How to Backflip in 7 Easy Steps


[box color=”lgrey”]Editor’s Note: You might be wondering what learning how to backflip has to do with anything “reality-based” or “functional”, as per what this blog is all about. Suffice it to say, that there are vast benefits to learning how to master and control your body. In defining Tactical Fitness, Scott Sonnon wrote “The late USAF Colonel John Boyd introduced in the realm of jet fighting, that the bigger, heavier or even faster jets cannot perform with the successful operational tempo compared to a lighter, more agile counterpart. The agile jet can observe, orient, decide and act faster than a more heavily armed and armored one, than even a much faster jet.

Also from Sonnon’s camp, “The ability to change energy state rapidly. To turn, rotate, or twist faster than your opponent. And most importantly, to sustain that high energy state in the gruelling turns that rapidly bleed out an opponent’s size, strength and speed advantages. The ideal fighter accelerates in rotation the quickest, and moves the fight into this rotation where he holds distinctly superior virtues.”

And so without further ado…[/box]

Say, are some of you out there having a lot of trouble learning a backflip (Mortal)? I say the first thing you must do is learn a macaco (hand-plant backspring), then a macaco solta (back handspring). It’s not easy, because if you try going straight over backwards at first your body’s natural reaction is to turn sideways and you’ll crash. I taught myself a standing backflip in my living room in 3 weeks, so you can take my easy 7-step program: (Be sure you know one step well enough so you can save yourself if you screw up in the next step.) And please, people, don’t try this if you’re grossly overweight, underweight, sick or missing limbs. I assume no responsibility for any damages you may inflict upon yourself, anyone to try these 7-steps should be responsible enough to take care of their bodies. If you’re not a martial artist but you want to try it, you should be in good shape, be getting regular exercise, be moderately flexible and pretty athletic.

Step 1 – The Macaco:

From a cocorinha (crouching position, see fig.1), place your hand behind you and go into a cartwheel.

Step 2:

Do the same as step 1 but hop into the cartwheel instead of just putting your hand down. This’ll help later around Step 4.

Step 3:

Do like step 1, but place your hand behind you and reach with your other hand OVER your head and kick your legs over. Once you reach overhead, your planted arm will naturally rotate with your body (if it was cemented where it is and couldn’t rotate, it’d pop your arm out of the socket.) So don’t root your planted hand directly where it is. It’ll move with the movement. And also use momentum in your hips to get you over, not just your legs. That’ll help also with the Macaco Lateral. It’s easier at first to reach over backward close to your planted hand (like a cartwheel), and slowly move it more overhead as you practice more and more. Once you can do it with your shoulders parallel to the ground, you’ve got the Macaco down. Keep in mind your legs aren’t the only thing that’s bringing you over, the combined reach and movement of your upper body and your hips/legs are. So don’t just push off with your legs and expect to go over. Put your whole body into the move. This takes practice so don’t expect to get it the first time. If you don’t get the drawing, then the Eddy picture below it should help

Step 4 – The Macaco Solta/Xango:

Do a Macaco, but hop into it. This is to help you get used to jumping and going over at least somewhat backwards. The more you practice it, the more courage you’ll build to making a stab at Step 5. Practice practice practice!

Step 5:

The transition from Step 4 to Step 5 is the hardest. Do the same as step 4, but start moving your planted hand more and more overhead rather than sideways on the ground. Keep doing it until you’ve got a kinda slanted back handspring. Once you feel ready, go over straight backwards. If you can find a friend, you can have them spot you by holding and pushing your back over to make sure you land it. Most folks have great difficulty in adjusting themselves to going straight backwards, but the more you practice the easier it will become over time to give it a shot. Getting over the initial fear of going straight back the first time is the hardest part, but sometimes you just have to suck up your fear and GO FOR IT. Once you can jump and reach both hands straight overhead, you’ve got the Macaco Solta down.

Step 6 – The Mortal:

Do your Macaco Solta as high as you can go. Jump up and reach back as high as you possibly can. Basically it’ll look like a Moonsault only you land your feet.

Step 7:

When you’ve done step 6 enough times, do the same thing but tuck you legs up close to your body. The landing will probably be rough at first, but you’ll get used to it. MAKE SURE YOU CAN SAVE YOURSELF. If midway through it feels like you aren’t going to make it, just put your hands down and save yourself. And don’t worry, if you jump at all in the first place trying to attempt this there is no way you’ll land on your head.

Once you can do a Mortal, practice practice practice! Enough practice and you can spread your legs in midair and land on one leg.

Kali Tactics for Stopping a Grappler

It’s not about who’s better, or which art is better. In reality, it’s about who gets to the best position and tactic first. Respect all martial arts and martial artists but, most of all train with each other, learn and have fun!

Kali instructor Paul Ingram shows how he uses slapping as a tactic to destabilise a BJJ black belt. He uses the reaction to grab an ear or reach for a weapon.


Counter-Blade Tactics for Real World Survival

A number of years ago, I was tasked with assisting a large Law Enforcement agency with edged weapons defense training. As I reviewed their existing program, I quickly discovered a number of deficiencies in both their tactics and training methodology. This caused me to rethink my own methods of teaching people how to survive an edged weapon attack, especially those with minimal training.

Coming from an extensive edged weapons background, I look at edged weapons defense from an attacker’s perspective rather than a defender’s. I think about how I would attack and defeat the other person’s defense. It’s amazing how quickly things break down when you study edged weapons defense from this perspective. The problem is, most edged weapons defense programs approach the subject from the defender’s perspective. Doing so results in short sightedness and the inability to see all of the attacker’s options.

