Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Saturday, May 30th, 2015


SOMETHING that we have always found amusing (in most cases) or pathetic (in other cases) is the attitude that many “martial artists” have in regard to modern weapons. They disdain them. They view them as being somehow “tainted”. And these are people who will practice for hours with a samurai sword, nine foot pole, or nunchucks. Or they will drill religiously in throwing shaken and shuriken at a target. What the hell gives?

We suppose that our visitors would be surprised if they learned how many students of the various traditional martial arts are against firearms, and do not believe in guns for personal protection. In fact, one of the few disagreements we have with the late, brilliant self-defense teacher Bruce Tegnér, is that, despite his prevailing (and largely) practical and sensible views regarding modern self-defense, Tegnér argued against firearms for self-defense (and would not consider fighting knives, either). Three aikido teachers to our knowledge became actually incensed at the mere thought of shooting down a murderous felon, or of ending a would-be killer’s life  through the use of deft knifework. And —— astonishingly —— we have heard more than one karate and ju-jutsu zealot assure us that he “didn’t need weapons”; his hands and his feet were sufficient!!! For most dyed-in-the-wool classicists however, cracking a man’s skull with a bo or with a jo (long stick or short stick, respectively) and killing him that way is cool. Cooler still would be cutting him neatly in half with a sword, and killing him. But shooting him with a gun? Or killing him with a well-balanced modern fighting knife?  Heaven forbid.

Frankly, this is bullshit. At least it is certainly bullshit for anyone who wishes to learn practical self-defense. (The antiquated and traditional weapons are fine for classicists who understand that they are learning outdated weapons, and if their concern ever shifts to realistic close combat, they would be well-advised to emulate William Fairbairn’s choice of weapons [or ours!], and not Miyamoto Musashi’s).

The knife —— especially the fighting knife —— is a superb weapon. It is second only to a firearm as a close combat/defensive weapon, and has advantages even over the excellent and justifiably popular La Gana American Tomahawk. Unfortunately, in the anglo-saxon culture the knife never really gained the great popularity that it deserves. Western society in general sees the knife as the “bad guy’s weapon”. This is unfortunate.

No weapon or implement is, by itself, good or evil. Weapons do not have a will of their own, and may be used to effect justifiable killings, no less than they may be used to injure and to kill unjustifiably. And since eliminating weapons is simply impossible, it behooves all decent human beings who aspire to a mastery of close combat and self-defense, to learn how to use whatever weapons one might encounter, common to the time in which they live. There was a time when maces, clubs, chains, swords, and battle axes were the weapons of the day. Then, when one trained with such weapons, one was being realistic and practical. But the fellow who keeps ninja dust in his jacket pocket when he goes to work in a modern office —— instead of a .38 Special revolver or a razor sharp knife —— is not being sensible.

Back to the knife.

Gun laws being as unjust and wrong as they are in many states (not to mention as they normally are everywhere in other countries throughout the world) we strongly recommend that knives be reconsidered for daily carry, perhaps home defense, and certainly for use in any comprehensive modern combat system.

Doubtless in most locations a fighting knife will bring legal repercussions if spotted by a law enforcement officer; but a good, stout lockblade folder is acceptable, and in most places it is a matter of indifference to the law if you own and keep in your home all the fighting knives that you legally purchase.

Sometimes, if you hunt, camp, fish, hike, or climb, you can carry a full-sized combat-survival knife, even if you cannot carry such a weapon inside city limits where you live.

In any case if you are a student of modern combat arts and practical self-defense the knife is one of the foremost manufactured weapons (along with the handgun, carbine, shotgun, tomahawk, walking stick, baton/baton-length stick, 5-6” hand stick) that you should study seriously. Put away the nunchucks and swords and nine foot poles if  you train for the real and modern world.

There is no such thing as a “bad guy’s weapon” —— be it a knife, firearm, or even a garrotte! Any weapon that may be employed in today’s world that can save your life and possibly the lives of those you love is potentially a GOOD GUY’S weapon!

Weapons themselves are neither “good” nor “evil”; they are merely tools. Those who purport to be teachers and students of combat arts should know this very well, and should embrace all weapons that are currently used and that are available to them in order to defend themselves and their loved ones.

Let us now argue FOR the knife as a desirable weapon of personal defense:

• Knives are very convenient to carry. They may, in their various configurations, be kept in a pocket (folders), or in either an open-carry or concealable sheath (full length fighters, “boot” knives, or “survival” type knives that double easily for combat use).

• Fixed-blade knives are, with a bit of practice, very quick into action and “ready to rock!”

• Knives are silent (obviously a sometimes great virtue for military or intelligence applications)

• Sharpening and cleaning (necessary only after use) is the only maintenance that a knife requires to be always ready and reliable

• Knives are deadly —— in close combat second only to a firearm

• Knives have a psychological effect on the attacker that is enormous

• Knives of completely adequate construction and quality are relatively inexpensive and —— save only under the most unusually extreme conditions —— do not wear out or break

• It is easy to learn how to use a knife for personal protection. A few hours is all that is needed

• A knife is readily combinable with a person’s unarmed skills

• While fighting knives may not be legal to carry, they are legal to own and to keep in one’s home or apartment —— so several may be concealed about the dwelling for emergency access. And a lockblade folding knife with a blade 3 or 4 inches long is legal to carry just about everywhere in the world

• Once you learn how to use a knife for personal protection you can grab a kitchen knife, utility knife, or object — like a screwdriver or punch — and employ it as a weapon, in an emergency

• Training in proper knifework will assist you to a degree in preparing you to defend against knife attack. At the very least it will ground you realistically in appreciating how a knife may be used against you, and what a knife’s capabilities are. (These last items normally being completely disregarded and not understood by the majority of “martial arts” and “self-defense” instructors).

If we have succeeded in establishing that ——— a) A knife is a legitimate and acceptable (as well as rather excellent) weapon of hand-to-hand self-defense,  b) A knife is a completely “decent”  and desirable weapon for private citizen self-defense, and its being regarded as a bad guy’s weapon is mere cultural bullshit,  and   c) The knife is one of the best modern weapons of close combat and thus should be on the “high priority” list of weapons to master for the 21st century student of combat arts, then we’re satisfied!


