Practice and BE What You Preach

Warrior warrior every where! Every other word in training seems to be the talk of the Warrior Mindset.  It is one of the most powerful labels to have when you achieve that title.
“a brave or experienced soldier or fighter”

But how many trainers or coaches actually have actually been in some type of fight or war?  When the words are thrown out there, does the trainer/coach back what they are?  Musashi once wrote: “It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet undrawn”.  This simply means that a warrior should not give up his life to the enemy without having used all the tools at his disposal.

With the many “strip mall warrior” shops going up every few blocks and across the globe, one can only wonder what they are walking into once the doors open.   Some of the best fighters in the world are now training others giving back to the self defense and conditioning community.  While in other places there are those who have never been in any confrontation yet continue to teach the concept of preparedness and “returning fire” so to speak.

Through “real life” experiences where one has faced a controversial event in their life which required the person to use the many skills they were taught to neutralize the threat, it is an amazing learning curve and one we all should learn from.  For example: When I train clients in my combative conditioning fitness programs, the paces that they must go through replicate the “fight or flight” concept pushing them to their limits and taking them to an all new high.  In Law Enforcement it’s the theory of the “1 minute fight or flight” syndrome where the officer gets attacked and into the 1 minute fight.  At that point the fatigue from the explosive amounts of force and energy being exerted between the officer and the suspect now starts to elevate.   Will panic set in?  If you are attacked as a civilian will you panic? Will you lay on the floor and let the suspect get the best of you?   What is your conditioning level at the point of fatigue?  Does the punch become a punch or just a limp wrist?  What was the last piece of training you received from your trainer/coach that showed you how to last, regroup and counter?

MEDINA FGRAV(1)As an educator of tactics, fitness and self defense I can tell you I would never put a student/trainee in a position I have never faced before.  Being able to teach how to throw a punch is similar to teaching one how to draw, index and fire their weapon.  When I ask students in training “how many of you ever been punched in the face before?”  I am astonished at times to see the limited amount of people who have never been punched or even slapped in the face.  I normally would tell them “if you have not experienced it I would suggest taking it up and get to the know the feeling.”  After all how will you know what your response method is unless you are suddenly compromised for a moment.

Practice and BE What You Preach:  How can one teach SWAT if they have never gone through a door?  How can one teach self defense when all they have experienced is attending a class from someone else and then hone in those skills to teach others?  How can one teach surviving the ambush if they have never experienced an ambush? Or perhaps training someone how to do dumb bell curls yet never have lifted a weight in their life?  Many lives depend on the best educators and trainers to take them to the next level in fitness and survival/self-defense methods.  Do your homework and seek out the best trainers and educators in the world who have real time experience in the field they are teaching in.  Stay relevant, stay focused, stay on point.

Cut! It! Out! – Paradoxes of Knife Self Protection

The Paradoxes and Problems of Realistic Knife Assault Protection and Training

page3image628For my lead article I wanted to discuss a very controversial issue that seems to consume a lot of our industry’s time, energy and resources. Self Protection against the edged weapon. I decided to do this by fleshing out in more detail a lecture that I give in my courses for Weapon Protection Instructors.

Knife Self Protection presents the potential student as well as instructors with many paradoxes that we must embrace as well as problems that need to be addressed and understood in order to provide the best information and tactics to our students.

The Paradox Of Choice

When confronted with a knife threat or assault; you can choose to fight back or you may choose not to. It is a deeply personal choice that I leave to the student, however, if you don’t have options then you don’t have a choice.

In other words if you haven’t trained or prepared to both protect yourself from a knife assault, avoiding such situations, and / or intelligently fleeing from the same, you are no longer choosing, you are just experiencing it.

The Problem Of Choice

The problem of choice is that there is so much information out there with everyone claiming to be “the real” expert, that someone who is honestly seeking knife self protection training can very easily be misled into learning an inferior set of tactics and preparation.

My hope is that by presenting the rest of these paradoxes and problems, the reader may develop an intelligent format and filter through which they can put any knife self protection tactics and figure out if they will help them survive.

The Paradox Of Skill

page8image5136Having skill in knife self protection does not guarantee victory, and having no skill is not a sure path to defeat. Skilled people, and by that I mean people with all the correct skills and attributes for knife self protection, have been injured and died during knife assaults. And unskilled people have survived them. As you will see, as we explore further paradoxes, the variables and chaos factors in a knife assault sometimes lead to unfavorable results regardless of amount or quality of preparation.

The Problem Of Skill

When people dedicate a large amount of time and work into developing a skill, the human brain automatically seeks sophistication. That is a very human trait present in most of us that has very positive effects. Think of the person that starts drawing stick figures and eventually sophisticates more and more until…voila! They have the Mona Lisa.

