Re-Post – Training Priority For A Modern Lifestyle

I wrote this a few years ago and it still pretty much encapsulates my thoughts. i am re-posting it now because later in the coming week I am going to talk about why I list the areas of need in the order that I do. It should give people an idea of those things that I have found over the past 38 years to be the dominant things to train and why. 


A couple of years ago,  I wrote a post on the best Forum on the internet, Total Protection Interactive ( about what I thought was a good approach to trying to establish a solid and functional H2H self-defense game for the regular guy, who only had a small and finite amount of time to train. I wrote the following to give my perspective on how to make the right decisions.

I offer this up only as MY take on priorities in allocating training time for Practical Unarmed Combat (PUC), no one else’s. This is how I categorize it in my head to help with my own structuring. Take it for what it’s worth.

In order of importance, I would list the main skill sets as:

Area 1) Keeping from getting KTFO and efficient movement while vertical
Area 2) Dictating range, position, and attachment or un-attachment
Area 3) Groundwork
Area 4)  Basic high percentage offensive moves
Area 5) Staying on your feet
Area 6) IFWA (in-fight weapons access) at contact distances

So where to train these and where do we get the material from?

For Area 1) Boxing/MT/Savate/MMA – these arts have methods/techniques that work under stress. They all have developed high percentage defenses and ways of moving. I have found most TMAs actually pay mostly lip service to defense. They all are much more focused on the cool offensive moves. And here lies my biggest issue with most combatives guys. They give almost no thought to defense, either in the technique or in flight time training. It’s why I give the thumbs up to very few combatives instructors.

For Area 2) Folk/freestyle wrestling, Greco, Judo, and MMA are the predominant arts here, but any art that has any legit grappling will have some validity. This is essentially clinch work, but unfortunately since so few people actually train it, few understand what it entails. Clinch DOES NOT always mean you are attached. It simple refers to the general range where each participant can easily attach. The person who controls this aspect can also control the range, the relative positioning, and when the space can open up to longer range. In doing so, you can go a long way towards controlling the fight and winning (surviving).

For Area 3) I think BJJ is the highest expression of groundwork in that it works for everyone regardless of physical attributes, but judo, sambo, western wrestling, and MMA are terrific as well (with the understanding that there are some weakness’ with those arts).

For Area 4) This should be good solid material that can be relied on over and over again. There are a lot of arts you can choose from here but the best are: boxing/MT/savate/MMA/combatives. The general thought behind this choice should be what are the highest percentage, most robust, and easily maintained functional techniques?

For Area 5) There are a myriad of reasons a fight might go to the ground, many of which you have no control over. It is a good idea to try to ensure you are as well versed as possible in those areas where you do have control. So it makes sense that the arts that have the highest level of functional takedown ability have the highest development of countering those takedowns. It is hilarious to me to see someone showing how to defend a takedown by demo-ing against someone who has never taken someone down in their lives. Not exactly the best way to ensure your stuff actually works. Try against someone who spends a lot of time training it for real. So we are back to folk/freestyle wrestling, judo, sambo, and MMA.

For Area 6) I placed IFWA here because good IFWA is so dependent on the prior skills. While you do have to put in dedicated training time to this area, IMO it should only be done after you have a reasonable grasp of 1-5. Otherwise, you will find you have a lot of holes, and you will waste time trying to reinvent the wheel , i.e. you won’t know what you don’t know.

Caveats and considerations in training:
Just because these components are listed in this order of importance does not necessarily mean that is the order you should train them in. There are many factors to consider.

First, what is available to you? It would be stupid of me to tell someone to go do BJJ if all they had around them was a guy who got his blue belt online and has never trained with a high level instructor. Or if that gym by your office advertising MMA was actually run by a guy whose background was only kenpo and another guy who was a joke as a blue belt. If the choice is between a top judo program and someone teaching Muay Thai who has never really sparred, then go with the legit program.

