Q and A
50 questions and answers provided by Prof. Steiner regarding practical defense training, armed and unarmed close combat, and the development of psychological and physical readiness:
1. Are all of the different martial arts equally effective for self-defense, providing one is sufficiently expert in the art?
A: I certainly do not think so. Although it is possible that, for example, a genuine expert in one of the more esthetically-oriented disciplines (such as aikido) might be able to handle a dangerous assailant in an actual attack, we honestly do not believe that aikido (or most of the esthetically appealing ju-jutsu arts — not the combat ju-jutsu arts of feudal Japan, or a few of the more modern Westernized and practicalized ju-jutsu methods) are good for serious hand-to-hand combat and emergency self-defense predicaments.
A karate type art that is rooted in classicism is beautiful and — for those well-trained in it it might serve as an effective hand-to-hand battle method.
All sport training, whether of a predominantly percussionary or grappling type (as well as of a “mixed” type) inevitably falls short of the anything-goes requirements of brutal, real combat.
You can have a sport, a classical system, OR a modern, all-in close combat and self-defense method. Do not deceive yourself or allow what is popular in martial arts, to mislead you.
A choice must be made. If a method can be practiced full force in a competitive venue, then obviously it lacks crippling, maiming, and killing skills — all of which, whether it is popular to say so or not, must be taught and embedded in the student’s psyche and nervous system. If a system is fully combat worthy, then any competition or full contact training in the skills (except against dummies and other insentient training aids) is nothing short of insanity.
My specialty for more than 50 solid years has been nothing but all-in hand-to-hand combat and serious, practical, real world self-defense.
2. What single martial art is the best for practical use in emergencies?
While I am clearly biased here and genuinely believe that AMERICAN COMBATO (JEN•DO•TAO), the System that I founded in 1975, is the best, I must in fairness and objectivity emphasize that there are other excellent systems, although there are far fewer than there are traditional and competitive systems.
Rather than try to “sell” my own System I want to be as truly helpful as possible to visitors to this site. Certainly, my System is effective. It has been proven so, and that is that. However, a person looking for a reliable system should check the following when he is shopping:
Who is the teacher, what is his background and level of experience?
If the school or system advocates any of the following, in my opinion it ought to be avoided
- A lot of control grips, holds, locks, and restraining methods
- Judo-type competition throws (unfortunately very often sold to the public as ju-jutsu throws)
- Emphasis on ground grappling, or on the idea that ground grappling is inevitable, necessary, or desirable for actual close combat (Serious and practical counters to attacks when you have been downed, and teaching combat responses in those rare instances when a situation does end up on the ground, should be included in the curriculum; but this has nothing to do with the popular “groundfighting” that has become popular of late)
- Stressing competitive matches, sparring, and bouts as a “proving ground” or as a necessary adjunct to training, in order to build combat skills (If you can go all out with it in a competitive match, then it is too tame for a life or death battle. If it can be relied upon in a deadly encounter then it cannot be “played” in matches)
- Using a lot of clenched fist punching (Ridiculous, and proven so in WAR. The reason why punching is the mainstay in sparring is because it is relatively safe. Accidentally punch a man in a match and you’ll normally not injure him or hurt him badly. Accidentally ram
your fingers into a man’s eyes, chop him across the carotid artery or throat, viciously stomp into his knee, box his ears [or rip them off], or kick him solidly in the testicles, and a real catastrophe results. Clenched fist punching is a very limited action — and a good teacher knows precisely how and where to introduce its use for the combatives pupil)
- Emphasis on defensive actions as the mainstay of “self-defense” (As I have been emphasizing for decades now, self-defense is your proper motive, but offensive action must be your means. No violent, dangerous hand-to-hand battle is won by blocking, breaking holds, or side-stepping an incoming attack. This may not be a pretty concept, and many might feel that it is “too extreme” for themselves; but that hardly gainsays the FACT that all of what has been experienced and documented about real world hand-to-hand combat and self-defense proves it to be 100% true)
- Teaching lots of traditional/classical karate kata (Solo kata are beautiful and esthetically satisfying total body exercises that utilize all of the classical/traditional techniques in the system in which they are taught. They demonstrate discipline, hard work, and serve to provide an excellent way to practice one’s particular style of karate without a training partner. However, classical/traditional karate kata do not have relevance in training a man to engage an enemy in hand-to-hand combat, and one’s skill level in kata performance does not indicate anything about one’s ability to defend oneself.)
- Suggesting that a “humane” or “non-injurious” repertoire of self-defense techniques is desirable, and that a dangerous physical attacker can be easily controlled or rendered harmless without injuring him. “Pain compliance” is a ridiculous myth for serious combat! In my opinion you would be well advised to run from any “self-defense system” or teacher who presents you with this mythology!)
- Any advocacy of the “one punch stop” is dangerously wrong for self-defense and close combat (Human beings are extremely difficult to stop when they are aroused and in a fighting rage, and/or psychopathically motivated to maim or to kill — possibly further influenced by liquor or narcotics. And this is to be expected in the real world, if not in the “dojo”).
On the other hand if the school or teacher advocates the following, then you might want to take lessons:—
- Extreme offense. Attack the attacker!, as we first introduced to the martial arts world in the 1970’s (This must be reflected in the attitude and in the technical repertoire advocated)
- Open hand blows, and very limited clenched fist punching
- Lots of arm, elbow, knee, and headbutt strikes
- Eye gouging and open hand clawing
- Low, simple kicks
- A few basic throwing actions — but a 90% emphasis on blows
- High repetition drills in both basic blows and attack combinations
- Use of deceit and deception and distraction
- Incorporation of modern weapons into the program, and the use of any and all improvised weapons
- Hard physical training with weights to supplement skill development
- Mental conditioning for combat
- Training in impact work against posts, dummies, and bags
- Being prepared to defend against weapons, attacks from behind, and multiple assailants
While I cannot say with finality and objectivity that any one particular system is “the best” (although I make no apologies for my conviction — personally — that American Combato is the best) I can and will state unequivocally that by rigorously applying the guidelines that I have listed above you can, if you’ll use your head and think and judge any method in question, you’ll be quite able to determine if any one that you are considering may be counted among the “best” for practical, real world self-defense.
3. How essential is it for a student to compete — in sparring sessions or/and in competitive activities — in order to develop reliable skills for defense and hand-to-hand combat?
