Avoiding Dogmatism as Best We Can

I have a deeply ingrained allergic reaction whenever I hear someone in the self-defense world speak in absolutes or with a dogmatic implication that they have all the answers and that there is no reason to go anywhere else. I have to make sure the Benadryl is close by whenever I go on YouTube or read some internet forums.

Let me be real clear right now. NO ONE PERSON HAS ALL THE ANSWERS. Fighting/self-defense is so chaotic and has so many variables that there is no way that one single person has figured it all out. Not one. Period.

I am blessed to have a ton of good friends who are involved in the combative/tactical training community. All of them are terrific instructors, or brilliant researchers, or long service LE or MiL veterans, or amazing martial artists, or fantastically accomplished shooters. All of them have spent long years honing their skills and understanding of the world of violence. People like Craig Douglas, Claude Werner, Tom Givens, Paul Sharp, Larry Lindenman, Nathan Wagar, Mick Coup, Chris Fry, and many others have so much of value to bring to the study of self-defense. Any one of them would be worth moving Heaven and Earth to train under.

Even more so, I rely on all them to make sure I myself stay on track in my own training and research. I value their thoughts and ideas. But here is the thing. I don’t agree with 100% of everything they all say. Nor do they agree with 100% of what I say. And more to the point, none of them have the complete answer to all things self-defense wise. And NEITHER DO I.

There is no way, even over a lifetime of deep and dedicated study can one person understand all the variables to the question of combat. It is just not possible. For example, I have over 20 years of training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. And that training is under the close eye of a legendary coach, and involves multiple hours per week every week. I think I have a pretty good grasp of the applications of BJJ. However, over the last few years of travelling and doing seminars, I have run into a number of unique circumstances that really forced me to think about things. How can I be sure what I am teaching is accessible by someone who does not have the ability to train weekly in a BJJ gym? How do I know that I can make a woman who has never done grappling before will be able to understand what I show her? How do I know that I understand how someone with a physical disability can perform the techniques I am showing? And this is just in the tiny microcosm of specific BJJ work. If we expand that to the whole world of self-defense, those problems multiply exponentially. There is just so much to understand that it is beyond one person’s ability. So that is why I loathe those “gurus” out there that act as if they know everything.

So how do I approach what I myself teach in order to make sure I am not presenting some defined dogma of “my way is the only way”? What I try to do is approach it like building a house.

There are all kinds of houses – single story, multi-story, circular, square, rectangle, small square footage footprint, large square footage footprint, etc. Some are made from brick, some wood, some made primarily of steel. They can have all different types of facades, and different roof types. The interiors can be completely different from each other, even ones that have the same basic floor plan. And of course they can be painted differently. There is no cookie cutter one type of house. However, they all essentially have to have the same foundation. It must be level, and it must be incredibly strong and can resist wear and tear and stress over a long period of time. Most homes generally have some kind of poured concrete base, and then have a structural framework to hold up. After that, the house can then go in a myriad different ways to meet the desired end type. But the foundation is the same.

I approach my coursework in the same manner. Especially the coursework I teach the most, which can be referred to as Immediate Action Combatives 101, generally split into two modules, one for the ground and one for when you are upright and mobile. The goal behind this coursework is to have fundamental movements, a conceptual roadmap, and training drills that are focused on the specific area of surviving, defending, and escaping from a surprise assault. The idea is to have some things that can be performed by even the everyday person in a worst case scenario. If we can build in high percentage actions that can help us survive, deal with, and get through an ambush, and we know in our heart of hearts that we can survive such a situation, then the more fun and cool and flashy things can be added in later. And the idea with my coursework is what you want to add after the survive-defend-escape part can be whatever you wish. You really like what Craig Douglas has to teach? Awesome, go for it! Or you really did the Filipino stick and blade oriented arts? Great! And ad infinitum. Whatever you wish, including looking into my next level of coursework (where we start to take the initiative back from the assailant). You can add whatever you want to your “house” as long as you know your foundation is solid and can weather any storm.

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