Paunching a Pigeon – Garry Smith

On my birthday recently my wife and I decided to do something a little different, careful, it is not that kind of an article although it does involve me and another bird with two lovely breasts.

We decided, a few months in advance, to visit the Northern Shooting Show that was being held for the second year in Harrogate (the posh part of Yorkshire). So an a reasonable if chilly birthday Sunday morning we folded back the roof of the car and sped off on our jolly.

I had watched a few promotional videos on Youtube and had a fair idea what to expect, remember guns are not as much part of British culture as they are in the USA. The last time I had regularly fired weapons was a long time ago as an infantry soldier in the Territorial Army, the Yorkshire Volunteers, well apart from shooting the odd rat or beer can in the back garden with my air rifle that is, I was in the regimental shooting team back then.

Anyway the first thing I did was have a go with an AR15 .22 on a portable range and my wife had a go with a Beretta and we both got good groupings. We then had a saunter round the outdoor stalls, watched a bit of the air rifle shooting competition, watched the retrievers being put through their paces in a competition that looked a lot of fun, the we went into the big exhibition halls as the sun was refusing to come out and it was pretty cool. Here we found masses of interesting things to look at and to play with, I even bought 3 really neat little knives for a mere £5.

At the back of one of the halls was a bushcraft area and this was on my list of key things to visit. We really enjoyed the ferreting display with Mark Davies, this was really entertaining and educational in equal measure and my wife got to hold a cute baby ferret…….

The next stall was a guy who was showing people how to field dress game for the pot, we got their when he was dressing a pigeon, by hand. So we watched as showed us how to assess if the bird was healthy, he removed the wings, then the head, cleaned out the crop, then he inserted his thumbs, one at a time down into the body, the first along the back bone, then the second along thr breast bone, then with both thumbs slid back in place he spilt the bird open.

This exposed the breasts and he then showed us how to remove the breasts using the thumbs. Hey presto two lovely pigeon breasts ready to cook. I had never seen this done before, virtually everything we eat comes from a shop, the meat from a local butcher or preprerared from the supermarket.

I had prepared pigeon years ago with a knife but it was messy, this was easier and less mess, I was impressed. He then asked for volunteers to try this on two more pigeons, step forward one willing volunteer and I was joined a minute later, after some persuasion, by a woman who had been watching too. So I paunched my first wood pigeon, yes there was blood and giblets but I successfully retrieved the breasts, no tools needed, not even my nice sharp little knives.

So after washing the blood off my hands I was quite pleased with myself. I had tried something new and got it right, nothing life changing but it told me a little more about myself. I have a great love of the outdoors, I never fail to be please when surrounded by flaura and fauna, I have no wish to kill or harm anything unless I am going to eat it and like most people hat is done for me virtually all the time. The moral of this tale, and a major part of my upcoming book, Exit the Dojo, (teaser), is that we are increasingly, and to our cost, detached from nature and the natural world.

I do grow some food, vegetables and fruit and my grandchildren learn where food comes from. I have one daughter who is vegan and another who is vegetarian, the latter ones children eat meat. We need to see where our meat comes from. Toby Cowern is the CRGI survival expert, mine is an interest that grows out of my use of the countryside, its mountains, lakes and woodlands, the wild moors in all the weathers our temperate climate provides. Would I kill and eat a rabbit, a sheep, a cow? Yes I would and I would want to know that every bit of that animal that could be used would. In my predominantly white western consumer orientated society, living in a country of shopkeepers as Napolean, once said, we are alienated from nature, we need to return to older ways occasionally to get in touch with our species being, the experience of the last 50 generations has not wiped out what was learned from the previous 5,000 generations, we are tool users, but before we had tools the opposable thumb set us apart for our hominid cousins, and incorporating meat into our diet fuelled the massive growth of the brain.

Paunching a pigeon is a primal act, we need to recognise and learn to love the primal in us.


Stay Sharp – Toby Cowern

I’ll be honest, It’s a bit of a shock to me to write this article… However, we here in the CRGI have frequent conversations about never assuming what people do or don’t ‘know’.

Over my last few courses (both teaching and attending) a similar issue kept being raised, to the point I wanted to address it here.

I feel fairly confident that all readers have some familiarity with the Every Day Carry (EDC) concept and most of you have daily carry. For those that do, most likely some sort of weapon is included, be it edged tool, firearm, flashlight, or similar. (Some of you will carry all these and more)

Having these excellent tools at your immediate disposal is an excellent concept, and we are all, most likely, aware of the need for good and continuous training in the effective use of these tools. The issue that has kept surfacing, for me, as of late is the complete lack of understanding and discipline in maintaining these tools.

