Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters, PART I – Expanded

More than a Book Review, Part I

Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters
Charles Remsberg

Calibre Press– Kindle Edition 2016


If you want to step up your game, improve your security stance, and increase your chance of surviving a violent encounter, you owe it to yourself and your family to educate yourself. Reading this book would make a great start.

It was first published in 1980 for the Law Enforcement Community, and I am assuming that it was written after too many Police Officers had been killed in the line of duty. Studies had been conducted that found their mistakes and identified the source of many of those mistakes made.

This book also served to launch a travelling road show called ‘Street Survival’, which sought to correct a lot of the common mistakes that officers had made in the field. To that end, the Street Survival series of books served for many years as required reading in many academies.

I was lucky enough about 6 years ago to come across more than one reference to these ‘lost books’ while doing my own research to keep myself safe. These books contain a lot of great information. In these books you will find much of what we study and take for granted today. The adage, “Study the Old, to Understand the New” applies here. We didn’t invent this stuff.

One of the biggest challenges of learning anything is that you need to look behind the curtain and question many aspects of it – why does it work, what makes it work. That exercise can be more important than the knowledge itself. If you want to learn anything, take ownership of your own endeavors and effort. Ultimately, only you are responsible for you. Own that.

Much of what we train today is not new, or original as you may have been led to believe. Exploring older books can lead you to some ‘new’ discoveries – tactics, techniques, philosophies, and principles. This book is 36 years old, and yet there is a ton of relevant information in it that still applies and holds up today.

Below I’ve highlighted just a portion of what I think is still relevant and useful for self-defense, and I hope you do too!

Some of the many ideas found within the first volume of this series and which are worth reiterating here are:


  • The combination for survivability in the street is a combination of your abilities and what you have been taught.

tb: That is NOT a one-way street. You will be provided with only so much based on budgetary restrictions, the rest is all on you. Too many professionals rely strictly on what they will be provided by their employer. In our world, that’s you. You may need to justify what you think is a reasonable amount of funding to keep yourself and your clan safe, but don’t sell that short.

Here’s an example: I work five days a week trying to keep myself safe, my company safe, and our clientele safe. I spend annually between $1k-$2k to achieve that goal. That money is mostly for training. That training consists of books, videos and seminars. This fits my needs, but it does not maximize them necessarily. This will hold true for all of us, but, I am making the effort to keep my education moving forward, and ever-expanding, and honing in on specific skill-sets that I require due to environmental considerations. That leaves holes in my plan that you could drive a tractor-trailer through, but that’s life. You can’t possibly plan for everything, but if you can narrow down your specific threats, you can assure that you will prevail under those sets of circumstances, and maybe prepared for others based on your learning.

Expanding on that quote: 1) Your abilities? Everyone is different – size, age, level of fitness, mindset, social upbringing, ethnicity, religious beliefs, personal belief systems, color, sex, and sexual orientation. Don’t think that anyone of these qualities is necessarily a good or a bad component to your make-up. Every single one of us has good and bad qualities. Some we can change, some we can work on changing, and some we can do nothing about.

One of the early insights I discovered was that I had to work with what I had. I had no intention on changing my lifestyle to accommodate my ability to handle violence. I don’t say that with disdain, but I’m a realist. I had to learn how to handle everything that might be thrown at me with all of my current shortcomings – I was 50+, slightly overweight, I wore corrective lenses, and I’d only ever been in one fight in my life, and I lost that.

I had come to realize that no matter how bad I wanted to learn this craft, I wasn’t going to get there anytime soon, and everyday that I had the opportunity to use whatever I may have learned, I was remarkably pretty much the same as I was the day before.  I hadn’t lost weight; I wasn’t going to the gym anytime soon, I had very little mat time, very little training, and more importantly no one to train with. So my goal was to learn whatever I could at each and every opportunity that arose – I made those things happen by pursuing ‘techniques’ and solutions to everything that I encountered. And I knew I had to prevail, no matter what, with whatever I would be able to safely use and easily deploy, against any opponent. You need to do the same – use what you have, try to improve where it’s possible, and use what you have to your advantage, regardless of what the experts may tell you. I use my weight advantage all the time. I’ve had to, and many others with zero skills do the same and to very good effect!

2) What have you been taught? Have you learned things that are helpful or is what you have been taught, not been learnt? Have you been taught correctly? Do you understand the principles behind what you have been taught? Do you understand what makes that specific technique work? Believe me when I say that you will never stop learning something new if you keep pursuing it. As an example, I have used some techniques without truly understanding what made them work. We’ve all done that right? Your sensei shows you a cool move, and you do it a bit in class, and WOW! – that really works! Well, when it comes time to put it to the real test – when you’re dealing with real violence, does it? Did it? What went wrong?

Learning how to deal with violence is not the same as training. When you train, you are training techniques – safely, with a willing and cooperative opponent, and it’s usually done so with a previously agreed upon set of rules. You pull your strikes, you don’t target specific areas, and you usually stop to see if you were successful. When you’re training a disarm – if you were successful, don’t you usually hand the knife/gun/stick back to your training partner? Do you think that’s smart? Fight as you train, right?

There is so much wrong with current training methods, and also so much missing in your basic Martial Arts class, that it’s hard to determine just where to start. Just think about the things that you aren’t being taught – the pain, the liabilities that you will be exposed to, and the legal mess that may pit you against them even if you were justified in your defensive response. Then there are the moral questions, and the psychological cost of engaging in combat.

If you plan to be a ‘contact professional’, understand and explore all avenues. You need to understand the law, the psychology, the physiology, human mechanics, fear, adrenalin dumps, and on and on. Like I said, it’s not easy, nor even easy to identify everything you should be learning. Just realize that you are likely to be taught some things that seem great, until you find out otherwise.



  • Just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it won’t or that it won’t happen to you.

tb: Complacency affects all of us in some way. Don’t let it settle in. Don’t tell yourself a story that just because statistics say it’s likely to never happen that it won’t or that you aren’t the one it will happen to. Take a reality check and let that sink in. You, and only you are responsible for yourself. Period.

Complacency will kill you if you let it settle in. Too often we all get soft, and start to drop our security posture. It’s a slow night, nothing’s happened all week, you’re tired, bored, or disinterested. It’s going to happen. While you can’t always be on high alert, you can keep your security posture up to a safer extent, if you’re willing to do so, and if you work on it. You will be caught off guard, even when you are on heightened state of awareness – e.g. in the ‘Yellow zone.’ You’re going to be pre-occupied, daydreaming, or trying to multi-task, and BAM! Here comes a problem and you’re not quite ready. Now as long as you normally keep yourself in that Yellow zone, you might be alright, but if you live in the ‘White zone’ most of the time, you’re already several steps behind.

Violence happens fast, and remember that the offender is looking for your weakness. He’s already formulated a plan, and is in the midst of deploying it, or just about to jump off. If you revisit the OODA loop theory, he’s already at step 3 or 4, and you aren’t even at step 1 yet. You’re not going to catch up. That’s not to say that you can’t still prevail, but you’ve definitely lost the advantage, and you’re now on the defensive, which is usually a losing position.

You, and only you are responsible for what happens to you. If they get the drop on you because you weren’t prepared, you’re likely going to lose. It’s all on you because you weren’t aware, you weren’t scanning, maybe you don’t understand how, but it doesn’t matter now – you are under attack.

So many clichés – ‘keep your head on a swivel;’ ‘don’t let your guard down;’ ‘pay attention;’ pick your poison, you now own a defeat because you weren’t on your game. In your business, you’re likely to find trouble, or it will find you nearly every day, maybe several times during your shift in fact. You may find yourself running from one event to another event that is similar or nothing like the first at all. There is no time to become complacent, and no reason to. It will cost you.


  • Be prepared.”

tb:  Again, that falls into several categories, but in my opinion being prepared mentally is at the top of that list. This covers awareness, but it also covers physical and emotional realms as well. Don’t be that person.

