Radio Interview

Last summer, I was honored to be interviewed on the Ballistic Radio show (broadcast out of Cincinnati but available on iHeartRadio as well as iTunes podcast).

It is (as it’s name would indicate) a firearm oriented self-defense show. However, the host, John Johnston, is a really progressive guy who is constantly looking to see what is cutting edge and most effective in the self-defense community. Not only is he an excellent shooter who has trained in some of the most demanding shooting courses in the world, he has also put his ass on the line and done H2H work, both with me as well as Craig Douglas ( Though my interview with him was before he came to one of my courses, he still asked some insightful questions. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I am a regular listener to his show since he always has on great guests.

Check out the direct link to the podcast to my show, but also make sure you go through the other podcast archives, as well as tune in to John’s latest show:

Going to the Ground with Style


When this video was posted on a forum I frequent, I made a quip along the lines of “so much for not going to the ground in a fight”. I thought it was an obvious point – that of course the fallacy of saying never go to the ground in a fight was an uninformed cliche – but apparently a couple of people didn’t get it. I think their replies make a good point of discussion.

What some replied was essentially this; “Well, this is not the same thing. The fight ended when the guy hit the ground. Using the ground as a ballistic impact zone is different“. Let’s look at those points.

First of all, the cliche is not mine. it is said by others, and the cliche is fairly clear i.e. Don’t Go to the Ground in a Fight. There is no wiggle room there. The winner in the video took the fight to the ground, in contradiction to the espoused line. No one who uses that cliche ever follows it up with any caveats. It is used as a cut and dried piece of advice. Period. So this video is a contrary to that, no matter what. Just that fact alone shows up how foolish it is when that hoary bit of wisdom is trotted out.

Second, There is no way that ending was preordained. Sure, we look at the video in hindsight and say well of course that ended the fight. However, there is no way the thrower knew that the fight would end when the impact happened. It could easily have not knocked the loser out. How many times do we hear of cases where someone is shot multiple times, or shot in vital areas like the head, and continues? It is a well established and accepted fact that almost no handgun round, including a 45acp or 44magnum will stop someone with one round. The human body is capable of taking an amazing amount of punishment and still keep on ticking. If an aggressor can take multiple rounds of modern high-velocity hollow points and still fight, why is being slammed on the ground magically superior? It simply isn’t. There was at least an even chance that the fight could have continued after the throw. If you watch the video carefully, you can clearly see the thrower expected (or at least was prepared for) the fight to continue. He held the dominant controlling position for a moment, realized the other guy was out, and only then released his hold. So for anyone to think this was any different than the thrower making a conscious decision to take the fight to the ground, and do whatever he needed to do, you are mistaken.

Third, someone out on the interwebz will undoubtedly say “Well, if the other guy had a weapon the fight would have been different”. Really? Take a look at the video again. The thrower had control of either the other person’s limbs or he was disrupting the guy’s base and balance the entire time. See how the loser is flailing away with full energy just to try to stay upright and on his feet? At what point could he have accessed or deployed any weapon? The answer is, he couldn’t, even if he had the latest tacti-cool gun and rig. It is one thing to have a fast draw on a flat range. Try accomplishing the same task when you are being tossed all over God’s green earth. It is not done with much chance of success.

And, finally, we get to the other rallying cry of the RBSD crowd – “If there were multiples, it would have been different”. Let’s ignore possibilities for a second (and I am actually deep into a research project where we are trying to actually document with hard numbers how often multiple attackers happen) and look at what did happen. There were no multiples involved, and the thrower very likely saw that and made an informed decision to go to the ground. Further, if he had been wrong, and other assailants had become involved, he was in a fine position to engage them. Contrary to the popular RBSD trope, when an expert grappler fights someone who knows nothing about grappling, they do not roll around for hours, The fight will end in seconds, with plenty of time to take care of other attackers.

To sum up, there are plenty of times when going to the ground in a fight is the worst decision possible. There are plenty of other times it may be the single best thing you can do. Trying to espouse one single answer as dogma is wrong. To paraphrase an old saying “Saying never is the last refuge of the intellectually lazy”.

