Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Forgotten Art Form

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

A long time ago the martial arts forgot about something important: violence. Originally, in feudal times, violence was everywhere and you didn’t need to think about using it because it came naturally. However, as time progressed and governments became more stable rampant violence lessened and periods of relative peace emerged. When this happened, martial artists were able to spend less time fighting and more time developing their arts.

It was in these periods of relative peace that martial artists started to systemize their arts and spend lots of time thinking, thinking, and thinking even more. The masters thought so much and progressed their arts to such a degree that the techniques, principles, and ideology of the arts took the forefront and the aspect of violence itself, and its uses, was nearly forgotten. The result of all of this is that today the only ones using violence are the criminals, and nine times out of ten they’re cleaning the floor with seasoned martial artists.

In the martial arts today violence is considered taboo and wrong, and in some styles it is even considered the antithesis of what the martial arts are supposed to be about. Most martial arts take the stand point that violence is bad and you can overcome it with technique. The truth of the matter is that 99% of the time pure uneducated brain-dead violence beats technique. 99% of the time, if pitted against each other in a real fight to the death, a skilled 7th degree black belt would get killed by some untrained street punk. The black belt would be putting his hands up and thinking about what technique to use while the punk would just rush over and violently overwhelm him and try to smash his skull. It happens every day.

Violence isn’t good or bad, it just is. Violence is also the forgotten element that makes martial art techniques work. While 99% of the time violence beats technique hands down, 99% of the time violence AND technique beats violence alone. If you have technique, and you want it to work during a real violent altercation, you need to learn how to add brain-dead violence to it. Don’t just stand there and throw reverse punches like you do during karate class; instead, learn to aggressively charge forward while you are throwing those punches so you run over your attacker, make him back up and put his weight on the back of his heels, overwhelm his defenses, beat his arms down if he tries to block, and then hit him until he is no longer a threat. It doesn’t sound like something a martial artist should do, but it works. It works all day every day and it is why the criminal element, who have little to no training, are so successful.

The techniques of the martial arts are great, but it is the aspect of sheer brain-dead violence and aggression that make them actually work. It’s not pretty, but it works.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Four Stages of a Fight

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

A few days ago I was talking to a friend about whether boxing is or is not a sport that translates to real world self-defense. My stance on the subject was: maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, either way it doesn’t really matter. Actually defending yourself from someone who wants to seriously injure or kill you is about one thing and one thing only…causing injuries.

To clarify this point I’m going to go over the four stages of fighting. These are the four stages that a real fight will progress through. Keep in mind right now I’m talking about a fight and not an act of violence like an assault, rape, or murder. Real acts of violence have only two stages and we’ll go through those next.

Stage Number One: The Man-Dance. A real act of violence just starts, but a fight usually begins with insults and posturing. One person, or a group of people, insults another and then they start sticking their chests out and acting tough. Maybe someone puts their hands up and maybe they don’t, but they don’t assume traditional fighting stances, they just get ready to hit each other. No actual “work” is being done here; it’s just ego and posturing.

Stage Number Two: Non-Specific Trauma. After the man-dance is concluded one person will attack the other. Normally both people, or groups of people, will step forward and just start swinging with no real thought behind it. During this stage both people will usually get hit multiple times but the blows are haphazard and not actually aimed at a part of the opponent’s body that is susceptible to trauma. One punch may land on the top of the person’s head where the skull is thick, the next may land on an arm, and the next may land on their hip bone. Both people may be punched, kicked, kneed, stabbed, shot, or bludgeoned several times but because the trauma they received was not specific, delivered all over the place, and not focused on a vital area, nothing changes and the fighting continues.

Stage Number Three: The Initial Injury. Nothing changes until the first injury occurs. Without an injury the stage of non-specific trauma would last until both parties either got bored or tired. When they get tired they’ll usually revert back to the man-dance and then go home.

An injury, as it applies to combat, is when part of a person’s body gets disabled, can no longer function normally, and requires medical attention. An injury could be an eye gouged by a thumb, a testicle crushed by a foot, a metatarsal being broken by a boot heel, or an eardrum being ruptured by a slap. Until something along those lines happens nothing will change.

Normally the injury happens by dumb luck if it happens at all. Typically one of three things happen: 1.) By dumb luck a punch lands on the other person’s jaw which causes a concussion and the person passes out and falls to the ground, 2.) Someone accidentally scratches the other person’s eye which results in the person not being able to see, or 3.) One person gets punched, pushed, or loses their balance and falls to the ground where they break their wrist or arm, or they hit their head and suffer a concussion and perhaps lose consciousness.

Stage Number Four: Follow Up. Once one person gets an injury their body has to react to that injury and for a brief period (perhaps just a few seconds) their autonomic nervous system takes over their body and they are helpless. In addition to their brief helplessness a part of their body doesn’t work anymore so their ability to fight back is reduced and may be non-existent.

In a real altercation, when an injury occurs the injuring party does not stop and step back in a fighting stance, but rather they continue by jumping in with newfound vigor. They keep on punching, kicking, biting, stomping, stabbing, shooting, or whatever until they are confident that the other person is finished. What they do during their follow up usually consists of more non-specific trauma but they may get another injury to two by dumb luck.

In terms of actual violence there are just two stages: 1.) Before an injury, and 2.) After an injury.

Stage Number One: Before the initial injury. In a situation of actual violence anything can happen before the first injury occurs so speculating on it is of little use. The only thing that will change the situation is for an injury to occur.

Maybe someone man-danced, maybe someone put a knife to your throat, or maybe someone has already struck you four times, it really doesn’t matter because an injury hasn’t occurred yet.

Stage Number Two: After the initial injury. After the first injury is caused the situation then changes in your favor (assuming you were the one to cause the injury) so all you need to do is follow up by causing more injuries until the person(s) can no longer pose a threat.

All forms of fighting can be reduced to these simple stages. It doesn’t matter if its boxing, kickboxing, knife fighting, or a real act of violence, the only thing that gets the job done is injury.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Knocking Someone Out With Pressure Points

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

On my blog ( I use a free service that lets me check the number of people coming to my site and lets me see how they got there and what keyword they searched for that took them there. I've been quite surprised as of late because I recently discovered that the vast majority of people who come to my blog get there because they searched for a topic relating to pressure points. My recent article, "The Use Of Pressure Points", is by far my most popular and it does make sense because in the martial arts pressure points are still seen by many as being one of the last mystical teachings left.

When I look at the list of keywords and phrases that people searched for I found that they were all pretty close to the same: "How to knock someone out with pressure points", "Pressure point knockout", "How to touch someone and knock them out with a pressure point", etc. What is very clear is that people are interested in how pressure points can render someone unconscious. So, after careful consideration, I have decided to give people what they want and to write an article explaining how pressure points can knock someone out and how to do it.

At first I was a little leery about writing this article but after some thought I realized that if people don't learn the truth behind pressure points then they'd probably keep searching until they found some really bad information and either hurt someone with it or got hurt by it. I think that putting this information out will most likely do far more good than harm, so why not give the people what they want?


A few of the searches that brought people to my blog asked how they could knock their friends out with pressure points. Please, DON'T PLAY AROUND WITH THIS STUFF. Most pressure points are just nerves that sit right underneath the skin and by pressing down on them you cause people pain, and it you want to use those on your buddies then you most likely won't do any harm, but making your buddies say "Oww" is the extent of what you can safely play around with.

One of the truths in the martial arts is that you never truly know what will happen when you touch someone, and therefore there is no such thing as "less-than-lethal techniques". If you press down on a buddy's fingernail you're going to cause him great pain and that could be fun, but if you go further and apply pressure to a point that affects an artery then you could potentially kill him.

The solar plexus is considered a "non-lethal" target and may young guys enjoy punching their friends there when they're not looking. Their friend gets winded and everyone laughs, but right behind the solar plexus is the abdominal aorta and if your friend has a heart condition it could send him into cardiac arrest and he could die. What about the groin? I know a lot of young guys that like slapping their friends in the testicles when they're not looking. Fun right? Most people don't know that when you strike the groin you also affect the respiratory system, and if your friend has asthma or another undiagnosed respiratory disorder then that little game of grab ass could potentially end up with a seriously injured or dead friend.

The point I'm trying to make is that there really is no way on knowing exactly how someone will react to even a small amount of trauma. A large number of the population walks around with undiagnosed disorders or diseases and something that wouldn't adversely affect another person would result in serious injury or death to them. Many people have even died from being slapped in the head. It sounds odd but certain people are born predisposed to brain aneurisms and any firm blow to the head will kill them. Thousands die every year from someone pushing, tripping, or punching them and when they fall they hit their head on the ground and that impact either kills them, causes brain damage, or puts them in a coma. Even a simple wrist lock could be fatal if it causes the subject to lose their balance and hit their head on the ground.

Pressure points are not something that should be played around with. They should only be practiced under the watch of a trained instructor and even then a first aid kit and a phone should be kept near in case of injury. No one wants to be responsible for the death of a friend so DON'T play around with what you'll learn here or any other martial art technique.