In my opinion sparring and competition are not only not necessary, they are in fact actually detrimental. They develop a competitive and sporting mindset, competitive (not combat) tactics and strategies, and mandate the modification of all really worthwhile combat techniques so that they are “safe” for competition (which renders them useless for combat)..
4. What types of techniques are best for real combat?
Simple techniques that injure a large, strong man immediately and seriously, and that may be effectively executed by a relatively small man under dangerous, adverse combat conditions. These techniques should be employed with ruthless disregard for the enemy, with the element of surprise, and with relentless and merciless followup.
A very important quality of these techniques is that they must be readily retainable and applicable when the student is not in good shape, and is perhaps even ill or injured.
5. Is hand conditioning and toughening necessary in order to develop the natural weapons?
Only to a minor degree. That is, impact experience and training is required, and the moderate amount of conditioning that this provides is quite sufficient to insure that normal limbs can inflict all of the necessary punishment.
Extreme and exaggerated hand conditioning that disfigures and alters the hands so that knuckles become calcified and enlarged is unhealthy, unnecessary, and ridiculous.
6. What is it about the so-called “world war two methods” that make them so exceptionally popular today with self-defense students and teachers?
One of the distinguishing features of my System is that I incorporated into its syllabus ALL of the most effective and powerfully reliable techniques in ALL of the key “WWII methods” — ie. The Fairbairn System, The Applegate System, The Brown/Begala System, the O’Neill System, the Biddle System, The U.S Marine Corps’ Raider System, and the Feldenkrais System. It was my discovery of the enormous value of these methods (during the late 1950’s and throughout the 1960’s) that caused me to modify all of the traditional martial training that I was receiving, in light of what was truly combat worthy. It is this “combat worthiness” that, I suspect, has finally prompted others since I began the movement to also approach these excellent methods of close combat for practical, modern use.
Strictly speaking, please remember, the type of approaches employed by the magnificent WWII trainers was carried on to a degree following WWII. Until recently, however, most martial arts people (including those who have in the last 20-30 years only, been “jumping on the bandwagon”) have not even been aware of even the more recent contributors to this method of close combat: ie John Styers, John Martone, Caesar Bujosa, Robert H. Sigward, Charles Nelson, and a few others.
In fact the WWII methods are nowhere near as popular as the classical/traditional martial arts. However, such popularity as they inevitably have achieved is due to their sound and reality-based (not to mention, reality-proven) doctrine. They have enormously influenced and contributed to the development of my own System. Anyone studying my System will automatically learn “the WWII methods”. The core and underlying principles of the WWII methods were instrumental in guiding the development of the considerable body of new material that the American Combato System contains.
7. What role do weapons play in modern self-defense and hand-to-hand combat training?
It is absurd to speak of a close combat system without weapons. Close combat includes both armed and unarmed combat, of course — both from the offensive and the defensive perspectives. Ditto for practical self-defense. How “practical” is a method of self-defense that omits a significant and substantial body of skills (ie those involving weapons) that not only are effective in defending yourself, but that also must be taken into account as being likely to be employed by attackers?
The modern student of combat arts must train to use weapons and to defend against them. Otherwise he is defaulting (or his teacher is) on the responsibility of comprehensively addressing the subject at hand.
Stickwork, knifework, the combat employment of the handgun, carbine, and shotgun, as well as such “unusual” weapons as the tomahawk, garrotte, spring cosh, and expedient weapons-at-hand, etc. is all an important and quite legitimate aspect of complete combat training in a modern close combat/self-defense system.
As for classical/traditional weaponry, I respect this phase of martial arts and the disciplined practice that it takes to master it, but for the purpose of modern combat and individual self-protection or the defense of one’s family in the 21st century it is irrelevant.
8. What is the law regarding use of force in self-defense?
I am not a lawyer and therefore I cannot and will not give legal advice. I would refer you to a lawyer for up-to-date, complete, and accurate legal advice or answers to questions about the law.
I believe that the manner in which I teach provides the student with considerable protection against the possibility of his misusing force to any degree, IF he follows the personal advice that I give in my classes and other instructional periods:
1. Never raise a hand against anyone unless you believe that you are in imminent danger. Never agree to fight with anyone, and never respond physically to any verbal abuses or provocations. Always, always, always go to the outside limit to avoid trouble with anyone. Strive to disengage whenever you sense that someone is attempting to provoke trouble.
2. Physical defense is appropriate only when no other course of action seems open and/or safe to take.
3. If you ar forced to defend yourself then do so with determination. Should your adversary turn to flee, let him go; there is no more threat. Should you create the opportunity for yourself and anyone whom you know depends upon you for protection who is also present to escape, then get away, fast. Only when the attacker will not relent and when you cannot get away do you keep on attacking until your enemy is harmless and has lost the capacity and the will to endanger you further.
4. There is no justification for being vindictive and excessive. Once you have stopped the attacker and no longer believe yourself to be in danger, STOP. You should use only the amount of force required to protect yourself and any other innocent person.
5. Above all, remember that serious self-defense training and skills must be regarded as a weapon. Never bring it into use unless it is absolutely necessary, and then employ it only to the extent that the situation requires you to do so to stop the attacker.
I suggest that you check with both your local law enforcement officials and a good criminal attorney for any specific information concerning the letter of the law and how it affects you and your right to defend yourself.
9. Can a solitary individual really defend himself against two or more attackers — or is that impossible?
It is absolutely possible, and I say that because I have had students whom I have trained, and students who have been trained by my top Black Belt, Mark Bryans, do so.
Besides, there are many documented cases and news stories attesting to the success of a solitary individual (often not trained in any martial art!) defending himself or herself against two or more attackers. Such a situation is properly to be regarded as a deadly threat, but it is certainly possible to defend against this particular type of deadly threat.
10. What are the practical realities of defending against lethal weapons, and honestly — can someone hope to defeat a person armed with a firearm or knife?
Any armed threat or outright attack constitutes a deadly threat, and every student of personal defense should be taught that this is the case. One of the reasons why so many (quite properly) question the validity of weapon counters is because, as they are normally taught, they amount to dangerously complicated, unrealistic, impractical nonsense.
You must never train in skills that advocate “taking a weapon away from an attacker” (ie literally “disarming” him). Instead, the reality of that which a lethal weapon attack consists of must be confronted, acknowledged, and addressed — so as to eliminate the foolishly complex and fanciful nonsense techniques that “martial artists” are so frequently fond of demonstrating and learning, from the practical curriculum.
