Covert Self Defense – Terry Trahan

There has been a cycle throughout history of looking to the current war, and the veterans of it for martial arts and self defense. It is with good reason, as they are the ones being trained in the ‘newest, greatest’ training. In some cases, they introduced the world of martial arts to the greater public. The veterans of WWII, Korea, and VietNam all brought over arts we hadn’t heard of. Some arts were created during a war, like Krav Maga coming out of the Israeli Independance fight. Today, the explosion has been in firearms and tactical schools by veterans of the GWOT. But are these the people we should be looking to for our everyday training? That depends.

In matters of self defense, everything is relative and personal, and a lot of the lessons from war do not apply to all of us. I don’t have the need for breaching a door, clearing a room, or patrolling a street.

To me, a more appropriate place to look for applicable lessons is in the more covert arena, intelligence operatives, undercover police officers, and guerilla fighters. Their day to day existence is more akin to what I see as a problem I will have to face. For me, a great example is the partisans and the OSS from WWII.

Face it, guerilla warfare is closer to self defense than modern warfighting. You are either alone, or with very few people, little or no support, more concerned with the aftermath of any physical encounter, not in a uniform with visible gear, the list of similarities between modern self defense and covert personnel are much more parallel. Similarly, the weapons, equipment and gear invented or adapted to operatives are much more in line with our requirements. It is not likely that you are going to be out in public with grenades, a service rifle, etc. It is more likely that you would equip yourself with small blades, handheld impact weapons, escape tools, personal first aid kits, personal lights, rather than packs and LBE festooned with weapons and gear. All of these were things brought to life by the intelligence services in WWI & II and distributed to the OSS, SOE, and partisans in Europe.

Likewise, the empty hand aspects of their training match more closely to our needs. No matter the origin, all of the H2H training for them were streamlined, efficient, relied on gross body mechanics, easily retained, used forward drive and aggression, and kept in mind that you might not be facing just one opponent.

The firearms training given these agents was also more in line with civilian shooting than military engagement. Personal firearms such as the pistol or revolver, single target engagement or small numbers of necessary targets, ability to draw from concealment and use of regularly available cover and concealment.

Other ways this type of training was more applicable to us is in the use of everyday things versus military equipment, the wearing of everyday clothes, the necessity of performing everyday tasks, while being aware, and being able to melt into the crowd and make an escape.

Even if we look at other elements of training, particularly from WWII, we can find a great many beneficial things. Look into the Home Guard manuals from Great Britain during this timeframe. It taught civilians how to use everyday household items to defend against invasion, how to organize your family and neighborhood for imposed disaster or occupation, all things that are much more doable than trying to operate as a small unit or company.

Other resources are learning from people in jobs that are more closely aligned with the realistic conditions we will face in a real life altercation or assault. One of the reasons I like Rory Millers curriculum is because he developed it in an environment that was bound by legalities, use of force law, a Non-Permissive Environment for weapons, and the probability of having to face multiple opponents. Biker gangs and other criminal elements also have much to offer us in a more realistic look at threats we face and effective ways of dealing with them. Ed Calderon made a long term study of the criminal subcultures in his country, and brought them forward to teach people both how to survive and escape them, but also how to apply them to your own safety.

The base of the arts I teach are commonly called village arts. The reason for this is that they were created to train the people in the village to be able to defend themselves with what was at hand, in a minimum amount of training time, and be able to get back on with life. I like this as a model, and it tracks nicely with the ethos of the combatives based material I integrate that has its origin in the European Theatre in the 1940’s.

I am not saying that we cannot learn lessons from the military, or that they have nothing to offer. I am simply giving my outlook, and encouraging you to look outside of the normal paradigm in order to increase your ability to survive should that time come.


Honesty; It’s such a lonely word – Terry Trahan

In pursuing our lifestyle or hobby of self protection, it is very easy to fall prey to the fantasies and untruths that pervade this industry. What I hope to do is point out somethings that can keep us on an even keel in our training, and avoid some of the hassles that can occur when unreality takes over.

Train to handle what happens most, and you’ll be able to handle most of what happens. ~ Marc MacYoung

Marc introduced me to this saying when he first started training me, and ever since then, I have used it as a guide to how realistic I keep my outlook and training.

Before Marc, I had a lifestyle where what happened most were shootings, stabbings, multiple attackers, and they happened fairly often, so naturally, my training was more brutal and aimed at ending these kinds of conflicts quickly.

Then I became a bouncer and security escort. My most common attacks and, most importantly, responsibilities changed. Now it wasn’t a matter of being counteroffensive, it was about spotting trouble sooner and heading it off. If that wasn’t possible, my job now meant that I had to be more lowkey and subtle in my responses. Gunfire, explosives and fire are not subtle.

Finally, after I left that life altogether, and I became a ‘civilian’, my landscape changed again, and I had to worry mostly about regular crime occurring, and not blowback from my actions. Yes, I still had to be wary of revenge from the past, but not as an active motivator.

It took me a long time to reach this level of honesty with myself, and to alter the way I train, and what I teach, but the handy little saying Marc taught me has been a helpful meme to keep me on track.

Two is one, and one is none…

How often have you heard this saying, whether military, RBSD, or EDC collectors, it is bandied about with abandon. And on the surface, it is a good thing to keep in mind. I myself still carry multiples of certain items. But I do not do it blindly. I look at my risk factors, my environment, and my proclivities, and make a decision based on that. Over the years, and through my lifestyle changes, I have severely cut down on the amount stuff I carry, and mostly now, it is focused on medical and emergency stuff.