Common Problems With Common Approaches


“Time Contexting” is a term I use to describe the process of placing trained fighting responses into the proper context of time. The time context should account for reaction time (action beats reaction) and the speed at which the attack would likely occur, including extension and retraction time.

Many edge weapon defense programs train to perform techniques using unrealistic time contexts. They usually looks something like this: a cooperative partner attacks in slow motion and/or leaves the attacking limb extended, many times overextended. The defender executes a series of movements which attack the limb or the opening created by the limb being extended. These techniques may appear to work during training, but as soon as an aggressive opponent who isn’t content with losing enters the equation, these techniques fall apart. If it doesn’t work against a full-speed attack from an uncooperative opponent, it doesn’t work.

Time Contexting doesn’t mean all training needs to be conducted at full speed; it simply means training must be based on realistic speed equivalents. When performing cooperative training at slower speeds, both parties should move at the same speed equivalent. Attacks shouldn’t be overextended or left in place after reaching full extension. They should be executed in the same manner they would be during an actual attack. Performing attacks in this manner not only ensures realistic responses are being trained by the defender, but also reinforces proper mechanics on the part of the feeder.

Many edged weapons defense programs also fail to recognize that, unlike a punch or kick, which requires a certain amount of distance to generate power, very little distance is needed for the delivery and recovery of a bladed attack. In addition, the angle of the attack can be changed in a split second. Such disregard for these truths results in inflexible and overcommitted defenses that focus on the blade and quickly break down once the anticipated attack changes course.

Things To Remember


If you are ever faced with a blade-wielding attacker, there are a few things you should remember that will drastically improve your survivability.

  1. Stay mobile. Distance is your best ally against any contact weapon, so use your footwork to stay as far away as possible. Run if you can.
  2. Place barriers between you and the attacker. A barrier is anything your threat has to avoid or move around to get to you. This can be done by moving behind a stationary or moving object, such as a park bench or a car, or by physically placing an object between you and the attacker, such as a chair or shopping cart.
  3. If contact is made, do your best to protect your vital organs and arteries. Keep your hands up and guard your centerline, which encompasses your throat, neck, lungs, heart and arteries.
  4. Don’t get fixated on the weapon. Like the tip of a whip, the blade is the fastest moving piece of the attack. Train your eyes on the attacker’s sternum, because any movement of the arm will originate with the upper torso. Allow your motion-sensitive peripheral vision to pick up the movement of the blade.
  5. Stay in the fight. There’s a good chance you’ll get cut; don’t focus on it. No matter what, fight through to the end. You’re not dead until the coroner says so. 

Check – Disrupt – Seize – Neutralize


The edged weapon defense I teach in CFS Counter-Blade Tactics (my subsystem of empty-hand blade defense) uses the process of Check – Disrupt – Seize – Neutralize. This systematic series of actions is designed to address the attack from start to finish. However, any step in this process can be skipped (with the exception of the last one) depending on the dynamics of the situation. I’ll give you an overview of this approach, but realize that I’m just scratching the surface.


The check is used to intercept an incoming attack when a full evasion isn’t possible. Assume a neutral position with the hands up halfway between your chin and sternum with your palms facing outward. As the attack comes in, deliver a quick, retracting strike to the attacker’s arm between his wrist and forearm using the palms of your hands. (I advocate using both hands because it provides the most surface area to prevent the attack from slipping through.) Once contact is made, return to the neutral position and prepare to stop the next attack. Be sure to move off the line of attack as much as possible during the check.

Many edged weapons experts advocate only using the outsides of the forearms to stop or deflect an edged weapon attack in order to protect the arteries and tendons located in the arms. This isn’t a bad tactic, however, having trained thousands of Law Enforcement officers and civilians in edged weapons defense, I’ve found this is difficult for most people to do under pressure unless they’ve spent years training this way. People react with their hands.


A rhythm disruption is anything that disrupts an attacker’s rhythm of movement and resets hisOODA loop. One of the quickest and most effective rhythm disruptions is an attack to the eyes on the half-beat. The purpose of the disruption is to create an opportunity for you to move in and control the weapon arm. You may have to deliver several checks before finding an opening to execute your rhythm disruption. With training, you’ll eventually be able to execute a check and disruption simultaneously.


Once the opportunity presents itself, move in and seize the attacker’s weapon arm to gain control of the weapon. Always strive to move to a position that places you outside of the attacker’s physical weapons. There are several ways this can be done depending on the situation and your level of skill and training. However, as a general rule, I advocate the following as the default method:

Grab the wrist of the arm holding the blade using a thumbless grip (aka Monkey Grip). With your opposite arm, grab deep behind their elbow. This gives you optimum control of the arm because it closes off the dead space and prevents them from being able to pull their elbow back to break free. From this position, maintain constant pressure to drive the attacker off balance.



The final step in surviving as edged weapon attack is to neutralize the threat. This could mean disengaging and employing a firearm, but once you have seized the attacking arm, it’s best not to let go until you have removed the blade from the equation. One of the high-percentage techniques I teach is an arm-bar takedown.

