Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My KUNG-FU is Better Than Your KUNG-FU: Which Martial Arts Style is The BEST Martial Arts Style

By Damian Ross of The Self Defense Company

It first started long ago when some unkown combat aficionado first posed the question: “Which is BETTER, boxing or wrestling’ ?”

Since that time comparisons of combat skills and methods have become common place: Boxing vs. Wrestling, Grappling vs. Striking, Jujutsu vs. Boxing OR Wrestling, Karate vs. Judo, Karate vs. Boxing, Swahili Toe Fighting vs. Peruvian Nostril Boxing, ad infinitum. AD NAUSEUM!

The latest “Battle of BS” centers around: Reality Martial Arts versus (you can fill in the blank).

This is total nonsense! Actually the entire “debate” over what is BETTER than whatever is ridiculous and a complete waste of time, especially for those who consider time a precious commodity. However, arguing the merits of so-called reality self defense or “combatives” in regards to comparison fighting skills is absolutely BASELESS and denotes a true lack of understanding in what “combatives” is really all about(and maybe life in general as well).

Personally I don’t like the term COMBATIVES. But I also fully realize that it is the undeniable human nature to label things. Without labels who would we hate, who would we kill, how could we stereotype, what basis would there be for religious, ethnic or racial bigotry? So in order for the world to work as it does, labels are a foregone conclusion. When labels become a tool or device for divisiveness and enmity we really fall into a trap that should be avoided at all costs.

The root problem here is the very same fundamental problem that is the wellspring for most, if not all of mankind’s ills: The EGO. The absolute need for self-validation at all cost. Anyone who engenders all or most of their feelings of self-worth and validation from their training alone (or even in major part) needs to immediately cancel their registration at all forthcoming seminars on the latest evolution of NHB fighting from the mount or the latest innovations in submission “whatever” imported directly from the planet Venus (or perhaps more accurately Uranus) AND SEEK PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING! QUICKLY!

Let’s try this simple experiment: Go into your kitchen draw and find the BEST steak knife with the sharpest, keenest edge. Now place it on the counter or breakfast table. Next, find the best fork with the sharpest pointiest tines and lay that right next to the steak knife.

Step back and let the fun begin! We’ll settle this once and for all time the universal query of which is better: The sharp steak knife or the pointy fork!

After a few minutes, seems nothing is really happening here does it? Well, that’s the exact problem with debating “technique”, or “system”, or “method” or “style”. It’s all an exercise in futility without the all important factor of the persons involved. It is NOT the “TECHNIQUE” IT’S THE MAN (or woman-PC ALERT)! Until human hands pick up the knife and the fork nothing will ever happen! The method doesn’t work for the man. THE MAN who MAKES the METHOD WORK!

It’s NEVER the merits of “just” Boxing vs. Wrestling or Muay Thai vs. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It is the individual merits of the men involved and those merits are rarely if ever “equal”. Since we are all human and not machines, those “merits” actually fluctuate on an almost daily basis! Even for those possessed of seemingly superhuman qualities, Father Time, Uncle Murphy and Mr. Reaper will sooner or later destroy all that.

Further still, this mindless need to debate only applies in terms of SPORTING COMPETITIONS! Sporting competitions by their nature are structured events. They are planned for, they are trained for. They encompass well defined rules and regulations.

So good natured speculation on the merits of one participant or team pitted against another certainly has some substance, even extending to the competitive merits of one combat sport against another there is some basis in logic. But extending these diatribes into the realm of real world violence and individual survival is POINTLESS! NHB means “No holds Barred”. The real world really is NHB.

To truly evaluate a method of street fighting and survival, you must define parameters on which will set up a good system. This is because most “styles” have had recorded success in the real world. The most common “knock out punch” in the street is an over hand right. This technique is included in every system form boxing to Muay Thai. So it can’t be technique alone. For a reality based self defense system to be effective it must have proven techniques. Be usable in the least amount of time possible. Be able to be used effectively by anyone regardless of age, size, man or woman. And can be trained with a minimum amount of equipment. To date there is only one method that is simple, effective and able to allow ANYONE to protect themselves in the shortest amount of time possible. The is the purpose of the self defense training system (

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Does Self Defense Need to be Complicated?

By Damian Ross and William Pehush of The Self Defense Company

Our society has turned into a culture where everyone wants everything right away, and yesterday isn't soon enough. But we all know good things take time, but do essential skills like real self defense training need the same time to master like martial arts training?

