Archive for the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

DVD Review: Be a Good Bad Guy

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

One issue I often see in self-defense training is the lack of realism, especially on the part of the attacker. More then once I’ve seen a demonstration where the attacker (aka the bad guy) tosses a punch and then holds the punch out there while the defender does his thing. Think about this: Does this really help the defender?

If your answer is “no” then Tony Blauer has a video that can help you out. Actually Tony has a lot of good videos but the one on this subject is “Be a Good Bad Guy, Secrets to Great Role-Playing“. Now this isn’t your D&D type of role-playing, but rather tips on how an attacker should behave in order to help people learn self-defense tactics.

This is a short DVD at only 35 minutes, but Tony gives enough information to get you started. He points out the importance of how good role-playing helps the defender learn to spot pre-contact cues, learn to spot openings, and know how an attacker will respond to your tactics, just to name a few things. Tony and his instructor show both good and bad role-playing to give you an idea of not only what you should do, but what you shouldn’t do. The DVD moves along at a pretty good pace and as such it is one you should watch a couple of times to absorb.

Is the DVD for everyone? I would suggest it if you teach self-defense courses, and to those that are just interested in the subject on role-playing a bad guy. If you often help out in teaching self-defense and serve as an attacker then it is something you might want to check out too.

Book Review: “Facing Violence”

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Many people study self-defense. Some study it as part of their martial arts training and others take classes or seminars devoted just to self-defense. What happens often in these settings is you are shown that “if the attacker grabs you by the throat you do a palm heel to his face followed by a kick to the groin”. All good as knowing various techniques for a given situation can be helpful. How often though do these same classes talk about the legal issues? How to avoid such situations? What do you do if you are ambushed? The answer tends to be not very often if at all.

To address this situation Rory Miller has released a book called “Facing Violence”. To begin to have complete training in self-defense Rory states that seven elements have to be addressed, which he does in seven chapters

  1. Legal and Ethical
  2. Violence Dynamics
  3. Avoidance
  4. Counter-Ambush
  5. The Freeze
  6. The Fight
  7. After

You should notice that “The Fight”, what the majority of people train for in self-defense, doesn’t take place to chapter 6. Have you ever discussed legal and ethical issues in your training? Have you ever discussed or trained in any of the areas other then “the fight”? If not, stop and think about your training for a few minutes.

I won’t go into a breakdown on each chapter. If you are looking for then read Jake Steinmann’s review over on An Honest Philosophy. Instead I’ve speak on a couple of chapters that really stuck out for me.

First the chapter on avoidance, which is highly neglected area in most self-defense training. From talking about absence (i.e. not being there to start), escape and evasion, to de-escalation, Rory covers a lot of material. One of the best parts was on how to scan a room upon entering. This is actually the one chapter that makes me suggest the book to everyone, even those that don’t study or have an interest in self-defense, just a lot of good information.

The last chapter on After deals with the subject just as it sounds, what happens after the fight? What should you do? What could happen to you? What could be running through your mind? This chapter made me stop and go “Hmm” more then any other. Again this is one of those areas that rarely gets talked about in self-defense training but should. Heaven forbid you ever act in self-defense and end up serious hurting or killing someone, you should have an idea of what could happen to you legally and emotionally.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, much like I did his first one “Meditations on Violence” (a must read book). Rory has a writing style that I find enjoyable to read, offers tons of good information, and I find it ties in nicely with the training I’ve received from Tony Blauer and my karate instructor Rich Pelletier. If your training involves anywhere around self-defense, either as an instructor or student, then this book should be on your required reading list. You can purchase Facing Violence from one of these locations:


Barnes and Noble


Knife Attacks

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Below are some links to knife attacks. These aren’t training or simulated  attacks but they real thing. If you train for self-defense and at any time you cover defense against a knife attack, see if your training covers any of these situations.

Knife Attack

Husband attacks wife with a knife

Bouncer Stabbing

Another stabbing

PDR 28 Experience

Monday, April 4th, 2011

This last weekend was spent down at Crossfit Rubicon attending the Personal Defense Readiness (PDR) 28 Instructor Certification Course, and it was quite the weekend. It would be near impossible for me to attempt to describe everything that was covered during the 2 and a half days spent in the course, but I’ll share some of my thoughts.

First was the wide variety of people attending the course. You had people from a civilian background through law enforcement and the military present. You had some like myself where this was their first time attending the course to some that attended the very first PDR course. This in itself says something about the program. How many courses are there that you have people returning multiple times? I should add that part of the reason is that  this isn’t a static program, it is a continuously evolving program. You also had people from various backgrounds in the martial arts; Karate, Muay Thai, and many other martial arts.

Tony Blauer, founder of the PDR program, was the main speaker during the course. Listening to Tony speak it is easy to tell that he is passionate about the program. Tony covered the history of the program and the tenets of the PDR program. To sum this up briefly all I can is my brain is still processing all of the information covered. Even the day after the program I woke up with thoughts of materials and drills covered going through my head.  Not to leave people out, but I’m probably am, Tony was assisted by Jason Dury and Eric Walker during the course.

Besides lectures we also had some drills we we taught, and later on had to teach to the rest of the class. These weren’t secret ninja techniques designed to stop a mob of angry attackers with one move, but rather drills used to teach the principles of the SPEAR system. The SPEAR System is the building block for the PDR program, and the easiest way for me to cover this subject is to point people towards Tony’s website on the SPEAR System. What was nice during the drills is we were able to work with returning instructors that offered us tips and constructive criticism on how to improve ourselves. This was helpful during the teaching mode where first we worked one-on-one with a experienced instructor and then teach one of the concepts to the entire group. Mistakes were made by all of us new to the system, but the environment was a friendly and helpful one in helping us out.

At the end of the last day we were treated to a speech from Kyle Maynard. This was the second time I’ve heard Kyle speak and if you ever get a chance to hear him speak I would highly suggest you take advantage of the opportunity. Kyle has an incredible story to tell and a great inspirational speaker too. I enjoyed how Kyle was able to tie in his life experiences to those we had this weekend at the PDR course.

Overall it was a great experience. Had a chance to meet people I’ve seen before, meet people I’ve only talked to online before, as well as meet totally new people. It was interesting talking to some of the other new people and hearing why they were at the course. Even in this area there was a wide variety of reasons. I know I didn’t absorb everything covered this weekend, hopefully my notes will fill in some of the gaps. I look forward to attending another PDR course.

Wal-Mart and Martial Arts

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Wal-Mart is renting out space in at least one of their locations to a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) school. Nothing wrong with this as Wal-Mart does this for many types of businesses from banks to beauty salons.  My issue is with how the school is doing business.

The company renting the space from Wal-Mart is called The Center Mixed Martial Arts. Some big names involved as instructors, which should send up a red flag as how can all of these big name instructors be involved in teaching at all of the locations? Simple, via video. Hit play, follow along with the video, and now you know martial arts.

I don’t have an issue learning from videos, I’ve got several videos on martial arts and self-defense that I use as a learning aid. Notice I said “learning aid”, it is only one tool in helping me to learn. The others are practice with others, especially someone that really knows this stuff and spot and correct my mistakes. The Center does have live coaches, and you can even apply to be one if you like:

“The Center Mixed Martial Arts is looking for Full and Part Time Coaches at various locations. Positions entail dealing in a teaching, service, sales, marketing, and coaching role with adults, families and children. Fitness training, coaching, martial arts, sales skills helpful but not required. “

That’s right, no skills required to be a coach. How is someone suppose to be able to tell if I am performing a technique correctly if they have no experience? How will they provide training tips if they have no experience? Sorry, this just strikes me as a McDojo type of school.

Fun and Violence in Rhode Island

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Rory Miller, former corrections officer, Sargent in the military, tactical team member and leader, and author, has branched out into another area, training people about violence. Miller recently offered a two day seminar hosted by Derderian Academy in Johnston, Rhode Island, which I was glad to be in attendance.

During the two days Miller covered a wide range of information related violence and self defense. The material was presented in both lecture and drill formats. During the first day we spent time performing one step sparring drills, with several variations. If you have never performed such a drill the concept is simple. One person starts an attack with a single slow movement (drills were done at slow speed for safety reasons). Their partner then can perform a single movement in response to this attack. This continues back and forth like this until the instructor calls stop. Yup, nice and simple, the fun comes when you really start to think about your movements and techniques and where they are getting you in a violent confrontation. I won’t give away all the variations of this drill that we did, just in case a reader here goes to one of Miller’s seminars, but one that I found interesting and fun was when one of you was blindfolded infighting drills. These were just part of the drills covered in day one, others were helpful and gave me some things to work on to improve myself. I will get the timing down on the drop step/hip snap/strike so I can do it every time with perfect timing.

The other part of day one were lectures on various topics ranging from the 7 Aspects of Self-Defense to the types of predators and their mindsets. The 7 Aspects of Self-Defense that Miller covers was highly informative. So informative that in my handgun safety courses I teach for people looking to get a concealed firearms permit I plan on covering these topics. I could not do credit to Miller’s coverage on this topic, it is well worth attending his seminar just for the discussion around this area. Other topics covered will be familiar to those that have read Miller’s book “Meditation on Violence” (and if you study martial arts for self-defense reasons you should read this book). The Monkey Dance, the Group Monkey Dance, asocial predators, and other topics were any that I find many people that are interested in self-defense give no thought to at all. If you want to be able to defend yourself, you should know what you are defending yourself against. Having read various authors cover this topic Miller does it as well or better then the others out there.

Day two was also a mixture of lecture and drills, but this time in a bar environment. Doing one step drills in a dojo is one  thing, doing them in a place with chairs, tables, all sorts of improvised weapons about, is another thing. An imagine the chaos of the entire class doing one step drills in one big bar fight. Fun stuff. Drills were also done to help us think differently about what we are doing. These would be drills such as “imagine you are some animal (pick one), now do one step drills with this animal in your mind. Very helpful drills in making you think outside of your usual self-defense techniques mindset.

Since fights often go to the ground, Miller also covered basic grappling techniques. Nothing advanced, but ways of changing your opponents base or center of gravity so that you can move them. Grappling is not my strong suit so I picked up some good information in this area. Another aspect of this that was educational was the feel of rolling around on a bar room floor compared to that of rolling around on a dojo floor with a carpet. Not to mention that in the dojo you don’t usually have to worry about rolling into tables, chairs, or posts in the middle of the room.

The last part of the day was spent covering scenarios. First a small group set with Rory while he discussed setting up scenarios. Miller covered many topics around this area in a short period time from safety issues to the importance of understanding how the bad guys think to setup a realistic scenario. During this portion discussion took place on what scenario to assign to what student. In choosing a scenario assignment we would try to determine an area where a person may be weak or something that will be challenging for them and see how they do. Challenges in this case may not always be physical, it could be a mental challenge for the person to make the right decision.

Watching the scenarios and how people re-acted in them was fascinating. It is easy to say “Oh you are just role-playing, everyone knows it isn’t real.” once Miller hollered “Start scenario!” you got caught up in what was happening. Depending on what was happening, your anixety could go up, heart rate increases, and the words “oh shit!” could go racing through your mind. One aspect of these scenarios is good for many martial artists to remember, you may be able to safely get out of the situation without using physical force. Watching the scenarios (and I was greedy and asked to take part in one too) and discussions about what happened was a very educational experience, and eye-opening for some people there too.

If you are interested in self-defense and ever have a chance to catch Rory Miller in your area I would suggest doing so.

Which Way Am I Going?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Jake Steinmann over on the Honest Philosophy Blog made a post with his thoughts to a post by Rory Miller. Three being the magic number I decided to add where I think I am.

The posting consider the stages of a martial artists and how they may evolve as a martial artist. Miller describes people in the martial arts as going through three possible stages, novice, collector, and stripper. The novice is the one where all martial artists start, we learn the moves,we learn the katas, and earn rank. After this some people will continue to the collector stage. Here the person is learning new techniques, going to seminars, expanding their toolkit, etc. Then after this fewer will go to the stripper stage. These are the collectors that have discovered, often through a bad scenario, they know too much stuff to grab at any one time so they start to strip their tool bag down. This is a brief overview of Miller’s post and I suggest you read his entire post to get a better idea of what he is talking about.

For me, I started in Taekwon-Do a little over 20 years ago while living in California. I went to classes, and even a few seminars. I was in the beginning of a collector stage. Then I ended up moving to Maine and searched around for a TKD school, in a style I wanted to do, and couldn’t find one. I did find one school, tried it, didn’t care for the direction the school took compared to my old one. Thus ended my martial arts career in TKD with the rank of blue belt.

Several years down the road my son started karate at Pelletier’s Karate. I took him to classes, watched what was happening, thought about joining, but had no real desire to just do katas. Then the head instructor (and my current sensei) Rich Pelletier announced that they were going to start some sparring and grappling classes for adults. For some reason this caught my attention. Not because I wanted to be the next MMA star but because I could see a real practical use now, fighting especially fighting to protect myself. So I enrolled.

Needless to say sparring and grappling was not for everyone and soon it would just be one or two of us for those classes and they ended up being canceled. However I had started to learn about Tony Blauer and his S.P.E.A.R. system from my instructor (he is a certified S.P.E.A.R. instructor) and this started my in the collection of the teachings of Tony Blauer.

Currently I see myself as a collector, although a specialized one. I look for seminars to attend but all focused around self-defense/reality based combat. In class when items are being explained I examine them with an eye towards self-defense. Some people may consider this being a stripper, but I don’t think I’ve learned enough to actually examine my own tool kit and start tossing things out. Just because a move is presented as being for self-defense doesn’t mean it is a good move. I’ll continue stadying and learning and perhaps one day I’ll make it to the stripper stage.

Paper Tiger Black Belts

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

Today in karate class we focused mainly on boxing techniques, grappling, and some basic escape techniques from a grappler. Being an early morning Saturday class there was only 3 students in the class. One of the students was a teenager and he has pretty good karate skills, he even is part of demo team. During this session he was struggling quite a bit as these were not your typical karate type of techniques. At the end of the class he commented on how we struggled and was frustrated as he usually picks up things easily. Our instructor’s response? “Hey, I don’t want any paper tiger black belts.”

What he meant by this is that he wants his students to be well rounded. Not just in karate but also as a fighter. He wants to make sure that if the worse thing happens on the street that we are able to protect yourself. That should be the point of any martial arts school. If your students, especially at the black belt, lack the skills to adequatly protect themsleves on the street then how good is your martial arts?

Book Review: “Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence” by Sgt. Rory Miller

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

In his book “Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence” Sgt. Rory Miller offers his perspective on dealing with violence from his experience as a corrections officer and martial artist. The main concept of Miller’s book is examining the gap that exists in many martial arts training programs and what happens in a violent attack.

Miller starts off by driving the point that violence is complicated. The how, when, and why of a violent attacks are many and you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to figure out all the different scenarios. He also makes the point that the “violence” you see in entertainment or even in your martial arts class is nothing like you see in real life. Miller also points out that the violent situation and how you would respond to them can vary widely. It should be noted that the violent situations that Miller talks about vary from a self-defense situation, to a sporting invite, to actual combat in war.
After giving an overview of what is violence and how responses can be different according to the type of violence, Miller tackles the topic of assumptions of violence and how we think of violence. In this section Miller does a good job of pointing out where many assumptions about violence are wrong. People will tend to discount their own experience or give too much credit to how they think things should work. To address these issues Miller suggests different types of training, both physical and mental. People that have done studying into the mental aspects will recognize items such as the OODA loop and Hick’s Law. Offering my own insight Hick’s Law is probably the one I see violated most often in the martial arts dojo. For those not familiar with Hick’s Law it states that the more options we have the longer it takes to choose one.

The next few sections Miller cover more about violence, the types of violence, the groups that violent people can be classified into, and giving an insight to these people, especially predators. Miller does a good job of classifying types of violence and how many of them can be defused without resorting to physical actions. Also pointed out that if a violent assault does happen it will probably happen much closer, faster, suddenly, and powerful then what many think. Miller covers lots of information in these sections which someone interested in learning more about violent behavior and the people that perform these types of behavior will find useful. While covering these areas Miller does recommend the book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker, a recommendation I would second.

Now Miller moves on to discussing training, especially in the martial arts, to handle violence. Most likely this would fall into the self-defense training that many martial arts classes will cover. Here Miller covers what he sees as many of the flaws of training. The obvious one is how do you practice a technique to break an arm without actually breaking the arm? If you practice always pulling your punches, or making light contact, what will you do in a real situation? These and others are items Miller points out that we need to be aware of and attempt to find ways to deal with them in our training. Here is where many students of martial arts that have only studied some type of set self defense in the class will go “I never considered that.” Miller does offer his advice on how to improve your training, which people who have studied the teaching ideas of Tony Blauer and the SPEAR system will recognize. Miller breaks down his training idea into six phases, which in my opinion provide a good general guideline when thinking about real world self-defense training. Miller also covers the stages of defending yourself from an assault. These cover what many martial artist do practice such as “blocking the motion” (think an upward block to deflect a punch) and “blocking the opportunity” (awareness of your target areas and your attacker’s weapons), but also the topics of “blocking the intent” (the pre-emptive strike), “altering the relationship” (defusing the situation without using physical force), and the “use of terrain” (awareness of your physical surroundings and what it means). Miller closes up this section with talking about the “Go” button and your actions once a violent assault starts. One important point that Miller makes is giving yourself permission to defend yourself, to use physical force. This part may make people go “huh”, but too often people don’t give themselves permission to protect their life. “They are bigger than me” , “they have a weapon” , or “he said he wouldn’t hurt me if I did what he said” are all reasons people give for not protecting themselves.

Miller then closes up his book with dealing with the “after”, what happens after a violent attack? Here are suggestions on handling the mental aspects that occur after a violent event. This can be a very complicated area and Miller offers some of his general thoughts on that matter.

Overall I found Miller’s book a good read with some good advice and insight. Anyone that studies martial arts with one of the goals if studying to be able to protect themselves should pick up a copy of the book.

What are your beliefs?

Monday, March 16th, 2009

I was listening to an audio from Tony Blauer, and at one point in it he asked a basic question: What are your 5 self-defense beliefs? Tough question isn’t it?

Now saying I want to be able to defend myself against an attack isn’t a belief, more like a goal. So I’ve been thinking on it and here is what I came up with for my beliefs.

  1. I believe I have the right to defend myself.
  2. I believe that I can defend myself without using physical force.
  3. I believe that my will to survive is greater then the will of my attacker to do me harm.
  4. I believe in not being a victim
  5. I believe that I will do whatever is necessary to survive

These are always subject to change based on what I learn.