From the position I described above, bring your inside arm over the top so the attacker’s tricep is in your arm pit. Stack your inside hand on top of the hand securing the wrist and drive your inside shoulder toward the ground. From this position, drop forward onto your inside knee and straight down as if trying to touch your elbow to the ground; keeping your weight focused over the attacker’s shoulder. From there, you can lock the attacker’s wrist against your outside thigh and walk it up to lever the arm and secure the weapon.


What I’ve presented here are a few basic fundamentals for surviving an edged weapon assault, as well as a brief overview of my way of teaching Counter-Blade Tactics. If at all possible, avoidance is always your best defense. However, life doesn’t always offer us that opportunity. Train your mind and train your body so you’ll be prepared for whatever life throws your way.

Photos © Bill Bahmer Photography

Chad McBroom is the owner and founder of Comprehensive Fighting Systems and specializes in the practical application of edged and impact weapons. Chad is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to Black Sheep Warrior, and other publications. He’s also the author of the book Solving the Enigma: Insights into Fighting Models and has contributed to several books on blade combat. Chad is a blade designer and consultant, using his extensive knowledge of edged weapon tactics to help design some of the most versatile edged weapons on the market.




Make yourself a hard target, or even better, a non-target.

Psychological warfare is undoubtedly an extremely important aspect of self-protection training, and perhaps even more important than any physical skills. You should always be able to get yourself out of more fights than you get in. Comprehensive self-protection training, including both the psychological and physical aspects, is like car insurance; it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. And just as most people don’t look to have a car accident on purpose, neither does a proponent of self-protection look to get in a fight or to escalate a confrontation to the point of physical violence. They will maintain a general awareness and an appropriate distance away from others, monitoring for the unexpected behavior of other “drivers” that might otherwise result in an “accident”. If someone swerves in front of them or cuts them off, they take avoidance measures. In another scenario, maybe you’re the one who inadvertently cuts someone off, and a road rage incident ensues. You try your best to calm the guy down explaining that you didn’t see him and apologize. Or at that point you may need to de-escalate the situation by force. As you can see, driving is a suitable analogy for self-protection. It promotes a healthier understanding of the matter, compared to the paranoia and fear mongering tactics used by many. The keys to what Bruce Lee referred to as “The Art of Fighting without Fighting” are awareness, avoidance and verbal de-escalation, and allow you to defuse the proverbial bomb before it explodes.

All this rolls off the tongue nicely, and often it is easier said than done. Some practical guidelines to raise your awareness in order to avoid a confrontation completely and if that fails, to verbally defuse a situation, are warranted.

Shark Bait
Before even getting into the things mentioned above – awareness etc – the way you carry yourself either screams “predator” or “prey”. That may be overly simplistic, but the simple fact is if you act like shark bait, you’re going to attract the sharks. Predators do not tend to prey on other predators, where the potential for harm can be mutually reciprocated. It is a Yin/Yang relationship. Predators tend to prey on those they perceive to be meek and helpless, those who restrict their awareness. These types of targets are “easy targets”. Target hardening first starts with the way you carry yourself, and the key attribute that tells would-be predators that you are not their prey is confidence, and that is something primarily communicated through your body language. There is a ton of research out there on this topic, so I will not go into too much detail save it to say this: your body language is a physiological matter. Physiology and psychology are inextricably linked, such that the body and mind are not separate entities, but rather one unit. Studies have shown that your mindset (thought processes) have the capacity to directly affect your physiology, and vice versa. The simple (I didn’t say easy!) idea of changing the way you think can have dramatic effects in your body for the better or worse. There is actually something to all that material out there on positive and negative thinking, and it most certainly has an impact on your readiness to protect yourself at any given point. You’ve heard the phrase “you’re your own worst enemy”, and unfortunately this is often the case in self-defense. Fear, doubt, panic, apathy, denial, etc are all mental obstacles that need to be overcome in order for you to take appropriate action to protect yourself. In any endeavor, your internal dialogue will either “make you” or “break you”. In any combat sport, there is always a coach on the side yelling instructions, encouraging you to keep going when you feel like giving up. In self-defense, you must be your own coach. It’s not really about “thinking positive”, but rather to encourage (read as bring forth your courage) yourself to focus on strategy and tactics instead of the mental obstacles. Focusing on the mental obstacles degenerates into a downward spiral of self-defeat; you truly become your own worst enemy. The mind can only truly focus on one thing at a time, so focus on strategy and tactics and you will be on your way to overcoming those mental obstacles and taking appropriate action.

Conversely, adjusting your posture and body language as if you truly felt confident in that moment has the capacity to positively affect your thinking. The net result is you will exude a confidence that will increase the chances that an attacker will be dissuaded from choosing you as his victim. The next layer of target hardening is to enhance your awareness and discover your inner predator.

Predatory Awareness
When talking about awareness, many people talk about Jeff Cooper’s Color Codes of Awareness. The Color Codes describe different mindsets relative to the degree of danger you perceive yourself to be in. While it is a nice description of different alertness mindsets, I’ve personally never found it very practical; even after understanding the color codes, I did not come away feeling like I knew “how to” be aware. After all, it is one thing to tell someone to always “be aware” when they are outside of their home and they should be prepared to defend themselves (Code Yellow), but this does not give them practical mind tools they can actively use to raise their awareness. What I find much more useful is something I gleaned from Barry Eisler’s John Rain series of novels, and the basic premise is that effective awareness, and therefore self-protection, is based on the ability and willingness to think like the opposition, to think like a predator. How, when, where and why would you attack you? This will give you insight into the vulnerabilities of your daily routines and habits that would make it easier for a would-be predator to attack you. US Marine Corps’ General James N. Mattis’ quote: “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet” captures the essence of this mindset wonderfully. Of course it does not need to be so extreme, but the alertness that comes with this mindset will certainly raise the odds in your favor.