Real martial arts training can't be rushed, and despite what instructors who work for black belt mills and McDojos say, it takes years to understand a martial art. It can take up to five years for a student to earn their first degree black belt from a legitimate martial arts school. This is a worthy endeavor, but you might want to wait to learn only the essential self defense methods to prepare you for a street fight. Thieves, rapists, and murders aren't going to wait around until you’re ready to fight back. While martial arts training can take years learning the fundamentals of self defense doesn’t take very long at all while still allowing you to have time to train in whatever style you enjoy.

One of the dirty little secrets of the martial arts industry is that most people who learn martial arts aren't learning self defense. How can this be true you ask? After all most schools list self defense as one the many benefits to learning whatever styles is being advertised. Well, you're being lied too or at the very least being misled. Most people who take martial arts like Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are actually just learning a combat sport. Now sure some of then started of as styles meant for close combat and may have been used by soldiers, but many of them have been made safe for competitions and have lost their lethal edge. Now these sports are a lot of fun and are great for combat conditioning, but they don't replace basic self defense training.

A street fight is a raw primal battle where fighters act more like savage animals than rational and polite men and women. The first thing you have to do is throw sportsmanship out the window and learn how to bite, head butt, and eye gouge an opponent in a fight, and rest assured you don't have time for any complex techniques. There is even a right way and a wrong way to punch someone, and most people have no idea that the edge of hand does even more damage. When you're reacting to the stress of battle you won't be thinking straight so you need to use simple self defense techniques to survive.

Most martial arts styles are to complex to use in an actual fight so even trained martial arts instructors will often go back to the basics in a real fight. Breaking bricks and wooden boards is impressive, but do you think you will be able to concentrate enough to harness that power when you’re ambushed in a parking lot? Do your techniques only work if you’re in a gi or protective clothing, because chances are your attack won’t be wearing a uniform. Also do you have all the knowledge you need right now? You can’t tell an attacker that you haven’t learned how to stop a knife attack or how properly throw a kick yet. For a martial arts style to be effective in real combat it needs to work outside of the martial arts school.

You shouldn't stop training in your favorite martial arts style, but you do need to start learning self defense techniques that will work in the worst conditions. A fight is all about hurting someone badly enough so they won’t hurt you, and you have to make your move fast. Your black belt might be years away, but that doesn't mean you can't learn what you need to survive right away. Real self defense training is about making the most out of your basic actions, and maximizing damage, and it should be simple enough for anyone to do.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Which Martial Art is the Best for Law Enforcement?

Up until 30 years ago, JUDO was the martial art. Then with the introduction of the more mysterious martial arts with more of a “killing” edge to them this coupled with the focus of the USJF/USJI (the leading Judo organizations in the US and the world) focus on Olympic competition and the simple fact that training in judo is painful and to this day, very difficult to get a black belt rank in it, especially if you are in a competitive area. I could probably write another 5 pages on this, but I will stay on point.

During these years EVERY major metropolitan Police Department had a Judo club. Even countries like Thailand taught Judo to their police force, NOT Muay Thai. I personally train a number of law enforcement officers and I have seen the results first hand. So why is Judo the martial art for law enforcement?

The primary purpose of non-lethal force with law enforcement is to get your target to comply. What is the most realistic way of getting someone to do something you don’t want to with out seriously damaging them? How can you get someone from their feet to the ground as quickly as possible? How do you know what its going to be like for real? The answer is JUDO.

First off, when most people “resist” arrest, it’s an ego thing. They are looking to be restrain, or they don’t want to look like a punk and go quietly. The advantage the cop has is that the suspect knows that the officer is not trying to kill him or her. I realize this is a disadvantage in some situations, but that’s what the stuff @ is for.

First, the object of judo is to throw the opponent from his feet to his back. Think about the majority of the altercations policemen get in, most of the time the skel is just kind of testing the officer. Once the suspect feels that the officer is going to be a tough customer, he’ll comply. Nothing drives this point home better than taking someone from their feet to their ass with one shot. Usually, when the guy is on the ground, he’ll take his medicine, since he knows the cop really isn’t going to kill him, a lot of time, that’s all it takes. Plus, to witnesses, it just looks like you pushed or pulled him over; mean while, they hit the deck HARD. Just ask my friend who threw guys one night with sasae tsuri komi ashi (lifting, pulling, ankle throw). These guys were fighting each other, and the guys on the scene had to get them to stop. So, he got in the fray and tossed ‘em all. Well, I guess they felt that getting up and fighting again wasn’t that much of a priority.

A popular argument is that most fights go to the ground. This may be true, but most people don’t know what they are doing. Most people don’t study judo.

One of the primary components of judo is being able to stay on your feet. You develop this skill as a by-product of the training. Just gaining the ability to stay on your feet is worth the price of admission. Especially when you are in a ‘scrum’ maintaining your balance is a primary concern.

The fact is, there is not better way to practice imposing your will on someone who is non compliant. Nothing gives you greater confidence than throwing a man that has 100 pounds on you. Nothing. Especially when that guy doesn’t want to be thrown.

Another important component is the pinning and submissions of judo. To secure a full point in judo you need to hold him on his back for 25 seconds. Being able to hold a man down until the cavalry arrives will save your life. Plus, while this guy struggles, you are just squeezing the life out of him. Trust me, when it comes time for you to put the cuffs on him, he’ll be as compliant as a wet noodle.

Strangles and arm-bars, yep, Judo has them too. If you have to put someone “out of commission” and you really want to know how to strangle someone who doesn’t want to be strangled, you’ve come to the right place. When they wake up, you will have them cuffed and ready to go. (Uh-oh, the choke hold alarm! Hey, I am not talking about liability; I am just trying to save your life).

Lastly the overall toughening and body conditioning is second to none. If you can “randori” for 30 minutes, non- stop – you’re in really good shape. So why aren’t some many people, knocking down the doors of every Judo club. Because it’s hard work and it hurts. There’s no junior black belt, student of the month. Your gi is white and the work is hard. No secrets, just hard work.

The irony and the tragedy: the guys who train with me are only a few. Most of the guys interested in this type of training are SWAT or tactical guys. Unfortunately, these guys are the least likely to get in a roll around. That’s the irony. The tragedy is the guys who are most likely to need good hand to hand fighting skills are the patrolmen doing car stops, domestic violence; and all of the first response details. By the time the SWAT shows up, the situation is intense and the reality of a hand to hand confrontation is highly unlikely if not damned near impossible.

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Time to adjust your way of thinking about martial arts and self defense

Real Self Defense is not just about technique. Yes, there is the holy grail of techniques that you will soon learn that are simple and effective by design. But that’s only a small part of the equation. Unfortunately that’s the primary concern of all martial artists and this is why many a black belt has gotten a good ol’ ass wooping at the hands of some skel.

As you will learn, the technique is the EASY part. The other key element is how you train.

Training makes you tough. It’s as simple as that. The harder you train, the more confidence you have and the tougher you are.

Get out of the bar, a drunken brawl, though dangerous, is not a primary concern. Your main concern should be the predator that earns his ‘living’ taking people like you off the count. This is the worst possible scenario. If you train for situations like that, a drunk, steroid induced blow hard is not a problem.

Another myth made by 99.999% of all self defense experts is the Self Defense Specific Scenario. In other words, if my assailant does this than I do that, if he does that, I do this. Though comforting, it leaves the situations in the thousands. And who in the world can possibly prepare for each individual situation.

The common denominator of ALL Self Defense Situations is this:
Distance and Position: where you are and where your assailant is.
Every environment: the street, parking lot, snow, woods, jungle, etc.
You have to assume your assailant is armed, he has friends and he has intent.
You will be taken off guard and your adrenaline will only allow you to perform gross motor skills.
And you may be old or injured.

In order for a self defense system to be effective: a minimum of techniques must fit into all of the above. Train those techniques with intent and conviction, keep yourself in shape and you’re good to go.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Why You Need to Know How to Fight

It’s not a choice, it’s a responsibility

Damian Ross and BJ Pehush of The Self Defense Company

Most people try to live their lives without violence or having to fight someone. This is a noble pursuit and if you’re able to avoid violence you should always try to do so, but that doesn’t mean to abandon the idea of learning to protect yourself. In fact, failure to do so will put you and your loved ones at risk.

