Sometimes I go to training and see the guys with $3,000+ rifles, $1500+ handguns, and $1,000+ worth of accessories with the latest and greatest of everything Tactical; the latest 5.11 Tactical gear, hats, gloves, plate carrier, helmet, so on and so forth… Then I look up my gear and realize it’s a working man’s load out, I have maybe $1,000 into my rifle and then less than $500 in my hand gun.  I am sometimes embarrassed by my “Poor Man’s” load out; then I realized, it’s not just about high-end gear, it is about a whole lot more…

America has become pretentious as a whole. Unless you have the latest car, nicest clothes, and biggest house you are somehow inferior to everyone else. This worldview carries over into the tactical world, believe that. Tactical is synonymous with macho/ego at times, only serving to exacerbate this problem. Some folks look down on people for not being able to afford the all the highest end gear, others may not want to spend that much even if they can.

I understand the feeling, most intimately I assure you. As and instructor I get people of all walks come through our courses. Often I have someone come in with everything nicer than me, and that is ok. Other folks have what some would call “cheap” gear, but that is all they can afford. I don’t understand this attitude of: “you suck unless you have nice gear”. This irritates me to no end. I have known a lot of folks who do not have much money, however, they are good at what they do for this reason: They buy a decent tool, and spend time with it…

Now, let me clarify something real quick: I am not saying that you cannot have nice things, not at all. If you can afford the high end gear, go for it! However, you should avoid at all costs judging others based on their gear! On a related note: worn out gear, of decent quality, is a sign of experience and time, don’t let worn out gear fool you. In my construction days we would joke about the guys who roll up on a site with all new tools; this was a dead give away to that guy not having a clue what he was doing. His tools were all new because he has never used them.

Back on topic now, what is most important is learning to use the tool. Say for example you have a $1000 budget for a new handgun. You could buy a $1000 dollar gun sure, OR you could buy a $5/600 gun, spend a hundred bucks on getting some professional instruction, and spend what ever you have left ($3/400) on ammo and time on the range. You will learn more about your gun in a week like this than most learn in years!

The cold hard reality is %95 of the population does not need the best gear, they need good gear and the best training! So, next time you are at the range or a training and you see “Tactical Tommy” over there, wearing his AR-500 plates and carrier, ballistic helmet, 14 AR mags, thigh holster and 12 inch “tactical” knife ask yourself this question: “Will any of those things help me defend myself and my family”? If you wake up in the middle of the night, are you gonna throw on all that gear, or when you are at a Gala, will you be wearing your plates? I highly doubt it… Train for the fight you are most likely to have. All of the tactical gear is fun, believe me, and it has its place, but don’t get to caught up in all of the flash and forget the substance…

What can we learn:

  • Gear does not define a man, character does
  • Do not get so caught up in the gear itself, you never bother become proficient with it
  • Will all of the tactical gear equip you to better protect you and your family in the “real world”?
  • Do not allow yourself to judge others based on equipment, not everyone has the ability to have the latest and greatest

Stay Sharp


Yeah… I said it! I’ll say it again too; Guns are not always the answer! Well, now that you are yelling at your screen let us take a quick walk through the park to cool off. We are walking through the park on a brisk evening, enjoying a display of lights just before Christmas. There are a lot of other people in the park all around us but, it is fairly secluded and peaceful in this section. Before you realize what is going on some punk jumps out from behind a well decorated pine tree.  He is not holding a weapon, you see both his hands and they are empty. He is making erroneous threats and saying he will beat you up and take your wallet if you don’t give it to him. He has not touched either us, he is about 6 feet away, and he is alone as far as far you can tell. There are two of us, we are both carrying guns, and there are a lot of people around including small children just on the other side of the bushes. What do you do!?

Hold up! Before you answer; think through the entirety of the scenario. Can you shoot him? We are both packing after all. What lethal threat has he presented to authorize you such action? If you see any, I missed it. Even if you are in a “stand your ground” state, justifying that shoot would be a stretch at best. If you are in a “duty to retreat” state, you must run away from the guy before you use lethal force, even if it is justified.