"Chi" In Perspective

When talking about pressure points you can't really ignore the topic of "chi" (internal energy). Many schools teach that you can use your chi, or disrupt someone else's chi, to render them unconscious. While I am a firm believer in the existence of chi, and have felt it's affects many times during Tai Chi or Chi Gung practice, there are a few problems with the idea of using chi to knock someone out.

Firstly, historically there have been several different definitions of what chi really is. While the term "chi" has been used to mean "internal energy" it has also been used to mean such things as "focus" and "correctly using body mechanics". Many Chinese historians believe that in the past hitting someone with "chi" didn't mean to use your life-giving internal force to hit an opponent, but rather to focus and use proper body mechanics. After a few years of studying Tai Chi Chuan I realized that often when they said "chi" they really meant "body weight". Many times I saw an instructor seemingly just touch someone and make them fly backwards, but upon examination you'd see that they just bent their knees to drop their bodyweight and used their arm to transfer that force into their partner.

Personally I think that there are two kinds of chi. There is the universal force which supports life (and may be some type of electro-magnetism) and there is martial arts chi which is really just mental focus and the proper use of body mechanics and the application of bodyweight.

Secondly, the documented success of using chi to knock people out is extremely suspect. There are many people who teach pressure points for martial purposes, such as George Dillman, but when examined they have almost zero success when using their techniques on people who don't study their system and very sketchy success on people who do study their system. If you watch videos from these schools you'll see demonstrations where students strike their partner's pressure points to render them unconscious and then quickly rush over to revive him, however upon closer inspection it can clearly be seen that in the majority of the cases the person isn't unconscious. In most of the demonstrations that I've seen the supposedly unconscious person has their eyes open, is looking around the room, and moving their arms while their fellow students are trying to revive them.

I think that the George Dillman style of "chi" pressure point knockouts that is going around is pure crap. Time and time again it doesn't work when done against journalists and other people from outside their system, and when it does work against people inside their system I think it works the same way as a placebo. I also think that the people who teach this stuff know it doesn't work, but they also know that if they can get a group of people to rush over to the "unconscious" partner as soon as he falls down they can obstruct people's view enough where they won't see that he isn't really unconscious.

Many of the pressure points that the various styles use to knock people out actually work but not because of chi. If you closely examine the point you'll see that the point sits on top of a major nerve or artery which is the real cause of the unconsciousness.

Again, I am a big believer in chi but I have never seen a martial use of it that wasn't actually just an intelligent use of body dynamics. Chi is a wonderful thing, but I never seen any credible evidence that shows that it can be used as a weapon.

The Causes of Unconsciousness

Before we get to the actual pressure points we need to have an understanding of how unconsciousness happens. If you understand the causes of unconsciousness you'll be able to understand how the pressure points work and you'll be better able to judge the effectiveness of any technique that you may see in the future.

There are three things that will cause a person to pass out and become unconscious: 1.) A lack of oxygen, 2.) A sudden drop in blood pressure, and 3.) Trauma to the brain or when the brain gets overloaded with signals. Any time someone passes out the cause is one of these three reasons. So now that we know the reasons let's look at them a little closer and figure out some pressure points.

A lack of oxygen

When your body is deprived of oxygen your brain begins to shut down and unconsciousness usually occurs in around 30 seconds to one minute. How can we attack the body to affect a "respiratory knockout"? The most obvious way is to attack the windpipe, so the windpipe could be considered to be a pressure point.

There are a few ways to use the windpipe as a pressure point. The first is called a "one handed choke hold". To do this you place the webbing between your thumb and index finger on the windpipe and wrap your four fingers around the back on their neck. You then use your thumb to push the windpipe into your hand. The next is a "forearm choke hold" which can be done in several ways but all involve placing your forearm across the windpipe and pressing into it to cut off oxygen flow.

The second pressure point could be the nose and mouth. By using the palm of your hand to create a seal over someone's nose and mouth you can stop their breathing and cause unconsciousness in about 30 seconds to one minute. However, in terms of using the respiratory system to produce unconsciousness, that is about it. A hard blow to the groin, solar plexus, or diaphragm could alter someone's breathing enough to cause them to black out but there's no guarantee this will happen.

The third are the lungs themselves. It is not too hard to hit someone and knock the wind out of them but it is probably impossible to hit someone hard enough in the lungs to prevent them from inflating. The way you would use the lungs to knock someone out is to squeeze them so tight that they cannot inflate, and generally this is done by lying on someone’s chest. You need to be careful in attempting this because there have been many poorly trained security guards who have laid on a suspect’s chest without realizing it and ended up killing them because they couldn’t breathe.

A sudden drop in blood pressure

In all the cases where people faint or pass out and become unconscious the cause of the vast majority (probably in the high 90%) is a sudden drop in blood pressure. People who stand up too quickly and become light headed or pass out and people who undergo an emotional shock and pass out are examples of a person suffering from a sudden drop in blood pressure.

A sudden drop in blood pressure can be caused by an event that happens either in the heart or the arteries. An event that happens in the heart that results in a sudden drop in blood pressure could be a heart attack, irregular heartbeat, trauma to the heart which causes it to pause or slow down, or the brain could stop sending the signal for the heart to beat, or the nervous system could stop sending it.

An event in the arteries generally refers to a situation where the person is bleeding and loses so much blood that blood pressure drops significantly. Another arterial event is caused by pinching an artery either with the hand or with a hard strike. If you press down on one of the body's major arteries you can cause the blood pressure to rise significantly. When the brain detects this rise it thinks that the body is in trouble so it acts to lower the blood pressure to bring it back down in normal levels. However, since the rise in blood pressure is caused by you pressing down on an artery and not a real bodily malfunction the blood pressure drops so suddenly that the person passes out.

In this context the heart itself could be considered to be a pressure point. Being fairly well protected you'll have to hit the heart very hard and instead of quickly retracting your fist like a traditional reverse punch you'll want to push all the way through and keep the fist in contact with the target for as long as you can. A hard punch or other blow to the heart can definitely cause unconsciousness.

The next pressure point to cause blood pressure to drop suddenly would be the carotid arteries in the neck. These arteries are large and serve as the brain's main blood supplier. The carotid arteries can be found in the front of the neck, on either sides of the windpipe, and right behind the jugular veins. There are a few ways you can apply pressure to the carotid arteries. First, you can grab the front of the throat and use your thumb to press into one artery on one side and the fingers into the other. By pinching down on the carotid arteries you can cause someone to get light headed in 2 or 3 seconds and pass out in 6 to 10. The bad part about this is that this is a very unsecure grip and it will be easy for an opponent to pull out of. It should also be mentioned that again this could be fatal and if you cause one of the arteries to tear, death is nearly certain.

Another method is known as either the"Japanese Stranglehold", the "Marine Stranglehold", or the "Thugee Stranglehold". From behind you wrap your left arm around their neck so that their windpipe sits in the crook of your elbow, and you place your left hand on the inside of your right elbow. You place your right hand on the back of their head and you use it to push their head forwards into your left arm while that arm squeezes in on the sides of the neck. This is a very dangerous technique and should never be applied for more than 10 seconds. The moment the body starts to go limp you should release the hold otherwise you may seriously injure or kill the person.

While the Japanese Stranglehold mainly works by cutting off blood flow to the brain, you can cause unconsciousness by striking into the carotid artery with the side of your hand or your forearm and you'll get that sudden drop in blood pressure that causes a knockout. Again, be very careful while doing this because in striking to this area you can also hit the throat and other nerves.

Another pressure point is the temple. If you place your finger on your temple, just above the outer edge of your eyebrow, you can feel your pulse. In this area your temporal artery carries blood just underneath the skin. By striking the temple you can pinch the artery and render the person unconscious. Striking too hard can easily result in death.

Perhaps considered a more traditional pressure point, the vegas nerve is one of the most vulnerable pressure points on the body. The vegas nerve connects the brain and the heart and a blow to this nerve will quickly render an individual unconscious. The vegas nerve is located on both sides of the neck about an inch below the base of the ear. It is not one little spot you have to hunt for but rather a long nerve that runs down the length of the neck and pressing down anywhere in that area affects the nerve.

If you press down firmly with your thumb you can cause immediate pain and lightheadedness. If you place your palm or forearm on the side of the neck and bounce a few times you can cause the person to pass out. The often cited "Judo Chop" that knocks people out, shown in many movies such as "Austin Powers", is a chop done with the side of the hand to the vegas nerve. Again, be very careful because if the person has a heart condition, or you hit them too hard, it can be fatal.

When someone gets struck in the vegas nerve they will roll their eyes up in the head, faint, and fall to the ground. They may be out for a few seconds or more than a minute. When they come to they will be lightheaded, have a horrorable headache, be nauseous, and will most likely have poor motor skills for a period of time. After a blow to the vegas nerve the person will feel horrorable and usually won't be able to walk, some have trouble crawling, and they'll usually want to vomit. The last thing that they'll want to do is to fight. These affects usually only last ten to twenty minutes, but the headache and nauseous feeling usually last all day.