On average you deal with rational and calm people. When conflict arises, the majority of the time you can always workout your differences, but what do you do when you’re not dealing with the average person or just an average person who has reached a point where they ‘don’t care’ anymore. What turns a commuter into a raging lunatic? What happens when you’re faced by someone who simply wants what you have? You have a choice, comply or fight. You can be as diplomatic as you want, but everyone has a point where enough s enough and the risk is not worth the sacrifice. Everyone has something or someone they value above them self. And when that time comes and you’re not even the least prepared, you’ll only get hurt. Like the vast majority, you may not like the idea of physical confrontation, but don’t let that stop you from being prepared, if only a little.

For those who don’t want to be considered violent people there are a number of ready excuses for why they shouldn’t learn martial arts to defend themselves. The reason that is almost always at the top of the list is that it is a job for the police. After all police officers are trained and they’re armed, and it is their job to risk their lives. Well that all might be true, but even in the most populated areas police response times aren’t instantaneous. Even if you’re able to call for help it will take time for the police to get there, and during that response time your left at the mercy of a criminal. The police are there to protect and serve, but until help arrives you need to know what to do to stay alive.

Another excuse made by those who don’t want to fight is that if you fight you will only make the situation worse by angering your assailant. Well, to put it bluntly, that assumption is dead wrong. Putting your fate in the hands of a sociopath is NEVER a good idea. The truth is that if you know how to fight you will only improve your chances for survival. When you’re targeted for attack whether it is rape, robbery, or even murder your attacker has chosen you because they feel they have some kind of advantage over you and get what they want in the quickest way possible. They’re counting on the fact that you won’t fight back. It is up to you to prove them wrong, and if you know how to fight they’ll be the ones in for a surprise. The sooner you start fighting and the harder you make if for them to do what they want to do, and if you fight hard enough you can drive them back and escape. The longer the conflict takes, the greater the criminals exposure and the more likely they will choose to leave to pick another target. Like all predators, criminals look for targets of opportunity. Weaker, smaller targets make for good opportunity.

There are still other people take the moral high road when it comes to using violence in self defense. They think they’re as bad as their attacker and violence only creates more violence. Well that simply isn’t the case, and you know it. A schoolyard bully won’t stop picking on the kids around him until someone stands up to them and that means fighting back in one way or another. Martial arts don’t teach you to be violent and aren’t inherently evil and aren’t practiced by people who enjoy hurting others. On the contrary, martial arts help you to be more calm, confident and aware. The teach you to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Once you understand and have the training and the skill it is up to you to decide how to use your martial arts knowledge, and if you’re protecting yourself and those you love you aren’t doing anything wrong. No one can tell you what your line in the sand is. That is for you to decide. Whether it’s your children, family or a pet, there may come a day where you have to make a decision. And like the old firearms adage says, “I’d rather have it and NOT need it than need it and NOT have it.”

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Why Martial Artists and Coaches Make the Best Instructors

I always hear the argument…you don’t need a black belt to defense yourself (I know, I said it). This is absolutely 100% true. Self Defense is NOT a martial art. But teaching self defense IS.

I’ll explain…

As a martial artist or an athlete you are taught in a systematic fashion. Skills are taught in a progressive manner, each one building on the next. Practice and workouts are designed to develop skill and conditioning along the way. A systematic learning pattern is a huge value and makes all the difference in the level of instruction you receive. People who haven’t spent a long time in a competitive sport or legitimate martial art don’t understand this fundamental, but incredibly important concept.

The human body and brain is built a certain way and it processes information in a particular manner. Imagine going into basic math class where one minute you’re learning about addition and the next it’s fractions, then calculus. How well do you think you would even understand basic addition? Well this holds true in most self defense instruction scenarios. The instructor decides what he or she wants to teach and that’s it. This is the same reasons why most seminars and instruction fail. There is no system of implementation or education behind it.

Most instructors today have little or no real teaching or coaching credentials. I know sometimes we belittle your average strip mall karate school, but these people understand systems, implantation, class structure and how to follow a curriculum. It still amazes me how “instructors” and “experts” just get together and wing it. Sure there are times for exploration in class, but you need a syllabus and structure based on the progressive learning model in order to get REAL, sustainable results.

Yes, most martial arts and combat sports systems don’t exactly translate well into self defense, but how they teach and how they implement it does.

It comes to no surprise that people like Fairbairn, O’ Neill and Cestari all spent time in traditional martial arts. They knew the value of this training and understood how to build and develop systems based on the proven model of martial arts training.