Making yourself a hard target necessarily involves addressing your vulnerabilities and taking some “corrective” action. For example, if you typically find yourself at a restaurant and sitting at a table while listening to your iPod in a location people can easily approach you from the rear, then “corrective action” may be to stop using headphones, and to choose the seat in the restaurant that allows you a view of the entrance and with your back to a wall so that nobody can approach you from behind.

Criminals tend to overlook a hard target in favor of an easier target, and their motivation, or the “why”, according to Tony Blauer, is your property, your body or your life, or a combination of these. Blauer further expands on this by counter-balancing the notion of what a criminal wants with what they don’t want: to get hurt or caught. You can use this information to your advantage. The biggest surprise you can give an attacker is you fighting back. This obviously increases his chances of getting hurt, which he won’t want, as well as his chances of getting caught, as fighting back prolongs what they want to be quick and easy.

While understanding these concepts may go some way towards enhancing your survivability through deterring an attacker, you must actually apply these ideas and be willing and able to physically engage your attacker in order to effect the change in your physiology that will tell a predator that you are not an easy target, or a target at all.

Jedi Mind Tricks

“Art of misdirection”… “power of persuasion”…”Jedi Mind Tricks”…call it what you want, not everything is what it seems. Here Senshido’s Wes Derequito explains how body language matched with proper verbal defusing can help you gain an advantage in a potentially violent confrontation.



Preclusion is a legal term meaning to take steps to avoid or retreat from the action that can lead to violence. It’s a term you won’t hear bandied about that much even in martial arts or self defence schools. You will hear the phrase. As Miyagi would say, “Best defence, don’t be there”, but even then it’s pretty vague on how far you have to go to not be there.

Some will ask why bother discussing a legal term and quote the often parroted “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six”. Just remember, those twelve judging you will probably know as much about violence as a ten-year-old does about sex (the media is there to entertain, not educate) and will be judging you accordingly. Secondly, if you’re training for self-protection then you might want to look at the entire process of a violent altercation rather than only what occurs in the heat of the moment. For example, you have managed to disarm your knife-wielding attacker and now hold the blade, but the attacker is still coming at you. What do you do? Stab him? You just broke the law. Throw the knife away? Food for thought.

The other thing I’ve run into is the “I’m a good person and good people will instinctively do the right thing and I’ll only be violent if I think I’m in danger” mindset (if you have a chance have a look at Joel and Michael Stovall’s interview ca. 28 September, 2001 and how they killed a deputy; you might be surprised how it sounds very familiar).

Some go to the extreme of avoiding trouble spots. A friend of mine in Ninjutsu equated this with the famous Godan test of avoiding the sword strike from behind “just don’t go to class on that day you avoided the sword. Of course, you also avoided all other lessons and you can just avoid life and raise cats”.

Richard Dimitri teaching the finer points of preclusion.

Richard Dimitri teaching the finer points of preclusion.

But yes avoiding trouble through being situationally aware and through avoiding certain behaviour patterns that might get you into a bad situation where you get an educational beat down (or “EBD” – a great term I learned from reading Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller books) is a solid foundation for self-protection. “But”, I hear you say, “I don’t hang around bikie clubs and dens of iniquity (you don’t know what you’re missing out on), as if those are the only places you might get an EBD. The worst EBD I have ever seen was from a few old Italian ladies when they heard a young man make a disparaging remark about a younger female of their family; the old ladies got to him before the males, and nothing much was left for the males to do except call him an ambulance.

Then you have preclusion once the scenario begins. I won’t discuss it from a bouncer’s perspective mainly because I’m contractually obligated (I’m an idealist, I do it for the money) to be there in the thick of it and can only retreat so far (please note venues are obligated by law to keep out those who are under-age or intoxicated, as well as those who they think may start a fight (sorry if your feelings get hurt). If we don’t, not only do penalties apply to us staff, but venues can be shut down and consequently, people lose their jobs). So when I refuse you entry I’m not always being a complete prick for the sake of it.

Now there are many different scenarios that can become violent and I can’t cover them all, but Iet’s look at a few which I’ve recently had some discussions about.

Scenario 1: this actually came about because I stated that real knife fights are not like sword duels in the French country side, but more like a knifing in a parking lot. My friend commented but what if you use your situational awareness, spot the danger and deploy your knife?

You’ve done your shopping and you’re walking towards your car, and your situational awareness goes ping. The would-be assailant is standing six to eight feet from you between you and your car, He isn’t carrying shopping, isn’t holding car keys and isn’t looking for his car and his hand keeps checking the same part of his body. You recognize this as a red flag, now what are your options ?

As my friend commented, drop your shopping, deploy your knife, travel the eight feet and rush him before he can draw his weapon, keys, mobile phone? (even if he was Jack the bloody Ripper, you had no proof he had any violent intent) or go back inside and get security (Preclusion).

Scenario 2: you’re a young woman walking down the street and feel someone is following you. He hasn’t said anything but you feel uncomfortable so you turn around and mouth off at him or attack him pre-emptively, neither of which would be considered justifiable or intelligent. The mouthing-off would probably create a situation that didn’t exist or cause a potential situation to escalate, and the pre-emptive strike? Well, that would be considered an assault.

Scenario 3: you’re at home and someone breaks in. How far should you retreat? The following quote shows how some perceive retreat to a silly level.

Marc MacYoung recalls a case in Massachusetts where a home invader broke into a woman’s house, chased her upstairs, broke through the locked bedroom door, and was shot and killed by the woman. The prosecutor got her convicted for failing in her duty to retreat because she didn’t climb out the window.

Now let’s move on to the idea that the best defence is to not be there. This isn’t strictly “preclusion”, but it’s still something worth thinking about. I’ve commonly heard the phrase “you’re trained, so you should be able to avoid the strikes and stop the attacker without hurting them.” ….. are you insane? First, how long are you going to dodge the attack before the attacker gets a lucky shot in?… before Murphy rears his ugly head and you trip? …or before your attacker’s friends or even some stranger who decided you’re the bad guy jumps in?

So our goals must be to survive and take our attacker down as quickly as possible and make sure he doesn’t want to get back up. It’s not for us to teach him a lesson, but we should use attitude interrupters while we take him down. Just because I’ve managed to use a fancy lock and put someone down does not mean that in turn he suddenly realizes that taking my head off was wrong. That’s just naïve and only works in the old kung-fu movies. In reality, I’ve taken guys down who keep struggling and screaming to let up, just so he could continue his stupidity.

And if you think you’re ok once the police arrive, first find out what the response time is where you live then factor in that the police will see two people struggling and not know what happened and treat you like the bad guy until they know otherwise.

I’ve had the police tell me to release someone as they had arrived and all was good in the world. Even after I explained that the big guy I’m hanging onto for dear life is still holding onto his knife, they would insist I let him go. I’ve also had the police empty an entire canister of OC foam while holding one guy down as three big guys were beating me (me being in a three piece suit and wearing a security tag obviously meant I was the bad guy).

Hang on you didn’t actually write anything saying what to do, what gives? I wrote this to get people to think. I don’t want people to do something because I told them to; I want them to think, even disagree and explain why they disagree, but most of all I want them to think whenever anyone says something.


Marc MacYoung comment was taken from”Stand Your Ground and the slaughter of ‘innocents.’”

Marc MacYoung on ‘Knife Fighting Systems’

Marc MacYoung recently posted some thoughts on ‘Knife Fighting Systems’, which emphasise the offensive use of a knife above all else. Upon reading it, I could not let it get lost in Facebook-land, never to be found again. In short, it is morally and socially irresponsible to teach offensive use of a knife as a primary means of self-defense. Enjoy Marc’s post.

I do not understand the emphasis in training of ‘knife fighting systems.’ I always found sticking a knife into someone the easy part. (Give me five minutes and I can show you guaranteed ways to take someone out.)

When it comes to blades, the challenge is not getting stabbed or slashed — a result that is much, much harder to achieve without effective defensive training. Got it? Stabbing easy. Not getting stabbed, hard.

Yet the emphasis in commercial knife training is on offense. What’s really confusing to me is that the offense is overwhelmingly aimed at creating non-fatal injuries. (And spare me the ‘in the jungle wounds turn septic’ argument — especially in light of what I am about to say in the next paragraph.) The extended and ongoing nature of knife training is dependent on dealing with offense and carving people up. (In fact, it could be argued the nature of the training is that defense is a minor issue that must be addressed on your way to carving someone.

It is that attitude where we run into major problems. See first of all, a knife is a lethal force weapon. Putting this into plain English, in a civilian context the only time you are legally justified in using a knife on someone is when that person is trying to kill or maim you. I’m not going to diddlyfart around with ‘reasonably believes,’ keep it simple — someone is in the process of trying kill or cripple you or seconds away from starting (like pulling a weapon). Which in light of this, doesn’t it make sense to maybe… just maybe .. be a little concerned about incoming fire?

Second, there is no time for a long drawn out duel when someone is trying to whack you. You sort of need a Larry the Cable Guy attitude of “Git R’ Done!” What is inherently flawed about the weedwhacker of death approach (defense is for pussies) is while you’re doing it to him, he’s returning the favor. I know the cliche is ‘the best defense is a good offense’ but I cut him 32 times and he only cut me 25 — well it just doesn’t quite strike me as the kind of ‘victory’ I’m looking for.

Third, is let’s say for the sake of argument that you were under immediate threat of death of grievous bodily injury and you go weedwhacker of death on the dude. Now you have to explain to the jury why you carved the dude 32 times. Because hey you know what? They’ve seen that same thing in slasher flicks.They KNOW when you carve someone up that bad, it’s because you’re a complete psycho.

Fourth is what is going to hang you by the balls and cut them off. And unfortunately, if all you did was focus your training on physical offense, your pending castration will be a self-inflicted. That is how much time have you spent on threat assessment? Articulation is another matter entirely. How much time have you spent learning to recognize WHEN you are actually in immediate danger?

Or are you just assuming that you’ll know when it’s the right time to unleash your deadly training? Because here’s a critical thing to consider — under adrenaline, fear and freaking out because you THINK you are in danger — odds are good you’re going to over react.

In case you missed it, I just said, unless you have spent time learning — from reliable sources — what actual danger looks like, how it progresses, and practicing making use of force decisions — odds are you’re going to carve up someone when you don’t have to. And that is exactly how you will be treated by the cops and the prosecutors.

