Tag Archives: self-defense

Braced Crams with Weapons Long and Short

There’s no way in hell’s half-acre you can be sure what falls to hand when fighting for your life.  Might be anything from a broomstick to a butcher knife.

The mechanics of things vary a great deal by length and such.

So if you care to exit a self-defense situation on the vertical, you’d best be prepared to handle tools properly.

Staying Alive: Fighting Fitness, P.A.D.E. and the Gospel of Matthew

Made a video this morning that lays out a very strenuous 25-minute fighting fitness routine and also explores the overlap between self-defense and conduct, martial arts and morality.

Cane Defense Seminar August 4th

Feel like a road trip?

I will be teaching a walking stick self-defense seminar this Saturday August 5th from noon to 1:30 PM at West End Manor Civic Association, 8600 Lakefront DriveHenrico, VA, 23294United States (map).  Details below.

You can register two ways — either sign up at the Cabal Fang website or on the  Facebook event page.

See you there!

About la Canne Vigny — Walking Stick Self-Defense

This is a donation-only event — make a contribution of $5, $10, $20, or whatever you can afford.  We’re a non-profit group and every little bit helps!


French Master-at-arms Pierre Vigny (b.1866) was an Army veteran, a combatives instructor, and chief instructor at the now famous Bartitsu Club operated by Edward William Barton-Wright.  Vigny specialized in French savate and the sportive style of stick fighting known as la canne which he modified for more effective self defense.


H.G. Lang was a Superintendent of the Indian Police, and he drew heavily on Vigny’s method when training Indian officers in cane defense.  In 1923 Lang published his book Walking Stick Method of Self Defence which became the basis for self-defense training for tens of thousands of Jews living in Palestine during the 1940s.


Slip Ball Impairment Drill

If you’re a martial artist, then you do drills.  And, if there are drills that you do, you should, at least once in a while, you should do them impaired.

Could you fight if you were injured?  If one or both arms were broken, slashed or incapacitated?  What if you had an injured foot?

Here’s a little drill you can do impaired — work your slip ball.  Do a round with one arm tied up, then a round with the other, and then a final round with both arms tied up.  Just put on a belt loosely enough to slide your hands in and out with relative ease.

If you feel froggy, do another round with a rock in your shoe (Mark Hatmaker calls that the tenderfoot drill).

Knife Defense Video and WOOTW #11

Tuesday night was knife defense.  The 90-minute workout included improvised weapons and simple situational drills.  Here’s a short video of the highlights — including the last couple of exercises from the fitness portion.

Here’s a video from a few years back, probably the best and most realistic, intense knife defense work you’ll see.

And now for the Cabal Fang Workout of the Week — Grappling Conditioner #3:

Set countdown timer for 10:00 mins and complete as many sets as you can before the timer beeps of 5 Bag Lifts, 10 mounted strikes, and 5 Splay ‘n’ Punch.

5 Down ‘n’ Dirty Self-defense Tips for Seniors

Your chance of being attacked with a fist, box cutter, or pointed stick is debatable.  According to this U.S. Dept of Justice report, there is an 83% chance of being the victim of a violent crime at some point during your lifetime.  If you are elderly, let’s say over age 70, the same study says that your chances of being a victim at some point in your remaining years is 8% or about 1 in 12.

Your chances of being a victim are much greater if you are poor and or homeless. Note that statistics about crime vs. homeless people aren’t reliable because (a) sadly, most people don’t give a crap about homeless people and (b) homeless people are less likely to report crimes for fear of being victimized or jailed.   Here in the good ol’ U.S.A., which was once the land of opportunity, your chances of being poor and homeless are virtually 100%.  The median net worth of those aged 65 and over is about $75,000 bucks, most of which is probably equity in a primary residence.  Assisted living costs about $5,000 per month, nursing care about $9,000.  Which means when you can’t take care of yourself anymore, you have about 9 months before you’re homeless.