Plus, the ability to commit to a program speaks volumes about your character. It’s important not just to understand where martial arts’ training fits in the big picture, but how to sacrifice and sweat.

It’s true that you don’t need martial arts to defend yourself, but if you are going to teach, you must understand basic techniques and principles of teaching (or learn from someone who does).

Coaches and Instructors may not be the best fighters, but they should now what goes into making one.

When You Post or Print Please include: Article Provided Courtesy of Damian Ross and ©2008 all rights reserved.

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Why You Should Always Trust a Wrestler

(or at least give him the benefit of the doubt)

Yesterday I went to the annual wrestling awards banquet at my alma mater, Ridgewood High School. Every year my family has the distinction of honoring a Ridgewood wrestler with the Philip A Ross, Jr. award. The award is in honor of my father was President of the Ridgewood Junior Wrestling Program for 25 years. The recipient of this award doesn’t have to be the best wrestler. He just has to meet two criteria: has come through the junior wrestling program and demonstrate the characters that make a good wrestler: positive attitude, good work ethic and the ability to move forward in the face of adversity. It should be to no surprise that the same qualities that make good wrestlers make good people.

Wrestling is a thankless sport. As far as high school sports go, it is by far the most difficult and the most demanding. It invades all aspects of your being, affects your family and your friends. You are taught to sacrifice and endure training of Spartan proportions. And for what? There is no big contract or signing bonus for your success. If you are talented and lucky enough you may be one of the less than 1% to receive a scholarship to college.

Training for wrestling is more like Special Forces survival training than anything else. To prepare for the rigors of a mere 6 minute match takes thousands of hours of practice, running, lifting weights, climbing ropes, buddy runs (with your partner on your back), sprint laps, calisthenics and anything else that will increase your performance.

On top of that, you have to make weight. To every wrestler, a scale is not just a scale. It’s the judge. It is the gateway to your success. If you don’t make weight all of your hard work and sacrifice are for nothing. During match day you will heck your weight 3 or 4 times. You’ll eat standing on the scale. You will chomp ice cubes, rinse and spit at the water fountain and track every ounce and calorie that goes into your mouth.

Your family and friends are well aware of this because you are not in a good mood. You sit and watch as food gets needlessly wasted and thrown out. You are shocked at the amount of food commercials you see on TV. You can’t believe that people actually can go out, go to McDonald’s and order whatever they wish! You can’t be talked to or reasoned with (at least until after weigh in).

The training, the weight control, the intensity and for a chance to test yourself against another who has endured the same amount of pain or sacrifice. When you train, you picture him training- it drives you to do one more rep, one more round and one more time.

Why would some one in their right mind endure such a god-awful, Spartan lifestyle in a sport that will only leave them broken-hearted? That’s right, broken hearted. Chances are your career will either end with a loss or an injury: either way, it’s not on your terms. At the end of the season there is only one man standing at each weight class. All of the rest have been sent packing.

So again it begs the question, why on earth do you do this? First of all, there is no sweeter feeling than having your hand raised. I’ve scored touchdowns in big football games and I’ve won big wrestling matches, and I’ll take the feeling you get after a big win in wrestling any time.

The answer is simple. The more sacrifice, the greater the reward. The harder you work and prepare, the more meaning the outcome. There’s s nothing more definitive and complete that beating another man on the mat.

Wrestling is life. Life is hard; to be successful requires time, sacrifice, compassion and love. Wrestling prepares you for this. You love of wrestling and meeting the challenge drives you. Your compassion for your team mates inspires you. It teaches you that things are sweeter when they are worked for (nothing is better than that that first meal after a weigh-in).
It teaches you to be self reliant. Alone on the mat, there’s no one to depend on but you.
It teaches you accountability, there’s no one responsible for your actions except you.
It teaches you to work with others; you need to practice with a partner and a team.
It shows you how to make the best of your abilities: your speed, your agility, your brains and your guts.
It teaches you that even your own life will not end on your own terms.

This is why I meet someone who’s spent some time on the mat I know them, or at least a part of them. Immediately, I give them the benefit of the doubt. Because any high school kid who is willing to sacrifice so much for what would be perceived as so little will be there when they’re up against it. This is the guy I want in my foxhole.

In a world where it’s cut and run and shaft your buddy, I’ll put my money on the guy who takes the road less traveled.

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