Quote from Mick Coup

Mick Coup is one of the finest instructors of H2H “combatives in the world. Along with that, he is one of the smartest people I know in regards to physically training in order to help our expression of self-defense techniques and methods. He is also an amazingly insightful writer with a gift for succinctly cutting right to the crux of an issue in a way that everyone can understand. I truly wish I could express myself as well as he does. There was a Facebook post on his training group page about the hierarchy of low percentage techniques versus high percentage ones. There was a bit of controversy by one or two commentators, and Mick then offered his insight. I am copying it here because he once again sums things up far better than I ever could.

“I’ve been using the notion of a ‘linear scale’ for several years, and I do reckon that the all-important comparison of effectiveness it highlights is hugely overlooked by many.

The model presented, however, isn’t what I have in mind regarding this.

Simplify it perhaps, to just a scale of effect ranging from total incapacitation at the top end, down to being stunned, then distracted, mildly annoyed, amused…etc…

This then can be used to visually place various methods, obviously each has a ‘bracket’ of effectiveness particular to itself, and it should be noted that the measure is a fairly clinical affair, and more objective than simply wheeling out fluke examples, etc.

Compare, for instance, the absolute most powerful low line blow you could deliver with an ASP baton or similar…with a moderate power Thai kick. The former, often touted as being super-effective by those with a vested interest, falls well short of what can be achieved with just the shin. Not even counting ‘tactical’ access and application…

How about something like the ‘Shredder’ compared to a right cross? The top-end effect of the former certainly won’t match the upper-end effect of the latter…and will really only be comparative to a fairly weak example, when all is said and done.

Same as an inward traveling palm-up ‘axe hand’ compared to an overhand right…the most you could hope to achieve with the former is still going to be well short of what do possible with the latter.

This may seem like a little too much ‘fuss’ I accept, but I’ll submit it’s kept me ‘honest’ with what I teach, and train, and provides a litmus test of sorts that I use constantly.

It really does put a lot of the gimmick party tricks, that are passed off as being uber-combative, in perspective…

This stuff has generally been my main response to those attempting to ‘sell’ their ‘cool’ options.
Tell me how deadly and useful a pen is in a fight for instance, recount as many examples…even find some actually truthful ones, for a change…and I’ll simply place it on this scale and compare it to something MORE effective that is so much simpler to apply.

I do believe Neal’s scale is too ‘specific’ in some respects, but it’s a stab in the right direction.

Get a sheet of paper, draw a vertical line and write ‘total incapacitation’ at the top, and ‘mildly annoyed’ at the bottom.

Now consider for the purpose of this exercise that we are comparing ‘fully applied’ techniques, executed by someone not possessing superhuman physical attributes. It’s not a comparison of access, or ease of application, that can be another exercise perhaps.

Where do you place a particular technique or tool?

A right cross, or left hook, for example, fully applied earns a place right at the very top…they can both immediately incapacitate an adversary.

How about an eye jab? As nasty as it may be, this scale is to measure and compare ‘stopping power’ and physically it just isn’t up there, neither is the ‘Shredder’ for all the claims of leaving people incapacitated and ‘convulsing on the floor’ is it really going to earn a place near the top end of this scale?
Chokes and strangles…sure, right to the top…body shots and kicks to the shin or knee…not so much.

Regarding weapons…claw hammers, bar stools, foot-long screwdrivers…very potent, capable of rendering someone incapacitated. Keys and pens, mobile phones, small flashlights…do me a favour, you must be joking…

What’s the purpose of all this ‘comparison’ then?

Simple, in the great scheme of things – and by this I mean for those that actually live in the real world and not some Jason Bourne sequel, not all things are created equal and it might be an idea to prioritize exactly what you intend to bring to a fight…and the training that supports it.

For those involved in regular ‘live’ contact, sporting or otherwise, it’s a fairly moot point…ever wondered why an MMA fighter doesn’t bother with standing hammerfists to his opponent’s head, even though it’s well within the rules and apparently devasting judging by all the RBSD/Combatives ‘badasses’ that seem obsessed with doing it as a default?

