Course Review: Multidisciplinary Optimization Course at SBG Athens, Georgia

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“I’m not interested in selling you a fear-based approach to self defense.”

Paul Sharp

Imagine my excitement when I read on Instagram that the one and only Paul Sharp of Straight Blast Gym and Sharp Defense fame would be coming to Athens, GA to put on an 8-hour version of his MDOC coursework.

The two day, eight hour seminar was hosted at Straight Blast Gym, Athens. Even though the seminar was intended only for the SBG tribe, I was able to beg my way in by asking nicely and producing a credit card.

Paul is on my short list of trainers who I will do everything in my power to train with when they travel to the Atlanta area.

What is a Multidisciplinary Optimization Course (MDOC)?

Since I don’t have Paul’s definition available, I’ll take the liberty to attempt a summary. MDOC teaches the student to navigate the initial criminal-interview process, weather a physical clash (either preemptively or defensively), gain control of the opponent, and then disengage or neutralize as needed. The physical skills taught use a streamlined MMA (mixed martial arts) delivery system that are robust enough to work even in a weapons based environment (knives and guns) with multiple opponents in play.


This was an interesting course for me to take because of the students. All of the other students in the course were members of SBG Athens. They all had varying levels of BJJ, Judo, and MMA with minimal formal firearms training. The situation is usually reversed when I’ve seen this material in the past. There are usually lots of gun folks. It changed the dynamic of the course.

Going into the course, I was curious to see how Paul would tailor the course to the student base, and how the students would integrate their existing skillsets with the more ‘street’ oriented material. I think they all did a great job, and I saw a lot of lightbulb moments for the students.

“This bad guy is a black-belt in getting what he wants using his verbal skills and victim selection skills. Don’t get pulled into his game.”



  • Discussion of how bad guys do business
  • How do we deselect ourselves? How do we fail the criminal interview process?
  • Managing Unknown Contacts (talking to people we don’t know in public)
  • Preemptive striking to seize the initiative
  • A default defensive position into…
  • A boxing blast, a clinch (standing grapple) to a position of control…
  • A few strikes and throws from control positions
  • Dealing with two attackers at once using the control positions
  • Impact weapon defense (once the knife has already stuck you/worst case)
  • Firearm defense at contact distance
  • Working off of a wall (no maneuver room)
  • Putting it all together


Things I took from the Course

I’ve seen this material in various packagings from Paul and the Shivworks Collective since 2010. So the material was a good refresher, but it wasn’t novel for me. That said, I got a lot of teaching points and tidbits from Paul’s presentation that will be useful for me going forward. Most are points that Paul brought up, and some are my comments when hearing Paul’s lecture. I’ll list a few key points.

  • Mindset Lectures are the depressing (and necessary) dark side of the self-defense world. It’s possible to get students to grasp the ‘mindset’ side without dwelling on negativity. What are you willing to fight for?
  • It’s not about who’s in front of you (the bad guy), but who is behind you (your family, friends, and getting home to them). So don’t focus as much on fear of the bad guys, but love for your people. It’s healthier.
  • In polite-society, we have trouble being assertive and appearing to be rude. Practice and repetition make you better at it. It’s OK to be rude.
  • If you have a base in sports grappling and striking, all you need to do is ‘throw some dirt into your game’ and you’ll win most fights.
  • Give the bad guys credit. They are running a calculus of benefit/cost of interacting with you. They also suffer the same physiological effects when preparing to spring their ambush (pre assault cues). Learn them and you can see a problem before it materializes.
  • Sports MMA people have the skillset to survive in the gym, why wouldn’t that apply in a street context?
  • Words mean things. Saying, “I’m Sorry” is bad if you don’t mean it. Try instead, “I apologize”. Placate an aggressor, but don’t completely relent to their dominance.
  • Posture and Body Language is a critical selection criteria. Own the ground you walk on. You only have to look like a hard target for a few passing seconds to fail the selection process.
  • Children abduction point: Teach kids to scream “This isn’t my dad/mom!” to draw attention. Teach your kids to listen to their gut. Don’t ignore when a child recoils from a certain person. Don’t tell them to ‘be nice’. Instead, shrug your shoulders and say “kids will be kids”, and keep an eye on that person. They haven’t yet had their innate danger alarm suppressed.Recommended Reading from Paul:
    The Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift

Thank you to Rory and Adam Singer of SBG, and all the students for welcoming in the outsider and making me feel like part of the tribe.

