Monday, October 20, 2014

What You See IS What You Get: The Power of Visual Perspective

Seeing is believing. It’s also a huge part of learning effectively.


Think about the last time you attended a martial arts/self-defense class or seminar. If it followed the typical form, the instructor and his demonstration assistant got up at the front of the room and “taught” the technique—explaining it and demonstrating it several times. You and everyone else stood back at a respectful distance and followed along the best you could. When the “instruction” was done, everyone nodded, turned to their partners and asked “Did you get that?” In many cases, the honest answer was “no,” so you did your best to fumble through something that looked vaguely like the instructor’s technique, all the while hoping he would see that you were lost and come over to help.


If you were lucky enough to get that help—and if your instructor was doing his job—he would have taken advantage of the opportunity to not only teach the technique again, but to show it to you from the vantage points that allowed you to see and understand what he was doing. If you weren’t that lucky—or if your instructor wasn’t trying hard enough—you’re probably still struggling with that technique.


In order to replicate an instructor’s technique and really learn something, you need to be able to understand the dynamics of his movement in three dimensions. You must be able to relate left and right sides, as well as depth and both angles and vectors of motion. And the best way to do that is to see the technique up close and from perspectives that really let you see the action. In general, the closer you get to a “first-person” point of view, the better off you’ll be.


When I teach seminars, I try to overcome the large-group issues by encouraging students to move in close as I teach. I change angles to show them the technique from the most educational perspectives and sometimes demonstrate from a kneeling position to give them an overhead view that clearly shows how my arms move in relation to my centerline. Invariably, they “get it” quicker and understand the concepts and techniques more clearly than if I use a traditional teaching approach.


Several years ago, I went a step further by using live video in conjunction with my seminar teaching. In addition to seeing me “in the flesh,” I set up a video camera linked to a projector or a big-screen TV to show the details and the perspectives that students couldn’t see as a group. Much like a “Jumbo-tron” at sporting events, it gives you a view you could never get as an ordinary member of the audience. The results have been amazing. Students who would normally struggle with detailed or complex movements began learning them more easily and quickly than ever before. I knew I was on to something.


I get e-mails literally every day from people asking when I will be doing an MBC seminar in their area. Although I actively teach seminars all over the world and have a number of certified instructors supporting my efforts, there’s no way I can be everywhere. After giving this issue a lot of thought, I decided to build on the success of my video-enhanced approach to learning by creating instructional materials that truly captured that up-close, in-person perspective. The result is the MBC Distance Learning Program (DLP).


The DLP is an online video-based program that provides short, easily understood “private lessons” on specific aspects of the MBC system and other topics. Unlike seminars and traditional martial arts instructional videos, the DLP gives you a first-person view of the skills being taught and is true instruction, not just a demonstration of technique. Like all of my current instructional videos from Stay Safe Media, DLP lessons are shot and edited by Michael Rigg, who is not only an exceptional videographer but is also a fully certified instructor in MBC. As such, he knows what students need to see to learn each technique. Most DLP segments are also taught and shot in my home office or garage where I can constantly monitor the camerawork as its shot to ensure that it represents my mind’s-eye view of what students need to see.


To give you an idea of what I mean, take a look at this video from the DLP curriculum, which teaches you MBC’s core defenses against an angle 2 (high backhand) attack.



As you can see, the videos in the DLP program enable you to see exactly what you’d see if you were training privately with me and exactly what you need to see to really learn effectively. They also illustrate the type of detailed, logical, step-by-step instruction that makes MBC so special. With the videos in the DLP, it’s possible for you to learn reliable personal-defense skills no matter where you are.


“Private lesson” MBC videos are the core of the DLP, but I didn’t want to stop there. The DLP library also includes information on the other personal-defense systems I’ve developed, including step-by-step instruction in Sobadiwan Eskrima—my eclectic approach to stick fighting, unarmed combatives, and advanced methods of solo training using my MBC training dummy (which I also teach you how to build). The DLP video library currently includes more than 12 hours of detailed instruction, with new videos being added every month.


As many of you know, I write actively for a number of different personal-defense magazines. I am also frequently frustrated when the editors of some of these magazines take my thorough, detailed, how-to articles and pare them down to superficial topic overviews. It’s even more infuriating when the original photos I shoot with trained MBC practitioners are re-shot with untrained models who don’t have a clue about personal-defense skills. To overcome these problems and really share information with the MBC community, I also include unedited or expanded versions of my articles and a monthly newsletter in the DLP. In fact, here is a list of everything students get with enrollment in the DLP program:


  • A one-year subscription to the MBC online Distance Learning Program library, including free updates, archival videos, and bonus materials.
  • Access to exclusive non-video instructional materials, including MBC training guides and expanded versions of many of my published articles. This access alone can save you hundreds of dollars at the newsstand.
  • Online access to the complete Martial Blade Concepts video series—a $180.00 value.
  • A one-year subscription to the official MBC e-mail newsletter, The Plan.
  • Permanent access to the MBC internet forum and the MBC training community. This closed forum is reserved only for serious students of MBC and was previously restricted only to those who had personally trained with me. It is a tremendous resource for asking questions, establishing training networks, and exchanging information.
  • The right to request the production of videos on specific topics for inclusion in the DLP library.
  • A personalized video review of your MBC skills. You shoot and submit a video of you demonstrating your MBC skills and I will personally review and critique them, providing specific feedback to help you refine your technique and training goals.
  • A $150.00 discount off tuition to Martial Blade Camp—the premier MBC training event of the year.
  • Special discount offers on the purchase of items from Stay Safe Media, available exclusively to members of the DLP.

