Tag Archive for: training

For Want of an Injury

For want of an injury, the solution was lost.

For want of a solution, the intent was lost.

For want of intent, the initiation was lost.

For want of initiation, the target was lost.

For want of a target, the body was lost.

For want of a body, the mind was lost.

For want of a mind, the life was lost.

All for the want of actionable information… a life was unnecessarily lost.

An instructor in our program, knowing that I grew up a block from the ocean and still enjoyed beach culture daily, sent me an e-mail about a harrowing experience he and his wife had endured earlier that day while vacationing on the gulf coast of Texas. As a hurricane blew somewhere far off in the gulf, they waded in chest-deep water along the beach, unaware that the leading edge of the storm had kicked up enough wind energy to generate rough waves. The two quickly found themselves swimming for their lives—along with “Mr. Luck”—just reaching the beach before being overcome by exhaustion. “Luckily, I’m a really strong swimmer,” he said, “but what the heck do you do in a rip current?”

An ocean rip current is a relatively strong, narrow current that flows outward from the beach through the surf zone, and may present a hazard to swimmers. A lack of actionable information about rip currents can, and often does, lead to the death of untrained swimmers, barring the intervention of Mr. Luck. Just a tiny bit of immediately useful information, however, can mean the difference between life and death.

My reply e-mail was brief. What he needed was actionable information. He had some skills and data, primarily the ability to swim hard enough and long enough and the resolve to not give up or panic in the face of impending doom. Mr. Luck was also with him that day. The current could have been stronger, the waves bigger or more consistent, his wife could have given up or dragged him under, either of them could’ve swallowed sea water or succumbed to panic. I could go on… “Swimming and not giving up” was not actionable information under the circumstances. He needed something more. The points I included in the short paragraph described how rip currents work and what to do if you find yourself in the middle of one. I included an image from the National Weather Service that illustrated, in the simplest terms, rip current survival. I then told him his experience was a textbook example of what not to do. If you don’t know, well, you don’t know. I described the variables involved with engaging different wave action, as well the basic solution for a rip current:

1) Relax.

2) Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current.

3) Then swim to shore.

In life-threatening emergency situations, your survival depends heavily on the amount of actionable information that you possess inside your mind and your skeleton, and the degree to which the gods have sprinkled “luck dust” on your corpus. In moments of high stress and/or danger, your chances of survival increase if you focus on what you can control rather than what you cannot. Said another way, luck is a poor strategy in these situations.

If the solution to the emergency requires actionable information, then having no information prevents intentional action no matter how much you desire to act. Thus, you are likely to respond with useless or even disadvantageous action, like freezing up or actively working against your survival. If you don’t know what you are doing, doing so intentionally becomes, by definition, a nonstarter.

Further, if you cannot intentionally do something because you don’t know what that thing is, initiating the relevant action to begin the process of intentionally going after the required solution is like… trying to catch a train that’s already left the station. The failure to initiate what you don’t know leads to a catastrophic tipping of things out of your favor. And emergency situations, by definition, have a ticking-clock component: hesitation kills. That first missing piece—a lack of information—is the opening for a cascade of catastrophic results.

Enter luck. If you are “lucky,” the situation just rattles you with the horror of how bad things could have gone. If you are not lucky, the result is a chain of events that rapidly slips out of your control and into a catastrophic death spiral, irrecoverable and non-survivable. You are unnecessarily overcome by the situation for want of a little actionable information… and not quite enough luck this time.

Knowledge is power that is enhanced through experience. For the first-timer, a rip current presents unimaginable feelings of terror and hopelessness. And I highly doubt that the instructor (who barely survived his first experience) wanted to frolic anywhere near a rip current ever again… But if you’re an avid surfer, the rip current becomes just another datapoint in your decision-making process: sometimes you can use the rip to help get through the waves; sometimes the rip can make or break a particular wave. And sometimes you can get stuck in a rip and almost die despite all your knowledge and experience.