If you’d like to train with Paul, his email is

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Book Review: Surveillance Detection – The Art of Prevention

A critical aspect of personal protection is situational awareness. An important facet of situational awareness is the ability to know if we’re being watched or monitored. We as private citizens should practice surveillance detection. We want to notice if a person or group of people are patterning our behavior and monitoring us or our families (or businesses) with the intention of some sort of attack.

The surveillance could be as simple as someone loitering outside of a gas station for opportunistic crime or panhandling, through stalkers with violent intent, or as complicated as years long terrorism plots. Surveillance is a critical part of all of these criminal activities, and therefor surveillance detection is a topic you should understand.

I was interested in this topic, so I found the book Surveillance Detection – The Art of Prevention on Amazon and started to study.

The book defines terms and dispels some myths that exist around this field. Throughout the book the authors use anecdotal and hypothetical examples to illustrate their points and allow the reader to more easily visualize the techniques described. They carry the reader from designing to implementing a SD program, all the way through what to do if surveillance is detected. It’s quite thorough.

The authors give ideas for individual, small business, corporation, law enforcement, and even military level surveillance detection operations. You can be as elaborate as you choose to be.

I’ll quickly run down the major facets of SD and note things I found useful. The steps to building a personal surveillance detection program include:

  • A Risk/Threat assessment in which you list all possible threats you face, the relative likelihood of those threats, the risk factors that caused you to include them on the assessment sheet, the preventative course of action to mitigate that threat, and the residual risk AFTER you have taken the preventative course of action.
  • Route reviews which are sketched on maps that include your daily travel routes, where surveillance (SV) would be able to watch you on your routes, finding parts of the route that overlap so SV can find you each day, identifying likely attack points, and determining SV’s likely cover stories and possible escape routes. For most people like us, these are in our neighborhoods, at work, and at any other regular stops we make.
  • Building reviews which can be sketched on google maps printouts of your home/office. With this tool, you can determine the most likely places of your home/office that SV will be looking at. You can see where they will observe from, and determine where you can watch them observe you (both from inside and outside the structure). I did a similar exercise in this post.


  • Tips on observation. There are three categories: areas, people, and vehicles. The authors describe how to observe an area for possible SV, using arching visual fields and looking at hard corners of buildings and vehicles (think parking lot at grocery store). Noting features of people and vehicles are also covered. Practicing these skills allow you to “be a good witness”. They are valuable to everyone.

The book also goes into depth about building an operational plan for team-based SD. This is more in depth than we need to go, but I found it interesting.

While the focus of the book is primarily on a higher level, team based, corporate SD team (because it’s the most complicated), a little imagination will give you ideas that you can implement for your family. I found this to be an interesting read and worth of my time.


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It’s Time to Complete Your 2015 Tactical Audit

Well folks, 2015 is nearly behind us. I don’t really know where it went, but it’s December already. Since I have a sizable audience (15 subscribers can’t be wrong!) I’m going to post about the yearly skill-set audit that I have been doing since 2010. It’s a way that I have prioritized my training in the major self preservation skill-sets. It keeps me honest and on-track to guarantee I don’t get goal hijacked. It is crucial for resource constrained people to do these evaluations. Without prioritizing you could let a needed, but less enjoyable to practice, skill slip through the cracks. I really believe it is the shortcut to becoming tactically proficient. I encourage you to do your own list, in whatever level of detail you find useful.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Evaluate your risk profile and decide what skills you most probably need? Pick 6-8 skills and list them from most to least important.

  2. Rank those 6-8 skills based on your relative current proficiency level.

  3. Choose the 3 skills with the biggest difference in rank from the most probable list and your current competency list. Those are the skills you should concentrate on next year.