We need to be able to look at what our needs are and carry what we deem appropriate for the mission, day, or season. Don’t let anyone make you feel unprepared for not carrying a jeep full of tactical gear when you run to the corner store, your life is yours to live, and you should take all factors into consideration, not just the oddball chance of a terrorist attack occurring down at the Stop and Rob.

Case in point. I know a lot of people who are into firearms. Most of them recommend carrying semi-autos, and several magazines. I’m all for that, for them. For me however, that doesn’t fit my assessment. If I carry, it is a simple snub nosed revolver and a couple Speed Strips. I don’t see me being involved in an active shooter event, or terrorist/gang attack. And if I am, my goal is to get me and mine to safety, not engage the enemy and hunt them down. I am being honest with myself, my background, equipment, and needs. If I receive newer, different information, that conflicts with my present, I will reassess my position. But I won’t change just because everyone else says different.

All fights go to the ground; or a knife always beats a gun at 21 feet

Once again, these are great rules of thumb, and we should pay attention to them. But remember, they are guidelines, not hard and fast rules.

Anybody that ignores striking because they are told groundwork is all you need, needs to do a reassessment quickly. Both are events that may happen, and both need to be trained, within the fight continuum. No, not all fights go to the ground. I say this after years of fighting and watching them. But you know what, enough do go to the ground that you need to be familiar with it. And most serious instructors will tell their students this.

The same goes for weapons. As much as I am a ‘knife guy’, I need to know all ranges and categories of weapons; guns, knives, impact, flexibles, etc. To just concentrate on one does me and my students a disservice, and leaves us vulnerable.

In closing, all I am encouraging is honesty in your thought process and approach to training. Even if your conclusions are different from mine, or everyone elses, it is your life and your fight. You have to live with it, not anyone else, and the only person you should please is yourself in this arena. So, examine your conclusions in the light of reality, and do it often. The world is everchanging, as are we, and we need to keep up, or become irrelevant or dead.


Some Life Considerations – Terry Trahan

It is very easy to become convinced of how well our training is going, or how much progress we have made. Because of this, we may not pay attention to our weak areas, or overestimate our abilities. Sometimes it is simply a matter of not knowing the variables out there that we might face. In the interest of covering these holes, I have several things I remember to try and keep myself and my training honest.

#1) Some people are just too tough to be human.
Some of my motivators are people I have fought or knew. Some examples;
When I was a young buck, I met a guy named Patch. As you might guess, he wore a patch over his right eye.
He showed me underneath it once, his entire eye socket was crushed, and there was the shape of the bottom of a Jack Daniels bottle impressed into the bone. At a party, somebody tossed a bottle from upstairs. It hit Patch in the eye, crushing it, and breaking the bones around it. So, instead of laying down and getting help, Patch calmly walked up the stairs, busted eye and all, and attacked the bottle thrower, then had his Old Lady drive him to the ER.

Or the time I hit a Samoan in the head with a cinder block, twice, full force, and all the Samoan did was laugh and say, and I quote, “My turn…”

#2) Luck exists…
I was working at a gas station, and some junkie decided to rob me, pulling a gun, and yelling GIVE ME THE MONEY, at the exact moment a police officer came out of the bathroom right behind him…

#2b) Bad luck exists also…
I brought a bali-song into a federal building once. It was in a Buck sheath, so I checked it in at the security desk. Turns out they checked it out later, and it being illegal, paged me…
This was a MEPS Station for military entrance processing, as well as holding the US Customs House, complete with USMC guards. So, I blend in with the crowd and make my escape, with the guards following me. I pulled one of the best E&E runs ever, avoiding capture, the Sgt. in charge told me after they captured me. Wait, how did that happen if my run was so good, and I got away???
I hadn’t paid attention to the news. Timothy McVeighs trial was in process, one block from my location. There were snipers on the roofs of the buildings through downtown, so they just reported my progress, and picked me up when I thought I was gone. No, I ended up not re-enlisting.

#3) Cheap shots can happen, even when you’re not involved…
I was hanging downtown with friends. Unknown to me, one of our group insulted a girl. So, I turn a corner and get hit in the head hard enough to drive an earring through my ear backwards, and make me deaf. Then the guy apologized, because he thought I was the other guy.

#4) You can be your own worst enemy…
My mouth has gotten me in at least as much trouble as my former lifestyle. All the training in the world couldn’t stop the fights I got into, or the asskickings I received, simply because I couldn’t shut up.

I hope this helps you to look at things that may be beyond our control, that we can’t prepare for, or things to look at we can stop doing to make things easier for ourselves.

Importance of Proper Training Gear – Terry Trahan

When you engage in any physical activity, be it boxing, wrestling, or, in the extreme, military training, it is of utmost importance, and common to employ training gear in order to replicate the environment and actions in a safe manner, while maintaining and enforcing the skills being learned. Training gear can be anything that decreases risk, increases safety, or allows more realism in the training environment. Boxing gloves, headgear, mats, hanging bags, all are examples of training gear we as martial artists are used too.

In self defense, we need to practice more than the skills employed when using the above mentioned gear. We learn weapons use, disarms, weapons access, deployment, and engagement. It should be obvious that we cannot use real knives, guns, or any other live weapon for these. Imagine doing gun retention with a real gun, loaded… kind of makes you nervous, doesn’t it. Well fortunately, it made enough other people nervous that they did something about it, and now most people are used to the idea of ‘blue’ guns, and other inert replicas that can be used to safely train and practice these skills.