Simple…in actual application it fucking sucks, for a ton of reasons – one being that compared to a punch from the same hand, to the same target, any ‘devastating’ power it was thought to possess now looks kind of lame… (bold added by Cecil)

Comparison…prioritizing…Occam’s Razor…etc…

Obviously the suggested comparison so far has been fairly one-dimensional and wholly concerned with ‘stopping power’ only. This isn’t the be all and end all for sure – if it were, there would be no infantry, just tanks!

It’s a big deal however, and obviously overlooked by some judging by the cliched nonsense they present as being effective.

Access and application are hugely important factors – there’s no point in having the most potent technique in the world if you cannot apply it, and often…usually…this is highly situational and circumstantial.

Care must be taken to consider the situation and circumstances when comparing – it has to be like for like.

For instance, someone once commented that the offline elbow strike I include in my foundation material is weak…and compared it to a rear handed straight or hook punch to prove his point.

Fair enough, from a power perspective it’s never going to compare favorably…but…when situational factors are introduced, and you consider that it is used to engage a target that is close behind you, or downwards to spike the base of the neck of someone tackling on the high line…well, try a right cross there instead…

It’s not a great shot, not at all, until it becomes the only shot you have…”

And an extra bit:

“To reiterate what has been said a few times already – it’s often wise to do this, as people often read or hear one thing, but ‘understand’ something completely different, in my unfortunate experience – this ‘scale’ is simply to try and keep the fantastic, the impossible, the ultra-low percentile in perspective, to highlight what is actually useful and worth training, and what is more of a gimmick, a movie-inspired party trick to all intents and purposes. If you are going to push the notion of a car key or a hat pin being an effective weapon, well OK, but compared to what? A potato?

In order to prove effectiveness there has to be more evidence than a combination of some fluke anecdote and ‘I want to believe’ doesn’t there?

Amongst all this talk of effectiveness what I’m really concerned with is ‘stopping power’ to be more accurate, and this is an elusive notion, that’s impossible to quantify reliably. Commonsense, reason, logic even, should get a look in here…not to mention some understanding of basic human physiology. How much ‘input’ regarding causing a human to be incapacitated by some tangible means does a car key really have? On that ‘crazy’ linear scale, just to map out a rough idea, where would you place a slash across the face? Compare like for like, movement-wise – forget any notion of superficially cutting the skin…this counts for far less than many would believe in a fight against a committed individual – and stack it up against a simple blow with the hand…

Immediately there will be those that will leap into action crying “but a smaller and weaker person can’t hit hard enough, so they need to use a weapon” as a fairly standard response…but again, compare both done by the same person, and it may become apparent that slashing someone with a key takes a little effort too, applying force with any weapon takes ‘grip’ for example, and…any blood notwithstanding…it still places further down the scale in terms of ‘stopping power’ unfortunately.

As stated above, what is the very most you are likely to achieve with such a slash? Opening the skin of the face to the bone beneath? No small feat with a car key, but even if achieved…so what? How about all the ear-biting stuff? Fish-hooking the mouth? All sold as being ‘effective’ by some…again, however, compared to what exactly?

Most of the exotic stuff is theory in my opinion, when you start hearing about how effective it is…or has been…where’s the data? Even the individuals that firmly attest to having used such means…really? More than one fluke result…if any at all? Why don’t the guys that really need it, use it? Why don’t those aforementioned MMA fighters bother with standing hammerfists or backhanded axehands, even though they are well within the rules and, apparently, hugely effective – judging by the rather insistent opinions of ‘combative experts’ everywhere?

Easy, because compared to a simple punch in the same circumstances, there’s simply no comparison at all…those that reckon otherwise, selling or buying, are the ones that such a linear scale has been created for…to set the record straight somewhat.”

Again, Mick puts things simply and in clear language, and never resorts to faux-puffery to make himself seem more superhuman.

Yes, I am a fan of what Mick does, and how he does it.

Do yourself a favor and take a look more closely at what he offers.

His website:

And his forum:

I.C.E. Belly Band

A while ago, I was searching around for a good solution to being able to discreetly carry a pistol when I was in a situation that was not well suited for the standard arrangement of a good heavy duty holster and a strong and sturdy belt. I had looked at a few other belly bands, but was never quite satisfied with any of them. A noted firearms trainer (and a friend), Rob Pincus ( stepped in and showed me a holster he had a hand in designing, the I.C.E. Belly Band. I was able to get my hands on one and away I went.