Being prepared can be simple or complex. It really depends on your needs. But it also depends on your abilities, and your desire to be a better ‘x.’ If you are driven, you’ll likely excel at whatever you put your mind to accomplishing. If you’re there for the paycheck, well, it’s been nice knowing you. It amazes me the number of folks that are willing to take the risks without making the investment, especially because it has to come out of their pockets.

You may need to learn what you don’t even know that you need before you can even start to tackle all of the hurdles in your way. In my case, it was a large shift in changing my mental attitudes. As an example, I specifically remember finding Tim Larkin, and TFT – Target Focus Training. When I looked at the material, and how it was taught, I, like many others I’m sure, was skeptical of what I was seeing – and hearing. Tim’s system seemed brutal, but what I couldn’t get my head around was the pace and the manner in which they ‘trained.’

It didn’t take me too long to ‘get it’, but after some early exposure, and more thought, I started to better understand some very fundamental things. The first part that I got was the targeting aspect – it made sense. If you want to stop an opponent, you may be best served by damaging that opponent. The more or better the damage, the less likelihood that he will continue on with the fight. Now keep in mind that in my business, I am not allowed to do any strikes, kicks, or damage! So, I had to see if I could find ‘tools’ that would help me, and to that end, this made no sense upon my first exposure to it.

What I did find was that some of his material came with a booklet – diagrams, and explanations.

You learn about good targets on the human body, and about good targeting. The best find for me was the exploration of body mechanics. It may have been the first time I’d heard that phrase used, but it clicked in. This was a keycomponent in learning for me. If I could learn howthe body worked, I could perhaps get to what Tim’s system conveys – and extract expected results. “If you do this, he will do that…” type of stuff. So I took that, and it fit my sense of not caring specifically about the techniques, but learning how to get results based on an one action eliciting one predictable reaction. This information presented a major mind-shift in my thought process – body mechanics. Learn how a body moves, and how it doesn’t move, and master that – by any means. This little gem eliminated my worrying about learning specific techniques, and opened the door to free me up to use any technique based upon the gift that they provide to you. You can overthink many things, and that causes it’s own freeze. Learning body mechanics gives you more advantages. It’s akin to learning principles instead of techniques – learn whatmakes a technique effective and you can make up your own after that!



  • You don’t get to decide what the Bad Guy is going to do, UNLESS you can.” Violence comes with a very broad set of rules and you don’t get to know which ones are in effect, nor which ones will be on the table when the SHTF. Know what you don’t know, and be good with that. Make peace with that and move forward with your plan to shut it down.

tb: Violence is scripted, but not by the victim generally speaking. The aggressor sets the rules, determines when, where and how he will take you out, and for what reason, and by whatever means he has at his disposal. The victim is merely in the way of him achieving that goal. In so much as you can wrap your mind around that, you’re good to go. Knowing that those arethe ground rules, you can voice your opinion, knowing that it doesn’t affect the outcome. He will pounce when it’s most convenient for him, and you go along for the ride, unless you’re paying attention and able to affect the outcome to your favor, even if you’re playing catch-up.

If you’ve learned how to pay attention and when it’s most important to do so, then you’re not going to be that person. You will be able to affect the outcome if your skills are the right skills, your mindset is right, and you’re willing to damage the other guy. This is where another important aspect comes into play – permission. Rory Miller brought this idea to the fore for me. Give yourself permission to do whatever you feel is necessary, and legal, to protect yourself or your clan. This is a simple statement, but give it some much-needed thought. Understand that most of us aren’t willing to go there – to damage another person.  We have been raised with a specific set of instructions for many, many years, and hurting another person is not in that recipe of ‘survival’ for many of us. So, to be an affective survivor, and not become a victim, you need to give yourself permission nowfor any and all future damage that you may inflict on another in the quest to not be a victim. That is notan easy task, and some of you may never come to terms with that. If you can’t, you will be a victim.

Assuming that you have come to terms with that, and can do damage, then this is where you get to ply your skills. Violence is generally an easy task to accomplish, and because it’s easy, anyone can do it – once you’ve given yourself permission and justification to do so. He’s chosen you, and if you’re not out of the game, you’re still in it – get busy, and turn the tables. Use whatever you have to take away that initial advantage, and now it’s time to shut him down. Don’t be afraid to fight dirty – it will save your life. It’s now, or never, and the rules are what you want them to be from this point on. You have to win. There is no second place.



  • Come to terms with your moral and psychological considerations beforeyou get into it.Really spend some time examining yourself and your capabilities and responsibilities. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Just because you should, is it legally justifiable? Spend a lot of your time doing what-if scenarios in your head – where it’s safer to make mistakes.

tb: As I stated before, you need to come to terms with violence if you expect to come out on top. Luckily, most violence is scripted, and social – not meant to do damage, but to set dominance or protect territory for instance. As such, we all deal with social interactions that could go better if we’re prepared, and have studied the tools and techniques to get us out of rough waters. A lot of this stuff we need to come to terms with – is it okay to hit a girl? If I had to stop a child from being violent, could I? How about someone with MR? Could you envision yourself taking on someone with Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? How about tackling someone with Autism? How do you feel about any or all of those situations? Have you even ever considered that they can be violent too? Do you understand whythey might become violent? Would you be okay being violent back to them or trying to stop their violence toward you or another? I have. I have dealt with every one of these situations. Do I feel good about it? No, of course not. My moral fiber is strained because I had to. It has made be really think-out my choice of profession though, and encouraged, even pushed me to study more. I’ve had to ask some very hard questions of others and myself. I’ve had to deal with the guilt, the anger of family members who had to witness it, and even had to justify my actions to the uninitiated family members.

In one instance, it was a young ‘boy’ — more like a 6’2”, 250lb bully. His family had over-compensated for so long with his behavior, that they failed to see that one day he would start attacking them, and that’s exactly what he did in my presence. I took appropriate steps to stop his assault, and stopped him just short of hurting his grandmother. When I took him down, I made sure that he was proned out, with one arm pinned under him. Rather than being thankful, I got yelled at by his grandmother while trying to restrain him and calm him down verbally! I had to prove to her that I didn’t hurt him by asking him to tell her that he wasn’t hurt, and that he could breathe. She had no real-world sense of just how dangerous his behavior had become, to the extent that she was willing to be brutalized at his hands just to keep him ‘happy.’ And she was brutalized, for far-too long.

Afterwards, and after she’d spoken with other staff members, she apologized to me for thinking that what I had done was ‘too violent.’ She had to be taught that the techniques of takedown, while looking violent, were merely tools to stop his aggression, and were meant to actually make him safe, until other methods could be administered – medical restraints, and possibly physical ones based on the outcome. He was not hurt, perhaps surprised, but definitely not damaged in any physical way.

Violence is ugly, and we all seem to cower when we see it up close. For most of us that’s natural. It does leave a mark, even if you’re a professional. I hate putting my hands on people, but I am willing to do so to stop violence. In today’s society it seems to be more prevalent, and more people are willing to go there, because they do and have. It’s been said that if you’re going to stop it, you need to be as willing as they are, and better at it than they are. That’s a tough thing to acknowledge, and even tougher to accept or sell.

As I said, there’s a lot to think about, and contemplate. Can you do this? Are you willing to pay the price, which is often all psychological? Don’t lie to yourself. The only reason I come to terms with any of it, is that it was going to happen if I was there or not. It turned out best because I was there, and I did intervene on someone else’s behalf – to save them from being violated in some way by someone that was willing to go there specifically when their victims weren’t.

You have to dig deep, and be honest with yourself. There may come a point when you have to do the ugly, have to live with the outcome, whatever it is, and perhaps come back and do it again tomorrow. It doesn’t get easier in one sense, and it does in so many other ways. You can get used to going physical, and for some that’s perhaps why they’d do it – that doesn’t make it right, but it shouldn’t be discounted outright either. Someone eventually needs to step up to the plate. And if you can’t or won’t, but they will, how do you feel about that?

