All posts by Cecil Burch

2015 Schedule

I finally put up the tentative 2015 schedule. Tentative in the sense that there are at least three or four more to add as soon as everything is finalized. But I didn’t want to waste any more time getting the confirmed ones up. Go to the Schedule page to see.

Thanks for looking!

All Your Trainings Belong To Us

Recently, a friend of mine, noted pistol instructor Todd Green, posted an article about the need for trainers to not shove their dogma down every trainee’s throat (

It was an excellent article and one I agree wholeheartedly  with. However, this attitude of “everyone needs to find what fits them best” can be, and too often is, taken to the extreme where that becomes a blanket excuse that literally anything espoused by anyone is justified as valid. Nothing could be further from the truth. When we can show through actual real world footage what is working and what is not, we cannot accept all ways as valid. Just because someone does not like to grapple, they don’t get to ignore the reality of it. Or if someone says that they have a better way of firing a pistol under stress, then show it so the world can see it for themselves. We have an objective, end-based performance standard, and we have a general idea of best practices to get there, whether we are talking about firearms, knives, impact weapons, or H2H. If you want to say you have a better way, prove it publicly and openly, not is your little closed door world where you get to act all Yoda like, pretending you are some awesome fighting guru.

I have had these discussion innumerable times with a number of my friends and peers in the training community like Mick Coup, Paul Sharp, Craig Douglas, Claude Werner, and Larry Lindenman, among others. Mick one time put it very succinctly to me – “More than one way to skin a cat…True, there is, but generally not when you want it done properly…” Exactly. The other form of the cliche is “all roads lead to the same place” Well, maybe, but if one road is a direct line via highway and avoids street traffic, and another road is a long, windy one that goes through treacherous and dangerous terrain, and severely damages your vehicle, are they really the same path? And is it okay to take either way? Of course not! We want to take the best route that works for most people most of the time. Anything else is a waste at best, and at worst can get someone hurt or killed.

Take a look at weight training. There are a lot of methods to get bigger, stronger, and more fit with weights. We know how the best way to lift to put on muscle. We know the best protocol to get stronger. We know the best way to use them to increase muscular and cardio endurance. Those methods are not the same as each other, and all have an objective standard to meet. Now, anyone who has never lifted before and then starts any program will most likely add muscle, get stronger, and get more fit with a single methodology. However, that won’t last forever and they will have to quickly move to the accepted methods. Arguing that any weight lifting system will work using this example is a failed point. We are looking at the overall success rates, not what works in a short time frame, or for a unique individual. Those are anomalies. We need best practices that can be replicated by most people in most situations.

Self-defense is the same way. There are a lot of paths up the mountain (to use another insipid cliché) but I want to use the best, safest path that will give me the best chance of reaching the top, and as an instructor I need to be looking for the best way that will give as many of my athletes the best shot at doing so themselves, always taking into account their own individual situations. Doing otherwise is a disservice, and if we are talking about self-defense, it can also be ethically negligent.

Does this mean that we always teach one dogmatic path and ignore all else? Absolutely not. We should always be looking to improve and expand on our knowledge. If we can find a better, or another way, that meets that same objective performance standards, then we certainly should adopt them. But not just because it is “another tool in the toolbox”. That is the lazy way out, and intellectually dishonest.

Big Rocks – Setting the Stage

After my last blog post, I received a lot of questions asking me what Big Rocks people should be focusing on. First off, I am going to concentrate on the H2H aspect in answer. While I could pontificate about the other categories (shooting, strength and conditioning, pre-fight threat containment, diet, etc.), I prefer to stay in my lane where I have the most experience. I am blessed to have a bunch of friends and peers that are much better at those other things. If someone wants to know about Big Rocks in those categories, I would be happy to let you know you to go listen to. For now, we will look at H2H.

We will start at the very beginning and look at the problem, and then we will look at the mindset I believe you need to deal with the problem. Once we establish those parameters, we will be able to analyze just what exactly we need to do. Technique, methodology, drills, concepts, and all similar items must wait until we have defined the problem. Otherwise, we may be in danger of designing an answer to a non-existent problem merely to prove that we are bad asses or some sort of Yoda, just to feed our ego.

The primary problem in a fight is staying in the fight. In other words, staying conscious and physically capable of fighting back is the first thing we need to concentrate on. If we ignore that, we risk losing the fight (and possibly our lives or well being, or the lives of our loved ones) before we ever get to unleash our awesome offensive arsenal. Furthermore, we need to first focus on staying in the fight when we are caught unaware that a fight or assault is about to happen.

Yes, yes, I know that we all need to be “switched on” and tactically aware at all times. I also know that not one human being on the planet can do that 100% of the time 24/7/365. It is flat out impossible, especially in our modern urban society that places such a huge demand of our attention in so many different ways.

The simple fact is that all of us can get caught flat footed by a surprise assault. The sooner that we accept that, the sooner we can start building the best responses to that shock attack, but we must at all costs not delude ourselves that it can happen.

And defining that problem leads us to building the appropriate training mindset. Being attacked when you are not ready for it is a worst case scenario. Therefore, in my opinion, we need to make sure our fundamental training is oriented towards dealing with a worst case scenario. It is the height of stupidity to spend all of your training on techniques that only work when you know what is going on. For example, take a look at this technique. It looks really cool, and if it works the way it is intended, would be totally functional. However, there is one huge flaw:

That flaw is that the technique will only work if you are aware that an attack is imminent. Watch at about 1:03. The good guy is not even processing that the assault is happening. He has already launched his counter. Guys, if you are that physically gifted, you should not be reading this. You should be making millions of dollars playing professional sports because your physical attributes are in the elite 1% of people in the entire world. If you are instead merely mortal, and if you are not able to be completely aware of everything all the time, than counting on that technique is worse than useless, because you will never be able to fire off the technique, regardless of how deadly it is, and regardless of how many repetitions you have spent practicing it. Period.

So, therefore, our mindset in training should be to cover the worst case stuff first. Let’s dig the hole really, really deep, and work on getting out of that. If we have that dialed in, then anytime we deal with a less than worst case scenario, we are already in a good place to deal with it. The converse (spending the bulk of your time practicing when the problem is not as terrible) is absolutely not true.

To sum up our setting for H2H Big Rocks – we need to focus on methods that allow us to stay in the fight, no matter what and no matter how bad the situation is, and we need to start our training dealing with the worst case scenarios we might find ourselves in. We start our work there.

Build Your Training Around Big Rocks

Sometimes when we start looking at all the things we need to work on to be truly prepared in a self-defense context, we can get overwhelmed.

First, we face the sheer scale of areas we need to ensure that we are functional/capable in : distance pistol work, contact pistol work, H2H, fitness, awareness and pre-fight management, nutrition, legal ramifications and issues, edged weapons, impact weapons, less lethal things like OC spray, and other important parts. And then, we have a huge amount of different subsets within that framework : with fitness we need to think about strength, cardio, pre-hab/re-hab work/and mobility; with pistols we have to work malfunctions, reloading, shooting with one hand, shooting with the weak hand, shooting while moving, shooting while looking for cover, etc. ; with H2H, we have stand up striking, vertical entanglement, horizontal entanglement, with and without weapons, and against single or multiple opponents; with pre-fight management we need to think about situational awareness, de-selection, managing unknown contacts, ad nauseum. All the components can be broken down in a like manner. All in all, we can easily be overcome with everything that needs to be done and addressed.

Trying to navigate all that we need to do can get tricky and difficult.

One of the pitfalls that can happen when we try to figure out our training schedule is we can find ourselves  focusing on the little things while not spending time doing  the big things. We spend too much time on things that are unlikely to matter, or the chances of needing them are extremely unlikely while ignoring the skills that may happen a lot.

My close friend and experienced LEO and fellow instructor Larry Lindenman introduced me to a term that has huge ramifications for this situation and can possibly bring a lot of clarity. . He wrote an online post on the forum where he used the terms “Big Rocks” and “Small Rocks”. What Larry was discussing was from a nutrition and diet standpoint, but it applies to everything across the board. Essentially, our training is like a river. The flow of the river can be affected by rocks in the river bed. However, small rocks won’t really do much to the river flow, but big rocks can not only affect the flow, they can even change the course of the river itself!

What happens far too often is that we spend time throwing small rocks into the river, and don’t spend any effort or time throwing in the  big rocks. In Larry’s original example, he talked about how people spend a lot of time and money looking at the latest trendy nutrition supplements, but eat their regular meals made up of awful junk like potato chips or Big Macs. His point was clean up your daily diet before worrying if that bottle of “Ripped Energy Awesomeness 2000” will help you recover from a workout.

Along the same lines, we need to be making the same choices in the rest of our training. Perhaps as a private citizen, I should not spend much time shooting carbines and taking carbine classes if my pistol shooting skills suck. And since as a private citizen, I have a far greater likelihood of using a pistol to defend myself over a carbine, the pistol is my “Big Rock”.

When it comes to H2H, we probably should be focused initially on what are the most common types of attacks and develop a skill set to handle that. I probably should not be practicing ways to eliminate sentries on a battlefield if I cannot keep someone from taking me to the ground and pounding me into paste.

I am all for having fun in training. And if you like carbine work, or pretending you are a WW2 commando and you want to take out that Nazi sentry, I have no real issue with that, PROVIDED that you are not ignoring the big rocks. If you have not practiced drawing your carry pistol from concealment under a set time frame, but you are blasting through 1,000 rounds of ammo  a day through your AR, I would respectfully suggest your big rocks are lacking.

Ensure that the biggest rocks are taken care of before wasting the little bit of training time you have available.

Video – Half-guard in the WBE, pt 1

I have been a bit lax in posting, so here is a video clip to make up for it. This is part 1 of a three part series that establishes the foundation for using the position known as half-guard to regain the initiative and go on the offensive against an opponent in a weapons based environment.

Don’t Limit Yourself pt. 1

I know I should probably stop reading internet discussion forums, but I can’t help myself. I do know in general that most of them are populated by people hiding behind their keyboard and who would never act or talk face to face the way they act online, or people who have a greatly inflated sense of their self-worth. It would certainly keep my blood pressure down if I left them alone. However, there are a few reasons I go back. On the one hand, there are sometimes great nuggets of useful information. Finding a mention of an article or a video clip I never saw, or some piece of technical information is often worth wading through the chaff. Also, there are those online who are honestly struggling to find good information and act in good faith. A third reason is that sometimes the idiocy is wonderfully amusing and brings a laugh to my heart.

There was a recent one I was reading on a gun-centric “tactical” forum where many people were voicing their opinions on what type of empty hand fighting systems should one study to be as functional as possible in a self-defense situation. Now, I guess I should be thankful they were having the conversation at all, because it was not all that long ago that the prevailing thought on gun forums was that there was no need for H2H when you carry a gun. So, the fact that they have matured in their thinking process is a good sign. However, many of them then proceed down ludicrous rabbit holes. There were two conspicuously bad ideas that I want to address for any reader of this blog who might stumble across a similar argument in the future.

To keep this post from being too long, I will break into two parts. Let’s address the first issue now.

1) The first idea propagated by a bunch of the posters is apparently that only an elite athlete in his mid-20’s could ever successfully even train, let alone use, H2H stuff. It is fascinating that people who have never stepped foot in a modern MMA/BJJ based gym absolutely KNOW what it is like, and that they cannot ever succeed at it, and they then take the attitude of so why bother? If you made a similar statement regarding pistol instruction when you never took a pistol class, all of those guys would be on you like white on rice for your effrontery. I guess the fact that I am a middle-aged, asthmatic non-professional athlete is irrelevant. I guess that the 71 year old retired dentist I regularly train with is an anomaly. I guess that all the Masters level divisions in BJJ competitions should not be counted. I guess that paraplegic that just got his blue belt under Rener Gracie should be ignored. The simple fact is this: ANYONE can train in H2H skills. Obviously, the 65 year old with physical issues is not going to train the exact same way, or with the same level of intensity, or put in the same amount of time that the 25 year old elite athlete does, but it is still putting effort in the same methodology and getting similar results. Will it make the 65 year old capable of winning a match in the UFC? Of course not, but it will absolutely make him far more capable of dealing with a violent physical threat than he otherwise would be. Almost any moderately sized BJJ/MMA school in the world will have a number of students who are older or who have physical limitations. That is not a valid excuse to stay away from putting in a bit of effort.

For example, take a look at this video. Not only is the guy in blue blind, he does not look like a spring chicken either. Yet, those handicaps are not a brake to him performing good jiu-jitsu:

Or this one of a 61 year old man practicing:

And here is a man with cerebal palsy getting out on the mats:

Why someone would purposefully tell themselves that they are too old, too weak, too injured, too frail to do anything is beyond me. I believe in always working to be better than you were the day before, even if that is only by 1/10th of one percent. Always move forward.

One of the benefits of taking control of your right to self-defense by carrying a gun is that you make a statement that you will stand up for yourself and will not let anyone take your life or well-being, or the lives and well-being of your loved ones away. Why would you then abdicate that responsibility by letting yourself believe that you are less than you are capable of by not trying to doing something that pushes your own boundaries of comfort? If you agree that there are bad people out there that may try to hurt you and you will not be able to have or use your gun, then not trying to fix that is a lapse in your determination to defend yourself.  I just don’t get that.




Early 20th Century Combatives

Here is a terrific article on Combatives use in WW1. A really fun read.




What the article clearly demonstrates, much to the chagrin of those who dislike grappling, close quarters combat, even in a weapons bearing environment, is a necessary skill set. Check out this quote from someone who was actually there:

“After a bayonet attack in nine cases out of ten trench or open warfare the men grapple. The man who has never been there before doesn’t know what to do”

We Are Not Yoda

We are fortunate to be around at a time in history when great training and information in the self-defense and tactical communities is more accessible than it has ever been. With just a quick use of our Smartphone or tablet, we can be in touch with the best training in the world. It only takes a moment to find a video clip, find a research article, or schedule to attend a seminar with a top instructor.

And make no mistake; there is so much awesome information out there. However, I think there is one overriding pressing issue that is rarely addressed, and in my opinion, is a huge gap in many otherwise great training programs and methodologies. That issue is that too many instructors make a huge assumption that is full of fail.

What assumption? That we will know what is going to happen, and when it will happen.

There are far too many training scenarios and techniques that are set up with the underlying idea that you will be able to tell when the bad guy is going to attack. And, having started with that idea, methods are presented that REQUIRE that forewarning. Unfortunately, real life is not that way. As much as we would all like to pretend, we are not some omnipotent Jedi Master, that can use the Force to sense when bad stuff is heading our way. And, on top of that, the realities of modern life impose such a high amount of cognitive overload on a daily basis, that too much of our brain function is occupied with anything but being prepared to sense trouble.

It would be awesome if we could be in tune with the Force, or even that we could be 100% situationally aware at all times. But neither will happen.

So what do we do? The main thing is that we have to have a robust set of responses we can rely on when we are assaulted by surprise. And, then train them in a manner that makes it as tough as possible to succeed. We need to dig as deep a hole as possible in training so we can learn to get out of it. Do that enough and we will have installed some responses that you know will be accessible under the worst conditions, rather than stuff that will only work when everything goes our way.

Though if someone ever invents a functional lightsaber, all bets are off.

Competition vs Fighting? Is it that different?

A great number of people in the Self-Defense/Martial Arts/Tactical communities love to pontificate about the differences in competition and “real” fighting.  There are endless debates and articles on it. I just read a truly awful and wildly superficial one by a well known personality. Everyone always makes points about the differences and whether they matter or not. I want to address something that NO ONE has ever addressed.

The simple fact is this: ALL training, whether it be firearms, knife, H2H, self-defense oriented, or competitor oriented, are exactly the same in one critical area that I have yet to hear most reality based self-defense (RBSD) focused proponents deal with. That area? The simple and undisputable fact that every time a person trains, he KNOWS HE IS TRAINING! And therefore, the training has little to do with RBSD and in fact, is identical in preparation to a competitor!

You can be working eye gouges and pre-emptive strikes. It does not matter, because when doing so, you and your partners know it as well. There is an acceptance of what is happening. That is the exact same situation as preparing for competition. Trying to argue that there is something inherently different based solely on the physical techniques is ludicrous and has no bearing on reality.

Rather than using your intent or physical actions to differentiate yourself, you should be focusing on the actual performance under the same conditions in which you need to use the actions and intentions. That is how you get better.

And guess what? The jury is in. We have  an overwhelming amount of evidence as to what works for real, in the stress and chaos of battle. What works are the same things that work under the stress and chaos of high level competition. Those are the things we can rely on, not the unproven methodologies based on how we would like things to be. That is documented fact.

Rely on stuff you can work consistently in training against a resisting opponent, with opposing will, malevolent intent, and freedom of action.  Not fantasy.