YES . . . it is possible to defend oneself against an assailant who is armed with a knife or with a firearm. The advantage will in some cases lie with the armed attacker (ie this is always true when the attacker simply moves in — lethally thrusting or slashing, or both, and intends to kill his intended victim outright, as opposed to when he is threatening him by holding a knife on him, etc.) but if good skills and a proper attitude have been internalized, and if the defender is in good physical shape, the situation is never hopeless.
In American Combato (Jen•Do•Tao) I insist on a simple two-step approach to any and all deadly weapon attacks and threats:
1. Speedily get out of the line of fire, the path of the stab or cut, or the most dangerous impact point, etc. of the attacker’s weapon, and then —
2. Employ the most destructive possible counteroffensive, and keep on attacking until the assailant is unconscious.
I am not going to go into descriptions here of our weapon counters, but they are all based upon that two-step procedure.
It should go without saying that one’s first and foremost action whenever the prospect of armed attack is present should be to RUN AWAY. Avoidance makes the best sense; however, when avoidance is not possible then the situation is now “kill or be killed”, and — we hope — the sensible and rational choice in such a case will be clear to all who train for self-defense.
11. What makes the Asian systems and methods of personal combat superior to all others?
In their origins I believe that the Asian systems were indeed “superior to all others”. This was because they involved much greater and more seriously in-depth curricula. They explored not only such crucial things as the vulnerabilities of the human body (in much greater detail than had ever been done in Western cultures) and how to use the body’s natural weapons to attack and destroy those targets, but also principles of balance, momentum, leverage, maximum force, and the integration of hand-held weapons with unarmed close combat skills.
Today, I honestly do not believe that the Asian systems are “superior to all others”, since systems such as American Combato and others (ie such as those taught by Associate Teachers in our International Combat Martial Arts Federation) have, in my opinion, surpassed the strict classical/traditional Asian forms INSOFAR AS PRACTICAL CLOSE COMBAT AND REALISTIC, WORKABLE SELF-DEFENSE is concerned.
We have placed great emphasis upon the last part of the above sentence because we do not wish to be misinterpreted as saying that we believe the Asian arts are “inferior” to the modern Western methods, such as American Combato. Rather, we are speaking solely in regard to real world close combat and personal protection skills — and in this regard we see no superiority whatever in any of the classical/traditional Asian methods, and — frankly — quite a few serious shortcomings.
As worthy arts to pursue for personal fitness, discipline, individual development, sport, esthetic satisfactions, and the exposure to Asian cultures, we have nothing but profound respect and the highest regard for all of the classical/traditional Asian martial arts and for those who teach and practice them. (Incidentally, we feel exactly the same way about boxing, and wrestling, and/or such “classical/traditional” martial arts of the West as pankration, kick boxing, bare knuckle boxing, and fencing, etc. They are all valuable, worthy, wonderful disciplines and arts).
12. How should a child be introduced to martial arts?
For persons under the age of sixteen — or, preferably, eighteen, in most cases — we have always believed that a combination of Kodokan Judo and modern Western Boxing is ideal.
Where and when training in serious defense skills to be employed against would-be abductors or molesters or violent young gangsters and punks is desired, then one must be very cautious in locating a competent close combat teacher who is willing to provide this kind of instruction. This latter instruction is always best provided in private lessons, in my opinion. This is how I have always done it, and, in addition, I require that at least one parent be present during all instructional sessions.
13. Will not aggressive combat training — as opposed to a more sporting or esthetically appealing martial program — produce a vicious and hardened personality?
The exact opposite is true. What I have seen is that it is in such “sporting” venues as (what we personally despise) the UFC, MMA, “cage fighting”, etc, ad nauseum, in our personal opinion - belligerent, despicable, inexcusably arrogant, disturbed, and violent “macho” attitudes are cultivated and relished. Steroid abuse, according to what we have been advised by some observers, has also been embraced in these awful activities. However, in a professional, properly organized and taught program of close combat and self-defense — just as is the case in a professional, properly taught school of any classical/traditional martial art — students become self-controlled, nonviolent, and adept at reading situations of potential danger and, most of the time, avoiding them.
A good teacher of the kind of combative skills and philosophy that I teach will endlessly reinforce the need to avoid trouble, be inoffensive, and always try to settle anything without recourse to any violence, if at all possible.
14. If I train in a martial art will I be able to overcome larger, stronger opponents?
Size and strength — or their absence — are always contributing factors to victory or defeat in any physical encounter. They are not, however, always or inevitably the deciding factors. Obviously, when “all other things are equal”, the larger, stronger man will win every time. But as reality inevitably points out time and time again: “all other things” are virtually NEVER equal in real combat.
Yes, someone versed in proper close combat methods need not worry about an attacker whose only advantage is size and strength. Viciousness, the element of surprise, relentless attack, and the ability and willingness to destroy an enemy’s most vital and vulnerable target areas without a tremor of hesitation or mercy, will normally shift the odds completely into the “weaker, smaller man’s” court. Mastery of such principles as the proper use of leverage, balance, and momentum also contribute to being able to handle a larger, stronger adversary.
Overcoming anyone in real combat is of course always to be regarded as difficult; and we may assume that it will likely be a bit more difficult when the enemy is larger and stronger.
What the effective student of close combat will learn is that strength and size are valuable attributes, but there are ways to trump them. Additionally, one will, if one is being properly instructed, be encouraged to train correctly in strength-building exercises — weight training! Without the hereditary advantages one will never become a “powerhouse”, no matter how devotedly he trains with weights. But one will become as strong as his inherent potential will allow, and that — coupled with the most savage forms of hand-to-hand combat and a mindset that is fully conditioned for battle — is one hell of an advantage over “mere strength and size” alone.
15. Just how important is it for me to possess great strength in order to be effective in hand-to-hand combat; or is it important, at all?
It is important to recognize that strength is a contributing factor in any close combat situation. It is also important to get on a serious program of weight training to build your strength to its genetic limit, and to learn how to optimally use all of your strength when engaging an enemy in hand-to-hand combat by employing proper combative principles.
16. What form of physical exercise is best to employ in conjunction with self-defense and close combat training?
I have already mentioned weight training. It is the single best supplementary physical training for the combat student.
Training with dummies, posts, and heavy bags in order to condition the natural weapons for impact, and develop confidence and power in your execution of blows is valuable. Striking steel bars and other objects to harden the edge of the hand is excellent.
