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.