Friday, June 27, 2008

“How to Defend Against 10 Bikers with Knives, Bats Chains and Guns?”

By Damian Ross of The Self Defense Company

“There I was, in the middle of my fist Black Belt test at the tender age of 22 ready to begin the Random Assault Drill. They were circling me, attackers with knives, bats, clubs and guns, but I was ready. I had been training for years. The panel of sensei watched me, Ross, Cestari, Blandino, Betts, they were all there and I was ready. One by one they attacked and I dispatched them neatly and swiftly. The knife was taken away with ease; the bat was mere child’s play. They were dealt with as fast as they came with no problem- I AM INVINCABLE!!!”

Flash forward to my real life. While visiting a friend at college we went for a typical night out. Well, one thing lead to another, as these things often do: who touched whose girlfriend, or who spilt whose beer, it really didn’t matter. Before I knew it I saw my buddy got sucker punched and he was out on his feet. I immediately tried to make my way to him as fast to as I could offer some retribution but before I knew it I was hit on the back of the head with something hard. When I turned in the direction of the attack I found myself face to face with two or three very pissed off frat boys.

The rest is hard to recall, a lot of pushing, shoving and occasionally hitting someone that wasn’t me and being it by someone or something that wasn’t. It wasn’t pretty, it was frustrating. There was no time to be scared, adrenaline coursed through me. After a short time (which felt like forever) a little voice popped in my head and told me: You’re boxed in here and you need to get out side.

When we finally pushed out the door, the entire fraternity house (about 60 men) seemed to converge on us. Garbage cans and beer bottles were hurled at us from the second floor and all I wanted to do was make sure my friends were OK. Finally after what seemed like an eternity (which was only about 10 minutes) we made it out of there. Banged up, cut and bruised, but alive. I was in pretty good shape and you could say I gave more than I received but this was crazy. These were college kids, future accountants, lawyers, executives and doctors using bottles, pool cues, garbage cans and whatever weren’t nailed down to beat us as best as they could. They were just as bad and just as dangerous as any criminal you would meet.

Where did all my training go? What happened to all the nice throws and take downs? Why was it so hard to get a good shot off? I know my martial arts training helped me survive, but it didn’t “feel” like I practiced.” I felt a little misled but rather than blame my training, I looked for a real solution and a plausible answer.

Unfortunately this as not an exclusive event and I have had the same results. The one question came to mind: What am I doing wrong in my martial arts training?

One of the deadliest problems with martial arts and self defense is the magic pill notion that you will be able to protect you and your loved ones against multiple vicious attacks regardless of who and how many. And you’ll be able to do this without a scratch or even a blemish. This is something we all want to believe. Who doesn’t want to know with 100% certainty that you will be able to fight and protect your loved ones from harm? You spend countless dollars and countless hours training, watching videos going to seminars hoping to come back with the answer.

The experts don’t help simply because they don’t know and or they don’t care. They can have the bet intention, but because they are former military, police, special ops that doesn’t mean they have ever even been in a fight or were taught the right and most realistic way to defend themselves. They learned from martial artists who are in the same boat, just best guessing what you can do.

So what about dealing with multiple assailants? First, you must always assume they are there. Whether you’re in an alley way, bar or on patrol, you are at a severe disadvantage if your assailant chooses the time and the place of the assault. If you’re a law enforcement officer you’re in their neighborhood or home. Many a domestic argument was broken up by the cop doing his job, only to be attacked by the beaten wife in the process. So you must always assume the worst tactically and train accordingly.

You must know, standing and fighting more than one person puts you at a severe disadvantage. Keep in mind of a couple of key points, if you can escape, great. Put as much distance between you and them as possible. You simply fight what’s in front of you and keep moving forward. When you train, practice to take ground. This will keep your primary target off balance and moving targets are always harder to hit. Always take ground.

If you train the right type of close combat techniques, weapons won’t matter, always attack. Getting hit, stabbed or shot when you’re attacking is a whole lot different that getting hit, stabbed or shot, while you’re being killed. You will be injured, the goal is to minimize your injury and maximize theirs. You will get hurt, toughen up and get over it.

Some simple rules to remember:

Always assume there is more than one assailant
Treat every attacker as an armed attacker
Resolve to the fact that you will feel pain and sustain injury
Always keep moving and taking ground, this will keep you attackers off balance, create openings for escape and make you more difficult to hit.
You can only “fight” one person at a time: deal with what’s in front of you
Attack first when ever possible
Weapons increase your effectiveness

There is no “magic pill”, anyone who tells you that you can stand and fight multiple assailants. Yes we still practice the Random Assault Drill, but the purpose is stressed that his is not so you can stand and fight, but it’s to disorient you and make you tired so that we can recreate some of the frustration of a real fight. The drill teaches you not to think, but to react and move. This is the core of real self defense.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Shotokan Karate, Popular Martial Art with Real Rough Past

By Damian Ross and William Pehush of The Self Defense Company

Traditional Karate or Karatedo is one of the best known styles of martial arts and is considered to be and competition sport. It first became popular in the west in the 1960's, but Karate was originally developed for self-defense. Created with Chinese help on the island of Okinawa traditional Karate is brutal form of combat that employs vicious strikes with the hands and feet as and depending on the style throws, grappling, and joint manipulations are also part of the training. There are many different styles of Karate with each focusing on a different area, and countless other styles have incorporated Karate techniques.

