Risen from Ashes: Rebuild 3.0

I’m sure most of you have unsubscribed by now, but I’m back after a several month long hiatus because of some pretty serious health issues. I’ve been facing some pretty debilitating side effects which have severely impacted my ability to shoot and move around.

During my down time, I was forced to adapt to my new (weaker and slower) reality when it came to shooting and generally getting around. My body is on the mend and will improve over the coming months, but in the mean time I intend to document the changes I’ve had to make both in my firearms practice, but also how I protect and care for my son. Let the reboot begin.

Back in Business,


“Flipping the GO Switch!”

When I get mad, I just black out and start wrecking people. I don’t have control, I just start breaking things until the problem is solved.

-Paraphrasing some Douche on a forum in 2008

First, let me remind you that I’m a baby in this world of self defense. I’m also a resource constrained regular Joe who has limited time to develop myself as my families protector. I’ve only been taking formal shooting classes for 8 years or so. That said, in 2008, I had a few formal shooting classes under my belt. I started realizing that shooting was only a very small part of the puzzle, thanks to Shivwork‘s Total Protection Interactive forum. As I was piecing together the framework for how I currently approach the personal protection and family security game, I realized that I had a problem. Which turned out to be more than one problem, which I’ll get to.

So after a few insta-warrior (/sarcasm) pistol classes, I was pretty sure I had the shooting part figured out (I didn’t). I knew I need some combative/hand-to-gland training. At the time, without any reference point, I decided that I had unusually low aggression. That is, I take a lot of shit from people before I get angry. At the time, I decided that this was bad. I decided that it would get me killed in da streetz. I figured I’d let some hobo off his meds stab me in the guts and I’d apologize for bleeding on him. So I did what any neophyte would do; I asked the internet. I asked my question on Tactical Response’s forum GetofftheX, and basically innocently asked “How can I flip the angry switch?”. I wanted to know how to quickly bring myself to a ‘fight’ state and be ready for a fight for my life. This was my way of looking for an easy way out.  I guess I thought that in a state of rage and adrenaline, I’d somehow make good decisions and rise to whatever level of skill was needed to handle the problem. The responses poured in. Some people recommended having some anchor word that would ‘set me off’ emotionally, or that I should take Krav Maga (ughh), or that I should get punched in the face to really learn what mad was, or any number of other suggestions. I wish I could find the original post, but it was purged years ago. I’m sure I would have a laugh. I feel silly for having posted that now, but at the time I just had no idea.

Here we are in 2015 and I’ve had a lot of time to think about this and a good amount of flight time coming to terms with my personal demeanor, developing my skill-sets, my abilities, and my outlook. I’ll make a list which applies to me, but if you feel like you’re surrounded on the forums by steely-eyed killers who pretend they can summon the spirits of Valhalla on demand, maybe it will give you some comfort and guidance.

  1. It is actually a non-issue to be timid. Being non-confrontational allows me to sidestep and deescalate situations that a hot-head might not allow himself to. The key is being non-confrontational and having the ace in the hole of a skill-set that has been forged through hours of sparring and pressure testing. For me, it’s about having the skills and a set of rules for when to use those skills. No purposeful emotion, just calculated response.
  2. For me, as far as I can tell, there is no “go” switch. There is the integration and implementation of skills, rules, and judgement which I’ll have to rely on to get me out of a tight spot. I’m not the type to “black out” and when I come to, the room is full of dead bad guys. I’d wager you’re not either. We can’t fool ourselves into thinking we will somehow rise to the occasion riding pure aggression. That’s a recipe to being a worthless wet noodle in about 30 seconds, not for winning a fight.
  3. My feelings of ineptitude were well founded. I KNEW I didn’t know anything, so I started seeking knowledge from trusted sources. Find a group of friends. If they don’t emphasize ‘alive training‘ against resisting opponents, find a new group that does. You’ll need a relatively strong bullshit filter because often the guys who suck the most think they are the baddest dudes around. Look for the guys who rarely post on the forums because they are too busy actually doing instead of writing about it on the internet. This is key.
  4. It’s important to be honest with yourself and realize the only way to develop a skill-set is through years of dedicated training. Be it medical, interpersonal, martial arts, or shooting. There is no weekend seminar that will give you all of the answers. You will suck for a long time, and the more you realize you suck the better off you are. You do suck. We all do. The incremental confidence is earned in the sweat you leave on the mats, in the jabs you catch from letting your hands drift down, the -3’s on the targets at the match, and from the SIMs rounds you take in the small of your back. It just takes time. The way is in Training. Here’s my friend and mentor Paul Sharp’s take. You should take his word for it, he’s been doing this stuff for a lifetime.
  5. Prepare yourself to lose. Over and Over. For years at a time. If your ego can’t take that, I know a good Krav Maga school down the street…
  6. WWII combatives and systems like Krav Maga don’t work for me. They have tremendous appeal to the neophyte because they promise rapid results and instant tough guy status.The seminar method just simply won’t allow you to gain any level of proficiency. I find they are usually a money grab similar to the shitty McDojos with afterschool programs that get you a black belt in 2 years. These systems probably wouldn’t work for you in isolation.  The crux of it is that you rarely (in most krav schools) spar against resisting opponents. The lack of opposing will cheapens the training and you will leave with a false sense of confidence in what you can do. If the school says you can’t perform a move on a real person because it’s too dangerous, RUN. Don’t walk. There are things you can take from these schools, but they always work better with a solid athletic martial arts base in something like boxing, muay thai, judo, or jiu jitsu.

    Beware the one finger death touch.
  7. Become inoculated to the fear of being in bad positions and being hit. Once again, this is ONLY possible through sparring and rolling against a resisting opponent. It’s scary to be on the bottom with someone smashing you from on top. It hurts to catch a straight punch to the nose. It hurts to get tossed on your back. But the more times you are there, the easier it becomes to think and problem solve. Once you realize you won’t vaporize if you get punched in the nose, you’ll start to gain confidence and you are free to come out of your shell.

    Resisting Opponent
    Resisting Opponent
  8. Have a line in the sand. For me, I intellectualize it to such an extent that I need to literally have the rules in my head. I use Craig Douglas’ “Ask, Tell, Act” when dealing with unknowns to protect interpersonal space. I literally imagine a circle drawn in my mind around myself and say “if he comes inside this ring, it’s time to throw a cross”. Or for pistols, “If this guy robbing this store points his gun at the clerk again, I’m going to shoot him in the ear hole”. You get the idea. Work it out before hand, and practice it.
  9. Losing control and wildly punching doesn’t allow you to fight longer than 30 seconds flat out. Any combative that has you go fully anaerobic against an opponent for the sake of overwhelming him with strikes is probably silly. You’d be better off doing a cohesive boxing blast and running him over in an intelligent manner. Composure and keeping your head is much preferred to hulking out and soon gassing out.
  10. You will suck… for long time. But…

I think that’s it. Dive into a martial art that emphasizes sparring. My suggestions based on lots of trusted friend’s opinions are Muay Thai, Boxing, Wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, and Judo. Gain confidence. Get your ego in check. Admit that there’s a lifetime of learning to be done and start the journey. It’s the best decision you’ll make. Not only will you realize that the “GO switch” isn’t necessary to develop, it will become a non-issue.

Protect the Brood and Stay Dangerous,


Mental Workout: App Assisted Awareness Exercises

One of the most challenging things I’ve faced in the last year is a slow degradation in physical capacity due to chemotherapy and resulting side effects. It has taken me away from the gym, the grappling mats, and recently, it has slowed my ability to hit the range and compete. For the record, I’m on the mend and the doctors expect the symptoms to resolve over the next year or so. Since I couldn’t make it to the Rangemaster Conference this year, I decided to be useful and write this post. I digress…

I, not being content to roll over and quit, have been looking for ways to be a better ‘me’ today than I was yesterday. I have narrowed down the best bang for the buck to be mental training. When I go to the range, I do decisional and thinking shooting exercises like I mentioned in this article and this one. The requirements for success in these drills (and extrapolating to actual defensive situations) boils down to rapid processing of new information as it becomes available, rapid visual processing and decision making, and the ability to memorize lists of information or details that might help later when recalling the situation to teammates or authorities. It’s not news that research shows that the brain will atrophy with age, and that it can be ‘strengthened’ with use.

On a lark, I downloaded Einstein Brain Trainer HD and started messing around with it. For me, it has been well worth $3. There’s a free version that will give you an idea of what it’s about.

What I like about it:

  • Some of the games are directly applicable to awareness and memorizing details

This game will let you look at 2, 3 or 4 people with names, then it will ask which person had which face, article of clothing, or  item in their hand. For whatever reason, this is hard game for me, especially when it’s more than two people. I see direct benefit to self defense because sometimes the best course of action is to be a good witness. If you can recall clothing details, facial features, or license plates, it is helpful to police for catching the bad guys. There are also games about remembering directions, sequence of events, and numbers. I’m sure you can think of plenty of ways this could be useful.Screenshot_2015-02-14-12-13-17

  • There are logic games that force you to work on  patterns and processing several layers of instructions within a given time limit.

This game is almost exactly like working a decision shooting drill. It adds movement of the shapes as well as colors and shapes. It ties my mind in a knot pretty quickly.  There’s another 5 logic games in addition to this.Screenshot_2015-02-14-12-09-30

  • It works visual speed and processing, as well as perspective and spacial relations.

This game asks you to choose from which location the top image is being viewed from. This is useful in visualizing cover, room layout, depth, hiding spots, as well as shooting problems. I find that I’m quite good at the visual games. I think I’m wired to do well at these, it might be part of why I chose engineering as a career.


  • It rates you and gets progressively harder. You can see what areas you excel at, and then work on the weak areas. Well-rounded is the goal.


  • It gives you a reminder to do a daily workout. It takes no more than 5 minutes to run through the games. As Cecil pointed out in his article one small thing a day, and the premise behind Claude’s 1,000 days of dryfire, daily disciplined practice is the true way to mastery. Why should mental training be different? Do your daily workout on the John in the morning. Done and done. You’re re-wiring your brain. You’re becoming a better protector for your family. You’re going to be able to make change at the grocery store faster. There’s no downside.

Get your mental plasticity on! Make yourself a little better today than you were yesterday, even if your body is broken. Do Work.

Protect the Brood,


PS: Here’s some other mental trainers I found on Amazon that might also be useful. I have no experience with them. You might also find most of them on Google Play or ITunes.
Brain Trainer Special Pro

Mind Games Pro

Fit Brains Trainer

Control What You Can

Cecil at Immediate Action Combatives posted this link. I think every one of you should read it.

You are responsible for you. You are responsible for your actions. You do have control over who your enemy will be fighting. You have control over the training you will have had. You have control over what speed and accuracy you will be able to achieve. You have control over whether you are fit enough to move, fast enough. You are in control of everything that you are in control of. Accept that responsibility.


Hold yourself to a higher standard and DO THE WORK.