However in self protection this trait can have harmful side effects. Someone looking into knife self protection skill may start with the best of intentions but after years of development may gain skills unrelated to real knife assaults or skills that are untransferable to others because of over sophistication.
For example in some Filipino martial arts systems, practitioners will train to defend against 18, and sometimes more angles of attack. In real knife assaults we typically see about 3 of the same angles being repeated over and over as evidenced by video footage from all over the world involving edged weapon attacks. Doing some quick math approximation, training this way they are spending approximately 85% of their training time preparing for something that will not happen.

We must endeavor to develop the correct skills against the attacks that are most likely to occur. By working the basics to a very high level of competence, if something deviates from the norm, our bodymind system is very likely to be able to make improvisational shifts to deal with the problem effectively. Seek to learn tools that handle more tasks rather than making a huge tool collection.

Another problem with skill is the infamous, to defend against the knife, you must be a knife fighter first mythology. Sure understanding of how to fight with a knife can be helpful, but it is not indispensable in order to develop solid knife self protection skill. People with the “knifefighter” train of thought tend to show two traits. On one side they tend to over sophisticate training. They will tell a student, “well if you do that, then a knife fighter will counter with this so make sure you counter with this instead”
The other trait they poses is that almost all of them have never been in a knife fight anyway. Beware of learning knife self protection from someone who claims to have been in “many knife fights”.

The Paradox of Fear

page5image280The subject of fear needs to be discussed when dealing with knife assaults but we need to discuss it intelligently. Yes, if you are threatened or assaulted with a knife, you are very likely to experience fear. Fear of death, injury and failure are very natural to have during such incidents. Most of the time that physiological fear will be helpful. However the fear that you MAY be threatened or MAY be assaulted by a knife in the future serves absolutely no useful purpose.

The Problem of Fear

There is entirely too much of what I call “Fear Based Marketing” being used by the self protection industry. Clips replete with “What really happens in a knife attack” are out there making the rounds after being posted by someone trying to sell their brand of knife defense. They tell you if you don’t prepare as they do you are likely to die etc. So to put things in perspective here is some clearer information.
Most people in the western world can go their entire life without a seriously violent incident happening to them. Out of those, a small percentage may involve weapons such as knives.

So barring you living in very specific parts of the world where they have a historical knife culture, the likelihood of you being attacked by a knife is minimal. You are more likely to be attacked by a tool or broken bottle or other items that have some characteristics of the knife. But still a very, very small chance of that happening.

Even less so is the chance of you being attacked by someone who has real knife fighting skill. You are more likely to be attacked, again given the very small chance that this will ever happen to you, by an angry spouse with a kitchen knife or friend with a broken bottle or maybe an emotionally disturbed person, than you will ever be by some skilled knife assassin.

The Paradox of Injury

In the knife incidents I have been in, observed, investigated and researched, I have seen the gamut of results. A person will receive several large, gaping wounds and survive where another sustains a single, small wound and dies. I have also observed the exact opposite. Importantly I have seen people emerge victorious AND unscathed. Getting cut or stabbed does not mean you lose but it could mean you die. Weird but true.

The Problem With Injury

As stated above, over the course of a knife attack, you may or may not be cut or stabbed. Having your skin pierced and broken does not necessarily mean you are injured to the point of dysfunction.

Some injuries may lead to a slow decrease in fighting proficiency through loss of blood, while others may cause more immediate results. You may lose the use of a limb or an internal organ may be struck sending you into rapid shock. The chest cavity may be perforated causing one or both lungs to collapse. Death may come quickly from severe arterial damage or direct injury to the heart.

Awareness of all of this may cause apprehension on the part of the defender. This in turn causes many people to remain in the “kill zone” of middle distance during many attacks. While trying to avoid injury they put themselves at a higher risk.


We have just discussed the paradoxes and problems of the actual knife incident, along with some issues dealing with general preparation. Now I’m going to address some general paradoxes of knife self protection training itself.

The Paradox of Choice in Training

page18image2632As indicated above even if you have all the correct skills to succeed in a knife assault, you may still die. So why train at all? Given that the chances you are involved in a knife assault are very small, and people with no training may still survive. Simply, there are no guarantees. However training to be competent in knife self protection, focusing on realistic skill set development, may stack the odds a little more in your favor. Also the attributes developed in empty hand vs knife training will enhance your efficiency and effectiveness when addressing unarmed attackers.

The Paradox of The Real Knife

Never, ever, use a real knife in self protection training! However, treat every training knife as if it was absolutely real. In knife self protection training, one of the key elements is to avoid letting a sharp edge or point come in contact with your flesh. Awareness and common sense dictate that the presence of a real knife in training increases the odds in favor of the knife. Why even try? Getting a permanent injury in training that would make you less effective should a real assault occur is just asinine.

There are plenty of training knives available that are safe substitutes for the real thing. I have three styles of training knives I use. First I like the dull aluminum knife, it has the heft and feel of the real thing minus the sharp and pointy bits that can hamper training. I prefer using them for high repetition drills and limit the amount of free styling with this knife as you can still be injured to the point of cracked ribs, and eye injuries.