Of all the styles of Karate being practiced today though Shotokan is probably the most recognized. Action star Jean-Claude Van Damme practices Shotokan Karate, and the style was used in the Karate Kid films. The style was brought to mainland Japan from Okinawa by Gichin Funakosi in 1921, and it includes elements from Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū Karate, and even Kendo. Created with self defense in mind, Shotoanwas named after the training a hall where his students practiced. The style stresses dynamic power and constant movement, and devastating strikes.

The basic goal of traditional Karate was to kill or disable an opponent as quickly as possible, and considering the samurai who guarded Okinawa were armed to the teeth it was necessary. The Japanese ruled Okinawa with an iron fist and one of their first acts was to completely ban the natives from owning weapons. So Shotokan Karate was developed with real life combat situations in mind not sport competitions. Though Funakosi would create his style that uses deep stances and linear movements much later than some of the other styles he still held to Karate’s founding principals. His style was simple, effective, and deadly.

In 1879 Gichin Funakosi like many of his peers started training in martial arts and studied both Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū styles of Karate which were popular at the time. Finding them to complex he began to develop a simpler style taking from the best aspects of both. He also drew from his experiences in Kendo, the Japanese fencing martial art based off of samurai sword fighting techniques. After over twenty years of study he began teaching and demonstrating his new style in Okinawa and later Japan where he continued to write and teach. His son Yoshitaka Funakoshi would add kicking techniques and low stances and long attacks, chained techniques that would break with traditional Okinawan martial arts.

The long and deep stances and more linear movements used in Shotokan Karate differ from the circular movements other Okinawan styles use, but those wouldn’t be the only changes Funakosi would make to the art. Once in Japan Funakosi began calling Karate the"empty hand" instead of "China hand" which had been the tradition in Okinawan schools for generations. His actions angered many other instructors and Funakosi could never go back to Okinawa, but his style of self defense continues to be taught are the world. Sadly though Shotokan Karate has been turned into a tournament combat sport with a points based system. Funakosi intended for his style to be used for self defense against enemy soldiers and criminals not to score points in a martial arts competition.

Today many martial arts schools are concerned with combat sport Karate which is basically point sparring while others focus on the self defense aspect with others trying to teach both. Prior to World War II Karate was all about full contact and self defense, but now it is about trophies and kids birthday parties. All the traditional forms were all about hard strikes and offered many different options to help a martial artist win in a fight, but over time, they became civilized. Traditional styles like Shotokan at their heart are meant for self defense, but many of the lethal techniques were removed to make things safer for sports. Though there are some instructors out there teaching real combat karate they are few so do your research and know that just because you're learning Karate doesn't mean you can protect yourself. Remember real self defense is never complicated and it always works whether you have on a gi or not.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dog School

I can hear him barking everytime I pull into a parking space at my condominium. I open my car window and shut off the CD player in the car to hear if he is barking before I arrive; sometimes I drive through a different entrance to the parking lot to determine if he is barking as a result of seeing or hearing my car or just because he suffers from separation anxiety. Fortunately, it is the former. He stops barking soon after I shut off my car and by the time I reach the front door, he is silent.

The scene is always the same. As I open the front door, I hear his excited expelled huffs of air and the “thump, wack, thump, wack” of that muscular tail that has floored many papers from the coffee table and end tables in my condo. Unfortunately, he can not yet be trusted so he needs to be caged while I am out. Left to his druthers, he would roam in the condo and find things to chew on-window sills, wood blinds, couch cushions, TV remotes (I am now on my fourth), and door jambs. Better yet, he loves to rummage for food that is left at the back of the kitchen counters: full canisters of cashews, cake mixes and a full can of Coffee Mate. Ah, idle paws!!!

With some of these trials now behind him and me, my dog, Kokoro, teaches me the same lesson day after day. After I free him from his cage, he looks around excitedly for something to mouth. He usually brings out one of the three or four toys that are in the cage but quickly drops the one he picked up to find the ultimate toy-an Official Major League Baseball which has not a hint of ever being white. He is mouthing the ball as it shifts in his mouth; his tail is wagging so vigorously that his haunch is moving back and forth; his eyes are fixated on me; he is going up and down the stairs; if he could talk-“C’mon already let’s go play!!!!”.

