Training That Counts

I remember reading an article that mentioned Muhammad Ali’s approach to pushups and situps. In this article the author stated that Ali didn’t count the pushups or situps until they started to hurt, then he would start counting. This was because until he pushed past the number he was already strong enough to already do, he wasn’t getting anything out of the exercise.

I want to use this as a thought on training in martial arts, but with a slightly different focus.

I want to look at training on the days when you are too tired or short on time or bogged down with problems, or in other ways simply not feeling up to the task.

Obviously, if you have the flu and are contagious you should stay home. That is a given and it is absolutely arrogant and inconsiderate to place the health of others at risk.

But those other times, when you are distracted by other issues – that is the perfect time to train.

In the wild, the tiger on the hunt does not look to bring down the biggest and healthiest prey; instead, they attack the weak, the sick and those unable to keep up with the herd.

Human predators are not that different. They are most certainly not looking for a fight. They are looking for the reward. And the will not be looking to attack the person who is looking strong, healthy, aware, and confident.

 If you feel you are good in your style of martial art or self-protection on the days you are up for the class, awesome! Now be awesome when you are just not feeling like being there. Be great when you have some out of the ordinary pressure at work or are less than 100% in some other way. In this way, training when you are at a disadvantage; distracted, not up to it, or not in the mood to go through this, you are getting training that really counts.

Trigger Warnings or Personal Strength? Your Choice!

In my previous post, I began with what I thought to be a funny opening and poking fun at the overly offended people in our time. I am sure this was insensitive in the eyes of some people, but allow me to explain.

I play around a lot. My sense of humor is quite wide, and everyone who has known me for any length of time will tell you that there is very little that I take seriously. I am quite often very sincere, but only rarely serious. While I love my friends more than even they know, I generally could not care less about the groups, political parties, and social causes which they belong to and identify with. I can, and typically will,  view you as a real treasure, and not care one bit about your periphery.

So, in this article, I started with a trigger warning. A trigger warning is a warning for those who might be offended or traumatized by information or images contained in a presentation. I hate the entire concept of trigger warnings because it allows people to cling to a victim identity and in so doing, avoid the opportunity for growth and personal strength. No one ever becomes stronger by avoiding topics that bring up bad memories or otherwise make them uncomfortable. People become stronger by facing fears and growing past bad experiences, and in so doing they become a living, breathing example to others who have similar experiences. True, some experiences are harder to overcome. They must be overcome nonetheless if you are to experience any growth at all.

As a youngster, I was bullied. I was bullied because I was fat, socially awkward, and in general had no charisma or natural talents of any kind. I was unloved and, if I am being honest, I was pretty unloveable. And  all of this was in addition to being physically and emotionally weak.

I would never have become who I am or been able to get over all of that if I had just avoided anything that reminded me that I was fat, awkward, unlikable, irritating, afraid, untalented, or weak. Rather than avoiding such reminders, I became stronger, learned to stand up for myself, and (eventually) worked on my people skills.

But there are a large number of very vocal people who insist that they never should be reminded of things that make them uncomfortable. Such was the case with the post on my much loved Gurkha Kukri. When I turned a trigger warning into a joke, someone became…well…triggered.

In a rant where I was called every conceivable name in the book, I was chastised without mercy. The bully tactics were there with threats of certain actions to be taken against me. The email contained veiled threats of worse action as well, but threats from a person who can be damaged by insensitive words don’t mean a lot to me.

But the strange thing was the way in which this person was acting as if their unkind behavior was justified because they are nicer than I am. Obviously, they are not nice to me. I might want to assume that they are probably triggered by anyone who disagrees with them on anything at all if I am to base broad judgments on a single email.

We have fallen far. There was a time when our nation was filled with people who were independent, free, and able to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps whenever they fell, or even when they were knocked down. Remember the old saw “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” What ever happened to that?

And one thing that I have to add; we never let other people define us.

If someone says mean things about you or whatever group you choose to identify with, why should you even give their words a ghost of a thought? Do they define you? Does their opinion define you? Do the thoughts and words of anyone else define you?

Or do your actions define you?

