Category Archive: Current Events

A Bad Review

Bad Review

Bad Review

A couple of months ago someone wrote a bad/one star review of my first book, The Ultimate Guide to Unarmed Self Defense, on Amazon.com.  There are two unfortunate aspects to this review.  First, it is entirely wrong.  And second, it caused my book sales to immediately drop by about 75%.  I’m going to address the points this person made in the review here on my blog.

You can see the bad review here.

I think the main reason he disliked the book was due to his misunderstanding regarding this sentence that he wrote: “The author’s insistence that sport based fighting form the base for real world self defense was also highly suspect.

On both my website and in my book, I explain that the foundation of unarmed physical self defense training should be what I call the MMA Base, which is simply training punches, kicks, knees, elbows, and wrestling against an uncooperative opponent.  If you do not train these most common techniques against an uncooperative opponent, then you cannot learn to defend against them.  Period.  Many martial arts practitioners do not realize this.  It should be entirely uncontroversial, but unfortunately it isn’t.  In order to learn to defend against something, you have to actually train against it!

But the MMA Base is not self defense, and I’ve never said that it is.  The MMA Base is one small part of self defense.  Self defense involves a combination of strategy, training methods, and techniques that include awareness and prevention, unarmed physical self defense, and armed physical self defense.  The MMA Base is only one part of unarmed physical self defense training and techniques.  Awareness and prevention are far more important than the MMA Base, for example.  It is for this reason that the MMA Base section of my book is in Chapter 6 and not Chapter 1.

Before I get to the MMA Base in the book, in Chapter 1 I cover the difference between self defense and martial arts, pointing to the fact that self defense and MMA/sport based fighting are not the same.  The first chapter of my book points out the opposite of what this reviewer claims I insist upon.  The second and third chapters are all about violence, avoidance, awareness, and prevention – part of the strategic side of self defense.  I write in the book that this should be all you need for 99% of self defense.  Again, this is the opposite of saying that sport based fighting should form the base for real world self defense.  Chapters 4 and 5 cover more aspects of self defense strategy, along with functional training.  In Chapter 5 one section is titled “Self Defense: Beyond the MMA Base“, which includes this:

“The techniques and systems of the MMA Base are designed primarily for one-on-one sport based fights between people in similar weight classes, in an area designed for safe fighting, where both participants know what is about to happen. There are rules that prohibit some of the most effective and damaging techniques from being used, and by removing those techniques from the equation, unique and effective footwork, perfect for self defense, is also neglected. For the most efficient and effective physical self defense, we must go beyond the MMA Base.”

I proceed to explain why sport based fighting is not enough for physical self defense.

After Chapter 6, on the MMA Base, there are chapters on Functional Self Defense, Environmental Applications, and Physical and Mental Fitness – all important components of self defense that have nothing whatsoever to do with sport based fighting.  So I’m not sure what book this reviewer read, but it doesn’t appear to be mine!

The reviewer also wrote, “I did not find any new or original material and/or insights inside this tome.”  Again, he must not have read the book.  I have hundreds of martial arts and self defense books myself, and spend time at least looking at every new book that I come across.  I can guarantee this reviewer that he has never seen some of the concepts, strategies, and techniques that are covered in my book.  There absolutely are new and original material and insights in my book.

What frustrates me about this review is not so much that this one person missed just about everything in the book, although that is frustrating, but that his misguided review has caused many people not to buy the book.  (This is most likely due to the book ranking worse because of his review, although I’m sure some people have decided not to buy it after reading what he wrote.)  And the primary reason I am frustrated about people not buying the book has nothing to do with me making money by selling it.  I made this website and wrote the books because I genuinely care about people knowing what works and what doesn’t in terms of self defense.  It is a passion of mine.  This is not what I do for a living.  I don’t need the money.

I receive emails almost every day from people who have either read my books or spent time on my website, telling me how much they have learned from the material.  Most of them have practiced other martial arts, and many are martial arts instructors.  Just as I was taught ineffective material and thought it was effective, these people have done the same.  Reading my books and training the material in them has allowed people to see what actually works and what doesn’t, to really learn self defense, and to make their training much more functional and realistic.  It frustrates me that this one bad review from someone who clearly either didn’t read my book or somehow didn’t see most of what was in it, has substantially decreased the number of people who have access to realistic, functional material.

So I have a favor to ask.  Many of you reading this have purchased my books.  Many of you have emailed me to express how much you learned from them.  If you’ve read the books, please take a minute or two to write a review on Amazon.  Doing so will help other martial artists and self defense practitioners who won’t see this material otherwise.  Thank you!

Update: Changes Ahead

I haven’t posted or sent out any emails/updates in several months now.  I’ve been very busy with a number of big changes.  At some point early next year things will settle down, and I have plans to add more videos to my website in addition to possibly offering instructional videos.  I’ll also get back to posting more on this blog.  I have a backlog of at least a couple hundred emails, and I apologize if you’ve written and I haven’t written back.  I’ll try to respond soon!

What to Do About Paris

ISIS Beheading for Blasphemy

ISIS Beheading for Blasphemy

As all of you know, there were horrific terrorist attacks in Paris this past Friday.  Having recently lost my mom I feel even worse about these attacks, having some idea how the families of victims will be suffering.  Some of you may not realize that more than 40 people were also killed by a terrorist attack in Beirut the day before.

What should we do about these attacks?  Before we can answer that question we need to be able to see and speak the truth regarding one of the most fundamental aspects of the attacks.  These attacks were carried out by Islamic extremists.  There is no doubt that these terrorists are absolute nut-cases.  But crazy and barbaric as they are, what they are doing comes straight from Islamic doctrine.  Many so-called liberals, including politicians like President Obama, refuse to call these terrorists what they are.  They refuse to acknowledge that a direct line can be drawn between Islamic doctrine and these attacks, that what the Islamic State is doing can be traced directly to the Quran and Hadith.

I am not by any means suggesting that all Muslims are bad people or terrorists.  Two of my best friends are a Muslim couple from Iraq, I have a good friend from Afghanistan who is a Muslim, and I spend an hour or two every day playing the oud, a Middle Eastern instrument.  But when President Obama says “ISIL speaks for no religion” and “ISIL is not Islamic”, he is delusional.  What the Islamic State and other Islamic terrorists are doing around the world comes directly from Islamic doctrine, from barbaric ideas in the Quran and Hadith about infidels, jihad, and martyrdom.  There is a reason the terrorists are screaming Allahu Akbar as they carry out their attacks.

Most Muslims fortunately ignore the violence in their doctrine, and Muslims are suffering far more from Islamic terrorism than non-Muslims are.  But in order to deal with the root of this problem, this Islamic extremism, we have to call it what it is and address it at its source.  There must be an Islamic reformation, a rethinking of the ideas of Islamic doctrine, in order to decrease or stop the conversion of nominal or moderate Muslims into Islamic extremists.  There needs to be a conversation on the subject that what was written in the 7th century must be taken in that context, and amended to fit secular and modern values.  Without that conversation, without honestly talking about the root of the problem, there can be no hope that it will be solved.  Without that conversation, young people hearing hateful rhetoric from crazy preachers will not have the intellectual tools to question it.

I continuously hear so-called liberals shutting down any conversation about the validity of Islamic doctrine, calling it bigotry or racism.  This is not only wrong, but counterproductive.  It is not bigoted or racist to question the validity and usefulness of ideas.  It is a necessary pursuit.  Questioning inhumane practices, sharia law, sub-human treatment of women, and so on, is essential.

I am not suggesting that US and European foreign policy hasn’t played a role in these attacks.  We may be better off staying out of Islamic countries entirely, not supporting military dictators, and not supporting Saudi Arabia, a country little better than the Islamic State.  We’d certainly be better off denouncing Israel’s illegal occupation and continued theft of Palestinian land.  And I’m also not suggesting that poverty and disenfranchisement aren’t contributing to these attacks.  But the core problem is fundamentalist Islamic ideology.  That is what motivates terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

We’re not going to be able to completely stop terrorist attacks in the near future.  But if we want to have a chance at stopping them for our children and grandchildren, we need to find a way to change the ideas that lead to the attacks.  The only way to do that is to be honest about the ideas in the first place.  Here is an excellent podcast on this subject from Sam Harris, who says it much better than I do.  Please take the time to listen:

I realize that this conversation must take place in Muslim communities.  Coming from the west, it’s probably not going to go over well.  But the more the truth is told, the more likely it is to take hold with reasonable people everywhere in the world.  Every good person needs to denounce brutality, especially if that brutality is a fundamental part of one of the world’s major religions.  Hiding behind political correctness or trying not to offend those who hold offensive beliefs, by any humane standards, is unlikely to produce positive results.

EDIT:  Only 8 hours and I’ve gotten a load of emails about this, along with a number of people unsubscribing.  I guess that is to be expected.  But I want to clarify one thing and reiterate another:

  • I’m independent of any grouping, but in general I tend to be very liberal on most issues.  I used the term “so-called liberals”, because the people who are not standing up for everyone suffering under the weight of fundamentalist Islamic doctrine are not real liberals.
  • Again, I am not implying that all Muslims are bad.  I have nothing whatsoever against Muslims.  My problem is with fundamentalist Islamists.  I fully realize that most Muslims are not fundamentalists, not terrorists, and are good people.  What I am saying is that a conversation needs to be had about what is actually in the doctrine regarding infidels, jihad, martyrdom, etc.

5 Years In Prison For A Single Punch

Just a short warning post here, based on an article in the New Orleans Times Picayune:

Aaron Ullrich

Aaron Ullrich Gets 5 Years

Aaron Ullrich, in the picture above, got in a fight over a pool table in a bar, punched a man in the face once, and killed him.  The article doesn’t say if the victim died from the punch, or from hitting his head on the ground (a common cause of death in single punch death cases).  I don’t know Aaron, but based on the story, it’s unlikely he tried to kill the victim.  He was facing 40 years in jail for manslaughter, but ended up with 5 for negligent homicide.

This is one of many reasons you should avoid fighting.  You never know how it’s going to turn out.  Prevention is always #1.  Physical self defense must always be a last resort, and you better be able to legally justify it.

Rules Are For Losers, And Why You Need To Break Them

Lance Armstrong

Breaking The Rules

Lance Armstrong is a good example of a fact that’s sad but often true: rules are for losers.

Lance broke the rules, but he won the Tour de France 7 times. And he won precisely because he broke the rules. Goldman Sachs and other big banks on Wall St. broke the rules by defrauding investors, yet they made a fortune doing so while those who played by the rules lost.  Criminals at all levels, by definition, break the rules. They play the game without the restrictions that law abiding citizens who follow social conventions do. Just like Lance, that’s why they win.

Of course there may be negative consequences for those who break the rules. Lance was caught, after all. But it’s still important to understand the nature of rules, how they’re used, and how they’re abused.

Rules Are Illusions

Rules are nothing more than artificial constructs made by men to limit human behavior. In the form of laws, they’re purposefully made by governments, supposedly in order to keep society safe and satisfied. I emphasize supposedly, because in many cases laws are unfortunately made to enrich or entrench the people and companies that pay to have them made.

In the form of social conventions, unspoken rules have evolved over time. We know not to stand too close to strangers, and not to burp or fart out loud in public. We know what’s friendly, and what’s too friendly.

Many people can’t get beyond these rules psychologically. They feel the rules are as real as a physical wall, that they’re something that can’t be broken. And they’re limited by them.

But once you realize the rules are man-made, that you can walk right through them, you see things from a different point of view. There will be consequences to breaking the rules. They may be bad, especially if you’re caught. But they may be good, too. In many cultures and sub-cultures, social rules dictate that women shouldn’t be aggressive. However, in the corporate world for example, it’s the aggressive women who rise to the top of their fields.

How Criminals And CEOs Break The Rules To Beat You

Social rules are often broken to establish dominance and power. In The Ape In The Corner Office, Richard Conniff gives numerous examples of presidents and CEOs of well known companies picking their noses, farting, and even peeing in a meeting room sink in the middle of meetings. The fact that no one says anything, but everyone feels awkward, leads to an acknowledgment that the guy breaking the rules is in charge. Many people become afraid of those who break the rules directly in front of them. The boss can put his feet up on your desk, but you wouldn’t dare put your feet up on his. Or would you? Think about that.

I lived in the French Quarter in New Orleans for a couple of years, and still spend several weeks a year there now. The street hustlers have a number of common tactics they use on tourists, to establish dominance by breaking social conventions, eventually getting tourists to give them money. They’ll often approach a man or woman with their hand out, coming in to shake hands. If a man declines or doesn’t give his hand (this is usually a black hustler approaching a white tourist), the hustler will ask, “Are you afraid of black people?”. If it’s a white woman, he might ask “What, are you a racist?”. Social conventions dictate the tourist should say “no” or even apologize. But the tourists forgets the hustler broke convention in the first place by approaching a stranger in such a way. They break the rules in order to establish the dominant position. And once they’ve got it, they go further and further in.

Watching them from my balcony, I can see what’s happening without hearing the words. The hustler approaches confidently. The tourist looks a bit afraid, trying to move away. The hustler remains dominant, and the tourist gets abnormally friendly or apologetic. The hustler puts his arm around the tourist or shakes his or her hand, grabbing their upper arm with his other hand. He’s got control now and can take the interaction wherever he wants.

It’s always the same. Those who can walk right through the rules can dominate those who cannot.

When You Need To Break Them Too

The rules are illusions, and if you want to beat people who are breaking the rules, you’re going to need to break them too. You’re going to need to tell that hustler “no”, keep on moving, and not feel bad about it. You’re going to have to break social conventions in order to avoid being taken by someone else who’s ignoring them. If you’re threatened and cannot escape, you’re going to have to do something that’s downright illegal under normal circumstances…to attack and injure another human being. Many people can’t do that. Can you?

Unless something seriously changes, if you want to win the Tour de France, get an Olympic medal for swimming, or play professional sports, you’re going to need to take drugs. It may be sad, but it’s also true. All is not what it seems. The biggest winners are also often the biggest liars.

If you want to advance in the workplace, you may have to burp, fart, and piss your way to the top. Fortunately, I’m self employed.

The Aurora Theater Shooting & Active Shooter Scenarios

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the terrible theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado.  Most self defense practitioners and martial artists don’t train for such situations.  Those that do tend to do so in firearms training, but even that is extremely rare for civilians.  Realistic active shooter training requires multiple different natural training environments and LOTS of skilled participants, good at acting and willing to be hurt in the training…something that’s very hard and very expensive to come by.

Most talk I’ve seen on the web regarding how to deal with an active shooter is in the realm of Hollywood fantasies.

Extreme Complexity

First, these scenarios have countless variables and are extremely complex.  If you’re within sight of the shooter, where is it taking place?  How many people are between yourself and the shooter?  If you’ve got a firearm and you shoot but miss, are you going to kill innocent people?  If there are walls, what are they made of?  Are there people on the other side?  How close are you to the shooter?  Is there solid cover nearby?  Is the terrain such that it’s even possible to make an escape?  Is your path blocked by crowds of frightened people?  Are you getting run over by crowds of frightened people?  How close are the exits?  Could there by more shooters past the primary exits?  How far do you need to go to get to assured safety?

These are just a few important questions, each with a multitude of possible answers and implications.  The combinations are infinite, and not even the best training can prepare you for each one.  Consider the shooting that just took place in Aurora.  If you’ve trained active shooter scenarios, did you do so in a stadium setting where the only way to run is up or down steps in fixed paths, crowded with panicked people?  Did you do so against a guy who just threw a canister of tear gas at you, wearing bullet proof clothing?  In the dark?  With very loud audio in the background?

No. You didn’t.

How would you respond in such a situation?  You don’t know.

It doesn’t matter how tough you are, how good of a shot you are, or how good you’ve trained.  Due to the complexity of these situations, there are too many variables to predict.  Sometimes there is something you can do to save yourself and others.  Sometimes there is not.  It sucks, but it’s the truth.  More than you might like to think, your life is not always in your hands.

Eleven years ago my wife and I were in a very small bank with just a few people, when 4 men rushed in with guns, yelling and cursing, and shooting at a teller.  We were sitting at a desk, closing an account.  One of the gunmen had jumped a partition and was standing just behind us.  There was no viable exit (I hoped and looked) and nothing I could do aside from telling my wife and the bank employee to put their heads down, not look at the guys, and stay quiet.  My wife and I both thought we’d be killed.  We were lucky that day, but it had nothing to do with us.

So it frustrates me when I see people writing about how they’d take out the shooter(s).  Most of them don’t have a clue.  People with an agenda will say if guns were illegal these things wouldn’t happen.  But many criminals don’t buy guns legally.  And if they couldn’t buy them legally, they’d find another way to get them.  Drugs are illegal, but anyone who wants them can get them.  People on the opposite end of the spectrum will say that if more people were armed, this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.  And what about when more people with guns make the situation worse?  A cop and former training partner of mine was killed in another bank robbery.  The robbers came in guns drawn, and he gave up his gun and let them rob the bank.  Another cop walked in, started firing, and my friend was killed in the crossfire.  There are no easy answers here.  Sometimes life just sucks.

Solutions?

So is there anything you can do?  Maybe.  The way I see it, there are four major options (not necessarily in this order):

  • Escape
  • Do nothing
  • Play dead
  • Fight

If there’s a good escape route, that’s probably your best option.  Look at the Aurora event.  71 people were shot, 12 have died so far.  That’s an 83% chance of surviving if you’re shot while trying to escape.  I don’t know how many people were in the theater.  Maybe 200 or so?  Probably more than half escaped without being shot.  So maybe something like 92% of people who attempted to escape made it out alive.  I wouldn’t get on a plane that has an 8% chance of crashing, but staying put in an active shooter scenario probably isn’t the best idea if the shooting is continuing.  People who do scenario training should train the escape.  You want to try to escape in a way that draws the least attention, using objects to block a line of sight toward you, etc.  It’s not always possible.

Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.  Doing something will guarantee you get killed.  It depends on the situation.

In a crowded environment where lots of people are being shot, playing dead could work.  It might not.

If you’re close to the shooter or you’ve got a firearm and a clear line of site, you may be able to attempt to take him out.  If there are multiple shooters, you’re going to need cover and/or a whole lot of luck to succeed.  You may get shot by a cop arriving on the scene, who thinks you’re the predator.

Escape is probably the best option if possible.  But no matter what, these situations are terrible, horrific events.  There are no simple solutions.  If you end up in an active shooter scenario and survive, especially if you train self defense, you’ll replay it over and over again in your head.  You’ll second guess yourself.  It doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do.  It’s not like the movies and the people who claim they know exactly what they’d do have no idea what they’re talking about.  You didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s not your fault.