We can all make mistakes, but the fact is if you’ve been focusing your training only on the physical — and the offensive aspects of that to boot — odds are overwhelming that you won’t just screw the pooch, you’ll fuck the dog when it comes to using a lethal force instrument on someone.

The 5 Gates

Out of the corner of your eye, you see something coming towards your head… with malicious intent. Is it a fist, bat, blade, or… a magpie? (At least in Sydney, AU, yes that’s one potential attack Yi need to be aware of the possibility of). You don’t have time to discern what it is exactly, nor the precise angle or trajectory of the attack.

Depending on how close and sudden you’ve perceived the threat to be, you may instinctively shield your head with your arms before anything else, in order to protect your brain. If the threat is a bit further away and you’re actually paying attention, observing your environment, it would tend to be a bit less of a surprise, as you’re afforded the luxury of space and time. If you’re not actively observing your surroundings however, then it doesn’t matter how close or sudden an attack is because by that stage you’ve likely already fallen victim. Awareness is by far your strongest power base for self-defense.

However, if someone is deceptive enough, or sudden enough and with enough violence of action, you can still be caught unawares, at least to a degree. And that can potentially induce some kind of instinctive reaction in relation to the perceived direction of the object (weapon) you feel is getting too close for comfort. Now that weapon (presuming hand / edged or impact weapon) will be traveling along a certain trajectory, or line of attack. And so the logic goes that you needn’t learn a counter to this, this and that move, but rather one counter that will effectively neutralize any attack originating from that angle. And so on for all the angles of attack.

The Filipino Martial Arts describe up to 12 angles of attack, generally. The problem is that most people simply will not have the time to recognize subtle differences in angle like this. And at the end of the day, the variation in your response to any one of those minute angles is insignificant; your response will not really change in essence.

Therefore if we were to simplify the Filipino 12 angles of attack, we might come up with four areas, zones or gates, ala Wing Chun, from where an attack might travel along. From this perspective, anything that comes from the general area of “Gate 1”, corresponding very roughly to the Filipino “Angle 1”, can be dealt with using the same or similar response (whatever that may be for you). And so on for Gate 2, 3 and 4. What Gates 1-4 all have in common is that they travel AROUND centerline. And given that, they can all be dealt with utilizing the same defensive concept, taking into account whether the attack is coming in in the high line (gates 1 & 2), the low line (gates 3 & 4), from the left (1 & 3) or from the right (2 & 4).

In the JKD school of thought, there is a 5th gate, and in contrast to gates 1-4, the 5th gate trajectory is linear, coming not around but THROUGH the centerline. Gate 5 attacks can be high or low, but they are all linear.

In this video, I explain the “Five Gates” and give examples of counters and follow ups for the context of street self-defense. Enjoy.


Exclusive Interview with Shin Koyamada

iC: Our new online magazine, iCombatives, is dedicated to reality-based martial arts. Can you tell our readers how and why you became involved in martial arts? What was your motivation?

SK: Hollywood. More specifically: Hollywood movies. Everyday after work my father would stop by the video store and rent a movie. (I think he loved action movies from Hollywood and Hong Kong more than he loved me, or my brother… Haha!) And the rest of our family began to really enjoy them as well, since there was only one television in our household we didn’t really have a choice. I mean, it was either watch with him, or go to our room and study. What else do you expect an elementary and Jr. High School student to do?

Keishinkan-Okayama-18 years old

When the film was over, my brother and I would immediately challenge each other and would horribly try to replicate the action scenes we just witnessed. Unfortunately, this would usually escalate into real physical confrontations between the two of us, and our mom would bust into our room and throw us out of the house until we were done.

SK-Gymnastics-17After years of watching these films, I too, wanted to be an Action Star. I couldn’t think of a career more exciting and exhilarating. In order to do so, I realized that I needed to excel better than anyone else. So I began training in gymnastics and Keishinkan Karate. My ultimate motivation was to become successful. To be successful, I needed to be better than everyone else. And to be better than everyone else, I needed to train harder and longer than everyone else. So I did.

iC: For our readers, could you tell us a bit about your martial arts experience?

SK: Well, I believe that a martial artist should have a solid core, so I trained in gymnastics. Subsequently, I figured that gymnastics would help soften my falls, should I get my butt kicked in training, which happened more often than I’d like to admit.

In my early teens, I began training in Keishinkan Karate under Master Tadashi Yoshii in Okayama, Japan. Currently, I’m a 3rd degree black belt, but am soon looking to test for my 4th. Upon arriving in the USA I immediately became enthralled with Northern Shaolin Kung Fu, and therefore trained at the Harmonious Fist: Chinese Athletic Association here in Los Angeles under Sifu Kisu. I spent the majority of my free time training in Kung Fu, specifically because I was mesmerized by the weaponry and techniques. From there I entered numerous competitions and ended up becoming a 5 time United States National Champion in Northern Shaolin Kung Fu.

I also have a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and a 1st degree black belt in Kung Jung Mu Sul ( a Royal Korean Martial Art.) And in high school I also participated in Kendo and Judo, although I wouldn’t say I’m proficient in either. Haha. (They both hurt.)

iC: Have you ever had to use your martial arts in a real fight?

Northern-Shaolin-Kung-Fu-KickYes and no. I’ve never physically used my martial arts training in an actual fight, although I’ve used my martial arts discipline to (1) keep calm when problems arose, (2) deescalate potential violent confrontations in a subtle manner, and (3) knew when to walk away.

Prior to training in martial arts I was fighting all the time as a kid. That’s just how it was back then. I wouldn’t say any of us were disciplined, as we were all pretty much using the classic “windmill punch” for self defense.

iC: In your opinion, how much of your training in the various arts do you think would be useful in a street self-defense situation? How much of it was fantasy?

SK: Well, people have always told me that in an actual street fight you tend to resort back to your initial martial arts training and/or discipline. And I believe this. It’s a foundation that you build upon from. But when the proverbial “sh*t hits the fan,” people tend to rely and revert to what they know.

I think that there are a lot of elements of EVERY martial art that are applicable and aren’t applicable in a street fight / self-defense situation. People tend to forget that martial arts have countless artistic applications as well. Kata’s (forms) for example, which of course, if utilizing in a real confrontation could potentially get your butt kicked. Although, a persons confidence, self-discipline, and overall techniques of traditional martial arts could be all the necessary tools an individual needs as a deciding factor in a street fight. In the end… it really depends on the each of the combatants mind set and training.

As for the fantasy aspect, that’s where the showmanship comes in. And in my opinion, that’s what a lot of people like to see when they go to the movies. I mean… the fantasy aspect of martial arts is what really motivated me to get where I am today. I’m a fan, and truly enjoy it basically because it looks really cool in person and on film. Is it plausible in a real fight? Probably not. But it still looks boss.

iC: You made your film debut in the Last Samurai opposite Tom Cruise. That is a great
accomplishment. Can you tell us about the training you underwent specifically for that film? You looked Hawkeye-sharp with the archery in the movie!

SK Cover 1SK: Oh man, that was some scary stuff. At the audition I didn’t think I would get the role because of the lack of skills required. The casting director and producers began asking me about my archery and horseback riding experience. And I thought to myself there was no way I could land this role, so I was 100% honest with them (because I couldn’t fake these skills) and said I had zero experience. Luckily they liked me enough to hire me anyways, and immediately began my archery and horseback training for 2 months prior to leaving for Japan and New Zealand for the next 8 months.

I trained EVERYDAY in pre-production, and during production. I absolutely loved Kyudo (Japanese archery.) I was fortunate enough to pick it up fairly easy, which in turn, afforded me more time to focus on horseback riding, which scared the crap out of me… and still does. I never realized horses were so big. I mean, the thing is a real beast, and I was so scared to touch it. Learning to ride a horse proficiently took a ridiculous amount of time for me, in addition to recovering from my countless falls. Honestly, I don’t remember how many times the horse threw me off, but I do remember it was a long way down from on top of the horse, to the dirt track below. With each fall, time slowed down slower and slower. And each fall became scarier and scarier. If that wasn’t enough, they tasked me with learning Yabusame (Archery from atop a horseback.) I thought to myself: “Great. This is all I need. Another fall from the horse, but this time with sharp arrows in my hand.”

Japanese yabusame professionals said it was impossible for me to learn it in such a short amount of time, and that on average takes approximately 10 years of yabusame training to do so effectively. With strenuous training everyday, I was extremely fortunate enough to at least appear proficient, which seemed to blow everyone away. Could I do it again? I don’t know. Maybe I was just in the right mind frame where failure wasn’t an option. Then again, maybe I was just ridiculously lucky.

iC: In the Last Samurai, your character Nobutada tried to teach Tom Cruise’s character about the concept of “mushin” (no mind). It’s a concept that is hard to find an exact equivalent for in English but it’s an essential mindset for fighting. What does mushin mean to you and in what ways is it a useful skill to cultivate for real combat? Do you have any tips for developing mushin?

SK Cover 2SK: For me, “mushin” is an intuitive reaction. It’s all about “letting go,” and allowing your natural actions/reactions to take over, especially in an emergency situation. It’s extremely useful and beneficial on numerous fronts, but absolutely necessary in a life-and-death situation. For example, in a potentially violent confrontation on the street, you might just have a few seconds to decide the correct course of action. Although, those few seconds might also be the difference between life and death, mushin allows your natural instincts to take control and thus, the course of the fight. What I mean by this is, if you take a few seconds to (1) intake and decipher what is going on, and (2) without panicking, decide what you should do… it might already be too late. Mushin is that “split-second” where you react, before it is too late. It truly is a game-changer.

Reverting back to my earlier comments about riding a horse… mushin saved me day in and day out whence I was thrown from the horse everyday. Due to gravity, I only had a mere 1 or 2 seconds to “ungracefully” tuck and roll when the horse threw me to the ground. I could have easily broken multiple bones had I panicked and froze. Your body is very resilient, if you can relax and allow it to naturally takeover.

I believe everyone can develop mushin, and what works for me might not work for someone else. Everyone has their own way; they just have to figure it out for themselves. Having said that, the best advice I can give about developing mushin is to meditate. Meditate everyday before you start your day and before you go to sleep. Just close your eyes and don’t think. (It’s actually VERY hard to do, but does takes a lot of practice.) The simplest way is to walk without thinking. Just walk (unless you live in a rough neighborhood.) Or even just begin writing. Write without thinking. Don’t stop, just keep going. Its almost as if looking through your eyes is a distraction. There’s just so much more information your brain is processing, that its almost impossible to focus on this simple task. Eventually with practice, time will begin to fly by while meditating, walking or writing. For me, my way was to do martial art “forms” without thinking about the next step. I just allowed my body and mind to react naturally knowing and trusting that it would occur organically. And it did.

iC: Within the martial arts, there’s always been the classic “my style is better than your style”, and it’s sadly still like that today. The so-called “Traditional martial arts” (Karate, Wing Chun etc) often get looked down upon by the big tough MMA guys and even some reality-based self-defense (RBSD) circles. In your opinion, what do the traditional martial arts offer to the reality-based martial artist (MMA and RBSD)?