Now, here is the pisser, the bitch, the kick-in-the-crotch, down-and-dirty truth that you need to face right here and right now if you are going to stay safe when you get old.

Unless you take charge of your life right now, at some point you are going to be old, sick, homeless, and at high risk.   On the street.  So destitute that they won’t even have reliable statistics about what’s going to happen to you.

In your mind you are saying, “My family won’t let that happen to me” or “I’ve got Social Security” or “there’s always Medicaid.”

Stop kidding yourself.

Do you really want to saddle your kids with your care?  Before my mother and father passed away, I had been assisting in their care for over 10 years.  It exhausted me, and all I was doing was handling finances, paying bills, grocery shopping, occasionally cooking, visiting, shuttling to dialysis and doctor’s appointments, taking scary emergency phone calls at 1:00 AM, and so on.  I can’t imagine how hard it must be for those who have elderly relatives in adult diapers living in their homes.

Social Security pays very little,  and Medicaid will not kick in until you have assets less than $2,000.  You will have to sell everything you own in order to have a roof over your head.  And since there is a 5-year look back period, you can’t even give stuff to your kids.  Medicaid will find out and claw it back.  And remember, when you are “in the system” and on Medicaid, you have lost all control.  If you don’t have any elderly relatives “in the system” I encourage you to go see what Medicaid facilities look like.  Seeing these places will be a great motivator.

Face it now.  There is no cavalry coming over the hill.  You are on your own.  Here are my recommendations.

  1. Take care of your body.  100% of human bodies fail catastrophically, resulting in death.  All you can do is get fit and stay that way as long as you can.  Lift weights twice per week to improve bone density and exercise aerobically at least twice per week for cardiovascular health.  Quit smoking and drinking and maintain a healthy BMI.  Get check-ups and take advantage of preventative healthcare benefits.
  2. Buy a home and get it paid for.  Interest rates aren’t going to stay low forever.  If you don’t own a home already, buy one now.  Slash your expenses (I drive a 15-year-old truck and buy my clothes at Goodwill) to free up extra income so you can make extra mortgage payments.   Get a 15 year mortgage instead of a 30 year.  The sooner the house is paid for the better.
  3. Save, save, save.  As much as you can.  Sock it away like crazy.  Once your house is all paid up, take the money you used to spend on a mortgage and sock it into savings (if you’re old already) or a 401K or IRA (if you’re not old yet).  People always say they can’t save because they don’t make enough money.  I call bullshit.  There’s always something you can cut out in order to make room for savings.  Eat out less, be less fashionable, etc.
  4. Plan, plan, plan.   I recently met a really knowledgeable attorney named Shawn Majette who has a fantastic website with tons of great information for people who want to protect their assets and generally take care of themselves and/or their elderly relatives.  Check it out.
  5. Look into a Long Term Care Insurance policy from a reliable company.  This might not be worth your while if you’re over 40 because the older you get the higher the premiums get, but if you’re young it may be an option.  Do the math first.  If you’re aged 30 and the premium is $175/month, you might be better off putting that $175/mo. into a 401K where you could reasonably expect that investment to accrue to the tune of $200,000 by age 65.  Your call.  If you get one, read the fine print.  Make sure that it doesn’t have some ridiculous lifetime max.  My Mom’s had a $60,000 lifetime max and a $120 daily max which seemed like a ton when she got it, but when she needed it, it was a fart in a windstorm.  Better than nothing for sure, but hardly gangbusters.  Check the exclusionary period (the delay before it kicks in), the qualifications for payout, what it will pay for, etc.

Good luck people.  Getting old sucks.

Self Defense vs. Dogs


This is a small, harmless dog. Unfortunately, some dogs are large and scary.

Last Monday I went for an early morning walk.  About dawn, going down a quiet residential street, I watched a happy suburban couple emerge from their home and bounce down four front porch steps toward an idling minivan.  With them came two large black dogs, breed indistinguishable in the thin light.  Neither animal was on a leash.

The dogs barked in deep bass that echoed off the houses and came toward me at full run.