As dry, boring as this topic is, it is however absolutely essential to include in your regular routines, especially if you are using your tools with any degree of frequency.

Regular and routine inspection, cleaning and maintenance of your tools, will not only help identify early indicators of problems or defects, but will also ensure smooth function and operation in use.

I am seeing, on a frighteningly regular basis, people carrying knives with no means or knowledge on how to sharpen them, or if they have the means, only sharpening their knives ‘when they get blunt’…!!! For me, this mindset is exceptionally concerning and one I am now addressing more thoroughly during training.

In terms of my personal routine, I inspect and clean EDC edged tools each evening (when washing the other cutlery from dinner) sharpen as necessary, but with specific time set aside on Sundays (when I do my regular house maintenance chores) for regular or scheduled maintenance/repair.

I use rechargeable batteries wherever possible for flashlights and rotate batteries weekly (Sundays), as well as ensuring I have at least one spare set of batteries available as well.

If you are an instructor, maybe set aside 5 minutes at the end of your next class to ask your students if they are regular servicing their tools and if not take a few minutes to show them how it’s done.

If you are a student, I highly recommend you try to incorporate regular inspection and maintenance into your routines.

I feel the crux of this problem is far more lack of awareness than any sort of ‘bloody minded refusal’ on the part of the individual, so with this brief article today I hope to take one step forward in raising awareness of the potential problem and how easy it is too solve.

Regular inspection and maintenance will range from a few seconds to just a few minutes, is easy to learn and easy to execute.

I’ve included a link here to one of my favorite knife manufacturers and it highlights how simple sharpening of edged tools can be.

With all the time, effort and money we spend on being proficient tool users, it would be a terrible shame to ‘fall at the last hurdle’ by not keeping our tools in the best condition possible…

How to Stay Safe in the Age of Terrorism – Avi Nardia & Tim Boehlert

This 10 Question interview originally appeared in Black Belt Magazine, but has been edited by Tim Boehlert at the request of CRGI staff. We first published it back in 2015 but feel that as attacks are on he increase, poticularly from lone wolf terrorists using low tech weapons, it was time to repring it.

Q: Should the average person be worried about lone-wolf terrorist attacks?

A: Terror cells, like the Boston Marathon bombers, that are not connected by anything other than ideology will become increasingly common. In some ways, lone cells are more dangerous than organized terrorism because lone cells are difficult to monitor, control or discover. The more we go after the larger terror organizations, the more they will split into smaller cells. This is exactly what has  happened with the drug cartels.

Q: Do you think the Internet is becoming the prime tool for terrorist organizations to recruit lone wolves in any part of the world?

A: Yes, the Internet is a major tool today for recruiting, teaching and spreading terrorist ideologies around the globe. The Internet can be used to traffic information and gather intelligence, and as a meeting place for finding others with the same ideas. It’s very easy to create fake accounts, use them while they are viable, then disappear – maybe completely. Terrorists are becoming increasingly tech-savvy.

Q: Are there any parallels between how terrorists recruit lone wolves and how gangs recruit members?

A: Terror groups share the same mentality as gangs — exploiting hate, spreading anger and practicing brutality. Terrorists also practice the same indoctrination techniques as gangs. Using ideology to ‘persuade’ others that are malleable has been highly effective.

Q: As high-profile targets get extra security, is there an increased likelihood that soft targets — and civilians — will be attacked by lone wolves?

A: Nowadays, we are seeing sick people understand that the more brutal their methods, the more media exposure they gain. As governments and sensitive targets continue to invest in more security, we will begin to see more and more independent terror attacks on soft targets such as bus stations, schools and any place that will instill fear into the public. Terror’s main goal is to create an atmosphere of fear, for control purposes.

Q: In light of all this, what measures can people take to stay safe?

A: Citizens need to push for government to be less tolerant of terrorist ideologies. We also need to educate the public and law enforcement on terrorists and terror culture. It seems to me that people have too much tolerance for terror — sometimes even the police are more strict on normal civilian criminals than on terrorists who walk free among us. One must study and understand what terrorism is before we decide how to fight it. People must understand how terror feeds from the media.

Q: Is increased awareness the most important precaution a person can take?

A: Awareness of who lives around us is important, but it is also important that we protect our freedom from pervasive surveillance and a society wherein anyone could frivolously call the police and have a person arrested. Security and surveillance must be approached in a measured manner. We are seeing instances of abuse as a result of increased surveillance daily it seems.

We should demand more security in schools for our children. In and around our homes, people need to take it upon themselves to study and train in counterterrorism. You are the first responder, not anyone else, and if you always rely on someone else to arrive, they might be too late. We need to take responsibility for our own safety – at hime, at work, on vacation even. Simple things can make a difference.

Q: Do you recommend that people consider lawfully carrying a firearm — assuming they have an interest and have had the proper training?

A: It’s easier to carry a gun in a bag than to carry a police officer. If most normal civilians carry firearms, it will reduce crime as well as terrorism. Switzerland is an example of a country where most civilians own guns, and it’s one of the safest places in the world. People need to take more than just the standard 8-hour course as prescribed in many states. They should know how to use it, how to clean it, how to clear jams. They should know how to shoot in low-light, how to re-load, with either hand.

In Israel, firearm owners must complete 50 hours of training every year to hold a permit. We have seen many situations wherein the first responders were normal civilians who defended and stopped terrorists before any police cars showed up. We also have civilian police volunteers who get training by the police and carry police identification cards. These volunteers patrol sensitive areas and help prevent crime and terrorism. In my system of Kapap, we teach firearms, CPR, surveillance and counter-surveillance as part of our Martial Arts. This training develops awareness and the ability to effectively respond in emergency situations.

Q: How useful could a knife be in the hands of a trained martial artist who’s facing a lone wolf terrorist?

A: Knives are effective weapons and very important to study. The only problem is that it’s hard for a person to use a knife in a real situation. The knife is not a simple weapon unless you are well trained, and overcoming the psychological barrier of fighting with a knife is difficult for most people. People need a lot of training to overcome training that they’ve had since childhood – “Be Nice!”, “Don’t hurt them!”, ” Don’t be rude!” etc. These are simple examples of how we are taught to be courteous and kind, even when facing violence. To overcome this pre-conditioning takes a lot of specialized training. We need to learn to give ourselves to BE RUDE, to strike first – preemptively.

I would also recommend learning about the gun before learning about the knife. Nonetheless, knives are great weapons and are readily available — e.g. in the kitchen. Improvised edged weapons, such as a broken bottle, are also great for self-defense.

Q: How is fighting a person who’s willing to give his life for a cause different from fighting a mugger, a gang-banger or a rapist?

A: Most criminals are not ready to die. That simple fact makes self-defense easier because even rapists and other criminals are just looking for easy victims. Terrorists look for any victim, and therefore anyone is a potential target. Terrorists may fight to the death, which makes the fight very difficult to finish. This is why guns are better to carry than knives. A knife will also require one to be close to the threat, whereas a gun allows one to fight from behind cover. There’s a huge mindset difference. One’s goal is to get resources from you – cash, jewelry, sex. The goal of the terrorist is completely different.  Both may treat you as less than human, for different ‘needs’ to be fulfilled.

Q: Realistically, what chance does an unarmed martial artist stand against an armed terrorist?

A: The first rule is to never give up — regardless of whether you are unarmed and the attacker has a weapon. You should always maintain your awareness and carry your hand-to-hand skills, as well as your gun-disarm skills. Assuming that an attacker does not have a gun can be a deadly mistake.

Avi Nardia is a a former hand-to-hand combat instructor for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Reserve, the Israeli counter-terrorism unit YAMAM and the Israeli Operational Police Academy. He teaches the martial art of Kapap, as well as Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Krav Maga. Kapap is also being taught around the globe through a network of affiliated schools. Avi has produced a series of DVD’s through multiple vendor sources such as BUDO.

Surviving a Suicide Bomber: Snowball in Hell Version – Mark Hatmaker

First and foremost, it is a goddamn shame that any human being has to take the time to seriously write an article with the above title, but the world not conforming to decency and honor at all times—here it is.

The very nature of the chosen environments for the majority of suicide bombings [crowded venues] and the added aspect of the scum not caring at all about being able to leave the scene of the crime makes specific measures and predictions tough tough tough to implement.

There are a few general guidelines to keep in mind. We will divide these into three tiers: 80/20 Scanning, Alarmed But Uncertain, Full-On.

80/20 Scanning

If you are in any crowded venue, whether that be sporting event, concert, farmer’s market, airport, mall, hell, all things in life where good people congregate to go about living and having fun, we’ve got to admit the possibility that bad things could potentially happen.

This is not an advocacy of shunning all events that would draw a crowd or living scared but it is an urging to use a bit of Pareto’s Principle vigilance. That is pay attention, to everything. Place 80% of your attention on the fun at hand and allow 20% of your attention/time be devoted to scanning what is around you.

Treat the event as a springbok might at the watering hole on the Serengeti, a place to slake thirst, mingle with other springbok, maybe get the cute one’s number, but always keep in mind there may be a lion in the bushes or a crocodile in the shallows.

Drink the water, mingle, have fun, but stay awake.

General Scanning Rules

Back-packs and large bags. Many venues ban these, some do not. Your job, my job, our job is to look for the backpacks and large bags in the venue and if we see them, report them if they prohibited at the event. If they are permitted, allow your self to do a bit of profiling of the backpack wearer or bag-holder. Look for intention signalling.

What those might be, we’ve discussed in many other past articles, but I’m sure you are already aware of intention signals at this point.

Allow your 20% Awareness scan to include any odd behaviour bag-holding or backpack-wearing or not. Awareness is and has always been the key in all survival situations—that and a huge dollop of luck.

We add to our luck by staying awake and aware.

With awake and aware in mind—PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY!

It is impossible to be here, now when your tiny screen has captured your attention.

Phones out mean you not only miss the snowball’s chance in hell of spotting trouble, you are less than fully present at the event you presumably freely chose to attend.

Putting the phone away is a win-win.

Alarmed But Uncertain

Obviously if we see something, we say something.

But…this is where we get a little dark, a little Machiavellian.

Let’s presume we see something a little odd, but not quite odd enough to raise an alarm. We’ve seen something that gets our gut going but we’ve got no real actionable “tell” we can point to but we want to pay a bit closer attention while at the same time playing it safe rather than sorry.

I’m going to say something mighty obvious and a bit self-preserving here, the further you are from a bomb-blast the greater odds of your survival and the lesser severity of injuries incurred.

No-brainer, right?

Dark Time

The more people between you and the suicide bomber the greater your survival odds.

With these uncertain tells in mind, I am advocating you begin removing yourself from the immediate area of your possible-concern.

By all means, keep your eye on your concern and if your ‘tell’ escalates give alarm NOW. If your tell-signal diminishes, well, nobody but you, and those in your charge know that you were silently using the crowd as shields.


We’re in full-on hell here.

If we have failed to spot and we are close to the epicentre of the blast, well, fortune will do what it does.

If there is a split-second between “Oh, shit this is going down” and the actual triggering of the device here is your snowball’s chance in hell protocol.

Hit the deck. IMMEDIATELY.

These devices are meant to fragment and/or send projectile material through human flesh. Whether this material be nuts, bolts, ball-bearings, what have you, dispersal physics says the vast majority of this material will go up, down, and outward.

Your job is to create the smallest profile in this dispersal cloud.

So, with that in mind…

  • Hit the deck!
  • With the soles of the feet pointed toward the scum-bomber. We are creating the smallest profile in this position and attempting to protect vitals.
  • Cross the legs to insure a smaller profile and to decrease the likelihood that the blast will catch a splayed leg and shear it.
  • Go facedown, hands over the head and ears, fingers interlaced, with elbows tucked to sides over ribs. Again, protect the vitals.
  • Close your eyes—tight.
  • Open your mouth. This is counter-intuitive but this tactic is to help equalize the pressure of the bomb blast. Opening the mouth can reduce chances of ruptured eardrums and lungs.


“Never do anything for the first time in combat.”

It is not enough to merely read an article and nod our heads and think to ourselves, “Good idea.”

We must put it into practice.

We can and should be drilling awareness/alertness every single day of our lives.

When it comes to the Full-On Survival Posture I recommend hitting it right now, hit the deck and assume the position.

And if you’re really serious, over the course of the next week, while at home give a tennis ball to your family members and ask them to do you a favour. Over the next seven days, a couple of times per day, at least, tell them to toss the ball onto the floor of the room you’re in, the front yard while your trimming the hedges, anywhere anytime that you aren’t really thinking about it.

Tell them to catch you unaware.

Treat where the ball lands as the bomber’s position, hit the deck and assume the position.

If we’re lucky two things will happen with the Drill Week.

One-Your friends and family members have a laugh making your lunge for the ground for seven days.

Two-You never ever need such dire advice.

Peace, love, and harmony to the good and kind!

Death to villains!

You Are a Hunter-Predator – Mark Hatmaker

We are all hunters, predators, warriors. Everyone of us. I do not care whether you are a card-carrying member of PETA, a strict vegetarian, an avowed pacifist, or have never laid a finger on a hunting rifle or compound bow let alone fired a bullet or bolt into an animal.

We are all hunters by the sheer dint of historical and biological forces. We are all the offspring of forebears that hunted for millennia and thrived because of that evolved prowess for hunting.

Let’s toss all the contemporary arguments pro or con hunting aside, the titled observation is not telling anyone to abandon whatever moral precepts they possess regarding hunting, animals, and any perceived cruelty to animals.

To declare human beings as a hunting species is not a value judgment but a statement of fact.

Evolutionary biologists, paleo-ethologists, and anthropologists from Robert Ardrey to Richard Wrangham have gone so far as to say that what makes the human species so distinctly different from its simian brethren is this very penchant, this evolved drive to hunt.

Other animals can and do hunt, some solitary and some in packs, but no animal exceeds the human animal in applying technology to the solo hunt or the exceeding depths of cooperation in the human-pack hunt.

Dolphins may work together to “bubble-net” a school of fish but this is in no way a match for the hauls fishermen made off the coasts of New Foundland even 400 years ago. Wolves may hunt in families [the pack idea is a bit of a myth] and bring down prey larger than themselves, but the wolf is still no match for our forebears who brought down mammoths and other gargantuan prey that we just may have hunted to extinction.

There are many authorities in the field of human development who surmise that our ability to communicate and cooperate so successfully was borne out of this evolutionary group-hunting path. There is also some very convincing evidence [from Dr. Richard Wrangham particularly] that the combination of meat and fire, i.e., cooked meat, is what led to the relatively sudden growth spurt in the neo-cortex. Robert Ardrey surmises that the birth of the individual began with the mastery of the bow and arrow, hunting technology, that allowed individuals to break free of the pack.

Now, whether we hunt or not in our own personal lives matters not a whit to the fact that you, me, every human you meet is here because ancestors who put millennia into developing the skills and attributes that make a good hunter survived and passed along some of those successful hunting attributes to you.

The human brain is wired to be alert to patterns, to clues, to solving. Why? To better track prey. To better understand whether this sign means good foraging or that sign means “Uh-oh!”

Our modern hunting selves have little need to hunt or forage for ourselves anymore, we allow the market to provide but that does not mean that these hunting bits of our selves lie fallow.

It has been surmised that this inherent “solving” is part of the reason we enjoy puzzles, mystery films, suspense television, thriller novels to the degree we do. We are looking for clues, paths, tracks. It is also the reason we abhor spoilers, our intellect craves the hunt, the tracking and even this weak tea of trying to out-guess the third act of “Law & Order” fulfils some inherent need.

Is there any danger to being a hunting species that perhaps never hunts?


Consider this, hunting animals are keen and alert to their surrounding environment. This is, of course, necessity. Flagging attention may mean missing a meal, or missing the signal that a larger or smaller but venomous predator has you in its sites.

Flagging of attention is not rewarded with full bellies or long lives, let alone the passing along of your unsuccessful hunter genes.

Hunting animals must be reflective animals, that is reflecting and adapting to the external environment they are currently in.

External Reflection. This is key.

I repeat—This is key.


Philosopher John Gray [the real philosopher and not the “Men Are from Mars/Women Are from Venus” guy] states [and I simplify] that the human animal has gone from being a reflective being for the most part to a self-reflective one and this is the cause of many self-inflicted woes.

This is that key difference. Successful hunting animals are keen observers of their environment well aware of signs of prey, signs of good foraging ground, and also signs of potential upper-apex predators. Hunting animals must reflect on all that is before them, all the sights, sounds, scents, tastes on the air, the shift of wind signalled by the fluttering of the hairs on your arms.

As we progressed technologically, civilization was and is able to do more and more of our actual hunting and gathering for us, but this mere 40,000 year blip of agriculture is nothing in the scale of millennia when the hunting attributes were key. We can no more minus out the seeking and the solving of the hunter mindset than we can minus out familial affection. Hunting instincts are part and parcel of who we are as a species.

But, with the hunting prowess left with little to nothing to work on it has, in many cases, turned inward. Our powers of reflection have turned from reflections of the external/actual world, to self-reflection. We spend far more time pondering the fallible recreations of the real world inside our skulls than what goes on in the actual world. John Gray and others say that is a bit of a problem.

And we can’t turn that off. Reflection, that is.

If we do not reflect, we are no longer human. The key is whether we embrace the hunter’s reflection of the world, the external reflection that allows us to see and recognize patterns, tracks, make real associations, the day to day concrete observations that make up a sort of personal science, a pragmatic mechanistic understanding of the world comprised of the real and not the imagined.

