It’s Not About You

Unless you’re a jerk, and then it’s your own fault you just made it personal…

The unfortunate thing about the experience of consciousness is that we are, each of us, the star of our very own movie. The story is all about you, it happens to you, and you have screenwriter and director credit. (Of course it doesn’t always feel like you’re the architect and author, but believe me, when the final credits roll you’ll catch the blame for how it all turned out, right or wrong.)

Most of the time you’re sitting alone in the theater, munching popcorn and sipping a ludicrously-sized Coke, watching the whole shebang swirl gradually by on the screen, amused and pained in turns by the familiar cast of recurring characters. Here comes Relative #3, going on about the stuff she always goes on about; now it’s Protagonist’s BFF who always knows just what to say — as long as he isn’t drunk. And so it goes. You sit and munch and sip amid the swirl…

…until that awful moment when one of the extras — one of the extras — breaks the fourth wall and addresses you directly, in tones normally reserved for Relative #3 or your drunk BFF. This time, it’s personal. You get ready to pop off with a cutting Tarantino riposte, and maybe a fantasy gunfight sequence. And the projectionist, being nothing more than an obedient employee, gets ready to roll end credits —

Here’s the part where I break the film, or have the projector jam and burn through (or just have the signal glitch, you know, for you kids) so you can leave the theater and see what you’d otherwise miss completely: the extra’s theater.

The first thing you notice is that it’s not as nice as yours; maybe it still hasn’t recovered from the fire, or the water damage. And it’s smaller — or bigger, but in a totally non-cozy, scary sort of way, full of too much echoing dark. And they’re not sitting alone — they’re surrounded, maybe, by the ghosts of the unquiet dead. Instead of popcorn and a Coke they have to hold a crying child the whole time.

And you watch their movie for a bit and it makes you think about your own movie — the one that you swore was the most realistic disaster film ever — but it’s actually an uplifting rom-com compared to this horror show…

Of course, it was all just a dream, because you can’t leave the theater of your skull, and as writer, director and Capital-S Superstar it’s time for you put that mouthy extra back in their place and let them know what’s what.

And the projectionist, being nothing more than an obedient employee, gets ready to roll end credits —

You know, just in case.


— Chris Ranck-Buhr

Tactical Cruelty

“Violence is the race for the eye.”

— Master Derrick Farwell


When he was a young Marine, Derrick sought effective hand-to-hand combat training, going where stories of ass-kicking and dread reputation led.  One night he ended up in a dingy Karate studio; the instructor was a Vietnam-era Marine from Okinawa, a compact, no-nonsense man versed in the stunning language of fists and feet.  That same night a much larger, and thoroughly drunk man, came in and challenged the instructor to a fight in front of his students.  The instructor demurred, and tried to get the man to leave.  But he would have none of it, and so the instructor took him up on his offer with a blow to the solar plexus.  They folded to the ground and began rolling, rolling, until suddenly the larger man screamed, leaped to his feet and fled the school with his hands pressed to his face.  Meanwhile, below the look of grim satisfaction, the instructor’s gi was spattered with the big man’s blood.

Derrick credits this moment as a turning point in his training — not because he learned some cool new “go-to” move or an inspirational Bruce Lee quote — but because of a simple truth:  the one who gets it right first wins.  It’s not what you think you know or how you look doing it — what happened inside that ball of chaos didn’t remotely resemble a magazine photoshoot Karate technique — it was a mess, figuratively and literally.  But it was a mess that made a difference.

From that moment on Derrick would only listen to instructors whose training was a physical reflection of that awful truth.

This is why we will always speak plainly about our work — training people to use violence as a survival tool — and not waste anyone’s time with the expected and socially acceptable euphemisms of self-defense, self-protection, etc., etc.  (Euphemisms that impose a potentially lethal drag on the needs of action.  All language surrounding a thing tells the story of where you see yourself in that thing.  Ask yourself:  During your attempted murder, do you want to “defend yourself” or “attack and injure”?)  We seek to communicate with those who know or sense this truth, and who feel something vital is missing in their current physical application.

It’s one thing to say, “When things get serious, go for the eye,” and another to spend every mat session doing what those words actually mean.  We set foot on the mats assuming we’re already at maximum “serious” — we get straight to it… and make sure the blind man gets a broken leg and a head injury for good measure.  Violence isn’t a contest or a game, and we assume the loser gets set on fire.