With the advent of more realistic training in other fields, it has become obvious that other safe training ‘drone’ versions of other tools are required for safe yet realistic training. We now see foam bats, screwdrivers, simmunition guns, shock knives, and a wide array of other realistic tools. One area I am particularly happy about is the growth of this in the knife and knife training industry.

It is still rare in the production knife arena, but companies like Spyderco, Boker, Emerson, and Cold Steel all make drone versions of at least some of their models. This is particularly important with folding knives. In order to get proficient at folding knife use, it is important to practice accessing and getting the folding knife into use. It is too dangerous to do this with a live blade, and Spyderco and Emerson recognized this early on, making fully functioning versions of their most popular folding models, with no edge or point, to enable realistic practice of these skills.

Custom knife makers that specialize in defensive knives are doing  abang up job recognizing and providing these training knives. In my recent review of the Sakit form JB Knife & Tool, I mentioned one of the reasons I liked it so much was because of the trainer and sheath included in the package.

I hope that as realistic, lifesaving training becomes more important, other makers and production companies will take this area seriously and start providing other options.

If you cannot find a training version of your carry knife, you can buy a cheaper generic training folder, or you can do what us “oldtimers” had to do back when. We would buy two of the same knife, and then spend hours taking the edge of, rounding the point, making sure there were no burrs or sharp edges left, so we could practice as realistically as we could.

Now, you have to keep in mind that these trainers are still steel, and can cause serious injury when used in full force scenarios. Much caution must be used in these circumstances.

Another option is to purchase a purpose made safe training, hard contact set of trainers. At this time, the only reliable company that provides high quality trainers of this type is NOK Contact Trainers, out of Thailand. I highly recommend looking them up, it will enable you to use fuller contact in your training, to develop more realistic survival skills.

Remember, in all aspects of realistic training, there is always a risk of danger and injury. Care and attention must be applied to lessen this, and looking into these kind of tools is an important part of that care and attention.


Interview with Ed Calderon, Part II – Terry Trahan

TT: What would you say is the main thing you want people to learn or realize through your teaching and writing?

That they are all capable of protecting themselves and others and that the more they educate themselves the more dangerous they become. It’s all about being a dangerous person for me. A creative individual. Thinking outside the box ….a criminal of purpose.


TT: What are the most important things you think people should learn in order to keep themselves safe?

I’d say emergency medical management is the best start to anything. Firearms, combatives, urban survival etc.. All of these need a base in this specific skill set. Start here.


TT: It seems a lot of people get hung up on having the best or most popular gear and equipment. What are your general thoughts on EDC, and is there anything specific you think should be a part of a person’s EDC?

I keep things simple and on hand.

-Bic lighter.

-Counter Custody tools spread out on my person.

-A redundancy element escapology tool bundle.

-A dedicated offensive knife ( a Guadaña Knife by Tracker Dan at the moment) and a non magnetic last ditch option ( a carbon fiber punch dagger at the moment)

-Small Multi-tool.

-LED light.



-A blow out kit in my backpack. ( this should be mandatory for everyone)


TT: Concerning EDC, you recently designed a knife with Tracker Dan. Can you give us an insight on the design, and why it took the form it did?

It came from conversations between us about preference. I like small Knives.. Very small. I am not at all dueling anyone so I prefer to keep things small and concealable, even when in hand.

The geometry of it is meant for stabbing, hooking and ripping. It’s meant for Pkal or scythe grip and is actually inspired by cock Fighting spurs and small bird beak fruit Knives.

It’s a very urban blade. It’s handle design comes directly form Tracker Dan, it’s a modified version of the one he has used on the Bloodshark knife for years. It’s a very useful design.
TT: I know there has been some controversy regarding some of the material you teach, especially the counter custody and anti-body armor elements. Can you explain why these are important in your teaching, and the environment you operate in?

Basically this material was formulated in a place where even the police abduct people off the street and ask for ransoms or work for the cartels directly. So there is a lot of counter police material in there. Sad part of life here. This is off course alarming to a US audience.

Body armor is common down here as well. Criminals use it all the time. So we developed ways of countering it that again … Are alarming to a Western audience. But it’s just a product of its environment.


TT: What is coming up in the future for you?

Going to be doing more seminars stateside, Asia and in Europe are also in my sights.


TT: If people want to learn more of your method/ideas, where can they look you up?





Triple Aught Design CORE:
(for San Francisco BlackBox Dates)

SerePick made BlackBox Counter Custody Tool’s made to BlackBox specifications:


TT: Thanks for taking the time for this interview, are there any final thoughts you’d like to bring up?

Yes. Never let anyone dictate what works. Try it out yourself. Free thinkers are the most dangerous people on the planet. Stay dangerous.


Interview with Ed Calderon, Part I – Terry Trahan

Ed Calderon is a security specialist and combatives instructor from Northern Mexico.

He is also the General Director for Libre Fighting in Latin America.

He has become popular through his FaceBook page, Ed’s Manifesto, and is a very accomplished teacher in unconventional self defense and security.

On a personal note, he is also my friend, and we collaborate and teach together, and I can not give a higher recommendation than I do for him.

TT: Hi Ed, can you please give us a brief bio and background for our readers that may not be familiar with you?