I open the door and he shoots out like a shot. I call to him, “Kokoro”. He comes back to me, brushes up against me, then he trots about ten feet in front of me with a couple of looks back at me. Everytime I call him, he is back at my side. When we reach the field where he retrieves every throw I make, he drops the ball at my feet. His muscles are twitching. His eyes locked on the ball that I now hold in my hand. I raise my arm and he is already running. The ball lands in front of him, he tracks it, runs full bore and with one full swoop, lowers his body, moves his tail for balance and scoops up the ball in his mouth. He turns and trots back to me, drops the ball and gets ready to do it all over. This process is repeated until my arm gets tired which is much quicker than he does. As I stand marveling at my friend’s speed and agility and desire to retrieve, a smile creeps onto my face.

I smile because I realize that this game of retrieving is what he wants to do at that moment. Kokoro is living in the moment of his life. That realization is important because so many of us do not live in the moment. I am guilty. Recently, I was feeling low about my financial situation, career and judo. I entered a tournament and lost two matches very quickly. It was embarrassing. As I stressed about my ability in judo, I let that feeling of unworthiness invade my confidence in my career. I had a conversation with a friend about it and she provided insight to my supposed plight. Her words brought me comfort and started me back on track. The day after our conversation, I felt better but not great. I was still a little low. But when I came home and saw Kokoro’s tail wagging, the already wet with saliva baseball and his sojourns up and down the stairs, I knew that she was completely right. I was not living in the moment. I let the pressures and stress of this world eat me up. I walked off my path and lost sight of my way.

When I feel that I am getting off my path, I try to simplify the moment. Whether it is a bad moment or a good one, I know that it will pass. It is only a small portion of my life. Sometimes the bad moments last for longer than we would like and the great ones not as long as we desire. When I look upon Kokoro retrieving the ball and coming back to me for another throw, he is only concerned with that throw, on getting it back as he runs toward it, picking it up and returning to me. He is not concerned with the school bus that just passed, the kids walking on the sidewalk or the dog that is barking just a few feet away. He is in his moment-living for it, enjoying it, reveling in it. He teaches me this lesson everyday because I need to re-learn it each day.

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

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

There’s No Place like Home

Don’t make the mistake of leaving your self defense and martial arts training in your suitcase when you go on vacation!
Peter Barry

A couple of weeks ago there was a story on the news and in the paper that sticks in my mind. It is the story about a group of cruise ship passengers that were held up at gun point while on a land tour. If you are not familiar with the story, The Carnival Lines ship Legend docked in Limon, Costa Rica. A group of 6 passengers booked a private tour. While on the tour, 3 armed assailants attempted to rob them. One of the passengers, a 70 year-old man grabbed one of the attackers
and snapped his neck. OK, so the man was a former Marine. The other passengers began to resist and the attack ended with no one that matters being hurt.

When I first heard about this I thought it was great that none of the passengers were hurt and the man was a hero for taking action. I still think that but, when you look further into the story, the passengers have to accept some responsibility for putting themselves in this situation. The passengers were warned that Limon was a dangerous place and that a passenger on another ship was shot in the stomach a month earlier. Another passenger booked a private tour
but he heeded the crews’ warnings and also hired a body guard. Another passenger, a retired NYPD officer, said “From the moment I stepped off the ship, I knew it was very dangerous,”
“Everyone was eying us all over”. I looked up Limon in the internet and I didn’t see anything worth doing or seeing that was worth risking my life over. Why would you want the added stress of wandering around a dangerous place when you are supposed to be relaxing on vacation? I think staying on the ship and lounging by the pool would have been the wiser choice.

In another incident, a friend of mine was in Madrid visiting his daughter who was spending the semester studying in Spain. Now, Madrid is not at all like Limon. It is a very clean, very friendly city where you feel safe at any hour of the day. My friend was walking through the rail station,
rolling his bag behind him, looking for the place he was meeting his daughter. All of a sudden he was knocked backwards over his luggage and a man stole his wallet from his pants pocket.
I don’t think this was in any way his fault but, he should have been more aware of his surroundings and at least seen the man coming. What can be learned from these two
incidents? Be aware of your surroundings. Whether you are at the mall in your hometown or
on vacation in some third world country, you must be cognizant of what is going on around you.
Just because you are on vacation does not mean the criminals are. It means you will be out of town before the trial (if any) starts. Criminals always choose the weakest target. Wandering through a train station looking lost makes that you.

You are responsible for your own safety. Because Carnival Lines chooses to dock in Limon, doesn’t mean it is a safe place to visit. It probably means it is a cheap place to dock. Be prepared. Pack your pepper spray in your luggage (NOT your carry on) and Across Generations- It’s never too early or late to start your training. Bring your personal alarm for use in the hotel. Believe me, when people are staying in a hotel and hear a strange alarm they come out of their rooms pretty
quickly. I’m not saying you have to go through life being paranoid, just careful. Be safe.

About the Author
Peter Barry is a longtime martial artist and has one of only 4 recognized Black Belts in the world in Carl Cestari’s Tekkenryu jujutsu and rank in Kodokan Judo. He was Sensei Damian Ross’s first student in the ZenShin Dojo. He has over a decade of experience and trains and teaches at the ZenShin Dojo in Pompton Lakes, NJ ( He is also a staff instructor and author for The Self Defense Company (

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