Saturday, April 4th, 2015

Weight Training: The Essential Supplementary Exercise For The Student Of Close Combat And Self-Defense

THE most often seen supplementary physical training for combat arts is stretching and flexibility conditioning, with a few calisthenic strength-builders thrown in; all conducted at the start of a class. Certainly this type of training — unless done to extremes, as it often is in taekwondo and some “kung fu” schools — safely limbers the trainee up for the immediate class. However, it does not provide the type of physical training most relevant for hand-to-hand combat. Despite the mythology, you need strength. But you also need more than strength, and weight training that is properly done provides what you need. The only thing that weight training does not provide is natural weapon conditioning; and that is the second most crucial (yet often completely neglected) supplementary physical training for combatives devotees.

But right now we wish to focus on weight training. If you were not aware of its benefits, and why we insist that its practice is essential. please consider the following:

1. First and foremost weight training develops strength. Strength can be built to a degree with calisthenics, but there is no comparison to not only the greater effiiciency with which systematic weight training will accomplish the goal, but also how much more strength can be developed with weights.

While there remain a hardcore minority of instructors who insist that “strength isn’t necessary” in order to defeat an adversary in combat, most understand that whil not necessarily being the deciding factor in a violent emergency, strength is undeniably a factor . . . and most especially students of self-defense and close combat studies need all of the strength that they can acquire —— in addition to their skill.

Possessing both a high level of strength and a high level of skill is a most desirable combination when you find yourself in any serious confrontation.

2. Weight training greatly contributes to the development of self-confidence.

As you can clearly see and objectively measure your growing strength through regular training, your self-confidence will inevitably receive a boost. “I am twice as strong now than I was last year!” is a revelation that is sure to bolster any combat trainee’s confidence . . . and such is commonplace for those who take up weight training and proceed to workout regularly and correctly.

3. Weight training improves and increases your ability to withstand punishment. A strong person with well-developed muscles is harder to injure than someone of average physical development.

Naturally weight training will not assist in resisting blows to the neck or throat, kicks to the knees or shins or testicles, or attacks to the eyes. However, weight training with certainly make a person indifferent to wrist, arm, and shoulder grabs, to clumsily thrown punches or kicks that land, and to all of the common, unskilled inflictions of injury that are attempted by most troublemakers in most amateurishly mounted attacks.

4. Sensible weight training keeps you healthy —— inside and out.

5. Weight training keeps you flexible and agile.

Some people might be surprised to hear this, but is absolutely true. And whereas flexibility training per se can often prove downright harmful, weight training exercises are never harmful when correctly performed.

Working the basic exercises from full extension to full contraction achieves healthfully correct flexibility development. You will not strain or sprain joints, ligaments, or tendons —— ever —— when doing the basic exercises through full range, strict motion with weight resistance that you can correctly handle.

6. While weight training cannot prevent aging it can certainly delay the agin process and keep you in “combat condition” throughout life.

7. The greatly improved posture, bearing, walk, and poise that you will enjoy after getting fully underway in a regular weight training routine will decrease the likelihood of you ever being targetted for a physical attack in the first place.

Tips For Getting The Best Results From Weight Training

• Work your enire body at every session. So-called “split” training is not as beneficial as total body workouts.

• Never, ever touch steroid drugs or fall for outrageous dietary supplements or meal plans.

• Forget about becoming “super strong” or achieving a “magazine cover build”. People in those categories of development had the hereditary advantages  necessary to get there. Not everyne can be a lifting or physique “champion” —— and you don’t need to be in order to benefit to the limit from weight training.

• Strength, fitness, and condition do not substitute for technical mastery. You need to practice your skills relentlessly. Such development as you enjoy fom your training will bolster your capability  with combat skills, but never replace the need for such skills.

• There are no “martial arts weight training programs”. Develop your self-defense and combat abilities; supplement them with good, basic, all round weight training.

• Train three times weekly on alternate days if you train in combat skills three times a week. If you train four times a week in combat skills do weight training twice weekly —— on spaced days.

The competitor, the classicist and the combat trainee will all derive enormous benefits from a properly planned, systematic routine of progressive resistance exercise using simple, proven weight training equipment. However, for the self-defense/hand-to-hand combat devotee the advantages that he derives may well be a matter of living or dying in an emergency.

We hope that we have adequately emphasized the intended message of this article:  i.e. TRAIN WITH WEIGHTS!


Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

                    But Can It Be Done For Real?

              (Use The Applegate Test To Find Out)

THERE are numerous schools and theories of unarmed and close combat. With the exception of those that teach obvious nonsense (i.e. no contact self-defense, etc.) most schools are worthwhile and quite authentic. None may reasonably be criticized outside the context in which they are intended. That is, it is absurd to criticize a competitive sport because it does not properly treat the requirements of self-defense and hand-to-hand fighting; and it is equally absurd to criticize a system of self-defense and close combat because it does not advocate competition methods and winning in sport. If a system is a classical/traditional one, then it makes no sense to criticize its adherence to archaic weapons, modes of dress, or skills and practice methods. Thus, anyone insisting that devotees omit the classical kata that is a part of their classical training are out of line —— as are those who suggest that classical kata has a place in any school of modern combatives.

Our only and exclusive focus is on modern combatives —— i.e. practical self-defense and effective methods of armed and unarmed close combat for the military and for others who require this training.

Speaking only about skills, tactics, weapons, and techniques of self-defense and close combat, we urge all who train —— whether in our System or in another —— to use as one aspect of validating anything that they are either now practicing or are considering practicing, the brilliant acid test presented in his first edition of his classic, KILL OR GET KILLED. The late Col. Rex Applegate wrote:

“Will this work so that I can use it instinctively in vital combat against an opponent who is determined to prevent me from doing so, and who is striving to eliminate me by fair means or foul?”

Think about that. Let its implications sink in. Use it when

analyzing techniques of individual combat. Esthetically satisfying, beautiful and challenging, awesome to observe, a feat of athletic accomplishment, a technique that is “traditional”, a winning technique in contests, “the technique” that enabled this or that champion to defeat so-and-so in an important match, etc. NONE of these things has even the slightest bearing on the question posed by Applegate’s irrefutably valid standard.

In developing our System of American Combato (Jen•Do•Tao) we applied Applegate’s standard to everything and to all that we included in our curriculum. To the WWII methods and systems that we studied and scrutinized and to the systems of taekwon-do, ju-jutsu, kenpo-karate, varmannie, boxing, and so on, from which we culled those classical skills that are of value and are practical for our purpose.