Second, some things are much harder to come by. Finding a real wrestling program is like winning the lottery. And arguably the majority of MMA gyms have a low level of clinch work, and often really crappy BJJ. If you find something that is harder to come across, you should most likely jump at that before it is gone.

Third, some of these things are easier to develop a decent level in than others. For example, it takes only a few months to get good at DEFENSIVE clinch work. It takes years and years and thousands of hours of flight time to get decent at OFFENSIVE clinch work, but defensively it is quick to learn to negate what the other guy is attempting. So if you are looking for a functional level, you might only need say six months of focus in this area (you still need maintenance and understand you only have a piece of the overall clinch game). I would say the same thing in regards to learning to not get KOed. Six months of implementing those defensive skills against resisting opponents who are actually trying to hit you will go a long way towards internalizing that skill set. Other skills take much longer. Groundwork for example is the most complicated and chaotic part of H2H.  

And finally, some things have a better bang for the buck. If you are studying a system that covers a bunch of things, you are being more efficient. As an example, most people don’t realize it, but BJJ trains your clinch extremely well. A closed guard or butterfly guard game requires the same general techniques that a standing clinch game does. But because BJJ is generally done in a horizontal manner, people fail to mentally translate that to the vertical plane. And if you are lucky enough to train at a BJJ school that has a strong stand up/judo game, it is even better.

So, taking these things into consideration, you can decide how to prioritize it for yourself. Do you want to focus on the things that require less time, get solid at those, and then tackle the longer harder skills (BJJ, IFWA, counter takedowns), or do you want to get a jump on those ASAP since they do take such a long time to functionalize? Only each individual can answer what is the best path.

As for the question of BJJ being a good fit in a gun/knife context – If it is a good idea in an empty hand situation, it is good in a weapons situation. While there are things you need to tweak, BJJ is a must for a weapon grapple. Period. Those who go through ECQC with a solid BJJ base are FAR ahead of those who don’t have that base. It has been proven time and time again.

The Real “Rock”

I love Rocky Marciano. In my opinion, he is criminally underrated.  I think it has to do with a percieved (by the boxing community) overrating of him during the 50’s – 70’s, and there was a dedicated attempt by many in that community to put him in his proper place. However, they went too far and there was a feeling for the past 30 years or so that Rocky was not all that a great a champion, and nothing could be further from the truth.

He was a phenomenal puncher, had a great chin, a vastly underrated defense, and a work ethic that was literally second to none. No one out worked the Rock, in either the ring or in training camp.

Now, with the ease of seeing old boxing footage that we did not have in previous years, we can all take a look for ourselves, and have our eyes opened that Marciano was indeed one of the greatest heavyweights in boxing history.


When People Who Can’t Grapple Tell you Why It Fails

Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, there was a huge push by Traditional Martial Arts (TMA), Reality Based Self-Defense (RBSD)/Combatives groups, and “Tactical” Firearms trainers to dismiss grappling as a unneeded component of a complete fighting picture. They would put up the constant refrains about “not going to the ground because multiples” or “because weapons” or “because of needles and piss in the street” (a sidelight here – I always found this funny, because I never walked around in alleys or under bridges where addicts shot up, so I never found myself in a situation where I would have to fight in that environment. I have been in the worst of urban areas, and the trafficked areas where personal crime/assault occurs is rarely in these areas, and yet many “anti-grapplers” are obsessed with fighting there – Just really weird) and use these clichés as reason why you should not grapple.

The problem that they ran into is that with the prevalence of camera phones and the ubiquity of YouTube, the least experienced layman could see that grappling still happened, regardless of what the combative gurus preached, so the open minded folks sought out grappling instruction so they would not get caught in a bad place.