Training in the breakfalls of ju-jutsu or judo (NOT in order to be able to fall in combat, but for toughening the body and hardening oneself to impact) is valuable.
One form of training that we strongly believe in (although commercial schools will never be able to flourish if they incorporate this form of conditioning as it ought to be done) is pugil stick bouts. This has always been a mainstay of U.S. Marine Corps basic training, and Army Ranger School. The FBI once employed it, also, because of its value in conditioning men to receive a pounding and not wilt. The reason why this kind of man vs. man contest is valuable is because, since unarmed skills are NOT a part of the activity, no bad habits or watered down techniques can or will be acquired. One gets all the benefit from pounding and being pounded — contact confidence! — and none of the drawbacks that are inevitable with sparring or competition.
17. Is there any mistake in thinking that I can train in a martial art for both competition and practical defensive reasons, as well as for physical fitness?
Physical fitness is, to varying degrees, a byproduct of training in any martial art system. However, the answer to your question is: NO, you cannot have a sport and a combat system. Decide which is most important to you, and then train in that. Schools that claim that you can have it all are simply appealing to your wishful thinking and trying to sell you, in my opinion.
You will be fooling yourself if you attempt to train for competition and for combat.
18. Can women and the elderly be effectively trained to handle dangerous, physically formidable male attackers?
Yes, providing they are properly taught by someone whose experience and knowledge enables him to adapt good techniques and tactics to the special needs of women and of the elderly. And make no mistake about it — the needs of women and the elderly require modifications in training for the techniques to be effective. This is something that many women might resist today; but it nevertheless remains true, and one does not refute facts by denying them or by complaining that it’s “not fair” to identify them.
19. How frequently must I practice skills in order to commit them to motor memory and be able to rely upon them in a crisis?
In my experience the “internalization”, “motor memorization”, “subconscious programming” or “motor nerve conditioning” (whatever you care to call it) takes place as a result of two interactive factors:
1. High repetition practice and drill, coupled with . . .
2. Intense mental focus and intensity of concentration, and visualization.
Of those two elements, I have seen overwhelming evidence that #2 is by far the more critical — although the two do work together to reinforce each other.
The best answer to this question is: Practice as frequently and as intensively as you are able. Make all practice sessions as productive as possible by striving to perfect your visualization and mental focus.
For students who are fortunate enough to be enrolled in a good school, I recommend two group class sessions weekly as a minimum for the acquisition of practical skills. This should be supplemented with perhaps 20-30 minutes of practice at home on days when group classes are not attended.
Let it be understood that there is no such thing as “too much practice”.
Both Mark Bryans and I have had instances where new students have successfully used what they learned after their first lesson; but of course it would be ridiculous to suppose that a serious level of personal skill could ever be developed so quickly or easily.
With the understanding that each individual student is different, and no hard and fast statement can be made that applies to everyone, I will say that the statistically average male who is in good health, reasonable shape, of average strength, and who applies himself seriously will possess an excellent basic level of all round self-defense ability after six to eight months of moderate daily practice on days between the two weekly group classes that he attends religiously, during that six to eight month period.
And please don’t forget this: There are never any guarantees in combat. An expert can be unlucky or taken by surprise and killed. These things happen. Despite the ridiculous and utterly absurd claims that one may hear, read, or see from time to time either on internet sites or elsewhere that have been produced by unscrupulous commercializers, self-defense emergencies and hand-to-hand battle engagements always entail RISK.
20. If the most important thing for developing practical skill is repetitious practice of simple techniques, then why do you place such a heavy emphasis upon private lessons, in your own training of students?
High repetition drill and practice is the only way to make a technique “your own” — ie to truly master it so that you can use it automatically in a high stress, bona fide emergency. However, learning that which must be practiced for high repetitions is step one; and this step is best handled in a one-on-one learning situation where the teacher can be sure that his student really understands what it is that he must do.
People learn new material much, much faster in a private lesson than they can possibly learn in a group environment. However, group class drill is absolutely essential, because without an enforced, regular regimen of high repetition practice, and the endless reinforcing of proper mindset, tactics, and strategic elements, one has at best only a theoretical knowledge of what a technique is; without a practical ability to actually employ it.
We do place a heavy emphasis upon private lessons. And we place an equally heavy emphasis on the need for group class participation.
21. How long should it take in a good system before a student is able to defend himself?
As we have said earlier, in a good program under a qualified professional, a serious student will, on average, be well able to take care of himself and defend his loved ones after six to eight months of training.
22. Is it helpful to study more than one martial art at a time, so as to acquire a more varied number of skills, and benefit from more than a single theory of combat?
No! This is a wasteful and nonproductive approach. Decide what it is that you wish to learn and then find a good teacher from whom you can learn it. Then stick with that program and work hard to acquire that which is taught.
23. By becoming an expert in effective unarmed combat can I reasonably assume that I will not need any weapons in order to defend myself?
Weapons are and always have been an important part of martial training. Unarmed offense and defense is inferior to the use of weapons — although it is often necessary to employ unarmed action, at least at the outset of a violent attack.
If you have a “dislike” of weapons the answer isn’t to find someone who will tell you what you wish to hear and convince you that you don’t need weapons. The answer is to realize that you are way off track, and that you have a serious problem in not wishing to avail yourself of tools that can increase the degree to which you will be able to properly stop a dangerous, violent attack.
24. Is the study of classical weaponry valuable for modern self-defense?
25. What different “WWII systems” actually were developed, and how do they differ?
The most notable of the WWII systems of close combat were:
1. The Fairbairn System (So-referenced by Fairbairn following the transition of his teachings in Shanghai – under the name “Defendu” – to the drastic, killing methods that he advocated for the Commandos, SOE, and our wartime OSS)
2. The Applegate System (Which followed on the heels of Fairbairn’s System, after Applegate, Fairbairn’s protégé, completed training under Fairbairn, and then proceeded to advance his own version of close combat)
3. The O’Neill System (Developed by Dermot [“Pat”] O’Neill for instruction to the American/Canadian First Special Service Force, of which O’Neill was a member, and for whom he served as instructor of hand-to-hand combat)
4. The U.S. Naval Aviation V-5 Hand-to-Hand Combat Program, developed and taught by Wesley Brown and Joe Begala (Actually a three-tiered course aimed at preparing the aviators who flew for the U.S. Navy during the war to do battle hand-to-hand, should they be shot down or otherwise find themselves in enemy territory)
5. The U.S. Marine Corps’ “Combat Judo” program (Taught most extensively to the legendary USMC Raiders, but also to marine officers. Influenced greatly by the teachings of Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, Fairbairn, and others)
By no means does the above list include all of the different systems (some extremely brief, although excellent, like the Feldenkrais Method, and others, like the Hipkiss System, and the Freeland System, so rooted in the ju-jutsu approach that they were not so distinctive or relevant as innovative approaches to personal combat).
There were by far many more similarities between the core five WWII methods than there were differences. Yet, there were slight differences. O’Neill, for example, advocated a side-on stance which was unique to his approach. He also taught a pivot kick — similar to a “roundhouse” type kick, though lower and more practicable for real combat. There was slightly more takedown type material in the Naval Aviation Course than in Fairbairn’s or O’Neill’s, etc., since both Brown and Begala were wrestlers. One could take an hour or two nit-picking and perhaps find some more very minor and very unimportant miniscule differences between the five methods. But why bother? They were all excellent, and they were all excellent for the same reasons! Simplicity, brevity, offensive doctrine rather than defensive, emphasis upon blows (especially open hand blows), a powerful advocacy of not fighting on the ground, and animalistic ruthlessness and savage brutality, coupled with the employment of all hand-held weapons — these were the common threads in all of those excellent systems.
26. Is it true that close combat and self-defense training is not really a “martial art”?
Many teach this subject in bits and pieces; an encapsulated all-too-brief course in a handful of techniques — and when they do it may be justifiable to say that these people are not teaching a martial art.
The truth is, however, that serious and comprehensive close combat and self-defense training is much more accurately defined as a martial art than most of that which people cavalierly label “martial art” today!
“Martial” means: “Of or pertaining to war.” Certainly it is clear that such systems and methods as do focus on combat and defense exclusively, and that do not include sporting matches or classical doctrine for classical doctrine’s sake are most definitely MARTIAL ARTS — in the truest, strictest sense of the term!
27. Isn’t the new “humane self-defense” and “non-injurious self-defense” approach the wave of the future, and the only legally defensible method of self-defense?
In my opinion this approach to “self-defense” amounts to mind-numbing stupidity and ineffective — dangerously ineffective — techniques of attempting to handle potentially lethal violence.
The law permits the use of very injurious — even lethal — measures in self-defense, so long as such measures are fully justified and necessary to stop a violent offender. And they usually are.
People who advocate “non-injurious” and “humane” self-defense have very little understanding of what is involved in violent criminal attacks, and just how dangerous such situations really are.
If this nonsense is your cup of tea, then by all means go for it. But I’d suggest that you purchase extensive medical insurance along with whatever course you buy.
28. “Karate” used to be synonymous with the “ultimate self-defense method”. How does your approach (ie American Combato) differ from karate?
My System incorporates many blows that have their counterparts in the numerous karate systems. However, I use fewer “vital points” (ie only those that are really vital), and the method of delivery for the blows I teach derives from Western boxing. I teach no classical/traditional kata, although I developed a method called spontaneous kata, that enables the trainee to train in a manner approximating the way in which boxers train when they shadow box — providing all of the benefits that traditional kata is supposed to provide, with none of the shortcomings.
I de-emphasize clenched fist punching — which all of the karate systems emphasize.
I teach some basic throws, which karate does not include.
I use no flying, high, spinning or other acrobatic type kicks. However, I do teach powerful and reliable low area kicks.
Karate systems stress blocking and “never making the first move”. I stress attacking and, whenever possible, making the first effective and preempting move.
Karate systems (with the notable exception being kenpo-karate) emphasize training so as to be able to drop an enemy with a single blow. I teach followup, followup, followup, and more followup!
There are other differences, but that should convey enough to establish that American Combato is not synonymous by any means with “karate”.
29. “Ju-jutsu” has always been presented as the “self-defense only” martial art, and people study ju-jutsu when they want protective training, and no sport. How does your approach (American Combato) differ from ju-jutsu?
I teach many of the core principles of ju-jutsu, but I stay away from most of the usual ju-jutsu techniques. Holds, locks, throws, and elaborate “self-defense moves” that almost invariably require a cooperative partner to execute are not a part of my System.
American Combato is a frankly warlike Art, and my techniques overwhelmingly stress taking decisive, destructive action, and dropping the enemy – not controlling or discouraging him.
The only methods of control and restraint that I teach are for law enforcement and security officers.
30. Do you teach ground fighting?
My students are taught —
1. Always strive to stay on your feet
2. How to defend when on the ground, vs. a standing adversary, and
3. How to react when and if taken to the ground by an attacker.
None of this is the kind of “groundfighting” that has caught the martial arts community’s interest (I feel ridiculously) and that is little more than judo’s ne-waza.
31. Is it not true that all fights inevitably go to the ground?
It is not true.
32. What place does breaking (boards, bricks, etc.) have in your System?
33. Can I incorporate bodybuilding with weights with self-defense training?
Absolutely! In fact, assuming that you define “bodybuilding” as “sensible progressive resistance exercise done on a regular basis with barbells, dumbells, and other equipment for the purpose of balanced, all round fitness, muscular development, strength, and conditioning benefits — without any recourse to drugs or fad diets or other unhealthy measures” — that is EXACTLY our prescription for all of our students!
34. Do you advocate the types of flexibility exercises and calisthenics used in classical/traditional martial arts for the combat student?
35. What should I look for in a good school, or in a teacher?
I think that studying my answer to question #2 will partially answer this question.
A “good school” is only good because of the good teacher who teaches there!
A good teacher knows his subject, loves his subject, and loves teaching it.
A good teacher has patience and a sense of humor, and will never make any student feel embarrassed or awkward, no matter how much difficulty the student is having, or no matter how many times the student asks the same question.
A good teacher is a teacher who will NOT TEACH EVERYONE. He has standards and it is not unusual to find malcontents “out there” who, because the teacher completely severed all relations with them, “badmouth” that teacher. However, it will be evident when you take lessons from such a teacher that he is devoted, dedicated, and a most accommodating gentleman with those who are serious and who treat him with reciprocal respect.
A good teacher neither physically hurts nor psychologically browbeats any of his students. He is careful when he instructs in potentially dangerous skills, and he inevitably wins the trust and confidence of those who train under him.
