Down on yourself?

Within the last few days, I have been reading a number of online posts as well as having some private discussions through email, text, and PMs with people all roughly about the same thing. There are a good amount of people out there putting in effort to be better, safer and more dangerous but stumble along the way.

Whether someone feels like they are not training as much as someone else they read or hear about online, or if they did a competition of some kind and don’t do as well as they hoped, or they took a tough training course and got wrecked, or shot some hard drill and put the result up publicly, they use a lot of negative talk. “I really got my butt handed to me in that class”, or “I let my team down by my performance in that tournament”, or “I will never be as good as –fill in the blank- because I just am not as dedicated in my training as he is” are typical statements.

Here is my statement to all of you talking like this – STOP IT. NOW.

Stop wasting thoughts on “if only”s , or that you are not good enough, or that you do enough. If you are authentically doing the work and putting honest effort in, regardless of how much time you are spending doing it, you are winning! Being honest to the problem and trying to do something about it is the win. Everything else is just the process result. The journey is the win, not what comes at the end, because in our quest to become more capable/safer/dangerous, there is no end state. We keep on keeping on, and take pride in the blood, sweat, tears, money, and time we put in. Nothing else is worth worrying about.

And STOP COMPARING yourself to others. Your journey is yours and yours alone. So what if I put in more mat time than you? Or that Paul Sharp shoots more than you? O that Larry Lindenman or Chris Fry or Craig Douglas has been working real world fighting material longer than most of you have been adults? Or that Jouko Ahola spends more time lifting weights than you do? Or so-and-so has better genetics/more time/more money/easier access to training?

None of that matters. You are not in competition with any of them, nor do you need to measure yourself against any of them. Hell, you are not even in competition with that violent criminal actor out there waiting to do harm to you. You have no control over that. The only thing you can control, which means it is the only thing you need to compare yourself to, is the you of yesterday. The only question to ask is “am I better than I was yesterday?” If the answer is yes, even if you are only 1/100th of one percent better, than you are wining. Period.

To sum up, please listen to this. If you are actively, honestly working to be better than you were yesterday, you are doing great. Pat yourself on the back for a second, and then put your nose back to the grindstone. And stop belittling what you are doing.

Video Analysis – Donut Shop Stabbing

This video provides some interesting insight into an aspect of criminal assaults that often gets overlooked.

I am not going to cover the situational awareness aspect of this. My dear friend William April of April Risk Consulting does a terrific job of that for this incident on his Instagram page. Read his wise words here:

What I want to talk about here is the lack of efficacy of the attack. This is a perfect storm for the bad guy. He has all the time he wants to set up his attack, he is able to initiate completely from behind, and the victim is totally clueless to what is going on even after the first stab. And the result? Not that much! Multiple stabs in the back, and the victim appears to have been almost unaffected.

This is an excellent view into the reality of a knife attack, and it gives us great observation into using a knife for self-defense. Too many pro-knife instructors blithely advocate techniques that are not that far off from how this bad guy is using his blade. The typical knife that can be carried for most people in the modern world is going to have a blade length of 4 inches and less, which if you look at the knife used in this attack and compare, the knife we will have is essentially smaller. Using something like that is categorically light years away from using a giant Bowie knife or Japanese wazi-kashi. Assuming that the effects from a big blade translate to a much, much smaller blade is foolish in the extreme. As well, thinking that with a small knife you are going to penetrate deeply enough with a slash to reach tendons and ligaments is just as wrong-headed. With the stabs done in this video, there was not much damage done, so what will be actually accomplished with a slash that by definition cannot go as deep?

This is not a putdown of using a knife in the self-protection mode. Not at all. In fact, I am a strong advocate for just that. But we have to be realistic in our approach, and we cannot arbitrarily think we can just swing or stab away to get the job done. We have to have a specific tactical plan of action that is supported by concurrent techniques, along with some dedicated pressure testing and drilling to make sure we can pull it off on demand. And always have the idea that it could fail and that we need back up plans. Anything less is going through life with big blinders on.