So, if I can’t shoot him, what can do? Now you are asking the right question. The answer: A lot! There are many options available to you that can be summarized in this phrase: Non-Lethal. Anything that is not likely to result in serious physical injury or death is on the table. Here is one I like: Pepper Spray. It is cheap, easy to obtain, effective, and easy enough to deploy a child can do it, and most importantly, it is not lethal.

This punk is a threat no doubt, he is threatening to beat us up and seems to be willing and capable of doing so, or at least trying. But he is not a lethal threat as described. That leaves us with a gun that we have trained with and a moment we have physically and mentally prepared for, and we can’t use the gun… The gun is not the answer here. Firearms are great for defense in the narrow field of lethal force. There are only a few triggers that allow for lethal force. In contrast however, there are a plethora of triggers for non lethal force.

Quick side note: Don’t hear me saying that you should stop thinking about your gun and training with it. Even though it may be a narrow field, lethal force is extremely serious and you should be proficient and ready to meet this force with your handgun. What I am saying is you need to prepare and be prepared for those encounters where the gun cannot help you. Additionally, the threat as described above could become lethal in an instant. Just because you don’t see a knife or gun does not mean he does not have one, but I digress.

I want to get you out of this single track mindset of get to my gun. Do you need to be prepared and well-trained with your gun, you betcha! However, there are countless scenarios in which you need to defend yourself and your loved one(s) with non-lethal force. Please, promise me one thing: If you decide to start carrying pepper spray with you, do not leave it buried in your purse, pocket, or glove box… Like your gun, you need to be able to get to it in an emergency and quickly. Whatever non lethal tool(s) and/or systems you wish to employ train in them and with them. Train hard, and fight like your life depends on it, it just might.

What can we learn?

  • Guns are not always the answer
  • I love guns, I mean I really really enjoy guns; that said, guns are still not always the answer
  • Guns are a last resort, you would be amazed at how much you can do for your personal safety before you ever get to the solution that is a gun. These are a small part of a big picture, albeit a critical one
  • There are countless situations in which you need a non lethal solution, get some non lethal tools, train with them, carry them, and be prepared to deploy them
  • Understand the laws in your state. Be very clear on what the law allows for lethal force, learn it so well that you don’t have to think about it in the moment, you can just react appropriately

Stay Sharp,


I will let you know right up front that this is where my heart lies. Traditional Martial Arts holds a place near and dear to my heart. You now know where I stand on this matter. I assure you, I will do an objective job of explaining both pros and cons of martial arts. Let’s jump right in shall we?

In Mike Tyson v Bruce Lee: Fighting Systems, we talked about, and broke down, what fighting systems are. Here we do the same with martial arts, but I am talking about real martial arts. Those that have been around for some time and have been battle proven. Let’s look at the words individually;  Martial: Relating to fighting or war – Oxford English Dictionary. Before we move on to art, let’s stay on martial for just a second. Consider the origin of martial arts. They were birthed from war. Professional warriors used these arts in combat, routinely. You are thinking, yeah right, I never saw anybody performing those fancy dance moves in combat. OK, so, those fancy dance moves are called kata; and your are right; kata are not performed in combat. However, each one has a purpose, but that is another article. Suffice it to say here, katas help the training process and memorization of skills. Trust me when I say the good systems have some very lethal knowledge.

Art as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: A skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice. That is the fourth definition provided, and the one I like the most as it fits the context. Arts are free flowing and malleable,  allowing you to express your ideas and thoughts. When we combine the two words into Martial Arts we get this definition: A system of knowledge and way of life applied during combat and peace where violence and peace are reconciled. I could not find a definition I liked in any way, so I created that one just now; I am open to input where the definition is concerned by the way.

What martial arts are: A way of life. A martial artist is not one who practices battle, but one who practices peace. At times, violence is necessary in order to maintain peace. If you wish to get into martial arts in an effort to become a fighter, I suggest you look elsewhere. Will you become proficient in combative skills, if the system is a good one? Yes. But it will come after years and years of dedicated practice and study, not a couple weeks, or months. Martial arts will change your body and mind over time; becoming more flexible, stronger, having more control over your body as well as mental fortitude & resiliency, patience, and clarity are all components of what comes with the martial artist life.