  4. Write out your plan to improve those important, but lagging, skills.

  5. Do The Work.

Risk Profile and the Priorities List:

Here’s a list of some of the tactical skill-sets you can use in your list. The skills you choose depend on your personal situation. A stay-at-home dad will have different needs than a Tier 1 door kicker, but there will actually be some parallels as well. In no particular order:

  • Fighting Mindset
  • Verbal Deescalation skills/Verbal Agility
  • Fitness
  • Combatives/Empty Hand/Impact Weapon/Edged Weapons
  • Driving Skills
  • Pistol Shooting
  • Rifle Shooting
  • Medical Training
  • A particular Tactic (low light, vehicle, Structure Clearing, etc)
  • Primitive Skills (Fire-starting, Land Nav, etc)
  • Add your own

Consider the big picture of LIFE in this step (or keep it confined strictly to self defense if you’d like). Consider your profession, how much you’re in a vehicle, your neighborhood, your fitness level, etc. Complete a rudimentary risk profile to visualize your biggest threats. Also be honest with yourself and reflect on your real priorities.

I’m a suburban engineer dad who spends a lot of time with his family. Here’s my priority list:

  1. Fighting Mindset (having the will to do violence to those who would do you violence is the basis of all self-defense)
  2. Fitness (no better way to ensure longevity than with a healthy body)
  3. Verbal Agility (Most problems can be solved with good verbal judo, not to mention good verbal skills get you further in everyday life)
  4. Medical Training (You’re more likely to run across someone who needs a tourniquet and a compression bandage than someone who needs to be shot)
  5. Driving (A basic understanding of Defensive and performance driving could easily save you and your family’s lives)
  6. Pistol Skills (You’ll only need to shoot a human on rare occasion, but when you do, you’ll want to be skilled at it)

What am I Good/Bad at?

Now we’ll make a second list, using the same items in your priorities list. This time, organize them relative to each other according to your proficiency. Say, “I think I’m better at X than I am at Y” and make the second list. My list and comments follow:

  1. Fighting Mindset (Being a cancer survivor has made me a master at seeking self preservation, and I won’t let anyone take what I’ve fought so hard for)
  2. Driving (I’m not a performance driver, but I’ve never had an accident and never had a ticket *knock on wood*, though it’s been a long time since driver’s ed.)
  3. Pistol Skills (Not being able to train my body had me putting a lot of work into shooting)
  4. Verbal Agility (I like talking, but haven’t had much opportunity recently. I feel like my conversation skills are dulled)
  5. Medical Training (It’s been several years, but I still will get the training TQs and Bandages out and practice what I know for skill maintenance)
  6. Fitness (recovering from a stem cell transplant put a damper on my fitness plans in 2014/2015)

2016 Priorities

Now we’ll figure out the top three skills we should pursue in 2016. Look for the biggest differences in rank in the priority list vs the current skill list. Mine are as follows:

  1. Fitness (separated by 4 slots)
  2. Verbal Agility ( 1 slot)
  3. Medical Training ( 1 slot)

2016 Training Plan

Now we decide how we want to attack our weaknesses.

For me, fitness is absolutely top on my list. I had the unexpected surprise of a recurrence of my disease in 2014, so my fitness has degraded to the point of pitiful. Since I’m a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kickboxing guy, I’m going to sign up at my local MMA gym and start training next week. This will actually serve to increase my fitness level, build a technical skill, and give me an outlet for my creative energy. Martial arts are also meditative for me. Your mind can’t be anywhere else but in the present moment, or else you’ll get punched in the face or choked. I also feel it builds mental toughness.

Verbal agility. I’m going to make it a point to read a few books about communication, but nothing beats flight time. Engaging in conversation frequently is the only way to get good at it. I plan to join Toastmasters this year.

Medical training. I’ll schedule more frequent practice sessions with my medical gear, read 3 medical/trauma related texts, and if a training company comes to my town I’ll try to attend if funds allow.

I also like to make a list of my ‘wants’ when it comes to training and self improvement/exploration. It might be a class I’ve been wanting to take, a goal to read 10 fiction books (I only read non-fiction generally), deadlift 500 pounds, a travel destination to visit, start doing yoga one day a week, etc. Add a few things that are slightly uncomfortable, and a few things you really want to do.

You get the idea. You can get as detailed as you want.

Do The Work

Plan the work, work the plan. Go. Do it.