Video Analysis – Street Robbery

A wonderfully illustrative video:

This viral vid has attracted a lot of commentary, and most of it centers around either the fact that it shows how poor situational awareness leads to bad outcomes, or if she had only been armed to fight back.

I don’t disagree with either of those, but that is not what I want to focus on. Rather, let’s look at a well worn trope that is often thrown out there. There are a number of pithy phrases that get trotted out in the tactical self-defense world and one of them is that if you cannot use your firearm, than just “run away”. Like most of these tropes, it sounds good in shorthand, and it appeals to our sense of simplicity. But how does it work in real life? Well, when people talk like that, it is usually from the safety of their keyboard when they are nice and comfortable, and also when there are no issues in the way, such as injury or illness, or particular circumstance. The reality is shown by this video. She tries to run away. She abandons her purse and tries to flee. How well does that work? Not at all. One of the attackers is more physically capable and easily runs her down. Note that she is on a flat surface with no obstructions and does not hesitate to start to run, and yet it is all for naught. She is caught and thrown violently around. She is lucky that these criminals were only interested in her property, and not her, because she was helpless.

My point is not that running away is bad or useless. My point is that we as a community must step away from the simplistic and deal with real answers to keep people safe. Don’t settle for glib advice. Look at the real world, and how things can actually happen, and start to plan for those worst case scenarios.–mzansi-rages-about-mugging-and-motorists-who-ignored-victim/

Video ANALYSIS – 7-11 fight

This is an interesting video for a few reasons.

  1. Every time someone promotes any grappling in a self-defense context, the same insipid, moronic comment is trotted out “you will get your head kicked in by his buddy”. This is on the same level as “ma booger hook” for intelligence quotient. This video amply demonstrates why context matters and there is no hard and fast, black/white rule. It was the grappler who had someone essentially helping and the non-grappler who was outnumbered. This is life. You may be flying solo, but you may also often have people by your side. Well, you do if you are not a keyboard warrior who spends more time on the ‘net in his mother’s basement that is. In that case, you probably won’t be going out on the town with a friend.
  • Note the complete and utter domination of the grappler. The other guy literally cannot do anything. He is as helpless as a baby. Note also that he is not particularly smaller than the grappler, nor is he physically frail or weak, but it is irrelevant. The grappler has zero problems doing whatever he decides to do. THIS is the reality that non-grapplers fail to grasp. They will pontificate about how they can eye gouge, or hit the balls, or access a weapon while the “sport grappler” is doing his thing when the truth is they will be controlled and their actions will be completely dictated by the experienced grappler. Find a moment in that video when the non-grappler had any realistic chance to do any of the typical counter moves advocated by some people. Hint: you won’t find it.

For all that he did right, the grappler had an ENORMOUS mindset failure. William April continually harps on the fallacy of projecting your world view on others. Here is a perfect example of why that is dangerous. The grappler obviously felt the fight was over. The other guy however, thought otherwise. This is not a mistake that is limited to grapplers. Most people fall into this. That is why we need to study and understand how criminals think as well as act. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that the fight is over until you have made sure it is over

On Demand Performance

I don’t give a flying bag of monkey crap how good you are when you have had a couple of hours to warm up, are doing it by yourself, have no impartial judge to watch, and pick and choose your performance examples. If you think that showing the results of a drill that you shot 23 times before recording is equivalent to a guy performing cold and on demand in public to someone else’s standard and judgment, then you are an idiot. Shot a sub 5 second FAST but never seem to show up to a class where you can actually try for a coin? Cool story dude.

 If you are the guy who loudly proclaims that some NFL QB sucks, and you go on to say that he should have checked off the first receiver and thrown to the third guy, but have not yourself touched a football since you were a scrub water bearer in high school, you are an idiot.

If you tell everyone at Buffalo Wild Wings that some UFC fighter sucks and that he should have had a smarter game plan for the match, but always seem to have some excuse about why you don’t train, you are an idiot.

