Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hard Training for Hard Times

Hard Training for Hard Times
By Fernan Vargas & Robert Red feather

Front line operators need no-nonsense techniques which wont fail under pressure. One way to
ensure that an operator acquires such skill is to ensure that they train properly. Chief Instructor
Robert Red feather has trained local and federal Law enforcement agents, as well as service men from all branches of service and offers the following advice for running a realistic and functional training program.

One of the most important lessons in knife fighting is respect. A student must first and foremost
learn to respect the blade. A knife is arguably the most deadly weapon an operator may ever
face. It doesn’t jam, never runs out of ammo and can be effective in almost anyone’s hand. In
close a blade can take a man apart in a matter of seconds. Training with a wiggly rubber knife
just doesn’t cut the muster. Training with a soft blade does nothing to drive home to a student
how deadly a knife can be. Chief Instructor Red Feather recommends that all training be
conducted with hard blades, preferably metal with a marking edge. A hard blade HURTS!
When a student feels a little pain or discomfort, what they are really doing is learning to respect
the knife. If a student knows that reckless abandon will sting into tomorrow they will be less
likely to be cavalier in training and real life. Training in such a manner also creates a stressful
training condition. When students learn to function under stress in training they are far more
prepared to deal with the stress of a real life or death situation.

Many programs erroneously believe that the more techniques, drills, and material they include in their programs will make them better practitioners. The truth is that scientific research has
shown that under stress the body is only able to perform a limited number of skills, mostly gross
motor skills. The mathematical formula known as Hick’s law is also of note here. Hick’s law
basically states that the more solutions one has to any given problem, the longer the person will
take in answering the problem. Therefore if you have to mentally search through a high volume
of techniques for the right one you will effectively create a log Jam in your brain. Chief
Instructor Red feather for this reason stresses good solid basics and a relatively small skill set. If
a student has less to remember and work on they can become functional with a smaller skill set in a relatively short amount of time. Recall of the techniques are far less hindered this way. Solid
Basics in combination with high levels of repetition in a realistic training environment is the
recipe for functional skill.

Realism in training is key. Chief Instructor Red Feather recommends several key ingredients to
effective knife training. First as mentioned above is realistic contact and a stressful environment.

Second is psychological desensitizing. In Apache Knife training fake stage blood is frequently
used so that students will become accustomed to the site of their own blood and the enemies. By
doing so students will be less likely to freeze in awe of the sight of blood. Real time is also
important. A student can perform any number of sophisticated techniques as long as their
opponents cooperate and move slow enough. Real time training against an uncooperative
opponent will quickly weed out any techniques which are more fantasy than reality. Training
against an uncooperative opponent also teaches the student to do just that fight the uncooperative enemy, not a friend who stands still for you. Weapon selection should also be noted. Train with weapons which resemble your duty /carry weapon. Chief Instructor Red feather always trains students with training blades which resemble K-bars and small folding knives. By doing so students become familiar with the range and feel required to operate the weapons they are most likely to carry. Marines or soldiers in the field carry large k-bars or other similar large blades, and when on R&R they will usually carry a much smaller civilian style folder.

One of the most overlooked aspects of realistic training is grip training. Stabbing or cutting the
air will do nothing to improve your self defense arsenal. Students should actively stab the hard
earth, wooden posts, and other objects with their trainers in order to develop the grip necessary to control their weapons. Flesh gives but bones are realistic obstacles which a student must become accustomed to. Stage blood can also be invaluable in developing a proper grip. If you or your opponent has been cut it is reasonable to believe that blood on your hands will be slippery, or sticky and can compromise your grip. One again, creating conditions in training which resemble the realities of combat will help a student prepare for what is really likely to happen.

Regardless of the program one is training in, the above recommendations will help to make your
training more realistic and effective. Take it from an instructor like Chief Instructor Red feather
who teaches from experience and not theory. It could help save your life.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

10 Days to Better Knife Fighting

On a routine search of the internet for knife fighting material I ran across a website which was offering an E-Book entitled 10 days to better knife fighting. Now that is a pretty lofty claim. A book with that title better deliver. I contacted the author and agreed to review the book. What follows are my thoughts on the material.

To start with the author gears all use of the knife in a defensive manner. There are no offensive techniques in the book. All of the techniques are reactionary. Now this may all be semantics, but the author made a clear statement that the goal of knife use in the book was purely for defense. This is a good sign that the author is a responsible person and instructor and not a kill em up knife instructor.

The author lays out some basics in the beginning of the book such as safety zones, inside and outside movement, and target selection. The drills in the manual are aimed at developing instinctive reactionary moves. Topics such as transitioning between ranges, and changing the path of the blade are also included. The drills are all sound and varied enough to offer someone enough material for prolonged training. The instructor does an excellent job of dividing the drills into daily practice sessions so that the material is workable and digestible. Progressive training is a key to good training.

The book focuses on drill training which earns it points with this reviewer. Drill based training tends to be much more flexible and applicable than by rote techniques, of which there are none in the manual. Also drill training is more universal and will integrate smoother with various martial arts.

The author also includes some interesting perspective on fakes in combat. The author appears to have experience as a stage magician and borrows concepts such as “misdirection by motion” from stage magic and slight of hand to improve fighting techniques.

Another admirable aspect of the book is that the Instructor advocates the use of other weapons such as hand strikes during the knife fight. This is extremely important because it helps the student from becoming weapon fixated, and encourages a more total approach to fighting. The author also advocates mind set and scenario training which is key to adding another level of realistic depth to training.

The only tactics included in the book which are questionable are the tactics of throwing or dropping the blade in order to create an opening for an empty hand assault on the attacker. While in theory this tactic may make sense, and may even work in the dojo, this reviewer feels that the dangers of relinquishing ones weapon in favor of an empty hand attack do not outweigh the benefits.

All in all this book lives up to its name. The drills are simple in their presentation, yet complex in their application. Although the material will be of more benefit to new knife students or students coming from non-knife based arts, the drills presented here will most definitely help any student of knife fighting to improve their abilities in a progressive training format. The E-book retails around $29.00 and is often run in promotion with several other equally useful smaller manuals. The price is comparable to the price of an average knife fighting book from other publishers, however having seen the majority of knife fighting books on the market this reviewer feels the content although less flashy is definitely more useful.

About the author:
Fernan Vargas is a close quarter combat and Defensive tactics instructor. Mr. Vargas is a certified instructor of both modern tactical and historic Knife Fighting Systems. Mr. Vargas has taught knife fighting and defense to law enforcement officers and martial artists from around the world at international training conferences. http://www.defensive-arts.org/ www.sabermethod.com

Monday, September 04, 2006

Brotherhood of the Blade 2006

The 1st Annual Brotherhood of the Blade Gathering made for an exciting and impressive training event. 10 different Instructors took the participants through Modern and Historic Blade Arts of Africa, Asia, Europe and the North America. Knowledge was shared with the most sincere feelings of cooperation and brotherhood. Keep an out out for the second anual gathering sure to be even better than the first.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Are You Ready T0 Carry A Knife?

