If you have ever heard me talk about knife defense you’ve heard me mention Jerry Wetzel. Jerry’s Red Zone program is the premier knife defense program. There are a lot of knife programs available, and almost all have some merit. However, the material I trust my life to, (and the life of those that train with me), is Red Zone.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Jerry is a long time friend and we’ve trained together quite a few times over the years. He’s helped me with my programs, and I’ve offered my input regarding his programs over the years. As a result this has driven us to give honest feedback in an effort to offer the best possible service to our trainees. We test and evaluate extensively before we roll something out to the public. We understand the stakes so there is no way we are going to say the comfortable thing rather than the honest thing. Jerry, like all of my friends, shoots it straight and expects the same in return. So when I received a copy of Red Zone Knife Defense I expected excellence, and was not disappointed. Jerry has pressure tested this material for years upon years as well as having guys like myself pressure testing and evaluating the material. The result is a bomb proof approach to dealing with an edged weapon attack. So order a copy of the book, and more importantly get yourself into one of Jerry’s courses so you can experience the material for yourself.
One of the first of many cool sayings I heard as a young man in the fight game was; hit first, hit fast, hit last. I’ve heard this attributed to a number of folks so I really don’t know who I should say I’m quoting. Teddy Atlas? Cus D’Amato? Salim Assili? This would seem to be one of those universal truths that apply to any fighting art. Bottom line, as one that was brand new to the game this was an important lesson for me to learn.
It would seem self-evident but sometimes we need an outside voice to give us permission to make the first move in defense of life and limb. Putting my hands on someone without waiting for them to put their hands on me was a foreign concept. Most of us have been taught by family, friends, and society to avoid throwing the first punch. The person throwing the first punch is always the aggressor therefore, wrong. At this point I realize how wrong I was to accept this as true back then, and after having witnessed a few violent confrontations I can assure you I have no issue throwing the first punch. Think about it this way, how many hits can you take before you’re unconscious? Once unconscious you can no longer defend yourself or your loved ones. Don’t let that happen. You need to act, and act right now. You can solve the legal challenges after the fact, with the help of competent counsel but right now, in the moment when your gut is screaming that something just isn’t right? You gotta get it on before he makes his move.
One of the things I struggle with is imposter syndrome. That nagging feeling that I’m not really deserving of any accolades, or recognition I might receive. I worry that I’m deep in Dunning-Kruger and as a result don’t know enough to know how much I don’t know.
I don’t know how to stop those thoughts from running through my head. All I know is I train like a madman to make sure I’ve done everything I can do to deserve anything I’m given. I’m actually envious of people that have no clue how much they suck. Their confidence in their non-existent skills has to be a great feeling. I mean that sincerely. I wish I could be that but I can’t. I will continue to struggle with whether I deserve to even wear a black belt, or have anyone listen to anything I say on the topic of self protection.
And I will continue to work my ass off to ensure that those that have trusted me enough to invest their time and effort in passing on their knowledge to me aren’t disappointed. I will continue to work my ass off to make sure folks that trust me enough to train them will find that training valuable.
In police work recruits are taught to watch the hands when making contact with citizens.
In the first course I took from Paul Howe we were given a scanning hierarchy when dealing with folks we encountered. Guess what the second item on the list is? You got it, the hands.
In the first seminar I attended by Megaton Diaz he made a statement that has stuck with me over 20 years later. “Never let them touch you. If they grab you grab them back.” Megaton was speaking to the importance of never allowing our opponent to establish a grip on us, to always monitor and control the opponents hands.
It seems there is a string that threads through every potentially violent endeavor. The opponent’s hands will hurt you if you don’t control them.
In particular I can’t over emphasize the importance of monitoring the hands of an unknown contact. Your ability to apply your avoidance, deterrence, and deescalation skills are greatly enhanced by your ability to monitor the unknown contacts hands.
Uncontrolled hands for some reason, (looking at you Murphy), seem to migrate to our weapons, don’t let that happen. Control the hands, control the space/distance, get to a dominant position, and finish them.
This is an interesting class to teach as we cover a broad spectrum of material with a wide variety of skill ranges in a short period of time. This can be a challenge for some coaches but when you have the opportunity to work with coaches of Larry and Cecil’s caliber there is no challenge they haven’t faced at this point so I knew we would be good to go.
There are always lessons to be learned in these courses for the students as well as the coaches. However, one of the lessons that’s consistently reinforced is conditioning matters. We all could use a little more conditioning, and I know I’ll be working hard on improving my conditioning.
The next lesson that is consistently reinforced; a little bit of Jiujitsu goes a long way. You don’t need a black belt level knowledge or even a blue belt level knowledge. However, just a little bit of Jiujitsu in the form of several months of consistent effort will pay huge dividends in an Entangled Fight.
One of the first lessons Joe Smith, Hershel Davis, and Dave Wittrock pounded into our thick skulls at the Police Academy is that there is always at least one gun involved in any tussle. Every time an officer goes hands on it can at any moment become a fight over control of the officer’s weapon. (Not only the pistol, but OC, taser, baton or any other weapon on the officer’s person can be taken by the opponent and used against the officer.) This lesson has stuck with me, and driven the direction of quite a bit of my training efforts for the last 20 years.
Mas Ayoob had said many times that the moment you strap a pistol to your body you give up the right to flip someone the bird for cutting you off in traffic. That simple traffic altercation can rapidly escalate to a fight over your pistol or even a shooting. This is something Claude Werner might refer to as a negative outcome.
While some folks will quibble about the term entangled gunfight, or whether we need to learn to integrate our skills, it remains a fact; if you go hands-on with someone while carrying weapons it is indeed moments away from becoming an entangled gunfight.
It’s ironic to me that while some were arguing that entangled gunfights don’t happen the world was watching the George Zimmerman trial. I’m thinking those arguing could have benefited from some time around Smith, Davis, and Wittrock.
Bottom line, should you find yourself in a hand to hand altercation, while bearing weapons, you better treat it as an entangled gun-knife-OC-expandable baton fight… Because in an instant it can be.
When we’re talking about Jiujitsu as it pertains to fighting there can be only one objective; to win in the most efficient manner possible.
Assuming we are starting on our feet our first objective is to win the takedown battle. We want to hit our opponent with the Earth as ballistically as possible. A secondary objective is to hit the takedown in such a manner as to be past my opponent’s legs. I start my guard pass with my takedown, while still on our feet.
Next I want to move towards my opponent’s back. Either cause him to give his back or find a way to take his back. This limits his offensive and defensive capabilities.
Lastly I want to lock in a choke and put him out. While getting to mount or knee on belly and raining knuckles on my opponent is a fantastic option, the most efficient way to end the fight is to choke him out. The human skull is fairly durable and can take a lot of punishment. Compare the number of strikes it takes to knock out most fighters versus how quickly even a highly skilled fighter succumbs to a properly applied choke. A choke also limits the possibility for me to damage my hands while trying to punch a hole in my opponent’s skull.
Once the choke has helped you achieve your objective, disengage from your opponent. Sit them up or turn them on their side so they can regain consciousness. Now get out of Dodge.
Not so coincidentally this strategy works regardless of whether we’re on the street or in a sport environment.