If you tell a black belt that has been actively teaching BJJ since 2004 that the t-shirt choke he shows will never work, but then fail to show up to a seminar (at no charge done in your area) to show in person why that is true, you are an idiot.

If you tell everyone that you have an unstoppable guard pass, but somehow never seem able to go to a competition in which you would obviously take the gold, then you are an idiot.

If you tell the world that BJJ guys are vulnerable to “dirty tactics” and don’t know how to deal with them, but when you are invited publicly to multiple BJJ schools to demonstrate that in person and you strangely go silent? Here is your idiot ribbon.

If you cannot perform cold, on demand, on someone else’s timeframe and for public consumption, then your critique is as valid as your performance. Zero.

If we are concerned with true real world self-defense, then our standard of performance, and the final arbiter of that, has to be what we can do when we are not prepared. As world renown firearms trainer Tom givens has noted, self-defense is a come as you are affair. Is it important to train hard and track our progress? Of course, because doing so pushes the envelope of what we can do, and therefore gives us a better upper end of our individual spectrum, but at the end of the day, it is what we can do when the balloon goes up that matter. Don’t tell me what you can do on your best day. Show me what you can do when you are sick, tired, injured, etc. And don’t insult those who do focus on that and show their performances that reflect that.

Video Analysis – LEO getting sucker punched

This is an interesting video to me for a lot of reasons, because it so simply illustrates how so many simple self-defense community tropes are incredibly foolish.

Now, before I take a look at this, understand something. I am not going to comment at all on what the police officers should be doing prior to the start of this video. LE tactics and procedures as it relates strictly to LE work is beyond me and whatever lane I have some knowledge of. I refuse to go into those areas that I am not familiar with just because I am considered a subject matter expert is some other vaguely related area. Too many people make that mistake, and I will not be one of them.

So, with that proviso, let’s look at what stands out to me about this video.

  1. The first bullet point is the sucker punch. There is a continuing bleating in the tactical/self-defense community about not going to the ground in a street fight, mostly because you will get stomped and KOed by other attackers. While I agree that is a definite danger, the issue I have with that statement is the implied part that being on your feet makes it easy to deal with multiple attackers. The simple fact is that the position is not the problem, but being hyperfocused in the position is. Note that the officer was standing, and had plenty of room on level ground to move. And it did not matter one single bit. He got hyperfocused on the person he was helping to arrest and got hit. Also note that it actually was not multiple attackers against a single defender. It essentially is two attackers versus two defenders! Even numbers and it still went bad, even on their feet and upright. Also note that the cops were well aware that there were a lot of people standing around, and they still failed the awareness test. Take a look at slow the second bad guy comes into the fight before he throws a punch. He was taking a lot of time and there were ample chances for just one of the LEOs to see him, and it did not happen. Just being on your feet does not mean you are going to be situationally aware and prepared for multiple attackers anymore than being on the ground automatically means you are extra vulnerable to multiples and will be taken by surprise. We need to move away from simplistic and mindless sound byte phrases.
  2. The second big takeaway is what happens when the bad guy takes the cop down. First watch the cop on the bottom try the eye gouge The bad guy obviously has no ground game and does not even try to control the cop’s hands or block them, and the vaunted eye gouge has literally ZERO effect. Then watch the third cop come in and kick the bad guy in the head (just like all the combative gurus warn grapplers about) and then punch him, and again exactly zero effect. I am not saying that getting booted in the dome or getting eye gouged can be laughed off, but I will categorically state that those things are not sure things. Not even close. There is a good chance (as demonstrated here in this video in great depth and detail) that they will be useless and if you don’t have the skill set to deal with the entangled fight, and are relying on those kind of tactics, you may very well be setting yourself up for failure.

In short, don’t rely on phrases that sound good but fail in the real world as often as not. Base your self preservation on high percentage and intelligently thought out material.

Video Analysis : Gracie Jiu-jitsu in action

One of the biggest epiphanies I had in my martial arts life was watching Gracie Jiu-jitsu in Action in 1988.