Northern Shaolin Kung-FuSK: Martial Arts was developed as a system of self protection for yourself, loved ones, and even your country. Traditional martial arts teach you discipline, manners, respect, how to achieve goals through the belt and ranking system, they condition you physically, building your health and making you mentally strong. Not to mention, it builds your character and morals to a higher standard than the average Joe Schmo on the street. More importantly you learn compassion for other people. What I mean by this is that you quickly understand what its like to inflict injury upon another person. You understand the consequences of your actions via live sparring in class. Now, I admit that you are taught to hold back quite a bit in traditional martial arts classes, and I believe that many people feel very comfortable with that (especially parents), although I do feel that it is creating a false sense of security in most individuals. And in my opinion, this is the major difference between traditional martial arts and MMA and/or RBSD. Traditional martial arts are not perfect, whereas MMA and RBSD are very practical. The only flaw that I see in the latter is that there seems to be a lack of morals in MMA and RBSD. I mean, after a guy is on the ground… there really is no reason to continue pounding his head into the mat nor permanently blind and/or kill someone in a self-protection situation. If your skills are good enough, and you’re as badass as you really think you are, then you should be able to inflict the right amount of damage to an attacker in order to get home safely without any further threat to yourself. (Insert any example of “Master Ken’s Ameri-Do-Te” videos here.)

iC: When not undergoing specific training for a film role, what does your general training consist of? What do you do to stay in fighting shape?

SK: Well, believe it or not I constantly practice my “forms” and “stances.” I do this to build up my legs and more importantly my stamina. (THIS is important so you can run away if possible.) I also like to practice endless kicks (from all angles) and extend my kicks holding them in position for as long as I can. At the gym I normally do lighter weights with a lot of repetitions. Also, I run and bike for an hour each, at least three times a week. Depending upon how my legs are holding up after all that, I jump rope for 20 minutes. As you can see, I’m all about legs. My rationale is if I were in an all out marathon (whether it’s a fight, or I’m running away) with my opponent… who would win? I’m not training to be the best fighter in the world, I’m training to survive.

iC: What does the near future hold for Shin Koyamada? What are your goals for both your career and your martial arts?

SK: Well I don’t have anything too extraordinary in the near future, although I plan on continuing to promote martial arts for underprivileged children. I want to pass the true meaning of traditional martial arts onto children, such as self-esteem, morals, respect, honor, courage, etc. I believe this is extremely important and beneficial not only to the children themselves, but to society as a whole.

I also plan on expanding the Koyamada Foundation to a point where we are able to grant hundreds of martial arts scholarships every year to children throughout the US, and eventually worldwide. This will take time however can be expedited should any of your readers decide to offer a helping hand. (Hint, hint.) Aside from acting and producing when I can, I plan on being a martial arts student for life.

iC: Martial arts student for life? Are there any particular styles / disciplines that you’re dying to try… once you have the time?

SK: Actually, I have really been wanting to try a military / special-forces type of combat training. Something that would force me to challenge and push myself beyond my wildest expectations. Something that would really scare the crap out of me, but wouldn’t kill me. Haha. I guess it would be like a hard core, REAL, and practical combatives boot camp.

iC: Do you have any parting thoughts or advice to our readers?

SK: I would just like your readers to question why they are doing martial arts in the first place. I think it’s very easy to be carried away. You see martial arts isn’t about hurting people… its to protect yourself as quickly and efficiently as possible. And in my opinion, more importantly it’s about controlling yourself. Something which is very hard to do if you’re not a martial artist. What I mean by this is that it’s very easy to become desensitized to violence by knowing and/or learning lethal techniques (via television, film, social media, etc.) People who don’t know how to control themselves tend to quickly escalate the level and severity of violence to a point of no return. (If you don’t believe me, watch any YouTube street fight. Time and time again, people are stomping or soccer kicking someone’s head while they’re already knocked out. Its unnecessary and utterly absurd to take violence to that level.) Our human anatomy isn’t designed to handle that much violence, although resilient, our bodies are still fragile. Someone who isn’t able to control themselves will most likely end up doing permanent damage to an opponent, which in turn, will probably land them in jail, not to mention a sea of legal fee’s.

At the end of the day, you’re basically training your hands and feet to be weapons… so my question to you is what do you really want to do with those weapons?

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Find out more about Shin at the following sites:                         (personal website)                                   (charity / foundation)              (production company)                                     (U.S. Martial Arts Festival)


Attacking the Eyes Pre-Emptively and Non-Telegraphically

In this video, Michael Matlijovski of KMA Shellharbour shows how to attack the eyes in a pre-fight scenario where your threat assessment tells you that your opponent is too dangerous for you to simply walk away from. In order to get that first shot in, you need the element of surprise on your side, and so masking your intentions to strike is of paramount importance. In addition to masking your intentions behvaiourally, you also need to reduce any telltale signs that your strike is coming during its physical execution. Ideally your strike should be felt before it is seen. There are various ways to accomplish this, and here Michael explains how. Enjoy.