Training like this has two effects on behavior:

1.  We will do everything in our power to avoid violence if we have a choice, and

2.  We will do everything in our power to finish it first if we don’t.

If violence is the race for the eye, we’re going to cheat by starting at the finish line.  Anything less is betting your life that the other person is nicer than you are.


— Chris Ranck-Buhr

Who Needs It Next?

That’s the question that has kept me sweating, bleeding, training — teaching — for 28 years. Whenever I’ve considered hanging it all up, I just thought of the last person who used it, who needed it, who would’ve been found by a corpse-sniffing dog in a ditch if they hadn’t known how to turn the tables — violently, shockingly — on the predator who thought they had found obedient prey. For me, it was just another chunk of time grinding in silence alone, hours of prep for every hour of class, hours on the mats and nursing all the dings, dents, concussions and limps that accrue across years of physical action — but for them was everything. They would say it was all worth it — even the 17 years of doing this without making a living at it — and I agree.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

As a group, we work as hard as we do because of the last person who needed it — they are the shining example of why we keep getting back up. They were the one who needed it next, and our paths intersected just in time. And while it can seem “spooky” that someone used their experience from training shortly after completing a course, the only reason it’s notable is because of the nonstandard outcome. If they hadn’t known how to wield the tool of violence their story would have been mundane — assaulted, maybe even murdered, just another statistic, the same-old, same-old. “Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…”

The reason their story stands out is because of the twist: “He pulled up his shirt to show me the gun — so I knocked him out.”

Using their experience can come in more subtle forms, like standing up while the situation is still social (or even antisocial) — though it’s tilting on a trajectory toward violence — and declaring that no, this isn’t going to go the way you want it to. What allows them to keep their feet on that slanting deck is the confidence that if it does pitch everyone into the water, they know how to swim. They’ve done it before. If things go physical, they know how to put people down so they stay down.

That simple confidence — the result of physical experience on the mats — can dissuade the casual predator. And if he turns out to be the real deal, well, there’s no bluff to call. It’s even odds, with a slight edge to the person who actually trained. But if you don’t know the truth about violence — whoever gets it right first, wins — if you trained nothing, or in anything that is socially acceptable — that 50/50 shot is really 10/90, and your story will be just like all the others. Mundane, predictable, expected. “He pulled up his shirt to show me the gun — so I got in the trunk.”

We teach and train because we don’t know who needs it next — the people who did didn’t know they needed it next — in the end all we can do is maintain the information, provide a place to train, and make it available for those who want it.

We’re here for you now — come take advantage of the opportunity.


— Chris Ranck-Buhr


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How many times have you rehearsed your attempted murder?

The brain can only go where it’s been before.

When it comes down to it, all you will have during your attempted murder is your experience — not your motivation, your strength, or even your training — the only thing you’ll have is what you’ve done with your own hands in front of your own eyes.

Experience is not the same as information — you can watch all the videos on rough water swimming you want, you can talk about it and read about it for hours and days and weeks — but none of that is going to matter when you actually hit the water.  In that moment you’ll either swim or drown, and your success depends a great deal on how much time you spent actually doing the thing required to survive.

When we teach the use of violence as a survival tool we start with information — defining violence, describing actions and results, modeling movement — and then show you how to convert that information into knowledge: your ability to do it yourself.  But even that’s not enough.  When the time comes you won’t remember what we said or even what you know on a conscious level.  All you’ll have is what you’ve done.

That’s where the hours on the mats come in.  Our goal in a 2-Day Crash Course is to get you to execute a thousand turns — that’s a thousand times you recognized a threat, made a decision about how to destroy it, and then executed on that decision to end things in your favor.  It’s rehearsing your attempted murder a thousand times — with knives and batons and firearms and grabs and holds and chokes and multiple people — so that if, God forbid, you ever find yourself there it won’t be the first time.  You’ll be experienced… and therefore much more likely to get it right once more.

All those hours on the mats, doing serial target practice on the human machine, shattering anatomy one piece at a time, is where you will convert your knowledge into experience.  This is the most powerful learning, and something we can’t do for you — only you can do it for yourself.  We can show you what to do, and how to do it, and help refine your process as you convert knowledge into experience, but ultimately you’re the only one who can show yourself how you get it done.