What it is not: A fighting system. If you want to jump in and learn to fight, find a good boxing gym. Can you study both? Absolutely! I have for years, and you can too. Fighting systems and martial arts balance each other out. Fighting systems are the quick combat training, and martial arts are the long term investment, but both supplement and support the other, they do not replace the other. Do not go to a martial arts unless you are looking to start a new lifestyle. If you only plan on studying for a few months or to achieve a short goal, don’t bother. This logic equates to going to medical school and dropping out halfway through, so you can say you went to medical school; you and I both know that is dishonesty in the highest order, to you and to everyone else.

I want to cut the conversation a little short and take a minute to warn you about a popular trend. I have personally seen more guys than I care to admit teaching “Martial Arts”. Be wary of “Gary’s Martial Art System”… If Gary is not teaching a traditional martial art (or fighting system) with a proven track record and reputation he may just be after your money. Gary is fictional but the point is not. I have seen a lot of guys teaching stuff that is dangerous; this goes for fighting systems too. The majority of these guys are just after your money, they know how to work it so you keep coming back, and feel accomplished, until it comes times to truly test you skills. I do not blame you, you don’t know what you don’t know, and besides, these guys are more con-artists than martial artists. This is why I suggest you do homework. Find out what they are teaching and research it. Now a quick note here. I encounter new systems that are of quality, and are worth looking into often. New systems can be good if they are well designed and put together. Just don’t be taken advantage of, I don’t want that for you.

Look, martial arts are awesome, but they are not everything. They are a piece to a larger puzzle. If you read nothing else, read this: There is no singular system! Stay away from anyone who tells you otherwise! I have a black belt in Shaolin Do, it is comprehensive in comparison to some others, but it is not everything. There are many ways I regularly supplement my knowledge with other martial arts and fighting systems. Find something that works for you and give it everything you have! I leave you with this saying, sadly the author is unknown, however, the wisdom is profound. A student said to his master: you teach me fighting but speak of peace, how to do you reconcile the two? The master answered: It is better to be a warrior in the garden than a gardener in war…

What can we learn?

  • Ancient martial arts were born out of combat and proven there too. Lousy ones didn’t survive the test of time. Those that used the lousy systems did not survive the combat to pass it on.
  • Being a martial artist is a way of life, not a title
  • Martial arts are not a short cut to fighting
  • Before you commit to a martial art, please, please! do some homework. There are too many good masters and martial arts out there to get caught up in a con.
  • There is no completely comprehensive system; in the words of Bruce Lee: Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own

Stay Sharp,


Krav Maga, Systema, UFC/Mixed “martial arts”, Brazilian jujitsu (BJJ), and boxing are just a few examples of what we mean when we say “fighting system(s)”. These could be summarized briefly by saying: A fighting system is a specific standard of styles and techniques developed to train individuals to fight, specifically against others using the same system. For example, boxing is most effective against other boxers it is not as compatible with, say, BJJ. I have no intentions of taking anything away from fighting systems, I have in the past and continue to train in various fighting systems. What I do intend to do here is provide you with a working knowledge of fighting systems and how they work.

What fighting systems do, and do well: Teach you to fight.  They are effective and efficient at teaching you how to strike, where to strike, and hopefully defense against the same. Well, at least the good ones will. Just like anything else in this world, there are good systems and bad systems. Thankfully there is a slight reprieve in this department; the good ones flourish and many of the bad ones die out. Notice the “many” in that last sentence.

There is a very dangerous reality lurking just beneath the surface here. Many of the bad systems die out, but many is not all. That means that are several systems out there that are down right terrible, and quite frankly dangerous. I cannot tell you how many videos I have seen where a self-proclaimed expert is giving “advice” on how to fight. I am often left shaking my head in disbelief with a low hanging jaw from what I have just seen. Many things I have seen will get you seriously hurt, if not killed in real combat.

So, in light of that fact I strongly encourage you to do some homework before subscribing to a system. You must find one that has a positive reputation and that you can perform and practice well. If you have some physical ailment that prohibits you from getting up and down from the floor BJJ may not be for you.