Both Mark Bryans (our top Black Belt and teacher of American Combato) and ourself have had numerous students utilize that which we teach, over the last few decades. IT WORKS. It work because it has met the Applegate Test Standard, and we do not for a second hesitate to say so.

We know that anyone who understands and utilizes the realism to be found in Applegate’s Standard will benefit enormously and immediately if his objective is self-defense and/or close combat.

For real world success and valid training you need:—

• Techniques that can be learned quickly, retained easily, and applied regardless of whether you’re in hard training and top shape or not

• Techniques that inflict serious injury

• Techniques that can be relied upon to stop a physically superior adversary who is determined to maim or to kill you

• Techniques that give you a good chance of surviving an armed attack, multiple attackers, and attacks from behind

• Techniques that are adaptable and doable under unfavorable terrain conditions, and in numerous contexts. (I.e. you do not want a method that has many hundreds of self-defense techniques. You want a system that has ADAPTABLE and MULTI-APPLICATION self-defense techniques. We call them “counterattacks”, and for every one that you acquire you should be able to multiply your practical readiness many times).

• Techniques that do not require fine motor articulations —— but that depend upon gross body movements (i.e. the only ones you can use reliably in a high stress, dangerous emergency)

Look at what is taught. Look at a technique and ask yourself:

“Can I do this in a business suit and tie?” / “Can I do this in a cramped office, parking garage, restaurant, hallway or elevator?” / “Can I do this in formal battle dress?” if you are a soldier or marine. / “Can I use this against more than one attacker?” / “Is this compatible with the use of my personal weapons?” / “Will this work on a debris-strewn sidewalk, or anywhere else that may have obstacles, glass, rocks, parked vehicles, etc. present?” / “Will this work against an attacker who is under the influence of drugs, who is drunk, who is insane —— or who possibly is operating on two or all of these influences?”

Possibly you will come up with some more contexts —— environmental or otherwise —— that can be used to good effect in assessing a techniques merit.

Always ask: “Will this work under the worst conditions, and work reliably in real combat?”

Remember that nothing, no matter how excellent, is perfect. And there can be no “guarantees” when it comes to anything so unpredictable, chaotic, and dangerously risky as individual combat. Nevertheless, there are war-proven skills whose track record sets them apart and makes them the way to go when determining what to train in and to use if your life or the lives of those you love is ever at stake. And discovering what those techniques and skills are by using a very simple, understandable test.

Be real.


Monday, December 29th, 2014

                       There’s No Defense Against



THE reason why many people come to the study of self-defense is because they are afraid of being attacked; perhaps they’ve already been attacked —— bullied, pushed around, mugged, beaten in a fight, or whatever. They feel angry, humiliated, determined not to let it ever happen again. The simple truth is: They want to be tough, strong, confident, and able to handle whatever violence may come their way.

Good teachers of close combat and defense understand this. They help new students to appreciate the undesirability of violence, while preparing them — realistically — to deal with any violent crisis that cannot be avoided.  Poor teachers of close combat and defense cash in on the opportunity that it provides. They assure new students that what they will be taught will make them invincible; that after training in their methods they will be fearless. Exactly what almost all prospective students of martial arts want to hear.

But hearing what you “want” to hear is not important. Hearing that which you need to hear is.

There is no school, system, or teacher who is selling invincibility. Regardless of the ads he posts, flashy demonstrations he presents, or “guarantees” that he offers. Combat is risky and dangerous for anyone —— novice, expert, or random individual who has no idea of individual battle skills. The expert certainly has the odds stacked in his favor. But luck cannot be discounted, and even in the case of the expert, there is no defense against everything

In the course of training in quality skills, acquiring the proper combat mindset, and developing good tactical habits, a serious student of combat reduces the chances that a physical assailant will be able to successfully victimize him. But he can never eliminate the chance, entirely. This, we insist, is something that it behooves every honest teacher to pound into the heads of his students. By doing so, the students develop two things that go a long way toward securing their safety and well being, and their ability to defend themselves in the real world:

1. A serious, healthy fear of violence. This encourages them to

be ready to go all-out and give 100% in any situation,

without foolishly assuming that with their training, they need

not fear anything;

2. A continual cautionary alertness and wariness, coupled with a

determination to avoid trouble whenever possible.

False confidence can get a person killed in a dangerous situation no less readily than can freezing up in a state of paralytic panic. Realistic confidence is what the self-defense student should be encouraged to achieve, as his abilities grow in direct proportion to his determined commitment to hard training in reliable skills. “Realistic confidence” means: Self-confidence based upon one’s knowledge that one possesses reliable and proven abilities to handle himself if he must, and that, while not having any certainty of victory, his attitude and physical ability will likely seem him through to survival and victory in an unavoidable emergency.

The properly trained student of combat arts neither under- nor over- estimates himself or his adversary. He appreciates that no matter how long or hard he trains —— and no matter what methods he trains in —— he will never be a superman; just a well-trained combatant who stands a better than good chance of defeating anyone who attacks him.

It gets no better than that. And if you fall for the idea that there is some “perfect” method of defending yourself that makes any attacker helpless, you are simply being duped into believing nonsense.

Three categories of physical attack present a deadly challenge to anyone; “even an expert”:

• Attacks by multiple assailants

• Armed attacks

• Attacks from behind

Not that defending yourself against these types of attack is impossible. It is very possible, and with good technical training and the right attitude you stand a great chance of successfully doing so in most instances. But there is always that possibility that your attacker(s) will catch you with an effective action, that you will be caught so unawares that you simply won’t react in time, or that your situation and circumstance at the time of the attack will rob you of your ability to do what you learned to do (i.e. you could be very ill at the time of the attack, or suffering from a debilitating injury, etc.).

We say all of this not to discourage you but to orient you to the facts of reality regarding personal defense. There are no superhuman or magical possibilities in martial arts training.

We remember one seminar we gave a very long time ago. At its conclusion during the question and answer session one participant asked: “What can you do if someone comes up behind you and stabs you with a knife?” “Die, I suppose,” was our answer. The woman who asked that question was not joking; she actually had some absurd notion that training in martial skills would provide answers to how to cope with anything and everything that could conceivably occur in any possible attack situation! No so.(Incidentally, the seminar was a couple of hours in length, and constituted the only training that the woman was to receive. She did not enroll for ongoing instruction!).