There are consequences, and you have been forewarned.



  • Force is not the answer to everything –there are alternatives that you need to arm yourself with. Learn some basic verbal skills, de-escalation, tactical communication, verbal judo – it’s all about nothaving to use your physical abilities on another, and you are legally required to use the least amount of force (minimal force) as your first step in use-of-force when it’s applicable.

tb: Well, use of force can be the answere to everything, for some. “Those willing to yield the tool of violence…” etc.

If you’re going to be in ‘the game’ as a professional, you must do everything in your power to understand as much as you can, and then learn more. You need to learn how to talk, how to listen, how notto judge, how to remove your own ego out of the equation, how to act disinterested – not empathetic, lose the emotion or deflate it. You need to learn and understand the law and the Use-of-Force. You need to study the many models, the many aspects of the use of force, when to stop, or when to jump up that ladder or continuum. Sometimes you need to max-out your applicable force tool to get the job done and to save lives, or eliminate threats. Just be sure it’s legal, and as previously stated, you’ll need to deal with the psychological fallout. And it’ll be there.

“Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all.” I totally agree. Why? Because, too often we listen to reply – that’s our nature. Check it out. Monitor yourself during your conversations with others. See just how many times you’re actually waitingfor them to stop talking so that you can add your two cents in. You will be surprised how often that is true. Just catch yourself, and take a few extra moments before you do reply. Do I need to say what I’m about to say? Will it make THEdifference? Have I disengaged my own ego? Do I actually understand what I have been told by listening intently? Do I agree with what I’ve heard?

You need to question everything that you’ve learned before you open your mouth to reply. In some sense it isa game, and in others, it’s not at all. It is about respecting someone else’s thoughts, regardless of how you feel about it personally. That can make it yourproblem, and not lead to a good solution. Learn how to be truly empathetic. It’s not easy, as you have to unlearn many bad habits that you’ve picked up over a lifetime of being ‘normal.’

If you can’t control your emotions, why would you expect that they could? Talking someone down is truly an art, and we’re not all that good at it. It takes a special personality to do this. I have to work very hard at it. While I enjoy the challenge, it’s almost always exactly that. I don’t expect to win every time, and I try to learn from my own mistakes. Sometimes it’s just about walking away, and letting go – let someone better equipped handle the problem.

Communication comes in many forms, and flavors. Some days you won’t be the best messenger, and some you will be the only one. It’s like that. Some days you’ll be on, some you won’t. Accept that. Use-of-Force canbe better communication. Violence though is also a form of communication. Understand that concept here and now. Some will only understand that, and I have made some peace with that concept.

I can’t express how important it is to go out of your way to try to learn more about people and to try and understand that even if they’re completely wrong, you need to convince them that they are right, to avoid a use of force incident. Many of these incidents are purely a power struggle, dominance, or an “I have to have my way” sort of thing. Of course naturally, we don’t want that to happen, so we manufacture roadblocks to ensure it won’t. Let it go – it may not be that important if you let them win a small victory.

Upgrade your vocabulary, but don’t overdo it. Don’t talk down to people. Allow some kindness to show through. Don’t be what you’re asking them not to be. Learn to choose your words more carefully. Set the pace, don’t be sucked in by it. Use your position to advantage. Watch your tone, and your body language. Be respectful – regardless if whether or not the respect is deserved. If they don’t feel respected, you’re already losing.

There are so many good books out there that can help you understand, and not enough time here to provide it all to you. Explore, and then re-double your efforts to find more information and resources. It can only make you better.

Find what’s useful, and be prepared to jettison that which is not. It’s not all applicable in every instance, but maybe only in some – so don’t discard what hasn’t worked this time.



  • What you think about violence isn’t necessarily the reality of what it will be – for you.Many things happened during ‘an event’ that you haven’t even begun to consider. Add to that mixture the fact that you haven’t practiced much of what you know nearly enough to handle this situation. Throw in your reactions – chemical dump, emotional upheaval, environmental booby-traps, multiple goals, etc. it gets complicated in the blink of an eye, and a lot goes through your head, or it doesn’t. Have you prepared yourself for any of that?

tb: Violence is different – every time, and for everyone involved. It’s complicated, and it’s not. It’s easy, and it’s not.

Violence is a dynamic event. There is a beginning and an end, but you don’t always control either aspect.

I think about violence all the time. Really. That seems very odd to say, but think about it this way: by thinking about it, in some aspect, I am preparing to deal with it – maybe better, faster, and hopefully smarter. I use a technique called visualization. I see myself dealing with a violent person, and imagine what I’d do to stop them – in my mind’s eye. This is a great way to prepare your mind in several useful ways. It allows you to be violent without hurting anyone. It allows you to practice your techniques without actually getting physical. It prepares you mentally to perform violence. It prepares you psychologically as well.

Whenever I’m at a ‘pre-event’, I do just that. I look at the aggressor, sum them up and form my own assessment, and maybe with a little extra info from someone that may have previously dealt with them, and then pick out some likely ways it will go down, mentally. It usually never goes anything like what I pictured.

There are only so many aspects that you can control, and the aspects that you can’t control are the dynamics and choices of the aggressor. What they do, and how they do it dictate what you can or should do. No one could ever train for that. There are infinite attributes to a simple event. Environment, state of mind, method of dress or un-dress, sex, height, weight, lighting, positioning, and so many other aspects to be considered before you even attempt to put a move on. Sometimes the rules of engagement are such that you can only react, and in just such a manner or using specific techniques. And then there are the times when you can use anything and everything available to you. Who could possibly contemplate all methods, all circumstances, all environments, etc.?

Trust me when I say this: It’s different each and every time, and you won’t be prepared for what you’re actually handed and asked to deal with. Get used to it if you expect to survive.



  • “Training to face reality takes extra time, extra energy, extra creativity.”A direct quote from Charles Remsberg. It’s not only important in formal training, but in what you do every day. You need to make the effort to move yourself forward on your own time as well as when you’re ‘in play.’

tb: There’s not much I can add to this that hasn’t already been said by others, better. You have to come to that place where you realize what you don’t know on your own. If you have some components of the ‘right stuff’ it’ll hit you, hard. If not, well you’re in for a world of hurt at some point, but I hope not.

I got into the violence field purely by chance, and was able to avoid a lot of it for many years by avoiding it whenever and wherever possible. Yes, I hung out at some of the most likely places for violence to occur. Those places where there are usually many more young men than young women; places where alcohol and other substances were likely to be available, flowing, and accessible. Don’t infer from that that I partook, but assume I was there for entertainment purposes. That said, it is highly probable that I should have encountered more than I did, BUT, I avoided any temptation to participate, or be surrounded by any that thought along those lines. I knew that hanging with the wrong crowd – those guys that couldn’t control themselves, whether imbibing or not – would lead to the likelihood of a mix-up more likely than not, so I didn’t go there.

When I took a job that was specifically designed to control violence (more than I had bargained for and even expected!) I had to get up to speed quickly! I sought out a Martial Arts program and went up to three times a week when possible. I was scared of what I’d already seen without any clue as to how to handle these things, and needed to find something fast. Well, it’s not that easy, and that’s surely not a great way to go about educating yourself.

In order to get the best education you’ll need to understand some fundamental points:

1] You don’t know what you don’t know. So, how do you find that out? I can tell you from experience that it can take you years to learn even that fundamental piece. You have to be exposed to a lot of things in this profession before you can even define what you think you might need. How can you start learning, if you don’t know where to start? Yeah, it is like that, and it was like that for me. I had zero clue. I didn’t know what I needed, and I didn’t know who or how to ask for what I thought I needed. I spent my first year in a basic program, knowing early on that I had no time to waste on mastering anything, and mostly knowing that what I was learning wasn’t applicable – I knew up front that I couldn’t use most of the techniques that I would learn. I damn sure knew that I was never going to get into a horse stance. Toward the end of my partial journey through that program I was shown one technique that immediately clicked! That light-bulb-in-the-head moment started my real journey!