It’s important to understand that your knowledge and experience does not immunize you from the power of the ocean. Many big waver surfers have drowned pursuing their passion in situations where they had survived hundreds of times before. Yes, Mr. Luck is a big wave surfer, too. Even small wave riders have lost their lives in “normal” surf. I almost drowned less than ten feet from the shore in Hawaii, after breaking my leash and losing my board, and then trying to swim against a rip while navigating which four-foot wall of whitewater I was going to let rake me up the razor-sharp lava “beach.” Knowledge and experience give you a higher probability of success in an emergency, not a hall pass.

A few days later, I received a second e-mail from the instructor. While walking along the same beach, he and his wife were approached by a young boy in an absolute panic pointing into the stormy surf and screaming to help save his parents. With just his limited experience with rip currents (one horrific, uninformed, and damn lucky go) and the short paragraph of actionable information, the instructor swam directly out into the rip current that had almost killed him days earlier and, following procedure, swam the mother safely to shore. Unfortunately for the family, Mr. Luck got tired of waiting for the instructor to go back out and decided not to stay with the father long enough for the instructor to reach him in time.

So… what does any of this have to do with criminal violence?

In a criminally violent encounter, the first person to impart traumatic injury so that the other person cannot continue wins. If you didn’t know this fact, you’re swimming in that rip current right along with the instructor, his wife, and good old Mr. Luck. For want of a solution, intentional action evaporates. Frozen or flailing, you’ve got nothing useful. Like swimming against the tide, the injuries you receive progressively stack against your survival as your body fails and your mind fades shortly behind. You’re a statistic.

However, if you know this reality about criminally violent encounters, actionable information would include:

1) How the human machine breaks.

2) How to do that work with your bare hands.

3) How to take advantage of the results.

This would provide a solution that you could intentionally initiate, driving you forward to break one thing, and then another, until the other person stops moving or can’t continue. Now you’re a better statistic.

As is true with the rip current, surviving a violent encounter requires knowledge that is enhanced by experience. Let’s say you don’t live near any beaches, but you like visiting them, or you’re about to take an open ocean cruise. In both of these cases a two-day, all-inclusive educational course on open ocean and rough water swimming would be just the thing, where you could get hands-on experience from professionals who have spent their lives not only teaching the material but training the material week in and week out. Moreover, you would want these educators to be invested in your successful understanding of the material. The next best thing would be a one-day course that hit the basic principles and targeted your specific need to understand rip currents so you could enjoy all beaches…

This is what we do—and what we can do for you—when it comes to the use of violence as a survival tool.


— Matt Suitor

Stop! Hammer Time

We don’t sell hammers—we teach hammering.

Search the google-sphere for framing hammers, you’ll see everything from a $345 all-titanium super-hammer to the good old fashioned $24 generic California framing hammer. Nothing too dissimilar from the rock our ancestors tied to the top of a stick to help accelerate a hard object into another object to increase the work being done to the object being struck. Just a bit more efficient and durable.

Originally, the object was struck to obtain food of some sort (opening shellfish, killing prey, etc.), or to prevent you from becoming food (killing another predator). And the reality of the way things worked out, pure necessity dictated that every one of our ancestors had access to this information for survival. We all learned and knew how to “swing the hammer” to smash something to eat and/or to survive violent encounters with other humans or animals vying for similar resources.

As societies developed along the way to modernity, hammer-swinging became compartmentalized, either removed from everyday use due to specialization by craftsmen and farmers or monopolized by “society” through governments and laws. These days the grocery store puts shellfish in a can for us, the butcher and farmer remove the laborious task of killing and harvesting animals ourselves, the carpenter builds our shelters, and the state “swings the hammer” of justice. The good citizen goes to the store for food and calls the police to intervene when the need to “swing the hammer” arises.

Over thousands of years of relying on others to “swing the hammer” for us, the skillset has been lost, buried deep in the DNA of the average citizen. The biomechanics of the human machine haven’t changed at all in that timeframe, leaving the ability to “swing the hammer” dormant inside each one of us: a concept proven day-in and day-out through the execution of criminal violence. Humans wisely relinquished the responsibility of daily “hammer swinging” so that we would not have to take resources by force and/or face potential violence on an ongoing basis, but as a side effect most have lost connection with or understanding of the utility of “the hammer” itself.