Sure. I was born in Tijuana Mexico where I grew up. Tijuana is a bit of a cultural diversity bomb so I was exposed to American popular culture from a very early age and it influenced me deeply. I had an eventful young life, and got into a lot of trouble growing up in such a place. I can’t complain about it, it truly was a  very free and wonderful place to grow as a person. It had good and bad things about it, all of them made me grow.

I spent a lot of time traveling throughout Mexico and in the US after I turned 18. Wandering a bit, with no clear idea about what to do with my life. After eventually coming back to my hometown of Tijuana for the holidays I saw an interesting article in the paper about a career opportunity in government work. That led me into over a decade of work in the fields of counter narcotics, executive protection and some crossborders work. During all this time, I made an effort to take any training opportunity I could get and learn what I could by observing and collecting case study material and any criminal methodology I came across.

I started take one the role of Instructor at an internal level within the operations groups I worked with. Seeing a need for edged weapons material for my group I went looking for methodologies I could fit into their training. I went around the block as far as systems that dealt with edge weapons. Finally found Libre Fighting System trough Scott Babb. One seminar with him and I was sold.

A year later him and me where training a few special police units down in Mexico and we started getting loads of after action reports and feedback from students down there. The violent climate in the region offered us a golden opportunity to actually field test concepts and material in a very real laboratory. Edged weapons, counter custody, urban survival, criminal methodology, reverse engineering it all started to come out of this cross border relationship between Scott Babb and my self. That was my start.
TT: What are your main combatives influences, and what makes them meaningful to you?

I have a base in Thai Boxing, this basically taught me how to move and take a punch. Honestly, the sparring element this has is a thing of value. This and it made me open my eyes to weaponizing elbows and knees.

Libre Fighting System’s basically gave me a very analytical approach to weapons and violence in general. We did not take anything for granted and tested everything against multiple opponents, adding Stress Modifiers, confined spaces, etc. Knife disarms were the first delusion this system killed in me. Libre gets more taken out of it each year. It’s constantly being streamlined. Each outing we teach in a new place, let’s us see different uses of Knives or criminal methodology that we then bring back, refine and see if it can be used for our own means. It’s an ever evolving monster. It’s a blade system coming out of the border region that has found its way in to Indonesia and the Philippines. I think this says a lot about it.

I was exposed to South African movement indirectly through Scott Babb that shared some of it with me, having previously hosted a Piper guardian for what was at the time one of the first seminars of that system in California.

I contacted Nigel February ( it’s founder ) and got a glimpse into some of its reasoning for being and what it came from. It really influenced my way of formulating my personal methodology and the way I move. The mentality it tries to instill in the practitioner is what I think is often overlooked in this specific skill set.

Through the job, I was exposed to many individuals with different skill sets and abilities. Some criminal in origin, some military. All of these got into what I do and teach.  

And finally. Though a person that doesn’t like recognition, I learn a very specific and traditional way of utilizing my hands and feet that for lack of a better word turned out to be tilted Atra Manus. It’s not my creation. All I did was try and mold it into a teaching experience. Those who have been exposed to it can tell,


TT: Why did you start the Manifesto, and what is the mission you hope to accomplish through both your writing and teaching?

The name comes from a stack of moleskin notebooks I keep detailing everything I have come across that I think is of value to my own personal development in this whole subculture of urban survival, escapology and combatives.

It’s basically an open and free outlet of information that some have kept off limits. I share nothing that I haven’t seen in some way shape or for out there in criminal hands. It really is at its core, an exercise in the free dispersal of information and a window into what I’m up to. It’s a personal blog. I don’t sell anything through it and promote what I love, trust and stake my life on as far as products, instructors and methodology.


TT: I know you worked with the security forces in Mexico, what got you into that line of work, and were there any incidents that encouraged you to teach civilians?

I like getting into trouble. What better place to do so than by joining what was at that time the most high risk profession on the planet. Being a police officer in Mexico.

It gave me a lot experience. Some of it just incomparable to anything else in the world. It gave me a very unique perspective on how to go about solving problems.

I started to work a lot of cases dealing with abduction. And it’s a problem that touched something deep with in me. I knew there was a need for a no BS aproach to train people to deal with this problem.

I saw Americans coming down to Mexico teaching military SERE training to civilians that made little to no sense to the actual endemic problem and some Israeli ex military guys doing the most alien Krav Maga infused E&E classes I have ever seen. I knew I had to come up with a very Mexican approach to the problem, taking in to account the realities and limitations a civilian has here. That was my start.


TT: Environment is a very big factor in determining effectiveness of a fighting method. Could you describe for our readers the environment in Mexico, and how that formed your outlook?

It’s very non permissive. Threats come from police and criminals. It’s not all bad, there are pockets of dangerous places in the country.

Civilians cannot carry firearms and that limits the options most have. And even conventional tactical folders can get you jail time if found by an uneducated cop ( very common down here sadly). So in many ways students of mine have learned to live as criminals of purpose ( as I like to call them). The tools they carry for self defense are non descript ditchable kitchen knives for example. Not because they are going to murder someone and don’t want to be caught. But because they want to be able to carry something with plausible deniability built in to it and if the see a possible police inspection, they can toss the blade without losing much in terms of money.

They have to be very crafty. They can’t just go on line and by stuff. Most of thier counter custody tools are home made for example. It’s a very interesting place that has given birth to a lot of creativity.

Part II will be in the next issue.