It is probably too hard to fathom what this did for me. Seeing grappling work so well against different arts was like a gut shot. It woke me up to what was possible, as well as the probability that I was had not seen the total package of fighting. What the UFC did for a lot of people in 1993, and then later in 2005 when it hit the mainstream, was what I felt in ’88.

This video is actually one of my favorite parts of the first volume. Here is the quick back story. There was a karate instructor in Rio who was looking to prove the superiority of his art and decided that challenging the Gracies was a good idea. He most likely thought that they would want so many rules and be on soft mats that he would not have to actually face them. To his shock, the Gracies agreed to all his conditions and even suggested using the location (which I will get to in a moment). There are a number of important takeaways from this short video, and they are easily understood lessons if people would look at it with a critical eye.

First of all, this video took place in the late 70’s and was made widely available on the original mass marketed video tape in 1988, and yet there are some who keep spouting ideas that this video trashes.  

  1. Note the surface. It is the kind of hard and unyielding surface you might find on a public racquetball court. It is most certainly NOT a nice padded mat. And the ones who wanted this surface? That’s right, the grapplers. Of course, that should be impossible because all the combative experts say grapplers won’t be able to fight when they are not on mats, that somehow they will freeze when they are on a solid surface and they will be at the mercy of the non-grappler. Utter crap. It isn’t that big a deal to fight on a hard surface. No grappler wants to continually train on it, because it will eventually cause accumulated trauma and damage. But that is over YEARS of training, and has nothing to do with a single particular instance. As this video aptly demonstrates over multiple fights. Find any single moment where the BJJ practitioner is having trouble with moving on essentially concrete. You won’t find it, just as you won’t find it happening in any of the countless hundreds or even thousands of real world videos showing people using grappling to defend themselves. It is a moot point and another illustration of why those combative “experts” who have no grappling experience have no idea of what they are talking about.
  2. Note the absence of gloves. Bare knuckle striking, done by stand up fighters who spend all their time using bare knuckle strikes. There is no chance of hiding behind the old trope of “well, the gloves softened the blows and made the strikers less effective”. The grapplers let the strikers have yet another advantage and it made no difference.
  3. Note that even with the bare knuckles, the strikes had no effect. Most of the time, the karate men got off only one or at most two strikes before they were tied up and taken down. Striking is a great and useful tool, but thinking that you will be able to end a fight against an adrenalized opponent with one or two strikes generally falls in the fantasy camp.
  4. Note that even though most of the jiu-jitsu fighters did not have a particularly great method of closing the gap, it still worked 100% of the time. Most of them were turtle your head and dive forward type close, and it did not matter. Imagine if instead it had been a good collegiate wrestler or trained MMA fighter. How much better that close would have been.  If you do not train and have practiced to deal with a true grappling close, you will fall victim to it far more often than not. You are fooling yourself if you think you can handle it otherwise.
  5. Note that unlike the striker that the jiu-jitsu man could strike at will once he had established positional dominance and the other man was completely at his mercy. That is a much more sure way of being effective with your strikes.
  6. Note in the last fight the attempt to smash the grappler backwards to the ground. Again, according to combative “experts”, this should be sufficient to stop the grappler and let the other man escape, and yet once again that kind of wisdom fails in reality. Even slammed to the hard surface by someone 40 pounds heavier on top did not shake the positional dominance of the grappler and the choke still happened right after.

As I said, I love this video for all the short and immensely powerful lessons it provides. Learn from it.  

Early MMA Fight analysis

This is not one of the first MMA fights ever. There had been hundreds if not thousands prior to this. Just in Brazil alone through the first three decades of the 20th century there were a lot (all documented in the book Choque), as well as many formal such events in Europe. However, currently this is the earliest one on video.