A good teacher will tell and teach the truth. He will make no ridiculous claims or promises, and will frankly inform his students of the real danger in physical combat, and reliable ways to prepare for such danger.
There will be no flagrant egotism and arrogance in a good teacher. He will be willing to speak with his students and will welcome their questions. He will be approachable.
A good teacher will not lace his teachings with mystical nonsense.
36. What is training really like in the elite military units, and in the various SWAT type law enforcement organizations, as far as hand-to-hand combat is concerned?
Honestly — it is by and large woefully underpar, and in many cases downright terrible.
37. What kind of knife is best for knife fighting?
A possible answer is: The one that you have in your hand!
If you are in the market for a good or even great fighting knife, then I will refer you to the Ek Commando Knife Company, Randall Made Knives, and the Applegate-Fairbairn Fighting Knife. The current NATO issue Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Knife is as good for hand-to-hand combat today as it was during WWII. The original USMC Ka-Bar knife is not a bad choice, and the original design Gerber Mark II “Survival Knife” is excellent.
Remember: A fine knife is a great asset to the skilled and knowledgeable expert in knifework. It is “just another knife” without the skill to use it properly.
Jim Bowie made his reputation not with the “Bowie Knife” (which he had made for himself years after he had established a reputation) but with a kitchen knife!
38. Does your stick fighting system draw heavily from the Filipino arts of escrima and kali?
No. It is based upon commando style stickwork, and it incorporates walking stick methods and the excellent Koga System.
39. Do you teach knife fighting; and if so, what method do you teach?
I most certainly do. The method of knifework that I teach combines the strong points of both the Fairbairn/Applegate and the Biddle/Styers method. Additionally, it utilizes material that I have developed and techniques that are original with myself (such as “neck traps”, etc.).
I consider the fighting knife to be the ultimate weapon for offensive hand-to-hand combat
40. What role does hypnosis play in your teachings?
I have been a State licensed hypnotherapist for 22 years, and a hypnotist for 30 years. I have done considerable original work with hypnosis for use in training people in close combat, self-defense, survival, weaponry, physical training, and related activities. In part for this I have been recognized as a Fellow in Clinical Hypnotherapy by the American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists.
The method of Class instruction that I developed is unique and incorporates the use of principles derived from hypnotic technique in order to most effectively mentally condition my students for violent combat and emergency defense situations.
Occasionally I work with students on an individual basis using hypnosis to assist them in achieving different training goals and objectives.
41. What does the word “Combato” mean?
When I was thinking of a name for my System (something other than “The Steiner System”, which is always an acceptable designation, if someone prefers to use it) I came up with “The Way of Combat”. This, in reality, is what my System is. There is no sporting element to it, and it focuses on all aspects of individual close combat — offensive and defensive, armed and unarmed. physical, technical, mental, and tactical.
Upon reflection it occurred to me that, rather than the somewhat awkward Combat-Do (using the popular form, as in karate-do, aiki-do, taekwon-do, ju-do, etc.) I could form the contraction COMBATO, which, frankly, sounded nifty! So that’s what I did. Since my System is an American System, I called it that: i.e. American Combato. Since my System owes a lot to the Chinese ch’uan fa arts and to other Asian systems, I included the Chinese name Jen-Do-Tao in the official designation. My wife, who is Chinese, advised me of this as being the correct Mandarin pronunciation of “The Way of Combat”.
In fact, during the 1970’s, I wrote an article about my System for Iron Man Magazine (for whom I had been a long time contributor). Because the article was not keeping with the primary bodybuilding/weight-training focus, it was never published. At the time I thought that the designation Combato was completely original with myself! But I was incorrect.
It was not until the late 1980’s that I became aware of the fact that the word combato had indeed been used before. The individual who had used it was an instructor in Canada by the name of Bill Underwood. I immediately researched this man, and, after a not-so-easy period of looking, secured a couple of his out-of-print books.
Nowhere in Underwood’s work was there any explanation of how he came up with the word combato, and I suppose (as was the case with Fairbairn’s Defendu) Underwood simply thought it a catchy term. Underwood’s material, however, was in my opinion quite typical. It was simply, as far as I could tell, standard judo and ju-jutsu — albeit renamed for teaching the military. In no sense do I intend this in a disrespectful way; I am simply stating that which I observed and concluded. The reader can if he wishes obtain copies of Underwoods original books, himself. I am sure that he will draw the same conclusion that I did. Anyone juxtaposing that which Underwood referred to as “combato” (presented in his little Manual, Combato, and in a larger formatted work, Combato: Self-Defence For Women) will see that there is not the slightest similarity between that and that which I teach.
Interesting enough, many years after we presented the name of our System, American Combato (Jen•Do•Tao)™, and specified that our word combato was a contraction, meaning “the way of combat”, another author wrote a book on ju-jutsu, claiming that the founder of the system which he studied had learned “combato” during WWII, and that “combato” means “the way of combat”. NO WWII OR OTHER TEACHER PRIOR TO MYSELF EVER SPECIFIED ANY ACTUAL DEFINITION FOR THE WORD “COMBATO” PER SE; AND RESEARCHES INTO ALL DOCUMENTATION PRIOR TO MY USE OF THE WORD WILL SUPPORT ME HERE. I found it very interesting that only years after my publication of the name of my System, and my defining what the name of my System actually signifies, that another individual presents a definition that, save for my explanation of my terminology, had NO precedent in the history of close combat, self-defense, or martial arts!
(By the way, a later version of his System, as I discovered about Bill Underwood, was Defendo. Unfortunately, there have been individuals speaking of Defendo as being Fairbairn’s System. This is NOT TRUE. Fairbairn’s designation for his pre-WWII [ie Shanghai years] System was Defendu, not Defendo. A minor point to some, but for those who are meticulous about the facts regarding close combat history, a more important point).
Postscript to the above:
For anyone wondering, “Why do you not now include Bill Underwood and his System among the “WWII methods” when you write and teach?” I will answer simply by saying — again — that I am rather underwhelmed by that which this individual taught. The moves emphasize much classical judo/ju-jutsu and are hardly — in my opinion — adequate either for real world self-defense or for wartime training. This is my personal opinion, and I realize that there may be some who differ with my conclusions. So be it.
The finest instruction given Canadian troops during WWII (and Underwood was Canadian) was by Pat (Dermot) O’Neill, who trained the Canadian/American First Special Service Force (the “Devil’s Brigade”). We feel that those Canadian fighting men who had learned under O’Neill were very fortunate, indeed.
42. Do you use a belt ranking system?
Yes. It is a convenient and interesting way to keep systematic track of a student’s assimilation of the syllabus. Our ranking system is very simple:
White Belt = Complete beginner
Yellow Belt = First advancement (On average takes at least four or five months for a serious student who attends a bare minimum of two weekly classes and receives private instruction regularly.)
Green Belt = Second promotion (Usually requires at least a full year of total training time — i.e. consistent attendance to two or more weekly classes, plus private lessons.)
Purple Belt = Third promotion (In general requires a total of 1-1/2 to 2 years total training time for a serious student to attain this level.)
3rd Class Brown Belt = Fourth promotion (Normally takes anywhere from 2 to 3-1/2 years of serious total training time.)
2nd Class Brown Belt = Fifth promotion (Three to 4 years is the statistical average of total training time normally required to reach this level.)
1st Class Brown Belt = Sixth promotion (Generally is accomplished by a serious student in 4 to 5 years.)
1st Degree Black Belt = Seventh promotion (An exceptional student can achieve this level in about 5 years. A realistic plan — for a rigorously disciplined and serious individual who trains regularly and hard — is to obtain Black Belt, 1st Degree in 6 to 7 years total training time.
There is a total of ten levels of Black Belt. As is the case with classical/traditional ju-jutsu, the exceptional student who attains the rank of 6th Degree Black Belt may use the title “Professor”, as he has achieved a level of knowledge and physical expertise that entitles him to be regarded as a professor of the System.
There is only one individual who holds the rank of 10th degree Black Belt, and that is the Headmaster of the System. It must be noted that ranking above Black Belt, 3rd degree is based upon much more than mere physical ability and combat skill.
No one needs to achieve Black Belt level before acquiring serious self-defense ability. This can often be achieved before reaching Yellow Belt. Anyone who genuinely masters the White, Yellow, and Green Belt programs will have usually acquired a significantly higher level of combat ability and self-defense skill than most black belts in classical/traditional systems or sporting/competitive systems enjoy.
Achieving Black Belt, 1st Degree is no terminus! As a martial art, our System can and should be studied throughout one’s lifetime, and can always be polished, improved, and perfected. Anyone who believes that he is an “expert” because he has achieved 1st Degree Black Belt has let wishful thinking (and possibly a little too much ego) get the better of himself.
The System’s syllabus is covered through Black Bet, 3rd degree. However, no one who trains in this System as a martial art should ever allow himself to believe that he has “finished the course”. Training in this or any other martial art is a lifetime pursuit.
Promotion above Black Belt, 1st degree is difficult to achieve. Promotion beyond Black Belt, 3rd degree is virtually impossible to achieve without a wholehearted devotion to the System, and without making contributions to the furtherance and development of the Art of American Combato.
The individual wishing merely to acquire a reliable method of close combat and self-defense need not concern himself with years of study, and will be surprised at how rapidly he attains his objective — IF he applies himself to the program.
Any rank given at any level is subject to revocation if the individual conducts himself in a manner that violates the basic tenets and character standards which the System expounds. Disrespect and/or disloyalty toward the System or to the Headmaster of the System or to any Black Belt or Professor within the System is grounds for immediate revocation of any rank, and such an individual will no longer be permitted to train in the Art.
43. How come your School is not large and elaborately set up, as most martial arts schools are?
“Flash and sizzle” mean nothing. It is extremely expensive to set up a formal-appearing “dojo” that has “sales appeal”. I leave that to those who are looking for mass enrollments, and who follow a “get ‘em to sign on the dotted line and pay” philosophy.
While I would love to enroll many people (so long as they are good people with a serious attitude) I realize that few will be attracted to my straight-forward, no-nonsense, non-sporting, non-mystical, unexotic, politically incorrect approach. I realize that by limiting what I do to absolutely authentic and realistic self-defense (which emphasizes skills and attitudes that are often “awkward in the mainstream” I will always have fewer students than the large fully-commercialized establishments.
What I offer is 100% authentic, reliable, war-proven training, and a teaching background and professional level of experience and proven ability spanning well over 40 years. My students want to acquire lifetime skills in a lifesaving Art — and that is exactly what they get from me.
I think that what I offer is a little more important than atmosphere.
44. What exactly is “ICMAF”?
ICMAF stands for the “International Combat Martial Arts Federation”. This Federation was started by myself (Prof. Steiner) in the late 1980′s. Some former members, sadly now deceased, are: Col. Rex Applegate, Charles Nelson, Prof. Florendo M. Visitacion, John McSweeney, and George Kalishevich. Present living member Instructors include the legendary and magnificent pioneer of American martial arts, Grandmaster Jim Harrison; John Perkins (Founder of Ki Ch’uan Do); Ki Ch’uan Do Master Teacher USMC Lt. Col. Al Ridenour; former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, internationally respected counterterrorism expert and former LAPD SWAT Officer James R. Jarrett; the world famous law enforcement trainer, retired from the LAPD, Robert Koga; the British law enforcement trainer John Harding, and others.
ICMAF membership is by invitation only; we do not solicit members, nor do we charge any money for membership. Nor do we impose regulations regarding teaching, curriculum standards, or methodologies. We are uninterested in anything save autheticity, genuine expertise, established competence, and sincerity in teaching and promoting the genuine arts of armed and unarmed close combat and individual self-defense. Associate Teachers in ICMAF are men of established, long-standing reputation as impeccably credentialed and verifiably authentic background. (We will point out, in this wise, that although no inference should be drawn from it regarding “every” teacher purporting to be a “combat trainer” in the field, there are a signifiant number of highly advertised and promoted individuals whom we have not only not invited to associate with ICMAF, but who we have specifically and permanently avoided.)
All of our personally trained students, and those of our Black Belt, Mark Bryans, who are in good standing and current in their training, are certified by ICMAF.
Our intention is that ICMAF be apolitical.
45. How worthwhile are short-term courses in self-defense? (And seminars).
There really is no pat answer to this question, since much depends upon the quality of the teacher, the course (or seminar) contents, and the seriousness with which attendees approach the task of learning.
Practical self-defense or reliable military-style hand-to-hand combat is simple and can normally be taught and learned rather quickly. Th big problem, as we see it, is that there may not be sufficient time during a short-term course (and there virtually never is, in any seminar) to develop and actually acquire the techniques so that they can actually be used by the student.
If a teacher is a competent professional, and the syllabus of his short-term course is sound, then, so long as the student attendees do their job when the course/seminar has been completed, and they continue to practice and train on that which they have been taught, the course or seminar can be enormously valuable.
46. I have seen ads on the internet for DVD programs that claim to be teaching secret skills that only government operatives and military elites are taught. In fact, from what is said in the ad, the government actually does not want the public to have access to this stuff. What do you think about such a program?
We’d say, save your money! There are no “secrets” in the close combat field. And please believe that “the government” couldn’t care less if you know everything in the world about every unarmed combat art that was ever invented or taught. Our national intelligence services and our armed services special warfare units have their hands full with considerably more urgent matters than whether or not Joe Blow is learning how to do a chinjab or a side kick to the knee!
In our opinion, advertisements such as the one you refer to are intended to appeal to the gullible.
47. How much truth is there to the idea that the senior Asian martial arts masters are truly unbeatable? — and — How much truth is there to the idea that the Asian masters know secrets that we in the West cannot discover?
In the traditional Asian systems of martial art, and in fact in Asian cultures generally in regard to all areas of learning, people have an enormous respect for their seniors. We personally have always found this to be a commendable and admirable characteristic. However, when you see a very elderly master of any martial art (the old Grandmaster of Kodokan judo, Sensei Kyuzo Mifune, comes to mind) tossing around men one third or one quarter his age who are big, powerful, seriously ranked black belts, you are seeing this deep respect manifest in a most misleading (for Westerners) manner. The younger, stronger men are cooperating with their elderly master teacher. It is a gesture of deep respect and love, and it is not “phoney” in any sense when you understand what is happening. Age always takes its toll, and — while many martial arts seniors can easily make quick work of young, strong punks or troublemakers — no 80+ master of any martial art can easily handle a young, strong expert in the same system, who is, say, between the age of 25 to 35. However, when giving demonstrations and when teaching, no younger black belt expert would dare to fail to show deference and even reverence for those who are his teachers — “sen-sei” — (i.e. “born before him”).
We believe that the classical/traditional Asians have it all over us in the West in this particular and specific regard. It is disgraceful and reprehensible, in our opinion, to demonstrate the kind of adolescent disrespect, for example, that was displayed toward that American Icon of Kodokan judo and wrestling, the magnificent Gene Le Bell, by issuing him a “challenge” to fight, as was done some years ago by individuals who are regarded as “heroes” by those whom we would personally label “braindeads”, in the martial arts, here in the United States. One does not do such things (if one is properly civilized, that is).
Let us stress this: elderly combat experts certainly CAN handle themselves in a tight spot. Jack Dempsey — in his 80′s — dropped two street punks with a punch apiece, when they tried to hold him up on a New York City street. Charles Nelson squashed some 20 year old gutter animal who was under the influence of PCP (or something like it) when the creature attacked Charlie in his Manhattan School. Charlie was in his late 70′s and weighed all of about 135 pounds at the time!
But elderly experts — regardless of their particular art — canNOT defeat young, strong, genuinely expert-level men in that same art.
As for the notion that “Asian masters” are privy to “secrets” and to “hidden knowledge” concerning hand-to-hand combat that Westerners do not know and have no means of discovering, that is sheer nonsense. Interestingly enough, we most often are treated to this balderdash by Western not Eastern martial arts teachers! It’s a ridiculous lie and fosters the racket of “martial arts as paths to invincibility”. Legitimate experts and masters of martial art NEVER suggest or encourage this foolishness — whether they are Asian or Caucasian.
Serious, prolonged, dedicated hard work is what produces mastery. Those who are genetically predisposed to athleticism and strength, and perhaps who have also been blessed with above-average size, become the “great and notable” performers in the martial arts. No secret there.
48. Do you envision American Combato (Jen•Do•Tao) ever having a sporting or competitive element or aspect?
No. If the day should ever come when someone who pretends to be teaching my System introduces this particular idea, then realize that you are in fact listening to a FRAUD. This is a close combat and self-defense system. That is that.
We have always had great respect for legitimate sportsmen and competitors in all of the different sporting/competitive venues. We do not in any sense claim that what we do is “better” or “preferable” — only different. What we do is 100% for personal defense and/or for close combat in a military context.
49. What is your opinion of Bruce Lee?
Our personal opinion of Bruce Lee is that he was one of the most dedicated and sincere devotees of the martial arts in recent history. We never had the pleasure of meeting him, but we have been exposed to his writings, and we listened to interviews that he gave. We also read the works of the man whom we regard as Bruce Lee’s finest true friend and (although he never claimed to be) Lee’s successor (if we wish to regard anyone as Lee’s successor): Jesse Glover. Mr. Glover is an honorable and fine man. He never attempted to cash in on his association and friendship with Lee, yet he knew more about Bruce Lee and Lee’s personal ideas regarding fighting than practically all of those who have been using Lee’s name unconscionably since the man’s untimely passing, purely for their own aggrandizement and self-promotion.
We do not agree with Lee’s idea that sparring was the be-all and end-all of skill validation.
We do not agree with Lee’s emphasis on punching.
We hope that we will not offend anyone by saying that we do not think of “Jeet Kune Do” as a “martial art” per se, but rather as Bruce Lee’s personal style of fighting.
Bruce Lee is a person we would have very much liked to have known. We were never a fan of his movies (we do not think much of his acting), but we certainly respect and admire the supreme devotion that this man had to training and to improving his personal ability in martial art.
We believe that he was an excellent martial arts practitioner. We do not believe that he was the “greatest” martial arts man — nor do we believe that anyone ever deserved such a title, or ever will.
50. Since you do not participate in on-line forums or discussions, how can people get the truth about you, your System, and that which you believe, do, have done, and teach; and about who is and who is not licensed to teach your System, besides you?
By referring to this site, and to our other web site: www.americancombato.com. You can refer to that which I have written, and to that which I have said. Prof. Mark Bryans, my top student and black belt, is also a good source of information.
If you follow the forums and pay attention to the speculative garble that may or may not be well-intentioned, then you are, in my opinion, allowing yourself to be easily swayed by unverifiable babble — for good or ill. We’d say that this applies to information regarding any other teachers of any stature who are working at promoting and furthering their art and their methods.