31 August 2012

Married with children and the need to train

Below is an e-mail that I received today. I get several of these a week, so I figured I would just write something up about it since I imagine there are other people in the same type of situation who have the same questions.

Mr. Matheis, (please call me George)
I hope this letter finds you well. I'm writing you in the hope that you can steer me in the right direction to obtain some self-defense training. I was recently attacked by an individual at work and realize that I need some professional help to be able to look after myself and my family. I first heard of MCS and your blog through the Usual Suspects Network and I've been following your writing for a little while now. (love the hammock articles!) Unfortunately, I live in northern California and traveling cross-country is sadly not in our meager budget. Do you sell or can you recommend a DVD perhaps? What do you recommend for folks on a limited budget? I'm a 35 year old husband and father of two with a life-long interest in firearms without a shred of hand to hand experience. I really don't know how to properly choose what type of training to pursue.

Thank you for your time – Anonymous

Anonymous AKA married with children,
Sorry to hear about you being attacked by a coworker.  This is all too common these days. I will do my best to answer your questions and give some advice, just remember it is free.

The first thing you need to do is to consider your own life and circumstances and not make decisions based on fantasy, romance, perfect world scenarios, and love of tools.

Too many men are unable to get past the lone survivor, Jack Bauer, scenarios that play out in their head about the way it will be when they will fight the good fight. The same is true of those who go on and on about how they will deal with an active shooter at work in spite of the fact that their employer forbids them to be armed at work.

Take a long hard look at how you deal with the most common environments you will find yourself in-

  • Home
  • Work
  • Transit
  • Common places frequented (stores, gyms, etc)

Consider the most probable threats first and then the possible threats.
Encourage your spouse and children (if age appropriate) to do the same. After all, we can be as tough as Chuck Norris, but that will not protect our loved ones in our absence. It needs to be a family affair.

Understand that awareness is just not a buzzword. I like to breakdown awareness into three types.

Self Awareness- before you leave your house every day, ask yourself “how am I feeling”. How close are you physically and mentally to “your” 100%? Do you have a physical injury that would prevent you from defending yourself in the normal way you would? Did you take medicine that is making you feel loopy? Are there overwhelming personal problems on your mind that are causing you to simply go on autopilot without conscious thought?

Situational Awareness- the ability to be in the moment, notice the actions and reactions of people around you, and the constant evaluation of whether or not you could be doing something to put you in a better situation. Things like leaving yourself a way out in traffic, crossing the street to get away from someone that gives you the creeps, or simply slipping a pen or flashlight into your hand.

Team Awareness- this seems to be a stumbling point for some gun fighting gurus and Kung Fu Charlies (no offense to Kung Fu practitioners). My stress, as it relates to self-defense, is minimal when I am alone; however when out and about with my family, especially with my youngest, who is special needs, it skyrockets.

Armed and unarmed training as it relates to protecting others is very specialized and often prohibitively expensive. This is another example of the fact that too often in training we spend the least amount of time training to do the things that are most probable. Everyone reading this has two things in common. The first is that they have more than a passing interest in self-defense. The second is that they often find themselves out and about with others they feel responsible for, such as spouses, children, parents, or friends. If you are interested in self-defense, and they are not, and you care about them, then that makes you a bodyguard.

Most firearms schools and martial arts dojo’s primary focus is not to teach your family how to operate as a team. As a matter of fact, a high level of martial training without the discretion that experience brings can cause you to underutilize the next most important thing to awareness, avoidance.

Avoidance- is simply using the information that you have become aware of by using your senses, past experiences, and common sense and using time and distance to avoid things that would interrupt your wellbeing. Many people fail at this because they refuse to be inconvenienced. It may mean going to the next convenience store, or finding a better lit parking spot that is a little further away.

The last and smallest part that gets the most attention is aggression.
Awareness and avoidance do not require you to carry anything, have any level of physical fitness, or even require specialized training. As a matter of fact, if you cannot carry a purpose designed weapon, have physical issues, or do not have the time or money for specialized training, they are that much more important. They are things that are easily passed onto those you care about.