Do you let your circumstances define you, or will you be defined by what you do with your circumstances?

We all have these options. I recommend choosing strength and self-determination. If my opening to the previous article hurt your feelings, I can apologize, but it will be up to you to get over it and move on, or pitch a hissy fit, whichever you prefer. Your actions are the only ones under your control.

Gurkha Kukri

Gurkha Kukri

*Trigger Warning* If you are anti-knife, this post may traumatize you. This is not a butter knife we are going to discuss and ~gasp~ look at today. The Gurkha Kukri might be described by those who have little to no experience with knives as a “fully-semi-automatic-high-powered-high-capacity-military-style-assault-knife”. Proceed with caution.

The latest addition to my collection of blades is something I have actually wanted for a long time, but never found the one that I thought was the right one. Given the varying quality of the Kukri available, I preferred to wait until I found something sturdy.


The Gurkha Kukri has always appealed to me. The physics of the blade give it a cutting power that is grossly disproportional to the small size of the weapon. It is known to be capable of severing limbs (tree or human) or removing heads. Like on those infomercials of old, this thing can truthfully be said to slice and chop at the same time.

The Kukri I have is from Kukri House in Nepal. As with anything, there are varying opinions on the quality of the craftsmanship from Kukri House. Personally, I find the work to be of excellent quality. The blade is made of 1095 carbon steel, full tang, and is not mass produced. It also happens to be a beautiful blade as well. The three fullers reduce the weight of the blade, and they also add a certain something to the look.

There are differing stories about the little notch near the base of the blade.


The common story is that the notch prevents the blood of your enemy from getting on the handle. I have not tested this theory for the obvious reason that I have no enemies. Others claim that the notch is of religious significance, and I know nothing to argue for or against this thought. And other people say it is for trapping an incoming blade. It would be a tiny trap, but sometimes that would be enough, so I cannot say this is incorrect either.

I don’t know why it is there, and I don’t care.

This blade is a beast, which would explain Beast being the nickname of this knife.

It weighs about two pounds and measures about seventeen inches overall, with a twelve-inch blade. It comes from the Kukri House already sharpened. As with anything hand-made, there are minor differences here and there on the blade. But a slight variation on the width of the spine, for example, does nothing to detract from the quality of the knife. Hand-made products will all have slight differences and that is fine. Unless, of course, you have to have every little detail exact, no matter how insignificant the detail may be. Then these things might drive you nuts. In that case, go get a factory made product and you will be a lot happier.

I am impressed with the knife and the craftsmanship that went into making it. I would recommend this one and will be chopping wood and other inanimates soon. I don’t do destruction tests because I prefer to let other people throw their money away, but there are easily found video destruction tests on this product, and I can tell you that even in the zombie apocalypse this blade will survive.

Finding an Edge

In a previous article, I wrote about how your initial reaction to some of the increasing types of very bad situations will be fear. Whether this fear is one to result in paralysis or a hiccup of action where you need a moment to decide what to do is going to be based on how resilient you are and what your unique life experiences are. Here I will be looking at the moments after the fear rush, and how we can find an edge to use to our advantage.

Your training needs to have a solid base in understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. You have to play to your strengths whenever it is possible to do so. It is my sincere hope that your strengths include the following:

  1. Training
  2. Awareness
  3. Psychological Advantage

I will take a look at each of these and explain why I feel that they give you an edge in a situation of unforeseen violence.


For training to be of any use, it must be based on at least some realism. The betrayal of martial arts in the 20th century was a turning away from reality and a rush to financial gain. The cash cow of having five-year-old black belt programs and such was too much for some instructors to reject.

But if you have a training that is real-world based, with an understanding taken into consideration of the actions which are legal for you to take, as well as an understanding of the actions likely to be taken by the aggressor, you have a good base.

Training should also be based more on gross body movements because of the way adrenaline plays with fine motor skills. The gross body movement skills will (possibly) still be  available to you in a time of crisis.


In this instance, of course, I am including situational awareness, but I am more concerned with your own awareness of your strengths and weaknesses.

If you are a manager or in a position of leadership in a  building that is involved in an active shooter situation, you need to lead, because people will be looking to you. It is human nature. Some people are leaders, others are followers. The responses of; escape if you can, hide if you cannot escape, and fight if you must are standard advice because not everyone is a fighter. The facts are really pretty simple. You cannot help anyone at all if you are dead. There is no cowardice in running out of a building where a person is murdering everyone they see at random. Get out and call Law Enforcement.

If leadership is your strength, get others to escape as well. Especially if you are a manager or person with authority in the organization, people will follow a leader. But even if you are a peon, but you know what to do and where to go to escape, tell others what to do. In a crisis, followers will simply follow. This is how terrorists get people to do what they are told to do. If you are a leader, be a leader.

If you have an easy escape, and you tell others to follow, but they refuse – leave them. You can only do what you can do, and you have to make your decision and follow you best instincts.

Know your strengths and play to them.

Psychological Advantage

Although it is commonly taught that adrenaline works against us in a crisis, the active shooter or the terrorist is under the influence as well. If we are trained, and if we are not strangers to the adrenaline dump, we can use that to our advantage.

One of the basic pieces of advice in active shooter training is the value of having a plan. When was the last time you heard of a child dying in a school fire? There isn’t one in recent memory because schools practice what to do. When the real thing happens the kids and teachers do what they have practiced.

The active shooter does not always have a detailed plan. These actions are random. Their plan consisted of selecting the where. The what and who are made up as they go along.

If you have a plan, you have a psychological advantage, if you are trained and practiced enough to use it.

Having a plan does not mean becoming the paranoid hyper-ninja. Take a look around your office or place of business. Ask yourself how you would escape the room if you needed to. Find at least two avenues of escape. Next, imagine that those escapes were unavailable (the exact why is irrelevant to this exercise). Where could you hide? Is there a way to barricade yourself inside of the room, or a room nearby? Lastly, figure out what nearby objects can be used for weapons. Having a plan is a good step. Actually practicing that plan is an advantage.

Those are some thoughts on the subject. If you haven’t visited my training page, please do so. Even if I am too far to help you, I am certain I know someone who can provide the training you want or need. If you are ready to get started use this form:

Do You Have a Reason to Train?

There is a stark contrast between people who have a clear purpose for training and people who are thinking about training. I see it time and again. People say they would like to get in shape, or think it would be good to be able to protect themselves. But these people never have that follow-through. At the first easy excuse, they take the offramp and are never seen or heard from again.

Other people have a clear reason, a purpose for training. They work in a gun-free zone and worry about an active shooter. Or they have a stalker or an abusive ex. These people have a clear and precise reason for seeking out training, and they will typically follow through on it.

So I would advise that if you are on the fence and thinking about seeking out training in martial arts, personal safety or self-defense, take a moment and think about your reasons for wanting this training. If you define these reasons early, you will increase the chances of actually showing up for training and paying enough attention to truly learn something.

I would also advise being specific in these reasons. “Get stronger” is a reason, but very vague. And there are many methods one might use in order to become stronger.

If you are seeking out training in martial arts or self-defense, why are you doing so? Is it something immediate (stalker, abusive ex, recent series of break-ins in your neighborhood)? Or is the threat more general (I see society becoming more violent with active shooters or there is an increased threat of terrorism within our Nation)? Or possibly something more benign (I want to compete in tournaments).

When you get specific with your reasons for training, you can get specific with the type of training you are seeking.

I hope this is helpful!

Initial Reaction

A recent conversation prompted this post.

There is a common saying for when things go wrong; “Sh*t got real”. 

There is a lot that happens at that moment when things “get real”.

Whether the situation is a mugging, carjacking, active shooter, ambush assault, or riots (strangely called protesting by our modern media) your first reaction will be to pause in fear or confusion. For some people, this pause is going to be a very brief moment where they are going through a WTF moment and gathering information. People who have been in bad situations enough times already understand when things are going sideways, they just need enough information to decide what they are going to do about it. People less experienced in the fine points of bad behavior might be stuck in that WTF moment for much longer than a moment.

No matter who you are, there is still that reaction of fear. Some deny it, but just like your belly-button, deny all you want; it is still there. When something other than expected happens, we have a period of uncertainty, until we reassure ourselves by knowing what to do.