The human skeleton, when used to do violence to another human skeleton, is as utilitarian and design-ready a tool as the modern framing hammer is to a carpenter. Even without instruction, practice, or experience, an enthusiastic novice using either tool could get successful work done. With a little instruction, some common sense and a couple of errant shots to the thumb, you could probably nail some boards together and build a shelter to get out of the rain. Likewise, a couple of tips from someone well versed in How Swingeth the Hammer could end up saving your life.

A couple summers “humpin’ lumber” for your uncle’s construction company and you could pretty much get a job bangin’ nails somewhere again (if you worked hard and weren’t just there because your uncle owned the business). Ten to 15 years on the job, you could be a foreman or own your own company. A lifetime building homes and learning from the wisdom of hammer swingers before you, well, someone might one day call you a master carpenter.

The utility of the hammer as a tool has been proven out over thousands of years by the relatively small change in design. Because humans designed the hammer to increase the capacity of the human machine to do work, there are only so many efficient ways to swing a hammer. The road to master carpenter, then, lies not in the hammer used but in the experience wielding the tool, multiplied by the quality and breadth of that experience over time. (If you spend the first five years trying to hit a nail into wood with the wrong side of a claw hammer, or if your teacher is more interested in selling you his overpriced, signature series, all-titanium super hammer than training you how to swing your hammer yourself, well, your road might be longer.)

One thing to understand is that no one has a patent on “swinging the hammer,” including us. The hammer has been in the public domain forever, and can only exist there because when the law is gone the hammer remains. A broken neck (one potential result of “swinging the hammer”) extinguishes the need for patents, as the process to achieve a broken neck is immaterial to the result. A broken neck does not care that the person doing so was trained or untrained, what “style” or “technique” was used to break the neck, or who has the rights to said technique, or whether that technique was the most efficient way to achieve the result. Moreover, the broken neck cares not of the Laws of Man.

At Injury Dynamics, our training compliments any prior training and we are not interested in anything other than educating people about the confluence of physics and physiology with catastrophic results. With a body of knowledge and a curriculum for training that knowledge, the Injury Dynamics technicians are experts at showing people how the human machine breaks, how to do that work with your bare hands, and how to take advantage of those results.

What marketing people tell me is that if I really want your money I should sell you my Master Matt Signature Series All-Titanium Super-Hammer, which I used in some awesome story about myself that makes you feel good about giving me money for a hammer that doesn’t make you build (or break) things any better, or give you experience wielding a hammer yourself. I should tell you that in a few easy lessons, you’ll be able to swing nail-for-nail with the best craftsmen in the world (including myself, and being the most awesome person possible it’s going to cost you.) And all this because I’ve boiled down my years of experience into the three easy secrets of carpentry that cuts out the hard work of actually learning how to hammer. Which you can also have access to in my video series, Hammer of the Gods, in which I finally reveal to the Average Joe the Inner Circle secrets of master carpenters everywhere…

Unfortunately, with the proverbial hammer, all you’ll have is you, your experience wielding your hammer, and your willingness to do the work in front of you. At Injury Dynamics, our instruction is designed and committed to service those three goals.

So… grab a tool belt and a bag o’ nails and come swing the hammer with us.


— Matt Suitor

As we head into our 30th year…

…the work continues without pause, unabated.

We train and teach violence as a survival tool constantly, never off the mats for more than two days in a row.

We are in classes three days a week, with six-hour Saturdays every month (seventeen in a row so far).  We continue to hold multi-day seminars, both public and private, and do private specialty training for people and groups who, for many reasons, cannot attend regular classes—and appreciate our discretion.

We just completed our 54th biannual testing cycle, and as a result we have four more instructor candidates on track to join the other 50 instructors this summer.

Last week I put the finishing touches on the 2018 compendium of the basic lesson books (more than a thousand lessons to train people from absolute beginner to instructor) and distributed it to the instructor staff—so no matter where we are in the world, we’re all pulling from the same page.  And that doesn’t include the advanced lessons that take an instructor all the way to Master… I’ll be updating those on an ongoing basis.

To further support our instructors and students we’ve captured more than 400 of the basic lessons on video for our online program.  While that’s something like only one-fourth of the total number of lessons, it’s a good start.  The visual encyclopedia is growing.