Trauma to the brain and when the brain gets overloaded with signals

Trauma to the brain basically means a concussion. If you strike someone in the top of the skull with a stick the impact will cause the brain to shut down (the conscious brain anyway) and the person will pass out, if sufficient force is used. If someone suffers whiplash, or they're struck just right, it can cause their brain to strike against the inside of the skull and cause unconsciousness. In terms of causing someone to pass out due to brain trauma the only way you can get it is if you cause a concussion. The easiest way to cause a concussion is to either strike someone's head against a solid object or strike them in the jaw. By striking someone in the jaw you'll cause the head to rapidly twist slightly faster than the brain can move and you'll get your concussion.

Another way of causing unconsciousness is to cause the brain to get overloaded with signals. If the brain receives too many signals as once it will want to shut down and the person will pass out. To do this, called and "electrical knockout", you can either hit multiple spots at once or you can strike certain nerves located close to the brain.

An example of hitting someone multiple times would be to step into your opponent with a double punch (left hand going to the liver and right hand going to the spleen) while also doing a kick or knee to the groin. By striking three areas at the same time you cause the brain to get overloaded and passing out is a near certainty. The catch is that you can't hit someone lightly; you need to step in with your bodyweight and give 100% to all three strikes.

There are several nerves that are located in the head and neck and when struck they will fire rapidly causing an "electrical storm" inside the body which will overload the brain and cause the brain to shut down. The first set of nerves are located in what is called the "horse shoe". On both sides of your head you have nerves that run from your temples down the sides of your head, behind your jaw, and down your neck. From temple to temple you have a horse-shoe of nerves that can all produce unconsciousness. These nerves exit your brain at your temples and are another reason striking to the temples can produce a knockout. Then they run behind your jaw where they are especially vulnerable.

There are two reasons that striking someone in the jaw can cause lightheadness and unconsciousness. The first is that it can result in a concussion as discussed above and the second is that the jaw can be slammed back against the skull and pinch that bundle of nerves. You can strike the jaw straight back towards the skull or you can strike the jaw from the side and drive the other side into the nerves. It doesn’t have to be done as hard as you can but it does have to be done firmly to produce a knockout.

The other area where these nerves can be found is the back of the neck. The back of the neck is full of nerves and you need to be very careful because striking this area can be fatal. A firm blow anywhere on the back of the neck will cause lightheadedness and disorientation and a hard blow will cause unconscious. If you strike anywhere from the center of the back of the neck to the brainstem you can cause unconsciousness first and death second either by damaging the nerve that tells the diaphragm to contract and causing the person to asphyxiate while they're unconscious or by cutting into the spinal cord and causing the blood pressure to drop so rapidly that they die instantly (called "spinal shock"). If you strike anywhere from the center of the back of the neck to where the neck connects to the torso you can cause consciousness first and then permanent paralysis from the neck down.

As far as knocking people out goes that's basically it. Either you can deprive them of oxygen, get their blood pressure to drop suddenly, cause trauma to their brain, or cause an electrical knockout by overloading their brain with electrical signals. There really isn't any secret spot where you can press down and cause immediate unconsciousness. The closest to that is the carotid artery or the vegas nerve. The whole idea of hitting "gall bladder 3", then "triple warmer 6", and then "prostate 69" and knocking someone out doesn't hold up to science, and to be honest it is ridiculous. Instead of hunting and pecking for three tiny little spots on someone’s body and hitting them in the correct order why don't you just step in and drive your palm into their jaw? It's a lot easier and guaranteed to work.

One last note about hitting nerves, if you hit any nerve in the body enough times you can send the person into cardiac arrest and potentially kill them. For example, there was an instance at Guantanamo Bay where the US military hung up a prisoner and every time someone walked by him they'd knee him in the side of the leg in the common peroneal nerve causing extreme pain. This was an attempt to "break him" but it soon let to him having a heart attack. Any repeat trauma to the same nerve can be potentially fatal.

I thank you for reading this article and I hope you understand both pressure point and the martial arts better. If you have any questions or comments I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

”Fear No Punch”: A Review

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

Being someone who teaches self-defense for a living I try to keep up with new innovations in the industry. This means reading articles, attending seminars, keeping up to date with statistics from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, and viewing self-defense/personal security/defensive shooting videos as they come on the market.

Every year there are many new self-defense videos that come out and most of them are either nothing that hasn’t been around for hundreds of years or something that is new and innovative but quite ridiculous. Out of the hundreds of ads I see every month I only purchase those that really seem like they may be worth viewing, and they are very few and far between, and out of those I return almost all of them because they’re not worth keeping. I’ve yet to actually see a video that gives me the skills to become invincible in just a few hours.

Recently I purchased a program that I saw advertised in Black Belt Magazine called “Fear No Punch”. The only reason this video stood out was that it seemed to deal solely with blocking punches and that is an area where most systems seem to suffer. Also, some of my clients do read martial arts magazines and I could see them asking me about it in the future so I thought I should take a look.

Here is my review, I hope you find it helpful.

Video: “Fear No Punch” aka “Zero Fear Impact Training Series”
Published by: Doesn’t specify
Staring: Coal Akida
Format: One 6 hour long DVD
Price: $149
Delivery Time: It took about two months for the video to arrive at my home.
The Pitch: Never be punched again. Learn 17 revolutionary breakthroughs, 100 new training methods, and 6 new combat technologies. Learn how to “surpass the human limit”…whatever that means.

Production Value: The production value was quite a bit better than I expected. The picture and sound were both clear. It was obvious that they hired a production company to shoot the video as opposed to just going down their basement and having a cousin hold the camcorder.

I thought the main menu could have been a little clearer as I was never quite sure what option I was selecting or what the selection was because the descriptions were very poor.

There is little personal information about the instructor, a man named “Commander” Coal Akida, on the website but from what I can tell he has never been in the military (“Commander” is a nickname) but it appears he’s a fan of the TV show “JAG”. I say this because at the beginning of each new segment the title appears in the form of green letters that come across the screen as if being typed with a beeping sound effect just like in the TV show. It’s the kind of quasi-military thing that screams “I’ve never been in the military but I’m trying to fake it”.

Presentation: Most videos I’ve seen follow the same logical format; first there is an introduction of the instructors, style, and the teaching. Then, the basic principles are taught, then the techniques, and then you’re shown how to apply the techniques in real life. “Fear No Punch” did not follow that format.

As soon as you start the video they just jumped right in and started swinging baseball bats at each other and you were immediately lost. There was no introduction or explaining of the principles, they just started swinging baseball bats around and having their partner block it without an explanation as to why. Not only that, within the first few minutes of watching the video they start throwing these terms around like you’re supposed to know what they mean. They start using quasi-scientific sounding terms like:

Zero Focus Technology
Zero Gravity Technology
No Fear Technology
Fear No Punch Technology
Close To The Pain Technology
Cohesion Absorption Technology

When the instructor corrected his student’s form he didn’t really explain his corrections, instead he started talking about “Zero Gravity Technology”. What the hell is “Zero Gravity Technology”? He never gives a real in depth description or tells you why you need it, he just starts throwing around terms that sound like bull-shit. From what I can figure out, “Zero Gravity Technology” means that you should just let your hand fall freely instead of using muscle to force it down. While that may or may not be a sound principle, it certainly isn’t “zero gravity”. In fact, if you’re letting your hand fall freely it is the opposite of “zero gravity”. He should call it “100% Gravity Technology”.

Everything he did was “this” kind of technology or “that” kind of technology and pretty soon I had to stop the tape and look up the definition of the word “technology” to see if it can correctly be used to describe martial arts principles. It turns out that it can but it just makes everything you say sound like bull-shit. I could have taken this guy a lot more seriously if he hadn’t thrown the word “technology” around every 30 seconds.

The way the video was laid out and the way they presented their material made it very difficult to follow, and it was 6 hours long. If they would have just presented the material in a more logical manner they could have cut it down to an hour.

Overall Review: The entire video takes 6 hours to teach two basic principles. The first principle is that by watching the center of a person’s torso and looking past it instead of focusing your eyes on it, you can detect their strikes far better that you can by looking them in the eye or watching their hands. This is a very commonly taught principle that is very effective. He calls it “Zero Focus Technology”. When I teach a class I just refer to it as “using your eyes to detect movement” but now I think I’ll call it “Peripheral Optics Technology” and start wearing a lab coat when I teach.

The second principle he teaches is that in order to effectively block a full force punch you have to pull your hand back and slap it. I was pleasantly surprised with this because this is an area that most martial arts don’t cover. Most systems have you block a punch by just sticking your arm out in a blocking motion. This works well with low power blows, like in sparring, but a real punch would knock the arm down and continue on to its target. If you just throw your arm up in the path of a real full force punch your arm just doesn’t have the structure to stop it.

If you go back to basics you’ll see that the martial arts actually teach you not to just throw your arm up in the path of the punch but to twist your arm into the punch which will naturally deflect some of the force of the punch and provide you with the structure you need to block it. If you twist your arm into the punch you’ll block it, if you don’t you’ll most likely be hit; this is a teaching that has been all but lost here in America.

Instead of twisting your arm to rotate your ulna bone into the attacking arm, “Fear No Punch” teaches you to bring your hand back to your ear and the rotate towards the punch and then slap it to the side with the palm of your hand. If you don’t bring the hand back to your ear then you won’t have the force needed to deflect most full power punches.