The combined value of all these materials and benefits is well over $1,000. With the MBC Distance Learning Program, you can get it all for only $500.


If you’ve been wanting to learn MBC but don’t have an instructor near you or haven’t been able to travel to a seminar, the DLP is your answer. All you need is a computer and internet access and you can start your MBC education today. Just click on this link to order.



If you’re not interested in the DLP, but enjoy reading my blog, please remember that seeing properly is critical to learning effectively. The next time you’re in a class or a seminar, don’t be content to stand back and struggle. Get up close where you need to be to truly learn. Be respectful and ask the instructor’s permission if necessary, but don’t settle for a lousy view. Don’t let “not seeing” be an excuse for “not learning.”


Stay safe,



Michael Janich


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Logic: The Universal Language

One of the things that makes Martial Blade Concepts unique is its teaching methodology and the emphasis on creating a logical learning progression that emphasizes both repetition and a deeper understanding of critical skills. This emphasis also makes MBC’s certified instructors true teachers, not just skilled practitioners.
The effectiveness of the current MBC teaching method really hit home to me recently when I taught a two-day seminar in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Of the 40+ students in that seminar, none were native English speakers. And although the seminar host explained to all participants that strong English-language skills were required to participate, the levels of English fluency among the students varied greatly.

Interestingly, the martial arts skill levels of the participants were also spread across a broad spectrum. Sure, we had some very experienced practitioners and even a few instructors who had a strong enough martial arts foundation to watch, analyze, and replicate just about any technique or movement they saw. However, we also had a fair number of participants who had never done any self-defense or martial arts training before—ever.
During my introduction, I asked my host, MBC Study Group Leader Horst-Dieter Stadler, to explain in German that I would do my best to speak slowly and clearly so everyone could understand the material. If at any time I went too fast or they got lost, they were free to stop the process so we could take the time to translate the instruction.

As the seminar progressed and the participants developed a solid feel for MBC’s critical skills, it was clear that they also had a clear understanding of the concepts and principles that powered those skills. When I introduced new material, per the MBC teaching methodology, I always related it to the previous material and tried to build as much “common ground” as possible. This logical approach and the constant reinforcement and refinement it provides really resonated with the seminar students. Within the first few hours of the first day, virtually all of them were “thinking ahead” and making all the right connections before I had the chance to explain them. When I showed a “new” technique or application, I could clearly see the light bulbs and hear the comments mentally connecting its mechanics to the material they had already learned.
Logic had become our universal language. 

One of the frustrating things about the martial arts is that there is a tremendous obsession with focusing on minute differences in technique. Sometimes that’s valid because small details can certainly have a profound effect on the mechanical function and effectiveness of a technique. However, in many cases, it’s a stylistic difference that doesn’t provide any clear function and isn’t backed by any clear reasoning. If a student understands “why” he should do something a specific way and that reasoning is backed by sound logic, he has clear performance goals. He also has a ready-made basis for evaluating and troubleshooting his own performance as he trains. Instead of mimicry, he has the benefit of a thorough educational process that includes visual, kinesthetic, and—within the limits of the common language available—auditory learning.
People often ask me which self-defense system they should study. Perhaps the most accurate answer is “the one taught by the instructor who knows how to teach and really explains why you’re doing what you’re doing.” That's one of the primary goals of all my teaching and it sets the standard for all MBC instructors. It's also why some very talented practitioners of MBC may never become instructors of the system.

Those who can, do. Those who can teach, teach logically.

Stay safe,

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pennsylvania School Stabbing--What Can We Learn?

MURRYSVILLE, Pennsylvania - A 16-year-old student wielding two knives went on a stabbing rampage in the hallways of a Pittsburgh-area high school on Wednesday, wounding 22 people before he was tackled by an assistant principal, officials said.
Although details of the incident are still being revealed as I write this, from our perspective as practical, self-reliant, defense-minded people, we need to focus on the real lessons that can be gleaned from this incident and not get distracted by the hype.

As usual, the media is focusing on “why” the incident happened, what the attacker was feeling and thinking, how and where he got his weapons, and all the typical drivel that passes as “news.” From our perspective—specifically with regard to the tactics of Counter-Blade Concepts (CBC)—we need to look at the details and figure out what we can do better to keep ourselves safe.
Like virtually all other knife attacks, the attacker, Alex Hribal, did not brandish his weapons before he launched his attack. One of the doctors who treated several of the victims commented "Almost all of them said they didn't see anyone coming at them. It apparently was a crowded hallway and they were going about their business, and then just felt pain and started bleeding." Although crowded conditions always make things more difficult, awareness and your positioning within the crowd are critical to recognizing a threat as early as possible and being able to react appropriately.

As we know from our study of CBC, in many knife attacks, the victims don’t know that an edged weapon is present until they’ve been cut or stabbed. A doctor who treated six of the victims, primarily teens, said at first they did not know they had been stabbed. "They just felt pain and noticed they were bleeding," said Dr. Timothy VanFleet, chief of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Based on this, focusing your training on default empty-hand responses that are consistent with defending against an edged weapon is a good idea. These defenses should includes techniques like the Compression Lock that control the striking limb and restrict the attacker’s movement--as well as his ability to continue to target you. From an MBC/knife application standpoint, the victims' experiences are another reminder that stabs to the torso, while potentially life threatening, are not immediate fight stoppers.
One of the most revealing aspects of this attack is the fact that it is estimated to have lasted five minutes. A school is a non-permissive environment where the carry of effective purpose-designed weapons that could have brought about a quick stop to this attack is prohibited. That’s exactly why people like Hribal choose such environments for their attacks. Again, for our purposes, it is a stark reminder that we need to have the skills and resources to stop an attack decisively—especially if we are stuck in a non-permissive environment without our preferred carry weapons. One simple defense is to use a backpack as a shield and back it up with eye strikes and low-line kicks to disable the attacker. You should also know where fire extinguishers are located and be prepared to grab one. Spray it to disrupt the attacker’s vision and then beat him with it. Carry a stout tactical pen and have the resolve and the skills to use it effectively. Finally, make practical, realistic empty-hand defenses against edged weapons a priority in your self-defense training. If the knife defenses you are currently practicing are contrived and unrealistic, now is the time to find something better.

Although it was finally the decisive action of the school’s Assistant Principal, Sam King, which stopped the attack, the message behind the media’s description of it is dangerously misleading. As they typically do, media reports described King as having “tackled” the attacker. While that may or may not be a factual statement, we shouldn’t let it mislead us into modeling “tackling” as an effective defense against an edged weapon. We need to be smarter, better trained, and more committed than that. Wrapping your arms around an armed attacker and knocking him to the ground is not the most decisive way to solve the problem. If the only technique you have is tackling, at least do it with the intent of viciously slamming the attacker into the hardest, most unforgiving surface you can find. Once he's down, strike him relentlessly until he is physically incapable of renewing his attack. News reports mentioned that Alex Hribal had been treated for minor wounds on his hands and photos of him in custody showed no signs of obvious injury. A defense that was more appropriate to the nature of the deadly threat he presented would have--and should have--"left a mark." Train to have more options in your empty-hand arsenal and don’t forget that you’re fighting for your life, not trying to prevent a touchdown.
Understanding “why” someone does something like this doesn’t do anything to change the immediate reality of surviving the attack. In that moment, you have two choices: Stop him, or let him. Being prepared to take decisive action at a moment’s notice is critical and must be part of your mental preparation for self-defense. Although it’s not politically correct to admit it, actively profiling people in your daily workspace who appear socially detached and potentially volatile is a good survival practice. You don’t treat them any differently, but you should strive to be keenly aware of their presence and look for any specific behavioral signs of a potential imminent threat.

I developed Counter-Blade Concepts to empower the average person to deal with the reality of an edged-weapon attack effectively and decisively. One of the most distinctive aspects of CBC is the emphasis on analyzing the characteristics and methodologies of actual knife attacks. This incident now needs to be included in that analysis. One of the things we need to focus on more heavily is dealing with an attacker armed with two knives—not just one. We're going to work on that. Traditionally, MBC and CBC training has also been limited to adults or very mature teenagers training with their parents. Teaching CBC out as a focused skill set to younger kids also seems to be a worthwhile cause. We'll work on that, too.
As details of this incident continue to come to light, don’t get lost in the media hype and sensationalism or the fact that he was "just a kid." If we learn that the attacker was depressed, disadvantaged, or picked on, separate any sympathy you might feel for him from your conscious effort to develop sound combative counter-knife skills. Remember, it doesn't matter why he or anyone else might choose to attack. In that moment, he's defined the terms of your relationship. And in that moment, your choice is simple: You either stop him, or you let him.

Stay safe,


P.S. As I write this, it’s only been a day since this incident, but I’ve already gotten quite a few inquiries from people looking for good information on counter-knife tactics. At present, the best video resource I have to offer is my Counter-Blade Concepts DVD. Although the information in it is solid, the CBC system—which has been validated in a number of actual knife attacks—has evolved tremendously since that video was made. Production of an updated CBC video is planned in the near future, but the best near-term source of state-of-the-art CBC tactics is the MBC Distance Learning Program. The DLP is a living, evolving, interactive library of short, highly-focused instructional videos. It also includes many other benefits that allow you to learn effectively through virtual private lessons with me no matter where you are in the world. Look for a video on countering double-knife attacks in the DLP library very soon.




Friday, September 6, 2013

Martial Blade Camp 2013

The dust has settled from Martial Blade Camp 2013 (which took place 23-26 August) and I can now look back on it and say without reservation that it was the most successful MBC training event to date. To put it simply, it rocked on many levels.

Originally slated for a maximum capacity of 70 participants, I overbooked it slightly to accommodate some late registrants who were veteran MBC students. Despite a few last-minute cancellations, we were still on target with 69 hardcore participants from all over the U.S. and Canada, making this the largest camp to date. I also had about a dozen folks on a waiting list with the hope of getting in, but decided to restrict the numbers to keep things manageable and ensure plenty of room to train.

The fun began in Friday night with a short get-acquainted session during which campers received their souvenir packages. This year’s package included a commemorative Spyderco Matriarch2 folding knife laser engraved with the camp logo, a custom-machined non-folding Matriarch2 trainer from Steve Rollert and Keen-Edge knives, an embroidered camp shirt, a custom-minted challenge coin, and an MBC window decal courtesy of camper Robby Cook.

After the meet-and-greet, the campers settled in and I got down to business with a presentation on the logic of MBC and the core principles of the system. Through a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation, I “front loaded” the core concepts of the system to enable campers to understand the “why” of MBC before stepping on the floor to train. This presentation was complemented by live-blade cutting demonstrations on “pork man” to quantify the destructive power of the knife and relate it to MBC’s preferred targets. These demonstrations were complemented by live close-up video feed—a feature used throughout the camp to more effectively share detailed information with the large group through close-up video shown on a large flat-screen TV. By the end of the presentation, campers had a clear understanding of what they were trying to accomplish in their training, why we were doing it that way, and the methodology they would use to achieve it. With that important mission accomplished, I cut them loose to get a good night’s sleep before Saturday’s training.

Saturday morning started with an excellent buffet breakfast that got campers fueled up and gave them another opportunity to get to know each other. We then jumped into the core skills of MBC’s standard-grip system, its combative application, and the drills and training methods necessary to promote rapid skill development. Because of the broad range of skills represented, we established novice and advanced sub-groups that allowed all campers to play at a level appropriate to their skills and knowledge. Although both groups worked the same material, they did so at different levels of intensity and with different levels of detail and understanding.

Saturday’s program of instruction also included Counter-Blade Concepts (CBC)—including a detailed analysis of videos of actual knife attacks—and a presentation on medical treatment for knife wounds. The medical treatment block of instruction was an outstanding addition to the camp and was presented by Affiliate MBC Instructor Eric Vinson, a U.S. military officer and veteran of service in three combat zones.

Sunday again started with an outstanding breakfast followed by more CBC training and instruction in MBC’s quick-and-dirty approach to reverse-grip knife tactics. Sunday afternoon was the setting for the largest instructor testing session in MBC’s history. This session included five senior MBC practitioners testing for Proficiency Certification (the equivalent of a black belt in a traditional system) and Associate Instructor certification and five MBC Associate Instructors testing to become Certified Instructors in MBC. Although testing for all these individuals actually began the moment they arrived at camp, it culminated in a grueling two-hour session that required them to demonstrate their comprehensive skills in and academic knowledge of the MBC/CBC systems. In the final phase of the testing, the “Conga line,” each candidate faced a line of 10 other MBC instructors and senior practitioners. As each one stepped up, he announced one of MBC’s reflex training drills and immediately pressed the candidate to perform the drill at high speed and with full intensity. After roughly a minute, I called time and a fresh instructor would step up to repeat the process. I then took my place at the end of the line to personally challenge the candidate with the “chess game”—a dynamic and spontaneous combination of reflex drills that requires endurance, focused intensity, and highly developed reflexes. Finally, I required each candidate to put his knife away and attacked him with a full-force knife assault to validate his ability to perform CBC tactics under conditions of extreme stress and fatigue. As those who witnessed this year’s testing can attest, I held nothing back in these final attacks.

All the candidates who tested this year did an incredible job of demonstrating and validating their skills and knowledge and I am extremely proud to have them representing and sharing MBC. I also recognized three Affiliate Instructors—experienced instructors of other disciplines who are now authorized to share MBC through their teaching.

On Sunday night, we took a break from knife-related topics and explored my approach to stick tactics—Sobadiwan Eskrima. Drawing from a broad base of Filipino stick systems, Sobadiwan takes the same practical, analytical approach as MBC, but applies it to impact weapons.