This is not the first time I’ve had run-ins with dogs.   Once, while on a late night run, a German shepherd jumped the fence of his enclosure and confronted me beneath a streetlight.  Another time I was surrounded by a pack of feral dogs while walking near some dumpsters behind a warehouse.  On one occasion, an apparently gentle dog, leashed by her smiling owner, bit me on the hand after I asked and was given permission to pet.

But the last attack, prior to this past Monday that is, was launched by a large Chow.  It charged silently and, being a dog lover and a peaceful guy, I assumed it just wanted to play.  My kindheartedness earned me a terrifying bite on the upper thigh before the owner pulled him off.  It went for my groin.  I turned and raised by knee to hide the target so the thigh is what she got.  After the Chow, I vowed that if it ever happened again I would not hesitate.  I’m a dog lover.  But I swore that if there was a next time, I would bring all of my defensive skills to bear immediately, without hesitation, and not consign my fate the whimsy of a canine’s conscience.

So, as those two black shapes charged toward me, I deployed my tactical folding knife with 4 1/2″ locking blade, lowered my stance, and yelled involuntarily, “Jesus Christ!”  followed by, “You better get ’em, ’cause I’m gonna kill ’em!”

The husband quickly seized one of the dogs, but the wife missed the second.  She took off after it, yelling for it to come back.  I turned my body and prepared to be ripped apart but not without a fight.   I hammer gripped the knife in my right hand, point up, left foot forward to avoid getting my attacking arm locked in its jaws.  I could hear my blood in my ears.  Fifteen feet short of my position she managed to take hold of the second dog’s collar.  It reared up on its hind legs, continuing to bark ferociously and nearly pulling her over.

“Sorry,” she said, as the dog began to settle down.

“Put your dogs on a leash,” I said.  I folded and stowed my knife and walked home, glad nobody got hurt.

When I write about dog defense I do so with experience.

Defense vs. Dogs

When confronted by an untrained canine that is not charging, adopt a non-threatening stance. Don’t turn your back, run, or look away. If the animal doesn’t get bored with you and leave the area, utter commands like “Sit!” “Stay!” and “Down boy!” while maneuvering toward a building, vehicle, or other shelter. Lock eyes with the mutt and imagine tearing him to shreds like a stuffed animal. Trust me, this will deter all but the most highly trained and/or aggressive canines. Ever tried to swat a misbehaving dog? They are gone before you can get out of your chair. Dogs are empathic readers of body language.

If the animal is charging, arm your strong hand with a pocket knife, ballpoint pen, etc.  Crouch slightly to lower your center of gravity and turn sideways to hide your groin, weak side forward, strong/armed hand to the rear.  In my experience, dogs go for three primary targets: face/throat, genitals, or anus.  Hold your weapon near your hip and tuck the forearm of your weak arm beneath your chin to protect your throat. Brace yourself.  When it latches on, stab like hell.

Do not pull back from the bite — always push into bites, be they animal or human. If you have a light weapon (or none at all), strike downward at the eyes. If you have a pocket knife, slash upward at the throat and chest of the animal from beneath.

If you are yanked from your feet and overwhelmed, assume safety position.  Curl into a ball to protect vital areas. Pull your knees to your chest, interlace your fingers behind your neck, pinch your elbows together to protect your face, and wait for help.

Good luck.  You’re going to need it.

Consider Telling Your Kids to Run Like Hell

UPDATE:  I attended the HCPS Safety and Security Forum, and armed with more data, I have now have some important caveats.  See my Feb 4th update on the subject.  Here the original post:

Ask any self-defense expert and he or she will tell you that the single most instinctual self-defense strategy with the greatest payload is running away.  Obviously there is no single approach that applies in every situation, but if you had to pick one, running away has to be it.

No matter what the weapon, even a gun, the further you are from an attacker the more your survival chances increase.  Trained professionals have a hard time hitting moving targets.  Let’s face it, there’s a reason people put tin cans on fence rails instead of tossing them into the air.

If everybody runs in opposite directions it becomes very hard for a shooter to acquire a target.  When you flush quail, do they huddle for safety or take off in as many different directions as possible?  This is a basic axiom of squad-level military tactics: don’t bunch up.  How in the Devil’s Green Hell can we in good conscience advise our teachers and faculty to huddle our kids together like fish in a barrel?

So why is it that when our kids are threatened by shooters we put schools on lockdown and keep all of the kids inside?  When there’s a fire, a flood, a gas leak, or a spill in the chemistry lab, we evacuate the kids.  We get them as far away from danger as we can.  How are shooters any different?

I looked at nine famous school shootings in which the lives of 103 students and faculty were lost.  In 7 of 9 cases, perpetrators moved around the school firing at either random or specific targets. Look at Columbine and VA Tech in particular.  While it’s true that hiding sometimes saves lives, isn’t it also true that if everyone had scattered as soon as the firing started there would have been fewer targets?

In only 1 of the 9 cases was a shooter captured.  The other 8 ended in the shooter’s suicide.  This is an important statistic because if you think that the police are going to come and save the day, you’re badly mistaken.  More often than not, a shooter is going to walk around a building or campus shooting people until he’s done, at which point he’s going to take his own life.

Even when I expanded my analysis out to the 67 school shootings for which there is data on Wikipedia I got the following results:

Resolutions to School Massacres    
Killed or Arrested by Police    21
Suicide    21
Subdued by citizens    9
Surrendered    15
Other    1

As you can see, there is a greater chance that the shooter will surrender or be subdued by citizens than there is that police will arrest the perpetrator.  Now, to be fair, I’m sure many of these shooters committed suicide because the police showed up on scene as it appears the Newtown shooter did.

But it’s also true that the two Columbine shooters had finished their spree and killed themselves two minutes before the first SWAT team entered the building.

Very soon my daughter’s school is going to have a safety and security forum for parents and school officials.  I will be there will my analysis in hand.  In the meantime, with all of this in mind, the other day I gave my 9th grader the following instructions:

“If you are outside and you hear or see gunshots, run as quickly as you can in the opposite direction.  If you are in a classroom and there is a first floor window, open or smash that window, exit it, and then run away as quickly as possible.  If there’s no window, open the door, look for the shooter, and run in the opposite direction as quickly as possible.  If someone tells you to hide and wait for the police, don’t stop to tell them they’re bonkers — just run like hell.  If you’re brave enough to take run, maybe someone else will follow your lead and you’ll save their life as well as your own.”

In the end we all have to come to our conclusions.  But please consider all angles and make an informed decision with an eye on the facts as you see them.

Due credit and thanks to Mark Hatmaker and his short rant on this subject in one of his free weekly Legends emails (if you’re a martial artist and you don’t subscribe you’re missing out).

Review: TigerClaw Clear Face Shield


I recently purchased the clear face shield from TigerClaw.  I’ve been wearing it during self defense practice, when attacking, and being attacked by, wooden weapons.

The shield does not fog, and has not cracked despite being hit several times with considerable force by big guys wearing MMA gloves, as well as being struck by mock wooden knives.   Although its stating purpose is not for full contact protection, it seems to be holding up for 85% force contact. No cracks and few scratches.

The shield only works with the top of line foam headgear. The shield retails for $57.39 and the headgear for $26.99 for a total price of $84.38. Of course, if you have a wholesale account it’s much less.

So far it’s well worth it’s wholesale price. The protection level, when practicing against weapons, is far better than just goggles and mouthpiece. The only downside I can see is that it is made in China.

If and when it breaks I’ll be sure to update.

Martial Arts Zine for Activists

I wrote this ‘zine for my friends who are out there every day trying to make the world a better place.  The .pdf is formatted to be printed double-sided and center-stapled to make a 5.5″ x 8.5″ booklet.  I hope it helps.

Self-Defense for Activists