A common refrain we hear at the start of the second day is “I don’t remember what we did yesterday!”  And yet… when they step out onto the mats they just start doing.  This is by design.  What they mean is that they’re looking back through their declarative memory and finding it weirdly blank — they know they “learned stuff” yesterday, but they can’t recall precisely what in a specific, ordered sense.  But that doesn’t matter, because the fact that they can step out onto the mats and just do it means that the experience of their 500 turns on that first day are firmly embedded in procedural memory — the place where walking and swimming and riding a bike are stored.  The booby trap has been installed, the pit dug, the spikes set, the springs wound tight.  And the whole thing covered over and smoothed out so it looks just like unturned earth.

They’ve weaponized their skeleton.  It will be there for them, stealthily locked and loaded, for the rest of their lives.

What about you?


— Chris Ranck-Buhr


Our last 6 Crash Courses have been for private groups — but now that our schedule has opened up, we can offer this training to you!

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When Is a Gun Like a TV Remote?

During a training in Dallas, I visited my parents who live there, but whom I rarely get to see on account of living, working, and training in San Diego most of the year. While relaxing at their house between extended training sessions an incident occurred that got me thinking.

We had all decided to sit down and watch a movie, but my nephew, a toddler at the time, had recently been over to play and had moved the television remote control to an unknown location, as he is wont to do. My parents and I summoned what was left of our energy reserves to mount a thorough search of the house to no avail. I reluctantly suggested that we just go over and turn on the TV by hand and then manually select a movie.

It was at this point that my parents informed me that they did not believe manufacturers even put manual controls on new TVs — “Everyone just uses the remote these days,” they said. In utter disbelief I walked over to the set and scanned the edges around the front, along the side and just behind the display until I finally found what I was looking for. In the back there was a vestigial control panel with limited options that would not provide us access to some of the higher-end functions that were exclusively remote-driven, but would allow us to accomplish our basic goal: to turn it on, select a movie (any movie at this point) and relax my aching body on their very, very comfortable couch. With that done, I dissolved into that couch and tried to remember what it was like before the remote control.

Back in the day, if you wanted to turn your TV on or off, or even watch a different channel, you had to get up off your asset and physically go over to manipulate the controls by hand. As a result of this fact people tended to be more patient with whatever was on. Then along came the remote control to remove all that work. Soon, we became much more casual about changing the channel, and before long we became completely reliant on remotes to the point that TV manufacturers stopped putting manual controls on the front of TV sets. In fact, most people today, including my family, would probably tell you that you can’t actually operate their TV without the remote — however, if you know where to access the manual controls, you can still execute the basic functions of any TV set in the catastrophic absence of that remote.

In a way, firearms are analogous to the venerable TV remote control. Like the remote, firearms distill, into a handheld device, all of the hard work and intent normally required to motivate a person to the point that they are willing to take action —  and all that control is at their very fingertips. Furthermore, as firearms have gone into mass production in recent history, people have become so reliant on these highly efficient labor-saving devices that they have forgotten how to roll up their sleeves and do that work by hand when necessary. It might even be said that modern people are incapable of implementing the tool of violence without a firearm. Sound familiar?

The truth is that firearms don’t accomplish anything that you can’t already do by hand with a little knowledge and elbow grease, and there is nothing inherently special about them — unless it has become your only solution to asocial violence. In the rare event that you are put in a position that requires direct action to take out a threat you can’t afford to waste time and opportunity desperately searching for your labor-saving device.

Keep in mind that you come from a legacy of violence: By necessity, your ancestors knew the principles of violence and implemented them serviceably when necessary — or you wouldn’t be here. Luckily for us not much has changed since the dawn of time. Gravity is still cruelly tugging our bones toward the unforgiving surface of the planet, the human machine remains just as vulnerable in spite of all our efforts, and the old “rock to the back of the head” is just as relevant today as it was for our ancestors’ ancestors. Handguns are just a little smaller, a little more convenient, and require nearly zero training and intent to cause objective injuries.

Weaponizing your skeleton is simply a matter of training in the core principles of violence. One of the great benefits of training is that it allows you to take control of the learning environment before it’s an emergency. And, with a little training, anyone can learn to hurl their mass through vulnerable anatomy. Nothing has changed in that regard. When you have a principle-based approach to navigating true asocial violence — with and without tools — you’ll never be unarmed again.