Quality self-defense training is effective. But it is not magic. You need to train hard and seriously; and you must acquire a realistic appreciation of what real violence entails.

Violent offenders, bullies, troublemakers, and self-styled “toughguys” are usually not skilled or prepared to deal with determined defenders who are. But violent types must never be underestimated. The mere fact that they are violent and willing to injure others for no just reason makes them dangerous. Unskilled, unsophisticated violent punks and related trash cause awful harm to innocent people all of the time. Many victims are killed by these “unskilled” scum. So by no means should you be tempted to dismiss their potential formidability. Once you accept the potential threat that they pose you automatically become more situationally aware, and more prepared to draw upon your full resources should you ever need to defend yourself. And that will give your a further edge, and go a long way toward increasing the likelihood of your success in taking action.

Be a realist. All good, genuinely qualified close combat and self-defense experts are.

The realization that there are no defenses against everything will increase the chances that you won’t be caught off-guard by an assailant. And that alone decreases your odds of being attacked in a manner that offers no possibility of defense.

Think about these things, please.


Eyes, Ears, Nose, And Throat

Saturday, November 1st, 2014


NO, we are not referring to a medical specialty. We are zeroing in on a very important selection of targets from amongst the fifteen or so that you ought to be seriously concerned with attacking in any dangerous emergency. A vicious, powerful attack using the element of surprise, your best natural weapons, and immediate followup will almost certainly assure your victory in an encounter.

We emphasize followup as we do because the circumstance of an actual situation might prevent you from launching a “perfect” —— full power, absolutely accurate —— attack to what theoretically should be a one-hit stop (under ideal conditions), but which will often fall short of its potential capability.

You can count upon attacks to any of those four targets, even if delivered with less than full power, being disorienting to the recipient. And this opens up the opportunity for followup using optimum force in continued attack with whatever weapons and targets suggest themselves.


Attack the eyes with the extended four fingers of either hand. Thrust, using as much force as possible. Do not telegraph! Just shoot your hand forward into the adversary’s eyes, striving when you do so to drive your fingers through the back of his head. Or, you may employ the Fairbairn method of fingertips jabbing in which the fingers are braced,  forming the hand into a kind of “cobra’s head” position, and whipped in an arc into the opponent’s eyes and nose bridge.

The tiger’s claw thrust is also a good way to attack the eyes. A modified version of the tiger’s claw may be used by raising the elbow of your chin-jabbing hand after contact, and planting your fingers in a claw-like action in his eyes.

We do not recommend attempting to thrust one finger into an eye as this requires what may be under combat conditions too fine a motor move. If gouging the eyes with the thumbs —— very close in —— then each thumb may individually rip into each eye; but this is only when you are very close in.

Thumb gouging is an excellent technique.

Additionally, it is extremely effective to jab with any item-in-hand (umbrella, end of walking stick, tree branch, mini flashlight, pen, etc.) into an enemy’s eyes. Throwing sunglasses, sand, dirt, coins, handkerchief, cup of coffee, hat, etc. into the opponent’s eyes and then following up with a side kick to his knee or a front kick to his testicles is a great tactic.

Go after your attacker’s eyes!


The ears are incredibly vulnerable. They may be boxed with cupped hands from the front or from behind the adversary. One hand may be used effectively to box an ear —— and with follow through the boxing hand is then cocked for a return-action handaxe chop to the temple or neck.

By using a “bow and arrow” type action after seizing both of an adversary’s ears, at least one ear may be ripped off his head. Seizing both ears you can butt the opponent’s face, knee his testicles, or yank his head to waist level and knee him in the face.

The ear can be an entry point for a knife stab.

Grabbing one ear and then powerfully chin-jabbing an adversary will likely rip the ear off.

Bite! You may simply bite off a large part or the whole of an ear.

The ear is is vulnerable to a hard smack using the open hand, or to a blow with a stick.


A handaxe chop across the bridge of the nose or directly up and under the nose (into the philtrum) is perhaps the most destructive way to attack the nose.

Any straight on blow to an opponent’s nose (elbow, fist, heel of hand, head butt, hammerfist) will invariably disorient him, and may stop him. It will always result in sufficient disorientation so that followup of a much more devastating kind can be administered.

An upward heel-of-the-hand blow (i.e. chinjab) into the base of the nose is very effective. (This blow cannot “drive the nose bones into the brain”. That myth is still spread in some backward quarters).

Ripping and clawing the nostrils or driving a finger (or something sharp) deep into a nostril can be effective in close-in combat.

A hammerfist smash down on the bridge of the nose is a terrific blow.


Not only the throat per se, but the entire neck area —— both sides, throat area (from base to underside of jaw), and nape of neck —— is a very vulnerable section of the body. In a serious, life-threatening emergency attack the windpipe and attack it with all of the force you can muster.

Handaxe chops to the throat, sides of neck, or nape of neck are effective. Hammerfist blows to the nape of neck are also effective, as are forearm smashes, and in some instances downward elbow blows.

But the throat per se is —— for vital combat —— the real key target to go for.

Using the fingers in a tong-like manner to encircle and lock the  windpipe (as high up under the jaw as possible, avoiding the powerful neck muscles) is a great technique.

If you extend your fingers and press them together you can use a fingertips thrust to the throat with good effect. Even better is a half-fist thrust driving the second knuckles into the windpipe or larynx.

Like the eyes the throat is very vulnerable to a sharp thrust with any object, and/or to a blow with a club or stick. Stabbing into or slashing the throat with a knife is always effective.

Eyes, ears, nose, and throat. Four outstanding targets to zero in on and destroy in any deadly emergency when you must fight to save your or another’s life.


But if or when an unavoidable situation arises when you must take desperate action or be maimed or killed, use these skills with every measure of strength, rage, speed, determination, fury, and resolve that you possess. And keep on attacking!

With any luck at all, you should prevail.


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Saturday, September 27th, 2014

 Some Thoughts (For Those Who Think)           About  Practical Self-Defense


MUCH is continually being said regarding which approach to self-defense is really the most effective and practical. Is the grappler’s method the most effective, or is the hitter’s? Or is a more eclectic approach, like MMA, the way to go for optimum practicality and effectiveness?