I have spent the last few months putting the ICE belly band through its paces. I have been wearing it fairly often and in a number of different situations and contexts. It is a very good option for someone needing a discreet carry method.

Here is a short video showing the properties of this rig:

The nylon wrap has proven to be fairly durable and has shown no significant signs of wear. It is well made and comfortable. Even better in my opinion, is that the band itself is a bit wider than most other bands that I have used and it seems to have increased the comfort/”feel” during daily carry. The holster itself is a separate kydex piece that can be attached differently and adjusted somewhat to the user’s needs. Mine came for a Walther PPS and has good retention qualities. There is a good deal of Velcro along the band (more so than some other belly bands I have seen and used) and this allows for a really secure arrangement when strapped on. Even through different movements throughout the day, I found the band to rarely move much.

My only real criticism is that the holster attaches to the outside of the belly band. I am sure this makes it easier to make adjustments to the positioning of the holster, as well as making it much more comfortable to wear, but it weakens the “stiffness” of the gun. Occasionally the pistol will tend to lean outwards away from the body, which can compromise concealment. This is exacerbated with the smaller type of pistols that will most likely be carried, since there is less barrel length to help stabilized the weapon. To ensure this does not happen, the band must be underneath some support, like a belt or a tightly knotted waist drawstring. Unfortunately, sometimes the place of the belly band is for those times when that outer support might not be available. This is the only issue I have with the set up. I really wish the attachment was on the inside of the band (albeit at a cost of possibly irritating the skin). The issue can be worked around, but I wish it didn’t have to be.

Other than that caveat, it is a fine piece of equipment, and I continue to use it regularly.

Pressure Testing

We need to ask ourselves ; “Why do the techniques advocated here:”


“Not look anything like what is working here? ” :


The answer is that these two separate groups are not testing their material the same way. They might use the same language, but it does not necessarily mean the same things.

It seems that in today’s training community, everybody throws around the term “pressure testing” in order to justify the functionality of their method or technique. What is usually meant by pressure testing? Generally, it refers to some kind of force-on-force training where two or more people can actually apply techniques with energy that simulates real world conditions and situations. Unfortunately, like the quote from The Princess Bride “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”, most of them really don’t use it correctly. Rather than being an objective standard, it has too often become whatever the person wants it to mean as long as they look good. For it to have true worth, we have to have a defined standard of measure. Then, we can use it as a way to judge.

The most amusing part of all this to me is that I was part of the martial arts world in the early to mid-eighties when the term first started getting thrown around, and the outcry and antagonism towards that concept by many of the ones who today try to hijack the phrase makes me laugh.

One of the most prominent and public, especially in the U.S. of those who first advocated the need to pressure test was Bruce Lee. He ruffled a lot of traditionalist’s feathers when he compared most typical training methods to be like learning to swim on dry land. He wrote and lectured many times on the need to put some gear on and actually – GASP! – fight. Another early proponent was Jon Bluming, who had years of hardcore judo and kyokushinkai karate and was actually one of the first to talk about what we now term MMA. Unfortunately, since he was based in Europe, a lot of what he taught and wrote didn’t have the impact in the U.S. that Lee did. After Lee’s death, some of his students such as Dan Inosanto continued his teachings and ideas, and through some of Inosanto’s students like Paul Vunak, more and more people became exposed to this idea. And, with the arrival of Gracie Jiu-jitsu and its open challenge, and then the first Ultimate Fighting Championship, the concept exploded.

Still, even then, for years afterwards, many martial artists tried to dismiss any use of the idea of pressure testing as a needed component. One magazine columnist in particular, who now writes a monthly MMA column, derided all things MMA up into 2004! However, with the internet, DVDs, and social media, it became easy for the most inexperienced layman to understand the powerful need to pressure test. And so, even most of the die-hard haters have had to adjust their own presentation. However, as I said earlier, they do not always understand what they are trying to do, or even worse, intentionally try to subvert the principle. So how do we know if their testing actually meets the standard? Here are some easy to follow and understand guidelines. There are four basic components that must be present.