The final positive aspect we will discuss here is time. You do not have to subscribe to a fighting system for years before you begin to become truly effective in combat. Most training centers offer something along the lines of a Mon/Wed/Fri 7-8 pm training regimen. With that cycle I would say within a year you will begin to flourish as a fighter, assuming that the system is not garbage, the instructor is good, and you leave everything you have on the mats. You will only get out of it what you put into it.

Now, what they do not do well: Change you physicality and psychology. Let me just address that little scoff I heard there real quick. Yes, fighting systems, if trained properly will make you stronger and more mentally resilient. But I assure you they will not have the same impact that martial arts will, but that is part 3 of this series. You may become more flexible, and you may be able to do more push-ups, and maybe you will find yourself saying you can’t less and less. I can say this with confidence and authority after practicing both fighting and martial arts for about a decade and studying for longer: The physical and psychological change that you experience through the study and practice of martial arts is unparalleled. 

 I highly encourage you to look into fighting systems. There are far too many to list here but an internet search will provide you with a great deal of information and direction. These are not for everyone and they may not be for you, and that is OK; but there is only one way to find out. Watch some videos, visit some local training centers and see what if anything is a fit for you. Be prudent in your research and choose wisely, for I caution you against hopping from one system to another before you can gain anything from one. Once you decide, you need to stick with a system for a minimum of 6 months, preferably about a year. Anything worth doing, takes time and effort; anything worth your time and effort had better be worth doing…

What can we learn?

  • Fighting systems are valuable and have their place
  • Fighting systems are different from martial arts
  • If you just want to fight, learn a fighting system
  • Do your homework before settling on a fighting system, once you start you need to stick with it for some time
  • Anything worth doing, takes time and effort; anything worth your time and effort had better be worth doing

Stay Sharp,



So, as I was riding down the road with a buddy the other day we got on the subject of fighting. Go figure huh? The question posed to me was: Who would win in a fight, Mike Tyson in his prime or Bruce Lee? I did not have an easy answer for that. However, it did bring to light an interesting point and concept that I have touched on in the past. A martial art, or a fighting system? Now, before we get going on this you need to know that I have a special affinity for martial arts. I have been studying martial arts for quite sometime and hold it very dear. But, enough about me.

I am asked on a regular basis: “What should I learn for self defense?” or “I want to learn to fight, what do you recommend?”. That is a loaded question the scale of: “What gun should I buy?” The only way I can answer this question is by asking my own questions: What do you want to achieve and How much time do you want to dedicate to the venture? There are a lot of subsequent questions and unique qualifiers that help guide us on the conversation but, these two will get you going.

Time is a big picture question, not short term. If you want to be a professional fighter in a year, I recommend that you stop the fantasy and check into reality hotel. Unless you are prepared to train 8+ hours a day, you can get that out of your head. Additionally, if you want to learn to “fight” I further recommend that you look to Mixed “Martial Arts” competition fighting. Trading punches is for sport; if you want to learn self defense I recommend you learn combatives. You can learn a great deal of combat skills in a short amount of time.

If you only intend on spending as short amount  a time as possible in learning combative skills,  you would be best off in spending a day or two in a good quality self defense class. The one caveat to these courses is: You have to practice!! There is no way you can gain and retain these skills on the level necessary to recall them in a survival stress situation in a day. This process takes time. Spending just a few minutes a day on the techniques learned in a good course will go a long way.

What I want to hear you say in response to the time questions is: “Until I die or my body won’t let me.”. Regardless of what system or style you wish to pursue, this needs to be a life long journey. I understand that we all have complicated lives. I have had to take breaks from study from time to time, life happens and gets in the way. But, as life allows, I get back into it. This journey of hand to hand combatives is not one that takes a week or year, but is a life long adventure; one with many paths and rabbit trails. Once you set foot upon this trail it captures your attention and passion with fervor. Time matters because martial arts is a long slow process, while fighting systems start punching things day one. The big difference here is; a good martial art will take this long slow process to change and modify your body to prepare you for combat in a way that a fighting system never could.

What you want to achieve is significant because that will ultimately determine the path you take. There are countless martial arts out there, and just as many fighting systems. Your end goal will dictate not only what genre you choose but also the style. To put it in a nutshell: Martial arts will teach you to change and manipulate your body first, then it will teach you to do the same to an opponent. A fighting system will teach you how to manipulate an opponent’s body.