It will likely come as a surprise to those in their teens and 20’s to learn that this “debate” is really a very old one. It did not begin with the advent of the UFC, or with MMA. In the 1950’s and 60’s there was endless squabbling amongst those who were beginning to learn about judo, ju-jutsu, and karate. First, the howling amongst enthusiasts was in regard to whether the grappling art of wrestling was superior to the art of judo/ju-jutsu, and if the hitting art of karate was superior to Western boxing. Actual contests —— and even fights —— between exponents of the different disciplines proved nothing. Some wrestlers beat some judo/ju-jutsu men, and vice versa. Some boxers defeated karate exponents (we actually saw this happen in each of the scheduled matches between boxers and karate men, in NY’s Madison Square Garden, back in the 1960’s). Then again, on another occasion judo master Gene LeBell beat a boxer. And so on it went.

Then the question arose: “Well, what would happen if you matched wrestlers with boxers?” We recall that one university in the U.S. conducted just such match events (we believe that there was a total of ten). Only one boxer won; all of the remaining victories went to the wrestlers (and the boxer who won was also a wrestler).

Today we have so-called “anything goes” events —— or mixed martial arts (MMA). The “anything goes” is inundated with plenty of rules, restrictions, and regulations, and really amounts more to contests where “anything that is allowed goes”, which doesn’t seem in any way to bother enthusiasts or to detract from MMA’s and UFC’s popularity.

The overwhelming tendency has recently been to insist that the MMA and the UFC have demonstrated, by actual fighting between exponents of different “martial arts” that the MMA/UFC approach is The Most Practical and Effective for self-defense and hand-to-hand close combat.

It must be constantly kept in mind, when thinking about this subject that the assumption of “proven superiority for actual individual combat” in regard to the MMA/UFC approach has been made on the basis of sporting contests; sporting contests that abide by very strict rules and regulations, occur in a specified, sanitized environment, at an agreed upon time, and that involve young, strong, tough men who are generally in hard training and in peak condition for the matches which they compete in.

Does this mean that MMA/UFC people can’t defend themselves? Of course it doesn’t mean that! Like boxers, wrestlers, competitive karate people, judo men, football players, kick boxers, etc. —— in-condition, young, actively training and participating MMA/UFC men can defend themselves quite impressively and well in many instances. But this is no proof that their activity is the best way for private citizens, soldiers, and others who are not competitors, but who must prepare to deal with enemies in critical emergencies in the street or in their homes, or in their places of business, and/or in war, are well advised to take up training of the MMA/UFC kind —— i.e.  training that uses a SPORTING venue for both learning and practice of the art, as well as for application of the skills —— in order to be prepared to defend themselves or to engage in close combat.

Self-defense is not a “match” or a sporting “contest” between two persons who are mutually agreed to exchange their skills in a fair test of competence, on a mat or in a cleared area; and to do so at an appointed time, with a referee present to see that both entrants obey the rules. No surprise attacks from behind may occur, no launching a sudden attack before the opponent is ready may be permitted, no weapons allowed, no assistance from second, third, or forth cohorts to one of the entrants in order to secure his victory over the other fellow.

In a self-defense situation one may be drastically “outgunned” so to speak. That is, one may be attacked by a larger, stronger, more vicious, and more experienced individual than oneself. One may be out of training at the time of an attack, just recovering (or presently suffering from) an illness or injury. One may be with a loved one whom one must protect, one may be in a most hazardous environment, etc. And one may be considerably older than the attacker(s) —— in fact at an age where virtually no one “competes” any more, or wishes to do so, or would be allowed to do so. Yet, despite all of this, one must undertake to the best of one’s ability to defend oneself. One now will be in a desperate do or die emergency predicament, and that which one will require —— tactically, technically, and physically —— will be a lot different from that which one might employ in a sport.

Dishonest persons have suggested, and we suspect will continue to suggest, that we are “against” competition, sport, ground fighting, sparring, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have akways made our position clear. If that is what one enjoys we agree that that is what one should participate in. However, we are adamant regarding the fact that combat and sport are different, and that one cannot prepare for one by training in that which is intended for use in the other.

That which wins in contests —— any contests —— is irrelevant when considering that which should be relied upon in serious combat. And that leads to the question: “What should be taught, practiced, and relied upon for serious defense and close combat?”

The answer is: “That which does the most serious damage quickly and simply, may be done by anyone of any age, that is useful against actual, known types of attack, and that which enables a targeted victim in imminent danger to preempt his would-be assailant decisively.”

None of the true martial arts, prior to whatever “sporting forms” of them may have later been created or adopted, were intended for use against other practitioners of those same arts. The arts were intended to secure victory on the battlefield or to enable their users to defend themselves against attack. Aims such as these are as different from the aims of contest and sport as genuine rapiers and sabers differ from the versions of them that are manufactured for modern fencing.

When you train hard and long in any physical skill you all but guarantee that, under stress, the actions that you have drilled into yourself will either be executed immediately or that you will try to execute those actions. So, for example, a judo/ju-jutsu man may actually attempt to close with and turn his back on a real attacker —— perhaps one armed with a knife —— in order to throw him. The odds of this working in real combat are very slim —— and then, only for an expert.

A participant in a form of ground-grappling ju-jutsu or wrestling who is in hard training and competition will actually try to “go to the ground, and to take his adversary there”, in a serious situation. And, whether anyone likes to hear this or not, believes it or not, accepts it or not, one of the primary rules of close combat is “Always Strive To Stay On Your Feet!”. To actually try to go to the ground with an opponent is, in real combat or self-defense not recommended! (Some ask: “Well, what do you do if you somehow end up on the ground with an attacker? Don’t you need to know what to do?” The answer is: “A-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y! but such skills as you should acquire for such a rare and unlikely event are not the ones you employ in contests!”).

Remember that in self-defense you will be concerned with protecting yourself and/or another person, reacting to another’s attack —— not “squaring off” —— and you must have no blocks, reservations, restraining impulses or inclinations against doing whatever you are able to do in order to stop your attacker! You will need to act very quickly and you will need to inflict serious injury right away so that, no matter what the attacker’s intention (which you must assume is deadly) you have destroyed his ability to carry it out and you have successfully defended innocent life and limb.

