Evaluating A Combat Technique

WHILE many people are attracted to systems of self-defense that boast of having literally hundreds (and in the case of some systems, thousands) of self-defense techniques, and that offer dozens upon dozens of other skills (kicks, punches, strikes, kata, traditional weaponry, meditation, exercise, self-improvement, etc.), the serious student of self-defense and close combat requires relatively few techniques.  A few dozen generally applicable and destructive “self-defense” techniques are plenty. And there is little need for more than perhaps a dozen well mastered blows, and the ability to blend and combine these in combinations that allow followup, and that lace viciously destructive moves together. Aside from skill with individual weapons, the unarmed combat aspect of close combat and personal defense can be readily and most adequately handled with less than 10% of the number of techniques that are popularly taught.

The difficult problem, of course, is selecting the right techniques. In many cases we see techniques being taught and practiced that are more of a detriment to self-defense than they could possibly be an aid! They are too complex and intricate; they are not destructive enough; and they are way too situationally specific. That is, for all the trouble one must go to in order to acquire the technique, one will — at best — be able to utilize it, if one is really skilled and lucky, in but a single, very narrow and specific context or predicament.

We have always found Col Rex Applegate’s standard for judging the value and practicality of a technique to be spot on. Although written in 1943 and first published in Kill Or Get Killed, that year, the following is as valid today as it was when the good Colonel (then Captain) first penned it:


Before you place your confidence in whatever skills you are striving to learn, test them — objectively and ruthlessly — against this simple standard.

For our visitors who train in other systems or/and who self-teach, trying to build and retain practical, life-saving abilities without the aid of a good teacher, we offer some further assistance in selecting that which you should pour your effort and time into studying. Consider te following four simple requirements, which we maintain must be satisfied before a technique can or ought to be included in a combat and self-defense training program:


There are quite enough problems and dangers attendant a hand-to-hand encounter with a lethal enemy without bringing to such an event skills that are so complicated, elaborate, and acrobatic that you have all you can do remember the steps when you practice them. Simplicity and directness matter tremendously, and when any technique smacks of complexity it must go.


There’s no “nice” way to stop a vicious criminal predator or an enemy on the battlefield. Either you cripple, maim, or kill him, or he will do that to you. And it will not be pleasant.

“Pain compliance” is — we can tell you as a licensed hypnotherapist with more than a quarter century experience — is nonsense. It works against mildly resisting, non-dangerous pests and lukewarm “attackers”, but it doesn’t even faze a serious, determined killer (who is the type of opponent you ought to be concerned with defeating). INJURY not pain is what brings a serious enemy to a halt under combat conditions. STOP HIS BREATHING and/or INDUCE MASSIVE SHOCK TO HIS CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM. Unpleasant? Certainly. But nevertheless exactly what the real world requires.

To stop a dangerous attacker you must damage and destroy him.


Only enthusiasts train regularly and continue to train in combat skills. Most people learn whatever the “course” contains, and then quit Anyone who has been in the martial arts knows that the dropout rate is astronomical.

Real world combatives and defense actions must be retainable even with little or no continued training. Obviously, it is desirable for anyone to maintain an active training schedule, but successful action using close combat techniques should not depend entirely for success upon the student’s always being in shape and in training.

When people commence training in martial arts they normally give no thought whatever to the fact that, one day, they will likely discontinue training. They do not concern themselves with the important matter of retaining and being able to employ basic defense and combat actions years from the day when they leave the program. And then, of course, there are ridiculous techniques (speaking from the standpoint of close combat and self-defense, with no intention of attacking the art, per se). Elaborate and high kicks. Fancy throwing movements. Intricate holds, and fancy methods of defending against numerous physical attacks, etc. If you must remain in hard training and be “stretched out” for whatever you are depending upon to save you to work, forget it! You are just kidding yourself.

If it won’t work reasonably well for you years after you have learned it, when you are ill, if you are in an unfavorable environment, are elderly, are out of shape, then toss it, mister! You are spending time on questionable techniques, and if you are in this for self-defense, you cannot afford to train in questionable techniques. The skills you learn must be there when you need them; whenever and wherever that may be.

Techniques must be retainable.


Instead of thinking in the “commercialized martial artsy” way (i.e. “I want to learn thousands of techniques — so that O have a perfect reaction to every specific attack that might occur!”) start to think like the combat masters of WWII thought — and taught. You want a handful of techniques that will be adaptable to thousands of varying situations and circumstances.

We have a total of approximately 125 counterattacking techniques (“self-defense” techniques) in our entire System! And we emphasize but 16 key blows and 30 attacks. We lace strangulation skills, throwing methods, takedowns, and all sorts of miscellaneous skills into our core curriculum. Contrast this with certain kenpo-karate systems that boast nearly 600 “self-defense” techniques (just for 1st degree black belt!), or with hapkido, kuk sool won, or aiki-jutsu — each of which teaches thousands of techniques. And we continue to strive to reduce, rather than add to, our core curriculum.

By the time one of our students is promoted to Yellow Belt (first promotion) he has acquired but 8 basic blows, 4 attack combinations, and 12 counterattacks. Yet, the versatility, adaptability, and practical functionality of the skills taught better prepare him to handle real world violence than most black belts enjoy in classical/traditional systems. We say this neither as a boast nor as a criticism of classical/traditional methods. We merely wish to point out that, while we respect all martial arts and schools, we must insist that the unique demands of actual, real world close combat and self-defense demand something truly suitable, and geared to the specific needs of that venue.

We do hope that what we have presented is accepted in the spirit it is intended: i.e. That of sincerely wishing to help those who wish to do so, to prepare themselves for actual emergency situations — preferably by enrolling in a school where professional instruction geared to that purpose is offered, but if not, then by supplementing their classical/traditional training with combatively functional skills, carefully selected according to realistic standards. Or, as a last but not necessarily poor resort, by utilizing our common sense guidelines for obtaining maximum benefits from self-instructional efforts via quality books on the subject (see our book review section for help in finding good books).

Good combat techniques are a great thing. If you ever need them, you will need them very badly, indeed. So take great pains to select the best. Those are the only ones you want or need.