I am not saying one way or the other on either genre. Both have their place and serve their purpose, or neither would exist. I actively train and practice both fighting systems and martial arts. I highly encourage you to do your homework and learn more about both genres before you start down one path. Ancient Adam proverb say: Do not start on a journey unless you are prepared to reach your destination. Meaning this: Do not start something unless you are prepared to see it through. Starting out, bouncing around will do you no good, you will never grow, and you will become frustrated. What ever you choose, embrace it and enjoy it!

What can we learn?

  • There are two genres of combatives: Martial Arts, and what we call Fighting Systems. Martial arts are typically comprised of much more that straight combatives. Fighting systems focus on fighting exclusively.
  • How much time do you have; or should I say, How much time are you willing to invest?
  • What is your end goal with this process? Only you can answer this question, be honest and answer truthfully.
  • Regardless of what you choose you must practice and stick with it!
  • Do not start on a journey unless you are prepared to reach your destination
  • My money is on Bruce Lee…

Stay Sharp,



I have seen countless videos on social media and other venues of guys and gals shooting with extreme speed and accuracy in competition. Moving from one target to another after one shot with incredible fluidity, engaging with one shot to drop a steel target. This is no doubt impressive, and I encourage you to find your balance of speed and accuracy, push yourself and grow!

Before we get going, let me make one thing clear: I am not bashing competition, I compete when my schedule allows it. There are many benefits to structured competition, but that is another article.

I am going to come right out and say it: Competition speed shooting builds a false sense of reality when you shoot once and the target falls, that is just not reality. One of my first times shooting an IDPA match I found myself allowing speed to trump accuracy! While I support the saying: A fast four is better than a slow 5, there needs to be a balance. What I saw myself doing was getting a fast 2 or 3 and moving so fast that my time makes up for my poor shooting, this is not permissible!

The thing that bothers me most about watching these folks shoot 10 rounds in 3 seconds, engaging 10 targets is this: It creates within you that you shoot the target once, and the threat is neutralized, this is just not true, especially when we are talking handguns (unless you hit the “light switch”). According to a study performed over 12 years at King-Drew Medical center in Los Angles, they found that only 24.5% of handgun gunshot wounds to the heart were fatal (learn more here)!

What I am getting at here is don’t allow competition, or watching others compete, influence your tactics. While there are situations in which you may need to engage numerous targets in rapid succession, don’t get in this habit of shooting once and disengaging. You can still engage numerous targets in a short time by planting a few well placed rounds in one target and moving on. It takes you more time to transition from one target to another than it does to squeeze your trigger finger a few more times.

Side note: Consider training for head shots. With the ever-increasing availability of body armor, “center mass”  shots may not get you where you are going. Training for head shots within 7 yards will not be a waste of time and resources, I promise. If you want to train for the one shot and move on kind of engagement, you must train for head shots.

What I’m not saying: Single shots are ineffective. A single, well placed shot does something, what exactly, varies based on the situation. I was talking with an officer friend of mine, and he was telling me about an encounter a friend of his had out west. He shot a suspect 3 times (it was justified for the record), the suspect then began to fight, and hard. The officer was in the fight of and for his life for over 30 seconds, which might as well have been 30 hours. An autopsy of the suspect revealed that the officer’s first shot blew the suspect heart to pieces. He was dead but he did not know it for 30 seconds. Thirty seconds are a long time do serious damage…

Speed and accuracy are critical for effective handgun self-defense, but, they are not everything. We must use sound tactics; which means addressing the threat until it is no longer a threat. Shooting once and disengaging may leave the threat intact, I mean, what if you miss?! This is why follow through is so important. If you decide to use your handgun use it to its maximum potential, don’t hit it and quit it…

What can we learn?

  • Speed kills; Question is, will it be you or the threat? You decide that through your tactics.
  • Don’t shoot once and move on!
  • If you compete do not allow your time to influence your shooting.
    • Hold fast to your commitment to accuracy and shot placement, speed will come naturally.
  • The majority of handgun wounds are not fatal, that goes for you and the threat both.
  • Follow through to ensure that the threat stops being a threat.
  • Everything you do is training, act like it.

