than you are out and about. The safest approach here is to have firearms strategically located around the house, with appropriate measures in force to prevent misuse by children or incompetent adults.  If you carry concealed during the day, then why not continue to do so after you get home? 

Unlawful LEO Activity – What if you are assaulted by law enforcement acting outside the law.  I have many friends in law enforcement, who are just as upset about these incidents as we are.  If you think this is uncommon, then check out these web sites: here, and here.  Note also a disturbing recent report that certain jurisdictions hard-pressed in the current economic environment might use drug sniffing dogs and the right to property forfeiture to increase public revenues.  I am not a lawyer, but according to my research, there is a common law right to use force (but not lethal force) to physically resist improper police actions.  As noted at The Volokh Conspiracy, a recent Michigan case reaffirmed that right, while earlier Indiana rulings first negated then reinstated that right.  If you are the victim of such an incident, but are not in mortal danger, then it may be best to ensure there are lots of witnesses and lawyer-up later on.  If your life is in danger, then in my own mind a deadly assault under color of authority is the same as any other assault or home invasion.

Abduction – Imagine you have been abducted, beaten, sexually abused, and awaken to find yourself bound and gagged in the trunk of a moving car.  This is as bad as it gets.  There are those out there that would advocate continued cooperation, but I would argue that you are probably only alive because it is more convenient to kill you somewhere else.  I would also argue that cooperation is not consistent with pay-back.  If you are tied up, get loose, and root around in the trunk until you find a weapon – something like a tire iron.  Even if there is nothing that serves as a weapon, as soon as that trunk pops open your job is to kill your attacker(s) with whatever you have available.  What have you go to lose?

Active Shooter – The recent Aurora, Colorado, active shooter case produced an amazing storm of blog activity.  Some people pointed out that a single armed citizen sitting in the theater could have saved the day, and others dismissed that idea, ignoring the fact that something along those lines had really happened in 2007, where an armed citizen killed a shooter in a Colorado Springs church before he could get revved up.  Apparently the theater is a gun-free zone, so if you armed yourself and went to the movies, and someone saw your pistol, you would have to leave and apologize, or explain to the local police that you didn’t see the sign.  Even if you are only armed with a knife and/or a walking stick, if you are close enough you are just as dangerous as the shooter is, and the closer you are the less you have to lose since he will probably shoot you anyway.  The active-shooter threat has evolved – they always seem to select gun-free zones to attack. 

Military Attack – I can’t ignore this one.  Let’s say you have joined the Army, gone through your training, and have been assigned to a unit being deployed to Pick-a-Stan, and that you are not a combat veteran.  First of all, you should hunt down the individuals within the unit, particularly senior NCOs, who have been there and know what they are doing – stay close to them and learn everything you can.  Also, augment your EDC gear in meaningful ways, and ensure your issue weapons are not flawed.  Get tight with your fire team and talk about what is going to happen, and what has been happening, every day.  If you have incompetent leadership that is intent on getting you killed, discuss it with your team and figure out what to do.   In combat it is inevitable that people will be killed, but who gets killed is a function of training and circumstance; take your training seriously and become the most competent fighter you can be.  Don’t become a victim of circumstance.  Stay in shape, stay sober, stay alert, stay alive.

The Point – As you can see from the truncated threat analyses above, I can’t think of a single strategic/survival situation where you wouldn’t be better off carrying, and using, the most powerful weapon that you can use effectively and are legally entitled to carry.  Maybe you could avoid bloodshed by giving a mugger your wallet, but if that is the course you select, why not do so while retreating slowly gun in hand?  The grizzly in front of you might just be startled, and maybe you can act submissive and creep away, but why not do that while holding your 454 Casull at the ready?  It may be more comfortable on the couch if you take your Kimber out of your waistband and put it upstairs unloaded, but why not just loosen your belt a little and leave it on until you go to bed?

If you have made the decision that arming yourself is a good idea, then let’s jump right to firearms, because firearms are the most effective personal defense tool you can have.  Volumes have been written on the best self-defense weapon, and you can devote the rest of your life to research in that area, so just let me say this about “which” firearm:

The best firearm for defending yourself is the most powerful weapon you can legally possess and use well, and which is in your hand at the time that you need it. 

There are several subordinate points to that main rule, including:

  • A long gun is better if you can get it, but for concealed carry you are stuck with pistols;
  • A large caliber is better than a smaller, if you can competently wield and accurately shoot it (if your carry gun is so heavy that you constantly elect not to carry it, even around the house, or if the recoil is so abusive that you are afraid of it, then it is the wrong weapon); and,
  • You must regularly train in the use of your weapons (range time is not the only way to effectively train, dry firing drills are very effective).

Empty Hands
For reasons discussed elsewhere, I have good reasons for having acquired certain skills. I trained in the martial arts from an early age.  I was in lots of fights, and I won more than I lost.  Despite that, maybe because of it, I never willingly put myself into a situation where I am only armed with natural weapons.  I also no longer allow myself to be lured into a social encounter. The reasons for this are numerous, but the most important ones are:

  • It is stupid – as the old expression goes, if you roll around in the mud with pigs you will never come out smelling like a rose, even if you “win;”
  • It doesn’t usually remain a friendly bout for long – often friends will pitch in on either side or someone produces a weapon;
  • If you are well trained and fit, and you win, and the other person gets hurt, you are screwed, whether he started it or not; and,
  • If you are a CCW holder, and things get out of hand, you will lose your CCW, and never be able to get it back.

On the other hand, if it is a true survival situation, and you have no weapons, you will wish you had invested in the training.  You are also going to wish you had not had that last drink, that you had been keeping in shape generally, and that you or your significant other didn’t have such a big mouth.

My own preference is for martial arts that focus on combat rather than sporting aspects, and which also include weapons training integrated into the system.  It is only natural that I put in a plug for Kali-Escrima and Jeet Kune Do.  I have never studied Krav Maga, but I have worked out with guys that did study it and it seems very effective. 

The UFC/MMA thing contains much that is useful, and the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guys are correct that most one-on-one social street fights end up on the ground. Also, an intensive grappling workout is the toughest of all forms of conditioning I have been exposed to, so ground-fighting is a perfect ten for pure PT. Note however, UFC/MMA is still a sport with rules, and rolling around on the ground seeking your favorite submission hold while your opponent’s friends start kicking you, or he gets his blade out, is a tactical mistake.

I would suggest that the best – most efficient - martial art for you to study is the one taught in a location you can conveniently and frequently get to, is taught by people that will listen to and focus on your objectives and needs, and will keep you in great physical shape.  Also, there is nothing wrong with moving around from school to school and picking up what you can.  It was Sifu Bruce Lee who said “Absorb what is useful, reject what is not, and add what is specifically your own.”

In Between
There is a vast array of weaponry in between firearms and empty hands.  This includes knives, sticks, baseball bats, pepper spray, a belt with a heavy buckle, swords, spears, the staff, your car, broken bottle, almost any tool you can find in a workshop, and various improvised weapons such as a rolled-up Wall Street Journal. 

The walking stick along with good solid folding combat knife (or neck knife) is hard to beat.  It is also a combination that is compatible with the legal systems of most countries in the world.  A trained fighter so equipped is more dangerous at close range than a man armed with a pistol that is still holstered.  You can of course substitute an umbrella for the cane, or a rolled up newspaper. 

The cane-knife combination can make use of a number of weapons systems training regimes – the training I am most familiar with is the espada y daga components of Kali-Escrima.  However, if you happen to have trained in Kendo, then you will find that a relatively heavy cane is a lot like a samurai sword.  A knife alone is of course very deadly, even more deadly if the one using the knife is well trained, fit and conditioned to an ugly combat situation.  Many martial arts involve training with the knife, and some are almost solely devoted to it. 

The problem with most of these weapons is the same as with martial arts themselves, they are most useful in younger, bigger, fitter and well trained individuals.  The advantage of firearms is that smaller, older, weaker people can effectively use them.  Non-firearms weapons that have the same advantage, plus having the advantage of being (usually) non-lethal, include both pepper-spray (such as the one from Kimber, for example) and conductive energy weapons (such as Taser).  Both require some training to be most effective, which can be obtained locally throughout the USA.  They may not be legal, however, in all jurisdictions, so check it out if you are getting on a plane.

Beyond Firearms
Day-to-day self defense considerations rarely result in deciding upon such weapons systems as squad automatic weapons, mines, mortars, grenades, heavy machine guns, RPGs, MANPADS, or even armored vehicles.  This is the sort of thing that you would typically include in your planning for after the SHTF.  If your planning scenario includes this type of weapons system, then you need to invest heavily in legal advice and the requisite permits, and you will need a weapons budget much bigger than I have.  I wish you luck and I would really love to see what you come up with.

Children and Weapons
First of all, it goes without saying that you keep weapons safely locked away from children that are not properly trained in handling them.  If your children have been trained and indoctrinated, then I consider it your choice as to how secure the weapons need to be.  By the time my children were in their early teens they could field strip every weapon in the house, and I didn’t worry about something being left lying around unless a stranger was in the house.  When another child was in the house the weapons went into safe storage.  In this day and age, the way I did things might be illegal in some jurisdictions, so be sure and check if a relatively lenient policy would otherwise by your decision.

From a parents’ point of view, I regard weapons as being nearly the same as sex.  If they haven’t shown an interest, then don’t bring it up - unless they are at an age that you should worry that they haven’t shown an interest.  Actually, guns and/or hunting might be a more common kitchen table topic than sex in most homes, so the subject might be more likely to come up than sex in some families. 

In some homes, the kitchen table discussion might be more likely to include sex-change surgery for children than the best handgun to carry.  If that does describe your family, then I still advocate an early non-judgmental discussion of firearms if and when your child brings up the subject, to be followed by actual exposure to basic firearms training if a real interest is expressed.  This is not an area where enforced ignorance is good, any more than it is in the matter of sex.

With regard to bearing arms, I believe the earlier the better, consistent with the law.  A child can accompany an adult in the field and carry his own firearm as soon as he or she is able to complete a hunter’s safety course.  I think this may be the best way to ease children into the art of responsibly bearing weapons.  The concealed carry laws of all of the states I am familiar with confine that right to an adult (amongst other conditions), so even the most responsible child will not be able to carry a concealed firearm.

It is never too early to get your kids involved in martial arts, and that is an excellent way to begin instilling the philosophy of self reliance and personal responsibility into your child.  Again, as discussed above, if that martial arts training is more realistic, then it is better, and if it includes exposure to various weapons, then that is wonderful.   Since children are generally discouraged from carrying any sort of weapons, a good parent who refuses to wimp out on this subject will make sure that his or her children are aware of what can be accomplished with improvised weapons. 

I grew up in a different world than the one we are stuck in right now, and I had a knife on me all the time, even at school, from a very early age.   I still have one of them around here – a Barlow with a Bowie blade and a sheep foot blade of fairly soft steel that was easy to sharpen.  I think the first thing I cut with my first pocket knife was my thumb - that was how everyone in my day and age learned about sharp knives.  My kids had knives at an early age, but I think that they got in trouble for it whenever they got caught with them at school.  With today’s zero-tolerance laws I have no doubt but that it is probably a felony to let your kid walk around with one in public now.  Please check the laws of your state, county and city, the rules of your homeowner’s association and the policies of your schools before letting your children carry a knife.  

It is a dangerous world, and you can’t be with your children all of the time.  I gained some comfort that my own children had some training, and could react productively to a survival situation.  If you decide to not train your children at all, or if you tell them to trust in the authorities, such as their teachers or administrators, religious leaders, or local law enforcement, then in my opinion you are simply teaching your children to become victims.  If I can’t be there, then I would prefer that my children or grandchildren be dangerous in their own right, rather than have them depend on someone who might let them down. 

Legal Issues Relating to Weapons and Self-Defense
The possession and use of weapons, and the application of deadly force, is an important area of the law, and one that is constantly changing in various jurisdictions.  You can be sure that if you are involved in a self-defense situation, especially one involving a firearm, once you have survived the physical threat you will then have to deal with the legal aftermath, both criminal and civil.  Check with your local police or sheriff’s department for guidance, consult the hundreds of web sites devoted to weapons and the law.  Better yet, go visit a local attorney that advertises a specialty in firearms law and invest in an hour of his time. 

My bias is pretty evident by now.  I believe that you should always be as heavily armed as you are legally entitled to be, bearing weapons you are trained in and can use effectively.  If you are not legally entitled to carry a firearm to a certain location, then don’t go there.  If you have to go there, then arm yourself in some legal manner, such as walking stick and pocket knife.  Work out with those weapons so that you can actually apply them in practical situations. 

There are dangerous people out there who won’t worry about legality.  They will be waiting around for someone that looks vulnerable.  Make sure you are not what they are looking for.  Better yet, be more dangerous than they are.

The Author
Despite the state's appalling politics, the author lives peacefully in California.  He is engaged in the business of financing energy and technology firms, and is the acting CEO of a private military contracting firm.  He is also devoted to the personal pursuits of rock climbing, martial arts, and hunting.  Prentice is also the author of Feral, a novel with significant Libertarian overtones, and the short story Purgatory.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hi Mr. Rawles,
I’m a seasoned martial artist and self-defense instructor.  I teach Western Boxing, Jeet Kune Do (Concepts), Kali, Submission Grappling (mainly Sambo and Machado Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), and mixed martial arts (MMA. ) I regularly instruct law enforcement officers and military personnel who go into harm’s way.  I agree with much of what Legionnaire wrote, but must take exception to his statement that most fights go to the ground.  This is a myth that has been bandied about since the early days of the UFC, and the only notable support for this assertion is a “use-of-force” study conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department (specifically Sergeant John L. Sommers).  The study was conducted to review officer use of force and restraint and is not applicable to civilian self-defense.  The study was later co-opted by the Gracie marketing machine to support their franchise and was regularly misquoted.    

Having trained and interviewed numerous police officers, I can say unequivocally that police officers almost always bring suspects to the ground in order to subdue them and are rarely brought to the ground by their adversaries.  This isn’t to deny the importance of ground fighting, because it certainly is valuable, but with only limited time to train and prepare (not to mention that most people have little inclination or facility to train effectively to begin with), providing accurate data regarding physical self-defense is imperative.  Unless you’re fighting in a ring, ground fighting should always be a last resort for the simple fact that it places you in direct physical contact with a possibly armed, diseased, or insane opponent.  Keeping a fight standing and controlling the measure is vitally important for many reasons, not the least of which is to increase the likelihood and rapidity of escape.  As much as I love grappling, when it comes to real life scenarios, I have never met a seasoned professional soldier, peace officer, or pro-fighter who would countenance going to the ground when other viable options remain available. 

Sincerely, - Adam H.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Disclaimer: the opinion presented below is garnered from my personal experience. I make no claims of omnipotence or omniscience. As with all things, analyze this information and use your judgment to make an informed decision on how to integrate the following material into your personal preparations. When it comes down to it, learning how to avoid a fight and effectively negotiate a resolution is as (or more) important than combatives training. However, I will leave the topic of practical negotiation to others who can espouse the finer points better than I.

I was motivated to write this article after gritting my teeth for the past few evenings while reading some related postings on survivalblog. There is a lot of ego tied up with certain martial arts doctrines (as with weapons, calibers etc.), especially when people have been practicing something for many years. Brand myopia generally afflicts people who have such a vested emotional interest in whatever they're doing that they refuse to consider alternatives. My fear is that well intentioned people are recommending disciplines that are not necessarily the most efficient way to train hand-to-hand combatives. Unseasoned readers and general “noobies” to the whole self-defense/preparedness culture may be easily overwhelmed with useless information and misdirected. With all things in life, truth is found in the middle way. As a result, I'm offering my opinion, which can be best summarized as “Honor truth wherever it is found, and use what works.”

We all know that “preppers” take their physical self defense seriously. It is an essential part of being prepared and being an American. Many of us reading this have spent major time, money and effort acquiring the necessary rifles, handguns, and training to be able to competently defend ourselves and our families over a variety of distances. Many of us have learned that alertness and proper combat mindset are essential to self-defense when the need arises (alertness can help to avoid a potentially nasty confrontation in the first place, which is a good thing), and that training reflexively under pressure helps prepare our bodies and minds to fight effectively.

However, when you made the commitment to being armed and willing to kill to defend yourself and your loved ones, you shouldered a responsibility that does NOT end when the ammo runs out, parts breakages occur or you are separated from your weapons for whatever reason. If you've already made the commitment to self-defense to the point of being willing to do whatever is necessary, then you've probably realized that your rifle and handgun are simply efficient means to an end. It doesn't matter what rifle or pistol you carry; they are simply tools that make you a more efficient fighter over longer distances. Regardless of caliber and model, the fact should remain that you are a well-regulated, moral, and dangerous person, with and without weapons.

Sadly, in my limited observations and experience in talking with other “preppers”, many people's self-defense skills (and mindset) start with how much ammo they've got and ends with “...from my cold dead hands.” Unfortunately, few people consider the unpredictable nature of violence, or train the ability of being able to draw and fire a pair of hits in under two seconds with a sidearm—CCW permit holders are familiar with the additional time imposed by concealing garments on their draw-stroke, and should seriously evaluate their ability to defend against a trained aggressor with lethal hands (or lethal objects in their hands) at conversational distance. To be fair, law enforcement, vigilant citizens and concealed carry permit holders avert or stop many crimes from happening with their weapons daily in this country. However, the gray world of dispute escalation often places people in positions where yelling and arguing transforms in the blink of an eye into a wrestling match, the immediacy of which affords neither time or space for the deployment of concealed weapons. Ignoring the capabilities of a determined attacker at close range is foolish—and in my opinion, not enough emphasis in personal preparation plans is placed on responding to threats at close range.

Generally speaking, there are two types of close-range threats: armed and unarmed. Instantly assessing your opponents' capabilities, the nature of their armament, and their intent is a valuable skill*. Though this is beyond the scope of this article, many of you have already been exposed to the “ability, opportunity, jeopardy” threat assessment process in shooting schools—in close combat, the rules still apply and the assessment process is the same. Your adversary's physical condition, emotional state and body language should all shape your response. Having a certain amount of depth and flexibility in your hand-to-hand techniques will help you if your assessment is correct and certainly not hurt if your assessment is wrong. In short, a well-rounded close-range combatives skill set will possess the following:

  1. The ability to fight standing up
  2. The ability to throw and execute take-downs, as well as defend against the same
  3. The ability to fight on the ground


Broadly speaking, fights have two phases: the standing phase and the ground phase. Almost all fights start standing, but they usually end on the ground. The reason for this is that someone usually gets caught off balance and is tripped, stumbles or is thrown/taken down by their opponent. It is during the transition between the standing phase and the ground phase that the outcome of the fight is usually determined. The person who ends up on top has the advantage of gravity aiding their blows, while the person on the bottom usually cannot maneuver to avoid them, nor effectively strike back. Unless the person on the bottom has well developed grappling skills (jiu-jitsu, judo, wrestling), it is almost impossible for them to turn the tide.

In any type of practical, real-world conflict, time will be your enemy. Your opponent may be younger and better conditioned than you, which favors them the longer the fight continues. They may have friends nearby who will help them. They may have a hidden weapon to deploy if given enough time. For this reason, the quicker you can end the fight, the better. This requires taking an aggressive, offensive role immediately.

The goal of any fight training you undertake should be to quickly push an opponent off-balance, kick or throw them to the ground, and disable them. Obviously, the first opportunity that presents itself for escape should be taken. It is difficult to deliver fight ending blows in the standing phase unless you are a trained striker with knockout power and your opponent is untrained and gives you the space to strike effectively. It is also difficult to end a fight by throwing someone or taking them to the ground, unless they land on something sharp or hard that knocks them out or breaks something. Various jui-jitsu ground grappling techniques for maiming limbs or choking someone unconscious can be very effective and quick if they are trained extensively. However, for most people, it is in the transition period between standing and being on the ground, the brief period of time when your adversary is falling, that a dominant position can be established with which to end the fight. Several crushing blows to the throat may be all it takes. Alternatively, the several seconds that it takes an opponent to recover from being thrown could afford you the time to draw and fire your concealed weapon, deploy a knife etc.

For these reasons, a practical martial arts program that spends time addressing each of these “fight phases” is a good starting point for someone looking to broaden the spectrum of their self defense responses. I can give general recommendations on what to look for and what to avoid:

Look for:
A clean, well organized gym/dojo with clear and up front fee payment schedules.
A curriculum that emphasizes practical techniques and instructors with a “use what works” attitude.
A curriculum that comprehensively addresses ground fighting and grappling.
An environment that fosters the personal testing and evaluation of techniques through sparring and open-roll grappling sessions (not only among students, but instructors as well—do they talk about and evaluate techniques outside of class?)
A supportive and fun learning environment.

Someone's garage with dubious credentials.
Chaotic “we all teach each other” peer instruction type groups.
Gyms/dojos that are dirty and not well taken care of (seriously, MRSA and ringworm abound on dirty mats).
A one-dimensional curriculum that focuses exclusively on stand up striking, ignoring grappling and take-downs or vice-versa.
Instructors that seem manic, macho, aggressive/defensive, have various ego issues, are unwilling to entertain questions that challenge the utility or execution of particular techniques, or that you get a “funny feeling” from.

Generally speaking, a well-rounded mixed martial arts (MMA) gym should be able to provide a good solid foundation in all of the these fight phases. However, you should focus your training as much as possible on real-world type conflicts and be aware that stand-up striking, throws, and ground grappling are not ends in themselves. Your practice of these techniques should always focus on the transitions between these fight phases with the goal of disabling your adversary as quickly as possible while maintaining a dominant position. Muay-thai boxing with emphasis on knees and elbows, coupled with judo-style throws and wrestling take-downs, and finished off with Brazilian jiu-jitsu ground grappling would provide a solid combatives foundation for anyone seeking to improve their defensive capabilities. Further areas of specialty instruction relating to weapons disarmament (Krav-Maga) and knife fighting may have to be pursued in other venues, but the foundation you receive in MMA will carry over into any other martial arts program you pursue.

I recommend MMA for beginners because I have found it is the fastest, most efficient and economical way to train someone to lethal ability and give them an all-around combative flexibility that any single discipline cannot provide. Six months of going 2-3 times per week to an MMA gym should give you a good depth of standup striking, the effective use of several different throws and takedowns, a variety of ground grappling submissions and the ability to handle almost any conflict you may run into. Additionally, an MMA curriculum will allow you to understand the contributions made by many different disciplines to the art of fighting without succumbing to the narrow-mindedness of brand myopia. This should allow you to continue your journey into the world of martial arts with an open mind and allow you to rapidly develop effective ability in self defense.

On a personal note, I would highly recommend Brazilian jiu-jitsu and/or judo to women and children who may have doubts about the training the striking components of fighting. It's fun to roll around and use leverage and technique to negate strength and weight disparities and has practical real-world application in situations when women and children are almost always outclassed by stronger, larger opponents. However, sooner or later, striking should be integrated into their defensive array, as it has its place in ground fighting as well.

A pleasant side effect of MMA training (especially the open roll and sparring sessions which you should avail yourself of at every opportunity) is the physical conditioning, the increased self-confidence, the comraderie with your training partners, but perhaps most importantly, the aggressive “fight instinct” which inherently develops as a result of repeated close physical struggle against trained opponents.

I hope this article has been informative and will help to set people on the right path. Only so much can be written and hypothecated—the proof is in the doing. Get out there and train.

All the best,

*Talk to an experienced peace officer or body language expert if you feel you could use more training in threat assessment. Ask your local law enforcement department about citizen tag-alongs with one of their patrol units. This is a valuable opportunity to gain insight into the types of threats that police officers face daily on the streets in your area, how they assess and respond to these threats, as well as your local department's policies and attitudes when interacting with the citizenry.

Friday, August 31, 2012

R.G. wrote a great article! I really appreciate his emphasis on the fact that when you fight hand to hand you will most probably be injured - he who is injured the least "wins", but in reality you both lose.

It needs repeating over and over, that the best strategy is to avoid potential confrontations - don't be in the situations or places where confrontations are likely to occur.  As that is not always possible or predictable, second best is to disengage or run away (and keep an exit route on your situational awareness radar).  As that is not always possible, be armed.  And since we don't always walk around with a weapon immediately available in our hand, or are disarmed by law - learn unarmed combat.

To re-use Boston T. Party's metaphor, you should sharpen your combative skills like the edge of a knife - along the entire length of the blade - from zero range unarmed combat, to arm length knife work, to short range pistol, to long range rifle...

The best training I have ever received in unarmed combat is the weekend seminar by Target Focus Training.  The most realistic, the quickest to get effective with, the most "actionable", the best emphasis on the ugly reality of the situation, the ugly mindset required, I could go on and on...

The downside is these classes are very expensive.  Get on their newsletter (which I highly recommend - a great education in itself) and wait for a special sale.  Frankly it took me awhile of reading their stuff to be convinced to risk the time and money to see if they were as good as they say they are.  They are!  Standard disclaimer: I have no financial interest, just a happy customer.

Regards, - OSOM

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Before I get to my take on unarmed combat, I want to make a few points:

First, if you are totally unarmed at any time before it hits the fan, and especially after, you are not taking survival, or life seriously; and you are probably already screwed because your enemies will not be unarmed.

Second, the last I checked this isn’t “the middle weight champion of the world blog”, it is “SurvivalBlog” which should be a real clue as to what you look for in an unarmed combat skill set.

Third, I readily admit I have never killed a person in unarmed combat and welcome input from anyone who has concerning flaws in my reasoning or conclusions; preferably someone who has killed more than one person so his comments are drawn from actual experiences.  Anyone can get lucky once.

Fourth, I am using terminology to accurately describe what I am trying to communicate, i.e. unarmed combat instead of martial arts, for reasons which will be made clear.
I have been a disciple of unarmed combat for over 30 years and have developed a number of principles and rules which I believe are important to develop in your training, and practice in any situation which could be dangerous at any time before a major disruption of civilization, and vital to survival after a disruption.  Some of them I learned from other sources and I have attempted to credit the author when I can remember where I learned it.

  1. “When two tigers fight, one of them is badly injured and the other one dies.”  This is the mindset you must have at all times.  One of Gichin Funakoshi’s axioms is “A true karateka is never easily drawn into a fight.”  Any confrontation can escalate to a life or death, survival, situation.  Bluntly, if it is not worth dying for, it is not worth fighting for.  As a consequence you must develop an attitude meant to defuse any situation which could escalate to a physical altercation, knowing the possible outcome could be death for someone.  Conversely, if it is worth fighting for be willing to die because your enemy may have already made that decision and you will have to kill him to survive.  Before TEOTWAWKI there will be some legal authority to which you will be forced to give justification for your actions even if death is not the result.  Remember this when someone is not sufficiently apologetic when he bumps into you.  If you begin the escalation and he ends up dying you will probably be charged with at least manslaughter; and probably convicted.  After TEOTWAWKI, there will be many more instances where the situation is a matter of living or dying, but the principle is the same.  And, the consequences if you suffer physical injury can be dire if proper medical treatment is delayed or not available. 
  2. If no one dies it is not fighting.  This should be self-evident and self-explanatory.   I don’t care what it is called and how brutal it may appear, it is not fighting.  You fight to survive and your training-physical, mental, psychological, and your techniques-must reflect that.  If you are not ready in all ways to fight and accept the consequences, and you can, run like hell.  You have to be alive to be embarrassed.  
  3. If it has any rules it is not fighting.  This includes belts, weight classes, points, trophies, rounds, protective equipment, referees, and especially forbidden techniques or targets.  See rule 2.
  4. There is no such thing as a fair fight.  If you survive it was fair.  Victors right history.  And, give testimony to the authorities.  If you don’t survive the question of fairness is irrelevant.
  5. Your enemy, not your opponent in a match, will be bigger, stronger, and meaner than you; and there will probably be more than one of them.  You shake hands with an opponent when the altercation is over, you don’t shake hands with a corpse; and an enemy wants to kill you.  If not, they wouldn’t attack you unless extremely desperate, which will be covered later.  You will not have any idea of what his true intentions are.  Your main advantage is that very few of them are willing to die for what they want.  If you are, and willing and able to use techniques capable of inflicting major damage or death quickly your odds of survival greatly improve.  Remember this when three strangers in hoodies and gang clothes appear out of the shadows and walk purposefully toward you in a dark deserted parking lot.  While you are rendering one unconscious with a choke hold another could be carving up you or your wife and children.
  6. If a fight lasts longer than 30 seconds you will lose.  The time limit is not hard and fast, but the goal is to end it as quickly as possible.  The reasons are in rule 5.  Your goal is not to control your enemy as with an arm bar, but to destroy his ability to do you harm as with an upward heel palm to the nose.  There are exceptional people, such as the Gracies, who may be able to defeat someone, or a group, in a long bout; but I am not one of them and 99% of preppers are like me.  Training must be geared toward the weaker members of your group having the skills to defeat a stronger enemy intent on killing.  What may work for an MMA contestant aged 25 and in great shape against someone else with the same characteristics is about useless for the average woman against a man, or someone like me on the downward side of 60.  I wouldn’t stand much of a chance in a ring against him, but know that I don’t have to lose in a fight.
  7. Kata is essential.  Before anyone blows up let me explain.  The literal definition of kata is form.  Unless you have an unlimited number of prisoners you can sacrifice while learning your skills, you can not learn effective techniques without them.  Bruce Lee had an expression that you must train the way you intend to fight.  Any motion has to be repeated correctly until it is intuitive; then practiced at full speed and force to be effective when needed.  That is kata.  A boxer or MMA contestant practicing a jab-cross-hook combination on a heavy bag is performing a kata.  To be intuitive it must be capable of being executed without conscious, analytical, thought.  If you have to think about it it’s too late.
  8. Sparring, anything not meeting the definition of fighting, has one main purpose, to teach you not to freeze when confronted or attacked so you will respond intuitively and correctly according to the rules of the bout.  Any sparring match will have forbidden targets and techniques.  Unfortunately those forbidden things are the very things best for keeping you alive in a fight.  All the good stuff is illegal.  Another weakness in many traditional martial arts sparring is what I call pulling your punches.  You train to tag your opponent, not destroy your enemy.  This is why few of the traditional martial arts did any sparring until late in the 20th century.  Sparring is essential for developing skills, but bears little in common with fighting.  And the more violent of the styles are useless for people of advanced age.  We don’t heal nearly as quickly as we did.  It is also why very few can compete after the age of 35. 
  9. Psycho trumps everything.  If it has hit the fan many, if not most, people will be quickly psychologically reduced to an animal state of mind.  Most animals have very little if any left brain, or rational thought process capabilities.  They operate solely on right brain, intuitive or emotional, processes.  Japanese has a word, mushin, which is loosely translated “no mind.”  This means you don’t think about it, you do it.  This is the right brain, and sometimes when it is in control you will feel you are looking at what you are doing as if someone else was in control of your body.  Bruce Lee talked about “it” doing the things he did because he didn’t have to think about doing them, they were just done.  The left brain imposes limits-morals, fear of injury, fear of punishment, fear of failure-on you, the right brain has no limits.  The right brain in control allows little old ladies to lift a car off a grandchild.  After it hits the fan many people will not be thinking rationally; and they will be the most dangerous.  And they won’t be mutant zombie biker gangs.  Most will be ordinary looking humans for whom the new reality is too much to take.  They will be unbelievably desperate, and if they want something they will try to take it even if it means attacking a larger person or group.  They can’t be controlled without physical harm to you if you try, and any injury you suffer during this period could prove to be fatal.
  10. Pain is a very unreliable ally.  What is debilitating to one person may be tolerable to another, a minor annoyance to a third, and not recognized as existing to someone in a rage or on drugs.  How much pressure to apply to a hold to create control without injury is a serious problem for law enforcement officers.  This is why there is almost always more than one officer assisting the primary officer in any situation.  The lone citizen doesn’t have the same type of excessive force restraint in a life threatening situation; or the luxury of help from armed trained personnel.  An attacker with a separated shoulder or dislocated elbow can’t use that arm whether he feels the pain or not. 

As to the specific style of unarmed combat I leave that up to each individual.  In spite of the claims there is no one-size fits all program.  Whatever works for you mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically is what is best for you.  However, there are some important considerations to be addressed without regard to which path you choose.

1.    More than half of all proficiency in unarmed combat is mental, or psychological. Beginning training is primarily physical, but the further you advance the mental portion
becomes paramount.  There are only so many ways to punch, and after a few thousand repetitions maintaining the discipline to perform each one properly can be a problem.No matter which system you are studying if it doesn’t discipline your mind, emotions, and spirit, half or more of your training is missing.  Being ready to die or kill is even more important than the movement you perform.  A well trained person is a dangerous weapon.  Without the mental training to understand this and the responsibility inherent in it you are no better than a wild animal, and a danger to society, not an asset.  Personally I have found most of the traditional Japanese schools are excellent at including this aspect of your training, but I am certain that they aren’t the only ones.  Any system which doesn’t, or touts how much of a bad*ss they can make you will probably get you in trouble with the authorities before it hits the fan, if it doesn’t get you dead.  Remember, there is always someone bigger, stronger, faster, and knows more no matter how good you may be.  And he may be armed.

2.    Sparring, anything not actual fighting, is a necessary but minor portion of any training. Systems which spend most of the time teaching sparring techniques and limitations will teach habits which won’t be as efficacious during a fight, especially if your enemy does not submit himself to those same limitations.  “Ikken Hisatsu” is a phrase emphasized in Shotokan karate.  It can be translated as to “kill with one blow.”  It has spiritual, psychological, and mental aspects as well as the obvious physical meaning to attack with the intent to destroy your enemy with each and every strike.  You may only get one. Sparring can only go so far in teaching this.

3.    An unfortunate fact of life is that we all get old, if we are fortunate.  Our physical strength and endurance decline as we age no matter how much we may try to maintain it.  We are not all 6’-2” well muscled 190 lb. 20-to-30 year old well-coordinated males.  Any system which puts an inordinate premium on physical strength and conditioning as the MMAs do is not suitable for anyone else.  As noted, your enemy will likely be larger and stronger than you are and your unarmed combat skills must be developed to negate these advantages.  It must also be skills which can be effective at almost any age.  Most of the early founders of martial arts disciplines were active well into their 80s.  The techniques I know do not require great physical strength to be effective.  Another Shotokan adage is “One can not know karate until after the age of 40.”  This is when physical strength begins to decline in most people.  The proper motions, correctly executed, applied to specific targets, with sufficient speed can be devastating to even the strongest individual.  This does not mean any 90 lb. granny could defeat Shaq, but this is not about contests, it is about getting real about survival.  
I know this will offend many people, but let’s get real about what we are all interested in, survival.  We spend many days determining what is vital to not only our own, but every member of our family or group’s survival. How many pounds of beans, how many bullets, which tools, what skills we need to ensure our best odds for survival.  We can easily be in a life or death situation nearly every day of our lives.  Being ready and trained for it will not only give us the best chance of survival if it occurs, but will hopefully keep us aware enough to avoid those situations when possible, best defense no be there; or prevent the normal vicissitudes, the jerk who cuts you off, from becoming one.  Another Shotokan adage is “To be victorious in 100 fights is not the ultimate goal; not fighting is the outcome to be desired.”  Real fighting, killing, is the last resort for survival and should never be contemplated as in any other way.  I’ll close with another adage I think I learned from Jeff Cooper, “You don’t shoot to kill, you shoot to survive.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

All too often those of us who have been in the martial arts leave behind the non trained person in our conversations and training advise. I would like to highlight a few areas for those that have no formal training and how they might approach a fist to fist conflict.

This is not intended to be all inclusive for no article can cover every aspect of a fight; what I do want to cover is a few make are break concepts for those that have never trained or are just beginning to train.

The motivation to write this article comes from conversations I have had with many people over the past few years. They have been everything from Ministers, Mothers, to Business owners and have never been in a physical fight. What they do have is a desire to learn something but not necessarily spend years in the dojo or the boxing ring.

Hopefully I can assist in their learning and motivation.


If you want to win then you had better have the proper attitude/mindset. Corporate America is full of cliché lines like “Just Do It”, Play to Win”, and “Winners Never Quit and Quitters Never Win”. These speak to our human nature and attempt to remove our inner doubts. We all have them and they are trained deep into our psyche from childhood.

“Play Nice”, Don’t Cheat”, Don’t Throw Rocks” represent deprogramming responses that we learned as children to be able to coexist within a polite society.

The difficulty is how do you reacquire that primal survival and animalistic kill or be killed attitude. Most of us never will. We have lived in polite society for so long and our mothers did a wonderful job reprogramming us. But there is hope.

The military can do a great job instilling the combative survival mindset but it is interesting to note that so many of the older service people are some of the calmest individuals I have ever met. Does this mean they have lost the attitude to win a physical altercation, not in the least, they have simply moved to a level of quit confidence.

This confidence I am referring to is built upon being tested in many ways. For some it was boot camp for others it was a bad home environment, and for some it was simply learning at an early age they had to keep part of their inner beast close to the surface in order to survive.

In building this confidence to actually do real harm to someone we are going to look at a few examples that help build the inner confidence and then come back to the attitude.

How to Take a Hit

If you are going to be involved in a physical conflict you must accept the fact that you are going to be injured. You can try to do everything in your powers to not be struck or injured but in reality you will be injured. The naysayers will respond that I have this great technique or can draw my weapons so fast.

That may be, you could be the fastest shot and the biggest hombre on the block but in the real world if you can’t accept the fact that fighting someone leads to self injury you’re kidding yourself.

So where do you begin? We as children liked to wrestle. Some were better than others but most of us did it at some point with our friends. In these play matches we learned that you were going to get rug burns, popped in the nose, and catch the occasional knee to the groin. Did this stop us; not a chance.

We need to look at this fun activity as an adult and realize we learned many things about ourselves from this child’s game. The first thing we learned is that losing stinks and being on your back with someone on top trying to pin our arms was humiliating. We wanted to cry, we wanted to bite, and we just wanted to win. But we had already learned that there were rules to this game and if we did not follow the rules your opponent was going to use those same dirty tactics on you the next time.

A real life encounter has the same problem. We default back to our level of training and this training was to play nice. We all remember the bully down the street, he was mean! No one liked him and he scared us. The reason he scared us was he did not play by the rules and would actually hurt you.

So let’s take this situation and add some real life training to the equation. At some point we must learn to be hit, take the hit, and keep fighting. How to get over this fear of breaking social norms and accepting damage can be accomplished in a couple of ways:

One: Be a sociopath. This is not necessarily desirable but it can work. Unfortunately we don’t realize we are the sociopath and it takes society to recognize this pitfall in personality and give us a social reeducation. I don’t promote this but it is an interesting exercise in one’s self reflection.


Two: Go get hit. Join a boxing gym, full contact martial arts school, or just get a group of friends together and have a round robin king of the mountain match. You can have rules to keep from getting overly injured but you need to realize that getting smacked in the face hurts and if it happens once you will learn two things very quickly; keep your guard up and hit first.

If you do the round robin realize that you have to keep a level of civility to the exercise. These are your friends and you might not want to go to work the next day with a black eye and chipped teeth. Boxing gloves do wonders to stop the heavy injuries but they still let you feel the smack. In my school we call this getting “Thumped” everyone gets thumped from time to time. Some by design and others by surprise; it does wonders for making your mind work under stress.

The point to remember is the confidence we discussed earlier is built in many layers. Learning to be hit is just one of those layers.

How to hit something

Many people think they are the king of the mountain when it comes to laying down the hurt on someone else. That may be, but in truth we are not. Take a group of ten and place yourself in the group. Odds are five will be better than you and five will be worse. You have no guarantee that you are the biggest dog on the street. And if you think you are then you might need to reread option one in the above section.

Countless hours are spent in martial arts schools learning how to do a correct punch, hit with an elbow just right, or snap your foot out for a precise kick. This is all sound knowledge to have but in reality the person that hits first and hits hardest will tend to win. Remember this is not sparring class and the only point awarded is that the winner gets to go home and have dinner with their wife and kids. The loser just says on the ground.

To hit something, simply close your hand and punch/push straight out hard and fast, you may break your hand but that is probably a fair trade for winning. Or pound down with your fist like a hammer. If you can kick then do so and do it hard and hit their legs. Forget about kicking to the head or ribs unless you have lots of training. Remember if the legs go the opponent falls down.

As you get closer hit with your elbows instead and hit until you’re completely worn out. You have the ability to hit through their blocks if you keep swinging and if you damage their arm or hands in the process all the better. You are in this to win. Only soccer matches are won with one goal. A fight should score like a basketball game; lots of baskets and as fast as you can make them.

Your knees are wonderful tools. They automatically rise to the level of the groin. Use them! If you fall to the ground get up fast and keep swinging. If you both fall to the ground get up and keep swinging. Yes some will say I will just jump on top of them and pound them into the ground. Maybe you can, but the opponent certainly will do everything in their power to not let it happen. Don’t wrestle, hit; don’t try to pin them, hit.

Biting is good. Your mother told you no biting and she may have been right. But in the realm of a street fight biting is good. So is sticking your finger in their eye. J hooking their lip and tearing is brutal but works. Head butts work! You need to keep a sane attitude about how you would use the technique but when you are close and their guard is down, slam their nose with your forehead.

There are two rules to winning the fight. Rule one is to hit hard and fast and rule two is to hit again. Remember this is about winning a physical altercation in which you or your loved ones lives are in danger. So hit and hit again.

How to Think

If you lose control of your brain odds are you will lose the fight. I have seen many people say “I just saw red” and went berserk. Their going berserk breaks the social and norm and can work to your favor but if you lose too much control you won’t see the guy behind you or the knife slip out of the opponents pocket just before they move in.

This too is a learned skill. Boxers take a beating but can still keep their brains in a fight. They learned how to take a hit and accept that fact. You must learn to not lose your brain. This is where getting over the stress of being hit helps.

How to Fall down

Adults hate to fall down. I actually classify it as one of the three hardest things to teach new students in the martial arts.  

You need to learn to fall down and not get hurt or lose your bearing. It is not difficult to master in theory. The problem comes from our adult minds. Children fall down, adults don’t fall they look silly.

I will argue that point; Sports people fall all the time and we expect them to. Downhill skiers do it at 60 mph and just shake it off. Why in the world would an adult not be willing to learn to fall down with some level of skill or proficiency?

Falling down is just like sitting down. The lower you can sit to the ground the less distance you have to actually fall from a height. Extremely simple in its practical explanation but how many adults would be willing to walk out into the middle of a parking lot and fall down? Not many, but those with training would do it without a second thought. Will it ruin your clothes and scuff your shoes? Good chance, but if your life depended on it who cares about your pants.

It does not matter if you are being thrown to your side or pushed straight back; the foundation of the action is the same. Sit down on your heels and then let your body roll to the side or rear. Will it hurt? Maybe, but a bruised ego, some road rash, and sore muscles are a lot better than a split skull because you fell down like a timbering tree.


Weapons exist everywhere and I don’t mean the knife or slug thrower in your pocket. Your baseball cap is great for disorienting the opponent, throw it in their face as you close in to hit. Throw a handful of pocket change at their eyes. Scream a blood chilling yell as you come to blows.

The voice is a great weapon and can buy you that split second of delay for you to hit first. Pick up anything that is available and throw it. It does not matter if you make hard contact just remember a weapon can distract as well as do damage.

If the opponent has a weapon seriously consider running away or at least keep backing up. Pick up something to help keep a solid object between you and the weapon. Your shoe works, a rolled magazine, purse; the options can be endless if you keep your brain.

If you do get stuck with a knife don’t stop fighting. Do everything you can to lock down the knife but don’t stop hitting. The odds of then finishing you off with one poke from a knife is extremely limited, it is when you lose your brain and stop fighting that the knife will most assuredly keep coming in. Again, if you are faced with a knife seriously consider running away!

How to block

You must have some basic understanding of how to block a punch or simple kick coming at you. First off remember you are not trying to be some 95th level black belt or a MMA star. You are just trying to not get your head knocked off by the person or persons in front of you.

Here are three simple rules:

One, make a fist and keep both fists in front of your face about one foot in front of your nose with your elbows down. As a punch comes towards your face slightly shift your forearm in or out to help deflect the blow. This is not perfect but is better than keeping your hands down at your side with your face sticking out like a big balloon.

Two, don’t reach out to try and block the punch. The further you move your fist away from your body the less strength your block will have. Let the punch come in and use the strength of your forearm and upper arm for the block.

Three, if you see the punch or kick coming at you try to move off to the side. You are much better off letting the strike miss you completely than letting the opponent keep hitting your arms.

Know When to Run Away

If you can’t win or know the outcome is not going to benefit from your fighting then leave. Only get in the fight if you absolutely have to. If they start pounding on your car don’t get out and bring the fight to them. Drive off, call the police, or try and wait them out. You have car insurance for a reason. The macho response is to go out and beat them up, the rational response is to use your brain and only engage in the fight if absolutely necessary.

If you are protecting your family have a prearrange command word or phrase that tells them to run to a predefined safe location(s) and what to do when they get there. Remember, you are in this to win and winning might be as simple as delaying the conflict for the family to leave the area so you can follow after them. If the spouse and children would just stand around and gawk then you have deeper problems to start addressing.

Do I need to practice?

Yes, no, maybe. Some people have that self preservation instinct very close to the surface and some can train for years and never find it. Do you want to spend years in the dojo working to master a martial art style or are you just looking to get in touch with your inner beast and how to take care of yourself?

These are questions that only you can answer. But I will throw out a bit of hard earned wisdom. Learning to be involved in a martial sport, martial art, or any hands-on smacking type martial activity will change you. You will learn things about yourself you wish you never knew as well as be surprised by some of the great things you took for granted.

Training in a marital style may not be necessary but in the long run learning some basics and being able to develop a different attitude about physical conflict realities would benefit anyone.

My Children are with me

When you change the equation and add family to the encounter scenario the conflict takes on a completely different reality. You may be able to handle yourself and escape without much injury but what do you do if you must win or survive long enough for mother to get a couple of young children into the car and secure.

This situation gets a whole lot more difficult if you are faced with two or more assailants. Do you fight to win or do you fight to delay and give time for the wife to exit the scene?

This holds true for women. Can you really survive an attack by a 250 pound man or will your mind shut down with the first confrontation? How about when you are struck the first time in the face?

These questions are presented for thought and lead into the poem “No Man is an Island” by John Donne.
What ever you do you have to realize it must take into account everyone else around you.

Winning does not mean physically beating the opponent

You do not have to beat the opponent into the ground to win. You may have to but the goal may simply be to survive and escape. This statement will greatly offend many, so if it does then you might need to reread option one above again. We are not talking about a macho encounter where there has to be a top dog. We are taking about survival.

This is where we learn from our childhood again. In the school yard we learned very quickly how to disengage from the bully. The same thought process and motivation needs to be kept in this type of encounter. Don’t stand and fight unless absolutely necessary.

Back to Attitude and Mindset

I cannot give you the attitude or mindset to survive a hand to hand encounter; nor can anyone else. But many good trainers do exist that can help you find and develop some basic skills that will allow you to get beyond the polite society rules of the school yard. This confidence is what will allow you to find your survival attitude.

In moving beyond this trained response for being nice to everyone you will find that you will become more nice; that is until it is time to stop being nice and save your hide. - OldManKarate

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Taking stock recently, I realized that I am probably not as well prepared as most of the followers of James’ SurvivalBlog.Com, certainly not in terms of infrastructure and stockpiles of materials and equipment.  I don’t have a long-term supply of food, nor do I have a survival retreat prepared for when the big one hits.  My bullion holdings are embarrassingly low.  On the other hand, I am probably better prepared than most for any criminal or paramilitary attack on my person, my family, or my home, so I am not totally hopeless by the standards of most survivalists.

The thing is, the deficiencies in my preparedness don’t bother me.  I know that no matter what happens, I can cut it.  I have a number of skills developed over the years, but that is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about that most important of all attributes: the survivor’s mind.  This is what enables a person to apply skills to the resources at hand to overcome whatever is thrown at them, and turn those circumstances to their advantage such that surviving looks more like thriving.

A man or woman cannot overcome a substantial survival situation without a conditioned mind.  You could parachute all of the necessary supplies right on top of a stranded person and they will fold up and die if not properly conditioned mentally.  You could parachute a properly conditioned man or woman into the middle of nowhere with nothing but a knife and a piece of rope and they will come out okay, or at least make a hell of a good show of it. 

I believe that not only is the survivor’s mind the most important thing in his arsenal, but that the specific attributes of his or her mind can and should be actively cultivated.  The key elements of this capability seem easy to identify.  Above all it consists of a consistent determination to be self reliant.  When something happens, you are not likely to sit around waiting for someone to tell you what to do or take care of the problem for you.  I suspect that anyone who is a regular on SurvivalBlog.Com has a good start on this one.  Another key attribute is the ability to adapt and overcome changing circumstances, without an initial emotional breakdown.  We have all seen friends, business associates or family members who will freak out when a flight is delayed, or they panic when the power goes out, or crumble into uncertainty when it rains unexpectedly.  Those people really need to work on this one.   Thirdly, you must be able to instantly size up a strategic situation, evaluate its potential lethality, and recognize a true survival matter when it arises.  Part of this is recognizing threats when they arise, which requires awareness of your environment and how it can interact with you.  Some people go through their entire life in Condition White, never knowing that they were at risk until they have already become a casualty.  A fourth key element is just “guts” – the refusal to give up and accept defeat.  As Aunt Eller said to Laurie in the musical Oklahoma: “There’s just one way: you gotta be hardy. You gotta be. You can’t deserve the sweet and tender in life unless’n you’re tough.”  As Clint Eastwood’s character Josie said in The Outlaw Josey Wales: “When things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is.”I have not used the word “courage” in this discussion for two reasons.  First of all, it is such a subjective quality, as used in our society, that it is not useful for our purposes.  It is often used interchangeably with the word “heroic.”  People described as courageous often display one or more of the attributes described above, and I have seen people who are commonly known to be true “chicken-s#@&s” display many of those characteristics on occasion. 

Secondly, a man or a woman who has mastered all of the attributes of the survivor’s mind will often choose a course of action that would be considered cowardly, if that is what the situation called for.  The correct strategic decision from a survival point of view might not be heroic or courageous at all. 

The man or woman who possesses the survivor’s mind may not look like a movie action hero or heroine, and may not act like one in the opinion of society at large.  However, a survivor will do the right thing to ensure his or her survival or that of his family or group.  When TSHTF, and you come out on top, and then they make a movie about you, maybe your part will be played by Michelle Rodriguez or Christian Bale.  You will know that it was your head and not your good looks that got you through.

Where do the mental attributes of a survivor come from?  How can you become hardy in a nation that is going through an era that history will probably call the Age of the Wimp?

The survivor’s mind may be the result of genetics, or it may arise from a family’s culture.  Either way, it is clear that you have a tremendous head start if you were brought up properly.  My father was a survivor.  He came of age during the Great Depression, was a professional soldier in Central America before WWII, then spent WWII in Army going across the Burma Road and serving with General Stilwell in China.  He came home from China to become a successful professional engineer and raise his family.

My father structured my education and training, and that of my older brother, to stress not only survival skills, but to promote the development of what he called the combat mindset.  The training included horsemanship, woodsmanship, hunting, climbing, martial arts, wilderness travel, wilderness medicine, and general problem solving.  In an act that would probably result in his being jailed if it happened today, both my brother and I spent a week on our own in the Mojave Desert when in our early teens, followed by several repeat performances in the Eastern Sierra and Mojave throughout our teen years.

We were encouraged to participate in sports, but my father demanded that we understand the limitations of team sports as a foundation for developing individual self-reliance.  My father coached my brother’s little league and pony league teams, but he was never happier than when we were with him in the mountains or the desert hunting, climbing, or working through some survival situation that he had concocted.

I don’t think that it is necessary to be a survival expert to properly nurture a youngster so that they will be able to handle whatever is thrown at them.  As described below, the training and experience for skill development is available for anyone to acquire if the desire is there.  The minimum required of a parent is to teach the philosophy of personal responsibility and self-reliance, refrain from coddling the little darlings into becoming wimps, and support the acquisition of skill and knowledge as a lifelong endeavor. 

We live in an age where teachers are not allowed to use red pens because it may make a child feel inadequate.  Certain sports no longer keep score, or declare winners or losers, because of the severe risk of traumatic hurt feelings.  In such a world, the gift of self-reliance, the determination to overcome adversity, and the commitment to continual self-improvement, are the greatest gifts that a parent can bestow upon a child.

Training and Practice
We live in a society that seems to do everything possible to prevent, if not reverse, the process of natural selection.  Even so, our minds and bodies are the product of a long line of survivors, and we are hard-wired to learn and to creatively apply those lessons learned to a wide range of situations in ways that improve our survivability.  All other things being equal, training will make the difference, and the more realistic the training the better. 

In addition to specific skills, the proper training will foster the development of the survivor’s mind.  In my experience, actively training in areas that are potentially dangerous is the best preparation for true emergencies and survival situations.  A squirt of adrenaline can improve your memory significantly, and it will enhance your ability to react properly under pressure and in the face of danger.  Let’s take a look at a few of the areas that you can work on, and how that fits into the theme of this article.

If your family is not the outdoors type, then general outdoors skills can be acquired through other means.  Some of the programs, such as Outward Bound, also include survival training as part of a more general curriculum on climbing, mountaineering, canoeing/kayaking, or sailing.  Grab any general outdoor magazine and peruse the advertisements and you will find many places to begin.  James’ blog is another place to connect with entry-level skill-building programs.

If, on the other hand, you believe that the most likely TEOTWAWKI scenario will play out in an urban setting, then adjust your training schedule and list of desired skill sets accordingly.  My experience has been primarily in the wilderness setting, so I need to confine this discussion to that set of circumstances.

An area of study that incorporates valuable skills as well as tremendous discipline and mental condition is the martial arts.  I prefer the more combative martial arts for this purpose because real is better.  The closer the training is to combat, the better the skill set that is conveyed, and the keener the mind that absorbs it.  However, the most “sportified” versions have roots in fighting disciplines that were created to meet a survival need, and will provide a foundation for further training.  Even in those martial arts that have been tamed to the point that they can become an Olympic sport still involve a high level of training discipline and athleticism, and ultimately involve two people facing off in a situation that results in a winner and a loser. 

To me, the use of firearms is a martial art.  I have spent a lot of time studying the progression from empty hands through various weapons to firearms and back again.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy firearms and shooting for its own sake, and valuable survival lessons can be derived from a pure shooting sports orientation and training.  A basic introduction to shooting involves the study of safety issues, bringing the lethal nature of firearms and their use to the foreground.  Legal issues relating to firearms ownership, couple with society’s sensitivity towards firearms, ensure that even the youngest trainees approach the subject with a serious mind – a mind closer to being that of the survivor.

If you have not been trained in the ownership, maintenance and use of firearms, then by all means obtain that training, become a firearms owner, and continue to advance your level of training in that area.  Above all assert your rights, and acknowledge your obligations, as an armed citizen who has decided to take responsibility for his or her own safety and defense. 

Shooting is a fun and challenging sport and a highly enjoyable activity for the family.  Above all, safely acquiring skill at arms requires an awareness of deadly force.  This awareness is central to conditioning and cultivating the mind of the survivor.  This awareness becomes more pronounced when the training is for the purpose of self defense or hunting.  This grounding in the reality of life or death is an extremely important element in developing the survivor’s mind.

Rock climbing can be another important classroom for the survivor.  First of all, the skills involved in putting up anchors, belaying a fellow climber, and moving over rock, are all of great utility in certain survival situations, particularly rescues.  More importantly, gravity does not take any time outs, so climbing requires a continuous discipline that is in many ways very similar to combat or combat training. 

Even when a climber is being belayed, the danger from even a short fall is very real.  Unless you are falling from rock that is overhanging, you are going to develop a very close personal relationship with the rock on the way down, and I can assure you that you will feel every single one of those caresses.  I am a relatively old rock climber, and old climbers are invariably careful and serious minded climbers or they don’t make it that far.  Climbing can be practiced nearly everywhere at some level, and is a very wholesome outdoor family activity.  The safety training that comes with the art is an opportunity to teach your children how to learn something serious and important, which carries over into other areas.

Hunting is another way to continue upgrading your skills and tune your mind to survival situations.  To successfully stalk and take game animals in the wilderness you must cultivate and integrate a wide range of skills, and competently apply them to the task at hand.  You must also discipline your mind to the hunt, and to the ultimate reality of the life or death of your prey.  If the game you are hunting is dangerous game, or if the meat you are hunting is essential for your survival, then you must also condition your mind to the fact that your own life or death depends on your ability to make the kill. 

Another important philosophical aspect of hunting is that hunting is an absolute rejection of the growing tendency in our society to view nature as a spectator sport.  To absorb the lessons of our ancestors and take your place in the natural order is to become one with nature in a way that others will never be able to appreciate.  As you grow in the art, you can steadily remove the various tools and technological aids that you use, such that you deal on a more primitive level with your prey.  As you do so you will also come even closer to being absolutely self-sufficient in the wilderness.  Once again we speak of the development of certain skills, but it is the mind itself that is being honed.

Wilderness medicine is another opportunity for building the survivor’s mind.  First of all, particularly if your family is joining you in your journey of discovery, you need to be prepared for the inevitable injuries, and accepting responsibility for dealing with those injuries is an important leap of self reliance.  In addition to the skills themselves, this training further develops a seriously competent mind.   A Wilderness First Aid certificate is the bare minimum level of training, but if you spend a lot of time in the bush you should invest in at least a Wilderness First Responder level of competence.  This training usually results in your pack getting heavier and heavier as you become a walking ambulance, so it will also result in your getting in better shape.   

Soldiers, particularly combat veterans, tend to be survivors.  Military service can be the ultimate in organized training for survival situations.  It includes training and experience in weapons and small unit tactics, the services of most nations also incorporate survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) training.  If military service involves combat, then the survivor will have an entire universe of useful experience to pass along to his family and community, and such men and women are an enormously valuable resource to our society.  Every primitive society looks to its experienced warriors for leadership during times of crisis, and we would do well to do the same.  If you did not have the opportunity to go through this experience, then you can pick and choose amongst a number of civilian training programs that will focus in a weekend or a week-long session various aspects of military training. 

Conditioning and Health
The survivor’s mind resides in a fit and healthy body.  The most resourceful and well trained survivor cannot execute a viable strategy if he is sick or out of condition.  Conditioned bodies resist injury and sickness under survival situations better than bodies that are not in condition.  You don’t have to be both a UFC cage fighter and a triathlete, but it wouldn’t hurt either. 

Generally speaking, a moderately aggressive training schedule that might include a couple of rigorous martial arts workouts during the week, some running and cross-training, bag-work, and perhaps some weights, and then some time on the rocks or in the bush during the weekends, will keep you in great shape and keep you entertained as well.  As a bare minimum you should be able to put in some calisthenics and some running (or even walking) during periods when work or other responsibilities keep you away from more rigorous training.  Pay attention to your overall health as well: get the excess weight off and keep it off, turn down the alcohol and junk food to a minimum, don’t smoke, wear your seat belt – you know what to do. 

You also need to listen to your body when it is telling you that there is something wrong.  I once got on a plane heading for a month-long self-guided hunting trip in West Africa, and my back had been getting more and more painful, but I ignored it.  I was two days hard hiking away from the nearest road when I finally had to admit that I had a very serious kidney stone problem.  I was laid up for several days, treating my condition with palm wine and aspirin, and then managed to get back to civilization by easy marches while the stone worked its way south.  We even managed to harvest enough kob and baboon to make the trip worthwhile to my crew - meat is part of their pay you see - and I came out of it without permanent damage.  It was preventable and could have been much more serious.

Being able to respond because you are hardy and inured to the dangers and difficulties of emergencies is a major portion of the survivor’s mind.  However, a mind that refuses to freeze or quit still needs a strategic groove to operate along in order to efficiently work through the problem at hand.  There are a number of models that we can work with that have broad applicability.

Primarily viewed as a skilled and innovative martial artist, the great Bruce Lee was most importantly a philosopher who dealt with the ultimate reality of combat and survival.  In my opinion, his work The Tao of Jeet Kune Do is one of the most important survival manuals, and should be on everyone’s bookshelf.   My original martial arts training was in both Jeet Kune Do and Kali-Escrima; I have a heavily annotated copy of the original manuscript for Sifu Lee’s book, which was one of our training aides.  One of his frequent sayings was that “Freedom of expression towards the ultimate reality of combat is the goal of all martial artists,” a statement that encompasses much of what goes into creating an effective survivor.  Another of his sayings, on the subject of training and learning, was that a martial artist must “absorb what is useful, reject what is not, and add what is specifically your own.”  A study of Bruce Lee’s works creates an excellent foundation, and provides useful guidance in even the most unusual circumstances.

