Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Take ten

One of the things I learnt during my time in the Foreign Legion was that time spent gathering intel was very rarely wasted. It's a lesson I teach my students and people who attend my personal safety presentation.

When you exit the house, pause at the door and take ten to fifteen seconds to observe your surroundings. Does everything look ok? When you exit the mall, same thing, pause for a few seconds, work out where your car is parked, study the path between you and there a group loitering, is there a van parked next to it with the engine idling, is there a gun fight going on between gang bangers? Most people are so absorbed with their purchases that they neglect to do this and next minute they're victims.

This tip saved my neighbor in Wilmington. She'd attended a presentation I did for a group of business women and a few weeks later she came home and did the fifteen second observation routine from her car while sitting in the driveway. She noticed a window open and scuff marks from feet up the front wall of the house. She drove away and called the cops - smart girl - who came and found evidence of an attempted break in. She told me later that prior to that lecture she'd have waltzed inside and possibly turned a break in into a murder by surprising the intruder and causing him to panic.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bubba git your gun

I was at our local gun show one day and wearing a t-shirt with a martial arts logo on it. One (of the big fat tobacco chewing kind) redneck saw the shirt and commented to his mate "Hell, I'd just shoot him...yuk yuk."
I smiled and said "Got your gun on you?"
"Well hell can't bring 'em in heah" he replied
"Exactly" I said and walked off.

And guess where else you can't bring them?

On planes, in airports, anywhere that serves alcohol, in post offices, in banks, on school grounds, into the court house, on government property, into businesses who've posted signs saying you can't and several states in the USA...oh, and gun shows.

I've probably missed a few locations but you get the general idea...anyone who's putting his entire defensive strategy in his pistol ownership and shooting abilities just hasn't thought things through.

Maybe Bubba thought I was putting all of mine in martial arts (which some naive martial artists do) but I own weapons as well and train with them fairly consistently...tactically as well, not just on paper targets that don't move or shoot back.

So what's your plan? Got all your bases covered or just one of them?


Monday, January 29, 2007

Guns and knives

I'm sure everyone remembers the classic line in "The Untouchables" when Sean Connery says "isn't that just like a wop? Brings a knife to a gun fight." While it was cute in the film the reality is sadly different. At close range the knife is oft times the winner.

I first ran into this on a body guard course in England run by Dennis Martin and SAS Sgt Lofty Weismann when we did something called the "twenty-one foot" rule down on the range. We had holstered pistols, our opponents had knives. The instant they ran at us our objective was to draw the pistol and shoot them. Twenty-one feet hard could that be? Everyone there assumed it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Big surprise...the guys with the blades beat us...every...single...time. Keep in mind that we knew they had knives, and in the real world you usually don't, and two we didn't have any lag time of realizing we were actually under attack. We'd already been told what he had and what was happening. Compare that to the real world when you've got to first take in the fact you're actually under attack, then get lucky enough to see the blade, realize it's deadly force and go for your gun. Can't be done.

Another thing to keep in mind is that we all wore accessible holsters and had been practicing drawing at speed from under a jacket all week long. Where is your concealed piece? In a pocket book, a pocket holster, buried under layers of clothing? What condition do you carry it in? Some people don't have a round chambered when they're carrying? Is the safety on...have you practiced disengaging that under combat stress?

Let's assume for one minute you're lightening Jack and quick enough to get it out and on target (and I've yet to see someone who can) so you get a round off, even's not Hollywood...they're not going to get blown back fifteen feet. Their momentum is going to carry them right into you, hacking and stabbing.

Just like the last better have a plan b if plan a is "hey I carry I gun so I don't need anything else."


Friday, January 26, 2007


One of my pet peeves is the advice I see on a thousand web sites regarding fighting someone with a knife...and that is "just run away" or the ever-cute "use Nike-fu, and run like the wind."

Well, let's start with the do you know you're faster than the kid with the knife? There's no way of looking at people and determining who's fleetest of foot until you've run a race. Also consider the kid doing the knifing is probably a skinny drug addict and he's chosen an overweight, Rolex wearing businessman as his victim. Sorry, but I don't want to discover he's quicker by getting a knife between the shoulder blades as I huff and puff down the street.

Where exactly are you running to? In a panic you might just be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Are you running away from the well-lit public arena into a blind alley? Are you - as happened once that I know of - about to jump over what you think is a fence to discover an eighty foot drop on to railroad tracks on the other side?

Who's with you? Got a wife/girlfriend wearing six inch heels in a parking lot? "Run honey" or in other words "Every man for himself" said the elephant as he danced among the chickens. How about a couple of kids and a few bags of shopping?

Why are they doing this? Are you a security guard, cop, bouncer, soldier, body guard or a cop by chance? Guess what? They don't hire you to run. They can do that already...they want you because you're the guy that gets paid to go into harms way.

Last...running often activates the prey drive in predatory types. Just as the advice concerning dogs and wild animals is never to run for fear you'll encourage them to chase you, so it should be with predatory human beings.

Does that mean I'm advocating standing and fighting? Not at all. Fighting someone armed with a knife is a truly horrific experience and, without years of very pertinent training, your chances of winning it are slim but, I just don't want you all to walk around with your head you know where saying "someone pulls a knife on me, I'll just run." You'd better have a plan B for the exceptions that I mentioned above.


PS: Oh, and if you think carrying a gun is the answer you're dead wrong...emphasis on the word "dead." More on that tomorrow

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tactics, Techniques and Mindset continued

Last post I talked about the importance of learning tactics and mind-set along with techniques.

As promised I want to go into why that may not be enough in this post.

For years I've argued with people in the martial arts (some Big Names) about whether sports versions of the traditional martial arts are valid in the street. They're stance - no pun intended - is that they are whereas I think they're not. The arguments I've heard is that they, in the sporting arena, are dealing with the stress and adrenalin of using their techniques under fire and, that if they have the speed to outscore someone, they can use that speed hitting someone in the street.

Here's my problem with all of that.

If we agree that we need techniques and tactics and mindset to win then we have to explore whether the techniques, tactics and mind-set are the same in the sporting version as the street version.

Well, to put it bluntly, most of the techniques I teach in Fight Survival are those outlawed in competition. To compete with someone we have to make it safe. To make it safe we have to eliminate techniques that have a propensity to severely injure someone else. We take out eye gouging, biting, small joint locks, leg breaks, throat punching, knives and weapons etc. In the street however, in a life and death struggle with three home invaders for example, they're exactly the type of techniques I'll be resorting to.

Competitions on the other hand, in a bid to please audiences, encourage spectacular gymnastic style moves by awarding more points for more difficulty. From tournaments in the seventies, noted for their almost exclusive use of front kicks and reverse punches, we now see moves that would put the average Olympic gymnast to shame.

The techniques therefore are clearly different in the real world and in the ring.

What about tactics?

Two common tactics you'll see at tournaments all the time are a) feigning injury to get the other guy disqualified for excessive contact and, b) getting half a point (what the hell is half a point?) ahead and keeping away from the other guy till the bell goes. Think you can use either of those two in a biker bar? Hardly

In the street we see an entirely different set of tactics. We see people hitting victims when they're not ready - or task fixated - and we see them ganging up on someone to outnumber them. While they're both incredibly effective strategies in the street I can't imagine seeing them anytime soon in the local boxing tournament. Imagine how well you'd do in the UFC or Pride if all you had to do was hit the current champ over the head from behind with a baseball bat while he was signing autographs? What about climbing into the ring with Oscar de LaHoya but bringing along twenty of your mates to help you?

Alright, so the tactics are also different.

Lastly we get to mindset.

Quite simply the mindset in a sporting event is "If I don't win I don't go home with a trophy." In a fight for your life in a parking deck somewhere it's more "If I don't win, I won't go home...ever." Take a bunch of your mates and ask them if they'd like to go paint balling in the woods. Chances are they'll all say yes. Now, see how many of the same bunch are willing to go down the local recruiting office and volunteer for a tour of Iraq. Unless you run with the sort of guys I do my bet is most of them will cry off. Our tournament fighter, with doctors in attendance, rules to protect him, an equally skilled opponent and safe techniques isn't really in fear for his life and that's the difference.

So, tactics, techniques and mindset are all different depending on whether you're in a sporting environment or a lethal one. Don't let the local instructor con you in to believing he's teaching self defense if he's not. Study hard the techniques, the tactics and the mind-set that they're teaching you and ask yourself the important question if you thinks it's preparing you for a real life and death struggle.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Techniques, Tactics & Mindset.

Years ago I was trying to figure out what you needed, other than techniques, to win a fight. I was trying to fathom that because a lot of martial artists were constantly being beaten by the average street fighter without any formal training.

I boiled it down to three things. Techniques, Tactics and Mindset. The analogy I use to illustrate the difference between them is that of four police officers rushing to an armed robbery in progress. The first cop to arrive has great technique - in this example that means he is a class A pistol shot and can hit flys off a pig's back at 300 yds. He stands in the middle of the parking lot and gets shot by the bad guys before he can even fire a round. Why? Because he lacked the tactical training that would have taught him to take cover.

The next cop has had such tactical training and is also a good shot. He takes cover behind the engine block of the car and draws his weapon, but, faced with a real live human as a target, instead of a piece of paper at the range, finds he can't bring himself to pull the trigger and kill another person.

The third cop has no such qualms...he wants desperately to shoot all the bad guys and he's tactically trained so he knows to take cover to. Unfortunately, because his technique is poor, he shoots himself in the foot, his partner in the leg, the lights of his cruiser, pigeons on the roof and an old lady at the bus stop.

Only the fourth officer, aware enough of tactics to take cover, technically skilled enough to hit what he aims at, and, most importantly with the mental wherewithal to drop the hammer on another human can possibly prevail.

So, what do you learn at your school? A bunch of techniques only? Or are you learning tactics and mind-set to?

Tune in to the next post and I'll explain why, even if you are learning those three, it still may not be enough.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Merlin the Magician's Been At It Again

Well I just heard it on the news all time favourite jackass statement from a crime victim. A woman had been hit at the ATM and said on the news "He came out of nowhere."

Apparently Merlin the Magician is alive and well and operating as a criminal all over the world. I mean think about that for a second "He came out of nowhere." What does that mean? You're sitting at the lights, boom, all of a sudden there's a puff of smoke and there he is, the criminal, right out of...well, nowhere! What an act, what a genius...David Blane, eat your heart out.

The true version of that statement should probably read "I was sitting at the lights, PUTTING ON MY MAKEUP, while GABBING ON MY CELLPHONE and EATING MY EGG McMUFFIN when the criminal, who had been watching me for a few minutes, determined that I was sufficiently task fixated to not notice his approach.

Of course a statement like that would actually lay some of the blame for the assault at the feet of our hapless victim which, in America's "I can do no wrong" society just wouldn't fly so instead we go with the Merlin approach.

So, one step to severely lessen the chance of you ever being chosen as a victim by a crook is to keep your wits about you and try not to get task fixated. If you can do that, all the ordinary crooks will leave you alone. Then, all we have to do is get the Lady of the Lake to stick Merlin back in his glass prison and we'll all be safe.


PS: Maybe the Beatles bumped into him as well...

He's a real nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Who's Trying to Kill You?

I had to laugh. I saw yet another "unmade waterbed" aka an obese guy at the range with a gun a few weeks ago. Alright, I'll be politically correct, I won't say he was overweight, let's just say he was about two feet too short for where he tipped the scales.

He had a cigarette in his mouth, a gut that had obviously been "built" over years of eating trans fats and drinking beer and was scarfing down a plate of barbecue, slaw and bread rolls.

He talked to me while I was waiting till I got my own plate of food and started going on about the need to defend himself, and how he was shooting as much as he could in a bid to be ready when the bad guys came "a breakin into his house."

I had to bite my lip so damn hard I drew blood in a bid not to burst out laughing. The only guy trying to kill this guy was himself. Close on 100 pounds overweight, a smoker, a heavy drinker and none to careful about his food intake I couldn't help but think the stress of someone even trying to kick his door in would initiate the heart attack that would kill him.

What a shame. All those years on the range and all those rounds fired learning to kill someone when he was killing himself.

So, how about you? Is your diet as good as it could be? Do you smoke? Do you get so drunk a fifteen year old could kick your ass? Who is out to get you?

I guess what I'm trying to say is beware the enemy within.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Curtain Call

When I first arrived in Charlotte approximately twelve years ago I used to live near downtown and drive through a suburb called Myers Park on the way to the movies.

What struck me as odd was that almost every house, and these are verrrrry nice houses, would have no curtains on the windows, lights blazing inside, in every room, with all their silverware, artwork and fine furniture etc on display for the world to see.

I could never figure out whether they were struggling so hard to keep up with the Jones' that they couldn't afford curtains or whether it was merely a case of trying to rub everyone's nose in it i.e. the fact they had nice things and you didn't. Either way it was a dumb move. In Australia, England and France elementary home security 101 was you always keep your blinds drawn so crooks trying to case places to rob had their work cut out for them figuring if you had anything work taking.

Here was the Myers Park crowd putting it all on display like a storefront window in a veritable smorgasbord for the criminal set to pick and choose from.

Well, finally it happened. I heard in the news the other day crooks tried three times - and the third time was a charm - to get a flat screen tv from a house in - yep, you guessed it - Myers Park. The first time they were confronted in the house, the second time they got in but were scared away and the last time they got the loot.

Now, it's curtains for the crooks because they were finally caught...and hopefully it will be curtains for the residents of the area who may have finally realized that leaving all your valuables on display is a boneheaded move and serves no purpose but to let crooks know if you have anything work taking.

Normally I sympathize with the victims...but, this is no different than leaving a pocket book and a Rolex on the front seat of your car and expecting me to shed a tear when you come back to find someone broke your window and took it.

Hide your valuables people, hide your valuables. It's elementary security.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Recently I was talking with a woman about a rapist that was being hunted in Charlotte. The conversation turned to crime in general, car-jacking, rape, mugging and assault etc.

I asked her whether or not, knowing as she did about the crime rate, she took any self defense training and was surprised when I found out she didn't.

"Hang on a minute" I said "you know there's a rapist at large, you've heard about the home invasions, the car-jackings and the assaults etc and you don't train? So what do you do to ensure you won't become a victim?"

She went on to inform me she takes precautions and is careful. I told her I didn't think that was enough so she went on to say she "hopes" nothing will happen to her.

Hopes!!! Wow, that's pretty amazing I thought.

So obviously the next question was...

"Would you vote for a President who ran on the campaign ticket of:

'I'm going to get rid of police forces and the American military. Now now, I know there are terrorists and bad guys out there but I've decided that if we take precautions, are careful and HOPE nothing happens we should be fine.'

I think she understood (even though she didn't begin any training that I'm aware of) but the lesson is simple. Hope should never be part of your defensive plan. Training should be, weapons should be, mind-set should be, awareness should hope for winning the lottery.


PS: IHOPE you get the message!
Welcome to my first blog. Why another one? Aren't there enough already? Well sure, self defense is a broad subject but it's also a very local one.

Remember last year when the FBI published their crime stats and all the papers were reporting an increase in violent crime? Readers in small towns are seeing that and thinking of investing in alarms etc but in reality it may be nothing more than two rival drug gangs at war in Washington DC. That will definitely cause the numbers to spike but how does that effect the guy in the mountains? Not one bit.

So it is with Charlotte. Crimes are local and trends are local. There may be a spate of car jackings in San Clemente CA whereas here we might be seeing an increase in home invasions. Now, someone in Charlotte has a way of keeping abreast with what is going on and, unlike in the media which will relish in reporting it, picking up some measures to beat it.

Stay tuned. Not only will I cover the local stuff but I'll also talk about self protection and martial arts as well...subjects I've been passionate about for over thirty years.

If you're a cop, a security professional, a body guard, bouncer or concerned citizen you'll get a heap of relevant info so sit back and enjoy the ride.