Or, we mull and chew over only our own thoughts and the phantoms inside our skulls. Looking for dubious patterns and tracks in the words and acts, the perceived slights of others that may, in fact, be indicative of nothing.

All the while keeping in mind that being lost in thought also means being lost in the world.

It is inescapable that we will hunt and track whether self-reflective or outward reflective, this is a symptom of being a hunting being.

I wager that one form of reflection is of far more value than the other.


The Instructor – Toby Cowern

Meet Toby Cowern of Tread Lightly Survival School and CRGI founder member. The man who devoted most of his life to the art of survival. Living and surviving under the extreme conditions of the Far North became an art for him. Here he shares some of his thoughts on survival and being an instructor.

Visit Toby’s website to learn more.




Seems like an eye blink ago when I was sixteen. This thing called time has over taken me. A mere moment ago I was young kid living in New York City. I was young teenager enjoying the seventies in the Big Apple and all that it offered. How can you even begin to explain to the young people of today that they really missed out on some the greatest music that ever will be? Or what a disco experience was like? How does one describe the smell of the old Bowery along with CBGB’s and the grit? When I visit Forty Second Street today, it looks like Disneyland to me, Lion King Reigns supreme. Gone are the porn shops and Kung-Fu stores that sold posters of Bruce Lee. Union Square Park is so gentrified I feel like I am in a foreign country.
Martial Arts in the City were a very different thing back then. You knew peoples provenance. If your lineage was not traceable you were put on notice. A few guys from an infamous dojo on the lower East Side would have fun “visiting” people who seemed suspect in their so called “credentials”. Tournaments pitted “East Coast versus West Coast”, “Karate versus Kung-Fu”, and Aaron Banks put on the greatest martial art extravaganza on the planet. There was still some semblance of stylistic “purity” back then, in that you could tell a Goju-Ryu man from a Tae Kwon Do man. Shotokan was clearly distinguishable from various Kung-Fu. No such thing as what is now called “MMA” back then. Although when we had style versus style disputes in a tenement hallway or South Bronx rooftop, things became a bit dicey to say the least.
When it came to the street of course it was all about survival. We had guys who would show us “Jail House” boxing, and we would always have fun with the brothers “slap boxing” in the street. Improvised weapons ruled the day. Cheap, simple and efficient were the guiding ideology. None of us knew anything about “FMA” back then. We had seen some Iaido and Kendo but not much else. Some guys knew a bit about native weapon fighting from family, like some guys we knew from the islands. I had experienced a bit of Magyar Gypsy knife while visiting Hungary. But nothing was fancy or full of heavy “theory”. Pointy end goes in this way was the operative theme.
Quick deployment and concealability, and the ability to ambush someone dominated our approach. An icepick in a paper bag was unseen but felt when thrust forward. A cheap fish weight attached to a dog collar hit like a black jack. A box cutter and screw driver were subway specials – and I don’t mean the sandwich version.