Think about this for more than a minute. Take some time to wrap this around your ‘needs.’ There are far too many Martial Arts programs that are not only incomplete, but also improper for dealing with violence. Not only have many of these artists never dealt with real-world violence, but also they think that what they teach is going to save the day when it does rear its ugly head. They are wrong. For themselves, and for you. They just don’t know that. It’s a fault of the ‘system’ – and I mean Martial Arts in general. That’s not to say that you won’t learn some great and functional stuff – you will. You will learn discipline, history, and confidence. You will learn respect, community, and family. There are far too many positive aspects to outright dismiss Martial Arts. But, all programs are not equal. Finding the right teacher is a key element.

I have now spent eight years in my search for the ‘right’ stuff. Along that way I have changed directions a few times, looked at things I knew I’d never use, looked at things that might or might not ever be useful, looked at things that immediately rang true to me. For what I do, and for my needs, it’s so hard to find any one program or teacher. That’s changing now after a few years more under my belt.

In order to define what your quest is, you need to know more than you think you do – to make better choices, and the right choices for that goal. All Martial Arts programs have something to offer to you – it might be as simple as learning respect. It may be a joint lock, or wrestling, or proper striking. Look into Combatives-style programs too though. Although they can be described as ‘deadly’ or ‘brutal’, they may have just the right components for your needs. Again, it’s going to take a mental leap for you to come to terms with that, and those descriptions. That’s exactly how I was led down that path. I asked another senior Martial Artist if she knew of other Arts that might be more applicable to me and my daily needs (the job). She immediately said yes, but described it as brutal. I told her I wasn’t looking for brutal – based on the needs of the job; I needed something more than kata-like moves, and nothing approaching ‘brutal’ at all. I described what I was likely to deal with, and how I needed to handle that – without pre-emption, without strikes and kicks, and that it was never going to be a ‘fight’ situation.

She listened, and mentioned a local faction doing something called Krav Maga. Brutal. I decided to look into it – via the Internet. My main goal was for home study. And the reason that was so was because I figured it would be too hard and too long to find a suitable partner. I also had a budget – yeah, I was not thinking properly at that time. I’d just spent over $1.25k for one year of training, and wasn’t looking to do that again if it could be avoided.

Suffice it to say that I found MY teacher through that search. And while we didn’t have a traditional teacher/student relationship, we did develop a great working relationship, and friendship that continues. Sometimes teacher, always student. And so it continues.

If you are lucky enough to be able to define your needs, you will likely find a solution much faster. I didn’t, and wasn’t so lucky, because I continue to re-define my specific needs. You see violence has no specific measurement, and likely no limits. So the goal expands, maybe after another brush with it, maybe before. My needs are pretty much the same as when I started per se, but violence is increasing in so many ways – it’s more prevalent, more involved, and more likely to end not only in injuries, but investigation!

If you are a contact professional – someone paid to put hands on people to curb or stop violence, this is yet another facet that you need to immerse yourself in. The legal matter. You need to know all of the rules, not just what you’re told. You need to explore that with a lawyer, and local law enforcement professionals. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should or that you have the right to put hands on anyone. Knowing when and how, and if it’s legal and or following the mandates of your institution are all important aspects above and beyond the physical or verbal engagements that you may come upon.

You need to get creative – how and where you send your time, energy, and funds. That means re-purposing that revenue stream. How important is your safety? How important is it to come out on top, vs. second place – the loser in any encounter? How important is it to your ego? Would it be possible to be suspended and or lose your job if you are ineffective? There is a lot to lose if you don’t commit to being your best, legally, morally and in the eyes of your peers and or employer. If you’re not willing to commit anything and everything your are capable of surrendering, then face that, and own it. Open up your eyes to what’s really real – violence is ugly, and effective in the right hands. It’s going to change your life, no matter what side you’re on – giving or receiving. If you’re not willing to invest in your own future, no one else is either. My advice is to invest more than you think you’ll need, because at some point you will. Typically, I invest thousands of dollars every year. I am always expanding my mind, and my mindset. I work on the physical, as well as the verbal aspects. Much violence can be avoided if you can learn to tame your own tongue. Trust me. I get more done by talking to people – respectfully.

Creative also requires thinking, assessing, and not buying into ‘the sale.’ Everything you view that is sold as a ‘product’ of a system is manipulated. Every single technique that you see is manufactured for that purpose – to sell you on it’s effectiveness. Realize fully that the ‘master’ and his ‘opponent’ are both on the same team. The effect that you witness is only real in the context that it is demonstrated. The opponent is always willing and cooperative. There are too many aspects of every technique that are not fully explained, nor demonstrated. To get that info you may need to buy into their system, and invest many more hard-earned dollars. To get creative, take each one and break it down into its simplest terms and really look for what makes it work. You won’t always be successful. There are still to many variables. Imagine that the master has done that one technique thousands of times, over the course of many years. Have you? Can you invest that kind of time? Are you willing to do so? One thing to consider: size. It does matter many times. I’ve seen more violence be successful by those that are totally untrained than by most anyone else in my environment. That should speak volumes to you – if you’re paying attention. Look at the other factors rather than the technique. This is where you need to be spending your time, and paying attention.



  • Have you truly assessed your capabilities and your dependence or independence of deploying a weapon?Do you know your weapon intimately? Do you know your ability to use that weapon on another human being intimately? Do you understand the aftermath? Some very heady things to work on, now!


tb: How confident are you in your training? How about how well you do with your ‘art’? Have you trained ‘in’ flaws? Do you know what those are? How do you plan around those flaws? In a nutshell, you need to intimately know the answers to all of these questions. And you need to be honest. Why? Because you will be the only one to blame if you fail because you lied to yourself. Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller are the two guys that I reference when I speak to this subject.

These two guys have defined better for me than anyone else the ‘other’ aspects of what we do – call it self-defense, call it Martial Arts, it doesn’t matter to me. What these two guys have done over the last few years for my abilities is immeasurable. Everything that they seem to put down on paper has an effect. I can’t truly understand a lot of it as intimately as I’d like, but it does seep in. They are both what I call ‘deep thinkers.’ I know a little about each of these guys, and where they came from – a little. Two very dedicated, and talented guys that I owe my life to many days, and in many ways.

 Recall that I said you should explore many things that could lead you to your truths. I followed many roads to find these two guys. Marc was first, followed by Rory. In actuality, I found a guy named Peyton Quinn first (when I started to explore outside my art). That led me to Marc. I have been very fortunate to find a small clan of guys that I totally support, and always look to for new information, better information, and different information. I have others that I should mention: Loren W. Christensen, Alain Burrese, Jim Wagner, Iain Abernethy, Tony Blauer, Carl Cestari, Bob Kasper, Kelly McCann, Michael Janich, Lawrence Kane, Kris Wilder, George Kirby, Robert Koga, Tak Kubota, Tim Larkin, Neal Martin, Patrick McCarthy, Remy Presas, Wally Jay, D’Arcy Rahming, George Thompson, Jwing-Ming Yang and my teacher Avi Nardia. These men have all contributed to my art – in small ways, and in leaps! There are others of course, but mentioning these will at least outline some of what I have personally explored and experienced in order to find what I can use.

Many years earlier – 30 or so, I’d found some of the early influences – Takayuki Kubota – creator of the Kubotan. John G. Peters – an early proponent for SD and Police methods. Guys like Charles Remsberg, Steve Albrecht, Al Arsenault, Michael Asken, Dave Grossman, Massad Ayoob, C.J. Caracci, Loren W. Christensen, Rory Miller, Kevin Dillon, Jim Glennon, Harry Hammer, Chuck Joyner, Robert Koga – creator of the Koga Stick, Mark Mireles, Eric Murray, Mark Wyler, George Vranos and Dr. George Thompson round out resources for my LEO traits. These men all represent Law Enforcement, and keeping their brothers safe through education. I started to learn more about SD through my research into Police Training. In or around 1980, I found a police supply house – Monodnack. Through them I found my first few Police Training manuals, and my first personal defense weapon – the Kubotan. I still have all of the books andmy first Kubotan.