Martial Blade Camp 2013 had amazing support from a number of extremely generous sponsors. During each break, I conducted a drawing to give away prizes donated by the sponsors. Altogether, this year’s prizes included nearly $15,000 worth of products and gift certificates. The two grand prizes were a Rock River Arms AR-15 engraved with the MBC logo donated by Lane's Gun Shop and a Robar-customized CW-45 donated by Kahr Arms. I am incredibly grateful to all the camp’s sponsors, which included the following: Lane's Gun Shop, Kahr Arms, Tuff-Writer, Spyderco, Stay Safe Media, Keen-Edge Knives, Fobus, Mission First Tactical, Kitanica, FAST Holsters, Robar, Outdoor Channel, AP Tactical, and Blackhawk. Thank you all for your generosity and support!

Monday morning—the last training session—was devoted to study groups that explored topics of interest chosen by the camp participants. These topics included Bowie/large knife tactics (taught by MBC Certified Instructor Keith Jennings), Martial Cane Concepts, and my irreverent approach to joint-locking tactics, Junkyard Aikido. The joint-locking segment even explored some of my take on groundfighting tactics and the benefits of small-joint manipulation in ground defenses.

Like all Martial Blade Camps, the success of this year’s camp was due largely to the incredible support and assistance that I received from my cadre of MBC instructors. Every time I presented a topic or technique, my instructors waded into the crowd to offer immediate support and assistance to the other campers. When learning complex drills, every novice was paired with an instructor or senior practitioner to speed the learning process and ensure the highest degree of personalized attention. In 35+ years of martial arts training, I have never seen a training experience like the one we offer at Martial Blade Camp. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my instructors for making that possible.

Martial Blade Camp 2013 was an incredible experience. Based on the feedback I’ve received thus far, it was the best event we’ve done thus far. I welcome camp participants who read this to share your comments and feedback here or directly with me so I can continue to make every camp better than the last.

Again, to all who participated, thank you for your trust and confidence in me and MBC. I can’t wait to train with you all again!

Stay safe,


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

50/50 Exercises and their Place in MBC Flow Drills

During a recent seminar in Michigan, I had the pleasure of working with a number of high-level MBC practitioners and instructors. This “Instructor Development Workshop” was an outstanding opportunity for me to get feedback from other MBC teachers regarding their experiences and the challenges they face in getting their students to understand and master MBC and CBC skills.

One great question I received had to do with the place of “50/50 drills” in the MBC learning progression and teaching methodology. Since it was a question that resonated with the group, I thought it would be great fodder for a post.

As you probably know, MBC’s training methodology includes a number (basically 15) of reflex training drills or, as they’re commonly known in the Filipino martial arts (FMA), “flow drills.” Some of these drills are borrowed directly from the FMA, most are modified versions of traditional drills (changed to support MBC methodology), and some are MBC-specific creations. In the FMA, there are many variations of these drills and practitioners often spend more time arguing the virtues of their preferred version than appreciating the deeper value of the training method.

MBC’s approach to flow drills is “Drills give you repetition; transitions give you reflex.” In other words, a specific drill isolates and refines specific skills. Taken too far, however, and the drill becomes the end in itself and you get stuck in a hamster wheel. Add a transition to another drill—or at least a spontaneous variation within the drill—and now you have a worthwhile pattern and an unpredictable element that keeps you on your toes. That’s what develops useful reflexes.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to replace one of the standard Defensive Responses in the “rote” version of the drill with a different one. For example, in the Six-Count Drill (known in some other systems as “Small Box”) the pattern of angles is 1-4-overhead-1-4-overhead. In the rote version, the defense against the 1 is a “meet”—a cut and check with the live hand—followed by an angle 4 counter. That angle 4 is defended by your partner with a “push-pull crossada”—checking and pushing forward with the left palm while cutting down and back with the knife.

If you analyze these movements, you’ll find that they are very efficient and follow the principle of “the shortest distance between two points.” If you attack with the angle 1 and your partner responds with a meet, your knife hand is stopped dead long before it reaches his centerline. When your partner counters with an angle 4 to your exposed lower right quadrant, the most natural and efficient thing to do is to check his incoming arm and cut straight down. Per the drill, you would then cycle your knife hand up, much like the piston arm on a locomotive, and attack with an overhead strike.

Now imagine that instead of a meet, your partner responds to your angle 1 attack with a crossada—cutting your wrist while simultaneously slapping your hand with his left hand to amp up the cut. Done properly, his crossada will force your knife hand (your right hand) to swing across your centerlines to your left. This leaves your zone 4—your lower right quadrant—wide open. When he attacks it with an angle 4, your most logical and natural response is to “ride” the motion of your right hand, circle it down and to your right and execute a meet, cutting and then checking with your left hand. Trying to pull your hand back across your centerline to position it for the aforementioned push-pull crossada is awkward, impractical, and far too slow. As such, you flow with the motion imparted by your partner’s crossada of your angle 1 and do a meet against his angle 4 instead.

In addition to providing variations in the drill that allow for the expression of other techniques (i.e. a crossada defense instead of a meet) and promoting the development of spontaneous reflex against unexpected events, this training method has another important benefit: it teaches you to respond in the most direct, efficient way from wherever your hands happen to be. You may not realize that this is happening, but it is and your skills will benefit greatly from it.

So what does all this have to do with the “50/50 Drill?” Well, in the “old days” of MBC, I taught every conceivable variation of each drill to give concrete examples of the variations. For example, for the Six-Count Drill, we’d start with the standard: Meet—push-pull crossada—roof block (aka “opening” crossada). Then we’d do crossada—meet—roof block. Then, ideally, students would grasp the concept and the goal of being fluid and spontaneous and would change back and forth between the two. The key word there is “ideally.” Many students could not grasp the concept behind the two different versions of the drill and tried to treat them as two different drills—missing the entire point in a stunningly effective way.

Based on that teaching challenge, I developed the 50/50 Drill. I had a student throw an angle 1 at me and I’d do the meet, followed by the angle 4, which he would dutifully counter with a push-pull crossada. We would isolate these two movements only and do them multiple times. Then, we’d stop and change gears. When he threw the angle 1, I would crossada it, making sure to slap his knife hand far across his centerline. When I threw my angle 4, he would learn to “ride” the motion, curving the path of his knife hand down and to his right to yield a meet for my angle 4. Again, we’d do this many times, isolating the 1—4 sequence over and over. Finally, in the midst of the crossada—meet pattern, I would change gears and do a meet. Invariably, he wouldn’t miss a beat and would cut straight down, checking my knife hand with a push-pull crossada. After doing it perfectly, he would then stop, wide eyed and ask me what just happened. I would explain that he just demonstrated perfect spontaneous reflex. Eventually he’d believe me and would understand the concept.

In simple terms, when he threw the angle 1, he had a 50/50 chance that I would do a meet—and a 50/50 chance that I would do a crossada. He knew exactly what to do for both of those possibilities and had practiced both enough to do them well. He just had to allow himself to respond as he’d been trained.

In hindsight, the term 50/50 “drill” was a poor choice of words, since it seems to equate it to the other full-fledged drills. In reality, it’s more of an “exercise” that allows you to isolate a specific aspect within a drill to understand it thoroughly before you attempt it within the context of the drill.

This same concept also applies to the angle 3—angle 2 section of Sumbrada, Punyo Sumbrada, and the Serrada Drill. To see that in action and understand it more clearly, watch Martial Blade Concepts Volume 3. To see it in agonizing detail, watch Advanced Fighting Folders. Although the latter video has been superseded by the MBC Volume 3, it does offer the redeeming quality that it provides overhead views of the drills. Mastering Fighting Folders also does this for MBC’s reverse-grip skills. If you have them, take advantage of that view of the drills to see the mechanics from an overhead perspective. For some people, seeing the drills in this way makes it easier to relate left and right sides and may make learning them easier. Once you understand the movements, focus on MBC Volume 3 and MBC Volume 5 for up-to-date explanations of the drills and, more importantly, their relationship to practical defensive applications and targeting. In that respect, the older videos are obsolete.

As long as I continue to learn and evolve, so will MBC and my ability to teach it more clearly and efficiently. The “50/50 Exercises” are examples of that evolution. I hope this helps you understand and appreciate their place in the system.

Stay safe,


P.S. Thanks to MBC instructors Bryan McKean and Keith Jennings for their questions during the recent instructors' workshop. Your insights keep me sharp and really help promote the continued evolution of the MBC system--not to mention inspiring blog posts!

Friday, February 1, 2013

"Options for Consideration" DHS Active Shooter Training Video

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released an informational video called "Options for Consideration," which is supposedly intended to provide information that will increase your chances of survival during an active shooter situation ( Although the video has already been justifiably criticized in many other venues, because it suggests and demonstrates the idea of arming yourself with scissors to attempt to "overpower" the shooter, I felt compelled to address it here on the MBC blog.

The video does provide some useful information, advising you to know your building's floorplan and take the time to plan and rehearse evacuation routes to get you out of the building quickly. It also provides a useful description of what to expect and how to conduct yourself when law enforcement arrives. Beyond that, it is a typical "feel-good" government presentation that does little to prepare the average person to survive an active shooter event. Sadly, it also undermines the concept of decisive individual action and reinforces the belief that running or hiding are enough to keep you safe until the authorities arrive to resove the situation.

In my opinion, the most irresponsible and misleading aspect of the video is the statement: "If you are caught out in the open and cannot conceal yourself or take cover, you might consider trying to overpower the shooter with whatever means are available." This narration is accompanied by a shot of a person reaching into a desk drawer to grab a pair of scissors.