Cheap, accessible and disposable made sense to us. None of us could afford a nice knife, although some guys would carry a Case pocket knife. We knew about the “throw away”. We learned that from many of the underworld types – gangsters, gang members and guys we knew from the “joint”. No glamor in shanking a dude multiple times with an ice pick. No movie fantasy about guts spilling open from a box cutter slash through a thin t-shirt on a hot summer day. When the stuff hit the proverbial fan it was on.
Today I see a lot of what I call “fancy stuff”. Expensive exotic looking curved knives from faraway places are sold all over the internet. Beautiful folders and fixed blades that while costly and nice eye candy, you would be hard pressed to throw away if ever used. I see knife “templates” that while fun to practice, are too complicated to perform under unpredictable circumstances and duress. By and large I don’t see deployment taught and the need for a truly predatory mind set. Some guys are making money selling workshops teaching the fancy fluff and stuff. While I don’t begrudge them in trying to earn a living, it would be nice if they could interject an occasional “real” method or principle in what they propagate.
But I get it. People say they want to learn “self-defense”. But in my experience when you attempt to teach that, people get appalled. They blanch and change color right before your eyes. They say things like “wait that is too intense for me, can you tone it down” or “I don’t know if I could ever do that to somebody”. But teach them a form of religion disguised as martial arts, or a form of rolling around the mat like dogs in heat, and they sign up in droves. Some families have made a great deal of money brain washing the masses on the efficacy of their invincible legendary methods. And yes, maybe on some beach in Brazil, mano a mano with mucho machisimo, it has validity, but in crowded bar, or moving crowded subway car, I don’t know. If you are in the street when you are being ambushed by multiple predators, probably armed and in low light conditions, it ain’t a Jackie Chan movie. And a huge obese aging pony tailed Aikido Guy who never gets a scratch in the movies when fighting the bad guys, is not coming to your rescue. And what if the defender is unarmed? Are people by and large still so gullible? The first mistake of a defender is that he was caught unarmed. And if he is armed, he needs to be trained and willing to use his covert weapon of choice.
The combat mindset should be an important principle to inculcate. Does not matter what you know if you are not willing or unable to make it so. Keep it simple. Learn blunt impact and edged weapon methods with an eye toward ultimate survival. Become familiar with firearms. It never ceases to amaze me how so many martial art “experts” I know who are teaching public workshops and classes know nothing about firearms. They self same Guros also make lame excuses about this ignorance. But yet they often teach gun disarms! In my simple logic how can you defend yourself against something if you don’t know how to use it and how it functions (and hence its strengths and weaknesses)? This is also my logic when I see martial art “experts” teaching students how to defend themselves against a blunt impact weapon or a knife. And of course if you don’t understand the mind set of true predator, it puts you in a moral and ethical conundrum. The predator has no “compassion” or “empathy” as a so called “normal” person would be conditioned to have. So that passive “just re-direct and control” “non-Violent” approach is gonna get ya killed. Doesn’t anyone see the lack of logic in the term “non-violent” martial arts? Self-protection will be anything but non-violent.
Train hard. Use your common sense if you can. Become well rounded in your approach. Keep it simple. Don’t buy into the fancy stuff. And if you do, have fun with it but don’t confuse it for authentic self-protection. If you train in a so called martial-art for the exercise benefits, that’s wonderful. But try to comprehend that authentic martial arts for real world survival is not about just the workout. If you live in a gun culture please at least become familiar with what that means. You don’t need to be an expert shooter by any means. But at least have a cursory knowledge for your own benefit.


EDC Considerations and Reality – Terry Trahan

Every Day Carry (EDC for short) is a big part of the preparedness and self defense mindset. If you don’t have the proper tools at hand, for the particular situation, it obviously can be difficult to come out on top. However, like everything else, once an idea becomes big enough, commercial interests take over, and at best, can make it difficult to determine what you really need, and at worst, will sell you some hinky, poorly designed crap that is worth less than nothing.

One of the biggest problems is the dividing line between collectors and users. This is most obvious in the custom knife community, when a maker becomes famous, the collectors take over, and all of the sudden, that really cool gear is no longer available for the users. Another issue is the things that get pushed into the field by collectors. My biggest pet peeve is the EDC pictures that get posted with expensive knives, titanium combs, Single or Double Finger knuckles that aren’t actually designed to use, and toys like titanium tops and spinners, but no usable, effective gear. No medical, no back up weapons that work, just expensive toys that exist to separate the fool from his money. It makes serious EDC users look like the same kind of fool, and judgement soon follows.

Now, if you are a collector, and honest about it, that’s cool, but why try to attach yourself to a different community that you don’t actually participate in.

So, to avoid this, and other downfalls, I have talked with others, and here is what we, from a users point of view, think the real considerations for EDC should be.

A knife is not a less lethal back-up weapon

A knife is considered just as much a lethal force tool as a gun, and when you pull one, even if your intent and mindset is ‘less lethal’, in the eyes of the law, you introduced a lethal weapon into a confrontation. If this confrontation did not rise to the level of a lethal force encounter, you have just committed a major felony. There are several options, which may or may not be legal in your locale, that cover the less (or less than) lethal back up. Collapsible batons, pocket sticks, knuckle dusters, saps, blackjacks, monkey fists, pens, pepper spray, among many others. These are the areas you should be looking into.

Carrying more than one firearm

This is controversial, and opinions really do vary, but from most peoples experience, a back up gun is usually not needed in any encounters. Especially if you carry a modern, high capacity pistol, with a few spare magazines. Even though we do live in a world with terrorism, violent protests, and gangs, you are still more likely to deal with a mugging or a robbery than having to play anti-terrorist in the mall.

Not carrying medical gear

If your goal is to truly be prepared for bad things happening, and you skip over carrying at least a Blow Out Kit, you are not preparing yourself for reality. Even in the event of a terrorist attack, you will more than likely have a better chance of helping save somebodies life with a tourniquet than gunning down the bad guys. Look at how many people were saved in the Boston bombing by people using tourniquets. And do yourself two favors, get good gear, not budget made in China counterfeits, and get training. There are several amazing people and companies offering good training in real, life saving med skills these days. That will contribute more to your survival than anything else.