The Kubotan is a small pocket-stick weapon. It’s main use was to replace the much bulkier wooden baton that Police were required to wear throughout the 70’s. Takayuki Kubota had designed and implemented this small hand weapon, made of aluminum that was meant to deliver pain, but in a much smaller package. It was accepted within the Police community for several years, though I’m not sure that it ever really ‘caught on.’ If you look for Police manuals from that period, you won’t find much that seems complete. That’s because it wasn’t a serious pursuit, unfortunately.

The Kubotan was designed to deliver pain through pressure points mostly. It was used to affect a come-along, and even takedowns. In Tak’s hands, it was very effective. Like anything that requires fine motor skills, it has its limitations. The upside would be that if it got into the BG’s hands, he wasn’t going to be able to hurt you with it!

I carried mine for several years, starting in NYC around 1981. It was handy, concealable, and never deployed! There are several reasons for that – and missing the educational aspects was foremost. There were no videos of its use available to the public! You could only learn some techniques via the book. Besides the fact that the last thing I was looking for was trouble in any shape or form.

Fast-forward to mid 2000’s, and I started to get comfortable having the Kubotan with me all the time. Still hadn’t learned much of anything about how to use it, nor found anyone that had! I ran into the representatives from Monodnack at a trade show, and when I mentioned this tool to them, they smiled, and pulled out some new-old-stock ones to my dismay! I bought another one or two – hey you never know, right?

I started checking out FMA around 2013. They referenced weapons – and of course, they had a small fist-load that they used, in the same or similar manner that Tak had devised for his. Again, I got sucked into a weapon system, and renewed my interest in having to learn my Kubotan through my FMA experience.

Go forward another year, and I started to totally re-think my training – again. My thought was based on some training in Kapap – ‘Don’t carry a weapon, Be the weapon.’  So, running with that, I made the decision tonotrely on any instrument. I figure that I had been in multiple one-on-one events during the course of my newest career, and never even once thought to deploy and use my Kubotan, or any other substitute – Tactical Pens. I was now carrying both – backup, right? Again, I’d find myself in a situation, and think beforehand that I might consider using one or the other, but when it went off, it totally slipped my mind. Violence will do that to you. It’s not that the pre-event visualizations failed, but they didn’t come to fruition either.

It became clear that I’d been carrying and even ‘depending’ on these tools for my everyday carry, but that I had not in fact ever deployed either tool! There are many reasons, but it was because I came to realize that simple fact that I decided it was time to break that habit, and face the reality that I wasn’t likely to deploy them – at least in this environment.

Now I’m not sure if either would have helped, of if their presence visually dissuaded some  in a small way from jumping-off. It may have, and I’ll never know. I do know that more than a few have asked me what it was, and how it might be used. So I can’t factor that out.

I am now convinced that I am weapons-dependent house-broken. I am no longer reliant on thinking that I will need a weapon. There are just too many situations where I know my hands will be so busy moving body parts that to even attempt to grab anything else, and try to utilize it in any effective manner would be fruitless.

Keep in mind that I am deploying what should not be considered a deadly weapon, but may be. Substitute my weapon of choice for yours – now add the extra legal considerations. Mine was designed for pain compliance. And some have taught using a knife as a power multiplier. Did you know that even though the blade is not deployed in this manner, that using the knife as a strike-enhancer is still considered deadly force in some jurisdictions? I didn’t. You need to read Marc MacYoung’s book, In the Name of Self-Defense. Period. Exclamation point. You will learn a lot about things you have no idea about now, or the wrong ideas about.

Beyond that, consider the other pieces that you haven’t, to date at least – the blood, bile, bodily fluids that you will come into contact with. Consider the damage you will sustain. Consider how your ego is going to come out ifyou lose. Consider the legal aspects, and the psychological. Anytime to you choose to engage, you have entered an unwritten agreement to mutual-combat. That has legal ramifications written all over it. Have you put a lawyer on retainer yet? Do you know what it’s like to be exposed to AIDS, HIV, TB? Can you guarantee that the other party doesn’t have something infectious? Did you know that they are not legally obligated to let you know or legally bound to submit to testing to find out if they are a carrier? Guess what, you’re going to be reeling. There is little comfort in being tested every couple of weeks for a six month period to ‘verify’ your results – positive or not. I’ve been there. Just being exposed and going through this should be enough to make you think long and hard, and to give you extra incentive not to go there again. In so much as you’d like to continue to live in a fantasy world about other peoples habits, you’re likely to find out the nasty truth the hard way.


  • Hands. They are what will hurt you.Agreed, but there is a larger picture to consider as well – being blind-sided is one of those possibilities. You can’t always be ON, but you need to raise your level of awareness, and educate yourself on everything that may keep you safe. Whether it’s learning more about knives or guns – handguns, long-guns, ammunition. Try to educate yourself to the extent that your friends will get a little uncomfortable about how much you know and the things that you find interesting, and only then you might be ahead of the game, just a little.

tb: Okay, this is a ‘standard’ that is often quoted. Watch the hands.  Most times you can, sometimes you can’t. It may depend on your personal security stance, or it could be dependent upon your professional security stance. Sometimes they are the same, sometimes not.

As a general rule, if you’re not aware, you’re not safe, and you’re likely to become a victim. Sometimes we glide through life. Do you recall every mile that you spent in your car on the way to work or home today? Recall anything at all that stuck out? If you’re normal or like most of us, your answer is going to be no. If you recall anything at all, it might be an anomaly – something out of the ordinary that happened, just today.

When you’re driving, you’re on autopilot most of the time. Your mind is drifting to those things that you may be doing when you arrive to work or home. You may be listening to a favorite song on the radio, or just enjoying the good weather. Your subconscious is in control of the driving, for the moment.

Many of us go through our entire day this way as well. If you are a security professional, this is not a good stance. If you’re not paying attention, you’re really just there for a paycheck. As an example, a part of my job is to watch people. I do this on autopilot a lot. I’m looking for the anomaly, not the normal. I’m looking for that guy that doesn’t fit in. The guy that notices me noticing him. When he ‘blinks’, I know I’m onto something. It may be nothing more than he’s recognized that he’s been spotted, and maybe he’s done some time and knows that he’s been identified, but not sure why.

I spend a good deal of time checking pockets. I’m looking primarily for weapons. There are lots of them in my travels. It’s become so normal for me that I do it when I’m at the mall, or in a convenience store, or at a show.

How do weapons come into play? Hands. You can only deploy a knife, or a gun, with hand. Same goes for most weapons – you need to put it into play with at least one hand.

Hands also come into play as weapons themselves – the boxer, MMA guy, the drunk, the spousal abuser – they ALL use their hands. The guy that’s going to go up against you is likely to use his hands first. Hands can be put into play in so many creative ways too. Punching, pushing, pinching, grinding, pounding, flicking, pulling, gouging, prodding, ripping…

Hands are one of the most underrated and yet overlooked weapons. Maybe for the most part you can overlook their usefulness, and how deadly they can be to you. You might get lucky and the guy has nothing. You might not. You might end up with your ticket punched. Especially if you underestimated his hands, or discounted them outright. A good fighter may need nothing more than a good set of hands. You need to watch the hands. Forget the face, watch those hands, they will kill you.


  • Educate yourself not just in Martial Arts, but also in Military Martial Arts, and Police Martial Arts.Learn about the OODA loop, about the Awareness Color Code. OODA alone will make you more capable ifyou have digested it, and keep it in the forefront of your mind.

tb: There is so much more to learn than just an art. An art can be expanded due to how it will be used, and in which context. You may learn one technique that can be tweaked to a specific use beyond which it was designed. The same move in Karate, will likely be employed differently in a military context, and definitely will be used differently in a Police context. The goal of civilian, vs. military vs. LEO will always be different, maybe in small ways, maybe more rigorously.