I have been doing this deliberate audit for 5 years now (proof). Every time I do it, it allows me to re-focus my priorities to assure I’m making the best decisions I can. It also helps me to properly allot my limited resources (time, money, energy). The most crucial thing is that you be honest about what you really need, and what you’re actually good at. This takes some honesty, and you might not always like the path you discover. It takes courage to admit you suck, and even more to do something about it.

If your list includes anything that you’ve never trained in before, fix that first. You need to have some basic training in all of your prioritized skills.

What about the skills that didn’t make the top 3 priorities list? It’s time to put those in maintenance mode. I got the idea of 8 week blocks of training prioritization from Larry Lindenman of Shivworks. Block off 8 week of time to concentrate on your current priority for 3 to 4 days a week and everything else gets only 1 or 2 days a week of practice. This could be cardio, strength, shooting, whatever. You’ll have to scale the time depending on how much time you have to dedicate to training. Just keep it relative. After that 8 week block, switch priority and put everything else in maintenance mode. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

This audit process doesn’t  really allow for things you enjoy doing. So you’ll have to do that independently. I love pistol competitions. Realistically, I don’t need to practice shooting beyond maintenance. But I’ll still do my daily dry-fire and shoot the local match monthly because I like it. You have to keep it fun.

Another tip is don’t let your training/practice impact your personal life. I have made that mistake. I don’t suggest the same for you. Take all of your loved ones into account when allotting time to training.

Let me know if you found this exercise useful. I guarantee that it will save you time and will shorten the path to make you a more dangerous human in the long run.

Be Safe.

Be Dangerous.

Do The Work.

Happy Holidays,



10 Rules for Being a Safe Gun-Owning Parent

Rebecca Bahret of contacted me recently about compiling a list of the top X-number of safety tips for gun storage when kids are present. I was flattered she thought enough of the blog to ask me. I obliged, obviously, and thought of ten items. With word-count limits, deadlines, and so forth, it was trimmed down a good bit.

It was even worthy of an infographic! Legit.

Image: Terese Condella/SheKnows

Here is her final article. It’s a great article for her target audience.

Since I’m not obligated to any word count limits, here’s what I sent her. I hope it makes a good complement to her article:

  1. This whole list will share a common theme. I teach it as the *Fifth* fundamental firearms safety rule. Here’s the first four. The rule is, “Prevent access to your firearms by unauthorized people”. Children are on that list of people we don’t want having free access to our firearms. If you take this rule as seriously as the other four, the rest falls into place.
  2. Leaving a firearm with an empty chamber on a shelf, or with a magazine nearby is not enough to guarantee they won’t be able to figure out how to load and fire it. Even if by accident. Just like enough monkeys with typewriters will eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare, so too will your child eventually figure out how to make your pistol go bang if so inclined.
  3. If you carry off-body (purse, briefcase, etc), keep complete control of your purse. Do NOT leave it in the shopping cart while you reach for the cereal. Kids move quickly.
  4. Demystify firearms as soon as possible. Make the gun a part of your everyday life, and introduce your child to it early. Tell them they can handle it (don’t use the words “Play”) whenever they want, as along as you are there with them. Let them watch you clean it, dry fire, so on. Removing the mystery early is key.
  5. If you are not in direct control of the firearm, it needs to be locked away. On top of a shelf or under a sofa doesn’t count. Think your child doesn’t know it’s there and can’t reach it? Think again.
  6. Educate them on what to do if they find a firearm that is unsecured. Ensure they know to tell the nearest adult and that they should stay away from it. This instance shows a positive outcome of a child/gun interaction.
  7. Cost is no excuse to not lock up your pistol. The GunVault NV300 NanoVault with Combination Lock is less than $25.
  8. The easier a gun is to access, the less secure it is. The inverse is also true. For the home, there are quick access safes like the Gunvault SpeedVault SV500.  but I feel the best solution is to just wear your pistol in the house when you can. I carry a small framed auto in the house. It’s my underwear gun. When you decide to put the gun down for the day, lock it up.
  9. Use Nerf and Airsoft to introduce your children to safe firearms handling. Make them obey the safety rules.
  10. Your children will learn from TV and Media about guns unless you step in and educate them first. Don’t let them think it’s a game or that guns are to be taken lightly.

Seek further training to get more ideas. The NRA has a great program on this topic.

Stay Safe and Protect the Brood,