— Taylor Good


You are a mid-tier predator; your ancestors ate everything below them in the food chain, and were eaten by everything above.  Big brains and fire dramatically altered that equation; we picked up a rock, then put an edge on it, then put that sharp rock on the end of a stick — and as that axe was handed down from generation to generation, so, too, the truth of it:  the first one to brain the other wins.  Eventually, the rock became increasingly durable metals even as the brain, and what had to happen to it, remained the same.

Walk that process of innovation far enough forward in time and it’s no longer necessary for you to know how to deal with a lion.  But we’ve always had to know how to deal with each other.  The information around how to hunt humans has been passed down in an unbroken chain of ever-finer refinement…

Like fire, the invention of writing changed everything.  We were no longer constrained by what a single human brain could hold; the dead could speak to the living, freeing us to move forward beyond where they ended.

The advent of firearms lead to a slow bleed of what had, up until that moment, been critical knowledge:  how to handle humans with your bare hands.  This was due to a combination of the effectiveness of firearms, the reduction in the amount of effort required to achieve the desired result, and the natural laziness of the human brain.  Why spend hours training mind and body for hand-to-hand action when you can just pull and point?

But the loss of that original knowledge means that without a gun you are helpless against those who have them.  You are helpless against those who know that most people don’t know how to put a human down with nothing more than their brain, their mass, and their skeleton.

The loss of that vital, ancestral knowledge makes us cattle.  Those who know the truth about violence — and how to use the threat of violence — have unearned power over the masses who don’t need that knowledge on a day-to-day basis (or perhaps ever across their lucky lifetimes)… until, of course, they suddenly do.  And as violence is a critical life event — a bottlenecking that can pinch your lifespan short — a little knowledge can go a long way.  Like the-rest-of-your-life long.

The information we teach has existed in written form for 100 generations, only three of which have been in the modern, Western, capitalist mode.  That’s 97 generations where it was handed down purely because it was useful.  It has been far less necessary for daily survival in those last three generations, which means it is in perpetual danger of being fumbled in the handoff.

We can’t be complacent and rest on the laurels of those who came before us, or even our own hard-won laurels; “But historically it kicked ass!” doesn’t mean it kicks ass today.  Regardless of myth and legend the system is only as good as the last time someone had to use it to thread that existential bottleneck — which was just a few short weeks ago.  For that one person in that one moment, the millennia of effort to research, record, maintain and transfer the information was more than worth it.

We draw an unbroken lineage all the way from the first human who put a rock in their fist and cracked another in the head with it to that most recent incident.  The axe came into our hands from the deep past; we practiced swinging it, took it apart, cleaned it up, reengineered the haft, recast the head in modern alloys, and put a monomolecular edge on it.

While this sounds like we did something amazing, we really didn’t — we just took hold of it with one hand and figured out how to pass it to the other.  We didn’t invent it, we don’t own it.  It belongs to everyone with a brain, mass, and skeleton.  We are merely the conduits through which it will get handed down to the next generation.  This is an invitation to come and be a part of that — to claim your birthright — as we extend the haft to anyone with the strength to wield it.


— Chris Ranck-Buhr

Action & Silence: How to Dress for Violence

We have a very simple dress code for seminar training — baggy, loose-fitting blue jeans and a heavy-duty, plain white T-shirt — and yet this generates a surprising amount of pushback from clients.  They want to wear yoga pants, tactical BDUs, board shorts, anything but blue jeans; they show up in cute tops, T-shirts festooned with the standard iconography of aggression, logos, product advertisements and political statements.  And all that in a spray of every color of the rainbow.

The class ends up looking like a riot at a beach barbecue.

And meanwhile, movement is restricted, no one can put hands on each other like they need to without tearing something, and brains do what brains do — read words and process logos.  For your brain it’s a riot of clashing surface noise, obscuring the signal underneath.


You need clothing that won’t bind or restrict your movement, while also being a useful tool for your partner to grab and pull without tearing.  In violence, you can grab a fistful of skin or other soft tissue (like the groin) to use as a handle for causing further injury; with loose-fitting, tough clothing we can grab a fistful of fabric instead, saving you from all the screaming and handprint bruises.  Tight-fitting and/or light-duty clothing means your partner either 1) can’t practice these things realistically, or 2) they can — but you won’t be happy about it.  (Most people, being polite, and, well, people, will default to not practicing the groin-grab — a potentially deadly mistake should they ever need to do just that when their life depends on it.  The brain can only go where it’s gone before, and you don’t want the first time you’re going to grab and pull a groin to be during your attempted murder.  That’s what training is for — to do it a hundred times so the 101st is nothing new.)

When everyone in the room is dressed for the work, everyone can get the practice they need without interruption or hesitation.    


The choices we make in what to wear on a daily basis are rooted in personal expression and communication — we want to blend and belong or differentiate ourselves (within certain socially-acceptable boundaries) and communicate something about who we are and how we view ourselves and how we wish to have others view us.  Clothing is language, and what we need for the optimal practice of violence is dead silence.

The goal on the mats is to create and work in an asocial environment, one that is entirely devoid of communication.  Just like at the shooting range, we’re not going to talk while pulling the trigger — because people are bad at doing two things at once, and because we don’t want to train to talk to our targets while we’re in a firefight.  

If clothing is communication, then having everyone expressing their individuality through their sartorial choices that morning gives rise to useless noise the brain must ignore in order to get to work on other things… only the brain won’t ignore it because it can’t.  (Don’t believe me?  Next time you’re out and about try not to read.  Ignore the text and logos in your environment.  Don’t think about the pink elephant.)  A shirt with logos will snag your eye.  Words will cry out and demand to be read — and so you will give them voice, echoing in your skull.  And while the room might be quiet — save for the sounds of breathing and bodies hitting the mats — that quiet will not be present in your head, where you need it most.  We’re silent on the outside so we can be silent on the inside; we want that silence to seep into ourselves so we can do the work of violence with mechanical dispassion — cool, calm, focused.

When everyone you’re training with is dressed the same — blue pants, white shirt — it allows your brain to look for and recognize similarities and differences in SHAPE, to build a generic target map of the human machine.  It’s the same machine every time, just a little taller, or wider, or shorter in the torso; but the groin is always where the legs meet, the solar plexus is always dead center in the torso.  This is the process of learning the ways in which all individuals are similar — we strip out the individuality of dress and replace it with a flesh-robed skeleton… in blue pants and a white shirt:  a blank canvas upon which your brain can paint anatomy.

The dress code isn’t for us, the instructors — it’s not about control, or institutional uniformity, or even looking professional — it’s for you, so you get the most out of the experience.  If everyone in the room is quiet and useful we can all get straight to training in dead silence, to pack a thousand turns into the weekend so that the 1,001st — the one where your life is on the line — is nothing new.


— Chris Ranck-Buhr

A Difference You Can Taste

In the 28 years I’ve been teaching, the most common question I’ve heard is:

“How is what you do different from self-defense, self-protection, or fighting?”

(The question is usually about specific schools or popular styles, examples of which I refuse to list for reasons you’ll find at the end.)

The simplest answer is:

“Injury.  We’re far more concerned with what’s happening inside of him, rather than what’s happening inside of you.”

In other words, something crushed, ruptured or torn — not the “cool move” that supposedly does that thing.

For a more involved explanation, here are the fundamental differentiators, including the visceral one:

We strive to model the successful use of violence in our practice, based on observable reality — instead of trying to defend or protect ourselves or get into a fight.  We don’t want to “win a fight”, we just want to deliver a beating.  What the other person wants to do is immaterial.  Violence is unidirectional and heavily favors the one doing it.  The defender, not so much.

Successful violence causes and exploits debilitating injury as a first principle and sole goal — the only thing that means anything in violence is ruptured anatomy.  We seek to cause results similar to firearms (stripping the man of function until we achieve a nonfunctional state), using the relatively slow, heavy bullet of our mass leveraged by our skeleton.  To this end we use similar training methodologies — working more like a tactical shooting course than a sparring match.  (Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.)

The human machine only breaks when subjected to catastrophic volume change, when tissues are compressed or stretched farther and faster than their elasticity will allow before failure.  The action of the limbs alone (punching and kicking with no overrun) can produce useful injuries, but usually doesn’t.  (This is why fights go on and on — people can easily withstand nonspecific trauma.)  Body-weighted collisions with overrun get us the traumatic volume change we need to break things inside of people.

In figuring out how to get results we start with the injury first, then work backwards from there, reverse-engineering the process to make a given sports accident happen on purpose.  We are only interested in what’s happening inside of him, not what’s happening inside of you — result vs. technique, a broken knee instead of a knee-break move:

It’s his knee, but you can feel the difference in your gut.