Self-defense training, as opposed to all combat sports, is a lifetime pursuit and the skills and mental set that you acquire may be needed in your 70’s or 80’s. Self-defense is no “young man’s game” . . . nor in fact is it a “game” at all. It is a lifetime survival skill.

Competitive activities are great fun for many people, and provide mental and physical benefits not to be under rated. If that’s your cup of tea, go for it. But do recognize the facts.

It is perfectly fine and interesting for two sportsmen to test whatever their particular competitive sport may be, against another participant in another sport. However, to paraphrase how one of the most under-appreciated teachers of self-defense of all time, the late Bruce Tegnér, so beautifully put it: The only thing that would be proven if two experts in two different combat arts fought in order to prove that “his” art was superior for real combat than the other guy’s is that the two men were FOOLS. The acid test of the effectiveness of combat skills is how well they work against an attacker or an enemy in combat; not how they work when modified for contest, and one contestant “defeats” the other.

Unpopular concepts in this little essay, we suppose. But obviously true and most definitely to be taken with 100% seriousness for all who aspire to be able to defend themselves.


Monday, September 8th, 2014

The So-Called “Weaver” Stance Predates The “New”    Technique

 ANYONE wanting to learn combat handgun shooting need only acquire a copy of Rex Applegate’s WWII Classic Kill or Get Killed. It contains the most complete, fully illustrated description of all aspects of the mechanics of the method. Fairbairn’s Shooting to Live is the seminal work on combat handgun shooting, but as a complete learning text there is nothing that compares with Applegate’s treatment of the subject.

Rex Applegate was Fairbairn’s student. Fairbairn was British, and the father of practical handgun shooting. During WWII he was seconded to the American OSS as a close combat instructor. Fairbairn trained the British Commandos, the agents of the SOE, and secret intelligence operatives of MI6, as well as FBI agents. He had also trained U.S. marines who were stationed in China. After learning Fairbairn’s unarmed and armed doctrine (which had its beginnings in Shanghai during the early 1900’s, where it proved itself incredibly effective by the Shanghai Municipal Police), Applegate expanded upon the subject and became Fairbairn’s opposite number in the United States. Fairbairn’s wartime hand-to-hand system was radically different from his formerly-taught Defendu, but his handgun method —— already proven hands down to be supremely practical and effective —— was imparted to the allied forces when WWII broke out.

While the core and key to combat handgun shooting is point shooting, this does not exhaust the teachings of those prominent advocates of point shooting during the second world war. Despite the erroneous nonsense so often advocated and widely believed by the True Believers in the “new technique”, Fairbairn, Applegate —— and all of us, today who continue to teach the method, ALSO teach and advocate the use of deliberate, use-of-the-sights firing and, if it suits the shooter when time, distance, and light permit this option, the employment of two-handed gripping and sighted aiming of the weapon. Not only is this true, it is verifiable that the type of grip espoused latterly by Jeff Cooper and his friends as being the one “invented” by Jack Weaver when he appears to have replicated that two-hand grip and stance first described, pictured, and advocated by Fitzgerald in his Classic, Shooting, was known, taught, and provided as an option when two-hand shooting was feasible, by the WWII combat masters.

You need only obtain a copy of Fitzgerald’s book Shooting and in it you will see a big photograph of what many today refer to as the “Weaver stance”.

But specifically —— to prove that the two-hand shooting grip integral to the so-called “Weaver”(Fitzgerald?) stance” was obviously taught by Rex Applegate during the second world war —— look at the illustration on Page 145 in the 1976 Paladin Press reprint of this Classic.  Look carefully at the two-hand grip examples. There are three of them. Check the one on the bottom. That is identical with the two-hand grip which (we believe) Sheriff Jack Weaver rediscovered during the shooting contests at Big Bear Lake in the 1950’s. (Note: We certainly do not mean to imply that Jack Weaver “copied” this shooting position, and knowingly allowed Cooper to recast it as some sort of “new” thing. No, he probably just hit upon it in trying to find ways to win contests in which distances permitted or necessitated use of the handgun’s sights. Nor, to be as fair as possible, do we wish to suggest that Cooper was aware of the fact that this “new” shooting position had already been long established in the preceding decade, by then Capt. Rex Applegate, who actually taught it as an option for the shooters that he trained (and he trained 10,000) when those rare instances occurred during which the handgun’s sights and deliberate two-hand gripping-and-aiming were feasible.

Ninety-seven to ninety-eight percent of deadly encounters where a handgun is used occur at distances between combatants not exceeding about 20 feet! At least 50% occur within a range of FIVE feet. But the fathers of point shooting (and their “offspring”, like ourself,  who are carrying it into the 21st century) have not neglected to prepare individuals for distance work, where time and light allow for using the handgun’s sights. This is clearly unusual, uncommon, rare, and —— frankly —— unlikely. Still, that two to three percent of the time the shooter needs to have a method available to him that will not fail. That method was fully developed, wrung out, proven in war, and taught long before any competition technique-masquerading-as-a-combat technique, came along.

Don’t spend close to or more than $2,000. to learn how to use a handgun in combat. We teach it inside of four or five lessons. And if you can read you can have the whole system for the price of a copy of Kill or Get Killed.

Note: During WWII the material now available as an open source in Kill or Get Killed was presented in a then classified Document by Applegate, titled Handgun Offense. What Kill or Get Killed presents is an expanded version of that Document —— along with solid gold regarding knife fighting, use of the stick, and unarmed combat, as well as half a dozen other subjects!


Monday, September 1st, 2014


                     That’s What Guns Are For!

While not every grandmother can tote around a shooting iron quite so large as the one this wonderful lady is holding, she's surely an inspiration to seniors everywhere to obtain and carry what is most suitable to themselves!

While not every grandmother can tote around a shooting iron quite so large as the one this wonderful lady is holding, she’s surely an inspiration to seniors everywhere to obtain and carry what is most suitable to themselves!


WE note with rage and disgust that violent “knock out” and robbery attacks against the elderly have increased in frequency throughout urban America. We really could not imagine any punishment (including dismemberment or drawing and quartering) that would be sufficiently adequate for these scum who dare to lay hands upon more fragile, less powerful, and normally terrified persons who are their seniors . . . but alas, this breed of unconscionable living garbage exists and seems to flourish today. Would that they would all be exterminated.

