Experiences Part 1

One of my former students who lives wayyy too far away to train has asked about my experiences with violence as to seek insight on what, why, how, and to include the "after action" report. I'm always a little antsy on discussing my "fights" on a public forum for several reasons. First, while I don't want to advocate violence as your first option, sometimes it's your only option. As noted Combatives Instructor Tim Larkin says, "When violence is the answer, it's the ONLY answer". Second, the written word is notorious for being taken out of context and I'd rather not spend the rest of my life defending my statements so please just take it for what it is, MY experience. Lastly, I don't want to come off sounding like my "fighting skills" rock and that "Bruce Lee don't have nuthin' on me". With that said, I'll share three experiences that left a lasting impression, changed my martial art outlook, and show that they ALL could have been avoided. This first one still invades my dreams and taught me some very life changing lessons so I'll describe it first. I'll relate the other two in future blogs.

1980 San Diego 20 years old
I had attended a friends birthday party in Imperial Beach and was returning home when I had a burning desire for some Jack in the Box onion rings. I pulled off I-5 and went to the nearest JaBo which was located in the Shelltown (Mistake #1) area of National City. It was almost 11:00pm and instead of going through the drive through, I went in to order (Mistake #2) as well as use the rest room. When I entered, I noticed four vatos in Pendletons and pressed white t-shirts (Ignored Warning #1) sitting at one of the tables. I ALMOST (Mistake #3) turned around and left but I had to use the head and I wanted those onion rings. While making my order, the server gave me a strange look, (Ignored Warning #2) which I disregarded. She told me that they were in the process of closing and that they would have to make my onion rings which would take a few minutes. While waiting, I went to use the rest room. When I returned, the place was empty other than the two servers (Ignored Warning #3). I collected my food and went outside to my truck. I immediately started digging into my onion rings (Mistake #4). I sensed/heard someone running up behind me (Ignored Warning #4) and as I started to turn, I felt the shock of the hit as well as seeing a flash bulb go off in front of my eyes. Onion rings went everywhere as I staggered back against my truck and I started throwing blind punches. My vision was fuzzy and I could only see the guy directly in front of me but I knew that there were at least two more because I could feel them hitting and grabbing at me. One of them kept yelling something about "East Side" but other than that, at was all noise. I managed to drive my thumb into an eye (Good Move #1) of they guy in front of me. He screamed and that's when I went down to the ground. I immediately went to my back (Good Move #2) and started kicking anything and everything that I could reach. They in turn started playing soccer on my torso. I had kept the truck to my back (Good Move #3) and when I had been put down it was now to my right. It took several seconds (hours?) to realize that I was taking some serious damage to my ribs. After one nasty barrage, I found I couldn't breath and scared s$#*tless, I rolled under my truck (Good Move #4). Thank goodness for lift kits and off-road tires. They would not go under after me so they slung rocks, concrete, bottles and insults at me for about a minute (or it could have been another hour). I heard a siren come on close by and I could see them take off. An SDPD patrol car pulled up about 30 seconds later. After paramedics and paperwork, I drove myself to the hospital. Total damage, one broken rib, three cracked ribs, multiple contusions, cuts, and abrasions, a split lip, and a concussion. All and all, for making a bunch of stupid mistakes, I came out okay. I did find out during the interview why I was jumped. One of the hoods was the server's boyfriend and she had noticed my affiliation tattoo on my wrist. They were Shelltown Cholos and in my teens, I had run with East Side and still wore the tag. They hated each other with a passion then and five years later, they still hated each other.

At the time I was a Green Belt in Chinese Kenpo. We were a fight school and the techniques were more for belt progression than actual use. We were not taught any awareness or avoidance skills but we were taught how to take a punch and keep fighting. Skipping the very obvious mistakes I made prior to taking the first punch, I learned the following lessons about the attack itself:

Always step off when covering. I did not learn COVER until I began my American Kenpo training in 1988. Turning in place just gives your assailant a different part of his intended target to hit (think OODA).

Don't try to kick in a mass attack. The violence of action on my part combined with the pushing, pulling, and striking from my attackers forced me to lower my base. Even lowered, I still felt unstable and attempting a kick/knee would have put me on the ground a lot sooner.

They don't come at you one at a time like the movies. In fact their exuberance probably kept my damage to a minimum because they kept getting in each other's way.

Maneuvering to the outside in class is relatively easy. When the attack is real, it's a hell of a lot more difficult to maneuver anywhere let alone maneuver with a plan.

Use your environment. Vehicles, buildings, fixed objects, clothing, anything lying around that might make a weapon or a defensive tool.

When tunnel vision kicks in, go after the guy you can see and inflict as much damage as possible up to and including maiming and lethal force. One of my students is a Federal Corrections Officer and two weeks ago, he handled his first inmate killing. An inmate was beaten and stomped to death by five other inmates. He had the unpleasant task of trying to keep the inmate alive until medical help arrived but ended up watching him die before help got there. Even if no weapons are involved, a mass attack is a deadly force assault. Treat it as such and do whatever it takes with the eyes and throat being the primary targets.

Tattoos can get you killed but peroxide and table salt will get rid of them.

Last, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. I believe there is nothing mystical or psychic about a "bad feeling". It is your mind's unconscious ability to pick up on 'triggers" that the conscious mind is too preoccupied to process. Good awareness skills are the conscious mind's answer to why these triggers are important. Awareness is a skill and like any other skill, must be developed and practiced. Future blogs will discuss some of the methods I use to teach awareness. Fighting is ugly and it's even uglier when you're getting your butt kicked. Hopefully, you might learn a little from my mistakes that will keep from having your butt handed to you for a bag of onion rings.

by admin | 7 2012 9:54am | FAQ | permalink | 0 comments

Fitness For Fighting

Fighting/Self-Defense is the epitome of Interval Training combining cardiovascular endurance as well as anaerobic endurance. When coupled with the added psychological stress and associated adrenal dump of an unprovoked and unexpected attack, fighting is one of the most physically demanding venues the human body might be forced to endure.

Conditioning specificity for self-defense is a must for your overall martial art training. In the past, traditional martial arts used traditional training methods to strengthen and develop the body. Many of these practices while functional left a lot to be desired when it came to time involved and the return on that time investment. Today\\\\'s methods incorporate modern science and equipment that allow the student to strengthen specific attributes in the limited time that students allot to training while still holding down a job, raising a family, etc.... Swimmers train to swim, runners train to run, and fighters train to fight. There will always be crossover skills when it comes to conditioning just as there are crossover skills when training in various martial activities. but being a good tournament fighter or forms competitor will not guarantee success in an ally. You must train and develop the specific skill sets required to specifically deal with violence.

A street fight or assault for the average person uses a significant amount of physical strength in a very short period of time. One-punch knockouts are rare, even for trained practitioners. Whether you choose to fight or run, your overall conditioning has a high probability of being the determining factor of whether you win or get away. You do not necessarily have to be stronger than your opponent but you should be able to last longer than he does.

Your ability to take damage and survive is also relative to your fitness level. Most people when faced with violence tend to \\\\"give up\\\\" or go defensive once they start taking damage. Physical conditioning goes hand and hand with mental toughness. A strong, trained body usually equates to a strong mind and a strong mind does not give up no matter how much pain or damage has been inflicted.
There are no rounds or time-outs in a violent encounter. You must be able to exert high-intensity effort for as long as it takes to survive or end the assault. You must also have enough physical strength to push, pull, and strike with damaging force. Last, you must have the *Mental Toughness* to never quit.

by admin | 7 2012 9:44am | Articles | permalink | 0 comments

Self Defense vs. Fighting

I wrote this in 1988 when I first began teaching. A little simplistic but it shows my mindset at the time.

The goal of any true self-defense system is ensuring personal protection. There are many ways to accomplish this goal with some of them being physical and others being non-physical. The best way not to get hurt is to avoid any situation where danger or a confrontation might be possible. Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world and violence can happen anywhere and at anytime. When avoidance and awareness fail, self-defense is your next recourse, but you still don't necessarily have to bring it to a physical level. Self-defense is also about psychology; can you talk your way out of it? Can you bluff your way out of it? Do you have your running shoes on if talking doesn't work? Remember, we live in a violent world where a simple argument can lead to a deadly encounter. Weapons are readily available and those combined with drugs, alcohol and a "I don't care" attitude can make for a potentially deadly situation. Why take a chance to escalate a situation if the only things being exchanged are words? If you can walk away, walk away. If you can't walk away, talking hasn't worked, and you realize the situation is escalating to the physical level, it's time to act. You don't necessarily have to wait for your opponent to throw the first punch or make the first move but you do have to consider the results of your actions. In a court of law, anyone that reasonably believes that their person is in danger of physical harm has the right to defend them self, EVEN IF YOU HAVEN'T BEEN PHYSICALLY TOUCHED. Respond according to the situation. If it's a drunk, control him; if the assailant has a weapon and you believe he is trying to kill or maim you, you can respond with deadly force.

Now, what happens when you attempt your self-defense and it doesn't work? You miss with your pre-emptive strike, your timing is off, your strikes don't get the expected response, who knows? Anything is possible, self defense is not a 100% art and you have to be prepared for the unexpected. The situation has now gone from a self-defense scenario to a fighting scenario. In self-defense, skill, speed and surprise rule the outcome, but in fighting, size and strength are now more of a determining factor. In the fighting scenario, you and your opponent have squared off and you are both looking for openings and opportunities that either of you can take advantage of. This is the situation we, as KENPO practitioners, want to avoid for the simple reason that we no longer have full control of the situation. In self-defense, we control everything because we have the element of surprise and confidence in the knowledge of our skills. Once fighting has begun, we have to maneuver into a position where we can attempt to gain control back and apply self-defense techniques once again, but our opponent is now aware that we are a danger and will be much more wary of our actions.
Self-defense and fighting, two different worlds but still very related and either can turn into the other. While the KENPO practitioner does train to fight, both standing and on the ground, we acknowledge that our strength and the safest course of action lies in self-defense and that is the area we seek to perfect.

by admin | 6 2012 12:10pm | Articles | permalink | 0 comments

Why Are We Not Tough Anymore


Not sure where I read or heard it but I use the previous statement quite often to students and those I mentor. It is very much along the lines of a Friedrich Nietzsche quote "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger" used as a training mantra in the U.S. Navy's BUD/S Special Warfare Training School. Up until the last few hundred years, life was tough for most. 20,000 years ago, it was a struggle to find food, shelter, survive the elements, and to keep from being eaten. Once communities began to form and a roof was a sure bet, there was less fear from tooth and claw, but now man had to deal with "I want what you have". In other words, the strong took from the weak. Pretty much up to the industrial age and the Rule of Law, the majority of humans had to work hard as individuals and as communities to fulfill their basic needs. Work was very physical for both men and women and the image of the rugged individual persisted well into the 20th Century. With the widespread use of electricity and all of its wonderful progeny, leisure time became a significant part of our lifestyle and the concepts of adversity and struggle became a distant memory for most western societies. These days, adversity is finding a lost remote or getting to work on time. A struggle involves making a choice between eating at Outback or Chili's. Psychologists say that humans are basically lazy and that is why we have the modern wonders we have. Humans are always looking for an easier/better way to do things; especially those that help is exert less effort. Greater productivity in less time gives more time for leisure activities and for most; those activities usually don't require great physical expenditure or risk. We have become soft and spoiled and we like it. Today in the U.S., "Manifest Destiny" has been replaced by "shop 'till you drop" and "can I super-size that?" The vast majority can spend their whole lives without ever having to deal with the threat of somebody trying to take their stuff and/or killing them. Most of my students have never been in a fight let alone a violent physical assault. As the "softening" of our society continues, the weaker we become both as individuals and as a nation. Lucky for us though, the United States is known for its individualism, its rich history of overcoming great odds, and when push comes to shove, woe be to yea who try picking on us. Lt. Col. (Ret.) David Grossman introduced me to the concept of Sheep, Sheepdogs, and Wolves in his groundbreaking book "On Combat". The premise being the vast majority of people are sheep, and that's okay. Sheep keep society humming along on an even keel. Sheep are nice, adverse to violence, pay their taxes, and wave at you on country roads. They have found their station in life and are happy or at least excepting of it. Wolves on the other hand, are not nice, are willing to use any means including violence to get what they want, may or may not pay taxes, and usually see sheep as resources. Sheepdogs in turn look a lot like the wolf, have the same tools and are not hesitant to use violence but only for the common good. They keep the sheep safe and insulated form the big bad wolf. At one time, sheepdogs wore shinning armor or white. These days, they wear the camouflage of our services or the blue of law enforcement officers. Sheepdogs also come in a subtler form, those that recognize violence is a possibility and take steps to ensure they are prepared to meet it even if it includes using violence on their part. The common thread to all sheepdogs is ADVERSITY. Sheepdogs constantly challenge themselves by voluntarily taking on tasks that are difficult. Whether it's the mental and physical challenges of the military, the dangers of working in law enforcement, the blood and bruises of training in the martial arts, even the effort of going to the gym or shooting range regularly, sheepdogs always take the hard road. Unfortunately, choosing the challenge has become the exception while taking the easy way has become the norm.
I wish I knew the secret to wanting to make things difficult for myself vice sitting in front of the tube for hours. I don't always want to train, eat in moderation, or workout, but I do because I know I'll feel better about my choice afterwards. If your informative years have been easy with no expectations other than getting good grades and staying out of trouble, odds are you're going to want to continue that thought process as an adult. Simple efforts lead to simple rewards. Rewards lead to expectations and expectations lead to entitlements. Pretty soon, everybody is getting, and nobody is giving. Those that have struggled tend to appreciate what they have a lot more than those who have had things given to them. Hard work brings great rewards even if it is only the satisfaction of having done a good job. When I mentor youth, my message is one of effort, service, and choice/consequence. I believe the key is to get the word out to our kids through leadership programs such as Explorers, Scouts, JrROTC, and martial art classes. Even organized athletics offer many opportunities to teach kids the value of effort and challenge. As long as we keep having enough young people volunteer for the military, enroll in a Police Academy, or take responsibility for their own health and protection, we can keep the wolf at bay. Otherwise a nation of sheep with no one to protect it will soon become someone else's flock or worse.

by admin | 6 2012 12:04pm | Articles | permalink | 0 comments

Dirty Fighting for Martial Artists

The argument has been around since UFC 1; most street fights go to the ground, BJJ rules on the ground, therefore BJJ is the best for street fighting. The "Street" exponents (RBMA, Combatives) argue that BJJ is learned under a codified rule system and that there are no rules on the street and a good eye gouge/throat shot will nullify any advantage that the BJJ guys have. Having spent most of my life studying a street oriented self-defense system as well as having a Purple Belt in BJJ and grappling for well over ten years now, my views on this subject have changed as my knowledge has increased.
Fifteen years ago, I was one of the "street-exponent" guys that decided that well placed strikes, presses, pulls, and breaks would take a BJJ player out of his environment and turn him into a reactive mass like anyone else that had a finger stuck in their eye or their trachea pinched. After several years in BJJ, I discovered that BJJ guys can do all that illegal stuff too and can do it better because they are well versed in using the ground to stabilize their targets. They are also very adept at hiding their own targets from probing hands. I have found the key to effective "dirty" fighting is to train regularly in all three areas, striking, groundwork, and illegal stuff. More and more striking schools are incorporating groundwork into their curriculum. Most BJJ schools offer MMA striking skills (boxing, Muay Thai, G&P) but again, these are taught in a sports environment. If you do not train to use the naughty stuff then odds are you will not use it when the balloon goes up. If you have never tried to gouge someone's eye, how do you know you can do it let alone know how someone will react when his eye is being attacked? If you have never pulled a clavicle, how do you know how deep you have to dig for a grip or how hard you have to pull to separate it? I've gone after both; with the eye, he fought through the damage (and there was a lot of damage) and he still picked me up and carried me across the room to slammed me into some furniture. I've gone for clavicles twice (pre-BJJ) and have yet to get a solid grip and without that, forget about a separation. Breaking someone's finger? Never slowed me down and there were no drugs or alcohol involved on my part.
In the early 90's, I attended a seminar with Paul Vunak one of the early proponents of RBSD and still a respected name in the field. One of the areas he covered was Kino Mutay, biting and pinching. It was a delightfully painful experience that also included hair pulling and was almost a system in itself, not unlike Chin Na for the Chinese Systems. Whereas most of the pinching, pulling, and biting were distractants, several specific attacks inflicted a significant amount of damage. Prior to that seminar, I thought a bite was just a bite and a hair pull was just a hair pull. Afterwards, I realized they were special tools that helped you reach a specific goal and when used properly, were very effective to that end. The most important thing I learned was that you needed time to facilitate maximum effect. This meant the target had to be stabilized and controlled in order for the attack to garner the desired result. If a human being can cut off their own arm in order to survive, do you really think a poke in the eye, fishhook to the mouth, or a bite to the cheek is going to make someone just give up and quit? These attacks are just tools and as tools, they need to be used properly to maximize their function. Hair pulls are used to create disturbances in balance and cancel zones. Bites and pinches are used to create openings and/or space. In extreme situations, they tear, crush, and gouge. Rarely will the infliction of pain alone be the primary motivator in making a really bad person give up their desire to make you a resource. While these are considered horrific attacks that can cause incredible damage as well as kill, they are still very viable options when it comes to preserving your life. Are you prepared to use them?

by admin | 6 2012 12:01pm | Articles | permalink | 0 comments


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