Actively carrying a knife for personal protection is a big step for any practitioner. Some of us give it more thought than others, but all of us should give the choice serious consideration. The choice to carry a knife can have many serious implications. As responsible self defense practitioners we must consider the legal, ethical, technical, and mental implications of defensive carry. Let's take a look at each.
First off, lets consider the technical implications of knife carry. It is very important that if you carry a knife for self defense, you must be versed in its use. There was a student at my school who would regularly come in and view the knives for sale. Several times he asked me about carrying one for self defense. My advice to him was not to even consider carrying one until he had logged some more training hours. In addition he would have to be prepared for all of the other implications as well. Stories are abundant of people who have drawn a knife in defense only to have it taken from them and used against them. A self defense practitioner must feel comfortable with the mechanics of knife use and defense. A practitioner should have a firm grasp of basic knife use, as well as weapon retention, before making this decision. This particular student trained for about six months before finally buying his carry knife.
"Its better to be tried by twelve than lowered by six". This is a common answer in martial arts schools around the country whenever a student asks about the legality of a physical technique or its repercussions. Unfortunately cool cliches won’t help protect a person if they have used their knife in error. It is infinitely important that students be abreast of all local, and federal laws as they pertain to self defense. I also recommend that students seek out a course on "Use of Force" which will help practitioners to understand what level of defensive force is legally appropriate for various criminal assaults. It is very important to be informed in this respect. Remember that in any Self defense situation you will potentially have to survive two assaults; the first on the street and the second in the court room.
An additional consideration for instructors is the potential for ‘vicarious liability’, the legal responsibility for what one has taught a student during professional instruction. In short, the principle of vicarious liability holds that teaching a student something which is illegal or irresponsible can make the instructor liable for both criminal and civil remedies, and vicarious liability can follow an instructor for an unlimited time. Teach a student to do something illegal, and you may find yourself in court with him twenty years down the road answering to a jury.
Using a knife in defense or combat is serious business. The use of a knife in combat is a highly violent situation. Most people have an aversion to violence. Some of us are more adept at violence than others. For those who have grown up in rough neighborhoods, worked high risk jobs or seen war, violence may be viewed as a necessary evil for survival. Others who are more removed from violence may tend to shy away from it. When considering carrying a knife for self defense one must consider the level of violence they are willing to embrace. Some people will never be able to mentally run someone through with a knife. I have a student who has trained knife fighting for close to a year. He is competent in the basics and could no doubt use a knife with success in a self defense situation. This particular student however will not carry a knife. He is honest with himself. He knows that he is unwilling to cut or stab someone else even in defense. He wisely does not carry because such a block would only lead to hesitation, which would put the criminal assailant in a position of advantage.
Violence also has serious mental repercussions. Unless you are a sociopath, maiming or killing another individual is likely to rest heavily on your psyche. It is not uncommon for people who have survived or partaken in violent situations to suffer from a number of psychological after effects. Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and Anxiety are just a few of the problems which can manifest. All of this should be taken into account.
As we stated above the knife is an tool of violence. A Blade is by design a killing tool, a lethal force option. It should not be thought of in any other way. We as responsible citizens must make the ethical decision to carry a blade. We must know up front when we carry a knife that if it comes into play it may be used to kill. Killing, even in self defense, is truly an ethical dilemma . Killing is often in direct opposition to many ethical belief systems both religious and secular.
All in all it is extremely important that anyone who plans on carrying a knife for self defense consider all that we have mentioned today. The decision to carry a knife should never be an impulsive one, but one made with carefully consideration after much preparation. Only by doing so can the self defense practitioner truly add an effective tool to their arsenal.

The Gun Slinger & The Farmer

Chief instructor Redfeather once explained to me the difference between the gunslinger and the farmer. I found the story to be very useful to me. The story helped me to put my training and my mindset into perspective. I would like to explain the story to the readers in hopes that it may be as useful to you.

I am a firm believer that every person should make honest assessments of themselves and know “who” they are. When it comes to Self Defense and fighting abilities we should all do the same. Now its time to identify if you are a Gun Slinger or a Farmer.
The Gun slinger and the farmer both have their weapons. The Gun Slinger has his shiny , slick and fast six shooters. The farmer has his solid dependable shot gun. Both are weapons which can get the job done, just in different ways.

The Gun Slinger is the absolute master of his weapon. The slinger lives and breathes with his weapon. The grip, stance and fire are all second nature to the Gun slinger. The Gun slinger and his weapon are intertwined
The slinger is the expert shot. The slinger makes even the most difficult shots appear natural and easy. A combination of Raw talent and perfectly honed skill is the mark of the Gun slinger. The gun slinger also seeks out the challenge, he is unafraid of his adversary, he is bold.
The farmer is very different from the gun slinger. The farmer’s shot gun is not magical in his hands, as the six shooter is in the gunslingers. The shot gun is however dependable and the farmer has trained enough with his weapon to use it when the need arises. He may not as skilled as the gun slinger but he is functional none the less.

The farmer is not Bold. The farmer is not lacking fear like the Gunslinger. Instead, the farmer over comes fear. He is brave. The farmer does not chase the challenge or thrill of combat. The farmer enters conflict only when there is a need to protect himself or his loved ones.
Each of us who train in combat arts must recognize if we are farmers or gunslingers. By recognizing what we are, we can then more easily set goals for our own self improvement. We can also more readily accept our own strengths, weaknesses and limits. A strong individual is one who knows their own limitations and then pushes past them. So ask yourself are you a farmer or a gunslinger?

As for me? I am just a REALLY mean Farmer.