First, let me say that the following is based on years of study and research, and involved a number of gifted and talented instructors and fighters, who coalesce around the finest internet discussion forum, Total Protection Interactive (, and who were gathered together by Craig Douglas, also known as “Southnarc”. The group consists of people such as Paul Sharp (, Larry Lindenman, Chris Fry (, Claude Werner (, Ryan Mayfield, Paul Gomez (RIP), and others, as well as myself. So while I had a small part in the following formulation, it was very much a group effort.

Resisting Opponent
The first principle of pressure testing that must be adhered to is that we need a resisting opponent. This is the base from where everything comes from. It also seems to be very intuitive. If we want to test whether our technique or concept works against resistance, we need to have someone provide that resistance! The problem is this is where most people start and end. While physical resistance is a key factor, it is only one piece of the puzzle.

Opposing Will
The second feature is opposing will. By this I mean an active attempt at preventing an action from occurring. Not just physical resistance, but mental resistance as well. If we use a technique such as an empty hand response to a knife attack for instance, it is not enough that the “bad guy” tries to physically mimic a real attack; he has to commit himself to said attack.

Malevolent Intent
The third component is malevolent intent. This is a term I first heard used by a LEO whose TPI moniker is KIT. It perfectly describes that beyond the mental and physical resistance our training partner has to give us, he also must want us to lose. Not just make us fail by our technique not working, but by us having to suffer a visible loss. In the case of the knife counter from above, our training partner must be trying to defeat our technique and put us in a position where he can repeatedly “stab” us. It is not enough to stop the technique, but he must also want to crush us. If he can succeed in doing so, he demonstrates it clearly that our whole concept/technique/method is in error.

Freedom of Action
The fourth and final part is freedom of action. In my opinion, this is the biggest aspect that many proponents of pressure testing miss. We can have all the prior components in place, but if all we allow our adversary to do is a finite number of things, are we really being true to the problem? For example, in the 90’s, it was really popular with the traditional martial art crowd to show how easy it was for their art to handle a grappler. The typical photo layout had the “good guy” standing ready to go while the evil grappler almost always shot in for a double leg takedown, and the good guy used his favorite technique to stifle the attack. The problem with this (outside of the fact that the “grappler” never seemed to know how to properly execute the takedown) was that the defender was only defending against a single and known move. If the grappler had also been allowed to throw strikes as an example, the difficulty would have increased exponentially, to the point that the defense would very likely to become overwhelmed. To truly test our methods under real world pressure, we have to simulate the real world, including the fact that we cannot know what are our opponent is going to do! It is a simple idea, yet every time I get into a debate about it, almost no one takes this into account. Somehow, they believe they will always be able to sense the attack and respond accordingly, like some kind of real life Jedi Knight. Unfortunately, that won’t happen, and to rely on it is to set yourself up for failure.

To sum up, if your pressure testing does not have all four of these components, you are not truly pressure testing. If you can conclusively show you put your favored technique/method/system/skill through this prism, then you can probably stand up to any scrutiny.

Boxing and Self-Defense

There are many thoughts out there on what is a good method for using and defending against strikes in a self-defense context. I am a fan of boxing, and my boxing based teaching method would really demonstrate that. I will write some more on this, but for now, I will leave you with this link to an article written by a close friend of mine, Paul Sharp. Whenever he speaks, a wise man would listen:

Must own book – Red Zone Prime by Jerry Wetzel

This is one of the hands down best books I have ever read on unarmed self-defense. Period. Incredibly useful and insightful, and written for the everyday person, Jerry avoids all the usual tough-guy clichés, as well as staying as far away from the typical paranoia inducing hyperbole that too many SD authors indulge in.

Jerry starts off with by setting up his ideas with fact and down to earth normal guy reasoning and logic. Then he proceeds to go over simple and highly functional physical skills that almost anyone can implement. Where he really shines, and where so many other SD authors fail, is at tying the physical skills into a cohesive game plan that comes as close to universal application as anything probably can. This sketching of his “game plan” might be my favorite part of the book. He finishes with some good words of wisdom and the caveat that there is no easy, one size fits all solution. In short, I cannot recommend this book too highly.

Order it here: