Category Archive: New Orleans

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.

French Quarter Hustlers: Robbery Attempt

Royal St., New Orleans French Quarter

Royal St.

I’m back in New Orleans for a couple of months, and have been staying in the French Quarter for the last 2 weeks. There are more hustlers and gangsters roaming the streets than I ever remember. And I’ve spent a lot of time in the Quarter. My parents moved here when I was in high school, and after college my wife and I rented apartments in the Quarter for a couple of years.

Last week I stopped a guy from robbing me, noticing he was going to try to sneak up on me in my driveway, cutting him off as he entered, and ending it verbally. And last night I stopped a street hustler after practicing the identical scenario in the morning and talking to my wife about it shortly before. It’s a great example of using awareness, distance, position, and verbal tactics to stop an attack before it happens, so I figured it would make a good post.

Where Is Bourbon Street?

I met my parents for dinner last night. My wife had our keys, and I called her to come open the door to the store below our apartment, after I walked back from dinner. As I was waiting for her to come down, a very large black man who was decently dressed and seemed like a local, walked up to me and asked, “You know where Bourbon St. is?”.

I mention the man was black for a couple of reasons. First, very few black people live in the Quarter. Having lived here, I know they tend to be tourists, locals who work in the Quarter, locals visiting bars, or locals attempting to hustle/rob people. This guy was alone, as few tourists and locals visiting bars are, he wasn’t dressed like someone who works in the Quarter, and he seemed local based on his accent. I knew it was highly likely that he was looking to hustle or rob someone, and that he knew where Bourbon street was. Second…I’ll get to in a moment.

I circle stepped a bit so he couldn’t pin me against the door, made a little distance, and said “one block over”. The guy tried to get closer, and asked the same question again, “You know where Bourbon St. is?”.  I kept my distance and said “one block over, keep it moving”.  He asked a third time, to which I said “get out of here”, and then “get the f#$@ out of here” as I took my knife off of my pocket. He backed off a bit.

Discounting No

In The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker covers 7 ways you know someone means you harm. One of those is “discounting no”. Although I didn’t exactly say “no”, telling the guy to “keep moving” and “get out of here” was a form of “no”. He discounted it. He ignored it. I knew the guy meant trouble. I didn’t want to leave as my wife was standing at the door (unwilling to open it so the guy couldn’t get in the store) and I wouldn’t have wanted to leave this guy knowing my wife was there in a closed shop. I pulled my knife primarily as a deterrent, leaving it closed, but ready to open and use it if necessary.


Another of the 7 ways you know you’ve got trouble is when an attacker attempts to “typecast” you. As the guy moved back he said “Why you judging me man?”.  I said again, “Get the f#$@ out of here”. He said, “Is it because I’m not white?”. His goal was to get me to apologize, to explain to him that I wasn’t a racist, so when he’d ask me again where Bourbon St. was he could ask me to show him and I’d feel I need to prove to him that I’m not a racist. Then as we’d turn the corner on a side street, he’d try to rob me. A cop I used to teach told me this is a common tactic used on tourists in the Quarter. (Another version of this scam was in the news two days ago, where the hustlers lured a guy onto a side street to sell him weed, and then ambushed him.)

So I’m not a racist. But I don’t care what this guy thinks. Besides, he knew exactly what he was doing by “discounting no”. He was trying to take control. And he knew exactly what he was doing implying I was a racist, typecasting to get me where he wanted me. But it didn’t work, precisely because I recognized the signs.

I grabbed the guy by his upper arm and led him 20 feet or so away, and he kept walking away from me when I let him go. Rather than allowing him to take control and get in a position where he could attack me by surprise, I maintained distance, position, control of the conversation, and physical control of him at the end. By understanding violence and prevention, I was able to stop a physical attack before it happened. That, should be where self defense ends.

New Name, New Site


Welcome to the Functional Self Defense blog.  This is the first post on what hopefully becomes a much more active blog and website.  The previous posts have been merged from my old site,, which is now being redirected into this one.  Self defense/martial arts have been my passion for many years.  I trained and taught full-time until hurricane Katrina washed me onto a new path in 2005, and I haven’t taught classes since 2007.  But I’ve still been training and coming up with lots of new material, and now it’s time to kick it up a notch.

Hertao to Functional Self Defense


I started teaching in 1993, and in 1997 I named the system Hertao.  It means “way of harmony” in Chinese, and the idea was that a practitioner should be in harmony with themselves and their environment, rather than conforming to a particular style, curriculum, or way of thinking.  Every practitioner must be free to experiment on their own, and find out what works for them through realistic, honest training.

When I came up with the name, much of my thinking had been informed by Chinese philosophical ideas from Ch’an Buddhism (more commonly known by the Japanese name, Zen).  One of the most important concepts of Zen, if there can be said to be any, is the importance of the absence of dogma.  In Zen there is no dogma, no rituals, no hocus pocus.  Everything in Zen is based on personal experience.  Or, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  Unfortunately it seldom is in practice.

Martial arts are largely the same.  They often preach realism, the importance of an open or empty mind, and a simple search for the truth.  But in practice most martial arts are loaded with woo-woo, various levels of guru/sensei/sifu worship, ineffective techniques and training methods, or at least very limited in scope by constrictive curricula.  I decided to teach my own system, Hertao, because even the systems that were supposed to be free from BS, Jeet Kune Do for example, were full of it, and the self defense styles I looked at just didn’t work.

Phnom Penh

Both before and especially since I quit teaching for a living, I’ve done a lot of traveling, much of it in Asia.  Most of what I’ve read regarding eastern philosophy, the grounded material on Zen, other forms of Buddhism, and Taoism, is horribly perverted throughout Asia.  In poor countries it’s used by both regular people and leaders to keep them poor, ignorant, and resigned to their unfortunate fate.  In more well-off countries it’s nearly identical to religion in the west…systematic superstition at best.

Local, traditional martial arts are nearly non-existent in mainland Southeast Asia (with the exception of Thailand).  They’ve been perverted, possibly even worse than eastern philosophy, in China.  And they’re largely surrounded by an impenetrable and unquestionable wall of ritual and hierarchy in Japan, not to mention outdated attacks and ineffective defense.

It’s really no different in the west.  People have a tendency to pervert everything, especially when it comes to philosophy and religion.  Although I still love traveling in Asia, my disillusionment with the state of Asian martial arts and philosophy (not to mention quality of life for most people there) has turned me off on the use of a name like Hertao.

I train and teach self defense that works.  It’s functional self defense, compared to most of the non-functional self defense and martial arts you’ll find in the vast majority of schools today.  So the name Functional Self Defense seems more appropriate.  It’s also a uniquely American/New Orleanian style in that it’s a melting pot of this and that, performed more like jazz…alive, flowing with the moment, and real.

New Website

Along with the new name, I’ve redesigned the site.  Nearly all the text has been updated or completely re-written, especially the sections on violence and prevention.  I’ve also added several new articles, The Intersection of Martial Arts and Religion and Why Most Martial Arts Don’t Work, are two important examples.

I’m going to try to post regularly on this blog (so go ahead and subscribe!), add new pictures and videos to the technique, training, and martial arts sections on a somewhat regular basis, and have books and DVDs planned for the not too distant future.

If you’ve got any requests or suggestions, I’d love to hear them, so feel free to contact me here.  I hope you enjoy the new site and blog, and find them useful!

Matt Rinard’s Super Bowl Dance

This might seem a little off topic until you see the fantastic nunchaku skills at about the middle of the video:

Matt once flipped me onto my head nearly breaking my neck. He’s even crazier than the video suggests…