Next I prefer the solid plastic knife. It doesn’t have the feel of the aluminum but allows for more free form drilling and scenario training.

Last on the list is the rubber knife. This one I use only when doing full force improvised scenario training. Using even a plastic knife here can break bones. And advantage of using a rubber knife while wearing protective equipment is that even if you get “stabbed” in scenario training, you hardly notice it. It feels more like getting punched, which incidentally, is something that real stabbing victims report all the time ” I thought I was being punched!”

The Problem With The Magic Marker and The Shock Knife

Some instructors will dress out students in a white t shirt, hand one of them a red felt pen and have them assault the other student while they try their knife defense tactics. The end result? The unarmed student returns to the starting position displaying dozens of “cuts” on their face, arms chest and backs. They see such marks and respond with what can sometimes be seen as amazement, sometimes amusement, but also frustration and despair, not knowing that they have participated in a drill that serves no purpose whatsoever.

The same can be said with the latest knife protection fad. The buzzing, sizzling, snapping world of the Shock Knife. Many self defense trainers put their students through this exercise in futility believing they are helping them when really they are helping them develop poor habits.

The issue with both of these training methods is that so often they are misused as a learning tool rather that a testing tool. When we set students’ goals within a drill they need to be congruous with the skill we want them to achieve.

When someone sees the magic marker, the mental focus automatically shifts in the participants. Subconsciously one decides well I want to put as many marks on the other guy as I can whilst the other sets his mind on not being marked. Neither one of these actions reflect the real acts of a knife attacker or what a real person defending against a knife should be doing.

The Shock Knife has a similar effect in that students, upon hearing the sizzle and snap, and seeing the blue sparks, immediately enter a state of fear reactivity where no learning is taking place. Also the construction of the knife simulates slashes well but does not realistically simulate stabbing which is the more dangerous and prominent type of attack.

The Paradox of Speed

If ever you have the very rare, bad totality of circumstances that add up to you facing an attacker armed with a knife, you must move with speed, decisiveness, commitment, and speed. Yes I said speed twice. However training must be slow the majority of the time. Mind you there are several versions of slow, but people are not really aware or apt to use them correctly. Here is an example, ask a random training partner to execute something at “half speed” and observe how quickly they move. Every time I ask a group to do the same, I find myself making the same comment; “I must be in the presence of the fastest humans in the planet because if that was just half of your top speed, you are one of the X Men”

Half speed, quarter speed, and ultra slow motion are very beneficial for knife protection training. It allows for “real time” analysis of what all the parts of your bodymind system are or should be doing as the attack unfolds. The more you can minimize mistakes and “injury” in slow motion training the less mistakes will manifest in fast training. Train often at a speed in which perfection or near perfection always results and your skill at high speed will exponentially increase.

The Paradox Of Training Injury

page21image2752During training endeavor fervently to avoid cuts and stabs, while still executing proper distance management, weapon control and countermeasures. However, if you do get cut or stabbed during training, continue executing your tactics as if nothing happened. The chemical cocktail that will course through your body in a real attack has very high doses of natural pain killers anyway so you may not know you’ve been injured until after the incident is over and you have managed to survive. You have precious seconds in which to execute your survival strategy, don’t limit it in your training by dwelling on “Aw you got me in the gut there” or “I cut your arm there” dialogue. You keep fighting until you can’t fight. Let your body’s collapse indicate that, not anything your mind is imagining.

Do train often with one hand, from restricted positions, minus the use of one leg etc. this will prepare you in case one limb is injured and taken out of the fight to the point of dysfunction.

How to Cut It On Choice

Some instructors will profess asinine strategies like, “if you see a knife just run”. Running is a good strategy in SOME knife incidents, but can put you at more risk in others. Some will even say something as weird as , there is no answer for a knife assault, there is nothing you can do. A lot of times this is brought on by the “super trained” mentality of the “knife fighting expert. Remember, if you training intelligently you do have a choice. Do not let anyone dictate your right to take action to survive.

Know this:

if you make the correct lifestyle choices and have good awareness, prevention and avoidance skills and discipline it is very unlikely that you will be threatened or attacked with a knife in your lifetime; barring very specific professions and certain cultures. In the event that you do face such an incident, you will more likely face an untrained emotionally disturbed person, an angered spouse or relative or an inexperienced criminal. In the event that all the wrong events line up and you face a trained and skilled knife fighter, then having superlative skill with the fundamentals of knife self protection is your best chance to reduce injury and hopefully prevent death. Remember no guarantees.

If you choose to take action, remember to commit. Be decisive and don’t hesitate. Do not stay in the middle distance. Either be way too far away or close that gap to intimate range. Keep moving and acting until you attain victory or your body gives out.