Buying things just to have them, or belong to the club

Once again, there is nothing wrong with having things, and if you want to collect, awesome, but collect and buy what you want, not what your peer group says is cool. If you like cheaper knives, do it, be you, don’t think you need to have the latest $500 custom knife to fit in. If that is your social group, no matter how cool they seem, they are not cool. Conversely, if you buy stuff because the group says you need it to survive, check with other sources. The price of this stuff can add up pretty quickly, and most of it is bunk. You really don’t need that much. Save your money for other cool stuff, like a date with your better half.

In closing, problems always comes up when we both over think and over socialize on things. We always need to come back to the reason we are doing something, and the reality of what is needed to accomplish what we are trying to do. Seek out opinions from people that really do what you are trying to do, and listen. A little bit of good gear is much better than an overload of crap.


What It Really Takes to Live with Violence, and Forgive it Part I – Heidi MacDonald

What do you do when your worst fears are realized? When a scenario that you work on in your self defense training, actually comes to life? If you survive it, how do you process, get over it?

I wish that I could give you a simple, easy answer that could be of immediate benefit. I wish that somebody had been able to guide me, give me those answers…But it was kind of one of those things where you had to discover the answers for yourself, without anyone’s assistance.

Learn the Hard Way, 101.

I am the daughter of two insufferably, messed up human beings. My father had run-ins with the law and drugs, that resulted in a felony conviction with hard time to serve. My mother was a physically abusive person who also had issues with alcohol and drugs, that were never concealed very well. Long story short, I bore the brunt of her wicked short fuse for a good part of my life.

The end result was that I grew up and made choices in my romantic relationships, that were not always healthy or positive.

I chose one person who was emotionally unavailable with a heavy drinking problem, to boot. I stayed long past this particular relationship’s expiration date, because I thought I should prove myself worthy enough to love. I put this person on an incredibly high pedestal, and myself at the base, basically.

After exiting that, I then chose another person who caused a spectacular level of damage to my life, that I never thought was possible. He was charming and charismatic, but exhibited dangerous traits of narcissism and psychopathy. I didn’t quite understand until it was too late. Instead, I ignored it, and made excuses for his behavior, even as I was self-destructing under the weight of his demands. The end of the relationship was sexually violent and left me suicidal, cut off from friends and family.

 Why? Well, for one simple reason: I did not believe in my own worth as a person, as a woman, and in the face of doubt, I put myself through an endless cycle trying to please everyone.

See me, look at me. Tell me that I deserve to be loved

I hadn’t yet learned that I should not have to grovel for love and acceptance, and most certainly not from darkly flawed human beings who had nothing to offer but psychological mind screws and violence.

Do you find me weak so far reading this?

I am not a weak, simpering female. Once upon a time, I may have thought that of myself. But now? Far from it. Don’t fool yourself if you’re a male self-defense/martial arts instructor reading this, and think that what I discuss here, does not apply to you your teaching, or your life.

Quite the opposite. I am one of you.

I am a black belt, and a women’s self defense instructor. I’ve been on the path exploring how to prevent physical violence to myself and others for about 15 years.

I am roughly 120 pounds, and pride myself on being a scrappy groundfighter, despite my five feet, 4 inch height & size. The problem in my case, was that despite all of my training learning preventive techniques against violent action, I simply did not learn or understand how to defend myself against psychological games. How to spot predators of the intimate kind. And equally as important, if not more so – how to have confidence and value in who I am, as a person.

Do me a favor, and try not to immediately scoff & think,

“Pfff, this crap would never happen to me. I can spot psychos from a mile away. How stupid is she, an MA practitioner of all things, to get involved with someone like that?”

Because..he was one of us. A member of our world of Self Defense, Martial Arts practitioners.

The details of what happened, I don’t think are really important anymore. I’ve lived it, and re-lived it a million times in my head, spent time on both the shrink’s couch and did the pop psychology reading. Going back and recounting it, can sometimes put me in a dark place, that I’d rather not go back to.

What is important, is the process that came after.

Two years ago, I found myself at a very personal Ground Zero. I was pretty much broken in every way you can think of: emotionally, psychologically, physically, financially. And yes, there was a dance around the edge of suicide, too. Believe me when I tell you, that is a damn scary place to find yourself on.

Nobody ever thinks they could go that low, that dark, that far, until it actually happens.

At a point that is that void of hope, that desolate, one of two things can happen: You will either die, or you will rebuild. I like to think that the foundation of all my years of dojo training kept the will to live in me burning, because I chose the latter, to rebuild.