First of all, let's look at the DHS' choice of terminology. "Overpower" may be an appropriate term for arm wrestling, but not for a life-or-death situation. Faced with an active shooter, your goal is to STOP him by rendering him physically unable to continue his attack. Similar terms, like "tackle" and "subdue"--often used in the media--also create a dangerously inaccurate impression of the reality of the situation and the actions necessary to resolve the problem.

I have trained very actively in edged-weapon tactics for nearly 40 years and consider myself reasonably proficient with them. I have also trained extensively with improvised weapons and worked hard to dispel the many myths that surround their practical use. For the sake of argument, let's assume that you follw the DHS recommendation and find yourself, scissors in hand, facing an active shooter armed with a firearm. What is the missing piece of the puzzle? What would it take to actually "overpower" the shooter if you were armed in that way?

What's missing is the part where you approach the shooter quickly from behind and stomp into the back of his leg to drop him to his knees. As you do, you rip his head backward with your free hand so you can drive the scissors full force through his eye socket and into his brain. You then stir the blade in his skull and continue to fight with extreme violence until he is physically incapable of offering any resistance.

Does that sound gruesome? Yes. It is. However, THAT is what it would realistically take to bridge the gap between the DHS' feel-good propaganda and an actual plan to save your own life.

In an active shooter situation--or any other violent incident--you will be on your own. While having the will, the skill, and the determination to survive with a weapon like a pair of scissors MIGHT be enough, facing a situation with substantial pre-planned resources and potent purpose-designed weapons would obviously maximize your chances of survival.

DON'T mislead yourself by buying into feel-good propaganda. Start making REAL preparations now. Some tangible suggestions to start the process might include:

  • Look at your work environment and plan primary, secondary, and tertiary evacuation routes. Then, rehearse them and evaluate them based on speed, safety, and availability of cover and improvised weapons along the way.
  • Practice those routes starting from different places in the building, not just your office.
  • Have a plan when you get outside. That should start with scanning for secondary threats before you break the cover of the building and blindly run out in the open. Your routes should continue, ideally bounding from cover to cover, from your building's exit to a place of safety.
  • Evaluate the physical security of your office and take steps to maximize it. If you don't have a locking door, request one. If the management won't authorize it, achieve it by alternate means--like an aftermarket security bar or wooden door wedges.
  • Carry a weapon with you at all times and train to use it competently. Don't THINK you know how to use it; KNOW how to use it and practice those skills regularly.
  • Rearrange your office to make it a hard target and maximize the potential of available cover. Bookcases, filing cabinets, and other paper-filled objects are great sources of ballistic cover.
  • If you can't or won't carry a firearm, invest in other projectile weapons like pepper spray and practice with them to know their capabilities. Choose wisely so they are appropriate for your environment. A fog-style spray that affects you and your co-workers in a confined office can do more harm than good. A stream-style that offers greater range and more selective application is much smarter. Learn and know the difference.
  • Buy your own dry chemical fire extinguisher and keep it in your office. It offers more volume and range than pepper spray and is so politically correct that even extremely non-permissive environments can't prohibit it.

If you want to be safe and maximize your chances of survival, don't fool yourself; take action. Prepare your own plan, your own resources, and your own weapons and practice the skills you'll need to make them work for you. As part of that process, continue to fight for your Second Amendment rights and your right to lawfully carry the weapons necessary to defend yourself and other innocent parties effectively.

Leave the scissors for shearing the sheep.

Stay safe,


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The MBC Instructor Certification Process

One of the most common questions I get regarding Martial Blade Concepts is “What do I have to do to become an instructor?” The answer, in simple terms, is to first learn how to “do” MBC and then learn how to “teach” MBC. In reality, however, it’s not that simple. It's also not for everybody.

If you’ve been around the traditional martial arts for any length of time, you’ve probably seen your share of black belts—both good and bad. In most systems, earning a black belt is validation of your mastery of the basics, as well as a transitional point from student to instructor. Unfortunately, having the physical skill to do something doesn’t mean you have the ability to teach those skills to someone else.

Teaching, by itself, is a skill set. Doing it effectively requires the ability to communicate, to organize and present information, to answer questions, and to be sensitive to the learning abilities (and disabilities) of different students. When it comes to teaching physical skills to others, it should also include the ability to adapt techniques and methods to the physical attributes of different students to enable them to achieve the specified goal.

One of the unfortunate by-products of traditional martial arts training methods are the structures of discipline and respect associated with another culture. Respect and discipline are good things and should definitely be part of the martial arts. However, the cultural traditions and rank hierarchy of a martial arts system can be easily manipulated to fuel an instructor’s ego and as an excuse for lousy teaching. If you ask “Why should I punch this way?” the instructor's answer should provide some insight into the logic and mechanics of the movement that helps you learn more effectively. If instead you get “I’m the sensei (sifu, guro, pendekar, master, etc.). You do like I say,” the instructor either doesn’t really care about teaching or is unable to teach effectively. Either way, you, as the student, lose. Fortunately, it's a free country and part of the reason you're training in the first place is to learn to deal with abusive people appropriately. Walk away and find an instructor who knows how to teach. 

Because these problems are so pervasive in the martial arts, for many years I purposely chose not to have MBC instructors. Over time, however, I realized that by keeping MBC’s standards high and emphasizing the “why” of what we do, I attracted like-minded people who shared the same commitment that I do to teaching well. With their heads already in the right place, implementing an instructor program made sense.

To try to share MBC as broadly as possible without diluting its meaning, I’ve created a number of levels of “instructor” and clearly defined each to avoid misunderstandings. I also tried to establish a system that allowed potential students to easily identify legitimate, authorized sources of MBC instruction. As an author, I understand copyrights and intellectual property pretty well and know that once I share something with someone, it’s very difficult to control what he/she does with it. However, as founder of the system, I CAN control who I choose to recognize as an authorized source if information on the system. As such, the first rule is that if someone is not included on the contact page of my web site, he/she is not a recognized or authorized MBC resource.

Those I do choose to recognize fall into one of several categories:

The most basic level of MBC “instructor” is a Study Group Leader. A Study Group Leader is someone who has actually trained with me at some point and has expressed a strong interest in learning and sharing MBC faithfully. He may be an instructor of another discipline, but more importantly, he has convinced me that he has the character to continue his study of MBC faithfully and is willing to guide and work with others in the process. Study Group Leaders typically organize training groups and work MBC/CBC material from my instructional DVDs.

The next step up is an Affiliate Instructor. Affiliate Instructors are people who already have extensive teaching experience on their own and have convinced me that they do it well. They have also convinced me that they want to faithfully represent MBC to their students. Even if they teach other knife disciplines, they are willing to share “pure” MBC with their students when the students ask for it. I don’t mind if these instructors show two different approaches to knife tactics, as long as the student knows which one is MBC and the instructor represents the MBC method as faithfully and accurately as possible.

Associate Instructors have trained extensively with me and have fully mastered all the required skills of MBC and CBC (Counter-Blade Concepts), even if those skills are not well suited to their physical attributes. They have also successfully passed the MBC Proficiency Test—a comprehensive skills evaluation that is given at the annual Martial Blade Camp event in Colorado. This test requires that the student demonstrate the ability to perform all the skills in the MBC/CBC systems on demand and demonstrate in-depth intellectual knowledge of the material as well. If the student passes and I feel that he has the ability, knowledge, and basic skill to teach and represent MBC well, I award him Associate Instructor status. If he successfully displays the physical skills of the systems, but does not demonstrate either the proper intellectual knowledge of the system or the attitude necessary to represent the system, he received a Certificate of Proficiency, but not Associate Instructor status.

Once someone is recognized as an Associate Instructor, I focus on providing him with the knowledge, information, and insight necessary for him to become a true teacher of MBC. Typically, this involves having the Associate Instructor work with me at seminars or in small-group sessions during which I explain the details of MBC’s teaching methodology and how to apply it to different student groups and types of learners. This instruction also addresses teaching left-handed students and students with physical limitations.

When an Associate Instructor has progressed successfully in this process and has gained adequate experience by teaching his own students, he may test to become a Certified Instructor. This test requires that he repeat the physical testing process that he went through to become an Associate Instructor, and that he successfully teach one or more blocks of instruction at Martial Blade Camp. Very few MBC practitioners make it to this level.

MBC does not require formal recertification, as all instructor certificates clearly state that I, at my sole discretion, may revoke their certification at any time if they fail to faithfully represent the spirit, intent, ethics, and skill level that define the MBC system. If that were to happen, the instructor’s status would be revoked and that revocation would be documented on the MBC web site. Unlike some arts and instructors, I will not indulge in revisionist history and will not pretend that I never taught or certified someone when I did. However, if an instructor misrepresents MBC or fails to uphold the standards I’ve established, I will no longer recognize him as an authorized representative or a qualified instructor of the system.

If you’ve read this far, you may have already guessed that MBC does not certify people by mail, nor do I operate three-day certification workshops that trade dollars for diplomas. While I’m certain that I could make money by doing so, my conscience, my pride in my curriculum, and my commitment to the MBC instructors who have worked so hard to excel in the current system won’t allow it.

I understand that MBC’s structure does not make it as accessible as many commercial martial arts. I regularly receive e-mails from people asking when I will be teaching a seminar in their home town. The honest answer is probably never. Thankfully, I also receive many e-mails from people asking where I will be teaching and where my instructors are located so they can plan their trip to visit us to train. In most cases, those are the individuals who have already done their homework and know what MBC has to offer. They are also the ones who ultimately progress through the system to become instructors.

MBC is what it is because of the high standards I’ve set for it. I’m proud of it and I’m honored to have a cadre of talented, dedicated instructors that share it faithfully and without compromise.

Thank you for your interest and understanding.

Stay safe,


A list of MBC instructors and study group leaders is available on my web site at: