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Let no man's ghost return and say his training was insufficient

Our Teaching Creed

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First Rule | Second Rule | Third Rule | Fourth Rule

Because we regularly send people out into life threatening situations, we have some very high standards. Standards that we are both serious as a heart attack and calmly, coldly aware of that if we don't meet them, someone can die.

Our first standard of teaching is very simple: We teach nothing that will get our students killed. Our second standard of teaching is also simple: We don't teach people to fight. We teach them to survive. Our third standard of teaching:: We help people achieve understanding. Our fourth standard: It's what you think you know that will kill you.

Our first rule of teaching is very simple: We teach nothing that will get our students killed.

Self-defense is not a game. Nor is it the place for macho posturing, agenda-driven thinking, unchecked emotions or complicated and unreliable physical techniques. Any and all of those will get someone killed in a violent confrontation. We know because we have seen people die or be seriously injured trying to use ineffective techniques in "real fights."  Our goal is to provide simple, effective strategies and skills for surviving violent encounters -- at whatever level.

Our second rule of teaching is also simple: We don't teach people to fight.

Our goal is not to teach you how to stand there and fight. We do not teach "dueling," nor are we concerned with "winning." Our only self-defense goal is to teach you how to end it *now!* By ending a violent encounter quickly, you do one thing -- ensure your own safety. The strategies, tactics and degree of force necessary all change according to the threat level, your goals or profession. However, no matter who you are, you want the situation resolved as quickly as possible with the least amount of force.

But a far more effective way to ensure your safety than fighting is the ability to de-escalate a potentially violent situation. Better yet is the ability to recognize a possibly violent situation and avoid putting yourself into it. Not only does that lessen the chances of  being physically hurt, but nobody has ever been sued for not fighting. This is why a significant percentage of our courses are oriented toward violence de-escalation, verbal self-defense and common sense avoidance.

Our third standard: We help people achieve understanding.

Techniques fail. Things go wrong. Mr. Murphy and his laws are always present in a physical confrontation. Many a perfectly good self-defense technique can be -- and has been -- utterly destroyed by the attacker simply stepping forward. If you only "know" rather than "understand" a move, your attempts are vulnerable to Mr. Murphy. That is because you probably will not be able to react fast enough when the situation changes (i.e., forward step) and alter your own actions to meet this new and different threat. Or you will attempt to use muscle to make a move work. This is fine if you are a big, strong man, but if you attempt to contest the strength of a larger and stronger opponent your technique will fail...nearly every time.

You may know hundreds of techniques, but if you don't understand what makes them work you won't be able to apply them outside the controlled environment of the training hall. If you understand the principles that make them work, no matter what is happening you can develop a move -- on the spot -- that will be successful against any size opponent. This is the difference between a "technique collector" and a fighter. The latter has an ingrained understanding of these principles that allows him to operate effectively within the chaos of  violent confrontation. The former will often freeze in confusion, unsure which of the hundreds of techniques would have been best. By the time he decides on one, the opportunity and the technique's effectiveness has passed. This is why so many training hall techniques fail in actual practice(1).

Our fourth standard: It's what you think you know that will kill you.

A simple, but controversial, statement is :The reason that most martial arts techniques fail in actual conflict is that the person trying to use them doesn't have the "basics" nailed down. There are fundamental elements that MUST be present in an effective offense. In training, reviewing these elements is often met with a "yeah, yeah, I know that" attitude. The problem is in an actual confrontation, the know-it-all does everything BUT those "basics" and that is why he loses the fight. As our goal is survival of violence and not sport, we emphasis that these fundamentals must be ingrained. We don't care if you "know" them, we care that you do them as instinctively and automatically as breathing.  

Advanced technique is nothing but the basics understood at a deeper level. And it is having those "basics" ingrained that will not only save your ass in a conflict, but will allow you to moderate your use of force...which does wonders for keeping you out of jail afterwards.

*On a less self-defense and more a martial arts orientation, the failure to differentiate between knowing and understanding is one of the main causes of burnout. Martial arts become boring when you get to the point  where you are no longer learning and growing. Doing the same thing over and over again is not a challenge, not exciting and not fun. You've achieved your goal of a black belt, now what? But if you seek to understand the principles underlying your training, instead of collecting more techniques, you will discover depths and knowledge that you never dreamed existed. New and vast vistas will open up for you, and the excitement and wonder of learning and exploring the martial arts will come back.

Seeking understanding is not easy. It is, in fact, hard work. That is because you must think. You must let go of your assumptions and definitions and "step outside the box." If you only have one simple definition about something, you "know it." If you know several definitions, however, their implications, complications, strengths and limitations, you are closer to "understanding." Understanding requires you to honestly and fairly seek out and learn interpretations different from your own -- and discover why they too work.


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1) And they *do* work. They may work differently from your version -- but just because they are different doesn't mean they aren't effective and valid in their own ways. And understanding those differences will allow you to effectively use those moves under the widest and most effective spectrum possible. Return to text

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