Look Around You – Terry Trahan

Since the late 1980’s and the publication of Marc MacYoung’s book, Cheap Shots, Ambushes, and Other Lessons, one of the go-to buzzwords in the self defense world has been awareness.

Be aware, stay aware, head on a swivel. It is great advice, but unfortunately, this is as far as it goes. Nobody really explains it, nobody tells you what you need to be aware of. They just throw it out there. There really is a difference between awareness and paranoia, but without being knowledgeable about it, it is very easy to slide into paranoia.

The first thing you need to establish in order to have an awareness is what is the baseline for your area, both neighbourhood and workplace.

I make this difference because every place has a different normal, and not paying attention to these differences causes a lot of people to make mistakes, and possibly overreact.

I like to start closer to home, so that is where we will start here.

What is the baseline in your residence, especially in an apartment complex or condo. Noise level, timings of the common comings and goings, delivery people, festivals in the area. You need to look at it a little further out and include your block and neighbourhood area. For instance;

  • Is there a homeless population?
  • If so, what is their “schedule” of travel and ingress/egress from the area?
  • Are there businesses or bars/restaurants?
  • If so who are the patrons and what sort of hours do they open?

All these things go into establishing the norm for the area. If you get used to this, the sounds, sights, smells and vibe of the place, anything outside of that trips your trigger as being different, therefore something you need to pay more attention to. Then do the same in your workplace and locale around your business.

The next step is to pay attention to your internal environment, what is in your head, what distracts you, what assumptions you have that masks or obscures the reality in your perception.

This establishes what I would call environmental awareness. You are confident and comfortable with the ebb and flow of your area, and any anomalies stand out. Environmental awareness is the base and core of everything else, without it, you can’t develop any other kind of awareness.

The next stage of awareness would be developing what is termed Situational awareness, and this is what most people are talking about when they tell you to be aware.

Situational awareness is when the things in your environment are disturbed to the point you notice something is amiss, and you need to pay attention to identify it, and then you get to choose the proper reaction and respond.

As you can see, environmental awareness is the foundation for all the different forms awareness takes. If you can’t spot the differences in your norm, it blinds you to what is happening, and what options are available and open to you.

Situational awareness also leads to the ability to see the different options available, what tools are around to be used, and if there are any escape routes handy. Without this kind of awareness, you are operating blind, and cannot make good decisions.

Work to develop both kinds of awareness, and your ability to get along in the world will increase.


Street Enforcement of Rules – Terry Trahan

It is a common misconception that, in a street or criminal subculture, there are no rules. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every successful culture and organization must have rules, both unspoken and implicit. Without them, it becomes a free for all, and the effects of this free for all would limit the ability of the cultures to operate and survive. Some of the effects these rules try to avoid are police involvement, collateral damage to civilians, harm to those in the group, and distracting power struggles both within and between differing groups.

The main difference between ‘regular’ cultural rules and the various street cultures is enforcement and understanding. Especially to some involved, there is not always a clear understanding of why certain rules exist. Because of this, there is usually some friction between established members and newer members of the group, until either an explanation is given, or more often, the rule is ignored, and an enforcement action is implemented.

One of the most sacred rules is to not screw over or cheat your own kind. Otherwise known as ‘don’t shit where you sleep’.

The reason for this is many. When you can’t trust the system, trust in your group is more important than usual. Also, it limits interpersonal conflict in the group, which takes time and resources from the important things the group is involved in. When this rule is broken, enforcement/punishment is handled within the group, and is fairly quick, and usually brutal in its execution. The usual is a beatdown or public humiliation of some sort. But, depending on the seriousness of the infraction, and the rank or position of the individual cheated, it can be creative, and much longer lasting.

An example. There was once a young man brought into a group, and allowed to stay with them in an apartment instead of on the street. This young man decided to rob the apartment renters jewelry to feed his drug habit. In these cultures, someone who provides shelter, food, mentorship, and care is pretty high on the list. This was a major violation of the groups rules, and demanded big punishment. The initial punishment administered was a series of beat downs, done randomly. Wherever he went, people, seemingly out of the blue would assault him. Not feloniously, to where police would get involved, but often enough that he never healed from the prior beating. But, this was only the beginning, as the rule he broke was a major one, it needed to be enforced, and an example made to show others why you do not violate this rule. Punishment was decided on, and parties were contacted to get the enforcement action in gear.

What was decided on was this. Since drugs were the driving factor in the “crime”, the major dealers in the downtown area agreed to cut him off. He could not get his fix in the downtown area any longer. For an addict without reliable transportation, this is a living nightmare. You must go further and further away from your base to acquire your drugs, which takes time and money. it also makes you go into ‘enemy’ territory,and deal with dealers who are not your contacts, that will not hesitate to jack you. This lasted until the young man moved on to another state, but his reputation will follow him, and he is marked in that particular circle.

It is important to point out that these cultures are not limited to a specific city or state, contacts exist and word spreads. And sometimes, punishment will be administered in a different city if the person runs, thinking distance will keep him safe.

There was a gutter punk at one time that was fairly respected, pulled his weight and contributed to his tribe, taking care of younger members and the like. Until his addiction took control. He became predatory among his own group, strong arming and bullying in order to up his supply. Another example of crapping in his nest. Unfortunately, he targeted an affiliate of the group, not a member, which is a fairly respected position, and usually off limits to this kind of thing. In the process of trying to strong arm this affiliate, he broke her arm. Knowing this was a major violation of all rules, and would bring a lot of heat, he chose to leave town, boarding a Greyhound bus.