– Beyond the “one-and-done” crash course (for raw effectiveness) we have a 10-year curriculum in writing that incorporates striking, joint breaking, throwing, knife, baton, and firearms into a seamless whole — meaning we’re never suddenly having to switch gears into “knife defense” or “gun disarms”.  It’s all the same because it all hinges on causing injury and then exploiting that state change.  The 10-year curriculum is about efficiency (getting an effective result more quickly, with less effort) but does not improve upon baseline effectiveness — if we both knock someone out they’re still KO’d, regardless of our relative efficiency.  This is the curriculum we use to produce instructors.

In summary:

 Pure offense — not defense, protection or fighting

 Entirely directed toward causing debilitating injury

 Looking at the physics and physiology of collisions rather than techniques

 A 10-year curriculum, in writing

It’s important to note that I’m not saying what we do is “better” than anything else — effective violence is as old as hominids and no one has a patent on concussions.  All training has the potential to work.  The best training is the one you know in your bones you can make work for you.  If someone looks at what we do and doesn’t think they could make it work, then they’re right.  If a specific school, style or system makes more sense to them, then that would be the better choice.  In the end all we have is some technical information that you may or may not find useful.  That determination is up to the individual.


— Chris Ranck-Buhr

Keeping It Simple

In nature, everything takes from something else. There is no evil and there is no innocence. The relationship of predator and prey is a fixed equation, but the variables can be fluid. One day you are predating on a blueberry bush, the next day you’re lunch. So all animals, even apex predators like grizzly bears, killer whales or human beings can run either set of behaviors: predator or prey.

For predators it’s simple. ATTACK. They incapacitate their prey by inflicting grievous injury, often (but not always) resulting in immediate death. In true predation events the outcome for most prey animals is inevitable no matter what they do. Ultimately, the only long-term effective response to death rate is birth rate.

For prey items however there are actually five recognized responses to a perceived threat: fight, flight, freeze, posture or submit.

Fighting is hard work and a risky business. It is seldom employed in the animal kingdom except by prey animals attempting to wrest themselves from the current day’s menu or by individuals of a social species testing/reinforcing the legitimacy of their hierarchy.

Flight, with its low cost-to-benefit ratio, is often the preferred response. This covers everything from going out of your way to navigate around a sketchy area to running in terror from a rustle in the bushes — as long as there is a flight window with enough time and space to make the success of a flight attempt likely. This is how most potentially dangerous unknowns are dealt with in the wild.

The freeze response occurs when the efficacy of a potential threat is being evaluated or as a last-resort form of concealment from a predator that might be inside the flight window. This too is a very economical response as it costs almost nothing to be still and it makes for effective camouflage as most predators visually scan for movement. This innate response in animals can be beneficial, like when a newborn elk lies perfectly still (and nearly scentless) at the feet of a marauding grizzly sow — or maladaptive, like when a deer is “caught in the headlights” of an oncoming vehicle or an office worker huddles motionless in plain view while an active shooter manipulates their third reload.

If physical contact is imminent the decision becomes whether combat can be avoided or not. Animals attempt to avoid combat whenever possible because it is likely to degrade their function… even if they’re successful. A mountain lion with a broken jaw doesn’t get better; it slowly starves to death. In order to avoid the perils of physical combat, animals may posture or submit. Posturing is an attempt to intimidate your way out of combat while submission is an attempt to capitulate. I use the word “attempt” because unlike with fight, flight or freeze, these two options (posture/submit) put the ball squarely on the other side of the court. Unless the motivations and inclinations of the other individual(s) involved (as in the social dynamics of a wolf pack) are intimately understood, these options have the very highest cost-benefit ratio and are therefore extremely risky.

So what’s the lesson in all this? Behaving like a prey animal is complicated and treacherous. Better to keep it predator-simple: Attack and injure!


— Taylor Good

Effective Human Incapacitation

“Effective human incapacitation results from physiological phenomena.” †

The goal of life-or-death violence is complete and irrecoverable incapacitation — to remove, entirely, the person’s ability to think or move.  (Preferably both.)  We are not attempting to communicate, or reason with, or change the mind of the person we are breaking.  We are not trying to “make them stop” — we are making it impossible for them to continue imposing their will on the physical world.  For this we need unambiguous incapacity — an obviously nonfunctional state.

They need to be laid out on the deck, body contorted in trauma, silent and still — or convulsing and braying with agonal breathing:

If there is any doubt, continue breaking things until you would feel 100% comfortable turning your back on them and walking away.  

Context is crucial here:  we are talking about your attempted murder.  For social considerations, capitulation is sufficient.  The tension of an argument ceases to ratchet upward when someone leaves, or changes tack by simply apologizing, walking things back with words or otherwise shifting into a posture of de-escalation.  In life-or-death violence stopping at the request of your would-be murderer can get you killed.  This is equivalent to shooting an armed man once, and then stopping because he said he was done… the only thing preventing him from shooting you dead is his word-is-bond honesty and the trust inside your own head — mere ideas, as weightless and intangible as ghosts.  Much better to trust in the concrete beneath your feet.

The gold standard for “nonfunctional” is an interruption of brain function; without a firearm this is most easily and quickly achieved via concussion.  With boxer-like precision and good timing this can be had by catching the person “on the button” of the chin to snap-rotate the head — an oversized result for what looks like relatively little effort; but we are not interested in getting into a fight and waiting for an opening to deliver that single specific shot.  As with everything in life-or-death violence we are interested in absolute overkill.  If an arm delivering roughly head-equivalent mass-in-motion to the head at speed is sufficient to “shake the pickle jar” and result in a KO, then his entire mass falling, accelerated by your mass in motion, and terminating in the collision of his head against the ground should be more than enough to get it done.  And if not, well, now he’s down and you can impart huge accelerations into his head with your boots.

Everything we do in violence — every thought, every movement, every injury — is done in service of this goal.  The kick to the groin — as awful as a real, full-bodied, hard-as-humanly-possible shot can be — is only there to render him incapable of preventing, or safely landing, a sudden fall.  We only need a moment of traumatic preoccupation — the body’s spinal reflex in response to injury, the executive function’s “What the fuh—?” stutter — for us to take advantage of that precious loss of function and balance and turn it into a very bad, targeted fall.  It’s the dirty rotten poker-table flip in order to pull our holdout gun and shoot the man in the head… with the impossibly heavy bullet of the planet.  

If everything hinges on that function-obliterating *smack*, then all action in violence is done in anticipation of it.  And the sooner the better.

One critique we often hear at our “Dangerous in a Day” and Crash Course trainings is:  “I really wish we could’ve worked on more ‘stand-up’ stuff — it seems like I only got to land a couple shots, then my partner was down, and all the rest was me stomping on them.”

First, isn’t that how you’d like it to go in the real world?  Do you want to get into an extended brawl where the loser gets set on fire?  Remember:  the longer it goes on, the more likely you are to make a mistake, and the more likely the other person is to get something right.  And whoever gets it right first, wins.  Wouldn’t you rather break a couple things on the standing man, put him down, and then finish him on the ground?  (This line of thought — the desire to do more “stand-up” work — stems from a misunderstanding of what we’re up to; it’s the conflation of “fighting” with “killing”, the social and antisocial bleeding into the asocial, like using wrestling against a firearm:  which would you rather do, wrestle him or shoot him?)

Second, this is precisely how instructors work out.  Every turn on the mats is about seeing how quickly — and how hard — we can put the man down.  It all starts with blunt force trauma, breaking something important, with the second or third shot being the takedown or throw.  This is because we know what’s at stake — and what we would do if someone failed to shut us off — and so we’re interested in getting it over with as efficiently as possible.  Injury to the body makes injury to the brain easier… and more severe.

Third — and most importantly — this is how it works in the real world.  The effective use of violence does not look like a fight.  It looks like a beating.  We don’t see gut-wrenching, abject brutality in a toe-to-toe stand-up fight — such a thing is interesting and exciting in a social (or even antisocial) context.  But one person standing over another, stomping their unresponsive form?  That looks like nothing else.  Acts of violence that are morally shocking are entirely one-sided, entirely unidirectional:  one person doing it, one person getting done.  And we seek only to model reality on the mats.

So — hate the brain.  Drive everything toward that traumatic plunge with the hard stop at the end.  Break the body out from underneath the brain, deprive it of its tools, take and take and take and then spike Nature’s Ming vase — ancient, unique and fragile — into a thousand incoherent shards.


— Chris Ranck-Buhr


† Duffy, Michael J.  “Cranial Gunshot Wound Incapacitations.”  2016.