Neither one of the competitors were top of their professions. Pio Pico (real name Lupe Lemon) had a final record of 7-14-2. Not exactly championship caliber. However, keep in mind he was a legit heavyweight boxer at a time when that really meant something, and he could hit hard and was used to fighting. It was not new to him. Likewise, the pro wrestler he faced in this video, Nick Lutze was a mid-card wrestler who had a bit of notoriety on the west coast from the 30’s through the 50’s, and he did his work at a time when most wrestlers had to actually have a base skill in actual grappling (as opposed to the modern Hulk Hogan body builder types of the current era). So while neither was the best in their fields, they were legit and were far tougher, more dangerous, and more capable than most people.

As to the fight itself, we see the same things repeated that the UFC has shown to the modern world.

  1. The grappler does not try to hit, and actually is wide open to get hit himself. And in fact, does get hit often. And remember from the hands of a HEAVYWEIGHT boxer. Using the very small and not well padded gloves of a 30’s boxer (if you ever get to see gloves from that era, you may be shocked to see they more resemble UFC gloves instead of modern boxing gloves as far as padding goes), he takes a bunch of shots and it does not stop the wrestler. Strikes are rarely a decisive quick stopper against a determined opponent.
  2. While the boxing stance of that era was not as bladed as the current methodology dictates, it is enough that the wrestler has no problem shooting in and getting hold of the boxer’s leg or body.
  3. The oft repeated “advice” from tactical self-defense guys to “just get back to your feet when you get taken down” is completely meaningless if you do not have the physical skill set to do so. Note that Pico does try to get up; using every ounce of his peak athletic 200+ pound body, and it is useless. If someone like that fails at getting back up, what chance does the average person have? The only time the fight gets back standing is when the boxer can grab the rope and the referee steps in or he is pinned (a pure sport concept). When is that going to happen in the street? All the combatives gurus love to talk about how there are no rules in the street and it is not like the mats. Well, neither is it like a boxing ring with ropes bro. If you have no outside factor that will let you get up, and you don’t have that skill already, it will not happen magically just because you will it to be so.
  4. Note how quickly the shoot happens, over and over. A professional boxer, who trains everyday and has a lot of experience actually hitting a moving target, never gets in more than a punch or two before getting taken down. How likely is someone who does not train to that level will get even a single shot in? The answer is slim to none and slim just left town.

It is a lesson that a goodly number of people try to resist even though we have an overwhelming mountain of evidence to the contrary. In a one on one scenario, trying to beat a grappler without having a dedicated practice to do so is quite literally placing your well being on the hope that the ball lands on green zero. Not exactly best practice to staying alive.

the dichotomy of ego

Last week I did a podcast (which should be out before the end of the year) and the host and I had an interesting discussion on ego.

Now generally, ego is spoken of as a negative thing when we speak of training and trying to become a better version of ourselves. Ego makes us do dumb things to prove how tough we are, how much of a warrior we are, or to show others that we won’t be beaten by them. A great many injuries, perhaps the majority of them, in BJJ stem from ego making someone do something they should not do.

Case in point. When I first started training with Megaton Dias, he had an assistant who was a good dude, as well as a good jiu-jitsuka. The guy always helped me, even while making me tap. After a couple of years, he moved on in life, and I continued training. Flash forward about 5 years, and he comes back. I am now a purple belt (as he was), but while I was not the same horrible and fat ass white belt I was when he was training, he still thought of me that way. So when I started handling him with ease, you could see he was disconcerted. At one point, we were rolling, and I was passing his guard. He was fighting as hard as anyone ever has. He was bound and determined that I would not pass. The problem was, I was passing because I was good enough to do so. As I was finishing up, he screamed out and rolled into a ball. Panicked, I went to him to see what happened. It turned out that he tore his groin muscle. He was so desperate to not lose to someone he saw as inferior, that he severely injured himself. Not only did that take him away from training, he never came back. That was entirely due to his ego. It was really sad.

That is the kind of thing that happens far too often, and holds us back from truly getting better. However, the truly tough thing is that we need the ego to some extent. The ego is what helps us to push through when things get tough in training. It helps us to not give in and accept failure or loss. The ego tells us to get back on the horse and show the other guy who is boss.

This is not to suggest some miraculous way around the problem. It is just one of those things that make you go “hmm”.