Unfortunately for him, he was watched, and his destination was passed on to the interested parties. Calls were made, favors exchanged, and when the gutter punk in question stepped off the bus three states away, he was beaten and hospitalized as he was leaving the bus station. There was an above average viciousness to his punishment for two reasons, one was for who he injured, based on who she knew, and second, for leaving like a coward and not facing group justice. A message had to be sent that running would not protect you, and the arm of the group reached far.

Sometimes rules exist with multiple groups, to ensure the safety and protection of a wide range of people. Certain drugs and dealers are not allowed in an area, for example, in order to limit the damage. Bath Salts were one of these drugs, due to the danger they presented to users.

Enter a multiple rules violation situation, which shows how serious, widespread, and important these rules are across the different groups in a given area.
First rule, no Bath Salts in the downtown area, second rule, no sexual assault, third rule, don’t lie to your own, fourth rule, take care of your people. In the summer of 2014, one person violated all these rules, and brought punishment not just on himself, but on his entire group for his actions, as sometimes punishment is group instead of individually distributed due to the nature of the offense.

In a nutshell, a street level dealer got in a shipment of Bath Salts. He got high, decided to kidnap a street girl, rape her, forcibly get her high on the Salts repeatedly, and beat her. This street girl was with another man at the time. When he let her go, she was in a catatonic state, and has to this day not recovered her sanity, and nobody knows how many doses of Salts the dealer forced on her. This was one of the most heartbreaking things to have occurred on the streets of this particular city, as the girl was fairly popular, her man was working to get them off the street, and it looked as if they would escape the ‘life’.

So, needless to say, the reaction was swift and very violent. In one night, there were a series of felony and aggravated assaults along the corridor this group operated from. Not just beatings, I’m talking serious assaults doing grievous injury to the receivers. Anyone affiliated with this dealer was the target, as well as other dealers known to or bragged about having Salts for sale. Oddly enough, there was no interference from outside groups or even the police during this night. Rarely, various groups understand the need for looking the other way in order to accomplish a greater good. As long as the parameters of the hunt were obeyed, another example of rules enforcement, business could be taken care of.

It was understood that there were limited targets and time frame, and it was not a free for all. As far as the main target, he was located, taken to a different location, and nobody would comment further. This was one of the more extreme enforcement actions I have witnessed, but it shows multiple things. What some of the rules are, how people are valued in this culture, how much enforcement is left to these groups, and how cooperation can exist between even normal enemies to accomplish a goal.

Ok, now let us leave the street culture and go to another place that civilians think rules don’t apply to them at best, or don’t exist at worst… the topless bar! Yay, let’s go get drunk or high, oogle young women, let our inhibitions go, and nothing bad will happen, there will be no repercussions…

In a word, bullshit. The reason for bouncers and security staff are to enforce the rules of the establishment. As in the street and criminal subcultures, some of these rules are implicit and some are unspoken, but should be obvious to anyone with an above room temperature IQ.

A rule as simple as don’t go in the dancers locker room. Seems pretty obvious, but a surprising number of men thinks it applies to everyone but themselves, and this has caused me more fights than almost anything else in this setting. Another rule repeatedly violated is the do not touch the girls rule. Not only do most of the girls find you creepy and old, therefore not wanting you to touch them, it is actually illegal for the bar to allow this to go on. It can lead to prostitution and pandering charges, and ultimately close the bar down, and yet…

Now, most violations of these rules are handled by you being ejected from the establishment. If it was a bad violation, you may be 86’d permanently.
But there are some rules that will be enforced with an extra dose of violence when they are broken.

One of these rules is to not mess with the staff. Bartenders, wait staff and DJ’s are the lifeblood of a strip club. Dancers come and go, and sometimes come back, and are the face of the establishment, but the support staff makes the business run, keeps the party going, and brings in the money. Interfering with their ability to do their jobs, threatening them, or actually assaulting them are a good way of discovering pain and injury that you never would have thought of on your own. Another big no-no is to target vehicles in the bars parking lot for theft or breaking in. This leads to customers not feeling safe and welcome, which dries up the money flow. If you are caught doing this, there will be no quarter given, and you will learn that the bouncers know which angles and areas the security cameras do not cover…

Notice how most of the rules for a bar in general, and especially a topless bar are geared around money coming in. How serious would you be about enforcing your ability to make money and provide for your family. Now, imagine the ferocity a group of people will bring to that, it would not be a good thing to interfere with. In this world, it is all about protecting the resources. This is simple to understand, but is manifested in different ways. The established dealer in the bar will have a degree of protection from the staff, in order to keep a calm and quiet proceeding to the business being handled. Regulars will be afforded more respect and have more influence than off the street customers, as they are members of the ‘family’, and are part of the resource train.

Another thing that I found surprising was the number of ‘normal’ people that don’t understand the importance of manners and proper etiquette in underground cultures. These manners all exist to grease the interactions between various and opposing factions and people, too make things easier, and avoid needless conflict. Violation of these simple manners will be addressed very quickly in order to stop any unwanted attention and to keep worse violence from happening. Trust me, you don’t want to be the one that the example is made of as to why these rules exist.