The late Jeff Cooper was a guru of another martial art, the art of the self-reliant individual and his personal arms – the rifle and pistol.  Although a number of individuals have taken this ball and run with it, it was Jeff Cooper who organized the art of the pistolero into the Modern Technique of the Pistol, and it was Colonel Cooper who fully articulated what it means to be a modern rifleman, both philosophically and technically.  Colonel Cooper also modified the Marine Corps color coding and used it to teach the relative levels of readiness as part of the study of the combat mindset, obviously relevant to this discussion.  Colonel Cooper’s published works are saturated with wisdom for the independent and self-reliant person, and a serious minded survivor’s education is incomplete if he has not included them in his library and studied them. 

Another strategist that deserves your attention is John Boyd, the Air Force Colonel that developed the OODA Loop theory.  OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, and defines the reaction and decision cycle that must be successfully negotiated to win a battle.  Colonel Boyd was a fighter pilot, and he developed his theories in connection with dog-fighting.  He found that agility and resourcefulness were decisive, in that the pilot that could “get inside of his opponents OODA Loop” would prevail.  If you study Boyd, and think of any particular survival situation as your opponent, then you will begin to see the value of Boyd’s strategic theory as part of the repertoire of the well educated survivor.

There are others of course, and in your journey you will encounter great strategists and teachers who will light the way for you.  These three are a good place to start, and provide a useful framework to start you on your way.

I have never been a religious person.  I was raised in the Episcopal Church, but became increasingly rebellious towards the Church’s monopoly over my Sunday mornings, a time when I would prefer to be in the bush or on the rocks.  As I grew older, I was able to escape that restraint when I discovered that my father felt the same way and would support that decision.  I always considered the wilderness to be my church, and I have never felt more spiritually at peace than when I am in the mountains or desert, and as far away from the rest of my species as I can manage.

On the other hand, I have known highly religious men and women whose faith and devotion to their church was the very foundation of their personal strength.  If that is the way your mind works, then you will not be as strong and self-reliant as you could be if you ignore your need for organized spiritual interaction.  You may also find that your approach to the most likely survival emergencies is best organized around a group of like-minded people that happen to be members of the same church.  Like many loners, I have always envied people who can easily associate in a close community in this manner, and as Bruce Lee would sometimes say, “If it scores, it is effective.”

Dealing with the unknown is more difficult than covering familiar ground.  You may not have been trained on how to survive an airplane crash, but if you think it over and figure out a few basic dos and don’ts then you are way ahead of the guy sitting next to you.  The planning process can and should be a family endeavor.  Instead of a dinner table discussion of the latest episode of Breaking Bad - there are some interesting survival situations in that series – why not discuss some scenarios and what the best response would be?  What if someone kicked in the front door and ran inside screaming obscenities and brandishing a machete, right now?  What if we had an earthquake right now?  When my kids were small, we used to play this game, and one time when the power went out it was the kids that suddenly appeared with the candles and the headlamps just as we had discussed.

In my view, successfully meeting a survival challenge is more about what you decide to do than what you can do.  Of course you must have skill sets to execute a strategy, but it is still the strategy that wins the day.  As discussed above, there is a vast body of knowledge relating to survival, and in fact the web site on which you are accessing this paper has descriptions of many thousands of articles on the technology of survival.  As you pursue your training, and your accretion of survival assets, do not neglect that greatest of all tools, the one that sits on top of your shoulders.  Make sure it is developed and educated, and you will be well served even if you find yourself without the other tools and trinkets that you have amassed to meet your needs.

The Author
William C. Prentice lives peacefully in California with his wife, and is engaged in the business of financing energy and technology firms, and is the acting CEO of a private military contracting firm.  He is also devoted to the personal pursuits of rock climbing, martial arts, and hunting.  Prentice is also the author of Feral, a novel with significant Libertarian overtones, and the short story Purgatory.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I'd like to comment on some of the restrictions on long blades and impact weapons: Thinking about the gap between empty hands and a firearm is a false exercise for most people, most of the time.  Most people spend at least some time traveling, and most live in restrictive legal environments that don't allow the carrying (or sometimes even ownership) of "weapons."  Don't forget readers that the vast majority of people live in countries with very different gun and weapons carry laws than the U.S.!  Even if you live in country like the United States their are large areas that don't follow the 2nd Amendment in practice (such as New York City).  Mixing an understanding of local laws and common sense will keep you out of trouble and allow you to actually have an item on hand to defend yourself with. 

Talking about using "swords" and "sticks" to defend yourself isn't realistic. 

Do you walk down the street with a sword?  Even if you legally can in a strict sense, a concerned citizen would eventually call the cops and you're day would go downhill quickly.  Could you take one through customs while visiting most countries?  Many countries, such as Great Britain and Japan, don't allow citizens to even own katanas and other types of swords without a license.  On the upside, most countries allow citizens to own machetes of various types.  Locals carry machetes in rural areas all the time in Mexico/central/south America.  Just because the locals can do something without running into trouble don't assume you can!  Use your judgment carefully.

Do you actually carry a knife?  This is a possibility in some countries and localities, and not others.  Be advised that such places usually assume the carrier of a knife intends to use it as at tool, not a weapon, and may have specific bans on types/sizes of knives.  Also, in practice, police have a lot of discretion in this area.  Most countries in Europe essentially ban the carrying of even a tiny pocket knife for any reason in Cities.  The penalties for violating these laws can be surprisingly severe, and are, at a minimum, going to ruin your vacation.

A medium sized club, anywhere from length of your forearm to that of your whole arm, is a far superior weapon to a small knife because of its extended reach.  It's not as lethal as a machete, but this can be a good thing.  Any police officer knows that good stout club strike above the knee will bring just about anyone down.  A solid strike against the hands or arms of a weapon wielding opponent will usually cause them to drop their weapon.  Against an unarmed attacker you have a huge advantage.  And, as a huge plus from a legal perspective, its use might not be considered "deadly force" in some situations and is very unlikely to kill your attacker unless you strike them in the head or neck.  Many people might say they don't care what happens to someone that threatens their life, but I assure you that you want to avoid this (especially in foreign countries) for a host of legal and/or moral reasons.

When you add it all up you have to make an honest assessment of what the best item(s) for self-defence you can carry or travel with with.  These items(s) have to have no legal or societal constraint to being on your person or nearby, yet have huge defensive utility.  The key is that the item you carry is a tool, not a weapon.  Some good examples:

-Entrenching Tools:  A solid, collapsible, entrenching tool (my favourite is the Glock e-tool) is a must have for any earthquake or tsunami survival kit.  It's a very useful and reasonable thing to carry in your car.  It fits easily in a small backpack.  As far as I know of there is no country with a law on the books banning the carrying or possession of a shovel.  It's also can function as a hatchet/club very easily.  For self-defence while traveling it's my primary item.

-Hiking Poles:  Great for adding extra stability on the trail, or extra power on snowshoes or skis.  A good pair of collapsible hiking poles made of aluminum are cheap an common (especially with tourists).  Also, while collapsed, they are essentially a metal club that will be about as long as your lower arm from your elbow to your fingertips.  The ends tend to be made of durable graphite pegs that you don't want to accidentally put on someone's foot.  I also know of no place where one cannot legally carry a hiking pole.

-Hatchet:  A common camping tool with obvious uses.  Are you planning to go camping while traveling?  Good.  Then I guess you have a good reason to bring this with you.  I've had my luggage searched many times, and I've never had any issue bringing one to any country.  This is not something you can carry everywhere, but if you're backpacking through a place and have all your stuff with you then you have a legitimate reason to have it in your backpack.  Go for something woodsy, not tactical looking.  I've taken my Cold Steel Trail Hawk or Husqvarna hatchet on my many such trips. 

-Machete:  There are all sorts of options here.  This is not something I would ever travel with to Europe or many parts of Asia. But I have taken machetes to Mexico and some South American countries.  Machetes tend to be seen as weapons, not tools, in most countries.  In some cultures, usually tropical ones, a machete is a common tool that nearly everyone owns.   You will sometimes see people walking down the street with a machete in their hand and nobody bats an eye!  This is not something I think a foreigner could do, but it gives you an idea of the attitudinal difference.  Beware of your destination and be prepared to have your machete confiscated!  Travel with something that looks as much like a simple traditional machete as possible as it attracts less attention.

-Sporting Club or Bat:  A baseball bat, right down to a tee ball bat, are common sporting equipment in many countries.  Traveling with your children, either to the park or overseas?  Those little guys love tee ball.  Are you or someone in you party going to be playing the sport in question during your visit?  If so, you have a very good reason to have a that bat, along with gloves and balls, on your trip.  When your kids aren't blowing off steam playing sports you'll probably have to carry the equipment.  In a self-defence situation such an item is essentially a metal war club, the utility of which is obvious.

Remember, if you are ever forced to use an item in a serious defensive encounter that ultimately involves the police the legality of your carrying that item in the first place will be scrutinized heavily! Nobody on this site agrees with the silly weapon laws that governments make to “protect us,” but they are a fact of life.  Be smart and be safe! - Urban Raccoon

JWR Replies: Canes, walking sticks, umbrellas and tire checkers, have been discussed at length in SurvivalBlog. (See the archives.) The best advice is to not carry anything that looks out of place for the environment or for your personal circumstances. For example, it would seem normal in any season for anyone of any age to carry an umbrella in Seattle. But not so in Phoenix. Similarly, a man or women in their 60s can carry a cane without suspicion, but not so for most men in their 20s without disabled veteran identification or a note from their physician. Truckers can carry tire checkers in the cabs of their big rigs with nary a second glance by law enforcement officers, but it might seem odd if one were found in a passenger car. Likewise, it seems normal for bicyclists to carry a bike tire pump, but not so for pedestrians to tote one. (A clip-on bike tire pump extends much like one of those often-banned collapsing batons.)

One great self defense item that can be carried in a car is a long Maglite flashlight. But keep in mind that anything longer than a 4-cell light might look too much like a baton and arouse suspicion unless you are an off-duty LEO or security guard. Also note that LED replacement bulbs for MagLites are available, and highly recommend. (They greatly extend the light's battery life.) There has also been some discussion in SurvivalBlog of small impact weapons, such as kubotans. These are banned in some locales, but their pen equivalents generally aren't. For example you could carry a Mini Maglite, a Cold Steel Pocket Shark pen (be sure to sand off the markings) or for a touch of class, a Mont Blanc Meisterstuck. Even an innocuous pocket comb can be an effective weapon, in the right hands. And then there is always the ever-popular roll of quarters (preferably in a stout plastic tube), for "making emergency calls at pay phones." All the usual self-defense provisos apply: Get the requisite martial arts training, and be sure to thoroughly research you state and local laws. Stay safe, and stay legal, folks!

Monday, June 25, 2012

If you are going to carry a weapon, in many jurisdictions within CONUS, it doesn't matter if it is a pistol, knife, or brass knuckles, all are illegal to carry concealed without a permit. (These laws vary widely, depending on blade length regulations, and so forth.) In fact, in some jurisdictions such as California, concealed carry of a "martial arts weapons" (Liberal oxymoron--aren't weapons martial by definition?) is a felony, but having a Glock tucked into your waistband is a "Class A" misdemeanor [for the first offense.] Therefore, if you are going to carry, then why not carry something truly deadly (such as a pistol). Yes, a knife can be employed nearly instantaneously, but how many of us have actually seen a knife used with ill-intent? How about a machete? Nasty business, this is. You'd better have a solidly sorted spiritual point-of-origin on these matters.

As to a martial arts system that instructs the use of an artificial (non-organic) weapon as a primary source of combat, what happens when the novice loses his knife/stick/nunchaku? What then? Without the underlying principles of motion, the beginner is wolf-bait...any system of martial arts worth its salt will emphasize the principles of applied motion, as in Newtonian Physics. Any hand-held weapon should only enhance the attack, not substitute for it. Now projectile weaponry is another matter. Just my hard-won $2.83 worth (that's $0.02, adjusted for inflation, before taxes) - Bonehedz

Saturday, June 23, 2012

In survival situations, men use tools to get an edge over their opponents. If a man has a pistol, you want a rifle; if a man has a knife, you want a pistol and so on and so forth. Firearms are not very useful without training and the same can be said about bladed weapons such as knives and swords.

Eventually guns do run out of bullets or malfunction and you might find yourself in survival situations with only a knife or a machete. Things that can go wrong in survival scenarios seem to go wrong. You may be separated from your guns for some reason.  Training to fight with a knife or sword only makes sense, because the normal order of effectiveness starting at the top would be rifle, pistol, sword, knife, stick, empty hands. Fighting without weapons using only your feet and hands is dead last, no pun intended.

Instead of spending your time learning an empty handed martial art, I am going to recommend studying a martial art that starts immediately with weapons, including swords and knives but which also includes impact weapons such as sticks and canes as well as empty handed techniques as part of a complete system. For that we look to the Philippines-- not because they are the only ones to learn to fight with bladed weapons- which they are not,  but because they kept the martial art true to its roots instead of turning it into a sport or spiritual quest.

The Philippines are made up of thousands of small islands. Waves and waves of invaders have come to these islands, from the island next door and from as far away as Spain, Japan and the United States. The local villages learned how to protect themselves with practical martial arts that started right away with weapons. They were interested in survival and defending the village and not on spiritual pursuits, discipline or sporting contests. They also decided some legal disputes with duels. Their way of fighting didn’t have room for things that didn’t work and were not for sporting games.

The Filipino art of Pekiti-Tirsia-Kali begins with weapons and ends in empty hands. This is the exact opposite of most other arts as taught in modern times.

Weapons categories in the traditional art are:
stick, sword, knife, spear, flexible weapons and empty hands. There are also variations or combinations... double weapons, or even a pairing of long weapon and short weapon, such as sword and knife.

Contrary to popular belief, and silly statements such as “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight”, bladed weapons in the hands of a trained person can beat firearms. Consider that the gun is a longer range weapon. Once a person is close, a knife cannot be grabbed and disabled like a gun can. While a gun pokes a hole in you and the effectiveness depends on the bullet and where it is placed, a sword or machete can remove arms, legs and heads. If you have your head down into your 8x scope on your bolt action rifle and someone sneaks up behind you with a knife  that knows how to use it, the “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight” comment will be seen as sick joke to you. A long range weapon is most effective at long range... a short range weapon has an advantage at close range. Firearms in general are longer range weapons, knives and swords are close range weapons. Either one can win depending on the range you find yourself in.

Two primary reasons to study bladed arts are 1.) to gain the ability to use bladed weapons when firearms are not available or would make unwanted noise 2.) the knowledge of the capabilities of bladed weapons if you are fighting someone using them.

Many gun owners seem to think that their gun is a magic wand and that someone with a bladed weapon is not their equal in the least. This is incorrect as it depends on the range. If you gut shoot someone and they cut off your gun arm at the wrist, then who won? Will your bullet stop a knife in the middle of being swung full force at your neck? Do you really think you will always have a gun and that you will never be the victim of a surprise attack at close range?

You must know your enemy and their capabilities in order to defeat them. Do not underestimate bladed weapons.

Many police officers die every year because of bladed weapons and they are all carrying guns. It has been said that the .45 automatic was created because a .38 special revolver couldn’t stop a charging Philippino with a machete or sword. Look up the “21 foot rule” to find out more what police officers have found regarding the danger bladed weapons pose to gun-carrying officers.

Training in Pekiti-Tirsia-Kali begins with the stick immediately. Though some filipino systems seem to be focused on the stick, a bladed system would also be using the stick but primarily as a training tool and less as a primary weapon. The stick is similar to a sword but without the potential tragic blunders a new student can make; It makes training safer. It also magnifies all the movements for the instructor which become much harder to visually recognize when moving to knives or empty hands. Additionally, the stick being swung and manipulated develops the body mechanics needed for all weapons categories and even empty hand strikes.

A stick can be used as a weapon, but if you train for using the sword, most of the techniques also work with the stick, which can’t be said works in reverse. Stick based techniques don’t transfer as well to bladed weapons. Watch for instructors who grab the stick right where the sharp part of the sword is- you don’t want to learn techniques that are overly focused on the stick.

The basic movements used with the stick in training are the same movements that will be used with all weapons. For example, two common strikes come down on a 45 degree angle from between the head and the shoulder of the person holding the stick. These strikes would be used to hit the clavicle if using a stick, the neck if using a sword, the neck if using a knife and the ear if using your empty and open hands. The base of the stick as a training tool represents the knife held in a downward position and the top of the stick a sword or knife held in the upward position. So when training with a stick properly you are practicing the movements of all weapons categories.

Most techniques done with a long weapon are done exactly the same or only slightly differently with different weapons categories, including empty hands. This is evidence of a system. The whole of the system is greater than the sum of its parts. You have the same responses and movements regardless of the weapon you happen to be holding in your hands. This system can take you far beyond what empty hand only systems can give you.

The problem with most martial arts is that they have lost touch with their weapons based origins or applications. There is a huge gap between firearms training and empty hands that most have neglected and that is bladed and impact weapons training. Would you rather go at a threat with a fist after your gun jams or runs out of ammo, or would you prefer pulling out a sword or knife and continue the fight with that?

Most traditional arts developed their techniques with weapons. Aikido was developed by a swordsman. Thai kickboxing came from an earlier art that included the use of swords. When I look at karate, I can see and explain the weapons based origins of what they are doing. Jiu Jitsu is what the samurai did when they lost or broke their sword. Judo was derived from Jiu Jitsu after taking out some of the more dangerous moves. After all, when you turn a martial art into a sport you don’t want injuries. Wing chun has the double short swords. Wrestling moves can be found in the old western swordfighting books, doing takedown and throws with swords in hand. Most empty hand martial arts originally came from weapons based systems.

When you lived or died and the army was defeated or victorious based on the use of bladed weapons, people spent a lot of time and energy to make the techniques and systems work. If your weapons skills were not good, you didn’t come back.

The mixed martial arts scene is late to the party and have a sports or fair fight mentality. These modern folks who think that the people who lived or died through years of battle based on their skills didn’t have a clue what they were doing need to know they are making a big mistake. Just because something is popular in the martial arts magazines or TV doesn’t mean it will serve you well in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.

Most mixed martial artists or “newly invented” martial arts or self defense systems focus a lot on empty hand techniques. If you are fighting for survival and are using nothing but your hands or feet, you have screwed up several times or are just not that smart. The most highly praised martial arts are highly praised since many of their tests of what martial arts work and which ones don’t work are based on two men getting into a padded ring with no weapons and plenty of rules of what you can and cannot do.  The reality of combat is multiple opponents with weapons and no rules.

Boxing, thai kickboxing, karate, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are focused primarily on you not having a weapon. This is not a recipe for survival. Quite frequently some of these empty hand martial artists get in fights with people who have knives. The most frequent comment is that they never saw the knife. They are not trained to deal with knives and are trained to think of kicks, punches and takedowns. They get cut and stabbed.

Mixed martial arts are also not a system... they are collections of techniques from other traditional arts, after they had been turned into sports. If you borrow from boxing, wrestling, fencing, thai kickboxing, judo, these all had traditional roots but were turned into sports already.

Fencing is another example. Fencing surely evolved from techniques used in real life or death combat, but was slowly changed into a sport. In sports, they do many things to prevent injuries. Modern fencing has little to do with the sword arts that could be used in a real knock down drag out fight. I am not saying fencers are not deadly or for that matter that a wrestler can’t pick you up and put your head into the concrete. I am saying that those arts have been changed to focus on something other than fighting for survival.

Many traditional arts through the years lost their roots with weapons. Some of the traditional arts will teach you weapons, but only after years and years of empty hand training.

We don’t send soldiers into battle without weapons. We don’t send police to the streets without weapons. Training in empty hand arts is for bar fights, television shows and the playground.

I also like the comment attributed to Einstein- “I don’t know the weapons that will be used in world war three, but world war four will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Learning a bladed martial art with give you the ability to fill in the gap between fighting with a gun and fighting with your bare hands. It will also give you a better idea of the threat that someone with bladed weapons poses to you and also the techniques of how to protect yourself from attacks with bladed or impact weapons. A bladed weapon makes a great backup for your firearms.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Imagining guys running around in black pajamas and swords, disappearing in a puff of smoke? Well let’s start with a proper… non Hollywood idea of what the Ninja were… or are… and then see what we can learn from them.

Today we have this image of the Ninja as evil assassins sneaking around Japanese castles and killing under cover of night. What most people don’t know is that the Ninja were simple farmers, priests and shopkeepers who were forced out of Japanese society and hunted by their own government. They were the ultimate survivors. In fact the word Ninja in old fashioned Japanese translates to “the person who overcomes”.

Early in Japanese history a Samurai General named Daisuke Togakure lost a battle; and as was tradition in Japan his master ordered him to kill himself and ordered that his family be stripped of all title and land. Instead this Samurai General chose to survive. He fled his home with his family and went to live in the wilderness. Now an outcast being hunted by his own government he was forced to re-invent his understanding of combat. Togakure met up with some Chinese immigrants who had fled the massive wars going on in China. Their knowledge of battle tactics, medicine and technology from all over the Asian main continent helped Togakure form what would become one of the earliest and oldest traditions of the Ninja. (This is just a rough and quick version of the oral history of the founding if this tradition) There are many other traditions of Ninjutsu but they all are similar in that they contain a philosophy of life which values surviving and overcoming or “persevering” and which leads to a simple life style with a very alternative method of self defense. The philosophy of the Ninja stood in opposition of the Bushido code of the Samurai which contained a strong class structure, and espoused suicide as a noble and honorable ideal. To the Samurai the Ninja were dishonorable, evil creatures who had no right to live… the Ninja just wanted to be left alone to live their lives as they saw fit. Enough for my quick history lesson, for more information on the Ninja I recommend the book Ninjutsu: History and Tradition by Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi.

As a person who has studied and practiced this tradition for several years now I have found some great principles which are a guide I use in life and in my preparations to continue life. In all of my training and all of my study of the Ninja culture as it existed hundreds of years ago and as it exists today I have found five principles that seem to apply to the Ninjas secret to not only survive but to thrive. Here I plan to lay out a quick example of these five principles and how we may learn from them to protect us from things to come.

Principle #1: Strong and clean spirit
The Ninja were mostly followers of Shinto or Buddhism, however their traditions have strongly embraced members of many faiths and as a devout Christian I have found this to mean a strong relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Ninja speak of attaining an unfettered mind; that you should know who you are at your deepest core. Life should be spent learning, knowing and practicing what you are. This done in everyday life gives an unfettered mind and leads to good decision making under even the worst situations. With a strong foundation in Christ and a daily relationship with him, I find that when hard decisions come I have no trouble knowing how to proceed or at least knowing where to get my answers. This leaves me with a mind and heart which knows what is right and able to act upon it, not getting bogged down in the heat of the moment. When TSHTF it helps to already know in your body, mind, and soul what to do.

Principle #2: Utility.
While the Samurai prided themselves on beautiful swords passed down through their family for generations and body armor decorated with family crests and religious icons the Ninja often used little more than modified farming implements as weapons. This was in part because of the ban on civilians owning or carrying swords… (we can learn a lesson here) but also because of the principle of utility. To the Ninja they were not mere weapons, but rather everything was a tool. A Ninja didn’t pride himself on a fancy sword; instead he would make a sword which like all of his tools served more than one purpose. His other commonly used weapons were converted farming implements. One great example of a converted farm implement turned multi tool was the Kasuragama. It was essentially a small hand held sickle about 3 feet long used for harvesting grain. Sharpened with a rope or chain attached at the end, at the end of the rope was a heavy iron weight. This was used to tie up or entangle an enemy, and then the sickle blade would be used to finish them off. Most of the Ninjas weapons served many uses… sort of like an ancient Leatherman tool. Another example would be the Kunai. This tool started as a small shovel or trowel and was adapted to be used as a dagger, throwing blade and was even used to saw holes in walls for clandestine missions. Also for consideration were the Tekagi-Shuko which were iron bands with spikes on them worn on the hands and feet used for climbing trees and walls, but they were also used extensively as a hidden weapon which was both lethal and able to deflect or catch a sword. Sure the Ninja would have never turned down a fancy ray skin and ivory Katana, but he would usually be found with a much cruder instrument. Much as I am sure a Ninja would have loved to own a fancy piston driven AR-15 but would have likely found more use and value in an FN/FAL or AK.

Principle #3: Simplicity.
As I said earlier the Ninja were mostly farmers and merchants, but they could be found in all levels and aspects of life. There were even some Ninja amongst the ruling class of Japan at one time. What was common amongst them was that they strove to live a simple life. Both historic and modern Ninja rarely had lavish homes or castles. Rarely were known to frequent parties and social events. Instead they lived simple lives enjoying the things in life which were of true value. Simplicity permeated all aspect of their life. Often a diet of simple, healthy home grown food was eaten. With this simplicity in lifestyle one also becomes more in tuned to your own environment, able to notice small changes in weather and even understand nature on a closer level. Rarely did the Ninja draw attention to themselves. Instead of going off to become famous warriors and have grand adventures most Ninja lived quiet lives in their villages and trained diligently in their fighting arts; not for glory, but simply as a means to protect them and their families from the outside world. OPSEC was a large part of this simple life. When the majority of the country you live in wants you dead why would you want to announce your presence and tell the whole world that there is a village full of trained warriors living here? This shows that an entire community of people can live their lives every day just like everyone else, yet still prepare and train. The rest of the world didn’t know then and they don’t need to know now.

Principle #4: Community and Self-Reliance.
Contrary to what some may argue community and self reliance are not mutually exclusive ideas. The Ninja were experts at having a community OF self reliance. The Ninja often lived in very close nit villages and towns where they worked and trained together so as to provide everything they needed and thus insulate themselves from the rest of Japan. Today we have been trained to think that community means reliance upon others, but who decides where our community ends and who we are to be reliant on? If we were to think in terms of a community of self reliance, perhaps in our churches and neighborhoods we could go along way to change our nation in a better direction. Instead of thinking its all about me and my preparations we should look to find a group of like-minded people with similar moral values and help each other work and train to provide for our every need locally. (Mr. Rawles has expounded this idea for many years, and I say it’s a sound principle wherever it comes from and can be applied to far more than just a retreat group.) This could go along ways even in our own neighborhoods and churches to insulate us from the insanity which is happening to the rest of the world. Imagine you belonged to a church or lived in a town which took no federal subsidies, grew its own local food and had a strong tradition of tradesman and craftsman industry… how bad would a collapse of the dollar and international economy be for you then? Not good for sure but a lot better than what your looking at now.

Principle #5: Fluidity.
Absolutely essential to the fighting style and even day to day life of the Ninja is the principle of fluidity. The Ninja fighting style involves five principle ways or feelings of combat. Each one represents an element of existence and grants almost a personality to your movement and technique. Examples are fire, a strong hot burst of energy cutting through an opponent or earth, the stable and immovable feeling of power. The five elements (earth, wind, fire, water, and the void) are not in themselves all powerful; it is the Ninjas ability to transition from one to the other and combine them in response to any situation which is essential. This fluidity was not just expressed in the elemental forms of combat, but instead is the fundamental difference between the Samurai and the Ninja. The Samurai followed set in stone techniques and movements. Memorize enough movements and you will have one for every situation. The Ninja started when they had to adapt and abandon old ways; this flexibility allowed them to meet all situations and adapt their techniques to any situation. A fundamental idea in the Ninja philosophy is not to have expectations of what will happen, but instead to be ready for and deal with whatever comes. Work towards your goals but adapt to the outcomes as they happen, don’t get caught in a frustrating loop of things not going your way and reacting with the same effort every time. We prepare for a myriad of predicted situations, financial collapse, martial law, foreign invasion, civil unrest, tyrannical dictatorships or natural disasters. We should not have categories of tools and utensils for each scenario all stored in labeled lockers and sealed for that day. We should have basic tools which will work in any situation. Tools which serve multiple purposes and can be adapted to anything we need.

There are many things we need to be prepared and I pose we can learn from the Ninja just what we need. We can use the five elements to know what we need to have in order to flow from one situation to the next.

WATER: Just as water feeds life and contains a power in both its ability to draw away from and crash back onto anything, to slowly erode a mountain, feed the tallest tree; we need the essentials of life. Food and water, staples which will allow us to pull away from society in crazy times or from a disaster; then crash back into the world to effect proper change because we did not have to corrupt ourselves or compromise our morals to obtain the basic necessities of life. Having extras of the basic staples of life also can allow us to slowly erode the negative influences in the world around us by being able to help those in need. When a friend or neighbor loses a job or goes through a personal tragedy having extras allows us to help, possibly preventing them from becoming dependent on a corrupt system of entitlements and government dependency.

EARTH: Strong foundations in faith and community allow us to stand like a rock against the corruption and destruction around us. Drawing strength from our foundations in the lord and our ability to stand on our own can enable us to be the rock upon which the golden hordes can wash upon with no effect. Earth also is the principle in which our retreats and our property can give us strength. It is the foundation in this world from which we draw strength. Having our own land, untouched and uncontrolled by the outside world allows us to have a foundation which can not be corrupted; to remain in our communities and to hold our morals untouched by the rest of this corruption we see around us today.

FIRE: Fire is our arms, our brute force through firepower.
“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States" -Noah Webster
The Ninja as with all people of Japan were disarmed by the ruling elites, however the Ninja refused to comply, instead they fought back. There is a time in life when life can only continue to exist through the direct application of violence. Fire comes in a burst of violence, heat and action. It is emotional, but not un-controlled. Fire also represents our passion, the passion which makes us act. It is the burning sense of right and wrong which protects our very soul from the corruption of the world. When the world around us descends into chaos it is this passion for justice which will separate us from the looters, not just our stockpile of food.

WIND: Wind leaves us aloof, it represents the lighthearted sense of security preparedness gives us. Knowing that you can not be harmed by a grid down situation, or a food shortage; knowing that you are ready to take on armed bands of looters, or able to provide medical aid to a family member. This is the goal of every prepper, and with it comes a feeling that you can flit through life untouched like a leaf blowing in the wind. This feeling does not come from having stockpiles of dry beans, nor does it come from an arsenal of guns and bullets. This feeling comes from the training we seek. Having beans and bullets does you no good without the ability to use them and the confidence which comes from training. The feeling of being un-touchable effects your very movement and every aspect of life. Being self reliant, with your own business and self sustaining property gives you this confidence and allows you to take stands politically and economically without fear of losing your job or being evicted from your home if you oppose the powers at be.

THE VOID: This is often a difficult concept. In a sense the void is entirely what preparing is. The void is the sense that anything can and will happen. On one hand it is the knowledge of all potential dangers and the ability to handle them. On the other hand it is the ability to react with anything, having every tool in your toolbox so that you can react and adapt in any way necessary. Basically preppers have a stereotype, a reputation for being the crazy guy sitting in his basement full of food and guns with a frying pan for a helmet declaring the end is near. Where the void can help is in the idea of not being an idea. Not being anything in particular, be void of form. Don’t fit a stereotype; don’t buy tools or equipment because you are told it’s the cool prepper thing to do. Void means that your entire life is intertwined with the principles of survival preparation and you live the way you believe. Prepping isn’t just something you do, it is a part of who you are and in everything you do. You do not have the form of a prepper, you’re just prepared.

I have done my best in this article to both educate you about the medieval survivalists of Japan and to point out lessons we can learn from their approach to life. I am by no means an expert in the subject, but I have brought to you my understandings. I hope that this has been a great help for you. If you are interested in this subject and would like to pursue it further I strongly encourage you to do so. There is so much that the Ninja of our modern world can teach and can give you for your survival preparations. To learn more I suggest you seek a group called the Bujinkan.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mr. Rawles:
First of all, I would just like to say a huge thank you for all the advice, expertise, and survival techniques that you have bought to my attention through your books and your blog. I never realised just how much of a risk our current climate is, and how likely we are to get to a state of "every man for himself" survival.

My name is Steve. I am a 21 year old living in the West Midlands county in the heart of Great Britain. I have always had survivalism in my blood, and have always liked to think that I am prepared for whatever the world can throw at me, but recently, the last four years or so, I have become increasingly worried with the state of my country and economical clime. My fears were confirmed last August when mass rioting and looting took control of many of my country's cities, including our capital, London. The authorities and law enforcement were powerless to do a thing, and we were nearly in a state of "Northern Ireland law enforcement", in that the armed forces were to patrol the streets, and we were to have riot shielded police with water cannons on every street corner. Thankfully, that situation has calmed down now, but I know it is only a matter of time before chaos breaks out again.

My main concern is that I, like many million other British residents, live in multi-story, "high rise" flat (apartment) which I see as near enough impossible to defend in the event of WTSHTF. Some "high rise" flats can have as many as 60-70 homes, with 200+ people living in them. It's one thing to secure my front door from burglary and looters, but what's the point when our housing options are so small that we barely have enough room to sleep a family, let alone store equipment and supplies for the inevitable. It's impossible for me to keep a back up generator along with substantial food, water, and fuel supplies in a home that has the total floor space of around 30'x30', including bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, living room and dining space. My home is just not a practical safe house for me, my fiancée, and our daughter. Let alone the fact that we are on the 5th floor, and would have almost zero chance of escape in the event of a fire or terror attack.

I know that the obvious thing to do would be to move house, somewhere out of the city with the space and freedom to properly prepare, but we simply can not afford to. I am currently out of work. I lost my job over a year ago and have been unable to find work since. The same goes for my fiancée, who lost her job nearly two years ago and has also been unable to find a new work placement. We both have to survive on[a combined unemployment insurance benefit of] just over £53 per week (about $84.50 USD), pay all our bills, rent, buy our food, and also bring up our young daughter. It's outrageous. In the past two years alone I have witnessed more businesses and company's both regionally, and nationally, collapse due to the economic state that my government has put the country in. I have recently applied to join the British Armed Forces Reserves (Territorial Army, or TA) in an attempt to earn more money to support my family, and also acquire any necessary tactical, survival, and combat, training and techniques that will undoubtedly prove vital WTSHTF.

Another concern I have, the laws and regulations in this country regarding owning and using firearms. Shotguns and shotgun licenses are fairly easy to obtain, if you own a farm or are a registered target/clay-pigeon/small-game shooter. But other than that, pistols, rifles, and semi-auto weapons are nearly impossible to obtain and get a licence for. A licence can be applied for, but are rarely granted. If you are lucky enough to obtain your licence and firearm, you can expect regular "knocks on your door" at 3 a.m. by the local armed police to check your ammo count and security cabinets for both weapon and ammunition. Then there is the fact of actually getting hold of ammunition for your gun(s). The only real stockist of rifle and pistol ammunition is local "gun clubs" where enthusiasts can go and fire a limited number of rounds from their weapon. But even then, only specific weapons are allowed to be fired. Mostly, some pistols and shotguns. We have no real facilities to accurately zero and test fire weapons that we will no doubt need for our own protection and survival in the case of TEOTWAWKI.

I know I may be thinking small in terms of what will happen, but these are real concerns that I deem as extremely important to the survival and order of my family and fellow country man in the near, inevitable, future.

I would greatly appreciate any feedback or advice that you could give me.

Thank you again, and keep yourself safe. - D.S.

JWR Replies: Joining the TA is a great way to get yourself training in marksmanship, land navigation, first aid, small unit tactics, and even NBC defense. The rigorous physical training will also get you in great shape. BTW, I recommend that you start running every-other day and doing dozens of sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups a day, months in advance of your enlistment.

The free SurvivalBlog archives are fully searchable for the many articles that we've posted on selecting and training with weapons for locales with draconian laws. The article topics include:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
I'd like to throw in a different angle on SHTF-oriented fitness and martial arts.  A little over two years ago I felt the need to get back in shape, I remembered what I could do as a Marine in my early 20s (I'm in my mid 30s) and wanted to at least get within shouting distance of that.  Going to the gym solo just never worked for me.  So I started doing some research and came across Japanese Kendo --- the modernized Samurai sword fighting sport.  The pros are many.  You don't have to start in great shape or be flexible.  After the initial cost of equipment, it's cheaper than any gym.  It's a very long road to competency, even after two years I'm considered a beginner; in some strip-mall karate dojos I'd have a brown or black belt by now, this dynamic keeps the "yahoos" away and is really only attractive to serious people (I prefer serious people to yahoos any day).  You will get in great shape, especially after you start practicing in armor, I never got a workout like Kendo in the couple "hands and feet" martial arts I have done in the past.  The armor and uniform are heavy, and you're swinging a bamboo sword (shinai) constantly.  My dress shirt sleeves stop a full inch short of where they did when I started Kendo, that's attributable to gaining that much shoulder and back muscle.  Your abdomen and legs will get stronger too, all good core muscles.  I had poor wrist/grip strength from a previous sprained left wrist and a sprained right thumb and now I can shake hands with the best of them.  You'll certainly need this muscle tone and endurance when the SHTF.

There are some cons of course.  Your body won't be conditioned to run long distances from Kendo, you won't add five inches to your biceps either.  You won't learn five simple techniques to take someone out with your bare hands.  You're not fighting in street clothes.  You will lose weight if you're overweight, but it's not the primary focus of Kendo.  It's very traditional and the pace of learning will seem slow to most Americans.  Buying all of your equipment can easily be a $500-$700 one time cost.  You probably won't find a Kendo dojo outside of a city.  Everything is with a sword which is probably not above rifles, shotguns, and handguns on your SHTF weapons list.  With that said I'd rather have a knife, sword, fireplace poker, etc than my bare hands and feet in a fight, plan accordingly!

One more plug:  If you live in the Seattle, Washington or Prescott, Arizona areas, then check out American Combato / Jen-Do-Tao.  This is one of those "5 simple techniques to take someone out with your bare hands" martial arts I mentioned above, it's oriented specifically to real world situations.  I have not checked out the DVDs but did attend classes for over two years, it's a fantastic self-defense oriented martial art. - J.S.

As a long time martial arts student and instructor (28 years) I would like to welcome Dimitri G. back into the ranks.
Dealing with students both old and young always poses challenges but the real challenge comes in dealing with students that studied when they were young and then return with older bodies.
The main challenge is attitude. I do not challenge Dimitri’s attitude and sincerely respect him for his decisions and driving commitment. What I want to point out is how attitude changes with older students that may have had a bad experience while being the younger student
As I have learned and observed from witnessing myself and other students we all get old, our bodies break down, and we want to recapture the bravado of our youth.
The biggest lesson I have to keep learning as I age and keep teaching are the basics.
For me my basics fall in to three categories’ physical, mental, and skill.
These represent a foundation for me to age gracefully, grow old, and not be a grumpy old tough guy.
To help define how I look at each section:

Physical – “I also call these the three hardest things you will learn in the martial arts”
         How to walk
         How to fall down
         How to breathe

         How to realize I don’t have all the answers
         How to learn that education is a two way experience between teacher and student – we both learn and we both teach
         How to stay in touch with my peaceful side but still let my need to kick butt side lead when necessary
         Learning how to kick, block, punch, fall… are basic skills and need to be reinforced on a continues basis
         My physical fitness level will change with age and health so I must be willing to change my perspective, ways of training, and styles of striking to one of mastering the situation via mental and other skills.
         Education comes best from having someone play the leadership role; e.g. one man does not an island make – you can trade leadership roles within a group but the student teacher relationship is very important
Unfortunately Dimitri post alludes to the "colored belt factory" industry that is so prevalent in our U.S. culture. While good schools do exist they are fewer by number and are getting harder to locate. His recommendation to find private instruction is a good one to help someone who is coming back into the arts.
Another method is to locate a local martial arts store in your area and have a chat with the owner. They can be a wealth of knowledge in locating good teachers. And remember, you don’t necessarily want the teacher with all the stripes on their belt. Rather, you want the one that doesn’t care about all the stripes. - Old Man Karate

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

First off: English is not my native language. I apologize if this article is not easy to read. I hope that its usefulness will outweigh the inconvenience.

I am 40 years old, overweight by about 50 pounds, and I regretfully admit that in the past 15 or so years I became a “couch potato”. In other words, my physical fitness is not up to the challenges of any survival situation.

When I was a lot younger, I practiced karate, boxing, and weight lifting. I was pretty tough, and even back in high school there was no bully who would risk messing with me.
Apart from being a martial arts practitioner, I had (and still have) a huge library of very good books on various martial arts, with an emphasis on “street fighting” applications.
I dare think my opinions are based on a thorough analysis of various available options combined with my own experience and learning from mistakes, rather than mindless following someone else’s rigid views or advertisement.

As I got a family and a job about 18 years ago, hard work with lots of overtime did not help my plans of “getting back to the gym”, but quite frankly - I just got lazy.
I trained less hard and less frequently, until one day last year I realized that I had completely lost whatever skills and physical fitness level I used to have, and I can hardly run half a mile, let alone being able to defend my family in a SHTF situation.
I walk my dog, with an occasional sprint-run up the hill to the house where we live in Western Washington, and I try to keep my flexibility at a semi-decent level... but, other than that, I am completely “out of shape”, - both figuratively and literally.
My results in push-ups and pull-ups exercises are ridiculously low, and my punches are too far from being nearly as powerful as I want them to be.

I’ve been pondering an idea to start regular training, but without a well thought out system, I have more chances of hurting myself in the process than getting any results back. [Been there, done that...]

This article is my first attempt in many years to create an actionable fitness and hand-to-hand combat plan, and I hope that it will be useful not only to myself, but also to someone who can honestly identify himself (or herself) as a “couch potato” and wants to start preparing physically for the SHTF situation.

I will spare you my efforts to provide mental preparedness and/or motivation.
If you have a family, you have all the motivation you need. Just imagine what might happen to your loved ones if a gang of armed, ruthless, blood-thirsty looters attacks your neighborhood... and you’ve got all the motivation you need.
The only trick is to learn how to turn your fear and anger into a burning desire to train harder than before. But please remember that the older you are, the more careful you need to be when performing physical exercises.

Let’s start with the goals: what are we trying to achieve?
Your goals will define your list of exercises, training sessions frequency, etc.
In time, your goals will mostly stay the same, but the list of exercises will have to change.
Here’s my list, which might be very different from yours:
Minimal physical fitness to help me and my family survive the coming collapse. I must be able to:
- walk long distances with at least 50 pounds of weight (basic bug-out bag, weapons, ammo);
- run fast;
- run long distances;
- carry bigger weights for a short period of time (e.g., if an injured family member or neighbor must be evacuated from a burning building);
- climb and jump;
- fight (unarmed) against one or two enemies who are not armed and do not have special training.
Long-term goals:
- continue getting stronger and faster;
- more physical endurance;
- fight using a stick, a knife, and anything that can be used as a weapon, against armed and well-trained enemies.

This last one most likely made you laugh...
I know all too well that real-life fights are nothing like movie tricks.
It is almost impossible to win a fight if you are unarmed, and you fight against a group of special forces soldiers armed with guns.
But seriously: who do you think will be your real enemy?.. Most likely, one or two (worst case scenario, - three) gang members, armed with sticks or knives. Maybe, one of them will have a gun which he will be pointing at you at a short distance.
It is realistically possible to win this fight.
Of course, you need to be really well-prepared, and you need a good portion of sheer dumb luck... but there is a chance. And I say, it’s better that just giving up and letting my family be raped and killed. I’d rather die fighting, but I want to take as many bastards with as possible. Perhaps, as luck would have it, even win…
I can’t rely on always having a gun available, because we all know what happened after Katrina.
How such a situation would develop depends on a lot of factors, such as their original intentions (grab-and-go vs. rob-rape-and-kill), how many members their gang consists of, what the surrounding circumstances are (are you on the second floor of your house with a gun in your hand, with your family behind you, or are you unarmed in a street, with a bandit holding a knife at your teenage daughter’s throat?..), what weapons their have and - more importantly - how ready they are to murder someone. Needless to say, a hungry unarmed neighbor who came to steal your can of beans is not exactly as dangerous as a gang of prison escapees armed with guns.

Sorry, I digress... That was more of a motivation than a plan...

Anyway, let’s get back to the goals.

If you’re like me, and you need to start your physical fitness almost “from scratch”, you need to start slow.
I can run up my hill twice, but then I’ll probably have a heart attack. At the very least, my knees will hurt for several days.
Punching a heavy bag too hard is another good example of my stupidity.
I learned from my own mistakes that I need to know my current limitations, or I won’t be able to exercise for quite some time just because of traumas. If you are half as pissed off as I am, and about as willing to defend your family as I am, it is far too easy to overestimate yourself and have one training session after which you will be able to barely move for a couple of weeks, if not worse. Be realistic. Do not expect great results in a day.

What I am going to do (and you probably need to do that, too) is make a list of some basic exercises that I am going to perform in the nearest future (that is, within the next couple of months, until I feel I am ready for a more serious training) and write down the results I can currently get without negative consequences.
For example, how long can I run at a relatively slow speed before I feel I’ve had enough for today? How many push-ups, and in how many sets, can I do, without having debilitating pain for the next few days? And so on, and so forth.
If you don’t know what exercises to perform, don’t worry, I’ll get to them shortly.

The idea is to figure out how much you are capable of under normal circumstances, and start – slowly but steadily – building up the foundation for future exercises that will help you prepare for a survival situation.
When analyzing your abilities, try to figure out what you already have and what you need to focus on.
For example, if you are strong, but you can’t run a mile, it is obvious what you need to do: more walking and running.

An important thing to keep in mind is that there are different kinds of pain, and it is extremely important to be able to distinguish between them.
If you practiced any kind of sports ages ago, you know what I am talking about.
There’s good pain which you feel (normally, for a day or two) after a good workout. It shows that, once your body has had enough rest and food, your physical results will grow a little bit, thus adding up to an overall progress of your training program.
And then there are all kinds of bad pain, which indicates that something is wrong.
This might be from some illnesses, but it can also be caused by over-exercising or traumas.
I can’t describe in a short article how to be sure that the pain you are feeling is good. If you are sure, fine. Otherwise, talk to a doctor.
Bottom line is: “no pain, no gain”, but not all pain is good.
And you need to be certain that you get exactly the right amount of exercise for your current level of fitness and for your current condition. Too little, and you won’t get any results. Too much, and you’ll be sick. The same goes for frequency and intensity of your training sessions.
Besides, you might feel great today and be able to exercise a lot, but tomorrow you’ll get tired at work and be unable to exercise at all.
There are far too many variables which make it absolutely impossible to make an optimal training plan for everyone. Experiment with your training routine, and change it often to continue “surprising” your body to give it a stimulus to develop.
Worse yet, for each “couch potato”, it is often very difficult to distinguish between tiredness and laziness. Deal with it. Motivate yourself. Just imagine what would happen if your family is attacked, or starving, or needs to be evacuated from a burning building, or something like that...

Now, a few words about self-defense.
I could write a book about all kinds of Bravo Sierra surrounding martial arts, but this is just an article.
The more you research this topic, and the more you practice some kind of fighting skills, the more “deep understanding” of it you get. Sometimes, it’s just a feeling that something is right or wrong, and it is difficult to put it into words.
So, I’ll be very brief.

  1. Practice often.
  2. To start with, use only a few primitive techniques (punches, kicks, blocks, movements) and combinations of them. A simple well-practiced technique is far better than several of those which you won’t be able to do in the critical situation. A simple and reliable technique is far more valuable than a complex one.
  3. Each technique must be practiced in all kinds of scenarios hundreds of thousands of times before you can be sure it will work for you when you are scared to death, in an disadvantageous position, tired and injured, and so on, and so forth.
  4. Practice while wearing the same type of clothes you wear every day. If you train for a survival situation, a uniform with a colored belt is not for you.
  5. If you never practiced martial arts before, too bad. Learn. Read books. Do not learn from movies. Nearly all martial arts schools suck: it is rarely their goal to teach you how to fight for your life. If you can, find a private instructor who has experience teaching in the military or law enforcement: most of the time, they know how to fight for real. The best possible option is a Krav Maga instructor with military background.
  6. There is no substitute for a very heavy and very hard (as opposed to “soft”) punching bag. Period. Buy it, use it, learn to love it. Remember to start slow, even if you were very good at it years ago.
  7. If you can’t do at least 50 push-ups in a single set, your punch will never be any good.
  8. Practice kicks from a sitting position on the floor with your hands tied behind your back. If you know what I mean, good. If not... just do it. Thank me later.
  9. Practice as if one of your arms is injured. If you are any good with kicks, practice with tied hands (there are a lot of blocks which use feet or shins). Practice hand techniques while hopping on one leg.
  10. Learn to sweep an enemy’s weapon away from you (and away other people around you) in one swift move. Practice those moves with a heavy club or a dumbbell, then repeat without a weight, but with a maximum speed. If you see techniques which show a couple of steps combined with a complex wrestling-style throw or arm lock, know that this is BS. Remember that your enemy is neither super-dumb nor super-slow, and there will probably be at least two of them. You can only hope to distract his/their attention and then use at most half a second before he pulls the trigger. As a general rule, learn to tell movie tricks from real practical techniques.
  11. Practice at home, in the backyard, on the staircase, in a car, in a room full of furniture... in other words, practice your skills everywhere where you expect to fight in real life. A gym is hardly the right place. Fight on the ice, under rain, under blindingly bright sun, in complete darkness, when it’s cold and when it’s hot. Wear shoes or be barefooted.
  12. When you get better at fighting skills, add exercises with weapons, especially a knife and a club. Do not use nunchaku or sai or kama or any other samurai/ninja/peasant garbage: it’s just stupid; we are not in a medieval Japan. Learn to use almost anything as a weapon that you can find in the street (a stone, a piece of wood) or in your living room. But again: be realistic; you can’t use a match box as a weapon, regardless of what some idiots claim. A weapon must enhance a human’s ability to self-defense. A table lamp, a pen, or almost any potentially dangerous object probably can be used as a weapon, but a coin with a sharp edge cannot. Just imagine defending yourself with a sharp coin or a match box against an attacker armed with an AR-15, laugh, and move on to practicing serious stuff.
  13. Learn how to fall down. While you’re at it, learn how to fight when you are on the ground. No, I am not talking about wrestling; I mean blocks and kicks and jumping back up to your feet. If you have any doubts about efficiency of wrestling techniques for a real survival fight and if you enjoy watching MMA fights, imagine that the referee is another one of your enemies, and he is armed with a knife while you are wrestling with another guy.
  14. Practice blocks. It takes time and lots of practice to set up your defense, but you won’t survive without it.
  15. There are hundreds of martial arts styles, dozens (if not hundreds) of thousands of individual techniques. Let this sink in: YOU DO NOT NEED THEM. All you need is (at most!..) a dozen punches and kicks, plus a dozen of blocks, all of them combined into 2-, 3-, or (at most) 4-elements combination techniques, which you have practiced countless thousands of times each, and which you can deliver under any conditions with lightning-fast speed and steel-crushing power. Leave jumping-spinning-back-hook-kicks to movie actors, professional sportsmen, and chronic idiots.

Of all the styles, I recommend Krav Maga and Shorinji Kempo.

I can spend days discussing pro’s and con’s of various techniques for self-defense.
But the point is, you either start practicing now, or you spend years talking about it while scratching your belly.
What works for me, might not work for you, and vice versa.
To start with, for a complete newbie, I recommend:

  1. Forward elbow strike.
  2. Palm-heel straight punch.
  3. Forward knee kick.
  4. Forward kick to the groin.

Once you’ve got some experience (assuming you don’t have any yet), you will add more techniques (but not too many!..).
These 4 will get you started. Imagine a very fast and very powerful kick to the groin, followed by an elbow strike, and you’ll feel much better about your ability to defend you loved ones and yourself. Another good thing is, - these simple techniques let you not worry too much about your enemy wearing a bulletproof vest: it is very unlikely that his groin will be protected.

One of the most difficult things to do for someone like me is holding myself back when performing some formerly-familiar exercises.
When I was 17, my friends and I used to break bricks just to show off. My mind still remembers all the stuff, but my body doesn’t. If you practiced, for example, boxing 20 years ago, but have not hit a punching bag in years, be extra careful on the punching bag: you can think you can punch a hole in it, but your fist is not nearly as strong as it used to be, and your wrist will hurt terribly if it can’t hold the punch and bends. Hence, my advice to strike with a palm heel.
The older you are, and the less fit you are, the more careful you must be when you try to become fit.

And I want to emphasize it one more time: talk to a doctor before you start any kind of serious training.

In my opinion, the most important fitness-related abilities for SHTF situation are endurance, some basic strength, and self-defense.

If you’ve been running/jogging for some time now, you are in a better shape than most of us.
But if running is the only exercise you’ve been doing, then you are still not prepared physically for survival.

For a complete couch potato, I recommend the following exercises:

  1. Walk as much as you can every day. If you have a dog, just walk him around your neighborhood or in the park, until you feel really tired. (again: do not confuse it with just being lazy).
  2. Run as much as you can at least 3 times a week. It may be for just a few seconds to start with, but do it. You’ll get better very soon. Watch your pulse and breathing. Talk to your doctor first, especially if you have any medical problems.
  3. Do squats without any weight. Just stand up (try it now! I’ll wait...), then bend your knees completely, so that your butt almost touches the floor, then stand up again. Do it slowly, as many times as you can. If you can do it close to 100 times, you are not a couch potato. Sorry for wasting your time. Keep doing whatever it is you do to be in good shape. Otherwise, do one set of this exercise twice a week (say, for example, right now, and then in 3 days, and then in 4 days, and then again in 3 days, and so on). When you feel it is easy, start doing 2 sets, with 2 minutes rest after the first set. Perform this exercise right after you’ve come back from a jog. Then do the stretching exercises, and then practice kicks: this “pre-tiredness” will help a lot if you have the same problem with my knees as I do (they hurt from kicks unless my muscles are already not only warmed up, but really tired when I start kicking practice).
  4. Pushups. A must-do for everyone. One of the best exercises for your upper body, and you can do it anywhere, anytime. If you can’t do it properly, put your hands on the side of your bed (instead of the floor), and you’ll feel how much easier it is. If you are able to do at least a couple dozen pushups in a set, start varying the technique: put your hands shoulder-width, or wider, or narrower. Keep your feet on the ground or put them on the chair. Push up on open hands or on fists or (if you can) on fingers. Do slow pushups or very slow or normal speed or very fast or “explosive” style. There’s a big difference - and you’ll feel it - between hands-together-feet-on-the-floor-very-slow-pushup and fists-very-far-apart-with-feet-2-feet-above-floor-fast-pushups.
  5. This one is very hard for a real couch potato... but also extremely important. Pull-ups. Basically, the idea is to grab something above your head and pull yourself up by bending your arms. Before I got my own training equipment (and while having no money for a gym...), I used to do pull-ups in a children’s playground. There’s always something close to your home where you can do pull-ups. Worse-case scenario, just hang a rope between two trees. Or, buy a pull-up bar from a sports store: it goes in a doorway, it is easy to set up and to remove (it takes seconds, without any tools), and it costs around $30. Look up “pull up bar” in to see what I mean. The problem with pull ups is that not every middle-aged man or woman can do them. Don’t trick yourself by thinking that you can replace this exercise with dumbbells or barbells “curls”: no, you can’t. If you can’t do a proper pull-up now, not even once, do not despair: you can put something under your feet to step on, so that you can grab a pull-up bar while your arms are already half-bent, and then perform partial pull ups. When your arms get stronger, eventually you’ll be able to get rid of that chair or whatever, and perform regular pull-ups. There might also be another problem: if you are overweight, and/or your grip is weak, you might have difficulty just hanging in there... literally. There’s no better solution for this than regularly hang on the pull-up bar as long as you can, and for as many sets as you can before it really hurts, as many days a week as possible.
  6. Abs workout. There are so many exercises... If you are overweight like me, I am sure you know them all. Do whatever works for you. My favorite: lie down on the floor, then simultaneously raise your hands and legs while exhaling, so that only your butt touches the floor; slowly lie down again; repeat until it hurts.
  7. Punching bag. If you’ve ever worked out on a punching bag for more than a minute, you must know that it’s also a great workout, - both for your muscles and for your cardio-vascular system. The only problem is to be careful with every single move; otherwise, the traumas take very long to heal. The most common injures happen when you punch too hard and/or almost miss the right spot (in which case your wrist can bend and hurt terribly for several weeks), and when you punch the bag without any protective gloves, and your hand slips (this is where you lose a good chunk of your knuckles’ skin, and you can’t punch a bag for about a week). Just be careful, use gloves or hand wraps, and land you punches with precision.
  8. Jumping rope. If this exercise sounds silly and childish to you, try to do it 200+ times without stopping, and you’ll feel how useful it is. You don’t need an expensive jumping rope from The Sports Authority. A piece of regular rope which is long enough and heavy enough will be just as good.
  9. Developing a strong grip. Useful for all kinds of survival situation: from lifting and carrying heavy objects to evacuating from a tall building using a rope, to climbing, to self-defense, and so on, and so forth. There are good grip strengtheners; be sure to get those which are hard to squeeze. Pull-ups, hanging on a rope or a pull-up bar also helps. Besides, performs pushups on your fingers at least once in a while.
  10. Last, but not least: practice blocks and punches with weapons. I don’t mean guns, but heavy objects. I perform several sets of blocks with police-style clubs which have a short handle sticking out (these clubs are also known as “tonfa”), and this helps not only techniques, but also muscles and tendons, while developing speed.

I’d like to say a few words about diet, but I do not think I have a moral right to talk about it until I lose a few more pounds.
Anyway, the only thing really worth mentioning is fasting: regular fasting is good for your health if you do it right, and it is certainly useful to be able to function a day or two while being hungry in case you just don’t have any food at all in a survival situation or you have to give it all to your kids if there’s too little available.

It turned out to be nearly impossible to cram a lot of information in a short article.
I hope it will be useful for someone who wants to get started on TEOTWAWKI/survival self-defense and fitness training, but does not know how.

Yes, I am a grumpy, middle-aged, fat man. But I am determined to maximize my family’s chances of survival in the coming imminent collapse of life as we know it. I’ll do whatever it takes to defend them, and hopefully help my neighbors and friends in the process.
I am preparing, and I suggest you do the same.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When a SHTF moment happens, preparedness is everything. But it is more than just having a bugout bag and a meeting place for your family. It means being ready, economically, intellectually, and physically.
I’m going to talk about three specific goals, why they are so important, and the techniques you can use to get yourself in the best position possible.
Don’t wait to progress from one to the other – instead, look at each of the three goals and pick an idea from each to focus on, then continue to add and build as you go.

Goal #1 - Economic Readiness
Zero Debt - If you are currently in a position of zero debt, and I include mortgage, car payments, credit cards and student loans in this, congratulations. Now…stay that way! As for the rest of us…get out of debt and avoid all debt if you don’t have any yet.
Why is this so important? Put simply, debt is slavery. Stop worrying about your credit score or whether you have one of those nice new flat screen televisions. Keep in mind that every commercial is a siren call to stay a slave and be in debt. It is a pervasive message, one that urges you to continue to swim upstream and be beholden to the credit card and mortgage companies. They want you to believe that your credit card score will be terrible if you aren’t out there running up the numbers.
Living within your means is excellent training for the complete financial collapse that is almost assuredly coming. It isn’t the time to party until the 11th hour, but to teach you what reality, with all of its bristly parts, is really like.
Accomplishing zero debt takes time – especially if you are an owner of a house with a mortgage or cars in the driveway with a few payments to go. Consider either doubling up on payments and forgoing the annual vacation or if you have a decent amount of equity in the house, selling it and purchasing a smaller, more affordable house that has a zero or minimal mortgage. Then pay it off.
If you are currently looking at buying a car or a house, make it a priority to consider whether it fits your needs. Does the car get excellent gas mileage? Could it be converted to biodiesel? Will it carry all the members of your family and have room for the belongings you will need if you have to Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.)? What can you afford to pay double payments on (thereby reducing your term of slavery by half)?
Don’t depend exclusively on debit cards, have some cash on hand at all times - A credit or debit card in your hand will not buy you groceries when the store is out of power and full of desperate people. Have at least a small amount of cash on your person at all times. Invest in a money belt or other hidden contraption and keep some cash in your vehicle and in a safe location in your home.
A source for good money belts and travel wallets can be found here.
I recommend this article on places to hide cash in your house.
And this web-based vendor carries a variety of hidden safes.
Silver and Gold - Consider storing some ‘junk silver’ coins in a safe place in your home. If the dollar continues to devalue, having a precious metal on hand to barter with may make the difference between being able to eat or not, and having the fuel to Get Out of Dodge.

Goal #2 – Intellectual Readiness
Learn something new every day - I’m not just talking self-sufficiency here. Learn a different language, for example. The United States, the country that I and a vast majority of SurvivalBlog’s readers live in, is a melting pot of diverse cultures. And while English is the primary language, having the ability to converse in another language gives you an advantage. It shows your flexibility and willingness to learn from others. If you learn Spanish, Italian or French, they all share common Latin roots – enabling you to communicate in a limited fashion with speakers of other Latin-based languages. 