People talk a lot about rising to the occasion, but in a crisis, we will sink to the level of our training. The person who has no training at all is only slightly worse off than the person who has trained in fantasy garbage. The main difference being that, while both are going to screw things up, the fantasy trained person is going to screw things up with confidence.

But if your training had some basis in reality, you will be better off. Did all of your “self-defense” training involve an attacker standing in front of you? Were you standing also? That isn’t self-defense, that is fighting. Different animals. The guy fighting you, that you are fighting against, that stuff is mutually agreed upon conflict. Either one of you could walk away if you wanted to. And the main point as relates to our topic here – neither of you are surprised that you are about to fight.

The active shooter, the mugger, the ambush, the gang assault – you don’t walk into that stuff knowingly. If you do, you need to rethink your entire decision-making process. These things occur in moments of distraction, weakness and/or fatigue, they come from disadvantageous angles and come with that hideous mix of fear and pain. There is a surprise that really could be called shock. Unless you are a total legitimate badass, you might even be bleeding by the time you know something is wrong. None of these are fun or games. They are real. Your training should take this into consideration.

Proper training can help you to shorten the fear/confusion stage of the event, and move into the action stage. Whether your action is to run or fight, do it with all the ferocity of a supernova. You probably only have one chance. Make it good. If you want to train, I can help, get started here:

Escape, Hide, Fight: Is There a “Right” Answer?

As a follow-up and a way to answer some of the questions that have come in since I made my last post, I am going to  look at the three main ideas of what to do in the event of an active shooter/terrorist shooter* situation.

There are three standard responses taught regarding the bad guy with a gun scenario; escape, hide, fight. It is taught that we should escape first because we are of no use to anyone if we are dead. It is further taught that we should hide if we cannot escape because we need to be out of the way of the professionals when they arrive. And we are also taught that we should fight, and this is even taught in the Federal courses, only as a last resort.

Working in this field, the question always turns up regarding which response is the best one.

The fact of the matter is that there are two big issues that will determine which answer is right. These factors are who are you and what are the circumstances. 

Some people need to escape because that is the way in which they can do the most good. Others will need to escape because, although they may be a person capable of taking the fight to the bad guy, and making him suffer dearly for his bad decision-making, they are very out of position to do so. They could take cover and wait for a better moment, but the thing that has to be remembered in an active shooter situation is that people are being shot while you wait. That is a pretty costly decision when you understand that seconds count, and you are waiting for a better hand. Tough call.

Hiding is another tough option because once you lock a door and begin the process of barricading it, there comes a point where you cannot open the door, even if you are certain the person begging for help out there is not the shooter.

Fighting is taught as a last resort. And for many people, this is probably sound advice. Many people in our time are not really fighters. Watching MMA on TV does not make one a fighter. For some people, though, fighting is a viable first option. Obviously, provided that they are in a position to do so. But what would have been the outcome in Orlando if every able bodied man in the room rushed the shooter? Even using a conservative estimate that only twenty people in the room were capable of fighting and subduing a person, how differently would that story have ended?

We cannot know.

I always advise people to play to their strengths but to also be able to see the situational factors that can change the effectiveness of their base plan. I may have a base plan to attack the active shooter, but if the situation is that I have to bridge fifty yards without cover or concealment, I would probably need to escape or hide instead.

The idea of escape, hide or fight is not a perfect plan. But that does not mean it is not a good plan. Given the different types of people I have taught and the widely varying mindsets of different people, it is probably still a good starting point. Which option is the best? The one that fits the person and the situation.

In the end, the choice is yours to make. You will make it based on all available information and you will sink to the level of your training. Make that training as good as you can get. I can help you find quality instruction when you are ready to start:

*I do not draw a distinction between the two, but they were separate categories in the emails I had coming in after the last article. When viewed closely, the guy shooting up a place because he was fired, and the guy shooting up the place because his Wife is cheating on him and the guy shooting up the place because his religion is telling him to are no different, except in motivation. At the time of the shooting, their individual motivation means nothing. What matters is to stop the threat.