If you are in a physical altercation and suddenly you feel you are being punched in the body, side or back or place other than your head repeatedly, assume your assailant has produced a knife or other edged weapon and escalate your force appropriately. Humans in fist fights tend to be head hunters but when armed with knives or other sharp objects tend to go after the body, side, back or neck area. Repeated body punching is often what victims describe what getting stabbed feels like.

During training a useful way to know if you are adequately challenging yourself, without engaging too much fear reactivity, is the 80-20 rule. The pace and intensity of the drills should be that you are successful about 80% of the time and fail around 20%. This encourages enough alive resistance that your skill level rises with every training session. As your skill level goes up. So does the resistance.

Use drills that allow for improvisational movement over rehearsed tactics. Drills like this will improve your chances when dealing with the chaos of the real knife assault.

Most importantly remember that a knife threat or assault is a very serious matter. If you are going to prepare commit seriously to the preparation. Chose simple over complex. Get better at the basics rather than embellish them. Train with focus on success, not failure. And certainly never forget, if you choose to protect yourself never quit.

“if you are going through hell, keep going!” – Winston Churchill

Defending a Straight Right in a Street Fight

Michael Matlijovski shows a defense to a right cross found in Filipino Martial Arts as well as Korean Hapkido – the brush, trap and power slap. The brush and trap serve as a deflective entry, opening up the opponent’s center and setting up the power slap.



Taking the Back & Getting the Choke in a Street Fight

There are only two surefire ways to end a fight physically – knock out or choke out. You can do an incredible amount of damage via ripping, tearing, gouging, even breaking limbs etc etc, but these type of tactics will not necessarily stop a determined or jacked up opponent.

When executed properly, a rear sleeper hold (otherwise known as a rear naked choke) – temporarily cutting the blood supply off to the brain – is an effective way to de-escalate a fight by force. This footage (ca 2005) was shot during a live class at UNSW.

Trevor Wilcox teaches the Blauer Mirror Drill and Spear Entry as a basis for applying arm drags to gain efficient access to the opponent’s back and end the fight by rear sleeper. Two choke entry variations are shown as well as additional footage of students working the material in class.


Going To Hands; A LEO’s Most Vital Tools Next to Your Brain!

Time and time again, when traveling across the country and training SWAT team members in different tactical programs as well as general police officers in the field, the first question I ask the class is: “how many of you go on SWAT call outs for warrant service execution and every time you shoot someone? (show of hands please)”! Very rarely would you see multiple hands flying up in the air. Of course when the same operators are asked “how many of you make entry into structures doing the same job and when confronted by subjects of any type you go to hands?”

Cover Image Medina

Many of the students will now look around and many hands go up in the air. Why? It is because our job field, whether SWAT related or patrol etc, when dealing with people we use our hands the majority of the time. The next question is: How well prepared and well versed are you in making entry into a structure, ordering subjects to the ground and transitioning to hands to place handcuffs, zip ties or simply control the subject/s while on the ground.

In an incident where a SWAT team made entry into a target location looking for a biker gang member on a no knock warrant, the team goes operational throughout the residence and suddenly two operators enter the room where the target is located. The target plants his feet in the deep corner wedged between two walls with both hands showing and yells to the SWAT operators: “comon mother f–kers, lets do this”. One operator looks at the other, one operator luckily has pepper spray and when applied on the subject, it does not affect him in any way. The subject throws a small chair and yells “you are going to need more than that to stop me!” As the team members advance slowly forward and on angles, they are trying to decide the next move due to the fact they have M-4 rifles and they stated later in the debrief that they have never trained in quick transition to hands and deal with hostile threats who are not armed and just want to fight.

As they stood there frozen in the room trying to work their next “reactive response” and what to do, a third and larger SWAT member who was just a “hands on guy” suddenly bursts into the room and tackled the subject plowing him through the wall and subsequently placed under arrest. True story or fiction? Nope…true story and in the aftermath of the event, major lessons were learned in later classes by these operators and many others we share this story with when we train.

You see, in our world of tactical teams along with police operations and response, not everyone will comply with a rifle to their face especially when they know they have no weapons in their hands and its either fight or flight type situations. We know bean bag rounds could be deployed, the team can back away a few feet, stand their ground or attack the threat but in the end when the sudden threat becomes a “reality” right before your eyes, thinking on your feet and learning the art of “Defensive / Reactive” skills is paramount. What I mean here is you turn the corner in a room and suddenly a person comes out of no where and attacks you with what appears to be open hands. You enter with a long weapon in your hand. Your training set should take you into a fast reactive response such as quick dropping of the long weapon with one hand and creating fast space with the free hand. At this point other team members should be entering the room or structure and should be hearing your verbal commands. This will alert the operators to come from another position and assist in taking the subject to the ground. Some operators have the reaction of creating space by quick barrel strikes to the chest area pushing the subject back then going to hands. The bottom line is, you still have to go to hands, and you cannot handcuff someone with closed fists (try it out). The world of MMA has brought to us some advantages of training on the ground however many operators when attending our Basic SWAT programs respond that they have never experienced or trained in all their gear using their loaded tools on their vest in such fast methods. Part of our Fgrav (Force of Gravity) DT/Use of Force Instructor programs allow for operators to learn to train with their gear on, learn fast defensive / reactive methods and help fellow operators establish a faster use of force platform in their arsenal. There are so many schools and rules of thought out there as we all know. But from every class you attend, you should be absorbing at least one great thing that can create an additional platform of response methods into your arsenal. “Options, not absolutes” should be part of your vocabulary and if one instructor tries to make their program the “catch all” of programs, make sure to do your homework on their background. Why? Simply because when an event happens, and you are called on the stand to testify on your actions whether good or bad, the questions will be asked on “where did you receive your training Sir/Ma’am?” If the subject matter expert is a knowledgeable and power resource of information, then it will make your case even that much stronger in the end.