Aggression- sadly, there is no way to avoid the fact that sometimes self-defense will rely on you damaging another human to the point that they are not physically able to hurt you. By constantly being aware and using avoidance, you will be much faster to realize when you are involved in a situation that requires you to physically harm another person.
For anyone wanting to study how to effectively stop someone in the shortest amount of time, not kill them eventually, they must first become an avid student of the anatomy and physiology of the human body, learning to see the body as a machine that has inherent weaknesses. We call this study Combative Anatomy, part of which is accepting that we are not always going to have weapons and need to know how to use deadly force with our natural weapons (body parts) as well as improvised weapons. This is crucial because it gives us the confidence to defend ourselves in the most prohibitive environments where only the attacker may have a “weapon”.

Central Nervous System – comprised of the brain and spinal cord, CNS is basically the electricity of the bod. CNS disruption is almost always immediately recognizable. It can be effectively attacked with slaps, hammer fists, elbows, knees, and kicks, as will with improvised impact weapons like pens and flashlights. One of the fundamentals of MCS Combatives is that we focus largely on slamming attackers into vertical surfaces; we refer to this as a Vertical Stun. It is excellent for damaging the CNS as well as the Structural System and relies largely on gross motor movements.

Structural System- comprised of the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, the SS is frame of the body. SS disruption is visually apparent. It can be effectively attacked with hammer fists, elbows, knees, and kicks. Primary targets include collar bones, elbows, knees, ankles, and feet.

Circulatory System- comprised of the two things that “circulate” in the body, blood and air. CS disruption with the exception of chokes (not recommended except for one hand choke crushing trachea and carotid by pinching them between thumb and middle finger) typically requires a penetrating injury from an edged weapon or projectile. CS disruption is the most likely to cause eventual death, is often the slowest to physically stop a human.

House metaphor- picture the human body as a house under construction. People are working on the roof using nail guns, music is playing,etc. You get the idea. Imagine someone walks up and turns off the plumbing (CS), it could take a while for someone to notice. Then someone drives up with a bulldozer and knocks down two of the walls (SS), at the same time someone unplugs the electricity (CNS). You can see how the combination of Central Nervous System and Structural System Disruption can be effective, especially when used together.

A solid foundation in open hand combatives, including standing free range movement, clinch, and ground control, is needed even in for the person that plans on carrying an edged weapon or a pistol for self-defense. Your unwillingness to train in open hand combatives has no effect on their necessity. During standing free range movement, you may not need them to deploy your weapon, but in the clinch and on the ground they are a necessity, as they are for doing the same from disadvantaged positions such as being seated or crouching.

Too many people start with or concentrate on the use of weapons instead of making the use of open hands, environmental weapons (walls/ground), and improvised weapons reflexive.

After the open hand, concentration should be on impact weapons , specifically sticks of all sizes since they are more likely to be found in a pinch than edged weapons and firearms. Like personal weapons, they are very effective at targeting the Central Nervous and Structural Systems.

In regards to edged weapons, in my opinion, training should be 80% defensive, and 20% offensive based on the likelihood of time and opportunity to use the respective skills. There are some who are heavily involved with edged weapons who will disagree with me on this. Many of these folks are also very interested in the cultural aspect of the art. When teaching police, corrections, and citizens how to defend against edged weapons, two things are first and foremost in my mind. The first is that we know from experience and expertise that victims will seldom see the weapon they are attacked with. Second, we also know that the average size of a weapon you are likely to be attacked with is sub 3 inches. This is based on my research of weapons seized by officers on the street as well as in prison. This means that the focus of training has got to be on defending against the preparatory movements of an attack, and not seeing a weapon that is 2-3 times larger than what they will probably be attacked with.

In reference to firearms, focus should be on the use of the pistol well within 10 yards. Recently in several poles I did, asking gun owners what they would use if responding to a “bump in the night’ approx. 55% responded that it would be a pistol even though they have long guns. This, coupled with the fact that pistols are used for CCW, offer further evidence that the pistol needs to be the concentration.

For serious pistol work, you need a Blue Gun replica of your pistol and a quality airsoft if possible. Setting up some realistic scenarios with friends will quickly show that effectively training for these events with live fire is impossible.

Realistic training to protect you and your family requires mindset, common sense, and a minimal investment in gear. Good luck- George

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