Military use of MA will likely always be with death as one of its likely objectives, and perhaps it’s primary purpose. LEO will likely use a move to stop a violent act, and only go to deadly force if and when it can be legally justified. Civilian use of deadly techniques can be used in the proper context and if your local laws govern it as such – self-defense primarily.

You need to stop and learn as much as you can about actually using your art in a legal sense, before you ever consider doing so.

There are also other great additions to your Martial Arts training to be obtained by reading much of the material that is developed around it, in Military contexts and in Law Enforcement contexts. I mention specifically the OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) and Cooper’s Awareness Color Code. These are tools to make you think, and plan. There are many other tools out there like this that will help you round out more as a professional. You need to seek them out.

You also need to understand these tools. Merely reading all that you can isn’t of much use if you don’t even understand what you’re reading and in what contexts the information may be useful to you or others. These things are about understanding small snippets of time during a violent encounter. A timeline, which you may be able to control. Once it has started, if you’re paying attention (CODE YELLOW) then you’re already OBSERVING, and maybe even ORIENTING to a target. That may put you ahead of your target by mere moments – microseconds, or even seconds. Miss that opportunity, and at best you’re playing catch-up.

The LEO arts are primarily meant to control and constrain a target. Make no judgments on these without understanding their purpose. In many situations, you may have only these choices – stop the violent, and hold them until LEO arrive. Those may be your legal restrictions. Keep in mind that constraining someone, against his or her will may also be illegal. It’s context sensitive once again. This is one area that I purposely sought out for my needs. Specifically how to safely stop a violent act, and then to shut the aggressor down, until either more help arrived, or until they gave up.

Keep this in mind. If you want to stop a violent act you can do many things. In military terms, it’s generally referred to as Violence of Action. In short, this means that you use whatever amount of energy you need to expend to overcome their energy. It’s also a speed equation – do what you can as quickly and as violently as necessary to shut them down.

When you shut down their will to continue, you generally survive. If you go into your mode with this is mind, you already have a goal that is attainable but only ifyou commit with Violence of Action as your primary methodology.

The mind is the most lethal weapon, but also the most vulnerable. If you can make them quit by any means – making them think of their own cost, the damage that they are about to experience or the damage that they will take at your hands, you can overcome – if you’ve committed to do so and they buy into that.


  • Practice is always good, and the more realistic it can be, within reason.Injuries are uncommon, but not unexpected, but it’s not the same thing. Realize that it’s not real, but a pale substitute. It’s not like being there, and doing it. There are many, many aspects of being there and doing it that you’ll only get after you’ve been there and done that, that’s when all of the training starts to make sense, to make you go back and revisit or reassess.

tb: Finding good and realistic training is pretty hard to do, even in this era of advancement in all things training. Some of the trainers whom you would think know their craft, may not at all. A lot of trainers have never been in a fight. Think about that. Training to fight is not fighting. It’s not even close. For my money, I want someone that has actually gone hands on – not just once or twice, but hundreds of times. Who does that? I want someone that thinks more like what I’m likely to face than someone that follows and/or adheres to sport fighting. I want that guy or gal that thinks outside of the box – NO RULES – that’s who I want to learn from. Practice/training is more than just the physical aspects of combat. It’s about the mental game – getting that mental advantage, putting forth that warrior attitude, psyching out your opponent before the dance even begins. I mean, who really wants to fight?

I have learned so much from so many sources that it’s hard to know where to begin to even point you. Why? Because my goals are not yours, very likely. In a nutshell, my path will not be yours, even if you are in the same ‘business’ that I am. Even if we’re partners. I have a very specific set of goals to accomplish, a harsh environment in which I operate, legal and moral issues that you may not have. I’m speaking strictly to my job goals, which won’t be the same in public when I’m not on the clock. That is another enchilada!

My primary goal is to defeat my opponent by mere presence as my first option. Sometimes it works, and no further action is required. With that presence is a display of uniform, physical size, and outward confidence – which needs to be unwavering and evident with no doubt left. Does anyone specifically teach this as craft? Does your school get into and discuss in depth anything but technique?

A recent trend has been towards scenario training. In many ways these can be useful tools. Some are bringing this form of training to an art, and admittedly it’s likely in its infancy in many areas. There are still rules however, even if the BG is in a protective suit of ‘armor.’ Rules are the biggest factor that has to be considered, even when there aren’t any. Think about what you might do in a specific instance. It may be easy to convince yourself that you’d do that, but when it actually happens, it may not even be a consideration. Visualize how you might act or react to a specific event. Do it now. Do you really think you’ll be capable of bringing harm to another? Enough to use a weapon? Enough to put them out of the fight? Enough to damage them? Enough to hospitalize them? Enough to take their life?

These are some of the things that you need to consider before you even attempt to get good training. What’s the point of learning how to break an arm or leg if you can’t bring yourself to even consider that as a possibility?

I’d say this: Explore what your goals might be, then explore how you think you might handle any of that – mentally, by visualizing. Now talk to your peers about your ‘plans.’ Watch and listen to their reactions. The more uncomfortable they are with hearing you speak, the closer you are to achieving ‘reality’ training.


Realistic training needs to cover many aspect of combat:

1] The physical aspects, including attack, defense, evasion

2] The mental aspects, including your mental preparation and how you will deal with wounds, blood and exposure to elements/environment, etc.

3] The legal aspects, including knowing the law and how it applies to you in your state/country, preparation for dealing with the authorities, what and how to state your case, etc.

4] The psychological aspects, including how you deal with what you have actually wrought upon another human being. If you think this stuff doesn’t follow you, then maybe you are a psychopath. It stays with you, and comes back to visit every now and then. It changes you, and your future performance as well. Trust me on this.

Bottom line: You need to explore a lot of material and resources before you should ever engage in this type of activity. There is so much you don’t know, and have not even considered, that may or may not sway you. It’s all to your benefit however. The more you know, the better prepared you will be. The more you know, the more you’ll know you don’t know. And it goes on. If you’re not continually educating yourself, and exposing yourself to violence, you’re missing the boat, if that is in fact your ‘goal.’


  • You will find that one guy that is willing to die rather than to submit.Have you even considered that his goal is not your goal?

tb: Yeah, this may seem rare, and in many cases it likely is, but they do pop up. It may be the guy that you least expect it from – the quiet guy. That guy that seemed like he was going to cooperate, then it went south and you were left wondering, “WTF just happened?”

I’ve dealt with a handful of these guys over an 8-year span of dealing with violence. In one case we had a guy that took on 8 of us, and was still able to do some damage in our direction. He had training. His training gave him the advantage for a variety of reasons which we have touched on. We had rules. Remember that first and foremost. He wasn’t operating based on our rules. Remember that too.

Now when you deal with violence one-to-one, it’s pretty easy to understand your side of the equation. His side is the unknown factor. When you’re in a group, the problem is going to be group dynamics – different training, different expertise, different goals, different mindsets, and different psychological profiles, different abilities see where I’m going with this?

You won’t necessarily be teamed up with guys that think anything like you do, therefore, everything is up for grabs, and or out the window! You can only control what you can control – either physically, verbally or otherwise. Your goal to not hurt the goal may not be the case from the guy that just got kicked in the face – expect the unexpected. Now how do you think you’d react to that? Has that ever happened to you?

As I’ve said before, you don’t know what you don’t know. And you’re not likely to know unless it’s happened before. And even then you might not react exactly the same if it does again.

If you expect things to be routine, you are setting yourself up for failure. Remember this – circumstances change, people don’t react to the same stimuli in the same way, every time or this time specifically.