Stay Sharp,


In 1989 Patrick Swayze starred in a film called Roadhouse. It is a rough and tumble movie with even rougher characters. Swayze is hired for his reputation, site unseen. They know this guy is as bad as bad can be. He woops butt, and loves the back leg spinning roundhouse (possibly why the movie carries that kick’s namesake). He brings in his mentor (played by Sam Elliot) when things get rough. A few guys want to prove they are tougher than they hear these two are and are dead set on proving it; then the fight is on! Both of these men had reputations that far surpassed their geographical reach. What does your reputation say about you?

Every now and again, I meet someone who says: “Markesbery? any relation to….”, or “I think I met you at…” or maybe even “Oh my gosh, I’m your biggest fan!”. Okay, I made that last one up. However, I often meet people who have heard of me, know of me, or know some of my family. They have some predetermined view of me, and have made assumptions based on what they have heard, seen, or read even though they have never met me personally.

We have no control over what people think of us, how they see us, or what they say about us when we are not around. What we can control however, is our own actions. This is where we need to spend our efforts, not worrying about what others say about us. I have had some nasty rumors spread about me in the past, but, those who hear them discard them out of hand, or ask me about it. I have spent many years gaining and maintaining a reputation of honesty, integrity, humility, and character. Those that have spent time with me know that if they hear something counter to what they know me to be, know the rumor to be bogus because it is inconsistent with my character.

What in the world does our reputation have to do with self defense? Frankly, nothing directly, but, indirectly is another story. Your reputation does not help you shoot straight under stress, make you stronger, or sharpen you blade. What our reputation does for our defense is spread the word. I have personally witnessed several fights that started as a result of something someone said about someone else, or at least were accused of saying.

If you have a reputation of being above reproach in character, as well as being a capable warrior, then you are a lot less likely to be attacked by those around you. If, on the other hand, you have a reputation for drama, histrionics, and starting fights, guess what? You are going to be in a lot more fights.

I was able to avoid fights for the most part growing up, as I was born bigger than most and maintained that advantage into adulthood. At 6’5″ and 240 lbs, I am larger than most. One day, during my stint in public school I somehow collected for myself a bully, he was 3 years older and 2 grades above me, with about 70 pounds or more (even if it was all fat, it was still mass). He kept pushing me around and down. One day, after I reached my tipping point I told him “If you do that again, I’m going to hit you back”. He and his two friends were standing over me mocking me and betting with their tongues I wouldn’t. They bet wrong… The next time he pushed me down (about 5 minutes later) he started walking away. I stood up, and commenced to run as fast and hard as I could, lowered my right shoulder and put it into his lower back right on the spine with everything I had. He went flying in the air for a few feet and landed on his face. He started to get up and come back at me, and one of my buddies tripped him again. He then got up and left the Gymnasium.

From that day forward, if I was in and around the Gym, he would not come in. Several times I witnessed him looking through the doors, we would make eye contact, and he would walk away. What did I do in those five seconds of action? I established my reputation. Everyone there that day knew that if you pick on me, there will be retaliation. I did not have a problem with a bully for quite some time after that.

What does your reputation say about you? Are you an easy victim, a pushover, liar, drama queen/king, a jerk, rude, needlessly combative, hateful, arrogant, etc? Or, are you humble, gentle, kind, hard, strong, an intercessor, a warrior, capable, honest, man or woman of integrity? Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments; my wonderful wife can tell you that I can be a jerk at times. But, does that define me? I certainly hope not, nor is that the feedback I get from people I interact with!

What does your reputation say about you? If someone was telling me about you, what would they say? Is it flattering or degrading? Would what they say honor or embarrass you? People will not remember you for what you had, but for who you where; what does your reputation say about you?

What can we learn?

  • Your reputation proceeds you.
  • Be conscience of your reputation and do your part to ensure you project the kind of person you want to be
  • People talk. If you are a jerk, people will know about it. If you are kind and capable, people will know about it
  • It takes 1 second to ruin your reputation, and years to repair, if repairable (consider public figures who lie or cheat, they are often ruined and fade into obscurity)
  • Integrity and character is critical for establishing a positive reputation
  • A good reputation won’t keep you from spontaneous attack (robbery/mugging, indiscriminate attack, etc.)
  • What does your reputation say about you?

