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.

Primal Threat Indicators *(reading the level of intent)

by Wayne Roy


If you’ve ever watched the television series ‘Lie To Me’, you would have seen some interesting insights into reading body-language and micro facial expressions. These are both valuable tools that can help in conflict avoidance.

This post is about a primal expression of body-language that comes down to one simple principle. Let’s call it the inside/outside threat indicator… and it works like this :

  • threatening gestures that are displayed inside the body’s frame express a serious intent, and a confidence to carry out the threat (see photo above)
  • threatening gestures that are displayed outside the body’s frame express a lack of confidence in the person’s ability to carry out the threat.

Look at the photo below (from Lie To Me). The aggressor in this case is holding his firearm inside his body’s frame, his body is turned side-on to minimise body targets, and his mouth is straight and emotionless. This primal threat indicator sends the message that he is very serious in his intent to shoot.


It would be a very different message if he was extending his firearm outside his body’s frame (gangsta style), and shouting verbal threats. That would indicate an attempt to intimidate, rather than shoot. He would still be potentially dangerous, but basically he would be trying to frighten people into not opposing him!

Such a primal display of aggression is common in all primates. To understand what I mean, imagine a monkey jumping around, waving a stick, and screaming loudly. The monkey doesn’t really want to fight (in case it gets injured or killed), so it tries to avoid a physical confrontation by using bigthreatening gestures and lots of noise.

Here’s a story that highlights how the tactic of using a primal threat indicator can be used to actually de-escalate a confrontation…..

A friend of mine was involved in a road rage incident. He was an experienced martial artist and streetfighter, so he was no stranger to threats of violence.

When the other driver got out of his car he raised an iron bar outside of his body’s frame, and moved towards my friend with an aggressive scowl on his face.

However my friend simply took a short step forward, pointed at him and confidently announced “If you don’t put that down I’ll take it off you and shove it up your a#se.”

In response the other driver immediately lowered his weapon and said “I’m going to call the police on you.”

So why did the attacker back down so easilly? Because he was all bluff and bluster…. and he knew it. He was like a monkey waving a stick and trying to intimidate… but not really confident in his ability to carry out his threat.

My friend on the other hand, turned his body side-on, leaned forward, pointed a finger from inside his body’s frame (a stabbing intent), and spoke in a cold and confident manner.

It was a primal threat indicator that sent a clear message that he was ready to physically engage his opponent… regardless of the fact that he was armed.


Here’s another story that highlights a similar de-escalation….

A martial arts instructor I know was walking home from gym one night, carrying a gym bag in one hand, and an umbrella in the other. He was walking down a street that’s popular with prostitutes and druggies, when a young man approached him with his head down… not looking where he was going.

As they got close, the martial artist side-stepped the young man, but gently used his umbrella to simultaneously guide him away and avoid physical contact.

The young man stopped and turned around with a tirade of verbal abuse. He then extended his arms out to the sides (a primal display of aggressive intimidation), and started shouting threats.

In response the martial artist simply took a short step forward, lowered his chin, pointed his umbrella at the young man’s face and confidently shouted “Hey!”

In response the young man started apologising… then turned and walked away.

Why did he back-down so quickly? Well let’s look at the primal threat indicators:

  • firstly, the martial arts instructor took a short step forward which turned his body side-on and showed his opponent that he was prepared to engage *(this is also a tactic in Japanese sword combat)
  • secondly, he raised his umbrella inside his body’s frame and pointed it at his opponent’s face *(another sword combat tactic)
  • thirdly, he used a loud and confident shout, which was a clear indication that he wasn’t intimidated by the young man’s bluff and bluster.


It’s Primal Protection.

Rickson Gracie: “When you train, you should put more emphasis on learning than on competing with your partner.”


Rickson Gracie advises on how to train and roll. He emphasizes the fact that Jiu-Jitsu practitioners should focus on the technical side first without using their physical assets. In the words of Rickson himself…

source: Rickson Gracie Association Newsletter

“Even when you spar during training, you should minimize your natural talents. By limiting yourself, you may find yourself in much worse situation, but you are forced to think your way out, using techniques you would not have otherwise used. When you start doing this, you begin to understand what is really wrong in a certain situation and you begin to understand what actually needs to be done in a technical way in order to improve the situation. You then begin to develop a real, deep progress, understanding the mechanics of any situation.”

“It is important to remember that in a serious fight or in a competition, the mechanics of the fight will be exactly the same as when you are training in a gentle manner. The only important difference will be your mental attitude. When you train, you should put more emphasis on learning than on competing with your partner.”


“You don’t learn when you are fighting, bringing in all sorts of tension and emotion. You learn when you are having fun, training in a smooth and gentle way. You need to work on improving your technique until you are comfortable in any situation. Eventually, you will develop a subconscious understanding of the techniques and they become reflexes. Only after you have done all this you are ready to take your natural abilities “off the shelf” and add them back into your game. Now the effectiveness of the technique will be at least ten times better.”

Donnie B Old School Muay Thai vs Street Haymaker

This is purely a street specific technique. A haymaker is a commonly thrown punch in the bar / club setting , and a gift from god as it provides so many targets for you to choose from. The multiple opponent stuff is sloppy, but you have to remember that no multiple opponent situation will ever be exactly as you train it to be.
– Donnie B


What’s Not Real In Simulated Ammo?

I teach about 2,000 people a year in all kinds of spaces and places, in some 12 allied countries and we cover hand, stick, knife and gun material. For the gun subject, most of the time we do not have access to a shooting range and, frankly, I really don’t want to teach live fire. I don’t like all the range logistics and well…to be honest, it very quickly bores me to shoot, or guide people to shoot endless paper targets all day, all year, for decades. Forever (remember I started shooting in the late 1960s). It just does. You can get that live fire instruction from someone else, which is usually good caliber, almost anywhere. I urge you to do that and I partner with many great instructors who do so. They teach live fire. I teach the simulated ammo, combat scenarios.

Rather, I want people to explore and learn things about close quarter, interactive shooting. Since 1995 or so, I have used any tool I can get my hands on to develop some interactive combat shooting awareness and skills. Many if not most times, I am stuck inside the confines of training room or a martial arts school, a hotel business meeting room, academy class, public school gym, or maybe even an open, back lot of a building. It is what it is and I adapt. We’ll throw tennis balls at you to make an “incoming point, shoot the hard core simunitions if we have them, use gas guns, BB guns, Airsoft guns, even rubber band guns, anything so as to create an experience of an exchange of “bullets” while two or more people are thinking, reacting, moving and fighting with guns in close quarters inside and around cars, stairways, buildings, parking lots, businesses, you name it.

One year we had an entire, multi-floor building, with an indoor parking lot, about to be gutted for remodeling in Cincinnati, Ohio. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. We helped destroy the place with sims and gas guns. As I like to say, you are not really learning how to gunfight unless a moving, thinking person is shooting back at you. It changes a lot of things and some say – almost everything. I say that is situational. You still need to pull the trigger and shoot.

Once ridiculed in the mid-1990s for these ideas and tools, I now sell bulk quantities of rubber band guns to police and military groups AFTER they use them in my training sessions. They get the idea, intent and plan. (These wooden “toys,” fire 6 to 8 times in a semi-auto fashion) and like the battery powered “electric” Airsoft guns are cheap, safe and do not damage people, buildings or cars. This allows you to work some aspect of gun material no matter where you are. (Warning-If you use the Airsoft long guns, like machine guns or shotguns – these babies can be charged up to property and vehicle damaging levels. We have blown out lights, dented cars and broken windows and mirrors).

When you introduce the gas-powered guns in training then you have worries about the neighbors, your pick-up truck and all things that shatter, dent, break, scream and howl. But, the gas guns at least give you some level of explosive sound and a little wave of shock and a dose of pain when you are on the wrong end.

“…you are not really learning how to gunfight unless a moving, thinking person is shooting back at you…”


Unless we are doing special long gun training, I usually teach very close-in handgun tactics, stretching the distance limits to say – one or two car lengths. But at times, gun fights inside buildings in various scenarios like buildings searches, protection escorts and the like, we have our practitioners shooting these simulated weapons and ammo at greater distances than very close quarters…topics like “gun-arm grappling.”

Getting off the “Dime.” That’s what we use to call it in the old days. Somebody recently called it “getting off the X” and he is treated like a new tactical genius? Like it was a new idea? Anyway, believe in the old “getting off the “Dime” or “X” when shooting? Try it interactively with simulated ammo and see if you can actually get off anything when the bullets fly.

Interactivity is the lab you can’t find on the gun range. It’s on the stairwell, on the parking lot, the store, the restaurant, and inside homes, offices and…well anywhere and everywhere but not the square range. Lots of live-fire guys, dabbling with simulated ammo, make the mistake of doing it right on the shooting range. No, sir. You need to make the locations as real as possible.

In a perfect world, training weapons used should look, feel and weigh like their real counterparts. But, realistically, other than some classic simunitions ammo or high grade paint-marker bullets used in real firearms, all the other so-called “simulated ammunition” will obviously not react like live rounds, and I always make this “what’s not real” speech at the beginning of a dedicated training session.

Some examples of “what’s not real with simulation ammo shooting” when not using special simunitions guns or your guns with special marker bullets

  • No realistic malfunctions
  • No real gun blast/explosions in your hands or in front of you
  • No real weight in your hands
  • No real recoil or ‘weapon climb”
  • No real pain/wounding
  • Each gun has its own marksmanship challenge. The more powerful, the straighter the “arrow.”
  • No rounds passing through the scenery (walls, etc.) that you use for cover or concealment
  • No realistic skips or ricochets
  • No real fear
  • No real reaction to being shot. You can act like it, which is okay to do, but it is still acting
  • Usually no realistic reloading
  • Keep experimenting and building this list.

Now if you have the expensive packages of “Simunitions Gun and Ammo Sets” as well as certain good, “marker bullets” that fit into your actual weapons, you will not have half the problems listed above. These are expensive, not easy to transport for travelers like me. Plus, you must train in areas that these bullets won’t destroy walls, cars and just about anything in range. These are the best, but not the easiest to acquire or use.

Do I sound negative, being a proponent of interactive shooting? Perhaps. But the truth is the truth. These are some of the downsides everyone must know. You still must shoot live ammo. My idea is that once you fully qualify/certify with your live-fire weapon, I believe that all your further shooting practice should be in that special 25 percent / 75 percent split or even a 40 percent / 60 percent split. Your choice. 50-50? That means for the next training trips, 25 percent up to 50 percent of the time is spent for a quick re-familiarization of the weapon with live fire, and then 75 percent, or maybe half of the rest of the time is spent in interactive, simulated ammo scenarios and situations.

To move up and on, you have to break the bonds of the “shooting-paper-target-range-mentality-only.” This does not have to be expensive or dangerous to people and property with gas guns and other types of training guns. And it will extensively enhance awareness, experience and survival. (Hey, I get rave reviews for teaching this stuff, every time and every where I go. It’s up to you.)

This looks like a long, negative list. Like all sorts of hand, stick and knife training, Simulated ammo training is not perfect and at times far from perfect. We have to recognize the problems listed above, but there are a lot of benefits. I think it still is a mandatory practice for understanding aspects of human behavior in interactive gunfights, in actual locations. It’s the next step very few take for a variety of business and personal reasons – but it is the next step in testing your tactics before you see how you might get yourself killed.

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An Interview with Self-Defense Expert, Richard “Senshido” Dimitri

Those of you into reality-based self-defense (RSBD) have likely heard of Richard “Senshido” Dimitri; several years ago he seemingly came out of nowhere to become a central figure in the RSBD arena, alongside well known figures like Tony Blauer and Geoff Thompson. Rich Dimitri’s rise has had little to do with clever advertising or crafty self-promotion – he doesn’t do any. Rather, his success is owed to the grassroots popularity of a highly effective fighting concept known as the “Shredder”.

In March of this year I had the pleasure of meeting and training with Rich (you can read all about the experience here). I was so impressed, not just with Rich’s techniques, but the man himself, that I asked Rich if he’d be kind enough to do an interview. Rich graciously agreed, and what follows is the most revealing, in-depth interview this “underground” star of the RSBD world has ever given.

Prepare to have your beliefs challenged, for Rich Dimitri is a true maverick who speaks his mind and makes no apologies for it.

Please note this interview contains occasional use of strong language; if you’re a minor or easily offended by such language, please tune out now. For the rest of you, enjoy the ride!

Anthony Colpo

Read more

Personal Safety Tips from Assassin John Rain

Part of the appeal of my series about the half-American, half-Japanese assassin John Rain seems to be Rain’s realistic tactics. It’s true that Rain, like his author, has a black belt in judo and is a veteran of certain government firearms and other defensive tactics courses, but these have relatively little to do with Rain’s continued longevity. Rather, Rain’s ultimate expertise, and the key to his survival, lies in his ability to think like the opposition.

Okay, get out your notepad, because:

All effective personal protection, all effective security, all true self-defense, is based on the ability and willingness to think like the opposition. Read more