Try to imagine whyyou’re here, now meeting thisadversary. Did you know, or could you have known that she’d/he’d ingested Molly, or Spike, or PCP, or Bath Salts today? Have you seen how people act or react while under the influence of these popular street drugs? I have. Too many times in fact. It’s never the same, it’s always different, and it’s almost never pretty. It’s only a warning sign if you are exposed to it. Know that it’s out there, around you, every single day. In the mall, at school, on the road, in the bar, in the park, at the restaurant. If you’re lucky, and you’ve ‘studied’ it, you may recognize it without too much obvious signaling.

This mayjust be the guy/girl that you haven’t prepared for. It’s definitely a possibility. When they are AMS,  ‘altered mental status’, they are a very good possibility of being ‘that guy.’


  • Don’t be afraid to criticize yourself.We’ve all done it. Try not to be your own worst critic, but take a healthy dose of ‘I told you so…’, learn from it, move forward.


tb: In order to be helpful, your criticism needs to be honest. Learn from it, but don’t dwell on it. To grow, you need to make mistakes, and you will. But to grow, you need to learn from your mistakes, and hopefully correct them. To do that, you need to be honest in assessing what went wrong.

Don’t be afraid to take criticism from your mentors and peers. They see things you won’t or don’t see. If you have the opportunity to videotape your training, do it. Use it to learn and progress. Use it to assess. Spend time looking for the ever-so-subtle nuances. They’re there, but you need to know what to look for. Keep it mind it won’t necessarily repeat itself, but it may.

Also spend time looking for what went well and find out or identify why it went right. Did it depend solely on your movements or was it a combination or solely due to your opponents mistakes or movements?

Do an inventory on all aspects of your actions. Physical, legal, moral, psychological.


  • Keep moving.Don’t wait for reaction or results. Makeresults happen. Overwhelm and win.


tb: No truer words. This may have come about through discovery, experience, etc. It seems to be most relevant in this book when speaking to gunfights. This is also true for hand-to-hand combat however. Movement, motion is your friend in many cases. Keep this option in play, and in mind when the SHTF.

Many aspects of combat rely on movement. Think about BJJ, Judo, Karate, FMA or any martial art. The root to all technique is some sort of movement. Without movement there may be no forward progress, no submission, no victory.

The problem that many of us face is waiting for reaction, waiting for movement, waiting for submission. This is a mistake, but ‘normal’ for many of us, if not most of us. We have been conditioned to strike, and then wait to see how well it went, or landed, and if it did any damage – before continuing or ceasing.

If you wish to ‘win’, you need to move, and affect damage or compliance without waiting for results or reactions. You need to do so overwhelmingly. Don’t stop until it’s evident that the combat is one-sided, in your favor, before ever considering that it’s over.

Your response needs to be total, committed with totality, affected with totality. The only way to shut down the violence is by superior will and commitment. Overcome by overwhelming your opponent. Speed is good, but may not be as necessary as continual movement – different techniques to different targets, with the bonus of unexpected commitment to winning.  Once you shut down your opponents’ will to continue, then you have succeeded to ‘win.’ Shut down his brain, kill his will to continue.


  • Weapons – study them, get intimate.Learn as much as possible, for you may end up having one in your hands when you least expect it.

tb: Weapons on the table brings a huge category of possibilities. Where to start?

First – study, study, study. Research the possibilities.

Want to learn something new? Study the weapons used in jails and prisons. These are weapons of opportunity. Shivs – the predominant weapon used behind the walls perhaps? Certainly the most popular. I’ve come into contact with a few – thanks to the population that I am in daily contact with. I’ve witnessed some of the craft of designing a shiv as well.

Don’t ever dismiss the possibility that your opponent has a weapon and or knowledge/experience that you may not possess. If you condition yourself in this manner, you may still be surprised, but nowhere near as much as if you hadn’t even considered the possibility.

The mind is still the most dangerous weapon in any arsenal – yours or his. The mind conceives the act that is about to jump off. The mind creates the will, the plan, and the tools necessary to carry it all off.

When under the threat of attack, your mind and his may conceive of things neither of you may have considered otherwise, or only at this time.

Study. Find the resources, in likely and unlikely places. Study the cultural aspects as well as the familial aspects. Understand the neighborhood, community, and race aspects to the event. What is acceptable to you may effect what you expect, unexpectedly so.

As a security officer responsible for the safety of thousands daily, I have seen weapons of all sorts brought to our facility – shivs mostly, as they are the most common, most easily acquired, most easily concealed. From common kitchen tools, to hand-fashioned weapons with a single purpose. I’ve seen some very interesting ‘carry’ options, and some very mundane. The mundane may be the smartest in the sense of  being able to explain away their existence upon discovery though.

Common tools – the everyday man carry – crescent wrenches, screw drivers, of course box cutters, spark plugs, scissors of every sort, flat bar stock, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, hair picks, cell phones, chargers, pipes… use your imagination and conceive of anything as a weapon, and it will become so. The more common it is, the better to legally explain away why you had it on your person.

Keep in mind too that carrying a weapon may put you in jeopardy, even in justified to do so and in your use of deployment aspects. A good lawyer is going to try to set you up for pre-meditation. They will angle towards your plan to do harm to another, if not their specific ‘client-victim.’

Weapons of opportunity are specifically defined by current standards as those weapons found at the scene of the altercation or close-by. Anything within reach becomes that weapon of opportunity. You need to use you imagination. When and how you do so will determine the usefulness of deploying said weapon.

Study HOW-TO carry options. Common areas of concealment: waistband, in-hand, pockets, ankle area, forearm area, inside jacket/shirt – basically anywhere within easy reach for quick access. Since the hands are the tool bringing the weapon to bear… watch the hands for movement, for concealment tells, watch for that ‘grooming’ habit, etc.

Study knife use, deployment, concealment – again, get outside of your comfort zone, and see what is and what has been used, and expand upon those ideas. Study FMA, or any knife culture for technique, weapon choice, target choice, training techniques.

Study the same for gun culture.

Study all that you can about prison culture and weapon selection and use. This is where it can get very creative and very disturbing. Its end-goal may be the same as your opponents.


  • Study your adversary.Learn what makes him tick, try to put yourself in his/her shoes, and understand what their motivations may be. Study your enemy, for they’ve already studied you.


tb: So much to learn here, again. If you can’t even imagine who/what your opponent is, how do you expect to win? You need a lot of depth in your toolbox here. You need to understand race, cultural differences, sexual orientation/preferences, taboos, empathy, cultural status, environmental norms, ego, humility, male/female, male/male, female/female dynamics and history, psychopathy, mental health, homelessness, military service experience, institutional care, Alzheimer’s/dementia, altered mental status, loss of life, end of life experience… life in general, but you need to be more of an expert than you are now. Exposure is the only cure. Get involved, get the experience first-hand. Interact, volunteer, put yourself in uncomfortable situations and make the best of it, even if you can’t make it work.

Some of the people you may come into contact with already know who you are and who you represent – just ask them, they’ll tell you, even if it’s not anywhere near the truth. That is their reality. That’s what you will face. They’ve dealt with you all of their lives – just ask them. If you expect to win, you need to earn their trust. You need to prove them wrong, even when it may not seem like the best thing to do. Therein lies one of mysecrets.

When you treat other people as you’d like to be treated, it may help, or they may see right through it. They may be disbelievers despite your best efforts, and most honest sincerity. Yes, it’s about manipulation, with your goal for a safer outcome, hopefully.

Cons will use every aspect of your cultural upbringing to bear against you. They will use their hate of you to their benefit through your ability to sympathize. Know this, learn this, and do your best to spot it as it’s being brought to bear. Psychopaths do the same, only with true disinterest. They have learned how to manipulate the masses better than you will ever understand – because you can’t understand how they do what they do, you can only be aware of it. Borderline personality disorder – another common diagnosis to learn more about. Go study!