Unarmed self-defense can be, and sometimes is, a great means of self-defense for seniors. There are numerous instances when, happily, crawling garbage that attempted to target a senior got its filthy head smashed in, or —— better yet —— was shot.

And that’s a critical point.

Every able-bodied senior should certainly avail him or herself of basic training in effective unarmed self-defense. However, two points need to be emphasized:

1. Unarmed self-defense may not always be adequate for a person who is on in years and who must contend with some overgrown lump of sewer excrement in its late teens or early 20’s (or older) who is in essence an agile, strong, conditioned gutter animal —— used to running from police, jumping fences, and getting into fights with its foul, stinking contemporaries.

2. Many seniors simply can’t acquire adequate capability with weaponless combat because of poor physical health or disability.

That’s what guns are for!

Aside from the fact that any scumbag who undertakes to brutalize an elderly person deserves to be shot, shooting such filth down is easier, safer, and much more intimidating to that class of muck and scum that considers seniors fair game than striking out with hands and feet. One blow or countering action might send a piece of street s—t running. The appearance of a gun in the hand of its intended victim almost surely will send the sewer rat scurrying (making shooting unnecessary). And in the case where sewer ratS confront the victim, shooting one of them is likely to be quite sufficient to convince the remaining bipedal manure that it has made a poor target selection that day, and send them running back to their hovels.

Some seniors might think that being able to handle a sidearm well is a complicated procedure and is dangerous. Well, it is dangerous —— to the living pestilence they may need to shoot. But learning real (not competition) handgun shooting is easy and simple; and the skill is readily retainable. Every elderly citizen should consider learning firearm handling and safety (very easy to learn), and then purchasing a quality firearm and making that weapon a constant companion. (Laws vary, and in some locations it is all but impossible to obtain a handgun and concealed weapon permit. Frankly, we’d recommend moving to a safer place. You can be certain that where firearms are readily available to private citizens, attacks against them are very few and far between. Always obey the law, and if you do happen to live in some benighted place where you have to go through numerous hoops and pay outrageous fees in order to exercise your right to keep and bear arms, go through the hassle, if necessary with the help of a good attorney. It is that important).

One would not choose to live where there is a much higher risk to his life, and to the lives of his loved ones, from much rarer forms of deadly danger than brutal physical attacks. So, our personal advice if push comes to shove is: Get thee and thine to a saner, safer, more reasonable city where owning and keeping that which could easily mean the difference between living and dying for you is easy and allowable. Live out your full measure of years in safety, with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that, even when you are 80, you possess the means of dropping a 20 year old, 230 pound predator who practices MMA in his damn tracks, should he attempt to endanger your life.

Our philosophy of self-defense —— just like our System, American Combato —— is comprehensive, complete, and realistic. We espouse armed and unarmed defense, just as we espouse security practices and personal protection principles that involve good tactics and strategies and technology, often making the use of any force unnecessary (which we always hope, strive, pray, and train for). However, when there is no option but to act decisively and violently —— or be maimed or killed —— we advocate the finest means possible to do just that, with NO APOLOGIES.

Our students are trained to use and to do what works most effectively to save innocent life. And often, in the case of those who are on in years, what ought to be used, and what works best, is a weapon. There are many that we teach, but the powerful, well-made, well-mastered semiautomatic pistol or revolver is the ultimate tool of personal defense. All decent persons who can do so legally should avail themselves of this self-defense option. After all, that’s what guns are for.


Thursday, August 21st, 2014

                     Luck: It Is A Factor

SOME years ago when we had a monthly column in a mainstream gun magazine we devoted one month’s article to the matter of luck. We were concerned to emphasize that, unfortunately, plain luck —— good or bad —— sometimes determines who wins and who loses in combat. We were frankly shocked at the reception our article received. Numerous law enforcement and military men (not “gun enthusiasts” or “avid gun magazine readers”, or other Walter Mittys) wrote us and thanked us for stressing something that they told us they knew from their experience was 100% true, and that, according to what they told us, had never once been mentioned to them in training.

Well, we are now mentioning it to you. And we sincerely hope that in so doing we achieve two main objectives:

1. To make you accept and feel the reality that combat (armed or unarmed) is pretty much a dangerous risk for anyone —— noncombatant or expert —— and although good training (GOOD training; not acrobatic, classical, or competition stuff) will certainly reduce the risk somewhat, there is no way that any training can eliminate it. When you enter into a physical battle with or without weapons there is always the possibility that you will be maimed or killed. A-l-w-a-y-s. And do not let the commercial bullshit that you hear or read (or want to believe) get you to forget or to deny this.

2. To jolt you into a “reality consciousness” regarding close combat and self-defense so that, regardless of what you are training in and no matter what your level of skill and ability, you retain a sense of desperation and fearful reluctance to become involved in any violence. This will automatically cause you —— if you have been properly trained in techniques and mindset —— to explode and attack like a wounded tiger in any unavoidable emergency.

Overconfidence and false confidence are related, but they are not synonymous. Anyone who trains seriously in American Combato may be fully confident that he is learning and developing legitimate, proven, reliable close combat and self-defense skills. However . . . this justifiable confidence in the quality and authenticity of our System must never be allowed to spiral out of control into some idiotic sense of “invincibility” or “unbeatability”. That is overconfidence; because no one in history or on earth — ever —— is or has been unbeatable. (Those who have never been beaten were lucky. They were fortunate never to have been involved in an encounter with anyone who had been able to defeat them. But how many encounters could one possibly have in a single lifetime? Ten? Twenty? A hundred? A thousand? So what? The world is full of many millions of tough, strong, dangerous, vicious, experience, merciless, conscienceless psychopathic killers, tough guys, troublemakers, street brawlers, bar fighters, outlaw biker gang members, etc. etc. Additionally, it is quite possible that if in any given situation in which someone who had “never been beaten in his lifetime” had been unlucky, he might have lost to the person whom he had defeated.) False confidence occurs when an individual has confidence in something that will almost certainly not work, or not be anywhere near as effective as it ought to be. People who rely upon pepper spray, control holds, “non-injurious self-defense”, believing that “not fighting back” is a good strategy”, etc. Having confidence in these and other mythological ways in which to defend yourself insures that you will have false confidence.