The other basic teaching “Fear No Punch” provides is that you want to block the punch as close as possible to your face and you don’t want to slap the hand too far away, because then you’ll have to chase it in the event you want to trap it. Instead of slapping it you want to keep you hand and wrist loose so they absorb the force rather than knock it away.

That’s basically it, they take 6 hours to teach these two things and then act as though they discovered the holy grail of combat. The only thing this video covers is how to block punches and you need to do more than that to win a fight or defend yourself.

Training Methodologies: The main way of training that “Fear No Punch” uses is to block a baseball bat that is swung at your head. The reasoning is that the bat is going to scare you far more than any punch so by using it you overcome your fear. The aluminum bat also hits harder than a full force punch so by training with it you’ll think a real punch is weak by comparison.

The thing that I found curious about it was that in order to block an aluminum bat with your hand you had to be very precise or you’d get hit in the head or break your wrist or fingers. You had to be so much more precise in order to block the bat than you did a punch that 90% of the training was really focused on blocking the bat in a way where you don’t injure yourself. Blocking a punch is very simple and you don’t need to be very precise to do it, so if they just focused on blocking a punch the video could have been 30 minutes long. Most of the training covered not how to block a punch but how to not get hurt during training. This video could have easily been 30 minutes to an hour but because they wanted to use a bat they had to give a lot more instruction.

In terms of blocking a real punch “Zero Gravity Technology” doesn’t matter, but if you want to use your bare hand to block the end of a bat it does.

He also “reinvented” the jab in just about the most ridiculous way possible. Instead of throwing your hand straight out at a target like a typical jab, his jab was done by keeping the arm almost straight and then swinging it up from your groin to their jaw and striking with the back of your fist. Why this is supposed to be better than a traditional jab was never explained and I haven’t been able to figure it out.

Overall Rating: One out a possible five stars. Save your money, after all by reading this review you pretty much learned all the useful stuff the “Fear No Punch” program covers anyway.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Using Pressure Points

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

Of all the subjects covered in martial arts schools I'd have to say that, after point sparring, "pressure points" is one of the ones that make me scratch my head the most. The term "pressure point" generally refers to an area of the body where a nerve sits just underneath the skin, and by pressing down on it you can cause sharp and sometimes severe pain. The term is broadened by the western medical community to mean any area of the body where applying direct pressure can result in some type of change within the body. For example, pressing down on an artery to slow bleeding is considered a use of a "pressure point". In Traditional Chinese Medicine the term is broadened even further to include areas where no nerves or arteries exist, but an invisible pathway (called a "meridian") of internal energy (called "chi" in Chinese, "ki" in Japanese, and "bio-energy" in the west) flows throughout the body.

In the west pressure points are pretty much divided into two types, one being points that cause pain and the other being points that cause light headedness or unconsciousness. A martial arts instructor will generally teach forms or sparring and then switch gears by sitting the class down and saying, "if you press here...the guy will scream. But, if you press here...the guy will dance for you", and then that's pretty much it. Most instructors only give instruction in pressure points to that degree, spots on the body that you can press down on and cause people pain.

Some other schools, mainly in the U.S., teach pressure points in a quite elaborate way. They talk about spots like "gallbladder 5" and a "triple warmer" and say that you can simply tap someone "here" and make them pass out, or you can strike them in a certain sequence you can make someone pass out. Unfortunately, if you hit them out of sequence or you're a 1/2 inch off on one of the points then it doesn't work. I know some people are really into this method, but if you think about that it's really a mess.

Thus far I've haven't been to a seminar on that type of pressure point use but I have seen it done on videos and spoken with people who have had first-hand training on it, and while I always try to keep an open mind, when I'm confronted with it the only thing I can think of is "how the hell are you going to pull this off when someone is trying to stab you to death?" If someone really does attack you and you're planning on locating and striking 3 tiny pressure points on his body in a certain order to incapacitate him the only thing I can say is, "good luck". When people are actually moving around and being aggressive you're not going to be able to access these tiny spots. You can find a tiny pressure point on someone's arm during class, but how are you going to find it when the guy's wearing a winter coat? And if you need to find and hit 3 or 4 points in a certain order to knock someone out while they're wearing street clothes and trying to seriously injure or kill you...well...if you can do it then you're the luckiest guy on Earth.

In the orient pressure points are taught a little differently than they are here. In China or Japan pressure points really aren't considered a separate part of your education. During your early stages of training an instructor might throw out a few pain inducing pressure points here and there mainly for fun, or as a possible way to make people comply with you. However, while these points, which are also points used in acupuncture, are very useful for medical purposes, their use for martial art purposes are mainly considered "tricks" or novelties. During the higher levels of training an instructor pretty much says, "here are the areas of the body where striking can cause the most hit them as hard as you can". The idea that you can gently press on pressure points or strike them lightly and make someone pass out or compels them to completely comply with you is for the most part a horrorably misguided western idea.

I saw a video on the internet awhile back where an old Japanese Kenpo Master was giving a demonstration on pressure points to a class of advanced students. He pointed out a point that causes unconsciousness and then told everyone to stand back because he was going to demonstrate its effects. Now, most people would think that he would gently press on the point or at most gently poke it and the guy would fall to the floor unconscious. I have to admit that is what I was expecting. However, what the old master did was to set his feet, and then he struck the guy so hard I thought he killed him. His partner came off of his feet and flew backward and into the floor. The old master then rushed over to revive him, and sure enough the guy was unconscious. The masters in the orient know very well that this "mamby-pamby" press or strike gently bullshit won't work.

In my classes I do teach pressure points as a separate subject because using pressure points has little use in real self-defense. Most people would say that the temple is a pressure point and the solar plexus is another pressure point but I call them "targets". To me, "targets" are areas of the body that are especially susceptible to impact trauma and I have my students train to hit them as hard as they can. In my class "pressure points" are spots on the body that you can press on and cause people pain. I regard them as sort of parlor tricks. Not really useful in real violence but if you're goofing around with your buddies, or you're in a social situation and you need to send someone a message via pain then they're great.

The idea of being in a violent attack and hunting and pecking for tiny little spots on your attacker's body is ridiculous, but there are some pressure points that are easy to find and do their job quite well. In an effort to simplify the topic of pressure points I'm going to discuss the ones that are most useful, from a purely functional standpoint. I've rated these points from one to eight, with one besting the most useful. The standard I used to rate them was 1.) Accessibility, 2.) Amount of pain resulting, 3.) Ease in locating the point, and 4.) Ease of applying pressure and being able to keep there while the other person tries to get away from you.

Pressure Point #1: The Eyes

Most people don't consider the eyes to be pressure points but I think that they're the best one on the body. If your goal is injury then the eyes are one of the easiest places on the body to injure. If your goal is pain compliance then the eyes are still number one. If you want to make someone stop what they're doing and dance for you then slowly press down on their eye. Just make sure that you use your other hand to hold their head because as soon as you'll do they'll fight rather violently to get away.

I understand that most people don't like the idea of using the eyes as pressure points and that is fine, but you still have to admit that functionally they do the job very well. They are large so they are easy to find. There are two of them so if you miss one you can come back and get the other. They are filled with nerves so applying pressure results in a great deal of pain. Also, the body goes to great lengths to protect them so by controlling the eyes you can take control of the entire body.

If I had someone standing in front of me and I wanted to drop them to their knees in pain and control them with a pressure point my first thought would be a thumb to the eye.

Pressure Point #2: The Testicles

Like the eyes, the testicles are usually easy to find and filled with very sensitive nerves. If you're goal is to press on something and force compliance through pain then a testicle is your good buddy. However, I do prefer the eyes over the testicles since the eyes are usually much easier to get at, after all the eyes are at eye level and not covered by denim. Generally if you can't get at the eyes then you can get at the groin, and if you can't get at the groin then you can get at the eyes.

The way to use the testicles as pressure points is to simply push your hand into the other person's groin and make a tight fist. You should be able to feel the testicles in your hand but if you aren't sure that you've got them just check to see if the other person is trying to curl into the fetal position.

You do need to be very careful with the testicles because you can cause them to rupture which would move the situation from pain compliance to actual injury. If you're goal is just pain compliance then grab them and squeeze gently, you only need a little pressure, and gauge the pressure needed on the other person's reaction.

Pressure Point #3: The Ribs

A person's ribs, especially the lower ones, are very vulnerable and there are plenty of nerves. If someone is grabbing you and you want to make them jump back and let go, just dig your fingers into their ribs. The reason that I like the ribs is because they're not something you have to hunt and peck for. They are large areas on the body and very easy to locate and get to, and when you dig your fingers into them people immediately try to get away.

There are four ways I teach people to press on the ribs. First is with the tip of your thumb. You simply make a tight fist and press the pad of your thumb against the side of the index finger, then dig the tip of the thumb in the ribs and try to push it right between two of them in a twisting motion. The second is with a knuckle. To do this you make a tight fist but put the knuckle of your index finger out a little bit and then press on the ribs in the same way. Third is using four knuckles instead of just one. You make a tight fist and use all four knuckles to dig and twist into the ribs.

Pressure Point #4: The Saphenous Nerve

The saphenous nerve runs down the inside of the leg and is very sensitive. The best way to use it is to reach between their legs, place your hand on their upper thigh, and use an eagle claw to grab as much meat as you can. If you put your hand on your own thigh and then firmly grab a big handful you'll realize how painful this is. This, as well as the groin, is great points to use when someone grabs you from behind.

I've rated this "point" after the ribs simply because the ribs are usually easier to get to then the thighs.

Pressure Point #5: The Jugular Notch

The Jugular Notch is the tender hollow area where your lower windpipe meets your sternum. It is very sensitive and there are two ways to utilize this as a pressure point. First, you can push anyone away from you by simply inserting two fingers there and pushing as hard as you can. This a great move to show young girls because with this a small female can push any size guy off of her.

The second way to use the jugular notch as a pressure point is to insert two fingers into it and then press in and down towards the ground. This variation is more of a controlling maneuver than the first. I like to grab the back of their head with my left hand to make sure they can't go anywhere and use my right to dig down into their jugular notch. It is a great way to make someone sit down.

Pressure Point #6: The Side of the Neck

The side of the neck is very easy to get to and there are a lot of nerves there which makes it very easy to get pain compliance. You simply place your thumb on the side of the neck, either side, a few inches down from the bottom of the ear and press. It can be anywhere in that area, it doesn't have to be that exact spot.

This is a great move for the law enforcement community to use when trying to cuff a resisting suspect. Instead of 4 officers trying to hold the person down, or use other means, they can apply force of the side of the person's neck and they will quickly become compliant. If they don't become compliant because of the pain then they'll soon become lightheaded and lose their strength enabling the officers to cuff them with little problem.

Pressure Point #7: Under the Nose

While some points are more painful for some people than others, this point is horrorable for pretty much everyone. This point is located between the bottom of the nose and top of the upper lip. To use this point you place the side of your index finger underneath their nose and then press in and up. It only takes a few seconds to make the eyes water profusely. Another version for when someone is standing in front of you is to grab the back of their head with your left hand and place the side of your right hand under their nose and use the side of your hand to apply pressure.

Pressure Point #8: The Back of the Arm

On the back of the arm just below the armpit there is a large bundle of nerves that are very sensitive. By grabbing the back of the arm with an eagle claw you can cause a lot of pain. However, it is often not too hard for them to be able to pull their arm away from you and out of your grasp.

While I teach using a lot of different areas of the body for striking, these eight areas are the only ones I teach to be used as pressure points. There are a few other points that are widely taught but I chose not to include them for functionality reasons. While these points, and others, do create a lot of pain when force is applied, they require you to look for them, which can make it almost impossible to find them during a violent altercation, and are quite small. For a pressure point to be really useful during a violent altercation it should be a fairly large area and not some tiny little spot. If the point is some tiny little spot then you won't have sufficient control over that area and someone can jerk away from you and suddenly your finger has moved 1/2 an inch and you've lost the spot. The spots discussed above are bigger areas (the ribs, back of arm, under the nose) instead of tiny spots.

Here are my four "honorable mentions" in no particular order.

Honorable Mention #1: Behind the Ear

This is a very popular pressure point. Right behind the bottom of the ear there is a hollow spot between the jaw and the neck where applying pressure can result in quite a bit of pain. I say "can result" because I know many people who are so receptive to this point that they almost live in fear of it, and I know many people don't find this very painful at all. To best stimulate this point insert the tip of your thumb in the hollow and press down hard while you twist your hand back and forth.

Honorable Mention #2: Under the jaw

If you feel underneath the jaw you'll find that the edges of the jaw are made of bone but everything in between them is soft tissue. To find the pressure point move up the jaw bone about half way between the tip of the jaw and the hinge where it connects to the skull. Put two fingers, or better yet the tip of your thumb, on that spot and then push it up under the bone into the soft tissue of the jaw's underbelly. This point exists on both sides of the jaw and most people find this incredibly painful.

The reason that I put this as an "honorable mention" and did not list it under the points that I teach is because, given it's location, there are just other points that are easier to get to and use. You can generally find this point easily and use it to cause severe pain but if someone jerks away from you, you generally lose the spot.

Honorable Mention #3: Finger nails

The finger nails are another point that are horrorably painful and easy to find, but it is very easy for someone to pull away from you and cause you to lose your pressure point. To use the finger nail, or toe nail, as a pressure point you grab a hold of the finger and press down on the top of the nail with the tip of your thumb. You want to press down on the very bottom of the nail right next to the cuticle for maximum pain.

Honorable Mention #4: Median nerve

The median nerve is a point that causes a lot of pain in pretty much everyone but it can be hard to find, especially on someone who does not have well defined arms. To find the median nerve point look at your arm while holding your palm towards the floor. Bend your arm slightly and look at the crease created in your elbow. Place the thumb of your other hand on the edge of the crease and move your thumb down towards the hand about a 1/2 an inch and the towards you about an 1/8 of an inch. The tip of your thumb should be right on the median nerve. You might have to press down and move it around slightly to find it's exact spot. Again this point is very painful but it can be hard to find (especially if the individual is wearing long sleeves or a thick coat) and they can usually pull away from you rather easily. This is a point used quite a bit in Aikido.

Honorable Mention #5: The Love Handles

There are several nerves in love handles that exist very close to the skin that can be easily used to cause pain, regardless of how much body fat a person has.

To use the hand handles as a pressure point, lay your hand flatly on their love handle, between their hips and their ribs. Think of imitating a lobster’s claws and squeeze the hand and try to touch the tips of your four fingers to your thumb.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mindset vs. Action

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

A lot has been written about the "fighting mindset" or "combat mindset". Pretty much every self-defense course talks at length about how you have to think a certain way to defend yourself and how you need to develop a "killer instinct". To tell you the truth I think this is more of a gimmick than anything else. The "combat mindset" or a "killer instinct" are esoteric ideas that allow a guru to sell books and videos for big bucks. Normally they bring it up in a column they write or spend a few minutes talking about it during a seminar and then let you know that, luckily for you, they sell a course that will tell you exactly how to develop it for just 4 payments of $39.95.

In reality, the whole idea of a "combat mindset" is over-rated. I'm going to let you in on a little secret: it is what you DO that is important. You can think anyway you want, the only thing that is really going to matter when someone is dragging you into the back room of a convenient store at gunpoint is the physical action you take. You can be scared shitless and ready to pass out from the fear, but, regardless of the condition of your mental faculties, if you suddenly grab a telephone off a desk and the turn and strike the attacker in the head as hard as you can and then run like hell, you're alive. You didn't think the telephone into the man's skull, you physically put it there.

Don't get me wrong, a certain state of mind is beneficial but it is not absolutely necessary. The necessary part is physically acting when you have to. Adopting a certain state of mind or way of thinking can definitely increase your chances of being able to act when you have to, but all it really does is prepare you mentally for the occurrence of violence and it is certainly possible to act without preparing. The process of preparing your mind for an occurrence of violence is what we'll cover next.

If you want to mentally prepare yourself for violence and increase the chances that you'll be able to act when you have to then the first thing you have to do is to REALIZE and ACCEPT is the fact that violence CAN happen to you and your family. Not only that, you have to REALIZE and ACCEPT that violence probably WILL happen to you or your family. Until you accept this truth you won't be mentally prepared for a violent altercation. When violence does happen your brain will think, "Wait a minute...this isn't suppose to happen!" and you'll be standing there frozen trying to process the event while it is happening. This is one reason why criminals get away with so many crimes, because their victims think that it will never happen to them they freeze like a deer in the headlights.

Once you realize and accept the fact that violence probably will happen to you or a loved one you need to make the simple decision not to be a victim. This may sound kind of odd but one reason many people don't fight back, even when they're being murdered, is because they don't know if they should fight back or let themselves be victimized. There have been a lot of people that have actually just stood there and let themselves be choked to death because they couldn't make up their mind and decide whether or not to try to resist.

It is as simple as saying to yourself, "I am not going to allow myself to be victimized". Once the reality that violence can and probably will happen to you is accepted, you allow your mind to open up and deal with the possibility of it happening. Then once you decide not to be a victim you give your mind a direction to go in when it does happen.

Next you need to learn exactly what your threats are likely to be, how they are likely to come after you, and then you need to develop a workable plan for when they do come after you. The difference between being a victim and being someone who successfully survives violence is having a workable plan beforehand. The reason criminals are so successful in committing their crimes is because they have a plan and know exactly what they're going to do and their victims don't. The importance of having an actionable plan for what you will do in a violent situation, and for having it before you step foot out your front door, cannot be stressed enough.

The next step is to educate yourself about self-defense and then take proactive steps to avoid crime and be on the lookout for it. You have to know the places where you're at risk and the places where criminals are most likely to attack you and you have to try to avoid those areas, and if you can't you have to consciously be on the lookout of criminals and other attackers. But again, these are actionable steps and not a special "combat mindset".

After that you have to understand that action always beats reaction. Action is offensive and reaction is defensive. Action takes control of the situation, charges forwards, and gets the job done, while reaction waits to see what the other person is going to do, then it decides what it will do based on what the other person did. Reaction is always a step or two behind.

In any potentially dangerous situation you need to take control and the way that you do it is by acting. If someone confronts you, tells you he has a gun, and then he starts to reach for it you should be taking action. Reaction would be waiting to see exactly what they do, letting them pull the gun, and then trying to play catch-up. Action is stepping in and driving your forearm into the guy’s throat the second he reaches for it. In any potentially dangerous situation action is always better then reaction.

This is one of the reasons why you should generally resist an attacker and always resist someone who is trying to abduct you. There are many people who have had someone try to kidnap them and by taking some type of action, often just yelling, biting, hitting, kicking, or turning and running away, they have created a situation where they could get away.

So we know that when something happens we're going to take control of the situation by acting rather than reacting and we have a plan so we know what we'll do when something does happen. As far as the mental preparation part of self-defense goes, that's the majority of it. By realizing, accepting, and deciding you've told your brain, "when this happens, I'm going to fight back", and by being knowledgeable about criminals, aware of your surroundings, and having a plan for when violence does happen it becomes far more likely that you'll act instead of react. Everything else in self-defense has to do with physical actions.

The only other aspects of mental preparation are to practice with both mental rehearsal and physical practice. Of course you should hit the mats and get some training time in but you should also spend 5 or 10 minutes a day mentally rehearsing an assault and seeing yourself, as clearly as you can, be proactive and striking your targets to end the situation. By mentally rehearsing your encounter you are further giving instruction to your brain and telling it what to do when you are faced with violence.

Now what about the actual encounter? Let's say that you've already done everything I've talked about above so you've prepared yourself mentally, and now you have a man standing in front of you trapping you against your car and threatening you with a knife. So now what do you do mentally? The answer is pretty simple, you focus on targets. The only way that you're going to stop this man from hurting you is to physically injure him so he is physically unable to attack you. The way you get this done is by driving as much force as possible into the weakest areas of his body...or in other words: striking targets. Since what you need to do is to access targets, what you should do is focus on them. The only thing that is going to save your life is by accessing his throat, temple, carotid artery, liver, knee, etc., so they are what you should be focusing on.

It doesn't matter what that man plans to do with his knife, his plans won't save you. The only thing that matters is to be proactive and get to his temple with a hammer-fist strike and drive all of your bodyweight all the way through until he hits his head on the ground. That is the only thing that will save you, targets, so that is what you should be focusing on.

There is another benefit of making yourself focus on targets and that is by making your brain focus on targets it isn't free to panic. It is ok if you feel fear because fear is a natural feeling that we have little control over; it is panic that we need to avoid because panic can lead to freezing like a deer in the headlights. Panic happens when your brain has no direction and is free to do whatever it wants. By directing your brain to focus on targets you are giving it a task to do so it won't have the free time to make you freeze with fear.

That's pretty much it, "combat mindset"/"killer instinct" in a nutshell. So save your 4 payments of $39.95 for something you really want...or if you really enjoyed this article you can always send them to me.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Knives, Other Tools, and I Compare Jim Wagner To A Condom

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

The other day a friend informed me that he had made a decision. For the past six years he has studied the Japanese art of Jujitsu and he is very talented and extremely proud of his black belt. Save except a few instances, for those six years he has diligently attended class twice a week and always leaves drenched in sweat and every now and then he leaves with a small bit of blood on his uniform (usually not his own). However, now he feels that he's getting older (he's 56) and he can't take the punishment of going to class that much so for now on he's only going to attend classes every other week.

He said that the only reason he goes to class so much is that he wants to be prepared to defend himself and his wife should he ever need to, so he has to be able to keep up with the "young guys". After years of being thrown around and having his joints twisted in all sorts of odd shapes he now feels that its time to take it easier and for a few years he has wanted to cut down on is training. The reason that he hasn't until now is that he feels that if he isn't constantly practicing in the dojo if something was to happen he might not be in top form to take care of it.

"So, what's changed?" I asked him, "why are you now deciding to cut down on your training when you weren't comfortable doing that a year or two ago?"

He leaned towards me with a grin that made me just a little uncomfortable and said, "I'm going to cheat".

"Well that's between you and your wife, but what does that have to do with Jujitsu?" I asked

"No," he said with a pissed off grimace, "I'm going to start carrying a knife". He reached in his pocket and pulled out a black folding knife and handed it to me. "I figure if I start carrying a knife and use that as my first line of defense then I can back off on Jujitsu a little. If some teenage bastard tries something with me I'm going to cut him up first, and then if I lose my knife I'll use my Jujistu."

I did my best to try to bite my tounge, that was until I opened the knife. It was black and it looked like something you'd see in a futureistic military movie. Just looking at it you could tell that is was designed for stabbing someone to death, and to top it off on the blade it said in big letters: Jim Wagner Reality Based Blade.

"Saved by the Bell the College Years!" I shouted (I'm trying to stop swearing), "First of all you bought a Jim Wagner product? Really? That guy is a barnackle on the taint of the self-defense/martial arts industry. Learning from Jim Wagner is like getting your rapist to wear a condom, things might turn out a little better than they otherwise might be, but not much! And look at this knife! Do you honestly think that you're going to be able to carry this and not have it either taken away from you by the cops or end up in prison? If you ever have to use it against someone the prosecuter is going to take one look at it and infer your intent based on the kind of knife you're carrying."

I understand his thought process but it really doesn't work that way. Carring a weapon, any weapon, is not an excuse to cut back on your self-defense training. If you decide to carry a gun and you're smart enough to take a course in defensive shooting, your instructor, provided he's worth his salt, will tell you that chances are that you'll have to use your empty hand skills first.
If you can see a situation coming and draw your gun in advance then it's a good day, but chances are you'll end up having an attacker confront you at very close range, within a few feet, and you'll have to use your self-defense techniques to at the very least push your attacker back to give you time and room to get at your gun, pull it out, aquire your target, and effectively operate it. Most defensive shooting instructors will tell you that you're probably going to have to deal with the first attacker bare handed and then, provided you have time, you can deal with any additional attackers with your firearm. The knife is no different.

As far as the exact knife goes, DON'T buy some fancy fighting knife!! If you buy some fancy "Jim Wagner, I'm Going To Kill Somebody" knife then the cops and the district attorney are going to, at the very least, hold you to a higher standard, and, in the extreme, think that you went looking for trouble.

I do carry a knife with me but it is for utility purposes. I carry a simple pocket knife that is sharp, clipped to my pocket, and has a blade within the legal limits. If need be I could use my knife for self-defense, as I could any knife, so I simply don't need to spend a butt-load of money on some fancy "combat" knife that advertises to the world that you have a knife and you're looking for an opportunity to pull it.

Like everybody, I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six, but those twelve...they're a bitch.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Effectiveness of Pepper Spray

By Matthew Schafer

Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

Recently an article ran in Black Belt Magazine entitled "The Spice of Life" where the author discussed the uses of pepper spray and made the assertion that pepper spray was the "end-all-be-all" self-defense weapon. After that article ran people wrote letters to the editor disputing the author, and then the author wrote back disputing the letters. The basic area of contention was the effectiveness of pepper spray against an attacker and so I'm writing this article to address that matter.

The author stated that when sprayed with pepper spray every single human, or animal, would suffer its effects and stop in their tracks, unable to continue their assault. Those who wrote in stated personal experience where pepper spray was not effective. Many stated that they were either soldiers or police officers who had to be sprayed with pepper spray during their training, or had used pepper spray in a real violent encounter, and that they'd seen many people not be affected by it or even laugh at being sprayed. The statistic put forth is that one in every ten people is not affected by pepper spray.

Personally I think the "1 in 10" statistic is a bunch of crap. For years I've worked with pepper spray and I've never met anyone that was either not effected by it or could fight through its effects. Now, I have seen people who where not 100% incapacitated after being sprayed but they could not negate the effects of the pepper spray through force of will or being "tough". After being sprayed these particular people were still on their feet but they were in a lot of pain, couldn't open their eyes, and were having trouble breathing. They were blind, grunting, coughing, using one hand to rub the pepper spray off their faces, and using the other hand to search for their opponent that they'd never find unless they walked up to them and allowed themselves to be grabbed.

I believe that the reason some people were unable to get the desired effects with pepper spray is mainly due to human error. So here I will discuss the four human error based reasons that I believe have caused the "1 in 10" statistic to come about.

Reason #1: Not actually using pepper spray. "Pepper spray" is a specific term for a specific product but it has come to be used generally to refer to all types of defense sprays. In reality there are chemical sprays (mace and tear gas) and pepper sprays. Chemical sprays are made using either a chemical called "orthoclorobenzalmalonitrile" (called "CS" for short) or a chemical called "alphachloroacetaphenone" (called "CN" for short). "CS" and "CN" are both chemicals that irritate the moist porous linings of the eyes, nose, and throat and cause the body to respond by trying to flush them out by the involuntary watering of the eyes, running of the nose, coughing, and in some cases vomiting. This is very unpleasant and painful and in most individuals it is quite debilitating.

There are several problems with using "CS" and "CN" to stop a violent attacker; in most cases the effects aren't that severe and their stopping power comes down to the attacker's pain tolerance and willingness to endure the discomfort caused by the chemical. Some people actually can fight through the effects of various chemical sprays which is why more and more police departments have stop using them in favor of actual pepper spray. Also, some people's biology renders them partially or even fully immune to the effects of both "CS" and "CN". In most cases where people spray someone with "pepper spray" and the person is unaffected, or only effected in a minor way, it is because they're actually using a chemical spray (mace) with the active ingredient being "CS" or "CN" and not real pepper spray.

Another factor is that many studies have shown that it can take up to 30 seconds for someone to feel the effects of "CS" or "CN". So you can come at me and I can give you a face full of mace and you're still going to have time to stab me to death before you succumb to its effects.

The active ingredient in actual pepper spray is "Oleoresin Capsicum" (called "OC" for short) and instead of being a chemical compound it is concentration of pepper extracts. Instead of irritating the moist porous tissues of the eyes, nose, and throat it inflames them in a way that is quite severe. It's like getting hot sauce in your eyes, only about a thousand times worse. It does not matter how big, strong, determined, or skilled someone is, or if they are under the influence of drugs, if they get "OC" in their face it will become inflamed. Their eyes will water and be forced shut so they cannot see, their nose will run uncontrollably, their throat will become inflamed and their breathing will be affected so they will cough uncontrollably, and throughout their face and throat they will experience a severe and extremely painful burning sensation. Not being able to see and having problems breathing they will want to sit or lay down and wipe the "OC" out of their eyes, however, they'll end up rubbing the "OC" deeper into their eyes and spreading around their face, helping it enter their nose and mouth. The more they try to wipe it away the more they spread it.

Imagine taking a habanero pepper (one of the hottest peppers), cutting it in half, and then rubbing it all over your face and in your eyes. The result would be excruciatingly painful and you wouldn't be able to fight anyone right afterwards, not effectively anyway. The strength/heat of pepper spray is measured in "Scoville Heat Units" (SHU) and the rating of that hadanero pepper is between 200,000 to 300,000 SHU. Most pepper sprays (with "OC" being the active ingredient) rate at about 2,000,000 SHU, so the pepper spray would be about 9 to 10 times hotter and the effects 9 or 10 times more severe.

On several occasions when I've been training with pepper spray I've had the wind blow a small amount back in my face and with only a very small amount coming into contact with my skin I can say that I'd never want to be sprayed with a full dose. Only an extremely small amount came back at me and it felt like my face was on fire; I had a very hard time keeping my eyes open and was coughing uncontrollably. Many people have talked about dogs not being effected by pepper spray but again they used "CS" or "CN" . One day while I was out for a walk a rottweiler charged me and I turned my head and sprayed in its direction and as soon as it entered the cloud of spray it stopped in its tracks and then started rubbing its face in the dirt and wheezing.

The effects of "OC" occur rapidly so there is no waiting 15-30 seconds for your attacker to stop and given a sufficient dose of pepper spray someone can have their vision and breathing be disrupted for 45 minutes or longer. There was a case in Cheyenne, Wyoming a few years ago where a woman sprayed a mugger with "OC" and when the police arrived on the scene 35 minutes later the attacker was still laying on the ground.

Simply put, using "OC" has been proven to be effective while "pepper sprays" that are actually just chemical sprays consisting of "CS" or "CN" have a level of effectiveness that I wouldn't bet my life on.

It should also be noted that some pepper sprays are actually "pepper sprays". There are many pepper sprays on the market that do contain a small amount of "OC" but their active ingredient is really "CS" or "CN". Years back I was talking to a potential client on the phone and when I mentioned pepper spray she became somewhat hostile. She told me a story about how she had used pepper spray on a date rapist and it hadn't worked. She mentioned that she still had the pepper spray and I asked her to bring it in with her when she came in for training and sure enough it was "pepper spray". It was a cheap product she purchased for $10 in the sporting goods department at a grocery store and under "active ingredient" it said:

Alphachloroacetaphenone, Red Pepper. It was primarily "CN" and only a small amount of "OC" and that is why it didn't work.

If you buy pepper spray you want Oleoresin Capsicum (sometimes listed as "OC" or just "Red Pepper") to be the one and only ingredient. I've tested a lot of brands on the market and the only one I carry and provide to my clients is "Sabre Red: Maximum Strength Pepper Spray". I firmly believe that Sabre Red provides the best pepper spray on the market and having spent nearly 23 years in the self-defense industry I wouldn't carry anything else.

I live in Michigan and we have a law that states that you cannot carry pepper spray that has more than a 2% concentration and luckily Sabre Red has a special "Michigan Formulation". So my experiences are with a 2% formulation and I find it to be extremely effective; in other states you can carry sprays of much higher concentration of "OC" and I can't even imagine what it would feel like to sprayed with an 8% or 9% concentration.

Reason #2: Using expired sprays. Pepper spray ("OC") only retains its maximum potency for four years. There are a lot of people out there walking around with expired canisters of pepper spray and they don't know it.

When you buy pepper spray you should only buy it from a reputable dealer, make sure that it has the expiration date printed on it before you buy it, and then check the date as soon as you get it. I know quite a few people who try to save money by buying pepper spray online for around $6 a canister and when they get it they find out that it is either already expired or very close to expiring. If they used those fancy novelty sprays on an attacker I don't believe it would do anything other than make them angry.

Reason #3: Used too small of dose. I saw a video on youtube awhile back that showed army personnel doing a drill where they got sprayed with pepper spray and then had to run an obstacle course. My first problem with that is that I doubt they used "OC" because if they did I don't think the soldier could have seen to negotiate the course. I also know that most law enforcement agencies, military included, use chemical sprays instead of "OC" so chances are that is was just mace.

My second problem is that the soldier was only given about a half second dose. In a dose that small you can't guarantee that it will even get in the eyes, nose, or mouth. In a self-defense situation you spray the person until they grab their face and make strange noises. In my experience, as soon as you spray someone in the face with "OC" they stop their attack, but from the time you spray someone until the time they turn away and start coughing it can be around 3 seconds. 3 seconds worth of "OC" in your face is a lot and the effects will be extreme. I got maybe a quarter of a second worth of blow back in my face and that was enough for me, a direct 3 second spray in the face is enough to disable anyone.

Reason #4: They missed their target. When you spray someone you want to aim for the center of their face so the spray will get into their eyes, nose, and mouth. However, a lot of the times people miss. I've seen a lot of videos on the internet as well as clips from COPS and other TV shows where a police officer sprays in the general direction of the suspects face, and then acts surprised when they don't drop. Often they start shaking the can to make sure it's mixed up before they spray again, as if that makes a difference.

It's just like everything else: you have to hit your target. It doesn't matter if you're using a fist, a knife, a gun, or a defense spray, if you don't hit your target you're not going to put the person down. Most people I know have pepper spray but don't train with it. I always recommend that people buy four canisters: one for your house, one for your car, one to carry, and the other to train with. You have to spray it and you have to practice with it if you expect to be able to use it under duress. You have to be able to look at someone and then spray it right into the center of their face. I always tell people to look at the tip of their attacker's nose because if they can get it on their nose they it will splash both up into the eyes and down to the mouth.

If someone tells me that they sprayed someone in the face with pepper spray and it didn't stop them within a second or two I ask them if "OC" was the active ingredient, and the I ask them how their targeting was. Often people completely miss the face and instead get it in their hair, where it takes 10 or 20 seconds to drip down to their eyes, or maybe they just get it on their clothes and they don't get it into their face until they use their sleeve to rub their face awhile later.

Most people don't think about targeting, they just point and shoot. Point and shoot doesn't work effectively fist or a foot, it sure doesn't work with a firearm, and it doesn't work with pepper spray either.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Color Codes of Mental Awareness

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

Most of us go through life unaware and unprepared for criminal violence, and the result of this is that it makes us both desirable and easy for the criminal element. By using such tools as the "Color Conditions of Mental Awareness" we can put ourselves in a mode to both recognize and deal with criminals and violent crime when they do enter our lives.

What follows is a description of the four conditions, or states of mind, that you can use to prepare yourself for crime and violent encounters. The reason that they are so effective is because it gives you an objective scale of determining your threat level and then gives you clear steps to follow. The effectiveness of this method is the reason why most every military unit and self-defense expert uses some variation of it.

Condition White: Unaware and Unprepared
Condition White is the condition that most people are in most of the time. In this condition you are moving through life unaware of your surroundings and totally unprepared for the event that something, violent or not, could happen. Being in this condition you’re not only an easy victim for any criminal but you're also a criminal's ideal target. Criminals leave their homes in the morning and spend their time scouring their surroundings for people in Condition White because they are the easiest victims.

If you're caught in Condition White then you're an easy victim regardless of who you are or how much training you have. Even if you're a police officer, a Navy SEAL, or a 7th Degree Black Belt a criminal will have little problem taking you by surprise and overwhelm you before you realize what is going on.

Examples of a person in Condition White: Someone walking down the street with their head in the clouds, completely oblivious to everything going on around him.
A person sitting on a park bench on a beautiful spring day engrossed in a good novel or immersed in the newspaper, completely oblivious to everything going on around him.
A person driving to work- mentally already at work- completely oblivious to everything going on around him.

Condition Yellow: Relaxed and alert.

Condition Yellow is where you want to be in everyday life. In this condition you're not paranoid or stressed out but rather you're just relaxed and aware of your surroundings. You know that something could possibly happen but it also could not.

Just by being in Condition Yellow you're less likely to be picked on by a criminal because they don't want to pick someone who may spot them in advance and run away or resist when they're assaulted. The two things that a criminal doesn't want is to draw attention to themselves and to find themselves going up against someone who will fight back and could hurt them. By being aware of your surroundings they see that they would have a difficult time taking you by surprise and most criminals will just move on to someone else.

Condition Yellow, is where you want to be. It's not difficult. It's not a state of paranoia. You don't think everyone is out to get you. You know that there is a 98% chance that absolutely nothing will happen but you also know that maybe there's a 2% chance that something will, so you're just going to be more alert so you can see it coming if it does.

Condition Orange: You Notice A Potential Threat

Having been in Condition Yellow you've noticed something that could be a potential threat. Maybe it is someone watching you or just loitering around in an area where they don't need to be. Now you move from Condition Yellow, being relaxed and alert, to being in Condition Orange. You've noticed something and you don't know whether it is a real threat, imagined one, or just a harmless situation.

In Condition Orange you need to continue to be aware and alert but you need to do two additional things:

1.) Make some type of an evasive maneuver that forces your opponent to show his hand. Example: I’m walking down the street in Condition Yellow and I see a man loitering around by a building about half a block ahead. I notice that he looks nervous (a possible indicator of a criminal looking for a target) and when I make eye contact with him he quickly looks away. Someone quickly diverting their eyes when you make eye contact (in security often called the “look away”) is a possible sign that you caught him doing something he should be doing, like sizing you up for an assault. If you were in Condition White you would have never notice him and his behavior and continued to walk right up to him, but because you were in Condition Yellow you did notice him and now you can do something about it.

You stop and look 360 degrees around you to look for possible accomplices and you see none, so you look at him and then cross the street to put distance between the two of you. If he's not a criminal then there is no threat and he'll say where he is as you cross the street and walk way, but if he is a criminal then now he has to make a decision. Either he has to let you go and target someone else, or he was to follow you and give himself away.

The basic evasive maneuver is to simply put distance between you and the potiential threat and see if the potential threat closes that distance. Another one is do something unexpected, like suddenly turn around and walk back the other way or duck into a nearby store, and see if the potential threat makes an effort to do it too.

There are other ways to make evasive maneuvers that force possible criminals to show their hands. For example, let's say that you are playing with your child at a public playground and you notice a man sitting on a park bench watching the kids. He isn't dressed like most parents and doesn't seem to be watching any one child in particular and just something about him seems out of place. You think that maybe he could be a threat to the children there. What could you do to make him show his hand? How about going over and talking to him. You could walk over and introduce yourself, using a fake name if you wanted to, and ask which child is his. Either he has a child there or another good reason for being there and his is not a threat, or he was to lie or leave. If he says he has a child there then ask him to point him out and then ask his name. If he says his name is "Timmy" turn to the kid and yell, "HI TIMMY" and see if the kid responds. If he says that he has a child there but right now he is not visible for some reason ask him why and how old the kid is. The point here is just to ask him questions and make him feel uncomfortable and in almost every case he'll leave if he really doesn't have a good reason for being there.

2.) Formulate a plan in the event that the threat is real. In the first example I gave above my plan could be that if the loitering man crossed the street after me I’m going to start running. I would also make sure that I had my pepper spray in my hand and if he gets too close I’d spray him and then run away. If none of that works I’m going to step in and either hit the eyes, throat, or groin depending on what I see first. Or maybe there is a police station nearby that I can get to or a populated area that I can enter because criminals usually won’t strike in places with witnesses.

So, first I’m going to take some type of evasive maneuver that creates a situation where the potential threat has to follow me thus revealing himself to be a threat, or not follow me and reveal that he does not attend to do me harm. You want to do something out of the ordinary that will make it obvious that he’s following you and not just a coincidence. If I’m in a car I can make four right turns in a row to end up right where I began and see if he makes them with me. Maybe I’ll suddenly turn into a parking lot, zig-zag through it, and then drive out and see if he’s still with me. If I’m on foot I can make abrupt starts and stops, then make abrupt turns and walk in different directions and see if he does to. You can also change speeds and see if they try to keep up.

As far as the plan goes, 9 times out of 10 the best plan is just to get out of there and put as much distance as possible between you and the threat. Don’t go home or to another location you frequent because maybe you’ll lead them there, so go to a police station or other crowed area. Try to get away from them. One of the reasons pepper spray is so effective is that you can spray them from a distance and then run away while they are left there with watery eyes trying to stop coughing.

Condition Red: Identified a Real Threat

This condition exists when you have identified a real threat. You started out in Condition Yellow and you spotted the nervous man loitering around so you went into Condition Orange and crossed the street while formulating a plan. Now you see that he is following you. He’s looking straight at you, walking towards you in a hurried manner, and putting his hands in his pockets so there is no doubt that he is a threat.

You already have your plan of action from being in Condition Orange so in Condition Red you have to decide on your "trigger".
A "trigger" is an action that he has to take before you'll respond with what you've planned. It is "line in the sand" so to speak that you will not tolerate being crossed. You might say, "Right now he's crossing the street and it looks like he could be coming after me. plan was to start running and get to a crowed area, so when he gets to this side of the street I'm going to cross back to the other side and if he crosses after me that will be my trigger and I'll run like hell." Or, "He's crossing the street and looking right at me, he's definitely coming after me. My plan is to spray him in the face with pepper spray until he grabs his face and starts screaming, and then run away and get someplace safe. I have my pepper spray in my hand and I'm ready to use it...let's see...when he gets to his side of the street and comes towards me I'm going to tell him to 'stop'. After that if he takes another step I'll let him have it." In this instance taking another step after being told to "stop" is the trigger.

Ideally you want to develop a plan of action before you even leave the house that day and you want to decide on basic "triggers", or things that you will not let people get away with. However, during a specific situation you need to come up with situation specific triggers and be ready to back them up.

If you’re in your car and you’ve identified that someone is following you then maybe your plan is to drive to the closest police station. Your “trigger” might be if they bump you with their car, or they get out of their car, or they try to box you in. If they try to do any of these things you might say, “Ok, if they do those then I’m going to step on the gas, drive over a curb if I have to, drive on the sidewalk if I have to, hit the guy in front of me if I have to, I going to do what ever I need to, to get to the police station. If I can’t and they walk up to my car I’m going to use my concealed firearm to shoot them”. You could also have decided to jump out of your car and run away as fast as you can, but the point is that you have a plan and you’ve decided what line they’re going to have to cross in order for you to execute it.

If you don’t go to condition Red, if you stay in condition White, Yellow, or Orange, then you simply won’t be mentally or physically prepared for an actual attack. You may have identified the threat and made a plan but if you don’t go to condition Red and decided on your trigger and response you’ll most likely stand there frozen.

So in Condition Red you are going to get ready to enact your plan and decide on what "trigger", what "line in the sand", will be your cue to do it.

Condition Black: Attack In Progress

In this condition your attacker(s) has tripped your “trigger” and you are taking action. This is the point where you need to be following through on your plan and taking action, whether it is turning and running away, using a personal defense weapon like a firearm or pepper spray, or using your body to cause injuries.

The only way to effectively be able to survive a "black condition" is to train and to practice scenarios. You need to get the education and training to be order to deal with violence and you need to practice with realistic scenarios.

An important point I want to make is that these conditions are laid out in a gradually increasing manner. We started in Condition Yellow, then went to Orange, then to Red, and finally to Black. However, it is very possible, even likely, that in a real violent encounter it will not happen that way. Chances are that your attacker will make every effort to attack you by surprise and they just might pull it off. Being in Condition Yellow will greatly increase your chances of seeing an assault coming even then you might miss a cue or just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What I'm trying to get at is that you might have to from Condition Yellow straight to Condition Black. You might turn a corner and there he is. You might be getting into your car and suddenly you’re hit from behind. You might be sitting on the couch watching a movie with an acquaintance that has had too much to drink and suddenly they're on top of you tear your clothes.

An ideal situation would have us smoothly go from Yellow to Orange, to Red, and to Black but we have to realize a situation might force us to jump a Condition or too. That is another reason why we have to develop our plan and a few basic "triggers" before we even leave the house in the morning.

The last thing I'll discuss here is one final Condition, we'll call it Condition Bright Red.

Condition Bright Red: Tense and Paranoid

This is Condition you'll see people in every now and then and it really is unfortunate. Some people just live in survival mode and spend all their time tensed up and suspiciously looking at everyone. The problem with this is that you can only spend so long in this kind of condition before you burn yourself out and suffer health problems. Normally people put themselves in this condition and make it there normal state and after awhile they get so tired they end up in Condition White without even noticing it.

If you find yourself in this Condition you need to recognize it and realize that it will do you no good. There is a very short line from being in Condition Bright Red and being in Condition White. If you find yourself here you need to make yourself stop what you’re doing, take a slow deep breath, and consciously put yourself into Condition Yellow. A great way to do this is to force yourself to do something fun. Tensed and paranoid is no way to live, and if you decide to live there you'll probably be living there alone.