Why didn’t we document all of this on social media, in real time, with breathless hashtags and yet another post of someone kicking a downed man in the groin?  Because none of that dopamine-drip thumb-swiping has anything to do with doing the work.  It takes an obscene amount of time to shoot, curate, edit, and post the junk mail of our era—time that could have been spent rewriting another lesson, taking another turn on the mats, helping a student get that neck break just right—you know, the stuff that actually matters.  Our social media policy is that we’ll say something when we have something to say, and not just shout to hear our own voices go into the black hole of atrophied attention.  We do not spam.

In addition, we refuse to trade on the reputations of the people and groups we train.  What they’ve done is theirs and theirs alone, and we have not done those things.  We are scholars and technicians keeping the information sharp, viable, and easily trained.  We simply make it available.

Of course, this makes marketing a challenge—but that’s fine.  We’re not here to talk about the thing—we’re here to do the thing.  This means we rely on word of mouth—a far more difficult tack—but the results create a better experience for everyone involved.  The people we’ve trained know what we do, and they tend to share it with the people they care about.  That’s enough for us.

Actually training is everything, because we are only as good as the last course we taught, and the information is only as good as the last person who used it.  By both counts we’re pretty damn good at what we do.


Come train with us!


— 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


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!

Come learn an enduring life skill!

What people are saying about our training  |  Sign up now!

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!

Come learn an enduring life skill!

What people are saying about our training  |  Sign up now!

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

The Silence That Comes After

Unlike most physical endeavors, ours has no target demographic.  It’s not possible to tell whether or not our training will resonate by just looking at someone.  I’ve seen young, smart, athletically-gifted people miss the point entirely and fail out of the first testing cycle; at the same time I’ve watched out-of-shape, “least-likely” people (who I’ve pegged as quitters inside of a month) end up going the distance with an eerie, natural ease.  And I’ve seen everything else in between… with the only common feature among those who take to it being the fact that they took to it.  Something spoke to that tiny sliver of sociopath lurking inside them.

Of course, this is a huge problem when it comes to running a business; what we really need is to know who this stuff resonates with — in terms of a marketing pie chart — and then aggressively market to that segment.  But when that thing is the littlest bit of non-pathological sociopathy — essentially being lit up by hands-on domination and obliteration via the breaking of the human machine — well, you can see the problem in trying to figure out just who to send a postcard to.

The obvious answer would seem to be found in evangelism, with excited practitioners sharing their newfound experiences of happiness (the feeling as power increases) with like-minded individuals — and here we hit the other issue in spreading the word:  the more people train, the less they want to talk about it.  Talking about the truth of it makes you sound like a psychopath; watering it down to make it palatable is disingenuous and causes people to recoil when confronted with the actual thing:

“How do I defend myself from [insert Facebook terror of the week here]?”

“You don’t.  The only available action is to hurt people so they can’t continue.”

“But I don’t want to hurt anybody!”

“Then you won’t.”

And so on until either you give up or they’re convinced you’re crazy.

So much easier, then, to never even mention it, to keep it as a delicious secret that only you know and no one else suspects — the credo of the ambush predator:  While you were sleeping in front of the TV, I was practicing putting my fingers into people’s eyes.

I run into this in ongoing training all the time.

“Bring your friends and family!” I say.

Everyone looks back with pained faces.  “Tried it once, got weird looks,” is the usual reply, “not interested in doing it again.”  Besides, they think in quiet asides, It’s my delicious secret.

You’d think I’m writing this to admonish you, to get you out as ambassadors for this training, to earn hashmarks on your hilt for every body you bring into the fold — and you’d be wrong.  I’m just as guilty as everyone else who’s ever hit the mats:  I don’t talk about it, I don’t proselytize; when people ask me what I do I demur and get them talking about themselves.  (This works great, by the way.)  It’s my delicious secret that last night, while they were sleeping in front of the TV, I was puzzling out the smallest discrete set of movements necessary to dislocate a shoulder with a baton.

So this is here for no other reason than to wonder at the phenomenon:  the fact that those who train shut up after having joined a silent cabal that meets in secret to study the undermining of Nature’s pinnacle.


— Chris Ranck-Buhr