Luck is not only unpredictable, it is also a double-edged phenomenon. This rabbit's foot may be lucky for you; but it wasn't very lucky ofr the rabbit!

Luck is not only unpredictable, it is also a double-edged phenomenon. This rabbit’s foot may be lucky for you; but it wasn’t very lucky for the rabbit!

Sensible people rightly admire members of such outstanding organizations as the U.S., British, French, German, Italian, Special Forces. They also appreciate the high level of skill that is possessed by members of the clandestine (or “field service” in England) branches of the West’s intelligence services. Yet, members of these elite and highly trained, genuinely tough and competent organizations do get killed, on occasion. Their training was the best. They were the best; but lady luck did not permit them to prevail, and —— sadly —— their lives were taken.

It is sometimes possible to predict with some degree of accuracy who will win in a contest or sporting match. These events involve such things as rules, referees, time keepers, and a clearly understood, well-established set of actions which each contestant will employ in a test of his ability with those actions against another who agrees to employ similar actions. That is S-P-O-R-T. It is unrelated to combat, and it is carefully controlled. Then how much more difficult can you imagine it is to be able to predict who will prevail in a completely chaotic, anything-goes, desperate encounter? The truth is you can never be sure. Luck plays some part in any contest. But in combat it just may well be the determining factor!

Someone once said: “I’d rather be lucky than skilled” when speaking of hand-to-hand combat and participation in it for real. Smart fellow!

Of course what we would hope and pray for is that we possess more than sufficient skill in any emergency, and that luck is smiling upon us when we use it!

This is true: When you cultivate the right mindset and when you train hard in quality combat techniques, while keeping yourself in good physical condition, you tend to improve your chance of being lucky. Yet . . . the question always remains: “Will you in fact be lucky —— i.e. luck out —— when the critical moment comes and you must destroy an enemy?”

Since you can never be certain of how luck will affect you in any emergency, work incessantly on what you have control over: your mental set and your physical capability. By doing that, and by maintaining a healthy, respectful disdain for physical violence of any kind, you very well may find that luck will favor you —— either in a crisis, or by helping to keep you out of any!


Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

            House Clearing —— Don’t Do It

PEOPLE are amazing. Tell them a truth that they don’t like to hear and they look at you as though you don’t know what you’re talking about. Tell them a bunch of bullshit that vibrates affirmatively within their skulls and they smile and follow what you say while throwing money at you.

A number of “shooting schools” teach something that ought never be taught to private citizens who are training to use a handgun in self and family defense. It’s called “house clearing”.

House clearing is a dangerous procedure that takes place when one or more  felons (presumably armed felons) is inside a private dwelling that they have invaded. The residents are not at home and the police arrive at the location because of an alarm system, a neighbor’s urgent phone call, or a call from the resident himself —— after he escapes his own house and is able to get to a phone.

The scenario —— as the shooting schools teach it —— is that the homeowner pulls up in his driveway, alone or with his family, and as he approaches his front door he notices that it is ajar. Someone has broken into the house and may still be inside! The homeowner produces his race-tuned sidearm and proceeds to enter and “clear” his home . . . cautiously employing all of the “professional skills” that whoever taught him at the shooting school imparted to the entire enthralled class of dupes.

Yes, dupes.

On no account should you attempt to “clear your home” if you believe that one or more intruders may be ensconced within.—— and we don’t care if you are a world champion competition shooter, and every idiot who thinks that competition shooting translates into combat shooting has patted you on the back for all of those “dangerous events” that you’ve medaled out in. Don’t attempt to clear your house!

Your first reaction if you return home and see that your door is ajar (or perhaps a wndow has been broken out) and criminals may be inside is to get the hell out of there and call the police!  Do not enter the house. This is a job for a professionally trained and competent SWAT team; not for some recreational shooter who has a Rambo complex.

Note that SWAT teams clear houses wearing full suits of body armor, and carrying fully automatic weapons. Note again that they carry out this sort of operation in teams. If you ran up to a patrol officer who just happened to be passing by and told him that your house had been broken into and you suspected that whoever broke in is still inside, he would not draw his sidearm and attempt to enter the dwelling to clear it. He would call immediately for SWAT; as he should.

Basic military tactics teach that a defending or ensconced force (which is what whoever may still be inside your house is) requires three to one numeric superiority to oppose it in order to be a formidable threat. And that’s only what’s needed numerically. Consider:

—— You have no idea what weapons the one or more invaders have with them. Nor do you know their capability with those weapons.

—— You cannot even guess where in the house they might be hiding.

—— You have no idea of the animal guts or desperation driving the invader(s), and if he/they would rather die fighting than perhaps be returned to prison. He/they may have killed before.

—— You very well may be taken hostage by the invader(s). Now the situation has been intensified and quadrupled in magnitude, danger, and difficulty. What the hell do you do now? Using you as a shield the invaders may now somehow manage an escape; or their attempted escape may cost you your life. Or, they may escape successfully and then simply kill you. And to top it off they now have another loaded gun —— i.e. yours. Or worse: he/they may not have been armed in the first place, but now you’ve unwittingly armed them!

Forget about those shooting matches and your medals for “killing” cardboard cutouts. Do not attempt a house clearing!

We bring this up because of a recent email from a visitor to our sites. He wondered why we do not advocate the “new technique of the pistol” which “dominates competition”. Besides, he went on, “. . . the school I attended did not teach only competition shooting,” he assured us, “it covered all kinds of situations, like how to clear your home if bad guys have broken in while you were away.” (Our emphasis). “That,” he assured us, “has nothing to do with competition shooting!”  Damn right it doesn’t. Nor does it have anything to do with the use of a handgun for perssonal protection!

Please, be sensible. If you don’t believe us, then check with any experienced police officer in any major city. If even one cop urges that a homeowner ought to draw his handgun and enter a violated home and attempt to clear it by himself instead of or before calling the police, we promise you we will print a retraction!

Note:—— Lest anyone confuse house clearing with “home defense” use of a sidearm, please note that the latter is completely unrelated to the former. In a home defense situation where a firearm is brought into play by the homeowner, the homeowner is inside his home, quite likely with his family, and one or more violent offenders has forcibly entered the dwelling posing a deadly threat to the homeowner and his family. Now there is no option save to either allow oneself and one’s family to be victimized, or to stop the invader(s). Nothing related to “house clearing” in any way.