In summary, we all know firearms training in the SWAT and Law Enforcement arena is a major and vital piece of our operations. However, we must start to broaden our horizons and start educating ourselves on how to defend, react, diffuse and quickly secure unarmed potential threats. Training in Force Option (my version of Force on Force) does not just consist of training rounds such as Sims, Air soft, etc. The presence of the threats combined with “reality based” entry scenarios using an unarmed combatant will test you and fellow officers in their skill set and gear placement. We are held to a higher standard so shouldn’t our training be?

The Knife – What is it to you?

The knife, now a days almost everyone carries one either in the form of a pocket folder whether it’s a public friendly E.D.C. (Every Day Carry) variety or a Tactical folder favored by most. Everywhere I go, I tend to notice more metal clips hanging out of people’s front pockets which indicates a folding blade of sort. It amazes me when you ask someone why they carry a knife and the answers are always that same, “I use it to open my mail”, “I cut cardboard with it”, or “It was a gift.”Yet you hardly ever hear that they carry it for defensive purposes, it seems taboo to admit that it could possibly be used as a weapon.

The fact remains that if you choose to carry an edged weapon you may at some point have to use it to defend your life or the life of a innocent third party in a violent altercation. I personally carry two large folders from COLD STEEL to back up my sidearm, of course I have close to 29 years of training and experience in a variety of combative systems.

For a decade I’ve been a Close Quarter Combat instructor under W.Hock Hochheim in the areas of Hand to Hand,Edged weapons,Impact weapons and firearms. I have also worked as a corrections officer, S.R.T. member, contractor for the United States Marshal Service and a contractor for the Department of Homeland Security. My experience and education has made me more comfortable carrying a knife as a self preservation tool.

Under the instruction I provide via my company Check Your Six: Counter Measures Consultants, I teach the philosophy of “If you are to defeat your enemy’s tactics, you should know your enemy’s tactics”…”Utilizing a blade whether it’s a tactical knife, hunting knife or even a kitchen knife as a defensive/offensive tool takes on a whole different dimension and requires specific training from a qualified instructor.

Truth be known, the chances of going blade versus blade in a “street fight” is a rare occurrence in this country, however it is not rare in places like the Philippines where citizens walk around with knives and machetes on their hips. That’s not to say that “the duel” can’t occur in the C.O.N.U.S., after all most of us have experienced violence in our home cities and seen it in the media, a short time ago we had an individual randomly stabbing people here in Tucson AZ & a non-related machete attack out in broad daylight.Remember the day may come when you have to put an end to violence being brought upon you or a loved one and the only weapon you have access to may be that nifty little tactical knife you just ordered online. The question I pose to you is will you be prepared to take the fight straight to the devil if you have to?.

The Bouncer’s Skill Set

doorworkBouncers….. You’ve probably seen them standing behind a velvet rope, or standing on the door of some venue. Steely eyed, serious thuggish men, all brawn and no brain. That is far from the truth … Ok, some are meat heads, but its not an industry you can survive for long without brains.

I’m a bouncer, with brains. When I am not chatting with the lovely ladies or checking ID’s, you will find me trying to defuse an altercation, or removing the trouble maker from the area. I’m going to let you in on some of the things I do to keep the peace. You can use these same ideas and skill sets, to keep you safe and sound. I prefer to defuse or de-escalate a situation rather than allow escalation of a situation to occur. I wont be covering de-escalation in this article . I’ll leave that for a future article. I share the following with the hope you may never need them.

Interview stances; The few moments preceding a fight can be considered like an interview. Your trying to defuse the situation and the other guy is deciding whether he can take you in a fight, or not. If you fail the interview, he launches his attack. The following are my six favorite interview stances. These also happen to be the most common postures taught by combatives instructors.

The Bodyguard: Place both hands in front of your groin. The back of one hand resting in the palm of the other and hang them naturally. This posture is more of a standing your ground at a distance. This posture is good for launching the chin jab and other close combat strikes. It is good for clearing clothes out of the way to gain access to weapons worn on the belt.