Learn survival skills, take a CPR class, learn to cook foods from scratch. (This includes practice replicating mixes such as Bisquick, muffin mixes, bread mixes and more).

Learn to garden, farm animal husbandry, auto maintenance and more. Don’t just write it off as ‘not your specialty’ – instead, become a generalist. Science fiction author Robert Heinlein once wrote, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Play games   - All sorts, but mentally challenging ones are best. Rev up your brain. Engage in challenging games of strategy by playing chess or other mentally stimulating games. Do crosswords or Suduku and word scrambles. The key here is to challenge your brain – to make it struggle a bit, so that it continues to grow.

Engage in ‘what if’ scenarios – What if there is no way to rendezvous back home with your family? Where do you go? What if you are hurt, or they are hurt, are you prepared? What can you do to prepare?
If you aren’t asking yourself these questions and more; if you aren’t thinking of ‘what if’ scenarios, then you are not prepared. Your bugout bag might be sitting at home, twenty miles away and all your plans shot to dust.

Organize yourself – Know where everything is and have a place for everything. You should know exactly how much food you have in your pantry, how much cash (or gold or silver) you have on hand, and where everything you need to survive a SHTF situation. This means keeping the house tidy, evaluating and re-evaluating the need to keep items and where to store them. Do you have a basement jumble of ‘stuff’ that you haven’t touched in years? It is now time to go through it.

Can’t park your car in the garage due to the pile of belongings inside it? Figure out what needs to go and what needs to stay and find appropriate storage solutions.
Streamline your life and possessions as much as possible.

Increase personal productivity – Increase the number of things you do each day. Make it into a challenge to see how much you can get done (and how few steps you can take to do it) on a daily basis. You can start by making a list of goals…and then get started accomplishing them.

All of these steps will help you become ‘mentally fit’. Someone who is used to working out their brain, every day, will be better prepared for the twists and turns of an unknown future. They will also be better able to make a snap decision that may very well save their lives and the lives of those that they love.

Goal #3 – Physical Readiness
Exercise daily – Whether it is walking, running, working out with weights, yoga or Pilates. Ask yourself this – how far can you walk before getting tired? How far can you ride a bicycle before reaching teh point of exhaustion?
You don’t have to be in ‘run a marathon’ physical shape. What you should do is build your endurance each day, challenging yourself to go that extra five minutes, that extra mile, or that extra five pounds of weights.
Think about creating more flexibility as well. Yoga, Pilates, or just simple stretching activities are good for this. Coax yourself off of the couch and onto a treadmill – or better yet, a walk outside. Take in the fresh air, meet your neighbors, and scope out your surroundings near and far.

Learn a martial art – Increase your chances in surviving a personal assault by taking some kind of self-defense class (even consider fencing – it is mentally challenging and requires quick movement, flexibility and spatial awareness). It will help get you into shape, teach you good body awareness, and help if you are ever in a situation where you need to defend yourself against an attacker. This makes good common sense, with or without a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation.

Learn Gun Safety - Learn how to handle a gun. I was quite young when my father taught me gun safety, around nine or ten. At fifteen, I was the only other female and the youngest of our group when I attended a combat firearms course taught by Massad Ayoob in the mid-1980s. A special note to any women who may be reading this, do not depend on someone else for this –learn how to operate and clean a handgun. Your life may depend upon it.

Stockpile Medications - Maintain your health and stockpile any needed medications. Ask your medical provider if they will issue you a second prescription that you can fill at cost. Insurance might only cover one, but a good doctor will issue two if you request it. For those with chronic conditions (high blood pressure, Type I diabetes, and any other medication-dependent conditions) it is imperative you stockpile these medications. Most insurance companies will only pay for 30 day supplies, keeping you dependent on their medical system. That system is all well and good, until it breaks down in a socioeconomic collapse, or even a basic natural disaster. Medical records could be lost, and your store of medications could quickly run out. Stockpile what you can – and if possible, keep additional prescriptions on hand to be filled at a moment’s notice if things start to go bad.

The Side Benefits
All of these goals will prepare you for TEOTWAWKI or a SHTF situation, and give you that added level of preparedness that may well make the difference between living and dying. However, they are also good common sense.

Being economically prepared also means that you are no longer a slave to debt. Instead you are being financially savvy, and that is a huge step up from the neighbor who only buys Abercrombie & Fitch, or can’t live without getting a new car lease every three years. Your life in the here and now may be simpler, but it will be far better in the long run.

When we keep ourselves mentally challenged, we are encouraging our brains to work out hard each day. There has been a great deal of research into the possibilities that keeping our minds mentally fit is just as important as keeping our bodies physically fit – and could even stave off the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

And of course, when we keep ourselves at a healthy weight, exercise and prepare our bodies, we are more flexible in combat situations or able to flee while our neighbors huff and puff along behind us. Having the presence of mind to ensure our health through necessary medications will give us the upper hand when faced with others who have chained themselves to a system that is ripe for failure.

In Summary
I hope that you also now see that ‘being prepared’ is more than just a bugout bag near your front door. It is a lifestyle, it is a frame of mind, and it is also completely achievable. Better yet, it will keep you alive…come what may.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mr. Rawles, 
Reading your blog on Thursday, I was interested in the Self-Defense Advice posts. I absolutely agree that unless you have mastered the basics and developed the muscle memory that comes with it, learning Self-Defense from a book or from a video or from an online program is difficult to near impossible. That said, if you have the muscle memory and skills that come from training for a number of years, and you have someone of equal or greater skill level to work with you, it might be possible to obtain information from a book or video, but it is important to remember that a novice cannot learn the material needed from a book. A novice or beginner needs direct, physical, in class training. Grandmaster John Pellegrini and Master Yeager are both very fond of saying, "To see is to be deceived, to feel is to believe."

I was very fortunate to train under Master Yeager (affiliated with Grandmaster Pellegrini and Combat Hapkido) when I was younger and I first trained in Tang Soo Do (for the sake of brevity consider it a variant of Tae Kwon Do), then when I was old enough I joined the Combat Hapkido classes (adult's only at the time). Here I feel it important to note that Combat Hapkido is specifically designed for the purpose of self-defense. It covers a great deal of situations from empty hand defense against grabs, holds, thrown techniques, stick, gun, knife, defense against multiple attackers, and situations where you might be incapacitated by space, where your back might literally be against a wall, where you might be in the isle of an airplane and unable to move out of the way, or in a situation where you find yourself on the ground with your attacker in a dominant position. Combat Hapkido also stresses the importance of incapacitating your attacker(s), and if you attend a seminar you will probably receive a great deal of legal information since many techniques are very damaging physically when executed at full speed. Our school also required us to learn how to defend ourselves with the Escrima stick or Arnis sticks. We would also work on drills that used a knife, or cane, or improvisational weapons (rolled up newspapers, a pen, keys, or a CD case) to defend ourselves. Combat Hapkido is very much a street oriented self-defense style designed to get you out of a confrontation as quickly and safely as possible, our school's mantra on night we trained self-defense was, "I am going home". I have attended several seminars with Grandmaster Pellegrini, and other instructors in the Combat Hapkido system and can attest to the effectiveness of the style in a self-defense situation, so if it is an option I would highly recommend without reservations at least checking out Combat Hapkido.

However, Combat Hapkido may not be a possibility for everyone, in which case my recommendation differs little from Mr. Rawles or F.P.'s, Tae Kwon Do or Tang Soo Do, are excellent traditional styles that will teach you basics on kicking and punching and will often help with strength and conditioning. However, for the complete novice without any training in self-defense or martial arts whatsoever, I would recommend finding a martial arts "dojo" of any style that does not focus on competition. If it is a competition school the chances are that it is concerned about trophies and titles and not about preparing someone to use the techniques against a determined attacker on the street who isn't going to play by tournament rules. Ask to watch classes, talk to the instructor about their school's focus, the style and purpose of the style that they train in, and I would also recommend leaning toward styles that focus on empty hand fighting rather than styles that are geared toward weapon's fighting like Kendo. And if all else fails find a boxing gym or a mixed martial arts studio.

Ultimately on the topic of self-defense is is a matter or developing the attitude and fortitude necessary to use the information that you learn. You can know all the techniques in the world, but unless you have trained yourself to the point of being able to react without thinking to threats, and to literally have the will to break and arm or a knee then all the training in the world will do you know good. This is where good instruction and good classmates come in handy, they will drill you repeatedly till you can do the techniques in your sleep, and they will provide you with the most realistic training possible so that when something does happen for real you will not be unprepared. So take your time selecting a dojo, and stay away from "belt factories", find a school that is difficult to rank in, because chances are they require the dedication necessary to make you capable of defending yourself. Regards, - Coastal Texas Prepper

Captain Rawles:
I fully agree that you can not learn self defense by reading a book or watching a video. However, when I think of paying $100 a month each for eight kids to attend a dojo I know that reader must be crestfallen. I know there is no substitute for a good instructor to give you hands on instruction, but in the past I have trained regularly at home with a partner using the following instructional dvd's:

Gracie Combatives: If you are going against a single opponent without a chance of someone else coming up and knocking you on your head, this course on the fundamentals of ground combat can't be beat. Royce and Renner Gracie have put out a first rate lesson plan with moves clearly explained and demonstrated, action drills, then they lace them together in simulated combat drills. They focus on the moves that win the highest percentage of fights and the basic moves that they say if practiced according to their plan will have you ready to defeat an unarmed and untrained street opponent of literally any size when you can pass their blue belt qualification test at the end (and I believe them). Because small guys rarely pick fights with bigger guys, and a bigger guy has a good chance of getting on top of you if the fight goes to the ground (and statistically, 80% of fights end up on the ground), the first few lessons teach you how to turn the tables from the bottom: Whether the opponent is mounted on you, or, preferably, if you are able to attain the guard position (opponent on top, but with your legs wrapped around his waist - actually a very strong position with a plethora of attack options, after practicing these moves you might actually pull an opponent on top of you if there is no other way to get him to your territory. They also offer the option to film yourself and a training partner performing the moves, send it in for evaluation, and if upon their evaluation they decide you've done them properly and in the proper  time and order they will award you a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu blue belt, without ever having to step into a dojo!) I know this sounds like a sales pitch, but I'm not affiliated with them in any way. If I could choose only two methods of self defense this would be one of them.

If I could choose only one instructional set to train with, and I only had six months to train, I would choose a system called the F.I.G.H.T. System of Haganah. I would make this my primary choice because there is no guarantee that you will never be in a situation where it is two (or more) against one, and the last thing you need is some guy to clobber you on the head as you are on the ground winning a fight with his friend. This training takes from the Israeli systems of Krav Maga, Kapap, Lotar and Saldud. Krav Maga is the best known Israeli defense system, which was developed for the IDF to defend against every day attacks by disenfranchised Palestinians who were either unarmed, or armed but too close to draw and shoot when they begin their attack. Kapap [which stands for Krav Panim El Panim which means "face to face combat"] is their knife defense. Saldud is the sport martial art. The instructor demonstrates defensive strategies and tactics for virtually any situation you are likely to encounter. He teaches stacking for multiple opponents, attack in retreat,  realistic knife defense for a few angles of attack, and more. Another thing I like about the system is it teaches you to go from any unpredictable attack situation and end up in one of a couple of basic positions that inhibit your opponent's ability to harm you while you finish him off by either a takedown or snapping his neck (this set is not recommended for those who can't control their temper -- if they are dead set on studying martial arts they should realize that the only chance they have of avoiding life in prison is to find a good instructor  and listen to him when he lectures about power and responsibility. If he doesn't give the occasional short lecture, and the attendant attention to fits of temper or signs of insecurity change schools because that one will not serve you).  In my humble and limited opinion there is no better system that, if you train with a partner, will have you up and ready quickly. Starting from zero and each training for only six months, I'd bet every time on a student of this system against an equal student of any other system (besides a ground grappler, but this system also teaches defense against the common takedowns, and as of a couple of years ago they had plans for supplemental dvd's addressing ground defense)

A nice addition to this set if you can swing it, would be Combat Survival Commando Krav Maga. The instructor Avi Monik is one tough hombre who was in the thick of it in Israel, and even tells us about his experience helping Imi Lichtenfeld create the Krav Maga system. This system has a ton of useful techniques, and even touches on some training drills. The section on Ground Defense is no joke, you'll learn a couple of techniques the Gracies won't teach you and that would get you thrown out of a tournament, but that's Krav Maga: it means Combat Contact and it's not for sport or people who can't control their tempers. There is actually way more content in this set, but I recommend the FIGHT system over it because their system is simpler to learn, more integrated, with a feel of completeness that Combat Survival's sometimes seemingly (to me) disjointed system lacks. However, this is a very close second.

Above you have my recommendations for down and dirty, basically street defense ready in six months if you practice four hours a week with a partner and a little intelligence.

I may be doing Krav Maga a disservice due to not really having a lot of experience with the system besides a few months training from the videotapes from a friend, but I will state the following: In six months I'd bet on the Krav Maga student. In six (or sixteen) years, I'd probably bet on a dedicated student of one of the more traditional martial arts. All physical, mental, and dedication attributes of the students starting equally, Tae Kwon Do is one that could have a fair chance to take on Krav Maga some time after six months, all things being equal (and depending on what a particular instructor focuses on in the first six months). Tae Kwon Do is a fighting art that doesn't mess around. It was originally developed from a need for unarmed peasants to knock mongols from their horses and kill them (hence the amazing high kicks) but it doesn't stop there. I have no videos to recommend for this art though.

Wing Chun Kung Fu is the first art Bruce Lee trained in, and in spite of his later disavowal of systems, forms (katas), and the like, in my opinion the incomparable Mr. Lee would not have achieved his legendary level without a firm foundation of thousands of hours practicing those forms he later appears to have disavowed and training on the wooden dummy. Wing Chun (Called Gangster Fist in the back alleys of Hong Kong, I'm told) is an art that was designed specifically for a small person to defeat a larger opponent, and if you are a dedicated practitioner you will succeed in that endeavor. I know of one Kickboxing champion who switched to Wing Chun after discovering the system. The sixteen disc set by Randy Williams is the best of the two I own. He demonstrates everything you'd need to know to develop proficiency in the art, starting from basic single sticky hands, to the basic forms of the art, to partner drills, etc. If I ever get the time to dedicate myself to learning a new art, Wing Chun is the art and Sifu Williams DVDs will be the ones I use.

Other noteworthy members of my instructional collection, some which I've spent a lot of time training with, and some just watching, include:

Caesar Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  After finally watching (on disc) Royce Gracie carry away the first several UFCs where the only rules were no biting and no eye gouging, period, and not being in a position to go to a dojo and learn a new art (the seemingly undefeatable art of ground grappling), this was my first set of instructional DVDs. For about a year I trained separately with two other men almost exclusively in the techniques that Caesar Gracie teaches here. If Gracie Combatives had not superceded it, this would have been up on top instead. If you can get this set used, and can't afford the $100 for Gracie Combatives, get it! It's almost as good, but without all the same moves (For example, Caesar teaches the ulma plata, a move where, from the guard position (on bottom) you use your leg to twist your opponents arm up behind his back and towards his head, which is a great move if the opportunity presents itself and you can swing it, but leaving it out of Gracie Combatives detracts nothing in my opinion)

Small Circle Jiu-Jitsu. Professor Wally Jay has modified traditional Jiu-Jitsu in a way that he says allows a small, weak person to defeat a much larger and stronger opponent (even more so than traditional Jiu-Jitsu) by focusing on the weak points of the body and the nerve centers. I actually spent a lot of time with this and I like much of his technique, but without confidence built up by years of training, the adrenaline will kick in and destroy someone's fine motor skills, making pressure point fighting impractical -- however, aside from that, there is a lot of great training, and if you come across it, you could do worse than training with these techniques.

Self Defense Encyclopedia. Sang H. Kim has put out a lot of Tae kwon do videos which I have not had the fortune to view. This one, however, is a single 36 minute video with a worthy overview of self defense techniques. If it's all you can get, and you practice these techniques, it will not be a waste of your time.

Vee Arnis Jitsu is a small set put out by Espy TV which has a dynamic instructor who teaches some realistic defenses for numerous practical street fight situations. Watching this guy inspired me to learn to flow from joint lock to joint lock.

I should add that unless some guy just made up his own style, any style of martial art has survived the test of time and can be valuable to train in. My opinions above are a result of my limited knowledge and reflect only on the video training materials I have viewed, not on any particular school or individual instructors abilities.  I hope you find some value in this. - Al in California

I just had to write a response to this letter. Martial arts training is very good for building discipline, and self confidence. Its also excellent physical training/ exercise, but lets look at this from an extreme survival situation.  empty hands wont save you every time.
Any one who is smart enough to see what the potential future of this country might be, should be willing to consider this advice: Learn how to fight with a knife.
Not one of those cheap gas station lock blades, but a real quality knife that is built to last. Your fighting knife will never need to be reloaded, it will never misfire. And unless your opponent has a loaded gun, there is no good defense against it.
I have spent more than five years in Afghanistan and Iraq, and learned some hard lessons in that time  period.  Please take my advice, and you can avoid a hard lesson in the future. - Casey B. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I noted that some letters responding to the subject of unarmed combat (self-defense advice) referred to Tae Kwon Do as a form of self defense. I have been involved in the martial arts for over 40 years and my opinion is that most modern martial arts are sport forms and not suited to real world self defense. Even mixed martial arts (MMA) forms while formidable, concentrate on fighting in the ring (or octagon) and not on the street. My current pick for self defense instruction would be Krav Maga – Israeli hand to hand combat. It has the following advantages over more traditional forms:
1.       There is no “sport version” of Krav Maga. It is strictly geared toward defeating violent attackers.
2.       Its fundamental techniques are simpler and easier to learn quickly.
3.       There are no “katas” or “forms” in Krav Maga; these are a waste of time.
4.       While grappling is taught, it is taught with aim of getting to your feet as fast as possible. Krav Maga assumes there is always more than one attacker and the last place you want to be is on the ground.
5.       Drills are intense and as realistic as possible without actually killing or maiming each other. Example: in knife defense drills a shock knife is often used where if you screw up the defense you will learn in a painful manner.
6.       Weapons defenses against stick and gun are similarly intense.
7.       There is no aversion to firearms in Krav Maga as there seems to be in many traditional martial arts. Krav Maga practitioners who are willing and capable are encouraged to learn the proper use of firearms. At higher levels, weapon retention is taught.
8.       Krav Maga is a proven self defense system and is taught in many police departments and military organizations. Why? It simply works if you are  willing to put in the sweat and effort.
9.       Krav Maga also teaches third party defense techniques – handy if you have to defend your loved ones.
10.   Krav Maga is an open system - whatever works is adopted by Krav Maga practitioners.  
So – if you have access to a Krav Maga school I would recommend it highly over other martial art forms for actual self defense. - Phil S.

A few thoughts concerning the topic of self defense advice.  First and foremost, the question of which martial art is the best is not the right question.  All of the arts have something to offer, and the one being recommended is probably the one practiced by the person recommending it.  I’m partial to the art I’ve continued to practice for almost 40 years.  Is it the best art?  It is for me.  The best one for you is one you enjoy and one in which you will continue to train.  Which brings me to the next thing. 

Martial arts skills, like firearm skills, are perishable.  If you don’t continue your training on a regular basis your skill level will degrade.   If you’re not in it for the long run you’re wasting your time.  Most martial arts systems have a long learning curve.  It’s going to take a while for you to develop real competence.  (The two arts that may have the shortest learning curve are the Israeli art of Krav Maga, and the Russian art of Systema.  I’ve never practiced either of these so I may be misinformed.)   If you’re doing it because you feel you have to, or compelling your children to do it against their wishes, you’re probably wasting your time. 

Finally I’d suggest that if you’ve gotten to the point where you are faced with a physical confrontation something has gone terribly wrong.  The most important self defense skills you can possess are situational awareness, the ability to project that self awareness and self confidence, and the self assurance necessary to walk away from a potential confrontation.  Your best outcome is always to avoid a confrontation, and awareness is a significant part of that.  It’s been said many times, because it’s true, that predators look for victims.  Don’t look like a victim.  Be aware.  To my way of thinking a good martial arts instructor—in any art—is one who stresses avoiding conflict and confrontation, and teaches you how to do that.  If you learn that, you can practice that aspect of your art every day in all aspects of your life.  And that will make it less likely that you’ll ever have to use the physical aspects of your art.  - Rick S.

Mr. Rawles:
In reference to the letter looking for an online self defense course for her children, I would like to recommend the Gracie Bullyproof program.  You can find the info at  I am in no way affiliated with the Gracie's or their course. 
I recently found out about Bullyproof while researching bullying for my church's youth group program.  Having had about six years of Jiu-Jitsu training, I could immediately see the practicality of the program.  It begins with a series of 10 games (for children ages 3-6 or 7).  These games introduce the fundamentals of Jiu-Jitsu in a fun format for kids.  For older children, they can go directly to the Jr. Combatives program.  One note:  be sure to watch the Parent Preparation course (it's free).  In it, they describe their teaching method, which I found helpful in daily life with my kids, not just with their program.
I started immediately with my three year old daughter, and she loves it.  After the first time, she has asked to play the games since.  The great part is, the Gracie's offer enough information to get started right away for free.  You can purchase the remainder either on DVD or download the videos directly from their web site.  (I found the DVDs on Amazon for less than what they offer it on their site.)
Be ready, because this isn't learning by watching;  you have to participate with your child.  Check it out!  It's proving to be a lot of fun for my daughter and we spend more time together. Thanks, - Dusty 

James Wesley:
As a master in Kung Fu and having multiple black belts in several systems, I would like to comment on the Happy Homemaker in California's question.

Ideally any system will teach the student discipline, balance, and muscle memory. The key to using them in a self defense situation is quite different than simple kick, block, punch, technique, or drill. I agree with the fact that learning online with videos by themselves will not equip the student sufficiently. They can be used to supplement training and give them more in depth understanding of the techniques they would experience they would receive under a qualified instructor. 

What is lacking (sadly in many run of the mill schools) is adding stress to their training. The ability to respond in stressful situations is the end goal for self defense. Whether learning from home or any school, the lack of putting stress on the student has resulted in what many call 'paper black belts.' Without stress, students are simply learning basic routines choreographed in a curriculum only to give them a false sense of confidence in their skills. Any skill learned must be proven on the mat.

An example of what I am talking about is an anti-abduction drill I use when working with kids. We setup the floor to have an open space of fifty feet whereby a child can use any technique they are taught to get away from their abductor. The abductor is one of the instructors or adult student who will wear full pads including head and groin protection. The abductor will then grab the child and try to drag them to the end of the fifty foot space. If a child is dragged across that line, they have failed the drill and have to do it over. We encourage the children to use full force to simulate what it would be like for real. Even with pads and protection, instructors end up with bruises at the end of the day. Training this way is just like anything in life. If you don't put the proper energy and diligence into it when practicing, more likely than not you will not have high results when you have to use the skill for real. Without actually beating the students black and blue, this is one of the safer alternatives to put the students under stress to perform.

I don't believe one system is better than the other. It is more of what a person has an affinity for. I don't feel that jumping systems for one set of techniques or another is a good idea simply because a system is built to train a person from the ground up. Learning ala carte doesn't give the student skill mastery necessary to be able to use them effectively as most skills are built upon others as the student grows. This belief comes from popular beliefs held about different systems and propagated in the mixed martial arts arenas.

As for grappling and ground fighting, many systems incorporate this training at different levels. In Tae Kwon Do, you don't learn these techniques until a much higher level do to the concept of building a strong body first as a foundation for striking, then learn to use the same techniques for grappling and take downs. A perfect example of this is a simple outside to inside middle strike. In preparation, one hand is brought up in a fist next to the ear with the elbow out while the other hand thrusts forward in a counter punch. Then the hand which is next to the ear strikes forward with the elbow brought in allowing the hand to strike with either a hammer fist, or striking with the bottom two or top two knuckles with a twist of the wrist at the finish. This same technique can be applied as a hip throw. The list goes on and on when you combine stances and transitions which are taught from the very beginning which later can be applied and figure four locks, or popular moves such as a 'guillotine'.

Now, only after studying several systems in my life did I come to this understanding that any system taught by a quality instructor will give a student the self defense skills they need. So when looking for a school, don't look for a set of techniques, look for a competent instructor. A good instructor will be able to help you reach your specific goals. Don't forget that a good school will incorporate realistic combat/self defense  exercises which will teach you to perform under stress. Most importantly, a student will only get out of it what they put into it. - Jeff B.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dear Jim,

Tae Kwon Do is a perfectly adequate martial art, and very accessible. However, it is so popular it has morphed into several markets. Make sure the school you are attending teaches fighting and self-defense. If they
say they are "non-competitive," then they are a glorified exercise program, not a martial art. Also, while all sparring is good, there's sparring intended for learning to compete, and sparring intended for learning
to disable attackers. Stress to the instructor you want to learn self defense and have no interest in competing in tournaments. If they are unwilling to accept that, they're not the right school for preppers.

Competition oriented schools will stress punching (which favors males and taller fighters) and high kicks (above the waist). Martial arts intended for defense will stress both hands and feet, low kicks and joint strikes (a damaged ankle slows or stops a pursuer, for example), and grappling with the intent of pinning or disabling. - Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor At Large)

Mr Rawles,
I would like to reply to "A Happy Homemaker in California". I know the best class for her kids. Mine are enrolled in Sierra School of Survival, run by Doug Huffman. You have the option of online or in-person class time. I have my family enrolled in both. It is a urban/wilderness survival course. It is a whole-family course from food storage, food collecting, weapons training to your children being able to free themselves from zip-ties. The first class my boys 17 and 15 went to, a very capable tiny 12 year old girl whooped them in knife drills. I watched this girl disarm attackers, scale an eight foot fence in two seconds and clear a room with a Airsoft pistol. As JWR said it is all about muscle memory, and they get drilled. - Amy M.

Mr. Rawles:
Just a brief comment concerning an item that appeared in SurvivalBlog, re: Self Defense Advice. JWR stated: "You need to physically practice, to develop muscle memory. I'd recommend a year of Tae Kwon Do to learn kicks and punches, followed by at least a year of Jiu-Jitsu, to learn grappling and falls."
Rather than take Tae Kwon Do and Jiu-Jitsu separately, why not take the Korean martial art of Hapkido, which combines elements of both systems you mention? Hapkido is a comprehensive system of hand-to-hand combat, including kicks, punches and other strikes, as well as holds, throws and joint locks, as well as ground techniques. It also has devastating cane, staff, and edged weapons methods, as well as gun and knife disarms (where applicable). Hapkido has no sporting arm; it is designed solely for real-world use. It is favored by some of the best military, law enforcement and security pros around, including U.S. Special Ops personnel. The members of the presidential guard of the Republic of Korea are required to be experts in hapkido, and all members of the South Korean armed forces take instruction it and/or Tae Kwon Do.
Many of these organizations have been taught Hapkido by the founder of Combat Hapkido, Master John Pelegrini (I am not affiliated with him in any way). Another legend in the art is Steve Sexton, the subject of a Patrick Swayze 1980s movie Road House. The movie is mostly nonsense, and Swayze isn't doing Hapkido in the movie. However, see Steve Sexton's instructional videos on YouTube or at his own web site to see a hapkido master in action. Mr. Sexton has survived hundreds of violent encounters in his long career as a security professional, he has "been there, done that" and knows what works. He is a 7th Dan in Hapkido. Jino Kang is another master you can see on You Tube. I am privileged to know Master Kang, who is one of the finest people and martial artists around, in addition to being an amazing practitioner of his art.
The only drawback to Hapkido is that it is a somewhat rare art and can be tough to find in some communities, in which case your recommendations make sense, as Jiu-Jitsu and Tae Kwon Do are more common.
I have studied hapkido for six years, and it is very effective, at least in my experience.
Most any legitimate martial art is valuable if one is diligent and trains consistently and hard - you are entirely correct that "quick fixes" don't work. You have to be willing to pay the price in hard work, pain, blood, sweat, and injuries at the dojo to become proficient. There are no shortcuts.
Perhaps the most important benefit I have derived from martial arts training is psychological - namely, the warrior mindset. As important as physical hardening, technique, skills, and practice are, they mean nothing without the will to use them when necessary. These benefits carry over to the use of weapons and arms, by the way, which is one reason martial arts are prized within the Marines and other military organizations. The martial arts foster aggressiveness, tenacity, endurance, skill, leadership, teamwork, individual initiative, and many other sought-after qualities for the individual soldier or Marine. - F.P.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
I have eight children, the oldest of whom is 15 years old, and the youngest, 6. I would love to do an at-home self defense course with all of them, but especially the teen girls. Do you have a recommendation for an internet course that isn't cheesy or a scam? - A Happy Homemaking Prepper in California

JWR Replies: You cannot learn how to fight someone by reading a book or watching a video. You need to physically practice, to develop muscle memory. I'd recommend a year of Tae Kwon Do to learn kicks and punches, followed by at least a year of Jiu-Jitsu, to learn grappling and falls.  I'm sure you recognize that we live in the modern world, so you will also need firearms training, starting when each of your children is about 12 (depending on their maturity.) The Appleseed Project's rifle range training is excellent, and available at very low cost.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I am an American in Ecuador, and I have a story to tell.  This happened in July and I should absolutely be dead. 

A little introduction to the kind of person that I am.  Growing up in Alaska and playing in the great outdoors has always been a huge part of my life.  When I was a couple of years old, my wonderful father would strap me on his back and take my sister and I fishing.  I absolutely love him for that.  The beauty and serenity of the great outdoors has always been a stress reliever for me.  My other hobbies, which of course involved the outdoors is organic gardening and gold prospecting.  My life in general has been one of a hermit.  I have lived in many states, but most of those years were in Alaska.  I always had a pretty great job as a carpet installer which allowed me to work all over the US.  One day I landed a pretty nice job in Whitehorse, Yukon Canada and decided I wanted to get out of the rat race.  I would work during the day and research on my dream destination during the evening.  Gold was skyrocketing in value the last few years and it is a passion of mine.  I had spent six weeks in Belize and Guatemala, and I really loved the tropics.  Throughout my research, I always came across Ecuador and as a very unexplored region with massive "golden" opportunities.  To top it all off, the small village of Vilcabamba is known for its fertile soil and perfect climate.  I decided this would be my mini-base from which to explore. 
I have always been a huge adventure fan and I feel like I had a past life as an explorer.  I always loved ancient history and the Inca culture especially fascinated me.  I worked continuously for eight months, enduring the insane weather of the Yukon territories to save up for my trip to Ecuador.  It was a pretty exciting day stepping on the plane to Ecuador. (Partly because I was still freezing my butt off in Whitehorse).  The only negative I could think of was having to learn another language.  I am still working on that!
Entering the third month of my trip, I had the worst day of my life and will most likely be my worst day until I die when elderly.  I had been making some multi-day trips into the jungle outside of the Amazonian town of Tena.  Before my final trip, I had completed two other trips of three days each.  I was sampling for gold by crevicing.  This particular river is very fast flowing and has eroded the area of the river all the way down to bedrock.  Gold is very heavy and will sink down to this layer of rock and it gets trapped inside the large cracks.  My job was to clean out the cracks in search of the elusive shiny stuff.  After my third trip in, I made a conclusion.  This river is very rich in gold! I managed to scrape out 2-3 grams of gold a day.  On the evening of the third day on the third trip in, I suffered through some
pretty heavy rains.  So heavy, that my special Clark's Jungle Hammock that was supposed to be torrential rain proof actually started leaking on me.  That entire night was very uncomfortable for both my little puppy and I. (I had been given a cute five month old puppy as a gift from a friend).  I was up most of the night trying to stay dry and had to get soaked rigging up a second cover over my hammock. 
The rain continued all night and the water level was quite high.  I decided to call it quits and pack up and head to my room in Tena.  In order to get to my area I was working, I had about an hour hike on a decent trail.  This area is absolutely beautiful and very pristine. I packed up and headed back up the trail.  I finally made it to the entrance of the trail system and noticed just how quiet the surrounding area was.  The entrance to the trail system is at the "Piscina" which means pool in Spanish.  It is a beautiful natural pool caused by a smaller river entering the larger one.  Usually the place can be fairly hopping, but not a soul was around due to the high water level.  I pulled out my cell phone and had no signal.  I didn't realize there was no phone signal for a couple of kilometers.  My phone's battery was dead, and I had felt downright stupid when I discovered I had forgotten to turn it off.  I knew there was a village only a few kilometers away, so I started my small journey.  About halfway to the village, I saw a couple young adults riding a single silver bike.  It had pegs, and one of the guys was standing on them. 

I greeted them and they waved back.  I asked them if they could call a taxi for me, not realizing there wasn't a signal in the area.  One of them said no signal.  I said thanks, and they both rode on ahead of me up a hill.  It was about 9:30 am at this point and I saw the same guys looking down at the river ahead of me on top of the small hill.  They waved again, and one of them pulled out his cell phone to check again and shook his head no.  They rode on ahead again around a curve in the road. This is the point where I started to feel a bit nervous.  Small alarms were setting off in my head.  I noticed on the ground there was a pretty pathetic stick, about the size of your average walking stick.  Just having the stick in hand relaxed me a bit.  There was a slight curve in the road, blocking my view ahead of me. I again saw the two guys looking down at the river.  The one who had a cell phone earlier again had his phone in his hand and nodded yes to me with a bit of excitement.  Yes, he was calling a taxi.  He had his phone to his ear as if he was calling one and they both approached me.  My puppy ("Tequila") started freaking out on me and I had never seen him act this way.  He was yipping in fright and this is where the nightmare began.
As the two guys got within five feet of me, the one without the phone charged me and closed the gap in a split second.  He was unloading punches on the right side of my face. I was completely focused on blocking as many punches as I could.  I had three things working against me at this point.  There were two of them, and one of me.  I had a 60 pound backpack completely strapped to my back, and lastly I was beyond tired from the crazy night I had.  In addition to having punches rocking my right side of my face, the second guy was working on securing my arms.  The one unloading punches managed to assist in tying up my arms and now the second guy started strangling me.  I was so focused on trying to avoid as many punches as possible, that it was almost too late before realizing I was being strangled and losing consciousness. I knew if I didn't break the strangulation, I was dead.  It isn't until a life or death situation like this that you gain tremendous strength out of adrenaline.  I managed to use every last bit of strength that I had to fling the man strangling me off.  I knocked him back a good five feet.  This is the point where the two guys realized they had to put me down or they would risk getting seen.  Between the two of them, they managed to drag me over to the edge of the cliff and heaved me off.
(An aside: As a kid, I used to spend half my life tree climbing.  When I was about 7 or 8, I was climbing a great oak tree.  I was about 60 feet up, when I slipped and fell all the way down.  As I was falling, I managed to slow my fall by grabbing branches, as well as slamming into them.  Believe it or not, I walked away from this with only cuts and bruises and not a single broken bone.  This experience I believe is what assisted me in saving my life.)
They dragged me to the cliff and threw me over.  I had a distance of about 20 feet free fall to a out jutting lip.  I slammed into it and started rolling down the very steep cliff.  As I fell, a combination of vines, tree branches and shrubs somehow slowed me down a bit.  I continued to roll, occasionally slamming into to bushes and trees but unfortunately gravity worked against me.  At this point I saw the river getting closer and closer to me.  In addition to the river, I also had a very large tree approaching.  I knew grabbing that last tree was my only hope and managed to grasp for it.  Slam!!!  With my wind completely knocked out of me I stopped the fall a mere 15 feet above the massive class 5 river below.  I later found out the total distance of this fall exceeded 100 feet. 
I laid there in disbelief marveling at being alive.  I am not a religious person, but I felt like some divine guidance had a part in keeping me alive.  The odds of surviving a serious beating and surviving the fall was nearly impossible to imagine.  Enduring this trial, I made a decision to give a little prayer of thanks to whoever was looking out for me.  After my little prayer a sudden realization hit me. My two attackers might still be above me and there is a chance they might be able to see me still alive! I then proceeded to drag myself up and to hug the side of the cliff as best as I could.  After about five minutes of catching my breath, I then heard the horrible sound.  The frantic yip of my puppy descending.  It is a sound I will remember for the rest of my life.  After a few seconds the sound ended in one final yelp and
never again did I hear my wonderful puppies yip.  My two very evil attackers threw an innocent puppy to his death while still conscious.  The realization of that hit me as hard as the actual attack.  These guys had no conscience and were absolutely evil.  Another couple of minutes passed and I saw my torn shirt get tossed over and join a pile of other bits of clothing and odds and ends. 
After about 10 minutes of hell, I decided to carefully explore area where I'd halted my fall.  There was a fairly scattered pile of rubbish laying in the area, from water bottles to torn clothing and boots.  Others had died here, most likely getting chucked down and into the river.  My survival-oriented mind told me a couple of things.  I can scrounge up some odds and ends from this pile of trash to assist in my survival.  I knew there was no hope of white water rafters coming down the river from the point I was.  The main entry into the river system was still another mile+ at the village I was originally heading to.  I thought maybe I could tie some of the torn clothing items together and hang it off the tree in case it could be seen from a distance.  I knew it was early, and due to the numerous water bottles I could
survive at least a night.  This is the point where I had a decision to make.  Stay here for the night and wait the murderers out, or go ahead and try to climb out. I couldn't even see upper part of the cliff above me, but had to make up my mind.  I knew once the adrenaline was gone, I would be hurting and had only a single eye to work with.  Time would be the enemy, so my decision was made. 
I am an experienced climber, from my boyhood tree climbing to some rock climbing.  I started out trying to scale to my left, but I came across a large area that was completely open, with absolutely nothing to grab on to.  I had no choice but head to my right.  There were numerous obstacles in my path, from massive, dense bushes, to again, large open areas.  I had to scale up and down over and under the numerous obstacles.  Throughout all of this, I was being stung by many dozens of vicious fire ants.  When you are clinging to shrubs and anything else to save your life, a little ant bite is nothing.  To top everything off, all branches and footing was completely slippery from the recent rain.  I had quite a few close calls and near death experiences, one being a situation where I slipped, fell another few feet and racked myself.  If that tree hadn't been there, I would have fallen all the way down into the river to my death.  After a good hour of scaling, I started to grow weary and desperate.  One point I reached an area that had no branches, shrubs or anything to grab onto.  A big open patch of dirt.  After a minute of resting and trying to clear my head, I noticed the area was dotted with decent sized trees and i know just how extensive the root systems of trees needed to be for survival.  I noticed a root looping out of the ground not too far away and it was this that gave me the idea.  The soil was fairly loose in the area, so I used one hand to dig as best I could.  It was actually a bit spongy and I was able to dig in fairly
deep. I found some solid roots within 6 inches and it was perfect for grabbing onto.  I could pull myself up a bit, but then what?  It was about 8 feet across to more trees and a continuation of my nightmare journey up and out. 
I knew I could continue digging for roots, but how would I know where to put my foot?  I broke off a few sticks and put them in my pocket.  I could use these sticks to mark the roots I dug out to provide some footing, albeit treacherous.  Success!  By pushing the stick into the hole, I was able to mark the very important locations for my footing.  My plan worked quite well, and I reached the area with more plant growth.  Keep in mind, I only had a single eye through out this entire climb.  I had to look over as best I could using my left eye only.  I was scaling to my right.  Another useful tactic that worked for me was grabbing the root base of even small bushes, branches etc.  I was able to continue pulling myself along on these rather small shrubs and in some cases branches.  Never, ever grab the middle, or even worse, the end of a branch.  You have your best chance of survival by grabbing towards the base of the branch.  It was a good 90 minutes or even a bit longer that I came across a miracle and my first real hope. 
A huge landslide had occurred quite some time ago and left some large trees uprooted.  I was able to use these trees like a ladder, climbing upward to victory.  I slowly climbed up, rejoicing at the sight of the road.  A sudden fear entered me, slowing down my celebration a bit.  What if my would-be murderers were still around? I made the decision to crawl into a pile of high brush that would conceal me to get an idea on the dangers of moving forward.  I rested in the same spot, unmoving, for a good 15 minutes or so.  The adrenaline was starting to wear off, and pain was returning at a very rapid rate.  As I was climbing up, I heard the sound of a motor heading from my right to my left heading to the direction of the touristy pool.  I knew wobbling back to the pool and hoping someone was there was my best hope.  I had this nagging fear that my would've murderers would be at the village I was originally heading to.  So I made up my mind and as quick as possible hobbled to the tourist pool.  I was constantly fearful or running into them, or having them sneak up behind me.  Eventually I made it to the entrance of the pool and saw the light.  A motorcycle was parked outside!  I quickened my pace and made it to the picnic area where I saw the most wonderful sight ever!  A family was having lunch.  They looked at me in shock as I approached, a bleeding mess.  I explained my situation as best I could in my broken Spanish and they quickly led me to their motorcycle, and to the rest of my life!
This ends my story.  In the end, I ended up with a massive black eye, a very sore chin, massive lacerations to my neck, a sprained leg and about 100+ ant bites, scrapes, and dozens of bruises.  Not a single broken bone throughout my body and no permanent injuries.  I made a full recovery from this physically, except for a strange flash in my right eye.  It only occurs when it is darker, but it is bearable.  For those who have helped me, physically and emotionally, a very grateful thanks.  I have dozens of other stories to tell, though none quite like this one. 

JWR Adds: A.'s story is a sharp reminder that traveling unarmed is foolhardy. As I've described before in SurvivalBlog, there are weapons options including walking sticks and folded umbrellas that can be kept close at hand in even to most legally restrictive environments. And keep in mind that the training to go with them is just as important.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I have been reading your blog on a daily basis for about a month now and I have been involved in preparing myself and my family for approximately the last year. Today I read Pat Cascio's review of the CRKT Tao Pen, a brilliant tool, and one that I am sure to purchase soon. My father had a similar pen many years ago, a basic heavy aluminum pen, which he carried wherever he went strictly for the purpose of self defense and much less for the convenience of having his own pen. My father, younger sister, and myself have all been involved in martial arts since we were young, and continue to practice today though we do not attend a specific school. As a martial artist and former boy scout I always try to be prepared, and because of where I live I always carry a knife, both a basic locking folder and a basic Swiss Army pocket knife. I carry a pen specifically for its use as a self defense tool, as opposed to using my knife because using it could land me in a lot of trouble, and it comes in handy when signing paperwork at my place of employment.

I love the idea of the Tao Pen, but I did want to focus specifically on the point you made about airline travel and other public places the pen can be taken that other self defense weapons cannot. Similarly a cane shares the same benefit. At a former dojo, we hosted a seminar from a Master who specialized in using the cane as a self defense weapon. He made it clear that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ensures that citizens who require the use of a cane cannot be denied its use. Additionally, the cane is generally not perceived as a weapon, not surprising as its use implies the individual is unlikely to be a threat due to his or her need to use a cane in the first place and so it is unlikely that it would be taken away. Image does after all play a role in whether you are assessed as a threat, and sometimes its best to appear less of a threat than you really are.

The cane as opposed to a pen when carried in public areas, airports, trains, or other types of public transportation where other self defense weapons are banned, offers advantages such as reach, weight, and versatility. The cane offers its user the same protections that the pen offers, but also keeps your assailants at a greater distance. Furthermore, the cane provides a means of hooking and tripping an assailant, and can also be used in the same manner as an escrima stick to strike, trap,
and break when properly trained in its use. While I am not really at an age where I require the use of a cane or walking stick I could still carry one if I didn't mind drawing attention to myself but my dad who is older than 40 at this point and had several pins put in his ankle to correct an injury from his service days takes his whenever he has to fly or is going to be walking around with a bunch of crowds or entering a situation where its use is possible. If a self defense weapon, that isn't a "self defense weapon" is sought after I would recommend learning to use the cane and begin carrying it with you wherever you go it is highly effective and protected by law. Best Regards, - Coastal Texas Prepper

The recent posting of Pat's Product Review: CRKT Tao Pen, brought something to mind: I too work as a Security Officer and let me say this is a great idea. As to your issue of flying without a weapon, I have been including a pair of socks and four D size batteries in my carry-on luggage for several years. I have never been stopped, or questioned about these items. However if need be, those batteries dropped into a sock could make a nice little field expedient sap. I personally have never hit myself or anyone else in the head with this improvised sap, so I can't say exactly how effective it is, but it doesn't look like it would be fun to be the recipient. - RedFiveAlpha

JWR Replies: There are a lot of similar improvised and "at hand" weapons that are relatively innocuous in appearance, depending on the circumstances. For anyone traveling by car, road flares and a medium-length Mag-Lite flashlight look innocuous. (A 3-D cell light doesn't look much like a baton (unlike the 6-cell monsters), but yet it can still be a devastating impact weapon. A lit road flare will encourage nearly any right-minded goblin to flee in fear.) For pedestrians and rail commuters, walking sticks and umbrellas (depending on the season) don't even get a second glance--especially for those of us in the graying generation. For air travelers, even a stiff pocket comb can be an effective weapon. See Larry Wick's Split Second Survival video.) For bicyclists, a frame-mounted tire pump can be effective as in impromptu baton, especially if it is a variety that can have its sliding handle lock in the closed position. Depending on the jurisdiction, bicyclists and runners can also justify carrying either "dog chaser" stick or a large container of pepper spray--such as those sold under the brand name Guard Alaska. Commercial truckers often carry a "Tire Checker" baton, which can of course serve dual purposes. And anyone that works at a retail store can often justify carrying a box cutter pocket knife. (If carried in a well-worn utilitarian leather belt pouch, then they just look like a "tool of the trade." But make sure that you also have a business card that identifies you as a "retail sales associate" or something similar. )

Monday, November 7, 2011

Long gone are the days when you could actually carry a pocket knife, or multi-tool on a commercial airline. I remember the day, when you could walk onto a plane, and if you hand a handgun (cased) just hand it to the pilot, who would secure it in the cockpit. When you got to your destination, the pilot would hand your case handgun back to you.
So-called "security" measures started sneaking up on us, at airports, ever so slowly. They started limiting us to pocket knives of a certain blade length and no longer. Then they started banning multi-tools altogether, as well as pocket knives, nail clippers and even nail files. For the most part, when you get on a plane, you are left without much in the way of a self-defense weapon of any sort.
Enter Columbia River Knife & Tool with a collaboration with my friend, Allen Elishewitz, a very talented knife maker and martial artist. I've reviewed Allen's custom knives in the past, and found them to not only be expertly crafted, but a thing of art as well. My good friend (don't tell him I called him my friend - it'll go to his head) Rod Bremer, who owns and operates CRKT. I've known Rod almost since he started CRKT and have probably reviewed more of their knives than any other writer out there. There's a reason for this. As most SurvivalBlog readers know, I look for value for my money, and quality, as well. CRKT delivers on both counts.
Rod Bremer is always on the lookout for something new, different and unique. And, he has asked me to keep my eyes open for something different in the way of knives, and I've alerted Bremer on several occasions, and CRKT picked-up those designs in a collaboration between themselves and the custom knife makers. Over the past few years, CRKT has really brought out some neat new stuff. One of the best, in my humble opinion is their collaboration between themselves and Allen Elishewitz, in the Tao Pen.
To be sure, the Tao Pen isn't just any ordinary pen. Besides being a high-quality writing instrument, it can also be used as an impact weapon, as well as a lethal weapon, in dire situations. The Tao Pen is brutally strong, as it's made out of 6061 aluminum, that is precision-machined and hard anodized - in several different colors.
The idea behind the Tao Pen, as a self-defense tool, is three-fold. At the lowest threat level, the impact crown can be used to strike an assailant on the head or hands in a raking and thrusting movement. This is the lowest level of self-defense use, and it might just end any further violence aimed at a person. The Tao Pen, in my humble opinion, as a life-long martial artist myself, is best employed in an over-head striking motion to the top of an assailant's head. This would cause considerable pain and could end a confrontation with one blow.
However, if the second level of use with the Tao Pen is called for, you can use the more pointed butt of the pen to thrust towards the pressure point behind the ears, armpit or even the throat. Be advised, that any blow to the throat can lead to death - so be careful here on the level of force you need to end an attack. One can also jab an attacker in the eyes with the Tao Pen - if they can't see you, they can't hurt you.
The third level of defense, if the attacker persists, is that the point of the pen can be used in a thrusting move for penetration into soft tissue of the throat, chest, stomach or other areas of the body. My only problem with this technique is that, the cap of the pen has to be removed to get to the point of the pen - this takes time. However, you might buy this time, if you've used the other techniques, and the assailant has broken-off the attack for a moment. My suggestion would be to have the pen's point already exposed if you feel an attack is coming - don't be caught in Condition White - where you have no idea what is going on around you. Stay in Condition Yellow - be aware of your surroundings and what is going on, so you'll be prepared should an attack happen.
Many SurvivalBlog readers live in areas where pocket knives aren't allowed to be carried. And, in some areas, the laws are written as to how long a blade length you can have on a folding knife - not good! I refuse to live in a Communist state that has these kinds of laws. I carry concealed on a daily basis, and the only time I'm out and about, without a handgun on my person, is if I'm entering a public building, like a court house - where firearms are forbidden - as well as knives. In cases like this, the Tao Pen can come in handy. I'm not aware of any place where you can't take a pen with you - even on airplanes. This is where the Tao Pen really shines - it's not only a pen, but a well-made weapon, in sheep's clothing.
I refuse to fly any more. I don't want to submit myself to having my rights violated by getting searched, or having an x-ray taken at the airport. So, I simply don't fly any more. However, were I to fly, I would have a Tao Pen in my pocket - you never know when you might need something more than your hands to stop an attack on a plane these days - every advantage is needed!
My oldest daughter works plain clothes security in a large retail store - they are not allowed to carry any weapons - not even pepper spray or handcuffs. What she does carry and use everyday is a CRKT Tao Pen - it's there for report writing, as well as use as a last-ditch self-defense impact weapon if needed. The store she works at doesn't even allow their security personnel to run after shoplifters - so many get away. However, every now and then, they have a "fighter" and must wrestle the person down if they elect to attack the security personnel. The Tao Pen is there - if needed.
Over the years, I've taught my martial arts students to use any sort of improvised weapon they can lay their hands on - and to use their hands, feet, elbows and knees as a last resort - it's better to strike someone with some sort of "weapon" in your hands, instead of empty hands - whenever possible. You'd be amazed at the many types of "weapons" my martial arts students have come up with over the years - even if one is shopping in a grocery store, there is a plethora of weapons there - not counting the knives in the kitchen cutlery aisle - there are all manner of canned fruits and veggies that can be held in your hand and used to strike an attacker with. However, if you have the Tao Pen on your person - you already have a very effective weapon to use.
The Tao Pen isn't inexpensive, then again, quality never comes cheap - it retails for $69.99--but they can often be found available for much less, through Amazon or eBay. The thing is built like a tank, so it should last your a lifetime. And, should the ink cartridge run dry, CRKT has Fisher refills for it. Check out the Tao Pen, you'll be impressed. - Pat Cascio, SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Unfortunately, mass casualty incidents have become more and more frequent both worldwide and here in the U.S.  A mass casualty incident takes on several names with suicide bombing, active shooter, and multi-prong attacks being the most common.  The primary goal of all of these incidents is the same: kill and maim as many people as possible while maximizing fear and chaos.

Before I go in to the details of this article, I need to provide a precursor.  I will be providing details on how you can respond as well as awareness to avoid and/or prevent being a victim of such an incident.  I learned these things through being involved in law enforcement for the past several years and being exposed to some top-notch training opportunities.  However, I am not revealing any kind secret or sensitive information.  Anything I am providing in this article is available through a variety of open sources, especially the Internet.  I am just putting it all in one convenient place.

Situational Awareness is the First Step
Situational awareness needs to become second nature for all of us.  When I walk into a place, especially someplace new, I look for three specific things:

  • Escape Routes
  • Improvised Weapons
  • Cover

Escape routes are first and foremost as the Nike Defense [running away] may be your best defense.  Even if you have your CCW permit and are carrying a weapon, it may be in your best interest to evacuate immediately, especially if your family is with you.  To quickly disseminate escape routes, look for exit signs, stairwells and the evacuation route signs that are commonly posted near the primary entrance/exit of most businesses and/or individual rooms in a building.

Unfortunately, even if you are a law-abiding citizen with a CCW permit, there are many places that you cannot legally carry a gun.  The other unfortunate outcome of not being allowed to be legally armed in a certain area is that attackers view these areas as “target-rich environments.”  One thing you can do is to always be on the lookout for improvised weapons.  One of my favorite improvised weapons to find when I go into a room or building is a fire extinguisher.  My motto is “spray ‘em with the white stuff and hit ‘em with the red thing.”  Also, be on the lookout for any kind of impact weapon or one that you can stab and slash with.

Non-improvised weapons that can commonly be carried where guns are not allowed are pepper spray, flashlights, especially the small metal ones that have the serrated edges on the end, and/or some kind of impact weapon such as a telescoping baton.  Another great impact weapon that has a tendency to “fly under the radar” is the travel wrench that was invented by Martial Arts expert Kelly Worden.  Edged weapons are also an option and one only needs to look at the clips that readily visible on the outside of pants pockets no matter where you go to know that there are a plethora of knives being carried every day.

Now, if you feel that you must and/or are forced to counter-attack the attacker(s), there are three things that you can do to maximize your potential for success.  First, always seek a position of advantage.  Being able to ambush your attacker from the side or behind is almost always the best approach.  Second, attack him when he is most vulnerable.  This is usually when he is reloading, trying to fix a weapon malfunction or focused on other targets away from you.  Third, there really is strength in numbers.  If there are 2 or 3 of you, have a plan ahead of time and decide what each person is going to do.  Several years ago, a man was shooting at the White House while walking down the roadway.  Two citizens who did not know each other quickly formulated a plan that one would hit the shooter high and the other one would hit him low.  When the shooter stopped to reload, they took him to the ground without being injured themselves.

The third part of situational awareness is recognizing and understanding cover.  You need to know what you can hide behind that will stop bullets and/or shrapnel.  One of the first things that many people think of as cover is doors.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  I know of several cases where law enforcement officers and civilians have been shot through doors, even the heavier doors that are on the front of houses and apartments.  Instead of just relying on a single thing, such as a door, think of layering.  You put multiple thick, heavy barriers between you and the threat.

Another advantage that cover gives you is a better platform in which you can effectively return fire if you have a gun and choose to do so.  A great place to use for cover is the corner of a hallway, a recessed doorway and/or a door frame.  Think about how these three areas in particular are constructed: usually heavy wood, steel, concrete and/or cement blocks.

Using proper techniques in the use of cover will help you to maximize the cover available in these areas.   The techniques that I am specifically talking about are slicing the pie and using dropouts.  An actual description of how these techniques are performed is beyond the scope of this article and there are multiple ways to do them.  I encourage each of you to seek quality training if you choose to carry a firearm and find one that teaches these techniques as well. 

Dealing with Suicide Bombers
Another method of attack that is common in mass casualty incidents is the suicide bomber.  These attacks are common in several parts of the world and the 9/11 attacks were a form of suicide bombing.  There was also an attack that was thwarted by the NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit in 1996.  If you want to learn more about this planned attack you can do a web search on the phrase “Jihad in Brooklyn”.

The reason I bring up suicide bombers is to try to provide each of you an awareness of some things to look for.  A few of the common traits are as follows:

  • Clothing that does not match the weather; specifically heavy coats or clothing in warm weather
  • Backpacks, satchels or other bag that seems heavy/overloaded, especially if you hear the sounds of metal clanking
  • Someone walking around in a zombie-like stare and is oblivious to what’s going on around him.  This person seems very focused, almost as if on a mission
  • A person who’s in that zombie-like state previously mentioned and they are now talking to them self in a low tone.  It’s possible that this person is building up their courage to follow through and/or repeating set prayers just before the attack
  • Someone who’s pale, sweaty or stuttering, as if they are extremely nervous
  • Someone who has covered themselves with massive amounts of cologne.  Many suicide bombers spend the night before their mission repeatedly bathing and applying cologne to prepare themselves to meet their virgins in paradise

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of traits and I encourage each of you to research this subject more.  Also, just because you see one or two of these traits in a single person, it doesn’t mean that this person is an immediate threat.  However, if I see several of these indicators in a person, I am getting my family and myself out of the area immediately.  Then I am calling 911 with a specific description of the person and his location.

When dealing with the possibility of suicide bomber attacks, you need to keep in mind that even a small backpack bomb or suicide vest can be lethal out to several hundred feet.  Knowing escape routes and how to recognize/use effective cover is a must. 

Also, remember the "Plus-1" rule when dealing with attackers in a mass casualty incident.  Where there is one, always expect there to be at least one more.  This applies to avenues of escape as well as where the primary attack occurs.  It’s not uncommon for there to be secondary attackers and/or bombs that are meant to kill and maim first responders and those who survived the initial attack.  If my family and I are in an area where an incident like this occurs, once we escape the primary area then we are getting clear of the area immediately around it, especially parking lots, as quickly as possible.  We can come back later to get our vehicle or any purchases.

The End Result
Please don’t think that I am encouraging any of you to actively respond to an attacker during such an incident.  There is a lot that could go wrong for you if you choose to do so with being shot by responding police officers if you have a gun out as the primary thing that could go bad for you quickly.  Have a plan ahead of time of what you would do and reasons that you would choose to respond during such an incident.  This includes how best to deal with law enforcement once they arrive.  Quality firearms and CCW classes should address this issue specifically.

I am, however, encouraging each of you to take an active role in your situational awareness and in preparing yourself and your family to deal with such an incident.

I pray for God’s Blessing on each and every one of you!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This is a review of considerations for civilian dress for basic self defense in most areas. Be advised some of these suggestions may be illegal where you live, follow all laws when dressing defensively.

The goal of this article is to re-think basic aspects of normal street clothes and minimize any possible negative aspects of normal street clothes for purposes of self defense.

An important consideration to this task is understanding your own personal Threat Matrix.  A Threat Matrix is the likely risks you personally have to face in your day to day life.  Are you an ordinary citizen in a middle income neighborhood?  Are you a working man or women in a rougher part of town?  A high profile business or media personality?  You will all have slightly different most likely threatening scenarios and you need to plan your wardrobe (notice the beginning of the word, it says war!) accordingly.  With the knowledge that a violent incident is likely to be launched within two seconds time, you need to build up a plan of action from that first second onwards that gives you the highest probability of survival.

A related development in this discussion in the marketplace of products catering to those interested in self-defense is the commercialization of “combat sports,” there has been a slew of clothing and other products marketed to fans of sports like “mixed martial arts.” These products have features such as short pants with special seams and moisture-wicking material designed to enhance comfort while performing these activities.   Like most “fadish” fashion accessories, most of these products have more bark then bite and brands like Tap Out and Bad Boy cater to a certain demographic that James Wesley, Rawles would surely refer to in jest as “mall ninjas.”  

Full disclaimer, the author trains in “mixed martial arts” and can wholeheartedly recommend a previous Survival Blog post on the subject.

This article is focused on non-sport clothing and gear for everyday carry.  What my fellow martial artists and I use to train and sweat in at the gym doesn’t correspond to what we would like to dress in every day.

Let's start from the bottom:

1) Socks.  Some combat veterans would argue that comfortable socks are your second most important clothing (ask your local Vietnam vet!).  These days short sports socks designed to wick moisture away are a good bet. Keeping your feet comfortable and dry aids in minimizing distractions or possible discomfort.  For those of us “very good” at cooling our bodies down with sweat black socks tend to keep the best color for the longest period of time.

2) Wear gel foot insoles in your shoes.  Gel insoles are not just for grandpa, they aid in protecting your feet and joints when walking or running long distances and can cushion the impact in the event of needing to make a large jump.  Be sure they do not slip excessively in the shoes you wear while running.

3) Shoes.  There are tons of options available for shoes but in light of needs for self-defense, I suggest the lightest non-boot steel toed shoes you can find.  Not only does this protect your foot from heavy objects, it makes a formidable self defense tool capable of stopping the largest of attackers with a minimum of effort.

4) Wear pants that provide as much leg range of motion as possible. God knows I love skinny jeans but I can't kick or knee strike in those for the life of me.  Make sure the hips have a wide range of motion. Optional pants are BDU style such as made by Blackhawk that have extra pockets, built-in tourniquets for each leg, and ultra secure waist and pockets.  Non-camouflage versions of these pants are to be preferred over military style pants in the interests of attracting the least amount of attention from onlookers in your day to day activities.

5) Just as important as your pants is your belt.  I recommend trainer or rappelling capable belts made out of strong nylon material with metal belt buckles.  I find it highly unlikely that you may have to use the belt for rappelling purposes, however if you are trained in how to safely use it the functionality is there and in an emergency the belt can be removed and the heavy metal buckles can be used as a self-defense weapon.

6) Belt mounted horizontal knife sheaf.  In this wear a legal sized foldable knife with a quick release button.  Knives with a slight serrated edge are to be preferred over simply straight knives. Depending on the type of area that you live you may want to get a carbon steel blade over a stainless steel blade.  With a magnesium based fire tool, carbon steel blades can make sparks to light kindling whereas a stainless steel blade cannot.  There are compelling reasons to consider a fixed-blade knife for this purpose, just be aware that state and local laws for the length of the blade can vary considerably or in some draconian places be outlawed completely.  

7) Keychain tools.  A bare minimum of keychain tools is a) a multitool, b) an LED flashlight.  Others may wish to add a "rape whistle."  These whistles are not just suitable in signifying an emergency, they can also initiate a signal to action or get someone's attention. A Kubotan pen or even more devious since it is not normally considered capable of being used as a weapon, the ubiquitous sharpie pen marker is made with a hard and indestructible plastic that would suit this purpose well.

8) Shirts / Hoodies.  Some of the best new technology include shirts that are "slash proof" against knives and other sharp objects. Although these products mainly protect against a slashing motion and not a stabbing attack, the level of protection this offers is better then nothing and can be instrumental in saving your life in a life and death situation. Look at for products.  I am also fond of the Condor hoodie jacket with multiple arm pockets, rear back pockets, and moisture resistant material.

9) Jacket's with lots of pockets.  The more stuff you can carry on your self without a backpack the better. This will help help you carry other items such as a) ear plugs, essential for hearing protection in a CCW or firearm situation, b) comfort items such as a power bar, eye drops, lip balm, c) Swedish fire starters, d) larger flashlight such as a Surefire Defender with the ability to temporarily blind or hurt assailants, e) a few condoms wouldn't be a bad idea, especially since they have outdoor survival potential for holding water and are highly elastic. I also like having a few essential first aid items on my person at all times.  This includes a few Tylenol or Ibuprofen, sterile gloves, antibiotic ointment, and gauze. 

10) Gloves.  Protecting your hands is extremely important.  I don’t know about you but I can only watch newsreels of WWII or Vietnam combat troops without any hand protection whatsoever with trepidation!  Slash, fire, and cut resistant gloves are essential for the modern day war fighter and those concerned with personal safety.  Consider motorcycle or Wiley gloves with plastic or carbon knuckle protectors to give your punch the extra oomph.

11) Large frame shock proof sunglasses.  Protecting your eyes in a violent situation is not optional.  When I was assaulted last year by hoodlums they started it with a mace attack to my eyes.  Wearing eye protection allowed me to continue to see and react to the situation. The brand military users seem to prefer to protect their eyes from IED blasts are by Wiley.  I wore those when I was attacked too.

12) Hat.  A good hat protects your eyes from the glare of the sun and can deflect strikes to the head.  I suggest styles a) help you blend into your local area such as sport team hats, b) aid in inconspicuously camouflaging you in the local environment.  To be inconspicuous might mean they are not in an obvious military style camouflage pattern but olive green, black, or coyote tan.

As mentioned earlier, dressing for self defense means being inconspicuous about it.  When I see someone I don’t know wearing a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or Muay Thai branded t-shirt, advertising to the world what they likely train in, I shake my head in disbelief at the bad OPSEC.  Although some would argue wearing a "Tae Kwon Do Champion" T-shirt might dissuade would be attackers from an assault the truth is all too often just the opposite of such an assumption.  An example of this is if you have ever attended a Halloween party where the kids (or adults, it's a thin line these days!) dress as a karate kid or ninja they are certain to be messed with by someone who thinks they are bigger or badder then the Karate Kid.  

This concludes my article on "rethinking" how to use everyday clothing to help you rather then hamper you, for self-defense.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dear James:

D.W. is exactly right about training for unarmed defense - at close range, the immediate empty hand response trumps even the 1.2 second draw.

I would like to plug the superb training at Target Focus Training.

Out of many years of training in different schools and courses, they are head and shoulders the most scientific, the most practical, and impart the most effectiveness in the least amount of training time.

Their training is extremely expensive, and extremely good.  (By the way, I have no financial relationship to Target Focus Training other than being a happy customer.)

Sign up for their free e-mail newsletter - it is eye-opening information.

A quick and dirty way to evaluate any school - do they teach eye gouging if your life is on the line?  I know it's a horrible thing to have to talk about - but if your life is on the line you go for the assailant's most vulnerable target if you are get the chance...

If this is not discussed, they are not serious about saving your life in a do or die situation. Regards, - OSOM


It seems the article "Fight and Survive--Warrior and Scholar" did everything but explicitly endorse Krav Maga.  I have only started following your blog recently, but one of the first things I did was start taking Krav Maga classes.  There is nothing quite like it for getting into shape and more importantly for training your body to react in stressful situations.  It is real-world self defense.  I would highly recommend joining a [Krav Maga] gym, or at least buying some DVDs.  More info can be found at, and there is a good set of Krav Maga DVDs available at

Regards, - Peter P.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I observe that a good deal of survival related information is centered around gear, politics, guns, BOVs, BOLs, BOBs, how to plant a garden on the south slope of a rocky mountain in the wintertime using solar panels to warm up the non-hybrid seeds and so on ad nauseam.  Meanwhile the most basic, primary, and must-have survival skill is largely ignored.  What I’m referring to is personal, hand to hand self-defense.  Now I know what a lot of you are thinking, especially the CCW guys and gals out there.  “If someone messes with me I’ve got a surprise for ‘em.”  Concealed carry is a wonderful thing, but it should not be the sole method of self-defense.  “Defense in depth” is a phrase you should already be familiar with and it should apply to your person as well as your home.  As gear-laden as you may be there are times and situations where we have nothing but our hands, our brains, and our warrior spirit to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  What if you’re at the pool, the beach, the gym, a bank, a Federal Courthouse or walking to your car from work?  What if someone grabs a hold of you or sucker punches you before you can draw, flick off the safety, aim and squeeze the trigger?  What if you run out of ammo or there are multiple assailants or the tool just goes click instead of bang? 

You see what I’m getting at.  Not only is the ability to defend one’s self without weapons a vital skill, but the warrior mindset that comes with training your body to defend itself carries over to every single aspect of your daily life and survival preparations.  I can only speak from my own humble perspective, which is shaped by my experiences and which for brevity’s sake I’ll describe as many, varied and hard for even me to believe in the retelling of them.  I live very close to the Texas/Mexico border and have all my life.  Street fighting here is like the national pastime and I started as a white boy in public housing and rose to the top of the local scene. For a time I dedicated my life to martial arts and I was blessed to be able to train with some of the best martial artists in the country. 

The most important thing of course is not to get into a fight in the first place, especially without a weapon.  If this happens you have failed miserably and there’s a decent chance you’ll die or maybe spend the rest of your life with an IQ of 50, both of which have happened to people I know.  A lot of avoidance is common sense stuff, i.e. don’t get drunk in public, don’t drive aggressively, and don’t escalate a minor thing by mouthing off.  Hold your damned temper in other words.  Stay away from bad scenes and bad people.  If you’re attacked unprovoked and can’t flee you better have some training and forethought.  Some of you are naturally good fighters and will stand up well to the challenge.  Most will not without training and preparation.  Even I’m in the latter category and the most highly trained people still lose fights.  There is always somebody better, luckier or more devious so start training now and get your wife, kids and your mother involved.

You won’t learn what you need to know from this article or any DVD course.  Get into a gym, dojo, dojang or boxing ring and do it yesterday.  There’s no reason not to, Karate schools and boxing gyms are in every strip mall in the country it seems.  Every martial art has something to offer and you’re best trying a couple of them and seeing what you think is most practical for your age, gender, conditioning, etc…  It’s more about the teacher than the style so ask around and find someone who teaches practical self-defense.  Interview the instructor like he’s applying for a job not the other way around.  Stay away from these new Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu dojos popping up everywhere unless they also teach a lot of striking.  Some grappling/wrestling training is important, but wrestling on the ground is only good for getting back on your feet and grabbing a weapon.  You can’t wrestle multiple opponents and you can’t wrestle even a single opponent with a knife so don’t try it.  You have to train to fight a larger stronger opponent and more than one of them so you need to approach self defense scientifically and logically.  There are no ancient Chinese secrets.  You must learn kinesiology and human anatomy and bilateral symmetry.  You have to learn to attack soft body targets with hard body weapons.  Learn how to throw a correct punch with the top of your hand in perfectly flat alignment with the top of the ulna using only your two front knuckles for impact.  Learn how to keep a fluid and moving 45 degree stance which opens up your weapons and closes off you targets.  Learn the correct parts of foot to kick with so you don’t break the darned thing.   Be practical about yourself and your limitations to begin with.  If you’re a 90 pound person with limited upper body strength then don’t waste your time training to stand and trade punches with a 250 pound gorilla.  Learn how to use your car keys or your two fingers to gouge out an eye and plan to bite carotid arteries and kick groins.  Find out what the Xiphoid Process is and how to exploit it.  You have to be serious about training and learn to weave it into your daily life. Remember that practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. 

Once you begin to do these things and learn how to better protect yourself I promise you will feel better protected than if you went out and bought ten of the latest whiz bang survival gadgets.  You will learn that the level of fitness you attain as well as the fundamental principles you learn will translate effortlessly and seamlessly into many other aspects of your life and survival preparations.  If you can shoot well then you will begin to shoot very well because shooting is a martial art in its purest sense.  The exact same principles of muscle memory, focus, elasticity, and environmental awareness apply to both shooting and fist fighting, which are essentially two versions of the same thing.  The exact same techniques you learn for unarmed self defense also translate into armed self defense with blades and blunt force weapons.  I’m a gear head like many of the rest of you and I’ve got the retreat, vehicles, larder and other things that are essential to emergency preparation, but I also have confidence that if I’m caught unawares and without all my gear, I can essentially take care of myself and that is priceless.

Now that I have hopefully convinced some of you that self defense training is a worthy addition to your survival/preparedness regimen allow me to add a few warnings.  Don’t jump into the deep end your first day.  Even though some simple and valuable things can be learned right away this is still a large undertaking and it will take time.  If you think you are going to be Bruce Lee or Matt Hughes right away you will only be disappointed and more likely to not stick with it.  Take your time, work on your basics over and over and enjoy the learning process.  Do not over train and injure yourself.  If you feel uncomfortable with the other students or the instructor at the school you chose just choose another one or get private lessons.  Oh yeah, don’t sign a contract right away for 6 months worth of lessons at some big flashy black belt factory.  The uglier and more informal a place is the more likely it is to be oriented towards practical self defense.  In fact, try boxing if you have a good gym near you.  I’ll take one good boxer over three Tae Kwon Do black belts any day because they train harder, they hit harder and they train to take hits.  I know we don’t all live in a large city with lots of options so just tailor this information to your situation.  If you are truly isolated then go ahead and get that DVD set, it’s still better than nothing.  If you have kids then by all means sign them up.  I promise you won’t regret it.  It is the discipline and self respect my martial arts training gave me that got me out of public housing as a kid and into the beautiful home I have now, no question.

As a last thought I would like to remind you that knowledge, once attained, does not rust, go rancid or get stolen. It is something which can be passed on to others, bartered, or sold in perpetuity.  Knowledge is the five loaves and two fishes in our survival pantry and with that said; Don’t you think it’s time to stock up?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Dear Editor:
That sidearm on your hip may have a lot of admirable qualities, but so long as rule of law is still in effect here in the US, there are some places you simply can’t take it. On a plane, for example, or into a Post Office (which is where folks tend to "go postal").

Further, even if you are armed, there still could be a problem with an attacker who is relatively close. Several sources assert that, at 21 feet an armed, fast-moving attacker could close the gap and fatally assault you with a knife, sword, or blunt instrument before you could deploy your holstered pistol.

But what if you could have a lethal self-defense weapon in your hands at all times, carry it anywhere, and no one would so much as raise an eyebrow? You can. The humble cane or walking stick will suit your purposes just fine.

A cane extends your reach to keep an attacker at well more than arm’s length. It’s always at hand; there is no delay in bringing it into action. A cane can trip, entangle limbs, strangle, poke, abrade, break and crush. It can also block and parry strikes from an opponent. Like a Star Trek phaser, a cane’s power is adjustable from a warning tap to bone-breaking force to a lethal blow.

The simple physics of a cane multiplies your force. Swing a cane and its middle travels faster than your hand, and the tip of the cane travels faster still. Scott Rorebeck, who wrote two excellent articles on "The Dark Side of the Stick" for The Backwoodsman magazine (March/April 2003 and May/June 2004) recounts how he saw a deer that had its legs broken by an encounter with a car. He dispatched instantly with a single blow from a walking stick. Even a brush from the speeding tip of a cane can rip open skin or tear a jugular vein.

I walk frequently with a cane or walking stick and have never been questioned or prevented from bringing it anywhere.

For some quick lessons on what to do, check out The "Walking Stick" Method of Self Defense, by H.G. Lang and Also, do a web search on “stick fighting.” Regards, - J.E.

JWR Adds: Readers may find that my 2006 SurvivalBlog article on Canes, Walking Sticks, and Umbrellas for Street Self Defense has some useful tips, legal provisos, and links.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mr. Rawles-
The recent article "A Woman's Perspective on Personal Self Defense" reminded of a situation that occurred 16 years ago. I can honestly say that the self-defense classes I took in college saved my life.

I was at our local mall with my then seven month old son. We were strolling around, looking at the decorations when I noticed a guy who I thought was following me. After a little more strolling, I went into a couple of stores. Not only was the creep still following me, I caught him rubbing himself- with his hand down his pants while he was watching me. I made eye contact with him, but he just licked his lips and kept going. I knew then that if I went out into the parking lot alone, I was not going to make it home. I was afraid to walk into a store that wasn't very crowded, or down one of those lone hallways into a bathroom.

I took a long look at the man, making sure I could describe him in detail and walked through the mall until I found a mall security guard. As soon as I approached the guard, the creep took off. I gave him a description of the guy, and the guard walked me out to my car and waited until I had loaded my son and stroller into the car before I took off. I drove around for a long time, making certain that I wasn't being followed before I went home.

That evening, I turned on the news and saw a photo of the creep who had been following me through the mall. He had followed home another woman from the mall (who also had a baby) and attacked her inside of her house. He threatened to kill the baby if she didn't cooperate. A neighbor saved her life when he broke into the house and fought her attacker.

Here's the odd thing: The creep was a convicted sexual offender. He had just been released from prison that same morning after serving 20 years for aggravated rape.

I renew my First Aid and CPR training every two years, and I also "renew" or "refresh" my self-defense training at the same time. I consider it a well spent investment of my time. - BLW

JWR Replies: I recommend much more frequent firearms practice. Even urbanites can make the time to go shooting four times a year. Get top quality training if you can afford it. If you are on a budget, the training offered by the RWVA's Appleseed Project and the Western Rifle Shooters Association are genuine bargains!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Imagine this frightening scenario and try to envision yourself here: You’re strolling through an empty parking lot at dusk thinking about the events of the day when suddenly your arm is clasped from behind and pulled forcefully downward. Your head crashes against the unforgiving concrete. Blood gushes from your nose. Before you have a moment to process anything, your attacker is now on top of you, beating your face with open fists. Gasping for air from fear and excruciating pain, you scream and slap him in an aimless attempt to shield yourself, by which time he has secured your flailing arms. His eyes are dark and empty. He barks out orders that your mind fails to decipher, while pressing the icy blade of a knife against your throat. Your shrieks of panic echo through the air, but no one seems to hear. Subdued under the weight of his body, you have nowhere else to turn. You are the next victim.


For the better part of half my life, I was to a perpetrator the perfect, unsuspecting victim. I had all the key elements for an easy take down: Though I was physically fit, I lacked situational awareness, the proper mindset and the necessary skills to defend myself in the event of an attack. Sadly to say, I embodied the average woman. And I can’t even use the excuse – I was young and stupid – for what I know today can be taught, learned and applied at any age.

If you’re fortunate enough to have been trained in the art of self defense from childhood - more power to you - but women are typically indoctrinated from youth that fighting is for men and that they lack the physical dominance and strength to defend themselves. Although this may be true to a point, personal self defense is not measured by the size of your muscles, rather possessing the proper mindset to perceive a threat, executing the proper skills to overcome the threat, and purposing – as much as it depends on you – never leave with your attacker to a secondary place, lest you become the probable “investigation site”.  If your mindset is such that physical strength matters more than these principles to ensure your safety, then you’ve missed the point. Personal self defense has little to do with strength.

Let’s face it gals (and guys) – times are rapidly changing for the worse, and as morality and the economy continue spiraling downward, so does your security. You cannot nor should you leave your safety solely to the government, local law enforcement, and - even in some cases – to your own family: You must learn, possess, and practice these self defense skills for our survival. These newly acquired skills quite possibly may also save the lives of those you cherish most. No matter how well meaning our government agencies might be, what if they simply are not there when you or your loved one is attacked?

There are three essential principles we must adhere to in a self defense situation if we expect to overcome the odds of being injured – or worse yet, killed:

Principle #1: First and foremost, we must possess the proper mindset to perceive a threat by maintaining situational awareness of our immediate surroundings. How do we do this practically? Train your mind to be proactive and aware. Study people as they’re approaching you; look at what they’re holding, how they carry themselves. Make eye contact – it demonstrates confidence – and perceive their possible intent by their response. Know what is behind you, beside you and even in front of you. Glance under, around and inside your car before entering. Never park next to a van with tinted windows or no side windows, or beside a car with suspicious characters. Notice anything out of the ordinary. Trust your intuitions. Always confirm or refute your suspicion or it “may well” become your threat! Oftentimes while driving, my husband will ask me: Without looking, what color is the car behind you? Or after passing someone in the grocery store, what was that man wearing? At times it seems somewhat silly, but I believe it’s these practice drills that may one day save my life.

Most attacks are perpetrated upon easy prey. What do I mean? To understand the tactics of the predator, you must get inside his mind: Would he prey upon someone who holds her head high, keys in hand, shoulders square, scanning the horizon for anything unusual, or one who obviously has her mind elsewhere, shuffling to her car, cell phone glued to her ear, fumbling for her keys, clueless? The first would be a fighter; the latter, a vulnerable, easy target. See it from the perpetrator’s perspective, and don’t give him what he wants.

The late Jeff Cooper, author, speaker, president and founder of The American Pistol Institute developed what he called the the “Color Code of Readiness”. The “white zone” is when someone is oblivious of his surroundings and immediate environment, typical of the one described earlier. The “yellow zone” signifies someone has situational awareness, conscious of everything within his visual reach, ready. At “orange zone”, the person is alert, perceives a threat and has already determined to act if need be. And finally, at “red zone” the person’s has actually encountered a specific threat that poses immediate consequences to his personal safety. At this point, he should fight or take flight using clear, concise verbal commands and movement. If you want to dramatically increase your odds from avoiding or evading a threat all together, you must purposely be on guard at yellow, orange and red zones, depending on the severity of the threat. Never, under any circumstance, choose to live in the “white zone” – to do so could reap severe penalties.

Being situationally aware also means making wise choices and taking extra precautions even in ordinary and oftentimes suspicious situations. In everyday practical living, be aware of the person watching your transactions – such as showing your driver’s license to the cashier while some shady character behind you gets a quick glance of all your personal information. While driving or on foot, beware of the person or car behind you. A good rule of thumb: If you’re being trailed behind after three consecutive right turns, there’s a good chance you are being followed. Do NOT go home at this point, lest you reveal your place of residence to this possible perpetrator. Drive to a well-lit, populated area like a large gas station, or better yet, the police department! Assuming you have a cell phone, you may even want to call 911 if you fear for your safety.

Principle #2: We must execute the proper skills to overcome the threat by honing some hands-on self defense techniques now.What good will it do for you to practice the first principle but at some point fail, then find yourself pinned to the ground by your attacker with a gun to your head, or – like our earlier scenario - feel the icy edge of a knife against your throat from behind. Trust me: You don’t want to end up there! This is where practical, personal defense training becomes critical. Here are a just a few suggestions:

a. Practice and become proficient with a firearm. Though the mere sight of a handgun intimidates many women, it’s a great place to start. The only way to overcome the fear of the unknown is to gain a working, practical knowledge of the thing you fear. Contrary to popular belief, guns aren’t dangerous - it’s the criminal behind them, or those who simply do not understand the basics of handgun safety. To be efficient in a deadly situation, you have to be comfortable with defending yourself, and it begins with the proper training and practice.

Get involved. Contact your local police department – like I did with my first exposure to handgun training – and inquire about any self defense training offered. Check online or your yellow book pages. Many gun stores also have an indoor shooting range for a nominal fee. In varying locales, there are outdoor shooting ranges and gun clubs available. With a little inquiry, you will find that you are not alone. There are many folks just like you with varying walks of life who share the same belief: We cannot depend on others for our safety in a world of increasing moral, social and economic decline. Self defense training starts somewhere, and the practical skills of using a handgun are just one of them.

Though a handgun can bring a sense of security to an otherwise dangerous world, it cannot always protect. What if you simply forget to carry it on your person or you cannot get to your weapon prior to the attack? What if your attacker is able to knock the gun out of your hand, or fear arrests you and you simply cannot maintain the collectiveness to shoot with precision? These are real questions that to ponder them when it happens is to risk being a victim. Though handgun training is crucial, honing other self defense techniques can be a wise backup plan.

b. Learn and master the necessary techniques while conditioning your body to subdue, or – better yet – escape from your attacker. Self defense is not for the weak and winded. In order to preserve yourself in a deadly situation, your physical body must be prepared with both the stamina and skills. Going to the gym, lifting weights, or running on a treadmill provides some physical conditioning to resist exhaustion in the heat of an attack, but even that is not enough.

Remember our earlier attack scenario? No doubt without the proper training and body conditioning – aside from Divine intervention or sheer coincidence - you will not be prepared for the sudden abuse to your body, fear will arrest you, and you will lose the battle. There are far too many victims than victors to prove this point, but it doesn’t have to end this way. You do NOT have to be the next victim and your fate is truly up to you. Instead of one day living out this frightening scenario, let’s rewind the scene: What if you knew how to break the fall when landing on the ground so that you did not injure yourself? What if you knew how to defend yourself effectively on the ground with controlled breathing techniques while countering the attack to your eventual escape? This is what body conditioning and self defense training – like martial arts – can do for you.

If you’ve never experienced a “simulated attack” including some of the pain involved with a real attack then you’ll never know what to expect. Close Combative Self Defense training provides the environment to learn and feel what it’s like in a “simulated attack”. You learn techniques to defend yourself against any punch, kick, grab or throw. If your attacker knows how to counter your defense, there is also a counter to his counter. These techniques are traditionally taught in many martial arts schools, and should be acquired by experienced, Certified Martial Arts Instructors. Jiujutsu and Judo are just two of many styles that involve grappling and ground techniques, which I believe is where self defense is most practical. Ground self defense techniques are so important for the obvious reason that the majority of all attacks end up on the ground at some point: The key is knowing what to do effectively when you’re there – and this comes through awareness and honing the techniques proficiently. As Master Larry Hartsook, Eagle Karate Systems, astutely states (and is part of our martial arts school motto): “You are as you train.”

Some other self defense techniques involve turning the tables on your attacker by giving him the opposite of what he expects. It’s called diversion. First, you fain fear and vulnerability only long enough for him to let his guard down, then with ruthless aggression you divert or attack. Your action will beat his reaction. For instance, if your attacker towers in front of you with a gun, spewing out profanity in an effort to manipulate, you hold up your hands and plead for your life. Then before he has time to blink, swiftly step to the side, blocking, and compromising the barrel of the gun with the outside of your wrist and hand. Your immediate intent is a counterattack once the gun is out of his reach or escape. Another technique is attack by combination: For instance, the attacker attempts to grab you from the front, you execute a knee strike to the groin; his hands drop while you eye gouge or throat strike him; repeat the process. Be ruthless. Be aggressive. Continue to strike. Surprise even yourself, but never give in.

There are many ways to prepare your body for action, but martial arts ranks highest in my opinion. It creates confidence and fosters self esteem in one’s ability to face fear with tenacity and resolve. It also builds endurance and tolerance of pain. I’m used to bumps, bruises and broken bones – fingers and toes, mind you, but it still hurts! When faced with your attacker, don’t be afraid of pain. Though pain may seem like your enemy now, it may one day be your friend. Learn to endure it so you can easily overcome it when it really matters most.

In addition to physical training, mental preparedness is just as important. And this leads us to our third principle: Never, under any circumstances – as much as it depends on you – leave with your attacker to a secondary place lest you become the probable “investigation site”. At some point of an attack, you may be subdued and dragged against your will to a vehicle or threatened with a weapon to drive to some remote place. Your attacker has no sympathy at this point – not that he ever did – but you are almost certain to be his next victim if you ever submit.

Many of you may remember the Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom case in Knoxville, Tennessee, where a young couple was carjacked at gunpoint, bound, and taken to a rundown rental house. One can only imagine the horror of being tortured, repeatedly raped and finally murdered. I cannot write this without feeling immense sorrow, especially when I realize these vicious, inhumane acts of violence quite possibly could have been avoided. The point is don’t ever surrender or submit – even with a gun to your head – to leaving to some other place. Your chances of survival are greater to run away while your perpetrator attempts to shoot you; or to jump out of a moving vehicle if you find yourself already in the car with your attacker.

This happened to a lady I met years ago who’d also taken the same self defense classes I had. Leaving the mall parking lot one evening, she got into her car, ready to put the key in the ignition when she felt a knife against her throat from behind. He demanded she move to the passenger’s side while he jumped into the driver’s seat and sped away. Frightened, though maintaining her initial cool, she remembered principle #3: Opening the door, she jumped out while the car was still moving! Though hospitalized with a few cuts and bruises, she is still alive today. Yes, leaping out of a moving vehicle may break bones, but submitting to the animal that has no intention of keeping you alive after he’s satisfied his primal urges, is playing with fire.

It may seem overwhelming to think that even you can learn and apply these three principals. First you need to know that physical strength is secondary to overcoming the obstacles of self defense. If you become increasingly aware of your immediate surroundings while honing the necessary self defense skills to ward off an attack, you will dramatically increase your chances of survival; and even if you are subdued, to determine now that you will never submit to your perpetrator’s attempt to take you to a to a secondary place. Though it’s good to set realistic expectations when it comes to your personal self defense, don’t let complacency keep you from doing nothing at all. Just make a commitment that you will start somewhere and follow through until your proficiency outweighs your feelings of inadequacy, fears and doubts.

- Roxanne L. Griswold, Ready Made Resources

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mr. Editor:
As a firearms instructor for more than 20 years (including concealed carry and personal protection), there are a few things to remember in an encounter:

  • "I think I'm in shock and need to go to the hospital." Often more true than you might think.
  • "I want to talk to my attorney."
  • He who calls 911 first is the "victim". Prior to the point where you will be using force against one or more opponents, you should call 911 and keep the line open. The call is recorded and can be used in your defense. If things happen too quickly to call first, call immediately after the incident and ask for help. This way you get to tell the story first.
  • Be absolutely sure of the laws involving force (lethal or non-lethal) in your state. For instance, here in Ohio lethal force may not be used to protect property, but in Texas things are much different. Know your laws.

Good luck, - LVZ in Ohio


Good Morning Jim:
A proud Ten Cent Challenge member here with another two cents.

I can't think of a much better way to lose everything one has worked and sacrificed for than to do what PJ did with his pepper spray. Hindsight being 20/20 and all my family has dealt with similar issues and thank God haven't had to confront anyone yet.

There are a lot of self defense mistakes involved but the main one he made, and the reason he is facing prosecution from an un-sympathetic D.A., is moving from the relative safety of his home to go out and meet an imagined threat.

1. The 'perps' in this case were merely crossing his un-fenced property. So what. Let them go, they are not vandals, burglars, thieves, or home invaders trying to force entry into the house. For all he knows they were off duty cops investigating a case, border patrol looking for illegals, or the Taliban smuggling drugs and armed with full auto AK4's. They might have been the local no good frat boys up to some minor nonsense but he didn't know this before setting out to protect himself from an imagined threat.

PJ made a mountain out of a mole hill and now his father may very well wind up without a caretaker just as he feared, only now HE made it happen rather than a third party with his poorly thought out plan to meet a non-threat.

2. He knew the local D.A. is "anti-self defense" and yet he moved toward two trespassers with a can of mace.

3. PJ admits he doesn't have money for an outdoor light, (which is what, like $20 on the high end?) but he has already spoken to an attorney and is now going to have to come up with money to mount his defense. Sounds like the first legal consult alone will be more than the cost of several outdoor lights. By the time this is over with, and he still has to think about the civil suit that will undoubtedly be coming, he probably could have paid for a six foot chain link fence around his property's perimeter.

4. PJ now has a police record as well as a restraining order. So much for staying off the radar.

5. Retaliation. Now everyone at the college and in the town, knows he will be away from the house and in court dealing with his assault on their comrades. (public records) How does one protect their own when they are dealing with the legal system and facing jail time?

Take care, God Bless, and although we disagree with his methods, we hope PJ will come out of this okay and the rest of your readers can learn from his mistakes. - Cactus Jim

Dear Editor:
I've been thinking of submitting this post for a while now. After reading P.J.'s post this morning I decided the time is right.

First off, let me preface this by saying I am an 18 year veteran of a major metropolitan police department here in the northeast. I have worked my entire career in the fields of narcotics/firearms and gang enforcement. I make my living by convincing people to tell me what it is not in their best interest to tell me and by convincing people to allow me to search places that it is not in their best interest to let me search. I am now a supervisor and I am training a new generation of cops to do what I do.

Secondly, as we all know, hindsight is 20/20. I have been involved in hundreds of critical incidents through the years as a participant, observer or investigator. It is easy to sit back after the fact and tell someone what they should have done. This post is not meant to be critical of P.J.'s actions in any way. I hope to use his experience as a teaching tool to show how police work, how they respond and how you should act in their presence.

Thirdly, if you are building ANFO bombs in your garage, or are converting firearms to illegal configurations or are seeking to overthrow the US Government, then you deserve to be arrested, convicted and put in jail. The advice I will provide below is meant for the average, law abiding citizen who, for whatever reason, finds him or herself dealing with law enforcement.

As in any line of work, there are a variety of personality types in policing. Each individual officer also has his own motivations and goals. You don't know if the officer you encounter is a lazy, ignorant toad who will attempt to do as little as possible or is a hard-charger looking to get assigned to an elite unit and who sees arresting you as a stepping stone in that process. But rest assured, no matter what, the officers motivation almost certainly does not involve doing what is right for you. He is going to do what is right for him. If that happens to help you, then good for you. If that happens to hurt you, then too bad. Believe me, he will not lose any sleep over it no matter how it turns out.

In most jurisdictions there are limits on when and how force, including deadly force, can be used in defense of yourself, others and property. Whether you agree with the laws in your jurisdiction or not, you should know what they are and be prepared to comply with them. [JWR Adds: And this should be a key data point in deciding where you want to live. my advice is to move to a state that has a Castle Doctrine las.] If you feel that you must act in a manner which may be outside the law, then you need to be aware that you may be arrested/indicted/tried and convicted. In my jurisdiction, a mace/pepper spray canister of the type described by PJ is illegal to possess. Note, it is not just illegal to use it, it is illegal to possess it. Period.

Also, in my jurisdiction the use of force (spraying someone with pepper spray is pretty obviously the use of force) is generally not justified to prevent or deter a trespasser.

There need to be other factors involved, but a simple act of trespassing does not warrant the use of force [in may jurisdictions].

When dealing with law enforcement, you must also remember that the officer is a person too. He may be an agent of the Government but he is not the Government itself. He is just a man like you are. He has a job that probably pays well, that provides good benefits and allows him to provide for his family. He does not want to lose this job. he does not want to be sued and lose his home. He does not want to make the wrong decision

and pick one side over another. You must remember that the two drunken college students who got sprayed with pepper spray are probably going to tell the officer a completely different story than the one PJ told them. So what are the officer's choices when he is called to respond to PJ's incident?

1) Ignore the whole incident. While this does happen, it's not likely. A weapon was involved and at least one person was injured (bodily injury = being pepper sprayed).
2) Arrest the trespasser and tell him that it serves him right. Although this may be what the officer wants to do, he can't. Remember, he doesn't want to lose his job. This frat boy is probably already spouting off about lawyers and internal affairs complaints and who his father is. The officer knows that, unless he witnessed the trespass, he can't arrest for it. (In my jurisdiction, unless I witness a minor crime such as trespass, I generally cannot make an arrest.)
3) Remember, the officer knows he must do something. He needs to find that weapon. He wants to recover it, place it into evidence and, if necessary, arrest the guy who used it. Let the court figure it out will be the officer's decision. This way, the officer is protected, which is his real motivation here. He wants to wrap this up and get on with his tour so he can go home and watch television or play with his kids. He wants to find the easiest way out that covers his ass. Plus, if the cop is a little sharper than average, he is probably thinking :"Hmmmmm, is this guy just a little overzealous or is there some reason he is so hopped up over a little drunken trespassing." So, the officer is going to talk to PJ and PJ, thinking he is doing the right thing is going to tell the officer exactly what happened. The officer is going to tell PJ that he sympathizes with him, that he would do the same thing if it was him in that situation, that at least he didn't shoot the guy, even if that's what the guy deserves. Oh and by the way, do you have any firearms?" The officer is going to ask PJ if he can come in. You know, so we can talk about this in private, so the whole neighborhood doesn't hear. Now the officer is in your house, legally. He sees a box of ammo, he sees a well stocked pantry, he sees the books on your see where this is going. That officer is going to go back to his precinct and talk and next time you call, next time you have a dispute with a trespasser, he and his will remember.

As a police officer I can give you the following advice:
1) Don't let me in your house unless I have a warrant. If I have a warrant, don't resist my entry.
2) Do not consent, in writing or verbally, to a search of your person, vehicle or residence. No matter what I promise, no matter what I threaten. If I had probable cause for a search, I'd be doing it. If I am asking for your consent, it's because I am on a fishing expedition or because I don't have probable cause yet.
3) Don't try to explain. If the police are there, something has gone wrong or something bad has happened. If something has gone wrong or something bad has happened, then you probably need a lawyer.
4) There are hundreds of petty laws I can arrest you for, If you aren't in handcuffs, don't give me a reason to put them on you. Once I arrest you, my ability to search you and your property generally increases.
5) If you are having problems with trespassers or something similar, document it. Call the police and record the time and result. Keep calling. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Contact your elected representatives (local/municipal/county etc). Find others who are having the same problem and attend community meetings. Request an appointment with the police commander or tour chief responsible for your area. Address your concerns in a professional, calm manner.
6) Even if the police are wrong and you are being victimized by them, do not make matters worse by resisting/fighting etc etc.
7) Video and audio recording devices are cheap, small and getting cheaper and smaller all the time. They come in handy.
8) The police are not your friend. The police are doing a job. The police want to go home at night. The police will do what benefits the police, not what benefits you.
9) Know the law. Know your rights. Know your lawyer's phone number. Just remember, one thing police really, really dislike is being lectured by someone claiming to know their rights, claiming to know the law. More often than not, someone who is screaming "I know my rights!" is wrong. - Tom M.

Dear Readers:
After reading what you wrote I wonder if you have expressed yourself well enough to the rest of us here. As a 22 year police officer and a fledgling prepper, I think I have a different take on this that may help you. I doubt that we are in the same state but laws may be close enough.

1. Going to trial on this is not about the truth it’s about the best presentation.

2. A good prosecutor is not going to ask why you went out of you house, he is going to paint the picture that you had some emotional need to confront/assault these 2 poor college lads.

3. When speaking to the officer being anything other than the scared victim is going to hurt your side.

4. Telling a cop to "Go get a warrant" is never a good idea. We will do our best to get one.

5. I hope you lawyer can convey how all you wanted to do was have the 2 leave and if true they didn't just keep walking but were "advancing on you." How things are worded have a huge impact.

6. Don't skimp on a cheap lawyer.

7. Get an honest lawyer who will treat the officer as a "nice young rookie" who didn't do anything wrong, but just didn't interpret the facts at the time as the really were. This gives a judge or jury the idea that they are smarter or at least have ample time to come to a better decision. - P.S.


The scenario posted by P.J. in "You Versus the Perps, their Lawyer, and the D.A." is fraught with unanswered questions.

Was the property posted "No trespassing"?

Had PJ ever brought the video evidence of previous trespassing to the police to ask for their help? Had he ever approached the Fraternities or the college administration regarding the problem? (If you had, and one of the frat boys had been busted for trespassing, now it would be their PR problem, not yours.)

I highly recommend taking the NRA home defense course in your state so that any property owner is clear on rights and responsibilities before force is used.

I did, and it really opened my eyes. Take the course, get legal advice before you take action in a non-life-threatening situation. Be clear on what your rights and responsibilities are. - J.E.


Dear JWR,

It's too bad P.J. had to experience this nightmare. If he was in Texas, this would be a no problem situation. This incident happened at night time and that makes it an automatic legal assumption that the perps are armed and dangerous; a legal shoot first and ask questions later situation. Also, with the castle doctrine here, you can't be sued for your actions.

Steve H., Houston, Texas

After reading P.J.'s article describing his encounters/situation (if the description of events is accurate), it seems that other avenues might have been explored prior to the use of the OC spray, and the approach used that night could possibly have been modified in order to give the real 'victim', P.J., some legal leverage. of course this is after the fact, and I was not there, so I do not know all of the dynamics. I some cases like this, the first one to call the law wins. A camera and lights may have benefited you more in solving this problem (if you can identify the perps, and photo them in the act, charges should be easier to pursue), just a thought. Then you could have directed the police to the exact guilty parties.

Every municipality has differing requirements for notifying people that they are trespassing on another person’s property. Some say you have to post "No Trespassing" signs so that they can be seen from all directions by any persons, prior to their actually crossing over to your property; some say you have tell (verbally or in writing) that they are not welcome on your property. Either way, posting a "No Trespassing" sign or few could have only strengthened P.J.'s position. Also, calling 911 before venturing outside, and staying on the line with the 911 call taker while the incident is unfolding could possibly also have helped (maybe).

As far as I remember, Fraternity and Sorority chapters that are on property controlled by colleges and universities have to answer to the entities for their conduct. Complaints to the school (in writing) do, sometimes, have an effect on their conduct. You can also lodge complaints with the Fraternity or Sorority national chapter offices [note: they are extremely sensitive to incidents that bring negative NEWS coverage to their organizations, so you could explore that avenue as well]. It is important that all of your official complaints be in writing, that way they are documented and, generally, taken more seriously. Also, if you have an officer or officers assigned to community issues in your area, they can be a resource (many departments do have these).

Lastly, unfortunately, in many (I think most now) states citizens, and in many cases police, are not allowed to defend property (baring arson, bombing or something similar that is possible a threat to someone’s life and safety) with deadly force or high levels of physical force. OC-spray is not considered a high level of physical force in law enforcement, but as you said, there are people and judges that will bring their own twisted morality into the equation.

American society, in general these days, has the expectation that a citizen has almost no right to defend their own property, or themselves from harm. Hopefully this will change, but do not hold your breath!

In the meantime cover yourself by consulting with a private attorney (contact your local public defender and/or legal aid society if finances are an issue). You also have the right, as a citizen, to contact and consult with your local District Attorney, Magistrate, etc. on matters such as these, before taking any action. Even will all of that, you still may have negative issues to deal with in any situation involving the use of force.

There are times when all of us would like resort to physical force to solve a problem, and in some cases that would be the most efficient solution, however with the modern legal structure and societal leanings, that puts the force user at risk of criminal and civil liability, even when they (the victim) is in the right - and even if they are law enforcement and justified in their actions.

Good luck with you situation, P.J.. Regards, - Sheep Dawg

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

With all the preparations people make for TEOTWAWKI, one skill that I've noticed that a lot of people lack is personal self defense in close quarters combat (CQC). I'm not talking about their collection of weapons only here, but rather their overall sense of what self defense really means and what it really requires. People have a in inherent duality to their nature. In normal times, nearly all humans have an aversion to killing each other. However, in a survival situation (even just a perceived survival situation) people can be exceedingly vicious if they think they have to be. This isn't news to readers of this blog, however I would like to address some of the often times overlooked realities of self defense against knives.

Knives are tools first and foremost and weapons second. Because of this, knives are abundant. For the purposes of this article, almost anything that can cut or impale you could fall into the knife category. Many people including experience martial artists, are unprepared for the realities of knife encounters. You often hear certain types of people say how they hate knives or are scared of knives. Indeed, the use of a knife brings combat to a much more personal level than do firearms. However, being scared of something will not save you from it but rather makes it your weakness.

If we find ourselves in a TEOTWAWKI situation, then you can expect to encounter rough people with ill intentions and a lot of these people are going to carry a knife of some sort. Again, knives are abundant, relatively inexpensive and easy to find, quiet and can be just as lethal as a handgun if the user is determined. You have to prepare for these types of people with these types of weapons if you really want to be prepared for a world turned on it's head with a lot of desperate people living in it. Even in TEOTWAWKI it will be hard to avoid all people no matter where you are. Remember there are over 300 million people in the US alone.

Many knife attacks occur suddenly and unexpectedly and the receiver rarely even knows a knife is involved until he feels it. That goes double for criminals that are used to using knives offensively. The knife may be huge or it may be a box cutter (the kerambit type blade also comes to mind) that you can barely see, even without attempts to conceal it. It may be a machete, or a butcher knife, a folding pocket knife or a bayonet. You have to be prepared for all of them because they all could be encountered, and truthfully, you should react in a similar manner to them all. A mantra for most professionals is "watch the hands, they can hurt you." Not bad advice, but even if the hands appear empty, don't assume anything.

The key is to learn to watch the persons movement overall. Notice the hands (and feet, and knees, etc.) of course, but you have to watch the person as a whole to be able to react soon enough. Remember, the person is attacking you, he just happens to have a knife in this case. If you learn to deal with the whole person, you will learn to take care of the problem (the person attacking) and not just the symptom (whatever he is attacking with and how they are attacking.)

The following are some strategies against edged weapons (including large knives and machetes).
The specifics are dependent upon what the attacker is armed with of course so this is a general outline. I'm not recommending a certain martial art or style as that would be a can of worms at least as big as the "what gun should I carry?" question.

You unarmed versus the knife wielding attacker:
First, this is a bad situation yes, but certainly not a hopeless one. Learning to control your inherent fear is your best defense. You must maintain enough awareness to maintain your breathing and therefore your movement. Don't just wait there in a fixed stance and make it easy for the attacker. Also, do not stare at the knife if it is displayed. You must keep an awareness of the attacker as a whole (what if he has two knives?) as well as your surroundings (what if he has friends with knives or other weapons?), what if the light is dim and you can't make out all details? Remember, you may never see the knife to begin with but you will likely be able to see the attackers silhouette. If the knife is a large one, then consider the attacker has a range advantage, but don't let that rattle you. The same goes for wicked looking or tactical type blades - don't let their appearance change your mindset, or intimidate you - the goal is the same - survival.

Don't let yourself get cornered if possible. Keep your distance and look for possible escape routes so you can run and survive or at least get time to equal or beat the odds. Indecision is your worst enemy here. However, keep in mind don't be a hero. You are a survivor, so make sure you survive - your family needs you, live to fight another day.
If the guy is on you and you must defend empty handed or if you are getting stuck, cut, caught unawares, or whatever, the response is always the same - move! Just moving can keep the blade from making too deep a cut or stab. Inches count. A serious wound is better than a perforated lung or kidney. Moving the moment the blade comes in contact, or if possible before it touches you can make all the difference even if you get a wound in the process. Naturally, if you can defend and disarm/disable the attacker without getting cut you do so and this is what you train for. Just remember that if you are cut in the process it isn't necessarily the end of the world. Freezing and not reacting however very well could be. Spontaneous movement is better than the frozen pose followed by a "what if" period of indecision. Training is your friend here, as always.

Armed with a stick or cane against a knife wielding attacker:
Of course, this depends on the stick's length. Broomstick length offers a distance advantage of course but you could defend yourself with a sturdy ink pen as well. Bats are good of course but resist the urge to go on the offensive with wild swinging attacks. If the attacker is circling or taunting you then use short jabs at his hands and face to keep him disrupted all the while maintaining your own unpredictable movement. Don't play with the guy too much though or he may yank the stick right out of your hands if he is quick or very strong. Let the guy make his move and react with your own movement. Get off the line first and attack his hands and any vulnerable areas as he commits and can't react quickly enough. Two important points here. One, you have to hit people a lot harder than you think to do real, immediately felt damage with a blunt object, even with blows to the head. Therefore, make your shots count or you may find yourself cut in spite of your having a stick weapon. Two, Remember that if you are swinging and the guy gets past that swing or you miss, then he is inside your offense and right on top of you with his knife. More training will help naturally.

Armed with your own knife against the knife wielding attacker:
This is a really dangerous situation to begin with. There are now at least two blades in play and your chances of getting cut have doubled. If you aren't trained to knife fight, then you may be better off trying to escape this situation all together. Even if you are trained, resist the urge to have a "duel" with the attacker. You can't possibly know his level of skill, speed, training, agility, tolerance of pain, etc. so don't find out the hard way. That said, you owe it to yourself to at least have some idea of how to use a knife for defense as there is hardly a household in America that doesn't have some sort of knife in it. A butcher knife can kill as easily as a high dollar fighter, so don't underestimate an attacker just because his knife isn't impressive.
If forced to knife fight, then the rules are the same, keep moving and don't be an easy target. Don't wave your knife around out in front or you may find yourself missing fingers and the knife they were holding on to. Keep your weapon out of the guys line of sight so you can use it unexpectedly if he lunges or slashes. Training is not just a good idea here but is pretty much mandatory unless you are ready to meet your maker or have a colostomy bag (possibly hard to come by in TEOTWAWKI scenarios).

Armed with a handgun versus a knife wielding attacker:
This is probably what a lot of forum readers expect to encounter I'm guessing.
First off, let me warn you off the convenient idea of simply "just shooting them," unless you catch the guy coming at you from a distance and the attack is quite obvious. If you sense trouble get your gun out ASAP and learn to do it in a smooth manner that does not attract attention. Why? Because you don't want the guy to change his attack and make the situation even more unpredictable for you. That way, you are dealing with only one problem at a time. In addition, you need to learn to draw on the move. You don't want to stand there doing only one thing at a time when trouble comes. Why? Because if the guy is younger/stronger/faster than you then you need all the advantages you can get and a moving target is hard to hit - so move. On that note, you need to learn to shoot on the move as well. The better training centers teach this and I highly suggest you learn the skill to some degree. A lot of people have an Indiana Jones type fantasy of simply shooting the knife wielding attacker nonchalantly and calling it a day. Well, it might happen that way....or you might not even get your finger on the trigger before you are impaled. As I've stated and will continue to state here, don't underestimate your attacker. A smooth, clean draw, while moving off the line of attack without making a lot of obvious movements will buy you a surprising amount of time. Standing there in a fixed weaver or isosceles stance and seeing if you can beat the clock while you draw is not going to be good enough if someone is lunging at you with a machete (or anything else for that matter). Also consider that you may score a perfect hit but the damage may not stop the attacker quickly enough to keep you from getting cut or worse. Again, don't delude yourself with any assumptions about the instant effects of a handgun. The effects are rarely as dramatic as what many people expect them to be.

If you don't train in knife defense, start training now. Buy or make yourself some good training knives and practice. If you are into martial arts, make a point to include knife defense in your training. The more realistic the trainers, the better. There is a huge psychological component to knife fighting and a specific fear many people have with respect to knives. Learning to control that fear is best done through realistic training with realistic training weapons. Many Kali and Filipino influenced martial arts use the aluminum trainers available online. They are a worthwhile investment for those serious about learning to deal effectively with blades. You don't need the fancy, curvy, fantasy looking types. Stick to the basics, they will serve you best. Even a little training is better than none. If you can't find anyone to give you instruction, there are a variety of videos and books. As someone who has trained in martial arts for 28 years, I would not make that option my first choice, but if you have no alternatives, then follow one of these and practice with another person until you gain some understanding of the dynamics involved.

Safety Proviso: Of course, I don't have to tell you but I will: Be careful training and use caution with your mock weapons. Especially protect your eyes and face when using metal training knives - accidents happen in realistic training. Pace yourself, train honestly and you will have one more feather in your preparedness cap.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

James Wesley:
On the palm stick topic -- I might add that a mountaineering carabiner -- the genuine load bearing kind, not the cheap copies -- would also work [as a self defense adjunct]. I routinely carry one -- and, when asked, say "Oh, I found that it makes carrying all those [full] plastic bags from the grocery store much easier. They don't bite into my hand." People see this as clever and never consider it has some alternative purpose [serving as a brass knuckle or palm stick type device]. And BTW, it also does make a great all purpose handle -- the weight rating is something like 4,000 pounds. Keep up the great work! - Karl B.


Here are a few more references for the Koppo stick:

The Martialist on Pocket Sticks
The Martialist on Koppo Wraps
The Martialist - More Comments on Koppo Wraps
The FMA Blog on Pasaks

BTW, with a koppo, I recommend that you put both loose ends of the cord through the loop going in opposite directions to better hide the knot.

I carry my LED "flashlight" in a belt sheath on my weak side for easy access. - Rick H.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The palm stick, sometimes called a Yawara stick, or Kubotan, is an excellent and highly effective tool for self-defense. The tactical folding knife and the concealed pistol typically dominate the self-defense culture, especially when weapons are discussed. However, the palm stick has several advantages and applications that firearms and knives cannot match.

Typically a palm stick measure around six inches in length, and about a half inch in diameter. Six inches is a good length, in my opinion. This combines concealment with a length that is still practical for offensive moves. A half inch may be a tad skinny, but too much thicker and one starts to get into concealment issues again, as well as weight and gripping ability. On the whole, I have found that the commercial off-the-shelf palm stick to be sufficient for the average citizen.

Since most of our palm sticks are going to be key chains, it pays to be aware of everything else that is in your pocket, and not to keep your keys in a place that is not readily accessible. One of the things I do is typically grab onto the kubotan and hold onto it loosely if I think there may be any sort of confrontation. It’s important to practice pulling the stick from its place of concealment, and practice with a purpose.

By "practice with a purpose", I mean simply bring the palm stick out and strike a target, real or imaginary. Do it with speed. One of the things I do, with a palm stick or folding knife, is bring it out and thrust it straight towards the chin area of an imagined opponent. This is good in either provoking a flinch, or hitting a target that can cause a great deal of pain, allowing for a successful escape.

Once you have practiced drawing the palm stick, it’s time to practice swinging it, stick part first. Obviously, its length precludes one from swinging the palm stick like a baton. However, there are a great variety of other techniques that are surprisingly effective.

For starters, grip the stick in the center, with a closed fist wrapped all the way around, making sure that there is a sufficient striking surface sticking out of both sides of the fist. One can grip off-center, and use the palm stick in a similar fashion as a knife, but that is not a technique I would recommend for beginners.

Next, practice a hammerfist technique, with the outside portion of your fist, or the part made up by the pinky finger. This is quite possibly one of the simplest strikes to learn and practice. Practice an overhead strike, a backhand hammerfist, a low hammerfist, and a palm-up hammer fist. Try striking in a variety of angles, with the hand in different positions. The length and hardness of the palm stick will turn this simple technique into one that becomes devastating when applied to nearly any part of the body. Imagine slipping this hammerfist into someone’s ribs, head, cheek, neck, hand, forearm, and you begin to see my point. It is a simple way to cause pain and damage to an attacker.

The next thing to do is practice with the inside of the fist, the part along the thumb. This strike may take a little more practice and finesse, but it also can be quicker, and just as painful. Practice strikes from top, bottom, left and right. Aim high, low, face, stomach, ribs, anywhere you can think of to strike. Later on, I will list some of my favorite targets. The forward portion of the fist also requires a little bit of coordination. If you find yourself having trouble, try to imagine a hook punch or a haymaker punch. In essence, this is what you are throwing, only not with the knuckles of the fist. Also, do not neglect a palm up strike.

Now, you already have formed a fist. Might as well take advantage of the fist and the natural inclination to punch someone, and practice a few jabs and crosses, with the palm stick. Punching with the palm stick has many advantages over having an empty hand. For starters, there is a little added weight to the hand, making a punch have more impact. Secondly, if the punch itself misses, the palm stick may graze the person, or the keys that may be attached to the stick. Last, and probably most important, the palm stick provides a measure of support and reinforcement for the knuckles and finger bones in the fist. Many people can easily break their own bones by punching someone in the head, which is an instinctive place to punch. A palm stick is one method of reinforcing these fragile bones and preventing serious injury.

Once again, a boxer’s delivery will help the most for punching. If you have no prior experience, simply try to remember a couple things. Always keep your hands up, bring your hands right back to your guard, and don’t rear back for the punch. Most likely if you have internet access, you can find a couple videos that can get you started on learning how to punch properly. At the end of this article I will provide a list of references for more information on punching and weapons for self-defense.
Now, in the case of a key-chain palm stick, the keys themselves have tremendous advantage over just a palm stick without keys. Keys are sharp, somewhat heavy, and can be swung by that palm stick with a decent amount of force. Practice swinging the keys in an X-pattern, known as ikis in Kali. Swing diagonally from upper right, then from upper left. The goal is to not only hit the person, but also convince them that you mean business so that they may run off and find easier prey. If they decide to rush in, imagine the consequence of taking a set of keys to the face. The psychological impact alone of having sharp metal objects swung at one’s face cannot be overlooked. If the attacker puts their hands up in attempt to ward off an attack, then any low-line targets such as the thigh, knee, or groin are open for some other attack.

A couple of years ago, a friend introduced the idea of holding the keys and swinging the palm stick. This is not my favorite method, but that does not mean it should not be trained. The advantages of this are that the palm stick typically has more solid mass than the keys, and can be swing a little harder due to leverage. I think that the keys are a bit trickier to get a grip on, but that may be my personal opinion. In any event, swinging the palm stick can be used just like swinging the keys. Describe an X pattern in the air in front of you. Ideally, this X should start at about the enemy’s collar bone, and cross about the solar plexus.

Care must be taking to balance striking power with control. Take care not to over-swing, and over-commit. W. Hock Hocheim describes the “window of combat”, a rectangle loosely bordered by mid thigh, to about shoulder height, no wider than the shoulders. If your swings start getting outside of this window, you are over-swinging, and opening yourself up to an enemy being able to defeat your defenses.

The palm stick can also be applied to a variety of pain points. The middle of the back of the hand, the notch at the bottom of the throat, under the nose, under the mouth, and behind the ear are some of the ones that come to mind immediately. A quick strike to the carotid artery, no matter how lightly, can have literally stunning results on an opponent. A strike to the temple can be potentially fatal, as can a strike to the trachea.

Using a palm stick, it can be possibly to break an attacker’s collarbone with a hammerfist attack. If you are grabbed, in addition to a releasing technique, a quick strike to either the offending limb or the person’s solar plexus will loosen their grip, making it easier to get away.

If you double the person over, a hammerfist to the back of the neck can have potentially fatal consequences, and will at least leave the attacker stunned and lying on the ground, unable to continue the attack. The palm stick can be thrust into either the groin or the solar plexus, with devastatingly painful results. [JWR Adds: In many law enforcement circles, baton strikes to the neck or head are considered potentially lethal, and reserved only for life-threatening situations that are comparable to firing a gun.] If the groin seems protected, the inside of the leg can be struck, as this can strike or come close to striking the femoral artery, a painful and potentially stunning blow. If the hands are high, aim for the ribs with either the inside or outside edge of the hammerfist. Ribs are always a good target for causing maximum pain and damage.

If you know any throws or takedowns, the palm stick can assist. One simple judo throw, o-soto gari, calls for the fist to apply pressure to the collarbone. That same pressure can be applied with the palm stick, to the collarbone or the throat area, making this simple foot sweep even more effective.

Against edged weapons, the palm stick has somewhat less usefulness. As always, the best chance of success against and edged weapon is to catch the weapon bearing limb, preferably after hitting the attacker with a chair, brick, or a car. Once you have caught the weapon bearing limb, you can beat on the wrist, the fragile bones of the hand, the elbow, and the inside of the biceps. All areas are vulnerable to strikes, and have numerous pain receptors. In the case of the inside of the biceps, there is a nerve cluster there that tends to send a shooting pain down the arm, sometimes making it go numb. It is not a strike to count on, but a possible and worthwhile target nevertheless.

A palm stick can be homemade quite easily. One merely has to select a thickness of dowel, preferable at least a half inch thick, measure out enough so that there is a striking surface of at least a quarter inch on each side of the fist, and cut it to fit. Added options include placing a weight in the center of the stick, drilling two holes in the stick and tying a cord [to make it into a Koppo stick], or making one end slightly sharper, or at least more pointed than the other.

At least one martial art that I’ve seen, Goju-Ryu Karate, which is an Okinawan style, has a kata that uses two palm sticks, although they are considerably smaller than what I’ve described here. Many Filipino systems cover the palm stick, if not in precise detail.

Many tactical folding knives can double as a palm stick, if the user is not able to deploy the blade right away. However, some State [and local] laws may prohibit carry of knives [or even palm sticks]. But keep in mind that several tactical flashlights, such as Surefire [and Mini-MagLite], can be used as a palm stick. Surefire and a couple other companies make flashlights with beveled front edges, specifically for this purpose. [JWR Adds: These are generally legal to carry. Ditto for beefy pens that run the gamut from the very inexpensive Cold Steel Pocket Shark to the very expensive Mont Blanc Meisterstuck. If you opt for the Pocket Shark (which, BTW, is what I carry when I fly on commercial airplane flights), then I recommend scraping off all of the pen's exterior markings. Be sure to consult the laws for wherever you will travel!]

There is a great deal of martial arts instructional material available on sites like YouTube if one does a simple search. [JWR Adds: Try doing searches at YouTube that include "palm stick ", "Kubotan", and even the very common misspelling: "Kubaton".] Much of my own instruction has come from W. Hock Hocheim, and guru Marc Halleck. Both individuals have first rate instructional DVDs.

In summary, the palm stick is an overlooked and easily used piece of self-defense equipment. Useful for striking and grappling, it can cause a great deal of pain with a reduced risk to the user. It’s easily concealed, easily employed. Overlooked by the majority of law enforcement officers and civilians alike, it can be hidden in plain sight. You’ll never have to leave it in your house while you go to the bank or a school board meeting. With a little elbow grease one can be custom made for every member of the family. The principles of the palm stick can be taught to children and adults. It is not a tool that depends on the use of the right hand or left hand. It may not have the range of some other more conventional self-defense tools, but it is much more versatile than the average citizen realizes.

About the Author: Kent is an 11-year veteran of the U.S. Army's Infantry Corps, now serving his third tour in Iraq. He has been studying Filipino Martial Arts (Kali, Arnis, and Silat), for about seven years. In addition, he has been training in various military and civilian combatives programs since joining the Army. He has taught combatives and martial arts to his fellow soldiers, and civilians.

JWR Adds: A full line of inexpensive yet very well-made high impact American-made plastic palm sticks is available from Alpha Innovations. They also make "Letter Openers", and other other high density injection-molded goodies. Their "Stylus Kubaton" variant is ideal for anyone that carries a touchscreen PDA or an iPhone. (Consult your local laws before ordering!) OBTW, they also make some amazing custom products and sell training DVDs.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I will start this article with a question: What are you doing on a regular basis (i.e. daily) to prepare yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and most of all, spiritually, to not just survive, but prevail during a violent encounter?

This is a question I ask myself on a regular basis.  I have also posed this same question to my hand-to-hand combat students.

There is no question that interpersonal violence will be fact of life for many in a post-societal collapse.  But, it is a reality in today’s society that many people (i.e. sheeple) choose to ignore.

Depending on your source for statistics, the number of instances of violent crime reported [in the US] in 2008 was more than 5,000,000.  Yes, there are six zeros after that 5!  That figure astounds and saddens me, but doesn't surprise me.

My full-time job is a police officer with a suburb of a major city that regularly meets or exceeds the number of violent acts from the previous year.  These acts of violence are prominently displayed in local newspapers and on radio and television.  Yet, for many, they refuse to accept this reality and thus refuse to prepare to for it.

Security Awareness

Security awareness needs to be a way of life for all of us because prevention is the best defense.  Now, I am not talking about paranoia, but preparation and practice.  One such example of being security minded is locking your doors once you are in your house or car.  How many times have you seen someone get into their car and talk on their cell phone or do some other task while being totally oblivious to what's going around them?  Maybe you have even done this yourself.

Speaking of locking your doors, how many of you consistently make sure that the door from the garage to your house is always locked?  I can't even begin to guess the number of burglaries that I have been on where the offender(s) found the victim's garage door open and the offender(s) then gained entry into the home via the unlocked man door.  As part of your daily OPSEC for your residence, make sure the garage door is shut and the man door is locked.

Let's take the last scenario one step further.  Just this past summer I saw several incidents in which the offender(s) pushed the center of the garage door back far enough to reach the disconnect cord for the electric garage door.  Once the opener is disconnected from the chain, they quietly lifted the garage door and stole valuable items from the garage.  Also, in one case they gained entry into the home because the man door to the garage from the house was unlocked.

A personal security tool that you can purchase for yourself and keep on you at all times is a small LED flashlight.  Streamlight, Surefire and Dorcy are just three of the quality brands that are out there.  You want a small metal one that’s not much longer than the width your hand so I am not talking about one of those big, 3 or 5 “D” cell Mag-Lites, even though those are good options for your vehicle and home. Having a flashlight already in your hand allows you to check in and around your car when you’re in dark parking lots or garages and performing OPSEC on your personal property.  You can also shine this light in the eyes of a potential assailant, causing temporary blurred vision and disorientation.  If you choose to get a flashlight, try to get one with a tail-activation switch option and that has replacement batteries and keep at least two extra batteries with you at all times.  Most people, even cops, forget to charge their lights and the lights don’t work when they need them the most.  Also, consider getting a light with the scalloped or serrated edges around the lens area.  It makes a great impact weapon should you need it.

Entire chapters can be written on personal and property security awareness.  But, suffice it say, security awareness needs to become a way life because, especially post-WTSHTF, your life may literally depend on it.

Hand-to-Hand Combat

As I mentioned earlier in the article, I am a Hand-to-Hand (H2H) practitioner and instructor.  My primary form is an Israeli H2H system that I have taught to both civilian and law enforcement.  I also teach security awareness and self defense seminars for women in the community.

I have studied several different styles of martial arts over the past 25+ years and have seen many drawbacks of traditional systems.  Most traditional systems are heavy on tradition but light in the area of combat applications.  This fact is well known and recently there has been a plethora of "new" systems out there that refer to themselves as reality-based martial arts (RBMA).

I personally believe that everyone should learn how to defend themselves with both empty hands and weapons.  Even now, depending on the size of your area, the number of officers on duty, and some other factors, our response to your 911 call could be anywhere from two minutes to an hour.  Even if our response is only two minutes, when fighting for your life that may seem like an hour.  Post-WTSHTF, police response may be non-existent. 

RBMAs have tried to step in and market themselves as the "answer" for your H2H needs.  But, there are some serious dangers involved that you need to be aware of.  First, it seems like most of the instructors or "creators" of these systems are former Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Special Forces etc.  Please take the time to learn the instructors true credentials, check references, and observe a few classes.  Also, be wary of the home study courses that claim that you will be able to defeat any attacker in seconds if you just purchase their products.

Another type of RBMA is one that relies heavily on ground fighting, such as Gracie or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or on joint locks, such as traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Aikido, or some blend thereof.  The goal of these systems, especially in the beginning stages, is to learn to defeat and/or control another one-on-one.  There are too many variables in a violent encounter to justify spending time wrapped up tight with just one person. 

You should train in a system that teaches you to defend common attacks, encourages aggression when appropriate, limits ground work at the beginning levels, works in multiple attacker scenarios on a regular basis and teaches empty hand vs. weapons at the lower levels.  Some of the styles I mentioned do these same things but normally at a much higher rank level which translates to much longer training time.  At our school, you will see all of the above within the first 6 months of training.  I am not saying the system I train/teach in has all of the answers because such a system doesn't exist.  However, one comment I hear consistently is how the participant felt they were ready to defend themselves after the first lesson. This was how our system was designed and is why the Israeli military and police use it to this day.

I know that there are many proponents out there that believe mixed martial arts (MMA), judo, boxing, Thai boxing and wrestling are competent RBMAs, and they are for what they are designed for.  However, these specific RBMAs are limited by rules, safety equipment, number of opponents (which there is only 1), and lack of non-personal weapons.  Don’t get me wrong, these specific systems bring a lot of good training characteristics to the party and I have participated in several of them myself.  But, the point is that you need to train beyond the limitations of these systems. 

Now, some personal thoughts about your family members training in H2H.  If your budget allows, I believe each household member should receive competent H2H training.  Encourage your spouse/significant other to train but, when it comes to your children, especially younger ones, I think you should mandate it.  My wife has attended a womens' self defense seminar and we recently discussed her attending another one.  While she doesn't take formal classes on a regular basis, she likes Tae Bo so I encourage it.  Tae Bo done on a regular basis provides her with physical fitness, is fun for her, and allows her to practice some of the moves she had learned.

As far as children are concerned, I believe that quality self-defense training is a must.  According to a study I read a couple of years ago, there are more than 250,000 assaults in public schools every year.  Based on my experience, I believe that the actual number for this is about 25-50% higher.  I know many schools don't report these incidents because they believe that it will reflect negatively on them.  I know that the training my children have been through has greatly helped them.  One of my children has had issues with a bully and has had to defend himself from an attack where the other child was choking him with both hands on his throat.  This same child was also saved from a nasty fall on concrete when he executed a perfect break fall after he accidentally tripped over an object when playing.  A real good resource for preparing your children is the DVD titled, "I Am Not a Target".  We found a copy of it at our local library and I highly recommend it.

One key aspect of having you and your family trained in a quality H2H system is that everyone should be able to recognize pre-assault indicators.  This way, if one of you doesn’t see the indicators, someone else in your family may and then they warn the rest of the family and/or attack the assailants.  This especially vital in a post-WTSHTF period when it might just be your family against "the world".

Don't Cheat Fair!

I have a specific saying and philosophy when it comes to self-defense: The only fair fight is one that I win!  I have applied this saying to both my personal and professional life.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned not just surviving, but prevailing during a violent encounter.  You must think and train with the understanding that you may be the only thing standing between your loved ones and their potential pain, suffering, or even death. 

What are you willing to do to stop a violent assault against you or loved one?  Are you willing to scratch, bite, or dig your thumb in someone's eye?  Are you willing to hit someone with a lamp, run them over with a car, plunge a butcher knife into them, or stab them in the neck with a pen?

These are questions you must ask yourself ahead of time and be mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually prepared to do what is necessary to prevail.

One aspect of not cheating fair is using your environment.  Take a look around at the area you are in right now.  What items do you see that you could defend yourself or someone else with?  What could become a barrier between you and your attacker?  What could you strike or stab an attacker with?  Is there anything that you could throw on an attacker that could cause pain, like hot coffee?  If you are at home, how quickly could you get to a firearm should you have picked one out for home defense?  Knowing your environment is a security awareness concept that you should be practicing constantly.

Now, let's talk about biting and eye gouging.  How many of you have ever been bitten real hard?  I have and it was one of my children.  She was 18 months old and she sunk her teeth into my neck the first time I started to dunk her into a pool.  She bit me so hard that my girlfriend had to physically pry open her jaws to get her off of me.  I remember two distinct things: first, it was some of the worst pain I had ever experienced and secondly, it didn't bleed.  I know some people are scared that by biting another person, they may contract some kind of disease.  Yes, that is a valid concern.  But if you’re dead because you wouldn't cheat fair, does it really matter?  Also, if the attacker intends the attack to be a sexual assault, what are you most likely to get a disease from, the completed sexual assault or some blood from a bite?  When you bite, go for a major muscle area like the chest, shoulders, side of the neck, back and thighs.  Try to stay away from appendages such as fingers, ears, nose, or genitalia.  These areas, while being fairly sensitive, will separate from the body with enough force, which helps the attacker with the pain factor, and these areas have the tendency to bleed a lot more.  Why take the chance with blood if we don't have to?

As soon as you mention sticking your thumbs in someone’s eyes, you see people’s demeanor change.  It’s a gross thought that cause many to squirm.  When my wife was in her self defense class and the instructors mentioned eye gouges, she looked at me and said that she couldn’t think of any reason why she would do something like that to another person.  I quickly asked her what she would do if someone suddenly grabbed our son from her.  I immediate saw a physical change in her demeanor.  Her eyebrows furled, her shoulders raised and her fists clenched.  She just visualized a reason she absolutely would stick her thumb in someone’s eye.  A good account of someone doing this very thing in combat can be found in the book, “House to House”, which is about the Battle of Fallujah.

Weaponry Options

No discussion about interpersonal combat would be complete without talking about weapons.  I will focus this part on weapons that are used for close quarters combat.  These weapons will be classified as blunt, chemical sprays, edged, electric discharge, firearms (mainly handguns) and improvised weapons.

When I think of blunt weapons, I think of any object that can be swung fast and hard as to cause blunt force trauma.  Some common blunt weapons are ball bats, sticks, telescoping batons (ASP, Monodnock), kubotans and hammers.  If you carry or intend to carry a blunt weapon for personal defense, you need to practice regularly by striking fairly stiff objects such as a heavy bag or rolled-up carpet.  Many people are surprised how a blunt weapon feels in their hands when striking a hard object.  I know of several instances of where officers have had their batons go flying out of their hands when they have struck a suspect.

Chemical sprays seem to be a choice that many people, especially females, make.  Actually many chemical spray products are specifically marketed to women as self-defense tool.  Chemical sprays have their place but some things to keep in mind is that it is not instantly incapacitating to an attacker, you will likely be contaminated as well and you need to practice regularly to know your particular spray device works.  Several manufacturers sell an inert spray that can be used for training or you can buy a second can of the same kind so you can practice. 

Use of edged weapons is an area that I know I am weak in, and I continue to learn more about. It is also an area filled with many options, misconceptions and a plethora of experts.  Edged weapons are scary to face and personally, when empty-handed, I would rather be facing a pistol or other weapon in close quarters than an edged weapon.  When learning about edged weapons, make sure that sure that your training includes defense against and the offensive use of the weapon.  Spyderco and other manufactures make training knives that look just like a regular one but that don’t have a sharpened blade.  The first time that I trained with this knife it was intimidating to me because it looked so real.  Another training option I recommend is to take several pieces of heavy duty cardboard and glue them one on top of the other until it’s about 4-5” thick.  Now you can slash and stab the cardboard several times.  This will help you to decide if the knife you have chosen will work with the impact of combat.  Once you find one that can hold up to this kind of training and not tear your hand up, keep that one for training and buy a second one for everyday carry.

In my humble opinion, electric discharge devices such as stun guns, Tasers, and similar devices are the most over-hyped and misunderstood self-defense options out there.  Based on my experience and research, these devices don’t always work when needed and, especially stun guns don’t instantly incapacitate an attacker.  Add to the fact that these devices are battery and technologically-dependant, and I believe that they are very impractical, especially in a post-WTSHTF world.

For many people, the firearms option is an absolute must.  If you choose this option then you need to constantly train with it. Shooting is a very perishable skill.  Also, shooting a few rounds into a paper bull’s eye target is not training, it just helps you to get familiar with the gun. Try to shoot human silhouette or similar paper targets.  Shooting competitions, especially the IDPA, are good ways to work on your skills under the stress of competition.  Your training should include force-on-force scenario training with Airsoft, Simunitions, and/or paint ball.  Airsoft guns are a great basic training options for children and others that are not familiar with and/or are initially scared of guns.  You can work on grip, sight picture, sight alignment, trigger control, basic marksmanship and gun safety. While nothing replaces shooting real ammo, air-soft is a great option that I use myself at a mere fraction of the cost of shooting real ammo and I can do it in my home. Just make sure to get a CO2 or green gas operated gun and not a spring operated one that has to be cocked with every round.  You need to train different retention options with your gun, whether the gun is deployed or still in the holster.  You also need to train to shoot one handed with either hand and train to use your flashlight and your gun together for low-light situations.

I kind of glossed over improvised weapons in the “don’t cheat fair” section.  Use your environment to your advantage.  I have seen this done in both bar fights and by women who have defended themselves from domestic assaults.  I have seen people who have been hit with pool sticks, bottles, mugs, pool balls, 2x4s, chairs, and cooking pans.  In many cases the injuries were quite severe.  Some other options are pens, vehicles, screwdrivers, garden implements and household brooms or mops.  One great option is a small fire extinguisher that you keep in your home and/or vehicle.  These are fairly small and lightweight so they can be wielded as an effective impact weapon plus if you spray it an attackers face, it is hard for them to breath and see.  An option I hear touted a lot is putting a key between your fingers and strike that way.  For this to work, you must hit a vital area, which is very hard to do in a dynamic situation.  Plus, I believe that the impact will cause significant enough damage to your hand at impact that they keys will leave your hand and cause severe injury to you.  To see so for yourself, fold a towel over several times and put it over a small pillow that’s lying in the floor.  Now, slowly strike downwards into the towel/pillow combination.  I think you will find that just a soft strike like this can sting your hand.  A good option for your keys is keep a small chain or lanyard on it, like the ones that you see people wear around their necks.  In a self-defense situation, grab the lanyard and swing your keys in a circular motion towards the attacker like a mid-evil flail.  When choosing a lanyard or similar option, get one with as much metal as possible, especially the clip that attaches to the keys.  You want something that will hold up to the impact that will result from a strike.

A common theme for weapons is that you need to regularly train with whatever options you choose.  Consistent, quality training is must that will pay off when you need it.  Do a lot of research and networking to find competent instructors and training venues.  While nothing can equal the stress of actual combat, choose training options/venues that put you under stress, which helps prepare you for combat.  This is why force-on-force training is so critical.

Your Mind: Your Greatest Resource

Preparing your mind and your body for the realities of combat should be a constant journey, not a destination.  For average citizen, seriously hurting or killing another person is not a normal behavior and I thank God for this.  This is why we are able to have a somewhat “civilized “ society.

The military and law enforcement know that this is true and that’s why measures are taken in training to help soldiers and police officers overcome this normal resistance.  Humanoid 3-D targets, human-shaped steel or paper targets, video simulators and force-on-force training are just some of the methods used to help remove hesitation/resistance.

Along with previous mentioned training methods, you should be thinking of scenarios in your mind and how you would react to them.  We do this in law enforcement all of the time.  But, it is no longer referred to as “if/when” thinking.  This method is now referred to as “when this happens, this is what I will do”.  When you leave “if” in the equation, there seems to be room for doubt and many people are still surprised when a violent event occurs.  By using the “when/what” method of preparation, you are more likely to be surprised when a violent event doesn’t occur.

Also, you need to be thinking outside the box.  An example of such thinking is feigning compliance should someone get the drop on you and has a temporary advantage over you.  This is especially true in sexual assault situations.  Feigning compliance may cause the offender to lower his guard enough for you to launch a counter attack or it may cause him to take his eye off you long enough for you to grab an improvised weapon.  Another example in the area of sexual assault is that the attacker may get close enough for you to suddenly bite or scream into his ear.  How many of you have picked up a child who suddenly screams just about the time you get the child to your face level? It scares the heck out of you.  Screaming when in close to an attacker is a great force multiplier.

There are some great training books that will help you to prepare for the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of being involved in combat.  First and foremost on the list is the Bible.  One Biblical example is David, who was a great warrior who served God and protected His people.  The books "On Combat" , "On Killing" and “Sharpening the Warriors Edge ” are also great resources.

But, even with everything I have said previously, I believe that the strength to defend yourself or a loved shouldn’t come from just you because the human is a created being and thus has limitations.  The strength that you should rely on comes from God and the hope we have in His Son, Jesus, as our risen Lord and Savior.  As a Christian, I pray for God’s strength and protection on a regular basis and I hope that you do too.

I pray that this article is useful and informative to you.  I pray for our nation and our leaders.  I also pray for God’s blessing and protection for each of you and your families.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mr. Rawles,

I have black belts in two different styles of martial arts: Okinawan Karate and a form of Japanese Jiu-jitsu. I can say without a doubt though that studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu/Grappling and Mixed Martial Arts (grappling and kickboxing) is bar none the best and most effective way to learn to fight and made my previous training largely irrelevant.

You don't need years to become effective in grappling styles as I've seen people with six months of training take down and submit much larger opponents who were fighting as hard as they could. In addition to this, the focus on competitive training builds reflexes, muscle, cardio endurance and the ability to take hits and keep on going. Martial arts that do not use competition and real life sparring to practice are not more deadly. Only those arts that actively encourage students to spar against others who are forcefully resisting have the proven track record of dealing with hostile opponents. In one former school we routinely had people from other styles come in to prove their mettle against our "sport" and our instructor would just make them spar a middle-rank student first and get beat. There was no need for a senior student or instructor to even get involved. Often these other systems do not focus on real-life sparring and as a result the students are out of shape, cannot react to spontaneous and unpredictable situations quickly, nor can they take a punch and have the wits about them to follow-up and take the fight back to the attacker. Virtually all of these other styles of fighting were helpless once they landed on the ground where a large number of fights eventually wind up.

It is my experience that those who do not train "sport" martial arts will quickly lose their steam inside of two minutes with a grappler and easily be submitted. Those that have never taken a strong hook to the jaw, likewise. Sport fighting is the most exhausting and intense activity most people will ever do. Whether it's grappling, judo, boxing, kickboxing or wrestling. Indeed, the most dangerous fighters I've sparred with have always been grapplers. Not only is grappling effective in dealing with single opponents, but it also trains you stay on your feet against multiples so you can make a quick exit if you need to. Not just this, but the cardio it develops means you can outrun your attackers which is the best way to deal with multiple opponents. As a side benefit, grappling arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be done until a very old age as they are low impact. One of the founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Helio Gracie, practiced grappling well into his 90s.

Those interested in learning martial arts should stick to those styles that have a proven track record in full-contact and full-resistance competitions and should not discount such activity as "sport." Those who dismiss a martial art because because it is a "sport" have obviously never been in a full-contact sparring match and wouldn't stand a chance against a trained fighter with rules or not. Yes, this is a challenge to anyone reading this who thinks otherwise to go into a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Mixed Martial Arts school and prove what you're doing works better. I've yet to run across a "secret" martial art that can stand up to cold hard empirical testing that a cage fighter or experienced grappler can bring to the equation. - Craig


While I agree with Joe G. on the utility of learning to fight empty handed, his reasoning is wrong. Humans have never relied upon empty handed technique unless they were forced to do so by a government who outlawed weapons. Unless you are caught off guard in the shower, I can't foresee a set of circumstances that wouldn't allow you to have an effective weapon of some kind. A bow, spear, club or knife is always going to be available, because you can make them. In fact, I can't imagine most of your readers ever running completely out of ammunition for their main battery.

I congratulate Joe on defeating 10 opponents with only his bare hands, but I question whether this would have worked against armed or resolved enemies. I too have studied several martial arts over the last 35 years and hold advanced belts in 3 of them, but I consider an unarmed fight against 10 resolved opponents pretty much hopeless. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan together probably couldn't survive a street fight against 10 armed opponents. Don't get caught up in martial arts myths.

Combat skills are magnified by the weapon you use. A highly skilled man with pistol can beat several unskilled opponents because he has a tool capable of killing at a distance very quickly. His ability to shoot fast and accurately can really make a difference. Skill with a knife magnifies the natural lethality of the knife and allows you to kill very quickly. Any decent weapon can kill or disable in less than a second. Skill at punching, kicking and grappling don't make nearly as big a difference because they are not lethal enough to put someone away before their buddy can kill you. Killing with bare hands is much slower and even a skilled opponent can be overwhelmed by multiple opponents. Unarmed combat should always be considered a last resort. Any weapon is better than none at all, so why would anyone choose to fight unarmed?

Don't lose sight of the real threats. Real combat is not a schoolhouse brawl where you can yell "uncle" and they will let you up. Real combat lasts seconds, not minutes. It's fast and brutal and usually ends with somebody dying. Close combat is about killing your opponents as quickly as possible so you can escape. Always use the best weapon you can get.

About choosing a martial art: The newest ones that have been proven in combat are the only ones worth learning, period. All martial arts start out as a simple set of combat skills and progress into a martial art and then to a "martial way" like Tai Chi which is nothing more than a dance. This is because most of the instructors in the chain of tradition have never been in combat and don't fully understand the moves they are teaching. All martial arts lose effectiveness as they age. Many martial arts still teach techniques for unhorsing an enemy or bypassing a specific type of armor. When is the last time you have seen a street thug riding a horse? The oldest martial arts have become insanely ineffective and contain moves that will get you killed in real combat. Don't waste your money and time. Learn a new, effective set of combat techniques like the "Marine Corps Martial Arts Program" or army "Combatives" instead. You can learn enough technique to be very effective in less than 40 hours instruction. Any martial art that requires "years of dedication" to learn is bull. Here is an excellent book to guide your training program.

BTW, all the effective systems teach you how to use common weapons like clubs and knives (and bayonets sometimes). Learn those skills first!. Regards, - JIR


In response to Joe G.’s article on taking up martial arts as a dedicated study to prepare for the possibility of life without the security of conventional weapons in the event that “the ammunition dwindles and ability to procure or even manufacture more is gone” I disagree that effort put forth in martial arts training is well spent in a survival context.

If one has a passion for martial arts of course nothing is wrong with working hard at it. It will keep you in great shape and it will give you a tremendous edge in bare handed combat . However, beyond a basic self defense course (in the event you are caught off guard or are dumb enough to be found unarmed) I don’t see the practicality of it in a true survival scenario.

The reason I say this is because of the amount of time needed maintain proficiency in any martial art. (daily practice as I understand it) I had a friend that had a passion for Wing Chun Kung Fu, a very practical and effective street fighting martial art. He worked very hard at it and was deadly with bare hands. In the space of a year or so he had occasion to use it several times. He was able to knock out a guy with a single blow that smashed a bottle over his head in a bar one night, another time he quickly put a road raged aggressor on the ground in a parking lot. Still, a single bullet fired from a gun in the hand of an 80 year old woman with one eye would have defeated him.

Rather than practicing a martial art daily to prepare for the possibility that ammo runs out I just stock pile ammo and experiment with making more from scratch. Reloading [used cartridge] primers is possible now. (See the YouTube videos on the subject.)

I also disagree with the opinion that “A true effective martial art will be just as effective for the 18 year old as well as the 80 year old.” That statement is not believable by anyone that is actually 45 years old let alone 80. I’m only 41 but I’ve got arthritis in both knees, one elbow and my strong side shoulder. I’d need a baseball bat at least to handle most 18 year old aggressors.

Still, there is nothing wrong with martial arts if that’s your passion. Just don’t count on it as a serious self defense system in a survival scenario. - Mark S.

Mr. Rawles:
I just have a couple of comments to add to Joe G’s.

There are various pros and cons to choosing a self-defense system versus a martial art, most notably, how long you must train before the method you choose is combat applicable. For example, Krav Maga, the official combat method of the Israeli military was designed and refined over time to bring recruits up to a functional skill level quickly and with a minimum of training time, whereas in some traditional martial arts it can take years just to make the art functional under survival stress.

The right self-defense system will not limit your responses to a few situations, and will typically have the added benefit of enabling one to use their skills in self-defense fairly quickly compared to a more traditional martial art, typically. However, many traditional martial arts can have benefits far beyond simple self-defense. Many comprehensive martial arts, such as the Russian art Systema, or Japanese Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu impart skills and strategies for avoiding danger in the environment and survival under myriad circumstances, though some may find the Buddhist symbolism imbedded in the Bujinkan not to their liking. Systema’s philosophical basis is rooted in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which some may find more palatable.

The best way to choose, however, is to take stock in what your needs really are. What threats are you likely to face? There’s an excellent book written by Maj. Forrest E. Morgan called “Living the Martial Way” that has an excellent chapter on evaluating what your needs are in relation to your body type, and how to evaluate a combat system’s doctrine, strategy, and tactics in relation to your needs. I believe this book has been mentioned previously in your blog, and I can’t recommend it enough to your readers.

I would offer my own recommendations, in addition to Joe G.’s Chinese Kuntao, to include Russian Systema or SAMBO (the military version, not the civilian sport version), Filipino Martial Arts as taught and practiced by the Dog Brothers , Krav Maga (see and, Sammy Franco’s Contemporary Fighting Arts (his stuff is pretty brutal and he tends to use a lot of profanity in his materials, so be forewarned), and Combat Hapkido. This list is hardly comprehensive, but it provides, I think, a good overview of what’s out there and what might be useful to the community.

I would like to conclude by reiterating Joe’s advice to avoid martial sports in favor of non-competitive martial arts. This, regrettably, applies to most commercially taught martial arts in the United States, at least. Most commercial Ju Jitsu, Karate, Tae Kwon Do/Tang Soo Do, and Kung Fu schools tend to be geared towards competition first, and street survival as an afterthought, if it’s given any consideration at all, so let the buyer beware! - Scott B.

Being fairly new to preparedness (only a year or two under my belt) I vary rarely write in, especially to criticize another contributor, but when I read empty handed survival it threw me for a loop. This article is very misleading when it comes to self defense in a survival situation. The author claims that for thousands of years man was able to flourish with open handed survival. This is just pure fluff and a very narrow view of developing societies throughout history. Every single culture had a method of hand fighting, that much is true, but every society also equipped their warriors with the absolute best weaponry available. Spears, clubs, swords, bow and arrow, what have you. Even in the far east where a lot of today's popular "martial arts" were developed they still carried swords, learned to shoot a bow and arrow, and developed some of the most intricate and deadly weaponry in ancient times.

Now I don't want to come off as totally against training to fight with your hands but I think that it needs to be approached with a realistic understanding of what hand fighting is all about. First off, the same guy that will tell you that your handgun is only used to fight your way back to your rifle will tell you how he can easily disarm three opponents barehanded without breaking a sweat. Fighting empty handed is the absolute last resort. If anyone, and I mean anyone, tries to fight an armed opponent empty handed then there is an almost absolute possibility that they will either be killed or severely wounded (a slow death in a TEOTWAWKI situation). There is a reason that every army that has ever walked the face of the earth carried weapons. The samurai didn't dominate Japan for as long as they did because they were good hand fighters. Second off, this authors encounter with 10 assailants reads like a Bruce Lee movie. There's no way on Gods green earth that any fighting "system" can teach anyone to handle 10 dedicated assailants at once. Oh sure, if they conveniently come at you one at a time then everything is gravy, but if even two of them decide to do a good old fashioned "prison rush" then its curtains (especially if you are unarmed).

There are hundreds of martial arts out there today and all of them have their merits, they will teach grace and balance, discipline, and will get everybody reasonably fit. However, for true self defense (I am no expert but I have been raised in a military family by WWII, Korea, and Vietnam vets and served in the Marines myself) things need to be simple, very quick, and effective (meaning deadly). Everybody should learn how to throw a couple basic of hand, elbow, knee, and foot strikes and practice them over and over and over again because in a high stress situation our bodies will revert to muscle memory and those of us without 30 years experience are going to be out of luck trying to remember the flying dragon claw in the moment. The truth is: A) there is no way to practice a real life or death struggle, they just happen, B) Winning is all about the will to win and the ability to adapt to given situations, C) If you have to fight remember to strike the soft parts of the body (face, neck, abdomen to include the low back, and the groin) and try to break the joints (specifically the knees and feet so you can run away) either by striking (kicking the knee, stomping the foot) or simply bending them the wrong way as aggressively as possible, and D) Learn to use weapons of opportunity (rocks, sticks, dirt, water, whatever) and learn to strike suddenly so that surprise is on your side.

I apologize that this is such a long response but it is unconscionable that someone would urge the use of empty handed methods or defense in a survival situation, especially those taught in a dojo (even one where the instructors work for free, you will probably get what you pay for). We must think as realistically as possible and look at what people in other times like we are headed for did. They fought dirty, they attacked from ambush, they never let their opponent get in the first blow, and they were always armed. I have included two links to a web page that should be required reading for anyone interested in hand to hand fighting, with or without weapons.

All in all its is best to forget choke holds, arm bars, ground fighting, flying kicks (any kick above waist high for that matter), and anything else you have seen on television or in the safety of a dojo or ring. Fighting in the situation we are addressing is about one thing only: kill or be killed. God help you if you are completely empty handed in a survival situation. Remember that even though King David had God on his side he still to weapons of war (that he was familiar with) into battle with Goliath.
No Nonsense Self Defense - Traditional Martial Arts and No Nonsense Self Defense - Knife Lies

Regards, - Doug W.

There is great merit in learning martial arts for self-defense as proposed by Joe G. However, time and budget constraints, competing self-reliance skills to learn, and age/health issues, many prep-minded folks may feel overwhelmed with the commitment required to master such a demanding discipline to be reasonably competent

As a second-best method, I would recommend preppers to learn effective pressure points and breaking away techniques. Regardless of one's strength or size, the use of tried and true techniques against various parts of the human anatomy will prove effective against the strongest foe. Anyone can learn a dozen or so simple tricks to use, and with less practice required
than a dedicated martial arts course.

Sincerely, - Ron S., in New York

Friday, February 26, 2010

We are living in a time when all has gone wrong and societies rules and conventions no longer hold true.  People no longer respect the sanctity of life and well established morals and honor have become a thing of the past. You have prepared yourself and your family to survive without the amenities we have grown accustomed.  You have enough food, a secure shelter, preparations for clean water and enough fuel and weapons.  At least you thought you did.

As the evaporation of society continues and you begin to watch your inventory of all things drastically shrink you begin to ask, what now.  Are you ready to venture outside your secure compound to begin to trade to rebuild your supplies?  Are you prepared to handle life without the security of your conventional weapons?  As the ammunition dwindles and ability to procure or even manufacture more is gone, what will you do?  Have you prepared yourself, let alone the others in your group, to handle yourself empty handed?

For thousands of years man was able to survive and even flourish with the empty hand.  The idea of training to protect yourself with your hands alone is frightening to many.  Being within arm’s reach of your adversary is not a comfortable situation to the untrained.  To the trained it can actually increase your confidence.  The internal knowledge to know you are ready and willing to confront any adversary, armed or unarmed, without hesitation or fear can have a calming effect.  To know you have control and are not a victim will bring a sense of security.

The question of what course of empty hand survival you should study becomes key.  Should you study self-defense or a true martial art?  Self-defense can prepare you for certain situations, but will limit you to those specific scenarios.  A true martial art will prepare you for ever changing scenarios.  Your course of empty hand survival is now narrowed to a true martial art.  The next and critical question is which of the hundreds of styles will be most effective?  The answer to this question will be answered differently by individual instructors.  You must be prepared to ask the important questions and filter out the hype and flash of the various styles.  As you begin your journey into the realm of the martial arts it will seem overwhelming.  Do you study Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Filipino or many of the other country specific styles?  As you begin your search, any style that includes the word sport can immediately be discarded.  We are not looking to win a tournament and have a big trophy on the mantel. We are not looking to get our name in the paper or become the next internet YouTube sensation.  You can never forget the ultimate goal is empty hand survival

Many may have family or friends already studying in the martial arts.  Ask them for their opinions.  Begin visiting the various schools within your locality.  Ask if you can observe and possibly participate in a couple classes (without cost).  If the answer is no, then move on, do not waste any more time.  Any serious martial arts instructor should have no problem with such a request.  Ask for a brief history of the style and the instructors.  Ask if any of the instructors have had to utilize their skills in a real world situation. It is important to know how long the instructors have been teaching and how long it took them to reach the rank they currently hold.  If they claim to be a master and have only studied the art for a few years, thank them for their time and move on to the next style on your list.  To be a true master you have to put a many years of hard work and dedication.  Inquire as to what the progression schedules to advance and the associated fees.  Again, if the progression schedule is too fast and the fees increase as you move up or you must pay to advance, move on. 

You need to find the instructor that is doing this because of their love of the art and desire to pass on the knowledge they have learned.  They are doing this to honor their previous instructors and prepare their students for real life situation.  Those types of instructors are out there, they do exist.  Trust your instincts and first impressions of both the instructor and the school. Do not be taken in by the amount of stuff in the school.  They may have pictures, weapons and the latest training equipment strewn throughout the school.  There are many out there who will tell you what you want to here in order to take your money.  You must be able to see through the words get down to reality of the style.  Ask them if this is a style they can do effectively as they get older.  A true effective martial art will be just as effective for the 18 year old as well as the 80 year old.  When you find the instructor that will allow you to both watch and participate you are closer to the martial art of your choice.  Watch before participating as you can miss many things while participating.  Observe not only the higher ranking students, but the beginners as well.  Are the movements natural to the way one would normally move?  Are the beginners learning the foundations of the system or being thrown in with the higher ranking students?  As with all things, without a strong foundation it will fail.  You must be prepared to ask the question what if.  Your goal is to survive a real world situation.  Does the style effectively move from one technique to the next?  One cannot assume to have a single strike that will stop every attacker.  There are those out there that will require an extended serious of strikes to subdue or eliminate.  If you cannot effectively transition to the next technique in your arsenal, you will fail.

I began my martial arts study at the age of 10.  I was introduced to the arts through my father whom felt it was in mine and my brother’s best interest to begin our training.  For the past 30+ years I have been training in the very effective and deadly art of Chinese Kuntao.  The system has been passed down in its purest form throughout the years.  I have had the fortune of participating and seeing many other styles during my martial arts journey.  I have yet to see one that I feel would be more effective.  Many of the questions that were posed above have led me to continue my training in Kuntao.  The school I trained in is a non-profit organization and the school I operate charges no fee.  My instructors and I do this for the love of the art.  We are not motivated to promote or carry large numbers of students to generate income.  We do not have to be politically correct for fear of losing students.  The art is presented as it was passed down from generation to generation.  It is a pure fighting art. We do not participate in tournaments and you will not find us on the Internet.  The instructors throughout the years have had to utilize their skills in real life situations.  It works and works effectively.  The movements are natural and the Grandmaster and Masters of the system are just as effective in their advancing years as are those of the younger black belts.  The art has become second nature.  No thought is required when a situation arises nor do you have wonder what to do when the first tactic fails.  You move on immediately until you determine the fight is over.  The situation does not end when your opponent has said enough; you end the fight when you decide.  You must neutralize the attacker, this may be giving yourself the ability to flee or it may be terminating your aggressor.  You will learn how to read the situation and apply the necessary force without thinking. 

In my youth I had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or at least my aggressors thought so.  I found myself in a not so friendly place late at night in a large city.  I could see the situation was deteriorating quickly as the number of aggressors increased from 4 to 10.  Through my training I became calm and collected, I knew they could not all attack at once.  I positioned myself with my back against a wall, thus protecting my flank.  My attackers could only come in from the front and sides.   The first attacker struck quickly with a blow to my face.  I then proceeded to subdue him while the second attacker came in from the right.  As your peripheral vision will allow you to react quicker, I immediately recognized the threat and eliminated it.  As the remainder of the aggressors realized I was not going to be a victim they broke off their attack before they ended up like their comrades.  As you have read, I did not come out without a scratch, but my training caused me not to panic and continue.  The training allowed my fight or flight instinct to be fight.

 The task of selecting the most practical school may seem overwhelming and impossible.  However, if you take the emotion out of your search and be analytical and methodical you will find the system that best suits empty hand survival.  Do not wait, the longer you train the more effective you will become.  You will be able to make your art part of your life and everyday routine.  You will become an empty hand survivalist.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Throughout the history of warfare there has always been an elite class of warriors that had superior skills, tactics, and mindset. Today is no different with each branch of our military having its own elite class of warriors.
When you think of a Navy SEAL, Delta, Pararescue, Green Beret (Special Forces or "SF") , or Force Recon, what phrases run through your head? “Intense”, “Highly disciplined”, “Extremely fit”, “Tough”, “Well rounded”, “Deadly”. These are well-deserved phrases that can be applied to any of the special forces operators and the foundation that built these men is their mindset and training.
I think all of us would love to have a team of loyal operators when the SHTF , but unless you are lucky enough to have them in your group, you’ll have to settle for the next best thing… Yourself.
“Imitation is the highest form of flattery”
If we are preparing ourselves for some level of combat, whether it is in defense of our family, our community, our freedom, or ourselves why not follow the path of the elite? If your training takes you to the highest levels, then you’ll be ready for the high demand events, and have the ability to breeze through less demanding situations. However, with so many other preparations and demands on life, your training schedule needs to be able to fit your lifestyle. Like most of you, I work 40+ hours a week, have a family, and we are trying to prepare our own five-acre homestead. What follows is my training regimen that takes into account limited training time, resources, and funds.
Step 1: Think like a Ranger
Tenacity is like a muscle, with exercise it can be built, but it will take desire and hard work. Every day you are faced with decisions and situations where you can take the easy path or “tough it out”, choose the latter. Discipline can conquer laziness, so set attainable goals, stay focused, and take it one step at a time when it gets tough. Steps 2 & 3 will really help you forge this trait.
Time: 0    
Cost: Some discomfort
Step 2: Work out like a Navy SEAL
Like the spec ops community, pursuit of fitness should be at the top of your training priorities. It takes hard work to get in shape and little time to lose the gains, so a majority of your training time should be allotted to this category. There is an efficient, high yield program being used by the spec ops community and fortunately it is available to everyone. The name is CrossFit.
CrossFit is an online fitness community where a different workout is posted on the web site on a daily basis. In their own words:

“CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.
Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.”

Focusing on functional fitness, CrossFit will develop the ten general physical skills of cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. By the nature of the varying workouts, you will be forced to work on your
To say that CrossFit workouts are challenging, would be an understatement. I have seen the WODs (Workout Of the Day) punish military, police, and college athletes alike, so start out slow and build consistency before intensity. The mental and physical demands of the workouts will also put you on the fast track to developing a tenacious mindset.
Other side benefits of superior fitness include the ability to handle stress better, resistance to disease, and increased work capacity, all will be needed during TEOTWAWKI along with the ability to sprint, lift heavy objects, and scale obstacles.
CrossFit’s web site is very user friendly, has a FAQ section, free journal articles, and exercise demo videos. For friendly support or competition, you can post your WOD results in the “comments” section and compare them to CrossFitters around the world.
If you are not ready for the Main Page WODs, there are modified (scaled) workouts for different fitness levels. This has allowed my 65-year-old mother and 11-year-old niece to complete the same workout as me, albeit on a different level with exercise substitutions, less weight, and/or shorter duration. Follow the “Start here” links on the Main Page.
Time: 3 hours per week (6 days / 30 min. workout) Although some WODs can be done in less than 5 minutes, take the extra time to work on your Olympic lifts, flexibility, or the gymnastic moves.
Cost: $0 (other than weights). The WODs are posted on the CrossFit site for free. Subscription to the online journal will cost you $25 per year and is well worth it. If you don’t have pull-up/dip bar or a weight set, you’ll need to buy them. Check Craigslist for good deals on used equipment. If you are unable to acquire weights, bodyweight only WOD’s can be found in this PDF: CrossFit Bodyweight Workouts.

Step 3: Fight like Recon
Find a good MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) gym and train at least twice a week. MMA gives you the most “bang for your buck”, making you competent in the areas of standup, clinch, and ground fighting. While traditional martial arts have benefits of fitness, flexibility, and discipline, I have seen the practitioners get taken apart in the gym, in bars while working as a bouncer, and in the field of law enforcement. When it comes to fighting, MMA should be your foundation. Not every altercation will require the use of deadly force and most criminals might use a ruse or ambush to get close enough to negate your weapons. MMA will give you the variability to handle the lesser event or the fighting platform to allow you to bridge to weapons for lethal force situations.
The current trend is Marines training MCMAP, Rangers training with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), and SF units training with a South African MMA coach.The reason that military combatives are shifting toward MMA as their base is because it works!
Once you find a good school and learn the basics, focus on developing a “Sprawl and Brawl” game, instead of a “Ground and Pound” or “Submission’ game. This will keep you on your feet and help you deal with multiple opponents, defend against weapons, or access your own weapons in a much better capacity. Even if you get caught on the ground, you’ll be comfortable there and have the skills to prevail.
If you are unable to find a MMA gym in your area, look for a good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Judo school, a boxing/kickboxing gym, or a wrestling club. All these styles are components of MMA and will pit you against a fully resisting opponent, which is the key to development and success.
While there is no substitute for a good gym, if your retreat is really isolated and there is no training available, then find a training partner, order some videos/books, and/or attend some seminars. I have hundreds of training DVDs and my top picks for home MMA study are:
StandupCrazy Monkey (CM) series

ClinchCouture’s series

Ground - Matt Thornton's Functional JKD Series Two – Discs 1, 2, & 3
Bas Rutten’s MMA workout is also a great option for solo home workouts and only requires a CD player and a heavy bag. It is currently being used at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Facility for their officers in training. I use it on the heavy bag for my warm-ups and days when I can’t make it to the gym. The set consists of an instructional DVD and four workout CD’s, boxing, kickboxing, MMA, and an all around workout.

As side benefits, you’ll also be working on Steps 1 and 2 during your MMA training. Fighting and getting punched in the face on a weekly basis is a great character builder and the cardio demands of fighting are some of the highest.
Time: 3 hours per week. MMA has a steep learning curve, so you’ll want to train at least twice a week. Classes usually run about 1-½ hours.
Cost: From gym to gym the price will vary. Gyms with competitive teams can cost over $100 per month, but good “hobby” gyms can be found for $50 per month. I have even trained at a local church that had great training and tough opponents for no charge.
Step 4: Shoot like Delta
Superior weapons proficiency and handling ability is another trait of highly skilled operators, and while we’ll never have a multi-million dollar ammo budget and 8 hour range days, there are alternatives for us.
First and foremost, seek out a good school and take tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun classes. Look for classes that are designed to help you win a gunfight. Once you take the classes, then you will have the skill set that you can take home to practice. Tactical Response offers great classes in all the disciplines. While it is no substitute for professional instruction, if you cannot afford classes, here my top picks for DVD instructional videos:
Handgun: Jim Grover’s Defensive Shooting Series

Carbine: The Art of the Tactical Carbine  

Shotgun: Tom Givens Defensive Shotgun

Second, develop a dry fire routine based upon the core skills you learned from your class or DVDs. Focus on key skills like drawing from concealment, weapon transitions, malfunction clearing, magazine changes, and positional shooting. If you can afford it, buy Airsoft replicas of your guns so you can work on shooting and moving, multiple targets, and force-on-force drills.
The final, most important step is to shoot competitively. Monthly competitions will build your gun handling skills and accuracy under the stress of time and the competitive nature of the event. Tactical pistol matches are a good start, but I prefer Three-gun matches where you get to shoot rifle, pistol, and/or shotgun in the same stage. This way I get to do live fire once a month with all three guns in stages and scenarios that someone else creates. Shooting and moving, weapon transitions, shooting from cover, shooting in and around vehicles are some of the benefits along with mastering the basic core skills. Don’t get caught up in “gaming” the match, instead focus on using the tactics you learned in your gun fighting courses. Use cover, draw from concealment, and throw some dummy rounds in some mags. It will slow your times down, but will pay off by ingraining good habits.
During and after the match, identify weak skills to work on during the daily dry fire sessions until the next match. If you don’t have local matches, you can usually find the stages online, and set up your own match on your farm/range or even in your backyard for an Airsoft match.
Time: 1 hour per week (10 min. per day of dry fire/Airsoft) Our local three gun match usually last about 3 hours, but since it is on a monthly basis and is so much fun, I don’t factor that as training time.
Cost: $0 for dry fire. $15 dollar entry fee for our three gun match,  plus your ammo costs. Our local matches usually require less than 50 rounds of pistol and rifle, and less than 25 of shotgun (birdshot). We also have a .22 division where cheapskates, like myself, shoot conversion kits to save on ammo costs.
Step 5: Cross-train like a Green Beret
Aim to make yourself as well rounded as possible. Maybe you are in great shape, are a good fighter, and shoot in the top ten at your matches. Excellent! Keep working those foundational skills because they require the most time investment due to a steeper learning curve or degradation over time, but now is the time to look outside your Spartan routine for weak links in your overall skill set.
Sit down and make a list of skills you want or might need in the uncertain future and rank yourself on your competency. Focus training on the categories with the lowest rating. Training can be accomplished through research, classes, or knowledgeable friends.
Emergency medical skills, wilderness survival, hunting/trapping, mantracking, mechanical repair, patrolling, tactics, edged weapons, orienteering, home security, high performance driving, gardening, beekeeping, homesteading, sniping, escape and evasion…. If you are like me, you’ll have a four page list in no time.
Time: 1 hour per week. Try to spend an hour a week working on your weakest skill. Once your weaknesses catch up, only then should you focus on training that you are naturally drawn towards and enjoy more.
Cost: You can spend as much or as little as you like. Your training priorities and interests will guide you. I work on trucks at my friend’s garage, I order gardening books, my beekeepers meetings are $20 per year, and my next tracking class is $385. The goal here is to learn and develop new practical skills.
Step 6: Evaluate yourself
Be honest and routinely critique your progress. What are your strengths, weaknesses, and how can you work on them? Ask yourself if you could out fight, out shoot, or out run/lift the “old you” from three months ago? Also seek out standards of fitness and shooting, available on the web, to see how you compare. Keep a training log so you can watch your progress.
Example for today 9/9/09:
Mental: Only 5 hours of sleep last night. Still sore from the last cycle. Hate lunges and box jumps. Have lots to do before work. Suck it up and get it done.
Three rounds on heavy bag of Bas Rutten’s MMA workout (boxing CD) – 10 minutes
CrosFit WOD:
Four rounds for time of:
100 ft Walking lunge, carrying 30 pound dumbbells (no 30’s so subbed 25 pounders.)
24 inch Box Jump, 30 reps
30 pound Weighted pull-ups, 20 reps
Time: 19:44 (M/33/6’1”/205)
Dry fire:
10 minutes of tactical reloads with M4
Total time: 40 minutes. Hit all three primary areas. Will stretch for 10 minutes tonight and read a chapter of the dentistry manual I am reading.
There may be some people that are reading this that cannot do a pull-up, let alone weighted ones. That is okay, just start out on the scaled version and you’ll be cranking them out soon enough. Example of the lowest scaling of today’s WOD from BrandX:

3 rounds
100 ft Walking lunge
12-15 inch Box Jump, 20 reps
20 Beginner or Assisted pull-ups
In reality, some of us may have had years of bad habits, health, injuries, etc. that may prevent us from reaching the levels I have outlined, but any gain is still a gain. Because of the variety of functional movements, CrossFit at half intensity is still better than more traditional programs. Really light MMA sparring and rolling is still better than the [no contact/tap contact] McDojo stuff taught at the strip malls. I have seen a 50-year-old man at our gym getting thrashed by the more experienced, younger players, only to school a 20-year old “newbie” a month later.
You may never make it into the top ten of the three gun match or be posting record times on CrossFit’s board, but you are also unlikely to be facing a superior opponent in the real world if you work hard, as the majority of the population is in poor shape, cannot fight or shoot very well, nor will they be training as hard as you.
While I have been fortunate enough to workout with, fight with, and shoot with top level civilians that could out-compete the average Spec Ops member in their chosen sport or field, none of them could approach the overall well-roundedness of our country’s finest that I have known. Emulating these fine warriors within our group or family is a critical preparation step for TEOTWAWKI.
You may have years of stored food, a self-sufficient homestead, and an impressive battery, but liabilities in fitness, fighting, and shooting skills may negate your hard work and preparations. I look at training like saving for retirement, start early, save every day, and the benefits will add up.
So set aside eight hours this week and follow the training outline, this small investment of hard work and training might save your life, your family’s, your community, or your freedom.

JWR Adds: Unless you are already in a regular workout program, I recommend that you start any new program immediately after you've had a physical checkup. Don't totally exhaust yourself the first day. Work up your distances, weight and repetitions gradually!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

First, here's a link to an article on self defense considerations in Britain.

I prefer a variation on the pocket stick known as a koppo stick. A koppo stick is a pocket stick with a piece of cord that loops around the outside of the ring and middle fingers. This cord helps with stick retention and allows for open hand and gripping techniques.

I usually carry my koppo in my weak hand at the ready. This frees up my strong hand to draw my primary weapon and the cord retention system allows the weak hand to perform other tasks such as slide manipulation. Planned use of the stick is for primary weapon retention and to gain enough time/space to draw the primary weapon (if available and warranted).

Here is a page on how to convert a pocket flashlight into a koppo stick.

Here's the LED flashlight that I converted (available through Sears):

Finally, here's a YouTube video on the subject.

Enjoy! - Rick H.


Dear Mr. Rawles,
I've got something for the guy in suburban London. England is a rainy area - isn't´t it? So try this unbreakable umbrella.

And here´s something on video about how to use canes for self-defense.

Thank you! - Joe B.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mr. Rawles:
I am at a disadvantage to your American readers. I live in a suburb of London, and travel by train to work each day. Street crime is now out of control in some neighbourhoods, but I cannot carry a weapon. I must say that I'm envious of Americans that can carry concealed pistols and revolvers. Here, I cannot even carry a pocket knife. Are martial arts effective, and if they indeed are, then which one will be most effective with not too much time for training? What do you suggest? Thanking You in Advance, - G.H. in England

JWR Replies: I wrote the following for SurvivalBlog back in 2006. I'm re-posting it, along with an update, for the benefit of the many readers that have come on board more recently:

I highly recommend training to use a cane, walking stick, or a traditional full-length umbrella. This is particularly important for our readers like you that live in gun-unfriendly nations. Ditto for our readers that live in states like California, New York, and New Jersey where is is very difficult for mere mortals to get a carrying concealed weapon (CCW) permit. And even if you are a concealed firearms permit holder, you should learn these valuable skills. Why? You never know when circumstances might dictate that you cannot carry a pistol. (For example, when traveling to a state where your CCW permit is not valid, or when traveling overseas.)

Here is a forward from firearms instructor John Farnam, by way of SurvivalBlog reader Grampa Redd:

"I attended a stick/cane-fighting seminar yesterday, instructed by Peter Donello of Canemasters. Canemasters manufacturers high-quality canes and walking sticks and provides training in their use. However, I used my Cold Steel City Stick, as did several other students.

I was astonished at the number of effective moves available to the cane/stick fighter, certainly more than I can remember! Peter's knowledge is vast, and I did my best to catalog the few that I thought were most effective and easiest to learn. Range is the big advantage that canes have over blades and other impact weapons.

Striking and jabbing are still the premiere moves, easily done with nearly any style of cane. Some follow-up moves and holds and more comfortably accomplished with a hooked cane than with a straight stick, but either style works just fine. The real question is: What can I have with me most often that attracts the least attention?

This four-hour clinic is something I recommend to everyone. The cane is a wonderful, low-profile, yet extremely effective fighting tool that most people can fit into their lives with a minimum of lifestyle disruption. Most casual observers don't even notice when you have one with you and certainly don't believe them to represent a threat. Time well spent!"

As for walking stick designs: From what I have heard and observed here in the U.S., if you are well dressed and groomed, then law enforcement officers in most jurisdictions will hardly give you a second glance if you are carrying a walking stick. But if you are shabby looking and perceived as "riffraff", then expect to get plenty of grief. Canes, especially aluminum ones those that look like true walking aids, are far less likely to attract suspicion than walking sticks. I have an acquaintance who lives in Oakland, California who carries a dull silver aluminum cane with a big rubber tip. This cane looks very unobtrusive if not downright innocuous. It is not until you pick it up that you realize that it has been retrofitted with a 1/2"steel rod firmly epoxied into its hollow core. The phrase "the iron fist in the velvet glove" comes to mind!

I have another acquaintance that lives in a very rainy climate, near Seattle, Washington. He makes a habit of carrying a stout full length traditional umbrella whenever he gets out of his car. Aside for misplacing several umbrellas over the years (a fairly costly mistake, since he carries a big sturdy umbrella which cost around $60 each), he has had no trouble. (And, by God's grace, he has only had need to use it to protect himself from rain showers.) Nearly all of the stick/cane fighting techniques apply to folded umbrellas, and they can also be used quite effectively for jabbing.

My general preference is to use a shoulder-width two handed grip grip in most situations, to maintain control and more importantly to assure retention of the stick. This is akin to what has been taught for many years by police academies in the use of long ("riot") batons. The last thing that you want to happen is to have Mr. Bad Guy gain control of your weapon. If that were to happen, you would become he "Owie" recipient instead of the Owie distributor!

Do some research on your local laws. In most jurisdictions, any blow with a striking weapon to the neck or head is considered potentially lethal. Police academies emphasize this in their baton training. ("Never strike above the chest unless you you would in the same circumstances draw your pistol and fire.") So don't escalate to doing so unless you absolutely confident that your life is threatened and you have no other choice. (Essentially it is the same as firing a gun--at least in the eyes of the law.) It may sound sissified and a bit too prim, proper, and "Queensbury Rules", but most courts look at things in terms of equal force and a graduated response, roughly as follows: If Mr. Bad Guy uses his fists, then you can use your fists. If he uses a weapon, then you can use a like weapon. If he strikes above the chest, then you can strike above the chest. As a practical matter, there are no rules in trying to save your life in a street fight, but apparently there are in court houses, post facto. Yes, I realize that graduated response is not realistic to expect, since street fights are fast and furious. Most victims don't even recognize that their attacker is using a weapon until after the incident is over. (The classic victim's police statement is: "I thought that he was punching me until is saw the blood, and it wasn't until then that I realized he had used a knife on me.") But again, a graduated response is what courts will expect in order to make a ruling of justifiable force in self defense.

Don't forget that we live in a litigious era, so expect prosecution and/or a civil lawsuit in the event that you are forced to use a weapon in self defense, even if you were entirely in the right. Show restraint, and never deal out punishment. Just reduce the threat with a quick jab or two, disengage, and then engage your Nike-jitsu technique. (Run!)

If you get into an absolutely lethal brawl (a truly "kill or get killed" situation) and you cannot disengage, then by all means aim where you can do the most damage: The front or side of the neck. The human neck is soft tissue, a bundle of nerves, veins, arteries, and wind pipe. It is your surest target to end a fight quickly and decisively. (The same goes for hand-to-hand combat. Aim your punches at his throat.) But again, it is also your surest way to find your way to a courtroom. I can't stress this enough: show discretion!

When carrying a weapon of any sort for self defense, be sure to develop the same Condition White/Yellow/Amber/Red situational awareness skills that you would for carrying a concealed firearm. (See Naish Piazza's article "The Color Code of Mental Awareness", available free at the Front Sight web site. (Click on "Special Offers" and then on the link for "15 Gun Training Reports free of charge.") Extensive training on self defense combative techniques is worthless if you don't see an attack Be alert.

If you don't live near a school that teaches cane and stick fighting, there is a 40 minute training DVD produced by the Gunsite academy, titled: "Defensive Techniques: Walking Stick." It is available from the Gunsite Internet Pro Shop. (They do not accept overseas orders.) OBTW, one of my readers also recommended Lenny Magill's training DVD "Mastering the Walking Stick".

I should also mention that modern self defense with a walking stick ("Bartitsu") was first popularized by Edward W. Barton-Wright. His classic 1901 magazine article on walking stick self defense is available for free download. See: Part 1 and Part 2. These techniques are weak on weapon retention, but it otherwise is still fairly valid, even after more than a century.

Update for 2009 on Yawaras and Kubotans
For discreet carry, don't overlook the potential effectiveness of short striking weapons such as Yawara sticks and Kubotans. Since these self defense tools are restricted in many locales, I recommend instead carrying a Cold Steel Pocket Shark pen that has had its markings scraped or sanded off. Outwardly, this stout little weapon will pass for a marking pen. (And it fact, it is a marking pen, which should get you past all but the most rigorous security checkpoints.)

Some martial arts dojos offer yawara stick training. These are derivations of the ancient "closed sheath" Japanese striking techniques. These classes are offered by both karate and Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) academies. Just be forewarned that many dojos require at least brown belt ranking as a prerequisite for anything beyond "empty hand" classes. This means a lot of time and money before they will teach you how to use a yawara!

Although they are no substitute for hands-on training from a master, there are several training DVDs that can give you a head start. These include Yawara Kata Training by Maurey Levitz, Kubotans & Yawaras by Sammy Franco, and The Persuader (also known as the Kubotan or Yawara) by George Sylvan.

In closing, I must repeat that situational awareness is crucial. You mind in your primary self-defense weapon. With the right training and a survivor's mindset, just about any small sturdy object found close at hand can be used as a weapon--even a pocket comb or just a tightly-rolled magazine or newspaper. Get the training, practice often, never travel unarmed, and maintain "Condition Yellow", as a minimum.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I agree with your writer that Muay Thai and Grappling (wrestling, BJJ, etc.) are essential fighting skills. I even admit that my two black belts in traditional arts were not worth much compared to a good grappler or kick boxer.

However the idea that avoiding the ground is rule #1 is not necessarily true. A grappler can control a situation very effectively on the ground and it is often then case that you can't avoid going to the ground in a fight. Further, people of smaller stature (women especially) who cannot run from an encounter have an advantage on the ground vs. trying to duke it out with a much stronger opponent. By getting close to your adversary to engage them on the ground their primary weapons (hands and feet) are severely degraded in effectiveness. Further, a ground fighter can quickly and more reliably dispatch an opponent in a way that trying to slug it out hoping for a knock-out can never do (have you ever tried to really knock someone out who didn't want to be knocked out? It isn't like television, I can assure you).

Also, the idea that ground fighting should be avoided because of broken glass on the ground, etc. is not realistic. Someone who is a skilled (or even not that skilled but just average) ground fighter knows that when/if the fight goes to the ground it's going to be the person who doesn't know how to grapple that's going to be on their back getting their rear end kicked. A grappler who has spent many hours fighting from their backs, on top, etc. does not worry about going to the ground. They know how to deal with it, how to prevent it, how to reverse it and how to use it to their advantage.

Think of it this way. If you are going to fight a wrestler, who do you think is going to end up on their back on the ground? You or the guy who has spent thousands of hours training to take people down to the ground and put them on their backs? Further, you hear all the time about fighting multiple opponents on the ground is a problem. But if you can't beat a single guy standing up, what makes you think you can beat multiples of them standing up? Bare knuckle brawling against one guy is hard. Doing it against two is incredibly difficult. Fighting three guys is just about impossible unless you are very lucky or they are incredibly inept. (See below). Fighting four or more people bare-handed? I think that's just Hollywood stuff. You should focus on getting out of there or making sure you are carrying a gun to defend against multiple opponents.

Also being on your back is not great , but in a fight it is not necessarily bad with multiple opponents if that's where you end up. One guy I know got tangled up with several people and was almost certainly about to get beat, but he was able to get to the ground and ended up on his back (not optimal, but it happened). He was able to hold the guy he was fighting on top of him and move back and forth using him as a shield against the others while on his back on the ground. The attacker's friends were trying to kick and stomp but they kept kicking and stomping their own buddy and the guy I knew was able to get out of there unscathed!

In these cases of multiple attackers you want to stay on your feet and get the heck out of there. Ground fighting, ironically, gives you the best training to stay on your feet because you train so much to avoid being taken down on your opponent's terms.

I encourage a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) style program, but avoiding the ground is not a requirement. Sometimes you have to go where the fight goes so you need both standing and grappling skills and I'd put more emphasis on grappling personally. - Craig R.


Dear Jim & Family.
Concerning the recent article, what Brick has described in his final recommendation is [essentially] Krav Maga. This is an Israeli system of self-defense, not a martial art per se, developed from the various disciplines that he mentioned and others. It is brutal, effective and efficient. My suggestion is that if you can find a school that teaches Krav, go for it first. Krav Maga Worldwide is the best place to start. Classes are for adults, but they have a version for children as well. I believe that this system is actually much more useful than mixed martial arts (MMA) training.
My whole family has been involved in this training for over two years. - Doc Gary

I would like to comment on the post “The Survivalists Guide to Martial Arts” that appeared on Saturday.

I have been a practitioner of various martial arts since I was three years old living in Japan – 41 years ago. I also have been a part-time teacher of martial arts for 15 years now. And yes, I have the “love me” wall to prove it.

The basic divide in martial arts is between “hard” styles and “soft” styles:

Hard styles are built around punching and kicking. Soft styles are built around joint locks and throws of various sorts. But, over time, and as you advance in rank, you begin to find that all hard styles incorporate soft techniques and soft styles begin to incorporate hard techniques. And in the end, the human body only moves and reacts in so many ways and so at the highest levels you find that all the arts are really the same – they just arrive there by different paths.

You also have to individually decide what is best for you to start with. If you are not going to put in hours each week working out, then a soft style is probably better for you to start with. On the other hand if you plan to put in the time (or are young and energetic) then a hard style might be good for you. I have studied both hard (Okinawan Karate, Silat, TaeKwonDo, etc.) and soft (judo, hapkido, aikido) and “balanced” (some styles teach a balance of hard and soft techniques – and while they are few and far between they are probably the most effective) styles (some of the Kung Fu styles and Kun Tao Silat). You need both in a real fight.

While I am big and relatively strong there are those that are bigger, stronger, and faster. So I need to know how to fight like a “little person.” You also need to think about the legal aftermath of using martial arts in the streets – being able to show a steady progression (or the ability to steadily progress) through the force continuum (presence, verbal commands, soft force, hard force, impact weapons, lethal force) is a big plus in the courts. Or, not every situation requires you to haul off and deck somebody.

The secondary divide is the “stand up” versus “ground” that the letter refers to. However, when I was working in Brazil for a while I had the opportunity to work-out one on one with a member of the very large extended Gracie family. His basic take was that while going to the ground does eventually happen, do everything you can to avoid it. He learned the hard way after being jumped by a gang of attackers that going to the ground might be good against one person but against multiple attackers it does not work as well. The good thing about Gracie Ju-Jitsu (GJJ) (or BJJ) is that it works standing up as well as on the ground IF you know what you are doing (and have had the right teacher).

That being said, in a true SHTF situation you will find yourself prone a lot in a fight (nobody comes to a fight without a gun these days …) and this is where knowing ground fighting comes in handy. (That being said, the longer you can stay up and mobile the better off you will be in a gun fight.)

So in the final analysis, study a blend or a mix of arts – hard and soft, standing and on the ground – in order to get the most out of your training. While I have my personal favorites, after teaching martial arts for so long I can say that the style has to fit the student, and not the other way around. Keep a balance, and find a good, open minded teacher. - Hugh D


Hello Jim,
Regarding The Survivalist's Guide to Martial Arts by "Brick", I agree with most of Brick's comments. In terms of choosing a style or gym/dojo, I would say that the particular style is not very important. Rather, it's important that you train with [what Matt Thornton terms] "aliveness". That is, as much as possible of the training time should be allocated to sparring or otherwise training with resistance, "force on force".

While I prefer MMA training, I think that any style in which there is a lot of live training will serve the trainee well. Conversely any style in which there is little live training is a waste of time.

For purposes of self defense, I would much rather train at a Tae Kwon Do or Karate school and spar a lot, than to train at a MMA gym and never spar. You see this a lot with women who take non-sparring kickboxing classes and think that this prepares them to fight. It does not, even if they are learning legitimate techniques taught by a world champion. Also for self defense, I would rather train at the karate school where they spar a lot, versus some 'reality based self defense' class where they spend all their time practicing eye gouges and groin strikes and rarely spar.

The most important things in being able to fight in any style are:
- Keeping your breathing under control, even when under pressure
- Maintaining appropriate posture at all times(e.g. for striking, you want to keep your hands up, chin tucked, shoulders shrugged, and never put your head down or look away even when getting hit in the face)
- Being able to keep your balance and maintain appropriate distance even when there is an attacker trying to throw you off balance and moving in and out.
- Applying techniques with appropriate timing. If the opponent makes himself vulnerable somehow, usually the window of opportunity to exploit the error is very small.
- Having a certain amount of toughness and ability to ignore pain and discomfort. For example, most people who have never been punched in the stomach will drop both of their hands to cover their stomach, leaving their head wide open.

These things are only developed through hours of training with live resistance. It's worth noting that you can train grappling styles like Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, or wrestling at 100% resistance every training session, since there is no striking and the chance of injury is low.

A good video clip on this subject is: Matt Thornton on Aliveness - Drew in California


Mr. Rawles,
I agree with most of what Brick has to say about the various arts. He left out my art of choice though, which is the filipino stick and knife arts. [Also known as Filipino Martial Arts (FMA).]
These are variously known as escrima, kali, or arnis, depending on where in the islands a particular style originated from, and are distinguished from most arts by starting you out with a weapon. Most of the techniques you learn in these arts (I'll call them kali), are applicable to both sticks and knives, and to a lesser extent to empty-handed fighting.

This doesn't necessarily mean you can circumvent sidearm carry laws with a knife. In my state at least, knives are actually more strictly regulated than guns. But it does mean you can effectively use a variety of everyday objects to protect yourself against someone who, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say they just forgot to read the knife laws before robbing you.

Okay readers, thinking exercise time: How many everyday objects can you think of that have the same approximate handling characteristics of a knife or a short stick?

Start with actual knives and move quickly to, swords, nightsticks, batons, ordinary sticks, half pool cues, traumatically shortened pool cues, glass bottles, baseball bats, hammers, small crowbars, flashlights, e-tools, damn near any wrench, screw-driver, hammer, chisel, or small gardening implement, metal tub ed ball-point pens, stout umbrellas, tire irons, etc etc etc.

Add some styles for quarter staff sized sticks and axe shaped objects, and maybe a touch of training on using flexible objects like whips, belts, and garrotes, and it will be hard to think of a situation where you can't find something you know how to bash someone with. Beware though that this will give you the ability to instantly escalate the level of violence in any situation, and may look bad in a court of law. It will also let you carry many innocuous objects that you can be proven to be trained to use, even in weapons free zones. This can also look bad. I would not advise advertising that you study this stuff (or really any art).

You should also not neglect to study forms of unarmed striking and grappling/locking/breaking, but most decent Kali schools incorporate that as well, often by teaching Kali in conjunction with other arts.

Finally I will say I have been impressed with the simplicity of Kali to learn, and the practical mindedness of the students and masters of it that I have met. This will depend on the school though. If a school for Kali, Arnis, or Escrima (all basically the same thing) can't be found in your area, you might also look into Silat (from indonesia) which is related, or into wing chun or muay thai, both of which have a lot of similar motions and mentality--or so I've been told.

One last observation is that if you follow the advice of the author and look at Muay Thai, be sure you're getting the real deal, and not American kickboxing, which is the watered down for American competition version. In fact, try to stay away from anything geared towards sporting competition, but look for something that does have lots of contact sparring. You need to learn how to hit and get hit, and how to fight through moderate pain or shock. John McCain suggests that people should familiarize themselves with pain before they have to endure it for real, and for once I agree with him completely.

As always, hope it helps. I'm no expert, and YMMV, so take it with a grain of salt and do your own research and experimentation. No art will do you any good if you don't like it well enough to practice. - JJ in North Carolina

Saturday, June 27, 2009

There is focus placed on proper firearm training and the most appropriate weapons to have for various scenarios – and rightfully so.  But equally important is the ability to defend yourself in a situation when you are unarmed.  For example, in my state, even though I am licensed to carry a concealed weapon, legal restrictions prevent me from carrying most of the time.  For example, any business can post a sign forbidding concealed weapons on their premises, as my place of employment has done.  Also, firearms are not allowed in any place licensed to serve alcohol.  Fine, you might think, just avoid the bars – until you realize that this also covers any restaurant that serves beer or wine with your meal.

For these reason and a hundred others, I feel that no preparedness training is complete without learning to defend yourself while unarmed.  But even if you agree and would like to get started on martial arts to complete your preparedness training, where to begin?  What style should you study?  What type of training best suits the survival mindset and goals of protecting the lives of you and your loved ones?  In this article, I’d like to help you answer a few of those questions.  For more than a decade I’ve trained consistently in a combination of martial arts, approaching it from the mindset of not just wanting to be in better shape or win some competitions, but rather with the goal of transforming myself into a more durable survivor.  

Primer on Major Styles

To start your martial arts education, it is a good idea to get a basic idea regarding the most common types of martial arts.  There are dozens of different types of martial arts originating from every region of the globe.  In this section, I’ve focused on those arts that you will most commonly encounter in an available training format.

Karate – This is a traditional Okinawan/Japanese art dating back for centuries.  The focus tends to be on efficient, powerful strikes with the hands and feet.  There is usually very little “flash” to these techniques – the focus is on inflicting damage and getting out of there.  Karate students often engage in various types of body hardening to turn their knuckles, forearms, thighs and shins into formidable weapons and shields.  For example, a makiwara is a wooden striking post that a student will hit thousands upon thousands of times, enabling the karate practitioner to eventually punch through wood and concrete (as you’ve no doubt seen on television) with no harm to the fist.

Tae Kwon Do – A Korean martial art that gained widespread popularity after the 1988 Seoul Olympics, causing schools to pop up all over America. [Present-day] Tae Kwon Do is primarily a sport-centric martial art, with heavy emphasis placed on competition and tournaments.  Tae Kwon Do practitioners are known for their formidable kicks, as this is a major focus of the art (so much so that practical self defense is sacrificed – for example, under Olympic Tae Kwon Do rules, punches to the head are not allowed.  Not exactly a rule conducive to  practical self-defense application).

Kung Fu – Often considered the “granddaddy” of other Asian martial arts, Kung Fu has roots in ancient China and is considered to have influenced many other arts which followed.  There are dozens of different Kung Fu styles, often named and patterned after movements of different animals.  Movements tend to me more fluid and less “hard.”  Often, Kung Fu tends to venture more into mysticism with attention to direction of “chi” or “life force” to create powerful techniques (compared to karate, which is more based on the physics behind inflicting damage with your body).

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) -- Jiu-Jitsu is a traditional Japanese art, but over the past several decades the art has been transformed and evolved in Brazil, due largely to the efforts of the Gracie family.  BJJ is a grappling martial art, focused on controlling your opponent, maintaining favorable position, and finishing your opponent with a “submission.”  Submissions involve any number of chokes or joint locks.  The term “submission” derives from the fact that in competition, the opponent must “submit” either verbally or with a tap, or face going unconscious or suffering a broken limb.  Of course, in a real life situation, the survivalist who has applied an arm bar is not interested in whether or not the opponent has decided to give up – take their arm home with you.

Boxing – By far the most popular and well-known western martial art, boxing is entirely focused on hand strikes (in fact, only punches) limited to the waist up.  Due to the number of restrictions placed on boxers for sporting purposes (extremely limited in types of strikes allowed and targets permitted), boxing leaves a lot to be desired as a comprehensive self-defense art.  However, the hand striking techniques exhibited by elite level boxers is second to none, meaning that incorporating boxing into your martial arts training certainly has value.

Wrestling – Often overlooked as a martial art because it usually conjures image of high school and Olympic competition, wrestling is certainly both a combat sport and martial art.  Like boxing, learning only wrestling would leave you severely disadvantaged in a life-and-death situation, but when it comes to controlling your opponent and keeping yourself out of a bad spot, wrestling is extremely valuable.

Muay Thai – If you’ve seen clips of small Thai men absolutely brutalizing each other in the ring with lightning fast punches, kicks, knees, and elbows, then you’ve seen Muay Thai.  Often confused with regular kickboxing, the inclusion of knees and elbows separate the men from the boys, as these joints can be used to inflict massive amounts of damage.  Muay Thai fighters also master the art of the clinch, which is a series of techniques to get in close to your opponent and hold him in such a way that he is susceptible to any number of devastating strikes.

My Opinion on Survival Applicability

So, that’s some information on a few of the more common styles.  A common question is “which one is ‘best.’”?  This is a very difficult question to answer, as each has advantages and disadvantages.  Also, we are just speaking in general terms here, as the type of training you undergo within, say, Tae Kwon Do will vary quite a bit in different schools under the direction of different teachers.  So, based on my experiences, here is my admittedly subjective opinion regarding applicability to real life, actual defense of yourself and those you care about.

Stand-up styles (fighting on your feet):  If you are looking for one art to focus on and one art only, I’d go with Muay Thai.  The range of weapons and techniques is sufficiently broad that if you rise to the level of Muay Thai expert you will be a formidable fighter indeed.  Fist, feet, knees, elbows, shins, even your head – all available, all trained.  You may not have seen many Muay Thai schools in your area, but it is becoming more popular all the time due to success of Muay Thai techniques in popular televised Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competitions.  In second place I would put karate.  The focus on real, direct, simple fighting techniques is perfect for real world application, as is the attention given to hardening and strengthening the body.  Next I would rank boxing.  Most fights start out simply enough – exchanging blows with fists.  An elite boxer can end the fight at this stage very quickly.  Lastly, I would rank Tae Kwon Do and Kung-fu.  These arts tend to have too much focus on sporting competition (and the associated technique restriction) or “forms” demonstrations.  That’s not to say you can’t find a school that focuses on effective self defense applications of these arts, but Tae Kwon Do and Kung-fu schools of that nature are the exception rather than the rule.

Ground fighting styles (grappling):  These days, it has become quite apparent that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is the king of the ground.  A combination of success in no-hold-barred competition and techniques that are readily adaptable to real life situations has propelled BJJ to become an international sensation.  Wrestling teaches some great ground fighting techniques as well, but for adults it may be hard to find a school or gym that teaches wrestling fundamentals, so finding a good BJJ school is the way to go (and these will usually teach some wrestling as part of the curriculum, as natural supplement to BJJ training).  However, if I had a child in school, I’d encourage him or her to pursue wrestling.  Learning those techniques during your early years can serve as a martial arts base upon which to build for the rest of your life.

Stand-up or ground fighting?  A natural division has developed among martial arts studies:  those who prefer to keep the fight standing and finish it on their feet, versus those who want to get their opponent on the ground as quickly as possible as choke them out or break a limb.  So which is better for the survival-minded student?  In my training group, we train extensively in BJJ and wrestling as part of our curriculum; however, we have the following set of rules:
What’s the first rule of ground fighting?  Don’t go to the ground. What’s the second rule of ground fighting?  Get up.

But Bill, you may ask, you’ve described how these techniques can be very effective.  Also, in the major televised full-contact MMA competitions, fighters who focus on ground fighting techniques have done very well.  This is true, but the street is not an organized competition.  It may be a great idea to spend the fight on your back working for a submission on a nice padded floor, but try it on broken glass in a parking lot.  Also, these competitions are exclusively one-on-one battles.  If I’m fighting an attacker, take him down and apply a great submission hold, that all counts for nothing when his friend comes up behind me and kicks me in the temple with a steel-toed boot.  No, in the real world, rather than be tied up and immobile on the ground, I’d rather be on my feet and aware of my surroundings, and able to run like h*** if necessary.

So, for self-defense, your focus should be on staying on your feet, fighting when necessary, and getting out of there when possible.  That said, I still HIGHLY encourage you to also learn the ground techniques.  While it may not be your focus or intent to get the fight to the ground, the fact is that the battle may well go there.  And, if it does, you do not want to be lost because the difference between someone who knows what he is doing in ground fighting and someone who doesn’t becomes apparent in about three seconds.

What I’ve described in the paragraphs above is basically the philosophy of Mixed Martial Arts.  If you can find a school near you that teaches MMA, that is the ideal situation for those looking for a comprehensive system of self-defense techniques.  Generally, these schools will have courses in a variety of the arts I’ve described above, so you can get your stand-up and ground fighting training all in one location, usually with a heavy dose of physical condition (addressed below).  If no MMA gym is available to you, then consider what I’ve said about each individual martial art and evaluate what is best for you.  But if you can expose yourself to several different disciplines at a place that is focused on combining together everything that works to defend yourself – well, I can think of nothing more applicable to someone interested in survival.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Our family recently found your book and blog. We are working diligently to prepare. One question I have not seen addressed: What do you think about sending a child to college? We are a conservative, Christian, home schooling family. Our daughter has been looking forward to attending a small Christian college that is about 1-1/2 hours from our home. Now that we are awake we are feeling that keeping her close to home as we prepare to relocate is best. Any thoughts? - S. in Southern California

JWR Replies: A college that is just a 1-1/2 hour drive is probably close enough, especially if she has her own car. But living in Southern California--with both earthquake risk and a high crime rate--be sure to identify and practice driving several alternate routes on surface streets and back roads, just in case she must "Get Out of Dodge" (G.O.O.D.)

As a backup, keeping a Montague folding bicycle--kept chained to the bed frame in her dorm room--could get your daughter home, even in the event of a major earthquake that causes road closures. Montague folding bikes are available from Safecastle, one of our loyal advertisers.

I also strongly recommend self defense training for your daughter--both firearms and martial arts. (The latter is important for Californians, since open carry of firearms is effectively banned, and concealed carry permits are very difficult to obtain in most of the more populous counties.) She should attend Front Sight or Gunsite, and one of the better full contact martial arts schools that teaches an art with plenty of kicks and punches (such as Tae Kwon Do), and then perhaps she might move on to one of the advanced grappling arts (such as JuJitsu).

Oh, and as previously mentioned in the blog, I recommend that the first two years of college credits be obtained by a combination of CLEP tests and on-line courses. Not only is this less expensive than resident on-campus classes, but it also will keep your child safely at home for a couple of extra years.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

”Wherever you go, there you are." And hopefully so are your clothes. Therefore it is vital to think of your wardrobe as part of your survival gear on a daily basis. It’s not good enough to have a closet full of BDUs and a piles of high-tech gear if they aren’t near you when you need them. Most of the crises that people face do not rise to the level of TEOTWAWKI and these emergencies don’t come at convenient times. Events like building fires, car wrecks, or muggings come at you when your just out living your life. A firearms instructor once told me, “if I knew I was going to get into a gunfight if I went out, I wouldn’t bring more guns, I’d stay home.” The point is this: you don’t know when bad things will happen, and you can’t stay home all the time, so a well-planned wardrobe and pocket gear are essential at all times!

It is amazing to me that many people interested in survivalism will assemble BOBs, GOOD kits, and build retreats in the hinterlands, and yet give almost no consideration to the clothes on their backs. I have a friend who routinely runs errands in his pajamas and slippers with nothing but his car keys and wallet with him. I’ve seen men at the shooting range in beachwear! What will they do if life throws them a curve? They will suffer, that’s what. But why suffer if, by following a few simple guidelines, you can dress for survival success?

Choosing your clothing
Most people have different clothes for different events, but the rules for clothing selection are the same whether you’re at a formal wedding or at a summer barbecue. First, select clothing of high quality and good fit. Second, always choose comfort and utility over fashion. Finally, think of clothing in tactical terms. How would they aid or hinder you in a crisis?

You want to ask yourself, “would I wear this to the apocalypse?” If the answer is no, start over. On 9/11 thousands of New Yorkers were forced to walk miles, in dirt and filth, with only the clothes on their backs and the contents of their pockets and satchels. Think of them while you plan your wardrobe. When they went to work that morning they could never have imagined what they would face that day, and most were horribly prepared. Men and women alike were forced to walk barefoot because their dress shoes were not suitable for what amounted to a several mile forced march. Most had no food or water. Their clothing, particularly in the case of women, was more a hindrance than a help. Learn from their mistakes.

The single most important consideration is footwear. Always choose a sturdy shoe in which you could comfortably walk several miles over unpredictable terrain. An above ankle hiking-style boot with a waterproof liner would be preferred in most cases. Be sure to wear good socks made for hiking and suitable for the time of year. Carry and extra pair of liner socks in your satchel in case you must walk a distance on a cold day. Do not wear cotton socks! They hold moisture next to your skin which will diminish your comfort and can speed hypothermia if the temperature is low. If you are at an event that requires dress shoes or flip-flops or some other tactically undesirable footwear, be sure to bring good shoes and socks with you. Keep them in the car so that you will have them in case of emergency.

Your undergarments should comfortable and weather-appropriate. Again, this typically means no cotton! Wear silk or synthetics intended for athletic use. If you must wear a tie, wear a clip on so that it cannot be grabbed by an assailant and used to strangle you. For this same reason, avoid necklaces, earrings, and other jewelry. If it is attached to your body in such a way that having it yanked out would cause pain, then lose it!

Pants and shirts should be loose fitting for mobility, well made for durability, and have lots of pockets for gear. A number of companies make casual “tactical clothing” that is very suitable. Choose styles that mimic normal street clothes so as not to attract undue attention to yourself. Avoid bright colors and striking patterns. Earth tones and simple patterns may offer a degree of camouflage without screaming out, “look at me, I’m survivalist!” You don’t want to attract attention to yourself if you can help it. Wearing military styled clothing sends a loud signal to others so unless you want to be thought of as the local John Rambo, stick with civilian clothes. If you must wear camouflage and live in a rural area like I do, you can easily get away with the civilian hunting patterns like RealTree or Mossy Oak.

Always have seasonally appropriate outer wear with you or close at hand. You may not think it will get cold, but unless you can predict the weather infallibly, it is better to be prepared for the worst. Where I live in northern Minnesota, people die every year because they get caught outside at night without appropriate clothing. Hypothermia is a real threat in all seasons, not just winter! Have a hat, gloves, and jacket nearby at all times. Choose a hat with a brim to block the sun. This can be a boon in both summer and winter. Also make sure the jacket repels moisture. As always, avoid cotton in favor of wool or synthetics. Choose clothing made for outdoor activities such as hiking or hunting.

Choosing your gear
Gear falls into three categories: wallets, widgets and weapons. Each category should be covered whenever you leave your home. It is tempting to overdo it when trying to decide what to take with you when you head out of the house, but there is a limit to what one person can carry! You don’t need to carry your BOB with you wherever you go, just enough useful stuff to get you through in a pinch.

Your wallet should not be thought of as a single accessory to your wardrobe, but rather as a series of places to put important pieces of paper and plastic. You will want to keep these things in separate places, and you want to keep them to a minimum. There is no need to haul around a year’s worth of receipts, business cards, and shopping lists. Routinely clean out your pockets! Most people’s wallets contain far too much information about their owners. Neither criminals nor the government need this information.

Ditch it.
As to the necessities, I keep it simple: money, driver’s license, CCW permit, a few discount cards for places I frequently shop. You may need to carry a few more items depending on your lifestyle. Spread this stuff around, don’t keep it in all in one place on your body. I use a money clip for small amounts of cash and my discount cards. My driver’s license and CCW permit are clipped together in another pocket. As a side note, while driving it is advisable to have your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance in your breast pocket for quick access in case of a police stop. You don’t want to have to dig around for this stuff and possibly call attention to your “car gun” while doing so! Larger amounts of cash should be carried in a money belt or a hidden pocket. A money sash worn under your shirt can also be a great place for cash and important papers. Do not place your cash in anything that may be left “off body” like a purse or satchel!

The only actual wallet I carry is a decoy containing some of those phony credit cards that come in the mail along with a few bucks. This is what I would give to a mugger by tossing it to the ground in front of me. Most criminals are opportunists and will take a dummy wallet and leave you alone. If they don’t, you can always resort to what I refer to as “Plan G.” I think we all know what that is.

In addition to your important papers, you’ll want to be sure to carry a variety of useful and fun widgets. The following are indispensable: a multi-tool such as a Leatherman, a folding lock-back knife, a flashlight, and a lighter, and a bandanna. I also always carry a Swiss army knife on a chain with a Swiss army pocket watch, a pad of paper and a “write anywhere” pen like the Uniball Powertank, and a compass. It is amazing how many people think I’m nuts for carrying a compass everywhere I go, but after taking a short hike off-trail in an area I thought I knew well and becoming hopelessly lost for a couple hours, I think it is indispensable. Other things that I typically carry are small foam hearing protectors, a 3’ measuring tape, a bore light (you never know when you’re going to encounter someone selling a gun!), an athletic band to hold my glasses up, and a tiny back-up flashlight and a few feet of paracord. One final thing that most people must always carry is a set of keys. I like to carry my keys in a key silencer that hooks on to a clip that attaches to my belt. It is really amazing how loud a set of keys can be, and a key silencer of the sort used by police can quiet them right down. I sometimes carry a spare house and car key in one of my pockets. Keep the number of keys on your key ring to a minimum. Do you really need to carry the key to your dad’s garage when you only use it once a year? Leave it in your car!

There are many electronic devices that you may want to add to your supply of personal widgets. The only one that I consider indispensable is a cell phone. If you carry a cell phone you may find it useful to use its security feature to require a code before it can be used, but keep in mind that this means it can’t be used by someone else if you are incapacitated! Other items that may be carried include small digital cameras, GPS units, and PDAs. If you value security and privacy, you will want to remember that some cell phones and GPS units can be used to trace your location. Obviously individual criminals can’t use these features to track you to your retreat, but government criminals certainly could.

For longer trips away from home you may want to include a few other items. On the top of the “extended trip” list is a small pocket first aid kit. They are available in a small size that will tuck nicely into a cargo pocket. Consider including a few custom items that you may need but are not included in a basic kit. Keep in mind that pills or tablets tend to turn to dust when carried, so replace them frequently. Extended trips also call for spare batteries for flashlights and other electronic devices. It is very frustrating to suffer from dead batteries while away from home and have no replacements. Some flashlights use batteries that are not readily available at convenience stores. If you carry this type of light, spare batteries are a must. And don’t forget to get a spare bulb!

When selecting your widgets, always choose high quality gear. The last thing you want is a broken tool right when you need it. Buy the best, buy once. Well, in some cases you’ll want to buy twice or even three times since redundancy guarantees that you’ll have a functional specimen when you need it. I typically carry three knives, two flashlights, and two guns. “One is none, and two is one,” is a good principle to keep in mind. Select your gear carefully and don’t be distracted by the dizzying array of options we now have when it comes to pocket tools, flashlights, and electronics. Think though your personal needs carefully, and choose accordingly. For instance, many flashlights come with an aluminum case and a crenulated (ridged) bezel so that they can double as blunt striking weapons. Do you need this type of flashlight? Are you trained in this style of hand-to-hand combat? If not, perhaps a different style of light may suit you better. One thing the manufacturers won’t tell you is that these hardened aluminum bezels will saw through your pocket in a few days. If you select such a flashlight, put it in a nylon belt carrier!

As to weapons to be carried for self-defense, much has been written by those far more knowledgeable than I am. Read and study the experts and decide what is best for you. I have decided that my self defense needs are met by a Smith & Wesson stainless steel J-frame .357 magnum revolver carried strong side in a paddle holster paired with a lightweight J-frame .38 special rated for +P cartridges carried in my off-hand front pocket. That way I have a gun accessible to each hand. If you choose pocket carry, you should use a good quality pocket holster and you must not carry any other item in the pocket with the gun! I carry at least one, and sometimes two, speed loaders of good +P .38 ammo that can be used to reload either gun. If you carry speed loaders or spare magazines in a pocket, do not put anything else in that pocket. You don’t want to be digging around in a pocket full of junk when you need a quick reload. As a backup to my firearms I also always carry a Cold Steel folding knife in my strong side pocket. When I go to the “big city” I change up the .357 to a Glock .45 Model 30 with a couple of full-capacity 13 round backup magazines.

You may find that other weapons in the “use of force continuum” are more suitable to your needs. Defensive pepper sprays, Tasers, stun guns and kubotans form an important part of many self-defense kits. You may even consider a defensive cane or walking stick. Whatever your personal protection strategy may be, keep in mind that anyone who chooses to carry firearms, knives or other weapons for personal defense absolutely must know the legal implications of the use of deadly force, and they must observe all safety rules all the time. Do not become lazy and take shortcuts!

Satchels, packs and pouches

So how are you going to carry all the gear I’ve suggested? I find that I can carry all my gear in a good pair of cargo pants and one belt pouch that holds my flashlight and multi-tool. Most quality cargo pants have at least six big pockets and a smaller pocket for a cell phone or backup magazine for your semi-auto firearm. If I’m going on a trip and need some more extra gear, I throw on another belt pouch and that solves the problem.

It can take a little time to become accustomed to carrying all this stuff. I carry several pounds of stuff with me all the time, but since I’m used to it, I hardly notice the weight. You may want to build up to a full load one or two items at a time. Once you’re used to the extra weight, you won’t notice it either.
Why not use a satchel, pack purse of some kind? Simple: You will leave it behind. No matter how conscientious you are, it will happen eventually. Not only that, but such off-body carrying devices provide tempting targets for thieves. Why risk it? The only exception to this rule relates to food and drink. I always try to have a water bottle and an energy bar close at hand, either in a fanny pack or backpack. I don’t carry food and drink on me at all times, but I’ve never regretted having a little sustenance close by!

What about one of those snazzy “tactical vests” with about 100 pockets? These vests are admittedly very handy and cool looking. You can really load them up with gear. The problem is that when you wear one, you look like a body guard or a photographer who lost his camera. I prefer to keep a low profile, so even though I love my Sig-Tac tactical vest, I usually leave it in the closet.

I also find that getting dressed in a ritual fashion helps me to keep everything in order and keeps me from forgetting anything when I change pants. I empty pockets in order, one at a time. I place my gear into clean pants in the same order. Have a place for everything, and keep everything in its place. Once you develop a pattern, stick with it.

Maintaining a “survival wardrobe” is a lot of work, and it costs a lot of money. But it only makes sense that if we spend endless time and energy preparing for the big, epic crises we should also put some effort into preparing for the mundane emergencies that we are much more likely to face. Lots of little things can go wrong in life. When problems strike, having the right gear in your pocket can make a huge difference. Not only that, but I find that all my gear allows me to help those around me, and that brings a reward all its own. So fill your pockets with good gear, and dress for survival success!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dear Mr. Rawles,
First off, I just want to say that I really appreciate what you're doing with your blog site. I've learned so many useful things and feel that I am beginning to have a basic understanding of how to prepare for and live in and a survival situation.

Second, I'd like to give you a quick bit of background about myself so you can hopefully help me with my dilemma/question...

I am a young adult working on the 9th floor of a large building in Manhattan [on Long Island, New York City, New York]. I do not own a car and so I use public transportation, typically the subway. My apartment is about a 30 minute walk from work. In my apt I have started building up my survival gear, food, Bug Out Bag, etc...But I realize that I spend most of my days not in my apt but in my office, working. So I've decided to start planning my office survival gear because if Manhattan was ever attacked with some form of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, and I'm still alive, I don't believe there would be time for me to get back to my apt before being affected (as subways, buses, and foot traffic will be clogged and slow). I figure my best bet for survival would be to hunker down for the first 48-to-72 hours in my building probably the library.

What are your thoughts/advice on staying in the building??
Also what kind of survival gear can I bring to work that would be discreet but really help me in my first 48 hours of survival?

This is what I have so far, which my employer has provided in a fanny pack for everyone:

[Mylar] bags of water. (We also have water coolers)
flashlight and batteries
emergency blanket
small first aid kit

Any advice would be appreciated and thank you for your time. Regards, - Flora in New York City


JWR Replies: Hunkering down in an urban environment can be difficult. We've addressed that before in SurvivalBlog.

Your office or cubicle probably has a locking desk, file cabinet, and/or a credenza. Typically, with the high turn-over rate in most corporations, keys for furniture gets lost. Ask your facilities department to either re-key your locks, or have them cut new keys for them, based of their manufacturer's code numbers. (Typically stamped in small digits next to the lock key way.) With this semi-secure storage space available, there is no reason why you cannot gradually build up a substantial supply of food, and have a place store items such as a flashlight, sleeping bag, foam mattress pad, and so forth. Even the interior of modular cubicle walls have a remarkable amount of space for items up to two inches thick. (One advantage of being an over-worked technical writer for many years was that it gave me a lot of late night hours to explore such possibilities. You would not believe what I stored inside my cubicle walls!)

Keep in mind that in a blackout, your building will be quite cold, at least for half of each year So be sure to store an insulated pad, down jacket, a pile cap, and gloves in your office.

Buy a USGI protective mask (preferably an M40 or a recent USAF MCU series) and at least four spare filter canisters, from a reliable vendor such as JRH Enterprises. Since these only filter the available air, they are not nearly as capable as a compressed air system like firefighters typically use. The latter will operate even in oxygen-deprived environments, but a mask will at least increase your chance of getting out of a high-rise building alive, in the event of a fire. One trick, BTW, is attaching two filters simultaneously (on both sides of the mask), to increase the available air flow during heavy exertion.

Find out where any extra bottled water for your building is stored. There, or near there, is the logical place to find your "hunker down" room.

Scout out your building thoroughly. It might be worthwhile getting to know someone on your building Facilities Department staff. Buy him lunch, and have a chat. Find out where the roof accesses are, and if they are kept locked. See if there are any back rooms, machinery rooms, or passageways that are not well known. These rooms are often kept locked. One little-known method if gaining access to such spaces is to climb up through a suspended (or "drop") acoustic panel ceiling, go over a partition, and climb back down into the locked room. You might even keep a small folding ladder such as a QuikStep ladder handy for just this purpose. (Tres Batman.) For some ideas on discovering unused spaces in buildings, see the Web Urbanist site, and related "urban exploration" web sites and their forums. (Of course, all the usual legal disclaimers apply.)

Weapons that are legal to possess in New York City have been discussed previously in SurvivalBlog. If nothing else, you should keep a cane or stout full-size umbrella in your office at all times. BTW, it is also wise to carry either of these whenever you are on city sidewalks or on the subway. They will look quite innocuous, but with the right training will give you a great advantage in a brute force fighting situation. For training, start with the Gordon Oster DVD, and the book "Raising Cane" by Octavio Ramos. Then take a FMA cane fighting class. Those would all be money well spent!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thanks for the response! I didn't expect my letter to hit the web page. I agree about the belt and my wonderful wife just got me a new black dress belt from Mitch Rosen gun leather (a bit over a hundred bucks but well worth it) as my original one was looking worn and (her word) 'ugly'.

I always carried a Surefire [flashlight]- I've still got my original [Surefire Model] 6P from when they first came out. I'm [working] in an office (where guns are banned) now but always have the 6P on my belt next to my cell phone. In a pinch it can work as an improvised impact tool [employed much like a Kubotan,] too. (Been there, done that.)

A reload is vital to any basic carry set-up too and I've got a magazine carrier with a space for my [Surefire] 6P in it as well as a Mitch Rosen carrier just for the 6P when I'm not carrying my sidearm. If I had to pick two mags and no flashlight or the flashlight and a single reload - I'm going with the flashlight every time.

I'm lucky in that I'm friends with the local range owner so on a slow day he will shut the lights off on one side of the double range and let some of us do low light (flashlight) shooting. That's something that also is never emphasized enough - most shooting incidents are at night in lousy lighting. If you are planning and thinking ahead you've turned out all the lights in your home/business and (without a gun) done search drills - use the flashlight, learn the 'dark' spots around your place and where you know ahead you will need extra light.

More than once in the middle of the day, someplace inside is still dark and a flashlight can be a life saver. Enough for now, thanks again and keep up the excellent work.

JWR Replies: It is notable that in many localities and situations where it is illegal to carry a firearm, a knife, or an impact weapon, it is perfectly legal to carry a walking stick, an umbrella, a flashlight, a stiff pocket comb, or a roll of coins. (Some of these can even be carried in the most restrictive environments, like commercial air travel.) All of these mundane objects can be easily explained to authorities. (OBTW, for some details on using an innocuous-looking pocket comb for self defense, see the Split Second Survival DVD, produced by Larry Wick.)

In essence, unarmed individuals are at the mercy or their environments, whereas armed individuals at least have the option of defending themselves. I hereby challenge all SurvivalBlog readers to make a solemn commitment to themselves: Never travel anywhere unarmed. Empty-hand martial arts are fine for someone that has years of training. But for the rest of us, the quickest and surest way to stop an assailant is with an effective weapon kept close at hand, following the requisite training. But even just taking rudimentary training and getting into the habit of constantly being armed will put you miles ahead of 90% of the sheeple.

To be fully and properly prepared, I strongly recommend that you get the very best firearms and street survival training available, from one of the major training organizations like Front Sight, Gunsite, or Thunder Ranch. Another key factor is situational awareness. Learn the Color Codes of Mental Awareness and consistently apply them to your everyday life.

Friday, June 27, 2008

One of the constant knocks by the mainstream media on the preparedness movement is the oft-touted canard that preparedness, indeed the “survivalist” mindset is nothing more than an excuse by far-right loons to engage in Rambo-esque fantasies of firearms, firefights and macho posturing. While there is a scintilla of truth to this in some far dark quarters of doomsday lunacy, it is for the most part fiction. (This matches JWR’s caveat on discussing unregistered suppressors [in the US] or other illegal preparations). So that we bring no discredit on what is nothing more than prudence, perhaps a few short observations can be proffered here so those of a serious nature can learn to assume a proper martial mindset without resorting to hysteria.

Preparedness, survival, or any other euphemism one can assign to our interest is as much mindset as gear, land or other physical manifestation of prudence. It is in itself a way of life that incorporates simple daily teachings, practice, and when training, the incorporation of real-life situational aspects that can better model an actual emergency scenario or a situation of social unrest. Any competent defense professional will say that greatest advantage in warfare is information, followed by logistics, then combat power. It’s no use having the greatest army in the world if you don’t know where the enemy is nor if you can’t you feed your troops. As Napoleon so famously postulated, an army marches on its stomach.

So with those adages in mind, how does one prioritize daily living to more readily understand these concepts? We all have things we do on a daily basis, so the question of incorporation becomes one of time management, especially given the marvelous source of information now available in today’s 24 hour “always on” culture. For instance, instead of perusing the morning newspaper or watching the morning breakfast, find several reputable financial news sources such as the online versions of the The Wall Street Journal or Barron’s. Start educating yourself on how markets move, how seemingly insignificant moves in commodities or futures, such as pork or wheat can have a direct impact on your daily life. This also gives you markers to start creating your own scenario planning data for acquisition planning, and in the worst case, a timeline for moving to your retreat. American’s are notorious for living in a bubble, in what is now a deeply materialistic culture, and missing the obvious signs of downturns both in the US and abroad. This new discipline has an upside as well, in that by becoming a more financially-aware individual, you can make more informed decisions on how to manage cash flow or even become a day-trader, freeing up capital for other, more serious purposes. Understanding the world around you, looking at information as intelligence rather than simple factoids and being aware of the bits and pieces that can provide a different and in many instances, a more accurate picture of what is really going on, is a skill that will pay one back in spades. Think outside the box!

Next, personal fitness is a must. In any crisis situation, adrenalin levels, stress, even physical injury can manifest themselves in a variety of ways that can cripple or terminate the best laid plans. It is therefore mandatory that anyone considering a preparedness strategy baseline their family health. The advantages of this are twofold: first, it gives one an idea of how much exercise they will need to incorporate into daily life to bring them to a level of basic fitness of a recruit in the US Army, ideally the Marines, which is not as hard as it may appear. Second, this will aid in identifying a medicine acquisition plan for family members so you are not caught short in a crisis situation. There won’t be heart or blood pressure tablets around if the mob has burned all the Walgreen [Pharmacies]. Gun shows are great places to get surplus, mil spec-quality first aid equipment, along with catalog houses that supply paramedics or EMS personnel. The best book on the subject is the US Army Special Forces Medical Manual, available anywhere, along with “Where There is No Doctor” and “Where There is No Dentist”. (I will cover medicine in a survival situation in greater detail in another post.) Learn how to take your blood pressure, especially pre- and post-exercise so you understand the difference between resting and active pulse. The various military physical fitness programs are all available on the web. Pick one that you can realistically follow upon consulting your physician, and then be rigorous in its application.

You want lean, endurance-based conditioning – not necessarily big bulky SEAL-like muscles. I can remember from my [USMC Force] Recon days watching these guys while with them at dive school, getting all bulked-up and then not being able to run worth a damn with my fellow Marines. You want endurance, endurance, endurance. Muscles will come, and remember: shooting skills are as much a kata as a karate movement and are technique-based on a solid, lithe platform. Incorporate a martial art into your training regimen if possible. This can be a speed bag, or large punching bag, dojo work, sparring with a partner or any other self-defense program. These teach discipline, respect for the art, and most importantly, stamina and situational awareness, all priceless skills in a crisis situation. These types of activities begin to solidify the warrior mindset, and in solidifying this mindset, you now assume the duty, indeed the responsibility to only use these skills in the protection of kith and kin, and not as a license to bully, cajole, or simply show-off. Many years ago my first sensei gave me an axiom that rings very true: “One warrior may spot another in an instant. Be it by the way he moves or by the way people avoid him. The problem lies when would-be warriors and/or fools attack a true warrior. The fool may seem to back the warrior down, but the warrior knows by instinct that he outclasses the opponent and does nothing, or just kills.” By increasing you martial acuity, you will soon learn to spot fools, an invaluable skill not only in crisis situations, but in life in general.

Learn to live in the outdoors. Go camping or hiking with your family as much as possible. Carry weight when you hike, so you get used to load bearing. Increase it, and record you accomplishments. Not only is it great exercise, but it allows for team-building activities and provides an avenue to understand group dynamics and how task-oriented your family is or is not and what your personal and familial endurance levels are and should be. Bring map and compass and learn orienteering skills, and if possible, find the local orienteering club and go on organized compass courses when you can. Land navigation is an invaluable skill along with map reading (topographic – not your normal service station map of greater Canton…). This was the greatest challenge when I attended [US Army] Ranger school, the skills of pace-setting and azimuth shooting, particularly at night. Remember, you may not have the luxury of G.O.O.D. as a family unit, so it is imperative everyone know how to find your retreat, rally point, or rendezvous site by azimuth and location. Moreover, in fleeing, you may need to alter your route intentionally if pursued, and you will want to keep your bearings so you eventually end-up where you need to be. This will help bond your family unit, and help in math skills with kids. Thinking on your feet and being able to understand where you are without navigational aids is the ideal. Hold a rehearsal drill with a prize or incentive at least yearly. Also have a vehicle plan that works on the same level – and here any of the relatively inexpensive commercial GPS systems can be a great help. However, don’t become reliant on them, as they fail, they require power, and they can be tracked. Map and compass are best – master them. Have your kids join the scouting movement in your area as this will also provide an inroad to appreciating living rough. I learned more about outdoor living in my 10 years of scouting than was ever taught to me in the many schools (with the exception of S.E.R.E. – Survival, Evasion, Rescue, and Escape) that I attended whilst in the military. Lastly, get local guidebooks that identify edible plants and animals indigenous to your potential egress/retreat area. Again, take the family out and do some plant, bird, and animal spotting. Knowing how animals behave – particularly what they eat – can give you insight into how they react around humans, particular those humans not know to them. Understand the ebb and flow of the environment around your egress and retreat area. The warrior knows his terrain intimately and it is a force-multiplier in a crisis situation. From the Art of War, on the Varieties of Terrain for the commander: “if ignorant of the conditions of mountains, forests, dangerous defiles, swamps and marshes he cannot conduct the march of the army…”

We’ve now started to look at incorporate an intelligence gathering outlook on life, followed by a fit state of readiness for the unexpected, now what about conflict? Unless you live in a state that allows concealed carry, you most likely will not have much experience in the carry of, or more importantly, the skills of living with loaded firearms. The old soldier’s adage of training as you will fight is key here: living with live weapons does not impart a casual familiarity that can lead to tragedy, more so the understanding of levels of readiness depending on the scenario. Combat pistol and rifle craft will be followed in another post and there as many philosophies as there are gurus. I subscribe to the school of Jeff Cooper and Mel Tappan, and readers are encouraged to seek out their writings. Suffice to say, in regards to our emerging warrior ethos, the idea is mastery, as a weapon is only as effective as the mindset and situational awareness of the person wielding that weapon. Begin to think of becoming one with your chosen piece; don’t choose a combat handgun, rifle or shotgun simply on caliber and aesthetic appeal. You want to ensure you have good grip control, eye relief (for rifles) and for shotguns, that the stock fits snugly when snapping the weapon to your shoulder. This is especially critical when fitting weapons for women and children. Your martial mentality is the platform for that weapon to be effective so it is imperative it feel comfortable. Next, find an air pistol and air rifle that resemble your chosen battery. Rather than wasting ammo “snapping-in” on the range (and fielding potential embarrassing and/or curious questions), use these tools to get the feel for breath control, trigger pull and eye relief. Use toy soldiers to simulate range. If you pick a particularly loud air rifle, check local ordnances prior to beginning your training. I have used air pistols in my garage for many years with no problem. Just ensure you have sufficient target backing. You will be amazed by how well you shoot your live weaponry once you’ve disciplined your stance, breathing and bench positions with the air weapons.

One of the reasons I stress familiarity with a martial art is that all involve a relatively similar pre-contact stance. That is, feet slightly wider than shoulder width, a light bend in the knees coupled with a straight back and slight relaxation in the elbows in a punching position. This easily translates into the FBI “A” (“triangle,” “apex,” etc.) shooting position when using a pistol. There are a variety of shooting stances; find one you’re comfortable with and practice it until it becomes rote. I like to shoot on BLM land where I can set up a loose range with a variety of targets that can simulate a variety of situations. Moreover, one can carry side arms “live,’ the most important part of the exercise. Always use caution and appoint one of your group as range master. I cannot emphasize enough the importance in warrior thought of acclimation to daily use of one’s weapons. Each pistol, rifle and shotgun, and the associated ammunition and accessories, all have specific, indeed quirky, characteristics that are best discovered and addressed in a benign environment. Another advantage of the informal range is practicing contact drills in the form of fast draw and point shooting; again, topics for another time, but key to the mindset. In conjunction with the mechanics of the draw and basic tactical levels (safe – elevated – hostile), there is the consideration of dress and load-bearing equipment. We’ve all seen pictures of militia-types and airsoft rifle enthusiasts kitted-out to the nines, but in reality, no warrior worth their salt dresses in such a poseur fashion.

Kit should be scenario, then mission-driven. It’s ok to mix commercial and military gear, as it gives you the best of both worlds, along with adaptability and more importantly, a covert OPSEC profile. One need not run around in camouflage with chickenplate-enabled body armor and all the other stuff that goes with such a mindset in order to present a hardened, tactical, preparedness profile. Try running 10 to100 yard wind sprints with what you consider to be “appropriate” gear, along with running up and down hills, pausing frequently to set-up a shooting position, and you will soon see what gear is needed and what quickly proves superfluous. Moreover, one quickly grasps the need for constant conditioning, proper diet, and rest – again, train with the gear you intend to use in your preparedness planning. Crisis situations entail short-burst energy requirements, breath control, noise and movement discipline and a host of soft-skills that are much more important than having “cool” gear. You may have the slickest web gear, a trick battery of personal defense weaponry, and way-cool “digital” cammies, but if you’re too winded to hold an aim point, too thirsty sucking down water like there’s no tomorrow (and at that rate, there won’t be…), or cramping and puking for lack of salt, you are now ineffective as a resource, a drain on those dependent on you, and more likely dead, as you were not sufficiently aware tactically, as you were too troubled sorting yourself out… The warrior is ready at all times, and uniformly effective, regardless of time, place, or contingency.
I rarely wore the same load bearing equipment (LBE) configuration twice, as operational contexts were always different.

The axioms I lived by were simple enough: keep your [front] belt area free of any pouches or protuberances; this allows you to lie flush when rounds start flying; next, position you main weapon’s magazine pouches on your side, slightly behind your hip or ideally, over your kidneys, as again, when prone, they are easier to access without elevating your profile. You drink more than you shoot, so canteens can be located at the traditional hip pistol position; use [CamelBak-type water] bladders where possible, as they are less noisy, hold more, and can double as a pillow, rifle rest or anything else you can come-up with. 1 qt. plastic mil spec canteens are fine, but I normally carried them on my main LBE framed knapsack or butt back. Use mass to distribute weight (your hiking with weight pays off here). If you do use them on your waist belt, ensure they are positioned in such a way that you won’t injure yourself collapsing quickly on the deck, nor are they in the way of your weapons carry. Never attach a side-arm to an LBE belt that leaves your body. Drop-leg pistol holsters seem all the rage, and for Close Quarters Battle (CQB) and urban warfare, they have a place. In a retreat scenario, less-so, as they will hang on fencing, drag on brush, and hamper quick ingress and egress from vehicles. Use good quality leather or black nylon (i.e. low-profile, non-martial appearing) pistol dress when not in tactical mode, and again, wear it as often as possible so it becomes second-nature. Shoulder holsters are good for this as well; just ensure it fits, can carry spare magazines, and that you have practiced drawing from the holster so it is not a liability. As to holster location, again, this is personal preference, as some like to cross-draw (i.e. a right-handed shooter holsters their piece on the left hip, magazine facing the target, and draws across the body) or use the simple hip draw. [JWR Adds: The disadvantages of cross-draw rigs have been previously discussed in the blog.] Concealed carry is much in the same vein, although by its very nature, you normally carry a smaller weapon, using a variety of purpose-built holsters on the arms, legs, inside the belt, or small of the back. I like the small of the back myself. Constantly experiment with your LBE until it is no longer “fiddly” and fits and works the way you desire. Run in it, dive on the ground in it, get it wet, understand how it behaves in a variety of circumstances. Use black electrical tape, or ideally, mil spec“100 mph tape” (in reality, olive-colored gaffer tape) to secure loose straps and to cover metal or plastic tabs or sharp edges that might become noisy or otherwise problematic in use. Don’t use black duct tape as it is too sticky and leaves a residue that gets on everything.

In recapping the warrior mentality relative to equipment, remember that less is indeed more; the more you pre-place, the less you need in a bug-out kit. Blend in and look "conformist" as much as possible, using situational awareness, concealed carry, and normal attire when going about your business in urban and non-conflict rural areas. Don’t depend entirely on surplus or new mil spec gear; use the best kit for the job, but more so, maintaining a martial “look” may draw the authority’s attention or encourage other fools of a tin soldier mentality to take you on. Adjust your kit profile to the appropriate level of security and risk and you should be fine. Lastly, you must reconcile in your mind the concept of deadly force. Regardless of how prepared your scenario, you may be forced to confront those that wish you harm, and you will die if you start the mental ethical thought process at the contact point. Knowing your tools, knowing where to shoot, and understanding the need to shoot will allow you the upper hand when dealing with fools. Concise action can often abrogate the need for violence; so again, preparedness can be as much a tool of avoidance as much as kinetic action. Deadly force will comprise several upcoming posts and I will also provide a topical reading list in the next few weeks, addressing not only use of deadly force, but the warrior mindset, how to plan and what constitutes strategy, tactics, and conflict. In the meantime, start thinking about times you’ve been scared, or in a heightened state of anxiety, or even shot at. What went on in your mind? How perceptive were you? What physiological signs manifest themselves? How did you compensate? In short, begin to analyze things from an angle of what you would do, say in an airplane crash or severe auto accident – I call this reaction planning, and it will save your life. Understand that danger has constants, just like any other natural phenomena. The more you think of “what-ifs?” the more you will be ready for crisis.

In closing, preparedness, like any other skill, is much, much more mental than physical. The successful preparedness planner is in essence a renaissance thinker, as you must understand and appreciate a variety of skills, and master the most critical at least at a basic level. In creating this series of articles, I will be working with a variety of assumptions: many of my readers will have had some military or scouting background, and possess a passing familiarity with firearms. You may have only just started to think about contingency planning, and I encourage you to mine the marvelous resources of SurvivalBlog. Next, that you have families, and you intend to incorporate your family or immediate friends or relatives into your planning; also, you are in the early days of simply trying to sort through the myth and reality of what the preparedness movement and mindset entails, along with the commiserate moral, ethical, and practical considerations one must entertain to not only thrive in a crisis situation, but also maintain the social mores of being a good citizen, neighbor and staying within the remit of reasoned law. And like a good scout: Be Prepared… Stay tuned! - "Jeff Trasel"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It was June, 1998. Y2K was a salient topic of conversation. It got my attention. When the electricity went off and there would be no water to drink, and no fuel to move food to the JIT grocery stores, I could see things getting very ugly. I had been willing to fight for this nation as a member of the US Army. Now it was time to fight for my household. I bought a Springfield Armory M1A. I bought a safe to store it in. I bought another M1A (for the spousal unit of course!) I bought ammo. Lots of it. I bought gear. I bought food. I became awakened to the idea of being self-reliant.
That was 10 years ago. Y2K didn’t cause a global melt down. (Although I have a friend in the service that sat in a command bunker holding his breath at Y2K – the government didn’t know what was going to occur.) I have not had to live through or endure Hurricane Katrina. No participation in the 9/11 attacks. In fact, I can’t claim a campaign ribbon for any disasters. Am I upset or sorry that I have changed my life to follow a path of self-reliance? Most definitely, absolutely not!

Let me share with you the good and the bad of what I have done in the last ten years. So often, people new to self-reliance are like ants at the foot of a mountain staring up with their head touching their back wondering how in the world they will ever be able to replace modern society and be able to take care of themselves WTSHTF. Well, truth be told, you can’t do it overnight unless you’re Warren Buffet. I am walking, talking living proof, however, that you can make significant progress. Let me show you!

In order to show you that you do indeed have cause for hope, let me share a few of my screw-ups. How about the initial purchases I made while in a state of “marked concern” when I became “self aware” with regard to self – reliance. The money I invested in self-reliance was my spousal unit’s “down payment on a house”. Do you think this view of “my nest” versus “the world may end” led to some intense “discussions”? You bet your last dog flea it did. For much of the intervening 10 years I have been the one prepping while my wife harbored a severe grudge against the entire topic because I spent our money for the house down payment on crazy self-reliance materials. A grade of “F” to me for consensus building. She is just beginning to come around in the last two years. Poster child example of a bucket of wet sand. (If two guys fight, they belt each other like two crazed wolverines. Eventually they realize they were stupid for fighting, shake hands, forgive and are back to being friends. Kinda like a cow urinating on a big flat rock – big splash and splatters, but it dries up pretty quickly. Get in an argument with a gal and it is like pouring water into a bucket of sand – the surface may dry after a bit, but it stays wet down in that bucket for a long time.)

I very religiously squirreled away Gillette Atra razors because that is what I used each day. The handle that you click onto the blade cartridge gave up the ghost after many years of faithful service. The stores don’t sell them anymore! Now I have three dozen packs of five cartridges with no way to use them to shave! Fortunately, I did find a second/spare handle in my stores and will be able to use them up. Did I re-learn some valuable lessons? You bet!

Two is one, and one is none.
You need to see what you have (inventories!)
Store what you Eat/use – I did great on the cartridges, but forgot spare handles!

In the run-up to Y2K I bought a dozen 6 volt golf cart batteries to be able to set-up some kind of power system in the house. Great intent. No photovoltaic panels No wiring until last year. They have been “stored” sitting on pallets in a friends storage building for 9 years because I have not been able to get to the replacement power system yet. I could have used that money for a higher priority item.
The spousal unit and I built our home last year. We did many things very right. Some learning experiences occurred, however. Maybe chief amongst them is my underestimation of the massiveness of the size of this endeavor! I joke with friends about not being free from the To Do list to be able to get into trouble for at least five years! Fix the septic pond berms. Sort out the “scrap” lumber. Put a deck on the back of the house so the [building] code Nazis will give us the permanent occupancy permit. Fix the leaking pressure tank in the basement. Fix the DR mower. Mow. Clear 30 trees dropped to get the septic pond clearance (not done with that one yet). Cut and split and stack firewood. The list goes on. Don’t get me wrong – I would not trade my homestead back for city living for anything. Was I able to foresee the "second & third order effects” of the change to a country homestead? Nope. Not even having read Backwoods Home magazine for 8 years. Thank God I listened to my in-laws and did not try to finish the upstairs interior construction while living downstairs!

Prior to Y2K I tried very hard to create a group. It failed in many ways. Had Y2K caused the feared problems, we would have been road kill. Okay, we would have been the third or fourth critter on the highway run over by life, but we were nowhere near ready to deal with WTSHTF/TEOTWAWKI. The Yuppie Queen and her husband went right back to spoiling their princess/daughter, buying Jaguars, clothes, and hair implants. You know - living the typical American city life. The other couple moved out onto 20 acres in a very rural county and raise goats and chickens. I am on 20+ acres and moving in a self-reliant direction. Two out of three ain’t bad!

I endured the gauntlet of multiple careers trying to find a fit for who I am. Thankfully, my spousal unit was trained well by her farmer parents. We never carried any debt other than the mortgage. One thing we did do smart was under-buy on our home with a condo (sixplex) in town. No car payments. No credit card payments. We kept 3-6 months of expenses in savings. One business venture was as a franchisee for Idiotstate. Massive mistake. Four years with no income for me and a net loss of $60,000 overall. What preps could you get done with an extra $60,000? I am certainly not happy I put one in the “L” column. I am not proud of failing. I am proud of jumping into the fight and giving it my 110%. As they used to tell me in the military, “What an opportunity for character building!” Learning lesson for me was that I should never have stopped Soldiering. I simply have green blood. I have returned to the Army by working as a tactical/leadership contractor at a nearby Fort and getting reappointed into the National Guard. Will a deployment take me away from directly protecting The Lovely Spousal Unit (TLSU)? Yes. Does staying employed doing what God designed me to do mean we’ll have a steady income? Likely. Does a pension check from age 65 on make us better able to care for ourselves? You betcha. The world may not disintegrate in 30 days. It may actually remain fairly normal. One has to prepare for that contingency as well.

By now you have to be thinking “What a knothead! This guy couldn’t find his fourth point of contact if you put one hand on a cheek!” Well, not so fast there Skippy! I have a thing or two that should go in the “W” column. I should give you a massive dose of hope! Let me describe to you in a quick overview where I have come to in my 10 year quest to become more self-reliant. First, about our home…

Your home is your castle, right? Well mine actually kinda is. It sets on a chunk of land that is 20+ acres. The terrain is rolling and 95% wooded. It butts up against a cemetery to the north, a 900+ acre conservation area to the south, a river to the west, and a section line to the east. The home is an Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) structure. The walls are 1” of concrete fake rock veneer, 2.5” of foam, 8” of reinforced concrete, 2.5” of foam, 5/8” of sheetrock. It is “round”, being made up of 12 wall sections each 8 feet in width. Two stories with a basement. About 1,800 square feet of living space. (2,700 with the basement, however, that area is not finished yet.) Geothermal heating/cooling and a soapstone wood stove. Metal roof. No carpeting – oak floors and tile. The wellhead is inside the home so I don’t have to worry about winter breakdowns or freeze-ups, nor losing access WTSHTF. We are running at top speed towards the 20% equity checkpoint in order to get rid of the bankster-invented Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) extortion racket. (We have a credit rating of 804, so the “risk” the bank incurs by carrying our note is a freaking joke!). It suits our lifestyle very, very well. Our intent was to have a very low maintenance home. Having lived here one year in two more weeks, it looks like we have a very big check mark in the “W” column. More details on the design/floor plan in a future article!

Weapons & Training
We have an M1A set-up for combat, and one set up for long-range precision work. The Glock 21 [.45 ACP] is the base pistol for the household, with one for each of us and a G30 [compact Glock .45 ACP] as back-up. The Lovely Spousal Unit (TLSU) doesn’t carry a rifle or carbine, just the pistol. (More on that later.) Training for both of us includes Defensive Handgun 1 and Team Tactics with Clint and Heidi Smith at Thunder Ranch. I have also had General Purpose, Urban, and Precision Rifle with Clint. I completed a special symposium at Gunsite (pistol, rifle, shotgun, carbine). I am an NRA Certified pistol, rifle, and home defense instructor. I have several other weapon platforms as a “Dan Fong” kind of guy. The two rifles with accoutrements, and the four pistols with same were certainly not cheap. Nor was the training. I do, however, know how to properly employ them now.

Food & Supplies

The spousal unit & I could stretch the on-hand food to cover two years. Canned freeze dried is 45% of it, bulk buckets is 45%, and “normal use” food is the last 10%. We have built a rolling rack set of shelves for the 3rd part to ease rotation of the canned goods with each grocery store trip. No, I haven’t found the secret spy decoder ring sequence on how to rotate the bulk and freeze-dried stuff with our normal, both of us work, lifestyle. The sticking point for this area I see is that WTSHTF, Mom & Dad in-law, Sister-in-law, Brother-in-law with wife and two princesses (one with hubby), and my Mom & her husband will show up on our doorstep. That makes for an even dozen mouths to fee

Now for a bit more detail. First topic up, IAW my military training, is Security. The base of everything here is God. I have chosen to bend my knee to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I can amass all the weapons, ammo, food and “stuff” you can imagine, but He is the one ultimately in charge. I am charged to be a prudent steward of His possessions - my family, property, vehicles, food, weapons, ammo, etc.. I am definitely striving to be the ant storing things for the winter. If you ain’t right in this area, it will really matter in eternity.

Part of your security is weapons. There are sheeple, wolves, and sheepdogs. I am definitely in the 3rd category. In today’s world your “teeth” are your firearms. I plan from a Boston T. Party paradigm of having a battle rifle. Hence, the M1A. Were I starting over today, I would likely go with a FAL, but now "I will dance with the one that brung me". Or maybe just accept the brilliance of the M1 Garand at $620 delivered to your doorstep from the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). I do have two of these. Hard to argue with .30-06 ball. I renovate Mausers as my hobby and so have a .35 WAI scout rifle. A second one in the more common 7.62x51 chambering is in work now. I laos have a Mossberg 835 [riotgun], two Ruger 10/22s (one blued, one stainless), Ruger MKII stainless .22 LR pistol, S&W 625 pistol in .45 ACP/.45 Auto Rim, a few Enfields, and a couple of Mosin-Nagants round out the field.

Let me detail for you the path to get to the Glocks. I think it may save you some of your money. I received a Colt Gold Cup [M1911] .45 ACP pistol from my Dad as a graduation gift from the Hudson Home For Boys [aka USMA West Point]. Great intent. A weapon as a gift – how can you ever be wrong in doing this?! However, a terrible choice as a combat weapon. The Gold Cup is a target pistol. Tight tolerances. Feeds only hardball, and that can be tenuous proposition. I carried it on the East-West German border leading patrols. The rear sight broke twice. The front sight shot off once and tore off twice. It was a jammomatic. I hated it. Sold it to a guy that wanted to target shoot.

Took that money and bought a stainless Ruger P90DC. Sack of hammers tough. always goes bang when you pull the trigger. Inexpensive as far as handguns go. After some marked de-horning, you could even make it run in a fight without shredding you at the same time. One marked problem. Two [different weight] trigger pulls [for first round double action versus subsequent round single action.]. This started to teach me to throw the muzzle down as I pulled the trigger in double action. This nasty habit caused a problem when you were firing the 2nd through X rounds, as now it operates as a single action. TLSU had a heck of a time with it at Thunder Ranch. Clint loaned her his G21. No more trigger problems.

Still bowing at the altar of the 1911, I bought a Kimber Compact to carry instead of the Ruger. (I still have the Ruger – it is still “the gun that my Dad gave me” and no one buys the P90 used for anywhere near it’s initial cost, so I can’t sell it without taking a significant bath on it.) The Kimber was going well. Then I got a little too aggressive at slamming magazines home in the shortened grip and jammed it. Then the recoil rod unscrewed itself during an IPSC run and seized the gun while messing up the trigger. Off to Kimber. Free warranty work and 48 hours without my self-defense pistol. Now I have no confidence in the pistol. I Loc-Tite’d the recoil rod and staked it so it wouldn’t come undone again. Then I sold it.

Glocks cost roughly one-half of what a Kimber does. Crummy factory sights, but all my pistols wear tritium anyway. No ambidextrous safety required. My short fingers are mated to big palms, so I can handle the grip. TLSU has been trained on the Glock Model 21 (G21). It ain’t an issue of psychological derangement like many guys get about their 1911/Glock/H&K/Springfield, but it is a comfortable and working relationship between Glock & I. I have a G21 and a G30 for both of us. They always go bang accurately and they have never rusted. I am not pleased with Gaston [Glock]’s refusal to take responsibility for any mistakes they make in manufacturing. No problems with the G21 however. A pistol is what you use to fight your way back to your rifle, which you shouldn’t have laid down in the first place.
M1As hit my safe because it is what I knew from the service. They also fire a full power cartridge, 7.62x51. It makes cover into concealment. I don’t have the other 10 guys in an infantry squad fighting with me so I can maneuver under their covering fire. I have to hit the bad guy with a powerful blow once and move on to the next wolf/bad guy. Mouse guns firing rabbit rounds don’t scratch that itch for me. To each his own. My two are old enough to have USGI parts and good quality control. Here are the mods I made to my “combat” M1A. Maybe they will help you:

Krylon paint job to disrupt the "big black stick" look
M60 [padded] sling
Front sight filed down so that zero is achieved with the rear sight bottomed out
Handguard ventilated
National Match trigger group, barrel, and sights (came as a “Loaded” package from Springfield)
Rear aperture drilled out to make it a ghost ring
Skate board tape on slick metal butt plate
For the “Surgical” M1A (it shoots1/2 minute when I do my part):
National Match loaded package
Trigger assembly additionally tuned at factory
Unitized gas system
Factory bedded
Stainless barrel
Swan rings and QD bases
Leupold M3 3.5-10x40 scope
Handmade leather cheekrest

Other weapons - I have two M1 Garands. Both were bought from the CMP. One is stored offsite with a "Bug-In Bag" (BIB). One is a Danish return, less wood, that I re-stocked. TLSU has claimed this one as hers. Ammo from the CMP is cheaper than any other cartridge out there, save the communist surplus stuff. An M1917 Enfield (also from CMP) is in the safe, along with a 2A, a #3, and a #4. A VZ24 is stored offsite. The first Mauser I renovated is sitting there as an additional .30-06 with a Trijicon 3-9x40 tritium-lit scope. A Remington 700 with Leupold VX-II scope is in the safe, but likely to be sold soon. A Mosin-Nagant (M44 or M38) ride in each vehicle.

I formerly had [Ruger] Mini-30s. I could never find any 20 or 30 round magazines that would function reliably. I sold them and got SKS carbines. When I quit holding out for TLSU to become a Warrior and carry one, I sold them off to fund other toys. I am pondering the purchase of an AK folder because it is a sack of hammers tough and can be transported discretely. I don’t know if I have ever come out on the positive side when selling a gun. Now I have to re-buy an AR-15 to have one for training purposes. The SKSs could be useful for arming the family showing up on your doorstep. Hindsight being 20/20, I would caution against selling any gun you buy. (The 700 mentioned above is a 2nd precision weapon and I have no AK to train with. Still deciding.)

Ammo is required to feed these weapons. I have over 10,000 rounds of 7.62x51. I have over 10,000 rounds of .22 LR. No, I don’t think these amounts are enough. Now that the costs of ammo have risen to heart stopping levels, I really don’t feel like I bought enough in the past! I need to plus up the quantities/smatterings of other cartridges that I have like .30-30 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .40 S&W.

The location of my home is the best I could get balancing competing requirements. It is as far from the city as we can get and still stomach the drive to work. It is between two major line of drift corridors – 12 miles to the major one, 8 miles to the secondary one. It is bordered by neighbors on only one side. The folks in the cemetery don’t say much. The critters in the wildlife area are more vocal - the ducks, turkeys, geese, hoot owls, loons, coyotes sound off regularly. We don’t mind. About 95% of the property is wooded. A few hickory, lots of oak. walnut, (unfortunately) locust trees are all there. The local river comes out of it’s banks about every other year and blocks our driveway for several days, but never comes near the house. The German Shorthair is long in the tooth for security, but she is there. A new pup is in the pipeline.

I would feel a great deal more secure if the homestead was picked up and dropped into Idaho or Alaska. It is about as good as we can do, though, staying near a major city so we can have decent paying jobs. There are some improvements we can make though. I just bought a weather alert radio from Cabela’s today. Tough to hear tornado sirens when you live miles away and have 1 foot thick walls! We need a driveway monitor/alarm. Again, the superior insulation of the walls means we hear nothing outside. I can see the utility of sandbags if things got really ugly. Some more land line communication assets would be useful. I think an AR-15 for training people would be useful, as would an AK. Overall, I think we have done pretty well in the security arena.

Our Home
We started the 10 years in a condo. It was part of a six-plex set on a small pond. I hate Homeowner’s Associations and their covenants! We could afford the mortgage on one of our two paychecks. Good thing! I didn’t get a paycheck for four years. We scraped by. Two years after re-entering the job market we built our house. We worked on the plans for five years. Beware! Finding a property piece and building a non-shoebox home on it is not for the feint of heart! You effectively are funding the construction of a mini town. You build and maintain mini roads (your driveway). You must build and maintain a mini sewage plant (Your septic system/pond). You must build and maintain a mini water plant. (Your well.) You must perform mowing and tree removal for the mini parks of your town (Your “yard”/acreage). I will write a separate article detailing our construction woes.

Let me highlight some of the self-reliant features of the house for you. We did not want to spend a constant stream of Federal Reserve Notes [FRNs]on maintenance. We used insulated concrete form (ICF) construction for the structural strength and the energy efficiency. The metal roof should outlast us. The geothermal and the R-50 walls of the ICF are paying us back the initial investment in construction costs. We opted for no carpeting due to the track in mud nature of the property, having a dog, and me having allergies. Wood and tile floors don’t hold dirt like carpets do. Less fire hazard as well. We used commercial steel doors for the exterior and security-need spots. They have ASSA [high security] locks. They have peepholes.

The basement has a 10’ square root cellar for the storage of canned produce from the garden. It also has a safe room/shelter. 12” of concrete overhead. The well head is enclosed in it. Land line telephone and power service into it via buried lines. Food stored in it. DC wiring in place to the attic for when we get to the photovoltaic [PV] system. We also ran DC wires to each room in the house for the use of LED lighting off of a battery system. The soapstone wood stove augments the electrically driven geothermal. (In spite of several damaging thunderstorms this past year, we have not lost power so far – great job juice Coop!)

The stairwell was kicked out onto the W/NW of the house. This shields the house from the hottest part of the day’s sunlight, and the coldest winter winds. We made the stairwell an extra foot wide. What a huge nice difference that foot makes to walking up and down each day, not to mention moving stuff up or down them! The mud porch/entry was set up for coming in with muddy boots, or for snow covered coats. We should have made it 1’ wider, as it can be a little tight. The bench is great for donning/doffing boots. The tile is easy to clean the muddy paw prints, human or canine, off of.
Windows were one of the few areas that caused some fireworks. TLSU wanted a green house in order to take advantage of the great view of the property. I wanted firing ports to defend against mutant zombie hordes. I am still hugely uncomfortable with the nakedness the windows leave us with. Yes the view is great, but what about when we experience incoming rounds, or more mundanely, when someone comes out to the property while we are away from the house all day at work and they help themselves to our stuff? Some relief is in sight, however. We are pricing Shattergard vinyl film for the ground floor windows.

Things That are Still Need on the Home
The great thing about the R-50 ICF walls is that they are R-50 and pretty tough. The bad thing is that they are R-50 and pretty tough. We can’t hear anything without a door or window being open. Hence the just purchased weather alert radio for us from Cabela’s this week. It is kind of eerie waking up at 0200 hours and having no idea if the thunderstorm is just a thunderstorm or if it is a tornado. The television is useless when the rain is so heavy that the dish won’t get a signal. With regard to 2-legged varmints, a driveway MURS Alert system is on the purchase list as we have had multiple invited guests show up, beat on the front door, and have to walk around to the living room windows to get our attention so they can be let inside. Okay for invited guests – certainly too close for uninvited varmints!

The entry hallway was one of TLSU’s “must haves” in the house layout. It has worked out well in terms of traffic flow and such. The security door at the foot of the stairs is a tough choke point to deal with at 0500 in the dark. No light installed there means nothing is visible through the peephole. I will have to install a camera and/or light so I don’t open it to let the dog out in the morning and get rushed by 2-legged varmints.

So far, the only commo needs are between myself and TLSU. When the sister-in-law, brother-in-law, parents-in-law and my Mom show up and we start pulling security, we will need to be able to talk more. I have an old set of TA-312 [field telephone]s and wire for the primary LP/OP, but obviously will need more in this area. Just not a sexy/fun area to spend FRNs on for a combat arms kinda guy, but I am working on the self-discipline needed.

We did look ahead and sink the FRNs into running 12V wires in the home for future installation of PV panels and batteries. Obviously things like the Shattergard film, more food, more Band-aids, etc., are of a higher priority though. We are working our tails off to reach the 20% equity mark to get rid of the PMI extortion as well. I still have an ASSA lock to install on the shelter door, and one to put into the basement door. Other projected door enhancements include armor plates for the front, outside basement, shelter, and outside storage doors. There just never seems to be enough $ to go around, does there?

The other major source of fireworks during the home design/build was on-demand water heaters. Having taken a 30 minute hot shower with one in Germany for 5 marks while on an FTX, I well understand what a brilliant piece of technology they are. TLSU, having never been outside of CONUS cannot give up on the electric water heater. She still doesn’t believe that the electricity will ever go out for more than an hour or two. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to draw hot water at the kitchen sink, and take a hot shower from a propane fired on-demand heater? She doesn’t get it yet. Obviously not something to break up a marriage over. We really did very well on the whole house building thing. The opposite of what everyone warned us about. I am pretty proud of that performance!

We started a garden this spring. So far, it is an endeavor run by TLSU. Spinach, onions, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, beets, and some herbs. I have not been able to convince her to expand the size. She wants to learn in steps and I am the whacko that orders 100 seedlings at a time from the conservation department, which then overwhelms us in the planting department. For example, the first iteration of this tree-planting endeavor, we got them the Thursday before Easter weekend. Friday night and all day Saturday we planted our buns off. TLSU was indeed a great Trooper about it, planting right along with me. Sunday was spent at church and pigging out at family’s homes for Easter. Monday I had shoulder surgery to grind off bone spurs and remove cartilage chips. Too much, too fast. But at 7 FRNs per 12 seedlings, how can you argue? I have to admit though, that after two years of the 100 seedlings, I am ready to give it a rest. This year we settled for seven apple saplings. Initial inspection of the cherry, pecan, oak, walnut and persimmon seedlings around the house reveals about an 80% survival rate. Only another 10 years and we will be getting food from them!

The initial freeze dried and bulk storage food needs to be rotated. Anyone figured out how to do this kind of at home cooking when the two of you work? The canned/”normal” food is now being rotated with each grocery store trip. We have canning jars for this year’s veggies and the root cellar has a robust collection of shelves to store them on. How much is enough? I don’t know. Four geographically separate and secure stashes of three year’s worth of food for all of the family? Who knows!?

I have Boo-boo kits just about everywhere now. You know, the band-aid and antibiotic salve with ibuprofen kit that handles 90% of life’s issues in this area. Now comes the high-dollar investment stuff. The combat blow-out packs for gunshot wounds or serious car wrecks. I did go along on a buying trip to a medical warehouse and got some catheters, sutures, gauze pads, etc.. I did get in on the last great iodine buy before our loving big brother government banned the sale of iodine to us mere citizens. (It is a stewable ingredient to make drugs, you know – “we must deprive/punish all to protect you from a few. Oh, well, you don’t need to be able to sterilize water anyway – we’ll take care of you on that too….”)

TLSU and I eat very healthy food – locally raised beef with no antibiotics or growth hormones. No growth hormone dairy products from a local dairy. Spinach from the garden. There are sugar detectors on the doors. Also, no chips allowed. We get to the dentist regularly. We both do Physical Training (PT) . She jogs 3 miles, 3-4 times per week. I run over lunch at work about 4 miles, 4-5 times per week and lift weights twice per week.

“Needed Still” list includes: Blow out kits, more bandages, more hospital type stuff, more medicines, syrup of ipecac, more antibiotics, more feminine stuff (think of a vaginal yeast infection with no drug store open), drinking alcohol, poison Ivy soap and remedies, athlete’s foot cream, more baby wipes, more hand sanitizer, all forms of baby stuff, get the bone spur ground smooth in my other shoulder and the cartilage chips taken out, get rid of the cat (allergies).

We still have the same vehicles we had in 2001. A 1998 Toyota Corolla bought with 30,000 miles, and a 1999 Ford Explorer bought with 45,000 miles. Both were paid in full when bought. Both avoided the 25% loss of value when driving a new car off the lot. The Corolla gets 37 MPG. I hate it. Every bit of plastic on it has broken – the car door locking mechanisms, the trunk lock, the ventilation system fan. It gets 37 MPG. I can’t find anything to touch that. The Ford is too big to get decent mileage, and too small to really be a useful truck. It is paid for and has AWD/4WD. It always starts. Both vehicles have BIBs and gas masks in them. Both have trunk guns. Both have roadside gear to help ourselves out of a jam. We are saving for the replacement of them both. We are going to be saving for quite a while. We need more cash in the BIBs and Bug Out Bags (BOBs)

All of the preps in this section were done via Cabela points. I bought gas and paid for business expenses - everything I could pay for with a credit card was paid for with the Cabela’s credit card. You get points at some sickening rate of $.01/FRN spent, $.02/FRN in the store. However, when you buy $6-8,000/month of stuff between personal and business stuff, it adds up! The gear for the BOBs & BIBs, weapons gear and parts – a significant percentage – 85%+ - came from Cabela [credit card bonus] points. When I got birthday or Christmas monetary gifts I spent them on self-reliance items. We did this never incurring any interest penalties because we zero the balance out each month. Our BOBs are set-up to sustain us for 10 days. They are packed in Cabela’s wet bags for load out in five minutes. Originally I sought to wear a tactical vest and ruck. After two unsuccessful winter BOB campouts where I could barely waddle one mile with both of them on at the same time, I dropped the vest. TLSU’s back is in tough shape due to scoliosis, so she is not humping any mammoth rucks with the extra three mortar rounds and can of 7.62 linked. We also decided that the G21 was what she could carry and dropped the SKS and chest pouches of 10 round stripper clips. Her ruck is a Camelback Commander. That is as big of a ruck as she can hope to carry without killing her back. We are not leaving home to go on a combat patrol in Hit or Fallujah. We are fleeing some kind danger and have every intention of avoiding additional entanglements, to include government hospitality suites in stadiums.

The Lovely Spousal Unit (TLSU)
I started self-reliance the wrong way. No consensus development. I saw a danger and acted. I am a male/sheepdog/warrior type. I am not sure that I could have ever persuaded her to participate in any meaningful manner before Y2K. She has only recently begun to do so after eight years of seeing me provide for and protect her. I was, however, stubborn/strong enough to do what I thought was the right thing and to heck with what was popular. Most “males” check their gender specific anatomical gear at the wedding alter and continue on in sheeple status. I get that females are the nurturers. I get that they work from an emotional starting point, not logical. Not wanting the tornado to destroy the house or the hurricane to wreck your and the adjoining three counties is, at best, the French method of addressing life. TLSU is finally helping me to rotate food via the grocery store purchases. She no longer rolls her eyes or sighs disgustedly when I spend my Cabela points to buy gear. Once I explained to her that I was planning to shelter and feed her parents and siblings and that our one year of food wasn’t going to feed all of them for very long, she started to get on board. She even likes spending the points off of her Cabela’s card now. She is running 3-4 times per week and gets some PT from work outside in the garden. She has come a long way. As best as I can tell, she will not ever be a warrior. We have come a substantial distance from sleeping on the couch each time a self-reliance topic hits the table of discussion though. A definite and growing check mark in the “W” column!

Skills that I have acquired:

Rifles – renovating Mausers and training at Thunder Ranch helps your ability to use these tools immensely.
Soldering – fixing plumbing leaks myself vs. paying a plumber $200 to show up and start billing me for work
Building – I invested 13 full work weeks of time during the building of our home helping the contractor. Some of it was the nubby work of cleaning up the scrap and sawdust. Some of it was banging in joist hangers. I laid all the tile and 95% of the wood flooring in the house.
Fix-it – the DR Brush mower has long passed it’s warranty period and while performing quite admirably, does need attention every now and then. The 1974 F100 demands attention regularly. Each of these repair work challenges teaches me a little more about mechanical items and taking care of things myself.
Sewing – Yes, my dear Grandmother taught me to sew buttons, and my Mom taught me to survival sew/repair things. A 1960 gear driven Singer sews nylon gear though!; )
Skills still needed:
More First Aid – it appears that a first responder or wilderness 1st aid course may be in the cards for this year.
More Hand to Hand – my goals and objectives list has had this goal on it for several years. Good news – I got started on knocking it off the list. Bad news, it revealed an “old man” shortcoming in my shoulder. Good news, I am getting the shoulder fixed (hopefully) during “normal” times versus after Schumerization. I just may get ambushed and not have my trusty M1A in hand. Having unarmed defense skills means never having to be a steak dinner/victim.
More riflesmithing – each birthday or Christmas gift of money has been partially apportioned to the purchase of gunsmithing tooling. I need more practice with the tools I have. I still need more tooling. I recently secured Parkerizing gear, but have not gotten the metal stands for the tanks built. Still, progress is progress and I can already do more to maintain weapons than 95% of the population.
Knife making – I just cringe at the idea of spending $300 for top quality knives. CRKT is my friend. Even better is learning to assemble the scales and blank myself. Eventually, knowing how to forge blanks myself would be useful.
Mill lumber – with 95% of my property wooded, I have the material to be self-reliant with regard to my lumber needs. I need a way to saw the tree into lumber though. First, the mill, then the skill to use it. Then I have the gear to diversify my income and help others.

Have I always done the smartest thing? Absolutely not! Much to the crazed satisfaction of a former operator buddy, I have cycled through the “best/high dollar” gear approach to the “sack of hammers USGI/AK” school of self-reliance. Don’t get me wrong – I ain’t surrendering my Kifaru rucks anytime soon! However, there were a great number of FRNs spent on those self-reliance tuition payments! Have I learned a lot? Absolutely, yes! Am I better able to maintain my independence and protect and provide for my family? Absolutely, yes! Could you do better than I did? Good chance. Have you done as much as I have in the last 10 years? Only your freedom, loved ones, and the quality of your life post-TEOTWAWKI depend on the answer to that one.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The most recent response to this article includes the following quote: “ I noticed that many seem to be fans of Ultimate Fighting and I'm not going to say its fake, but it is entertainment. The fighters are great but lets be honest, the matches are intended to draw ratings by selling the drama.”

I felt I needed to respectfully respond to this, not with the intention of arguing, but clarifying, based on a more educated and informed perspective on Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). I’ve been a martial artist for over ten years, and involved in Mixed Martial Arts (or Ultimate Fighting) for eight of those years. I’ve met and trained with some of the best fighters in the sport, and have been involved with and trained regularly with traditional martial artists from every conceivable discipline including Goju Ryu, American Kempo, Kyokushin, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Aikijitsu, Judo, Russian kickboxing, American kickboxing, Western Boxing, Capoeira, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, freestyle wrestling, submission wrestling, muay thai, Sambo and Gung fu. I’ve trained with two different police departments, bouncers, and numerous members of the armed forces on hand-to-hand combatives. I have also fought “in the cage” as they say.

Without knowing any better, many people compare Mixed Martial Arts to Professional Wrestling, and assume that it is either fake, scripted, or “entertainment”. Unlike WWE or TNA (pro wrestling organizations), Ultimate Fighting organizations (The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), King of the Cage, World Extreme Combat, Pride, Bodog Fights, etc) do not script their matches or decide the outcomes beforehand. The sport of MMA is a combination of the three most legitimate combat sports that exist today: boxing, kickboxing, and wrestling. In fact, the sport existed in the ancient Greek Olympics under the name “Pankration”, and was the first and most celebrated sport in the games.

Many people’s idea of martial arts comes from watching Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, or Chuck Norris take down an opponent in a fast, cool, calculated fashion…often with little effort. This is Hollywood . This is fake. Anyone who has been in real combat with tell you that it’s dirty, clumsy, unpredictable, and scary. To expect two MMA Athletes (Ultimate Fighters) to step into the ring or cage and finish one another off quickly and realistically is to insult their skill and devotion to the sport. The fact that an Ultimate Fight can last 15 minutes is purely due to the level of proficiency, athleticism, and rules involved in the sport itself.

Imagine Mike Tyson being confronted on the street by a mugger. One lunging hook later, the mugger is laid out cold with a broken jaw, assuming he doesn’t have a weapon. However, though Iron Mike walked through many opponents in the ring in this manner, fighters like Buster Douglas and Evander Holyfield just absorbed Mike’s tremendous power and kept on coming. Why? Because they trained every day to do just that.

If an MMA athlete was confronted by an untrained person on the street, that untrained person would likely end up in the ICU with broken limbs and a collapsed trachea. However, when two highly trained, experienced, and athletic MMA fighters square off, it often becomes a chess match. On the other hand, there are plenty of lightning fast knockouts and submissions if that’s what you’re after.

The rules in MMA were created for the safety and longevity of the fighters, and due to constant and rigorous pressure testing, real application, and scientific examination and re-examination, the style of “Mixed Martial Arts” or “Ultimate Fighting” has become the post complete, efficient, effective and proven self-defense system in existence today. That’s why Police Departments and Militaries the world over are now training these concepts. Without the rules, MMA would be a gladiatorial bloodbath, and high caliber athletes would steer clear. However, think about the techniques that aren’t allowed: biting, eye gouging, hair pulling, groin strikes, throat strikes, finger breaking, kicking a downed man…
How much training do these techniques really require? In fact, combine all those techniques, and I’d say that’s pretty much how an untrained person would fight. Do you really think a trained MMA Athlete wouldn’t utilize these techniques in a life-or-death altercation? Of course they would!!!

As was also said in the article, “As many have stated before [you need to learn] a system with equal parts grappling, punching, kicking, elbows, knees, etc.” Well, that’s the definition of modern MMA or Ultimate Fighting. Combine with that the natural “dirty” techniques mentioned above, as well as training with firearms and blades (we do cover blades in my MMA class) and you’ve got a comprehensive self-defense system that has something few others do… a regular and high caliber testing arena, that all are free to watch and enjoy, where the finer techniques of the system are constantly streamlined, tested, innovated, sometimes discarded, and generally forced to evolve from the outdated traditional exercise routines they are based on.

Next time you watch The Ultimate Fighting Championship, imagine that hypothetical fight between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris… and know that both were/are outspoken proponents of MMA. Most Sincerely, - EID



A very well thought out and personally researched treatise on martial arts. There were one two points with which I respectfully disagree: Point #3) MMA/ UFC fighters are great athletes, and at the top end are the best ring fighters, bar none. As such, they are fighting within time limits, rounds, etc. and have a precise time frame for the entire event. Thus, what looks like stalling is, in fact, a chess game to make one's move without getting caught coming in. In a street encounter, one doesn't know which round one is in, so don't dawdle: see initial statement of point #3; Point #11) owning a gun makes one no more of a gunfighter than owning a piano makes one a musician. Any artificial weapon must be an extension of a natural attack. The more complex the weapon, the more complete the new skill-set to master said weapon becomes (brass knuckles require far less training than an Uzi to use effectively, for example). If one neglects to acquire these necessary skills, little more is accomplished than providing weapons to bad guys.

On the highlight reel: #5) Awareness! Fights avoided are rarely lost...#4) The fight's over when the winner says so! Now, shut up and reload!...#9) We call this Environmental Awareness, and it's not the Al Gore Greenie-Weenie Variety; simply stated, your Environment is everything in, on, and around you. Spinning some miscreant headlong into a dumpster has the same effect of a crack to the forehead with a PR-24 night stick, without the hassles of carrying one; #8) Fight Dirty! Strike hard, strike fast, strike them to the ground...I call this The Theory of Inverted Sportsmanship. If you'd like to know a solid basis for self-defense, get wrestling, boxing, judo, and UFC rulebooks. Everything in these that is considered a foul is to protect the fighters from serious injury. Therefore, these are the methods to apply first and most vigorously when attacked.

I found myself in total agreement with the letter , with the exception of the two minor points stated earlier. One omission I would like to emphasize, that gets scant attention in any martial arts setting, for politically correct reasons: you must be absolutely ruthless with your attacker. You must be willing to brutally smash him into submission. If you are squeamish on this now, your flight instinct will take over in a confrontation, your fine motor-skills will vanish, you you will get your head (or some other vital or exotic part of your anatomy) handed to you. We refer to this as Spiritual Point of Origin: finish the fight, in its most gruesome outcome, now, in your head, and make peace with it. If you cannot accept mentally and spiritually that which you may be required to do, how can you possibly manifest the same physically? The short answer, folks, is, you can't...As always, Keep the Faith, - Bonehead

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

You mentioned stocking up on Potassium Iodide (KI). The head trainer at Medical Corps--(I took their awesome class, thanks for giving it kudos)--developed Potassium Iodate (KI03). It has a huge benefit over KI, in that it doesn't upset the stomachs of the people taking it [as much as KI]. Medicine is much more beneficial if you don't involuntarily purge it.

Another thing I'd like to mention to SurvivalBlog readers is that KI and KI03 don't expire, even if the bottles have expiration dates marked. Since it is not an organic--it a very basic chemical compound. Iodine might leach out and turn the tablets dark, but iodine is still iodine. Just mix it with food to cover the bad taste and it'll still be effective. With Regards, - Cody (a 10 Cent Challenge Subscriber)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mr. Rawles
I just found this blog after checking out Steve Quayle's web site and links. I must say this discussion is a breath of fresh air.

My experience is much different than many who have posted; I have little training in the martial arts, and never been in the military. I don't even watch those Ultimate Fighting shows.

I work with kids in state juvenile facility here on the West Coast of the US. Most of the "residents" as they are called are 14-20 years of age, and usually very aggressive and violent gang members. Unlike adult corrections in my state, we don't carry weapons of any kind including pepper spray. We wear street clothes and work in a average ratio of 12 residents to one staff.
In other words I deal for eight hours a night with the most likely people you would face in a survival situation. Most reading this live in an area where these are the most likely assailants and unless your a hardcore survivalist living in a tree these are the people that most reading this will face. Here are some things I've learned - usually the hard way

1) Forget talking your way out of it. Once they have decided on violence talking is only used to distract you or to manipulate you into believing you can talk your way out of the situation. We are trained in verbal de-escalation skills but experience also shows us that gangstas who are on a mission to raise their status in the gang by "putting in work" will not listen to reason, or pleas. Conditioning by the gangs to see violence as nothing more than a tool or as a way of enforcing rules within the gang literally enables most gang members to shut off a conscience or thought of potential consequences. They in many cases may also be under the influence of various drugs that hinder their reasoning ability. In other words don't bother talking if you want to live.

2) Forget any martial art that wastes time on flying kicks and roundhouse punches. Don't waste time learning how to use swords and throwing stars. As many have stated before a system with equal parts grappling, punching, kicking, elbows, knees, etc.

3) Learn to take assailants(s) out quickly. I noticed that many seem to be fans of Ultimate Fighting and I'm not going to say its fake, but it is entertainment. The fighters are great but lets be honest, the matches are intended to draw ratings by selling the drama. I have no doubts that those same fighters without the rules would be able to take out their opponents much quicker than they do. You should do this as well. Don't play around or make unnecessary movements. Don't stop and sermonize half way through giving a beating.

4) Finish the job. The idea that you should get your opponent down then run away is pretty d**ned dumb. First you may have nowhere to run to, and nobody to help you. You are better off once your opponent is down making sure they don't get up on their own power for a long time. All I can say is do what your God given conscience deems necessary for you and your loved one's survival in such a situation

5) Awareness!, Awareness!, Awareness!
If a person, place, or situation makes those little hairs stand up there is good reason for it. If your in a crowd always be aware of eye movements, body movement. Also be aware that criminals/gang members never attack alone. Even if they aren't joining in the attack they have accomplices serving as lookouts to either tip them off or to distract. Be aware of where you are, and who is around you at all times. Watch what those people do or say.

6) Learn to fight in close quarters. A dojo or a gym is great but have your sparring partner and you fight within a small chalk circle for a while. Better yet a medium sized walk in closet. Many well known street gangs that got their starts in the California prison system (Sureños or 13s come to mind) created fighting systems for both offense and defense in their cells. The "fighting art" consists mostly of elbow, and knee strikes with some uppercut punches, followed by takedowns. Is it any good? Ask any correctional officer who now extracts these guys from cells using "stun shields", pepper spray guns, and eight-man extraction teams. Fairly intelligent, and motivated sparring partners can probably duplicate this style with a little trial and error.

7) Don't waste your time getting into a punching contest. In most cases your assailant is a more experienced fighter than you. They also have experience taking a punch. How many punches have you taken lately Sugar Ray? Probably not many, if any. Forget kicking too unless you have been trained how to do it properly or when to do it. Sending a kick to someone's face like Chuck Norris or Jean Claude Van Damme is cool in movies - especially after its been choreographed and practiced for weeks, then filmed from the optimal angles. Its looks pretty dumb when you do it though. It tends you get you beaten or dead as well. If your assailant is on the ground a few well placed kicks to the mid-section, groin, ribcage, neck, or face couldn't hurt however.

8) Go for the eyes or throat. Cut off the assailants sight and air. If more than one assailant hit the first ones eyes, and take out the second ones breathing ability. If three - eyes, eyes, air. Go for knees ankles, and feet if you do kick. Avoid the groin since most men are genetically inbred to react to protect their assets. If you can take the side of your foot and say run it into an aggressors knee and then driving your leg, the results are quite surprising. Same with the ankle.

9) Use any weapons available. This also means improvising weapons. I once was charged by a young resident in our living units kitchen. I had a container of ranch [salad] dressing in my hand which quickly made contact with his face and most important - his eyes. Immobilize the assailant with whatever is available. Another resident charged me on the floor, and I pulled his shirt up over his head tight which blinded him and made it hard to swing on me. I have seen coins, cans of chewing tobacco, coffee, and even a handful of hard candies thrown into the face of an attacker to disorient. Knocking eyeglasses or hats off can have similar effects.

10) Any fighting system that doesn't teach just basic arm bar takedowns, goosenecks, and "Z" holds should be avoided. There is a reason these things are taught to correctional officers, cops, and people like myself and its because they are easy to learn, easy to retain, and most important they work. With just a few modifications these moves can be quickly turned from less than lethal to lethal moves. Also learn moves that can be applied when your fine motor skills are impaired. When the fight or flight syndrome kicks in finesse goes out the window, and the more basic the better. If the take down has complex actions then forget it you'll be too messed up thanks to your heart rate to attempt it.

11) Arm yourself. A knife is great, a gun is better. Train to use both and practice often. Most important get into the mindset to use the weapon.
Just a few things I thought that I'd throw into to stir the pot. - C.T.

JWR Adds: I agree that high kicks and roundhouse kicks are strictly "Hollywood" showmanship. Not only do they deliver less power, but they also leave you vulnerable to being thrown off balance.

Unfortunately, California's Nanny State mentality has led to enactment of laws that have made concealed carry of some knives a felony on the first offense, open carry of firearms--except when hunting--a misdemeanor, and concealed carry of firearms either a misdemeanor or a felony on the first offense, depending on circumstances. It is very difficult to obtain a handgun concealed carry permit in most California counties unless you are engaged in a business that requires you to regularly carry cash or valuables. Even "trunk" carry of firearms is effectively banned unless you are on your way to or from a shooting range or a hunting trip, or to or from a gunsmith's shop. To make matters worse, local law enforcement and interpretation of these laws varies tremendously. Sight of a citizen with a gun that wouldn't cause a sheriff's deputy to blink an eye in Modoc County would be cause to call out a SWAT team in Alameda County. California's complicated laws make effective self defense outside of one's home quite difficult. Thankfully, California has not banned canes, walking sticks, and umbrellas. So my advice to Californians is to concentrate on stick fighting martial arts. Train regularly and don't leave home without your cane! And if you can, move out of California! Vote with your feet.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mr. Rawles:
T. Davies' letter begins with the proper assumption, that most people reading it will be suffering from hardening arteries and softening backsides, and NOW is the time to reverse the trend. Swimming, walking (especially), and running are all good exercises and abilities to possess and cultivate.

Beyond that, his comments range from dangerous (foot conditioning) to the plainly fallacious and silly (Tae Kwon Doe Masters kick harder than any others!). Where to begin?

Firstly, as to foot conditioning: yes, most of us could use some foot toughening, but the author ignores the fact that the African Bushman, as well as any other barefoot Aboriginal type he'd care to mention, is a tiny grasile creature, with very little extra weight (muscle or fat) on his bones. Therefore his body density to total body mass is much greater than his Northern European counterpart. Humans have become much larger, particularly in the past fifty years in this country. Why? ask your local, genetics, it's really just a guess, but the Aboriginal is small because a small man requires less food to sustain himself. Thus, diminutive size is a survival advantage on a daily basis. Also, the Aborigine, when on walkabout, isn't carrying a pack, rifle, ammo, and water, along with assorted medical supplies and munitions. He has, at most, a bow and a few arrows, and maybe some sort of water carrier. That's it. Walking around barefoot while burdened is asking for permanent foot injury, unless you are a Sherpa by birth. Limping and gimping about is the quickest surest route to becoming every MZBs first and favorite target. Modern boots are a bargain. Buy the best you can afford that fit you well, then buy two more pair and rotate them! Survival is dependent on one's ability to MOVE (Motionless Operators Ventilate Easily). The first thing one does when in a fight with a stronger adversary is to degrade his ability to move. (Read: chase you.)

Which brings us to the Martial Arts section:
Karate is highly focused on repetition, not kata, and makes greatest use of powerful linear attacks.
Tae Kwon Do masters kick no harder than any other masters. (I have been kicked by, and kicked, masters in almost every Martial Art taught in North America, and I have come out on the winning end of most of the exchanges. The hardest kicks weren't by Tae Kwon Do masters, and I don't practice Tae Kwon Do.) Backup mass is one of for Major components in generating power in all motion: Backup mass, timing, balance, and speed. There are many others, and these apply to ALL motion, fighting or otherwise. Notice, the term used is Backup, not body mass. without alignment with the direction of one's attack, the size of the body doesn't matter. Imagine me swinging a wooden arrow at you, arm fully extended. Now, imagine the same effort being exerted, but this time I am thrusting the arrow ...get the point?

Tai Chi is the root form (or the closest living relative) of all Chinese, and therefore by default Japanese, Okinawan and Korean martial Arts. The deadly fighters mentioned are master fighters, schooled in many styles and systems not just Tai Chi masters,

Kung Fu is a generic term applied to Chinese Martial Arts (as opposed to karate for Japanese/ Okinawan). I have never seen a generic "Kung Fu" school in this country. Most honor their distinct heritage proudly (wing chun, qi gong, jeet kun do, kempo, kenpo etc. Ed Parker's American Kenpo karate is considered kung fu by many, due to its origins in China) It is no harder to learn than any other form of fighting art.

Ninjitsu is an art I have no personal experience in, so my only comment would be that time spent practicing with arcane weaponry would be better spent practicing firearms proficiency. One may be able to disguise a sword as a walking cane (I do it all the time) but a Glock tucks right into the trousers as easily. Efficiency first, esoteric later...
Aikido is based on two principles, both using an opponent's energy (their attack) against him. First is evacuating the line of attack; second is turning big circles into smaller circles (a declining radius/apex arc, in engineering terms). Judo is not a sport form of Aikido. Aikido is a "sporting" version of Aikijuitsu, the Martial Art practiced in the Japanese Imperial Court. Judo is a "sporting" version of jujitsu.

Jujitsu is a grappling art, not just focused on grappling. Brazilian jujitsu is a "ring" oriented style. The greatest weakness with any style of "-jitsu" is that it is singular combat, and bad guys come in bunches, and it is becoming more ring-oriented (i.e., more "rules", ala boxing). I had a kid try an arm bar on me the other day. He caught me by surprise, got the legs around my arm and neck, but before he could straighten it , I locked my hands together, put a foot on his throat, and began to lift. I may be old, but I'm still plenty mean, quick, and crafty, and if you want to cheap-shot me in my own school, I'm more than happy to play rough! Needless to say, as my weight and his and my pulling all became directed on his neck via my foot, his efforts ceased precipitously, and he tapped out immediately and vigorously!

Please do not misunderstand my comments, but [Mr. Davies'] misinformation must be corrected before it becomes "common knowledge". After all, you and SurvivalBlog have become the "source of record" for the survivalist movement with the mainstream media. FWIW, - Bonehead


Regarding Mr. T. Davies' statement: "When you run, you should never touch the heels of your feet to the ground."

Is completely incorrect as is most of the rest of his remarks on running. To be honest the above statement is correct only if the runner is sprinting. Long distance running (800 meters or more) can be run on the heals of your feet! At least I do, and my knees have not been the problem.

For some really good advise on running please see Running World and Running Ahead. The latter has some really good runners that post often and are very helpful to both new and old runners alike.

I started running after walking the One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon a few years ago. I run to control my Type 2 diabetes sans medication. And so far so good

For new runners, do a web search on "Couch to 5K race" training program and follow it. It is a great way to start your running.

Some general rules to follow.

Build miles slowly. Don't add more than 10% to your weekly miles per week. In other words if you currently are running a mile a day for six days a week then next week should be no more than 0.6 miles more.

You should have one long easy run per week, and that run should be no longer than 30% of your weekly total miles

An easy run should be at a pace where you can carry on a normal conversation with your running partner

Cross train. It is important to have good core strength. If you don't you joints will attempt to move in directions the joint was not meant to go.

And stretch before and after your runs. This is a must. The before run stretch is always after a nice 3 or 4 minute warm up session. Never do this "cold"!!

Don't be afraid of walking some of your miles! Here is a fact: A lot of runners that keep missing qualifying for the Boston Marathon attempting to run all of the distance in qualifying races. When they start doing recoveries (walking) some of the distance, they find they make the qualifying time.

These rules will generally help and I want to repeat that: They will help in avoiding injuries. But very lucky is the person that completely avoids running injuries.

The number one rule for running (and even walking) is getting the proper shoe and having it properly fitted to your gait! This, more than anything, helps avoid injuries! Do a web search on running clubs in your area and contact them. Ask them where they go to get fitted for the proper shoes. The people in these shops are trained to watch you run and most of the top shops have machines that analyze your gait in the shop and see the mechanics of how you run, then fitting you to the proper shoe. To skip this process in your running is like buying a nice new .45 ACP then stocking up on .357 ammo. There are going to be problems! And be prepared to pay from $75 to about $110 for good shoes. I have not spent more than $95 to include tax on any of my shoes. The price range can go to $250 and above, but you still are going to be replacing them at between 300 and 500 miles no matter what you spend, so don't unless you just have to have the absolute top of the line. Oh and one other thing, NB 767 bought at Penney's for $55 is not the same NB 767 bought at the Runners Shop for $85. You will be replacing them in 150 to 250 miles. That is not saving money!! Tracking shoe miles is where Running Ahead comes in. There is a top of the line free on line log there and the tools are great! You can lay out training runs complete with miles. water stops etc. You can toggle between street mapping and Sat images and even graph the course elevations.

And don't forget to enter some local races. You'll meet some great people and learn more about running and your body than you ever thought possible! Where I live we have Pace for the Race Training each year. It is a group that meets to train for 15 to 16 Saturdays before the Indianapolis Mini. For several weeks before we run that morning we have guests come in and teach us the things we need to know to avoid bad knees, shin splints and ITBS (ITBS hurts like h**l!)

Hope this helps. There is nothing like completing your first 5K or half-marathon! - Gregg S.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

There is a lot of information online and in print about what gear to have on hand if the worst happens, tons and tons about how to store food, fuel, etc. There is even a plethora of information on how to get food and build shelter in the extremes. All of this leaves out some crucial elements. In this article you are going to see how to prepare your body and mind for working without equipment in adverse or even brutal conditions. the steps involved are extremely labour intensive. What you do with it is up to you.

If you are out hunting and home base catches fire, will you be able to get to a location suitable for shelter in a reasonable amount of time? If everything goes wrong and your supply caches are gone, the fuel stores have burned and the damned jeep is toast, is your body in the kind of shape it needs to be in to survive? If you are confronted by an attacker and your ammo is long gone, can you win in hand to hand?

Even the basics, like walking for a full day, are beyond most people in North America. This isn't a natural condition, and is not true in most of the world. In the highlands of Papua New Guinea a native will still walk a full day with a spear sticking through his leg if conditions require it. In the plains of Africa it is not uncommon for a tribesman to run a hundred kilometers in a day. This level of survival is available to anyone if they simply take the steps and do the work to build it.

A good place to start is with walking. People think that walking requires good shoes or boots. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some form of light foot covering such as a moccasin is useful but not necessary and most of the walking footwear out there will actually get in your way over long distances. Your feet are built with natural springs in the form of the muscle in the arch of the foot, most footwear destroys that muscle by giving constant support for the arch. Your feet are also supposed to bend at the toes, most footwear restricts movement through the toes. Then there is ankle support. In rough terrain your ankles are supposed to constantly modify their angle in order to maximize your footing, string ankle support actually prevents your ankles from being able to do their job. Finally we come to padding. Padding in shoes is supposed to cushion you from shocks. It actually does the exact opposite, providing no protection for impacts above 5 psi while preventing the bodies natural feedback mechanisms from reporting the true strength of your impact. Put another way, wearing those expensive hiking shoes can really mess up your legs over any kind of real distance. As stated above, simple moccasins are great as they offer a degree of protection to you feet, but they do lack durability. Other options include Nike Free's (the cross trainers are not as good from the foot health perspective but are much better than a normal shoe and will last a very long time). Alternatively, Parade boots have no padding at all and as such are better than hiking boots and last almost forever, while being very cheap from most surplus stores. Of course, barefoot is ideal and your feet will toughen up over time. Any of the walking options mentioned above will take a lot of getting used to. If you are unused to walking with this kind of footwear, you should start to practice now. The first few days will cause you pain in areas that are unfamiliar. After a few days the pain will mitigate and you will be able to walk faster than you were able to before, but you still won't have much in the way of arch muscle so anytime you push it you are going to experience muscle fatigue. Push yourself, but keep in mind that if you push too hard you will injure the muscle and be in worse shape than before you started. It can take quite a long time for a muscle that hasn't really been used since early childhood to develop, so be patient with it.

Running would be the next spot. Again, footwear has all of the same problem associated with it as it does in walking, plus there are some thing you will probably need to unlearn before you can be an effective runner. When you run, you should never touch the heels of your feet to the ground. The pattern is toes to ball or mid-foot, use the toes to launch again (this requires very developed foot arch muscles). Running on your heels means that the impact if transferring to your knees, causing minute damage with each step. The accumulation of that damage will increase your odds of a serious knee injury, usually within the first your of running. In a true survival situation your legs are your best friends, treat them with kindness and respect and they will outlast any vehicle, cover terrain that even a horse can't touch and keep you going when everything else has failed. Breathing is another aspect of running. If you have ever done track, odds are good you were taught how to breathe. Unfortunately you were taught wrong. When you run you should breathe exclusively through your nose. There will be a strong temptation to breathe out through your mouth (after all, that is what we were all taught). The problem with that is twofold. One, it rapidly expels all the Carbon Dioxide in your blood. This seems like a good idea, but in reality we require a small CO2 reserve to allow us to properly absorb oxygen. Without that reserve, you are simply making your body operate with less oxygen than it should have. Two, mucus. This sound fairly unpleasant, but mucus exists in our body for very good reason. In this case it helps to lubricate the nasal passages, but needs strong out breaths to flow properly. If you try running on a cold day, you will notice that for the first few minutes every in breathe through the nasal passages hurts, but once the mucus is being pumped properly the pain goes away. There is one other benefit of nasal breathing: many asthmatics who have tried it have found that they become asymptomatic and remain so. There is no real research on this, so these are purely anecdotal accounts, however the sheer volume of them is fairly persuasive.
So now you can walk somewhere and run if you need to put on a burst of speed. This is where the advanced stuff comes in. Parkour is a discipline that was created in France in the late eighties by a man named David Belle. Parkour is essentially the art of running away really fast in places that your pursuer probably can't follow. The best info on parkour will come from local communities, but barring that, the web site is a great resource. [JWR Adds: This video clip and this one of the notorious "Ninja For Hire" show the more extreme aspects of the art. Disclaimer: Kids, Do not try this at home! Their interpretation of the "art" seems foolhardy, especially engaging in practice jumping without at least wearing a rock climbing helmet!] What follows is more of a brief summary of the training and methodologies involved.

A huge part of Parkour is the idea of gradual progression. When you begin training you should practice landing as much as you can. Go to a flight of stairs and go up one step. Turn and face the bottom of the stairs and then jump off. When you jump, lift your legs as high as you can in front of you, and then bring them down so that they are almost straight (just a slight bend in the knees) and point your toes. Your feet should be a little more than shoulder width apart. Land on your toes, spreading the impact across all of them. As the impact starts to hit, bend your feet until you hit the balls of your feet, resisting with your foot muscles. Then start to sink down using your thigh muscles, while resisting as much as you can. You should end with your hands on the ground, between your feet. Listen to your landing, it should be almost silent. Once you can do that perfectly a hundred times, move up to the next step and start the process again. There is no point where you are finished training how to land, practitioners of parkour who have been doing it from the start still train how to land every day. That is fairly typical of parkour training, intensive repetition combined with conditioning and incremental improvement. The key skills are: landing, rolling, vaulting, climbing, jumping, and running. Parkour can save your life in literally hundreds of situations, from extracting yourself from a burning building (the creator was a fire fighter in France) to escaping pursuit, but it isn't a casual discipline and requires a very high degree of commitment.

Swimming is another skill that every survivalist should have. For swimming, it is probably enough to be able to cover a lot of distance although the stronger a swimmer you are, the better.
Finally there is unarmed combat. While parkour can keep you out of most situations involving hand to hand combat, there may come a time where it is needed (either because you are unable to formulate an escape route, or if you are diligent with parkour more likely because you are protecting a loved one who is unable to escape). Obviously there are many, many styles of martial art, and many factors as to which one is going to suit you best.

Karate is the classic martial art, because it was really the first one that western audiences had a large exposure to, but that doesn't mean it is the right one for you. Karate is highly focused on Katas [(choreographed sequences of footwork, kicks, strikes, and blocks)] and improvement can be slow, while many believe that Katas are actually detrimental to your ability to win a fight (Bruce Lee was among those who believed this.) Having said that, many people find the rigid discipline of Karate valuable, and it does leave you far better equipped in a fight than an untrained opponent.

Tae Kwon Do is more focused on mastering very hard, very effective punches and kicks. A Tae Kwon Do master actually kicks harder than someone of the same skill in any other discipline. Improvement tends to be fairly rapid, with the average time to black belt being around 3 years at 100 lessons a year and diligent practice. One down side of this is that physical condition is imperative, on the other hand diligent practice at Tae Kwon Do tends to leave you in great shape. Body mass is also a major advantage, as it is the main source of power.

Tai Chi is not usually thought of as a martial art, but more as an exercise for elderly Chinese people. However, Tai Chi teaches you a huge amount about redirection of force and using spirals to create energy. Some of the most effective fighters in the world are Tai Chi masters.

Kung Fu is actually not one style of martial art, but it is usually taught as a single style in the west and so is being considered that way here. Kung Fu is probably the most stylized of all the martial arts listed here, and takes the most time to master. There is a high focus on Kata again, and a high demand for physical conditioning. Basically, Kung Fu is really, really hard to master. Once you do, it is very difficult to beat. The amount of time you can dedicate to it and your passion for the beauty of the movement should be the determining factor in taking up this martial art.

Ninjitsu is a Japanese martial art that is very different from the rest on this list. Ninjitsu was a peasant martial art, designed to take on opponents who were better armed, armored and equipped in a situation where if you were caught training with weapons you would be killed summarily. As such, ninjitsu is eminently practical. Kata's simply don't exist in ninjitsu and most moves are designed around deception and redirection. Joint locks, low kicks and nasty nerve strikes are the main weapons, as well as a thorough training in stealth.

Aikido is an art that focuses on redirecting your opponents force and moving them off balance. Aikido is very effective for smaller people, as it doesn't rely on your body mass or ability to generate force at all. It uses many of the same locks and throws as ninjitsu, but is more focused on them. Judo is basically a sport version of aikido and probably shouldn't be your first choice for unarmed combat.

Jujitsu has been receiving a lot of focus lately as it is the most common martial art in modern mixed martial arts competitions. It is focused primarily on grappling. A really good jujitsu fighter can beat most other styles if they can get the fight to the ground, but there is inherent risk associated with the process of getting someone to the ground. That is why most Jujitsu fighters cross train at least one striking martial art as well.

There are many, many other styles out there (Capoeira, Savate, Kick boxing, Muay thai, Escrima, Krav-maga, Jeet kun-do, etc.) each of which has its own specialties. The one to take is a very individual choice but all require dedication and focus. Parkour and Tai Chi seem to be a common combination, although Parkour tends to magnify your abilities in any martial art due to the simple physical awareness and athleticism it imparts.

Of course, strength training is important for any and all physical routines (for Parkour a strict body weight routine is strongly encouraged) and the more cardio you do the better your endurance will be.

In the end, the only tool you can't lose is your own body so it makes sense to keep that tool in as good a condition - T. Davies

JWR Adds: I do not recommend the "foot toughening" approach and/or wearing minimalist foot gear that lack thick soles and arch support--such as moccasins or ninja tabi--for preparedness. Note that this foot gear would be mutually exclusive with Parkour, which requires foot protection. It is also out of the question for anyone living in an area with long-spined cacti (such as Cholla), or for anyone that might ever have to do any karst climbing or reef walking. Foot toughening also requires a commitment of time and a level of training dedication that few adults can afford. You will note, for example that barefoot competitive runners are few and far between. ]

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

As long as I can remember, I have felt that someday the comforts of a modern American lifestyle would vanish, at least temporarily. So I have made small mental preparations for some time now; keeping my mind and body fit and strong, staying informed, dropping hints to the wife, etc. Recently, and mostly after reading Patriots, I have a renewed interest in preserving my life and protecting those I love.

After educating myself on the subject of survival, I felt, as I’m sure many others have, very vulnerable and even overwhelmed. I needed to take action, immediately. Many thoughts spring into one’s mind during these moments. “What will I feed my children; oh man, water is essential; what about all those crazy people in the city, I need a gun, I need several guns; I need to move to North Dakota!” Sloooow down! These are daunting items. Once you quiet your mind and restore some sense of calm (it may take a couple days), you realize that you must be realistic. It’s not feasible for most of us to pack up an arsenal and move to a remote retreat in the hills or forests of the upper Midwest. We have jobs and responsibilities, relatives and friends; lives that at least for the time being, limit our options. And there is also the feeling that hundreds or even thousands of dollars spent on preparations could be wasted if The Schumer doesn’t ever Hit The Fan. (Doubtful, but it does cross one’s mind) A sense of urgency is implied; however, a caution against panic is warranted. It’s easy in this post 9/11 age to let fear control your life. Don’t! Simply take comfort in the fact that doing something to prepare for various scenarios, however big or small, will most importantly increase your odds of survival in the worst of emergencies, but also increase your comfort in the less dire situations and even improve your life now.

You Don’t Have to Move to Idaho--Survival Mindset for City Folk

I wanted to write an article for people like myself who are in the beginning stages of survival preparation. People on limited budgets, who may not live on farms, or maybe have never served in the military or had experience with guns. Those people who live in or near a city, particularly congested east coast cities. I write for those city dwellers and suburbanites in less than ideal regions; students, urban professionals, everyday people. However, it can apply to just about anyone who is not already well “squared away”. I will attempt to provide ideas on where to begin, how to prioritize and how to prepare mentally and with limited monetary resources for a multitude of events. I will try to focus on things that can be useful now and for a lifetime. My intent is not to instruct on what exactly is needed for every particular individual; there are more capable advisors for that. I aim to get people thinking and to provide a more general approach to surviving the times.

Get Your Mind Right
First and foremost is your mindset. Think about your values, your morals. What is most important in your life? Who is most important to you? How far are you willing to go to protect them? In the most serious situation, we would do anything, right? Why let it come to that? There’s good reason to get motivated. Put yourself and your family in the best possible position for survival now, so you don’t have to act out of desperation later. Also, think about what you spend your money on and where you spend it. Do you really need that big screen plasma television? What are you teaching your children about spirituality, health, money? Just as important, what are others teaching your children? You see where I’m going here. It’s not all about beans, bullets and Band-Aids. It’s about your mentality. Only the strongest-willed individuals will make it through tough times, be it TEOTWAWKI, high school, or simply life as an adult in the 21st century.

Beginning Logistics

Now think about tangible items to have on hand. Make a list. Just jot down ideas, then categorize (based on cost or type) and prioritize later. Your location and climate will impact your list. Set up your inventory and storage on varying degrees of threat and length of time of crisis. For instance a blackout that lasts 30 days vs. a full scale economic collapse. Will you be staying put or escaping to a safer location? What criteria will you base your decision on? What would you miss most if something tragic happened? Put yourself in that situation. The obvious answers are food and more importantly, water. If you are human, you already eat and drink water, so this is nothing new. You just need to think about having more of it on hand. In turn, storage is needed. We find room for other items; we can find room for potentially life saving sustenance. Package enough easily transportable food for 30 days. A durable plastic tote should work well. Then store enough for much longer periods of time. Buy a little extra food with each grocery shopping trip and date it. Not extra chips or TV dinners, get extra items such as dried fruit or granola that will last for an extended period of time, without electricity. Buy in bulk and incorporate raw grains into your diet. Start a garden. Not only will you know how to prepare these foods now, you will be more accustomed to eating them later, not to mention the health benefits. Think about buying a food dehydrator. They are reasonably priced. Keep a few five gallon containers of water in your garage, basement or crawlspace. If you live in an apartment, do you have a spare room or a patio? For long term situations, any amount of water that can be conveniently stored in most homes will be consumed surprisingly fast. Think about other sources and get a good water filter. Again, this is prudent to have anyway. A [compact] portable filter might come in handy also. With both food and water, as much as possible, use your storage as supplement, not a main source.

Little by little set aside money and acquire items you will need. Keep an extra supply of first aid items on hand. Don’t forget some of the less apparent items like toilet paper, sanitation, batteries, tools, candles, medications and fuel. Keep some spare 5 gallon containers of stabilized gas in your shed. It’s not wasteful as it can be used in your vehicles at any time. And with the rising gas prices it may prove to be a worthwhile investment. Don’t forget to rotate [your stocks]. Consider buying a generator. In a full scale crisis, drawing attention to yourself and home with a loud, light-producing device is not going to be very smart, but when power goes out and the masses aren’t yet rioting in the streets, a generator will be nice to have. Get a portable model. Study maps and plan different routes to and from your home. Keep an emergency kit in your car. This is by no means a complete list, it’s designed to get you started. Yes, the preparations are abundant. Don’t get overwhelmed into thinking you have to get it all at once. The key is minimization. Minimize the chances that you will be taken by surprise, wondering why you didn’t do something earlier. Start small and with things you can use in everyday life. The wealth of available information on specifics is immense. This web page is a great resource. It’s up to you to educate yourself and determine exactly what and how much you will need.

Help Others Help You
Working together will be to your advantage during crunch time. Find strength in numbers. Seek out others who share your values and have skills you lack. How can you help each other? Build relationships and share ideas. Educate others, but be careful as you can imagine the funny looks you might get if you start prophesying doomsday. And guess who’s doorstep they’ll be standing on come crunch time. I am a firm believer that the more people around you that are prepared, the better off all of us are. If your neighbors can take care of themselves, then it’s more likely your preparations will be preserved in the event of crisis. In short, at least fewer of your neighbors will be knocking on your door the same day of an event.

Securing Your Castle
I’d like to take a moment to discuss security, specifically firearms. If you have studied survival even a little, then you are aware that arming yourself ranks high on the list of recommendations. Perhaps some of you share my reluctance to build an armory in my home. I have children, and being married to someone who is strictly against guns makes security a particularly difficult element in my survival preparations. While I recognize security as an absolute must, I have reservations about keeping a device designed to kill in my home. Ironically the reasons not to own a gun are the very reasons why I feel I should own gun. The reasons are aged 2-11, not including the Mrs. In a volatile scenario that could spiral out of control; I would feel helpless without weapons to protect my family. All the stockpiling of food and water will be futile if some thug can easily take it from you (and maybe your lives with it). If you do decide to own a firearm (or firearms), don’t flaunt it and please educate yourself and practice. Keep a chamber or trigger lock in place and store the ammunition in a different location if necessary. In addition, don’t rule out other ways of defending yourself. Albeit, less formidable, they are less expensive. These include pepper spray, knives, batons, stun guns and martial arts. I don’t think I need to remind people that these are mostly ineffective against attackers with guns, or even large groups of unarmed evil doers. However, they may prove useful in that they are very portable and can be used in less dire emergencies. Deterrence in the form of dogs, fencing, motion detection, alarm systems and location should also be considered. Protection from those who intend to harm is imperative and yet another item that is useful even today.

Back to Basics
Take an assessment of your skill sets. What knowledge do you posses that would be of value in a crisis situation? Don’t worry, if needed, your survival instincts will take hold, but some basic skills can make you an asset and will help you survive. Develop and hone these skills now. Start simply; make your own bread, catch your own fish, grow your own vegetables, prepare healthier, less processed meals. I enjoy beer, I brew my own. It’s rewarding and I’ve learned much from it. Learn basic plumbing, carpentry and electrical skills. You don’t have to be a master mechanic, but any vehicle owner should know the basics; how to change the oil, filters and spark plugs. Having a skill can be just as valuable as having an inventory; you never leave home without it and could earn you a spot in a group if needed. Maybe you are a dog trainer or electronics engineer. Don’t forget your kids. Teach your children to swim, hunt, split wood or sow a garden. It seems that all too often, in our frenzied lifestyles, we focus all our energy on skills that will get us fat paychecks and forget the simpler but more important things. Get back to basics. Slow down. Simplify. If something isn’t adding positive value to your life, eliminate it. Many preparedness items can be fun and done as a family. Go camping, take hikes, etc. If you have kids, consider home schooling them. Most importantly get to know your children; spend time with them.

It’s Up to You
You can make self sufficiency a way of life without going “off the deep end,” so to speak. Taking action will not only give you peace of mind, a sort of insurance policy, but also can improve your life in the meantime. Many corollary benefits will emerge. Here are some that come to mind: Less reliance on outside institutions, money saved, healthier eating habits, time spent with your family. Regardless of the future, you’ll be teaching your children to be prepared, to think logically and independently and not to have a lazy, consumerist attitude of entitlement that dominates our culture today.