Stay Sharp,



STOP! GET BACK! NO! These, are words; shocker right? You know what else is shocking? Most of us don’t use them in moments of danger. I have done my fair share of scenario training. More often than not in my debriefing and review, the instructor and I both agree that I could have used my words more.

Here is why I, and we, don’t use our words in high stress situations: In a “survival stress” situation our heart rate goes above 145 beats per minute. Our brain goes into survival mode at that point and we no longer think logically and in organized sequence. We think like the stereotypical caveman: “Gun, move, run, shoot, ahh!” is about as close as we can get to a comprehensive thought.

When we go into this mode, forming a thought is difficult enough. Turning that thought into communicable words is something else entirely. In primal mode our brain can only think in single compartments, one at a time. Talking  takes a compartment and moving and reacting takes a compartment. To be able to operate two compartments at the same time under survival stress conditions two things are possible, and one of them have to happen.

One: you are able to maintain a heart rate of under 145 bpm in a life or death situation. There is an exceptionally small number of people on this planet that can do this. Outside of an anomaly, these people are those that live in combat. They have spent so much time in combat, the stress of it has become diluted and is no longer exceptional.

Two: You train, and train a lot… Your run scenarios designed to increase your heart rate and elevate stress, then, you react appropriately; all while the instructor is yelling at you to use your words. I assure you, the reminder from the instructor will be the only way you remember to speak at first.

Using our words is important for a couple of reasons. First it helps establish that you are the victim to the witnesses. If there are any witnesses you have just told all of them by shouting as loud as you can “NO, STOP, GET BACK” or something to that effect. Secondly it helps you exhale. When striking and fighting, exhaling on force makes you more powerful. When you sync your strikes with your words, you naturally exhale, adding force to your strike.

I know that using words in high stress situations is no easy task, I do. However, as with so many aspects of self defense we can train ourselves to overcome some natural responses. Speaking during a survival stress situation is not a natural action, therefore, we must train it into our response. A little time and a little effort will be worth it. Words are not likely to dissuade someone on hell bent on violence. Your words will help you physically and psychologically, it’s worth the effort.

What can we learn?

  • Words are good and can be helpful
  • It is hard to use words in survival stress situations without training
  • Scenario training is a great mechanism and I highly recommend it.
  • Exhale during a strike to gain power, words naturally help you do this

Stay Sharp


I hate the English language; I do. I’m sorry, well I’m not really actually. If you study linguistics at all, you will know there are better languages out there. More efficient, less convoluted, and more consistent languages exist. You see, the English language has changed and evolved over hundreds of years, adapting and stealing from other languages. Over time this has made modern English excessively complicated.

Although I have a certain disdain for the English language, it is what I grew up with and am most familiar with. So, when life gives you lemons… I have a particular passion for words. I speak professionally to large and small crowds alike, I have been through public speaking training and education, and I have a Type A personality, with Anal Retentive tenancies (just without the fussy part). When I am communicating I sometimes get ahead of myself and get mixed up (brain moves faster than mouth), other times I am searching my vocabulary for just the right word; and very rarely I actually get it right!

I am very particular about my words. I will search and search for the perfect word, if I cannot find the right word it frustrates me. I have learned through speaking and teaching the significance and benefit of being particular. If I am trying to communicate a particular process to you I need to do so as effectively and efficiently as possible. If you have been to any of our courses, you know I will often exchange terms. For example, Situational Awareness is a common industry term. I prefer to use, Environmental Engagement. Same concept, but I think is communicates what you should be doing a little better. Those two words tighten up the concept and take it up a notch. To learn more about this term, read our article on situational awareness.

When it comes to combat, and communicating in the real world communication goes from important to critical; In a combat situation your life may depend on it. Now, what and why it is important changes a little. For me, speaking and communicating in a class is important so you can learn most effectively. In life, it is important to be clear and concise in order to communicate properly.  For example, if a man is “pursuing” a woman in an effort to get a date with her and she does not wish to do so, the woman needs to be clear and concise. Saying things like: “not right now”, “your not my type”, “maybe later” does not end the pursuit, it only causes the man to “up his game” until he gets the girl.