This left the above mentioned group with a major problem – they needed to somehow address this (so they would not lose business as well as still being seen as cutting edge experts), but none of them had any legitimate grappling expertise or experience. The solution? Call it groundfighting! And use selling terms like “we are not in a sporting grappling match, we are fighting for our lives”. That way, they could ignore the fact that they did not have any depth or breadth of knowledge, they could excuse not doing any competition, and if they ever ended up facing a real grappler (a scenario that you know keeps them awake at night in terror) in a friendly sparring match, they could pawn off the inevitable loss with “that was just for sport. In a real fight, it would be different because I could do x, y, z, “.

So they could sell themselves as experts without putting in any time to, you know, actually learning to grapple for real. Plus, as a bonus, they could sell “groundfighting” instruction to clients as superior to true grappling, and it did not take long to learn! Genius!

Here is something odd though. What other human endeavor do we put value on the knowledge of someone who does not have any true depth of experience in something? Would you go to a restaurant where the head cook has never cooked in his life, and his only training comes from a one day session? Would you hire a nanny/babysitter who has never watched a kid before? Would hire an Uber driver who just got his license the day before? Of course not. So why when it comes to our lives, or the lives of our loved ones, we accept the same level of non-knowledge from self-defense instructors? It makes no sense.

Now, these good folks could get away with it when they stuck to generalities and clichés, and could always be quick to invoke the “too deadly to spar” card. They could sell it to people new and inexperienced to self-defense, and never have to prove anything.

Except that in the current social media driven world, you need to put out video product, and that becomes available for the public to see – a public which includes people who actually know something about grappling. And then their glass house becomes vulnerable to tiny pebbles the wind whips up against it.

Such is the case with the included video. Take a look, and then we will break it down.


So, what are the problems? First, before we get to specifics, let’s look at the underlying issue that completely torpedoes this video. The fact that no BJJ/MMA fighter performs those techniques in that manner, ever. Let me spend a moment talking about why that is so damn important. If someone was teaching you to drive a manual transmission by using the clutch with your right foot, and work the gas and brake with your left, but no car on Earth had the pedals arranged in such a fashion, what good will his instruction do? He can be the coolest guy on the planet, with a super funny YouTube channel, and tons of real world face shooting creds, but none of that would matter. What he was teaching was absolutely wrong because it has no application. Well, that is exactly the case here.

So his supposedly experienced partner starts off with a triangle. He talks about it being locked in. No, it isn’t. The leg is at an angle guaranteed for it to fail. So Holloway is defending against a crap, not real BJJ. That is fail #1.

Fail #2 is the “armbar”. Again, done utterly wrong. There is no posture control, the feet are crossed (a complete beginner’s mistake), and to top it off, he executes it as if he was training with a partner, i.e. not applying pressure to break the elbow. So of course Holloway can hold out and get to his feet! Because it is not a real armbar!

Fail #3. The armbar from the mount. And again, he does it wrong. You don’t lay onto your back and then apply pressure. You use the drop to your back to ballistically apply explosive pressure and the elbow goes right away.

And it continues throughout the video. Not one technique executed the way it is actually taught and practiced in a real BJJ school. Holloway sets up a strawman that does not exist.  I could go on and on, but it will just get monotonous. The performance of the “BJJ/MMA moves” on this trash has the same bearing on reality as using the Die Hard movies as a paragon of proper weapons handling and use. It is all fantasy.

This is a classic example of someone either a) intentionally lying, or b) fantastically and willfully ignorant. In either case, all he is doing is trying to further his agenda of his system being the best, and that you do not need to train grappling. This has to be his sales pitch because he would get worked over at even a mediocre grappling gym.

Don’t be fooled by this garbage. If the instructor/”guru” cannot point to documented experience with grappling, then bet the house he has no idea what he is talking about.

When The Grappler Understands The Weapon Based Environment

A favorite refrain from many of the non-grappling Combatives instructors and practitioners in the self-defense community is how getting too involved in “sport grappling” will get you killed in the streets. The card they almost all go to is the one in which the grappler, all occupied with doing his sport moves does not pay attention to what the opponent is doing and gets stabbed or shot with a weapon.

That sounds good, and really neat. And it gives the non-grappler an “out” in which he does not have to waste time training grappling. And is it something the grappler needs to be aware of? Absolutely. The consequences of thinking that your grappling system is the end all be all can be catastrophic if you are wrong. So the smart grappler – the one who thinks about these things and takes action to remedy any issues? What about him?

Well, apparently, to the typical non-critical thinking “tactical/Combatives” person, that person does not exist. Except he does exist. And there are a lot more of them than the critics think. Not just myself, and the people who teach and train similar material like Craig Douglas, Paul Sharp, Larry Lindenman, and Chris Fry, but also all the people we teach and who read our articles/blogs and watch our vids. For example, just in 2017 alone, I have taught face-to-face over 200 people between seminars, Tactical conferences, and weekly classes. That does not take into account all the people getting this information and instruction through various online outlets. Plus, there are other people out there working this material across the globe that I have no interaction with who have decided on their own to pursue this part of the overall self-defense package. In short, there are a lot more potential grapplers who understand this, and that number will continue to grow.

And so what happens when the non-grappler, who eschews real grappling training because it is not “Street”, meets up with the smart grappler? Well, this:


Yes, it is from a movie.  But this is exactly the kind of training a lot of people are doing. And this exact scene gets played out time after time in force-on-force (FOF) training.

So what is the guy inside of the triangle going to do? He is being completely dominated and controlled. The person applying the triangle could be a nice guy and put him to sleep, or he could do what is being shown here: do a mag dump into the guy’s face, and there is not a thing triangled dude can do about it. Even if he could bring a weapon into play, the best he could hope for is mutually assured destruction. Not a particularly smart bet.

Minimizing the need to understand grappling, assuming the grappler will not have any idea of how to handle himself against multiples or with weapons present, thinking that all you need to beat a grappler isa weapon or a dirty tactic like an eye gouge. All those things? THAT is how you get kilt in da streetz.

Don’t be that guy.

Fitness, Self-Defense, and BJJ



One of the most frequent reasons I hear for someone not doing BJJ or attending a force-on-force class like Craig Douglas’ ECQC is “I need to get in shape first”. I really, truly hate hearing that. Here is why.

The biggest problem I have with that excuse is that we don’t have unlimited time unfortunately. If it is important to us to learn to protect ourselves and defend our loved ones, than there is no time to waste. Waiting until some future moment down the road until we can begin an activity that will require lots of time to do anyway means we are that further away from accomplishing our self-defense goals. A course like ECQC may very well be the single most important SD oriented class you ever take, one that will completely alter what you are currently doing as far as your own training. Why wait to implement that? Because it is a physical class? So what? We are not trying to “win” in such a situation; on the contrary, we are looking to learn, and learning often is best learned through failure. Jump in headfirst as soon as possible. Learn from the experience, and then you will have a much better idea of the next step. Don’t waste another second.

The other main reason I hate that excuse is because real training, as exemplified by authentic Brazilian jiu-jitsu, will get you into the shape you need. It has too, because you are doing physical things and building fitness by doing fight oriented training. One of the reasons being at a BJJ gym is so useful is because it does much more than teach you grappling. See my old article here for more detail:

What is more efficient –  building strength and conditioning through non-fight dedicated work, or doing fight focused training that gets you into true fighting shape? If you do the former, you still have to then translate that new S&C work and figure out how to apply it as a driver to your self-defense work. Just jumping in at a local BJJ school will take care of that, plus much, much more. And in spades. You will truly know you can fight for X amount of time because you do it all the time. Not worry that your WOD workout did not get you into enough shape to deal with a committed attacker.

So please, don’t procrastinate. Find a BJJ gym, or sign up for an upcoming ECQC, or one of my weekend seminars, or classes taught by Paul Sharp of Sharp Defense. Start training now. The sooner you do, the sooner you will have a skill set and the work capacity to protect yourself or a loved one