This writing isn’t packed full of technical how-to information, but I sincerely hope it helps to serve those of you that may feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin and to breathe hope into those who are obliged to retain their current lives without major upheaval. There are many who see the challenges involved with getting ready and are scared into doing nothing. For one reason or another they go back to sleep, their head comfortably lodged in the sand. Don’t be one of those people. Enjoy the time and blessings you have, but be ready. An old proverb says “Trust in God, but tie up your camel.” Just the same, pray for peace, but prepare for war.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Some of these stretched the 100 word limit. (I skipped posting one that rambled on far beyond the limit.) The poll's premise in a nutshell: "If someday you went to the gates of a survival community post-TEOTWAWKI and pleaded the case for why you should be let past the barricades and armed guards to become a valuable working member of the group, would you get voted in? Taken objectively, would you vote yourself in?"


I am a shoe maker (not just a repairman) can repair saddles tan leather have done ranch work mechanics weld gardening skills set a broken bone stitch up a bad wound can bake bread etc, shooting skills need work only 5.5 MOA on AQT. Can milk a cow make butter some basic carpentry skills can use a wood lave make one if needed to know how to set up wind / water power to a shop or mill make some one laugh when things are bad can teach can also learn.know how to adapt over come make things work specialization is for insects.
Some limits to work: mild back problems cannot do a lot of over head work.
1 CETME rifle with 12 mags, ALICE pack, compressed MREs, 1 folding shovel camo nylon rope water filtering canteen extra canteen freeze dried canned soup 1 empty
small can rubbing alcohol cotton balls (cheap cook stove) 1 cooking kit 1 med kit 1 multi tool 1 roll toilet paper 1 wash cloth 2 tooth brushes tooth paste 1 belt with bayonet for CETME one pocket knife canteen & pouch cleaning kit for rifle and butt pack 2 mag pouches fishing line and hooks matches 4 Bic lighters 1 Iver Johnson 5 shot .38 S&W revolver 36 rounds of ammo, Flecktarn camo pants and shirt vest 1 light weight sleeping bag wool socks and a spare pair sturdy boots, Carthart coat tan 1 pocket size bible etc,,


Many years' experience in:
Primitive Skills:
*edible and medicinal native plants
*cordage and rope making
*hide tanning
*bow and arrow making
*bow hunting
Contemporary Skills:
*organic gardener
*orchard (fruit and olive)
*firearms use
Mid-50's, good shape for age, 6'4", 225#. Wife, mid 50's, 5'10", 150# (who shares many of the above skills, plus expert at canning/freezing, quilting, tatting, making clothes and moccasins).
Both have a sense of humor and aren't afraid to work.
In packs, besides personal gear:
*heirloom seeds
*one .308 MBR, one .223, with magazines and ammo
*two .45 Governments


Age 25, weight 160, excellent health, single. Engineer, engine mechanic, builder, jack of all trades. Trained and competitive marksman. Skilled teacher. Tolerant, thick skinned, sense of humor. Introvert, not loner. Schooled in college, educated in real life. History buff and cook.
Competent with photovoltaics, backhoes, generators, concrete, gardens, propane systems, AC and DC electricity, firearms, computers, welding.
Most importantly: not a prima donna, armchair commando, or busybody.
Equipment includes rifle, pistol, small amount of ammo, soft body armor and binoculars.


Age: Near 60. Can still see well enough, without glasses, to shoot back.

Old, tired, wore out. Been around the third world several times. (South America, South Seas, East Asia) Can't lift a third my own weight. Don't eat much. Know how to do just about anything.

Will arrive with 30 Lbs water, 30 Lbs freeze dried food, Ruger Mini 14, S&W 659, 100 rds for each, a few old books. and 50+ years usable knowledge. That about 100 pounds? (Worst case here. Actually, I would attempt to bring my entire robotics shop. Attempt, I said! )

Skills: Artificer. If you can picture it, I can make it. Make a windmill from a starter motor. Make my own tools as I need 'em. Bend railroad rail with no more than an axe and 6 young men for the bull work. Machinist, electrician, carpenter, stone layer, robotics engineer .


Age 25. Ex-military.
Trained extensively in: Perimeter reconnaissance,
Instructor of: full-spectrum warfare, defensive fighting positions, combat operations.
Expert marksmen: M16A2, M4A1 (GUU-5/P), M9. Expert in FN-FAL, M1A/M14, AKM, M16/AR-15 Family, 1911-A1, M9, CZ-75. Proficient with many other firearms.
20/15 vision. Reloading/Gunsmith hobbyist.
Physically/Mentally Fit.

Equipped: FAL Carbine (18"bbl). Custom 1911A1. PASGT Kevlar Helmet/Vest. Boots/Socks. Woodland BDUs.
Custom LBE: Seven 30rd FAL Mags(210rds). Eight 8rd 1911-1 Mags( 64rds). Two 1-quart Canteens (Full). Multi-tool.
Medium ALICE pack: Five 20rd FAL mags (empty), Two SA Battlepacks (280rds). Two Boxes .45ACP (100rds). First-Aid Kit. Extra BDUs (1 set). Cans of Soup (5). Mess Kit. Local Map/Compass.


Phd/MBA expert (37) on alternative energy and appropriate technology. Tool maker and builder/manufacturer/processor of useful post-TEOTWAWKI machines, trade goods, and alcohol (own BATF-licensed alcohol fuel still). Russian MBA wife (35) survived fall of Soviet Union and 1998 crisis. 4 yo and 10 mo daughters. Home machine shop, tools, anvil, forge, ethanol still, large printed alternative energy / appropriate technology / engineering / survival library, and inventory of preparation items greatly exceed the 100 lb per person limit but would be worthy of a group salvage/recovery mission. G.O.O.D. bags contain standard items recommended by Rawles, et al. Additional personally carried gear would include M1A w/ Leupold scope, AR-15 with trijicon night sites, Glock 21 (45ACP) with Trijicon night sites, Berkey water filter, laptop with large collection (>500 books) of appropriate energy and appropriate technology books on CD, Robinson curriculum on CDs for home schooling kids, ten 15"x15" fresnel lenses capable of starting fires in 30 seconds, disassembled 2" diameter alcohol still column with supply of vapor locks and 1 lb of ethanol yeast, and a few of my more portable tools (blacksmith hammer, hardy, & gloves; measurement tools; multimeter; temperature measure).


48 y/o 6ft 180lb male – good health
- Can walk 20 mi/day in full gear
- “Rifleman” with .308 MBR
- Doctor (emergency medicine and minor surgery)
- Gunsmith and reloader
- Cook

Backpack (40 lbs)
Sleeping bag/tarp
(2) BDUs & wool socks
Rain gear
Soap/camp towel/toothbrush
Food bars for 1 week
Water filter/bottle
Cookset/Trioxane tabs
Small survival kit (Fishhooks, matches, snares, etc)
AR-7 and 200 rounds

Web gear (35 lbs)
First aid/trauma kit
G23 + 2 mags (51 rounds)
8 mags .308 (150 rounds)

Barter/buy-in: (25 lbs)
Minor surgical set
Local anesthetic/syringes
2000 doses various oral antibiotics and pain meds!


I feel I would be a great asset to your community. I am a seventh degree black belt in American freestyle combatives and I could easily teach your people the skills to handle themselves in this perilous time. I also have an extensive background in firearms handling,gunsmithing and reloading. My real expertise thought is as a meat butcher. I can literally take a beef ( or any wild or domestic animal) from the field to the table. I bring with me a full set of cutlery tools, including saws,steels and several knives. I also carry a AR-15 w/8-20 round, loaded mags. A Glock 19 w/mags, and a Rem 870 tactically modified. I have a full set of ultralight camping gear including, freeze dried food,tent, sleeping bag,etc. My loyalties are to God, Country, and my brothers at arms.


repaired furniture
a little basic farm work(irrigation, pick rock)
assembled some field sprayers
inventory control/purchasing
some hunting
a lot of fishing
a lot of target shooting
cashier(a lot)
lube and oil cars
built 40 wood tables for an assembly line
sorted recycled paper
stock shelves
gas station attendant
a little gardening(corn,peas,onions)
unarmed watch
yard work(mowing, weeding)
sandwich/donut driver
some bow and arrow
some encrima [Philippine stick fighting martial art]
some cooking
printers helper
some CPR


Male, 38, 160 pounds. Reasonable shape.
Suturing, minor surgery, advanced airway management, cautery, fractures, casting, NBC treatment, tooth extraction and making dental fillings. 2 home births. Pistol. Morse code.

Sutures, antibiotics, casting supplies, complete surgery tools and dental extraction set.
.45, scoped M21 sniper rifle plus ammo. Field scope, rangefinder. Level 4 bulletproof vest, helmet, FRS radios.
Water filter, water, food, tent, sleeping pads and bags, heirloom seeds.

Two boys, 7 and 9 and wife. All with level 3a vests. Kids with .22 rifles and ammo. Wife with 9mm, AR-15 and ammo. Knows some gardening. Kids learning morse code.


Have excellent interpersonal/negotiation skills
Have made a sufficient study of military history/combat tactics/military strategy
Maintain a vegetable garden/fruit trees
Have studied/used survival techniques in N.A. and C.A.
Have knowledge of indigenous edible plants/animals in N.A. and C.A.
Have skill-at-arms on US/ComBloc small arms
Am expert in usage of map and compass
Have field grade(ditch) medical skills
Maintain personal combatives skills
Can forage and improvise like nobody’s business
Have seen the elephant

Weaknesses –
No livestock husbandry experience
Not a carpenter
Middle aged
Average driving skills

Probable TEOTWAWKI employment:
Retreat security
Weapons maintenance and training
Strategic Planning and Implementation

Saturday, April 21, 2007

USRSOG conducts a civilian S.E.R.E. (Search Evasion Rescue & Escape) class once a year. They teach primitive fire-building, Evasion techniques, field camouflage techniques, some plant identification, hand-to-hand [fighting] techniques, natural cordage making, [flint] knapping and a bunch of other things like primitive shelter making. These guys are hardcore and I’m blessed to have known them and took their class last year. This year's class is April 27-28-29 and I think there is still time for any last minute sign-ups but your readers will need to contact them right away. Students also need proof that they are right with the law by producing a CCW license or letter from their sheriff stating that they have no outstanding warrants. They don’t want to teach bad people [potentially] bad things. The cadre are all made up of retired [U.S. Army] Special Forces, Rangers, SWAT, so the stories they tell are worth the price of admission alone, which is $250. Not a bad deal for the knowledge you get in return. - A Reader

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dear Jim:
As my confidence in the dollar depreciates and my desire for skills increases, I'm wanting to convert FRNs into hands-on knowledge. What weeknight or weekend workshops would you recommend? Are there any places where you can learn Army Ranger skills without joining the military? Animal husbandry, and so on? - Spencer

JWR Replies: There is a tremendous wealth of free or low-cost classes available--enough to keep you busy every weekend of the year if you are willing to drive a distance. If you have time and just a bit of money, you can get some very well-rounded training in skills that are quite applicable to post-TEOTWAWKI living. In my experience, the most cost-effective training opportunities in the U.S. include:

American Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes

Local Community College, Park District, and Adult Education classes. They offer classes on metal shop, auto shop, wood shop, leather crafting, ceramics, baking, gardening, welding, and so forth.

RWVA Appleseed Shoots. These are held all over the nation. They offer great training for very little money. The West Side Sportsman's Club, located on the west side of Evansville, Indiana is hosting the national RWVA shoot on June 30 / July 1st. The Red Brush Gun Range, located on the east side of Evansville is having another Appleseed, and they're also having an Appleseed Boot Camp. The boot camp starts on Monday October 22 thru Friday Oct. 26th. Then the Appleseed Shoot is on Saturday Oct. 27 and Sunday Oct. 28. The deal is if you want to attend both the Boot Camp and the Appleseed match, you do so for $200. Yes, for just $200 you can have seven days of top notch marksmanship training.

U.S. Army ROTC classes, the ROTC Ranger program (administered by individual university ROTC Departments), and ROTC Leader's Training Course, aka Basic Camp). The first two years of the ROTC program--including Leader's Training Course--are available to any full-time enrolled undergraduate college student (including "cross-enrolled" junior college students) with no contractual obligation. Participation in the ROTC Ranger program by anyone other than enrolled ROTC cadets is usually up to the discretion of the instructor or the PMS. When I was in a ROTC Ranger program back in the early 1980s, we had two Marine Corps PLC students and an Administration of Justice (police science) major in our Ranger program, as supernumeraries. So even if you don't sign up for ROTC classes, you might be able to be involved in a Ranger program. Of particular note: If you sign up for the four week ROTC Leader's Training Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky, you will actually get paid to attend, plus get a couple of free pairs of combat boots. To be eligible to participate in ROTC, you must be under 31 years of age on Dec 31 st of the year that you expect to graduate. (Or possibly 34 years old, with waivers.) The best chance to get a slot at the ROTC Leader's Training Course is during your sophomore year of college, but when I was there I met a graduate student that had wangled a slot. (He eventually got a direct commission, by virtue of his ROTC "contact hours")

LDS (Mormon) cannery classes/canning sessions. Many "wards" have their own canneries, which are generally open to non-Mormons. (OBTW, the LDS food storage calculator web page is a very useful planning tool.)

FEMA / CERT Classes (Classroom and Internet courses, some with team commitment)

ARRL amateur radio classes.

Species-Specific or Breed-Specific Livestock and Pet Clubs

NRA and State Rifle and Pistol Association training and shooting events

Fiber Guilds (spinning and weaving) and local knitting clubs

Mountain Man/Rendezvous Clubs (Blackpowder shooting, flint knapping, soap making, rope making, etc.)

University/County Agricultural Extension and Cattleman's Club classes on livestock, gardening, weed control, canning, et cetera

Medical Corps small group classes. I heard that they have scheduled just one hands-on Combat/Field Medicine Course thusfar for 2007. It will be at the OSU Extension Campus, in Belle Valley Ohio, April 20-21-22. That class is full, but check their web site for additional course dates. They offer great training--including advanced life saving topics that the American Red Cross doesn't teach--at very reasonable cost.

Volunteer Fire department (VFD) classes (usually with some commitment)

Candle and Soap Making Clubs/Conventions

Boy Scouts and 4H. Informal, un-enrolled ("strap hanger") training is available for adults--just take your kids to the meetings and don't leave.

I would also consider these less important (but still worthwhile) training opportunities, as time permits:

Sheriff's posse and Search and Rescue (SAR) programs

Police department "Ride Along" and Police Reserve programs

Civil Air Patrol (CAP) courses.

Civic/Ethnic Club cooking classes

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The topic of striking weapons for street self defense has been brushed on in SurvivalBlog, but has never addressed directly or at length. I highly recommend training to use a cane, walking stick, or a traditional full length umbrella. This is particularly important for our readers that live in gun-unfriendly nations. Ditto for our readers that live in states like California, New York, and New Jersey where is is very difficult for mere mortals to get a carrying concealed weapon (CCW) permit. And even if you are a concealed firearms permit holder, you should learn these valuable skills. Why? You never know when circumstances might dictate that you cannot carry a pistol. (For example, when traveling to a state where your CCW permit is not valid, or when traveling overseas.)

The following is a forward from firearms instructor John Farnam, by way of SurvivalBlog reader Grampa Redd:

"I attended a stick/cane-fighting seminar yesterday, instructed by Peter Donello of Canemasters. Canemasters manufacturers high-quality canes and walking sticks and provides training in their use. However, I used my Cold Steel "City Stick," as did several other students.

I was astonished at the number of effective moves available to the cane/stick fighter, certainly more than I can remember! Peter's knowledge is vast, and I did my best to catalog the few that I thought were most effective and easiest to learn. Range is the big advantage that canes have over blades and other impact weapons.

Striking and jabbing are still the premiere moves, easily done with nearly any style of cane. Some follow-up moves and holds and more comfortably accomplished with a hooked cane than with a straight stick, but either style works just fine. The real question is: What can I have with me most often that attracts the least attention?

This four-hour clinic is something I recommend to everyone. The cane is a wonderful, low-profile, yet extremely effective fighting tool that most people can fit into their lives with a minimum of lifestyle disruption. Most casual observers don't even notice when you have one with you and certainly don't believe them to represent a threat. Time well spent!"

As for walking stick designs: From what I have heard and observed here in the U.S., if you are well dressed and groomed, then law enforcement officers in most jurisdictions will hardly give you a second glance if you are carrying a walking stick. But if you are shabby looking and perceived as "riff-raff", then expect to get plenty of grief. Canes, especially aluminum ones those that look like true walking aids, are far less likely to attract suspicion than walking sticks. I have an acquaintance who lives in Oakland, California who carries a dull silver aluminum cane with a big rubber tip. This cane looks very unobtrusive if not downright innocuous. It is not until you pick it up that you realize that it has been retrofitted with a 1/2"steel rod firmly epoxied into its hollow core. The phrase "the iron fist in the velvet glove" comes to mind!

I have another acquaintance that lives in a very rainy climate, near Seattle, Washington. He makes a habit of carrying a stout full length traditional umbrella whenever he gets out of his car. Aside for misplacing several umbrellas over the years (a fairly costly mistake, since he carries a big sturdy umbrella, which cost around $60 each), he had had no trouble. (And, by God's grace, he has only had need to use it to protect himself from rain showers.) Nearly all of the stick/cane fighting techniques apply to folded umbrellas, and they can also be used quite effectively for jabbing.

My general preference is to use a well-spaced two handed grip grip in most situations, to maintain control and more importantly to assure retention of the stick. This is akin to what has been taught for many years by police academies in the use of long ("riot") batons. The last thing that you want to happen is to have Mr. Bad Guy gain control of your weapon. If that were to happen, you would become he "Owie" recipient instead of the Owie distributor!

Do some research on your local laws. In most jurisdictions, any blow with a striking weapon to the neck or head is considered potentially lethal. Police academies emphasize this in their baton training. ("Never strike above the chest unless you you would in the same circumstances draw your pistol and fire.") So don't escalate to doing so unless you absolutely confident that your life is threatened and you have no other choice. (Essentially it is the same as firing a gun--at least in the eyes of the law.) It may sound sissified and a bit too prim, proper, and "Queensbury Rules", but most courts look at things in terms of equal force and a graduated response, roughly as follows: If Mr. Bad guy uses his fists, then you can use your fists. If he uses a weapon, then you can use a weapon. If he strikes above the chest, then you can strike above the chest. As a practical matter, there are no rules in trying to save your life in a street fight, but apparently there are in court houses, post facto. Yes, I realize that graduated response is not realistic to expect, since street fights are fast and furious. Most victims don't even recognize that their attacker is using a weapon until after the incident is over. (The classic victim's police statement is: "I thought that he was punching me until is saw the blood, and it wasn't until then that I realized he had used a knife on me.") But again, a graduated response is what courts will expect in order to make a ruling of justifiable self defense.

Don't forget that we live in a litigious era, so expect prosecution and/or a civil lawsuit in the event that you are forced to use a weapon in self defense, even if you were entirely in the right. Show restraint, and never deal out punishment. Just reduce the threat with a quick jab or two, disengage, and then engage your Nike-jitsu technique. (Run!)

If you get into an absolutely lethal brawl (a truly "kill or get killed" situation) and you cannot disengage, by all means aim where you can do the most damage: The front or side of the neck. The human neck is soft tissue, a bundle of nerves, veins, arteries, and wind pipe. It is your surest target to end a fight quickly and decisively. (The same goes of hand-to-hand combat. Aim your punches at his throat.) But again, it is also your surest way to find your way to a courtroom. I can't stress this enough: show discretion!

When carrying a striking weapon or an edged weapon of any sort for self defense, be sure to develop the same Condition White/Yellow/Amber/Red situational awareness skills that you would for carrying a concealed firearm. (See Naish Piazza's article "The Color Code of Mental Awareness", available free at the Front Sight web site. (Click on "Special Offers" and then on the link for "15 Gun Training Reports free of charge.") Extensive training on self defense combative techniques is worthless if you don't see an attack coming. Be alert.

If you don't live near a school that teaches cane and stick fighting, there is a 40 minute training DVD produced by the Gunsite academy, titled: "Defensive Techniques: Walking Stick." It is available from Blade-Tech and directly from the Gunsite Internet Pro Shop. (The latter does not accept overseas orders.)

I should also mention that modern self defense with a walking stick ("Bartitsu") was popularized by Edward W. Barton-Wright. His classic 1901 magazine article on walking stick self defense is available for free download. See: Part 1 and Part 2. These techniques are weak on weapon retention, but it otherwise is still fairly valid, even after more than a century.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

I'd like to suggest yet another art for you to consider: Arnis. (often referred to as FMA, or Filipino Martial Arts.) It is also referred to as Escrima or Kali.
It is a predominately stick and knife based art, with open hand techniques following.
Most Eastern arts I have been exposed to stress the empty hand and move towards weapons, Arnis is exactly the opposite, the thought being a stick is easier to defend one's self with than bare hands, and it is more logical to begin as such.
Another fundamental difference between Arnis and other arts is the assumption your opponent is armed. I've seen many techniques taught in my study of ju-jitsu that work well against a punch, but would end very badly if used against a knife. As you may not have the luxury of knowing what you're being attacked with before hand, I prefer a technique that will work well against either, rather than having to choose.
As Mr. Williamson astutely noted, a walking stick or cane is very acceptable to carry with you everywhere (even places you cannot carry a knife, much less a gun), and the techniques transfer well to other "weapons" (an umbrella or rolled up newspaper, for example) as well as a knife.
FMA has been criticized as being too "complex" (you do this, then I do that, etc), and perhaps correctly. As with any art, the important thing is your choice of instructor is as important if not more so than your choice of art. An instructor who stresses the basics over increasingly fancy techniques is crucial, in my opinion. I specifically study Modern Arnis and Sayoc Kali, I have been very happy with both.
It may be worth mentioning that these arts evolved from a predominately Christian culture, so the Eastern religion components that were of concern to some of your readers would not apply. Best of luck with your search and your studies. - Patrick R.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mr. Rawles:
Having done this (being involved in running a professional [martial arts] school) for ten years, and having studied twice that long, here's my $1.83 (two cents, adjusted for inflation). First, what does your gut tell you about the place and the instructor? If you get an uneasy feeling, listen to it, and back off a bit. It may be that the guy exudes an Alpha-dominant energy, and that's what's making your hair stand on end. Then again, it might be your rip-off alert/ BS detector going off.

1) Take a couple of days to think it over, and:

2) Ask for references. Talk to students away from the school; talk to parents at the school. If this guy is any kind of sensei, sifu, professor, or whatever handle he hangs on himself, his students' parents will overwhelm you (to the point your BS detector may begin giving false readings!). Kids in today's world crave the structure that society used to provide as reinforcement for parental structure. Sadly, society today denigrates parents' best efforts. Your children will thrive in a good school;

3) Does the school have a children's program? Private instruction? Specialized classes? While the art of aido (drawing and striking with the Japanese sword) has a great esoteric appeal to me, it is not of any particular immediate value, as I rarely carry a katana with me. An HK USP, now that's a little different story. This brings us to;

4) Does the school teach a rigid style, a system, a hodgepodge of many styles, or do they teach movement and the underlying principles contained therein? In other words, are they going to waste your time with a lot of semi-mystical crap about chi-force coming from your tantien, or do they explain that the power you gain comes from leverage generated by your strike aligning with your center of gravity, and timed with backing mass, body alignment, and relaxation/tensing at the time of impact. Again, do they deal with the esoteric historical context of the Far East, or the reality of the world and Newtonian Physics? (hint, folks: it's all about leverage and timing).

5) Does the school teach self-defense? This may seem like a redundant question, but again, if you're studying Japanese swordplay, you'd better be carrying a Japanese sword! Obvious, yes? Did you know that International Tae Kwon Do emphasizes, in fact encourages use of the most difficult technique in any given situation? That many "sport" karate schools teach students to break contact immediately after "scoring"? I have had personal experience with both. This is not how you learn to defend yourself, if that is your goal;

6) Be an informed consumer. This means a couple of things here: What do you want from the experience? We had a special class for home-school kids, and it became the nucleus of their social life (a lot more useful than dodgeball in the future, as well). Are you interested in learning to fight, to improve your reaction response, to get your butt back in shape with something a little more useful than step-aerobics? Or does the Eastern influence of many styles provide you with a new perspective on your world? When Bruce Lee talked of "style with no style" he wasn't advocating an anything-goes attitude; rather that one should not be constrained by traditional techniques. "When one is bound by tradition, the one must serve it, when tradition is bound, then it is our servant".

7) Does the system fit you, as it should, like a suit of clothes. Not only will different fashions look and fit differently on each individual, but also, the last time I looked, clothing, like people, came in different sizes and widths. I'm 6'/250 lbs...for me to try shaolin wu shu is almost a guaranteed trip to the emergency room...grappling, however... and,

8) If self defense is your pursuit, does the school teach a brad range of technique(notice, technique, as in broadly applied, NOT technique(s), as in a new one for every situation). Bruce Lee's analogy to water was only partially complete: water, like motion, exists in a constant state of transition, from solid (ice, rigidly applying the same motion to whatever comes, whether appropriate or not, the beginner) to fluid (constantly seeking its own level,moving all things to that level, the intermediate student) to a gaseous state ( where it expands to its volume, true mastery of motion...the technique is formed by the attack). Don't think this is important? I can almost hear the grapplers grumbling... Okay, you've just slipped behind your attacker, and nabbed him in a perfect naked what do you do about him comapdre who's immediate plans are to stove in your head? You can only wrestle one guy at once, and all too often, bad people come in bunches...About martial arts, Zen, and bushido being antithetical to Christian views: Poppycock! Bushido, at its core, is founded in the ideal of devotion of one's life, in every moment and every way to a set of values and principles, defined in the heart of each man. Zen is the pursuit of oneness with the Universe (i.e. God, the Divine and Benevolent Creator, and all His Creation). At its core, you'll be learning to beat people up. In the process, hopefully, you'll be learning about yourself. If that is part of the journey that doesn't rest well with you, then maybe this path is not for you. I, however, rabidly endorse martial arts training for EVERYONE!!! By the way, I'm not in the business anymore, so I'm not trying to gin up customers.

One final thought on selecting a dojo, and probably the area of most dissatisfaction, ultimately: never forget when dealing with ANY school that you are in charge! You are the consumer,you are the customer! The school, and its instructors are making their living by providing a service to YOU!!! Be clear on this. You do not have the right to dictate what the school will teach (unless you're running it) but you do have a right to be told, in clear and certain terms, what is expected of you, and what the organization you're dealing with will deliver. Assert you rights as an informed buyer, and don't go in for that Shiloh/ servant manure manifestation. This is the 21st Century America, not feudal China or Japan.

Study that which is practical, but remember not all things fit. as Niestchze once observed "If the your only tool is a hammer, you must treat all problems as nails". Techniques are either useful (fit the situation at hand), not useful (fit, but not necessarily THIS situation), and useless(or, you've got to be kidding!?! I paid you to show me this?!?). More than whatever you study, you MUST practice until you reaction comes without conscious thought involved. Therefore, find something useful to practice, as practice DOES NOT make perfect; it only makes PERMANENT what is practiced. Study hard, learn well, live long, and keep The Faith.

OBTW, Teddy Roosevelt practiced jujitsu in the White House, moving furniture from the Main Floor Living Room, and installing mats! Bully! Regards, - Bonehead


Hi Jim!
My name is Frank, I'm an Aussie guy living up in Queensland, a survivalist and a Christian by belief in Jesus. As a regular reader of your blog I came across the recent post "Eight Letters Re: Selecting a Martial Art and a Dojo". I was surprised to see the lack of mention about karate and the fact that its only mention was in reference to it being a "hard" martial art, with the inference that a law abiding Christian should perhaps not pursue such a path. I have studied karate for some years now and it is definitely a decisive and effective form of self defense, but one that most all of its practitioners rarely if ever use outside of the dojo. The reason for this I learned is that training in traditional karate gives a person an 'air' of capability that is obvious to the average punter in the street and tells them in no uncertain terms to "look for a softer target... or else"

I know this sounds arrogant, but it's true, and I have met many practitioners of the 'soft' arts and they just don't seem to carry this tangible warning around with them. They will allow total strangers to stand close, "in the danger zone" and rarely seem to be aware of who and what is going on around them. These are the basics of karate training. Personal protection through awareness and keeping threats at a manageable distance. To me self-defense should not rely fancy wrist locks or nifty grappling techniques, although I have learned these. Because the reality is that once an attacker has you in their reach, or the ground, you are in real danger of getting your eye poked out or your spine kicked in. Karate works well because it works at a distance and relies on speed and precision of attack, and believe it or not, a great deal of training is devoted to "getting out of harms way", to avoiding an attack by retreating. But if attacking is unavoidable, a quick fist into someone's nose or a kick to their groin will knock them off balance for several seconds and allow you to get away from a dangerous situation. This is all that matters, avoiding a dangerous situation.

I believe Karate has been downplayed over the last decade due to the perceived fashionably of the myriad of other arts. This and the fact that we modern western people have grown lazy. Karate training is very demanding physically and injury, though usually minor, is unavoidable. But that is the world we now face, a world full or stress and danger. I see karate fighting as an invaluable tool to carry with me through life, to protect myself and my loved ones. Violent, aggressive, yes! But thoroughly decisive against one or several unskilled attackers. Best wishes and I'll see you when were together with the Lord. - Frank H.


Dear Jim:
I trained with a school that had a traditional martial arts progression, but more importantly, also did PRACTICAL self defense. It became very obvious after a couple of years of training that much of the martial "art" or "sport" was not directly relevant to surviving on the street. High kicks, spinning movements, complicated katas and the like, all look impressive, but have little practical value in street clothing, on uneven ground, against a surprise attack - you shouldn't be spending valuable time on these unless you are so wealthy you don't have a day job.
If it isn't something you can see yourself using right away after you learn it, it's probably too complicated to work on the street without years of training to ingrain your muscle memory. The real litmus test is whether you learn SIMPLE gross motor movements that you can duplicate without very much training, and under extreme stress.
If they teach elbows, knees, eye gouging (and biting when appropriate) in the introductory class, then you know you have a good school! Even better - do you get to practice all the skills, half speed, Force on Force with a well-padded instructor? (Yes, even the eye gouging on a fully visored instructor, but not the biting!) Ground fighting is critical too, if that is ignored, you do not have a complete training regimen.
The best proponent that I know of this practically-oriented philosophy is Tony Blauer who has refined it to a high level.
I have taken just a short seminar with him - very impressive. Jump on it if you get the chance.
Perhaps even more important for gun carriers, is integrating hand to hand techniques with drawing, moving and shooting skills, and/or knife or pepper spray,
You may not have much luck finding a practical school out in the boonies, but for those in larger metros you can find a few truly practical schools, in a sea of traditional martial artists. Regards, - OSOM


I was thinking further on martial arts and believe it is possible and indeed preferred to incorporate shooting survival skills into your martial arts regime. Progressively more difficult skills could be added, as you become more proficient in your studies:
Consider the use of martial stances in firearms training. The "Horse Stance" taught by many arts is very similar to the FBI "Combat Crouch" and the modified "T-stance" is a strong or weak side forward stance, which could be combined with a two hand Weaver grip to make a very stable shooting platform. Ritual katas, or a predefined set of martial arts movements -which helps improve technique and body awareness can be combined with pistol draw, tap and rack drills or rifle to pistol transition practice. Rondori or sparring "free practice" could be combined with weapons draw, disarm or weapons retention drills. Muzzle awareness should be stressed. [Solid plastic training] Red guns could be used due to safety concerns. Advanced students could "ratchet up" their stress training, by substituting soft pellet or paint ball guns (with face masks or goggles) into their firearms drawing or retention drills. - Terry in the Northwest.


Dear Jim,
Jiu Jitsu and other grappling arts are an excellent choice for defense and fitness. As noted author Steven Barnes (who is belted in multiple forms) told me, one can grapple in training repeatedly, but it takes only a few blows before practice must stop to prevent injury.
I have found the Kung Fus to offer an excellent balance of striking and grappling. While much of the mystique is no longer relevant, there are certain mindsets and processes that do go along with a school of training. A lot of the newer forms are simply refined and more limited derivations of earlier styles (Such as Kung Fu). Why limit oneself to part of an art?
Quite a few schools have oriented their philosophies more in line with the West, and incorporated Christianity into the structure. While not Christian myself, I approve of this because it makes the arts more accessible to Western mindsets, and still provides a necessary guiding philosophy (necessary when we're discussing the ethics of potentially maiming opponents).
I studied for several years Song's Kung Fu, and can recommend it to anyone in the Illinois area. Master Song is one of the most competent yet truly modest men I've ever met, and provides an excellent program with good explanations of the principles. His teaching is aimed at defense rather than sport, and in fact, advanced students wishing to compete have to take an extra course to learn competition rules to avoid disqualification or injuring opponents.
Generally, Tae Kwon Do in the US is taught as a sport. There's nothing inherently wrong with learning it, as it will improve fitness and teach good balance, etc, but it will be of much less effect in a no-rules brawl.
I agree with others who have said that a few good moves well rehearsed are adequate for most circumstances. To that end, the Marine Corps manual on combatives is excellent, covering a handful of grapples, strikes (including common military weapons such as knives, sticks, shovels and helmets) that can be learned quickly and studied in short time each day. It's practical and concise. Also, the Marines now have a dedicated martial art they are teaching. I haven't seen a lot of it, but I assume it will run on the same practical principles.
If one can find a school that doesn't over-stress the mysticism, Indonesian Pentjak Silat and similar forms are absolutely brutal and designed for multiple opponents. There isn't much in the way of restraint or low-end force; these are styles to kill with. The disadvantage is that they are predicated on having all four limbs functional. The Kung Fus are adaptable for temporary or permanent disability including wheel chairs.
It is a combination of these two forms (Silat and Shaolin Kung Fu) the Freehold forces use in my novels.
One of the best hand to hand weapons to learn is short staff/cane, as it's societally acceptable for almost anyone to carry a walking stick. A stout piece of rattan (light) or cocobolo or maple (heavy) is a devastating weapon in the hands of someone determined to use it and with some basic training in checks, blocks, hooks and strikes. Since I occasionally need a stick for support anyway, I practice regularly with one. Worst case, stick like things are very common either lying outside ("sticks") or in most buildings (brooms, handles, etc) and readily obtainable. Actual walking sticks run from $5 rattan at Farm and Fleet stores to pricier carbon fiber or fiberglass sticks with metal heads from Cold Steel. - Michael Z. Williamson


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dear Jim,
Over the years, I've spent I-don't-know-how-many hours in dojos of various lineage.
Now, older (but only questionably wiser) I'll toss out a few caveats for the consideration of anyone who wants to undergo marital arts training:
1. Decide from the outset why you want to learn a martial art and do not deviate from that goal. If it's for recreation, exercise, balance, spiritual enlightenment or whatever, that's fine. Practice kata to your heart's content, learn how to breathe into your danjun and meditate until ch'i runs from your pores. But – recognize from the start that the vast majority of Asian martial arts and their descendants have as much to do with self defense as an engraved Hammerli target pistol has to do with a Colt 1911.
2. Most modern martial arts have been packaged, sold, repackaged, revised, stylized, traditionalized, dogmatized, commercialized, civilized and generally diluted to the point that most of the techniques you're taught either won't work outside of a well-lighted and padded dojo (with a level floor) and/or without the assistance of a cooperative “training partner.” If your goal is self-defense, select a few simple techniques that rely on gross motor movements, and practice them to the point of them becoming conditioned reflexes. Consider: When a threat presents (and your heart rate hits 200 and you're shaking like a leaf and it's dark and you're hungry and scared and you're wiping muck from your eyes because you just slipped and face-planted into a mud puddle) you're not going to want to stop and remember whether the safety goes down on your 1911 or up on your Smith and Wesson. Stick with one gun! The safety should "disengage itself" as a matter of reflex because of your intimate familiarly and training with the particular firearm in your hand. In your martial arts training, go ye therefore and do likewise. Having a vast repertoire of techniques may impress your SaBumNim, but it won't do to be running through a decision tree at a critical moment.
3. Most Asian martial arts are inextricably tied to Asian philosophies/religions that are confusing, if not incomprehensible to the Western mind. This is often presented as as a “better way” of living and as a necessary part of training. Nonsense. No offense to the student of Zen Buddhism or Taoism, but there's a reason that China and Japan send their best and brightest to the West to study at our universities and have largely adopted our Western and pragmatic ways of doing things. In the martial arts, we have an equally rich and worthwhile heritage, that is only now being rediscovered. If you're a Westerner, stick to Western values and styles of instruction and don't waste valuable time in marital arts training trying to attain “enlightenment" or learning how to "focus your ki." It's irrelevant to your skills.
4. When considering a new technique, ask yourself: Will this work against an opponent of superior size and strength if - I'm wearing boots, mittens, a pack or a heavy jacket? I'm standing on uneven, wet or unstable ground? I'm tired, injured or wounded, in the dark, temporarily blinded or sick? (A close friend and student of savate told me he was once required to go to class drunk to assure his moves would work!) If the technique does not pass muster, set it aside.
5. Don't waste your time on esoteric "martial arts weapons" such as sai, sickles or nunchaku. We don't live in 16th century Okinawa and that's why John Browning invented the Model 1911. (However, if you're unarmed and a quarterstaff, stick, ashtray, chair or other practical weapon presents itself, more and better!)
6. Avoid styles, systems and instructors purporting to teach “secret” techniques or insisting that it will take years of intensive (and expensive) study to attain proficiency. Avoid any dojo where excessive emphasis is placed on belts and promotions, tournaments or especially where class favorites or bullies exist. Self defense is serious business, with no room for frills, "tournament moves" or bloated egos. If your training doesn't measure up, walk away and quit wasting money and time. Get a hard copy of Get Tough (or download a soft copy,) Kill or Get Killed (or download a soft copy,) The Close Combat Files of Rex Applegate and FM 3-25-150. Practice your brains out with a friend or two. You won't regret it and you'll be better prepared than most students spewing forth from today's “black belt mills.”
(As to "The Way of the 1911..." Here you go. ) Regards, - Moriarty


While I am not an expert in any martial art form, I have studied many of them at one time or another. Here is my 2 cents worth on fighting.
There are, in terms of distance to your opponent, 4 unarmed skills to learn. They are kicking, punching, throwing and grappling. Kicking will allow you to distance yourself from a talented boxer. Keep the kicks below their waist as you are not likely to be flexible enough or fast enough to deliver a kick above their waist without either falling yourself or having you leg caught. Hit the nerve on the middle (a bit above) of the outside of their leg (like punching someone in the arm to give them a dead-arm) a few times and they won't be able to move, then run away. Groin shots are tough if you telegraph your move at all as all males learn to guard this area and it is easy for them to catch a foot. Better to use this with a knee if the opportunity presents itself. If you are able to use mace to distract the opponent, then a groin shot is fine. Groin and leg shots will not incapacitate someone on drugs who feels no pain. Kicking an opponent on the ground is useful. Better is stomping. Face, neck (front and back) and the floating ribs are main targets, but be aware of the various takedowns a grounded opponent can use on a standing one.
I do not recommend boxing it out with an opponent unless you are either much larger or more skilled then they are. This brings you into knife range and you may not see it until too late. It also minimizes your field of vision (more on this later) if there are multiple attackers.
The easiest is the double leg take down, but this can set you up for a guillotine choke. Learning a few basic judo type throws is useful especially if you can land someone on their head and the surface is hard like the street. If you learn this in a class, it will be more of a sport throw designed to minimize damage to the opponent. To maximize the damage, change your posture and your attackers mid-aerial rotation to land them head down. If you can squat the weight of the opponent, drop down and hook your arm under their groin, your other arm is on their opposing shoulder. Lift them up and over and plant their head in the ground. This is a killing move.
Within this skill set, you must also know how to escape bearholds front and rear as well as various styles of headlocks. I'm not sure I can describe these moves on paper, but here goes. If you are grabbed from behind and your arms are held, step back and left with your left leg and place your right leg behind the left leg of your opponent. Lean back and as you do so, lower your weight and grab the legs of your opponent. Pull the legs out and lean back and the opponent falls.
If your arms are free, snap back with your head into opponents face, jump up and then when you come down grab between your legs one or both opponents legs. Straighten the leg(s) and sit down and a little backwards on the top of the kneecap breaking the leg.
Side head lock escapes are a bit tough to describe. You can bit the nipple, attack the groin and drop the opponent by placing your left leg (if held on his right side) behind his legs, pin his left elbow with your left hand to prevent being punched and fall leftwards tripping your opponent over your outstretched leg. Mount opponent and disable or kill.
A guillotine choke requires you to climb up your opponent. Put your left arm (if held or his right side) as high as possible over his right neck and shoulder and use it to pull/climb up while putting your feet on his knees. This will take the force off your neck on onto his body. When he tires, he will drop you.
Now you and gently try these with a friend.
As for grappling techniques, we have all seen the ultimate fighting championships, and fallen in love with ju-jitsu. You simply must spend 3 months at a grappling dojo. No excuses, just do it. No, video tapes and dvds won't do it, you simply need the mat time. Having said that, there are 3 serious flaws in this style.
1) Going to the ground in a dojo is fine, in a back alleyway with broken glass bottles and a hard ground is not. A move that is painless to you at the dojo can hurt like hell if you land on a hard littered street.
2) Going to the ground will kill you in a multiple opponent scenario. They will stomp your head in, especially in the 'superior' guard position.
3) What you will learn in ju-jitsu is sport fighting. It leave you open to eye-gauges, fish hooks, bites and all nasty manner of things. While studying, always ask yourself, if this was a real fight, would this attack/defense position still work. How can I alter it?
Having said that, learning the principles of ju-jitsu is both fun and easy and in a 1-to-1 encounter, can save your life.
So, to conclude, my advice is... always carry a knife. Ask any martial artist and if they are being honest, for all their years of training, they know their odds against a knife are at best 50-50. Yes, yes, learn to kick, how not to telegraph, how to block or take a punch (move into it to minimize the force and keep your chin down to avoid a knockout punch and take it on the forehead). Learn 2 or 3 throws, some basic grappling and how to use your and your opponents clothing to choke them but still, carry a weapon (or weapons). A weapon makes all, I repeat, all the difference. It gives you distance, confidence, magnifies your ability to inflict damage and puts fear in the opponent.
Regarding a knife, I believe that a knife attack to the torso, neck or head is attempted murder but to the extremities is assault with a deadly weapon (not sure--check your state laws). If you are using a knife to kill, puncture, don't slash unless you can get to the brachial artery on the inside of the arm. Do not go for a rib target unless you have a push knife or are very strong and have a thin blade. You may not make it through the ribs. Concentrate on belly, and throat, and if he is armed, first his hands.
You must fight dirty. If you want to learn a standing art that is brutally effective and very very fast to learn and great for kids and women too, visit Attack Proof. It focuses on directly attacking the eyes. Everyone has them, there are no muscles or bone protect them, and if you can overcome your squeamishness about jabbing your fingers into someone's eyeballs, you can end a fight with a larger opponent very fast.
Some final thoughts.
1) Carry a knife. Carry another knife.
2) When you think you might be being interviewed by an assailant(s) to determine your value and resistance level, put your non dominant arm's elbow (say left arm for illustration) at your same side ribs, arm across the belly and left hand over right ribs. Cup your right elbow in your left hand and stroke your chin thoughtfully. This will
a) protect your ribs,
b) decrease the response time for you to block a punch to the face or make a punch yourself
c) prevent a rear choke by protecting your neck
d) seem totally innocuous
2) Never go to crime scene 2. To explain: Crime scene 1 is where the weapon is shown and your money is taken. Crime scene 2 is where the assailant says, come over here behind this dumpster. This is where you are raped and or die. I repeat, Never go to crime scene 2. (Where the body is found with the chalk outline). Run, fight, scream but do not willing go to your death. Make sure your family understands this.3) In the majority of fights, statistically speaking, the first person to attack wins. So, if you are going get into a fight, hit first. The psychological momentum and the initial reaction to defend causes a person to minimize what they can see coming and gives the first person to strike a huge tactical advantage.
4) Focus on endurance rather than strength. If you have a knife, strength won't be of paramount concern anyway. I use the desperado from cold steel. If will fit down your front pocket and is fast to pull and is a variant of a push knife for maximum force.
5) Work on your peripheral vision. Since we spend so much time reading, we have largely lost the ability to use our peripheral vision. This type of vision is the most efficient at seeing motion and someone creeping up alongside you. Take a cheap pair of glasses and put white tape over the front of them. Then draw a dot in the center of one of them on the white tape with a dark pen. When looking at this dot and your eyes are completely relaxed (like looking off into infinity) find the place on the other lens so that when a dot placed on the that lens, the dots overlap and look like one dot. Make that mark.
Now, looking into the glasses, you should see 1 dot (not 2). Looking but not staring at the dot, keeping your eyes relaxed become aware of your peripheral vision. Since your glasses are covered in white tape, you will only be able to see at the outer edges of your vision. When you do this for a while you will train your brain to start using your peripheral vision again. Once you get the hang of it you can do it without the glasses. Just change your focus from in front of you to the peripheral vision. This will give you an advantage against being attacked from an angle.

There are some fighting techniques that are unrealistic for the beginner. These include what you might label the esoteric arts like Tai Chi, Aikido and Dim Mak. The first two require years to master. Once you have 10+ years worth of them under your belt, you are in great shape, but for the first few years, they are actually counterproductive in a real fight. A beginner gets a false sense of security and will expect an opponent to graciously leave an outstretched arm for the twisting and throwing, or grab on to their collar rather than maul your throat. Dim Mak is another example. Yes, you can either knock an opponent out, or make them really, really nauseous and practically incapable of continuing to fight with Dim Mak, but this technique is not for beginners. This technique, (hitting on nerve plexi) is usually only taught as a 'secret' to advanced students. They are imbedded in blocks and katas, but not taught until later. When you have mastered the basic form, and if they like you, you are then shown that with a slight change of intent, the block hits the nerve point and the opponent magically goes down. You must keep in mind however that these points are the size of a dime. Imagine taping 8 dimes to your sparring partner, and trying to hit any of them with any force in a full speed sparring match. You see, what happens when a beginner learns a few Dim Mak points is that her or she becomes so fixated on the points that they try to force the issue and miss the larger picture. What ends up happening is that rather than clawing out an exposed eye or grabbing a leg for a take down, you end up with a series of ineffectual glancing blows near a Dim Mak point, but rarely on it. You also are now focusing on the points rather than your opponent so you may not see the kick, punch or knife coming your way. Focus on the basics, at least for the first few years. Oh yes, here's another trick. If you are dealing with an unarmed opponent, walking backwards is usually a really bad idea. It makes kicks impossible, saps the power from your punches and puts you off balance for a moment when your front leg crosses behind your rear leg. Try walking backwards with any speed and you'll see. Plus, if someone rushes you when you are walking backward, your going to go to the ground with your opponent on top. Move backwards, when you must, like a fencer. Move your back leg a little farther back and then quickly slide in your front foot. Some people even suggest moving forward like a fencer. Watch some of the more seasoned UFC fighters and you will see this technique in action.
Notes regarding improvised weapons: Even when unarmed, weapons can often be improvised. Anything that can be thrown at an assailant instantly becomes a weapon. In a convenience store, cans and bottles, at a beach, a handful of sand in the eyes, in a back alleyway, garbage cans and lids and broken bottles, in a bedroom, a lamp or alarm clock. Just look for anything and start hurling. This is surprisingly effective. A jacket thrown at them or even the change in your pocket can disorient and provide an opening for retreat or attack. Even the most hardened criminal still has a reflex to block things thrown at his face. This can expose the abdomen or groin to an attack. On a budget, I know a friend who made a habit of carrying a handful of salt in his pocket. If you have an umbrella, it may help distance you from a knife. A rolled magazine held tightly can also help.
As an exercise, when out and about, or even in your home, ask yourself, what could be a weapon right now if I needed one?
Now a word about disarming a person with a knife. This is an opportunity for you to practice "sneaker-fu." That is, run your a** off. Okay, okay, if you are cornered or protecting your family, your going to get cut. make your peace with it. The good news is that you almost never die from a slashing attack. According to inmates at Folsom prison, the graduate school as it were in knife and shiv fighting, you'll probably never see the knife that gets you, but if you can, try to determine where your opponents hands are. If one arm is tight to his body or behind him, assume a knife. If you have a jacket, whip it at his face or his knife hand. If you must block, use the back of your forearm. Lots of low kicking and a rapid slapping motion to keep the knife from your neck, face and torso. Keep your belly and chest slightly caved in. Don't let the fantasy school of martial arts make you think that you can rely on a overhead cross-arm block or some other hollywood trick. This will get you killed fast. No one attacks with a telegraphed straight thrust that you can deftly avoid by moving to the side while simultaneously grabbing the wrist, twisting the arm and disarming your foe. Want a reality check, think you've good the skills to avoid getting cut? Give a friend a rubber training blade with an inked blade and do some sparring at full speed.
Knife fights are fast and a skilled fighter will feint and counter feint. Reach for his wrist and you will have your hand a bloody mess.
So, be aware of people getting close to you in a public place. Carry a small flashlight (I use the Gerber Infinity LED flashlight) to illuminate parking lots at night, and with that, some better peripheral vision and a handful of table salt, you'll do just fine.
Stay safe and draw first blood. - SF in Hawaii

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hi Jim and Family,
Many, many years ago I was an assistant martial arts instructor. I had studied several Chinese styles along with Japanese Kendo. I was making inquiries about instruction in my area for my daughter after being out of that area of study for over 30 years. The self defense instructor I was talking to said that for the best 'out of the gate' use of martial arts for practical street self defense was Ju-Jitsu, but to watch the style you want to learn. Basically the styles of Ju-Jitsu are quite similar but some are less suited for immediate self defense utilization. He stated his approach was toward the styles that deal with grappling techniques. His idea was that, for females particularly, the advantage the attacker wanted was one where the attacker gets the female on the ground and then he has control. A school that teaches good grappling techniques will train the student how to defend her/him self when on the ground, and make short work of the attacker or to grapple with the attacker while standing and place him on the ground. Unfortunately he was from a distant county or I would have had him teach my daughter. But the type of school I wanted to find was one where what is learned in the classroom can be immediately applied when the student walks out the door. And that was his method. Learning some systems or methods can take a year or more to be able to utilize in a practical sense. This is fine for athletic endeavors or building strength and endurance or studying it as an art form. But grappling techniques of Ju-Jitsu is best for getting direct tactically efficient self defense capabilities. It sounds trite or 'grasshopper-ish' but from my studies one thing Bruce Lee kept trying to get across to martial artists was that his form was no form. His approach to martial arts, and much of life, was well stated in an interview. He said to be like water. Water can rush forward with great force, destroying everything or it can flow around and erode away an obstacle. When water is poured into a tea pot, it becomes the tea pot. So be like water. Basically I think his concept of martial arts was to have a set of basic tools for self defense and by 'becoming water' you can mold those basic tools and techniques into an infinite combination to be applied to differing situations an threats. Don't become hung up on the 'style' of martial arts. Style is nice but can be difficult to learn and easy to be defeated. Whereas good grappling techniques for 'on the ground' fighting as well as direct straight line use of force to defeat an attacker is more tactically and energy efficient. The instructor I talked with advised to visit as many of the schools in my area and watch what was being taught. It will take a bit of time but is well worth the time spent. I, like you, prefer the Way of the 1911. But a good set of self defense skills is something you don't have to have a permit for, at least not yet; and you can carry them everywhere. Later,- The Rabid One


Dear Jim,
I read your blog a couple times a week. You recently asked about martial arts training for the family. Jujitsu is good. From what friends tell me, who practice martial arts on a frequent basis, the art you practice is not as important as having a skilled sensei who can teach it properly. Sort of like with firearms: the gun is not as important as shooting it well. See if you can find out some comments on the skill of the teacher. Even Tai Chi is a good martial art, but finding an actual self defense teacher of Tai Chi is very difficult. Best, - Heretic Monk


I am only a beginning martial artist, and have dozens of military and martial arts books, but one that read and re-read all the time is Living the Martial Way . (Similar to what I do with "Patriots" , and Boston's Gun Bible, pick it up in the middle and learn something new.) I can’t recommend this book enough. Keep up the good work. Sincerely, - M.W.


Well I personally think a good year of solid training (2-3 days per week) of any martial arts will put you a few levels above the average Joe in this day and age. Ju Jitsu is a good suggestion or Aikido which is similar or even Tai Chi mixed with Dim-Mak for the light weight person. I myself have recently started Escrima as since I am of somewhat poor health I wanted a lower impact exercise, I also seen a fellow who needed a cane for walking use Escrima 100% effectively and kept three opponents from ever getting hold of him. It also made me think that learning stick fight would give you machete skills and some knife skills, and also number one is with stick training everyday items are weapons...canes, sticks, boards, shower rods, curtain rods brooms, baseball bats, toilet plungers--so handy items are everywhere...
Another thing to note is that women are women and men are men and there is no way to get around it. Yes, there are a number of exceptions where some women are as good as a medium sized man but in most cases a toe to toe fight is not what a gal wants to get into. A woman's strongest body part is her legs and then her flexibility, Tae Kwon Do is one I would recommend for women I do believe Ju-Jitsu has many leg holds so that is a good choice too. if she can get a good leg hold she can easily break an arm leg or neck....but be careful men are really just more savage, instinctive and brutal beasts...
One other thing to note is sometimes no matter the training some people just can't fight. I know, because I happen to be one, in my training I became a dojo fighter. This means I was very good at
sparring I was even able to keep up with a few orange belts while a white belt and orange in my class was five belts above a white. But the few real fights I was in, I went blank. Kinda like writers block if my first punch or two didn't work or take a good hit... I was lost and defeated in detail, every time. :( I don't know the cure for that but be aware of it. Your S&W is a good back up - Wally


I am excited for your family; it sound's like fun. I would say that the 'style' does matter but not as much as the 'instructor' and the 'school'. In probably a year, I will be doing the same with our son(s). I will be looking for some one who teaches respect, discipline, control, and other values that good instructors pass along. I appreciate the spiritual aspects too, but I'm not looking for some one that will be passing on ancestor worship or praying to the Grand Master.

Regarding 'styles' some are more practical then others but the 'instructor' is the key. There's a lot more to learn then just learning how to fight (however, if the school is not teaching them how to 'aggressively' defend themselves then it will let them down when they need it the most.) It's is as essential as learning discipline, respect, and the other values.

What I'm going to tell you is considered "Old School." The most important things is learning how to 'block', how to take a 'punch' and how to keep yourself covered when the chips are down; fighting is a contact thing (forget the art part). The first style I took was Kenpo (the instructor taught us how to cover ourselves and take a hit); it was very practical, straight forward, and easy to learn. I have never taken Ju-Jitsu and admire it as well as Aikido, but IMO I think if the person has already touched you, you have already failed (to protect your perimeter). If the Ju-Jitsu instructor is practical (and provides striking techniques) than I would give it a try.

One of my good friends recommends the Haganah F.I.G.H.T. (Fierce Israeli Guerilla Hand-to-Hand Tactics) System. He describes it as: "a unique combination of Israeli military tactics and Israeli and other martial arts—to defeat stronger, more skilled, and even armed opponents. Learn how to restrain, incapacitate or terminate your opponent fast with intuitive strategies and tactics. Haganah doesn't employ countless, complicated techniques, but rather easy-to-learn systems enabling you to get confident and capable in just a few months. Men and women from across the country use the system to feel safe, secure, confident and stay in shape."

Perhaps to save money, you could have the one son teach the rest of the family the lessons that they learned in the previous session (it will reinforce what they've learned and the rest of the family will benefit from it also). God Bless, - The Bowmn


Mr. Rawles:
I have practiced many martial arts in the last 10 years. Jiu Jitsu would be my first recommendation to anyone. A huge percentage of hand-to-hand combat scenarios are going to the ground at some point anyway, so you may as well know what to do once you get there. Someone ignorant to Jiu Jitsu stands virtually zero chance against someone even moderately trained. You will gain more in the first month of Jiu Jitsu training than you would in any other martial art.
That being said, Jiu Jitsu is virtually worthless in a two (or more) versus one scenario. Your best defense there is obviously the 1911. ;-) If I had to pick a martial art for multiple bad-guy encounters, I would choose Muy Thai kickboxing. Many of the martial arts that focus on striking are very good if taught properly, but for my money Muy Thai is the most versatile striking art around. Someone skilled could easily take down a large person with one well placed shot. (Best case scenario, obviously.)
The plus to both of these arts is that they are both immensely fun to practice and are an amazing workout. If you have an opportunity to take both I would highly recommend it. If you have any additional questions please let me know and I will be happy to help. Regards, - Big Wooly Mammoth


You were looking for advice on self-defense courses? I would strongly suggest that you look into either Jerry Peterson's "SCARS" training or the new school of his protege and former partner, Tim Larkin. Both of these are very expensive but the systems are virtually unbeatable. I'm on the small side of average sized and after taking the SCARS course, no fighting scenario intimidates me (and that's some serious rewiring there. The concepts these guys teach are geared to real world problems, while the other disciplines are built around exhibition fighting (where it is literally ingrained in you to stop fighting when the other guy says "enough." That is very dangerous when you're in the middle of a street fight.)
I know that you feel that it pays to buy "quality" when it comes to weapons that your life depends on. The curious thing about that is that the most lethal weapon you have at your disposal is your mind, and these courses show you how to take possession of that weapon so that, whatever the situation, you are never unarmed! Best Regards, - Jim K.


The study of a martial art should be a goal for any serious survivalist. We must remember to counter force, in kind; not all situations call for use of deadly force. The skills obtained allow the individual a force progression, from mild persuasion to deadly force, if needed. The martial arts foster respect for others, respect for self, team work, physical coordination and mental focus.
First, any Japanese art that has a "do" attached to it means "way" and in most cases can be viewed as a sport. "Jitsu" or "Jutsu" attached means "art" and in most cases can be viewed as a combat art. Jiu-Jitsu is the original samurai combat art, which uses your opponent's force against him. This art uses joint locks, arm bars, throwing and grappling techniques to subdue your opponent. Judo was derived from Jiu-Jutsu, with most of the maiming techniques removed, except for arm bars which are allowed for senior rank competition.
I spent six years studying Jiu-Jutsu and competing in Judo, as well as a couple of years in Karate.
In my opinion, Jiu-Jitsu as a "soft" art is more beneficial than say Karate, a "hard" art. Hard arts focus on strength against strength moves, like punching, kicking and blocking. These arts may be viewed by bystanders as aggressive. Soft arts focus on off-balancing techniques which may be viewed as passive. This can be of benefit in a situation where the police are summoned.
One very positive benefit of Jiu-Jutsu is learning how to fall. In a throwing art this skill is a must. I've used it outside of training and saved myself unwanted injuries.
Christians who wish to become students, should ask the instructor if any meta-physical techniques or teachings are included in the training. Zen and Bushido (The Way of the Warrior) teachings are, in my opinion, not compatible with a Christian lifestyle. - Terry in the Northwest.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mr. Rawles,

The most vital point, I think, of Buckshot's piece is not that feral dogs will eat us all alive, but that [applying] current attitudes in future scenarios CAN GET YOU KILLED!
  You'd better get you mind wrapped around the hard decisions now the best you can.  Buckshot is exactly right: if you're making decisions on the fly as a situation unfolds, you're dog food.  The same goes for any, shall we say, less-than-polite social encounters with humans.  ARIES (Autonomic Response In Extreme Stress) is an acronym we used when I taught self-defense.  Most guys would pooh-pooh the idea because they were super-fit and could  kick you right in the face with ease.  They never got the idea of Spiritual Point of Origin, a concept that one attains when you've wrestled with all the moral-ethical dilemmas, as well as realizing one's physical capabilities AND limitations.  The "dojo jock" never prepared for any real conflict; it's all a game, but the minute things changed up, they end up getting the cr*p beat out of them.  When you are under stress, you will become much less coordinated, particularly in fine motor skills (read: sight acquisition, operating safety levers, firing-and moving maneuvers) unless they have been practiced to the point of neuro-muscular memory (i.e. second nature).  You WILL perform AS you have practiced, not just WHAT you have practiced.  Remember, practice DOES NOT make perfect; practice makes permanent what is practiced.  Now is the time to deal with the mental aspects of what you will need  to keep you and yours, safe and alive, not when the wolves (dog pack, murderous thugs) are at your door.  A perfect example is the horrific Manson Family murders: while testifying at their trials the women of Charlie's lovely little clan complained bitterly how hard it was to kill Sharon Tate, that she pulled their hair and  kicked and pushed them away. She possessed the will to fight back, but apparently lacked either  the skill to fight effectively, or, more likely, the willingness to injure a fellow human being.  Students in self-defense classes get squeamish when the idea of eye-gouging or kicking to the trachea comes up, but in reality, if you're not willing to do what it takes to win the fight, WHY ARE YOU IN A FIGHT? Better to surrender now, save yourself the beating, and pray that you will be rescued by some unforeseen circumstance.  Remember, suspect first, prospect later.  You are only paranoid if they're not out to get you. - Bonehedz

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