The Ed Sullivan: Named by Charlie Nelson. simply fold one arm over the other loosely, not crossed, and not one in front of the other. The Ed Sullivan is a great launch pad for the edge hand strike.

The Jack Benny: This is also one of Charlie Nelson’s postures called the police interview stance. One arm across your chest with palm up, elbow of the other arm, resting on the palm and hand resting on the chin This posture provides protection to chest, throat and chin, and is a great launch pad for the tiger claw.

The Reverse Jack Benny: This posture is formed by crossing one arm across the chest and one arm hanging loosely down and in front of the groin. I learned this posture from some Indonesian bouncers and they used it when standing in a crowd and is more of self defensive stance. It’s tactical advantage is a combination of the Bodyguard and the Ed Sullivan.

The Fence: Named by world famous bouncer Geoff Thompson. This is formed by putting both hands out in front of the chest with palms facing down. In my opinion this is one of the best postures to use as the hand position acts like its name, as a fence your attacker has to go through, over, under or around your hands, to get to you. You can use your hands to block, or parry, in-coming strikes and launching hammer blows, tiger claw or cupped hand strikes. The more commonly used, is to grab someone and put them in a hold. This is the one I prefer the most, as I am Italian and talk with my hands a lot , I find it the most practical in my work.

The Natural: This is a natural posture that you find yourself in most of the time, with your hands loosely relaxed, hanging at your side and most likely the position you will be in when a surprise attack strikes. It has very little defensive qualities, but is a good posture to clear clothes for weapons and to launch attacks.

Circle of Defense: I try to have as much space between myself and someone who may want to hit me. I want to be close enough that I don’t raise my voice and far enough that he needs to take a step to hit me.

The most common question I am asked is; Why make your attacker come to you? I’ll give you a number of reasons, first and most important is for legal reasons. We not only deal with attackers, but have to justify our actions to the police and maybe to a jury later on.

If your attacker has to move towards you to strike , he cannot claim self defence later and you can rightfully claim you made an attempt to disengage and avoid the fight. I am hoping you did all you can to avoid a fight. Second his shifting weight and moving, telegraphs his intention to attack and makes it easier to defend.

Pre-assault indicators; Some people will give pre-assault indicators, whilst others will just attack out of no where, or smile and attack. I bet you are happy you gave yourself some space to see the attack coming. Shedding clothes, shouting aggressively, making big arm gestures and exaggerated bouncy walks, are all pre fight indicators, meant to intimidate an opponent. Some people do a primal stalking display, pacing side to side, like a caged animal, making pointing or stabbing gestures with hands and yelling and swearing. These are all a primal intimidation tactics, that means they feel trapped. Now just because the fool has created a situation he feels trapped in doesn’t mean he isn’t stupid enough to ratchet things up to even stupider levels. If you don’t show fear, (A classic de-escalation technique is confidently standing your ground showing neither anger or fear, showing a lack of emotion is more threatening to people because we are hard wired to fear the unknown) he may gradually move away, still yelling and swearing and occasionally taking a step in your direction, in an attempt to try and scare you. If he leaves, thats good and no need to follow up. You have done what you’re paid to do. To keep the peace and go home safe . Should you follow the advice I have given, then you too will go home safe.

Kick Defense from the Ground

Whichever way you look at it, being in an inferior position on the ground in any fight sucks, sport or street. It sucks even more on the street, where you most definitely don’t go to the ground by choice. Perhaps you slip or trip and fall, maybe you are shoved and lose balance, both you and your opponent might fall to the ground during the struggle of a clinch, maybe your opponent is bigger and stronger than you, or maybe he has some takedown knowledge, whether or not it’s from martial arts (e.g. rugby).

Regardless of how you might get there, the fact of the matter is that ground happens. And if it does, your priority is to survive and get yourself to a better position. For the street, better position always means on your feet where you are mobile, and ideally your opponent less mobile so that he has a reduced ability, no matter how temporarily, to chase you as you make an escape to safety.

In this video, Michael Matlijovski shows a kick defense tactic for situations in which your opponent is standing and trying to kick you in the head while you are on your back. A bad situation to be in. Enjoy and look out for more great material from Michael in the near future.


Altitude Masks

mask-fullAs a Strength and Conditioning Professional, I frequently get asked questions about the efficacy of various pieces of training equipment. Certainly the most popular equipment over the last few years has been the ‘Altitude Training Mask’ (and other ‘Altitude Training Devices’. These devices have gained particular popularity within the Martial Arts and Tactical communities.

Let’s take a look at the claims made by producers of equipment: The major claim by manufacturers of such equipment is that devices like altitude masks replicate training at high altitude locations, and provide the same results such as an increase in Vo2 Max…

The theory behind training at altitude is that as altitude increases, the concentration of oxygen in the air decreases. This causes you to work harder to achieve physical work, which in theory, over time will adapt your body to increase its red blood cell count. An increased red blood cell count has been associated with improved aerobic capacity and improved recovery. The concept here is that the more red blood cells you have in your body, the more oxygen you have to circulate through your muscles.

There are a number of altitude training methods that have been studied in scientific research, and these can be described as;

  • Train Low, Live Low (TLLL )– the majority of the population would fall under this category
  • Train High, Live Low (THLL) – the concept behind the Altitude Training Devices
  • Train Low, Live High (TLLH) – this method allows athletes to perform higher intensity workouts
  • Train High, Live High (THLH) – The concept behind the various Sports Team training camps

There are numerous studies available that demonstrate the benefits to athletes who ‘live’ at high altitude (TLLH and THLH); however, for the purposes of this discussion we will focus purely on the Train High, Live Low (THLL) methodology, as it is the methodology the majority of us would be employing if we were to utilise Altitude Training Devices.

A quick review of the available scientific studies on this topic (links provided at the bottom of this article) suggest that although this type of training (Respiratory Muscle Training or ‘RMT’) has been shown to strengthen the respiratory muscles, these effects do not carry over to improved performance. Studies have shown that there is no significant difference in Vo2 Max improvement between control groups and those using RMT devices.

The reason for this is quite simple; the mechanism in which your oxygen is restricted in the mask is completely different to the mechanisms at play when living and training at high altitude. When we are at high altitude, we are breathing in air that has a lower density than at lower altitudes. Although the percentage of oxygen in the air around us is consistent regardless of altitude; due to the change in air density we do not get as much oxygen into our bodies when we are living or training in higher locations. In other words, we can still fill our lungs to capacity – we just aren’t getting as much oxygen for our efforts.

RMT devices on the other hand, operate by restricting your lungs ability to fill themselves to capacity – making breathing more laborious on a muscular level. Those utilising these altitude masks in their training routines will report that their training sessions are much more difficult than if they were doing the same session without a mask; of course it’s more difficult, you’re restricting your ability to breathe! The problem is that with this reduced oxygen intake, you are not able to complete the same workload as if you were training normally (ie – without a mask) and your performance will suffer as a result. If you continue to train this way, you will in essence be regressing your strength and/or endurance (dependant on what you are training) which is surely the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

What about Tactical Athletes who utilise respirators / breathing equipment in the line of duty?

Again, in terms of conditioning, and for the reasons pointed out above – the answer is no, you will not increase your performance utilising these devices. That said; there is probably some merit towards mental conditioning with altitude mask training. Having to work in the tactical environment at 100% effort, whilst wearing an altitude mask can be a daunting prospect – and you could very well improve your ‘mental toughness’ by throwing a mask session into your training routine every now and then. Just make sure it’s not too frequent, as you will potentially regress your training unintentionally.

In conclusion: If you are looking to utilise mask training for the purposes of preparing for your specific tactical environment, then we’d suggest you use your workplace respirator and become familiar with your specific MEE (Mission Essential Equipment).

If you are simply looking to get the most out of your Strength and Conditioning training, then throw the mask away and keep your training simple. – Ash


Guillotine Defense

The guillotine is a staple submission in any grappler’s or mixed martial artist’s arsenal, and variations of it can also be common in the street in the form of a front headlock, etc. Being choked in any way shape or form is not a fun experience, but there are some simple checks and balances that you can put in place to ensure you don’t get your air or blood supply cut off, preventing you from being choked unconscious, or worse. Once you’ve saved your neck so to speak, you can retaliate according to the rules of engagement governing the context of your fight. Combat sports, self-defense, security, law enforcement etc, are all contexts that carry with them different rules of engagement which in turn dictate the retaliatory tactics that the defender can respond with.

Michael Matlijovski of KMA Champion Martial Arts Shellharbour teaches the fundamentals of a guillotine defense.


What If You Only Had 4 Hours To Teach Self Defense?

When Trevor first asked me if I was interested in contributing to his Online Magazine I was hesitant, wondering if there would be much interest in the people SAFE International specializes in teaching. The majority of our clients are women ranging in age from 13 to 83 and we teach approximately 13,000 high school students each year along with our SAFE Self Defense Parties, Corporate Self Defense, and Private Instruction. We have certified partners in Australia, Ireland, USA, and Canada where we are based. SAFE International is a mobile self-defense business that travels teaching our clients. The majority of my self-defense associations are with those who teach their students on an ongoing basis all year round. And the majority of my friends mostly teach men and very often it is from a Combatives approach. But Trevor is building an online magazine that I feel will cover all segments of the population and if I can add any thoughts, tips, or advice that might help a few people, then I look forward to contributing.

imageMany think that self-defense has to be a full time practice in order to really benefit from the training. In martial arts circles, many think self defense even has to be done for years and years in order to become proficient. While this might be optimal, in my early years of teaching I quickly realized that there was lack in courses for those who might just want a quick self defense course. As much as I wanted to believe that people would continue to train with me on a regular basis, I stayed open minded and came to the conclusion that while I had a passion for self defense, the vast majority of people just wanted a few hours of instruction that could make them feel SAFE. Thus our 4-hour self-defense course was born.

imageWhat can someone learn in just 4 hours? Lots, but it depends on where and how you focus your instruction.
I have found in my years of learning self-defense that most courses jump right into the physical skills of self- defense, skipping the most important segments in my opinion. I mean, before one is attacked, are there not most often many warning signs that an attack may become a reality? Most often it starts with someone simply walking home when they might get a gut feeling that they are being followed, or they get on an elevator despite their intuition telling them not to, or maybe approaching their car in an underground parking lot. There number of possible scenarios is unlimited, so SAFE International likes to address the most likely scenarios based on the client’s lifestyle and daily routines, both personally and/or professionally. If I had to only teach one aspect of self defense, it might surprise you, but I wouldn’t teach how to get out of a choke, wrist grab, or how to avoid being punched, BUT rather I would focus on how to be aware of, and avoid a possible attacked based on how attackers choose their victims, why they choose who they choose, and how they do it. Is not preventing an attack the priority? If not, I think a self-defense course is being irresponsible, possibly even being negligent if they sell their program as “reality based self-defense” (a term I am not fan of) without addressing the steps that lead up to a likely attack. Why do most self-defense companies skip this step? There are many possible reasons, but I believe that either a) they aren’t knowledgeable on the topic OR b) they don’t know how to make the topic interesting. When I begin a SAFE Women’s Self Defense Party the women are usually very eager and not afraid to express their interest in wanting to knee someone in the groin, lol. I always point out that if they are truly interested in how to avoid a violent encounter, then we must address the Awareness & Avoidance phase first. During our 4 hour course, it is usually structured to spend 50% of the time on this topic alone, but it is not uncommon for me to spend up to 75% of the time based on this topic because the women are so passionately discussing it, asking questions, or sharing their own personal stories of abuse, assault, or close calls in these areas.

Another priority in self-defense instruction that is often skipped or given lip service is the verbal stage of conflict. If one can’t avoid conflict, would there not be value in learning the strategies to possibly avoid an attack through speech? The majority of self-defense instructors teach the basic strategy of yelling “Back Off” as the sole skill in preventing an attack. Don’t get me wrong, this can work in a particular scenario, but can also be the worst strategy in many other scenarios. Again, the reason most skip teaching this step is their lack of knowledge or discomfort with creating self-defense drills that recreate realism with the verbal attack that may occur. On the surface, to the uneducated, yelling “Back Off” appears to make sense, but fails to take into account so many of the variables of any self defense scenario. What can affect the strategy one should use? Here are just a couple examples:

How about the location of a possible attack? If one is isolated which is a common want of the attacker, you can yell all you want, and most likely no one is around to hear.

How about the personality of the attacker? I reference this below in one of the 4 Verbal Rules we teach, but if an attacker is in a heightened state of aggression, and you command them to do something like “Back Off”, this will often backfire because most people, even when in a calm state, do not like to be told what to do. Do you like to be told what to do?

With limited time to teach I prefer to discuss and teach strategies that don’t just increase your chances to avoid an attack, but if things do go physical, you have set yourself up to give you best chance of success in defending yourself.

Don’t Challenge
Don’t Threaten
Don’t Tell Them What To Do
Don’t Tell Them They Are Wrong

In a future article we will go into more detail, but breaking any of those rules can often result in violence coming much faster, but again most skip any real instruction on the verbal side of self-defense.

imageLastly one should address the physical side of self-defense. This is another area where I feel 95% of self-defense instructors are missing the boat. I was guilty for years of making the same errors I will point out. Actually, guilty is not the right term to use. I should say that “I taught what I knew” at the time. In my early years I taught what most self-defense instructors taught. I thought why would I do something different than many who had been doing it for years. Then I realized that if I only had a couple hours to teach someone who would likely never do another course in their lifetime, what would be of the most benefit to them. That certainly got me to shift my focus. To teach dozens of different reactions or defense to dozens of different attacks was not only too time consuming, but also required the client to memorize material and moves, which would (when I was honest with myself) quickly be forgotten a few short weeks after I left. I believe that the focus should be on a few basic strikes that can address the majority of possible attacks. Also, taking the conceptual approach along with the principle of “Attack the Attacker” gives the client the highest chance of success if one has to physically defend oneself. So, a few strikes attacking the most vulnerable areas of the body along with basic, but understandable mindset principles, and practical, realistic drills is the key if one only has 4 hours of instruction time. Time and time again I have found this to be much more practical than the typical self-defense course. I have had students tell me years later that they still remember what they taught, and they remember because of the conceptual approach and our unique teaching methods which I will discuss in a future article.

Keep SAFE!

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.