By not being clear and concise the object is never met! A simple NO! gets the job done.Or if you wish to elaborate: “I do not now or ever has any desire to see or speak to you again, leave me alone.” Now that is a clear message! If the pursuit does not end, then we may be looking at a stalker, and that is another topic all together.

We have an incalculable quantity of words in the English language. Often times we are faced with several words  that may appear to fill our current need. Typically one word actually works better than most or all of the others but, we settle for “close enough is good enough”. This mindset will spread to other facets of our thought process is we are not careful. We do nothing more than speak, other than blink and breath. If we allow ourselves to become complacent with something we do so much, how much more are we willing to let life safety issues slip? Your words matter, be sure your terms are correct, and your standards high!

What can we learn?

  • Our words matter, use the correct ones
  • Some terms, especially in the safety and security industry are mediocre. Do not settle for mediocrity.
  • Keep your standards high, starting with your vocabulary. If you keep high standards in this, you are more likely to maintain high standards in other areas.


Stay Sharp,


When I was a kid I would scare my Mom, on a regular basis… I would hide in the hamper, under the dirty clothes, in a closet, in the dark, whatever it took. I would go all out, I mean I would plan it out in advance! I would find out what she is doing, and predict where she would go. So, if she was drying and folding linens, I would go hide in the linen closet and wait. Sometimes I would wait for 10 minutes,  sometimes more, sometimes I was wrong and she would never come. It was always worth it… Looking back I feel bad, as I may have very well taken a few years off of her life.

Regardless of how I scared my dear Mother, I would always garner the same response: A scream, a jolt, and a chastisement, often followed by a punishment (and yet I kept doing it but, that’s another story). She would always provide the same response, a natural response.

This; this is what we are after! A natural human response! If we are defending ourselves when our fear, adrenaline, and every other human function is going crazy, we will default to our natural response. We cannot fight these reactions, certainly in the moment. Now, let me lay out a disclaimer here: We can also default to our training; once we have trained and prepared ourselves to encounter certain events we may default to our training. Our article on hyper vigilance talks about our mind being a Roledex, check it out to learn how it works.

What if we understood and could plan on our natural human reactions? Imagine knowing what will happen to your body if “X” happens, training for it, and mastering it! This would place you in the top few percentile of people. This is where our training philosophy comes in to its own. We train, and teach you what happens to your body under extreme stress, then we teach you how to harness it, then it is up to you to master it. I would argue that mastering our natural instincts, our reaction to them, and our response would make you super-human, not the TV superhuman by the way, just a normal person performing acts that most everyone else cannot.

Why do we do this? Well, you are going to do it anyway, right? Why not perfect and control our response!? For example; bi-pedal animals are designed to get as big as possible and square up to a threat (bears, humans, primates, etc. all do it) So, our fighting stance, to include shooting, should utilize this platform. If you become the best at what we do naturally, you will be incredibly hard to beat.

Bruce Siddle in his fantastic book: Sharpening the Warriors Edge, tell us how the Isosceles stance came to be. In 1927, Lt. Fairborn with the Bangcock Police department observed the officers in gun battles. They all adopted that stance naturally, it was not taught to them. Fast forward to 1989, a research group took 39 police officers, the majority whom shot only the “Weaver” stance”, a very accurate stance used by competitors for over 50 years. They put them in real world scenarios with a gun. All of them hated the isosceles, and worshiped the weaver. In that moment, 96.7% went straight to isosceles. What is the take away? Not even training can  overcome natural reaction every time. (I highly recommend this book, it is excellent!

However, there are times in which we train to overcome natural reaction. Running away, freezing in place, panicking, etc. are all bad natural reactions. We train those out, and replace them with productive activities.

What can we learn?

  • Scaring our mom is not cool…
  • Understanding natural human response is critical for two reasons: Measuring our response, and knowing theirs
  • Training is critical
  • At Strategic Defense Group, we train to master and perfect natural human reactions. We do not fight them, we work with them so all systems are working together, in synchronization.
  • Train to and master your natural human reactions, and you will become better than most…
  • We train to what is natural for that very reason, it is natural. It is easier to understand and master, because we are already programmed to do it, we just tweak it and master it.

Stay Sharp,