  • Learn your targeting.Understand as much as possible what the right target is and what the right weapon is for that target. The goal is usually to stop the violence as quickly as possible, but do you have a solid legal foundation for that goal? Is this social or asocial violence? The targets and tools will be different perhaps?

tb: This may seem like an obvious matter, but it is far from so. You need to learn a LOT about the human body before you will even be able to think you’re going to be effective. And that learning needs to be bookwork and physical contact.

Goal:To effectively apply a tool or tools to another body to stop them as quickly as possible.Context has everything to do with this. Different scenarios require and demand different tools and targets. There are physical elements but also psychological elements involved here as well.

To effectively stop someone from doing damage to you or others, you can simply remove their will to do so. Period. How can that be? Well there are again several options to think about. You can make someone stop by overwhelming their senses – a serious beat-down may do that, but holding a loaded weapon to their head may work as well. Severing a phalange, a limb, taking an eye, are all effective methods of removing their will to continue – possibly. There are no guarantees to finding their threshold. The point where they say, ‘whoa!’ You may find it easily, you may not. As an example, some will fight until they die – either by sheer instinct or not. I’ve fought, and I use that term very loosely, with otherwise-altered individuals who didn’t know how to surrender – to accede that they couldn’t win.

Take away their will, and you may come out on top. You can see micro-moments in many training videos – that look in the Uke’s eye when he is momentarily out of the game. It may be due to an injury or threat of such an injury, it may be simply being caught unexpectedly, or caught off-balance and about to fall. Using our common fears, like the fear of falling can give you a tremendous advantage, because now you are fighting evolution – almost everyone fears falling. Watch any movie or choreographed fight-scene in any Martial Arts instructional video, and you will see these moments. Even when the guy is prepared, there is that ever so small micro-moment when he’s taken out of control and flying through the air, or being dropped.

Use this to your advantage when planning and executing. Simply lifting the chin to the sky, and pushing the lower back in from the rear is enough to get most people off their guard, and into their survival instinct. That’s all it takes to have advantage – for a moment.

Other things to use to your advantage are learning how to properly strike – what weapon to what target. Hard to soft, soft to hard. Never use a fist to the head, or bony structure. Maybe. It makes sense, but you’ll need to explore that option. Some of us are built differently, so there won’t necessarily be an option that fits that ‘standard.’

Eyes, throat, groin, soft tissue – all targets of opportunity, all SOFT targets, all targets that can’t be trained to be HARD targets.

Simple things go a long way. Skin grabs – pinches. Smaller may be better. Go ahead and experiment, on yourself. Large grabs MAY be effective, but try both – on the inside of the arm, sides, inside the thigh. Both can be very effective, and may get you that time, advantage, reaction that you need.

Weapons add another dimension and then some.

Again, it’s all context specific knowledge.

You need to research, experiment, and seek out others to see what has actually worked for them in real scenarios. Textbook learning is a great tool, but may not reflect reality – your reality.



  • Train under stress, fear if possible.No one can really tell you what that is like – it’s different for everyone, and likely different under every circumstance.

tb: Scenario training, and MA training in general has evolved over the last 10 years to be more ‘realistic.’ As an example: shooting alleys – not paper target range training. The same principles are being applied to Martial Arts/Self-Defense programs.

It used to be that when you trained in MA, you trained safely, under an instructor, in a safe and soft environment. You sparred when you got to the higher belt levels.

Well, when I did so, I questioned too much of the training. I often came home shaking my head, because I didn’t understand the methodology. I didn’t understand the goals. I knew something was wrong, based on myreality. And my training failed me when I used it instinctively, based on how I’d trained.

What was most immediately wrong was that I trained like millions of others, to pull my punches, pull my strikes, my kicks. I’d trained to lose. Half power. Stop and wait for results, reaction, confirmation from the ‘judge’, reset, start again. Life isn’t like that, at all. So, why are we training like that?

A huge factor was learning this little piece, that isn’t spoken about: Martial Arts are a SPORT. It’s not fighting.

One thing wrong with that, right? Well, MA does have it’s strong points – it can give you confidence, it can simulate some aspects of combat congress, it can introduce you to some targeting and some tools, it can discipline you. It adds spirituality, respect, and maybe an advanced sense of education. That education is incomplete however,ifyou expect it to get you through a non-sport like engagement.

I love Martial Arts, it helped me to get to where I am today. Even though I questioned everything from the outset. I still do, but I still respect the origins, and the sport, the art, the spirit, the sense of family that it provides. It’s just different than my reality.

The only way you can truly test yourself is going to be without many restrictions that usually apply in a dojo. That means an unsafe or unfriendly environment. That means your street clothes, maybe no clothes. That means in the dark, perhaps partially disabled – blinded by lighting, or deafened by loud noises, shouting, screaming. Wet. Cold. In water, on sand, on a slope or downgrade. After running, or swimming. Get creative. Find other instructional ideas – they’re out there!

The only real way to learn how to do any of this after the book learning, is to do it. Period. It’s either going to work, or it’s not. Then you need a plan ‘B’ and more.

You need to test your mettle. See what makes you tick, and what brings you to a dead stop, or a freeze. See how you react to specific stimuli, or combinations of events.

Re-evaluate after every event. You owe it to yourself to be honest in your personal assessment as well as you opponents. For example: fighting with a drunk, you should easily win. Do you think it might have gone differently had he not been as intoxicated, or had he not been as socially compliant? These are factors you won’t have answers to, but still need to consider. Don’t gain false bravado by the fact that you were easily able to overcome his altered senses with your maybe-less-than-excellent skills. That’ll get you hurt, or worse. Forget your ego, and keep the reality of that event real – recognize that you had advantage from the get-go.



  • ‘Practice at surviving.’Don’t become complacent.

tb: Too many of us get complacent. We drop our guard. And that’s also very natural. We see it all the time in highly trained individuals. It’s no secret that police officers get killed as often as they do because they weren’t truly expecting that outcome. That is the reality – they got complacent in some manner. Whether they weren’t paying attention to the signals, or didn’t expect asocial violence to happen. It’s natural, because that’s what we’ve been taught our entire lives. That’s our social conditioning.

Watch the YouTube videos of Police in high-stress situations. Sometimes they just try too hard to be social creatures, with good manners, to their detriment.

Here’s what I find to be a perfect example of what I’m thinking abut as I write this:

Deputy Kyle Dinkheller, KIA – because he was following his own internal script – integrity. It’s painful to watch, because I’m sitting here shouting at the screen every time I watch this. And I’m not LEO. He wasn’t complacent at all, but he credited his killer too much with being able to do the right thing, even though he stood at the ready while he watched the man return to his vehicle after several of his attempts to aggressively engage with the officer. He stood his ground, and yet allowed the man to re-enter his vehicle. He stood at the ready while he watched the man load his weapon inside the vehicle. He stood at the ready and continued to try to verbally de-escalate the killer, his killer. He stood at the ready while his killer re-approached and fired his long-gun into his body. God bless this man. Integrity. It got him killed, sadly.

Sometimes you just react to your own set of rules, your mores, your need to believe that no one would ‘do that’ – it will get you damaged or maybe even killed. You need to study yourself here and now, and it has to be an honest assessment. What is going to make you freeze like this fine officer? What makes you scared, what makes you notreact, even when all of the signs are evident? What line won’t you cross? Even if you will never face these, what will you do if and when it does happen?

I have frozen once that I recall, and it was because of how I used to train – pulling strikes, specifically. I struck, I waited for reaction, and when it didn’t come as expected, I was in the freeze! Not too deep, but ‘what the hell?’ That could have been a turning point to his advantage, lucky for me it wasn’t – I had no plan B!

I think about and work out scenarios in my head every single day, and as much as I can when I see things that stimulate those moments of reflection. I use visualization as a tool to great effect. The realities may never be what I’ve spent hours each day visualizing, but it keeps me sharp, and gives me time BEFORE an event goes off to at least ‘daydream’ about how I envision it unfolding.

There should be neither time nor space in your life for complacency. This is your life. Stay on top of it.

Tim Boehlert
© Copyright 2016