If you must go to, or happen to find yourself in one of these areas, stay calm, don’t panic, and generally just stay quiet. Everyone there knows you are not a regular, or inhabitant of said culture, and will treat you accordingly. You may take some guff or verbal challenges, but in general, physical violence will only come if you really screw the pooch. The surest way to guarantee you will have enforcement brought to you is by insisting on the rules from your home or culture be dominant in your new surroundings. This is a particular form of arrogance brought mostly by young men, and oddly enough, middle class visitors to an area. For real, folks, don’t be that guy. Your safety is in your hands, and is very simple to affect, behave yourself, don’t be an ass, and be quick to apologize or explain if called on the carpet for making a mistake.

Fun with de-escalation – Terry Trahan

De-escalation of a threat or situation is often talked about as a way to avoid a conflict, create good witnesses, or as a way to set up your escape. It is a very serious topic, and a cornerstone of good conflict management, but that doesn’t mean that it always has to be a dark and difficult thing.

Of course, all of our training has to be context specific, and we always need to keep an eye towards our chosen tactic not working, and heading south. If talking a situation down does not work, or ends up escalating a situation, we do need to be able to step up the choice ladder and employ the next appropriate level of force. But that does not mean that de-escalation tactics, the employment of them, and the training of them has to be deadly serious. Sometimes the absurd or humorous is a great thing to use, and can save the day( or night) as the case may be. The following story will hopefully illustrate this point.

I was working a night shift at The Landing Strip. How would I describe the Landing Strip. It was a biker/blue collar topless bar, that also was one of the unofficial hangouts for both the Sons of Silence and the Bandido Motorcycle Clubs. On top of this, it seemed to be a favorite place for college and frat boys to slum and live up their fantasies for birthdays and the like. It had such a bad reputation, that when I took the job, and told some of my bouncer friends where I was working, the main question was;”God, why?” Or some crack about how hard up for cash I must have been. Of course, I had a really good time working there.

I would normally work to corral the straights, and the Clubs would police their own members, and that worked out fine. Honestly, we, nor our customers had much to worry about from the Clubbers, unless you really screwed up, they just wanted to hang out and have a good time. Maybe make some money, but they were smooth. It was almost always the frat boys and insecure straights that caused a problem.

This particular evening, we had the Sons in attendance, including some of the OFDs, or Old Foul Dudes, including Scrounge, who, quite honestly, was one of the few guys that scared me. If we had ever fought, I’m pretty sure I’d be medically retired, if not dead. He was scary, but good natured and easy to deal with. We also had a group of young guys celebrating a birthday. For whatever reason, they were bothered by the Sons, and there had been a few minor incidents, but pretty easy to handle.

Until one of the young guys sat on Scrounges jacket. If you don’t know, a Clubbers jacket is a pretty important piece of property, and symbolizes a great deal. As I said, Scrounge was pretty good natured, but this particularly pissed him off, and he came over to tell me I had 5 minutes to clear the guy out, or shit would start, and the Sons would sort it out.

A young, drunk guy with his friends is not the easiest of people to deal with. In fact, they are my least favorite people on the planet to deal with.
I hope you can see where good de-escalation skills, and the ability to speak with people would be better here than the ability to fight…
Anyway, I came up with a plan. I had a waitress and bartender talk to the young lad, while we set up to run a free shot special. Free shots are a big deal, and we would go all out, flashing lights, loud music, all the stops would be pulled out. The ladies got him out, and now was the time to smooth everyones feathers, and return a party atmosphere, instead of the tension that had built up.
It is important for a bar to not have fights, minimize the tension, and not get the police called. It is all about making money, tension and police stop the money flow.

So, anyhow, back to our story…
The kid is gone, and the atmosphere is a little tense, so the shot special is called, and then I hit the music and lights. Music choice played a big part in my tactics. So, obviously, we play “Have a Drink On Me” by AC/DC as an opener announcement. We are starting to have the desired effect, but still need to get it back to party time, and especially to get the Sons mind off of mayhem… so what to do…
It then hit me, and I am at once overjoyed and deeply saddened by the fact that smart phones and YouTube didn’t exist then. What happened next is one of the favorite memories of my bouncing career. As the guitar fades away from the speakers, I cued up the next song, a 180 degree turn from the driving hard rock from Down Under. Out of the speakers start horns and synthesizers. This is one of the clearest examples I can give of a pattern interruption, breaking the mind of the target audience, and installing a new program that works better, or in your favor. And this was more than successful. For out of the sound system starts blaring disco from the ‘70’s, more specifically, The Village People. By the end of a 3 minute song, we had the entire bar, including the Sons of Silence dancing around, standing on tables, girls on the bar, all doing the Y.M.C.A… it was beautiful.

Now, for the breakdown of why this worked.
I had established a trust relationship with the Sons, and all the clubbers that came in. They knew they could come to me, and I would deal with things for them. I also knew that the repercussions were real, and I needed to deal with this quickly. Trust goes both ways.

I picked the ladies to talk to the young guy, instead of myself. The reason for this was, I would be taken as a threat, and would probably ended up having to fight all of them. This would not have been a desirable outcome for the reasons stated above, police, breaking of the atmosphere, injuries…
So, by having the female staff, who knew what they were doing, talk to him, and get him to leave, we avoided that trigger.

By calling the shot special, we got all of the patrons out of the fear and stress mindset, and started them back to a party and fun outlook.

Now, the music choice. AC/DC is a goto for rougher bars, and I played it to let the aggression be put to a positive experience, and start the vibe changing.

Then, I flipped everything on its head by the second song. Choosing a song that doesn’t go with the genre causes a pause in the mind. By playing a fun, group action song, we got everyone out of their own heads and into a group mind, with the intention of partying, and not murdering.
When you throw in the spotlights, flashing strobes, extra loud volume, dancing girls, and verbal coercion to fun, you turn it into a tribal experience, and set up an inclusive, we’re all one let’s have fun dynamic. It sets up a situation where anyone who would violate the space we made would be an obvious dick. Clearly, you have to keep an eye out for this, and have a contingency in place to deal with it, but honestly, the majority of people want to be included, and not left out.

Hopefully you can see not just the specifics of this example, but the principles behind it, the things that made the specifics work. You can use these as a guide to see if your de-escalation hits on these main points, while maintaining the adaptability and flexibility to match it to your own situation or training.

Unfortunately, sometimes it all turns to crap, despite you following all of the points and strategies, and like I said, you must be willing to show this. Nobody will negotiate when they are sure there will be no consequences, and you will need to be able to communicate your ability to deal with it in an unpleasant manner in addition to the verbal, mental strategies, but in the vast majority of the time, people will take the non-violent path, as there is an innate understanding that violence hurts on multiple levels, and should be avoided as often as possible.
Remember, have fun.

WeaselCraft, My Approach to Survival & Self Defense – Terry Trahan

Oftentimes during one of my seminars, or when I get a new student, the question arises, what is WeaselCraft, what does it mean, and why do you use it. Origination of the term comes from famed Firearms writer and instructor Massad Ayoob. He defined it as all the non-traditional things you do in a fight to survive. Back in the heyday of internet forums, I was part of the moderator team at, and my Brother and fellow moderator Don Rearic made a comment about me in a thread that stuck, he called me a ‘street weasel of the first order.’ Because of this, the name stuck, and soon all of the things I taught or wrote became labelled as WeaselCraft. A friend did a couple drawings representing a street weasel, and thus it was born.

Now that we have the history, I will go into why I still use it, and what it means to me. I like the term, it is unique, and it really sets the boundaries and marks the differences between what I teach and believe from other approaches. In a way, for me, it harkens back to the animal styles of Chinese martial arts, but for me, the animals become Weasel, Rabbit, Honey Badger, Fox, and Crow.

Above all else, WeaselCraft is a mindset. A way of thinking that has only one goal, to get myself and my loved ones home, any way needed. There is no dogma or tradition, no rituals, just a set of concepts and loose rules that inform the way I operate and move through my environment.

As mentioned, the most important aspect of WeaselCraft is results, I want to get home, I don’t care how, as long as there is as minimal an impact on our lives as possible, and we are safe, from both the immediate threat and the aftermath. This outlook and goal orientation makes a lot of options available, as when you realize, for example, that machoism has no place in a survival incident, and there is no shame or ‘proper’ form in surviving, you can get straight to the point.

Skillsets become very important when you are applying anything to a survival situation. In my experience, software, or skillsets, become much more important than hardware, or all the neat little tools and toys on the market. With the proper skillset and outlook, tools can be applied as needed, or created on the spot, but the opposite is not true. As we have all heard, when all you have is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail, when you have a complete mental toolbox… I think you get the picture.

But, what skillsets are important?

Awareness and observation; these are listed first because without them, nothing else matters. If you cannot see the problem, or the escape route, you cannot do anything about the issue at hand. This applies to confrontation, violence, and emergency situations of all types. To be good at WeaselCraft, or personal survival in general, or life itself, spend more time working on these skills.

Mental flexibility; the ability to see outside the box, alternative uses for items, differences and how to use them to your advantage.

Adaptability; I wanted to say resilience, but adaptability hits closer to the core of my philosophy. The ability to bounce back, use what is given you, change what you have to what you need, and see how and what you need to see. These are key skills, and without them, nothing else works.

Toughness; the ability and attitude to keep going to achieve your goal. But not in the limited definition, it also means the toughness to make hard choices, forgo ego stroking or feel good decisions, to complete your mission.

Decision making; this is an oft overlooked aspect of skill development. In a live fire event, the quicker you can decide, the better choices and more time you have to affect your plan.

Related to these, and falling more into the physical realm, WeaselCraft looks at physical skills that we deem more important than the fighting aspect. Things such as trauma care, escape and evasion, conflict communications, anti-abduction skills, active people watching and awareness, and other “black bag” type skills.

All the above skills are important to us, as it is better to avoid than confront, better to confront than fight, and better to fight than die. Avoidance skills need constant practice, and take up a large portion of our mental workout, and individual training.

Physically, our skillset is primarily taken from the SouthEast Asian martial arts, particularly Silat and Kali. However, the way we apply them is much more combative in nature than you normally find them. We take the principles and motion base from our arts, and apply them to modern situations.

We place great emphasis on maintaining a low profile, non-tactical appearance. I would say we follow the Grey Man theory, but now I see that has been made into a commercial venture, so we just try to look as normal as we can, considering we are very tool oriented.

Finally, a large portion of our training time is devoted to weapons, both use of, and defense against. The reason is simple, we are more likely to be attacked or threatened with a weapon, so we need to know how to deal with them, and with our first rule and goal being to go home, weapons are the equalizer, especially against larger, or multiple opponents. The weapons we concentrate on are small knife, various impact/stick weapons, pocket stick and variants, and a few flexible weapon skills.

None of us live in a vacuum, and we try to apply all of these skillsets and hardware to the modern legal context, as long as it supports our goal of being safe, and going home.

As I sit here listening to Mississippi Queen, at home, I hope you take my approach, think about it, and let it inform your own way of getting home.